January 2013


In case anyone out there thinks that I never disagree with the Obama administration, here is an administration policy I feel very uncomfortable with–and at the same time an opportunity to give kudos to one of my local Senators.  Sen. Ron Wyden is requesting that he be allowed to look at legal opinions justifying the killing of American citizens in drone strikes.  This makes sense, as he is a member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and yet that committee is not being given the information that would enable them to oversee the legal basis for those targeted killings.

This at a time when the administration is at work on a counterterrorism manual which is essentially setting down the ground rules for continued drone attacks and assassinations.  Is it because Democrats have traditionally been accused of being soft on national security–is that why the President feels this need to act tougher than thou about these situations?  Because I hate to ruin a perfectly good stereotype, but if you are one of those hippies toting a peace sign around, this is not the President for you.  (If you’re a true blue Socialist, he’s really not the President for you either, but I digress.)  While he is in the process of ending a couple of wars, he is very much into the continuation of warlike activities.  Um, give peace a chance?

Oh, the bizarre logic.  Republicans in Maryland talking about how something just has to be done about video games:

“These video games are out of control.  They are way too violent,”  Parrott said.

But they are against any gun regulation in the state.  Right, because it was the video game packaging that was used to kill in the Newtown massacre.  

Republicans are adding to their weird list of deadly objects every day.  Cars are just as deadly as guns!  Pencils!  Spoons!  After all, stabbing 20 people to death with a spork is so much easier than shooting them.  But move right along, everybody–no gun problem to see here.

I’m assuming guys like Parrott would like to propose warnings or restrictions for video games.  I don’t like violent video games either–but if we’re going to say they contributed to the problem and something needs to be done about them, what about the actual weapons used in the shootings?  A cartoon portrayal of violence is more dangerous than the real-life tool used to do violence?  Conservatives like to poke fun at liberals for not being logical, but this makes no sense to me.

North Korea made itself look ridiculous (as usual) when its news agency announced back in November that an ancient unicorn lair was located in Pyongyang.  In Korean legend, the unicorn was ridden by King Tongmyong, and the discovery of the lair proved, according to the KCNA’s propaganda, that Pyongyang was once the capital city of Ancient Korea.

Thankfully, American conservatives are not the North Korean Communist regime, but they are on a similar unicorn quest these days, willing to believe anything which supports their theories and discard any facts which stand in the way.  They would rather be convinced that Obama stole the election than examine the reasons why they lost it.  They claim Hillary didn‘t resign, but was “fired“ because of Benghazi.  They really think the American public is clamoring for the Paul Ryan budget.  As long as it states that they are good and Obama is evil, any crazy hypothesis will work.

Even for a liberal like me, it’s too painful to watch–not to mention that it makes any kind of reasoned debate impossible.  Come back to reality, conservatives.  Listen to Bobby Jindal and don’t be the “stupid party”.  Hint:  unicorns don’t exist.

As always, reality doesn’t quite live up to our noble vision of ourselves.  In our movies, we imagined we would be sending heroic teams of astronauts to confront asteroids which were threatening the Earth.  In real life, it looks like we’re going to destroy those asteroids by mining them to death.  A company called Deep Space Industries is planning to send craft into space which will harvest resources from asteroids–for high profit margins, naturally.  Once again, capitalism, rather than romantic self-sacrifice, saves the day.  Not to say that this isn’t quite cool–the craft can use 3-D printers to produce things right where they are in space, and we are going to be running out of resources on our own planet at some point, so we can use the expansion.  We may even be able to take online asteroid mining courses in the future–how’s that for new career retraining possibilities?

Being the progressive that I am though, I gotta throw in my little government plug, just in case someone tries to use this information to prove that private companies are always better at everything.  Deep Space is going to be getting help from NASA in locating the asteroids in question, and is very excited about this partnership.  So yeah, good old NASA still comes in handy once in a while.

Yes, even after President Obama’s inaugural speech.  In this Palm Beach story, a gay man has been told he is required to put his pride flag in the back of his property, where it will be out of sight, because other residents have started to complain.  And his landlady claims he’s “trying to disrupt the community”.

The article suggests that many residents of the same neighborhood fly American flags on their homes.  I can’t help but imagine the storm of protest that would ensue if one of them was asked to put their American flag away in their backyard.  There have been multiple incidents in past years in which people have had their lives threatened and their jobs taken away because of some (often imagined) slight against our country’s flag.  Perhaps that is the LGBT community’s mistake–maybe they need to start issuing threats or brandishing weapons every time the rainbow flag gets disrespected.  I’m guessing most of them are too classy for that sort of thing, though.

“I think they should tread lightly…because North Idaho will become North Ireland if they take it too far” — attendant of Coeur D’Alene, Idaho Second Amendment rally, speaking about imagined government gun grabs.

Let’s start with the fact that the Second Amendment isn’t going anywhere.  Sometimes I wish it was, but it isn’t.  It’s in the Constitution, and it’s there for a reason–for the population to defend itself from a tyrannical government.  There are varying interpretations of this–were these meant to be armed individuals?  Militias?–but the essence of it remains.

It’s times like these, though, that make me wonder if the Founders had thought of the possible unintended consequences of this idea.  The day’s news is filled with stories of misguided murderous individuals who were not seeking to revolt against anything, except perhaps their own depressing lives.  And then there is the other problem–the people who are talking about armed revolt these days aren’t thinking of a monarch or a totalitarian dictator.  Their fantasies are of overturning a government and a President which were democratically elected, but which they happen not to like.  This would be the exact opposite of the populace rebelling against an oppressive elite–it would be a group of extremists depriving the majority of the vote they had lawfully cast. 

What can we do to stop this from happening?  Well, really, nothing.  Again, our citizens arming themselves is legal and constitutional.  Within the next few years, we may find out if that constitutional right was actually a good idea.

Interesting quote from David French, director of “How to Survive a Plague”, commenting on why today’s LGBT generation might be less radical about their political fight:  “Hasn’t all identity politics hit a wall?  Feminism as identity politics is nothing like it was in the ’70s and ’80s, the way we talk about race is all kind of blurred now.  I don’t know how to describe the period we’re in, but it’s post-identity politics.”

Post-identity politics.  As a woman, I would agree with this statement, especially the part referring to feminism.  My question is, would this be a positive development–a sign that there is less discrimination for these various groups to worry about?  Or does it simply mean that people are not speaking out as much about the problems which are still in existence?  After all, these days when you draw attention to racist innuendo against the President you’re playing the “race card”.  If you argue too loudly for women’s rights, you are an angry feminist requesting special birth control perks from the government.

I think it’s obvious that the undercurrent of bigotry is still there.  Witness the 2012 election, with its food stamps race-baiting and the male politicians fixating on women’s health, the angry red staters arming themselves to the teeth because that African guy got re-elected.  Perhaps the real issue is that the way talk about all this is, as French said, “blurred”.  Maybe we shouldn’t be afraid of playing our cards and stating our identities, and shouldn’t be in such a hurry to be post-everything.

I work for a health insurance company.  The week that the Affordable Care Act was passed, our CEO sent us an e-mail telling us what a great development this was for our company, since it would bring us lots of new business.  This was the reaction to the supposed Commie takeover of health care–a health care plan which, in reality, would benefit private corporations quite a bit.

There are interesting suggestions popping up (here and here) that the President’s gun control reform may follow the same pattern.  Specifically, the prediction is that Walmart is excited about participating in the deal with President Obama because closing the gun show loophole on background checks will drive customers away from buying guns at gun shows and will lead them to do their discount weapon shopping at Walmart.

So for all the end of the world panicking from our friendly Second Amendment militias, some gun sellers are likely to get an advantage from future gun laws.  They have all been doing very well so far–gun sales have been brisk since Obama’s re-election, and prices for assault weapons have gone up, even as much as doubled, since the Newtown shooting.

Yep, the Newtown massacre has only improved things for those who make a profit from selling guns.  And while this worries me, since it calls into question my belief in karma or any other type of spiritual justice actually being at work in this universe, it sounds like the weapon merchants themselves don’t have that much to worry about.

Yesterday, as always, I was spending my time on the train obsessively checking Facebook on my phone, as were about half of my fellow passengers.  Once in a while, I stop and realize it–I spend more time than ever following every little thing my friends say, and yet less time than ever in my life actually talking to friends face to face.  

I’ve always been an introvert.  I would get anxious about making a phone call, even if it was to a person I liked (sometimes especially if it was to a person I liked).  I had to push myself to go out and meet people, and still have to.  So our new “chatting with each other through tech gadgets” culture actually makes things easier for me.  I feel much more comfortable commenting on someone’s status on my phone than I would be using that phone to speak to them.  I’m more comfortable spouting my opinions in a blog than at a dinner party.  So this feels fine to me, except for small moments of doubt when I wonder if I should be spending my time playing with real cats as opposed to viewing cat pictures.  (Answer to that question:  no, because I’m allergic to cats.)

But I can only imagine how difficult this new world might be for people who, unlike me, need human interaction.  What would it be like to be a gregarious extrovert in a world in which all you get are virtual hugs and pokes on Facebook?

Then again, the extroverts are probably still doing those things that always made me nervous, making phone calls and meeting their friends.  That’s why they’re out partying on a Friday night and I’m here blogging about modern modes of communication.  Well, that and I’m working tomorrow, so I can’t stay up.  Good night, everyone in online land.

Well, one of my New Year’s resolutions (besides flossing more often) was not to argue politics as much.  We’ll see how long that one lasts.  I have a feeling it will go the way of that other resolution to spend a half hour on my elliptical every day.  Obviously, when I break my resolution (when, not if) I will do it here.

Still, I’ve bought myself several nice boxes of art supplies and am going to attempt to make this year more about creativity and less about debating.  And it’s not just because it will keep my blood pressure low and help me live longer.  It’s because the political debates I’m seeing out there are scaring me.  The discussion has gotten more polarized since the election, not less.  I would have thought the election results would have settled some things (“hey, maybe the people of this country don’t despise that Obama guy”) but the fight to prove that he is somehow illegitimate and wrong has only intensified.  There is genuine hatred in the conversations.  It really sounds like people are about to start shooting each other, or start shipping off those they disagree with to labor camps.

And like many mild-mannered individuals have done throughout history, this makes me want to drop out and tune out of the politics thing completely.  In fact, it makes me want to curl up and hide somewhere.  I thought I was tougher than this, but it doesn’t feel so great when you are classified as the evil Other to be eliminated.  (It also makes me think my boyfriend was right when he said the Interwebs are full of right-wing crazies who might be out to get me.)

So, it’s off to draw some cute woodland creatures holding hands and singing, for the sake of my own sanity.  I know perfectly well that I can’t resist a good fight–as long as it remains verbal–so I’m sure I’ll be back.  But what is happening to the political scene right now…it’s not good, it’s just not good.  I have a very bad feeling about all this.