April 2014


If I post a picture of myself wearing a fashionable hat, will I be fabulous?

If I post a picture of myself wearing heels, will you love me?

If I post a picture of myself having drinks at the bar, will my life be exciting?

If I post a picture of me and my boyfriend grinning into the camera, will my relationship be happier?

If you Liked me, does that mean you like me?

If I post about how much I love myself, will I love myself?

If I’m having one of those days when I’m curled up in a ball in my room, but I still drag myself to the computer and post about how fantastic my day is, will my day be fantastic?  Will I be accepted?  Will I become one of you?  Will you give me the secret password to your world?  If I keep talking, will what I say mean something to you?

Or will I turn off the computer and go sit in the sunlight in my garden, where I don’t have to be anyone or say anything?  What’s on my mind right now?  Absolutely nothing, and it’s beautiful.

So after writing a blog about the dangers of abusing Godwin’s Law, I’m about to Godwin myself in the worst way.  I can’t help it–as much as I hate making this comparison, the current situation with Russia reminds me of the eve of World War II.

There’s the Eastern European country which nobody in the West knows much or cares about.  Back then it was Czechoslovakia, now it’s the Ukraine.  There’s the invading country making up exaggerated stories of persecuted ethnic minorities, and naturally, the way to save those minorities is an armed takeover.  There are the economic rewards which the invaders stand to gain.  Eastern Ukraine is rich in industry and energy resources, and this means much more to Vladimir Putin than the Russian-speaking population in the region ever will. And then there is the rest of the world, looking on and making vague gestures of condemnation, but unwilling to invest blood and treasure in a fight they don’t feel a connection with.

But of course, the modern-day Russians are not Nazis.  This is where a Godwin comparison always collapses.  Yes, Russian society is guilty of a few human rights abuses.  But the last time someone in Russia killed millions of people was far back in the last century.  So are we witnessing the historical chain of events leading to another global war?  It’s possible.  But it’s also possible that Putin will be satisfied with grabbing the riches of eastern Ukraine and leaving the impoverished western part of Ukraine for Europe to deal with.  And Russia’s military threats may be empty posturing, a la North Korea doing its nuclear dance without ever lobbing any missiles at anybody.  Maybe what we’re watching is the universal process of a powerful country trying to get more territory.  Jumping into a wider conflict would be foolish and draw too much attention, so instead the invader nibbles away, bite after bite.  So how should we react?  It’s difficult to decide when we don’t know what Putin’s intentions are.  If we’re too soft and diplomatic, are we walking down the road of appeasement again and could we be emboldening Putin to commit further aggression?  But if we choose the kind of tough response which John McCain seems to favor for every situation in the world, would we be rushing into an overseas quagmire, the way we have too many times in our history? 

The only thing I can say is that I hope this isn’t the prelude to another world war.  It’s too overwhelming to even think about.  I’m not ready for something that big–I’m not good at dealing with a delay to my Facebook connection, much less WWIII.  I have to wonder if today’s generation is up to a challenge like this.

I suppose it’s a good sign of a lively political debate happening in this country.  Multiple groups are currently working to call a constitutional convention, as set out in Article V of the Constitution.  However, they are trying to do this in the alternative, never-before-used way–rather than having two-thirds of the Congress approve a constitutional amendment and send it to the states (which is unlikely in our divided political climate), they want to convince two-thirds of the state legislatures to pass a resolution calling for a constitutional convention.  Once 34 states approve such a resolution, this would trigger the convention and, theoretically, a 28th Amendment to the Constitution could be voted on.  But which 28th Amendment? 

On one side, we have the conservatives, represented by the Compact for America, an organization led by Nick Dranias of the Goldwater Institute.  Their 28th Amendment idea is that old conservative refrain–a Balanced Budget Amendment, severely restricting the Federal government’s ability to spend money.  How close are they to achieving that goal?  That depends on how you look at it.  When the Michigan legislature voted yes on a constitutional convention resolution last month, Michigan did in fact become the 34th state to do so.  Problem is, 12 of the states which had previously agreed to hop on the convention train have since rescinded those resolutions.  It is now left to the constitutional experts to bicker it out with each other about the legal dilemma–is a state allowed to change its mind after it has petitioned Congress for a convention?  I would think so, but not everyone agrees.

It should also be said that the Tea Party itself, as much as they love the idea of a balanced budget, is divided on this issue.  Many people–on all political sides–fear a runaway constitutional convention, at which all kinds of “interesting” rules and laws could be approved by a limited collection of states.

On the other side, there is a push for a 28th Amendment prompted by the awful Citizens United and McClutcheon Supreme Court rulings.  This 28th Amendment would overturn Citizens United, make clear that corporations are not people, and limit how much money an individual can give to candidates in an election.  This effort is being organized by, among other groups, Money Out Voters In.  There is a 28th Amendment roadshow travelling around the country right now, and they will be visiting the local Occupy chapter here in Portland in May.  As far as progress in the state legislatures–16 of the more predictably progressive states have passed the resolution for a convention focused on this specific amendment.  That’s fewer states than went for the balanced budget amendment, but then again, there’s been less waffling and rescinding of votes on this one. 

So which 28th Amendment do we prefer?  While it may sound weird, personally, I wouldn’t mind both of them getting passed.  Day after day, I become more convinced that we must limit the power of both government and large corporations, especially as the two have turned into such close BFFs.  However, realistically speaking?  Any version of the 28th Amendment is a long shot.  I doubt that either side will succeed in making a convention happen, and we are likely stuck with the partisan stalemate we have now in our government.

For your enjoyment, here is an inspiring video from a guy clearly angling to be a 2016 presidential candidate:

I like the American flag flapping patriotically in the breeze at the beginning of the ad–nice touch–but if Ted really wants to run for national office, he needs to stop stealing slogans from other campaigns.  The “Yes We Can” thing has been done before.  And in the rest of his CPAC speech, Ted also mentions “Hope and Change” as his motto, and finishes his performance with “morning in America”.  I get that borrowing the Obama stuff is meant to be sarcastic, but I can tell you from personal experience that sarcasm will only get you so far.  This man needs his own slogans.  And they shouldn’t be Dr. Seuss quotes, either.

Unfortunately, I’m not very helpful in this regard.  I’m terrible at trying to come up with ideas for Ted.  He certainly has policy positions he can write slogans about, but they don’t sound very catchy.  There’s Obamacare–“It’s Finally Working!  Let’s Repeal It!”  There’s his call to abolish the IRS–you could go with “Sick And Tired Of Roads!” or “Food Stamps Are For Losers”.  I’m pretty sure Ted is in favor of privatizing Medicare and Social Security, so perhaps an empowering chant of “Old People Can Make It!” might be nice, or even an #oldpeoplestrong, a la Boston Strong.  And since the GOP is trying to repackage old moral values and sell them to the millennials, maybe a suggestive ad with two beautiful people and the tagline “Conservatives–Making Sex Feel Dirty Again” would do the trick.

Finally, a slogan to help Ted market himself to his fellow Latinos–“Build The Wall And Kick Them Out!”

So you can see the problem.  I really do suck at this.  Luckily for Ted, he will have professionals doing this kind of work for him.  Let’s hope they come up with something that has at least a bit of an original ring to it.

When you go on a journey, you discover that the world is full of dangerous people.  My life has been no different.  I’ve come far and faced off against many villains.

For example, when I was a child, I was told that evil American capitalists wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on me.  But then I moved to a different land and found out that it was, in fact, evil Russian Communists who wanted to drop a nuclear bomb on me.  That was confusing, but then things got even more complicated.

When I lived by the northern European seas, abortion and gay rights were considered good things, and anybody who opposed them was strange.  But when I lived in the American desert, I learned that abortion and homosexuality were sins, and anybody who supported them was immoral.  Now I live by the Pacific Ocean, and once again it’s those who are too religious and too traditional that are suspect.  I’m having a hard time keeping track of all this.  Maybe it would be easier for me to tell the good guys and the bad guys apart if I had stayed in one place and didn’t move around so much.

What makes it even harder is that so many people wear magical disguises and are not what they seem.  For instance, those who aren’t Christian aren’t really American, even though they pretend to be.  Just like those who aren’t Catholic aren’t really Polish.  Ah, but hold on–it’s not enough to know that someone is wearing the Christian label.  If they are liberal, they aren’t really Christian.  You see how tricky this gets.

Now I feel as if I’m living in a cursed time, because everyone is starting to look like an enemy.  The conservatives aren’t true patriots and neither are the progressives.  I’m supposed to be on the watch for thieves who will steal my money through taxes and robbers who will steal my work by paying me too little for it.  There are hawks who want to attack everyone and doves who want us to get attacked.  Gun nuts want to shoot me, but then again I hear that those who favor gun restrictions want to see me defenseless and shot.

So how do I move forward on my way when I’m surrounded by dragons?  Could it be?  Is it possible that I’m the only one who’s right and everybody else is wrong?  After all, many wise men and women around me are making this claim–that they are the only ones who hold the key to true knowledge.

Believing that those who think differently from you are monsters to be fought is one way to journey through this world.  I find the travelling lighter and easier when I don’t carry all that heavy weaponry with me, though.  The dragons are imaginary anyway–they’re just imperfect human beings, a lot like me–and our battles are unnecessary.

I’m not sure if people have just been forgetting their basic debate etiquette lately, but I’ve been seeing violations of Godwin’s law happening left and right (although usually right).  Godwin’s law, of course, being the Internet discussion rule which mandates that the moment you compare someone to Hitler or the Nazis, you automatically lose the argument.  Unless your name is Stalin, any comparison to Hitler is going to sound way over the top.  One would think that we would know better by now than to exaggerate that much, but “OMG 1930s Germany” scare tactics never go away.

The most frequent victim of this kind of hyperbole over the past few years has been President Obama, because trying to provide health care access to millions of people is exactly like killing them.  I’m happy to report that the Tea Party’s rhetoric has changed…somewhat.   The latest political video sponsored by Foster Friess doesn’t claim Obama is like Hitler, it just claims that Hitler would have been unhappy with his insurance coverage under the Affordable Care Act.  But wait!  If Hitler hates something, doesn’t this mean we should like it?  This is so confusing…

Another Godwin’s law violation was committed by South Carolina state Senator Mike Fair who, as part of the GOP’s ongoing outreach to female voters, decided to compare Planned Parenthood to Hitler.  The Senator was displeased with the results of a Planned Parenthood poll which show that over 60% of those surveyed support a legal right to late-term abortions, once they are informed that those abortions are rare and most of them happen for medical reasons.  I will come right out and say that I don’t support late-term abortions myself, unless they indeed happen for medical reasons.  However, that is still no excuse for the Godwin’s law infraction, which only hurts one’s cause in the eyes of rational people.  Since the poll results contradict sacred conventional wisdom about the American public, the Senator reacted by stating that he would no more trust any information coming from Planned Parenthood than he would trust good old Adolf himself, and that Hitler “by the way, had the same philosophy of Planned Parenthood and that is that some people deserve to live more than other people based on what the culture says.”  Hold on, you might say, a fetus, especially in the early stages of a pregnancy, is not the same thing as a full-grown person.  You might say that and then you might remember that to social conservatives, a fetus is more valuable than a person.  Fetuses need to be protected…people can just fend for themselves.

Speaking of guys who aren’t big fans of reproductive rights, Rick Santorum is receiving a Godwin’s law citation for comparing Iran to Nazi Germany.  Yes, there is a good point to be made about the anti-Semitism of the Iranian leadership.  But the hateful speeches have, as of yet, not been matched by large-scale violence, and they likely never will.  So the Hitler comparison remains invalid.  And, no matter how often our hawkish politicians keep suggesting it, going to war with Iran is a bad idea.

So…you know what?  Since it sounds like everybody else is breaking Godwin’s law, I might as well do it myself.  Hitler?  Bad artist.  George W. Bush?  Bad artist.  Just saying.  See how silly that is?  Still, I hope W. keeps on painting…might be safer for the world that way.

April Fools has come and gone, yet people continue to promote ideas so ludicrous I can only assume they’re pranks being played on us.  Perhaps this entire year should be dedicated to the Fool.  Here are some of the best jokes so far:

Paul Ryan:  “My plan to replace Medicare with a voucher was such a huge success, I’m totally going to bring it back.”

Chris Christie:  “I’m innocent!  My lawyer buddy says so.”

Sarah Palin:  “The Republican budget plan doesn’t cut enough benefits for the poor!”

Paul Ryan again:  “The pre-existing condition clause of the Affordable Care Act is wildly popular.  But I’m sure nobody will mind if we repeal it.”

Ann Coulter:  “If they really want to endear themselves to the voters, conservatives should keep making comments about rape.  For instance–immigration is just like rape.”  (Thanks to the Kavalkade Krew for drawing my attention to this one.)

Vladimir Putin:  “Ukrainians long to be freed by their beloved Russian brothers.”

Kim Jong Un:  “I haven’t done enough executions.  Let’s try one with a flame thrower.”

Miley Cyrus:  “America is in love with my sexiness!”

Ted Cruz:  “America is in love with my intellect!”

If this is any indication of what this year will be like, I will spend the rest of it in constant fits of laughter…or weeping.  I haven’t yet decided which.

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