I Am Civically Literate Enough to Write This Blog

I am nearly 100% qualified to opine on political and governmental issues. Ha!

And no, I didn’t cheat and Google the answers. If I had, I wouldn’t have missed bloody Question #7. Go see if you do better.

This is an interesting little project the ISI’s got. Their official survey – the one people can’t cheat on – shows that 71% of Americans fail the test. The average score for regular citizens is 49%. For people who held public office, it’s 44%. That’s just pathetic.

Here’s a finding that shows a dramatic confusion about religion in this country:

Seventy-nine percent of those who have been elected to government office do not know the Bill of Rights expressly prohibits establishing an official religion for the U.S.

Only 24% of college graduates know the First Amendment prohibits establishing an official religion for the United States.

I think we need to get to edumicating people.

At least we know without taking the test that we’re likely smarter than average:

The civic knowledge gained from engaging in frequent conversations about public affairs, reading about current events and history, and participating in more involved civic activities is greater than the gain from a bachelor’s degree alone.

And people wonder why I didn’t opt for crushing student loan debt…

Truth and Reconciliation

If we can’t have war crimes tribunals, at least let us have this:

Getting a sense of what the nation doesn’t know about the Bush administration’s secrets is not only daunting, it’s hard to know where to start. In the soon-to-be-published December issue of the Washington Monthly, editor Charles Homans has a must-read cover story: “Last Secrets of the Bush Administration: How to find out what we still don’t know.”

The thought of revisiting this history after living through it for eight years is exhausting, and both President Barack Obama and Congress will have every political reason to just move on. But we can’t — it’s too important. Fortunately, an accounting of the Bush years is a less daunting prospect than it seems from the outset. If the new president and leaders on Capitol Hill act shrewdly, they can pull it off while successfully navigating the political realities and expectations they now face. A few key actions will take us much of the distance between what we know and what we need to know.

That these “few key actions” seem necessary is an understatement. Homans’ prescription — treat the Naval Observatory like a crime scene; quickly declassify the Bush administration’s deliberations and policy implementations (especially from the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel); and use commissions instead of subpoenas — offers a realistic blueprint to policy makers on both ends of Pennsylvania Avenue. Take a look.

Part of me is hoping against hope that the Hague decides to do what we don’t have the political stomach for, and will indict Bush et al for their war crimes and human rights violations. We can’t just pretend the last eight years didn’t happen. We used to hang people for less than what Bush and his buffoons did. Turning a blind eye is out of the question.

At least some sort of commission will lance the abcess. We need at least that much if we’re going to heal as a nation and regain our international health.

Folks Who Won’t Need “How to Talk to an Atheist”

PZ’s cheering on Catholics for Choice, who apparently borrowed my Smack-o-Matic 3000 when I wasn’t looking and used it to belabor Bill Donahue:

  • From the beginning, the Catholic League was marked by a schizophrenic attitude that would become its hallmark: It simultaneously argued for the right of conservative Catholics to impose their values in the public sphere, while arguing against the right of others in the public sphere to offer legitimate criticism of Catholics or Catholicism.

  • The Catholic League tactics are i) manufacture controversy; ii) try to intimidate the “enemy”; iii) bully the opposition; iv) complain early and often; v) attack popular culture; and vi) silence the loyal opposition.

I haven’t had a chance to read their full takedown, but judging from what PZ quoted, it’s a thing of beauty.

I thought of my heart sister NP when I read this. She’s one of the people who kept me from looking at Catholics as a whole with a jaundiced eye, and now she’s got a whole army’s worth of backup. These folks probably won’t need to read my book, but they’re the kinds of Christians I mean when I say Christians and atheists have plenty to talk about. I don’t mind standing shoulder-to-shoulder with religious folk against stupid, intolerant fuckwits.

In fact, I think we could all have a good time of it.

It’s Official. The Republicon Party Is Not Smarter Than a Seven Year-Old

I heard earlier today that Obama has sent a thank-you letter to a seven year-old blogger, but I didn’t think there would be any substance to the story. I thought wrong.

I now think we may be looking at a future Democratic president, and no, I’m not being condescending (h/t):

Here is why I’m asking grown-ups to vote for Barack Obama. I am 7 years old so I can’t vote……

My mom told me that I shouldn’t base my election analysis on “feelings” (I like him/her) or “beliefs” (I share his/her beliefs) but on logical arguments. She asked me to create my own rational explanations for my support of Obama. Here is one of my arguments:

McCain and Palin are not be qualified to be President / Vice President of the U.S. The President’s job is to do good for the country and the world. To do good for the country, the President must make smart decisions on important situations.

Governor Palin believes the world is 6000 years old. This is absurd. This is not a rational belief. This is a mistake. Scientists, experiments and evidence have shown this to be completely false. Therefore, she is not rational. If she is not rational, she should not be allowed to be President or Vice President.

Please vote for Barack Obama.

No, he’s not just regurgitating his parents’ views. He researched both campaigns for a school assignment before coming to a reasoned conclusion. He really is that amazing.

It didn’t surprise me to learn that young Mr. Stas Gunkel is in the gifted program. I hope he never loses his passion for politics. This country needs people who can think this clearly – and if he’s this much smarter than the average Republicon politician at seven, just imagine what he’s going to be like when he’s old enough to hang out at the cantina.

A heartfelt tip o’ the shot glass to his parents, who are teaching their son the value of thought. And a hearty tip o’ the (non-alcoholic) shot glass to Stas for showing us all how it’s done. You ever need me to work for your future campaign, Stas, I’ll be ready.

Tristero Borrows the Smack-o-Matic

I think it’s melting:

Attention, all you Emily Post trolls who need smelling salts after encountering the nasty vicious netroots:
“Now, listen, I’ve voted ‘present’ two or three times in my entire 25-year political career, where there might have been a conflict of interest and I didn’t feel like I should vote,” Boehner said. “In Congress, we have a red button, a green button and a yellow button, alright. Green means ‘yes,’ red means ‘no,’ and yellow means you’re a chicken shit. And the last thing we need in the White House, in the oval office, behind that big desk, is some chicken who wants to push this yellow button.”

That’s right. John Boehner said Obama’s a chicken shit.

And this is why, girls and boys, all talk about a less toxic political atmosphere with the current Republican party is sheer nonsense. Oh sure, Obama – if we are lucky enough to wake up Wed and find him elected – could find a spare Hagel lying around, or a Jim Leach to nail into his Cabinet,and that’s probably a good idea in the long run. But the reality staring us straight in the face is that the leadership of the Republican party – and a huge GOP majority having influence in the party’s ideological and strategic direction -have no interest in anything remotely resembling bipartisanship.

And neither does anyone I know personally who’s supporting Obama. Not with these murderous, corrupt clowns. We want the extreme right and their agenda out of our national politics, driven back to the margins of American discourse where it belongs. Maybe someone out there truly yearns for a less nasty politics, but not me, not now. Not with extremists who call me “traitor,” who have listed my friends as some of the 100 most dangerous people in America or placed them on terrorist watch lists, and who, from their seat as a US Representative pronounce a candidate for the American presidency a chicken shit.

Since I’m sure our resident rightwing friends will take what I just said out of context, let’s be clear. I am not saying that a robust, vibrant, and bipartisan effort on serious issues will remain ipso facto impossible or is necessarily undesirable. Nor am I saying that Democrats and only Democrats always have the “right” answer to a problem – clearly they don’t. I am saying, however, that it is absolutely impossible with the Republican party as it is now, and in its forseeable paleolithic palinized future, for Democrats to work together productively with the extremists at the top of (and throughout) the party except on the most circumscribed of issues. To get anything serious done, they will have to be fought. And that will not be pretty. I see no reason for Dems to back down and plenty of reasons to respond tit for tat, with interest.

You cannot “work with” the extreme right, but you can defeat them.

There’s more. I’ve read the whole thing. Twice. And I have to say that Tristero captured my sentiments exactly.

The Republicon party is infested with religious fanatics, racists, ignoramuses, and chickenhawks. There’s hardly a sane person left in the bunch. They’ve become a crowd of spoiled toddlers throwing shit and tantrums when they don’t get their way. They have no idea what compromise is. They have no concept of working together for the greater good. They strut their bigotry and hate proudly, they’ve gotten away with far too much, and we cannot reward them now by treating them as equals in government. They are not. They had free reign for too many years, and we’ve seen what they’ve done to this country, bled and bankrupted it, destroyed our international standing and imperiled our future. And they’ll keep right on smashing and grabbing until we put a stop to them.

This election needs to be a resounding refutation of them. But that’s just the beginning. It’s after the election that the real work begins.

The Cons need to be schooled in civility. They need to be educated. The fanatics need to be stripped of their power and tossed to the side. The few respectable Republicans left need to be brought forward so that they can rescue the party from the rabid ratfuckers who usurped it, but for the most part, it’s going to be the Dems who will have to govern, without much input from the screaming rabble. When the Cons are ready to use their Big Boy voices, we’ll be ready to listen. If they keep up the misbehaving, they need to be spanked. The adults need to get firm with them, or they’ll never be fit for polite society.

In four years, or eight, or however long it takes for them to mature, then we can have genuine bipartisanship. We might even find a way to transcend political parties and do what’s right for this country and the world. Someday. But we’re in for a world of hurt if we believe someday is today.

They’re not ready. They need a long time-out first. It’s our duty as responsible adults to give it to them.

Woozle’s Glorious Open Letter to a Crazy Christian Lady

Our own Woozle wrote an open letter to that Jesus freak who believes gay-friendly schools should be bombed. It has only one weakness: it’s not getting the audience it should.

Dear crazy Christian lady,

I’m writing because you seem like a nice person except for certain things you have said which frighten me a great deal. I want you to understand that those things are not true, and that you believe them only because you and your family are being used by people who want you to be afraid of reality so that they can control you.

There are certainly plenty of things to be afraid of in this world, but non-heterosexuals are the least of your worries. Most non-heterosexuals have been teased and abused all their lives; they know how it feels to be hated, they know what it feels like to be hurt, and consequently they are much less likely to hate or harm you, your family, or your friends than someone who has not had these experiences.

Do homosexuals and transsexuals routinely vandalize the property of heterosexuals, threaten their families, assault them in the street, rape and murder them? No, but the reverse is certainly true; there are entire web sites dedicated to the ever-growing roster of innocents murdered by the sort of hate you are nurturing…

Woozle goes on to take her down on her own turf. This letter might even make a few God-blind buggers think about their faith, using the Bible to shake them out of their culture war complacency. If you ever get into a debate with people like Crazy Christian Lady, this letter will be an essential resource.

Go make good use of it.

Is the Revolution Coming to America?

For those who didn’t see this in comments, Last Hussar linked to his fascinating post comparing the Labour Landslide in Great Britain to the Republicon party’s U.S. implosion, and believes we could be looking at a similar moment:

Current affairs and politics geeks in the UK will remember the question that was on all their lips on the 2nd of May 1997. “Were you still up for Portillo?”. I am beginning to wonder if the same sort of thing may happen on 6th November 2008 in the USA. For those too young, too foreign (in a nice way- I don’t expect you to follow every nuance of British politics), or just too disinterested at the time, allow me explain. The Conservative (aka ‘Tory’) Government of the mid/late 90’s was deeply unpopular, and deeply divided with the Europhobes threatening rebellion, and Tony Blair’s successful rebranding the Labour Party into ‘New Labour’, basically standing, in an ideological sense, as close as they could to the Tories to pick up their voters promised a landslide. What no one forsaw was the complete massacre of Tory Top Brass that happened.

Through out the night (Counting starts shortly after the polls shut at 10pm, with the first constituencies declaring at about 11pm) more and more Tory ‘heavyweights’ lost their seats. Political parties in the UK tend to try and get their most important MPs to stand in ’safe seats’, ones they would never lose. But in ‘97 deep unpopularity morphed into tactical voting, with voters for a party that would normally finish distant third throwing their votes behind the best placed non-Tory.

Then at 4am (and I stayed up to watch it) came the shock news. Micheal Portillo, a man touted as a future Tory Leader, had lost his ’safe’ Enfield seat to the unknown Stephen Twigg (Labour). Portillo had been expected to be a leading player, possibly even a leader, in the wake of the defeat every one predicted. Could this happen to the Republicans, facing not only defeat for President, but both Congress and Senate.

What follows gives me hope. Last Hussar has an intimate understanding of both British and U.S. politics, and as such is able to provide a panoramic perspective. It’s good to see this election through other eyes.

America: You Really Want Us to Love It or Leave It?

Cons have this cute little conversation-stopper they use when liberals and progressives are demanding improvements to America. “Love it or leave it!” they crow.

As if wanting to improve something means you don’t love it.

As if love means never questioning your country.

“Love it or leave it.”

All right.

What if we did?

What if we decided that, yes, the fact that America isn’t perfect means we shouldn’t live here anymore? What if every single liberal packed up and moved to a country with a saner political system tomorrow? What if we left America to the cons who “love” her?

I hope the cons didn’t love America for her blue skies and clean water. We progressives were the ones who ensured that those things were protected. The Republicons, with their big bidness buddies, will take all of the brakes off of pollution – Beijing’s air will start to look downright breathable compared to what will be left here. And it’s very hard to drink the water when it’s so polluted you can set it on fire, FYI.

I hope the cons didn’t love America for her abundant wildlife, her hunting and fishing, her wilderness. Because the Republicons, with their big bidness buddies, want to fill that wilderness with coal mines and oil wells and leave nothing but toxic waste behind. They’ll be happy to blast mountains apart and chop down every tree. Last I checked, the salmon and trout and deer and bears don’t rent apartments in city centers. And the cons will learn soon enough that the caribou love of oil pipelines is nothing more than a myth. They’ll find out just how much the progressives protected for their shooting pleasure.

I hope the cons didn’t love America for her opportunity. For every self-made man who becomes a multi-millionaire, there will be thousands toiling at thankless jobs, without the education or the assistance to have a shot at pulling themselves toward the upper middle. And those thankless jobs won’t include a minimum wage, so you’d best hope the corporate overlords will somehow find a heart and pay you enough to survive on. Don’t count on it, though – all of those whose compassion trumps their greed will have left. (That’s assuming all of the jobs haven’t been shipped overseas, mind you.)

I hope the cons didn’t love their Social Security, their health insurance, or any other program that the Republicons want to privatize. The progressives have tried to ensure that the government programs that keep us from starving or dying of preventable disease aren’t eviscerated. We won’t be here to save them.

I hope the cons didn’t love America for her innovation. The Republicons have never been fond of either funding or teaching science. The progressives have ensured that science education maintains some reasonable standards, and that science has money to innovate. Without us here, creationism will rule the schools, science funding will dry up, and Americans won’t be able to compete globally against people who have the education and the science to invent.

I hope the cons didn’t love America for her Constitution, or her freedoms, or her democracy. Without the progressives to protect those things, they won’t survive as anything more than a memory.

I hope the cons didn’t love America for her preeminent place in the world. After a few years of unfettered Republicon rule, America will be nothing more than a has-been bully. And she does not have the military might to bomb every nation into submission.

If everyone who loves America enough to want to make her the best she can be leaves tomorrow, there soon won’t be much left of her for the cons to love. Where would your “love it or leave it” rhetoric be then?

You’d better be godsdamned grateful we love America enough to stay.

Fuck the Elevated Discourse – Gimme a Talking Point and a Hammer

Glenn Greenwald has an utterly valid point to make:

Somehow, the deep stupidity of our political discourse actually manages to escalate during presidential campaigns, becoming even more vapid and idiotic than normal. But, as I argued continuously when I did my book tour in April and May for Great American Hypocrites, this is the kind of campaign the GOP runs every election and in which they specialize, and there are only two options for Democrats in response: (1) purport to “rise above it” and thus ensure that they get slaughtered in a one-sided, one-way War of Personality Demonization which renders issues irrelevant (hence: the all-American Everyman War Hero versus the rich, out-of-touch, effete elitist), or (2) attack the GOP candidate using the same lowly character themes in order to neutralize the attacks and prevent the election from being decided on these grounds. It’s good to see the Obama campaign, finally, engaging these issues aggressively.

I know. We’re all dogfucking sick of the character assassinations, ridiculous shit like beverage preferences and fucking flag pins being treated as matters of Utmost Vital Importance, and the tantrums. I know we’d like it if our candidates could actually win by being decent, upstanding, grown-ups who obsess over the important issues rather than the number of houses their opponent owns. We’d like to forcibly remove braindead media gasbags from studios and replace them with people who will actually report actual news. We’d like the American electorate to discover what enlightened self interest is all about and decide the election based on what’s best for the country and for them rather than the beer-buddy qualities of the man they’re pulling the lever for.

You know what, I’d like all of those things. Fuck, I’d love all of those things. I’d also like a ranch with horsies, and a little house on the Mediterranean.

The sad fact is, I’m much more likely to end up with the latter than the former. I’m probably more likely to end up winning a trillion dollar jackpot than living to see the day when our national discourse rises above playground popularity contests. Maybe Efrique could work out the statistical probabilities for us. The graph is sure to be sob-inducing.

Obama’s going to have to attack, and attack hard, to win. He’s going to have to get vicious. He can’t give any quarter. We know what the GOP’s like – give them a micrometer, they’ll take a megaparsec, and still complain they’re the persecuted victims.

He promised to run a different kind of campaign. And you know what? He is. I’ve never gotten this sense of amusement from a candidate before. Most Dems under fire by the right wing noise machine seem either angry, desperate, or just as muddy as their opposition. Obama just seems entertained. I keep feeling his elbow in my ribs: “Get a load of them. Aren’t they precious?” And that’s a difference, too – I can feel him. When he talks about Republicon antics, he’s subtly putting himself beside us. We’re all feeling the same bemusement, watching the Republicons manufacture their little controversies with the same horrified fascination.

That could be a major reason why he chose Joe Biden as his running mate. Biden is a past master at the cutting remark, and he’s sure as shit not afraid to say what’s on his mind. He balances Obama quite well. Obama’s masterful at the razor-sharp little cuts that lop off an arm before the opponent realizes he’s been hit. Biden’s brilliant at the bludgeon. It’s a combo that’s guaranteed to blitz opponents on all fronts – if they’re not afraid to use it.

At this point, I think it’s safe for them to go on the counterattack. Not only safe, but essential. They can hold the high ground while turning their opponents’ own attacks against them. Sometimes, the most effective weapons are the ones you take from your attacker.

Obama and Biden won’t have to put all that much effort into it. The Republicons are past masters at making themselves look ridiculous. Where the Democrats have failed is exploiting the idiocy. They don’t need to take a page out of the Republicon play book – there are older, better traditions to draw from. Such as the Irish bards, who could take down a king with a well-placed bit of satire.

Republicons sneer, but that’s for immature little bullies. Let us try disdain.

Republicons like to sissify their opponents. While it might be emotionally satisfying to do the same, I think Obama has an excellent chance of going one better and infantalizing them. Do you think the American electorate really wants a bunch of babies at the helm? It could seem that way sometimes, but I think after nearly a decade of Bush’s playground politics, people are ready for grownups. They just need to be shown who the real grownups are.

Republicons like to make shit up and repeat until people are confused into believing it’s true. I think Obama needs to be just as relentless with the truth. Big truths, yes, but mostly small, simple truths: McCain is such a hothead even his colleagues and fellow POWs think he’d be a disasterous president. McCain doesn’t know his geography. McCain thinks rich people are poor. McCain needs a motorcade to go get a mocha. McCain can’t tell the difference between a Sunni and a Shi’a. McCain likes to tell lies. McCain takes credit for things he didn’t do. McCain thinks that the answer to every problem is to a) drill or b) bomb. And, yes, McCain is so rich he doesn’t even know how many houses he owns.

Simple points, simply told. And they can be told from the side of the people. Obama’s been doing something that I think is brilliant: he hasn’t been talking down. He’s been treating ordinary folks as if they’re smart enough to understand. They’re smart enough to agree with him. They’re fucking well smart enough to see through the Republicon charade and realize Emperor St. John, he is nekkid.

If Obama goes on treating the American people as intelligent, sentient beings who can understand that four more years of Republicon rule are not in their self interest, they may defy all expectation and prove him right. They’ll want to live up to that image of themselves. It’s what the Republicons have been manipulating all along: the need to be liked, listened to, part of the “in” crowd.

We can reach all of those needs while fulfilling another: people like to feel admired. They like to feel smart. I don’t think most Americans are stupid so much as they’ve had such low expectations to live up to for so long. And a lot of them are starting to realize they’ve been played for fools.

I don’t think they like it much. Not judging from the people I’ve talked to who were too smart to appreciate being treated as dumbshits by the Republicons for so long, and have now become left-leaning Independents, if not outright Democrats.

There are a lot more we can reach. Unfortunately, they get their news from the teevee. So we’re going to have to play the media game. Our MSM isn’t interested in substantive policy differences right now: they’re interested in shiny things. Fine. Give them shiny. Give them silly shite like, “McCain can’t remember how many houses he’s got.” That’s s
hiny enough to get their attention without allowing them to realize there’s a substantive policy issue in there.

Hit back with those silly talking points that conceal a lead pipe of policy often enough, and it’s just possible that by the end of this cycle, it’ll be the Dems who are considered the party of tough, rugged leaders while the Republicons are the babies crying in the corner.

And once we’re done turning the tables with talking points, we can see about kicking the magpies out of the media and replacing them with eagles.

(Written before the Sarah Palin train wreck struck, in case you’re wondering why I didn’t bring her up.)

Fighting Fair

I don’t hang about Conservapedia much, or I wouldn’t have missed this delightful exchange. Y’see, Andy Schlafly, assclown extraordinaire, would lurrrv to debate a stinking librul – except for the fact he can’t. He ran away from Ames like a kicked cur.

(Note to Andy: here’s how challenges work. If you make ‘em, you pay for ‘em, and you stick by the original terms of your fucking challenge. Unless, of course, you’re so shit-scared of being publicly clobbered by a flaming liberal that you have to find a way to weasel out when one of the buggers misunderstands your grandstanding, chest-thumping, self-congratulatory bullshit and actually takes you seriously.)

The problem is this: Ames and people like him not only fight fair, they fight nice. They’re good, kind, decent people who try not to sink to the stinking pits of depravity their neocon opponents inhabit. And this is why liberals lose even when they win.

Ames won this round. Andy will claim the victory because he’s a lying sack of choleric monkey shit. It’s how the game is played, and the fake celebrations confuse people into believing something’s there to be celebrated. Since a liberal wouldn’t think of celebrating such a hollow victory, well, it’s the neocons who look like they’ve won.

I think there’s a lesson in here.

Yes, we have values, and we shouldn’t engage in tactics we despise to win.

But we need to be better bastards.

When slime like Andy tries to kick liberals in the teeth, don’t turn the other cheek. Let him break his foot hitting the hard stuff.

When bottom feeders like Andy try to move the goalposts, give their hands a good, sharp smack and announce, “The goalposts stay where they are, you son of a bitch. What, you have to cheat to win now?”

We don’t have to be nasty, necessarily. But liberals have a tendency to be conciliatory and offer compromises and try to accommodate, and people like Andy see that as weakness. They use others’ good will to fuck them over, because they know they can get away with it. They don’t understand diplomacy. They do, however, understand the use of force.

So we should get forceful. When we’ve tried a compromise and found the only thing our opponent’s willing to compromise is his integrity, compromise stops, and the smackdown begins. Call them out. Call them six kinds of coward, explain to the universe at large just what a stupid fucking loser your opponents have to be to pull that shit, expose the dishonesty and don’t fucking back down. Bludgeon them with the truth. Ream them with the facts. Don’t get nice again until they’ve shown you their belly. Because if you offer your hand the instant they stop growling but before they’ve shown submission, you’re gonna lose a finger.

And no, that’s not going to keep these pathetic little liars from slithering their way out of a tight corner and trying to play the victor. They won’t fight you honestly because they know they’re gonna lose. That’s why you celebrate calling them out on their lies. Throw the loudest, longest victory party evah whenever some neocon weasel-fucker has just ducked, weaved, and goal-post shifted himself away from certain disaster.

Stuff your liberal guilt into a sack and drown it. What do you have to feel guilty about when you’re fighting fair? You’re being assertive, not aggressive. You don’t lie, you don’t cheat, you don’t make impossible demands, so there’s nothing in the world to be ashamed of. And if you called your opponent a two-faced goat-fucker during a heated exchange, well, sometimes, truth hurts, but it’s important to tell the truth even so.

We don’t have to fight dirty. But fighting fair doesn’t mean having to fight nice.