Columbus Day is a terrible holiday

So this guy sails over to the New World, kills and enslaves some local populations, brings human beings back to Europe as curiosities, and also unleashes a whole series of nasty plagues that devastate the people of the American continents over the next several centuries…and we celebrate this event?

How about if we don’t?

Here’s a great suggestion: rededicate the day to exploration, and do it in the name of Neil Armstrong, someone who didn’t initiate a wave of genocide and was by all accounts a decent human being. It serves two purposes: it stops enshrining a rather nasty event, and starts celebrating a noble purpose. Easy. It’s such an obvious idea, I don’t know why we haven’t done it already.

Sign the petition.

Oh. It’s got 90 signatures so far. It needs 25,000. That’s why it hasn’t happened yet.

The Clinton ‘Nightmare’

If you didn’t see it last night, watch it now: Bill Clinton’s speech to the Democratic National Convention. Wow…it’s what I want from a political speech, tons of policy and specifics and evidence.

In case you’re wondering whether he just made it all up, just called it Our Clinton Nightmare…because they had to do so much checking of details and data, and because it kept turning out that he wasn’t making any juicily dishonest claims. The worst error they found was that he oversold the effect of Obamacare, because most of its provisions aren’t yet in effect; the real reason health care costs are slowing right now is because people are too broke and too uninsured to go to the doctor.

FactCheck did not report on his other gigantic error, though. The closing line of Clinton’s speech, and of every other speaker, was that tedious, stupid “God bless you, and God bless America.” I’ve got to learn to hit the mute button on the remote faster, because that pointless piety was really getting on my nerves.

Despite his flaws, Clinton really is a politician’s politician, talented and undeniably brilliant. If only Al Gore had turned him loose to campaign for him…and now, I seriously hope that Obama is planning to put Clinton to work on his re-election.

Unleash the Bill! Romney doesn’t stand a chance.

Now, of course, Obama has to give a speech tonight that is at least its equal. Romney just had to top a rambling old geezer and an empty chair (and he failed). Obama has to show why I shouldn’t just write Bill Clinton’s name on my ballot.

If you’d like to just read it rather than watch it (although you’ll be missing a master rhetorician at work), here’s the text.

Canadian tragedy

The Parti Québécois won an electoral victory yesterday, and unfortunately the victory celebration for Pauline Marois was interrupted by a man opening fire with a rifle, killing one person and wounding another. When will people learn that murder solves nothing?

I’m afraid I know little about Quebec politics. The killer apparently shouted, “Les Anglais se reveillent. (The English are awakening) There’s going to be payback” in French, with an accent, as he was hauled away by the police. Whose side is he on? Or does it even make sense to discuss the political alignment of a demented mass-murderer-wannabe?

Democrats growing a spine?

I don’t know. I’m skipping yet another political convention — if the Republicans were engaging in non-stop lying, I was afraid the Democrats would engage in non-stop cringing — but the reports I’m reading today make it sound like they were talking strong and standing up for, for instance, a woman’s right to choose and against economic inequity to some degree. Here are a few highlights, and this was Michelle Obama’s speech:

It was a good speech, delivered well. That speech was also well-received by the troglodytes at Fox News, who have decided that Michelle Obama is a “wookie”, a “pig-person”, and fat. Get used to it; that (R) stands for (Racist).

I’m not hearing much about the military and Guantanomo, though, and they’re not slamming the 1% as thoroughly as they should. I’m tempted to at least have the thing running in the background on my TV tonight while I get other work done…except for one thing.

Are they all going to end their speeches with “God bless, and God bless America”? Because that makes me gag with its stupidity and insincerity.

Republicans speak to the invisible man

Marco Rubio spoke to the RNC last night, and reminded everyone that we atheists aren’t Americans after all.

We are special [We are?] because we’ve been united not by a common race or ethnicity [This is true of many countries. What about Canada?]. We’re bound together by common values [Again, trivially true of most countries]. That family is the most important institution in society [Is there a country that doesn’t have and value families?]. That almighty God is the source of all we have [Nope. Wrong. We built that].

Special, because we’ve never made the mistake of believing that we are so smart that we can rely solely on our leaders or our government [Nice sentiment in a speech where he’s trying to convince us to rely on Mitt Romney].

Our national motto is "In God we Trust," reminding us that faith in our Creator is the most important American value of all [Fuck you too, Marco Rubio].

And special because we’ve always understood the scriptural admonition that "for everyone to whom much is given, from him much will be required." [Say what? So the rich should pay more taxes?]

We are a blessed people [Nope. We’re lucky. Some of us are rich. But millions are poor and hungry and ignorant. Don’t forget them]. And we have honored those blessings with the enduring example of an exceptional America [What seems to be making us particularly exceptional among wealthy nations is the idiocy of our leaders and the piety of our population, neither of which is anything to be proud of].

I think it was a theme. They brought on Clint Eastwood to make a stumbling address to an invisible man in an empty chair, and Rubio to do the same thing with a bit more polish.

The Republicans can kiss the atheist vote goodbye, but it makes me wonder…are there any atheists left in the Republican party, besides Karl Rove?

The Big Theme: LIES

I spent another pleasant night not watching the Republican National Convention, but I did follow the live-blogging on ThinkProgress. It’s the best way to do it, because apparently they’ve organized a team of fact-checkers, and everytime a Republican opened their mouth, someone scurried off and looked up whether they were lying or not. It must have been a busy night, scurry, scurry, scurry, and I imagine at the end everyone was lying on the floor, panting like exhausted gerbils. Because it turned out that that was what everyone at the RNC was doing: lying.

The New Republic called Ryan’s big moment in the spotlight the Most Dishonest Convention Speech…Ever?. Charles Pierce compared Ryan to Nixon…only not as honest. New York Magazine said Ryan was betting on American ignorance (scary thing is, that’s a fairly safe bet).

Romney is on tonight. I’ll have the TV on, watching petty, vicious infighting among a mob of amoral cannibals in a devastated world. Same difference, I know.

I didn’t watch the Republican National Convention

Sorry. I just can’t bear it. My wife wanted to make the effort, and I grumbled and delayed and finally handed over control of the remote (I had a lecture to write anyway), but I was amused to see she turned it on during Santorum’s speech and only lasted about five minutes…she decided the weather news was far more interesting.

So I looked elsewhere for summaries. Salon caught Santorum’s dogwhistle speech.

Chris Christie got tapped to make the keynote attack on President Obama, but Rick Santorum was assigned to throw out some of the reddest meat at the GOP convention: about the way Obama supposedly gutted the work requirement for welfare (he didn’t).

And in case anyone was in danger of missing the racial subtext, Santorum linked Obama’s waiving the work requirement (he didn’t) to “his refusal to enforce the immigration law.” Welfare recipients and illegal immigrants, oh my! Santorum made sure to scare the white working class with the depredation of those non-white slackers and moochers. It’s 1972 all over again.

Yeah, Republicans are racist. They ought to just be open about it and call themselves the White People Party.

The best summary comes via physioproffe: Gin and Tacos’ “AN ASTONISHING PANAROMA OF THE ENDTIMES”. I get the impression they had to bring on Ann Romney because she’s the only person willing to make a speech about Mitt.

Todd Akin is not an extremist

The Republicans want you to think he is a fringe candidate, a wacky loner who just said something outrageous. But when you look at the voting record of Minnesota's Republicans, it becomes really clear: they all vote almost exactly as Todd Akin would on every abortion-related bill that comes up.

It’s really rather stunning: Democrats and Republicans are extraordinarily polarized on this issue. With only a few wobblers, Democrats vote for issues that give women reproductive choices, while Republicans vote against them. If you don’t think there is a bit of difference between the two parties, just look at that one issue.

By the way, about those wobblers…they aren’t, really. If you look at the detailed voting records, you find that there are a few Democrats who are actually stealth Republicans — they consistently vote more like a Republican on women’s rights issues. One of them is, unfortunately, my own state representative, Collin Peterson. I never vote for him, and I can never vote for his Republican challenger, either. Can we please get a real Democrat to run for that office and topple him?