Tuesday, July 31, 2012

The Olympics certainly aren't what they used to be.

My opening statement is not a criticism.  I like them much better now than when I was a kid.  I was trying to explain to my 16 year old daughter how the Olympics were viewed when I was a kid, which was always, always through the lens of the Cold War.  Us vs. Them.  How many medals did the U.S. and its allies win vs. the Soviet Bloc?  That's what I remember the most about the Olympics when I was a kid.

There was always outrage when our gymnasts were given really low scores by the Russian or East German judges.  I remember how the men's basketball team was literally robbed of a gold medal by the officials by giving them not one "do over" at the very end of a game with a half court heave, but TWO "do overs."  I remember the U.S. boycotting the Moscow Olympics because of their involvement in Afghanistan (and boy, in retrospect, do we look stupid now) and the Soviet Union and their allies boycotting the games in LA.  I remember every once in while that we actually rooted for one of "their" athletes because they were so good, such as Nadia.  And I most certainly remember the U.S. hockey team's "Miracle On Ice" at Lake Placid.  I even have a hockey puck somewhere around here with a sticker of the U.S. hockey team on it when I saw them doing their warm ups by playing all the teams in the Central Hockey League way back when.

I am not sure my daughter could really get what I was saying.  After all, she has no direct experience with anything like that.  The Cold War is just something that happened back in the depths of time that she reads about in her history book.

I am certainly not saying there aren't political tensions in the world.  But it is certainly nice that, for the most part, they don't manifest themselves in the Olympics anymore.  The Olympic Games are not seen as some "proxy war" for who has the best ideology.  And that's really a very positive development.  I actually enjoy rooting for the Russians now and then.

Formatting issues on this blog?

I have received a couple of comments that the formatting is screwy here for some viewers.  I think the problem described is that the text overruns the margins and is difficult to read.  I have an iMac with Safari as my web browser and I haven't seen those problems.  However, I am sure they exist, as I have had that problem with other blogs on my work computer.  My problem is that I have no idea what to do about it.  Blogger went through a drastic change while I was sort of on sabbatical (i.e., "not blogging"). There are many things I don't get and I have noticed it will just change the text color on me for no particular reason.  I think I can go into HTML and change it there, but I would have to do it on a paragraph by paragraph basis.  Anyway, the point is, I have no idea how to fix this issue, especially if I can't see it on my iMac.  I believe the problem is probably happening when I paste something into the Compose window from Word.   I am typing this one right into the Compose window, however.  I bet it will work correctly....

Anyway, my apologies for those who bother to drop by and are having problems.  I have no idea what to do about this.

Friday, July 27, 2012

If trying to promote outrage by taking President Obama’s quotes out of context is Mitt’s main weapon in this campaign, then he has got absolutely nothing.

I find this utterly preposterous and very frightening at the same time.  It is beyond my comprehension to think that Mitt and his team truly believe that continually taking President Obama out of context and making political commercials using those out of context clips is a winning strategy.  But what frightens me is that this tactic might actually be working.  Mitt is counting on never being asked to explain this, that Fox News will always have his back, and that if some reporter does find a way to ask about this ridiculous approach, Mitt will just ignore the question or else pretend that this is a perfectly valid tactic.  “What’s sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander, my friend.”  As if that explains anything.

I was going to write a post about this subject today, but of course, someone much higher in the food chain who writes much more thorough and succinct posts that I beat me to the punch.  From Crooks and Liars:

As we discussed last week, at this point in the race, Republicans aren't just occasionally taking Obama quotes out of context; they're actually building their entire 2012 campaign strategy around sentiments the president didn't actually say. I've honestly never seen anything like it.Let's start a running count:

1. The Romney campaign took Obama out of context in its very first television ad of the race. 

2. When the president told business leaders that U.S. policymakers have been "a little bit lazy" when it comes to attracting businesses to American soil, Republicans took that out of context and launched a series of attacks.

3. When Obama said private-sector job growth is "fine" relative to the public sector, Republicans took that out of context

4. Obama said public institutions help businesses succeed, and Republicans continue to take that out of context.

And 5. Obama said Clinton's tax policies were better than Bush's, which the RNC is taking out of context.

Remember, in theory, none of this should be necessary. If the president were the radical leftist his attackers make him out to be, Republicans wouldn't have to resort to cheap garbage like this. They'd be able to use real Obama quotes and real Obama policies.Instead, we're left with ridiculous tactics that treat voters like idiots.

It’s a great read.  Go look at the entire thing, including clicking through the links.

Again, in normal times, I should think that a major campaign tactic like this would be laughed out of the court of public opinion and ridiculed in every major news outlet in the country.  Just think if John Kerry or Al Gore had tried something like this. 

But these are not normal times.  Nope, they are not. 

First of all, a vast majority of the voting population has already made up their minds about how to vote.  On the right, we have people who are willing to believe anything at all about President Obama, Democrats, and liberals in general as long as it reinforces their preconceived notions that are already carved out of bedrock.   Obama is a Muslim socialist who hates America and is just itching to take people’s guns away.  Democrats are evil and want to give MY hard earned tax money to blah people.  They will absolutely love this kind of attack.  They will just lap it up.  “Look!  This validates everything I believe about Obama!”  This is the same bunch of people who believe that a top advisor to Secretary Hillary Clinton is a covert agent of the Muslim Brotherhood.  It seems as if no one in the right mind would believe something like that, but it is treated like gold by 30% of this country.

I just do not understand how this can happen.  How could we, as a nation, be that stupid, so unwilling to see the actual truth behind some terribly, terribly obvious lies? 

And what’s doubly amazing about this is that Romney apparently lies every time he opens his mouth, or else he goes and insults most of England the day before the opening of their Olympic Games for which they have been preparing for seven years.

What has happened to logic and reason in this country?  Or even fair play?  I understand that politics is a bloody knuckle kind of affair, but isn’t continually taking your opponent out of context every week, especially when it is completely obvious what President Obama was saying when you look at the entire clip, pretty much out of bounds if for no other reason than respect for basic dignity (including your own)?  This has moved way past normal propaganda and fear mongering (e.g., the Daisy ad from the Lyndon Johnson campaign) into uncharted waters. 

I want to know when conservatives will move on from taking complete sentences out of context and just splicing together words that would make Obama sound completely unhinged. 

But what is absolutely the killer for me here is that George Romney provides ample ammunition for attack ads against him almost on a daily basis, without any need for deceptive editing whatsoever.  The man is a walking gaff machine.  Oh, he certainly comes off as more sophisticated and polished than someone like Dan Quayle (p-o-t-a-t-o-e), but what comes out of his mouth is just about as nonsensical. 

And all of this is going on before the political conventions.  The next four months are going to be hell.  I am not sure how a rational, thinking human being is going to make it out of this unscathed.  

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Ah, what a pretty fl.... OHMYGOD!!!

This could sort of be looked upon as a metaphor for America right now, I guess.  But I wouldn't want to be preachy or anything.

Yet more thoughts on the Colorado Theater Massacre.

I am a supporter of President Obama, but I am really upset that he and the entire country seem to think that an appropriate response to this tragedy is to go out to Colorado to visit the relatives of the slain and mouth a bunch of platitudes that are designed to make everyone feel just a bit better but will not accomplish a single thing to change the dynamic of gun violence in this country.  Not one single damn thing.  I find that message very offensive.  “We care.  We share your pain.  We will get through this together.”  

No we won’t.  The President, no matter how much empathy he has, cannot possible share those people’s pain.  And what does “getting through this” actually mean?  Time will pass, eventually the pain and grieving will diminish to a point that those poor people who were related to those killed or were themselves injured in the attach can sort of operate in a functional way that society can accept. 

And if he cared, really cared, he would do something from his position as leader of this country to ensure that something like this won't ever happen again.   But that isn't going to happen.  Some of the first statements made by the President after this shooting made it very plain that he isn't going to do anything substantive.

Here is something President Obama just said, via HuffPo:

“Because they represent what's best in us and they assure us that out of this darkness a brighter day is going to come."

Oh, really?  A “brighter day”, huh?  For who?  That’s total BS.  That’s just a bunch of meaningless blather.  How, pray tell, is this mythical “brighter day” going to come about if every single politician in the country, with the exception of NYC Mayor Bloomberg, apparently, lacks the spine to even bring up the point that there is something severely wrong with how this country views guns.  No, sure can’t say that, especially in an election year.  Nope.  Oh, can’t be seen to be “politicizing” a huge tragedy.  That would be unseemly. 

Like I said in a previous post, things are not going to change.  If they didn’t change after a madman shot President Reagan, or Gabriel Giffords, or the yearly attacks on some school across the country, things aren’t going to change now just because some people who wanted to go out to a movie happened to pick the wrong night to go.

I am also very upset with how the television networks play this kind of tragedy.  Within a day or two of events like these, the networks invariably move from news reporting into what appears to be the entertainment realm.  God, do they love interviewing grieving relatives or people who survived the rampage or maybe just some passerby that might have seen or heard something.  The news anchors and on scene reporters just love the opportunity to look very serious and important.  It gives them the opportunity to exhibit gravitas.  “Look how serious and caring I am about this terrible situation.”

I know that they almost have no choice in this matter, but this is the old saying, “If it bleeds, it leads” taken to an outlandish extreme.  Boy, does the American audience just love to lap up other people’s misery.  It’s just like a reality show!  Even better!!  It’s also easy for them, because it’s safe and there is no thought involved.  No digging for a story that might uncover some basic truths, like maybe how many people in the country are killed each and every year by gun violence.  How about a story on how the NRA has hijacked the political discussion in the country.  Why did the ban on assault rifles get overturned and maybe isn’t it time to rethink that approach? Or maybe, what is wrong with how this country approaches the issue of mental health and dealing with potential nut jobs?  (Yes, I agree, no one could have seen this one in Colorado coming.  But perhaps the massacre at Virginia Tech could have been prevented if someone had done something with their obvious concerns and suspicions about the shooter.) 

Mass killings in the United States have become commonplace that they are apparently routine enough that we have programmed responses, and that speaks volumes about this country without any other commentary included.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Republican Senator believes that limiting high capacity rounds “restricts freedom.”

I want to know what, exactly, a regular non-military, non-law enforcement person really needs assault weapons and high capacity magazines.  What, exactly, are they going to do with those?  What possible purpose, besides the ones we have been witnessing, can there be for owning such firepower?

Well, a number of Republican senators certainly believe that, even if there may not be identifiable use, any attempt to restrict access would be a “restriction of our freedoms.”

Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) drew a fairly strict line in the sand on Sunday with respect to the coming debate over gun control, suggesting that there is a constitutional right to buy high-capacity clips and magazines. 
"Does something that would limit magazines that could carry 100 rounds, would that infringe on the constitutional right?" host Chris Wallace asked Johnson on "Fox News Sunday." 
"I believe so," Johnson replied. "People will talk about unusually lethal weapons, that could be potentially a discussion you could have. But the fact of the matter is there are 30-round magazines that are just common. You simply can't keep these weapons out of the hands of sick, demented individuals who want to do harm. And when you try to do it, you restrict our freedoms."

Yep, that certainly makes sense.  I definitely remember the Constitution, or maybe it was the Bill of Rights, or maybe it was the Gettysburg Address, that specifically said that a citizen of the U.S. must have access to firepower that can kill dozens and maybe hundreds of people in less than a minute.  Even though I believe that flintlocks were the order of the day back around 1775 and 1776.

For a political party that just LOVES to view the Constitution in what they believe was the original intent of the Founding Fathers, they certainly can stretch a point when it comes to guns.

This is the mentality I am looking at when I said in an earlier post on this subject that this country will never change.  Mass killings of innocent bystanders by lunatics with easy access to any weapon their hearts desire and a chip on their shoulder will not stop, because this country’s priorities have “absolute freedom with anything to do with high power weaponry” is much higher on our list than is keeping civilians safe.

Yeah, I know, if anyone were reading this blog and I got comments, someone would no doubt say that even with the type of restrictions I am talking about, we wouldn’t have stopped this particular person from killing people, if that is what he wanted to do.  And you know what?  You may be right.  But you also may be wrong.  Maybe low capacity clips might have slowed this guy down.  Maybe….  If he didn’t have an assault rifle, he might, must maybe, might have thought twice about his plan.  The thing is, we can’t know for certain until we try.  And we aren’t going to try.  Because this nation’s priorities are totally out of whack.

Now, of course, if this attack had been perpetrated by a fanatical Iranian, our course as a nation would have been very easy to determine.  We go bomb Iran and start another middle east war that will be much more difficult to win and/or extract ourselves from than Iraq.  The TSA would no doubt make it that much more difficult to get on a commercial airplane.  The Dept. of “Homeland Security” would issue more color-coded alerts.  The government would probably push for mass use of surveillance drones to spy on activities of anyone that looks suspicious.  But since this was a nutjob loner white guy, well…  There’s just nothing that can be done about that.

I just can’t fathom Senator Ron Johnson from the state of Wisconsin going on Fox News and saying something like this, three days after the horrific day in Denver.  He makes me a bit sick to my stomach.  But, to others, he is no doubt hailed as a “True American.”

UPDATE:  Sorry this is difficult to read.  I have absolutely no idea why Blogger decided to put this posts text in grey against a black background.  I didn't do that and can't figure out how to change it.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

One more thought on guns and the lack of gun control in America.

Here's a comparison to think about when debating gun violence in this country.

On 9/11, one of the worst days in American history, somewhere around 3000 people were murdered in cold blood by a number of fanatics.  Over that event, this country ended up starting two wars (even if Iraq wasn't about 9/11 directly, George Bush certainly used the opportunity to get his war of choice), each of which set a record for the longest war this country had ever participated in.  Thousands of American soldiers were killed, and tens of thousands were maimed for life.  Over a trillion dollars was spent, and hundreds of thousands of civilians from both Iraq and Afghanistan were killed.  That's what this country did in the name of the 3000 people who died on 9/11.  "Never forget!"

On the other hand, somewhere between 9000 and 10,000 people in the U.S. are killed by gun violence each and every year, and we do absolutely nothing.  Let me repeat that.  Between 9000 and 10,000 people in the U.S. are killed by gun violence each and every year, and we do absolutely nothing.

The ability of Americans to rationalize away anything that contradicts with their established beliefs is nothing short of dumbfounding.

UPDATE:  Actually, Cognitive Dissonance was the term I was looking for.

UPDATE:  Here is actually what looks like to me a non-satirical commentary from The Onion, courtesy of Balloon Juice.

Friday, July 20, 2012

12 dead in a shooting rampage outside of Denver at a Batman movie.

This country is really, really sick. I am not sure I am not talking about a country which can continually produce nutjobs that believe they need to solve their grievances by taking out guns and blowing away innocent people. Yes, every country has the lunatics, such as Norway, for example, but this country seems to have more than our fair share.

But again, what I am talking about is the fact that these types of events are so damn commonplace. They seem to happen several times a year now. And I will absolutely goddamn guarantee that this event will be all but forgotten within six months, just like the shooting at Virginia Tech was. Just like the horrific shooing of Gabby Giffords at a campaign event outside a shopping mall in Tucson.  Those have all but been forgotten, except when someone brings up Giffords every now and then.

 Any attempt by anyone to actually DO anything about gun violence in this country will be met with overwhelming opposition, and the attempt will crumble. Any attempt will be labeled as “Political Opportunism” and “Government Overreach.” The country, as a whole (which is different than a majority of the population, because that doesn’t factor in money, the NRA, and political timidity), would rather have these sickening events a couple of times a year where countless innocent people die or come through the event with horrible physical and psychic scars, than actually curtail anyone’s easy access to as many guns as they want. THAT is what is important in this country. Innocent lives are not important in the face of letting crazy people have guns.

Don’t give me that crap about statistics. I can show you just as many statistics about how having guns in someone’s home increases the change, by a large amount, of someone getting shot accidently.

 Don’t give me that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” No, guns do kill people. That’s the predominate reason that many guns are manufactured and sold. Sure, there are rifles and shotguns made specifically for hunting of animals (which I think is cruel and absurd, but do recognize it as a legitimate form of “recreation”). But most guns are made to kill people.

I feel so badly, just like I do after every shooting. Nothing will happen. People will wring their hands and say, “how horrible.” And other people will immediately go into their defensive/pre-emptive offensive mode, ready to stomp on any attempt to do anything about curtailing gun violence. And absolutely nothing will happen. This is the norm. People die in car crashes, no one wants to take away people’s cars. (I have actually heard that one as an argument.) Therefore, by extension, why worry about a few nuts with guns which we can’t do anything about anyway? Don’t concern yourself that we haven’t actually TRIED to do anything. We just know that we can’t solve the problem. So, let’s just forget about this, shall we? Good. Too bad about all those kids that were killed and injured because they wanted to see the new Batman movie. That’s just how it goes.

I hate this country.

UPDATE:  This is in response to the first comment I received on my post, only about 10 minutes after I hit post.  I thought about addressing this "argument" in my original post, but I was so upset and in a hurry that I didn't go there.  Not that it would have mattered to those people who think that the best/only solution to gun violence in this country is to arm EVERYONE.  Yep, sure can't see any problems with that....  No, I am sure that drunken disputes at 2 a.m. in a bar that currently only results in broken teeth and bloody knuckles would NEVER result in a gun fight.  Just like the case of Trayvon Martin in Florida didn't end up with a 17 year old kid dead because some hot shot with a gun and a chip on his shoulder (who wasn't even drunk at the time) decided he was going to instigate something.  No, guns certainly don't empower people with feelings of control, machismo and invulnerability.  No, and I am sure that when something did come up, no more innocent bystanders would be hurt or killed in the crossfire.  20 people shooting in a dark movie theater with smoke bombs and tear gas going off?  No, no chance of anyone else getting hurt.

Goddamn, I cannot understand this country.  People have lost sight of all perspective and ideology is REQUIRED to drive all responses anymore.  No logic.  No understanding of anyone's problems other than their own, either real or imaginary.  Only mindless tribalism.  "They" are against this, so "we" MUST be for it!  And vis versa.

I still maintain that the 2nd Amendment was written to address the issue of the government being able to raise a fighting force (i.e., "militia") very quickly, as there wasn't a standing army back then.  To me, that's simple logic.  But a huge percentage of the people in this country believe that it means that anyone, even those with a history of domestic violence and mental illness, should be allowed to have as many guns as they want, without any government "interference" at all.  It's perfectly fine to have to go through mandatory training and getting a drivers license to drive a car, but guns?  Hey, it's all good.  No regulations necessary.

And I am just as sure that I will get more crazy comments like that first one.  I may end up using my authority as owner of the blog to delete those comments, of course....  You want to advocate arming the entire country?  Go get your own damn blog.

UPDATE:  I revised the number of dead in the title from 14 to 12.  Initial reports on events like these are always confused/confusing and will always be subject to correction after things settle down a bit.

UPDATE:  Ah, great.  The shooter booby-trapped his apartment.  That's just great....  This guy really meant to go out in a blaze of glory, or whatever that amounted to in his sick, twisted mind.  I don't care how badly anyone may think that "society" or the government has treated them.  There is absolutely no justification for this.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

More pretty cool public chalk art.

It just seems like a lot of work for something that won't last very long. But they are cool. Click on the photo for a bigger version.