Friday, March 28, 2008

Note to self: Don't spraypaint churches!

I have to confess, I was a little concerned at the time of my last post. I mean, if the Sentinel was going to write editorials that I agreed with how could I possibly argue against them? It was a terrible quandary.

But never fear, thanks to some idiot with goofy hair and bad taste in music the Sentinel has written another dumb editorial! It's entitled Serious crimes deserve serious bails.

Please note that if you misread that title--as I did--as "Serious crimes deserve serious balls" it's much, much funnier.

Nevertheless, the concept that "serious crimes deserve serious bails" isn't that hard to agree with. I mean, you don't want a murderer getting out on $20 in coupons or anything like that. So what's the supposedly serious crime in question?

Well, it was some dopey teenager spraying graffiti on a bunch of churches, of course. Not just any graffiti, though! "Offensive" graffiti that made some religious folks lose their faith suffer financial hardship feel bad.

What sort of graffiti?
Griffin and an alleged accomplice scrawled messages like, "Jesus didn't rise again," "(Expletive) Jesus," and "You brainwashed zombies," on the churches.

He also confessed to spraypainting a vile message about Mary, who Christians believe is the virgin mother of Jesus Christ, but it is too obscene to print in this community newspaper.
Damn you Sentinel, I want to know what that vile message is! Because the other ones, while not exactly high-caliber works of prose, don't actually seem all that bad to me.

Hell, "Jesus didn't rise again" is one I fully agree with, though I wouldn't go writing it on a church. And "Fuck Jesus" and "You brainwashed zombies" are not really super-substantive. I mean, it's not like he wrote "I'm going to burn your church down" or painted a swastika on a synagogue (which sort of has the same implication).

To put it in perspective, if he wrote "Fuck the principal" on a school or "Hannaford has poor security practices" on a supermarket I really doubt it would be front page news. It would still be pretty dumb, because graffiti is always pretty dumb (with extremely rare exceptions for actual talented graffiti artists).

To wit, he actually did paint on a school, but what he wrote there doesn't seem to have been reported. Because nobody cares, because it's just stupid fucking graffiti made by a dumbass.

Anyway, instead of keeping his mischief-making to those sorts of simple targets that nobody cares about, he went and graffiti-ed up a church. Big mistake! People get freaked out over such things. They take out $1,600 bounties on your head and write editorials and talk about "hate crimes!"

You see, despite being a secular nation (albeit one where open atheists can't get elected) and despite the Founding Fathers' best efforts to keep religion and government totally separate, religions enjoy a privileged place in American society.

If you start criticizing religion, people get very upset. And the big religions have a lot of money and power. Fucking with them is bad news. You don't get a $1,600 bounty on your head by being a dick to just any old group, but you do if you start fucking with Christians (who I thought were supposed to be all about forgiveness, but I guess I was wrong).

The point I'm making here is it's not the crime (petty spraypaint-based vandalism) that has people upset and calling this a "serious crime," it's that he had the nerve and the terrible judgment to go after religion.

This bothers the fuck out of me.

I'm an unabashed liberal. Legislation about "hate crimes" is often put forth by liberal politicians. So that might lead you to think I back "hate crime" legislation.


You can't legislate hate away. You can no more prevent hate with laws that you can fight a war against an emotion (like "terror," for instance). If you try, it leads to a horrifying Orwellian state where we're judging people not on their actions, but on their thoughtcrime. I don't care if your target is religious beliefs or gays or certain racial groups or hippies or whatever. It's a bad idea to let the law consider a person's private beliefs when it should just be dealing with their actions.

Here's a quote from the Sentinel's editorial:
Remarkably, the suspect, Brian Griffin, 19, of 10 Power Mills Road, Phillipston, admitted that he and his alleged accomplice were trying to essentially get a rise out of churchgoers by spraypainting such hateful messages on churches shortly before Easter.

"We decided some sort of religious reference would offend a lot of people," Griffin wrote. "After we left the school, we decided it would be a good prank to do the same to local churches."

But now that he has been arrested, Griffin is claiming he did not intend the anti-Christian graffiti as a hate crime.
Okay, Griffin is a fucking idiot. That's established. But the editorialist seems to believe that just because this fuckwit was trying to get a "rise out of churchgoers" (which I suspect is the point of most graffiti, albeit with different groups targeted), that means he hates Christians.

I don't buy it.

Now, in addition to being a liberal, I'm quite openly an atheist. I don't believe Jesus rose from the dead. I've also almost certainly characterized certain religious zealots as "brainwashed" at times. Most of the world agrees with me about the Jesus thing, and I'm willing to bet a fair number agree about the brainwashing.

So I, and many other people, at least agree with some of the things Dumbfuck McBadhaircut wrote. But that doesn't mean I hate people who believe in God, so I see no reason to believe this guy does either.

Admittedly, I'm not idiot enough to spraypaint churches. Still, I've been known to get into hour-long conversations with those Mormon guys who go door-to-door trying to convert people. They try to sway me towards Jesus, I try to make them question their own belief system, and much fun is had!

Really, as long as they keep it out of my face (and my government) I couldn't care less what they believe. There's no more point in hating religious people than there is in hating people who actually believe what they read in their horoscope, or in hating kids for believing in Santa Claus. I see all these beliefs as pretty stupid, but if people enjoy it then who am I to complain?

Furthermore, Griffin has said "I have nothing against the Christian religion," and while that may seem hard for a lot of people to believe, it's not like you or I can actually know how he feels. Until we can read minds, we have to take him at his word.

Hate doesn't need to factor into things at all. He wanted to provoke a reaction. He knew attacking religion would provoke a reaction (I sort of doubt he actually realized how big a reaction, though). So yeah, he got what he wanted. Of course, then he felt bad and turned himself in. So you have to assume not a whole lot of brainpower went into this action in the first place. There's a lot of stupidity at work, but not a lot of hate.

It boils down to this:

This Griffin guy did something moronic, but it's hardly the huge deal people want to make it out to be. He didn't do something violent, and he didn't do any major property damage. He did some petty vandalism and hurt some people's feelings. The first part is illegal, the second is perfectly legal. It's not a serious crime, it's a fucking stupid one. Nobody's being oppressed, nobody's faith has been shattered, nobody's actually been hurt in any way. So get over it, people! Let the kid learn his lesson and move on, like everyone else who's ever done graffiti.

Still, there's another part to the Sentinel editorial that goes beyond just normal stupidity and enters smack dab into the realm of nearly mythological stupidity:
If Griffin ultimately just gets a slap on the wrist for his desecration of these churches, then other teens will get the clear message that it's okay to vandalize churches, schools or anyplace else they want to.
What are you smoking, Sentinel editorial guy?

Okay, first a minor point before addressing the most profound idiocy; "desecration?" Seriously? Here's the word's definition:
blasphemy, sacrilege (blasphemous behavior; the act of depriving something of its sacred character)
Fine, I'll admit that blasphemy is technically illegal in Massachusetts, but that's an ancient and profoundly unconstitutional blue law that is never enforced (for good reason). You seriously can't prosecute somebody for that. And I fail to see how a little spraypaint deprives a church of its "sacred character." It's not the paint that makes a church sacred, after all. So this is hardly "desecration." It's a nice loaded word though, so nice try!

Far more significant and idiotic is the claim that people will think it's okay to vandalize places if there's not some sort of big bail set. You almost get the feeling that the editorialist truly believes that the reason people don't vandalize churches more often is because they're afraid of having a high bail set, and that if it were legal everyone would be spraying "Fuck Jesus" on churches. Which is deeply, deeply stupid.

Here's some news: Nobody thinks it's okay to vandalize churches, schools, or assorted other places. Griffin didn't. "Other teens" don't. Nobody does! Because it's not!

And that's why they do it! It's a pointless display of adolescent rebellion, not a lack of realization that what they're doing is wrong!

In the end, what point would there be in setting a high bail? It wouldn't prevent anybody from doing anything like this in the future. It wouldn't send any message except that churches get special treatment. It wouldn't clean off the graffiti or mend hurt feelings. So what would it do?

Well, that's obvious. Revenge.
Leviticus 19:18
" 'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself.

Proverbs 24:29
Do not say, "I'll do to him as he has done to me;
I'll pay that man back for what he did."

1 Thessalonians 5:15
Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always try to be kind to each other and to everyone else.
Disclaimer: Revenge sucks for purely secular reasons. It's just fun to throw bible verses at people who believe them but have apparently never bothered to read and/or follow them.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Is it just me, or is the Sentinel improving?

As is often the case, I've been readings bits of the Sentinel & Enterprise today. I only do this a few times a week, because normally it's an infuriating process. Editorials full of pointless liberal-bashing, horribly biased articles, etc. It's enough to drive one mad.

But today something seemed different. I read editorials and found myself agreeing with many of them! Even more amazing, they seemed to be better-written than what I've seen in the past!

On top of that, the articles weren't all stupid! What's going on?

Well, I do know that they have a new publisher. And he started on March 17th (so a week ago). Here's the Google cache of the article about him, since it's been moved into the S&E's archive of stuff you can't read.

I haven't worked in the newspaper industry, so I don't actually know how much influence a publisher has on content or style, and I have no idea if he's responsible for this week of relative respectability. Perhaps he's the impetus for the paper turning around. Or maybe the writers are just on their best behavior right now because they have a new boss, and things will go back downhill.

Whatever the case, I hope it keeps up.

Stupid mad cow disease...

For whatever reason, I'm now going to ramble on about this Sentinel article about Mad Cow disease and groups demanding more testing for it.

Actually, I'm not sure this article was even written by the S&E staff, and it's not a terrible article. So my complaint is more with people who freak out about Mad Cow disease than anything else. Meh.

By pure coincidence, it happens that this past weekend I watched a terrible and annoying movie called Mad Cowgirl that had Mad Cow disease as part of its theme. Do not under any circumstances watch this movie! It will make you want to never eat beef again just so you won't have to be reminded of this stupid movie!

Anyway, one of the (many, many) problems with the movie was that Mad Cow disease is just not anything anyone should be scared of.

Mad Cow disease is more technically known as Bovine Spongiform Encephalopathy, or BSE. It's a pretty nasty degenerative brain disease. For cows. Humans don't get BSE, because humans are not bovines (myself excluded, of course).

Unfortunately for humans, there's pretty strong evidence for a causal relationship between BSE and Variant Creutzfeldt-Jakob Disease (vCJD). vCJD is also a nasty degenerative brain disease, but it occurs in humans. Don't get it.

But don't worry either, because you won't. You're probably more likely to choke to death on your toothpaste.

There have been three cows found in the US with BSE. That's it, ever. Yes, the article's headline is correct when it suggests that if you don't test for BSE you won't find it, but chances are you're not going to find much of anything even if you were to test every single cow.

Let's look at some numbers...
Today, about 40,000 -- or 0.1 percent -- of the 37 million U.S. cows slaughtered each year are tested, a number that consumer groups say is too low, especially when compared to testing programs in other countries.


...two mad cow cases found from tests of the brain tissue of 787,000 cows between 2004 and 2006 -- dimmed fears that the disease had a foothold in the country.
As well they should.

Now, the Consumers Union is complaining that testing 0.1% (or 1 in a thousand) of the cows is too low. Maybe it is. But the incidence of BSE among the cows tested is only about 0.00025% (or 1 in 400 thousand)!

In other words, if that percentage held up uniformly (which is admittedly unlikely) and we tested all 37 million cows at an astronomical cost, we might find 94 cows with BSE. Most of which would be sickly and dying and shouldn't find their way to market anyway (which is a separate issue, but I'm going to assume most cows with BSE aren't going to be food).

You almost certainly have more cows getting struck by lightning (the rate is 1 in 280,000 among humans, and we don't spend all day in a field) or getting abducted for crazy alien cattle mutilations than getting Mad Cow disease.

The CDC information for travelers says this about human risk of acquiring vCJD from eating beef:
A rough estimate of this risk for the UK in the recent past, for example, was about 1 case per 10 billion servings.
Incidentally, the UK has by far the highest rate of BSE in the world. Still, you could eat three servings of beef a day there, every day, for more than nine million years before you'd really need to worry.

So seriously, don't worry about Mad Cow disease. Also, don't watch crappy movies that make you rant about boring things.

Friday, March 21, 2008

How not to promote a propaganda film

So, there's this dumb propaganda film named Expelled coming out next month that will promote Intelligent Design (AKA creationism) and make the ridiculous claim that evolutionary theory leads to Nazis.

Of course, in order to avoid the appearance that they're just a bunch of anti-science nutbags, they couch the film in spurious claims that "Big Science" has unfairly censored ID proponents.

They also got a bunch of respected evolutionary biologists to appear in it by misrepresenting the purpose (and even name) of the film.

Then they held screenings for friendly audiences (read as "church groups").

Then for some reason they held a screening in the same town where the annual American Atheists convention was going on. Oops.

Then one of the biologists who actually was featured in the movie (and thanked in the credits) tried to attend this free screening, but they wouldn't let him in. Oops again, since they're claiming to promote free discourse of dissenting ideas (or something).

Then they really fucked up.

Oh well!

Now here's a totally unrelated video! Happy Good Friday!

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Dickbag Watch! The irony is palpable!

Why oh why have I not yet unsubscribed from the RSS feed for Chuck Morse's (AKA "Dickbag's") blog? Do I enjoy suffering? Do I enjoy mentally puzzling out the twisted logic that goes on in the mind of a deranged individual? Do I have a craving for spelling and grammatical errors? Am I just too lazy?

Answer: No, I just love irony.

Today Dickbag is annoyed that Barack Obama's old minister does nasty things like malevolently characterize a diverse and broad group of individuals as if they all have the same terrible views. Indeed, these views may not even exist in many of them at all.

Let us gain wisdom from Dickbag's meanderings!
The left just doesn’t get it.

They just don’t realize that most Americans are simply not burdened with the same malevolent hatred for this country that is the hallmark of their debased outlook. Most Americans don’t damn their country, as did Obama’s minister, or [sic] do they blame their country for the ills that beset other countries, many of which suffer under the stultifying yoke of the very same left-wing systems that are so admired by the elites who dominate the Democratic Party and by the likes of the rabble rousing [sic] spiritual councilor to Barak [sic] Obama.


The vile speeches of Obama’s minister, like the Wellstone rally, provide rare examples of left-wing arrogance on display for all to see in all of it's [sic] ugliness.
First, bonus points to Dickbag for using the word "stultifying." That word-of-the-day calendar is paying off! Points off for not knowing how to spell "Barack" though.*

And yes, it sure does suck when people characterize a hugely diverse class of the citizenry in a negative and totally inaccurate manner, doesn't it?

Pot, meet kettle.

*Seriously, he doesn't know how to spell Barack Obama's name! He always spells it "Barak," even in the title of the post. Maybe I should call him "Dikbag?"

Finally, creationism makes sense!

(Found via the Angry Astronomer.)

Monday, March 17, 2008

A second chance

If you've been reading me for awhile, you're probably well aware of my stand on the proposed doctor's office specializing in addiction medicine that's looking to move to Fitchburg.

If not, feel free to look here and get caught up. Good? Okay, onward!

It seems that the ill-fated bid of Fitchburg Primary Care Associates to get a zoning exemption has a second chance, per this article in the Sentinel. Expect editorials from the Sentinel once again opposing it in the next couple of weeks. [Update 3/18: That was fast!]

Anyway, most of the article is rehashing the ill-informed opinions of various city councilors who were opposed to the clinic in the first place, and remain opposed to it now. Shocking!

And once again, Jody Joseph is the sole local voice of reason. Thank you, Mr. Joseph!

Why's there another hearing? Well, it seems that the ZBA screwed up the first one:
State law, [Attorney for the practice George] Watts said, requires that a hearing be advertised by public notice 14 days prior to the hearing. Watts said the hearing was posted on Jan. 2, six days before the Jan. 8 hearing.
Okay, so that's pretty simple. They survive on a technicality. It also explains a bit of why the representative of the medical practice is reported to have been somewhat unprepared at the last hearing.

What that means is they have a difficult road ahead of them for getting through this next time (date not set, but expected to be in April or May). People don't like to reverse themselves, and the ignorance and fear that led to the first "no" decision isn't likely to have gone away.

Since I support the opening of this practice, here are a few unsolicited suggestions for the representatives of Fitchburg Primary Care Associates at the next meeting.
  • You are a business and you want to come to Fitchburg. That's good! Highlight it!
  • People will claim there are enough places in Fitchburg to serve addiction already. Research what these places are, what they do, and what populations they serve. Debunk the myth of there being plenty of treatment options available and highlight how you will bring a new and valuable service to the town.
  • Attack the myth of the "dangerous addict" head-on. That's the biggest fear driving people to oppose you and is demonstrably untrue. Don't just rely on research though, consider bringing along a couple of well-spoken patients (or former patients) to demonstrate to everyone that addicts are not what they think they are.
  • Demand to be treated as any other business would. If you meet the qualifications, you should get the permit, period.
  • See if you can drum up some local doctors or other professionals who deal with addiction to appear with you. Call up HealthAlliance and see if they have anyone willing to come to your aid. It doesn't even necessarily have to be in person, see if you can get doctors to sign a petition. I guarantee you'll find support.
  • Research, research, research. If anyone has a question, have a good answer. If anyone has an objection based on ignorance, educate them. Not just anecdotes, give them facts and figures they hadn't heard before.
  • Make sure whomever you have representing you at the hearing knows their stuff, inside and out. Also make sure they're ready to face a hostile audience. The Sentinel will do its part to whip up public outrage about something they don't understand, so you're going to have an uphill battle.
  • Embrace that you specialize in addiction medicine. If primary care isn't your main focus, don't play it up. Otherwise people will think you're trying to pull something over on them.
  • Be prepared for anything.
Well, that's it off the top of my head.

There's absolutely no reason this clinic shouldn't be able to open in Fitchburg. It would benefit the town, it would benefit the population, and it would harm nobody.

Good luck.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Liveblogging pre-recorded television!

I suspect liveblogs are a scam to get extra pagehits. This is something I should be a part of!

As such, I am going to liveblog tonight's "Chronicle" featuring Lisa Wong (and um... Fitchburg). To make it an extra challenge, I'm going to do it on my tiny Eee-PC, which is hard to type on. Also, I never watch television, so it's a little challenging just to find the channel.

Anyway, here goes!

7:29: Hey, I found the right channel! "Inside Edition" is on and has Bush singing. Yuck.
7:31: Is my clock fast? There are a lot of commercials on, but no Fitchburg-lovin'!
7:31: Okay, it's on. And they mentioned the fucking "martini bar" in the first five seconds. Is that the only thing we have? It's nice and all, but I'm sick to death of hearing about it.
7:33: Lack of community pride? Fuck you, Chronicle!
7:33: Hey, Lisa's on! Did you know she's 5'2". Ha, shorty!
7:34: Now they're talking about all Wong's ideas. She said "Fit and Fun in Fitchburg," which is a slogan I'm not crazy about.
7:35: Now some old douchey-looking guy from UMass Lowell is doomsaying. Bad economy, blah blah blah. Go back to Lowell, professor smarty-pants!
7:36: Elm street looks really shitty, but they have a church where grown men with goatees play Connect-4. This is "part of Mayor Wong's vision!"
7:37: Beardy McDouche is back and just said that if Wong can fix the city she "should be president." Wong/Clinton '16!
7:38: Going to a commercial break. Good, I need to pee and grab a beer.
7:39: Holy crap that was a quick commercial break! Luckily I'm quick at peeing and getting drunk (not always in that order).
7:40: Wong just called an old building "both a challenge and an opportunity." Isn't there some urban legend about a Kanji character that means both of those? Or was it crisis and opportunity? Whatever.
7:41: Ron Ansin is on now. He's an okay guy who does a lot of good things for Fitchburg. But doesn't the Ansin family own Channel 7? Traitor!
7:42: Holy crap Fitchburg has geothermal heating/cooling in it? That's awesome!
7:42: Have you heard of Mzeal communications? They're in Putnam Place apparently. I wonder what the hell they do, but apparently the teevee isn't going to tell me.
7:43: Anchors on before the commercial break. They have a pretty sweet gig, like 90 seconds of appearing on camera saying nothing important, then they cut either to a commercial or back to whoever did the actual work coming out to Fitchburg. Lazy-ass anchors.
7:46: We're back! Wong envisions Main Street becoming like Mass Ave or Newbury Street. That would be quite nice. Yes please.
7:47: Hey, Matt Straight is on! People used to accuse me of being him! He apprently owns some fancy hotel/apartment/condo thing in the Johnsonian building that looks pretty nice. Man, now I wish I was him (or at least had his money).
7:48: College students talking!
7:48: "It's not as bad as everyone makes it out to be." Bravo, student!
7:49: Hey, that was awfully brief. There were like 12 people in that panel and they talked to maybe two!
7:49: The Design at 639 lady is on. I've met her before. She's nice, but I can't relate to her.
7:50: There's a total theme of people saying they like Fitchburg but everyone they talk to makes fun of them for being in Fitchburg. Jerks.
7:50: DeStare is on! Martini bar, woohoo!
7:51: "We really wanted to bring a bit of Las Vegas to central Massachusetts." Sorry, DeStare dude, I don't see any strippers in your establishment. Work on that please.
7:52: Yeah, so a bunch of the students plan on leaving Fitchburg after they graduate. Good! That's what college students are supposed to do, dammit!
7:52: Now the anchorheads are talking about how Fitchburg has such great deals in the housing market. Sweet! Please buy my property, Boston-area viewers! And on to the commercials...
7:55: Oh crap, back from commercial and annoying Mike Barnicle is on. I don't care for him.
7:56: "Blah blah blah I'm Mike Barnicle and I'm boring and have no neck."
7:57: Shut up Mike Barnicle! You're too negative and blobby.
7:57: And it's over. Well, that was boring.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Enough with "Experience" already!

Okay, I know the primaries are over in Massachusetts, but I have to get this off my chest.

Hillary Clinton incessantly talks about how she's so super-experienced and Barack Obama "isn't ready" and blah blah blah. I find this more than a little confusing, since it sounds like her primary basis for this claim is that she was First Lady for 8 years during her husband's presidency. And so I guess was super involved in everything he did that was good, and nothing he did that was bad (ahem... NAFTA).

So, I've decided to take a look at the political experience of four political figures: Hillary Clinton (obviously), Barack Obama (also pretty obvious), Nancy Reagan, and Laura Bush. Maybe the last two aren't so obvious, but if Clinton is going to define being First Lady as "experience" then Nancy and Laura may very well have some experience!

Note: I chose both Laura and Nancy because I figured Laura's the most recent first lady, but her president is totally unpopular, while Bill Clinton was popular to the very end. So Nancy represents the crazy-ass wife of a popular (and also crazy-ass) president whose legacy of total incompetence has already been whitewashed! Also, only 2-term first ladies were eligible, because obviously they have twice the experience! Sorry, Barbara Bush!

I'm going to use an elaborate and highly-scientific rating scale I've just made up that scores each candidate on their applicable pre-political life, years in political office, accomplishments, and maybe some other things I'll just make up. It then assigns them an "experienceability" score between 1 and 10. To be fair, I'll go in alphabetical order by last name.

Also, unless otherwise noted, I'm just getting all this information from Wikipedia, which is obviously totally infallible...

Let's begin!

Laura Bush

Pre-politics: Was a teacher and then a librarian. Earlier in life, killed her boyfriend in a car accident after running a stop sign.

Political experience: 6 years as First Lady of Texas, 8 years as First Lady of the country (barring impeachment or assassination). Also:
During her years raising her children, Laura Bush served as a volunteer in a number of organizations, including Friends of the Midland Public Library, the executive board of the Junior League of Midland, the Friends of Dallas Public Library Board Executive Committee, the Parent-Teacher Association (PTA) at Preston Hollow Elementary School, and the Community Partners Board of Child Protective Services.
Which sorta counts. I'll assume most of those early volunteer gigs were part-time though, so will just give her 16 years. Not too shabby!

Accomplishments: Launched the "National Book Festival." "became the first person other than a president to deliver the weekly presidential radio address," "was praised by People magazine and others for her elegance and better use of fashion," "appeared on Egypt's version of Sesame Street," suggested a woman (perhaps Harriet Miers?) to her husband for a Supreme Court justice.

Ok, that last one didn't work out so well, but still shows she had power!

Experienceability! 3. I was going to give her a 7 originally because she has 16 years of First-Lady-ness! That's a lot! But it's being a First Lady, which means nothing. Even though apparently she influenced decisions. Still, she has experience killing people, which I'm sure would come in handy!

Hillary Clinton

Jeez, Wikipedia, your entry is too long! But I will resist the lure to use Conservapedia's shorter-and-totally-not-biased entry and slog through!

Pre-politics: Umm... She was a girl scout. Volunteered for Barry Goldwater. Went to Wellesley (hey an ex of mine went there and became a total whore!) and joined the Wellesley Young Republicans. Then worked "sliming salmon in a fish processing cannery in Valdez." (I don't know what "sliming salmon" means but it sounds dirty and possibly lesbionic...) Then she went to Yale Law School and became a lawyer, the end.

Political experience: 12 (not entirely consecutive) years as First Lady of Arkansas, 8 years as First Lady of the US, 7 years as US Senator for New York. That's 7 years of being an elected politician and 20 years of being married to someone who happened to be either governor or president. Not bad!

Accomplishments: As first lady she most notably had that health care reform thing which totally failed to go anywhere or do anything. Does that count? Also she managed some crisis with Sinbad and Sheryl Crow at her side.

In the Senate she's on a bunch of committees. Supported going into Iraq and Afghanistan. Has spent some time bad-mouthing videogames. Also is running for president, which gives her one up on Laura Bush and Nancy Reagan.

Experienceability! 6. Well, she's only been in elected office for 7 years. Sleeping with the president doesn't count, especially when he's getting blowjobs from the interns and all your well-meaning plans go nowhere as First Lady. Still, you're beating Laura Bush!

Barack Obama

Pre-politics: Grew up in Honolulu and Indonesia. Which makes idiots on the internet think he's a Muslim. Went to Occidental College for two years, then Columbia, where he majored in political science "with a specialization in international relations." Was a lecturer on constitutional law from 1993-2004.

Political experience: Illinois State Senate for 8 years, US Senate for 3. Absolutely zero time married to any political bigwigs, which is bound to hurt him.

Accomplishments: As a state politician: ethics reforms, welfare reform, subsidies for children, health care stuff, "led the passage of legislation mandating videotaping of homicide interrogations, and a law to monitor racial profiling by requiring police to record the race of drivers they stopped."

US Senator: Wikipedia is baffling, so here:
Obama successfully introduced two initiatives bearing his name. "Lugar-Obama" expands the Nunn-Lugar cooperative threat reduction concept to conventional weapons, including shoulder-fired missiles and anti-personnel mines. The "Coburn-Obama Transparency Act" provides for the web site, managed by the Office of Management and Budget. The site lists all organizations receiving Federal funds from 2007 onward and provides breakdowns by the agency allocating the funds, the dollar amount given, and the purpose of the grant or contract. In December 2006, President Bush signed into law the "Democratic Republic of the Congo Relief, Security, and Democracy Promotion Act," marking the first federal legislation to be enacted with Obama as its primary sponsor
So yeah, Nunn-Lugar...

He's on the Foreign Relations Committee too.

And did a bunch of other stuff, but I'm starting to get bored of this post, so just read it yourself if you want.

Experienceability! 7. This was tough to decide. He's got 11 years as an elected official, which beats Clinton's 7 and Bush's none. But some were on the state level, which is sort of wussy. Still, at least we know people vote for him. But he's never fucked a president (as far as we know). Nevertheless, I capriciously give him a 7.

Nancy Reagan

Okay, I admit it. Having Nancy Reagan as a part of this contest was just so I could use this totally awesome picture of her sitting on Mr. T's lap, awkwardly smooching his head.

For that alone, she gets an 11 in my "experienceabilty!" scale.

Nancy Reagan for President!

Friday, March 07, 2008

How to write an editorial for the Sentinel

It must be pretty easy to write editorials for a hack newspaper. You can just make stuff up! As long as it fits with the ideological biases of the paper, anything goes!

There does seem to be one rule that applies at the Sentinel though. No matter how sensible the rest of your editorial is, it's not complete until you throw in a totally unsubstantiated bit of conservative bullshit.

Let's look at a few recent editorials for example!

First, Jeff McMenemy's editorial entitled Fathers deserve more credit than they get.

Pretty dull, uninspired stuff. Just what we've come to expect from the illustrious editor of the Sentinel!

It's also pretty uncontroversial, and is basically about how single fathers are okay guys and shouldn't be written off just based on their gender. Okay, no worries. But for some bizarre reason in the middle of it he throws out this gem:
To suggest, as many in the liberal family court system do, that a child will be harmed by spending equal amounts of time with both parents, is illogical and the worst kind of political correctness.

The family court system is liberal? Liberals think that spending time with both parents is bad? That's somehow "politically correct?" Huh?

I know a lot of liberals. I've discussed politics with a lot of liberals. I'm a liberal myself. Not once do I recall any of us ever having an issue with fathers spending time with their children. What's the point of even throwing this in the editorial, other than to further express the paper's massive conservative bias? It's not like it adds to the argument (which was otherwise not that bad, for McMenemy at least) in any way.

Now, I do worry about McMenemy's kids, but it's not because he's male. It's just because he's a douchebag.

Regardless, it follows the paper's golden rule of always having an unfounded attack on liberals in its editorials, so it passes!

Next, we'll move onto the somewhat less sensible but still okay Judges need more accountability, less secrecy.

Now, this is less of a clear-cut case, because the whole piece is pretty dumb. Personally, I don't feel the need to have judges spend all their time sucking up to the press and explaining their every decision (99% of which are totally uninteresting anyway). I'd rather they spend that time doing judge stuff.

But in general transparency is a good thing, so I'll let it pass.

Yet, once again we get a bit of weirdness:
The judiciary is not under attack; it is simply being scrutinized for fostering in the public's mind a perception that judges are liberal, elitist and arrogant.

Damn those elitist liberal judges! Why could the public possibly view them that way? Actually, hold on a second; does the public even view them that way?

I don't. Most people I know don't. I went looking for polling figures saying this is what the public thinks and couldn't find any (maybe I missed something?). Still, I'd be willing to bet that most people generally don't spend a lot of time thinking about the political views or personality foibles of judges, they just want them to interpret the law correctly. Which is their job.

But if we accept that this perception maybe does in fact exist, do you really think it's the judges who are at fault? After all, they're not even the ones talking to the press (which is largely what the editorial is complaining about).

Maybe, just maybe, it's actually the press portraying the judges this way that would make people come to these erroneous conclusions. Case in point: this editorial. Some monkey behind a typewriter says that judges are liberal and elitist and blah blah blah so it must be true!

Never mind the fact that every last bit of legal reporting I've ever seen in a newspaper is totally superficial, doesn't explain the intricacies of the law, and generally belies a total misunderstanding of how the legal system even functions.

Also please disregard the fact that even if every judge in the country is an arrogant liberal elitist, that has absolutely nothing to do with whether or not they're a good judge. Their views and personalities don't matter if they do their job right.

Oh, but liberals are bad! Just like those arrogant elitists (none of which exist in the press corps, nosiree sir!).

So the editorial goes through.

Finally, let's go to the most recent example: State's auto insurance coverage still has a long way to go.

It's about the recent MassPIRG study (warning, that link is a PDF) showing that--in the words of the study--"'How You Drive' Takes a Backseat to 'Who You Are'".

It's an interesting study that I recommend reading (or at least skimming through) if you're interested in seeing the ways in which the insurance companies game the system to use socioeconomic factors in determining rates, despite the state attempting to prevent exactly that.

I don't think the editorialist actually bothered to read the study, but that's hardly surprising.

Anyway, here's the relevant bit from the editorial that had me scratching my head:
We think the report shows what happens when state government gets involved in business: They mess it up.
Well, now I know they didn't read the study.

On the other hand, at least they didn't use the word "liberal" this time. Instead, they just regurgitated a stupid conservative talking point that makes absolutely no sense in this context.

First off, the state is deregulating the auto insurance industry. It's getting less involved in business than it has been, and that's what's fucking things up. How hard is that to understand?

Here's a quote from the MassPIRG report that explains the old system (bold and italics are theirs):
Massachusetts policymakers over the years had become very aware that the competitively rated auto insurance markets in the other states served the interests of insurers – not of consumers – and were notably flawed in one vital respect: The other rating systems unfairly penalized many drivers with good records and rewarded many drivers with bad records. The Massachusetts rating system was highly regulated precisely to avoid the major failings of competitive auto insurance markets – in particular, that these other markets permitted insurers to use countless rating factors having nothing to do with the consumer’s driving record. These other factors dilute the importance of driving record, and to make matters worse, do so by discriminating against drivers based on their socio-economic status. And so, Massachusetts policymakers preserved a rigid rating system because that system gave more weight to driving record than any other rating system in the United States.
Well, that's pretty unequivocal. When the state was highly involved in regulating the auto insurers things were exactly as the Sentinel wants them to be. When the state removed (or lessened, anyway) its involvement we opened ourselves up to the same flaws that exist in the other 49 states. In fact, the whole point of regulation was to prevent this kind of shit from happening.

But somehow the Sentinel interprets that as the state getting involved with business and messing things up. What the hell?

Yeah, the state messed up. It messed up by deregulating. It should have kept the old, more heavily-regulated system in place. But then you'd have papers like the Sentinel writing editorials about how the state shouldn't interfere with business. Which they did anyway!

So there you have it. Three editorials. Three bullshit conservative talking points that are either totally irrelevant to the point of the article, unsubstantiated gibberish, or just plain illogical.

The only conclusion one can reasonably reach from this small sampling is that the Sentinel must have some sort of quota of conservative bullshit it has to include to consider an editorial fit for printing.

Or they're just totally incompetent boobs. Take your pick.