Chaos Theory Edition: Kung-fu, Glenn Beck, And A $10 Fee

Posted in General by TBartine on September 25, 2009 No Comments yet

Here we are, back on track, having successfully caught up in the last few days, whittling down our mountain of bookmarked news items.  So…as per the usual RLF tradition, it is time for our “Chaos Theory Edition” where we wrap up all of the remaining interesting and bizarre developments in American news, policy, and culture…

THE MEDIA – PUNDITS, HACKS, AND OTHER INVETERATE LIARS:

  • During the Bush administration, both the press and public frequently complained about the lack of transparency in the White House, the lack of availability of the president to meet with the press, and refusal of the president or the press secretary to provide answers to questions.  Now that we have a president who is willing to FULLY answer questions, and who has made the actions of our government more transparent…these same people gripe that he is “over-exposed.“  This hypocrisy was not lost on Jon Stewart of The Daily Show:

  • It is nice to see that even conservative pundits and politicians are starting to denounce false and inflammatory rhetoric, such as is regular seen on Glenn Beck’s show on any given day.  Morning Joe host and former Republican Congressman, Joe Scarborough not only publicly reprimanded Beck for his “hateful” and “racist” words…but also says he is creating an “honor roll” of like-minded conservatives who want to call an end to violent and incendiary tactics.  THAT…would indeed be very honorable.  Here’s a clip from Morning Joe on the subject:

  • Speaking of Beck…in an except from his book, where he is attempting to explain to the rest of us what the founding fathers intended, he refers to a little-known passage in the Constitution:  “Section 9. The Migration or Importation of such Persons as any of the States now existing shall think proper to admit, shall not be prohibited by the Congress prior to the Year one thousand eight hundred and eight, but a Tax or duty may be imposed on such Importation, not exceeding ten dollars for each Person.” Beck responds, “That’s right, the Founders actually put a price tag on coming to this country: $10 per person. Apparently they felt like there was a value to being able to live here. Not anymore. These days we can’t ask anything of immigrants.“  Of course, what Beck fails to realize is the the “$10” wasn’t some fee that immigrants paid to enter the country because they saw the “value to being able to live here“…this passage refers to the $10 tax that could be levied on EACH SLAVE forcibly brought into this country, who weren’t so freaking thrilled to be here at all.  This section was designed…to prevent slavery from being outlawed, and to simultaneously allow the government to collect a tax on slaves.  So much for Glenn “Constitutional Expert” Beck…
  • Using his own, unique brand of satire…Stephen Colbert presented his suggestion for conservative firebrands who want to make racially-insinuative attacks against Obama, but don’t want to be identified as racists:

  • Rush Limbaugh must be feeling a little unloved, what with Glenn Beck surpassing him in the ratings game.  So, in a recent interview with Jay Leno, Rush reminded all of us why he should still be the preferred choice among people without functioning brainstems.  First…he said that because everybody who listens to his show agrees with him…he is “not controversial at all,” and that, THEREFORE, it is Obama who is “polarizing” and “dividing this country right now.“  Then showing the power of faulty logic when used WITH a disregard for real-world data, Limbaugh said regarding the economy and the gigantic profits Wall Street CEOs make by defrauding investors, “The market will fix itself.  It’s none of my business what they make, Jay, it’s certainly none of yours, and it’s certainly not Barack Obama’s what anybody makes…If you believe in the capitalist system, you have to erase from your whole worldview what somebody needs.”  Thus, simply stated, we are presented with the far right’s philosophy:  the free market will always take care of itself, and this is good as long as we don’t care about what anybody needs.
  • Bill O’Reilly recently claimed on his show the standard right-wing position regarding racism:  it’s only a few of the protesters…the left has racists, too…only 10% of Americans are racists.  To no one’s surprise, Dr. Jeremy Levitt, law professor at Florida A&M and an African-American…had a small problem with this.  Ok, conservatives here’s the simplest I can say it:  you don’t have to run around calling everyone the “n-word” to be a racist.  If you lock the car door when you see a black person walking by…if you wouldn’t want a member of another race dating your son or daughter…if you would resent having to answer to a superior at work who is the member of another race…if instead of attacking the president’s policies, you resort to calling him a “Nazi,” a “Kenyan,” or make a monkey joke…then you TOO suffer from very common, racial prejudice.

PRESIDENT OBAMA – GHOSTS OF OUR PAST:

  • The Obama administration has decided not to pursue a new law to change our policies regarding detainees.  No…they will keep using the 2001 congressional resolution allowing for the indefinite detention of prisoners.  If you start by acknowledging that, by law, American military bases, prisons, and ships are considered “American soil,” then the equation is very simple:  American soil PLUS prisoners MINUS habeas corpus MINUS due process EQUALS unconstitutional.  President Obama…that, sir, is neither change nor progress.
  • Obama has a “new” educational policy complete with a fancy new name: “Race To The Top.”  It’s too bad that it is nearly identical to the dismal “No Child Left Behind” policy of his predecessor…so close, in fact, that both Democrats and Teachers’ Unions are calling it “BUSH III.”  More standardized tests…yadda yadda yadda…teacher accountability…yadda yadda…performance pay….blah blah blah…charter schools.  I’ve said this before:  standardized tests do little to improve or accurately gauge learning, teachers are plenty accountable, performance pay is the impractical, impossible to implement equivalent of an “educational unicorn,” and charter schools only serve to placate “free market” zealots.  The problems…in all schools…are centered squarely in one place: the administration.  Principals with no business experience, no leadership skills, no interest in promoting learning, and no backbones…THAT’S the heart of the problem.
  • I have stated before that conservatives should be less concerned with what Obama is “changing“…and more concerned with the Bush policies and practices that he is “retaining.”  Garry Willis’ piece, Entangled Giant, describes aptly the history of accumulation of power within the Executive Branch…and just how hard it is to reverse the trend.

AMERICAN CONSPIRACIES – OUTRAGE WITHOUT PURPOSE:

  • Just for fun:  here is a collection of some of the funniest protest signs spotted recently…misspelled words , flagrant ignorance, wild theories…it’s all there.
  • Thomas Quigley Jr. is suing the Democratic National Committee…for throwing him out of a town hall.  During the meeting held by Representative Steve Driehaus (D-Ohio), Quigley repeatedly interrupted the panel of speakers, and when approached by the security guards about his disruptions…he told them he was “a black belt in kung-fu and would respond if attacked.“  Apparently, his kung-fu training was no match for the guards, and he was bodily removed from the meeting.  Oh, and Quigley…is a licensed insurance agent.
  • I wrote earlier in the week of how the “Values Voters Summit” appeared to be devoid of both actual values and reason.  But once again, Jon Stewart said it better:

  • Former teen heartthrob, later drug addict, later born-again Christian Kirk Cameron would like to share with you (in an interview with People Magazine) some fairly interesting views on evolution: “Atheism has been on the rise for years now, and the Bible of the atheists is The Origin of Species.  We have a situation in our country where young people are entering college with a belief in God and exiting with that faith being stripped and shredded. What we want to do is have student make an informed, educated decision before they chuck their faith.“  He and his group are currently disseminating edited versions of Darwin’s theory…complete with their own criticisms in which they compare it Hitler’s eugenics program, and declare the theory misogynistic because of sexist statements attributed to Darwin.  For the record…in science the word “theory” does not mean the same thing as it does in common parlance.  When we say “theory,” we are referring to an idea that has not been proven.  When scientists refer to a “theory” they are referring to a scientific position supported by a wealth of studies and research that holds up to the very strongest scientific scrutiny.  Now, it is true that evolution is not a scientific “law” (meaning that in it’s entirety it is deemed impossible to disprove)…but it is far closer to a “law” than it is to a simple “hypothesis” which is a premise lacking substantiation.  It is a continued embarrassment, that fewer Americans accept evolution than the people of ANY OTHER civilized country…and that the new movie on Darwin’s life can’t even find an American distributer because most distribution companies worry that “Americans just aren’t ready for it.
  • Recently, Bill O’Reilly, in a conversation with Barney Frank on the subject of the undercover investigation of ACORN offices, said that nobody cares if the documentarians broke the Maryland laws regarding illegal wiretapping.  Barney Frank…disagreed: “I’m sorry, what an outrageous statement. What an outrageous statement for you to make: nobody cares about the Maryland wiretap law. I do care about the law. I’m an elected official.“  In response…O’Reilly called Frank, “eccentric.”  Really, Bill?  Is it now eccentric to believe that the law of land should be obeyed?  This represents the all-too-common position among conservatives that the end justifies the means, that violating the law is acceptable as long as it was done for a good reason.  It’s a concept MOST un-American.

  • Above, we talked some of Glenn Beck’s conspiracy-based ranting…it takes a group like the SNL cast to really do it justice:

  • By now you’ve heard of the census taker…senselessly murdered, found hanged with the word “Fed” written on his chest.  It seems to validate House Speaker Pelosi’s fears that the violent anti-government rhetoric might lead to actual violence…as history has shown that it often does.  Now…experts seem to be agreeing with her.  If you want to understand how this situation is created…visit this list of the top census conspiracy theories.  Internment camps…taking your property…brainwashing children.  Now imagine a right wing extremist…hearing a member of Congress, or a “news” personality, or some other figure they respect and trust…telling them these things…telling them they have to “act now” and “preserve their country” and “be a patriot.”  And THAT’S how it happens…

HEALTH CARE – CARNIVAL OF DELAY AND DESPAIR:

  • Two words are being most commonly associated with the current state of the Senate Finance Committee’s Health Care Reform legislation:  “delay” and “fight.”  Sometimes…the words are appearing in the same sentence, as is the case with the recent confrontation between Senator Kyl of Arizona, and committee chairman Senator Baucus of Montana.  The short version: Kyl insisted on repeating himself, restating examples he’d previously given, and remaking arguments he’d already made…Baucus, grew tired of the obvious stalling tactic:

  • Another fight: whip counts.  Liberal Democrats in the House are busy trying to wrangle every possible vote, while Blue Dog Democrats do the same exact thing.  Current trend…Blue Dogs beginning to sway in favor of voting “yea” on the House bill.  Perhaps they’ve been actually paying attention to the polls…the latest shows that 65% of Americans still support the inclusion of the public option…even more support it when it has been explained to them.  Again, conservatives: this is a democracy…you may not support it….the people in your conservative-leaning community may not support it…the people in your conservative-leaning workplace may also not support it…and all of these people may scream their objections loud as hell.  BUT…the majority of Americans DO support it…and in a democracy…majority rules.
  • The Humana Fracas:  Medicare laws say that providers of Medicare Advantage plans (like Humana) MAY NOT use taxpayer-subsidized mailings to push their political agendas.  Humana…did just that.  The board that oversees Medicare/Medicaid is investigating.  Republicans…you guessed it: are calling this “stifling the free speech” of their good friends, the insurance industry.  And now, the GOP is threatening to block Obama’s nominations to key Health and Human Services posts…unless Obama and Sibelius allow Humana and other insurance companies TO BREAK THE LAW.

That brings this week to a close…enjoy the weekend, and we’ll see you back here on Monday for more of the latest developments.

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