Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Conservative Humor

Here it is, Christmas Eve Eve, and I was pondering comedy - as in why are there so few conservative comedians that are actually funny? There are a few - Drew Carey and Larry Miller spring to mind - but very few. Then there's Dennis Miller - funny moments at first but cringe-inducing now that he's gone full rightie. And consider, the cons actually consider Ann Coulter to be a humorist and know, like Rush Limbaugh the entertainer.

What got me going on this was a posting on the excellent blog The Political Carnival - in particular, a quote about the health care reform debate that she posted about:

"I can assure you the vast majority of the Republican conference was on my side
saying we've had all the fun we're going to have."

-- Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK), quoted by the Oklahoman,
noting most Senate Republicans were willing
to concede
they no longer needed to delay a final health care vote until 7
p.m. on Christmas Eve.

Now, what an odd thing to say. Delaying health care reform for millions of Americans was fun for the Republicans?

Not surprising when you go about the web and find what conservatives think is funny.

Conservative "humor" seems to fall into these categories:

  1. Nasty remarks about someone's personal appearance, i.e. "Hillary has fat ankles", "Rosie O'Donnell is fat", "Streisand has a big nose" get the idea.
  2. Anything they can do to work in 'bad words' like socialist and commie.
  3. Death is a real kneeslapper too - one rightwing 'satirist' thought it'd be the height of jocularity if terrorists attacked Las Vegas when Harry Reid didn't tow the George W. Bush line.

Here's where I probably should put in a bunch of links to demonstrate this, but do a search on "conservative humor" and you'll see how correct my list is.

Gee, nasty people who's lives are based on hate and fear think nasty, hateful and fearful jokes are funny.

No one could have ever foreseen that.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How to get your Representative and Senators' attention

I'm hearing a lot of frustration coming from my fellow liberals and Democrats - currently about the health care reform bill but the song pretty much goes the same no matter what the issue. The tune goes along the line of how futile it all is - there's no way we can overcome the lobbyist and corporate dollars that's bought Congress.

Buck up, little camper - sure there is. Here's why:

The first and most important thing to remember when dealing with your Representative and two Senators is one cardinal rule: they like being where they're at and want to stay there. Sure, corporations and such contribute tons of money to their campaigns but that just buys TV time - not a seat in Congress or anywhere else. Go ahead, ask President Forbes about that and while you're at it ask Governor Corzine how that worked in getting him a second term.

Nope, the awful truth is that even corporate CEOs who give candidates lots of moola only get one vote on election day. Just one. Money in politics serves one purpose and one purpose only: it helps candidates and incumbents get their message out to voters. The message boils down to simply presenting the argument why they should be elected or re-elected over their opponent. Money just sees to it that more voters see their arguments and hopefully agree with it enough to get them in. That message may be printed in slick mailers and broadcast in smooth TV ads but if the voters ain't buyin' they lose.

Of course, the problem arises on the flip side of that coin. Contributors rarely give the money they give just because they believe in good government - they see it as an investment and they expect their investment to pay off. Like that member of Congress voting their way on a bill when one comes up.

Even that can be overcome through that pesky voting thing.

Here's how to make that work for you when dealing with them.

This may be a little difficult - you are going to have to get off the computer and go out to do this. It plain doesn't work with a phone call or an email - even though both help in preparation.

First, find out where your Representative or Senators' local office is located. Make an appointment to see someone there in person - a staffer will do but this works best if you can get in to see the actual Congressperson.

Once you've done that, get three or four friends who agree with what you want to say to the member to go with you to the meeting.

Once you're all there, state your case. Be polite but firm - no one likes to be yelled at and when they are they tend to shut you out. Now, they'll nod and make affirmative noises but remember, they are just making nice and may or may not agree with a word you're saying.

Once the case is made, now go in for the close. Remind them about that thing with the corporate CEOs - you know, that one vote they get thing. Then have them look at the 3 or four of you and ask if there was an election with the Congress member getting that CEO vote and somebody else getting the three or four of your votes who they think would win.

The member of Congress will get the point.

Saturday, December 5, 2009

Billo's Bellow

(I get these essays in my email from Zepp and since I don't know if he has his own webpage to visit, I share this with you.)

Yule be home for the holidays

© Bryan Zepp Jamieson
December 5th 2009

We're coming up on the Yule Season – you may have noticed one or two ads mentioning it on the TV – and Bill O'Reilly is on his annual campaign to save Christmas.

That would be the Republican Christmas, of course. It's sort of a strange holiday in which Jesus urges everyone to go out and buy lots of shit for the kids, so they will worship. If lots of money is all it takes to get American right wingers to worship Reverend Moon and Kangarupe Murdoch, then lots of money and gifts ought to bring those little sucks into line, Jesus-wise.

Billo spent a few minutes whining about the “coal-in-your-stocking crowd,” which would include such groups as the American Humanist Association and the Freedom From Religion Foundation. Billo's ire was raised by signs on buses that read, “No God? No Problem! Be good for goodness sakes!”

The funny thing is that you'll find a lot of members in both groups celebrating the holidays in various ways later this month. A lot of Humanists celebrate the Solstice, New Years', or both. And a surprising number of people in Freedom from Religion are, in fact, religious. They just understand how important it is to keep religion and government separate, because each will horribly corrupt the other.

But it's not Republican Christmas, an event that includes plastic trees, artery-clogging eggnog, huge credit card bills, and an endless agony of sending and receiving cards, and putting names in databases so you don't forget to send a card next year. All this is combined with copious amounts of sanctimony, even though none of the activities listed actually involved the putative religious aspects in any way.

Billo is riding that sanctimony, saying that not believing in God means there's no point in celebrating anything. As he says, “The question is, why bother? Why spend money at Christmas time to spread dubious will among men?”

If you were hoping for a heartwarming homily right out of the pages of Reader's Digest about family and love and peace and goodwill toward men, that just isn't the Republican Christmas.

The reason people don't celebrate Billo's Republican Christmas, according to Billo, is “atheists are jealous of the Yuletide season. While Christians have Jesus and Jews have the prophets, non-believers have Bill Maher. There are no atheist Christmas carols, no pagan displays of largesse like Santa Claus. In fact, for the non-believer, Christmas is just a day off, a time to consider that Mardi Gras is less than two months away.”

I bet more Jews celebrate Bill Maher then celebrate Christmas. Even among Republican Jews. It's not because Maher is, technically speaking, Jewish (He was raised Catholic, now a Humanist, but his mother was Jewish), nor because, technically speaking, so was Jesus. It's just that if you send a letter to Bill Maher, you have a chance of getting a reply. Plus Maher doesn't go for smiting fruit trees because they aren't bearing fruit out of season, or demanding that followers forsake their families to follow him. Maher's pretty mellow about that sort of shit. So it makes more sense to celebrate him.

I fell down laughing at the statement that there are no pagan displays of largess like Santa Claus. It's true. Republican Christmas has Santa showing up at the stable fashionably late, singing, “Yo, ho, blow the man down” and giving the baby Jesus a yarmulke and season tickets to the Rams. Humanists don't have anything like that. Nor do Christians. But the pagans do. Santa may be loosely based on a Christian saint, Nicolas, but the figure actually dates back some 3,000 years. Odin, a figure also known as Jólnir (Old Norse "yule figure") who was celebrated from Solstice to early January as a part of the ancient Nordic lunar calendar, was the first Santa figure. Nuthin' pagan about THAT, nosireebob! Later versions, based on the fourth century Saint Basil, and the sixteenth century Saint Nicklaus, came later. The modern Santa is based on nothing more than an illustration by a political cartoonist, Thomas Nast. Nast almost certainly drew from pagan lore, combining Mōdraniht, (Mother's Night) with Saturnalia.

Billo, characteristically, shifted to a vaguely threatening posture, noting that 78% of people in the US like to say “Merry Christmas” and only 22% say “Happy Holidays” and noting that all those Merry-Christmas babblers aren't going to have much goodwill left over for people who disparage their eggnog.

Most people are a little fed up with the holiday. The Guardian had a poll for favorite Christmas movie, and Billy Bob Thornton's “Bad Santa”, a cynical and depraved satire, was leading. I voted for it myself. If there's a movie the wife and I watch every Yule, that's it. There's just something about the sight of a drunken Billy Bob Thornton sprawled in a plastic Santa throne whilst a dark stain spreads across the front of his red Santa pants that proclaims the true nature and joy of Republican Christmas.

Most people just sigh and deal with Christmas. They do it for the kids, although it has never been clear to me how teaching kids utter absurdities such as the Santa legend, and then pulling the rug out from under them when they get to be about eight, fosters trust and reverence for equally absurd religious stories. If Santa's a fake, then why believe the Bible? To me, it makes a lot more sense to explain the gift giving as a custom in which people reach out to one another, and show they care. That's a lesson and a rationale that doesn't go away when a child is eight.

The only groups that actually oppose Christmas are Christian. Most of them have pretty valid reasons, as seen from their perspectives. Some groups recognize that Christmas is basically just superimposed on ancient pagan holidays, and are literate enough to know that Joseph and Mary weren't going to be walking around half the middle east in the dead of winter, and that such an odyssey would been in late summer. It doesn't help that none of the mentioned events have any historic correlation. No big bright stars appearing out of nowhere. There was a Herod, and there was a big Roman census, which did occur—10 years after Herod's death. Herod died four years before Jesus was supposedly born. That only two of the four gospels have any of the elements of the nativity at all is further cause for concern.

As a result, most Christians treat the nativity as an allegorical fable. This includes the Catholic Church, which realized many years ago that it was impossible to reconcile the irregularities and flat-out contradictions in the gospels. They believe that Jesus is the son of God, but they recognize that the fable that he was born in a manger on December 25th with three wise men, shepherds and so on was pure malarky.

Most just go ahead and enjoy the holiday, mindful of the fact that it's more a commemoration of an idea than any actual events. And they don't go around demanding that people believe fables that they don't believe themselves. They celebrate Christmas in their own way, and leave others to celebrate it – or not – in their way. This always struck me as a sensible approach.

But oddly, the strongest opposition comes from the folks who insist that the bible is literal, and that the nativity occurred exactly as described in the two gospels, and loftily ignore the contradictions between the two. However, they admit that nearly all the elements of Christmas are of pagan origin, and the commercialism is an abomination.

Billo likes to pretend that atheists get upset when people say “Merry Christmas” to them, but the fact is that few do. Some of them will even say “Merry Christmas” right back, especially if it's someone they care about, and whose beliefs they respect. Atheists don't dig in their heels and get surly unless someone forces them to say “Merry Christmas.” And Billo, who can't understand that he lives in a country where no person may impose religious observance on any other person, is flabbergasted that employers aren't willing to force employees at malls to chirp “Merry Christmas” at customers who are already fed up with the patent emotional phoniness of the commercial celebrations.

The fundamentalists are the only ones who get upset about the term itself, because they realize that the vast majority of people, when they say the phrase, don't mean it in the biblical sense. The fact that there is no coherent biblical sense makes it even worse.

Some like to pretend it's their holiday, and nobody else has any business appropriating it. In fairness, that isn't limited to fundamentalist Christians; I've heard similar grousings from Wiccans and other Pagans.

But it's pretty much a secular celebration, the tinsel and the gifts and Santa and all of that, and in any event, everyone in America is free to observe it or not, as strikes their fancy. And it is that freedom that so upsets Billo, who wants to force people to observe a holiday he doesn't even believe in himself.

Happy Yule, and if you see Billy Bob Thornton up on Santa's pagan throne, surrounded by mythical pagan creatures such as elves, think twice about plopping the kids in his lap.

They might splash.

Now THIS is how you handle Climate Change Denying Teabaggers

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) defends itself

There is a lot of push back going on by those who work on climate change and those in the media and government – in other countries that is. If you live in the USA you would think that the evidence for climate change has been well and truly debunked and that Al Gore is the biggest con artist in history.

The IPCC are not holding back re their thoughts on the motivation for release of the emails:

Professor Jean-Pascal van Ypersele, vice-chairman of the IPCC, said it was no coincidence the information was released in the run-up to the summit.

He claimed unnamed conspirators could have paid for Russian hackers to break into the university computers to steal the e-mails.

He said the theft was a scandal and was “probably ordered” to disrupt the confidence negotiators have in the science.

Gordon Brown, the British Prime Minister uses language to describe the deniers that Obama would do well to adopt:

He said: “There is an anti-change group. There is an anti-reform group. There is
an anti-science group, there is a flat Earth group, if I may say so, over the
scientific evidence for climate change.”

So there is resistance to the uneducated lemmings, the deniers, who insist they know better than people who have studied a subject for years if not their entire working lives. They also fail to grasp the significance of the fact that hundreds of scientists think that man’s actions are accelerating climate change and the number that disagree is proportionally tiny. More importantly though, a quick bit of research unearth’s the fact that the ones who are in the mainstream have no dog in the fight, the ones who oppose are invariably financed by industries who lose money every time an anti pollution or fossil fuel law is passed.

The fact that the Teabaggers think that they have enough information on this topic to even begin to form an opinion is very scary.


Now that's how you handle the know-nothing Teabagger morons! We need to be hearing this from OUR people right here! Stop wimping out in the face of these idiots!!

Uncle PL's Guide to Handling Rightwing-Nuts Online

I enjoy Twitter a lot - so much so that some days I will be on it for literally hours. I mean from morning until very late at night. Like I said, I am retired and do have lots of time on my hand and the internet sure beats a lot of what's on TV. I have email groups I participate in too - most of them I call slow motion chat rooms because most of the emails from them tend to be a sentence or two.

This Twitter thing is most fun though. You're forced to get your point across in literally 140 spaces that includes spaces between words. There is one basic rule about Twitter though - it's only as good as who you choose to follow and who chooses to follow you.

However, as they say on talk radio, this isn't what I writing about.

What this post is about is what I've learned when deciding to debate the far right online. Some people who take this on are new at it, some old hands but here are some suggestions that work for me. Let's call these rules for the sake of this essay....


Remain calm. Be aware that the person you are debating has been told by their leaders (Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, etc.) that if they say such and such, that will "annoy liberals" and by doing so that is a victory for them and the conservative movement. Two things to keep close to mind and heart as you post to them - you have facts, they have only what Fox News and their radio hate shows tell them is so. When they make their admittedly aggravating claims that they heard on their radio and saw on their TVs, keep repeating those facts you have.


Do not ask far rightwingers questions. We on the left are actually pretty nice folks and we tend to view other humans in a good light. We approach the far right with the Socratic approach as in if we ask them the right questions we will guide them to the Truth. Sorry, but that plain doesn't work with the fringe right. You cannot use reason with the unreasonable. Instead, say what you need to say in simple, declarative sentences. No "Don't you think blah blah blah?" No, they don't think. They are authoritarians - they get told by other authoritarians and they repeat it the same way they are told. Do it right back at them.


"Don't you think if we had healthcare for all the country would be better off?"


"The country would be better off if everyone had healthcare."


You get the idea.

But Uncle PL, what if they stick with what they are saying and ignore the facts that I give them?

Then you go to....


The most potent weapon to use against the far right is ridicule and laughter. Don't get angry and going all ALL CAPS at them - they want that. The far righters, as much as they bluster and act macho, are really an insecure lot. They need two things most of all: attention and validation. They want to be the star of your email group, chat room or Twitter postings and pay attention only to them. You may be doing the online equivalent of shouting at them and calling them rude names but attention is attention. This is also validation of their viewpoint - since they consider liberals awful people who only trade in falsehood, your anger is only proving to them the righteousness of their positions.

However, this falls apart for them if you start to ridicule their stories and laugh at them. Call it snark or sarcasm, it's devastating to them. You just knocked their supports out from under them - not only are you not accepting their claims, you are not taking them seriously. They get told that only they are the serious ones with serious positions - undermine that and they get all flustered. Combine this with RULE #2 and count the seconds before they run away - something they are also told to do if it gets too hot for them.

But...Uncle PL! That's being mean, just like them! We can't do that - how are we going to change any minds that way?


Understand this simple fact - there is little to no debating online. Once in a while you'll hit someone who is genuinely on the fence on some issue or some thinking conservative who has real opinions and the information to back them up. These are so rare that they are to be treasured when found. What you are dealing with an overwhelming majority of the time are right wing ideologues who are looking to score points against you. As I said, they want you to get upset and they will use any and everything at hand to do so. They are the convinced and nothing you say to them will get them to shift a single position they've been fed - and trust me, fed is the right word here. Creativity and independent thought need not apply - what you're dealing with most of the time are followers, not leaders.

So, what do we do with them? We defeat them. We beat them down. We stick to our guns. We outlast them. We run them out of the cyber room with their tails between their legs, crawling away whimpering from the red ass we just gave them.

As James Carville said once, "I don't want to be friends with the right. I want them defeated."

Now, in a perfect world, none of my rules would be necessary. Most of us on the left don't log on with the idea of looking for a fight - we want to test our ideas and get some good information so we're better informed citizens. All comers welcome: who knows - a conservative might have a good idea that we haven't considered and be worth a look.

There once was a time in America when doing all that was possible.

Those days are gone.

Our friends on the right don't want discussion - they want to do to us what I said we should do to them. We're not people with a different point of view who share their wishes to make America a better country but just disagree with how to get there, to them we are the enemy. Read and hear what they say. They say we hate America and want to destroy it. They don't accept that we support a woman's choice in reproductive matters - to them, all we want to do is murder unborn babies. To them, we support terrorism because we don't fear all of the adherents of a particular religion since a few of them want to do us harm. We don't oppose the war on Iraq because we think it was unnecessary and sold to us on a stack of lies - to them, we want to destroy the morale of our military and cheer when they are maimed or killed because we think it bolsters our position. To them, what's our position? Surrender always because we are spineless, pacifist wimps who think the United States is an evil country, unworthy of defending.

What a load of crap.

I don't have to refute any of this - my friends on the left have already done that, early and often.

So, they want a fight? We're their huckleberries.

I say we make the far right into a club sandwich. And we've got the clubs to do just that.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009


Let me say from the outset that I was on the fence on Afghanistan. I saw the arguments from both the "stay" and "withdraw" camps and I wavered from one to the other. I both supported going into Afghanistan and participated in protest marches against it (for me it was not against why we went, I protested the general "Bomb it all" approach of the Bushies).

Then the President made his case on Tuesday, December 2nd. My response immediately after the speech was, "OK. He sold me."

Boy, did some of my fellow progressive tweeters give me hell for that. Some even said they felt "betrayed" by the President because he announced more troops for Afghanistan and didn't say "OK, we're outta there starting right now."

Well, better look at this then: Obama Campaign Promises: Afghanistan

What he said in his speech is what he ran on in 2008.

Now, about why we need to be in Afghanistan - first, remember this?

The right says we forgot all about it and we don't care about terrorism anymore. Well, I certainly do remember and real terrorism threats matter to me. Same goes for the President.

It doesn't matter that the terrorists who did this were Saudis or anything else - what matters is that they trained and were sent out to do that from.....Afghanistan.

Here's the deal, folks. A lot of the criticism from the left is saying that what Obama is doing is exactly what Bush did and the Soviet Union before him and will fail just like they did. Sorry, but I don't see it. I've put this challenge out before and it's still out there: I'll give you that point.....the second you've shown me anything President Obama has said about regime change, taking Afghanistan over, occupying it or anything else Bush and the Soviets did.

OK, it's a trick question: Obama never said anything like that, either when he was campaigning or now. If and when that changes, I'll jump right over to the Withdraw Now camp. Right now, I'm still with the Prez.

Now, it's a given that if Bush had finished the job I and every Democrat in the Senate and all but one in the House supported, Obama would never have had to have given that speech or send 30,000 more troops into Afghanistan. However, this doesn't mean we can now leave the job he failed to do undone.

That's just not acceptable.

The President also said on Tuesday that Afghanistan is not in imminent danger of falling to the Taliban and the number of Al Qaeda there now number between 100-200. Also true...right now. If we just packed up and left, that'd change in a hurry.

Imagine a restored Taliban-controlled Afghanistan giving Al Qaeda the green light to re-open their terrorist training camps then turning their attention to gaining control of a nuclear Pakistan as well. Then look at the picture above and imagine that happening again in America, maybe much worse. And no, this is not the same "excuse" the right used for staying in Iraq. There is a major difference that needs to also be remembered: there were no terrorist groups in Iraq before we invaded and occupied it. There most certainly were and still are in Afghanistan. Imagine them rubbing their hands in glee at the thought of getting their safe haven back.

Withdraw now and you won't have to imagine it for very long. It'll all be very real and in a very short time.

I understand some of this reaction - Obama hasn't been in office for even a year quite yet and we haven't quite gotten that nasty Dubya taste out of our mouths yet. You can see that in the reaction to the fact that non-SuperObama hasn't changed all the bad things and made America a paradise on Earth yet and it must mean that's because HE'S JUST LIKE BUSH!

Oh please. We did not elect a photo negative version of W - not even close.

This also means that the way Obama will conduct the war in Afghanistan will be anything but JUST LIKE BUSH! We're there to do two things militarily - make sure that terrorists don't come back in and set up business and tamp down the Taliban to a level where the Afghanis can handle it on their own. Then we get the hell out. Diplomatically and financially, we'll supply the aid to repair the country and establish a stable government there that was promised by the Bushies then promptly forgotten in their urge to get into Iraq.

Iraq was an unnecessary war sold by lies - this doesn't mean that every war we do is the same. Sometimes, even with the terrible costs that go with it, a war is necessary. Afghanistan is that war. The threat coming from inaction isn't the ravings of a Rush-driven neocon after a day of Fox Noise lies, it's real this time.

President Obama may have inherited this war but he'll end it after the job is done.

I stand with our President.