Russia’s aggression in Crimea gave GOP talking heads yet another chance to blather on about how weak Barack Obama is and how America needs to bomb more countries in order to gain respect. Don’t listen to them.
Did Obama Just Screw Weed Legalization by Supporting It?
The Obama administration’s relative silence on the issue of marijuana legalization has been good for the cause. But in a recent New Yorker article the president’s stated position on the topic evolved. “I don’t think it is more dangerous than alcohol,” he said, adding, “It’s important for [state-level legalization] to go forward because it’s important for society not to have a situation in which a large portion of people have at one time or another broken the law and only a select few get punished.” He tempered this support by gingerly detracting from legalization advocacy, saying that those who claim marijuana to be a panacea are “overstating the case.” He also referred to “some difficult line-drawing issues” between weed and other illicit drugs, paying homage to the classic, perhaps arcane argument often wielded by conservatives. As cautious as he was in stating it, Obama’s support for legalization, and more strongly decriminalization, may actually be more damaging to the effort than his silence. If we’ve learned one thing from the past six years of Obama, it’s that conservatives find it easiest to irrationally rally against him on social issues like this one.
Until now, the state-level legislative efforts to legalize weed have not included retroactively reducing the sentences of those currently imprisoned on marijuana-related charges, as pointed out by a recent LA Times piece: “It’s far easier to sell voters on the financial benefits of creating a lucrative new marijuana industry than it is to persuade them to open up the prison gates and set convicts free,” writes Matthew Fleischer.
Why I Want to Fuck Ronald Reagan, Part II
"Ronald Reagan and the conceptual auto disaster. Numerous studies have been conducted upon patients in terminal paresis (G.P.I.), placing Reagan in a series of simulated auto-crashes, e.g. multiple pile-ups, head-on collisions, motorcade attacks (fantasies of Presidential assassinations remained a continuing preoccupation, subjects showing a marked polymorphic fixation on windshields and rear-trunk assemblies). Powerful erotic fantasies of an anal-sadistic character surrounded the image of the Presidential contender. Subjects were required to construct the optimum auto-disaster victim by placing a replica of Reagan’s head of the unretouched photographs of crash fatalities. In 82 per cent of cases massive rear-end collisions were selected with a preference for expressed faecal matter and rectal haemorrhages. Further tests were conducted to define the optimum model-year. These indicate that a three-year model lapse with child victims provide the maximum audience excitation (confirmed by manufacturers’ studies of the optimum auto-disaster.) It is hoped to construct a rectal modulus of Reagan and the auto-disaster of maximized audience arousal."
So began J.G. Ballard’s short fiction, “Why I Want To Fuck Ronald Reagan,” a remarkable and remarkably prescient piece written in 1967, 13 years prior to Reagan’s nomination as his party’s candidate for president at the 1980 Republican National Convention in Detroit. His running mate was a former congressman from Texas and one-time director of the Central Intelligence Agency named George H. W. Bush. They ran on the theme, “Make America Great Again,” and won by a landslide, in large part due to a crumbling US economy—the national debt was nearing a trillion dollars—as well as the ongoing Iran hostage crisis, walloping the incumbent Jimmy Carter with 489 Electoral College votes to his measly 49. Of course, by the time Reagan left office the national debt had tripled to almost $3 trillion.
I Signed Up for the Ayn Ran Fan Club Dating Site
Yesterday, the Wall Street Journal blew the lid off of the preeminent dating website for fans of Ayn Rand and her Objectivist philosophy. For the uninitiated, Objectivism is a system of belief that emphasizes “man as a heroic being, with his own happiness as the moral purpose of his life, with productive achievement as his noblest activity, and reason as his only absolute.” In practice, this means being an absolute dick and believing rich people are noble and poor people are morally deficient. Anyway, the Atlasphere connects Objectivists around the world to each other, offers film and literature suggestions (FUN FACT: Objectivists really like The Shawshank Redemption and Les Miserables), and provides you with the opportunity to date people who aren’t moochers for a nominal fee of $9 a month.
I have been looking for both a new set of principles to guide my actions and a new place to score easy, casual sex, so this was an ideal time to join a new dating website. I decided to jump in and start mingling. First thing I had to do was set up my profile.
One of the first questions they ask you is about your appearance. I’m not sure what the difference is between “cuddly” and “very cuddly.” Seems like some kind of code word for fat. I picked “very cuddly,” as I figured Objectivists are looking for a man who likes to cuddle after they get home from a long day managing a train factory or whatever.
After finding cute ways to describe the fact that I am overweight, the questionnaire moved on to something called “narratives.”
The Continuing Stupidity of the Government Shutdown
Last night, a week after the start of the aggressively futile, pointless governmentshutdown. Barack Obama addressed the American people. He explained—he loves explaining things—that he and the Congressional Democrats were perfectly willing to sit down and talk about everything they disagree over, but first Republicans were going to have to agree to end the shutdown and also to raise the debt ceiling, which is arguablymore important for the economy. This is how Obama phrased his offer to negotiate:
“I am happy to talk with [Speaker of the House John Boehner] and other Republicans about anything… [but] having such a conversation, talks, negotiations shouldn’t require hanging the threats of a government shutdown or economic chaos over the heads of the American people.”
That might sound reasonable if you’re on Team Democrat, but conservative media outlets like the Daily Caller heard something different:
“President Barack Obama tried Tuesday to sway the public’s jaundiced view of the budget crisis with a mishmash of economic threats, campaign-style attacks on Republicans’ repeated offers of budget talks and numerous promises to reject any compromise […] Obama slammed the GOP as deadbeats and extremists, as kidnappers, as unserious and insincere […] The stream of invective and contempt reassures his supporters and motivates them to turn out in the 2014 election, but boosts the GOP’s long-standing distrust of the president’s willingness or political ability to negotiate.”
That underscores the absurd stupidity of the situation Republicans and Democrats are in—it’s hard to have a reasonable discussion when you occupy entirely separate universes. The two sides don’t even agree on who is losing the most from the shutdown. In the world of hard-right commenters like Erick Erikson, “Republicans are winning the shutdown fight, and Democrats know it,” while the Democrats can look at the polls and conclude that voters actually blame the GOP more than anyone else for the shutdown.
The Hidden Victims of the Government Shutdown
It’s been two whole days since the US federal government closed down all “nonessential” functions thanks to an extraordinarily stupid intra-Republican fight over defunding Obamacare. Currently, Speaker of the House John Boehner is trying to negotiate not just an end to the shutdown and the raising of the debt ceiling, but also a “grand bargain,” the long-sought-after, practically mythical deal in which Democrats agree to spending cuts in exchange for the GOP agreeing to increased revenue (a.k.a. tax increases). Some House Republicans now just want to get the government running again, and would presumably be willing to get together with their Democratic colleagues to get that done, but Boehner won’t allow that for fear of his party’s ultraconservative Tea Party wing.
Meanwhile, the government is supposedly closed, though if you’re not among the 800,000furloughed federal workers you might not even have noticed. National Parks across the country have closed, NASA has shut down operations, and a bunch of government websites went dark—but mail is still getting delivered, the military is still getting paid, and city services in Washington, DC, which were rumored to stop during the shutdown, arehumming along (for now). Heck, the Army and Navy college football teams are playing this week. It turns out that a whole bunch of government functions are “essential.”
The shutdown of nonessential functions did hurt people, however, often in ways that aren’t readily apparent. Here are a few people and groups suffering thanks to Congressional deadlock:
Kids with Cancer
We’ll start off with the most fucked. The National Institute of Health had to furlough 75 percent of its employees as a result of the shutdown, and that means they can’t conduct new clinical trials to test new cancer treatment—which in turn means that patients, including children and even children with cancer, won’t be getting medicine that could potentially help them. “For every week that the government shutdown continues, 10 children with cancer will not be able to begin their clinical trials” is how ABC News put it. Jesus Christ.
The US Government Shut Down Because Everything Is Stupid
At midnight last night, the federal government shut down because Congress couldn’t get its shit together. Explaining that to people from other countries, or Americans who don’t pay attention to the daily grinding and wailing from Washington, DC, is very difficult—when you talk about the shutdown, it’s hard to avoid sounding like a small child trying to communicate the rules of a game that you and your friends invented as you went along.Wait, you realize as you’re launching into an explanation of Ted Cruz’s filibuster, none of this really makes sense, does it?
To recap: Republicans hate Obamacare. Some of them—the hard-right, perpetually angry Tea Party types who are mostly in the House of Representatives—hate it so much that they’re refusing to pass a routine continuing resolution (CR) to fund the federal government’s normal operations unless Obamacare isn’t funded. Since Republicans control the House (and there are enough in the defund-Obamacare caucus for their opinions to really count—we’ll get to that), they can do this if they want. Yesterday, House Republicans continued to pass bills that dismantled parts of Obamacare even though they had no chance of passing the Senate or getting signed by president Obama.
Nope, the GOP Still Isn’t Libertarian
Above: Republican senator Ted Cruz speaking to a conference of social conservatives. When this guy is considered a leading figure in your party, you’re a long way from libertarianism. Photo via Flickr user Gage Skidmore
If you’re bored with the political news this summer—it’s not an election year and Congress is in recess after doing diddly squat for six months—you can always read about how the United States is having a “libertarian moment.” The idea is that after decades of being bandied about by eccentric middle-aged white men and collegiate stoners who made zines and unreadable websites, libertarian principles are finally entering the mainstream.
Most articles on the subject first bring up Rand Paul—son of Ron, hater of drones and the NSA, would-be friend of Silicon Valley’s money, painfully awkward ambassador of the white race, and the most prominent libertarian-ish politician in the country. They then go on to mention that Paul’s antigovernment views and relatively liberal opinions on social issues make him a model for how Republicans can attract the young voters who have largely abandoned the party. (VICE itself took this tack last year.) The “libertarian moment” discussions will also invariably feature polls that show a majority of Americans favor legalizing weed and gay marriage, both issues that libertarians have been talking about for years. (Name something, and libertarians will be in favor of legalizing it.) The final ingredient in the libertarian article recipe is the Tea Party’s influence in Congress. When the Kansas City Star wrote about this, the paper referred to senators Ted Cruz and Mike Lee and representative Tim Huelskamp (along with Paul, of course) as “libertarian Republicans” and noted their opposition to NSA wiretapping and Obamacare. If you’re keeping score at home, the equation generally works like this:
Young People Hold Antigovernment Views +
Rand Paul! +
The Tea Party’s Influence (a.k.a. Stranglehold) on Congress +
Americans Tolerating Weed and Gay People =
A Strain/Rising tide/Explosion/Pick Your Metaphor of Libertarianism in America
The thing is, I’m not sure this math holds up in the real world. To start at the bottom of the equation, it’s true that America is a far more tolerant place for gay people who want to celebrate their legal marriage by lighting up a fat blunt. But though those causes have libertarian support behind them, the pro-weed and antihomophobia movements have been fueled by liberals; it’s Democrats, not right-wingers, who have advocated for gay rights and tried to push marijuana legislation at the federal level. And many libertarians favor decriminalizing all drugs in the name of individual liberty, which is several steps further than most pot activists are willing to go.