Over The Top Dole Campaign Ad Puts Spotlight on Religious Bigotry

30 10 2008

The McCain campaign has gotten a lot of press over the past few months for its negative campaigning, but nothing he has stuck his name on even compares to the latest ad from North Carolina Senator Elizabeth Dole. Take a gander for yourself:

This ad takes this most sickening of seasons to a whole new level. Hagan has responded by calling the ad “fabricated” and “pathetic”, and has even pledged to pursue a cease-and-desist order in court. (Dole’s campaign website was stilling running the ad front and center on its homepage.) Hagan is leading the Senatorial race in most polls, and clearly the ad reeks of desperation from Dole. CNN’s Alex Castellanos remarked on the subject that “When you’re making ads that say ‘there is no God’, it usually means your campaign doesn’t have much of a prayer.” I have my doubts, however, and unlike most of McCain’s mud-slinging, this is exactly the kind of claim that just might work for Dole.

The ad claims that Hagan has associated with members of the Godless Americans Political Action Committee, an atheist group that aims to give “unbelievers” more of a voice in government (see their website here). Hagan claims this is untrue, and it very well may be, but the question this all begs is: so what if she did? Should Americans who choose not to align themselves with any religion be barred from the political process? Atheists or agnostics are estimated to make up around 16 percent of the country’s population, so their votes could make or break any race. However, they are largely unorganized (something GAPAC aims to change).

Unfortunately, as we are reminded each election season, we still live in a world of stereotypes, mistrust and outright hate, and this is a political tool ripe for the picking. Clearly, even associating with an atheist can still be used as character assassination in politics. Atheists, largely due to their lack of organization, are among the only groups one can still overtly demonize without fear of significant backlash. Undoubtedly, there are more than a few religious North Carolinians who shudder at the thought of electing someone who is, or even “pals around with”, non-Christians, and this may turn the tide for Dole.

However, Dole might have picked the wrong time to pull a stunt like this. It appears that many voters are just plain fed up with this kind of politics, and the publicity for a group like GAPAC may encourage more of the secular population to join forces and fight this kind of largely accepted bigotry. Coupled with the modest success of Bill Maher’s recent documentary Religulous, (which closes with a plea from Maher for America’s unbelievers to overcome their fear of ostracism and declare themselves as such), a new secular movement may be in its first stages.

Here’s some video of a FOX news segment discussing the possibility of an atheist movement (completely with the indispensable, astute viewpoint of a country music star!):

We’ll find out next week whether America, and more importantly evangelical America, is willing to openly reject this kind of fear-mongering with regard to the irreligious. If so, a new era of acceptance for a group that has existed in silence for so long may be born. Here’s hoping.

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A Big P.U. to “W.”

23 10 2008

I saw Oliver Stone’s “W.” last night, which has been largely lauded for its immediate and daring (if biased) portrayal of our largely loathed commander-in-chief. Needless to say, I can’t stand Bush, or else I probably wouldn’t have seen this movie at all. However, I was surprised to find that I couldn’t stand this movie either, and goddamn it I want my $8.50 back.

Josh Brolin does his best Bush grimace.

Josh Brolin does his best Bush grimace.

San Francisco Chronicle movie critic Mick Lasalle had this to say in his mostly positive review: “…future audiences will have to appreciate the daring nature of what Stone is attempting: to put the national trauma known as the Bush years into historical and psychological perspective, even as they’re still going on.” This may have some truth to it in terms of the difficulty of what Stone is attempting, and perhaps once some actual historical perspective is achieved, the film can be seen and criticized more fairly.

Roger Ebert, in his glowing review, reflected on the film’s story being a retread of the last six or seven year’s public discourse: “Everything in it, including the scenes behind closed doors, is now pretty much familiar from tell-all books by former Bush aides, and reporting by such reporters as Bob Woodward. Though Stone and his writer, Stanley Weiser, could obviously not know exactly who said what and when, there’s not a line of dialogue that sounds like malicious fiction. It’s all pretty much as published accounts have prepared us for.” And this is exactly the problem.

The movie tells us almost nothing an informed person didn’t already know – the sale of the Iraq War was misguided, Bush overcame a fairly heavy drinking habit to become President, he had a difficult relationship with his father, etc. The casting is spot-on, but I found the film as a whole quite boring and a fairly base attempt to capitalize off of Bush’s incredible unpopularity.

“W.” just seems like more dirt on the Bush-bashing pile that’s become quite tired. History will not be slow in declaring whether or not Bush’s presidency was a complete failure, but that decision cannot be made before he even leaves office. Had the film been grounded in some 10 to 20 years of the post-Bush American experience, it might seem a little more trustworthy and a whole lot less heavy-handed.

To my disappointment, I put “W.” in the category of most movies nowadays – simply a calculated way to make a buck rather than a true artistic statement.





“Change” Still Leaves Gay Marriage Behind

9 10 2008

At this seemingly pivotal point for our society and our country, the middle and working classes have taken center stage. This is obviously due to the clout they’ll hold in the election, as well as the disenchantment and anger everyone is feeling over the neglect and abuses of the elites on Wall Street and in government.

Yes, I get on my soap box via this blog, and I’d like to think of myself as at least somewhat politically informed, but at this point in my life, I’m still firmly within the working class, and so are most of the people I interact with. I currently work as a waiter in a fairly nice restaurant, and naturally, I hear a lot of political conversation going on at the table. However, an interaction with one of my coworkers recently struck me, and brought my attention to one of the issues that has taken a back seat in this election.

I was having a fairly casual discussion about the VP debate with another coworker who I’ve talked politics with before, when another waitress (an average late-20’s stay-at-home mother of two, whom I’ve never heard talk about politics before) made a comment about how she watched it, and couldn’t believe that both Sarah Palin and Joe Biden made it very clear that they do not support “changing the definition of marriage.” Despite all the squirming, distorting and brazen refusal to answer questions, that seemed to be a moment of both clarity and accord for the candidates.

Here’s the actual footage:

Unbelievably, in an election that’s supposedly about “change” and “progress”, I guess it is still beyond too many Americans to vote for someone who would allow gays to marry, just like everyone else. You expect this from the people Palin is pandering to, but I don’t really believe that Biden or Obama (who also opts for the civil union cop-out) have a true ethical issue with gay marriage – they just can’t say so if they want to win in November.

As far as McCain’s views, here he is on Ellen Degeneres’ show discussing the subject:

AWKWARD!

I mean honestly, you can still marry your first cousin in 21 states (see here)! (I also seem to have a hazy childhood memory of a Jerry Springer episode entitled “I Married A Horse”, but that couldn’t have been legal, if it was even real).

While the reminder that we’re nowhere close to accepting gay marriage is a bit depressing, hearing someone close to my age, and someone who is somewhat conservative and very family-focused at that, express their amazement and indignation at the VP candidates responses to this was encouraging. If nothing else, I have no doubt that the wave of progress future generations will bring will wash this barrier away soon enough.





Ban on Text Messaging Drivers an Empty Gesture

25 09 2008

My suspicions (or clairvoyance!) were confirmed today as California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger signed a new law banning text messaging while driving into effect. Obviously, this was done in the wake of the Los Angeles train wreck caused by a texting train operator. See earlier post here.

“Banning electronic text messaging while driving will keep drivers’ hands on the wheel and their eyes on the road, making our roadways a safer place for all Californians,” said Schwarzenegger. A first-time offender would receive a $20 fine, with higher fines for repeat violations.

See entire San Francisco Chronicle article here.

This may seem like an appropriate response after such a tragedy, but seriously, do we need laws to tell us every little thing not to do while driving? We have broad-brush terms like “reckless driving” or “reckless endangerment” for this very reason. I think it’s pretty clear that text messaging while driving is reckless, just like eating, brushing your hair or reading the newspaper (all of which is not uncommonly witnessed on any major thoroughfare). Perhaps Congress should look into a federal ban on shaving one’s chest while driving, just to be safe.

Furthermore, is this law even enforceable? Text messaging is usually performed below the dashboard and out of sight – just like changing a CD, trying to read directions or picking up a dropped cigarette.

The more cushy gadgets we have in the car (GPS systems, cell phones, or the most ridiculous of all, televisions on the visors) the more distracted we become, and that’s inevitably problematic.

Now here's something that needs outlawing.

Now here's something that needs outlawing.

So, what’s left here is a law that is purely reactionary and virtually useless. While it may be well-intentioned, it boils down to an empty gesture and a waste of government time and taxpayer money.






VP Debate Brings Palin’s First Performance Without a Net

25 09 2008

As you’ve probably heard, John McCain has “suspended” his campaign for the time being in order to return to Washington and focus on getting a deal worked out for the Wall Street bailout. As part of this “suspension”, he has also pledged to not participate in Friday night’s first debate if a deal has not been brokered by then (Obama has stated that he will operate under the assumption that it will go on). This is suprising, being that this debate is geared towards foreign policy, which one would think is a McCain strong point.

But honestly, I wasn’t all that interested in the debate anyhow. At this point, we’ve all heard both candidate’s stump speeches, and we’re unlikely to hear anything we haven’t heard before from either one. What does pique my interest however, is next Thursday night’s Biden vs. Palin matchup in the vice presidential debate (which should go on as planned).

It is absolutely astounding that it’s been nearly a month since Palin was ushered onto the national scene, and yet she has spoken nary an unscripted word in a public forum. She’s been preparing, with a couple of brief conversations with world leaders Tuesday (which Maureen Dowd cleverly referred to as “speed dating diplomacy” in a New York Times op-ed).

But speculation aside, Palin is still a massive X-factor heading into the debate. If she can pull of the same kind of wit and sass that defined her RNC speech on her feet, another Palin bounce may result. The McCain campaign’s desire to keep her tightly under wraps and off-limits to reporters has resulted in a perception that she is little more than a pretty-faced Manchurian candidate with little political chops.

The marketing of Palin seems to be like that of a new pop star – wait for the fervor surrounding one song to die down before releasing the next. If the RNC was Palin’s first single, she’s still a lip-syncing one-hit wonder at this point. We haven’t even heard the follow-up yet…until tomorrow, when we may find out if she’s more Christina Aguilera or Ashlee Simpson.

A bespectacled Britney, lending her instant conscientious mother cred.

Hey, wait a minute...
Spectacles = instant maternal cred.
She may very well fall flat on her glasses tomorrow night and confirm herself to be more qualified to be a guest host on ‘The View’ than Vice President of the United States. But if she performs well, the sensation surrounding her could be resurrected, possibly resulting in the same kind of bounce the McCain camp sorely needs right now.





Bailout Shock: Laissez No Fair

23 09 2008

Ok, prepare your best Dr. Evil voice and repeat after me: 700 billion dollars. Let’s throw Wall Street a frickin’ bone here.

Yes, $700 billion. That’s the astronomical number on the tip of everyone’s tongue right about now, as the government bailout of the last Wall Street investment banks seems to be the straw that broke the cash cow’s back. There seems to be no more denial from anyone as to the incredibly worrisome state of our economy (and in turn, the world’s).

Big numbers like this get thrown about a lot when discussing politics. We spend about 12 billion per month in Iraq, the national deficit is about 9.7 trillion, etc., and nobody really thought all that much of it until lately. Where this money comes from, we’re not so sure. I guess if we don’t have the money to spend, we can just print more. And maybe when Bush is running low on cash around lunch hour and doesn’t feel like whipping out the old presidential debit card, he can just depend on the good old U.S. Mint to spot him a five for a Texas Whopper meal.

But what seems most alarming (and I am quite alarmed) is the lack of resistance, even from conservatives, to what appears to be a plan that borders on socialism – if only temporary, should this enormous risk pay off in the long run. What’s even more scary is that it’s coming from President Bush, who has been a staunch and public defender of the free market system, even when outcry over gas prices, record oil company profits and other signs of a deepening economic hole were at their peak.

“Those who promise painless protectionism or security through statism assure a bleak and stagnant future for their people,” said Mr. Bush in 2002, then attempting to dissuade Argentina – which was heading into a recession – from adopting policies similar to what he is suggesting as a remedy for our current crisis.

Encouraging, I know.





British Researchers: Texting Worse Than Drugs

18 09 2008

British researchers have confirmed what most might have already suspected – text messaging while driving slows reaction time by about 35 percent, which actually makes it worse than driving drunk or under the influence of marijuana. Worse, around half of British young people surveyed openly admitted to having read or written texts while operating heavy machinery. And yes, I’ve done it too, and I feel like a big jerk. No data was available to determine whether the use of textspeak, (i.e. “omg, r u xcited 4 tmrw?”) reduced the level of distraction.

Problem is, we’re all so addicted to the fast pace of communication and being constantly within reach that it’s hard to cut ourselves off during a commute. I don’t see this problem going away any time soon, and the anti-text movement may have gotten its first major boost with the discovery that the engineer of the train that derailed in Los Angeles last Friday, killing 25 people. See video below.

I see some legislation coming down the line trying to curb texting, but it will be pretty tough to enforce.

But just a quick reminder for you little hooligans with your Crackberries: driving drunk = bad; texting while driving = worse! (although that shouldn’t make you feel any better about driving drunk); and well, if you text while driving drunk, God should smite you with a horrible skin condition resulting in complete ostracism from society, leaving you with no one to text forevermore.