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Because I am very busy professionally, and because life is too short generally, I don't have time to research into what the rightwing media must be making of things like this:

Screen shot 2012-09-25 at 2.20.40 PM

This image, pulled from Huffington Post, shows in map form a running compilation of state and national polls that indicate the direction the Presidential race is headed today, and it updates constantly. There are many other poll aggregators online--I just happened to choose the Huff Post one because it's better-looking and easier to read than most. But its conclusions are in line with all the rest. It shows Obama leading with a likely electoral vote total of 332 to Rom's 191 with only NC's 15 votes still in the toss-up category (but, amazingly, with a 76% probability of an Obama lead even in that state that he won but just by the slimmest of margins, in 2008). 270 is the winning number, so Obama even has a lot of room to decline from this and still pull out a victory. 

I assume that the rightwing mediasphere is doing two predictable things: 1) blaming the leftwing mediasphere for distorting the whole thing in Obama's favor; and 2) turning its guns against its own candidate for not running a crazy enough hardline wingnut Teabagger-style campaign. Because, as you know, being a huge crackpot wins you elections, right? That's exactly the case that Bachmann and Santorum made for their own candidacies against Romney earlier this year, and...oh. Nevermind. They lost, totally humiliated by a dull and patrician Mormon who, not that many years ago purported to be pro-choice and pro-LGBT rights. Hmmm. While I don't go directly to rightwing media sources for insight, I have recently heard rightwingers quoted elsewhere making assertions that should be rather alarming for the GOP going forward, if not for the Rom crew this year. Some GOP wonk whose name escapes me said on NPR a couple weeks ago that this would be the last election where their candidate could try to base victory solely on the white-guy vote because demographics will make that impossible very quickly, which is probably some part of why VA appears lost to them for the second time in a row and why NC might be lost a second time. An appeal to new voters is prescribed. But Senator Graham of SC made the eyebrow-raising remark recently that there are not enough "angry white guys" to keep the GOP in business nationally much longer. Oddly, his implicit solution to that problem seems not involve appealing to news kinds of voters but rather literally generating more angry white people by stepping up the reproduction of the white race. In other words, stick with the strategy of being the angry-white-guy party but just increase that share of the population somehow. Then I also heard someone else say that if this Rom thing doesn't pan out this year and goes the McCain way, then this is the last time the GOP is going to fuck away its Presidential chances by running a "moderate." Next time, they're uncorking the serious craziness! 

This all suggests a lot of worry on their part about why they just can't manage to beat Obama. After all, they have spent most of four years building an image of the President as a socialist demon, a Nazi, a radical Muslim, someone born in Kenya with "post-Colonial" views, and other kinds of monsters. This they have compounded with specious claims about Obama's legislative and economic record, and they have arrived at a picture of an incredibly vulnerable, more-vulnerable-than-Carter, incumbent President that is easily beatable. But their problem is that they appear to actually believe their own cartoonish picture of the President. This is the problem with True Believers. Political calculation is one thing, and political hypocrisy is another, and I can respect both as strategies when deployed by people who know that's what they're doing. But people who actually believe crazy shit are dangerous to themselves and others because they can't recognize their own lies anymore. This time, it's totally backfiring on the Republicans and will continue to do so for a long time unless they start to understand this fact: it is not the liberal media and it is not even your douchey, lame-ass Prez candidate who is undoing your electoral prospects this year. It's your cynical, bleak, lousy, depressing, prejudiced, jaundiced, hate-based, and totally suck-ass platform of dumb policy ideas and antiquated attitudes that is failing to win you this election. Go ahead and run with that next time, too, if you don't believe it. In fact, go ahead and make it even worse next time!

I'm a gay Democrat and I like seeing those losers lose! Especially this year!  
I've been off from work for a week, and that's the first time that's happened in years. Everyone seemed surprised/disappointed that Jeff and I didn't have any kind of trip somewhere planned and that I just stayed home all week. But let me tell ya: it is really nice just getting to stay home and not have to do much in particular. On the other hand, I am fairly twitchy by nature and seem to always harbor a feeling that I need to be getting something constructive done all the time (which has been a useful trait in my job). For my days off this week, I'd imagined that I was going to complete a lot of writing. I didn't do anywhere near as much as I'd have liked, but I still did get a lot of it done, and I know where I am going with a couple unfinished projects. Some random features of the week off:

--I took the Cube in for an oil change. It wasn't as painful as I thought it would be, and I while I waited in the car place's rather comfy waiting room, I re-read a story called "Tattooed Love Boys," which I think is my favorite entry in Alex Jeffers' collection You Will Meet a Stranger Far From Home. That book also contains two stories of which I was the original publisher in issues of M-Brane SF.

--We received from Ikea two new couches. They arrived in eight boxes and took much of the afternoon for us to assemble them (and get rid of our old furniture--thanks, Craigslist hoarders!). This was a tough project, but we are very happy with the result. We have never had comfortable living room furniture, and the new couches--two identical items by the name "Karlstad"--are way comfie. We love them. 

--J and I went shopping for throw pillows for the new couches. On the same trip, I bought a case of cheap but very palatable wine at Trader Joe's and have been imbibing liberally of it since.

--Earlier in the week, J and I stocked up some staples at Viviano's, the Italian grocery in the adjacent neighborhood. There I found a new San Pellegrino drink, Pompelmo (grapefruit). It is wonderful! I have drunk three of them so far just as they are, but I suspect it would be a fine mixer with vodka or tequila. 

--At our regular grocery store, I saw in the same visit two attractive lads who have worked there for a while, but never seem to be there at the same time. One is a bagger and the other a stocker in the produce department. Seeing them at once made me wish that they were well-known characters about whom I could write some "slash" fiction. I could still do it, but no one would know who they are. Such a shame. Maybe I can imbue them with supernatural powers, turn them into characters, and then cause them to have their ways with one another. 

--Last night I spent a few minutes on Twitter attacking Congressman Todd Akin (Assbag-MO) who is now our state's rightwing candidate for the US Senate. There are douchebags, and political pieces of shit, and rightwing toads...and then there is Todd Akin. This guy is a card-carrying disaster. He believes that student loans shouldn't exist. He wants the minimum wage abolished. Ditto Social Security and Medicare. No more Federal investments in energy or education. Resignation from the United Nations. The kind of troll that wouldn't have been taken seriously in Senate-level politics even 15 years ago, he is also one of the most homophobic members of Congress, in the same league as Bachmann and King. So unhappy was he with the repeal of DADT, he came up with a new bill to make it legal for service members who don't like fags to bully and abuse their gay comrades. That's how stupid and mean this creep is. Akin's Twitter handle is @ToddAkin, and I encourage tweeps to use it to attack him savagely, with great scorn and bile, from now until Election Day. 

--I remembered once again that spending random time, with no particular point or purpose, with Jeffy is more satisfying than anything "constructive" I could have been doing during my days off, and I am glad that I found a lot of that time this week. 

I go back to work tomorrow, but only for a half-day at most. Most everyone else will be off, so I can get some work done in the early hours and be gone by noon. It's all pretty nice lately.

One of the downsides of listening to two hours of NPR's Morning Edition every morning while I am getting my workday started is that they break periodically for local station news updates, which here in St. Louis means news of the alternately deadly dull and utterly enraging shenanigans in our state capital. This week, our heavily GOP-dominated state house of representatives passed a dumbass piece of legislation requiring all driver license exams to be administered in English only. As it stands now, such exams can be administered in eleven different languages. This is just one manifestation of the English-only craze that GOP bigots have added to their stock-in-trade in the last decade or two, but it's also one of the very dumbest, and this is the very dumbest justification for it: To paraphrase the bill's  proponents, "it will make the roads safer because if we know that everyone can read and speak English fluently then we will know that they can read and understand the road signs."

What most Missouri Republican state reps (most, not all: 11 of them crossed over to oppose the bill) and five Democratic reps obviously do not know is that road signs are pretty much the same everywhere on the planet! And pretty much anyone who knows at all how to drive a car--even functionally illiterate drivers in any language!--can read and understand them. I have been to a bunch of different countries in my life, and I have driven cars in some where English was not the native language. And I am not fluent in any other language. Yet I was somehow able to master the feat of safely driving in this scary furr-eign language environment, in part because all the goddamned signs looked pretty much like all the equivalent ones in the Good Ol' You Ass of Ay.

I don't know much about the history of traffic control, but evidently at some point after the advent of the automobile, most of the planet agreed on the same basic concept for road signage. Also, the very fact that a lot of new Americans in Missouri--the people from Vietnam and Bosnia and Mexico and Honduras and Afghanistan and many other places who do a lot to make my city a diverse and interesting place to live--have been able to pass driving tests and get licenses while taking tests administered in their native languages proves that the other side's argument is legless. It's about bigotry and political opportunism, using a disfavored group of people--in this case, recent immigrants--to trump a phony threat and use the law the "correct" it and, in doing so, drum up voting fervor among their base and driving wedges between people who otherwise have no reason to quarrel.

It's so obvious, it's almost a cliche to even say it, but almost everyone here is the child of an immigrant. But in Missouri in particular I wonder where the hell any of its white-folk get off bringing up language when so few of them are more than a generation or two or three away from foreign-speaking forebears. This city is chockablock with Euro-descended Catholics, not one of which likely had grandparents hailing from England. And there's plenty of them in the neighborhood in which I work who speak English--when they choose to speak English--with a lovely and obvious Italian accent. And they drive just fine, too. (Well, at least as well as most people in this town do.)

As state rep Chris Kelly D-Columbia said, “This bill has no purpose, except jingoism. I hope the body will rise above its lowest common denominator and defeat this ill-advised piece of legislation.” But the body did not defeat it. Now it rests with the Senate, which will hopefully end it. And if not, our Governor will probably veto it. But even if so, and it dies there, what a waste of time and what an exercise in exposing our state's ugliest underbelly. They do it to the immigrants, they do it to the gays--they are bullies. I hate bullies.

By the way, that image up there is a Chinese stop sign. I have no idea what it "says" but I sure as hell know what it means.

I've really missed babbling in my Live Journal. I've neglected it for months. What brings me back is the news that Washington state is evidently about to legalize samesex marriage (though it seems it must pass through a ridiculous repeal-by-popular-vote ordeal this November). My pleasure at this news has been stifled all day by NPR's reporting on the opposition to this reform, featuring comments from the moronic National Organization for Marriage. Before I get too far into it, let me point you to a much better post about the topic of marriage equality which you should probably read instead of mine: this one from my friend, author Brandon Bell.

In case you came back here after reading Brandon's really terrific and intelligent essay, I'll continue. The National Organization for Marriage is a huge piece of crap. To wit:

That douchebag is Brian S. Brown. According to the NOM website he "
serves as President of the National Organization for Marriage. Prior to coming to NOM in 2007, Brian was the executive director of the Family Institute of Connecticut. During the five years he was with the Family Institute, he developed it into one of the largest statewide pro-family organizations in the Northeast....Brian and his wife Susan have seven young children."  So it sounds like Brian S. Brown has enjoyed aplenty the alleged benefits of "traditional" marriage. That's fine with me, but what's not fine with me is that he and his organization somehow think that it's any of their fucking business if someone else--someone NOT like him and his wife--also want to enjoy those traditional values. And that NOM is an out-and-out hate group (almost forgot about that). 

Which brings me, gradually, to my main point and the meaning of the title of this post. A few days ago when I first caught the news on the radio about the action in Washington, NPR ran a segment featuring an openly gay WA state legislator, addressing his colleagues, and very graciously framing the debate in terms something like this paraphrase: "This is an issue about which reasonable people may disagree, and the opponents of samesex marriage are NOT bigots. They're just reasonable people that we're having a reasonable disagreement with." That's not at all a direct quote, but it's the sense of it. 

And I couldn't disagree more. Too often, in the interest of being more "reasonable" than the people on the other side, progressives overreach in assuming that the other side is actually composed of reasonable people reasonably disagreeing with us. NOM belies all of this. There is no rational reason for opposing samesex marriage other than the simple fact that the opponents think that gay people are gross and disgusting and would like us to return to the closet (NOT going to happen),  and they think it's "reasonable" to have the public vote on our individual rights when, generally, it's pretty much unheard of otherwise for basic rights to be subjected to a popular vote. It is entirely founded on bigotry and that fact doesn't change no matter how many flotillas of Bibles to which they set sail in an effort to say it has a "reasonable" basis. These are the ideological descendants of the same people who clung screaming to the past when women got the right to vote a century ago. And just think if women could NOT vote now. Maybe there would have been no political activist career for this lovely:

According to NOM's website, this charmer is Maggie Gallagher
"co-founder of the National Organization for Marriage, which the Washington Post has called the "preeminent" national organization fighting to protect marriage as the union of husband and wife. NOM's formal mission is "protecting marriage and the faith communities that sustain it," but as Maggie likes to put it, "we fight gay marriage—and win." 

But what she is, in fact, is a giant bigot. She is not a reasonable person having a reasonable disagreement with me. The entire premise of their attack--that samesex marriage somehow destroys "real" marriage--is a total canard. It is a lie, a fraud, a cover for the plain and simple and totally obvious fact that these people just plain think that people like me and my partner of 12 years are gross and disgusting and they just don't like us. Well, bitch, the feeling is mutual, because...DAMN! So, in summary, I reject the reasonable-people-reasonably-disagreeing position and instead take the rather more hardline stance that it is none of the fucking business of NOM and their ilk how my partner and I live our lives and that they can take their "traditional" values and fuck right the hell off.  (And that's why I invited all y'all to read Brandon's much more   intellectually rigorous article instead of mine.)

It is time again to acknowledge someone who might seem at first to be relatively powerless and unimportant but who has struck a great blow against stupidity, spoken up loudly for rationality and taken to task the powerful and the ignorant. 

Zack Kopplin is hereby inducted into the M-Brane SF Pantheon of Anti-Douchebags for his work to repeal Louisiana's dumb "Science Education Act," a ridiculous law that smooths the imposition of Creationism and other whack-job anti-science ideas on public school kids. Visit the website and read about what he is doing. In particular, take note of his post of May 24 in which he directly challenges Congresswoman Michele Bachmann (Dumbass-MN) to produce evidence of the existence of any of the Nobel laureate scientists whom she claims endorse "intelligent design." You need to read this. This kid absolutely nails it. It is one of best rebukes to the anti-science political class that I have read in ages. 

Aside from his obvious intelligence and the professional-grade handling of his campaign, I really dig the fact that he called out Bachmann specifically. She is a serious nutcase and a pathological creator of bullshit. She's so cracked that she makes Sarah Palin look semi-reasonable. Will she deign to answer Kopplin's challenge? I seriously doubt it, because I bet she is just barely sane enough to know that he would completely flatten her in a direct debate, because he has the facts and she has none. In fact, I am going to just go ahead and say that Michele Bachmann is terrified of Zack Kopplin and what he represents. She lies awake at night thinking about him and the threat he poses. "Do they ALL have brains?" she frets, tossing and turning, wondering how many more kids could easily debunk her every statement. She thinks that she should be President of the United States, but she is too much of a coward to take on a high school kid because she knows she would lose.

And why would she lose? Aside from the fact that she has no command of facts, it's because Creationism is a bunch of nonsense that no one with a science education, and no serious scientist on Earth believes in. That's why they don't want kids in America to learn any real science: because they will then quit believing in rubbish. You can call it "creation science" or "intelligent design" all day long, but it will still be a pile of balderdash having about as much to do with science as I have to do with Grammy Award-winning singing. The fact that we even have a debate about this topic at all in this country is a big smoldering beacon of our national downfall. Hey, America: wake up and let the kids learn real science, yo. Your future's at stake.

On Wisconsin!

Feb. 21st, 2011 06:18 pm
mbranesf: (Default)
People should read this sensible post about the political situation currently ongoing in Wisconsin. But before you leave to do that, let me say a couple things:

1) Though I haven't lived in Wisconsin for 21 years and would probably never move back (because I find its climate to be entirely inhospitable), I grew up there and am a son of a blue collar labor union family. My dad and his dad before him got to raise their kids in a dignified, reasonably middle-class manner because they were part of organized labor, because they had collective bargaining rights, and because they could say "Fuck no! I am NOT working for minimum wage! I am NOT working without health insurance! I am NOT working like a slave!" We weren't rich, but we didn't live in abject poverty either.  I don't have many friends who have that background, and even those who are normally big liberals on everything else somehow think unions are icky or have outlasted their purpose. I have politely explained to several of them that they don't know what the fuck they're talking about and that they need to get their big  elitist heads out of their asses. Were it not for organized labor, there never would have been an American middle class, and this country would now more closely resemble some of our South American neighbors where a tiny rich class lives in gated compounds surrounded by armed guards to protect them from the masses who would happily cut their wealthy throats.

2) The new Wisconsin governor concocted this so-called budget "crisis" himself by giving away a bunch of tax-break gifts to his political masters. The state was due for a budget surplus this year but, as Republicans always do, he erased it with gifts to his friends, and is now using his "crisis" to beat people who actually get shit done. Fuck him and his deficit. If it's that big a problem, go get the money back from all the plutocrats and kleptocrats who have been living high for the last three decades. 

3) My mom, who still lives in Wisconsin, is a supporter of the teabagger movement. Wisconsin teabaggers look with admiration to the supposedly "booming" Southern states where they don't have much in the way of "liberal" things like labor unions. Yet they'd be the first people to scream bloody murder if public services and the results of public services in Wisconsin actually declined to the appalling levels that are normal everyday life in the South. Vast swaths of the American South aren't even "First World" on the human development index. Wages for laborers who actually make stuff are way lower on average than in what remains of the industrial north. The five states that don't let teachers collectively bargain are all Southern and they all rank in the 40s (of the 50 states) in academic achievement (as measured by test scores, which Republicans normally love). Yeah, the South is "booming" all right, but it's on the backs of poor people and what little remains of a middle class, and an ever-growing permanent undereducated, underemployed underclass. Is that something that Wisconsin should admire? Fuck no. Wisconsin used to lead  or nearly lead the nation in almost every quality of life measurement (save for its horrid weather). 

4) I'm a kid who graduated from the public schools in Oshkosh, Wisconsin. I got a great education there. Not all the teachers were great, but most of them at least did their jobs as well as anyone in the vaunted private sector does, and many of them with a lot more dedication and love of their mission. And for a fuck lot less money than a lot of private sector losers that I can name. If the Republicans actually complete their mission of destroying public education, then this country might as well just cut the shit, accept reality, and decline into its destiny: total second-rate has-been status. While all our international competitors pour more and more resources into education, science, research, industry and infrastructure, we pull back and back from all of that. Wisconsin's douchebag governor personifies this trend. 

For these reasons, and many more, I stand with the people in my ancestral homeland who are sticking up for what's right and fair and who are reviving and relighting that state's great old progressive fire.


Jan. 25th, 2011 06:47 pm
mbranesf: (Default)
Some random thoughts that come to mind in light of the public conversation after the attempted assassination of Gabrielle Giffords:

1) Everyone seems to agree to that more civility, a more measured tone, is called for in our political culture. This evidently means that progressives must accept most of the share of blame for the deterioration in our public discourse even though it is primarily personalities in the formerly fringe/now mainstream right wing who promulgate hysterical rhetoric. While I find this to be an odd development--that we must accept at least the half the blame for their douchebaggery--it has made me consider my own speech. I've decided that for the time being I will refrain from some of the more negatively-toned political statements that I make from time to time here and elsewhere. I will, however, still periodically identify closeted homos (like Bryan Fischer of Focus on the Family) when they advocate their homophobic agenda, and I will still maintain my stance that everyone who voted for any Republican for any office in any recent election cycle voted, in effect, for bigotry.

2) While it may be true that Giffords' shooter is "crazy," I find it odd that everyone seems to have agreed that his action had absolutely nothing whatsoever to do with politics, no politics at all, no way, nothing to do with it. Instead, everyone has agreed with the bizarre premise that mental illness exists in a total vacuum, completely divorced from any possible influence or interaction with the "sane" world, a mental singularity into which no real-world considerations can possibly enter and propagate. Hence the point of view, which no one seems to have the will to dispute, that "crazy people are just gonna do crazy shit. End of story." But these are the uncomfortable facts: he was evidently preoccupied with crazy anti-government conspiracy theories; he was fixated on Giffords; Giffords is the most prominent member of the government where he lives; he went to a town hall conducted by Giffords and shot her. He did not just go to some random location and shoot a bunch of unknown civilians for purely "crazy" reasons. The shooting of Giffords was a political assassination attempt regardless how "crazy" the shooter was. The other night I listened to people on NPR fall all over themselves to make it clear that that no way, no how are there any politics entwined with this story. None. And this on NPR, the public radio network that the Fox News founder describes as "Nazis." If even the liberal, commie Nazis of NPR aren't going to identify an assassination as an assassination, then I guess no one will. A pattern is forming. We saw an example when that other crazy dude flew his little plane at that IRS building. Again: no politics, no terrorism. Because it's only politics if a leftie does it, and it can't be terrorism unless it's from a Muslim. And we have had for a long time the ugliest example, the OKC bombing, which has also been whitewashed of its political associations. Yeah, he was just crazy, not political. Not at all.

3) Progressives who are shocked and outraged that Olbermann is gone from MSNBC might want to reconsider how the political left ought to behave. I didn't watch Olbermann very much because I don't think that progressives ought to conduct themselves like right-wingers. I didn't like the Air America radio network either for the same reason, and wasn't sad when it folded. To rant and rave like a Limbaugh or a Beck is not going to advance our causes. Indeed, it creates the very situation we're in now where we somehow are being made to share the blame for the bad political culture that is the stock-in-trade of the right. While I probably share most of Olbermann's views and would acknowledge that he traded in facts rather than just making up shit out of whole cloth like his Fox counterparts, his act wasn't really any better than theirs. 
End of the year is a logical time to review one's status, either to identify things that point toward a decent next year or suggest that much improvement is needed. In no particular order, these were the major features of my year 2010:

Professional: In May of this year, I returned to a proper day-job as a working culinarian after years spent in the Exile. This has made all the difference as far as the management of the household economy and my general attitude on the ongoing, intractable need to work for a living. I owe this turn of good fortune to a very dear friend. Since I don't talk specifically about the day job here, and because I do not want to embarrass anyone, I will not mention him by name here. But good friends are things to be thankful for even more so this year than most. 

Homelife: We returned from the Exile this year. Our long, dark, insanely self-imposed sojourn in OKC was finally brought to its blessed bloody end by my partner's clear thinking. Well, Jeff had some help in the form of inheriting enough money to finance a move, but he talked me out of delaying the move until the end of the lease on our OKC home and instead saying "fuck that" and moving months early like we did. This wisdom on his part not only brought the Exile to an end months earlier but made the timing perfect as far as getting my new day job.

Writing: I wrote a lot, but didn't finish very much. On the other hand, I submitted two short stories for publication, which is far more than the zero that I had submitted during the previous three years. Of the two stories that I submitted, both were for specifically-themed publications and both were accepted. That puts my acceptance rate for the year at 100%, bitches! (Only two, I know...but still!) But tempering that success was my epic fail at NaNoWriMo in November. While I did clock about 30,000 words, they were quite a mess. Also, they were 30K words of a thing that needs to be more like 100K to actually be done rather than NaNo's 50K winner threshold. Projects that had fallen more or less into hiatus, like my military sf novel Shame and my non-fiction restaurant memoir/cookbook Stackin' Hogs, did not advance much during 2010, though both did have some words added and neither have been given up upon.

Publishing: If the actual work that I perform to make a living is my "day job," then my other job is as the editor of M-Brane SF and the publisher of the recently retooled M-Brane Press. 2010 was really only my second full year in this role, but it was a big one. Other than edit and publish the monthly issues of M-Brane, I also brought out a couple of single-author collections: Cesar Torres' The 12 Burning Wheels and Derek J. Goodman's Machina. I co-edited with Jaym Gates a one-off (maybe) erotic spec fic zine for Crossed Genres called The Little Death. I also published 2020 Visions, a really remarkable collection of near-future spec fic, edited by Rick Novy. We also started a second zine. Brandon Bell's Fantastique Unfettered published its first issue just a few days ago in a beautiful print edition. But perhaps the greatest accomplishment of the year was the publication of The Aether Age, co-edited by Brandon and me and published by Hadley Rille Books. This one was a long time in process and is absolutely the coolest book of the year, period. There's nothing quite like it. Anyone who thinks they know what it is but hasn't seen it yet is wrong. It may take a few months for the word to spread, but begun the Aether Age has!

Political: My undying disgust for teabaggers, Republicans, and other assorted morons reached new heights in 2010. If anyone had any doubt that American "conservatives" are wholly invested in promoting plutocracy, theocracy, know-nothing-ness and bugfuck dumbassedness, then no one need look any further than than the news of 2010.  I actually don't much care at the moment that these people have taken control of the House of Representatives. In fact, I look forward to how they will have to explain to the public why they want to destroy everything. The public needs a fucking refresher anyway: these are some of the same jackasses (Boehner) who ran the Congress just a few years ago, and now they are joined by some even crazier ones. On the upside: the health care law was passed and so was the REPEAL OF DADT!! In your face, McCain!

Personal: Ten years into the relationship with my significant other, I have never been more in love. This is why I do and care about all the rest of it.

I think that's everything from 2010.
For some reason, I've had a hard time deciding how I really feel about the TSA's "enhanced" airport passenger screening procedures. On one hand, I agree with the sentiment that it's wholly ridiculous and laughable security theater that does nothing to protect anyone and is most probably a violation of our Constitutional promise of freedom from unreasonable search and seizure. Since when, after all, is simply traveling around the country "probable cause" for criminal investigation? On the other hand, the pragmatic part of me says, "If you don't want someone groping your junk, then just walk through the fucking scanner!" Here's a video from YouTube of a little kid getting patted down. It's pretty creepy and stupid, but why did it even happen? Why didn't he go through the scanner? 

Oh. That's right. Because the scanner is evil, too. I remember last year after the "underwear bomber" when these new scanners were introduced and there was a hilarious battle of the moral panics: puritan loons complained that images of little kids going through the machine would create a bonanza for the supposedly limitless child porn industry (yet we are forced to behold naked babies' asses on baby-related commercials on TV all the time and they say nothing about it--go figure). This was funny because these were probably the same people ideologically who were previously saying that absolutely everything and anything needs to be done to stop the evil Muslims in their plots to kill you, and you and YOU! 

So the scanner violates silly prudishness and the pat-downs TAKE AWAY OUR RIGHTS!!!! You know who we Americans have to blame for this ridonkulous situation? No one but ourselves. The entire point and purpose of the enemy's attack on us on 9/11 (now considered politically the Holiest of Holies) was to instill terror in this country and cause us to shed our liberal and democratic legal traditions and cultural openness. It was an attack specifically calculated to unravel the fabric of this country's former glory. I've noticed some people say, almost a decade later, in response to these airport security procedures, "The terrorists have won." Actually, they won a long fucking time ago and they continue to win as long as we continue to fight this stupid phony-baloney war against them by tearing ourselves down. And you know what else? A lot of the same people whining now about their rights being violated by the back-scatter machine or the pat-down will be among the first to clamor for fresh new rounds of fascism the next time there is a terrorist attack in this country.

Think the TSA and Homeland Security have gone too far? Look in the mirror, America. You asked for it.
I said I'd not say much about tomorrow's exercise in representative democracy (plus a bunch of dumb-ass ballot measures) but I was amused and delighted by the following, a quotation from the letters of H.P. Lovecraft (thanks to writer Mark W. Tiedemann for putting it in a Facebook update):

"As for the Republicans—how can one regard seriously a frightened, greedy, nostalgic huddle of tradesmen and lucky idlers who shut their eyes to history and science, steel their emotions against decent human sympathy, cling to sordid and provincial ideals exalting sheer acquisitiveness and condoning artificial hardship for the non-materially-shrewd, dwell smugly and sentimentally in a distorted dream-cosmos of outmoded phrases and principles and attitudes based on the bygone agricultural-handicraft world, and revel in (consciously or unconsciously) mendacious assumptions (such as the notion that real liberty is synonymous with the single detail of unrestricted economic license or that a rational planning of resource-distribution would contravene some vague and mystical ‘American heritage’…) utterly contrary to fact and without the slightest foundation in human experience? Intellectually, the Republican idea deserves the tolerance and respect one gives to the dead."
-- Letter to C.L. Moore, August 1936 quoted in H.P. Lovecraft, a Life by S.T. Joshi, p. 574
Don't anyone even think about bothering to inform me by way of comments that Lovecraft also held a lot of other views with which I would disagree. I know he was a racist and anti-Semite, but so was nearly every other WASPy person in New England in the early twentieth century, and few WASPs seriously questioned the innate racial superiority of WASPs in those days, so HPL was in no way outside the mainstream of his society and time period in that regard, whatever we may think of it now. I know all that already. But what I dig about the above passage is how it remains such an appropriate assessment of the modern GOP even coming from such a different time. Things really have not changed that much. Indeed, if HPL returned from the dead now and assessed the current nature of the Republicans, he'd probably be even more disgusted. The alliance between the GOP and the religious loons happened decades after HPL's time, and I wonder if he would have imagined that such nuttiness could survive so far into the future. After all, while he had strong views on issues of the day, he also held that human affairs are important only the human scale and that really, on the scale of the universe, we don't matter at all. I suspect that he would find the prevalence of religious fundamentalism and its close alliance with kooky political regimes in the 21st century to be quite disgusting. And he'd probably say something very much like his words from 75 years ago.

Apropos of nothing, the image below is one I snagged in a random Google search. These rather attractive turn-of- the-20th-century youths are evidently HPL's high school class. But I can't say with certainty which, if any, of them are the man himself, though one in particular looks like him (he supposedly skipped school a lot and may have missed picture day). I like how their uniforms say "HOPE."


I guess because I'm from St. Louis and a diehard urbanite, I should say something about stupid Prop A. It's a bunch of shit. And a cynical bunch of shit, too. While those of us who live in St. Louis (us of the city proper; NOT the douche-sprawl denizens who always say "St. Louis" when they talk to people outside the area, but always say "Chesterfield" and "Town and Country" and "Maryland Heights" etc. when they speak to locals), don't necessarily love paying the 1% earnings tax, we mostly understand that if it were to go away as a huge source of the city's public funding then it would need to be replaced by something. The Prop A supporters have yet to suggest a replacement source of a third of the city's budget other than nebulous Republican-flavored promises of "increased tax base" because of "more business investment" and "economic growth" and  "blah, blah, blah." They also have no answer for this: what happens to the city's credit rating when every five years if not as soon as next year) a popular vote could take away a third of its operating budget? What if I were a big stinking sweaty disgusting moneybags capitalist banking tycoon, and you came to me for a loan to buy a super-duper-muper-expensive house, and I asked you what your income is, and you said, "One brazillion dollars a year!" I might say, "Awesome! This loan is no problem. Here are the keys to your house." But then what if you followed up by saying, "Well, my income may fall drastically next year." Then I'd furrow my fat-cat moneybags brow in worry and suspicion and wonder if you could still make your 30-year mortgage payment on your super-duper-muper-expensive house. You'd hang your head, scuff the floor with one heel, wishing you had said nothing at all, and reply, "I don't know. It's all up to the voters." Well, fuck, I'd say. That's a really dumb way to run stuff. You're gonna have fucking voters decide, based on a stupid talk-radio-addled whim, whether you have a budget next year or not? W. T. F. 

But aside from the dumbassity of the economics behind it, what I really hate is the fact that it's a state ballot measure that people outside the city limits of St. Louis and Kansas City have a say in. Why do the people of benighted Festus and Mexico and Aux Vasse and Joplin and Springfield and Troy and ten thousand other ghost-towns get a say in what happens in my city and Kansas City, the only two great cities in the state? The answer, one word: teabaggery. By getting the issue on a statewide ballot measure and drumming up phony-baloney anti-tax sentiment and linking it to other teabagger/Republican boogeymen, they have guaranteed passage of the measure. It's politically brilliant. Voters in all the hinterland, ghost-town, don't matter-at-all, drive-past, fly-over territory between STL and KC will get to say, "Well, I don't want an earnings tax up in here!" As if that would ever happen anyway. To be clear: there was and is zero danger of "new earnings taxes" being imposed in any other municipality in the great Show Me State, and the engineers of Prop A know that very well. They are using out-state hostility toward the cities (which trend liberal and Democratic in their voting behavior) to force a destructive measure on the cities that they hate so very much. 


On voting Republican
...Despite my traditional mouthiness on political matters, I haven't had much to say about the impending mid-term election because I don't honestly care that much about the outcome of it. If the GOP wins Congress, they won't get a damned thing done and they'll still end up making asses of themselves and propel President Obama to re-election (just like they did with Clinton in the 1990s). It might even be good for the country to see what teabagger control of the House and Senate looks like. And I've said it all before anyway: if you vote for a Republican at any level of government for any office anywhere in America for any reason whatsoever, then you are voting for bigotry. This is because of the GOP's ongoing practice of espousing homophobia and opposing marriage rights in its official platform. The official-in-writing homophobia of the GOP is something that I have been complaining about in writing since I was a teenager twenty years ago, and it has not gotten any better. Indeed, they have slid even further back. My total opposition to the election of any Republican anywhere generally extends to opposition to any Republican-backed ballot initiatives as well, such as Missouri's Proposition A. 

On ballot measures...
The ballot initiative itself, as a process, is crap. It was once an aberration confined mostly to the newcomer Western states, but it has crept into almost every corner of the country and is used again and again as a tool for a dumbass majority to deprive the minority of their rights. That's why more than thirty of the fifty US states have those fucking disgusting one-man/one-woman marriage amendments in their constitutions. If we're going to have the moron masses decide every law by popular vote then we might as well abandon every progressive reform of the last century. The reason we have a written constitution is to specifically protect certain values from the mob mentality.
Because the mass-intellect of America as a whole is kind of on the dim side, with only occasional flashes of insight, it really shouldn't be a surprise that there has emerged a fairly large political movement none of the members of which have ever seen Pecker and who are completely humorless about being called "teabaggers" (even though they started it by sending tea bags to the White House; um, yeah, maybe run a quick Google-check before naming your movement next time; I would have seen that coming a mile away). I had been thinking lately that if this were not going on in real life, then it would be really funny...but it wasn't. Until now! 

LOL! That's Christine O'Donnell, the Republican Par-tay's fave for VP Biden's former Senate seat in Delaware. Well, that's not quite true. Actually Republicans who once considered Delaware a realistic pick-up in November are pissed as hell (at their own dumb-ass primary voters) that this crazy creep is now their candidate. Karl Rove fell all over himself the other night blasting her, basically doing the Democrats' work for them. I can't really stomach pulling up any real quotations from Rove, but he basically said that she is a really sketchy character who will certainly move DE from the easy GOP-pick-up column into the easy Dem-hold column this year, basically finishing off even the slim chance of a Repub takeover of the Senate. 

I have looked into her history a bit and it seems to me that she is sort of a dumb person's Sarah Palin. A Palin for people who like to gorge themselves at the Palin trough of right-wing fanaticism but can't quite grasp the delicate nuances of Palin herself. A Palin for people who need their rhetoric more fully pre-digested for easy comprehension. A less "elitist" version of Sarah Palin. A Sarah that talks to them at their own level. Since she has little chance of being elected, and would be a totally inconsequential Senator even if she were elected, I don't worry too much about her teabagger policies. Instead, I like making fun of her dumb-ass attitudes on sex (masturbation is not the answer, boys).

Or it would be fun to make fun of them, but then I always remember that there are lots and lots of people out there laboring under O'Donnell-style freakiness, and a lot of those people are probably experiencing real pain as a result. Teabaggers and "social conservatives," those people who think government has no business offering Social Security or Medicare but who do think that it is the government's business what you do in your bedroom or inside of your uterus, have a deep psychotic dysfunction when it comes to sex. They and their ancestors over the ages have been so successful at promulgating sexual paranoia and psychosis as normal that everyone else on Earth is in the weird position of having to stay quiet about it or sounding all "kinky" and "explicit" and "offensive."  Christine O'Donnell, like her kith and kin, profess to reject any role at all for non-procreative sexuality (despite the fact that nearly all sexuality ends up being non-procreative), and she is on record some time ago as opposing (male) masturbation:

"You're going to be pleasing each other. And if he already knows what pleases him, and he can please himself, then why am I in the picture?"  --Christine O'Donnell

This is, of course, one of the oldest and rustiest saws in the insecure-hetero-chick toolbox, and it's completely laughable...or would be if some people didn't sincerely suspect it's true. Here's the deal, Christine (and all your friends): ejaculation is a physical imperative for human males and it will happen on a routine (if not daily) basis one way or another no matter what you think about it. So get over it. This has been the case since the dawn of humanity, hundreds of millennia before the emergence of your prudish religions and their conception of how everyone ought to live. Looking at just one age cohort, my own (dudes in their late thirties), I don't see a single one of them who has literally tens of thousands of children, so I know for a fact that every single one of them has probably expressed lots and lots of non-procreative male sexuality, sometimes with partners but probably the vast, vast majority of times all by themselves. This is, in fact, the norm. Not O'Donnell's silly view on it, (which happens to match the Catholic Church's official position on it). 

Here's another fact which may astonish social conservatives: even gay males, who supposedly live 24/7 the "Homosexual Lifestyle" in "the Gay Community" (which presumably includes lots and lots of daily anal sex with multiple partners--ask Rick Santorum about that) do not achieve the majority of their ejaculations with their partners any more than straight dudes in general or straight-partnered dudes do. I am sure that there does exist some number of guys, straight and gay, who still sincerely want to bone their partners of ten or twenty or thirty years every day and somehow manage to be granted consent for that, but for the other 99.9999999999999993 percent of us, there is the right hand (or the left if you are a weirdo...--kidding!!)

I recommend to Palin...err, I mean O'Donnell, the following websites. While they are full of cliches--debunking the idea that jacking off makes you go blind is almost as hoary as saying it does--and not necessarily brilliant, they might provide some basic insight into how these things work. This site purports to be a "Male Masturbation Handbook" aimed at young men (even though it seems to be single fairly short item...I'll show you a handbook!), while Jackinworld covers some of the same ground but with a lot more content, some of it interesting and some not. When "Beast" Obama finally sets up the concentration camps that some of the more extreme righties have been warning us of, people like O'Donnell will probably be made to look at websites like those with their eyes forced open Clockwork Orange-style. Just saying.

Unlike many other people, I will not be congratulating, supporting or "understanding" the difficult "personal journey" that has resulted in Ken Mehlman, former chair of the Republican National Committee and the head of W's re-election  campaign in 2004, in coming out as gay. Indeed, I think Mehlman is perhaps the most troubling figure ever to emerge in the so-called "gay community." When I consider how he was an architect of the campaign to re-elect the country's most disastrous President--using the tactic of whipping up anti-gay-marriage hysteria across the country in order to get the fundies and other nitwits to turn out in droves to vote against gays and for W on the same ballot--it makes me shake with rage. When I hear that he will now be an advocate for marriage equality, it makes my stomach turn. While the country is chockablock with crazy homophobes and marriage bigots, it is Mehlman--a gay guy--who actually did the filthy work that has made attaining marriage equality the incredibly difficult task that it is. Because many of things that I'd like to say were already said a couple weeks ago, in a much better way than I could, by Mike Rogers on BlogActive, I will quote at length from that:

So, how can Ken Mehlman redeem himself? I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for being the architect of the 2004 Bush reelection campaign. I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for his role in developing strategy that resulted in George W. Bush threatening to veto ENDA or any bill containing hate crimes laws. I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for the pressing of two Federal Marriage Amendments as political tools. I want to hear from Ken that he is sorry for developing the 72-hour strategy, using homophobic churches to become political arms of the GOP before Election Day.

And those state marriage amendments. I want to hear him apologize for every one of those, too.

And then there is one other little thing. You see, while you and I had the horrible feelings of being treated so poorly by our President, while teens were receiving the messaging 'gay is bad' giving them 'permission' to gay bash, while our rights were being stripped away state by state, Ken was out there laughing all the way to the bank. So, if Ken is really sorry, and he very well may be, then all he needs to do is sell his condo and donate the funds to the causes he worked against so hard for all those years. He's done a lot of damage to a lot of organizations, while making a lot of money. A LOT of money. It's time to put his money where his mouth is. Ken Mehlman is sitting in a $3,770,000.00 (that's $3.77 million) condo in Chelsea while we have lost our right to marry in almost 40 states.

THEN, and only then, should Mehlman be welcomed into our community.

I'm a little less generous than that. I don't think there is much of anything Mehlman could do to make me want to welcome him into "our community" ever after what he has done. In fact, if there existed some kind Gay War Crimes Tribunal, I'd call for him to be brought before it and tried for treason.

Oh, and those homophobic churchy groups that Mehlman and his friends mobilized in 2004 to beat back the Homosexual Agenda and help W barely win his election? Here's one of them just a few days ago commenting on this very case, taking current RNC Chair Michael Steele to task for being nice to Mehlman after it was confirmed that he is a "practicing homosexual." Be careful, RNC: it looks like some of your dimwit Bible Troops are starting to get restless with all these gay-ass shenanigans going on at your highest levels.
I've been concerned for about a decade that certain trends are ripening America for a fascist era, if not fascism of the 20th century European variety with brown-shirted thugs and genocide, then perhaps an American variety festooned in flags and crosses and founded on the phony-baloney state religion of national security and the very American (and wholly fraudulent) assumption that rich and powerful people somehow "deserve" to be that way because they "pulled themselves up by their bootstraps" (whatever the fuck that means--can we get some fresher metaphors, please?)...even when they didn't.  Some observations in no particular order that make me think of this lately:

#1: Sarah Palin, whom many people still take seriously as a Presidential contender, has associated herself with "Doctor" Laura Schlessinger, noted homophobe, racist and entitled cunt, by encouraging Dr. Laura not to retreat but to "reload." This was about the fallout from Schlessinger's little "nigger" rant, aimed at a perfectly reasonable black woman who called into her radio show. Two things seemed to have been missed here: 1) While some people seem to have only just heard of the vile Laura, she has been on my screen for many years because of her combination of vicious homophobia (and other prejudices) and dismissive "counseling" of people--basically, it's your own fault if you have a problem and do not agree with her worldview. Her stock in trade is a kind of reductive reasoning where all members of the groups she doesn't like are all of piece: ALL black people are engaged in "black thought" (she has said those words), etc. Saying "nigger" on the air isn't even the tip of her dirty iceberg. 2) The catalog of ridiculous shit that this woman has said over the years is really staggering, but what's even more staggering is that it has come to pass that a Presidential candidate has risked associating herself with a fringe rightwing media loon. And what's even more staggering than that is the fact that no one seems to think that's a big deal! It's a measure of how far we have drifted that it is really not even any kind of risk for a Presidential candidate to do this. Generally, one would think that a politician with national ambitions would avoid (whatever her own personal views are) getting the rotten-meat stink of a talk radio nutcase all over herself and potentially turning off every thinking voter.  But there's the problem: voters do not any longer seem to see a problem with this. Can you imagine the patrician George Bush the First (not W, but the good one, as Bushes go) or the gentlemanly Bob Dole, if Twitter had existed in 1990, going online and speaking directly to bottom-feeding radio scumbags? Even if they'd agreed with all the shit Laura says, they never would have actually talked to her in that way, much less encouraged her activities.

#2: The American right wing (formerly the "extreme right," now just the "right") promulgates the notion that their "rights" are being violated by our black president and his legions. Repudiating Dr. Laura's behavior somehow takes away her First Amendment rights, and Palin agrees with this. Evidently in their world, to respect their freedom of speech, one must either agree with what they say or stay silent about it. If one speaks up against it, then it's the (black) Man trying to take away their fundamental freedoms. They also like to drag out the tired old canard that their opponents are engaged not in any kind of reasonable debate but in name-calling and stereotyping?  What!?  Like "nigger" and "black thought" and "faggot?" And so what if we are, if all Dr. Laura cares about is First Amendment rights? The First Amendment neither states nor implies that if I am to oppose her point of view then I need to present some kind of "argument" that she and her ideological kith and kin will judge to be "reasonable" under the constraints of their tortured logic. Indeed, if I instead prefer not argue at all and simply characterize her as a moronic, savage troll and rabid bitch (and describe her ally Palin as a bobble-headed fool), then that is well covered within my First Amendment rights. Watch carefully in the coming weeks and months the progress of their case that Americans rights are being taken away by the vast Obama plot. This is what they will make their political fortune on because the dumbass public will gradually come to accept it even though they can't point to one credible example of something that has happened in real life that points to this.

#3: Blaming the Other for all your problems on a mass scale is a necessary precursor to the ascent of fascism and we have that all over the damned place now, so much of it that it's hard to sort out from the general background radiation of dumbassity. During every even-numbered year since 9/11/01, the right has drummed up in various ways passions over the Holiest of Holies, the political gift that keeps on giving, the attack on New York and DC, in their effort to win elections. It didn't work in '06 and '08 because the country was so weary of their dreadful mismanagement of everything from botching the wars to  busting the budget to running the economy into a ditch. But now in '10, they seem to think they will rekindle that old time 9/11 fire and they are doing it through blatant, out-and-out Muslim-bashing. Even W and Cheney did not trade in that, but now we have the spectacle of Republicans all over the country, even in hinterlands where they have no idea what a dense city like Manhattan looks like from the ground, campaigning against the "Ground Zero Mosque" and say, with no sense of shame, that perhaps we do need to restrict the religious freedoms of certain Americans because ALL of these people could at any time become terrorists. And as all REAL Americans know, terrorists are the scariest, worst thing in the world and they are planning to kill you right now. This would be disgusting in any year, but now they have a face for their fear even scarier than the distant Osama bin Laden: the black face of President Obama, whom a fifth of Americans think is a Muslim. Not only do Muslims wants to kill you, they imply (and literally say), but you need to consider that the actual leader of the country is secretly one of them and in cahoots with them to kill "real" Americans. Keep an eye on this trend as well.

Phenomena like these, when combined with our country's jacked-up, out-of-whack economic conditions and class structure, seem to me to create a very worrisome concoction.
I need to keep up on these dream journal posts better. I've had some interesting dreams lately but never get around to writing them down. The one I'm going to talk about now also illustrates another waking-world issue that I have been wanting to spout off about anyway, so the timing is perfect.

I dreamt that my mother had started a campaign to be elected governor of the state of Wisconsin. In real life, my mother has never run for office nor been involved in public activism, nor ever expressed any interest in doing so. She's not a joiner like that, and not interested in being a leader like that. Yet, within the dream context, it seemed like a logical development, and I felt as if I had seen the growth of her political career from the beginning. Much of the actual action of the dream was a phone conversation with her (seen in a weird split-screen mode, where I was on the phone with her at my own home in St. Louis, but I could still see her in her home in Wisconsin, also on the phone). She was trying to impress upon me the importance that I not speak to the media about certain things, particularly not the "sizement tax issue."  No idea in the waking world what the "sizement tax issue" might be, but in the dream it made sense, and was evidently a hot-button issue in her political campaign and one with which see seemed concerned about my opinion or what I might say to others about it (because she suspected that I opposed her position on the sizement tax). And it went on and on in a fairly nonsensical mode like this until I finally dragged myself back into wakefulness.

This dream is interesting to me in the sense that it highlights something that it is true about me but which I try to not say in a super-blunt way because I don't want to sound like a haranguing dick all the time or make people think that I am incapable of a civil conversation. But this is it: Until the Republican Party at the national level drops its objections to marriage equality (and a number of other offensive positions), there is no way, under any circumstances, that I would vote for, or even consider voting for, anyone for any office at any level of government who calls him or herself a Republican. Not President, not Governor, not Senator nor Congressman. Not state assemblyman nor state senator, nor city mayor, nor small-town mayor. Not for excise commissioner, nor city councilwoman, nor president of a garage sale, nor judge of a barbecue cook-off. No office whatsoever, until they quit, at their highest levels, their irrational bigotry. This includes my own mom.

My mom is a Sean-Hannity-watching, Bush-voting GOPer. While I love my Mom and while she has many wonderful attributes, if she were to run for high office, I would without a second thought come out publicly against her candidacy unless she repudiated this Fox News ideology. Because people who support that party's inflexible position in support of irrational, anti-science-based dumbassity should not be elected for anything for any reason. I don't care who they are or for what office they are running. 

And that was a good example of a dream that leaves me crabby the next day. Hate those!
I was so busy during the past week settling into my new day job and taking care of other business, that I did not carry through with my plan to heavily blog about and Tweet about the UK general election. This is probably a great relief to my fellow Americans who probably don't share my fascination with British elections. So I'll instead just offer this one post about the concepts of "first-past-the-post" and "proportional representation," which have become major subjects of discussion this year in the UK, especially since the May 6 general election ended with a distorted result as far as representation of the popular vote (normal for their elections) and a hung parliament (rather unusual). 

"First-past-the-post" means simply that the party's candidate who gets the most votes gets that constituency's seat in the House of Commons. Not necessarily a majority of the votes, just more votes than any other party. This is basically how members of the US Congress in most districts and the President of the United States are elected. If the leading Presidential candidate does not win more than 50 percent of the vote, we do not have a run-off election. The winner is simply the one with the most votes in the Electoral College, which does not require winning a majority of the popular vote, just being the one with the most votes enough times in more states with more electors than the other guy. An effect of this system--and the chief argument in favor of it--is that it tends to weed out tiny political parties and anomalous results, and makes it less likely that governments will have to form potentially unstable multi-party coalitions in order to govern. In the United States, this system has stifled (to the annoyance of Greens, Libertarians and other fringe parties) the emergence of a viable "third party" that can actually contest and win elections. I've had many debates over the years with people who want to make their "voice heard" and register their opinion by voting, for example, for Ralph Nader for President. You see how that went in 2000: it helped secure the election of George W. Bush (thanks a lot, jerks!). In the case of Nader and the other fringe candidates (remember Pat Buchanan?John Hagelin?), there was absolutely no chance whatsoever that any of them were going to win a single state's electoral votes much less the whole election, thus supporters of these candidates were literally wasting their votes (they hate when I say that, but it's absolutely true, and if they understood first-past-the-post, they'd understand why). But it's a little different in Britain.

In the UK, they do have a viable national third party, the Liberal Democrats, the successors of the old Liberal Party who have not been in power for most of century but nonetheless command a decent share of the vote in general elections. Also, small regional/nationalist parties are viable in their areas and regularly win seats in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. So, unlike in the United States where there really are only two viable political parties nationally and where it is exceedingly hard to form a lasting major new one (last happened in the 1850s when the Republicans emerged and replaced the short-lived Whigs as the main opposition to the Democrats). This combination of multiple viable political parties plus first-past-the-post produces the phenomenon of distortion in the final results and the current strong support for going to a system of proportional representation like many other European countries.  Consider this year's result in terms of seats won by the three largest parties versus approximately how many they would have under a pure proportional system:

2010 UK General Election (of 650 seats)
Conservative:          306  (47% of seats, but 36% of popular vote and 234 seats under PR)
Labour:                     258  (39% of seats, but 29% of popular vote and 188 seats under PR)
LIberal Democrat:   57    (8% of seats, but 23% of popular vote and 149 seat under PR)

There's that distortion: the Lib Dems actually increased slightly their share of the popular vote nationally since the 2005 election, but they also lost six seats at the same time because they were edged into second place in several of their constituencies. And notice how both Labour and the Tories are getting many more seats than what seems "fair" based on their percentages of the vote. So there's a third party which is fully in the game with Labour and the Tories as far as public support, but they can't manage to get first past the post in anywhere near the number of seats that would seem fair. 

Here's another result, this from 1997 when Tony Blair led "New Labour" into power after the long, grinding Thatcher/Major age:

1997 UK GENERAL ELECTION 1997 (of 659 seats)
Labour:                   418 (63% of seats, but 43% of popular vote)
Conservative:        165 (25% of seats but 31% of popular vote)
Liberal Democrat:  49  (6% of seats but 17% of popular vote)

Here the distortion created by first-past-the-post was really remarkable. With less than half of the popular vote, Labour ended up with a historically huge majority in Commons, reducing the opposition Tories, who lost a stunning 171 seats in that election, to virtual irrelevance after most of two decades in government. The Lib Dem result in 1997 is also interesting, and sort of the reverse of what happened to them this year. In 1997, they actually declined a percentage point in popularity from 1992, but more than doubled their number of seats in Commons, from 20 to 46 mostly by pushing the Tories into second place in marginal Conservative seats. 

First-past-the-post is supposed to yield a clear majority and governing mandate for a single party, and it generally has. But this year no party won a majority and the British government is in an unusual limbo as the parties attempt to come up with a coalition agreement. This interesting article by Johann Hari contends that first-past-the-post creates another kind of distortion, toward conservative politics and policies in a country that he describes as overwhelmingly liberal and social-democratic in its character. Here in the US, I think a similar thing has happened gradually over the years thanks mostly to the right-wing noise machine's success at convincing people to vote against their own interests again and again. But because we have only two real parties here, the distortion is less pronounced in the House of Representatives than it seems to be in the UK's House of Commons. It's very evident, however, in the 100-member US Senate, where most members are elected in a first-past-the-post fashion and where representation is based on land (talk about archaic!). In the Senate, the 41 conservatives who manage to slow or block the majority's progress on most matters, represent much, much less than 41% of the US population. But they hail mostly from the huge swaths of territory where conservative politics prevail. It would be interesting to see what would happen here if we went to PR. Would we end up with new smaller parties flourishing? Would Congress be a coalition affair? Would the Republicans fragment into their components (fascists, teabaggers, religious nuts, whack-jobs, and the few remaining old-style fiscal conservatives) and become three or four parties? Would Democrats split, with the so-called "Blue Dogs" going their own way (maybe hand-in-hand with those last few old-style Republicans)? Would the Greens finally realize their dream of electing someone to at least one office above city council level somewhere? It will be interesting to see if the UK actually does reform its electoral system now that every party claims to be interested in the idea.
Once in a while, when I think there is no other good way to explain a problem or circumstance, someone does it perfectly, and I say to myself, "A) Why didn't I think of putting it this way, and B) Why isn't everyone in the country talking about this right now?"  Such a moment just happened when I found this item by Tim Wise in which he speculates, with totally reasonably examples, on how Americans might view the teabagger movement differently if it consisted of black people (or Arabs) instead of white right-wing douchebags.  Click that link and read it. 
A couple of things I should mention before describing this dream: I am something of an Anglophile, and while I don't take the time to follow all the minutiae of British politics, I follow their general elections with some interest and am always excited to see the result. It's election time again soon. Labour hopes to win an unprecedented fourth consecutive term in government, but the opposition Conservatives seem to be favored for victory this year, with the Liberal Democrats in good position to make some gains (though an outright victory by them seems exceedingly unlikely). Personally, I favour Labour, but I don't view a Tory victory as the kind of disaster for Britain that, for example, a restoration of complete Republican government would be in the US. More on why in a minute, but first the dream fragment:

I was standing in a crowd London's Hyde Park. A political campaign rally was going on. I said to Jeff, "Oh, they must have called for the election!" Then the imagery seemed to shift  from a sense of being there live to watching it on TV and the back again. Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a brief statement to the crowd, but then Prince Harry took the microphone from Brown and said that the Conservatives are "a bunch of suicide-bombing lunatics!" and that Britain would be a land of fools to put them in government. This statement by the Prince cast a gloomy pall over the Labour rally as they realized that their chances in the election had just suffered a major setback. Jeff said to me that he didn't see what the big deal was, and then the rest of the dream consisted of me explaining to him that protocol would require that the royals stay out of electoral politics and refrain from statements intended to sway the outcome of the vote [I don't even know if this true in real life, but I assume it is, and I can't remember a British royal ever blatantly attacking or endorsing a party or candidate]. So the Prince's denunciation of the Tories as suicide bombers while standing next to Brown could have the effect of riling the public against Labour and inspiring voters to send a strong rebuke both to Labour and the royal family. "I'm afraid he's just lost us the election," I said gloomily. Then I think I woke up.

In real life, if the Tories win I won't be happy about it, but it won't bring me to tears either. The UK will not fall into a radical right-wing condition under a David Cameron regime. What most Americans don't seem to know is that almost the entire British political spectrum is located to the left of ours. American Republicans might hear about a Conservative Party victory in Britain and feel all warm and gooey because they hear the word "conservative" and mistakenly imagine that the British equivalent of Sarah Palin has been elected. In fact, I suspect that Cameron's government, if it is in fact elected, will be about as "conservative" at most as President Obama's administration in the US (which is being blasted as a socialist, communist and Nazi regime). Ideologically, our present-day Democratic party is probably more comparable to the present-day British Conservatives than Labour. Britain doesn't even have a major political party as right-wing as what our Republicans have become, but their neo-fascist and racist British National Party is a lot like some elected Republican members of Congress and very much like a lot of members of the teabagger movement. The US has become so reactionary in recent years, that an election here will eventually be comparable to a British election if the only major UK parties were the Tories and BNP. 

A notable thing about the present-day Tories is that their leadership seems have undergone a conversion on gay rights, and Cameron has been falling over himself trying to make the case that British gays ought to abandon Labour and the Lib Dems and vote blue this year. This interesting table, however, shows the voting record of the three largest parties on some issues important to gays, and you can see that the Conservatives overwhelmingly went against the interests of gay voters on all of them except for civil partnerships, whilst Labour and the Lib Dems voted almost 100 percent in favor of each. I will give at least some of the Tories credit, however: if votes on comparable issues were held in the US Congress now, 100 percent of Republicans would vote against the gays on every one of them. I hope it's true that the Conservatives are no longer an overwhelmingly homophobic party, but I don't trust them. If Cameron and his crew win in May, he can prove it by doing something good. They already have civil partnerships, but how about adding samesex marriage? 
As my current (soon-to-be-former) city of residence, Oklahoma City acknowledges the fifteenth anniversary of the bombing of the Federal building just a few streets away from where I sit now, I am struck by the irony of a gun-wielding mini-mob doing an Angry-Little-Dick-White-Man demo in DC and by local wingnuts seriously advocating establishing a citizen's militia in Oklahoma. Also, I am disgusted by one of our Congressman, Tom Cole, claiming that the bombing was "not a political event" and accusing one of his colleagues of "exploiting" it for political purposes by mentioning that this act of terrorism was conducted by right-wing extremists who wanted instill in the government a fear of the "people." Let me ask this: if that bombing was not a political event than what the fuck was it? Terrorism, by definition, is a political act. That's what it's for, asshole. Politics. What, were the 9/11 bombers just evil thugs who wanted to blow up building and kill people just for the fun of it? Is that seriously what people like Cole want us to believe? While reasonable people deplore the tactic of terrorism, it's entire basis is politics.

The Oklahoma City bombing was conducted by anti-government extremists, the ideological descendants of the Klan and the Birchers, people inspired by the The Turner Diaries, the political kith and kin of the douchebags carrying signs depicting the President of the United States as a monkey and threatening to use their guns to protect their so-called "liberty." McVeigh's descendants now lie that their taxes have been increased, that the government has taken over their lives, that Obama is coming for the their guns, and believe it when Glenn Beck and other bilious turds of that ilk claim that the evil government is readying concentration camps in which to intern all the good patriots of Palin-land. How sad it will be if the present-day Okie angry dickless dudes actually do succeed in setting up their militia. I wonder what the survivors of April 19, 1995 will think about it. 

A few months ago when I wrote my NaNoWriMo novel, I set in it an alternate America where much of the country had been overtaken by a new extremist political party which did indeed start creating new state militias for the purpose of resisting the Federal government. Based on how things seem to be proceeding in the real world, I thought it was a possible development, but I didn't think it would really start so soon. I still think (or at least hope) it won't really come to that. But if it does, will Obama deal with it with the way Lincoln did?
Though I said last night that I was done commenting on health care reform and on the politics of our dying country in general, I won't let this item pass. I  reprint here something from the Huffington Post. I'd like to draw your attention to the last line of it in particular, and just say one more venom-filled "die!" to the teabaggers. 

Abusive, derogatory and even racist behavior directed at House Democrats by Tea Party protesters on Saturday left several lawmakers in shock.

Preceding the president's speech to a gathering of House Democrats, thousands of protesters descended around the Capitol to protest the passage of health care reform. The gathering quickly turned into abusive heckling, as members of Congress passing through Longworth House office building were subjected to epithets and even mild physical abuse.

A staffer for Rep. James Clyburn (D-S.C.) told reporters that Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-Mo.) had been spat on by a protestor. Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.), a hero of the civil rights movement, was called a 'ni--er.' And Rep. Barney Frank (D-Mass.) was called a "faggot," as protestors shouted at him with deliberately lisp-y screams. Frank, approached in the halls after the president's speech, shrugged off the incident.

But Clyburn was downright incredulous, saying he had not witnessed such treatment since he was leading civil rights protests in South Carolina in the 1960s. 

"It was absolutely shocking to me," Clyburn told the Huffington Post. "Last Monday, this past Monday, I stayed home to meet on the campus of Claflin University where fifty years ago as of last Monday... I led the first demonstrations in South Carolina, the sit ins... And quite frankly I heard some things today I have not heard since that day. I heard people saying things that I have not heard since March 15, 1960 when I was marching to try and get off the back of the bus."

"It doesn't make me nervous as all," the congressman said, when asked how the mob-like atmosphere made him feel. "In fact, as I said to one heckler, I am the hardest person in the world to intimidate, so they better go somewhere else."

Asked if he wanted an apology from the group of Republican lawmakers who had addressed the crowd and, in many ways, played on their worst fears of health care legislation, the Democratic Party, and the president, Clyburn replied:

"A lot of us have been saying for a long time that much of this, much of this is not about health care a all. And I think a lot of those people today demonstrated that this is not about health care... it is about trying to extend a basic fundamental right to people who are less powerful."

I will also point out again that these people brought that unflattering "teabagger" monicker upon themselves by not vetting the name of their organization before launching it AND having as their first major action sending fucking teabags to the White House. And it seems that some of these POS losers have embraced the insult anyway (see below). I mean, come on! Even if you hadn't heard of teabagging from the sexual (and faggot) "underworld," who didn't see the relatively sanitized Pecker version of it? Oh. Wait. Yeah. Douchebags who would join the Tea Party, that's who. Never mind. Jeeeeeeeezus! Gotta run (got some teabagging to do with my bf--we're faggots, ya know).