Do You Feel Safer? : The latest GOP advert.

This is the latest official advert from the leaders of the Republican party. Really. :

Since you’re asking, why yes, I do feel safer. I feel safer because I believe the new President will actually consider reality before he makes decisions, and I feel safer because I do not think that he will use violence as his favoured method of dealing with the world’s issues. His willingness to talk to people who disagree with him, and to consider their points of view, make for a pleasant change to the insanity of the last four years.

The GOP is stuck in a behavioural loop. It failed to win the election by trying to incite terror of “The Other”, but that seems to be all it knows how to do any more. At the moment, they’re just engaging in self-parody. I’m surprised they didn’t stick a picture of a rabid fanged pig, Megatron, and some Goa’uld in there, just for good measure.

The GOP seems to think that they can bravely make the principled argument for torture, without disgusting the majority of Americans, and Planet Earth. “It’s alright when the US does it, because we’re the greatest country in the world.” is the belief that lies behind so much of the US foreign policy of the last few decades, but it is not an argument that has much traction outside of the US.

Incidentally, this advert has caused a bit of a kerfuffle, due to one of the pictures showing Obama meeting with the Hispanic caucus. Why Obama meeting with the grouping of Hispanic members of congress should be remotely frightening to anyone speaks volumes about how the GOP leadership’s minds work. Of course, they’re now saying that that picture was put in their advert accidentally. Bloody stupid mistake if that’s true.

Bad “Meet”: Saudi Arabia in dust up with the State Department

This could get interesting.

Saudi Arabia has demanded that the US retract a claim that King Abdullah met Israeli President Shimon Peres in 2008, in a rare rebuke towards its ally.

An unnamed Saudi official said the claim by US Under Secretary at the State Department, William Burns, was “completely false and fabricated”.

Mr Burns said this week King Abdullah and Mr Peres met at a UN interfaith conference in New York last November.

Saudi Arabia and Israel do not have diplomatic relations.

The unnamed Saudi official was quoted by Saudi Arabia’s state-run SPA news agency.

The official said that the US state department had to “deny the claim and provide clarification for the reasons behind such fabrication that does not serve the relations between the two friendly countries”. – BBC

The problem with that is, at the conference back in November, this was reported:

Israeli President Shimon Peres has praised the king of Saudi Arabia for his Middle East peace initiative.

At an interfaith meeting at the United Nations, Mr Peres told King Abdullah he hoped his would be the “prevailing voice of the whole region”.

When Mr Peres took to the floor, he broke off from his prepared speech to address King Abdullah directly.

“Your Majesty, the king of Saudi Arabia,” he said. “I was listening to your message. I wish that your voice will become the prevailing voice of the whole region, of all people. It’s right. It’s needed. It’s promising. BBC

I would suppose it depends what your definition of “met” is. In any case, the strength of the Saudi objection is pretty unseemly and aggressive. Whatever happened, I hope the administration sticks to whatever the truth is, and does not allow itself to be bullied. William Burns should have known better than to mention any meeting, as it is no secret that it is a very sore topic with Saudi Arabia, but now that it has been said, the new administration can not be seen to say that the sky is green just to placate their oil-dealers.

Considering Saudi Arabia is trying to promote it’s own peace plan for the region, this childish nonsense of refusing to talk to people, much as Bush refused to talk to Iran and Syria, needs to end.

Million Madman March

The Ohio Militia is calling for a show of strength against those evil liberals.

A peaceful demonstration of at least a million — hey, if we can get 10 million, even better — but at least one million armed militia men marching on Washington. A peaceful demonstration. No shooting, no one gets hurt. Just a demonstration. The only difference from any typical demonstration is we will all be armed.

A million armed right-wing nut-jobs gathered in the one place that symbolises everything their lizard brains loathe. What could possibly go wrong? It is extremely doubtful they could muster anything like a million, but even a few thousand armed folks of that mindset could cause a lot of trouble.

Here is another video by the same gentleman, Pale Horse.

The thing that strikes me about it is how similar it is in style to the sort of video we often see from al-Qaeda. Masked, with his voice altered, a gun at his side, speaking words of fear. Right wing hate is on the rise in the US, catalysed by the unexpected development of a non-white President. I fear for the future of America.

State Senator Dave Schultheis would visit the sins of the mother upon the child.

Further to what I was talking about yesterday, this story is another example of how Republican politicians are out of step with how most people (including most ordinary Republicans) actually see the world. It also makes me bloody angry that such bastards not only exist, but manage to get elected. I feel I ought to place a big “This is not satire!” banner at the top of stories like this.

The US state of Colorado is trying to pass a law that would fund HIV tests for all pregnant mothers (with the option to opt-out), many of whom might be carrying the disease without being aware of it. This would enable steps to be taken to prevent the disease from being passed on to the unborn child. When such steps are taken, the chance of the child being born HIV+ is about 2.5%, as opposed to 26% without treatment. (Medical stats from here). Of course, revealing the presence of HIV would be of great importance to the mother’s own health also, not to mention anyone she might have inadvertently infected in the future. What could be more important than protecting mother and baby from harm?

State Senator Dave Schultheis opposes the law, stating:

We do things continually to remove the negative consequences that take place from poor behavior and unacceptable behavior, quite frankly, and I don’t think that’s the role of this body.

As a result of that I finally came to the conclusion I would have to be a no vote on this because this stems from sexual promiscuity for the most part, and I just can’t vote on this bill and I wanted to explain to this body why I was going to be a no vote on this.

When asked later to explain his ideas, he said this:

“What I’m hoping is that, yes, that person may have AIDS, have it seriously as a baby and when they grow up, but the mother will begin to feel guilt as a result of that,” he said. “The family will see the negative consequences of that promiscuity and it may make a number of people over the coming years begin to realize that there are negative consequences and maybe they should adjust their behavior.”

Yep, that is a elected Republican State Senator publicly saying that he hopes babies get AIDS so that their mothers feel guilty. The leader of his party in the State Senate is standing by him. The very same party that opposes abortion, even in the case of rape and incest, feels quite comfortable with refusing to provide medical assistance to babies in order to punish their mums. They also seem to be unaware that many people have contracted HIV through blood transfusions, and other accidents that may not have involved any breach of the moral code they seek to enforce.


Perusing Senator Schultheis’ own very pretty website, I found this statement:

Unfortunately, the U.S. Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision has “settled” the issue of abortion for now. At the present time, that is the law of the land. However, the current legality of abortion in our country and in our state does not make void the immorality of the issue. If unborn children are indeed unique human beings, they deserve the full protection of the law. The issue is not the rights of the mothers but rather the humanity of the children. If these children are indeed human before birth, then their right to life outweighs their mothers’ right to choose.

All life is precious, from conception to natural death. Because life begins at conception, I am strongly opposed to all forms of abortion, including emergency contraception. The crimes of rape and incest are heinous and therefore should be punished to the fullest extent of the law. The inconvenience for the mother in the coming nine months, and the resulting life care of the child must be recognized. Nevertheless, all life is precious even when it results from tragic circumstances. Thus rape and incest do not justify creating a second victim.

How does that square with his attitude on protecting the unborn from HIV? If the rights of the mother should not be taken into account when it comes to whether or not they have to have a baby, why should the mother’s “moral crimes” be used as a reason to punish the child? State Senator Schultheis’ positions are a logical and ethical mess.

Bobby Jindal: Exorcising Science

Meet Bobby Jindal, the new face of the Republican party. Currently the Governor of the state of Louisiana, he was picked to do the official Republican response to President Obama’s address to congress, yesterday.

Now, depending on your politics, different things will have leapt out at you in what he said. The thing that stuck out most for me though, was this line:

“While some of the projects in the bill make sense, their legislation is larded with wasteful spending. It includes $300 million to buy new cars for the government, $8 billion for high-speed rail projects, such as a “magnetic levitation” line from Las Vegas to Disneyland, and $140 million for something called “volcano monitoring.” Instead of monitoring volcanoes, what Congress should be monitoring is the eruption of spending in Washington, D.C.”

The US has the third highest number of active volcanoes in the world. The $140 million is earmarked for “U.S. Geological Survey facilities and equipment, including stream gages, seismic and volcano monitoring systems and national map activities.”, so is actually for earthquake as well as volcano monitoring. Does anyone, of any politicial persuasion, truly believe that keeping an eye on volcanoes and earthquakes is a waste of money?

1906, the “Great San Francisco Quake” kills 3000 people, through both the direct tremors, and the subsequent fires that raged through the unprepared city.

1980, Mount St Helens in Washington state erupts, killing 57 people.

1989, the Loma Prieta quake kills 63 people and does an estimated 13 billion dollars of damage to the state of California.

It is true that Louisiana does not have any active volcanoes to speak of, so on a very simplistic level it might seem reasonable for the Governor of Louisiana to be against having to pay towards mitigating against their destructive potential. Of course, all US states pay towards things that do not necessarily directly benefit themselves. Reconstruction of hurricane-ravaged Louisianan cities, for instance. In any case, if the Yellowstone caldera were to blow (unlikely in the near-term, but on the whole I’d like to know someone is keeping an eye on it), it would most certainly be noticed in Baton Rouge.

Mr Jindal has no real chance of stopping seismic detection programmes, thankfully, but the way that he, and those like him, find science to be a source of punchlines, is just one reason why his party is often considered to be incapable of real change. Intellectually incurious, like the line John McCain overused in the Presidential campaign about studying bear DNA “”I don’t know if it was a paternity issue or criminal, but it was a waste of money”. They think that science is a waste of money, because they do not understand that research, be it about bears or volcanoes, is the first step to creating real-world applications that use that knowledge to make a difference to our lives and the world around us. Understanding volcanoes helps saves lives and property, and also grants us a little peace of mind if we live in an area prone to such things. Understanding bear DNA might help us to protect them from population decline (if you happen to care about that), but can also lead to advances in medicine. Maybe bear genes holds the secret to solving male pattern baldness, the fight against which is no doubt dear to many elder statesmen. The point is, you do not know until you look. That’s rather the point. Science tries to find things out, instead of taking things on faith. It will take many years to repair the government watchdogs, who had their science and reality based staff replaced by ideologues over the course of the Bush administration, and as it has turned out, these agencies work a lot better when science, rather than blind conviction, is their guide.

In 1996, Bobby Jindal wrote an article about an exorcism he took part in, called “Physical Dimensions of Spiritual Warfare”. Not only did he believe that a demon possessed his friend, and was banished through the power of exorcism, he also credits the intervention with curing his friend’s cancer. Now, I am the last person to discount the possibility of extreme weirdness taking place. I do, however, also acknowledge that if faith-healing does exist, it is extremely unreliable, and thus would make a very poor foundation for a health-system. Neither would I recommend a prayer-based defense strategy (though that would at least be quite cheap). I am sure that Mr Jindal would be against relying on god to defend nation’s shores, if only because it would financially inconvenience many of his campaign contributors, but he is a strong proponent of teaching creationism in schools, and a passionate foe of evolution. If, like many of his associates , he views natural disasters as manifestations of god’s wrath, it would follow that there is little point in monitoring them, as they will occur according to god’s will, and will kill whoever he wants them to. Is this why he does not want us to monitor them? Someone ought to ask him directly.

The Republican party needs to find a leader who can appeal to the mainstream. They need to find someone within their ranks that will not come across as either deceitful, deluded, or wilfully ignorant. Neither Bobby Jindal, Sarah Palin, nor Michael Steele is up to that task.

27th of February Update:

Seems it’s worse than we thought. The story he told in his address about the sheriff and the boats turns out to have been a total lie.

Jindal had described being in the office of Sheriff Harry Lee “during Katrina,” and hearing him yelling into the phone at a government bureaucrat who was refusing to let him send volunteer boats out to rescue stranded storm victims, because they didn’t have the necessary permits. Jindal said he told Lee, “that’s ridiculous,” prompting Lee to tell the bureaucrat that the rescue effort would go ahead and he or she could arrest both Lee and Jindal.

But now, a Jindal spokeswoman has admitted to Politico that in reality, Jindal overheard Lee talking about the episode to someone else by phone “days later.” The spokeswoman said she thought Lee, who died in 2007, was being interviewed about the incident at the time.

This is no minor difference. Jindal’s presence in Lee’s office during the crisis itself was a key element of the story’s intended appeal, putting him at the center of the action during the maelstrom. Just as important, Jindal implied that his support for the sheriff helped ensure the rescue went ahead. But it turns out Jindal wasn’t there at the key moment, and played no role in making the rescue happen.

Given how badly Governor Jindal was panned by conservative commentators when they thought his speech was true, I suspect his time as de-facto leader of his party is over. That lasted, what, 4 days? Who’s up next?

The Colbert Report, 19th of November 2008

Folks in Britain have recently been blocked from watching the Colbert Report on the official Comedy Central website. Apparently FOX has just bought the rights to show it here, and does not want us to be able to view it online.

However, I have discovered that if you use the embed links kindly provided on the Comedy Central site for the very purpose of putting on your own blog, the embedded video can be viewed from any nation, including Britain! To watch them, however, I need to embed them somewhere. That somewhere is here. Henceforth, as a public service, I’m going to try to remember to embed the whole damn episodes worth of clips every day. The Colbert Report is bitingly superb satire, a vital part of feeding my addiction to US politics, and I’m not about to let Mr Murdoch stop me from being able to watch it without a fight. You can find the clips below:

Continue reading The Colbert Report, 19th of November 2008

The Colbert Report, 18th of November 2008

Backdating this post so it appears for the correct day.

Continue reading The Colbert Report, 18th of November 2008