Tuesday, February 22, 2011

It's fine if you don't like corporate agenda mushrooms. You don't have to eat them.*

This is what I imagine a corporate agenda mushroom would look like.

Moving this here from Facebook because Facebook is just hell to try to debate on. But I should probably try to make it into some sort of blog post.

But let's do a little background. So we have my buddy, who is always getting all up in my face and shit**, getting all up in my face and shit about how he believes that the two parties are working for the same corporate masters, and as such, voting is currently a futile act.

So it's a statement I agree with (corporate money is a major problem in US politics) and strongly disagree with (so don't vote). But it kind of sparked a response in me that I've been kicking around for a bit, as to why I'm a strategic voter instead of an ideological puritan. And this goes for non-voters (which I can't respect) and third party voters (which I can respect, but often strikes me as misguided) alike.

So let's break this down into two parts, first, why I have no problem voting for the "lesser of two evils" and second, why I feel the Democrats are usually the lesser evil.

A while back, I was discussing a past election with an acquaintance of mine. This acquaintance is usually pretty vague with their political beliefs, but always stressed that no matter what, they vote for some obscure party, and it takes a lot for them to actually vote for one of the big two. The acquaintance was obviously very proud of their voting purity, but when pressed as to why they do this, they couldn't really give me a solid answer, just that the two parties suck, so they couldn't vote for them. They wanted to tear down the system.

Now, I don't want to disrespect their personal ethics. But it did make me wonder. I thought back to the support for Nader in 2000, how close that election was, and how drastically different our country would probably be today if Al Gore had actually won that election. When it comes to values themselves, my acquaintance and I line up pretty closely on what we believe is right for the country. So it was confusing to me as to why, in an election that could possibly hand over power to the same group that had almost destroyed the country (this was 2008), they would still give their vote to a party that could only lose, instead of making sure that we didn't repeat the same mistakes we made in 2000 and 2004.

And then I wondered why I was the one playing it safe while my acquaintance, whose interest in politics isn't great, was the one trying to rebel. I mean, it should be the opposite, right?

But then I kind of stumbled on the answer - I think it's about ego. It doesn't really help anyone in the country if you vote for the Constitution Party, but it makes you feel like you've been true to your own ideals. And it's all fine and well to brag to people that you voted for that third party because you are going to shake up the system, man! But do you ever notice that the system isn't ever really shaken? It's going to take the death of a party to do that (and granted, we may see that soon). Even libertarians have to latch on to the GOP to survive, and they are the strongest third party we have.

And I think that's where I've kind of changed from my younger, more radical self to the half-assed politico I am today: I don't think I can remain stubborn in my ideals at the expense of people that are hurt by it. So these days, I vote strategically. And as a result, I tend to vote Democrat***. I do so because elections have consequences.

So to tie this into the discussion at hand, let's address what is a valid complaint - that the parties are both wholly owned by corporate interests. I don't disagree that they are, to an extent. For example, we are never going to see real change when it comes to regulation of Wall Street. The asshole gamblers that brought this country to its knees are free to do so again and again in the future, because no one will ever call them out. I think what a lot of the ideologues fail to realize is that this isn't breaking news. We know.

But at the same time, I'm going to place my bets with the party that at the very least, is still torn between becoming a purchased and well-groomed product to showcase the corporate brand and the one that sold out a long time ago. The Democratic soul is still up for grabs, and I'll tell you why I can state this with the utmost certainty: The union protests in Wisconsin.

Tell me who is doing the union busting in places like Wisconsin (and Indiana, and Ohio). Then tell me who is doing everything in their power, including leaving the state, to ensure that unions do not lose their collective bargaining rights (which would, simply put, destroy them). We know whose interests the Governor is serving - the extremely pro-corporate Koch Brothers spent a *lot* of money during the last election to ensure Walker had a good chance to win the office, and for good reason: Unions are pretty much the only obstacle at this point to the complete corporate takeover of politics, as they are the only organized group that has enough clout to stand up to corporate dollars. It was Democratic Senators that fled the state due to this attempt and although one could argue that they are serving the interests of the labor unions, you'd be hard-pressed to argue they are also serving corporate interests. Destroying labor unions is the main corporate interest in this country. And it was a Democratic President that threw his support behind the unions, something which he has been soundly criticized for. Will the National Democratic Party follow suit? We'll see. They do like their corporate money and are sometimes stand-offish when it comes to supporting unions. But they also like their union voters, so unlike the Republicans, they at the very least have a reason to not go a full-metal corporatist just yet (although if the Republicans successfully destroy the unions, they sure as hell will, won't they?) So let's not pick nits here. If Republicans were not the majority in Wisconsin right now, the unions would not be in danger. You can't honestly tell me that that is not a significant difference.

We must also remember, and this might seem a little off topic, the power of the vote. Money can be used to influence politicians, but it cannot technically purchase votes. The public can still hold their representatives accountable through their right to vote. Yet, there is one party in this country that is actively trying to suppress the votes of the lower and working classes, by putting all sorts of obstacles in front of them that wouldn't affect the upper class (removing same-day registration, voter id requirements, etc). And they are accomplishing this by scaring folks with trumped up tales of "voter fraud" which I have to give some props to for being the ultimate in psychological projection. So tell me which party it is that is trying to pass voter restrictions that will end up affecting those that already have little time or resources to partake in their right to vote (i.e. the working class), tell me which party is using fear campaigns in an attempt to suppress the votes of those people, and tell me which party has been fighting tooth and nail against it. Again, I'm not saying they do this out of the goodness of their Democratic hearts, it's because they know that this affects their own base. I don't deny that it is strategic. But it shows that at the very least, the votes of those that aren't corporate overloads still matter to some.

And those are just two reasons out of many that I have (I didn't even bring up the abortion issue, are you proud of me?). But I think they are pretty damn good ones, particularly when we are talking about the power of the people, and who is attempting to water down that power to nothing.

To sum up: Pretty much every person that has an interest in politics has gone through a stage where they felt political purism is the only true answer. At the risk of sounding condescending; we grew out of it. I am not interested in political grandstanding at this point. I lost the urge to make it about my ego years ago. So I'm perfectly fine with voting strategically, because I find even the smallest attempt to improve on what's happening in the country beats out patting myself on the back because I've refused to compromise any of my ideals. Perhaps you think this is wasteful. But it is no where near as wasteful as sitting back and letting them win merely so you can lecture everyone else about how you were so above it all when Rome fell.

*Sorry, you just had to be there (on the Facebook). I really hope that "mushrooms" can serve as a nickname for for the corporate agenda from here on out?

** No, not really. Just trying to be humorous.

***On the national level. Locally, I'm all over the damn place. A huge reason politics is such a mess right now is that we are pretty horrible at paying attention to our own state governments, myself included.

Monday, February 21, 2011

When you meet me in the garden with your horns all hung with cedar

I missed another weekend of this, but srsly guys, I'm really going to try to do this every week. And since it's snowy and I can't go anywhere, tonight seems like a good night to post.

So I decided to do some Okkervil River for this evening. I can't believe how long ago it was that I was bargaining with Mr. Stacy about going to see them at our dinky little 400 Bar (or seeing Esthero at some club, don't recall which one). I think that was 2005? Mr. Stacy won, and off to the 400 Bar we went, and believe that you are witnessing a rare moment when I tell you that Mr. Stacy was, you know, right. One of the best shows I've seen. And you will never see these guys in that tiny of a venue ever again.

So then I ran head-on into the problem that picking only one song by these guys is pretty much impossible. Even though the band line-up changes constantly, I can usually find a handful of songs on each album put out that I absolutely adore. So do I go with an official music video? I don't think they made actual videos for their best songs. Go with some of their newer stuff? I like a few of those tunes. Or should I just go all hipster and play the older stuff, because man, they were just so much better back then? Yeah, let's do that one. Even though they are still good.

They are just a good band. It's really that simple.

Okay, why don't we just do two.

Okkervil River - Black Sheep Boy Appendix

Okkervil River - Don't Fall in Love with Everyone You See

We might have to re-visit these guys at a later date.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Day After Saturday Links

Have you heard it's snowing in Minnesota? I know. Crazy. Let's devote all the local news coverage to it. Sorry, I know it's a big storm and all, but come on. There are more important things happening today.

Speaking of local news coverage, this Pioneer Press article is hilarious. Breaking: A tiny group of Teabaggers showed up in Wisconsin. So tiny, in fact, that we won't even say how many there were in the article about their protest. But you can tell by this tight camera shot that it was pretty close to that 80,000 number of pro-union protesters, give of take 70,500. And hey look: cute little kid! (via Norwegianity)

As far as national news coverage of #WIUnion goes, want to take a guess as to which group did not have a representative on the Sunday morning shows this weekend? They didn't even throw Kthug on, which means there is no one to counter-act the stupid. But no worries. I'm sure the elite DC pundits can totally relate to union workers in Wisconsin and speak for them, because they've discuss the little people all the time at their cocktail parties.

In case you haven't heard this yet, our anti-union hero is completely groomed and paid for by Koch Industries. And yes, unlike the idiots that scream "SOROS!" every time a liberal so much as breathes: A corporate political powerhouse that has devoted pretty much all of it's time and money to getting rid of unions caught pouring millions of dollars into an election of a Governor whose first priority is getting rid of worker's rights is actually pretty damn newsworthy and relevant. Particularly since Citizen's United, which benefits Koch Industries so handsomely, also has that nasty side effect of benefiting unions - meaning they are one of the last barriers Koch has to purchasing complete political domination.

Now that it's become apparent that the protests in Wisconsin are having a positive effect for unions, the all-out hatred of teachers is starting to surface. The usual suspects will always be assholes, of course, no matter how hilariously ironic it becomes for them. But check out this bit of hackery over at Outside the Beltway, which is normally a decent right-leaning blog. One of their bloggers attempts the "all teachers are shitty so they are lucky to have jobs at all" argument by citing a study from 2009 that he claims shows Wisconsin is failing to teach their students math - when in reality it shows that Wisconsin is actually above the national average for proficiency levels in math. But why bother reading through your own sources or look for alternate sources that might discredit your point when you can just find something that reinforces your own views - teachers suck - and carelessly run with it?

GOP priorities. Cervical cancer screening for low-income women? Nope. Nascar funding that the military says is unnecessary? Of course! But remember kids, it's not about politics. It's about the deficit. See, we have to save money by getting rid of worker's bargaining rights. However, if Walker's buddy and political ally's pops needs a job after being fully rejected by voters, Walker is there to help!

Middle East: There's a cautious hope that the tide might be changing in Libya. There have been numerous reports that the army may be starting to side with the protesters against the government. It's been absolutely brutal there for the last 48 hours.

Surly Brewing needs your help. It would be a damn shame if they had to move across the border, guys.

Finally, in case you missed it, Michele Bachmann is still very, very stupid.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Fun with Google Analytics and H*rny Chr*stians

It's been a rough couple of weeks, yeah? Odd that a month ago I was wondering what I could blog about and now it's just coming too fast for me to keep up with. So this is just something that has been amusing me for a while, and I've been kicking around this post for a few months now, figured since I don't want this blog to be all doom all the time, I'd finally just post and share it.

So - My favorite thing about Google Analytics is the traffic search keywords. For this blog, they are pretty tame - my favorite is probably "[name withheld] is an asshole", because really, who searches for that? Like someone is just sitting around all "Man, that dude is such an asshole! Imma google it and see if anyone else agrees with me". I've never told them, either. Thought it might hurt their feelings (Don't worry, it wasn't you). And for the record, people that searching for "spackle smell"? I apologize. I have no idea why google feels a need to send you here, or why so few people blog about the smell of spackle.

But Newsvine, where I used to write, is a different story. See, even though I haven't written for Newsvine for over two years now, my column is still active and I have Analytics tracking it. Amazingly enough, I still get quite a few hits on it. Enough so that I can safely say that my Newsvine Column still kicks this little blog's ass on a regular basis. I mean, damn. There is something to say about that level of exposure. I'm still not sure if I miss it or not.

Anyway, my insanely overblown ego would love to believe this is a result of Viners missing having me around, and checking the column occasionally. Or perhaps newer readers have grown an appreciation for my mad debate skillz, and are checking out my stuff for the first time.

But sadly for my ego, this is not the case. You want to know why people are still visiting my column even after two years of inactivity? Google Analytics holds the answer:

This goes on for about 48 more pages.

So, yep. So after all the flame-wars and debates, all the painstaking research into social issues, health issues, political issues, etc, after writing my little heart out, fighting tooth and nail in comment sections, and devoting pretty much more of my life then I'd care to admit to that particular column, my legacy comes down to this: Pervy* Christians looking for certain sexual/punishing acts of dominance (or the spiritual justification for participating in them) are apparently my biggest fans.

And it wasn't even an article, either. It was a seed. But thanks for the pennies anyway, I suppose. They do add up. So let that be a lesson to everyone, if you want to increase your web traffic, just blog about this particular subject, which I will not actually name because goddammit, I don't want those types of hits here.

* Not that there's anything wrong with being pervy. At all. Seriously. It's a good thing in most cases. But if I recall correctly, the article wasn't really regarding the fun type of that particular act, it was more of a 'How can I beat the hell out of my wife with a belt while still being a good Christian (and by the way if I can get off on even if she doesn't even better)' type of act. Which I gave them some shit for. Which probably explains that the average time on the site is about 19 seconds. I don't think they were looking for a scolding. And now I'm getting all gloomy and doomy again. Sorry.

** In all fairness, I should point out that this is probably my Newsvine legacy. It has come back up for two years in a row now. And years after it was posted, I still had someone show up to inform me that it needed to be "unchecked from all of Newsvine", which is just awesome.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Viva La Cheese Heads!

Wisconsin's post-election walk of shame has been pretty painful to watch. Have you heard about what's going down in our dairy state today? Of course you have. But if not, TPM has been doing some great coverage.

And all you really need to know is this:

Unlike true austerity measures -- service rollbacks, furloughs, and other temporary measures that cause pain but save money -- rolling back worker's bargaining rights by itself saves almost nothing on its own. But Walker's doing it anyhow, to knock down a barrier and allow him to cut state employee benefits immediately.

Furthermore, this broadside comes less than a month after the state's fiscal bureau -- the Wisconsin equivalent of the Congressional Budget Office -- concluded that Wisconsin isn't even in need of austerity measures, and could conclude the fiscal year with a surplus. In fact, they say that the current budget shortfall is a direct result of tax cut policies Walker enacted in his first days in office.

That's right folks, it's "union busting for the sake of union busting" time. Someone is eying a national spotlight, methinks. Luckily for us, Wisconsin is so. not. having. it.

Naturally, Governor Walker seems to be okay with some unions, like the police union, which is pretty hilarious, because the only reason he's okay with it is because the police union* is insanely powerful and would destroy him if he tried - which means this is probably the union you should be focusing on if you want to frame unions as wasteful and abusive. I challenge you to find any example of abuse in the teacher's union that even comes close to absurdities such as this.

I have hopes that given the coverage, this ends up working out in the union worker's favor. And it very well could, these protests are doing the thing that corporate shills fear the most - matching up human faces with the term "union". We like to pretend that unions are some sort of monolithic evil, that they are somehow separate entities from the people that they support - it's much easier to hate on the "teacher's union" then it is to hate on your kids' 5th grade teacher, for example. Oh, it's not that I hate teachers, I just hate the teacher's union.

Once it's pointed out that these are actually people, the people that teach your kids, plow your streets, collect your garbage, and treat your ailments - public opinion starts to change. Back in 2005, for example, California Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger attempted the same thing - attacking unions as wasteful in the name of "fiscal responsibility". However, the nurses union fought back with a brilliant campaign - as Arnold was rambling about the need to cut off "special interests" like unions, the nurses union made their case to the public that "He's not fighting special interests, he's fighting us". Schwarzenegger lost that battle, because once the human stories were identified with what Schwarzenegger labeled as some obtuse, evil, special interest group, the public realized that, hey, they actually kind of like nurses.

So best of luck to the folks in Wisconsin - not only are you fighting a good fight, you are also my neighbors, and although I reserve the right that every Minnesotan has to mess with you relentlessly, when it comes down to it, I'm quite happy you're my neighbor (let's go grab a beer at the bar and talk some major shit about the Dakotas, shall we?).

And more seriously, labor really needs to win this one, guys. If they don't win, this is going to set a very dangerous precedent in this country in regards to worker's rights. I suppose the libertarian in me knows that there is an argument to be made against them. But the liberal in me never wants to live in that country where those arguments work.

Also too, this:

See, I knew I liked you, Wisconsin.

* In all fairness, the local Wisconsin police and firefighters unions (also exempt from Walker's bill) have been amazing at supporting their fellow union members in Wisconsin. It's rumored that the brats actually came from the police union. So I'll forgive you for your unmarked cars at the border this one time, I guess.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

South Dakota jealous of all the attention other anti-choice legislation getting, attempts to up the ante by legalizing Jesus-approved terrorism

*Update: While I was finishing this up it looks like Jensen, upon much soul searching and screeching about how those mean old pro-choice liberals were trying to make him look bad when all he wants to do is let some people shoot doctors, has decided maybe it's actually not a great idea to insert language into state law that would allow for the legal assassination of abortion providers by citizens. What a brilliant idea, I suppose it time to give credit where credit is due.

Oh wait, no. What I meant to say was are you kidding me? What the hell is wrong with people that this would even be something that is up for discussion?

Apparently this blog is just going to turn into an all-abortion-all-the-damn-time blog.

I suppose I should give you the back story here - South Dakota State Representative Phil Jensen decided a few days ago that the state's self-defense laws needed to be changed in order to extend them to protection of the unborn. Jensen claims:

"Say an ex-boyfriend who happens to be father of a baby doesn't want to pay child support for the next 18 years, and he beats on his ex-girlfriend's abdomen in trying to abort her baby. If she did kill him, it would be justified. She is resisting an effort to murder her unborn child."

The law as it stands now:

22-16-34. Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is.

Jensen would like to make the following (in bold) changes:

22-16-34. Homicide is justifiable if committed by any person while resisting any attempt to murder such person, or to harm the unborn child of such person in a manner and to a degree likely to result in the death of the unborn child, or to commit any felony upon him or her, or upon or in any dwelling house in which such person is.

South Dakota, like many states, already has fetal homicide laws in place (these are also problematic, but we'll tackle them at a different time). The unlawful termination of a fetus is already considered a felony, and as such, Jensen's example is already covered. I'll repeat - there is no logical reason for Jensen's language to be added to state law.

Jensen's answer to that annoying question of whether or not this is a threat to abortion providers is as follows:

"It would if abortion was illegal," he told me. "This code only deals with illegal acts. Abortion is legal in this country. This has nothing to do with abortion."

Well, not exactly. First, we know that a whole crowd of well-known rabid-anti-choice groups testified in favor of these changes. So I don't think we can quite state that it has nothing to do with abortion and be taken seriously. Secondly, the extension of this protection to acts that are considered legal in some circumstances is the only thing that is being changed in this law.

I've read Jensen's changes over and over again, and I honestly can't see how it doesn't allow justifiable homicide in regards to abortion providers. Maybe I'm reading it wrong, but to me it appears to state that homicide is justifiable if someone is attempting to murder you, or if someone is attempting to commit a felony against you, or if anyone is attempting to harm an unborn child to a degree that might cause death to that unborn child. Obviously murder and committing felonies are illegal acts. The destruction of an "unborn child", in the case of an abortion, however, is not. But there's no language that specifies that - if he had gone with "unlawful" harm to the unborn, I suppose it would work, even if redundant.

And South Dakota is basically mecca when it comes to the Anti-Choice movement. They've already pushed the "women are stupid" waiting period to 72 hours, force women to be read a "no really, women are stupid" script informing them that they are terminating a "unique human being", and even had a great time straight-up lying to women about mental health risks until it was smacked down by a judge in 2009 (but is being appealed). Mistermix over at Balloon Juice, a South Dakota native, points out that given the culture there, it's really not surprising that South Dakota would be the first attempt to pass legalized terrorism towards abortion providers, being that they've already successfully chased permanent doctors out of the state:

Buck [Williams] retired sometime in the late 90's. Since then, Planned Parenthood has been flying in doctors from Minneapolis to work in their Sioux Falls bunker. Unlike Williams and Munson, who delivered babies and saved women's lives as part of their regular practices, these "abortionists" have no connection to the community. For better or worse, Munson and Williams were household names, and it just wouldn't have been decent for the legislature contemplating an open season on the men who delivered their kids and grandkids.

Digby also points out recent legislation and reminds us that this is also the land of sodomized-christian-virgins-only exceptions and the ever so creeptacular purity balls.

So let's not pretend this is about "legal consistency" and not abortion. And being that Jensen only started to backpedal after the media flipped the switch on the large, white-hot spotlight and aimed it directly at his bill, being that we are talking about a crowd that has managed to reinforce the notion over and over again these past few weeks that death of actualized persons is now fair play in the "fetus > you" game, and being that whenever violence does happen anti-choicers find a way to place blame for the tragedy on the evil profession instead of the terrorists, I can't really give them the benefit of the doubt anymore. I have no way of knowing what's in their hearts of these guys. It's possible they are really that stupid and didn't think about the consequences of leaving something like justifiable homicide laws vague, particularly when dealing with at topic that is well known for bringing out violence in the past. It's possible that this was meant to be a a clear thumbs up to encourage domestic terrorism. But personally, I think it's a blatant attempt at intimidation - clinic workers are already fully aware that they are putting their lives at risk every day, but at the very least, they know law is still on their side. This bill to me seems to be an attempt to upset that balance, sending a clear warning to abortion providers that they are not protected by law in South Dakota - so stay the hell out.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Happy Valentine's Day

Yeah, you know I'm not a fan. Sorry, just can't get behind a cheap "holiday" which plays on the most desperate of emotions in order to create a consumer feeding frenzy.

So anyway, so here's your Valentine, my personal contribution, for my lovely readers, to honor this day:

And I have to feature this one too, because hee:

Also too, Bill O'Reilly:

Cheers. I truly do love you all.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Amazingly enough, the whole "Driving to Wisconsin on a Sunday to Get Beer" tradition isn't as much fun as you'd think it would be

You know, once in a while I'm sympathetic to the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, our absurdly powerful alcohol lobby here in Minnesota, like when they talk about how selling beer and wine in the grocery stores will severely damage our little local liquor stores* here (which is a valid complaint, although the "But what about the children who will now be drunk and stumbling and hitting on your sister and singing karaoke at the top of their lungs in the aisles of our grocery stores?" way they try to sell it annoys me). But most of the time I just want to tell them to go to hell because they tend to act like such spoiled little brats with other things, like the apparent injustice of being able to be open on Sundays if they so choose:

"It's foolishness," says Phil Colich, owner of Hennepin Lake Liquor Store in Uptown. "I can't think of one [store owner] that would want to be open on Sundays. It's basically our only day off when you're in the wine and liquor business."

Oh no, not your day off! How horrible for you that you might have the option to be open and compete on Sundays just like pretty much every other business in the state? You poor little things.

Pretty simple. If you don't think it's beneficial for you to be open on Sunday, go on ahead and don't be open. Maybe your customers will continue being faithful to you and stocking up on liquor for the weekend, maybe they will choose to instead patronize a business that puts the convenience of it's customers over the convenience for it's owners. That's the chance you take.

Because see, that's what we here like to call the free market. Again, the beauty of it is that you don't have to be open if you don't want to be. The only thing that would make a store feel they have to be open is if they were worried about losing out on revenue to the competition that is open. Which pretty much makes the "There's no point because there's no revenue to be had" argument fall flat on its face, doesn't it? Meaning that the reality here is that you are being lazy jerks that not only want a government-mandated day off in order to level the playing field, but are also willing to take that "perk" at the expense of liquor stores at the border that are losing revenue on Sunday.

So do you want to take a guess as to how much sympathy I have for this alleged injustice?

*Edit - Oh, it just gets better. Mr. Stacy pointed out to me that MPR had a story up yesterday about the same guys throwing a fuss because Surly Brewing wants to open up a brewery full of awesome in Minnesota.

For those that aren't local, Surly is a local beer that is just killing it right now. They are an amazing success story. You probably haven't tasted it or heard of their products, because their tiny little brewery in Brooklyn Center just isn't providing them with enough space to brew enough to distribute outside the state - the demand in-state is just too high.

But oh no, Surly might want to do what pretty much every other major brewer in the United States does, and feature an area where you can visit their company, eat, and maybe grab a beer! And we all know, to be able to grab a beer at a brewery is absolute madness, which of course Minnesota had to clamp down on:

The only problem is that Surly needs to change the law in order to build the brewery and have a restaurant. That's because a law prohibits large brewers from owning a restaurant and bar for fear that they'll sell their beer at a lower prices than other bar owners.

And guess who wants to make sure that law stays the same?

A lobbyist for the Minnesota Licensed Beverage Association, which represents bar owners, told me they're against changing the law.

Because that's right folks, if I go to Surly's new brewery of awesome and have a Coffee Bender, this means that I will never patronize another bar or liquor store ever again.

Once again, it's completely petty of the MLBA, who ups the ante by offering this bit of thuggery:

It's even more simple if you say it the way my retailers say it: "you make it, we'll sell it"...you make it 'and' sell it, we won't buy from you".

Nice beer you got there. Would be such a shame if no one sold it.

And again, after blabbing on about "three-tier" distributing structure that most other states have abandoned due to the fact they are ripe with corruption, the MLBA again tries to promote their own selfish interest as some sort of noble cause, claiming that by not allowing Surly to serve beer at their brewery they are promoting "moderate consumption" because... what? That doesn't even make sense. None. And I have no idea why they are even trying to appeal to that, because the Lutherans** just don't care that much anymore - the moral reasons for Minnesota's silly liquor laws don't have any sway anymore. In reality, the only reason that MLBA has as much power as they do is that no one can get together a large, wealthy enough, and organized enough counter-strike to challenge them.

So honestly, Surly? Call that bluff. Because unlike a lot of other local brewers, you guys have enough clout that you can.

*Of course is should be pointed out that the liquor stores that actually try by keeping interesting stock and helpful staff on hand, like Surdyks or France44, would probably be fine.
**Inside joke, sorry.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Anti-choicers in a heated battle to prove who can hate poor women the most

So now that the Tea Party has proven themselves to be the useful idiots we know them to be by voting the same establishment assholes that screwed up the country back into office, Republicans can now say "thanks, suckers!" and get back to the all important business of hating on groups that don't fit into their definition of "Real Americans".

This week, it's apparently all about the ladies. It started out slow. First it was kind of an amusing "Hey look at this crazy idiot talking about abortion" situation, brought to us by RedState blogger and CNN media whore Erick Son of Erick, who decided to take some downtime from lecturing the Very Serious TV pundits about socialism in order to blog at you because he has something he'd really like you to know: We really need to stop pretending that women are people in this country instead of merely the "physical locations" of fetuses, and if we don't, well, he's totally going to pull out his Photon gun and go all Civil War II on your asses.

Believe it or not, from there it just got worse.

Local governments, empowered by newly elected Republican governors, salivated at the thought of ignoring things like unemployment in favor of passing that anti-choice legislation wishlist they've been carrying in their front pockets for the past few years because fuck you pro-choice liberals that's why.

Even my state, Minnesota, has the culture war fever. Correctly or not, Minnesota is considered a bastion of liberal politics (probably because of this map, which I will admit, is my favorite red state/blue state map ever). But now, for the first time in 40 years, Republicans have managed to take control of both of the legislative bodies of congress. So what will they propose in order to start the dismantling of the entrenched liberal agenda? How about using our favorite emotional knee-jerk issue in order to discriminate against poor women! And the number one issue that is on every Minnesotan's mind: The opportunity to purchase "choose life" license plates in order to funnel taxpayer money away from the state and into the hands of fringe special interest groups!

Republicans on the national level, meanwhile, have decided to pretty much send the "stupid vs evil" meter off the charts by making it a priority to propose the most cynical, divisive, and ugly piece of red-meat legislation we've seen in a while. Redefine rape so that we can force low-income 12 year-old girls that weren't beaten enough during their sexual assault to bear children? Sure, if it pisses of liberals, why the hell not?

The good news is that the language was taken out of the bill. So instead of the requirement that your rape be violent enough to give you financial access to a legal medical procedure, we'll just go back to the old standby that you must get raped in order to gain financial access to a legal medical procedure. Um, yay? You know it's not a great era for reproductive rights when the good outcome is that the language from Hyde Amendment was upheld. Which, guess what? Was the entire point.

See, now that the Republicans have done the reasonable and sensible thing and not redefined the definition of rape, the Democrats are expected to respond in kind and be reasonable and sensible and now support the entire "No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act". Never mind that this legislation actually goes farther then Hyde could ever dream of, ensuring that the majority of health insurance plans offered through private employers will not be able to offer abortion coverage. But hey, even if that is an absurd abuse of the health insurance market, they took the forcible rape stuff out, Democrats. Stop being all ungrateful and shit and vote to ensure that abortion will never be covered by insurance and will remain a privilege of the wealthy only.

But where are the Young Republicans? Without them, it's not a real culture war, it's just sitting on your porch and yelling at people to get off your lawn. Luckily for us, James O'Keefe's BFF Lila Rose, who meets the wingnut standards of 'female that is allowed to express opinions by being one part super hot and two parts raging misogynist', has been doing some sleuthing (ie having people dress as pimps again) in regards to those medical clinics that have the audacity to deal with sexual health matters like testing for cancer or STDs. To people like Lila Rose, it's important that these clinics are shut down and leave thousands of women without adequate medical care, because we all know that a purity ring and faith in Jesus will always protect you and there's no reason for anyone to ever see your vagina unless it's to put a baby in it.

It's true, folks. If you loved such hard-hitting journalist triumphs like "ACORN Loves Pimps (especially when they don't and when the pimps aren't actually pimps at all)", "Hey look I can totally make Shirley Sherrod sound like a racist if I edit out the majority of her speech" and "I think it I were to make a rape dungeon and trap some reporter on there it would prove that the mainstream media is totally lame", you are going to love the newest feature featuring a manufactured fake scandal that right-wingers will jump on not matter how absurdly false it is: "Planned Parenthood: Hey look we have footage of one person that we edited the hell out of so that it looks like Planned Parenthood is totally into underage child trafficking".

Sadly, Lila Rose's expose was forced to be released to Fox News a bit prematurely, not fully complete, because wouldn't you know it, that annoying Planned Parenthood that totally aids in child prostitution rings had the nerve to call the FBI to inform them that some crazy assholes were showing up to their clinics talking about child prostitution rings. Bummer. Even worse for Rose, the heavily edited tapes she is slowly leaking out don't actually show the employees doing anything wrong, unless you, like Rose, are under the opinion that (a) clinic workers have a legal duty to withhold information regarding legal rights for minors and (b) it is unethical to not go all John Wayne on people's asses and step into the middle of a potentially explosive situation to perform a citizens arrest.

Not only are these things untrue, they are irresponsible. As Jill over at Feministe points out, this is probably the worst reaction you could have. If the concern was, you know, actually protecting underage girls caught up in sex trafficking rings. But ha! Of course it's not. No one cares about girls once they are born and can't be used to control the sexual behavior of women anymore!

Did I mention that defending Planned Parenthood is on the do list of the Republicans this session? Odd coincidence, that.

And it's only the beginning of February. It was such a nice break from the culture wars for a while, wasn't it? Not that they ever actually went away, but at the very least we got a little bit of distance from the insanity for a few years. But now that Republicans have more political control, it means they actually have to do things in congress again, so of course the culture wars are back. It's all these assholes know how to do. This and tax cuts.

We are falling behind the rest of the world in terms of technology, innovation, and education. Our infrastructure is crumbling around our feet. We are bleeding jobs and no amount of tax cuts are going to bring them back from overseas. We have almost successfully destroyed the middle class in favor of a permanent underclass. We are bound by the whimsy of reckless wall street lobbyists and corporate oligarchies. Yet somewhere, out in the world, there just might be a woman who thinks she can get away with fucking without being punished with disease, pregnancy and forced birth. And this is the focus, which tells you all you need to know about Republican priorities here. Like I've said before - Republicans aren't going to actually do anything about the country's real problems. Because they don't know how. They are incompetent as a governing body. Which is why instead, they choose to go after the weakest, most desperate targets, those in society that are easily thrown aside in favor of scoring some easy, cheap political points. Their incompetence demands that they do so, in order to create the illusion that they can do something.

And they get away with it, time and time again, because this is just one issue few are willing to touch. We are told we have to respect the opinions of those that would re-define rape in order to make it seemingly non-existent, those that use the lives of women as cheap political pawns in order to preserve their own political career, those that lie shamelessly and attack the neediest people in this society while proclaiming themselves to be noble, because, you know, even though they don't seem to care about real, existing people at all, they swear they care about unborn babies.

I just wonder how far we will let them take it.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

And about Egypt...

I still don't have anywhere near the basic amount of expertise required to thoroughly analyze about this situation, but here is what I do know.*

Mid-week, the "pro-Mubarak protesters" moved in and started making some major problems, beating and harassing protesters and trying to take over their spaces. Understand that the anti-government protesters were not resorting to violence at this point, it wasn't until these "pro-government protesters" moved in that the atmosphere become one that condoned and encouraged violent behaviors. And even then, the anti-government protesters stood tall and resisted, mostly retaliating for self-defense purposes only.

These "pro-government" protesters are anything but. Not only have anti-government protesters been pulling their government/police IDs off of them all day, not only have government workers been threatened with lost employment if they don't participate, not only has the telecom company claimed they were forced to run pro-government messages, the sudden arrival, intense organization and precise coordination of these "protesters" shows that as a whole, they can only be paid government thugs (not even the most organized protests I've been to had some hourly molotov cocktail delivery system. But for some reason, pro-government protesters in Egypt do).

Around 5am in the morning on Thursday (our Wednesday night), the lights in Tahrir Square went dark, and snipers on rooftops began shooting at protesters. Thirteen are estimated dead from that attack, hundreds more are injured. The military did nothing.

At the same time, call goes out for all Americans to leave Egypt that night if they want to leave at all - last call. I understand that's not a big deal to my non-American friends. But as far as American media goes, that is pretty significant.

On Wednesday, the government put out a stooge, otherwise known as the Prime Minister, who claimed he had no idea where all this violence came from and assured the people that the government would look into it. Those government-owned camels and horses the thugs rode in on to make it seem all dramatic and shit? Well... that was just angry tour guides! Angry about the lack of pyramid tours going on! Also too, if you people would just go home, Mubarak promises he'll end his dictatorship in August or September. Pinky swear. No one is buying it.

But at the same time, the military suddenly had a change of heart that coincides with the government PR campaign, and are are now being touted as feeling kind and protective towards the protesters. There have been a few reports of the military protecting the anti-government protesters, except when they, you know, aren't, and are running over protesters with government vehicles instead. The military really is the wild card in this situation. No one knows for sure where their loyalties actually lie.

Journalists are being attacked and detained, and have been all day. Anderson Cooper is on the phone only, refusing to disclose his location. As are the rest of the journalists that are still there. Al Jazeera has gotten it really bad, the attacks on their equipment and reporters have been interrupting their coverage. This is the main media vehicle for getting information out to the world, which apparently makes them public enemy #1. We are told that the attempt to detain journalists is for their own safety, due to rumors that they are Israeli spies (rumors started by the government). No word yet in how the beatings are supposed to help them. The Hilton in Egypt, where many reporters are staying, has been raided, equipment destroyed or stolen, and there are now snipers on the roof. Humanitarian groups such as Amnesty International have also been targeted and detained.

One almost gets the sense that the government is actively trying to leave as few witnesses as possible for what they might have planned tomorrow.

That would be the same tomorrow that kicks off the the largest day of protests, the "Day of Departure" where all Egyptians are encouraged to come out and stand for democracy by getting their corrupt government to finally step down. This is what the entire week's madness has all been boiling down to.

Please, please, please keep vigilance over Egypt this tonight and tomorrow. At best, Mubarak steps down. At the worst, we, the world, can at least bear witness to what may happen here. Odds are, it will still be a waiting game.

*I can provide links to all these things. Just ask if you need them and I will find them for you.

Just another isolated incident...

This is older news, and obviously what's going on with Health Care and what's going on with #Egypt is taking precedence right now. But I just needed to document this:

Roger Stockham, a 63-year-old California man, was arrested on explosives charges last week after police allegedly found him with M-80s in the trunk of his car in the parking lot of the Islamic Center of America, a Dearborn, Michigan, mosque.

The short of it is: Crazy dude from Southern California decides to drive all the way to Dearborn, Michigan, to blow up some Muslims with firecrackers. So you might be thinking, are there no mosques in California? Why would this crazy asshole drive all the way to Michigan to try to blow up some Muslims with M-80s?

Indeed. Why would he?

"We're talking about a militant terrorist situation, which I believe it isn't a widespread thing, but it is enough that we need to address, and we have been addressing it."

"My thoughts are these, first of all, Dearborn, Michigan, and Frankford, Texas, are on American soil, and under constitutional law. Not Sharia law. And I don't know how that happened in the United States," [Sharron Angle] said. "It seems to me there is something fundamentally wrong with allowing a foreign system of law to even take hold in any municipality or government situation in our United States."

Emphasis mine.

And this is what we talk about when we talk about eliminiationist rhetoric. It's not about "gun-sights" or taking "killing" out of bill names. It's not about saying "fuck". It's not about nodding ever so politely and saying you "respectfully agree to disagree" when you'd really like to tell that evil motherfucker he's a crazy asshole.

It's about this conspiracy-theory-pushing, paranoia-inducing, threat-to-the-America-way-of-life-screeching, nationalist-chest-thumping, let's-point-fingers-at-those-people-that-look/sound/pray/fuck-different-from-you-it's-their-fault-othering, better-to-eliminate-instead-of-compromise-solutions bullshit that keeps being put out by the usual suspects looking to build an audience over resentments and fear.

I'd throw up a link to Beck now, just to show clearly what it is. Because he is the perfect example. But I think you already know that by now.