whackanarwhal

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newsmongering 02/10

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It’s been a hilarious news day. And by hilarious I mean that I’ve headdesked twice in the last four hours and shrieked incoherently once (in a “what is this insect and how did it get in my house” kind of way, not in an “I’ve always wanted a pony!” kind of way). On the plus side, the good folks at lifehacker believe that people are at their most creative when drunk and sleepy, which some of us could have told you ages ago. Either way, it doesn’t sound like a bad plan on a Friday night.

Particularly not after Rick Santorum, reliable fountain of all that is rational and forward-thinking, saw fit to mention that he feels that Pentagon opening up more roles to women in combat could be problematic because, and I quote, “other types of emotions that are involved” in ways that are “probably not in the best interest of men, women or the mission.” When the media got hold of this and interpreted his comments to mean that Santorum was calling women too emotional to serve their country, Santorum attempted to clarify his position by further sticking his foot in this mouth, commenting:

“I’ve never raised that as a concern. No, the issue is — and certainly one that has been talked about for a long, long time — is how men would react to seeing women in harm’s way, or potentially being injured or in a vulnerable position, and not being concerned about accomplishing the mission.”

Oh, so it’s not the womenfolk he’s worried about; it’s how the menfolk could possibly handle seeing competent, well-trained (and armed) women carrying out their duties in dangerous situations. In the comments on Facebook, Shane and I discussed the fact that despite the great  potential of America that every Republican candidate can’t seem to stop yammering about, they seem to have a very dim view of the average American’s abilities to handle anything that isn’t absolutely the status quo (I think Shane also linked to the lifehacker article above. Where would I be without you guys? A lot less informed, obviously. Probably happier, too).

Speaking of said American potential: I didn’t watch a lot of the Superbowl, but my parents did, and they were kind enough to yell at me to get my nose out of my book and then rewind when a particularly good ad happened. And I really, really liked the Clint Eastwood-narrated Chrysler ad. I have issues with nationalism and nostalgia, as I’ve talked about before, but I thought that it effective conveyed an uplifting message on a broad scale in a way that didn’t feel at all political.

Clint Eastwood is well-known for his conservative viewpoints, but the ad’s message is of hope (and Chevy); I read it as entirely non-partisan, or at least bipartisan: we’re working together to be strong. On the other hand, Karl Rove called it reminiscent of “Chicago-style politics,” which is either a reference to deep-dish pizza or cement shoes. I appreciate the the leftier edge of the country has long been characterized by an overuse of the word “hope” and its derivatives (ye gods, remember 2008?) and a willingness to link hands and sing “kumbyah” a lot, but since when is it a point of pride of value the opposite of that? – Which is to say, giving up?

An ad the polar opposite of the “It’s Halftime for America” ad is the “Debbie Spenditnow” ad. Pete Hoekstra, whom CNN describes as “a former Republican congressman in Michigan taking on Democrat and incumbent U.S. Sen. Debbie Stabenow.” Hoekstra’s ad features a young woman of approximately Asian (presumably Chinese) descent ” speaking in broken English and thanking Stabenow for policies that put America in hock to our Chinese creditors and overlords: ‘Your economy get very weak,’ she says. ‘Ours get very good. We take your jobs! Thank you, Debbie Spenditnow!'”

Really, it’s the plinky music and menacing view of a rice paddy that makes it.

In the words of CNN’s Eric Liu:

Put aside the ham-handedness of the concept, which insults the heritage of some viewers and the intelligence of all. Put aside the fact that Hoekstra made not even a pretense of hiding his race-baiting and assumes Chinese Americans like me aren’t in the electorate. What’s truly galling to me — as an unhyphenated native-born American — is that this ad implies our country should take a quitter’s posture. It’s not halftime, says Hoekstra’s spot; it’s game over. China owns us, and now all that’s left is to assign blame in a bitter postgame spurt of sarcasm.

This loser of a message is a loser whatever party it comes from (and to be sure, there have been Democrats in recent elections who’ve wanted to play a China card against Republicans). What’s missing in Hoekstra’s attempt at a campaign message is any affirmative story of what we can be, where we are headed, how we will right our trajectory and remain the world’s indispensable nation.

That’s it. We’re done. Stick a fork in us, the great American empire has crumbled. They have taken your jobs. Next they will take your women. The narrative presented is that we are wobbling on the knife edge of decline and even the slightest possibility of disgruntling people (by having women flying helicopters in war zones, for instance) will send us sliding off the edge and into the scrap heap of history. At the same time, messages like Hoekstra’s remind us, Eeyore-style, that we’re already there. It’s The End.

I’m just saying, it’s an unhappy way of looking at the world and I don’t see how it gets us anywhere. But what do I know? I overuse the word “hope” and hum “kumbyah” occasionally.

That last part’s a lie.

In other things that will make you scream news, Ann Coulter spoke at CPAC. Yeah, I know, it’s Ann Coulter – talk about low-hanging fruit – but I just couldn’t help myself. Anyway, Coulter told her audience that all “real females are right-wingers” and then followed that statement with “a pretty girl is walking toward your table, you know she’s a fan.” And this is where it gets confusing if you think about it for more than two seconds, because if all “real females” (we’ll get to that one) are conservative, and all pretty girls are conservative, apparently all “real females” are pretty? Are women who aren’t conservative not “real females”? I’m not conservative. Do I  have a penis I never knew about? Give me a sec, I gotta get a mirror.

And I’m assuming it goes without saying that Coulter would never count transwomen as “real females,” so apparently transgender women are all liberal. Automatically. Regardless of any other indicators, she’s lacking two X chromosomes, so no little red elephant bumper stickers for her. Actually, if you take apart her statements, I think that if you’re a girl and not pretty (for whatever value of pretty), you’re apparently not a girl, either. (But beauty is socially-constructed, and male supermodel Andrej Pejic is mistaken for a beautiful woman pretty frequently. Does that mean Andrej Pejic is right-wing?).

I’m just throwing up my hands and assuming that when Coulter said “right-winger,” she meant “right-handed” via an elaborate bird metaphor. It makes as much sense as any of the other options.

Also, CPAC’s first day involve a panel titled “The Failure of Multiculturalism: how pursuit of diversity is weakening the American identity” (bringing to mind the question of what, precisely, the American identity is. A commercial I saw last night proclaimed that “America Runs on Dunkin,” which I suspect is really sort of unfortunately true). Anyway, said panelists include an individual by the name of Peter Brimelow, who runs a website called VDARE.com (VDARE is a shortening of “Virginia Dare,” believed to be the first non-Native American born on American soil. If you think about it too hard, Virginia Dare’s parents were immigrants – irregular ones, too, it’s not like they registered anywhere before getting off the boat. Also, Virginia Dare and the entire Roanoke colony mysteriously vanished shortly after it was established. Excuse the segue, but I just think it’s bit of a wacky legacy to be chasing after). The Southern Poverty Law Center calls VDARE a “White nationalist hate group” and notes:

“VDARE.com’s archives contain articles like ‘Freedom vs. Diversity,’ ‘Abolishing America,’ ‘Anarcho-Tyranny — Where Multiculturalism Leads’ and ‘Why Immigrants Kill,’” compiled quotes from other VDARE writers that call the U.S. an exclusively white nation and denounce Jews for “weakening America’s historic White majority.”

By “historic White majority,” I’m assuming they mean after the genocide that wiped out a bunch of the non-White people that were, you know, here first.

Anyway, CPAC sounds fun.

On a more cheerful if still frustrating note (because security, people, come on), Anonymous appears to have “hacked” Syrian president Bashar al-Assad’s email by guessing his password. It was 12345. Anonymous then also hacked 78 accounts attached to Assad’s staff; the password for 33 of those accounts was 12345 or 123456.

Fish in a barrel, kids. (She says, reloading.)

Speaking of idiots, there seems to be some controversy over birth control? Or something? I don’t know, I’ve been gone. But seriously, how is this controversial? Ninety-nine percent of women how have had sex have used birth control (besides natural family planning) at some point. Ninety-eight percent of Catholic women who have had sex have used birth control (besides natural family planning) at some point. This stuff is stunningly widespread; it’s as common as the mold in your shower (less icky, though). So I keep seeing headlines about how there is “outcry” and “controversy” and I really don’t see where it’s coming from. Discussion of who has to pay for it? Personally, I don’t understand why employers wouldn’t want to pay for it. The Pill is incredibly cheap. Condoms are incredibly cheap. And given paying for maternity leave and then the risk of losing employees who decide to quit or drop to part-time versus the cost of a condom and the Pill for backup? Seems like a no-brainer to me.

Anyway, so the Obama administration told insurance companies that all insurance companies had to cover birth control, whether religious institutions or not, and then Catholic leadership threw a fit, as wont to do. (Which is funny, because I imagine a lot of Catholic women would be in support of it, and you’d think all of those Catholic women in the Catholic leadership would have said somethi – Oh. Wait. My bad). Anyway, a compromise happened today (I saw it reported on Fox News – shut up, I was at the gym – as “ADMINISTRATION BACKS DOWN” but apparently it’s actually a pretty good deal). Religious employers who object to paying for birth control for their employees won’t have to pay for it, but insurance companies will still have to provide contraceptives free of charge. From the White House fact sheet:

The new policy ensures women can get contraception without paying a co-pay and fully accomodates important concerns raised by religious groups by ensuring that objecting non-profit religious employers will not have to provide contraceptive coverage or refer women to organizations that provide contraception.

LifeSiteNews (guess their political affiliations, go on) reports that that Catholic and pro-life leaders have “slammed” the new plan, and apparently there’s a lot of irritation that employers still have to indirectly provide contraception despite not having to pay for it, but Planned Parenthood seems pretty happy about it, so I’m down. For funsies, Rick Santorum says that birth control is not something you need insurance to cover, because it’s so cheap. In actuality, according to Thinkprogress:

…oral contraceptives or “The Pill” range between $35 and $250 for the initial provider visit and the cost of a monthly supply of pills ranges between $15 and $50 a month, which amounts to between $180 and $600 a year depending on woman’s medical coverage. This means some women without insurance coverage for contraception may pay over $850 the first year of their prescription. Other forms of birth control are far more expensive. For instance, the cost for a monthly supply of birth control patches ranges from $15 to $80 dollars, or between $180 and $960 a year. Combined with the doctors visit, uninsured women could spend over $1,200 dollars in the first year.

But then Santorum has also stated that he’s opposed to birth control because “It’s a license to do things in a sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be,” by which presumably he means that come on, pulling out totally works.

Speaking of which, what’s with this idea of what’s “natural” and what’s not? Cars aren’t natural – correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as I know, they’ve never been sighted in the wild – and mine doesn’t actually run that well, but, you know, it’s kind of important in my life. So are things like albuterol, tequila, and shoes. Something not being natural doesn’t mean it’s bad. I don’t think Mr. Santorum’s hair color is natural, but you don’t see me calling for its imminent removal (toupees for everyone!).

Also, who gets to decide what is and isn’t natural? I found this gem the other day:

[Text reads: “I think the people hoping for a lesbian princess need to be reminded that Disney movies are aimed at kids. I don’t think there is anything wrong with being gay, but to push the idea at kids before they understand what that means will only confuse them. Also as a parent, I would be pissed at Disney for addressing such controversial topics in a movie intended for children.”]

Since when are children the best arbiters of what is or isn’t natural? Why are they going to instinctively understand heterosexual love but not homosexual (or any other variant)? Love isn’t controversial, generally. People’s responses to love are controversial.

Also, since when are kids the arbiters of what’s natural and what’s not? I pathologically distrust people who believe Big Bird is real; I don’t want them making decisions for me. Also, long division and toilets confused me when I was a kid. I got over it.

As allshallfade commented:

“I don’t think there’s anything wrong with being gay, but -” Nope. Stop right there. If you truly think there is nothing wrong with being gay, then that would be the end of it. You would not have this opinion. There is no ‘but’. Queer couples should have the same representation in children’s movies as heteronormative couples because – gasp! – there is nothing wrong with being gay!

You speak of ‘confusing’ the kids – tell me, though. How? How would this confuse them? When children watch Disney films, they are not thinking about sex. When they see Ariel and Eric kiss, or Aladdin and Jasmine, or Aurora and Phillip, or every goddamn couple in the entire franchise, they are not thinking about penises and vaginas, they are watching two people who love each other kiss. It’s simple and actually incredibly clear. There is nothing confusing about two people in love.

Which brings me full circle to some Prop 8 stuff. Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who wrote the majority opinion on the Prop 8 ruling did a really interesting discussion of the word marriage and what it means for our society:

…‘marriage’ is the name that society gives to the relationship that matters most between two adults. A rose by any other name may smell as sweet, but to the couple desiring to enter into a committed lifelong relationship, a marriage by the name of ‘registered domestic partnership’ does not.

…We do not celebrate when two people merge their bank accounts; we celebrate when a couple marries. The designation of ‘marriage’ is the status that we recognize. It is the principal manner in which the state attaches respect and dignity to the highest form of a committed relationship and to the individuals who have entered into it.

So there.

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Written by whackanarwhal

February 10, 2012 at 6:49 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

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