Teabagging Parties Gear Up to Put Unicorn Nuts on Your Face

It strikes me that Michelle Malkin’s problem isn’t that DHS is accurately describing rightwing extremist tactics, but that she’s obviously worried that those things apply to her.

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The Topsy-Turvy World of David Broder

If there’s one thing I expect my DC poltiical pundits to be intimately familiar with, it’s bullshit expressions of masculinity.  So when David Broder declares John McCain an alpha male for not looking at Barack Obama during the debate.

It was a small thing, but I counted six times that Obama said that McCain was “absolutely right” about a point he had made. No McCain sentences began with a similar acknowledgment of his opponent’s wisdom, even though the two agreed on Iran, Russia and the U.S. financial crisis far more than they disagreed.

That suggests an imbalance in the deference quotient between the younger man and the veteran senator—an impression reinforced by Obama’s frequent glances in McCain’s direction and McCain’s studied indifference to his rival.

If there’s one thing an alpha male does, it’s make eye contact.  It’s a basic tool of dominance.  Your steely gaze is used to break others, make them look away and become unable to challenge you directly.  Being utterly incapable of looking Obama in the eye is a sign of utter weakness - it turned McCain’s aggression into bitter sniping, every attempt to take down Obama into an attempt to bypass the challenges in front of him.  There’s a reason Obama kept calling McCain “John” and agreeing with small portions of what he said right before challenging the rest of his argument: McCain was simply incapable of engaging Obama directly.  I’m sure it’s possible that utter avoidance is the new alpha male tool, but that would be too good of news for the rest of us.

The Anti-Choice Movement Is also Very Anti-Rubbers

Antigone has done us all a service and compiled some data about where "pro-life" organizations fall politically outside of their anti-abortion stance. As can be expected, they're routinely conservative, religious, misogynist, etc. But it's a good time to reiterate what's most telling about their "pro-life" stance.

Antigone was actually pretty generous with her ratings for groups that have no official stance, because most of the time, they do so with big, fat hints that they're very sympathetic towards the anti-contraception stance. The anti-choice movement opposes contraception, the number one way the vast majority of fertility-age American women avoid abortion. They're not really "pro-life" or strictly "anti-abortion" so much as they're pro making your life a living hell for the high crime of being female. I'm not even going to qualify that with a "sexually active", because the choices offered women are sexual frustration or continuous pregnancy. Lesbianism is an alternative if that's your inclination, but believe me, they're not really cool with that being legal, either.

Catholic League President Believes Atheists Should Have No Rights

Editor's note: for background, see Christian Lunatics Issue Death Threats Over a Cracker

That’s what I’ve come to believe.  It’s obvious that he thinks that “religious freedom” means “the right to demand a) the right to completely define an entire religion for yourself and eject anyone who has different views than yours and b) the right never, ever to be mocked, criticized, or looked at funny”.  But even when a number of atheists online were insisting that I was targeted by the Catholic League for harassment and economic hardship-distribution because I’m an outspoken atheist, I was skeptical.  Nah, a believer could have totally made the jokes I did and get abused, I thought.  I have no idea of Melissa McEwan believes in some kind of god, and she got it, too. 

But watching this whole thing with PZ Myers go down (sorry I’m late to the party; been too busy to follow stuff, you know), I’m inclined increasingly to think that while the Catholic League will go after anyone---and that they do love to spank actual Catholics for diverging from Donohue-defined doctrine, which is far to the right of even what the pope will have you believe---they’re on the move against atheists now that atheism is getting a new heyday/publishing bonanza.  Quoth Lindsay

The Catholic League claims to be a civil rights organization. Yet it consistently targets high-profile atheists like Amanda Marcotte and PZ Myers and attempts to get them fired.  Draw your own conclusions.

Patriotism Without Nationalism

Fun on the internets: Matt suggests that there’s something juvenile and narcissistic about conservative American patriotism, which extends beyond normal, human levels of sentimentality about home, and fierce defensiveness about it.  Conservatives really have convinced themselves, he says, that America really is objectively special, and not just special to Americans.  We all know sports fans who feel this way about their home team, and it’s annoying.  But it’s worse when it’s patriotism, because then it drifts into nationalism and is especially scary.  And, of course, childish.

Health Insurance and Hard Choices

Salon has a doctor writing about how even “socialized” health care is way too expensive because the emphasis is on “get sick, go to the doctor” instead of on prevention. Like pretty much all decent people outside of the U.S., he takes first world nations’ responsibility to see to the health care of all citizens as a moral given, much the way Americans see “socialized” education, roads, and fire departments as a given. So really, this is just an argument about the hows, not the whethers. It’s worth noting that Dr. Parikh uses Canada as his main point of comparison, and theirs considered one of the most inefficient universal health systems.

That said, I agree with him that an ounce of prevention really is worth a pound of cure in health care. Which is why I lose my shit watching wingnuts in D.C. redirect HIV aid from prevention to treatment, because I believe they think AIDS is a good disincentive/punishment for having sex and they don’t want to interfere with catching it. No matter if you can get AIDS drugs to every man, woman, and child who needs them around the world, you’ll save more lives if you blunt the spread of the disease through condoms and education. Few diseases, once acquired, have a magic bullet cure. To use a more mundane example, think about dentistry. They can do amazing things in that field, fix teeth that a century before would have fallen right out your head with a lot of pain attending. If you do lose your teeth, they can make new ones for you. But there’s no crown, no filling, no dentures that can equal the tooth you grew by yourself, and any dentist will tell you that. The disease of tooth decay wasn’t cured, really, but its worst symptoms were managed. Same story with heart disease, diabetes, and other illnesses that plague our health care system.

America Needs Congestion Pricing

The cover of the latest Earth Island Journal couldn’t be more timely: a picture of a bunch of cars piled up with the word “Roadkill” across it.  (Knowing their audience, I expect angry letters from people who feel this is insensitive to animals.) So I was naturally eager to read the feature story by Adam Federman, and wasn’t disappointed.  It was about Mayor Bloomberg’s failure to push through a genuinely smart traffic reduction program called “congestion pricing”.  Congestion pricing is a simple concept that’s been implemented successfully in other cities.  You charge people to drive their cars into highly congested parts of town (like the business districts in Manhattan that are permanently clogged) and reinvest the money into public transportation.  New York City was the perfect city to experiment, too, because most people take the subways anyway, so the alternative travel strategies for people are already there and they already know how to use them.  In other cities around the world like Singapore and London have implement the plan with dramatic results---dropping traffic 45% and 25% respectively, and London has seen emissions fall by 20%. 

Of course, it failed to pass in New York City.  In my various conversations online about the need to get serious about discouraging people from using cars, I’ve seen some shameful liberal dodging, genuine examples of people playing things like the classism card in order to conceal their more right wing urges: You’ll pry the gas pump out of my cold, dead hand!  So I wasn’t entirely surprised by what happened in the story: People played the class card to weasel out of paying a tax for the privilege of adding to New York’s traffic problem.  It was discrimination, you see, against working class people to charge $8 a day to drive into the business districts of Manhattan. 

If you’re paying attention, you can see the flaw in this argument, and it’s a big one: Do working class people in New York generally drive around Manhattan?  Or do the vast majority of them take the subway?  If the latter, then the excuse is 100% bullshit, because the reality is that a congestion toll---in New York City, remember---would actually be a genuinely progressive tax, taking money from the predominantly upper middle class and wealthy and rerouting towards a service used by working class people.  Moreover, by charging the rich to drive, you can help squash inflation on the price of subway tickets.  There are a few classes of people in New York who are working class but drive because they have parking---mainly firefighters and police---but I think most of them will survive having to make the switch to the subway.  If they really can’t, because of late night shifts or something, then they work for the fucking government and can press upon their unions and the city to get them exceptions.  I have a feeling they’ll get those exceptions. 

Media Blackout on Anti-Choice Campaigns

As I expected, the American Life League coming clean about their desires to ban the birth control pill with their “Pill Kills” campaign has had the intended effect of making it easier for those of us who’ve been busting our asses trying to get out the word that the anti-choice community is not all that worried about fetal life, and far more concerned about returning women to a life where the threat of unplanned pregnancy hangs over our heads day and night. Like Dr. Dana Stone wrote in her guest post at Feministing:

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Reagan Democrats Are Not Coming Back

Yesterday at TPMCafe, Rick Perlstein kicked off a week-long examination of his new book Nixonland: The Rise of a President and the Fracturing of America. I’ve been asked to join this week’s cafe (a fun departure from writing about politics through a feminist lens), and I recommend checking it out, because the book is wonderful. And very relevant to today’s post topic: “Reagan Democrats“. The seeds of creation for this group of voters means they’re probably more “Nixon Democrats”, a name that would at least show how fruitless getting them back into the fold might be.

Ezra’s post gently puts to rest the ancient Democratic hobbyhorse of lamenting the loss of that percentage of white working class voters that long ago quit voting their economic interests and started voting against uppity black people and women, and against the “liberal elite”. Interestingly, the “elite” label doesn’t quite cut it when it comes to liberals—the lower you go on the income ladder, the more liberal you tend to be statistically speaking:

So why do Republicans win when (because of Republican policies no less), the number of people falling below the cutoff line greatly outnumbers the people falling above it? In part, because the higher you get up the income ladder, the more likely you are to vote. Also, there’s racial issues (gender a bit less, because while women are more liberal than men, they also vote more regularly, so it probably evens out):

Anti-Choice McCain is Not a Moderate

One of the ongoing issues in this election is going to be waking people up to the fact that John McCain is a grade A, totally not moderate social conservative. This is critical for that swing vote, especially those swing voters that say, “Well, I don’t think abortion should be illegal, but it’s bad to use it as birth control.” Translation of that sentiment: “I want to be able to have an abortion if I so desire, but I reserve the right to gossip about others in tones that indicate that I’m so scandalized.” These people would shy away from a ban, of course, but they probably can be convinced to vote for someone they erroneously believe talks the anti-choice talk but won’t do the anti-choice walk.

Or, long story short: McCain is running the same campaign that worked so well for Bush. The “compassionate conservative”, i.e. panders to the haters but wants you to think deep down inside that he’s not really a hater. This goes for the gay thing, too. Bush pushed for the marriage ban, but to maintain the illusion of compassion, the Bush administration actually tried to rein in some of their crazier homophobes. Not sure what the line in the sand is on reproductive rights, though, since the Bush administration appointed a bunch of misogynists to the Supreme Court and passed a really terrible piece of anti-abortion legislation and tried to block emergency contraception from being sold over the counter.

Educating people about McCain’s hard right views on women’s rights will be an uphill battle this election, but I was pleased to see that he was helping us out with his mailers.


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