Ok, Are We Done Here?


The Electoral College has had their say, and that’s that: Donald J Trump will be the next president of the United States of America.

a-deal-for-donald-trump-b

Nicely done, America.

So that’s the end of this. We Democrats lost, despite Hillary getting about 3 million more votes. It’s over. It’s done. We need to move on.

Our next steps? Support Trump’s initiatives where we can. They aren’t all terrible.

But where they are terrible, we need to fight back and stop him. He really is a very terrible person and has much evil planned. He’s a bullying, dangerous, ignorant buffoon. Fight him. Stop him. Plan for 2020.

Live-Blogging the 2013 State of the Union Address


President_Barack_Obama

So overall I thought this was a good SOTU. Nothing very earth-shattering, but good stuff that needed to be said. I’m confident that the future will be better than the present or the past, and I’m reminded just how lucky we are to have a president like this one.

8:16 – Ending on a strong note, though I could have done without the usual “God bless the United States of America” hooey.

8:12 – “They deserve a simple vote!” At a bare minimum, yes.

8:11 – A bit of shameless manipulation here, but there’s nothing wrong with that.

8:09 – Now asking for at least a vote on common sense gun legislation. It won’t happen, but I can dream.

8:07 – Voting reform is an excellent idea, but he doesn’t go far enough. Hold elections on the weekends. Hold voting in more places. Move the national election date up to September, so that weather won’t be such an issue.

8:05 – No sign of love from the GOP when it comes to gay rights. Fuckin’ GOP wonder why…oh, never mind. They’re ossified tools, and we all know it.

8:03 – Gratsing Burma while making it clear that we need to serve as a democratic inspiration to the rest of the world, too. That I can wholeheartedly support.

7:58 – He’s promising a bit more transparency on the way we’re fighting the War on Terror. That’s a good thing, but it should be very nearly completely transparent in a democracy.

7:55 – The core of Al Qaeda was defeated long, long ago. They don’t represent a serious threat anymore, and arguably never did. They got very, very lucky on 9/11, but most of the damage to us since then has been self-inflicted.

7:52 – Now he wants to tie the minimum wage to the cost of living, making it basically a living wage. I think that’s another excellent, long overdue idea.

7:51 – Now calling for an increase in the federal minimum wage to $9.00 an hour. Republicans don’t applaud. Fuckin’ GOP wonder why they have a problem with the poor? There’s your answer.

7:49 – The fact that anyone, anywhere, would have to be encouraged to sign the Violence Against Women Act is just stupid. Fuckin’ GOP wonder why they have a problem with women? There’s your answer.

7:47 – The first notable negative noises of the night come when immigration reform is mentioned. Fuckin’ GOP wonder why they have a problem with Hispanics? There’s your answer.

7:46 – A plan to reform federal aid for colleges. A good idea, if it can help reduce costs while keeping up quality.

7:44 – Modeling our schools along what the Germans are doing. Well, it worked before. Let’s try it again!

7:42 – Now onto high quality pre-school for all. I suppose if everyone is doing it, we could just call it “school”, but never mind that. Has it really been shown to make a huge difference? If so, I’m certainly all in favor.

7:39 – A real emphasis on repairing our infrastructure. A great idea, and long overdue. Interest rates are at an all time low. It will never, ever be cheaper to fix these problems than it is right now.

7:37 – Cut in half the energy wasted by homes and businesses in the next two decades. A good idea, and well worth pursuing.

7:36 – Making it clear that if Congress won’t act, he will. I can’t wait to see what comes of that!

7:35 – Glad Obama is emphasizing the importance of dealing with climate change.

7:32 – Boehner is spending most of the speech looking like he’s got a lemon in his mouth.

7:31 – Deficit neutral policies, he says. We shall see.

7:28 – Pointing out that none of us will get everything we want, and trying to put part interests aside. Sounds good to me. The “investments in our future” part is especially good. Our infrastructure needs repairing, and it will never be cheaper to fix than it is now.

7:26 – Loophole closing, something I’m sure the GOP types will love.

7:25 – Now embracing Simpsons-Bowles and highlighting the cost savings of health care reform and the like.

7:19 – “…no matter what you look like, or who you love.” He really does seem to have fully embraced the gay rights movement, hasn’t he?

7:18 – Biden and Boehner…worst seats in the House. Can you imagine just staring at the back of someone’s head for over an hour, knowing that you’re on camera the entire time?

7:17 – Starting with a somewhat conciliatory quote from JFK, and talking about the end of the war(s).

7:15 – Six minutes later, he gets to the podium.

7:09 – And now, the President has arrived.

7:05pm MST – So it’s about to start. I have no hopes for anything Earth shattering. The best, most interesting thing that might happen is one of the GOP congressmen acting like an ass yet again. But we shall see.

The Worst President Ever Ever!


I was in a text conversation the other day with a friend of mine who deeply, sincerely believes that Barack Obama is the worst president in American history. I think that view is barking mad. I think there are several worse presidents and I figured I’d go through American history and see what ones come up.

Please note: I am not saying that these were bad presidents or that they didn’t do good things during their time in office. I am, however, saying that they are, at this point, worse presidents than Obama.

1. Andrew Jackson (Democrat, 1829 – 1837) – Not a horrible president by any means, but there’s that whole Supreme Court thingy. See, there was this effort to remove Indians from their land. The Indians in question weren’t happy about this, and took the federal government to court. In Worcester v Georgia, the court ruled in their favor. Jackson, who was president at the time, wasn’t about to put up with that, and he basically ignored the court ruling. This alone is an impeachable offense, and, indeed, he should have been impeached and removed from office.

Treasonous jerk!

2. John Tyler (Whig, 1841 – 1845) – Tyler wasn’t so horrible as a president, but it was what he did after leaving office that makes him especially infamous. You see, he was heavily in favor of states rights, aka: slavery, since that’s what that term basically meant back then. Once he was out of office he basically retired for a while, and then, when the Civil War broke out, turned traitor against the United States, supported the Confederacy and was elected to the Confederate House of Representatives. He died before he could take office, thank goodness, but here we have a clear-cut case of a former President who committed treason against the United States government. Hard to sink much lower than that.

3. Millard Filmore (Whig, 1850 – 1853) – What can you say about Filmore? The guy was so unpopular that basically his presidency killed his party. Let me restate that: this guy was so bad in office that he ended up being the last Whig president. He signed the Fugitive Slave Act, which was a big mistake. He also didn’t even get his party’s renomination for president, which is usually a pretty rote affair. Really, he’s only remembered for not having been very good at his job. He’s the first in a sad line of really crappy pre-Civil War presidents.

4. Franklin Pierce (Democrat, 1853 – 1857) – Apparently a nice guy. But not a very good president. Where to start? First off, he was an alcoholic. Secondly, he was a very weak and indecisive president. He also didn’t get his party’s nomination for re-election, and, just to top it off, became a traitor when he supported the southern cause in the Civil War.

5. James Buchanan (Democrat, 1857 – 1861) – Well, first off, he was almost certainly gay. Let’s get that out of the way. It has nothing to do with his status as a bad president, but it should be mentioned. He was extremely pro-slavery, which was a surprise to many, given that he was a northerner. But he was almost certainly romantically involved with William Rufus King, who was vice president (for six weeks until he died), under Pierce. His views probably helped Buchanan to come down on the wrong side of this issue. He also forced slavery onto Kansas, and as a leader was very weak and unable to respond as the clouds of succession and war began to gather.

6. Andrew Johnson (Democrat-Union, 1865 – 1869) – So this guy got impeached and was only kept from being forced out of office by one vote. He was extremely racist, and didn’t want to grant freed slaves any of the same rights as white people. At least in part because of his actions, blacks were kept away from any true equality for nearly 100 years.

7. Ulysses S. Grant (Republican, 1869 – 1877) – And then there’s Grant. As a general, he got the job done. As president, well…he presided over a very corrupt regime, which may not have been his fault, but was ultimately his responsibility, at least in part because of all the cronies he appointed. He also didn’t put a stop to election violence during his second term, thus allowing what were essentially terrorist organizations (ie: the Klan, which was to the Democrats of the day as the Provisional IRA was to Sinn Fein), to take control in the south. He’s someone who I describe as “an honorable failure”. He should have stayed in the military and then retired to write his memoirs. He was not at all qualified to be president.

8. – Warren G. Harding (Republican, 1921 – 1923) – Harding typically ranks at or near the bottom of presidential rankings. He was another one who presided over an extremely corrupt regime, and may have been in it up to his eyeballs, with the most notable scandal of his time being the Teapot Dome scandal. Also, his middle name was Gamaliel, and that’s just silly.

9. – Herbert Hoover (Republican, 1929 – 1933) – He presided over the start of the Great Depression and, for ideological reasons, did nothing really to prevent it or to repair the damage or to help the people. He made some token gestures, but nothing that worked. Ten years before, he probably would have been an acceptable president, and gone on to simply be forgettable. As it is, he was just not the man for the job.

What a Dick!

10. – Richard Nixon (Republican, 1969 – 1974) – The really sad part is that Watergate was the tip of the iceberg. Nixon’s entire presidency seems to have been built around an abuse of power so huge that his few accomplishments (reopening relations with China, the creation of the EPA, etc), will forever be overshadowed by the real, severe, lasting damage that he did while in office.

11. – Gerald Ford (Republican, 1974 – 1977) – He was ok as president except for one notable thing: the pardon. In pardoning Nixon, Ford thought he was doing the right thing, but he wasn’t. He enabled Nixon and his people to escape any real serious punishment, and allowed people on both sides to completely reinforce their views of government. He also prevented the American people from having to face up to what was done in their name, and that alone makes him less than great.

12. – Jimmy Carter (Democrat, 1977 – 1981) – You wanna talk about honorable failures? Carter has made an exceptional ex-president, and is clearly a good, decent man. But he was not up to the job. Had he come into office in a smoother time, he might have been ok, but as it was he wasn’t able to properly respond to the energy crisis, and arguably did a bad job handling the Iranian hostage crisis.

13. – George W. Bush (Republican, 2001 – 2009) – This one is, admittedly, a bit more subjective than the others. But here we have a man who, and let me make this clear, turned us into a nation that used torture. We used it a lot. In doing so, he violated US law and violated international law, and made it so that we can no longer have the moral high ground when chiding other nations for using torture. That alone places him on the bad presidents list, but we also need to remember that he took us to war in Iraq on intelligence that was, at best, very flimsy and at worst outright fabricated. In doing so, he seriously damaged our reputation abroad and enabled us to take our eye off the ball in Afghanistan, which means that a war that should have ended years ago is still dragging on.

So there you are. A mix of the mediocre, the incompetent and the malevolent. All of which are to greater or lesser degrees, at least at this point, worse presidents than Obama.

Hey, America! Grow the Hell Up!


Not the president. Well, not on Earth Prime, anyhow.

As you may have heard, there’s a bit of an oil leak going on in the Gulf of Mexico. As you also may have heard, some people are very unhappy with the President’s reaction to it because they expect him to… what? Turn into Superman, fly down here, pull the sundered parts of the Earth together and seal them with his heat vision?

Actually, that’d be pretty awesome.

But since we live in reality, that’s not going to happen, and this is making people angry. I’m not at all sure what they want the President to do. He’s said he’s mad about it, he clearly is, he’s met with BP and torn them a new one, he’s visited the Gulf area at least four times and seems to be basically doing everything anyone could reasonably expect.

He even went on TV the other night talking to us from the Oval Office. Now I watched that speech and basically ignored it. It didn’t seem to be anything terribly great and I don’t feel the need to have him there letting me know that he’s working on the issue. Of course he’s working on it; he’s the President. But again, there’s not much he can do. It’s not like the Army, Navy or National Guard have a great deal of experience stopping massive undersea oil leaks. Hell, almost no one has that experience and those few that do work for companies like, yes, BP.

So basically the speech he gave was essentially him patting us all on the head and saying, “There, there. It’ll all be better eventually.” It wasn’t necessary and it didn’t accomplish anything beyond that, assuming it even accomplished that.

Really this is part of a larger issue with America as a whole. We are a nation of whining little children. Spoiled brats who want everything and don’t want to pay for it. We want our Medicare and Social Security but we don’t want to pay extra tax for them. We want a balanced budget, but we don’t want a cut in services. We want everything and in return we are willing to give nothing.

Obama’s job is not the same as the Queen’s job. Her job really is just to hang around and look regal and reassuring to the masses. This is arguably essential in a country where there’s a parliamentary system and the government could come crashing down without warning.

But in this country the President’s job is not one of being Ass Kicker in Chief. His job in a situation like this is to get all the information together that he can and then do what he can with it. If you really think he’s not doing everything he’s capable of in this situation, then you’re an idiot and there’s no helping you.

The sad and sorry truth is that no one on the planet knows how to stop this leak. BP is trying their damnedest, and you’d best believe almost no one wants it stopped more than they do, but it’s just not working and very probably we won’t have this problem fixed until sometime in August when the relief well is drilled.

The other sad and sorry truth is that because we’re a nation of spoiled brats we continue to want our gasoline and other oil products and want them dirt cheap. We won’t pay extra gas taxes and we certainly won’t stop or scale back our driving. We want it all and we don’t want to deal with the consequences of what go along with our desires; consequences which include massive oil spills and dealing with countries that hate us but love our money.

We’re a better country than this, I know we are. We’re the country of “can do!”. We can come up with a way to stop the oil flow, eventually. We will develop alternative energy sources. We are going to move past this current situation to a better tomorrow. We must accept reality. We don’t really have any choice.

For two other great takes on this issue check this article by Andrew Sullivan and this one by Roger Ebert.

Conspiracy Theories and You! – The John F Kennedy Assassination


Today marks forty-six years since John F Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. He was either killed by a single gunman with serious mental issues and weapons training who got very, very lucky, or by (as Wikipedia puts it), “the CIA, the KGB, the American Mafia, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover, former Vice President Richard Nixon, sitting Vice President Lyndon B. Johnson, Cuban dictator Fidel Castro, anti-Castro Cuban exile groups, the Federal Reserve, the military-industrial complex, representatives of Big Business, or some combination of those entities and individuals.” None of these include my personal favorite; the explanation given in the TV show Red Dwarf.

The idea that Kennedy was assassinated as part of a larger conspiracy is one that’s very popular. People don’t want to accept that one single person could’ve killed the president; especially not someone as young and handsome and popular as JFK. They’d much rather believe Kennedy was killed by a huge group of faceless Them, because we all know They won’t stop at anything to rule the world!

Why does this make me think of the Birthers and Teabaggers out there?

There’s no real evidence that supports this notion. All the evidence, from ballistics on down, points to Oswald shooting Kennedy. But as we’ve seen with other articles in this series, reality does not play a role in conspiracy theories.

I suppose it’s possible that Kennedy might’ve been killed under orders from one of the various groups or people listed above, but there is just no evidence. Yes, there’s been assassination conspiracies before, most notably against Lincoln, but that doesn’t appear to be the case here.

I can understand the desire to believe in this particular theory. After all, if it was a conspiracy then that means that at least someone, somewhere, is in charge of things and random events like Oswald getting lucky don’t happen. But the reality is that they do.

Hopefully in the future people will start ignoring the evidence-lacking conspiracies and just pay attention to the facts and the science in the case. For some reason, though, I’m not holding my breath.

For them as wants an entertaining, scientifically accurate, takedown of this as well as a couple other conspiracy theories, check Penn & Teller – Bullshit – The Complete Third Season. They’ve a great episode in there dealing with it!

Life in an Alternate Reality


Fans of science fiction might be familiar with the concept of an alternate universe or alternate reality. These are what you get when something on the timeline goes a little different (ie: Henry Clay becomes president, Wilson resigns after his stroke in 1919, or Napoleon comes to power in Italy rather than France), and then you get changes down the line, like Spock with a beard.

Well, I visited one of these alternate universes recently, and boy, was it a weird place. It was a place where President Obama is a Muslim, and was “reportedly” born in Hawaii. Yesterday they described his speech at the inauguration as “mindless”.

It’s a creepy, fascinating place to visit and I’m sure glad I don’t live there. You can visit it yourself by going here, but I warn you, it’s not for the faint of heart.

And before you ask, no, it’s also not satire.

The Inaugural Speech


(all times listed are local for Washington, DC)

12:08pm – good introduction

12:09 – I’m glad he pointed out the current economic mess is not just a failure of big business and government. We bear responsibility, too.

12:12 – “… men and women obscure in their labor” A good phrase. As Lincoln pointed out, labor exists independently of capital and is therefore more important.

12:14 – “… we will restore science to its rightful place…” It’s going to be so nice to have a President who actually likes science!

12:16 – Yes, the market needs a watchful eye. Deregulation is bad and will always be bad in cases involving finance.

12:16 – “… we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals…” FUCKIN’ A! Beautiful way to start mending fences.

12:17 – I like the idea of us being a friend to all nations. It’ll be a nice change. There’s a good sense of humbleness and humility here.

12:19 – Yay! He pointed out that non-believes like me are a part of the nation, too. This is actually a pretty great moment. 🙂

12:20 – Oh, it’s so nice to have an eloquent president again.

12:20 – “… we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.” What a glorious turn of phrase, and a beautiful point.

12:23 – “What is required of us now is a new era of responsibility.” Yes, aboslutely!

You know, I seldom think democracy makes the exactly perfect choice. Usually it’s just the popular one, or the expedient one. But this time with this president, democracy make the exactly perfect choice.

As a side note, given the stumbles in the oath, how long do you bet it’ll be before some conspiracy theorists start saying that Biden is president, since Obama didn’t “actually” take the oath?