Thursday, July 2, 2009

So What the Hell Happened to Dollman, Anyway?

The Death and Resurrection of the American Superhero in the 1950s

By Justin Palm

There’s a school of thought out there that says that the greatest accomplishment of Nazi Germany was the American Superhero.

It’s not a school that gets mentioned often, mind you, due to two things- firstly, that it’s a highly subjective idea; and secondly, it’s a rather uncomfortable notion for many people. But the idea is out there, and it honestly does have some validity to it(some). Understanding how the heck Hitler was responsible for the mega cultural event that is the American superhero takes a bit of a history lesson (and yes, as far as I’m concerned you can add ‘X-Men 3’ to the list of Hitler’s sins).

First of all, it’s important to know that the earliest superhero comic books were basically entirely written and conceived of by Jews. Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster (Superman), Will Eisner (the Spirit), Bob Kane and Bill Finger (Batman), Joe Simon and Jack Kirby (Captain America), Martin Goodman (publisher; Timely, Atlas, and Marvel Comics) Stanley Lieber (alias Stan Lee, if you don’t know who he is you shouldn’t be reading this)- Jewish-Americans all and hardly the only names on the list. Superman, the original, iconic, and debatably greatest superhero of all, was created by two Jewish guys in their twenties in Cleveland, Ohio. And make no mistake, Superman was very much a character of his times. Cleveland was a very unpleasant place in the mid-thirties. The gangsters had just lost control of the city, and Elliott Ness (the man who took down Al Capone) was finally making progress taking down corruption throughout the city. His efforts were interrupted, though, by the appearance of one of America’s first and most grizzly serial murderers, the Torso Killer, who left headless and limbless bodies through the city during the mid to late thirties. A large shanty town existed on the outskirts of the city. Unpleasantness abounded in Cleveland, 1938.

It was into this world that Superman first arrived, a socialist savior for the late Depression era, the self-proclaimed “Champion of the Oppressed” who “had sworn his existence to helping those in need!” Superman, from his very first appearance, was a different kind of hero than anything America had seen in a long time. He was far from the ‘Robin Hood’ heroes of the early thirties like John Dillinger- men who stuck it to the man, but were out to do it out of personal gain. In his first appearance Superman saved a woman who was about to be wrongly executed by breaking into the governor’s bedroom in the middle of the night, then taught a wife beater a lesson he’d never forget, rescued Lois Lane from a group of would be rapists (smashing the hell out their car in the process), and took on a corrupt senator and lobbyist trying to arrange a coup in South America- all in the first 13 page story! Nothing was too big or too small for Superman to take on, and if you did wrong by your fellow man he would find out, he would find you, and he would fix it, no matter who you are.

If it sounds like I’m gushing about this story, it’s probably because I am. The first superhero story was so radically different, yet so desperately needed for its time, that it quickly had a whole host of competitor stories. And we’re talking within months here. By 1939, National Periodicals (DC Comics before it was DC Comics) was competing with Quality Comics, Fawcett Comics, and Timely Publishing (the future Marvel Comics) for the superhero market, and many more companies would follow. Timely Publishing, however, may historically be the most important of all of the esteemed completion (though Fawcett was outselling ALL of them, but that’s another story…).

Timely publisher Martin Goodman himself would star in a comic strip in the early 40s where he would claim that he created the Timely line of comics to warn youngsters about the dangers of Nazi fascism. This claim is probably a bit dubious, but something that can’t be dubious is the arrival of Captain America. On the cover of Captain America #1, his first appearance, Captain America literally punches Adolf Hitler in the face. A year before the bombing of Pearl Harbor, the message couldn’t have been clearer. Simon and Kirby (and, one assumes, publisher Goodman) believed that America needed to oppose Nazi Germany, and that our continued silence as Hitler’s troops marched through Europe was unacceptable. His oppression of Jews and his thirst for conquest needed to be stopped NOW. Few realize today that many American’s wanted to stay far away from the problems in Europe. Germany’s actions had some large level of support in America for a time- Ambassador Joseph Kennedy (Ambassador to Great Britain 1938-1940 and father of John Kennedy) had actually voiced support of Hitler’s revival of the German economy. Such a blatant display could have been very controversial for Timely, but Goodman printed the cover anyway.

Although there were threats from readers and parents alike, it turned out that Captain America's actions weren't just good ethically and politically, they were a big money maker for Timely as well. Captain America #1 sold quite well- over a million copies- and sales went even higher when America entered the war and a wave of patriotism swept through the country. Soon, not only were there copycat characters in other companies, but nearly every superhero out there started fighting Nazis too. By early 1942, Superman smacking around a German tank was a fairly standard cover image. Even more so than the cartoons of Disney and Warner Brothers, comic book superheroes were linked nearly completely with the war effort. Soldiers and small children both thrilled to the exploits of Captain Marvel beating the stuffing out of Captain Nazi or the All-Winners Squad descending on Hitler's Castle, and always good old American awesomeness triumphed over the actions of the Germans or Japanese.

This, of course, is where it all went wrong for the Superhero. With the end of the war and the Nazis defeated, most superheroes seemed outdated. No one wanted to be reminded of the horrors of the war, and superhero sales diminished. Detective, romance, and western comics had all been selling reasonably well through the war, and soon they started far outselling the majority of the superhero books. Horror books in particular saw a major rise in popularity, with the primary publisher of horror comics, EC, gaining major sales. EC was innovative in a variety of ways, using fan clubs and allowing fans to write letters to the editor of the comics, all in a successful effort to expand its readership. While the stories of Tales of the Crypt and Shock SuspenStories were often moody, dark, and sometimes downright tragic, the artwork produced by EC was easily some of the best art ever seen in a comic book at that time. Years before The Twilight Zone made ironic twists a staple of American literature, EC Comics was doing it on a monthly basis.

By the early 1950s, only three superheroes still had books published under their own title- Batman, Superman, and Wonder Woman. Only one other superhero, Aquaman, would survive the 50s with his publishing uninterrupted, though he was relegated to being a back-up feature for Superboy in Adventure Comics. Atlas Comics, Martin Goodman's successor to Timely, tried in 1953 to revive its three most popular superheroes- Captain America, the Sub-Mariner, and the Human Torch- in the pages of Young Men #24. The stories lasted all of five issues. The final nail in the superhero's coffin- and very nearly the comic book industry entirely- seemed to come in 1954 at the hands not of a supervillain, but of a child psychologist. Some would say the two are interchangeable.

Before parents' groups and social conservatives blamed video games for all the world's ills, comic books were at the front of that persecution. By the late 1940s parents who were too immature to take some damn responsibility for their own actions had begun blaming comic books for their children's bad behavior. In 1954, Dr. Fredric Wertham- an influential psychiatrist and a man who really, really hated comic books- published his most famous book, Seduction of the Innocent. In Seduction... Wertham blamed comic books of inducing young people into everything from juvenile delinquency to pornography to homosexuality (although in his defense, Batman and Robin were pretty gay for each other back in the day). By reproducing pages from comic books as evidence- and not paying for the copyright, I might add- Wertham pointed out everything from explicit drug abuse (hey, it's not like the drug users were good guys, right?) to what he thought might look sort of like a vagina hidden in the bark of a tree (and no, I am not making that up) and said that these 'shocking' images were ruining America's youth.

The really scary part of all this is that Wertham's crazy talk caught on. Wertham was brought to the Senate Subcommittee on Juvenile Delinquency where he restated his arguments on the evils of comic books, all to the nods and approval of the senators. By the end of it all, while the Senate Subcommittee couldn't prove that comics were the root of all evil in the world (imagine that), they did manage to scare the bejeezus out of the comic book industry. Rather than risking have the government censor their work (like the FCC did to radio), the publishers chose to self-censor themselves with one of the strictest censor codes in the history of art.

Under the Comics Code Authority, all depictions of government officials had to be in a positive light, which meant no bad cops or corrupt politicians, ever (Take that, Action Comics #1!). Vampires, zombies, ghosts and werewolves were all flat out prohibited. Depicts of "sex perversion" and "sexual abnormalities" (buuttttt seeeeexxxxxxxxxxx...) were prohibited, and relationships had to be presented in such a way to exclusively portray the "sanctity of marriage." Special conditions were placed on depicting concealed weaponry and kidnapping, and even advertisements for, and I quote, "toiletry objects of questionable nature" were condemned. Good ALWAYS had to win by the end of the story, and books were not allowed to have titles like "crime" or "terror." William Gaines, publisher of EC and badass supreme, was furious about the code, believing it was an attempt by other publishers to drive his successful company out of business (as most of his bestselling books had names like The Vault of Horror). His outrage did little to change things, however, as many distributers refused to accept books that didn't meet the supposedly "voluntary" code's rules. Unsurprisingly, all of EC's books except for Mad Magazine were driven out of business within a year of the code's creation.

The story does have a happier ending, though. By 1956, horror comics were dead and crime comics had been crippled. But with the comic market saturated by romance and westerns, an intuitive editor at DC comics, Julius Schwartz (yes, another Jewish guy with the initials "J.S.") decided to try the superhero thing again, but this time with a decidedly modern twist. Rather than bring back the old, popular characters of WW2 like Atlas had done, the Flash of Showcase #4 kept he basic concept of a super fast guy, and cut everything else, starting fresh with a new hero and new villains- 32 years before Star Trek: The Next Generation did it. The book was an incredible success, and soon more re-envisioned heroes hit the stands. The Silver Age of Comic Books hit the ground running (literally), and within four years superhero books were once again dominating the market, where they've remained ever since.

But that's a different story...

(Oh, and if you're still wondering about Dollman, he lasted longer than most. His book was canceled in 1953, and although nothing more was heard from him for twenty years, running from 1939 to 1953 is a hell of a lot better than Captain America did. Dollman's publisher Quality Comics was bought by DC, and he made sporadic appearances here and there, and was a main character in a recent series starring other Quality characters. So now you know.)

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

A Quick Moment on Richard Milhous Nixon

“'There are times when an abortion is necessary. I know that. When you have a black and a white.” –President Richard Nixon.

Just… wow…

This was from a Nixon Tape that was just released yesterday. The comment was made to Charles Colson, and after saying that he added “Or a rape.” I can just imagine his expression as he realized he might need to modify the comment slightly. (Colson was involved in the Watergate scandal, in case anyone is interested.)

Nixon is a very odd person in the pantheon of American history. Up until his second term as President, his career was absolutely brilliant. No American before or after has served in the Executive branch as long as Nixon (he was Vice-President for two terms and President for two more), and he was debatably the most successful Republican politician ever (he won seven out of nine elections, and five of those elections were for national office).

He was also a crazy, paranoid, narcissistic bigot of a man. And as Ben Smith of Politico pointed out, President Obama, a product of an interracial coupling, was 11 at the time of this recording.

Just some thoughts on this, that’s all.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

What The Hell Do People See In This Person, Anyway?

Ok, I already know I’m going to regret even bringing this up. I know that. But all this nonsense about the Late Show has brought back some of my serious questions and concerns from November. So I ask, in the sincerest way possible, what the hell do so many people see in Sarah Palin? I really and truly do not understand, and the only answers I can come up with I frankly don’t want to believe- I have more faith in humanity than that. But this obsession that so many people in this country seem to have for her strikes me as somewhere between weird and silly to flat out dangerous.

And please, understand, this is not a political attack. I know, I’m one of those pinko commie socialist bastards and all, but I swear, this isn’t about politics- it’s about intelligence and competence. I said last fall and I maintain now- John McCain made a serious error in choosing her for his VP, an error which frankly in my opinion made it impossible for him to get elected. If the benchmark for McCain really was that he needed a female VP, there were a host of far more qualified candidates out there: Senator Olympia Snowe, former Senator Elizabeth Dole (which would have been ironic as well, see 1996 elections), Senator Susan Collins, Representative Illeana Ros-Lehtinen (the highest ranking female Republican in the house, who also would have helped McCain win Florida, a state that frankly was far more important than Alaska), potentially former Representative Deborah Pryce (though she had some controversy towards the end of her tenure in the House), former Governor Christine Todd Whitman would have been a superb choice, et cetera. There was a whole field of high profile, potentially very sensible choices. Instead, the choice was made to pick an attractive woman who applied exclusively to the Christian Conservative base- a constituent that had always been a little vary of McCain, but who were never, ever going to pull for Obama.

Until September, even though I was always firmly in Obama’s camp, I was thrilled to know that whoever won the campaign, we’d have a presidential team that knew what they were doing and who would be up to the task of fixing the errors of the Bush-43 years.

And then Sarah Palin entered the picture.

It’s not that I think she’s crazy and evil. She’s not Ann Coulter by any means. I think she probably genuinely believes a lot of what she says (I still don’t buy it when she says she likes gay people though. I’ve seen her track record). I think most of the time she is genuinely very sincere in her efforts, and she really does think she knows what’s right for America. I also think the same could have been said for George W. Bush. But to be brunt, she’s not smart enough to be president. That doesn’t mean she won’t be- Dubya certainly wasn’t, and I guess the world didn’t end in a nuclear holocaust under his ‘leadership’- but it does mean she shouldn’t be. (And again this really isn’t a ‘hate Republicans’ speech, the idea of Jesse Jackson as president is scary to me too.)

Although Governor Palin isn’t smart enough to be president in my opinion, she is smart enough to manipulate morons. And there are a lot of morons out there. And she is very good at it. Manipulating morons isn’t overly difficult- I try my best to practice the art daily in my real job. All it takes is a very basic understanding of what makes people tick, and a distinct lack of guilt about the whole affair. Which brings us to the David Letterman thing.

Last week David Letterman made a joke about Sarah Palin’s visit to a Yankee’s game, saying that she had an ‘awkward moment’ because A-Rod had knocked up her daughter. Hey, I thought it was funny. It was topical- Palin’s New York trip was much publicized (for whatever reason), and Bristol Palin has gone out her way to be in the news almost as often as her mother. The girl probably wins this year’s Personification of Irony Award- “Hey kids! I got myself knocked up by a loser, and that’s why abstinence only sex ed works so well!” (what?)

Governor Palin, however, took offense, claiming Letterman was suggesting that it was funny to talk about raping her 14 year old daughter Willow. That’s not what Letterman meant, and Palin knew that. But Willow had been at the game (Letterman has said he didn’t realize any of Palin’s children actually attended the game) and Bristol hadn’t, something the governor has taken distinct advantage of.

Make no mistake- Sarah Palin has manipulated thousands of people through this non-existent incident into thinking she a martyr, the victim of anti-woman hate speech from that notorious bigot and pervert, David Letterman (to reiterate, what?). And within 48 hours, Letterman tried to clear the whole thing up, stating pointedly that that wasn’t what he had meant, and referred to his own track record to point out that he would never joke about statutory rape like that.

Palin, however, would never be satisfied with just that. And why should she be? She’s managed to be the number one headline in the country ever since she arranged to become outraged at her own invented victimization. She wants to be in the news, in her eyes she literally NEEDS it. Remember, she and a huge number of other people seem to be convinced that she should be president in 2012. Which is terrifying, by the way.

Of course, we, as a collect group of people, are the ones allowing this. America’s bizarre obsession with Sarah Palin and everything about her life is the only reason she was able to orchestrate this nonsense. Why is America in love with this manipulative woman who hates polar bears and thinks Russia will invade Alaska someday? Guys, she is NOT that hot. Ladies, she is NOT a good roll model for girls everywhere.

You want to know the secret of Sarah Palin? She’s self-centered and manipulative, to a point she probably doesn’t even realize herself. She’s an aging beauty queen who HAS to be in the spot light, because it’s the only way she feels whole. She doesn’t care about the country- not really, anyway- but she realized she could use her looks and her likability to get into a political office that, frankly, she didn’t deserve. She cares only about herself, her personal power, and her time as a media darling.

So why do people like her?

Ever since the joke about baseball stars and the governor’s daughter, a large number of her supporters have put together a campaign to get David Letterman kicked off of the Late Show. It’s ridiculous, but hey, they’ve managed to keep this story alive this long. Who the hell knows what other insanity the combined might of her followers might pull off? Maybe my faith in Americans is misplaced, and my initial answer, the one I’m so afraid of, was right after all. Maybe so many people like Sarah Palin because so many people are either stupid enough or apathetic enough to fall for her bullshit. Maybe we as a nation really are that stupid.

And if that’s the case, maybe Sarah Palin really is the president we all deserve after all. Isn’t that a terrifying concept?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Today in Politics- May 27th, 2009

Two big pieces of news left over from yesterday first. No surprises, but President Obama selected Judge Sonia Sotomayor to be his nominee for the Supreme Court seat being left by Justice David Souter. Let the mud slinging and cable news infighting begin. The best part, of course, is that none of this is really all that big a deal. No one seriously thinks (at least at this point) that Sotomayor isn’t going to get cleared by the Senate. There are a whole bunch of reasons for this: She’s extremely well qualified, she would be the first Hispanic judge on the court ever, she’d only be the third woman on the bench, the fact that the Senate is controlled by the Dems, and probably most importantly, Sotomayor is replacing another left leaning judge. If it was, say, Clarence Thomas who was retriring, the GOP would be throwing everything that it could into this nomination fight. But as it stands the balance of power on the court isn’t really going to shift at all, and as low in the polls as Republicans are, frankly it’s not worth their effort to go into a full throttle fight on this one.

The second big news from yesterday is that in a 6-1 vote, the California Supreme Court upheld the infamous Prop 8, banning future gay marriage but maintaining the legal status of same sex marriages made before the proposition passed. Just asking, but how exactly is this fair or just? Shouldn’t it be either one or the other, not this “Oh, rats, sorry you missed our special deal on gay marriages by 15 minutes, sucks to be you” situation? Of course, it would be political suicide to annul all the marriages preformed before Prop 8, which is why they’re keeping those intact. Gay rights activists are already planning on challenging Prop 8 by creating their own proposition next year.

Ron Paul is back in the news… sort of. Apparently he’s trying to make himself into a kingmaker of sorts, with his new “Ten in ‘10” campaign. His goal is to get ten of his friends into office. We’ll see what happens.

Roland Burris, meanwhile, proves once again that he’s never in the news for a good reason. Tapes from the ex-governor Blagojevich wiretaps have been released, proving that Burris actually offered to give the governor a fundraiser, but debated with himself how to make it look like Burris personally wasn’t involved. Kids, if the governor is accused of selling a senate seat to the highest bidder, then offers it to you for “free”, don’t take him up on it. Seriously.

Obama’s in Vegas, which isn’t nearly as interesting as it sounds, and then he heads to Hollywood, which likewise isn’t nearly as interesting as it sounds. Just in you were wondering.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Today in Politics: May 22nd, 2009

Man. What is it with Michael Steele? Today while guest hosting a radio show, Steele had this to say:

"The problem that we have with this president is we don’t know him. He was not vetted, folks... He was not vetted, because the press fell in love with the black man running for the office. 'Oh gee, wouldn’t it be neat to do that? Gee, wouldn’t it make all of our liberal guilt just go away? We can continue to ride around in our limousines and feel so lucky to be alive in an America with a black president.' Okay that’s wonderful, great scenario, nice backdrop. But what does he stand for? What does he believe?"

So, the first black chairman of the RNC is saying that the first black American President won the election because he was black. And apparently two years campaigning was enough time to have him vetted. (Being in Illinois, I didn’t really think he needed vetting, but hey, there are 49 other states.) That’s right kids, liberal guilt over slavery and segregation is why Barack Obama- who was a toddler during the civil rights movement and who is not, in fact, descendent from slaves- was elected president. His policies? His middle-of-the-road approach? His air of civility and pragmatism? Nope. Barack Obama is president because pinko commie liberal socialists thought it would be ‘neat’.

Why does the GOP keep letting Michael Steele near a microphone?

In other news, Liberty University, founded by the late great crazy person Jerry Falwell, has decided to ban the Democratic Party from its halls. A school official released the following statement:

"The Democratic Party platform is contrary to the mission of Liberty University and to Christian doctrine (supports abortion, federal funding of abortion, advocates repeal of the federal Defense of Marriage Act, promotes the "LGBT" agenda, hate crimes, which include sexual orientation and gender identity, socialism, etc.)."

Personally, I’m shocked to learn there even is a Democratic Party in the halls of Liberty. Jerry Falwell was one messed up dude. And I realize that the GOP isn’t actually the Religious Right, but it’s not as if the Falwell followers out there aren’t a core base of the party. If you’re in charge of expanding the Republican Party, is news like this really helpful from an image stand point?

Despite how it may look, this hasn’t actually been too bad of a week for Team Obama. While there’s been a lot of hoopla over what to do with Guantanamo detainees, the he-said-she-said over Pelosi (which in the last 48 hours is actually starting to break the Speaker’s way), and of course the Cheney vs. Obama speeches (Not that I in any way participated in the hoopla. Of course not.), here’s what the administration has pulled off while everyone was distracted: The meeting with the Israeli Prime Minister went well, with him agreeing to pursue the two-state initiatives; the new fuel efficiency standards that, believe it or not, has made everybody on both sides of the issue happy for now (weird, right?); the signing of four separate bills into law, including the very popular defense contracts and credit card reform bills; and to cap it off, the photo of the week right here.

That was today at commencement at the US Naval Academy. That’s President Obama shaking hands with John McCain IV as he graduates. It’s the little things, you know?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Today In Politics: May 21st, 2009

This morning! It’s a battle of champions! A war between titans! Darth Vader takes on Superman! Today in the ring, the ultimate battle for the heart of American, it’s Cheney vs Obama! Almost directly, this time!

But first, some other, what’s it called, news…

Yesterday the RNC finally got the memo that you can not in fact change the name of your opponents team just because you want to. Instead of changing the Democrats name to the Democratic-Socialist Party (which is a different thing altogether- ), they decided to pass a resolution claiming that Democrats are “dedicated to restructuring American society along socialist ideals.” I’d go into one of my traditional what’s-wrong-with-socialism conversations except that the resolution makes no actual sense. Inaccurate statements aside, after the resolution passed, Michael Steele did his traditionally brilliant job of putting his foot in his mouth by releasing this statement:

“The Republican Party strongly believes that a government which spends without restraint, incurs record amounts of debt, owns banks and makes cars is not the right kind of 'change' America needs.”

So, Detroit aside, is Steele trying to bash Obama or Dubya?

Speaking of non-existent socialism, you know how Texas is talking about seceding from the US because Obama hates the state governments and wants Washington to rule everything? Well, that arguments going to hold even less water than it already did, because yesterday a memo was sent out from the White House to every federal agency stressing the importance of state laws, even when they sometimes conflict with federal ones. A similar statement has been sent out by every president since the 80s except for, interestingly enough, Bush-43. Wasn’t he from Texas or something?

Not nearly enough people have been paying attention to Senator John Ensign’s comments defending Guantanamo Bay. I’m sure he thought it was a good idea at the time, when he said of the facility: "They get better health care than the average American citizen does." It probably looked good on paper, but I doubt his raw honesty sends the message he really intended it to. Why aren’t more people talking about this? We’ve kept these people without trial or jury, and yet their health care is still better than your standard American citizen’s? Where’s the public outrage over this?

But enough of the preshow! Bring on the big bads! Let’s get it on!

In the left corner, weighing in at a lean and muscular 170 pounds and invulnerable to everything except delayed cabinet postings and kryptonite- President Barack Obama! In the right corner, weighing in at a somewhat less lean 320 pounds and more machine now than man, Former Vice-President Dick Cheney! It’s back to back speeches time- bring it!

On Constitutional Values:

OBAMA: “I've studied the Constitution as a student, I've taught it as a teacher, I've been bound by it as a lawyer and a legislator. I took an oath to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution as Commander-in-Chief. And as a citizen, I know that we must never, ever, turn our back on its enduring principles for expedience sake. I make this claim not simply as a matter of idealism. We uphold our most cherished values not only because doing so is right, but because it strengthens our country and it keeps us safe. Time and again, our values have been our best national security asset -- in war and peace; in times of ease and in eras of upheaval.”

CHENEY: “Critics of our policies are given to lecturing on the theme of being consistent with American values. But no moral value held dear by the American people obliges public servants ever to sacrifice innocent lives to spare a captured terrorist from unpleasant things. And when an entire population is targeted by a terror network, nothing is more consistent with American values than to stop them.”

On Ethical Issues like Torture:

OBAMA: “After 9/11, we knew that we had entered a new era -- that enemies who did not abide by any law of war would present new challenges to our application of the law... Unfortunately, faced with an uncertain threat, our government made a series of hasty decisions. I believe that many of these decisions were motivated by a sincere desire to protect the American people. But I also believe that all too often our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight.”

CHENEY: “I was and remain a strong proponent of our enhanced interrogation program. The interrogations were used on hardened terrorists after other efforts failed. They were legal, essential, justified, successful, and the right thing to do... [T]o call this a program of torture is to libel the dedicated professionals who have saved American lives, and to cast terrorists and murderers as innocent victims. What's more, to completely rule out enhanced interrogation methods in the future is unwise in the extreme. It is recklessness cloaked in righteousness, and would make the American people less safe.”

On Defense and Security:

OBAMA: “I ran for President promising transparency, and I meant what I said. And that's why, whenever possible, my administration will make all information available to the American people so that they can make informed judgments and hold us accountable. But I have never argued -- and I never will -- that our most sensitive national security matters should simply be an open book. I will never abandon -- and will vigorously defend -- the necessity of classification to defend our troops at war, to protect sources and methods, and to safeguard confidential actions that keep the American people safe. Here's the difference though: Whenever we cannot release certain information to the public for valid national security reasons, I will insist that there is oversight of my actions -- by Congress or by the courts.”

CHENEY: “But in the fight against terrorism, there is no middle ground, and half-measures keep you half exposed. You cannot keep just some nuclear-armed terrorists out of the United States, you must keep every nuclear-armed terrorist out of the United States. Triangulation is a political strategy, not a national security strategy. When just a single clue that goes unlearned … one lead that goes un-pursued … can bring on catastrophe - it's no time for splitting differences. There is never a good time to compromise when the lives and safety of the American people are in the balance. “

On Closing Guantanamo Bay:

OBAMA: “Now, as our efforts to close Guantanamo move forward, I know that the politics in Congress will be difficult. These are issues that are fodder for 30-second commercials. You can almost picture the direct mail pieces that emerge from any vote on this issue -- designed to frighten the population. I get it. But if we continue to make decisions within a climate of fear, we will make more mistakes. And if we refuse to deal with these issues today, then I guarantee you that they will be an albatross around our efforts to combat terrorism in the future.”

CHENEY: “The administration has found that it's easy to receive applause in Europe for closing Guantanamo. But it's tricky to come up with an alternative that will serve the interests of justice and America's national security. Keep in mind that these are hardened terrorists picked up overseas since 9/11. The ones that were considered low-risk were released a long time ago. And among these, we learned yesterday, many were treated too leniently, because 1 in 7 cut a straight path back to their prior line of work and have conducted murderous attacks in the Middle East. I think the President will find, upon reflection, that to bring the worst of the worst terrorists inside the United States would be cause for great danger and regret in the years to come.”

Personally, any time I here Dick Cheney say he’s watching out for me I feel like adding the word ‘out’ to the sentence is a learned action. I’ll let you draw your own conclusions about which team you’d like governing us, but I for one think that the former VP’s mother picked the perfect name for him.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

Rep. Virginia Foxx: Incompetent Moron, or Evil Fucking Bitch? You Decide!

To begin with, I have some concerns with hate crime legislature. I think hate crime laws are made for very, very good reasons, and I support the intentions. However, from a legal standpoint, I’m not convinced that motive should affect sentencing. Maybe it should, I don’t know. Do I think someone who steals to survive deserves to be sentenced as harshly as someone who steals out of boredom? Personally, no. But should the Justice System, which is theoretically blind, be blind to motive? …Maybe?

My point is, I’m not sure whether or not I can endorse hate crime legislation from a judicial standpoint. What makes a hate crime a hate crime? To paraphrase the South Park example, if a man kills his neighbor because he slept with the man’s wife, doesn’t he hate that man? Maybe it’s all semantics, maybe there does need to be protective legislation, and maybe there doesn’t. I really DO NOT KNOW, and therefore I won’t put my support for either side at this point.

What I do know, however, is that there are some things that people just shouldn’t get away with. I’m looking right at you, Virginia Foxx, representative of North Carolina’s fifth distraction in the Unites States of America’s House of Representatives. Yesterday, while sitting across from Judy Shepard, Matthew Shepard’s mother, Congresswoman Foxx said the following. And no, I am not making this up.

“I also would like to point out that there was a bill -- the hate crimes bill that's called the Matthew Shepard bill is named after a very unfortunate incident that happened where a young man was killed, but we know that that young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery. It wasn't because he was gay....This -- the bill was named for him, hate crimes bill was named for him, but it's really a hoax that that continues to be used as an excuse for passing these bills."

Okay, how the fuck is anyone supposed to react to something like that?

How about by saying this: On October the 7th, 1998, Matthew Shepard was tortured by Russell Arthur Henderson and Aaron James McKinney outside of Laramie, Wyoming, subsequently dying because of his substantial injuries. The New York Times reported: According to the local police and prosecutors, the two men lured Mr. Shepard out of a bar by saying they were gay. Then, the Laramie police say, the pair kidnapped Mr. Shepard, pistol-whipped him with a .357 Magnum, and left him tied to a ranch fence for 18 hours until a passing bicyclist spotted Mr. Shepard, who was unconscious.” Shepard never regained consciousness, and was pronounced dead at 12: 53 AM, October 12th, 1998.

None of these facts have ever been in dispute. In point of fact, Henderson and McKinney’s own lawyers would argued that they were temporarily driven insane, in a panic by Shepard’s alleged sexual advances towards them. That’s right, these murderous, bigoted scumbag’s own lawyers said they killed him because he offered gay sex to them. Both of their girlfriends testified at the trial that they had earlier plotted to rob a gay man. Henderson would eventually plead guilty and testify against McKinney, who himself was found guilty by a jury of peers.

“That young man was killed in the commitment of a robbery,” Congresswoman Foxx says. I supposed she thinks it was all an accident. Those misguided boys didn’t mean for him to die, they just got over excited, apparently. And it’s true, robberies do go wrong. A botched robbery usually looks like something like this, though: Robber approaches victim, to rob them. Something goes wrong, the robber panics. Robber accidently shoots victim, panics more, and often flees. A botched robbery doesn’t involve picking someone up at a bar to attack based on sexual orientation, driving him to the country, robbing him, beating him into a comma, and leaving him to die in a field tied to a fence. THAT is called premeditated murder. The robbery is incidental.

I’m not going to call Rep. Foxx a liar. It’s possible that she’s merely incredibly incompetent. She may simply have the single most misguided and useless collection of political advisors in the history of American Politics. It’s POSSIBLE. But to publicly suggest that Matthew Shepard’s death was some sort of freak accident- and THAT, Rep. Foxx, is EXACTLY what you are doing- is simply baffling. In front of his own mother, of all things.

Matthew Shepard was brutalized and murdered because he was gay. Not a single forensics worker or Wyoming police offer has ever suggested any thing else. Rep. Foxx has made a grossly false statement, and she should immediately apologize. Whatever her personal views on homosexuality are (and I doubt they’re overly accepting), that in no way justifies her dishonest statement, whether it was intentional or not. This isn’t about hate crimes, this is about directly misrepresenting the facts of a criminal case in a public forum.

Please, Congresswoman Foxx. Do the right thing and apologize. Now.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Oh Bill, You Really Should Sit Down and Have Some Cocoa.

Because I’m a bit of a masochist, I occasionally read Bill O’Reilly’s columns and commentaries on the world in general. I usually find them to be somewhat better thought out than his radio show and television tirades, you see. And the tragic thing is that I want to think Bill O’Reilly really is an intelligent guy. In fact, I KNOW he is, I’ve read articles by him that were clearly well thought out and researched and everything. Which is why every time he doesn’t write as well as he can, it, well, it makes me sad. You can be a smart guy, Bill. I know you can. You just need to stop acting so dumb.

Take this, for example. It’s a recent column of his, and I’ll reprint it in its entirety, just to prove I’m not Daily Showing it up here:

Kids Gone Wild

By Bill O'Reilly

Thursday, April 16, 2009

1. “These are dark days for traditional Americans-folks who believe that the Judeo-Christian principles of right and wrong should be considered when making public policy. The other day, former "Focus on the Family" chief Dr. James Dobson actually told his crew that the culture war was being lost in America. And it is hard to argue with Dobson's opinion.

2. “All over the USA, secular-progressives are on the move, promoting gay marriage, legalized drugs, unfettered abortion, and attacking almost all judgments on personal behavior. And nowhere is the movement more intense than in the nation's most liberal state: Vermont.

3. “The legislature in the Green Mountain State recently voted to legalize gay marriage, overriding the veto of Governor Jim Douglas. Vermont is the first state to actually legislate in favor of homosexual nuptials, as Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Iowa all had gay marriage imposed on the citizenry by judges.

4. “It is worth noting that Vermont is one of the few states that voted down Jessica's Law, the tough mandatory prison sentence legislation against child sexual predators. An investigation into Vermont's criminal justice apparatus reveals the state embraces "restorative justice," whereby criminals often receive "holistic" treatment as part of their sentence for even heinous crimes like child rape. The goal is not so much to punish the offender, but to "restore" him or her to their rightful place in society. That is a secular-progressive hallmark.

5. “While Vermont is coddling child predators, it is also sending a message to kids: Hey, you can do pretty much what you want. Somewhat incredibly, the Vermont senate has passed a bill decriminalizing consensual "sexting." That is the process by which children send sexual pictures of themselves to other children using cell phones or computers. The proposed Vermont law says that 13- to 18-year-olds will be allowed to do that, but not distribute the photos to more than one person or an adult.
“Supporters of the sexting law say it's necessary so that teenagers will not be prosecuted as sexual offenders and have their lives ruined. There is some validity to that, as dopey kids do dopey things. However, the sane solution would be to categorize sexting as a misdemeanor breach of the peace, thus sending a message that it is unacceptable for kids to send other kids sexual images.
“But secular-progressives are loathe to make that judgment. Remember, these are the same people who believe a girl has the right to an abortion without telling her parents. So if a kid can undergo a major life altering operation (especially for the fetus), why should it be a big deal to do a little sexting?
“With a liberal federal government and media, there is little opposition being voiced to what is happening in Vermont and other secular-progressive enclaves. Culture war issues have been forced to the back room by the awful economy, and the S-P's are taking full advantage. If American children are legally allowed to send explicit pictures of themselves to other kids, then say goodbye to traditional boundaries of behavior.
“The slippery slope is here.”

Now then, this is hardly Mr. O’Reilly had his most nonsensical. It’s fairly well thought out (fairly), and he makes his points mostly without offending anyone (well, other than anyone who is supportive of gay marriage, obviously). But when you actually sit back and look at it (and fact check it, hurrah for fact checking!), you realize that O’Reilly really is always pushing his agenda, whatever it may be. To demonstrate my point, I’m going to go paragraph by paragraph- that’s why I numbered them for you- to comment on Mr. O’Reilly’s commentary. Oh, this outta be good…

Paragraph 1:

James Dobson says he’s loosing the culture war. Am I the only one who thinks that that’s a good thing? Anyway, Bill, you can believe whatever crazy thing you want, that is your Constitutionally-granted right as an American citizen. And hey, you’re hardly alone. A whole bunch of people would agree with you that our society is based on old time religion Judeo-Christian morals. But, uh, they’re still wrong. American Law is actually based on the common law system of English Law. Common law itself is derived in large part from Norman Law, which was brought to Britain during that messy Norman Conquest business. Amusingly enough, Norman law is related more towards Islamic law than anything Christian, but I digress.

Not only all that, of course, but let us not forget that the Founding Fathers were… well, they weren’t really the bible thumpin’ type, by and large. They were rich, white, local politicians. Were there religious members? Oh certainly. But some were also rather opposed to religion a great deal. Thomas Jefferson finished his own New Testament 1820, where he threw out all that ‘God’ stuff. George Washington himself never publicly discussed religion outside of church. And there’s that whole Establishment Clause in the First Amendment. The point being: ‘Judeo-Christian priniciples’ aren’t what this country is all about, and never really have been.

Paragraph 2:

According to Webster’s-

Secular: 1 a: of or relating to the worldly or temporal <secular concerns> b: not overtly or specifically religious <secular music> c: not ecclesiastical or clerical <secular courts> <secular landowners>

Progressive: 1 a: of, relating to, or characterized by progress b: making use of or interested in new ideas, findings, or opportunities c: of, relating to, or constituting an educational theory marked by emphasis on the individual child, informality of classroom procedure, and encouragement of self-expression 2: of, relating to, or characterized by progression 3: moving forward or onward : advancing

Oh, sure, when those damn progressives wanted to stop child slavery that was okay, but letting people who love each other get married- Now they’ve gone too far! Hey, isn’t having the government stay out of a person’s private life- as guaranteed by the Constitutional Right to Privacy- a major tenant of Conservatives? Why is it that the whole privacy rights stuff never seems to apply to recreational drug use, abortion, or what you may or may not do in the bedroom with a willing partner (or partners, if you want to make things interesting)? Just asking. Also, just asking again, but how does he know that Vermont is the ‘most liberal state?’ He really ought to site his sources better.

Paragraph 3:

‘Citizenry of judges.’ Umm-hmm. (Whatever.) And isn’t it interesting that the governor of supposedly the ‘most liberal state’ in the union, Jim Douglas, is a Republican who has been elected to the position four times in a row? Weird, right?

Paragraph 4:

Aha! Informal fallacy alert! You’ll notice how the fourth paragraph really has nothing to do with the last two? Yeah, that’s because it doesn’t have anything to do with them at all. See, the argument here is that gay marriage is bad because….? But! Vermont is pro-gay marriage. And Vermont is pro-child molesters (according to Billy Boy. I am SO not going there today). So, obviously, gay marriage is akin to child molestation, obviously. It all makes so much sense now! (A straw man, Bill? Really? Shouldn’t you be a better debater than that?)

And yes, in O’Reilly’s world, rehabilitation is terrible, apparently. It’s not like teaching criminals why what they did was wrong ever made the world a better place or anything.

Paragraphs 5 and on:

Okay, so after we kick gay marriage in the shins a bit and remind everybody that if you’re gay you rape babies, we finally get to the point of the thing: Naked children. (Wait, what?) Amazingly, this is the part that starts to make sense, until he goes and blames it all on us pesky progressives again.

So, sexting. Horny teenagers, with their hormones a-ragin’, send naked pictures of themselves to their significant others, who, being horny teenagers themselves, show them to all their friends. The problem, other than potentially tight pants and a lifelong period of embarrassment after the fact, is technically what these minors are doing is trafficking child pornography. Technically. And while, embarrassment aside, they are usually fully consenting while taking these pictures (hell, most of the time they take the picture themselves), because in the eyes of the law it’s child pornography, these kids can end up being labeled a sexual predator for life. Because they sent a picture of themselves nekkid to their friends. It’s ridiculous! And Bill rightly points that out. You hear that Bill? I said I agreed with you! You see, I’m only hating on you when you don’t make a damn bit of sense! I’m all about reasonable arguments.

The legislature O’Reilly is talking about (and I can’t help but notice that he never mentions it’s part of a bill to actually EXPAND on the sex offender registry, but I’m sure that just slipped your mind, right Bill?) exists to try to curtail some of the ridiculousness that been going on with all this sexting stuff. It’s some potentially good legislature, and could help things chill the fug out. The Vermont legislature knows that they can’t stop this from happening, so they’re trying to make it a little less stupid at least. That being said, I think O’Reilly’s idea here might have some potential as well. Did you see, Bill! That’s twice in as many paragraphs!

Ignoring the complicated, confusing, and at times ridiculous consent laws in this country, the issue here is whether we punish what is usually a mostly harmless act to try to prevent it’s abuse, or whether we allow it to happen, knowing that no matter what we do, some old pervert will eventually get a stiffie from naked teenagers one way or another. It’s a fair debate to have, certainly, and I can see both sides of the issue. But, rather than dive right to the meat of the issue, O’Reilly has buried it under all this ‘anti-progressive’ rubbish that robs his argument of legitimacy. Instead of talk about it like adults, he has lowered himself to a sensationalist, using a real, uncomfortable issue that needs to be seriously debated as an excuse to run at the mouth against gay marriage and pinko commie progressives.

And I think, at the end of the day, my fundamental problem with Bill O’Reilly is just that. I think that he’s a smart enough guy that he really… he really ought to know better. When he spews forth a bunch of homophobic nonsense on his tv show, when his hypocrisy is just so obvious, I really think he should be smarter than that. The man calls himself a “Traditionialist” not a “Conservative,” and I admit, it does have a nice ring to it. But, personally, there’s a great many American ‘’traditions’ that I’d rather not draw attention to. Slavery, racism, mistreatment of the working class, sexism, mutton chops and driving gas guzzling cars have all been justified by American ‘tradition’ from time to time. And who fought these things, each and every time? Progressivists who thought we could make the world a better place, that’s who. (Except the mutton chops. I think people just eventually figured out that look ridiculous). So Bill, why are you so intent on make ‘progressive’ into a dirty word? What’s wrong with trying to think progressively? And would you please stop using real issues worthy of discussion as a sounding post for stupid comments? You lower the quality of the debate each and every time you do that.

Please, Bill. I really do think you’re smarter than you’ve been acting for the last 59 years. Why don’t you come inside, sit down with some coca by the fire, and have a good long think about things, hmm?