Category: America - THE CATASTROPHIZER
 


UPDATED YET AGAIN!

I am completely obsessed with Ted Cruz. Not because of what he is (which is batshit crazy) or what he does (all of which is batshit crazy). And not because he is a strange, awful man who is always getting up to large, awful things. No—I am obsessed with Ted Cruz because I know he looks like someone or something, but I cannot figure out which someone or something he looks like. 

So I turned to the internet, because I figured the internet had probably already done some hard thinking about who or what Cruz looks like. And I was right. It offered the following possibilities:


1) Joe McCarthy
2) Quentin Tarantino
3) Bill Murray
4) Punch
But not one of those was quite right. So to this Very Important List, I added the following:

5) Phil Hartman AS Bill McNeil (the photo comparison isn't great, but there was an eyebrowed smarminess in Bill McNeil that I also see in Cruz)
6) Eric Bana (I feel I might have a hitherto unacknowledged animus against Eric Bana)
7. One of the creepy puppets from Mr. Rogers' Neighbourhood (interestingly enough, this puppet is also said to resemble Quentin Tarantino, who is, of course, #2 on this list)
STILL, not one of these is exactly right.

It's someone smug and puffy and disingenuous looking—someone who might have appeared wearing eye makeup and looking intensely up at the ceiling in a headshot from the 1940s. I googled "sad-eyed, old-timey comedian," but the search came back only with photos of (a) Charlie Chaplin, (b) babies, (c) underdressed celebrities, and (d) people holding banjoes. 

Or maybe it's something bulbous and squinty moulded out of glistening beige plastic.

Regardless, he's kind of Canadian, so I'm pretty happy and proud.


Reader input begins now.

8) Downton Abbey's Bates (courtesy of Tim D.)

Although I now think he might also look like O'Brien.
9) Modern-day Boy George (courtesy of Sean B.)

There's certainly a resemblance. Also, this gave me a chance to use my favourite photo of Ted Cruz of all time again.

If I had Photoshop, I'd probably give that photo a fedora and some blue eye-makeup. Of course, if I had Photoshop, I'd probably give a whole lot of photos fedoras and blue eye-makeup.

10. Richard III (courtesy of Neil M.; originally from Private Eye)

Someone give Ted Cruz a crown. And a hunch. And a Marc Bolan haircut.
 
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I wish I could draw.
I could have sworn there was some kind of Rob Ford crack scandal a few weeks ago. Involving Rob Ford and crack. I was reminded of this long-ago, seemingly-no-longer-discussed-by-anyone topic by the recent hijinks of Daily-Show-darling-turned-ohmygodpleaseputyourpenisaway Anthony Weiner.

Anthony Weiner was an up-and-comer (sorry) in the Democratic Party before he torpedoed (sorry) his career by having a large package and a yen for showing it to starry-eyed left-wing internet ladies. He went away for a while, and we all assumed he was spending his time off being repentant and not taking pictures of his penis. And then, just when it appeared his career was once again on the ascendant (less sorry, but going to stop now) and he was poised to become mayor of New York, it came out that he had found a new texting object of desire and a new handle—one that would add to his reputation for compulsive exhibitionism a shiny gloss of cartoonish hilarity: Carlos Danger.

I feel like in the time it's taken for Rob Ford to be associated with the smoking of crack and then to go to back to doing just what he's always done as though no one ever saw him smoking crack, Anthony Weiner has managed to show his penis, resign, repent, run for office again, and then show his penis again (I am misrepresenting the Weinergate timeline, but I think you'll find it makes my argument more convincing). It's entirely possible Weiner will fall out of favour again, redeem himself again, run for something else again, and show his penis AGAIN before we hear anything else about Rob Ford and that goddamn video.

Where did it all go? Why have we not heard anything in ages? Has nothing else turned up because Canadian journalists are not sufficiently resourceful, or because Canadian media outlets don't tend to pay people to tell their stories (about how they once smoked crack with Rob Ford)? Maybe the idea of receiving no money for the opportunity to be interviewed by Peter Mansbridge just isn't appealing to a crack dealer or user with Ford-related secrets.

Maybe discovering Rob Ford smoked crack as his crack-smoking alter ego Pascual Calamity would bring this back into the limelight. (Thank you, Slate Magazine's The Carlos Danger Name Generator.) 

 
I am still recovering from the 8-hour-long Blitzer-krieg pundit attack that was Tuesday night. It was like an awesome television-drama crossover episode (the classic Magnum P.I./Murder She Wrote two-parter springs to mind)—all my pundit friends were there AT ONE TIME. Jones and Castellanos and Gergen and Crowley! Carville and Martin and some blonde lady I'm pretty sure was Republican! (Gloria Borger could be Jessica Fletcher. Van Jones could be Magnum. David Gergen would obviously be Higgins. I was going to make a crack about how Ari Fleischer could be the person whose murder they'd be solving, but then I decided that was unnecessarily nasty).

And I reaffirmed my sense of the places in America I would not like to live and the people I would not like to live with. I would not like to live with these people (because they're racists) or this person (because he's sexist—he seems to have now made this post private, so I was forced to track down a weird copied-and-then-pasted version). Although I have to thank the sexist Christian man, who credited the "slut vote" for Obama's win, because the only thing liberal sluts have been able to do in large groups together that doesn't involve crazy open-minded sex using birth control is walking, and now they have another option. You know that if this guy had published his reasoned argument about slutty lady voters a week ago, there would have been organized "slut votes," and left-wing women would have gotten all dressed up in their actual, everyday super-slut clothes and gone to the polls together. Maybe they'll still do that four years from now, but it's all too possible someone will call them sluts for doing something completely different, and then they'll start doing that together and forget all about voting in a big old harlot bloc.


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I will be taking next week off (and accidentally took last week off) because I am preparing to move, and it's difficult to organize one's time properly when there is so much organizing and planning and cleaning and general despairing to do. A great deal of time, for example, went into creating the following:
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The orange paper was all I had on hand—I am not planning a Halloween- or Netherlands-themed apartment. And the place is fully equipped with both a kitchen AND bathroom, but as I won't be putting furniture in either of those places, I didn't build small orange versions of either of them.
I didn't realize until after I took this photo that I've somehow managed to misplace my tiny orange chest of drawers—it's probably somewhere in the depths of my couch. I am not going to go in after it right now, because yesterday I unexpectedly happened upon a wizened and distressing cashew under one of the cushions, and moving prep has demoralized me enough for the moment, thank you very much.

And this is the "Stabler" that will take up so much space:

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She is extremely demanding and full of hate.
But I couldn't let this week go by without at least mentioning the people who've recently made feel grateful that at least I'm not moving in with them:

1. Ann Coulter (she would be difficult to live with because she's really mean and also crazy)

She tweeted after the debate that she approved of Romney's decision "to be kind and gentle to the retard."

She later tweeted (the "he" is Obama): "If he's 'the smartest guy in the room' it must be one retarded room."

Probably she tweeted these tweets because not enough people had been outraged by an earlier tweet she tweeted, about a video Obama made for the National Forum on Disability Issues: "Been busy, but is Obama STILL talking about that video? I had no idea how crucial the retarded vote is in this election."

2. Sue-Ann Levy (she's Canada's answer to "she would be difficult to live with because she's really mean and also crazy")

During Monday's debate, she tweeted: "Obama says he 'will stand' with Israel if attacked and they are a 'true friend.' His nose is growing again. #MuslimBS"

3. A bunch of scientists

Researchers asked a bunch of scientists to share their thoughts about why there aren't so many women in science, and why when women do go into science, they tend to be more interested in biology than physics:

“Physics is more difficult for girls and you need a lot of thinking, and the calculation, and the logic. So that’s maybe hard for girls.” — male grad student, physics

Awesome. And if you think women can also say some worrisome and essentialist things about women, but do so in a slightly less douche-y fashion, you're absolutely right:

"Physics is more abstract and biology is more concrete. Women are less likely to like abstract things.” — female associate professor, physics

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Everyone knows that the only thing funnier than death is the death of someone elderly and much loved. Just thinking of old, likable people dying is making me laugh out loud right now!

Just like I laughed out loud when I read the following tweet: "Obamas gma even knew it was going 2 b bad! 'She died 3 days b4 he became president.'"

As CNN notes, this zinger was inspired by the following comment made by Obama during Wednesday's debate: ""You know, my grandmother - some of you know - helped to raise me. My grandfather died a while back. My grandmother died three days before I was elected president. And she was fiercely independent. She worked her way up, only had a high school education, started as a secretary, ended up being the vice president of a local bank. And she ended up living alone by choice."

Who didn't hear that comment and spend the next half hour or so trying to come up with a gut-bustingly funny put-down? I know KitchenAid immediately got to panning for comedy gold. How do I know that? Because that tweet I mentioned earlier was sent out from their corporate twitter account.


Of course, KitchenAid claims the comment was accidentally posted by a team member who'd intended to put it on their personal twitter feed, but I'm hoping the tweet is proof we're entering a new era of politically active appliances. If only we'd always had Twitter, partisan toaster ovens, and irreproachable senses of humour, past elections could have read something like this...

Braun: Reagan's brain knew he was unfit to govern, so it tried to impeach itself! #LOLAlzheimer's

Black and Decker: Drowning in a car is a pretty dramatic way to get out of a date with Ted Kennedy, but who can blame her?
#ROFLChappaquiddick

Cuisinart: Roosevelt said that "progressive government by its very terms, must be a living and growing thing, that the battle for it is never ending and that if we let up for one single moment or one single year, not merely do we stand still but we fall back in the march of civilization." Is he really the best authority on "standing" still or marching? #ParalysisAmIRightPeople

Actually, that last one is probably too long.


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you're not entertained, fair enough.










 
I have always found it incredibly easy to imagine failing at things. I imagine failing at small things, like managing section breaks in Word or developing an effective skin-care regimen, and large things, like various kinds of surgery.

For this reason (and probably also because of my lack of talent and inclination), I never became a lawyer or medical doctor. I could so vividly envision losing a vital case and ruining someone's life, or making a mistake during an operation and ending someone's life. Because it was easy to see myself being given responsibility and messing things up, it was easier simply not to accept many responsibilities. 

Then I read the following in a New York Times article about the CIA, Iraq, and Iran: 

"After the misjudgments on Iraq, the C.I.A. and other intelligence agencies imposed new checks and balances, including a requirement that analytical work be subjected to 'red teaming.' That means a group of analysts would challenge the conclusions of their colleagues, looking for weaknesses or errors. The intelligence community also now requires that analysts be told much more about the sources of the information they receive from the United States’ human and technological spies. Analysts were left in the dark on such basic issues in the past, which helps explain why bogus information from fabricators was included in some prewar intelligence reports on Iraq. And, when they write their reports, they must include better attribution and sourcing for each major assertion." (I include the bold type because you might be lazy and I am most definitely emphatic.)

Now I might not have become a medical doctor, but I did receive a Ph.D. in English (which is basically the same thing in terms of pay and prestige and the likelihood of being asked to attend to an in-flight emergency). I thought that was a good way of avoiding most real-world responsibilities (the fact that I did not view teaching undergraduates all about books as a serious and precious responsibility was one of the reasons I stopped teaching undergraduates all about books). Pretty much all I taught young people was that a) you shouldn't write an essay without first questioning your own conclusions, and b) you should always cite your sources. I thought these were basic, unglamorous, possibly redundant things to teach people. Now I realize that, while I was perhaps right not to trust myself to open up someone else's body with a scalpel, I did myself an injustice: I, and sessionals the world over, might turn out to be pretty good at running the CIA.


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I owe my father an apology. Not because I forced him to listen to Aerosmith's Pump when I was thirteen, or because I never managed to become a sullen teenager and so talked incessantly about things like Aerosmith's Pump (although I am desperately sorry for both of those things), but because I thought he just had to be wrong about Arizona. Arizona couldn't be that crazy. He had to have misunderstood. 

What a fool I was to doubt both my father and the unlimited batshit craziness of Arizona!

Perhaps ashamed of having a doctors-can-mislead-pregnant-women law slightly less batshit crazy than Oklahoma's, one proud Arizonan politician has decided to give all liberals an early Christmas present by telling a constituent that women who want to have abortions should first be forced to watch other women have abortions.

When he told me this, I of course concluded my father must have been watching Keith Olberman while sleep-deprived and high on something that makes people think totally outrageous things about conservatives. But no. Rep. Terri Proud (R! - Tuscon) responded to a concerned citizen's email about an anti-abortion bill with the following:

"Personally I'd like to make a law that mandates a woman watch an abortion being performed prior to having a 'surgical procedure'. If it's not a life it shouldn't matter, if it doesn't harm a woman then she shouldn't care, and don't we want more transparency and education in the medical profession anyway? We demand it everywhere else. Until the dead child can tell me that she/he does not feel any pain - I have no intentions of clearing the conscience of the living - I will be voting YES."

This concerned citizen was not the only one to receive this response, as Proud told her staff to send it out to anyone who suggested she oppose the bill.

When the concerned citizen became even more concerned as a result and sent a follow-up email indicating she was both embarrassed and frightened by Proud, Proud responded with: "You're kidding right?" I can only assume this was also a blanket response sent out to all those who'd emailed back to suggest her last blanket response had been embarrassing and frightening. 

So once again, Dad, I'm sorry. I should never for a second have questioned your claims. If you tell me next that a state rep (R!!!) from Oklahoma has suggested women should not be allowed to have an abortion until they have have actually performed an abortion on another woman, I will not doubt you for a second.


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

 
Last week it was Kansas and Oklahoma. This week it's Georgia. Perhaps afraid of being pigeonholed as "those people who have extremely backward views about women", some right-wingers have decided to prove they have range by reminding us they can also have repugnant attitudes towards race. 

Earlier this week, Eric Pfeiffer drew attention to this snappy bumper sticker available for sale on the internet:
In case the smallness of the font or the repulsiveness of the sentiment make the bottom line hard to read, here it is: "Stop repeat offenders. Don't re-elect Obama!"

But wait! If you're thinking, "Boy, that's the most racist pun I've come across in a while," that's only because you haven't yet heard the seller's perfectly reasonable and convincing defense of her product. Paula Smith, of Hinesville Georgia, says the sticker is "not racist" because "according to the dictionary [the N word] does not mean black. It means a low-down, lazy, sorry, low-down person. That's what the N word means." 

And when I read that she not only knows black families in her neighbourhood, but has also helped "to guide them in the right direction", I just knew she was a generous, totally un-bigoted person who was being unfairly attacked for being harmless and fun-loving.

I'm now looking forward to hearing from whoever runs (or used to run - it seems to have disappeared) "Stumpy's Stickers". That's the site where the sticker first popped up, and where the discerning consumer could also purchase such gems as a photo of an ape with the caption "Obama 2012", a drawing of a Confederate flag with the caption "If this flag has offended you, then it made my day!", and a drawing of members of the Ku Klux Klan with the caption, "The Original Boys in the Hood".

Because surely they're just as innocent and as fond of a good joke as Paula Smith. Obama and an ape? Why, that's not racist! That's just a hilarious joke about how an ape would be a really bad president, and Obama is a really bad president, so it's like Americans elected a great, big monkey as president! Hilarious. And everyone knows the Confederate flag is all about wholesome Southern pride and nothing to do with slavery. And everyone also knows that any joke involving the KKK pretty much has to be a benign and funny one. 

I bet if someone manages to identify the Stumpy behind the stickers, we'll find that he or she is simply a high-spirited, down-home soul who has an unusual dictionary and is just trying to guide us all in the right direction. 


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Everyone knows that critics of government involvement in things, or control of things, or of government (full stop) have an impressive weapon in their rhetorical arsenal: Hitler comparisons. There is never a dearth of Nazi talk in American politics - most recently, conservative commentators have been comparing Obama to Hitler because of his move to require that Catholic organizations provide birth control to their employees through their insurance plans. Jon Stewart has weighed in on this, making the apparently still radical and crucial point that the pundits who make this comparison tend to be irresponsible jackasses. 

Canadian politicians have finally twigged to the fact that all that might be needed to convince the public that something is wrong is to suggest it wouldn't be out of place in 1930s Germany. Conservative MP Larry Miller, during a debate on the long-gun registry, claimed (wrongly) that Sen. Sharon Carstairs said, "The registering of hunting rifles is the first step in the social reengineering of Canadians" and then  stated, "That is what Adolf Hitler tried to do in the 1930s."

Later realizing that not everyone thought a registry used by law enforcement to keep track of weapons was the first sign of Canada's descent into Naziism, he offered the following masterful apology: "While the references to the gun registry and what this evil guy did to perpetrate his crimes are very clear, it was inappropriate to use his name in the House."

So people suspicious of increased regulations and government oversight have always had a ready-made, go-to charge: "[insert name here] is behaving just like Hitler." But what of the rhetorically reckless types who want to use an overblown, groundless, and incendiary analogy to condemn the people who are suspicious of increased government regulations? To what baseless charge can they turn?

Enter Vic Toews, Canada's Public Safety Minister, with the answer. The Conservative government tabled the "lawful access" bill on Tuesday, and it is expected to pass. This legislation will make it easier for police to get certain information about internet users without first having to get a warrant. A number of dangerous, uninformed radicals (Ontario privacy watchdog Ann Cavoukian, Federal Privacy Commissioner Jennifer Stoddart...what is this, a hippie convention?) have raised concerns about what the changes would mean for privacy rights. When liberal MP Francis Scarpaleggia made some (admittedly misleading and exaggerated) claims about the new powers that would be available to police, Toews bravely took him to task by declaring, "He can either stand with us or with the child pornographers."

Finally! Now both sides of a "how much government is too much government" argument will have access to inflammatory metaphors. Government trying to run you life, trying to clamp down on certain freedoms? They're a bunch of Nazis. Citizens trying to hold on to certain freedoms, daring to criticize the government? They're on the side of child molesters. 

I love a fair fight.



POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.

 
I have always been a fan of movies about threats from space, or threats encountered while in space. You know, the ones in which a rag-tag bunch of smart-talking renegades (and at least one super-hot scientist) are obliged to destroy an asteroid hurtling toward earth, or a noble, square-jawed bunch of brave and selfless astronauts are obliged to pilot a malfunctioning shuttle to safety. That kind of thing. One of the most critical points about such films is that after many scenes of agitated, nice-looking scientists explaining things to strapping, bull-headed adventurers, and/or Ed Harris explaining things to square-jawed astronauts, the asteroid does not, in fact, collide with and annihilate the earth and the shuttle is heroically saved. 

I had realized that NASA's history was not bursting with vanquished asteroids, but I hadn't realized quite how questionable its history was. I knew about the findings made by the Columbia Accident Investigation Board, the ones that indicated that NASA's reliance on communicating complex ideas through PowerPoint might have contributed to the crash

I didn't, though, probably because I was ten at the time and mostly preoccupied with the TARDIS, know all the details about the 1986 Challenger explosion. And somehow, probably because I am really good at being uninformed, I didn't find out that the whole thing had been totally avoidable until today, when I read Roger Boisjoly's obituary.

Roger Boisjoly was an engineer at solid rocket booster manufacturer Morton Thoikol who, in 1985, began trying to tell people that joints in Challenger's boosters might fail in cold weather. (In fact, there had been concerns about the joints since the late 1970s that had never been addressed.) Throughout much of the night before the launch, he and four other space shuttle engineers tried to tell anyone who would listen that the launch should be called off because there was a good chance the shuttle would explode. They called senior managers at their company; they pleaded with NASA. It was like one of those movies I like so much, with a rag-tag bunch of smart-talking renegades trying anything and everything to save lives. Except that they were treated like a rag-tag bunch of no-good renegades and completely ignored. Nobody listened. NASA said they hadn't made a really convincing case.

Boisjoly refused to watch the launch, so certain was he the shuttle would explode. And then it exploded, killing seven people. And then NASA tried to blacklist all the people who'd known what would happen and tried to stop it from happening. And Boisjoly, unsurprisingly, was haunted by all of it for the rest of his life.

The great thing about not always knowing about things when they actually happen is that you get the thrill of discovering sickening facts about long-ago cultural events that you can then try to share with people who've most likely known about and been sickened by them for years. 


POLITE DISCLAIMER: This site is intended for entertainment purposes only. If you are not entertained, fair enough.