Thursday, August 19, 2010

The Dumbest Controversy In The History Of The World (This Month)

On July 21st, Newt Gingrich posted a note on his website explaining his opposition to the building of a "mosque near ground zero in New York." You can find it here:

About a week later, my grandmother, who has a habit of forwarding various bits of mostly harmless silliness to the entire extended family, e-mailed a link to that note along with a warning that we not "be fooled and sucked in" by the apologists for thinly veiled Islamic jihad.

Ordinarily, I let my grandmother's more nonsensical e-mails slide right on by, but Newt gets under my skin on a good day, and this note was hardly Newt on a good day. I responded to the e-mail, at about four in the morning, by adding my commentary to Newt's note. I won't bore you with the whole thing, but a couple of points are worth repeating here.

Newt: The proposed "Cordoba House" overlooking the World Trade Center site – where a group of jihadists killed over 3000 Americans and destroyed one of our most famous landmarks – is a test of the timidity, passivity and historic ignorance of American elites.

Me: The proposed building is 13-15 stories tall. When One World Trade Center, or Freedom Tower, is complete, it will stand 1,776 feet above street level—the top floor reaching the same height as the top floor on the former WTC buildings, with an additional 400 feet of spires and parapet. EVEN TODAY, the incomplete Freedom Tower is already 26 stories tall, twice as tall as the proposed height of Cordoba House. "Overlooking" is an interesting word to choose for a building that will stand 10% as tall as the building to which it is being compared.


Newt: Today, some of the Mosque's backers insist this term is being used to "symbolize interfaith cooperation" when, in fact, every Islamist in the world recognizes Cordoba as a symbol of Islamic conquest. It is a sign of their contempt for Americans and their confidence in our historic ignorance that they would deliberately insult us this way.

Me: Imagine this is actually true. [And by the way, it's not. Also, they've since changed the name from 'Cordoba House' to 'Park51' to tone down the reference.] Who cares? Georgia is named for King George II of England, and he was an asshole that we ended up overthrowing, and somehow we didn't find it necessary to change the name of our state because of how insulting it was to live in a state named after a tyrant. You know why? Because we weren't, and hopefully aren't, a bunch of petulant 6-year-olds. And while I'm no apologist for any religion, ever, but for what it's worth, the Caliphate of Cordoba wasn't all bad. The philosophy and literature of the ancient Greeks were preserved through Arabic translation during this time, and helped introduce Europe to a good deal of the ancients' work. Meanwhile, the Catholic Church of the time is a touch notorious for attempting to keep the work of the ancient Greeks out of the public sphere of knowledge—though it's also worth noting that the Muslims tended to avoid translating the more overtly political texts of the Greeks, as they didn't quite jive with what Islam was all about, so that's a bummer. Oh, and they introduced the region to toothpaste, and deodorant, according to Wikipedia.


Newt: Finally where is the money coming from? The people behind the Cordoba House refuse to reveal all their funding sources.

Me: The first time you see a "Newt for Prez 2012" sign, I want you to ask, does Newt agree 100% with the feelings of every individual who donated to his campaign?


Newt: America is experiencing an Islamist cultural-political offensive designed to undermine and destroy our civilization.

Me: Again, assume this nonsense is actually true. Imagine that the people behind the center really are the jihadist-boogeyman-under-the-bed (or is it in the closet?) that Newt makes them out to be. Do we best combat this "Islamist cultural-political offensive" by playing into their stupid, willful ignorance and sink to their level, where we fight them on their own hateful terms? Can we win by displaying the same level of fear and intolerance that we claim to be railing against? Or do we stand a better chance of winning by standing upon the same moral high-ground that made us the greatest experiment in individual liberty in the history of the world? A giant Muslim YMCA that doesn't even really qualify as a mosque, built two and a half blocks and around the corner from the World Trade Center, is a testament not to what makes this country terrible, but what makes this country great. It says, we are bigger than your hatred, we are bigger than your ignorance, we are bigger than your religion. It sends a message to the world that our foundational values mean more to us than anything, even 3000 lives, even "famous landmarks."


Newt: Sadly, too many of our elites are the willing apologists for those who would destroy them if they could.

Me: It is Newt, and this line of thinking, that would destroy that which is most important and fundamental about this country. Let them build their mosque. We will be stronger for it.

The best part about Newt's bit of hysteria is his central, grade-schoolish point – "There should be no mosque near Ground Zero in New York so long as there are no churches or synagogues in Saudi Arabia." – or, put classically, "Nyah, nyah, wah, wah, nyah, nyah, nyah. Also, thhhbbbthhpbbth."

Newt Gingrich would like to see the United States lower itself into a moronic quid pro quo with the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, a theocratic monarchy where it is illegal to practice any religion besides Islam, gender equality is regarded as a quirky Western oxymoron, and a government ministry determines what is acceptable for Saudis to publish and view on the internet. Newt, a man never shy about his Christianity who has gone so far as to convert to Catholicism, evidently missed the part of the New Testament where Jesus shunned the old brutality of eye-for-an-eye in favor of a morality exhibited not by demanding that those with whom you disagree capitulate to the way you see the world or else face your wrath, but a morality revealed to, and compelled in, others by example and leadership.

But Newt is a political hack with delusions of ascendancy to the White House—I expect him to say these sorts of things, just as I expect the vast majority of the politically aware public to dismiss him out of hand. Shows what I know.

I assumed that this insipid nonsense, an emotional appeal to feelings of fear and sadness and entirely devoid of logic, reason, and even an actual argument, would simply go away. Instead, it turned into the most important thing in the history of the world, this summer. I have spent a goodish amount of time over the last few days trying to remember a "controversy" just plain dumber than this one. I have been unable to think of one.

This mosque controversy stands out because there is absolutely no legal, or even logical, argument being made by the opponents of the center as to why it shouldn't be built. The anti-mosque drive is based entirely on emotion, on feelings—on ethereal notions of what feels right, and what feels wrong. It's like President Obama's 2008 campaign for the White House, but for Palinistas. Stephen Colbert couldn't have scripted it any better.

There's a good reason that the arguments against the proposed Islamic Community Center have been entirely emotion-based: there is not a shred of legal rationale available to oppose its construction. If you believe otherwise, you are wrong. Park51's opponents largely acknowledge this fact. The only legal questions at issue are those of the local zoning ordinances variety, which have been sorted out by the local officials in New York City responsible for such things.

Putting aside the pundits and the politicians, about whom it must be assumed only ever do or say anything just for the sake of their own ratings, publicity, or page-views, is there something to be done for the 60% of the American public who are against the building of the fallaciously named Ground Zero Mosque? Probably not.

The fact that this is a nonacademic discussion makes engaging people who are opposed to building the mosque pointless. How do you convince a person that what he feels is wrong, that his visceral reaction to a set of circumstances is just incorrect? Nor would I want it to be that easy—if someone else's mind is so easily changed, what does that say about my own convictions and core beliefs? There is, however, something to be said for pointing those who seem to be blinded by emotion in the general direction of the light of reason.

People will be offended by anything, for any reason, at any time. As has been said many times before, and perhaps said most loudly by some of the very people decrying the "Ground Zero Mosque," no one has any right to not be offended. That we have no right to not be offended is one of the tenets of freedom of speech and expression, if not the very lynchpin of what it means to live in free society.

A woman without a headscarf. A woman in a headscarf. A person with red hair. A nativity scene in the public square. McDonald's. An animated Santa Claus pretending to be an animated prophet inside an animated bearsuit on an animated cable television program. A guy wearing the wrong school's colors. A guy wearing the wrong skin color. Any word or concept or situation or proposal in any conceivable context is going to offend someone, somewhere. Sometimes, things offend lots of people all at once.

It is not at all interesting that people are offended. It happens every second of every day on every corner of the planet. If you are offended by this proposed building, it proves only that you have the ability to have an unthinking, emotional reaction to something that some politician or pundit somewhere desperately wants you to have an unthinking, emotional reaction to. It is manipulation at its most base, and "discourse" at the absolute lowest common denominator.

Not to go too big picture here, but for me, anyway, the fun part about being a human individual is the ability to transcend my base instincts. I have immediate, emotional reactions to things all the time--so do my cats. My emotional reaction to a proposal to build any house of worship--be it a church or a mosque or a temple or a spaceship riding the wake of a comet--is one of immediate opposition. I am, as Christopher Hitchens would say, an antitheist, and rather relieved that no evidence exists to support the idea that some god somewhere actually exists, especially given how monstrously conceived said god might be, according to the various monotheisms.

That said, being a person capable of rational thought and empathy and not a complete narcissist or totalitarian, I can move past my feelings and logically conclude that if someone wants to build a house of worship for themselves and their like-minded fellows to hang out in, I'm in no position to be offended by it, and have no standing whatsoever to deny them the right to do as they see fit.

If anyone has made it this far, I'll close by posing the following worst case scenario:

Instead of just a couple of retarded Somali Muslim pirates getting it into their little heads that a sort-of-mosque sort-of-in-the-neighborhood of the World Trade Center symbolizes Islam's total global victory, it turns out every single Islamic jihadist on the planet believes Park51 to be a symbol of the coming submission of America to the will of Allah. There are high-fives and AK-47's fired into the air and much rejoicing.

Have we so little regard for ourselves and our principles that the delusions of psychopaths make us pink in the face with rage, that we walk around slapped and embarrassed and feeling the self-defeating impotence of "being offended"? We have the rule of law! We have the Constitution! We have a system based on the principle that people should be allowed to think, believe, and speak as the see fit! Our free society is designed to abide the delusions of disturbed human beings because liberty posits that people will behave irrationally, and allows for it. It is a tyrannical impulse that drives this controversy, an emotional impulse that must be overcome in the name of human freedom. We must be that shining beacon in the night that our founding ideals have always demanded of us, but our baser impulses and emotions have seemingly always prevented us from actually achieving.

Don't let Barack Obama's waffling, or Nancy Pelosi's baiting, or Sean Hannity's self-righteousness, confuse the fact that they're pandering to the lowest common denominator, attempting to tease out and manipulate emotions that don't even belong in the conversation. The three of them, and all the rest of the politicians and the pundits, are betting that most of us cannot escape the morass of our basest instincts. Yes, you can.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Listener Generated Content

On Monday's brilliant episode of The Bob and Abe Show, which you can find right here, we discussed the controversy that was ginned up last week when Rand Paul went on the Rachel Maddow show and shared his views on the constitutionality of one part of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

Miraculously, this has generated an e-mail from a listener--a listener that neither Abe nor Bob has ever met! Here's the e-mail, from a gentleman who is called Jeff:

The article at the link below argues the libertarian case and Rand Paul's position better (or maybe just clearer) than you did. While I agree with much of the article, I disagree with your arguments in the Rand Paul podcast. From the article: "Ideally, government’s role is to foster an environment in which individuals can pursue happiness in any manner they please — provided they do not impede other individuals’ rights to do the same." The key word in that sentence is "rights". What is the definition? It obviously varies from person to person. For example, I would say that I have a "right" not to be discriminated against on the basis of race, gender, sex, etc. by any public or private party.

Bear with me for a second. In an extreme discrimination hypothetical, a green humanoid person would be discriminated to such an extent that the person would not have access to private businesses (non-profits and for-profits). Now lets go back to the quoted sentence above and apply it here. How can a person pursue happiness in any manner he pleases if that person is denied access to private enterprise? Imagine if you had to grow or kill all your food. Imagine if you had to supply your own water, build your house...the list goes on. My point is that my right to access the free market as a consumer or producer trumps any right to choose which group of customers to serve.

As Jeff points out, the article that he links to does a helluva job outlining the libertarian principles at the core of Rand Paul's position. I highly recommend taking 5 minutes and giving it a read.

At the core of a lot of the more interesting discussions we've had on the podcast over the last year is a question that has been argued by many people through many ages. What, exactly, is a right? How one answers that question, and how one settles the constitutional issues that arise in corollary from answering that question, serves as the foundation upon which one builds a theory of the role of government.

That question, however, is of practically no consequence to a discussion within the framework of the US Constitution. Listen:

The Constitution of the United States rather succinctly defines the powers granted to the federal government. Our federal government is given its authority by the Constitution, and the government's power is strictly limited by that document. Any action taken by government that is outside the boundaries of power and scope established by the Constitution is therefore illegitimate.

It is important to note that the Constitution places absolutely no burdens, limitations, or boundaries on the action or inaction of citizens or any non-governmental institutions, associations, or entities of any kind. Absolutely none whatsoever. The Constitution was not designed to define or authorize or limit anything besides the scope of the federal government, and therefore has absolutely nothing to say about interpersonal interaction between or among non-governmental agents--including its citizens.

The Constitution only even recognizes the rights of private citizens inasmuch as it denies the federal government the power to infringe upon certain of those rights. It doesn't define or limit or authorize the rights of individuals--it says explicitly only what the federal government can and cannot do.

The Declaration of Independence, which has precisely the same binding legal authority as this here blog-post, says that humans have, among others, the right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Neither the Declaration nor the Constitution codify these rights into law--they merely acknowledge the existence of such rights and establish that the federal government cannot legitimately infringe upon them.

Before you even go there, let's talk about the 14th Amendment, which made the logical--and constitutional--leap of applying the same limitations on rights-infringement upon the state governments as already existed at the federal level. It said federal and state law must apply to all citizens equally, and that the rights of the people cannot be infringed upon without the due process application of those laws.

Again, even in the oft-cited 14th Amendment, the Constitution is only laying out the specific and limited powers of government, and not the rights of citizens, or the interactions among those citizens. The Constitution was written in such a way that it compels absolutely nothing of a citizen--it merely limits governmental power. If you can find a passage that suggests something to the contrary, send it my way. More to the point, the Constitution has absolutely nothing to say about the rights of citizens as they relate to other citizens. Not a word.

Therefore, a person may believe that he has the right to not be discriminated against by his fellow citizen for any of an endless number of specific classifications--race, religion, height, weight, acne, intelligence--and that person may well have a moral claim, but he certainly doesn't have a Constitutional claim.

This is the heart of why Rand Paul is 100% correct from a Constitutional perspective. The Constitution does not give the federal government the legal authority to regulate the private affairs of the citizens--it merely places limits on federal power.

The genius of the Constitution is as apparent in the silence between the notes as it is in what it actually says. As Jeff said, the definition of rights is likely to vary a great deal from person to person. The Constitution allows for these individual differences by utterly ignoring the problem. I'll say it in one final way--the Constitution is about the relationship between government and citizen, not citizen and citizen.

Hopefully we can agree that we are not, therefore, having a discussion of Constitutional import. I only make such a big deal of it because that is the crux of what got me so upset about this whole controversy in the first place--Rand Paul was giving his opinion on the Constitutional legitimacy of one part of the Civil Rights Act, and all anyone wanted to hear was that he thinks discrimination is totally cool, despite his constant cries to the contrary.

Moving right along. Jeff's basic point, slightly rephrased, seems to me to be the following: if a producer wants the privilege of access to the free market in order to sell his goods or services, than that producer gives up the freedom to choose to whom he sells his goods or services. Along those same lines, how can an individual consumer pursue happiness "in any manner he pleases" if he is not given unfettered access to purchase goods or services from anyone he chooses?

But we can't very well call it the "free market" if a producer is required to do something he doesn't want to do in order to participate, can we? The consumer is presumably still given the freedom to choose from which producer he will purchase goods or services--why shouldn't the producer be allowed the same freedom to choose to whom he will sell? If the free market is to be truly free, producers and consumers must be allowed to choose with whom they will do business. The consumer's right to pursue happiness cannot trump the producer's right to pursue happiness, can it? Are they equal, or aren't they?

The consumer does not have a right to pursue happiness "in any manner he pleases" because that would imply that his rights extend so far as to encroach on others' exact same rights in the society. Put classically, an individual's right to swing his fist ends where another individual's nose begins.

How about a few illustrative stereotypes?

Should a Jewish delicatessen owner be compelled to sell sandwiches to a guy who walks in with a Swastika plastered across his forehead? Should a private hospital, owned and operated by the Catholic Church, be forced to provide abortion services? Should a black guy who owns a barber shop be required to provide haircutting services to a guy who walks in and pulls a Ku Klux Klan hood off his mulleted head?

No, of course not. The neo-Nazi can go buy his tuna with extra mayo on white bread from somebody who won't be morally horrified by his existence. The pregnant woman can go to a hospital or a clinic where there aren't nurses and doctors who believe that by performing said procedure they are committing themselves and their patient to eternal damnation. The KKK loser can get his cousin/wife to trim his bangs.

When an individual applies a rights claim to economic (or any other sort of) interaction with another individual, he is effectively making a concurrent claim that the other individual is duty-bound to serve him. This is a violation of the very right to which the claimant is appealing, and therefore invalid.

Allowing bigots the freedom to reveal themselves for what they are affords me the freedom to choose to not give them my business. If there is a restaurant owner who refuses to serve Latinos, I value my freedom to choose to eat down the street.

As I said on the show, morality can only really exist when people are free to be immoral. If a person is only "acting morally" because of an authoritarian dictate that commands him to, then he's not really moral--he's just an actor. Free society must abide private discrimination because a free society values liberty above all else--and liberty must be applied to all individuals in the same way. Coercion, even in the name of something so laudable (if illusory) as fairness, is antithetical to liberty and is precisely that which cannot be tolerated in a free society.

Thoughts, Legion?


Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Barack Obama, sports fanatic.

Even as I begin to write this, I'm realizing it's hardly worth the effort. We the people are manipulated by politicians, the media, television, movies, religious or spiritual leaders, parents, friends, enemies, strangers, pets, children--the list goes on ad infinitum--on a moment-to-moment basis. There are benevolent, malevolent, and occasionally entirely neutral forces working on an individual's psyche at all times.

The dog barks because he wants to be walked. The priest infuses the tone of his voice with just the right touch of pity-plea and stern reproach before the collection plate is passed down the aisles. Billy Mays screams at you from the great infomercial set in the sky about the AwesomeAuger. The radio plays two or three songs every hour of every day for two months among a rotating mix of maybe twenty or thirty others. The President of the United States pretends to be a sports fanatic so that the sports-crazed public believes he's just like they are.

One cannot, for the most part, walk around worrying about such manipulation. It is a fact of life. A person would go insane trying to recognize, much less avoid the influence of, the hundreds of thousands of tiny manipulations foisted upon him every day. That said, recognizing the big instances are important to developing a healthy awareness of the way the world works.

My example here is hardly one of the big ones. Just one of the more annoying.

Barack Obama is on ESPN's SportsCenter all the time. He did an interview with Stuart Scott during the campaign. He fills out March Madness Tournament brackets in long-running SportsCenter segments--he even filled out a women's bracket this year! He talks at length about being a hardcore Chicago White Sox fan, despite the fact that when asked, he cannot name a single player that he has admired in his extended fandom.

"I'm a South-side kid."

The President was born in Hawaii. He spent much of his young childhood in Indonesia. He went back to Hawaii for high school. He went to college in Los Angeles and New York City. He finally made it to Chicago at 24 or so, where he hung out and organized some communities for a few years before heading back east for Harvard Law. He settled down in Chicago after that, at about 30 years old. He is not a South-side kid. He's a Hawaiian/Indonesian kid who spent his young adulthood in the three biggest non-Chicago cities on either coast. Assuming he picked up his White Sox habit upon his return to Chicago in the early nineties, Frank Thomas is the answer. In fact, Frank Thomas is the answer whenever somebody wants to know your favorite White Sox player no matter what the era in question is--and whether you're a fan or not.

I guess the point here is that Barack Obama is not a diehard White Sox fan, but he portrays himself as one. I'm not mad at him for not being a big-time baseball fan--he certainly has more important things with which to concern himself. Hell, I have more important things with which to concern myself than the Braves and my fantasy baseball team, and I'm a pizza delivery guy, for chrissakes, and he's the leader of the 'free' world. What concerns me is not that he can't name a single, solitary White Sox player, but that he wants us all to think that he really gives a shit about the White Sox.

I don't care if my president is a baseball fan or not. I don't care if he likes to play croquet or go horseback riding or windsurfing or missed the Super Bowl because he was too busy playing gin-rummy with Eleanor Roosevelt and Don Rumsfeld. I just don't want to be told a thousand times, over and over again, that he is something that he is not, solely because his handlers or perhaps he himself believes I will like him more if I think I can sit down with a Budweiser and my Baseball Almanac and yap ChiSox history with him.

SportsCenter, which is on ESPN, which is owned by Disney--a company with quite a history of mass manipulation, in case you missed it--airs Barack Obama stuff all the time. There are many stories out there about how Barack and Michelle like to watch SportsCenter together. He references the show in speeches. He is probably our first basketball playing president, and certainly more has been made of his athleticism than any before him. Oh, and he throws like a girl. (See video evidence above.)

We are a sports-obsessed culture. The Obama administration is using this obsession to manipulate the sports-loving public into believing that Barack Obama is just like them--that he cares about the same meaningless shit that they care about. It validates their nonsensical obsessions while at the same time reinforces an image of Barack Obama in their minds that is not connected with reality.

For the other half of the nation, the public not obsessed with sports, such revelatory comments are a godsend, assuming they recognize his misstep. He's not a jocky meathead like that last asshole, George W. Bush. He has more important things to worry about than overpaid pituitary retards throwing balls around at each other. 'Let him make the idiots believe what they want to believe--I know he's smarter than all that!'

Oddly, this is the same reaction most secularists have when Obama speaks about his faith. 'Oh, he just has to say that, we know better. He's not really that way, he's just pandering--he's just being a politician.' This shouldn't excuse his behavior--we should demand forthrightness and honesty, or at least be willing to call out those that we may hold in high esteem when they're lying, or letting us down, or perhaps more appropriately, revealing their true selves.

Speaking of W, those that hated him believed him to be an idiot. Believing W to be a moron who didn't know anything about the world or current events is akin to the quiet bigotry of deluding oneself into the belief that 9/11 couldn't possibly have been planned by a bunch of sand-dwelling Muslims simply because they're not sophisticated enough. Never underestimate your enemy--foreign or domestic. If W came off as a little bit dumb, it's because that's what W's people wanted us to think, because it best served their agenda. In much the same way, Barack Obama is designed to come off as just a little bit smarter than the smartest guy in the room, because it best serves his agenda.

Manipulation doesn't end when your preferred party takes over, and it's no less acceptable when it's being done by someone whom you may generally like or even occasionally admire.

In summation, I have to go to work now, and have not had the time to make all my points, but that's life in the world of always being too goddamned wordy.

Go Braves!

Friday, April 16, 2010

Six minutes that explain one reason why Paul Broun should be fired.

I've met Paul Broun. He's a nice man. He understands that the government is spending this country utterly into oblivion. He understands that a lot of what both parties are up to in Washington is in opposition to the best interests of the United States of America and we the people.

He believes that the Bible is the infallible Word of God, and that it's words must be taken literally and at face value, as illustrated in the video below. He wants a weekend in May--every year--to be devoted to reflectin' on the importance of the Christian Bible in the founding and subsequent history of the United States, and that goes double for you Jews, Muslims, and atheists.

There are a few reasons to like Paul Broun. There are a few glaring reasons to fire him, not least of which is the video below. Fire him and fire all of his idiot colleagues, no matter what.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

4.14 links and Whatnot

Like the banana, orange juice, and toast to go with that bowl of cereal over at the podcast, the links below are all a part of a balanced Bob and Abe Show diet.

Mark Steyn's rather excellent piece on Canada's distaste for free speech.

The Wikipedia entry on Constance McMillen's battle for her "right" to freak-dance to Little Wayne and Lady Gaga while grinding away prom night on her little girlfriend's tuxedo leg.

And then there's Hank Johnson. He kind of speaks for himself, doesn't he?

Monday, April 12, 2010

Scott Garrett--you're going down!

Today on the show, Bob and Abe debuted their hot new segment But my Congressmen is all right, I mean, he's not like all----No! Fuck no don't vote for that guy he's a dirtbag politician like all the rest oh God don't vote for that guy! Listen to it here.

First on the hit-list (metaphoric) is Scott Garrett, the congressman from New Jersey's 5th district. While he seems to sort of understand that the United States is heading for financial insolvency--assuming we're not already there, of course--it hasn't stopped him from voting to make the USA PATRIOT act a permanent fixture of American life, sucking up as many federal pork dollars as he can get his greasy little fingers on, and hiring banking lobbyists to work on his Congressional staff. He's a politician, and that should be enough to replace him.

If that's not enough, he's also voted to amend the Constitution to make desecration of the US flag illegal, because apparently he does not believe in the fundamental concept of freedom of speech, thought, and expression. He also supports a Constitutional amendment that would validate and institutionalize his homophobia and hatred of homosexuals, wanting to federally define marriage as that between one man and one woman. I'll say it again: he wants to change the founding document of our nation so that it defines marriage to his liking. He thus does not believe in the foundational principles of this country, and has failed to do his sworn duty, which is to protect and support and uphold the Constitution.

Scott Garrett should be replaced. Vote for your neighbor. Vote for Mickey Mouse. Vote for yourself. Just don't vote for Scott Garrett.

More to follow on the remaining 500+ scumbags "serving" us at the federal level.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Abe v. Thomas Jefferson, et al.

On Tuesday's episode of the Bob and Abe Show, I rehashed my long-standing position that the problem that plagues today's America can be traced back to a few glaring oversights in the Constitution. I don't want to bore you, yet, with the many ways I think the Constitution can be revised for the better. Instead, I want to discuss one area where I think change can be made with relative ease.

Problem: The Constitution provides no real mechanism to uphold its basic tenets.

Possible Solution: Before any bill is passed into law, why not have a 'litmus test' to see if the law adheres to the very basic principles of the Constitution? Questions like: does this bill violate the Bill of Rights? Does this bill violate any rights reserved for the states? Why is it not part of the bill-making process to have the judicial branch certify that the proposed bill adheres to the very basic tenets of the Constitution?

The way the system works now, the most important obstacle to any bill is not whether it is constitutional but rather whether it can gain enough votes in Congress and whether the president will sign it into law. The only time the judicial branch gets involved is when someone files a lawsuit protesting the law AFTER it has been passed.

Ideally, the way the system should work is when a bill comes out of committee, the bill is sent to the judicial branch for confirmation. Once the judicial branch determines that it does not violate the basic tenets of the Constitution, Congress can then vote on it. Once it's passed in Congress, the President can sign it into law. It’s basically enhanced judicial review.

The US Constitution, by any measurement, is one of the best documents ever written on how government should operate. I am in no way suggesting that we scrap the whole thing and start anew. But it is an incomplete and sometimes toothless document. Incorporating a 'hey, is this shit legal' component to the bill making process would go a long way to curbing some of the shenanigans that goes on in Washington.



Sunday, February 21, 2010

Joe Stack Links...

We'll be talking about this Joe Stack in Austin at the IRS building with an exploding plane thing for the first few days of the week, and below you'll find the links pertinent to our discussion.

The article by Glenn Greenwald. When is a terrorist not a terrorist?

Joe Stack's so-called suicide manifesto. Worth a careful read.

The blog Bob posted last week about what he thinks the proper reaction to Joe Stack's suicide attack might be.


Friday, February 19, 2010

Thoughts on Austin IRS craziness.

Bob here, with first impressions of the attack on the IRS offices in Austin, Texas by a dude with a plane, a beef with the government, and a death wish.

Ron Paul, a man who I find to be correct about a great deal many things, believes that the United States must look to its own foreign policy decisions and actions when looking for answers to questions such as "why do the 'terrorists' hate, attack, and kill us?" or "why does so much of the rest of the world have such animosity for the United States?"

The idea, of course, is simple: United States interference, imperialism, and generalized war-making in the Middle East makes the people of that part of the world understandably upset at the United States. The power-hungry (and probably smarter) individuals of the understandably upset region then see a golden opportunity: they can capitalize on the anger and hatred that is being felt and provide a series of simple answers to the obvious problem presented by the United States. Thus, a radical is born.

Cause and effect, no? If the United States was not bothering to interfere in the affairs of the Middle East, angering whole generations in the process, they would have no reason to sacrifice their lives in a vain attempt to throw off the yoke of US asshole-ishness. Simplistic, but intuitive.

I tend to agree with Ron Paul on this, but such a philosophy has its own limitations, some of which have only been made plain to me as a result of today's events in Austin, and others that were more obvious all along.

First, there is an unintended consequence of such thought, which is that it can seem to let the individuals who actually commit heinous acts as terrorism or what have you off the proverbial hook. The kid who was molested when he was seven years-old is likely fucked up for life, and is considerably more likely to victimize someone else down the road because of what was done to him.

Cause and effect, no? But, then again, just because you can point to a cause or a trigger for someone's behavior doesn't grant the original victim clemency for future crimes. We still hold the individual responsible for the actions they take to harm others, regardless of how they've been victimized in the past.

Same goes for the pissed off Middle-Easterners. We can point to a series of terrible actions taken by the United States as potential triggers for a "terrorist's" point of view or even their vicious behavior, but this is not a justification nor an excuse for the individual's actions.

I know this is all somewhat obvious. But for whatever reason, whenever someone wants to point to United States foreign policy as a possible causal reason for global discontent, people start screaming about how "you're just trying to blame America!" or "why do you hate the troops?!" This is either very stupid or very intellectually dishonest. It is foolish to expect intelligence or honesty when it comes to politicians or those who discuss them at length in the media. I'm not that naive, and I doubt you are, either.

It is ultimately the responsibility of those capable of massive influence (such as the United States) to take an honest look at what their influence has in fact wrought. In this case, while the US has indeed been at times a force for immeasurable good in the world, American policy and actions have also very much had a negative impact on individuals, countries, and even entire continents. To entirely blame ourselves for the actions taken by others against our interests is of course ignorant and unjust, but to ignore our role or position in the causal chain of events is very much even worse, and leaves us looking to the rest of the world like a country of blind despots.

So what do we do? It wouldn't be humane, prudent, or even really possible to dismantle all institutions of US foreign influence in an attempt to avoid killing, hurting, or even offending anyone's sensibilities in the future. All we can do is try to change our policies in such a way that prevents the future victimization of individuals and their region. We can accept responsibility for what we've done without accepting the blame for what others have done in response to our mistakes, and it is incredibly important that we do so. All it takes is a little bit of intellectual honesty.

9/11 offered the United States a unique opportunity for self-reflection. In the years that followed, it would have been wise to figure out what we could change about our global positioning and policy to change the way we are perceived by our friends and enemies alike while at the same time seeking out those who attacked us and bringing them to justice. Instead, we went to war, which has had the net result of reinforcing many of the worst things the world already believed.

This has been a helluva circuitous route to get to where I'm going, but here we are, finally.

Joseph Andrew Stack flew his plane into a building that housed just shy of 200 employees of the Internal Revenue Service, seemingly because he believed the IRS to be an institution with which it was impossible to reason. He believed the tax code was immoral, unfair, and overwhelming, and felt that he had exhausted all reasonable and legal options available to fight the system. Thus, a radical was born.

It would be irresponsible and unfair to blame the IRS or the federal government at large for the actions and murderous intent of Joe Stack. But as with the "terrorists," it would be just as ignorant, and dangerous, to assume that the causal chain of events that led to Joe Stack's breakdown, radicalization, and ultimate violent recourse began and ended somewhere in his own mind.

No one is responsible for the actions of Joe Stack beyond the individual (deceased) called Joe Stack. The fact remains, however, that the massive tax code is often seemingly unfair, nearly impossible to fully understand, and backed by the full force and fury of a federal United States government that is increasingly acting in the best interests of its corporate sponsors, and not the people it purports to represent.

What Joe Stack did was wrong, pointless, and inexcusable--and he is entirely responsible for his actions. It's also an invaluable window into the mind of a man who represents a way of thinking that is different only in degree, and not in kind, from the thinking of what I think is a substantial swath of the American public. To write him off as a crazy person is to ignore a much greater problem, or even the possibility of such a problem.

BHM pimping hair care products.

Today on the show, Bob mentioned a display at Kroger that was using a Black History Month theme and the names of famous civil rights leaders to sell personal grooming products specifically designed for today's African American, or something. Has Black History Month officially, and finally, jumped the shark? Seems like it, no?

Each picture links to a bigger image...
The whole display (sorry for the fuzziness...damn cell phone cameras):

Close up on the products: Really? Selling hair relaxers under the banner of BHM?

The bottom part of the display, in which the most important figures in the history of the American civil rights movement are offered up to the consumer gods:

1955: Rosa Parks refuses to give up her seat on a bus, presumably with gross, too-curly black person hair.

Sheesh! Should we e-mail the Reverends Jesse Jackson or Al Sharpton and demand action? Seriously considering it...

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Feb 12 links

Here's the link that I, Abe, referred to on Friday's episode.

75% of young americans unfit to serve in the military

- Abe.

Friday, February 5, 2010

White people are stupid...

and here are the commercials to prove it.

On today's episode of The Bob and Abe Show, the guys are discussing a theory that Bob has developed about the way people of different races and genders are consistently portrayed by corporate America in the commercials they use to sell their products. Below are links to a few of the commercials they discuss.

Feel free to send in your own links or thoughts on the issue. Comment here, or e-mail the guys at

The AT&T commercial that really seals the deal for Bob.

Abe's favorite home security commercial. Another example here. And here.

Progressive loves to emasculate men.

Dr. Dre is cooler than the white DJ.

White dude loves beer, but can't commit to his girl.
And here.

Be sure to let us know what you think!

Monday, February 1, 2010

Venezuela's unfairness doctrine

Hugo Chavez 'pressured' cable and satellite providers to no longer carry a news channel that was critical of his government.

This, for some reason, angered many Venezuelans. So a few of them have taken to the streets in protest.

It doesn't take a (political) scientist to figure what happened next.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Pat Robertson is a Great American.

Here's the video of Pat Robertson talking about the deal Haiti made, with the Devil, that sealed their fate hundreds of years ago.

What an asshole.

The Bob and Abe Show.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

NBC: A study in poor judgment

This late-night talk show debacle over at NBC is quite amusing. In every step of the way, NBC got it wrong. Let me briefly chronicle just how we got to this point. Back in 2004, Conan O'Brien was offered The Tonight Show, only he wouldn't take over until five years later. This was not done because Jay Leno was planning on retiring in five years. This was done to prevent Conan from jumping ship to another network. They thought they could get to keep both of their late-night stars with a compromised solution (force Leno out, defer Conan's promotion five years). Well, the only problem with the plan was that Jay Leno had no intentions of retiring when his term as host of The Tonight Show was up.

So as 2009 approached, NBC, fearing Jay Leno would go to another network (ie Fox) and compete against Conan, offered Jay a prime time show at 10 pm. They threw a bunch of money at him and he decided to give it a shot. Most analysts thought a talk show wouldn't draw enough to be viable. Plus, having a comedy show an hour and a half before The Tonight Show would hurt Conan. NBC disagreed. They went ahead with their plan. Just five months into The Jay Leno Show, NBC raised their white flags and conceded defeat. They were, as most analysts wanred them, wrong. A talk show at 10 pm could not compete with scripted programming.

That left Jay Leno without a timeslot. So the NBC braintrust came up with another plan: move Jay Leno back to 11:35 pm, and push Conan to midnight.To get around the contractual hurdles (Conan was due upwards of $45 million if NBC took The Tonight Show from him), NBC plannned to still call Conan's show "The Tonight Show" and Jay Leno's show as, well, The Jay Leno Show. The only thing that could've derailed this plan was Conan O'Brien coming out against the move to midnight. And guess what? Conan O'Brien did just that. On Tuesday, Conan released a statement that went a little something like this:

People of Earth:

In the last few days, I've been getting a lot of sympathy calls, and I want to start by making it clear that no one should waste a second feeling sorry for me. For 17 years, I've been getting paid to do what I love most and, in a world with real problems, I've been absurdly lucky. That said, I've been suddenly put in a very public predicament and my bosses are demanding an immediate decision.

Six years ago, I signed a contract with NBC to take over The Tonight Show in June of 2009. Like a lot of us, I grew up watching Johnny Carson every night and the chance to one day sit in that chair has meant everything to me. I worked long and hard to get that opportunity, passed up far more lucrative offers, and since 2004 I have spent literally hundreds of hours thinking of ways to extend the franchise long into the future. It was my mistaken belief that, like my predecessor, I would have the benefit of some time and, just as important, some degree of ratings support from the prime-time schedule. Building a lasting audience at 11:30 is impossible without both.

But sadly, we were never given that chance. After only seven months, with my Tonight Show in its infancy, NBC has decided to react to their terrible difficulties in prime-time by making a change in their long-established late night schedule.

Last Thursday, NBC executives told me they intended to move the Tonight Show to 12:05 to accommodate the Jay Leno Show at 11:35. For 60 years the Tonight Show has aired immediately following the late local news. I sincerely believe that delaying the Tonight Show into the next day to accommodate another comedy program will seriously damage what I consider to be the greatest franchise in the history of broadcasting. The Tonight Show at 12:05 simply isn't the Tonight Show. Also, if I accept this move I will be knocking the Late Night show, which I inherited from David Letterman and passed on to Jimmy Fallon, out of its long-held time slot. That would hurt the other NBC franchise that I love, and it would be unfair to Jimmy.

So it has come to this: I cannot express in words how much I enjoy hosting this program and what an enormous personal disappointment it is for me to consider losing it. My staff and I have worked unbelievably hard and we are very proud of our contribution to the legacy of The Tonight Show. But I cannot participate in what I honestly believe is its destruction. Some people will make the argument that with DVRs and the Internet a time slot doesn't matter. But with the Tonight Show, I believe nothing could matter more.

There has been speculation about my going to another network but, to set the record straight, I currently have no other offer and honestly have no idea what happens next. My hope is that NBC and I can resolve this quickly so that my staff, crew, and I can do a show we can be proud of, for a company that values our work.

Have a great day and, for the record, I am truly sorry about my hair; it's always been that way.



With Conan's response being a resounding "fuck you" to NBC, the decision now rests with NBC. They can either scrap the whole Jay Leno thing and let Conan and Jimmy (and Carson) keep their current timeslots. Or, they can let Conan walk and give Leno his old show back, for a few more years until Leno actually retires (probably in 5 years or so).

Personally, I think NBC should keep things the way they are with their late night line-up. Conan's show didn't fail; Jay Leno's show did. They should let Leno walk. He will likely go over to Fox and he will likely beat Conan in the ratings for the first year or two. But eventually, Leno and Lettermen will be gone, and Conan will be around, for another 15 years or more. What NBC will lose in the short-term they will make up for it in the long run.

That is what I think NBC should do. That is what the responsible and smart thing to do. The only problem is that throughout this whole process, NBC has made one misguided decision after another. So it wouldn't surprise me at all if NBC screwed over Conan (much like they did with Lettermen 18 years ago). Either way, should be interesting.

p.s. A lot of people are taking sides between Jay Leno and Conan O'Brien, and that's fine. I personally like both of them. I watch both shows.


- Abe.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Link for today's show.

Check out the video we've linked to below. Why doesn't anyone want to have the conversation George Will wants to have?

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Random Thoughts w/ Abe (1.7.10)

New year, new random (albeit brief) thoughts.

So I guess Plaxico Burress' sentence was not harsh enough after all. At least it's not if you subscribe to the theory that prison serves as a deterrent. It has even't been a year since former Giants wide receiver Plaxico Burress was sent to jail for illegal possession of a firearm, and we already have another instance of an athlete toying around with weapons in places where they shouldn't. In case you haven't heard, NBA player Gilbert Arenas, of the Washington Wizards, is believed to have brought four guns to the Wizards locker room. This was done to jokingly settle a gambling dispute with a teammate. Well, the DC police, as well as the NBA commissioner did not find the incident funny. Arenas has been suspended indefinitely from the league, and the police are investigating to see if they can bring up charges against the NBA star. I'm not sure what can be to prevent this sort of thing from happening again, but it seems like two years is not nearly enough.

Do you remember back in the 1980's when Coca-Cola rebranded and redesigned their popular soda drink? Remember how miserably the transition went and how they quickly scratched the whole idea? Well, I don't. I wasn't around these parts back than (too busy in some madrasa in Saudi Arabia). But I did see a documentary that chronicled the disastrous campaign. It seems that we may be witnessing another, similarly botched transition. Over at NBC, the late night shake-up that occurred back in June is being looked at as a disastrous mistake. Conan O'Brien, who took over The Tonight Show, is struggling mightily in the ratings. Ratings for the once-popular show are down 52% over the year before. It appears that Conan retained very little of Leno's audience, and it's likely that not all of his 12:35 audience followed him to his new timeslot. This is nothing new for Conan, though. Things started very rough for him on his old show back 15 years ago, but the network brass stuck with him
long enough for him to build an audience and he eventually became a hit. I'm not sure why that same patient strategy isn't being followed this time around. This story is just a rumor for now, though, so nothing may come of this. But Conan can't be all that comfortable in his new LA pad with this hanging around him. I'd hold on the pool expansion for now.

This Artie Lange story can't end well. Just as the Howard Stern side-kick was turning his life around, word has come out that he stabbed himself nine times in an apparent suicide attempt. Nine times! Holy fucking shit. That is a brutal way to end one's life, no? Not sure what defensive role his extra weight played in surviving the self-attack, but it couldn't have hurt. Either way, at this point I just don't see any way Artie Lange's life can end on a good note. It's practically a fait accompli. Sad story.

Right before I went to sleep last night, I caught the tail end of a documentary on the controversial head of PeTA, the animal rights group that often use aggressive and provocative means to get their point across. The film interviewed animal rights supporters that were divided on whether they thought PeTA's tactics were ultimately an effective or harmful approach. I wasn't aware that there were so many like-minded people who hated the 'in-your-face' approach that the group used. It's a very interesting expose on the whole movement. It's currently on HBO, so do tune in.

Speaking of hippy propoganda, there was a recent shake-up in the species power rankings. The chimpanzee has been leapfrogged by the
dolphin. That's according to many scientists. Not only are dolphins the second smartest in the world, they should be considered as 'non-human persons' and strong consideration should be made about granting them certain rights. Now, whether this story is politically or scientifivally motivated remains to be seen. There is, after all, an ongoing battle between Japanese fishermen and animal rights activists. When asked for comment in light of this scientific finding, the Japanese Prime Minister was quoted as saying:

"Fuck you, dorphins!"


- Abe