February 21, 2004

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:29 PM

February 20, 2004

Eh.

Well, as many others have already noted, it seems almost definite that Ralph Nader's going to run again. And, as many have already noted, four years of outrage at the notion that this is a good idea for getting Bush out of office has led to this personal outburst:

I don't have an outburst. This just isn't worth it anymore.

I like Ralph Nader. I have the utmost respect for what Ralph Nader believes in. But Ralph Nader's campaign is a monument to selfishness. It's selfish for Nader to refuse to concede any belief of adaptation in the Democratic Party- this is exponential to 2000 considering the success and credit owed to Howard Dean for doing so much to help better the Democratic field this year. Nader's core supporters are, ultimately, selfish as well. Whatever "message" they plan to deliver was delivered in 2000, and if it's the same message, it's not going to pull a higher amount of results.

Being a liberal involves acceptance. I accept the views of the die-hard Naderites, just as I accept the opinions from the lunatic fringe of the Left Wing. But just like the people at the anti-war rallies wearing body paint and carrying "Free Mumia while saving the tree moss" posters, I also refuse to pretend I don't see an aura of self-satisfying obliviousness to the realities of the world. The biggest problem with core-Nader fringe left groups is that they seem to think it's always alright to attach their personal crusades to larger goals. Anti-war rallies suddenly become about animal rights. Right-to-choice and gun control rallies beget smaller factions carrying signs protesting rent prices. In the end, the message becomes distorted leaving an already-bored media to show a video of the most embarassing protestors under the title "stupid college students do stupid things, aren't they stupid?" And then, of course, it's my fault for not "deciding for myself" by holding the damn sign with them.

In a nutshell, that's Nader's campaign. It's not progressive, it's parasitic; Nader wouldn't run if the Democratic race hadn't energized people to the process that he now wants to siphon off of now that it's closer to November. The goal of the election is getting Bush out of the White House, and now we have to deal with a silly little fringe group pretending that all these people who pursue that goal are obligated to join up with the fringe just because we're all Democrats. It doesn't work that way.

Ultimately, you feel sorry for those people, and in a sense almost feel angry because they serve as poster children for mocking the left... something far more detrimental to what they think voting for Nader does to "help" it. It's the same anger you might have for Nader, as this move will kill the final sliver of credibility that once resided in a respectable man with a career history of improving the world. Nader in 2004 makes Nader in 1970 less meaningful. That's really a shame.

I'm angry at Nader for running, but I pity him far more for what history will now remember him for. In the end, Ralph is going to have far more regrets for running than anyone ever will for having voted for him. Nader, however, has as much a right to self-destructiveness as his supporters do, and it's just not worth it anymore making an issue out of it.

I don't hate Nader. I don't think anyone has the right to say he shouldn't be allowed to run. And as I've said many times before, I certainly don't "blame him" for Gore not winning Florida (especially since Gore, you know, did.) But Nader's running on a platform for "changing the system." I'm voting for the platform that "gets rid of George W. Bush." If that's not the platform Nader's running on, I'm not voting for him- despite what Nader's supporters will chastize me for, that's called "deciding for myself."

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:57 PM

February 19, 2004

Progress of "the people"

Just in case the analogies weren't clear to everyone yet:

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix.

-Virginia State Supreme Court, in the 1958 Loving v. Virginia ruling, as the reason for upholding laws banning interracial marriage.

At the time that statement was made, which would later be overruled by the Supreme Court, 68% of the country stated they opposed interracial marriage.

God has separated people for His own purpose. He has erected barriers between the nations, not only land and sea barriers, but also ethnic, cultural, and language barriers. God has made people different one from another and intends those differences to remain.

-Statement from Bob Jones University, 1998

Then-Governor George W. Bush would make a campaign appearance at BJU only a year afterwards.

Finally, if you'd like a little more to think about how logical it is for "the people" to decide civil rights, note this news article about Alabama voting to repeal a ban on interracial marriage. At the time of the vote, up to 30 percent of Alabamans claimed in polls that they opposed repealing the ban.

The vote was in 2000.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:49 PM

Speaking of which...

Checking my referral log I came across this site, which mentioned an interesting development in the conservative "let's discuss why everything's wrong with college now that we're in it" movement:

In response to the "Affirmative Action Bake Sale" put on by the College Republicans, the Campus Green will be holding an "Affirmative Bake Sale" tomorrow on Ring Road from 10am - 2pm.

the Campus Greens basically believe that another perspective needs to be represented. we consider Affirmative Action a tool of promoting equal opportunity, and for that reason, all our deliciously baked goodies will be the SAME PRICE, regardless of race/gender/ethnicity/sex/creed/color/religion... we're affirming the equality and positivity (if that's even a word...) of Affirmative Action.

please come say hello to us, and help us fundraise by buying our delectable treats.

So you can go to the conservatives' bake sales... or you can go to the one that celebrates equality.

I believe the word we're looking for is "checkmate."

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:46 AM

Flashback Thursday

World O'Crap's hilarious coverage of the new trend in "outing" the alleged "discriminatory liberalism" of college campuses reminds me of this strip I did about a year and a half ago.

The joke, of course, being that your average college campus contains a heavy quantity of professors you might construe as "liberal," though it borders the irrelevant in that the average college student sadly doesn't give a crap about any of this. The main hope I have for my generation is that it overcomes this and chooses to not be the demographic least associated with active participation in politics.

This isn't to say they aren't a lot of politically-motivated students- clearly there are. But I think the problem with campus activism, especially liberalism, is the lack of boots on the ground come election day. NYU had a fame of sorts for near-daily protest encounters with the animal-rights people, the pro-Israel people, the pro-Palestine people, the pro-whatever people. And then, of course, boom- 18-25 years olds, again the least common voting bloc.

Where you see this trend the least, hence the "outrage" from conservatives, is in the College Republicans. With the perceived "liberal" bias, these groups mostly exist for the sole purpose of getting students to be Republican voters. It's not a group that exists in a sharing of goals, it's a group that exists in sharing complaints. There isn't any real rise in conservatism on campus because there really isn't a rise in activism in general on campus; students are considered "liberal" because youth is, by nature, anti-establishment. They're not all waking up one morning and realizing they're conservative. Campuses are getting complaints to add Fox News because a bunch of conservatives win tote bags for doing it. And there's the real "rise of incentive:" fake outrage about liberal bias to force conservative bias on campus, and win fabulous prizes.

It's easy to say something silly like "there's more liberals on campus because liberals are smarter." Clearly that's not true. George Will is a smart conservative. Pat Buchanan is a smart conservative; he's just a bigoted asshole. Ann Coulter was book-smart enough to get a law degree; she's now suffering from a brain-eating parasite. Or, more likely, she just is one.

But I think the objectivism is the real factor: conservatives, as their campus youth proves, are oriented not towards pursuit of dialogue, but pursuit of message delivery. This isn't about discussing if Fox is biased or not, it's about demanding it's on campus cable or else. That's hardly the mindset of acadamia- in fact, that seems to be the very form of "indoctrination" these conservative blacklist-wannabes are whining about. If that's a general mindset for conservative thinkers, it's likely a reason for a lack of conservatism on campus if that's how "delivering" the conservative message works.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 11:36 AM

Site Update: Countdown to Election 2004

I think we all owe Bob Harris a good deal of thanks for his idea of "countdown timers" for when Bush leaves office.

You might notice that the random ad bar to the right now occasionally shows a countdown timer to Election Day. Later down the road I'll update it to link to resources for registering to vote and other information. I'll also update it later down the road at the inevitable moment when I realize I probably got the countdown algorithm incorrect.

I got a lot of code from sources around the net, mostly this one here, combined with actually putting some of my own ActionScript knowledge to use, but that's just for a Flash-based timer. If you want to make one or have one for yourself like Bob suggested, there's ample resources out there for you to use.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 1:52 AM

February 18, 2004

Life immitates immitation of news

Several readers noted that this came out pretty much an hour after my previous announcement of my new day job.

Ouch.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 10:02 PM

You might notice that there's

You might notice that there's no new strip this week. This is a result of a sudden change in daily routine that prevented the strip from being made, revolving around the sudden and repeated celebrations of my sudden acquision of employment.

Due to a series of events far too complicated to explain, I've somehow become the Legislative Director for Loretta Weinberg, my district's Assemblywoman for the New Jersey state legislature. Which, in the political sense, is awesome, what with her being what you call a "institution of Democratic principles" or whatever else the seventy thousand plaques on her wall credit her for. She's a very nice lady.

What this means for the content of the site is, at least I hope, nothing. I'm going to be open about working in the public sector now, but at the same time I think it's clear that, much as it has for the last two years, this site is mine and my views and does not express the views and policies of others. So that's that.

As far as the maintnance of the site goes, I in no way plan to stop trying to be a cartoonist, and I'm certainly not giving up writing about politics just because I'm suddenly getting paid to work in my favorite thing in the entire world. The best advice I ever got about wanting to be a professional cartoonist was "don't quit your day job."

For the first time since I started putting the strips online, I actually have a day job to not quit. I'm going to honor that by not quitting this either.

There's probably going to be lags in the near future as I adjust to a new schedule and work pattern, and of course I want to do more updates to the site design when I can, but other than that, we'll be back to business as usual soon enough. As for expressing my happiness, there is, as always, only one thing we can do.

And that, my friends, is breakdance.


Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:39 AM

February 17, 2004

Putting money where their mouths are

I'm sure you've all dealt with the right-wing blogger/pundit declaring that "skeptical leftists" should just "go to Iraq to see how better it is over there."

Well, guess what, Ted Rall is taking them up on their offer.

So, let's hear it... how many right-wing bloggers are ready to put their money where their mouths keyboards are and send Ted to Iraq?

Note: keep in mind, despite your wishes, Ted will be coming back, I assume.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:25 PM

With apologies to the copywriter who drew the short one

Something tells me they had to draw straws over at Polaroid to decide who had to feel like an idiot releasing press statements like this:

Outkast fans like to "shake it like a Polaroid picture," but the instant camera maker is warning consumers that taking the advice of the hip-hop stars could ruin your snapshots.

Outkast's number one hit "Hey Ya" includes the "shake it" line as a reference to the motion that amateur photographers use to help along the self-developing film.

But in the "answers" section on the Polaroid Web site the company says that shaking photos, which once helped them to dry, is not necessary since the modern version of Polaroid film dries behind a clear plastic window.

A Polaroid spokesman added: "Almost everybody does it, thinking that shaking accelerates the development process, but if you shake it too vigorously you could distort the image. A casual shake typically doesn't affect it."

Polaroid said its film should be laid on a flat surface and shielded from the wind, and that users should avoid bending or twisting their pictures.

Of course, "lay it on a flat surface like a Polaroid picture," doesn't sound nearly as cool.

And a national crisis is averted.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:46 PM

February 16, 2004

Just... just... why?

Giant Microbe Plush Toys.

We make stuffed animals that look like tiny microbes�only a million times actual size! Now available: The Common Cold, The Flu, Sore Throat, Stomach Ache, Bad Breath, Kissing Disease, Athlete's Foot, Ulcer, Martian Life, Beer & Bread, Black Death, Ebola, Dust Mite, Bed Bug, and Bookworm.

Each 5-to-7 inch doll is accompanied by an image of the real microbe it represents, as well as information about the microbe.


Posted by August J. Pollak at 8:58 PM

The boys who cried elephant

Jesse and Oliver both note the complete lack of... well... anything that accounts for truth in Drudge's Kerry "intern" scandal. No affair. No illicit relationship. She wasn't even an intern.

For sure, there's pro-GOP people out there who will be screaming that Kerry's an adulterer months from now because frankly that's just how they want to be heard, but in the long run you have to ask more if this was a ploy from Democratic strategists rather than Republican... I mean, anyone can take a semi-important story and spin it into the most important aspect of the political season, but when something like this is just proven to be completely and utterly false it makes the entire anti-Kerry establishment look like complete morons.

As far as this crying wolf smear campaign goes, I'm leaning towards saying "keep it up, guys." Every story proven to be garbage makes the Plame affair and the AWOL issue look even worse when you compare tangible evidence. The axe swings both ways, and GOP strategists had better learn that the more lies that circulate trying to make Kerry look bad, the more truths are going to be highlighted that make Bush look even worse.

That said, here's to the hope that Kerry really, really, really hasn't done anything stupid.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 4:54 PM

Your lesson in human rights for the day

The pro-war folks who still want to believe that the United States has always cared about the pursuit of human rights and the immediacy of removing brutal dictators who torture their own people have are allowed all the time in the world after reading stuff like this to sit alone in the darkness and grasp for a way to keep reassuring themselves.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 12:46 AM

February 15, 2004

Says it all, doesn't it

College Republicans create "Whites Only" scholarship to protest Affirmative Action:

The application for the $250 award requires an essay on "why you are proud of your white heritage" and a recent picture to "confirm whiteness."

"Evidence of bleaching will disqualify applicants," says the application, issued by the university's College Republicans.

Jason Mattera, 20, who is president of the College Republicans, said the group is parodying minority scholarships.

"We think that if you want to treat someone according to character and how well they achieve academically, then skin color shouldn't really be an option," he said. "Many people think that coming from a white background you're automatically privileged, you're automatically rich and your parents pay full tuition. That's just not the case."

Mattera, who is of Puerto Rican descent, is himself a recipient of a $5,000 scholarship open only to a minority group.



Posted by August J. Pollak at 7:42 PM

In which the artist deals with a huge series of misconceptions about abortion rights

I got an e-mail from a reader defining themselves as "reluctantly
pro-life" who had a "quick comment" about abortion. Which, despite being about 1,200 words, actually is quick in comparison to some of the stuff anti-Choice nutjobs have sent me. The author of the e-mail is certainly not a nutjob, but their e-mail really doesn't have much in terms of accuracy for their rationale.

I'm in the position of being sort of reluctantly pro-life. Not because I believe blastocysts have souls, as you put it (I don't believe anyone has a soul), but because:

1. From the moment of fertilization, embryos are alive. - as far as I can tell, this is an incontrovertible scientific fact. Let me know if we disagree on this basic premise.
2. From the moment of fertilization, embryos have a complete human genome. - that's the definition of fertilization

Thus, from the moment of fertilization, an embryo is a living human being. Since I'm opposed to killing living human beings (a shocking position, I know... :P ), how can I not be opposed to abortion or this sort of stem cell research?

This is faulty logic. I'm against the death penalty and killing human beings as well- but abortion is neither a malicious form of killing nor is it killing a human being.

Yes, blasocysts are "alive." But the only "life" in a cell cluster is the concept of "life" that applies to the rest of the human body- your skin is a living organ. Your hair and fingernails are alive and continuously grow. No one- even women's clinics- suggest that a fetus isn't a living part of the body. But so is a cancer, and no one has an objection to removing that.

Fetuses and cancers are the same in that they both cannot exist independent of the host containing them. They differ in that only the fetus has the potential to eventually become an independently living organism. Therefore, the argument for the uniqueness of an embryo is not in its existence, but it's potential.

As for Statement 2, that is just incorrect. Fertilization is most certainly not defined by having the complete human genome, as every cell in the human body- hair, skin, nails, blood- contains your entire genetic structure. Fertilization is the process in which two halves of a male and female's chromosome set merge to form a complete genome that will makeup the embryo, but it is certainly not the singular bastion of genetic structure. As we've seen in countless sci-fi movies, it's theoretically possible to derive a complete clone of any living being from a single strand of hair or drop of blood.

The rest of the "life begins at conception" argument is thoroughly disseminated at the ever-useful Liberalism Resurgent.

I've tried to find compelling pro-choice arguments. I've looked around Planned Parenthood web sites, and some feminist sites (can't remember the URLs, it was some time back). The arguments seem to come down to:

1. It's SMALL! In other words, the "clump of cells" argument. Not very
impressive to me, as I am opposed to killing small living human beings as
well as large living human beings.

2. It's CHOICE! In other words, the convenience of the mother supercedes
the life of the embryo/fetus. I don't understand how a rational person can
think that anything other than a life-threatening situation can justify
taking someone else's life, though.

3. It's DUMB! In other words, at very early stages of development, the
embryo doesn't have a brain.

Number three is the only one in the bunch that even begins to approach rationality. It does so by seeking a different definition of human life
(ie, "has-a-human-brain", or "has-sentience"). I'm prepared to consider
this, but it seems like a dangerous prospect. Does a person in a coma
qualify? More interesting - this point of development clearly happens at
some point before birth, so even argument three leads to problems with some abortions, right?

To start, both Planned Parenthood and NOW have extensive resources on abortion and abortion rights, so if you couldn't find enough information there you're not trying very hard.

As for the three arguments disagreed with, the first problem is the way the arguments have been misinterpreted. No credible pro-choice organization uses the size of a fetus as an excuse for abortion- the concept of its size is relative to the fact that it is clearly not a developed, self-functional human being- that the reader considers an embryo a "being" is the crux of this fallacy. Likewise, no one actually argued that a fetus is "dumb," but notes that it has no developed brain, or for that matter organs or limbs or body systems of any kind.

If a fetus was suddenly removed from the body after only a week of fertilization, it would be dead instantly. Yet this process happens more often than not- the fact that an egg becomes fertilized does not guarantee it will not still be expunged from the body with a woman's period, or through miscarriage, or that that the egg will simply not stick to the uterus and therefore never begin the next stage of development. Women effectivly "self-abort" fertilized eggs as a natural function; just as men effectively "self-abort" several million sperm each time they have an orgasm.

The choice argument cleverly uses the word "convenience-" a buzzword helpful in implicating that a woman controlling her body is an act of selfishness. This is illogical in many aspects, the largest being that calling a woman feeling that abortion is "convenience" versus the desire of the embryo implies that the embryo has desire... which it doesn't. The argument that it's unfair to abort a fetus for the convenience of the mother is as silly as arguing it's unfair to kill your hair for the convenience of cutting it. Outside of the most extreme ends of religion, no one would argue that using a condom for the "convenience" of preventing pregnancy is unfair as it deprives the potential for an egg to be fertilized and become a child. Is not having sex one month allowing "convenience" to override the chance to make a baby?

In other words, the argument against a right to abortion for the sake of allowing a child to possibly live one day is patently illogical- the argument demands that the personal rights of an individual to do what they want is overridden by the belief that they might do something later.

The coma argument is covered in the above link- dependency is not the same thing as viability- the latter being the only true term that applies to a growing fetus.

I'm not a religious zealot, quite the opposite. In fact, for the most part, my beliefs are quite liberal. I just don't get why pro-choice became the liberal position. Other than, of course, we want women to vote for our candidates, and we think this is the way to get 'em.
If religion is not one's basis for their views on abortion then there is truly no argument one can provide through science that goes against it. Morals and personal faith are as irrelevant to the scientific concept of personhood as they are to the fact that the earth orbits the sun. Science proves that preventing a pregnancy from coming to turn not only occurs naturally but is clearly reasonable to induce directly.

Clearly, most people do not like abortion- no one is "for it" as if we're happy to see women undergo potentially-dangerous medical procedures. But a liberal view of individual rights is required for the key steps in abortion rights- better funding and awareness for women's health services, and better education about a woman's choices in her reproductive ability.

Despite the religious and right-wing rhetoric, groups like PP and NOW are not advocates of abortion. They are advocates of safer, healthier, and more educated women. A lack of services for women, especially overseas in underfunded countries, brings more unwanted children into poverty and and more women into the risk or severe physical trauma. Conservatives, ironically, oppose programs that teach sexual education and birth control to women, which given the whole of written history are far more likely to reduce the need for abortions later down the line than pretending that women should never take control of their own bodies, be it before sex or after.

Update: I'm leaving up what I wrote because I'm confident my points are relevant, but many readers have reminded me why my analogies are a little faulty: the exposed parts of nails and hair, as well as the outermost layer of skin, are actually dead cells. This really doesn't change any of the relevant parts of the argument, but I'm noting it since it stops any extreme-right anti-choice people from declaring victory through better memory of high school biology rather than actually proving personhood at conception.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 6:15 PM

News channel picture fun!

Readers found some interesting things to do and see with the graphics department of your favorite cable news affiliates.

First, Mark at DigitalMediaTree took some screenshots of Bush's Meet the Press interview, in which the closed captioning gives even more credence to the image of our fearless leader.

Second, cartoonist Jake Young sends along a still-active link to the White House's report on Iraq, aptly titled "Denial and Deception." They mean Saddam, of course. I think.

Posted by August J. Pollak at 5:10 PM