The truth behind the fiction of the Republican National Convention

    I’m tempted to focus tonight on the xenophobic outbursts and the racist attacks that were witnessed yesterday at the Republican National Convention, but, instead, I thought that I’d share a few observations that others have made concerning the “We Built It” theme, which has been so central to this week’s proceedings in Tampa. (As you’ll recall, the “We Built It” meme began in earnest a few weeks ago, when the Romney campaign released a misleading television ad entitled “These Hands”, in which President Obama is heard telling the entrepreneurs of America that they didn’t, contrary to what they might think, build their own companies. What Obama had actually said is that business owners benefit from shared infrastructure, like bridges and highways, which we all build together, but the audio had been edited in such a way as to reinforce the prevalent Republican narrative that Obama is a Socialist, who, in the words of RNC Chair Reince Priebus, doesn’t even know how to run a garage sale. No, in the eyes of Obama, Priebus would have you believe, it’s government that creates companies, not rugged, hard working, American individuals.) So, the past few days have been spent by Republican party leaders, whipping up their supporters, who apparently don’t realize that they’re inside a convention center that was built with public funds, into an orgasmic froth of anti-government frenzy by repeatedly dropping the phrase, “We Built It,” like it was the most clever buzz phrase since Bush the Elder said, “Read My Lips.” Here’s a photo. (Note the incredible irony in the image.)

    Of course, as we all know, the debt isn’t the fault of the Republicans… at least not if you listen to the people on the podium in Florida. Here, with more on that, is an except from today’s Washington Post column by Greg Sargent about Paul Ryan’s keynote last night… a speech, by the way, that was even called dishonest by Fox News. (Just how bad does something on the right have to be before before Fox News expresses outrage? I don’t know that I’ve seen it happen before.)

    It was, by any reasonable standards, a staggering, staggering lie. Here’s Paul Ryan about Barack Obama.

    “He created a bipartisan debt commission. They came back with an urgent report. He thanked them, sent them on their way, and then did exactly nothing.”

    “They.” “Them.” “Them.” Those words are lies. Because Paul Ryan was on that commission. “Came back with an urgent report.” That is a lie. The commission never made any recommendations for Barack Obama to support or oppose. Why not? Because the commission voted down its own recommendations. Why? Because Paul Ryan, a member of the commission, voted it down and successfully convinced the other House Republicans on the commission to vote it down.

    That wasn’t the only bit of mendacity – lazy mendacity, incredibly lazy mendacity – in Ryan’s speech. Twitter lit up as soon as he started telling the story of the Janesville auto plant that Barack Obama didn’t save – a plant that, it turns out, closed before Obama was president. And of course there’s the infamous cuts to Medicare that Ryan lambasted Obama for without happening to mention that those very same cuts were in Paul Ryan’s own budget…

    And this is from coverage of Ryan’s speech in The New Republic.

    …Ryan said “President Obama has added more debt than any other president before him” and proclaimed “We need to stop spending money we don’t have.” In fact, this decade’s big deficits are primarily a product of Bush-era tax cuts and wars. And you know who voted for them? Paul Ryan…

    So, yes, when they show the national debt ticker above a sign that says “We Built It,” they’re being uncharacteristically truthful. And, if you don’t believe me, here’s the graph from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities that proves it.

    But we like the idea that Obama is a free spending Socialist who wants nothing more than to take all of the money from hard working white people and hand it over to lazy blacks, and there are no number of facts that can dissuade us from the belief that this is what’s happening. It doesn’t matter that, in reality, the government is growing less under Obama than it has at any point in the last 60 years. All that matters is that we know in our hearts that he’s doing things like removing the work requirement for those receiving Welfare. He isn’t, of course, but that’s beside the point. Facts, as we discussed yesterday, don’t matter anymore. No, we’re way beyond that.

    update: The photo at the told of the post, showing the debt clock hanging above the “We Built It” sign, is a composite. Both signs did appear at the Republican National Convention in Tampa, but they were not situated on the same side of the arena, as they’re shown to be in the image. The Atlantic, and several other news sources, unknowingly shared the image, as I did. As both appeared at the convention, I’m going to keep the photo in the post, but I wanted to be clear that it was a composite. Honesty, it would seem, is still important to some of us.

    Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

    The Ypsi Film Shootout

    A few weeks ago, upon hearing that a local film competition was being planned, I submitted a list of questions to the organizers. Well, I just received the following answers from Mark Ducker, the man behind the Ypsi 24-Hour Film Shootout. (As his response came in the form of one long message, I’ve broken it up a bit so that it would fit into the following Q&A format. If you’d like to see our unedited exchange, just let me know.) Online registration for the event, for those of you who are interested in participating, begins on September 1. And the event itself is scheduled to begin at 6:00 PM on October 5, at Ypsilanti’s Mix Marketplace.

    MAYNARD: As you may know, the Ann Arbor Film Festival has overseen something similar here in the past, in association with Ypsilanti’s annual Shadow Art Fair. They called their competition Cinema Sports, and, by all accounts, people seemed to like it. The big difference with what you’re planning, from what I can tell, is the amount of prize money. While the organizers of the Shadow Art Fair gave out a few hundred dollars, I hear that you’re talking about a giving out over $2,000 in prize money. Let’s start there. Can you tell us how the prize money will be divided?

    DUCKER: I’m aware of the Cinema Sports competition… As for prize money, we plan the judges to make awards for first place, second place, and honorable mention. Plus, an audience award will be given to a “winner” picked by those in attendance at the public screening on October 7th. The entry process will online beginning on Sept. 1, open through Sept. 27. Only those who register via the online process will be eligible to submit a “film” to the competition.

    [note: According to the competition website, which was just updated, the first place winner of the competition receives $1,000 in cash and an award, called “The Ipsy.” The team taking second place receives $500. The team coming in third receives $250. And, the winner of the Peoples Choice Award takes home $500.]

    MAYNARD: According to your website, you’re looking for “Founding Partners” to help sponsor the event. What kind of sponsors are you looking for, and do you have any lined up as of right now?

    DUCKER: I am spearheading this event through my company, Wild Rose Pictures LC, with partner support from the owners of Mix/Mix Marketplace and WDEE-TV.COM… We are actively seeking sponsors at all levels, although given that YPSI 24 is a first-time event and the calendar is a factor, we are really looking to garner a “bunch” of lower level sponsorships (although I’m still very much receptive to another significant sponsor or two – say at $2000). The term “Founding Sponsor” is really a pitch to anyone/entity who would like to help get this inaugural event off the ground. As you know, every event seeks a big “presenting sponsor,” but we’re new on the street and this is basically the wrong time of the year to have such expectations. As they say, wait ’til next year. I’m working on a promotion for sponsors at the $50 level to see how that goes. We have received a good contribution from the YPSI CVB that is big boost, as well as a sponsorship from the Corner Brewery, and an individual. The pitch goes on.

    MAYNARD: Will you be charging people to participate? If so, how much?

    DUCKER: The entry fee is $25 (plus a service fee estimated at $2.50).

    MAYNARD: Ideally, how many teams would you like to have participating?

    DUCKER: We’re targeting 100 entries.

    MAYNARD: Who will your judges be?

    DUCKER: At this point, the three judges include a faculty member at EMU, an adjunct faculty member at WCC, and an area independent filmmaker. I don’t want to release their names yet as something has come up regarding the filmmaker’s availability, so I want to hold the names until I can make an announcement of the jury all at once. I may have to find a replacement judge. However, I do want firm commitments by first of next week.

    MAYNARD: According to what I’ve read, the winning films will be shared via a website called WDEE-TV.COM, which, as I understand it, is a Michigan-based internet television channel. Would I be right to assume that you have an interest in that as well?

    Assuming you do have an interest in WDEE-TV.COM, I’m curious to know what the long term strategy is. As it is, it looks like you’re just getting off the ground, offering non-copyrighted videos, and offering a broadcast platform for regional non-profits that have the capacity to produce video. I’m assuming, however, you see this evolving into something else. Could you perhaps talk about that?

    DUCKER: I have no “interest” in WDEE-TV.COM. That organization is a partner in this event and is offering support in getting it off the ground, including working with me to set up a kind of “YPSI 24-Hour Film Shootout Channel” for future viewings of the entries as well as profiles of the winning filmmakers. Any questions about the business model for the Internet TV station would need to go to the Manger, Tony Dixon.

    MAYNARD: Would WDEE-TV own the broadcast rights to the films that are produced as a part of this competition?

    DUCKER: [awaiting response]

    MAYNARD: Other than announcing the elements that need to be incorporated into the film, on the day of the competition, are there any other restrictions, or things that people will need to be cognizant of? For instance, are there geographic restrictions, or can people compete remotely? Are there a maximum number of members that can be on any team? Will there by any guidance concerning genre? For instance, might you urge people toward comedy, away from horror, etc?

    DUCKER: There will be a short list of elements that each entry must include, and that list will be obtained at the Kickoff on October 5. The Official Rules can be found here. There is no limit to how many people can be on a filmmaking team. However, there must be a designated Team Leader who submits the entry and is the official representative. There is no geographical limitation to participation, but it can’t be “remote.” After entry, someone must appear in person to get the info packet on October 5, at the Mix Marketplace, and then the entry must be submitted in person 24 hours later, at the Mix Marketplace. I’m intrigued with the idea of a short turnaround film contest in which the entrants upload their work for an online review, but not for this one. I continue to talk with interested parties for future film events.

    As for the elements of the competition, the required length will be 4-7 min, with the genre being up to the filmmakers. There will be an overview for “taste” but that will be reviewed on a case-by-case basis, as the entries are viewed by the judges. We certainly would not air something of a “hate rant” or a portrayal of excess violence or gore (although in such short turnaround films, attempted gore portrayal is usually more comical than horror). The judges will have autonomous jurisdiction to determine if the entry meets the requirements and on the creative merits of each program to determine their awards.

    MAYNARD: It’s kind of a tangent, but I’m curious as to whether you’re aware of the Hump competition in Portland?

    DUCKER: I have not heard of the Hump competition in Portland.

    MAYNARD: It there anything else you’d like to say… perhaps about your long range goals?

    DUCKER: This event is a part of my plan for future “film events” in Ypsilanti, but this is one that, by its nature, will garner community engagement (and therefor promotable interest), especially for the community of filmmakers who enter the contest.

    Posted in Uncategorized, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

      Would the Republican leaders of yesteryear have engaged in birtherism?

      I find myself, for some reason I don’t quite understand, watching grainy, old footage of William F. Buckley this evening, instead of doing something that I might actually enjoy, like reading the motivational affirmations of Old Spice pitchman and rising action star Terry Crews. I think, subconsciously, the seed was planted earlier today, when I read what Rush Limbaugh had to say about Hurricane Isaac being a conspiracy perpetrated by the Obama administration in order to disrupt the Republican National Convention. I must have thought to myself, when I heard that, “Things couldn’t always have been like this,” and made a mental note to investigate it further. For whatever reason, tonight, after putting the kids to bed, I started searching for documentary footage of past Republican intellectuals, trying to prove to myself that there was in fact a time when leaders on the right wouldn’t have publicly engaged in the active perpetuation of conspiracy theories, like Romney did yesterday, when he referenced Obama’s birth certificate, and the kind of non-fact-based nonsense that we’re so used to seeing from Limbaugh and others today.

      So, that’s how I think I came to spend my evening getting reacquainted with Buckley. I don’t know that I’ve gleaned anything incredible from the exercise thus far, but it’s been interesting. I’ve seen him threaten to beat up Gore Vidal, trade quips with Woody Allen, and summarily dismiss Noam Chomsky. I’ve seen him argue facts vehemently, and, one could argue, obnoxiously, but, as far as I can tell, he, at no point in any of these exchanges, left the shared reality of those with whom he was arguing. He was clearly a prick, but I don’t get the sense that he was lying. Or, to put it another way, my sense is that he would have been horrified if he’d been found to have said anything that couldn’t have been backed up. In other words, I don’t think he would have said, as a Romney staffer did yesterday, “We’re not going to let our campaign be dictated by fact-checkers.” My sense is that it was important to him to be perceived as both correct and trustworthy.

      At this point in the post, I should probably add that I’m not naive. I know about the “rat fucking” of the Nixon administration, and I know about the race-baiting perpetrated by Lee Atwater and the Republicans into the 80′s. I remember Willie Horton. I know that dirty tricks have been around forever, especially as they involve race, and that politicians have always lied and manipulated their way into power, on both sides, by exploiting wedge issues and taking advantage of the fearful and the poorly informed. Still, though, I have the sense that there used to be such a thing as a Republican intellectual – a leader who had an appreciation of history, a grasp of the facts (even if they were misused), and at least a grudging respect for the truth and the perception of integrity. And, with all that said, it pains me greatly to see things like the following clip from RNC Chairman Reince Priebus, a clear intellectual lightweight, trying to laugh off Romeny’s recent mention of Obama’s birth certificate as something other than an attempt to paint our black President as the “other”. If I were a real Republican, it would make me irate. Unfortunately, I don’t think real Republicans… in the mold of Eisenhower, or, for that matter, even Reagan… exist anymore.


      It’s absolutely sickening and pathetic that this is what the people of America have allowed the Republican party to become… In 25 short years, we’ve gone from William F. Buckley, the Yale-educated founder of the National Review, to the likes of Reince Priebus and Newt Gignrich, the disgraced former Congressman who failed to earn tenure as a history professor at West Georgia University. It terrifies me to consider what the next 25 years might hold.

      Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 33 Comments

      Sending the wrong message with Instagram

      Today, after seeing the doctor about my persistent cough, I want to the drug store, to pick up the inhalers that I’d been prescribed. And, while there, waiting, I strolled around, looking at stuff, and coughing on things. I found two things to be particularly interesting. In front of Better Homes and Garden magazine, I saw a copy a new publication entitled Fifty Shades of American Women Who Love the Book and Live the Life. While I admit my knowledge of the best selling Fifty Shades of Grey series is somewhat limited, I know that the central character is a young virgin who gives herself over to an older, wealthy sadist who, among other things, brings her to orgasm by “assaulting” her with a riding crop. While I don’t have any problem with what adults want to do in the privacy of their own homes, even if it does sound like something out of one of Ayn Rand’s masturbatory fantasies, I find it funny that anyone would walk into Walgreens and happily self-identify as someone who “lives the life” of a sex slave. And I found it even funnier that, according to the blurb on the cover, this issue contains “Christian inspired cocktail” recipes! (That tells me quite a bit about the demographic reading this series.) So, I took a picture, and posted it to Instagram. And, then, a few minutes later, I found something else that I found funny, and took another picture, which I likewise posted to Instagram. This time it was an $8 piece of plastic advertised as a Premium Pill Crusher. As a marketing person, I liked that they used the word “premium,” in order to differentiate from all the other pice-of-shit pill crushers out there, like the terribly confusing bottom of the water glass that my grandmother used to use. So, I posted these two images, got my inhalers, and went about the business of sucking down poison in parking lot, in hopes that it might finally bring the coughing fits to an end… And that’s when I heard my phone beep, indicating that someone had sent a comment. It was my young friend Josh. His comment? “Looks like someone’s having a party.”

      It hadn’t occurred to me how the two images might look when posted alongside one another. So, now, apparently some folks think that I’m crushing up pills in preparation for a wild night if sadistic assaults on young, Christian virgins. Let that be a lesson to all of you on Instagram.

      It kind of reminds me of an idea I had a long time ago for a game in which a bunch of people would go to Wal-Mart together and each try to select three items that, when put together in front of a cashier, would be the most troubling… For instance, one might select the complete first season of Toddlers and Tiaras on DVD, a case of lube, and a giant American flag blanket. (Most of the best ideas, I find, incorporate lube and/or rat traps.) I called it, Walmarting. Unfortunately, I never took any effort to protect the idea, and I’m sure someone else has done it by now. There’s probably even a reality television show in production.

      Posted in Mark's Life, Pop Culture, Special Projects, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

      Do yo think “Life Begins at Rape” bumper stickers would sell at the RNC?

      People are up in arms this evening over something that vice presidential candidate Paul Ryan said recently, when asked to comment on his fellow Republican Todd Akin’s statements concerning “legitimate rape”. (As you’ll recall, Akin, who is running for Senate, had said that “real” rapes don’t result in pregnancy, implying that women who claim to have become pregnant by rape were in fact complicit in the act.) Ryan didn’t, at least from what I heard, say that Akin’s comments were offensive, ridiculous and run contrary to everything we know about human physiology, but that’s not what people are upset about. (Ryan just said that Akin’s comments were bad for the party, and that he should bow out of the race.) No, people are upset that Ryan referred to rape as just another “method of conception.” He’s technically right, of course. Rape is a means of conception. But apparently people don’t like it when their vice presidential candidates appear, through poor word choice, to legitimize rape… making it sound as though rape is just one of many ways available to us men who want to have children. Personally, I respect Ryan in this instance, as he appears to be pretty straightforward on the issue, saying that he does not believe that the victims of rape should be able to terminate the resulting pregnancies. Regardless of whether he chooses to refer to rape as a “method of conception,” I think that should be enough to disqualify him in the eyes of every American woman, but what do I know? Apparently some women like being told that rape is a precious gift from God… Here’s the video. Let me know what you think.

      Upon watching it again, it does sound as though Ryan is working for a marketing firm tasked with rebranding rape, and making it more palatable. When he describes rape as another form of conception, it kind of brings to mind the, “Pork- The other white meat” campaign. I can can picture the ads now… “Rape- The other form of conception”.

      Or, here’s an even better idea. And I bet that we could make a lot of money money with it… What if we make “Conception Begins at Rape” bumper stickers, and sell them at the Republican National Convention tomorrow?

      Or, I guess, it would actually be “Life Begins at Rape,” right?

      Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

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