Monday, March 29, 2010

The Price Tag

I need to get on top of this because I'm pretty sure we're going to hear a LOT of anti-democratic lynch mob type stuff - and it's completely understandable, however wrong it might be.

But this is exactly what we lost during the Bush/Cheney administration.  Respect for the law, accepting that we are a nation of laws, that the very freedoms we value are universal in nature, and that defending non-controversial rights is easy, it's the distasteful and disgusting that challenge our understanding of the true meaning of freedom.  And that's what this is.

To deny freedom to Fred Phelps is ultimately to deny freedom to you and me.  Truly, the slope is THAT slippery, and the bastions that fragile.  He's a most disgusting, horrific creature, but we have to allow him to be that, in order to protect and defend our rights to challenge those in power, to question the decisions of our leadership and to call out for protest against that which we don't accept.  Ultimately, it was wrong-headed to try to silence him, and that attempt had it's own consequences, as we can see.  But we need to embrace this decision, as painful as that might be, because the alternative is a place we would not recognize, although a Chinese or Egyptian citizen certainly would.

Now, if somebody were to accept the consequences of their actions and punch Fred Fucking Phelps in the mouth, I'd be the very first in line to contribute to his legal defense fund.  But like so many things, we have to understand that is an extralegal response to legal speech, and that way ultimately leads to the muzzling of us all....

Thursday, March 25, 2010

You are Disturbing Me. I am Picking Mushrooms

I LOVE this dood.  He's my new hero.  Here's the story if you are unfamiliar with the saga of Grigory Perleman, mathmatician extrordinaire and all around crazy person.  And yes, I will use the picking mushrooms phrase repeatedly until you want to beat me to death with a shovel.  Get over it.

Monday, March 22, 2010

John McCain Stops Yelling at Clouds Long Enough to Yell at You and Me

We knew he was a crazy, senile old tool, but this is...Something:

Democrats shouldn’t expect much cooperation from Republicans the rest of this year, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) warned Monday.
McCain and another Republican senator decried the effect health reform legislation has had on the Senate, a day after the House passed the upper chamber’s bill.

GOP senators emerged Monday to caution that the health debate had taken a toll on the institution, warning of little work between parties the rest of this year.

“There will be no cooperation for the rest of the year,” McCain said during an interview Monday on an Arizona radio affiliate. “They have poisoned the well in what they’ve done and how they’ve done it.”
 Seriously, John?  No co-operation for the rest of this year?  Good thing you told us, because otherwise we wouldn't have been able to even notice the difference, and you might have gotten even more angry.  This is laughable - does McCain even realize that the Republicans haven't offered an iota co-operation and have publically rooted for President Obama to fail, and it's the Democrats that have poisoned the well?  Bizarre.  

But here's the thing about strategic weapons, and total, salted earth obstruction has to be considered a political strategic weapon - they are only an effective deterrent until you use them.  After you have deployed your strategic weapons, you no longer can effectively threaten to do so.  And if you do, you look like a silly, bitter, demented old man.


Sunday, March 21, 2010

Well, I'll be Damned!

Congratulations, America.  Honestly, I never thought it would happen.  Here's to Barack Obama, who finally decided to invest some skin in the game.  Here's to Nancy Pelosi, the bulldog of Capitol Hill and my personal hero.  Hell, here's even to the feckless, cowardly Harry Reid who managed to get the one crucial Christmas Eve vote through his ego-drenched and badly dysfunctional body.  Good work all around.

Because of what you have done here today, a lot of people can look to the future with some hope.  This is no small thing...

America's Newest Hero

Power isn't handed off with a title or a position.  Power isn't given, or awarded, or designated.  Power isn't even truly earned.  Power is the product of work, courage, strength and yes, success.  People who fail are seldom powerful, and powerful people seldom fail.  Speaker Pelosi has power because she never slowed down, she never backed up, and she never backed away from her own beliefs.  Today is a good day to be an American, but it is her day, too.

And I salute her.

Waiting for the Stupid to Get Ugly

The problem with overheated, over-the-top rhetoric is that, by crossing that line, you back yourself into a corner.  Two very bad things happen simultaneously.  First, by reinforcing the extreme beliefs of others, while at the same time they reinforce those same extreme beliefs in your worldview, you can actually override your own ability to see what is true, and what is nothing more than ideological madness.  You can come to believe the most unlikely things are true.  Then, if you promise extreme actions, and exhort others to take extreme actions too, you end up in a position where you'll look like a hypocritical blowhard if you DON'T take extreme action.  Many, perhaps most will sag at the shoulders, thrust out their lower lip and trudge home in defeat.  Some will be unable to overcome both the pressure they placed on themselves and that placed on them by their peers, and they will do something.  Something violent, and destructive, and ugly.  And that's where we are tonight and tomorrow.  Be especially vigilant, and keep your head down to avoid stray rounds.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Equal Opportunity Dicks

You know the story, it's as old as money. Walmart comes to town, local so-called 'mom and pop' stores can't compete with the prices, locals reluctantly (or enthusiastically) buy their books, clothes, music, electronics, housewares, cosmetics, pretty much everything at the huge new Walmart, and the smaller, local businesses wither and die.

It seems that now Walmart is offering discounted check cashing services in 1400 of it's locations, with more to come. Now who's crying foul? Why, the local, viciously predatory payday lenders, of course. Walmart is charging just one quarter to one third of what they charge someone who has a job but not a bank account to cash a paycheck.

While Walmart can be a pretty poor corporate citizen, it is pleasing to note that they do not hesitate to target scumbags just as much as old mom and pop.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Saint Paddy's Day Around the world

In Japan, it seems, they're as Irish as Paddy's Penis. But no one can say they don't know how to have a good time. Happy St. Patricks Day...

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Words Words Words

Words used to mean something.  It used to genuinely matter what concepts you claimed to support, and which you rejected.  In particular, there was a universal set of values that you really had no option but to at least publicly claim to believe in with all your heart.  But one cannot help but notice that the American far right movement conservatives keep breaking this 'rule' without consequence.  Which, I suppose, means it never was a rule in the first place, just an accepted tenet that nobody ever wanted to put to the test.

First we saw people come out for starting aggressive wars, followed shortly by explicit support for torture, indefinite detention, wiretaps without warrants and international targeted extra-judicial killings.  These were not things you could support in American political discourse and be taken seriously.  To support this sort of historically un-American and beyond-the-pale behaviors was to permanently place yourself firmly in the fringe, outside of anything allowed in the mainstream.  Except it turned out that people took them seriously, and even after their implementation led to disasters followed by debacles, they continue to be a serious part of the public policy debate.

And it has gone that way for more than a decade, with the American far right coming out against civil rights, affordable health care, voting rights, just about any concept or value that you can name that as recently as 1990 was an unquestioned American "value", undoubtedly good and never to be questioned.  And time and time again, supported by an increasingly lazy and politically conservative, corporatist media, it turned out to not be an automatic political loser, but quite to the contrary, it put them in the position of driving the debate and framing the issues.

So now Glenn Beck has come out against "Justice".  Yep.  It turns out that the very American concept of Social Justice, fair outcomes for all, not just for the rich and powerful is now unacceptable to patriotic Americans.  At least the subset of Patriotic Americans who are the sociopathic bigots who watch Becks televised hate-athons.  Beck claims that "social justice" is a code word, perhaps in the way that "white culture" is a code word, but I think we all have a pretty well established understanding of the term justice, no matter how it is used or applied.

The Republican party is poised to do well in the 2010 mid-terms.  I don't think there's anyone who disagrees with that.  But what doesn't seem to get said in all the deep analysis published every day is that the midterm elections are all local or statewide.  There is no national office up for election in 2010.  Due to what can only be described as their "anti-people" agenda, the Republicans have no hope for national office.  They can win in local elections where the population feels the same way as they do, but when you're flat-out against gays, hispanics, blacks, poor people, unions, affordable health care, a social safety net, public education, appropriate government regulations, clean energy, even public transportation, you have no basis to build a national constituency.  And ultimately, the number of even local elections you can win when your platform stands explicitly opposed to social justice will decline precipitously.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Art Imitates Corruption

A couple weeks ago, you might have heard that some Blackwater employees in Afghanistan stole a large number of weapons that belonged to the Afghan Police Forces, signing them out with the name "Eric Cartman".  The Senate investigators carefully advised that no one with that name had ever been employed by Blackwater in Afghanistan.

Well, you can't let a stone of opportunity like THAT go unturned, now can you?  And sure enough, as of today we have this:

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Time to Pay the Piper...

Y'know, I'm not in general a big fan of the whole global war on terror concept.  It just seems overblown and ineffectual.  There are very few of these guys, and you don't interdict the operations of a small band of transnational extremists with armies and tanks and fighter jets, you do it with intelligence, law enforcement and the occasional special operation.

But this little rat fuck?  Yeah, he's a good 'get'.  Go Pakistani ISI.  Get some.  I don't care if they turn him over to the US or not.  I'm especially uncomfortable with the whole Treason indictment.  Yes, it's true that by the letter of the law he's a traitor, and from a legal basis there's nothing wrong with charging him as such.  But I have two problems with it.  First, it makes him out to be something much bigger and more dangerous than he was.  He was a minor cog in a part of a wheel, and while he's first-order scum I don't see any advantage in trying to make him out to be Carlos the Jackal.  If they extradite him, charge him with materially aiding international terrorism and put him in prison for twenty five years.  Seems like a good deal to me.  Also, a Treason conviction comes with the death penalty.  As you may know,  I am 100% against the death penalty in any and all cases.  Governments should not be in the business of putting their citizens to death, period, full stop.  But beyond that, if this little shit is rotting away out of sight in a supermax somewhere in middle America, he disappears forever down a hole.  If you allow him to be a martyr, an outcome I'm CERTAIN that both he and bin Laden would prefer, he lives forever, larger than life, a hero and and a warrior, instead of the pathetic little shit he is.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Barack Obama, Lindsay Graham and Military Comissions

There has been an ongoing debate in the blogosphere over whether Barack Obama has moved to the political right since his inauguration, or whether he was never the left-leaning liberal that so many hoped so fervently he would be.  In other words, whether to be disappointed by his political decisions or resigned to them.

I've mostly come down in the "we knew what we were getting" camp, although I will admit that, based on his Constitutional Law background I expected a more unequivocal stand for the rule of law.  To hear him talk of "a legal framework for indefinite detention" is unexpected and disappointing.

What I think no one expected was for him to be politically weak, an easily-bullied lightweight with no set-in-stone line-in-the-sand principles to whom no issue is worth the risk of a political loss.  His willingness to compromise without extracting concessions from the other side, his tendency to start negotiations with a compromised position and then offer further compromises, even when time and again he ended up with nothing in exchange for them, and his obvious terror at being painted as a "liberal" have left him looking weak, frightened, cynical and easily manipulated.

So now comes the word that his administration is considering backing away from Federal DoJ prosecution of Khalid Sheik Mohammed in favor of some as-yet nebulous "Military Commissions" process.  KSM is NOT a combatant - he is a criminal.  There is no reason, no rational purpose served by taking him out of the criminal justice system.  The story is the President is retreating from his clearly stated beliefs in order to get support from Lindsay Graham for closing the prison facility at Guantanamo Bay.  It won't get him any other Republicans, and it won't even get him 60 votes, and the result will be not to actually close Gitmo but to rather move it to the US mainland where those detained will still be held illegally, without due process and without charge.  It's also fair to note that he will be pissing on Eric Holder in the process, for questionable political gain.

Mr. President, where is the line in the sand?  At what point will you stand and say "This far, no farther"?  Where must we go before your courage and integrity outweigh your political instincts?  You were elected because the American people loathed and feared what the Bush/Cheney Presidency had made us, and wanted some one to do the right thing, for the right people, for the right reasons.  In a way, you're worse than Bush - he was the worst president in American history, but he very seldom backed down from what he believed in.  Whether that was courage or just plain stubbornness, you should try it sometime.

Yeah.  We THOUGHT we knew what we were getting.  A Center-Right Pol, with a pro-corporate, pro-military bent and a pragmatic streak a mile wide.  But if he even capitulates on a Federal trial for KSM, when he is right and has history and law and expert opinion on his side, then I think it will be fair to be disappointed.   We THOUGHT we knew what we were getting, but it's turning out so much worse than we hoped...