22 May 2009

Cast out of Eden...

The oddly named Liberty University has decided not to recognize the College Democrats as a student organization, apparently because they believe the Democrats stand against the moral principles upon which the school was founded.

I'm trying to figure out how many College Democrats there were on a campus that's mainly a breeding ground for didacticism and denial. I mean, if you were a young person feeling so political that you wanted to join the spiffy, earnest young person's wing of the Democratic Party, why the hell would you go to a school that more or less stands against everything the Democratic Party stands for? I can understand there being a large contingent of College Republicans at Liberty, and a fair number of College Fascists (not really an official group, but they're trying...), as well as several other groups whose main plank in their charter calls for rounding up Democrats, longhairs, beatniks, and other pinkos and shipping them off to Gitmo, but I'm having trouble believing there was a vibrant contingent of College Democrats at the School that Hate Built.

The College Republicans are just lucky that starting wars, killing foreign civilians, neglecting the poor, and lying through your teeth aren't against the moral principles on which Liberty was founded.

18 May 2009

Routine isn't always routine.

The other day I nearly hit a kid with my car. I was driving "over the mountain" as they say and coming through one of the little hamlets that dot the hillside. I had just pulled away from a stop sign and was picking up speed, while up ahead in the opposite lane sat a man in his car talking with people on the porch of an apartment building on my side of the street.

I'm about fifteen yards from this man's car and he beckons to someone on the porch. A kid, maybe six or seven, comes running off the porch with his backpack, straight into the traffic lane -- no sideways glance, no hesitation. I'm ten yards away now, tops. I'd never had this happen to me in my 24 years of driving. I slammed on the brakes and the car slowed down, inching closer to the kid, who was in no position to get out of the way.

I think the car stopped about a foot from the kid.

He looked at me half a second then ran to the man's car. The man, who was probably his father, starts to yell at him. I catch the man's eye, mouth the word "sorry," because it shook me up and I bet it shook him up a bit, too, and then I drive on.

That's how quickly something so everyday can change on you. I don't know if that kid learned a lesson about checking the roads, or if the father learned a lesson about beckoning your kid out into the street without checking the road (or how about a lesson in not doing a pickup sitting in the traffic lane?!), but I learned a lesson about not taking even a routine trip for granted.

15 May 2009

Let's get it over with...indict this frothing madman.

Dick Cheney may not be the most reprehensible human alive, given that he has to work within a functioning democracy and therefore isn't free to exercise his will like those thugs he supported like Pinochet and Botha, and those still living who continue to represent living evil, like the Burmese Junta, Kim Jong-il, and their ilk. So he still has some betters, living and dead, within the Ministry of Evil, but in American politics he may be the worst we have. Ruthless, remorseless, relentless.

Cheney has been out there telling anyone who will listen that torture isn't torture, and besides we got lots of great information from it...blah blah froth sneer blah.

Now Lawrence Wilkerson, a former aide to Colin Powell is coming out with revelations that the focus of the torture program wasn't gaining information to safeguard America, but rather to gain information to justify the absolute boondoggle and vain blunder that was the illegal Iraq War:
"Its principal priority for intelligence was not aimed at preempting another terrorist attack on the U.S. but discovering a smoking gun linking Iraq and al Qaeda," Wilkerson wrote in The Washington Note, an online political journal.

So says CNN. Well, we all know how that turned out: Bush and Cheney were unable even with torture to uncover any link between formerly-US supported strongman Saddam Hussein and 9/11. I seriously don't know how many prescription pharmaceuticals were being consumed in the White House during this time, but I'm fairly certain that even a college-bound senior, given an assignment to investigate Hussein and Islamic fundamentalism, would be able to figure out that Hussein's government, brutal and totalitarian though it may be, was largely secular and a target of criticism from al-Qaeda and the like.

All torture could hope to produce in this case would be false confessions, which shows how cynical and at bottom criminal Cheney actually is. It really is time to indict him.

11 May 2009

Lost in the City.

I have recently read Edward P. Jones's Lost in the City. It's an amazing book, and it makes me miss DC in so many ways. The funny thing, though, is that the text itself misses DC -- the neighborhoods and communities it invokes are largely gone, done in by either riots or urban renewal.

The opening story is a good example. "The Girl Who Raised Pigeons" tracks a girl and her father in a neighborhood that has been completely razed to make way for various DC and Federal agencies, including DCPS. The story takes place in the final years of the neighborhood, as family after family abandon their homes for someplace else -- either the suburbs or another neighborhood safe from the rumors that the railroad (an industry also in decline whether it knew it then or not) will be taking over their property soon.

So there's great loss in terms of communities, and the characters are lost to themselves in a city that for many of them remains safe only on the neighborhood level.

06 May 2009

Right where he belongs.

Poor Michael Savage. The hate-spewing reason-challenged radio host is absolutely incensed that he would be listed with other hate-mongers. I don't get it. Why is hate-mongering Michael Savage so upset with being grouped among his own fellow feeble-thinkers?

To Savage's credit, he's not a murderer (although one might argue that his hate-filled screeds supply fuel to the gay-bashers who enjoy ganging up on lone homosexuals) like some of the other thugs on the UK's list, but then again neither is Fred Phelps, a lonely voice crying in the cesspool of his own tortured mind. Klan leaders and neo-Nazis also make the list, and while a few of them may protest their innocence, arguing they themselves don't have blood on their hands, it's not too far of a stone's throw away.

He's threatening to sue, which I think would be brilliant. I'd love to see his hatred become a centerpiece for mass consideration, a little airing beyond the echo chamber of his radio show, whose audience -- if a scientific analysis were possible -- consists of unrepentant racists and the mentally challenged (not always a mutually exclusive bunch). Then again, poor Michael might lose a good chunk of his audience for protesting that he doesn't belong among their Klan and neo-Nazi heroes on the front lines...

04 May 2009

What else could she say?

Let's suppose you're in a position where you took a high level position in what turned out to be one of the most criminal administrations in U.S. history. In fact, while you could argue that Watergate (if not the carpetbombing of Cambodia) was a domestic fracas, and the Harding administration's indiscretions were confined to our shores, the Bush administration's criminality went international.

Now, let's suppose you entered that adminstration from a relatively comfy job in academia at a well-respected college and you had hopes of perhaps recovering what little is left of your dignity in those circles and perhaps others. It's obviously not a good thing to be so visibly associated with the criminal actions of the Bush administration, especially if you spent half of it as National Security Adviser. Most people might try to distance themselves from something so obviously criminal, so completely without regard to precedent, law, or treaty, but not Condi Rice. Oh, no. Like any true believer, she defends completely the Bush record on torture. In fact, for her, there was no torture. Never happened.
Former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice defended the Bush administration's policies on the interrogation of terrorism suspects Sunday, saying former President George W. Bush would not have authorized anything illegal.

"He was also very clear that we would do nothing -- nothing -- that was against the law or against our obligations internationally," Rice said during an appearance at a Washington school.
Oh, it would be so easy to fall into Godwin's Law right now, but I...will...resist....Needless to say, there have been plenty of rogue regimes in the past that justify their crimes through both a naive belief in the leadership and goodness of their leaders and through the "necessity" of the means to gain an end. Rice is nothing if not a good talker, and she manages to avoid talking about the actual charges, instead falling back on the repetitive talking point that George Bush would never authorize anything illegal:
"I hope people understand that it was a struggle, it was a difficult time," she said. "We were all terrified of another attack on this country because September 11 was the worst day of my life in government -- watching 3,000 Americans die because these people attacked us." But she added, "Even under those most difficult circumstances, the president was not prepared to do something illegal."
Right. That's why he had an army of lawyers working overtime to find ways to redefine practices that pretty much everyone in the world knew were torture. So her argument boils down to the most moral relativist argument you can possibly propose: it wasn't torture because we defined it as not-torture; it wasn't illegal because we said it wasn't illegal.

So much for international conventions. So much for moral certitude. So much for the Bush administration's constant invocation of "Axis of Evil" and "bad guys." Because Condoleeza Rice basically says you are what you say you are. There are no standards of judgement. Is Kim Jong-il a "bad guy"? Better ask him, find out how he defines his actions.

Let me reiterate: Condoleeza Rice is arguing that regimes can only be judged by their internal standards of conduct.

Or to put it another (also entirely useless) way, in the words of the immortal Dave Mason:
So let's leave it alone, 'cause we can't see eye to eye.
There ain't no good guys, there ain't no bad guys.
There's only you and me and we just disagree.
Ooo - ooo - ooohoo oh - oh - o-whoa
Applicable perhaps for friendships and love affairs, but not so useful for world politics.