30 August 2009

Utterly Pathetic.

Our former Vice President for Torture, Dick Cheney, maintains a steady pace on his attempts to derail and de-legitimize any investigation into possible (ha!) criminal activity under his the Bush administration. From a purely selfish standpoint, I can't say I blame him. If you were one of the major players -- in fact probably more culpable than the President himself -- in crafting policies in direct violation of established laws, both domestic and international, and you suddenly found yourself out of power, you might be more than a bit apprehensive about the extent of your criminality finding the light of day.

So his latest charge (really just a refrain he's been humming for several months now, only this time he's enunciating it a bit more clearly) is that "the process is political." Well, to an extent everything is political. His decision while a U.S. Representative in the 1980's to side with the Apartheid regime in South Africa was a political decision. His decision to reject a national holiday honoring Martin Luther King, Jr., was a political decision (in 1978 he rejected it; in 1983 he voted for it -- so some measure of growth). So sure, on one level, of course it's political, because -- duh -- we're talking about our government.

However, on another level, we're talking about accusations -- and some significant proof even from the culprits themselves -- that some very illegal and very un-American (if "American" is meant to indicate adherence to the U.S. Constitution) activities were pursued under the former administration. Here's Cheney:
He criticized Obama for allowing a review considering the president previously said that CIA operatives involved in the interrogations would not be prosecuted. "I think he's trying to duck responsibility for what's going on here, and I think it's wrong," Cheney said.
What exactly is Obama ducking responsibility for? Obama wasn't the occupant of 1600 Pennsylvania when these crimes allegedly occurred. It's fairly easy to tell that Cheney's trying to employ a classic bait-and-switch, in which he implies the target of the investigation is CIA operatives, when it should be apparent to anyone with a pulse that the real criminals are a bit further up the torture food chain, like maybe, I don't know, the VP himself. That way it's Obama who looks bad for going back on a promise, and not Cheney who looks bad for advocating torture.

However, my favorite Cheney argument against investigating his alleged criminal activity is this one:
"The fact of the matter is the Justice Department reviewed all those allegations several years ago," Cheney said. "They looked at this question of whether or not somebody had an electric drill in an interrogation session. It was never used on the individual -- or that they had brought in a weapon, never used on the individual."
So the Bush Administration Justice Department reviewed whether or not the Bush Administration had violated the law. I certainly see how that works, because I served on a grand jury once, and if the defendant said he or she was innocent, we naturally took his or her word for it, and voted not to bring charges.

28 August 2009

MWF 8:00 - 8:50

Ah, the new semester is upon us.
Feel the fresh grass, soon to be tipped with frost,
the murmurs and shuffles, busy fingers
on minute keypads. Baseball hats and ponytails
remind us eight a.m. is too early to shower.

If books' pages still came uncut
many would remain so, their words dumb,
their covers staring back at their owners,
the two like teenagers being introduced
as distant cousins at a funeral.

26 August 2009

RIP Ted Kennedy

With the death of Senator Kennedy, the U.S. Senate has lost one of the last true liberals, and certainly the last with any sort of charisma. Unlike Paul Wellstone's unexpected death in 2002, Kennedy's illness made each legislative session he made seem an astounding act of endurance.

He will be missed.

18 August 2009

All the world's a stage.

Call me a simpleton, but I don't understand the connection between packing heat and health care. I've been to a lot of protests in my life -- anti-war, anti-corporate globalization, anti-xenophobia, pro-peace, pro-equal rights, etc. -- but I've never even thought it necessary to carry a gat, nor would I have seen a connection between any of these causes and my right to bear arms.

I suppose if you go back to the 1960's with the Black Panther Party for Self Defense you have the same sorts of images, but even in that case there are few parallels; after all, the Panthers were calling attention to the lack of protection they were getting from the government and the need for self-defense. They weren't protesting health care; in fact, they were often providing social welfare services.

The similarity in both cases, I suppose, is that the gun functions as a prop, a bit of costume. In the Panthers' case, it was to promote an image of strength and self-reliance in the face of nearly 400 years of racist oppression that at the moment seemed particularly virulent, what with assassinations of prominent Black figures and the mass murder of less-prominent blacks.

So in this more recent case, what's the prop represent?

12 August 2009


My guess is that if the internet had been around in the 1930's, there wouldn't have been a New Deal, because even half-literates with no grasp of issues or reality can be freepers.

10 August 2009

13 ways of looking at a lamp post.

I love the whole "town hall" flare-up. Unlike President Bush's so-called "town hall" meetings, where only carefully selected party faithful were allowed to attend, legislators have been holding meetings that are presumably open to all their constituents (and probably in a more realistic sense, the general public, whether they happen to live in the representative's district or not), and the results apparently are newsworthy for their lack of producing any sort of informed discussion.

Whether from the Right or Left, whether noble causes or not, protesters always speak louder than their numbers, and the main reason for that is that it takes an awful lot of energy and an awful lot of passion to break your normal routine to hike out to a protest, and one of the tried and true protest maneuvers is to block debate, although it's normally a tactic reserved for situations in which you aren't invited to the table (G8, World Bank, etc.).

What's interesting about the reporting is that not enough is being done to talk to the protesters (no surprise there -- in general reporters would rather have the police spokesperson or some political figure explain from their perspective what's going on...it's much easier to republish press releases), most of whom probably couldn't explain the details of the health care plan they're protesting. It would also be interesting to see how posters of Obama with a Hitler mustache relate to health care. Apparently, Hitler was for health care. Who knew?

At any rate, it seems that the Right has the fervor of the Left with the information of the tin-foil hat brigade. The real story, if reporters were interested in doing their jobs, would be to trace misinformation like the euthanasia red herring back to its source and try to hold the source accountable for making up shit. Then, once that's done, the real story would be how some sentient beings are quite capable of looking at a lamp post, touching the lamp post, perhaps even gripping it tightly and banging their heads against said lamp post, and then when all is said and done telling you that indeed, it's not a lamp post....it's Hitler's mustache.

09 August 2009

A slow boat to nowhere.

Yeats has a line in "The Second Coming": "The best lack all conviction, while the worst are full of passionate intensity." It fairly well sums up the Democrats and Republicans in our era, with the Dems having absolutely no spine to pass meaningful legislation, and the Republicans chomping at the bit for a chance to ride herd over international and domestic law.

President Obama is a great example of the failure of the middle-ground. Back when there used to be liberals, you could count on actual legislation having a bite to it. However, we haven't had a critical mass of liberals in power for at least thirty years, and the few who remain (Wellstone is gone; Kennedy is going...don't even consider Pelosi or Reid liberals...if you do, you have no idea what the word means) can be counted on a single hand with a few leftover digits.

Did George Bush II give a rat's ass about his detractors' whining about the Constitution and individual rights and international treaties? Hell, no. His administration had a goal, and no amount of facts were going to stand in the way of attaining that goal. Fake some evidence, lie to other governments, start a war, torture a few (thousand) prisoners...bold steps in pursuit of your goals.

Obama campaigned on promises of shutting down Bush's illegal, embarrassing, and ultimately counterproductive enterprises, but once in power he seems to have lost his resolve. Critics -- both the nutty Right and the well-paid comfortable lap dogs of the corporate Democrats -- like to argue that he's had to confront the "reality" of the situation. Bullshit. The reality of the situation is that as long as we operate in opposition to our Constitution and its principles, we are not the United States of America...we're some banana republic proving that words on paper are worth nothing more than the pastel patterns on your toilet paper.

When confronted by millions of people clogging New York City's streets on a cold day in February 2003 in protest of the Bush Administration's lurch toward an evil, illegal, and worthless war in Iraq, did BushCo pause to hem and haw and massage the message? Hell, no. They plowed forward with the most implausible, irrational, and ignoble course of action they could think of. Now Obama finds that the pundits of the Right are (predictably) comparing the U.S. to Moscow circa 1917, and pasty-faced radio personalities are (again predictably) trying to cast his every move as either 1) America hating, 2) white hating, or 3) freedom hating, and so he's worried about them and getting caught up in the details of trying to win over a faction of the U.S. population that wouldn't believe he was born in the USA even if they could go back in time and be present in the maternity ward at the birth.

Let the losers go. It's painful to say it, but there are some Americans who don't take to heart the values embodied in the Constitution. They're the reason it took nearly 100 years (after the founding of the nation...longer if you count the colonial era) to eliminate slavery, and why it took 100 more to do away with legal discrimination, and why it took until 1920 for women to get the right to vote, why several states maintained laws on the books against interracial marriage, why many social clubs restricted membership, etc. etc. etc. They simply don't care about the Constitution (except the part about guns), and no amount of appeals to that document will change it. No amount of appeals to evidence will change their opinion.

They'll just have to get used to it, because history won't stop for them and the era of minorities and women not voting and not holding elected positions are over, at least in this country. The US government getting involved in health care is nowhere near as revolutionary as the US government busting up the trusts 100 years ago. It's nowhere near as revolutionary as the government deciding that industries should be regulated to ensure the safety of the nation's citizens.

Have some guts and do it. But go the full monty, don't settle for some compromised second draft.