Saturday, March 17, 2007
To-wit, I've seen any number of controversies regarding the A list bloggers (that would include Atrios, Kos and any number of folks on my blogroll), from some silly things such as who is on whose blogrolls to who controls the leftist agenda on blogs.
Frankly, none of this concerns me, because a) I'm a B list blogger (and have the star to prove it) and b) even if I was an A list blogger, I got more important things to do than to pay attention to nonsense like that.
Kos wants the agenda? Fine, let him have it. He runs a crappy blog that exists mostly because of the diaries people post, so maybe it's time he cowboyed up and took some responsibility for what he's claiming to have created. Atrios? Does even less than Kos, so he's welcome to it.
Let them see what herding cats is like. I have no problem with this. Nor do I lose any sleep at night wondering what I can do to get onto their blogrolls.
I pay as much attention to my various ratings as anyone, I suppose. I can usually quote you how many links Technorati credits me with (400 from 133 blogs as of this writing), and yes, I get a small thrill when I see those numbers jump (they're based on the past six months' linkages) and a bit deflated when they lower. Why isn't anyone reading my beautiful, eloquent and thought-provoking prose? I whine.
And then go back to work.
See, I understand what this blog is about, and why the couple of hundred of you return, day in and day out. TBogg and them can "report" (read that as "rehash the news in sumamry form, like newsradio") the news. I tell you why I think things happen, and try to put some sense into the world. That's why I never just post for the sake of posting a post every day (some of my midday posts will be rather short, I admit).
Would I love to do that full time, to sit and explain why this or that happened and what it means? Hell yes, but you know what? This gig pays nothing and I have other fish to fry than to sort every story out.
To put it in musical terms, I'm jazz to the Top 40 pop of Crooks and Liars, or whomever. I don't rip people off, at least not knowingly. I try to ask permission before posting, and if I can find something interesting to post, I will post it.
If by being jazz I limit my audience, well, then it's an audience that I welcome and am not slave to. It's not an audience that I end up resenting and angry at.
Which is why I also try to stay engaged in the comments. I value you just as much if not more than you value this blog. I know a fact: I would miss you guys more than you would miss me.
The curious thing for me is how many stories I "break" (because in truth, is it "breaking" a story to report on something I found in the Burundi Daily News?) that end up being covered later by the big boys (and girls). If I'm bleeding edge, then I'm doing the right thing, both by you and for myself.
Too, I find the blogs I'm most attracted to, blogs like Martini Republic (and it's little brother Big Apple Martini), the ones I spend a lot of time commenting on, treat me the way I hope I'm treating you: like an adult who understands that history didn't start ten minutes ago. Tell me what happened, why, and how it fits into a common story. That's what the really good blogs, like Skippy, or Shakespeare's Sister, do.
So, Duncan? Markos? You can keep your blogroll sacrosanct of this blog, if you choose to. I'll still link to you, and I'll even come over and read on occasion. I understand your philosophy.
I just don't choose to genuflect to it.
Friday, March 16, 2007
The Democracy Protection Act -- Executive Summary
Author: Lauren Strayer
A. A Democracy With Too Few Voters:
1. Enforce National Voting Standards - Create national standards to assure a more professional, trained, non-partisan staff to implement election day.
Make Electronic Voting Secure - Use electronic voting machines with paper trails (as ATMs do) to deter or detect fraud.
2. Establish Voting by Mail - Follow Oregon’s example and send ballots by mail to all eligible voters, a form of universal “no excuse” absentee balloting.
3. Enact Election Day Registration - Make it easier to vote by keeping voter registration open until and on Election Day and merge Veterans Day into Election Day to create a national holiday called “Democracy Day.”
4. Create Universal Youth Voter Registration - Based on high school enrollment, automatically register all 18 year-olds to vote.
5. Criminalize Voter Intimidation - Make it a felony to knowingly try to stop others from voting.
6. Bar “Voter Identification” Rules that Suppress Voting - Stop states from requiring expensive forms of ID that are tantamount to a new poll tax.
7. Restore the Vote to People with Felony Convictions - Enfranchise ex-offenders who have paid their debt to society.
8. Give the Vote to D.C. Residents - As America was founded on the principal of “no taxation without representation,” give residents of our capital city representation in Congress.
9. Ensure Responsible Redistricting - Establish a non-partisan system of former judges to oversee the drawing of the legislative lines.
10. Elect the President by National Popular Vote - Organize states that together comprise a majority of the Electoral College to agree to cast their electors to the candidate who wins the popular vote.
11. Try Proportional Voting - Instead of winner-take all elections, use proportional voting to allow similar-minded groups to gain seats in closer proportion to their share of the population.
12. Implement Instant Runoff Voting - Instead of plurality-wins in multiple candidate races, implement “instant runoff voting” by ranking favored candidates until someone gets an absolute majority.
B. Democratizing Congress:
1. Tighten Lobbying Laws - Enact bans on lobbyists’ bundling, gifts, meals and travel and create an independent Office of Public Integrity that could investigate and report on congressional transgressions.
2. Enact “Democracy Funding” in Campaigns - Establish a federal system of public matching funds for qualifying candidates so that small donors diminish the sway of big interests.
3. Guarantee Free Air Time for Qualifying Candidates - Provide guaranteed TV/radio time for qualifying federal candidates as a condition of holding lucrative Federal Communications Commission licenses.
4. Require Congressional Oversight Hearings - To spur oversight hearing when a congressional majority covers up for an administration, allow hearings when at least a third of a panel’s members request one.
C. Rule of Law:
1. Restrict Presidential Signing Statements - Establish rules limiting how these “statements” can become unilateral declarations of law.
2. End Torture, not Habeas Corpus – Rewrite the recent Military Commissions Act to make it clear that the United States will not condone torture and will continue to recognize Habeas Corpus petitions.
3. Ban Federal Funding for Programs that Proselytize - To comport with the “Establishment Clause,” stop funds going to religious-based public programs that proselytize clients.
4. Teach Science-based Science in Classrooms - Do not permit creationism or “intelligent design” to be taught in science classes.
5. Stop Discrimination by Sexual Orientation at Work - Bar workplace discrimination against gays, lesbians, transgender and bisexual workers.
6. Establish a Civil Right to Counsel - Provide counsel to the indigent in major civil cases as provided in criminal cases under Gideon v. Wainwright.
7. Create a Real Civil Liberties Protection Office - Especially given proven abuses in the “war on terror,” fund and empower an office to investigate and expose civil liberties violations.
D. Secrecy & Democracy:
1. Strengthen the Freedom of Information Act - Establish the presumption that all federal agencies should release reasonably requested information under the Freedom of Information Act (i.e., there’s a “right to know,” not the requirement of proving a “need to know”).
2. Publish Budgets for Every Government Agency – Give taxpayers a right to know how their monies are being spent, subject to very narrow national security exceptions.
3. Reduce Media Concentration - Enact cross-media ownership rules prohibiting one corporate owner from largely monopolizing print and electronic news in a defined population area.
4. Restore the Office of Technology Assessment - Restore the Congressional Office of Technology Assessment to provide authoritative and objective analysis of complex scientific issues.
5. Subject Government Contracts to Open Bidding - Make government contracts transparent, subject to public disclosure and open to intense competition, contrary to nearly half of $329 billion spent on no-bid contracts in 2004.
6. Strengthen Whistleblower Protections for Federal Employees - Restore the weakened Whistleblower Protection Act and expand protections to employees in the intelligence and security communities.
E. The Economics of Democracy:
1. Create a Living Wage -- Raise the minimum wage to a living wage indexed to inflation and reviewed biennially.
2. Establish a Child Savings Fund – Provide every child at birth a savings account that, with compounding interest, can be withdrawn at 18 for investment – a Keogh for kids.
3. Tax All Income Equally - To stop AMT from soaking the middle class, either index it to inflation or ideally stop taxing income from work at higher rates than income form capital.
4. Restore Consumer Class Actions - Stop blocking access to court for consumers who have been bilked in bulk.
5. Assure Net Neutrality - Assure universal access to the internet so we don’t divide Americans into the information-rich and information-poor.
6. Bridge the Digital Divide - Invest in broadband so that universal access becomes a reality.
7. Review Corporate Compensation - Require that only independent directors on the Board can vote for increases in pay, subject to shareholders’ approval.
8. Enact a Borrower’s Security Act - Establish a “Borrower’s Security Act” to bring fair credit practices to an industry that now routinely exploits credulous and confused customers.
9. Expand the Right to Organize at Work - Allow employees to organize if a majority signs union recognition cards and impose penalties on employers who use intimidation and firings to discourage organizing.
10. Create Citizen Utility Boards - Create consumer advocacy offices to fight for fair utility rates and practices in legislative and regulatory proceedings.
Thursday, March 15, 2007
The quote at the top of the page is historically inaccurate. The GOP brought civil rights legislation which was strongly opposed by the Democratic Party.The "quote" in question, is this one:
It was also the GOP that brought emancipation from slavery. (also strongly opposed by the Democrats)
Have to check on the accuracy of the remainder of the quote. Womens vote, social security, medicare, the Black vote etc...
Is Ought | 03.14.07 - 7:26 pm | #
"Liberals got women the right to vote. Liberals got African-Americans the right to vote. Liberals created Social Security and lifted millions of elderly people out of poverty. Liberals ended segregation. Liberals passed the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act. Liberals created Medicare. Liberals passed the Clean Air Act, the Clean Water Act. What did Conservatives do? They opposed them on every one of those things...every one! So when you try to hurl that label at my feet, 'Liberal,' as if it were something to be ashamed of, something dirty, something to run away from, it won't work, Senator, because I will pick up that label and I will wear it as a badge of honor."The thread in question is the Hump Day Comedy Blogging one.
So to "Is Ought," I was none too kind in my reply:
Is Ought,Now, normally, I would think that would be the end of it: neo-con bullshit posted, shot down, stomped on, and ground into a little tiny smear on the pavement.
Wrong answer, but thanks for playing.
Clearly, your reading comprehension is rather...lacking.
LIBERALS, not Dems. Not Republicans. LIBERALS did all those things while fascists like you (and how do I know that? Because you knee-jerk assumed that all liberals were Dems) stood in their way.
Liberals. Like JFK & the Civil Rights Act passed in his name, like LBJ & the Great Society, but also like Nelson Rockefeller and Jacob Javits. Good, decent Republican liberals who stood foursquare against bigotry and hatred like yours. All your missing is the white hood and burning cross.
If you want to assume all liberals were Democrats, then I proudly accept Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt as Democrats.
Thank you. As a die-hard liberal, thank you for being an idiot.
actor212 | Email | Homepage | 03.14.07 - 8:59 pm | #
But no, this troll is a particularly stoopid one, so the following post was made in the thread above the original thread!!!!
Removed the comment, huh?Which leads me to post this in the open, because clearly, this mule is one that won't respond to the 2 x 4 cracked across his nose, and instead now needs a steel beam across his head.
So, you've decided to leave the lie at the top of your page. Perhaps, you can get CBS to rewrite the history books, just to reflect this as "your truth". Pathetic
Is Ought | 03.15.07 - 11:12 am | #
Now, the real fun begins when I edited "Is Ought"'s post for him....Of course, all this put me in the mood to trot out an oldie but a goodie...
An object lesson, forwarded to me by one of the ten smartest men in America (and a liberal):
Liberal: The USA has fifty states.
Conservative: No, it doesn’t.
Liberal: Yes, it does. The USA has fifty states.
Conservative: What about Guam? What about that Guam, huh? Or the
Liberal: Those are territories, not states. The USA has fifty states.
Conservative: Oh, so you’re saying those don’t count?
Conservative: Oh, so the people there don’t count? They’re not good enough, huh? I thought you liberals wanted everybody to be counted.
Liberal: No, I said the territories don’t count as states. The USA has fifty states.
Conservative: You’re really something, you know that? You liberals are always going on about how all of us conservatives are racists, how we don’t care about anybody but people who look like us. But you don’t even want to count the blacks who live in Guam as Americans.
Liberal: First of all, I never said all conservatives are racists.
Conservative: Yes, you did.
Liberal: No, I didn’t.
Conservative: Michael Moore says it.
Liberal: I’ve never heard him say that.
Conservative: Yes, he does! He most definitely does!
Liberal: Look, I don’t know what he says. That’s beside the point. And the people in Guam “count,” whatever that means. I don’t even know who lives in Guam; I don’t know the first thing about Guam. I’m just saying Guam isn’t a state it’s a territory. The USA has fifty states.
Conservative: What about Puerto Rico?
Conservative: What about Puerto Rico, huh? You love all those Mexicans coming across the border stealing our jobs you must LOVE Puerto Rico, right?
Liberal: I’ve never been to Puerto Rico.
Conservative: Well, I have, and those kind of people would be pretty offended to hear liberals like you saying they aren’t real Americans!
Liberal: I didn’t say that!
Conservative: You said they didn’t count!
Liberal: I didn’t say that either! No, wait, just wait… (takes deep breath). I only said the USA has fifty states. Puerto Rico isn’t a state it’s a commonwealth.
Conservative: And they don’t speak English!
Liberal: Well, many Puerto Ricans do.
Conservative: How do you know that? I’ve been there you haven’t!
Liberal: All right, OK, fine, whatever. But the USA has fifty states.
Conservative: Well, I say Puerto Rico counts.
Liberal: Fine, but not as a state.
Conservative: Well, that’s YOUR opinion.
Liberal: It’s not my opinion it’s a fact.
Conservative: Says you!
Liberal: No, not just “says me.” It’s a fact. Look it up.
Conservative: I don’t have time.
Liberal: You don’t have time to find out if the USA has fifty states?
Conservative: Listen, you may have time to sit around all day surfing on your liberal websites, downloading Michael Moore, but I’ve got things to do.
Liberal: Like reading about blacks in Guam and Mexicans in Puerto Rico?
Conservative: See, that’s why you guys always lose. I’m trying to have a nice conversation, and you just keep up with the insults!
Liberal: Listen, I didn’t mean to insult you.
Conservative: Oh, yes you did!
Liberal: No, look, I’m sorry, OK? I didn’t mean to insult you. Honestly. It’s just that… well, the USA has fifty states. That’s a fact. And I’m just trying to state a fact, and you’re getting very defensive, and…
Conservative: Oh, so now I’m defensive.
Conservative: You just said you weren’t going to insult me!
Liberal: Look, I’m just trying to say the USA has fifty states!
Conservative: According to YOUR sources!
Liberal: MY sources?! What are you talking about? Look it up!
Conservative: I told you, I don’t have time to spend all day cruising the internet, looking up geography questions! Maybe if you were busier at your job, trying to live the American Dream, you wouldn’t have time for all this hate!
Liberal: I work hard at my job!
Conservative: Then why are you spending all day downloading Michael Moore?
Liberal: I don’t spend all day downloading Michael Moore! I don’t even know what you mean by that! All I’m saying is that the USA has fifty states!
Conservative: Again, according to YOU!
Liberal: Not just me! Here, here’s the World Book Encyclopedia. Look it up it’s fifty states!
Conservative: Oh, sure, the World Book! Yeah, like I’m going to believe the World Book!
Conservative: Come on, it’s a liberal rag!
Liberal: (Long, teeth-gnashing pause) Look, just look up “United States of America.” Ten bucks it says, “the USA has fifty states.”
Conservative: Ten bucks, huh?
Liberal: Yeah, ten bucks. (pause) Wait, that’s the “M” volume.
Conservative: I know.
Liberal: You need to look under “U” for “United States.”
Conservative: I’m not looking for “United States.” I’m looking for “Moore, Michael.”
Conservative: And when I find a big glowing article about him, you’re going to owe me ten bucks!
Liberal: Why would I owe you ten bucks?!
Conservative: You bet me ten bucks that the World Book Encyclopedia isn’t liberal.
Liberal: No I didn’t!
Conservative: Yes, you did! You bet me ten bucks that I couldn’t find a liberal article in the World Book. So when I find Michael Moore’s picture, you owe me ten bucks!
Liberal: Oh, my lord…
Liberal: Listen, you idiot, just because you found Michael Moore’s picture in the World Book doesn’t mean that I owe you ten bucks! It doesn’t mean the World Book is a liberal encyclopedia! And it certainly doesn’t mean the USA doesn’t have fifty states!!
Conservative: Oh, no? Look at this!
Liberal: (pause) “Massachusetts”?
Liberal: What the hell does Massachusetts have to do with anything?
Conservative: The COMMONWEALTH of Massachusetts!
Conservative: So you said Puerto Rico is a commonwealth!
Liberal: Oh, no…
Conservative: You ADMITTED Puerto Rico was a commonwealth! Admit it, you said it!
Liberal: Oh, man…
Conservative: So if Massachusetts is a commonwealth, and Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, then they BOTH must be states! HA!
Liberal: OK, look…
Conservative: You owe me twenty bucks!
Conservative: Come one, pay up! Twenty bucks, let’s go!
Liberal: I don’t owe you twenty bucks!
Conservative: And I’m not even counting Pennsylvania!
Conservative: That’s a commonwealth, too!
Liberal: It’s a commonwealth, but…
Conservative: And Washington!
Liberal: All right, look, I lived in Seattle Washington is NOT a commonwealth!
Conservative: Seattle’s not even a state it’s a city!
Liberal: Yes, it’s a city, in Washington State! Washington’s a state!
Conservative: I’m talking about Washington D.C.
Conservative: Washington D.C. It’s a city.
Liberal: I know what it is!
Conservative: Well, you liberals are always going on about “Statehood for Washington!” Which, you admit, is already a state!
Liberal: Washington D.C. is not a state!
Conservative: Washington State is!
Liberal: You just said Washington D.C.!
Conservative: And you said it should be a state!
Liberal: I never said that! I mean, it should be… but I never…look…
Conservative: Should Washington be a state?
Conservative: Simple question.
Liberal: Washington State?
Conservative: Yes or No?
Liberal: Washington State or Washington D.C.?
Conservative: He snorts cocaine.
(Long, painful pause)
Liberal: (slowly) This is Washington D.C. you’re talking about.
Conservative: Yeah. The mayor snorts cocaine.
Liberal: Actually, he’s no longer the mayor…
Conservative: I don’t think a state should have a governor who’s used drugs.
Liberal: He’s not the governor; Washington’s not a…
Conservative: Except maybe California.
Liberal: OK, OK, stop for a moment…
Conservative: I mean, that was a long time ago…
Liberal: Listen, listen…
Conservative: I don’t see Michael Moore making any movies about cocaine in Washington State, do you?
Liberal: Please, STOP!
Liberal: Look, I’m just trying to make a simple point here…
Conservative: What about…
Liberal: I’m just trying to make a SIMPLE point here. It’s not a big deal it’s just a fact. The USA has fifty states. That’s all! Yes, Puerto Rico is a commonwealth, but it isn’t counted among the fifty states. Yes, Massachusetts and Pennsylvania are commonwealths too. So are Virginia and, I think, Kentucky. I don’t know about Kentucky for sure, and you know what it doesn’t matter! They’re considered
states, OK? They’re states. Washington D.C. isn’t one, even though I wish it was. Guam isn’t one. There are only fifty. Fifty states. Fifty stars on the flag fifty states. That’s all. Fifty.
Conservative: Rush is so right about you people.
Conservative: Rush. He gets it. You people are the worst.
Liberal: I don’t…
Conservative: Here I am, trying to have an honest political discussion, and all you can do is bring up this liberal claptrap! You call people like Rush racists, but you don’t want to count Mexicans as Americans. You insult the Governor of California every chance you get. You get all your information from encyclopedias and Michael
Moore. You want free cocaine in Washington, and you want Seattle to become a commonwealth, and you won’t pay me my fifty dollars even after I proved that blacks run Guam! And then, worst of all, you insult our flag and our troops!!! You disgust me!
Conservative: See, there you liberals go again! Sneaking off to download porn from Kentucky! I’m not forgetting you owe me 100 dollars!
Conservative: That’s it, cut and run!
Conservative: Why do you hate America?
I will be leaving several posts for my able-bodied assistant, Katrina, to put up. As well, I anticipate you will be hearing from her directly. I know she has a lot on her mind (even more on her plate), so without me around, she can finally post without fear of being eclipsed by my.....errrrr....forceful personality.
Bon chance this weekend, all!
I'm not talking about me, who has the added charm of being right, usually, and knowing when I'm wrong, how to make it seem like I agreed with my antagonist in the first place. Diplomacy is, after all, the art of letting someone have your way, so the occasional melding of their opinion into yours helps with negotiations.
No, I'm talking about that one pigheaded friend or relative who, when confronted with purely factual evidence against him or her refuses to acknowledge that you might, in the slightest, most miniscule way, have a minor point?
Usually you can find these people at the Thanksgiving table.
The reason this comes up is, well, Bush, of course. I don't know if you've noticed but, with all the scandals and corruption and controversy...with all the evidence mounting that he created the single largest political blunder (foreign AND domestic) of any American president, ever...no one has ever been fired?
You get the feeling that ol' Uncle George will be sitting in the garage next Thanksgiving, muttering about "those foolish kids and their weird idears". The latest in a string of bullheaded stances is this:
"I'm frankly not happy about" how the U.S. attorneys' firings were handled, Bush told a news conference with Mexican President Felipe Calderon in Merida, Mexico.John Sununu, it should be pointed out, is well-acquainted with pigheaded morons. He was raised by one.
The Justice Department has said the U.S. attorneys were fired last year largely because of policy differences or performance problems. But critics charge it appears that they may have been ousted for political reasons.
Republican Sen. John Sununu of New Hampshire called for Gonzales' dismissal. He complained about the attorney general's handling of the firings as well as his earlier dealings with Congress on anti-terror efforts.
Attorney General is, no doubt, a highly sensitive post requiring someone who has the President's full trust: in other words, it either calls for a man (or woman, Ms. Reno) of moral fibre and character, or a buttkissing toady.
It's clear that Gonzalez stocked up on Chapstick.
It's also clear that Bush has laid the groundwork for Gonzalez to resign, rather than be fired. The timing will be interesting to watch: perhaps as early as Saturday (to give the Republicans a chance to send out the spinners) or maybe there will be a waiting period to give the story time to die down (after all, the firings are over by almost a year, and it took a long time for this story, which I had heard just ahead of the elections last year, to rise to the top). Easter is pretty early in April. I'll pick that day for Gonzo to submit a quickly-accepted resignation.
Why not just fire the bloke? I find it extremely interesting that, in an administration that prides itself on forceful thinking and bold actions, they turn coward when it comes to the hard work of being President, so much so they even whine about it on national TV.
In thinking about this, I have to come to the conclusion that, despite his protestations to the contrary, Dumbya is very concerned with his image in history. If you'll notice, the second term has been filled with Bush polishing his cred for history: he's "read" the "right" books (come on, does ANYONE think he plowed through Camus???), taken comfort from the "right" Presidents (rather than consult Poppy Bush, he's taken to studying Harry Truman), and made overtures to the "right" social issues that might capture him a legacy to extend and somehow balance out the abortion that is Iraq.
Image, in other words, trumps policy. Image trumps politics. Image trumps process.
Image is everything. As with so many things in his life, rather than roll up his sleeves and do the necessary work (or even hire someone to do it for him, but remain focused and interested in the results, which itself is hard work for this obviously adult ADHD victim), he's chosen the easy path, the path of apparent least resistance.
But the Presidency is the highest profile position a man can occupy and guess what? There's no James Bath or bin Laden family poised to bail Bush out of this mess with a bundle of money and some well-placed executors. No. The spotlight of history will not allow such backstage manueverings. The curtain is drawn all the way through the proscenium, and Bush is naked.
If only the audience could find it within itself to laugh. But it's too sad.
snarkasm, snarcasm, snarky
Wednesday, March 14, 2007
I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is okay to be immoral in any way.Immediately, of course, this brings to mind the classic bit out of Alice's Restaurant...
I went over to the sargent, said, "Sargeant, you got a lot a damn gall to ask me if I've rehabilitated myself, I mean, I mean, I mean that just, I'm sittin' here on the bench, I mean I'm sittin here on the Group W benchSure. Moral turpitude will get you out of military service in Pace's army...or will it?
'cause you want to know if I'm moral enough join the army, burn women, kids, houses and villages after bein' a litterbug." He looked at me and said, "Kid, we don't like your kind, and we're gonna send you fingerprints off to Washington."
After all, we wouldn't want, say, gang members to enlist, would we?:
(05/03/06 - FAYETTEVILLE) - An unlikely place has become the new battleground for American gangs. Gang leaders want their members to sign up for military duty so they can learn urban combat tactics.Or maybe members of the Klan or Aryan Nation?:
July 7, 2006 -- Under pressure to meet wartime manpower goals, the U.S. military has relaxed standards designed to weed out racist extremists. Large numbers of potentially violent neo-Nazis, skinheads and other white supremacists are now learning the art of warfare in the armed forces.After all, nothing inspires a people to gather together in democratic convention under the auspices of an occupying force like walking past a sign calling you a "towelhead".
Department of Defense investigators estimate thousands of soldiers in the Army alone are involved in extremist or gang activity. "We've got Aryan Nations graffiti in Baghdad," said one investigator. "That's a problem."
Not that I have any problem with gang members or prisoners fighting in wars. It sounds like it would be a pretty good idea, so long as there was careful supervision, say the kind you'd get in a real war, with two armies and guns and bullets and bombs. Why not let them sacrifice and win back some of the freedoms they so willingly (and in many cases, unwillingly) let go of?
But to suddenly claim there's some moral standard for fighting an illegal and immoral war against a people that did nothing to us, to remove a leader who was no threat at all to us, and in fact may have been stabilizing a region that is clearly in danger of falling into genocidal ethnic cleansing (and you thought him killing his own people was brutal...just wait), is ludicrous at best, and cynical at worst.
Especially when the hodgepodge we've thrown at Iraq is made up of the loose ends and detritus of the great American military, four years into the conflict that made no sense to begin with. Here's your immorality, general:
The U.S. military is sending troops with serious psychological problems into Iraq and is keeping soldiers in combat even after superiors have been alerted to suicide warnings and other signs of mental illness, a Courant investigation has found."Support the troops," huh? You just know the same folks who are waving the biggest flags and brooking no dissent will be the first to turn their backs on these guys when they come home, labelling them criminals and crazies, just like what happened after Vietnam, when honest veterans, looking to find help for themselves and their fellow soldiers and sailors, were belittled, marginalized and then denigrated...."swift boated," if you will. People like John Kerry, and Ron Kovic, people who saw an injustice being done to ordinary citizens and spoke out.
Despite a congressional order that the military assess the mental health of all deploying troops, fewer than 1 in 300 service members see a mental health professional before shipping out.
Once at war, some unstable troops are kept on the front lines while on potent antidepressants and anti-anxiety drugs, with little or no counseling or medical monitoring.
And some troops who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after serving in Iraq are being sent back to the war zone, increasing the risk to their mental health.
No, these Iraqi soldiers will be the first to be marginalized by the Karl Roves of the world. After all, how much more use to Rove can they be, once they're back from fighting the war he was too scared to strap on a rifle and stand a post for?
And they'll blame us "liberals"...
(hat tip to MissC for the Courant story)
snarkasm, snarcasm, snarky
Tuesday, March 13, 2007
JERUSALEM (Reuters) - Israel has recalled its ambassador in El Salvador after he was found drunk and naked with sex toys lying nearby in the yard of his official residence, Israeli media reports said on Monday.Clearly, this is an example that America might consider trying. Just imagine Condoleeza Rice speaking with Iranian President Ahmedinejad...
A foreign ministry spokeswoman confirmed that the ambassador, Tsuriel Raphael, was recalled but offered no details. "The ministry sees his behavior as unbecoming of a diplomat," the spokeswoman said.
Israeli media reported that local police found Raphael in the yard of the official residence in San Salvador. The reports said he was drunk, naked, and bound and gagged with a rubber ball in his mouth and sex toys lying near him.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The chairman of the U.S. military Joint Chiefs of Staff said he backs the Pentagon's "don't ask, don't tell" limits on gays serving in the military because he believes homosexual acts are immoral, the Chicago Tribune reported in Tuesday's edition.I concur, altho for reasons that are probably different than Gen. Pace's.
Marine Gen. Peter Pace told the newspaper he felt the immorality of homosexual acts was comparable to a member of the armed forces having an adulterous affair with the spouse of another service member.
"I believe homosexual acts between two individuals are immoral and that we should not condone immoral acts," Pace said in an interview with the newspaper. "I do not believe the United States is well served by a policy that says it is okay to be immoral in any way."
I've always believed that the distinction between homosexuality and heterosexuality was a bit of a sham, a moral distinction based not on choices made or a flip of a coin, but on an inherent gut reaction to same-gender sex. After all, Jesus is love and Jesus, while perhaps himself having some reservations about it, would probably condone homosexuals.
That's good enough for me. After all, he condoned adulterers and whores, despite His own condemnation of the acts of adultery (one of the few sins he goes into depth in condemning (Matthew 5:32 But I say unto you, That whosoever shall put away his wife, saving for the cause of fornication, causeth her to commit adultery: and whosoever shall marry her that is divorced committeth adultery. ...sounds like an awful lot of Republicans have an awful lot of 'splainin' to do at the Pearly Gates...).
So if "DA,DT" is good enough for the Armed Forces when it comes to homosexuality, then it ought to be expanded. Any married officer who talks about his/her spouse ought to be courtmartialed. Any UNmarried soldier or sailor caught holding the hand of ANYone else should be summarily executed.
In fact, given the highly puritanical nature of American culture, let's make this a nationwide law: if you talk about your family/girlfriend/boyfriend, it's jail time. No more showing photos of the kids (cuz, you know, that makes you heterosexual, at least once). I know I'd sure gain about an hour a day in productivity from no more small talk about the cute thing Junior did last night, or little Susie's dance recital!
Let's close all the "singles bars". No more "what's your sign?" No more "if I told you you had a beautiful body, would you hold it against me?" You wanna drink? Go to a gin mill! If it was good enough for Grandpa, it's good enough for you.
Beaches? Close 'em. No sense titillating hard working folks with naked flesh broiling under a summer sun, bikini tops loosened so the tan lines on the back disappear. Beaches will remain what they are in the off season: one large dog run.
No more reruns of Baywatch. No more Miss America pageant (c'mon, you've hardly missed that already...the ratings say so). No more Victoria Secrets catalog.
After all, it's a secret! DON'T! TELL!
In fact, I think we should make women and men wear these long dark robes from shoulder to toe...we could call them....hmmmmmm...berkas, after the Son Of Sam, David Berkowitz, who got so enraged at the fact that all these losers had girlfriends and he didn't that he went around shooting people in the face.
Don't ask, don't tell, don't piss psychotics off. See how easy that is? In fact, we could include some sort of hood with the berkas that would emulate the mask worn by fencers, so you couldn't even see a luscious pair of lips or beautiful blue eyes, and have an impure thought.
After all, in the Sermon On The Mount, (Matthew 5:28) Jesus said, "But I say unto you, That whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her hath committed adultery with her already in his heart."
Jimmy Carter doesn't sound so stupid anymore, does he?
Much of the Religious Right believes that provocative dress incites morally weak men to rape and fornicate anyway (just ask Jim Bakker or Jimmy Swaggart), so this way, we've inoculated society from its greatest fear, the injectable boner.
Just think of how much prettier and purer society will be!
Don't Ask, Don't Tell
snarkasm, snarcasm, snarky
Monday, March 12, 2007
For all the reasons we should never have gotten into this misguided and illegal war, this one should stand out in stark contrast to all the pontifications and think-pieces combined.
This kid, this boy, got in harm's way for a war we shouldn't be fighting, and two lives were changed completely for it.
(Hat tip Scribes at Martini Republic)
Photos courtesy of Nina Berman/Redux. The entire series here.
I digress. The point of the game is to bluff your opponent into either overestimating or underestimating what you hold in your hand. I bring this up, because I firmly believe that is what is happening here:
MANAMA/HOUSTON (Reuters) - U.S. oil services firm Halliburton Co. is moving its headquarters and chief executive to Dubai to better position itself to gain contracts in the oil-rich Middle East.Too, Halliburton has made enormous sums of money off the contracts it held with the United States government, contracts that will now be seriously jeopardized by this move. Which is why I think this may be a bluff on 'Burton's part.
Texas-based Halliburton, which was led by Vice President Dick Cheney from 1995-2000, did not specify what, if any, tax implications the move might entail. It plans to list on a Middle East bourse once it moves to Dubai -- a booming commercial center in the Gulf.
"My office will be in Dubai, and I will run our entire worldwide operations from that office," said Chief Executive David Lesar at an energy conference in Bahrain on Sunday. "Dubai is a great business center."
Halliburton has drawn scrutiny from auditors, congressional Democrats and the Justice Department for the quality and pricing of its KBR Inc. unit's work for the U.S. army in Iraq.
Famously, you may recall this exchange from the 2000 Vice Presidential debate:
LIEBERMAN: Dick Cheney must be one of the few people who think nothing has been accomplished in the last eight years. [...]I think if you asked most people in America today that famous question that Ronald Reagan asked, "Are you better off today than you were eight years ago?" Most people would say yes. I'm pleased to see, Dick, from the newspapers that you're better off than you were eight years ago, too.Oh but it did:
CHENEY: I can tell you, Joe, the government had absolutely nothing to do with it.
- In the aftermath of Operation Desert Storm in Kuwait in 1991, Halliburton crews helped bring 320 burning oil wells under control.Thus comes the liar's poker part. Halliburton can no more do without the US than the US can do without Halliburton. Granted, there are other companies, other transnational, transdisciplinary companies, that could take up the slack (Schlumberger and Bechtel come to mind) but that's like swapping an addiction to cocaine for heroin.
- In the early 1990s Halliburton was found to be in violation of federal trade barriers in Iraq and Libya, having sold these countries dual-use oil drilling equipment and, through its former subsidiary, Halliburton Logging Services, sending six pulse neutron generators to Libya. After having pleaded guilty, the company was fined $1.2 million, with another $2.61 million in penalties.
- In the Balkans conflict in the 1990s, KBR supported U.S. peacekeeping forces in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia and Hungary with food, laundry, transportation and other lifecycle management services.
- In 1995 Dick Cheney became chairman and CEO.
- In 1998 Halliburton merged with Dresser Industries, which included Kellogg.
It's possible that they are serious in their threats, that they see a Democratic Congress gearing up to do very thorough investigations of Halliburton and its various subsidiaries, and will flee the country until the storm subsides. And it probably even calculated into the equation the fact that, for the forseeable future, Democrats would be in the forefront of making sure Halliburton gets no more government contracts at any level.
Given the enormous sums of money they've made (Dick Cheney conspicuously made $2 million for not even showing up for four years), one might believe that they've made a business decision that the goose has laid enough golden eggs for a while.
But I doubt it. Profits are important for stock prices and Halliburton is going to have a tough time making up the revenue shortfall from American contracts, even if this move now frees them to openly do business with rogue states like North Korea, Iran, and Cuba (previously, this business was filtered through a Cayman Islands subsidiary, which then upstreamed money to the American entity).
The best strategy in Liar's Poker is to make the other guy make the mistake. Here's hoping Senator Dorgan and Congressman Waxman have played this game often enough.
Sunday, March 11, 2007
I went to the brushless car wash near the Whitestone Bridge. You know the kind: they slap soapy carpeting across your finish then rinse it off with well water from some mysterious aquifer that, altho they are within 100 feet of the most polluted body of water within the confines of New York City, somehow manages to clean the soap and crud off your car.
It was 7 this morning. The daughter unit was at swimming practice (which despite her opinion does not hold its practices in said body of water: you'd bounce off if you tried to dive in) and I had some time to kill and the snow was finally gone from the streets and the temperatures promised to be above freezing.
I pulled up and noticed that there was a full crew on: the cashier, the guy who asks you "you want waxing?", along with 12 to fifteen guys who brush and wipe and hose your car for you.
I got the "V.I.P. Wash", $20, because the inside of the car was, well, a little cruddy. They wash the plastic mats and do a really nice job cleaning the carpeting and upholstery, and I have a long drive next weekend.
I paid the cashier and waited for my car. And waited. And waited.
No, the car was fine. They were doing a thorough job of brushing soap into the wheels, and taking the mats out and hosing them down. The car enters the wash, and takes it's usual three minutes to go through the cycle: wash, rinse and spit, I mean, wax, rinse and blow dry.
I've had show cats that got worse treatment.
Twenty five minutes later, I'm driving off. Why so long? Because they were detailing the interior with Armor All and wiping the windows down and cleaning the door trim.
And as I'm watching this, it occurs to me: I'm tipping about ten bucks, because I'm generous. I'm a union guy, see, and I believe hard work is its own reward but anything on top of that is deserved as well. And I'm watching other people drop a buck or two into the box, a few coins.
And I'm calculating: fifteen guys. I've been here about a half hour. They've earned about fifteen dollars in tips (apart from mine). And I realize: there is no way an American would stoop to taking a job like this. It's cold. It's wet. There's ice all over the ground, not to mention wax and other slick chemicals. There's oil from the cars themselves, and exhaust fumes.
And these poor souls, who probably make $3, $4 an hour, are grateful to do this work.
And there are people in this country who want to send them home.