seeking knowledge and laughter, putting a bullseye on inaccuracy

Rants

Sometimes you just gotta let loose

Privacy Schmivacy

Following an election in which the American people attempted to send a message to President Bush regarding the direction he has charted, he remains unchastened in the war against the Constitution he is waging on behalf of VP Cheney.

daddYman sent this story my way - Bush believes he has the power to open the mail of Americans without warrant. Whereas the electronic spying has some murkiness due to the newness of the technology and openness of the involved protocols, this is an absurd power grab with no justification.

This country was founded on principles of privacy from government intrusion. If not for the anger of olonists who were pissed about taxation without representation and the unrestrained powers of the King to do things like read their mail, we would all be speaking English right now. English English!! "Dear me, I do say that I am jolly well pleased it is tea time."

I seem to remember that Eleanor Roosevelt attempted to consult the dead from time to time. Now I wonder if Prez W is channeling King George. Just great. We got King George with Dick Machiavelli as an adviser/puppeteer.

This is absurd. I had thought Bush would be chastened from the popular bitch slap he got in Nov, but he literally is beyond any modicum of self-examination. I would call him a wrecking ball, but even they change direction periodically.

Hussein is Hanged

I can only hope that is 1 day into his 30,000 year Promethian punishment. Prometheus was punished by Zeus by having an eagle eat his liver every day. Each night it grew back and Prometheus could look forward to another day of torture.

Though I think his death did nothing to help the situation in Iraq and may even worsen it in the medium term, I'm glad they stretched his neck.

Fantasy

I have a few minutes to write in between finishing a massive applied economics paper and starting a big ole paper on national security. Woohoo.

I saw these two headlines this morning: "NBC to use 'civil war' to describe Iraq" and "Bush Blames Al Qaeda for Wave of Iraq Violence"."

Can anyone be more clueless about the state of Iraq than the President who put us there? I never understood why there was such furor over Presidential-candidate Clinton in 1992 about his draft-dodging past. Now I do. I still don't understand why those same people had no concern about Bush's draft-dodging (using a the rich-man's connections to the same means). Nonetheless, I have to think that Bush might be less cavalier about his failed war if he had served in one.

Goddamned blue bloods.

Hey Bush, you need to engage Iran and Syria! This is not a joke. You have totally fucked up the Middle East (a remarkable accomplishment considering no one expected to get worse) and your actions have real world consequences. This is not some fantasy land where Fox News spin overrules reality.

Fox News can pretend we are fighting them "over there" instead of "over here" but that totally ignores the fact that your actions are creating MORE terrorists over there who will try to find their way "OVER HERE." The key is that you kill/creation ratio of terrorists is far too low. Ideally it would approach or surpass 1 rather than approaching 0. This might be too mathematical for you, so let's put it this way: your anti-terrorism policy relies on luck in the short term and condemns us in the long term.

You may want to ignore Iran and Syria because your neo-con buddies hate them and they hate you but the problem in Iraq is more important than your ego. Involving Iran and Syria now will not solve the problem but it damn sure well moves us closer to a solution than away from it.

You broke Iraq and you aren't going to put it back together. If you don't want to create a permanent breeding ground for jihadists, you damn sure well need to work with Iraq's neighbors to stabilize it.

Democracy is not possible in a society where people cannot leave their homes. Iraq needs the rule of law far more than it needs elections right now, so stop inking people's fingers for photo ops and start making policy like you'll be around to clean up your fucking mess.

American Exceptionalism

I'm busy, tired, and full. Had a great Thanksgiving, but I need to finish a paper on the upcoming Massachusetts v. EPA case (on carbon dioxide emission regulation that will be heard by the Supreme Court next week) so I'm going to be lazy and just publish an email I sent to a friend.

He wanted to know what I thought about a story on a right wing blog about a clash between the American legal system and Saudi Arabian norms. My semi-rant will make more sense if you read her column first.

Regarding this article, I think there are a number of factual inaccuracies and a total lack of perspective...

Anytime anyone claims that the American judicial system is the fairest in the world is full of shit. I'm really tired of this American triumphalism ... not that I always disagree. We are damn good in a number of areas, but the same people who trumpet our strengths generally do it to hide our weaknesses. Is our system the fairest in the world? I don't know. How would you even judge? What metrics? Maybe it is the best, but I have yet to ever see someone develop a meaningful methodology to compare who was the best freedom or judicial system or food. So when someone says we are the "best" I assume it means they shape their opinions solely from U.S.-based media and are therefore somewhat blind to the rest of the world.

Not to mention, it is odd for her to attack the system for failing over and over in her absurd reading of recent cases (like the Detroit one - see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Detroit%20Sleeper%20Cell for some details of that case (yah, I know, it is wikipedia, but you can dig around more if you don't trust 'em) - she says it was "technicalities" whereas to me, it seems like the government was heading in a Saddam Husseinian judiciary direction and the convictions were correctly thrown out).

Suggesting our system bends over backward for Muslims is just plain wrong. The simple fact is that people who are not Christians face an uphill battle in all aspects of our society (some studies suggest that atheists are even more discriminated against than Muslims if you can believe it). Of course, the grade is considerably less than say Jews in many Muslim countries, but let us not compare ourselves to some of the most repressive areas of the world just to make ourselves feel better. And yes, I think Muslims are treated more fairly in the U.S. courts than Europeans, but then, they seem intent on doing immigration 100% wrong.

On the merits of the case, I'm glad that dude got the death penalty. And yeah, the taxpayers from CO shouldn't have to pay to send anyone over there to explain it, but I seriously wonder if this woman took the same position in that famous case years ago when the American youth was caned in Singapore for violating their laws (on gum chewing or littering, or both). This woman seems to me to base her opinions on her unwavering belief that Americans are always right rather than a principled stand on tricky matters of people traveling abroad among unfamiliar judicial systems.

If she thinks that anyone who travels needs to respect the laws of the host country, that is one thing. But if her daughter was going to be stoned to death for showing too much skin in the wrong part of the world, I think she would be the first trying to get the U.S. gov to bail her out. Of course, who wouldn't in that case?

As for Saudi Arabia, they are strong allies of the U.S. for several geopolitical reasons, so I think it makes sense for the U.S. to send someone over there to explain why we are going to execute that dude. Diplomacy often seems to involve not allowing a churning stomach to get in the way of keeping an ally.

This is the part that pisses me off because it shows a total disregard for history:

Can you imagine the U.S. sending a state Attorney General to explain to Hitler why we allow Blacks and Jews to serve as witnesses in our courts and why enslaving and raping them for five years is a crime?

Let's talk about the U.S. during WWII. At that time, African Americans were suffering from severe discrimination and in fact, were denied access to serve on juries by what is called "peremptory challenges." Randall Kennedy from Harvard Law has some good essays that cover the ways in which African Americans were systematically denied the Constitutional right to serve on a jury. This is just one little thing that community suffered from a mere 60 years ago.

This woman acts like we are some de facto moral leader when the simple fact is that we are pretty much the only people who consider the U.S. to be one. We have brought a lot of damn good ideas to the world and our rhetoric of extending freedom to all is second to none. But rhetoric is recognized as bullshit by everyone but our own voters who confuse TV commercials and jingoistic football half-time shows with reality.

We could be a moral leader. But it is certainly not by going down the path she advocates - by allowing the governmental to wiretap at will (courts haven't thrown out wiretaps on al-Qaeda, they threw out wiretaps on _everyone_ - the scope of which the Bush Administration continues to refuse to admit) or by allowing courts to try accused terrorists by lower standards and secret evidence.

We will be a moral leader by committing ourselves to the rule of law - something both Republicans and Democrats only care about when they are in the minority. And the rule of law is bullshit unless the rules are created by the people - the K street lobbyists hardly share the common citizens' concerns.

Arrogance and Voting

I am actually quoting myself. How arrogant? I sent this to a friend tonight to buttress his arguments against those who claim "If you don't vote, you don't get to complain."

To those who say if you don't vote, you don't get to complain - fuck that =)

You get to complain by virtue of being a human and being born. That is where you get freedom of speech according to the founders of this country, not by participating in some quasi-meaningless election.

I much prefer George Carlin's version. "If you vote, you don't get to complain." People who vote are the ones who make it possible for those in office to mess everything up. Therefore, you are responsible for their actions and do not get to complain. I did not vote for them, therefore I am not responsible for their stupidity.

Today, I actually cast my first ballot since '96 or '98 ... I don't remember exactly. I voted on the 2 referenda we have here. No candidates. I am not going to allow my carefully thought out opinion to comingle with millions of people who make up their mind based on party affiliation, stupid commercials, and talk radio.

No More Bitchin

Americans have lost their collective right to bitch about high gas prices. I just posted a piece on Energista discussing the massive jump in SUV sales in October. The key quote is:

Sales of big pickup trucks and SUVs went through the roof - doubling from the year before in some cases. Sales of small, fuel-efficient cars, meanwhile, remained stagnant. It is as if all that moaning and groaning about price gouging by oil companies never happened.

When oil prices go back up (and up), I want to rob a few banks and finance a stream of commercials which say "WHAT DID YOU EXPECT???" Buying a car means you are locked into that fuel efficiency for years - often more than a decade. Enjoy sitting in traffic on the highway.

And don't tag me as being totally opposed to SUVs! I have yearned for an SUV while riding around boulder-strewn roads by Mount Hood in a sedan. SUVs are great when they are used properly. The proper use for an SUV is not errands by suburbanites with low self-esteem and poor driving skills.

Come on OIL! I am rooting for $100 per barrell by summer, 2008. Let's see what happens as Iran goes down the path of nuclear weapons while Nigeria continues to destabilize and insurgents further destroy Iraq's capacity all the while China and India ramp up demand.

Consistency

Everyone's favorite right-wing columnist, Katherine Kersten, has another column which explores her take on the controversy surrounding the Somali cabdrivers who are refusing to carry passengers who are carrying alcohol.

Naturally, conservatives like Kersten are freaking out about Somalis who refuse to drive certain passengers. I actually tend to agree with them on the greater point ... if you are going to be a cabdriver, drive the damn cab. If you are going to be a pharmacist, fill the damn scripts. Funny how they are not consistent across different jobs.

But then, are they even consistent across the same job? I got this in an email email from OutFront Minnesota a few days ago.

On Tuesday of this week, a Metro Transit bus driver complained about the "Unleash your Inner Gay" ad on the bus she was driving and was given permission to avoid driving any of the 50 buses that have the advertising campaign. Metro Transit authorities said they granted the bus driver's request to accommodate her religious beliefs.

Who among the conservatives would fight to force this woman to drive a bus with a Lavender magazine ad on it? Not many I'm guessing.

Far too many folks are fanatics for their cause and no greater principle. I saw this with Democrats who loved Clinton's policy of starving Iraqis and periodically bombing them to keep Hussein in his place. When Bush did the same thing early in his presidency, many suddenly found themselves opposed to it.

Whenever you have a kneejerk reaction to some issue, you need to stop and think about he issue rather than just going with what seems right. Merely making policies and decisions based upon each issue does nothing to create a stable and healthy society.

NSC 68

With the United States in an isolated position, we would have to face the probability that the Soviet Union would quickly dominate most of Eurasia, probably without meeting armed resistance. It would thus acquire a potential far superior to our own, and would promptly proceed to develop this potential with the purpose of eliminating our power, which would, even in isolation, remain as a challenge to it and as an obstacle to the imposition of its kind of order in the world. There is no way to make ourselves inoffensive to the Kremlin except by complete submission to its will. Therefore isolation would in the end condemn us to capitulate or to fight alone and on the defensive, with drastically limited offensive and retaliatory capabilities in comparison with the Soviet Union.

These people had no respect or understanding for the power of those around the USSR to resist their occupation. We saw what happened when the USSR tried to dominate Afghanistan. We saw what happened when we tried to dominate Vietnam.

We are seeing now how the people of Iraq will not be dominated by United States misrule, though I suspect they would have consented to a proper occupation, had it been within the Bush Administration's competence to actually carry out.

Some policymakers have learned that people are not always sheep - they do have power and sometimes figure out how to use it.

National Security

From the 2006 National Security Strategy of the United States:

The United States is in the early years of
a long struggle, similar to what our country faced in the early years of the Cold War. The
20th century witnessed the triumph of freedom over the threats of fascism and
communism. Yet a new totalitarian ideology now threatens, an ideology grounded not in
secular philosophy but in the perversion of a proud religion. Its content may be different
from the ideologies of the last century, but its means are similar: intolerance, murder,
terror, enslavement, and repression.

You simply cannot compare the threat of fundamentalist Islamic terrorism to the Cold War nor WWII. It is simply not that strong, scary, or threatening. At the very basic level, both fascism and communism had tens of millions of adherents. Jihadists probably number in the tens of thousands.

While Bush has found it quite useful to conflate those who admire actual fundamentalist terrorists with those who just plain hate our occupation of Iraq, the threat from Islamic terrorism is not even close to the level of that from fascism or communism.

To put it up there and continue to promote these few jackasses that occasionally pull of horrific acts of terrorism does little but show how stupid our rulers are. Rather than treat these few terrorists for the criminals they are - hunt them down / disrupt them / kill them - we have elevated them to some major threat to our way of life.

The only threat to our way of life is us (including from actually making our planet inhospitable to human existence through environmental degredation). Bush's response to bin Laden and the terrorists has not only killed more Americans than died in the 9-11 attacks, it has hurt our way of life (think Bill of Rights freedoms or the crushing economic debt we'll pass on to the next generation) far worse than the actual attacks on us.

This is folly. But if we are so stupid that significant numbers of us still think he is doing a great job, then we deserve this bullshit. Even if you have opposed him from the start (here I include me with you) then you deserve this shit also for not doing more to stop them. We are responsible for safe guarding our freedoms and our way of life and we have not.

Bush's incompetence is a symptom of a greater problem in this country. Removing him from office will do little to help us. Though it certainly couldn't hurt.

Common Sense Resurges

The TSA is relaxing its poorly thought out near-ban on gels and liquids. I recently predicted this ban would not last because I believed that it would not take too long before everyone became fed up with rules that create such long lines and inconvenience.

These rules never made anyone safer, but I gave up hope that the rules would be relaxed merely because they were pointless. The simple fact is that the people making security policy are more familiar with Hollywood movies (where 2 liquids combined makes a big boom) than they are with chemistry (where 2 liquids combined in a carefully controlled environment goes pop). Perhaps an oversimplication, but a valid one.

There is no explanation for why terrorists could blow up planes yesterday with the binary liquid bomb but cannot tomorrow.

"Security has always been a balance between safety and convenience, and it appears this time they're pointing a bit more toward convenience,'' said David Stempler, president of the Air Travelers Association in Potomac, Maryland.

Yes and no. It is certainly a balance, but in this case, the threat of a binary liquid bomb was clearly overblown and some people have finally realized it. We may actually be safer now that screeners are focused more on real threats than Hollywood threats - but I doubt it.

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