Why Are Record Numbers of US Soldiers Committing Suicide?
From Democracy Now:
EMMA PROPHET: There was a revealing article here, that I think actually got off of National Public Radio, that the first two months to three months of this year, there were more people that are active duty that committed suicide than there were killed in action. And that’s the first time that that’s ever happened. And it’s happening when they’re overseas, and it’s happening when they come home.
And it is an issue that has been pervasive with all wars. The effects of the trauma that they go through mentally is very profound, and there really isn’t anything set up that is pervasive enough to allow them to recover, that you may go see a counselor if you want to, but there’s no real program.
AMY GOODMAN: Do you think the military is dealing with this adequately, overall?
EMMA PROPHET: I’m not really seeing them dealing with it adequately. You have to be proactive. You can’t wait for the guy to go in, because he’s going to be afraid of looking weak. And the whole military—it doesn’t matter what branch you’re in—is to suck it up and go do what you’ve got to do. And that does not go well with dealing with psychological trauma.
Click here to read, watch, or listen to the rest.
Okay, so I disagree with their current mission. But this is bullshit. I mean, it's all bullshit: we've ordered them into psychotic situations for psychotic reasons, so it's no wonder that they're having to deal with psychosis as a result. And the biggest civilian cheerleaders for these anti-Muslim wars have also used the phrase "support the troops" in the loudest and most in-your-face way. "Support the troops" my ass. What they actually mean is "support the wars."
And when our young men and women come home permanently scarred, well, that's just testament to the fact that war is hell. I guess.
Like I said, I am deeply opposed to our dual wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, but we owe these people everything. It's not their fault that the civilian leadership has repeatedly abused them. For love of country, they've sacrificed life and limb, and psychological stability. It is an utter disgrace that this rash of suicides continues unabated. Getting an effective treatment program together isn't particularly difficult; it's simply a matter of people in the White House or Congress getting their shit together and issuing some good policy. Military attitudes about psychological intervention, however, are more difficult. But this is a cultural issue, and like I keep asserting in my Quis Custodiet posts about the police, organizational cultures can and do change all the time--it's really only a matter of getting the top brass on board and pushing it hard; ultimately, it's a command issue.
But right now, nothing appears to be happening on either front. What the fuck is up with that?
Thursday, April 30, 2009
Why Are Record Numbers of US Soldiers Committing Suicide?
Posted by Ron at 10:13 PM
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
THE MAN TRAP
"The Man Trap" is a first season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series. It originally aired on Thursday, September 8, 1966, and was the first episode to be shown on NBC. It is episode #1, production #6, and was written by George Clayton Johnson, and directed by Marc Daniels.
Although it was first aired, it was not the first produced (the pilot "Where No Man Has Gone Before" and several regular episodes had been produced before it). The current official timeline considers "Where No Man Has Gone Before" to be set first.
The so-called "salt vampire episode." I don't think I'd ever be tempted to place this one on my top ten list. It suffers from the first season irregularities the show had while figuring itself out, making it feel a lot less like Trek than some random scifi offering from the era, but it stands well on its own. That is, it's a good story, with a good alien monster, and good bizarre spaceman deaths. Indeed, the Shatner pain-face displayed when the alien begins absorbing his bodily salt is one of the best of the series. That, in itself, makes "The Man Trap" worth watching.
Read a New York Times story on the new Star Trek movie here.
Read a Daily Kos blogger's ruminations on loving Star Trek here.
Posted by Ron at 10:38 PM
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
RAT ABANDONS SHIP
From the AP via the Houston Chronicle:
Specter's switch puts Dems near filibuster mark
Veteran Republican Arlen Specter of Pennsylvania switched parties Tuesday with a suddenness that seemed to stun the Senate, a moderate's defection that pushed Democrats to within a seat of a 60-vote filibuster-resistant majority with President Barack Obama's key legislative priorities on the horizon.
Specter, 79 and seeking a sixth term in 2010, conceded bluntly that his chances of winning a Pennsylvania Republican primary next year were bleak in a party grown increasingly conservative. But he cast his decision as one of principle, rather than fueled by political ambition as spurned GOP leaders alleged.
"I have found myself increasingly at odds with the Republican philosophy and more in line with the philosophy of the Democratic Party," he said at a news conference. He added, "I am not prepared to have my 29 year record in the United States Senate decided by the Pennsylvania Republican primary electorate."
After nearly six full terms in the Senate, Specter is one of a handful of moderate Republicans left, a politician of remarkable resilience who has maneuvered successfully to protect his seat at home and his seniority rights in Congress.
And from the Daily Kos:
Specter's play for political survival
This move is about political survival, and nothing more. Specter's overriding concern is staying in the Senate, and he'll bend whatever conviction is necessary to make that happen. And since it was clear he wasn't going to survive a primary challenge, well, he did what he needed to do. I wouldn't be surprised, if the Dems pick up a good primary challenger to Specter, for the incumbent to suddenly re-find religion on EFCA. It's not as if Specter believes in anything beyond his title and choice parking spot near the Capitol.
And over at Eschaton, uber blogger Atrios, who lives in Pennsylvania, issues these warnings:
I've lived under the wanktitude of Specter long enough to know that he rarely actually does anything positive. As Harry Reid said to a small group of bloggers last year in Denver, (quote from memory) "Arlen Specter's with us except when we need him."
I hope this works out better than I expect, but 60 nominal Ds doesn't equal 60 votes.
More here and here.
Yeah, this is always exciting whenever it happens, from whichever partisan perspective you have--it's bad exciting when they leave your party, and good exciting when they leave their party. So this is fun news, one way or the other. Like taking a deck of cards and throwing it up in the air to see how it all works out. I'm like, "oooh neat!"
But from my personal perspective, which isn't so much partisan as it is ideological, this doesn't change the game too terribly much at all. As Atrios implies, Specter probably won't vote too terribly differently from how he was voting as a Republican: indeed, as Kos observes, the Pennsylvania Senator's traditionally conservative distaste for organized labor, expressed most recently in his opposition to the pro-labor Employee Free Choice Act, is staying the same despite his party switch; it's reasonable to assume that the only significant difference will be the letter next to his name when he's identifed in news stories.
Indeed, even though this story is being framed in terms of how far the Republicans have moved to the right, which is true enough at face value, my take is that Specter's switch is much better evidence of how far the Democrats have moved away from the left. He's an obvious conservative, but he's fitting right in with the so-called "liberal" party, and they're pleased as punch to have him!
When you get right down to it, after a thirty year hard-hitting political war, the conservatives have won. The political establishment, which includes both major parties, the Washington bureaucracy, and the corporate news media, is, and has been for many years, conservative. The GOP, having completed its life's work, is now irrelevant, consisting of only the most dogmatic political warriors. But the war is over, and like Japanese soldiers hiding out in caves, itching to fight, for decades after they had been defeated, Republican warriors amble on in confusion. Real conservative politics, and real world relevancy, now reside only in the Democratic Party, and smarter Republicans are beginning to realize this.
We are not in a new "liberal" era. We are simply watching the same old conservative era stabilize itself. I expect more GOP defections in the future.
Posted by Ron at 10:24 PM
Monday, April 27, 2009
Yes, National Review, We Did Execute Japanese for Waterboarding
Former Clinton administration advisor and fellow Longhorn Paul Begala on one of the many points in the ongoing torture debate:
Sen. McCain was right and the National Review Online is wrong. Politifact, the St. Petersburg Times' truth-testing project (which this week was awarded a Pulitzer Prize), scrutinized Sen. McCain's statement and found it to be true. Here's the money quote from Politifact:
"McCain is referencing the Tokyo Trials, officially known as the International Military Tribunal for the Far East. After World War II, an international coalition convened to prosecute Japanese soldiers charged with torture. At the top of the list of techniques was water-based interrogation, known variously then as 'water cure,' 'water torture' and 'waterboarding,' according to the charging documents. It simulates drowning." Politifact went on to report, "A number of the Japanese soldiers convicted by American judges were hanged, while others received lengthy prison sentences or time in labor camps."More here.
Okay, this doesn't particularly affect the torture debate one way or the other. After all, Americans used to torture their slaves, just as the Japanese tortured their prisoners of war, and then, after slavery was abolished, Americans tortured former slaves and their descendants. I mean, even after we executed Japanese torturers for war crimes, "good" white Americans were still lynching African-Americans in the South. Like all American generations, the so-called "Greatest" was both good and bad, and you don't win the torture argument simply because you appear to be on their side.
But still. It has long been understood by Americans, including General George Washington before there was even such a thing as the United States, that torturing prisoners of war is a shameful disgrace. We Americans have not always behaved according to our values, but, at least, we've always known what those values are--in the war crimes trials after WWII, we even put our money where our metaphoric mouth is, punishing torturers in both Germany and Japan. Until the post 9/11 era, we've never proclaimed to the world that torture is right and good.
How is it possible that when the Germans and Japanese tortured it was wrong, but when we torture, it's right? Obvious answer: it's not possible. As Noam Chomsky often observes, it is a simple moral truism that we should hold ourselves to the same standards to which we hold others. Anything less than that is necessarily immoral.
And we are in grave danger of becoming an officially immoral nation.
Posted by Ron at 1:23 AM
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Reclaiming America’s Soul
From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman states the obvious:
We are, or at least we used to be, a nation of moral ideals. In the past, our government has sometimes done an imperfect job of upholding those ideals. But never before have our leaders so utterly betrayed everything our nation stands for. “This government does not torture people,” declared former President Bush, but it did, and all the world knows it.
And the only way we can regain our moral compass, not just for the sake of our position in the world, but for the sake of our own national conscience, is to investigate how that happened, and, if necessary, to prosecute those responsible.
That said, there are a lot of people in Washington who weren’t allied with the torturers but would nonetheless rather not revisit what happened in the Bush years.
Some of them probably just don’t want an ugly scene; my guess is that the president, who clearly prefers visions of uplift to confrontation, is in that group. But the ugliness is already there, and pretending it isn’t won’t make it go away.
Others, I suspect, would rather not revisit those years because they don’t want to be reminded of their own sins of omission.
For the fact is that officials in the Bush administration instituted torture as a policy, misled the nation into a war they wanted to fight and, probably, tortured people in the attempt to extract “confessions” that would justify that war. And during the march to war, most of the political and media establishment looked the other way.
So it appears that the recent release of memos concerning "enhanced interrogation techniques" has spawned the torture debate that the mainstream news media should have been having back in 2004 when the Abu Ghraib scandal broke. In its finer moments, the discussion has gotten lively, but for the most part, it's been lukewarm, with corporate journalists continuing to give the benefit of the doubt to torture supporters, granting legitimacy to points of view that have none. No surprise there, but this better-late-than-never exercise in the marketplace of ideas underscores the rhinoceros under the coffee table: there can be no debate about torture.
Okay, I'll allow some wiggle room for the classic ticking timebomb scenario in which fictional figures like Jack Bauer tend to find themselves time and again. But in the real world, such situations are exceedingly rare, and have very little to do with the kind of wholesale human rights violations practiced as official American policy in Iraq, Afghanistan, and at Guantanamo Bay. What we're talking about is long running, chronic, systemic torture. Time bombs don't tick for months and years.
No, the stark reality is that torture is deeply immoral, perhaps worse than cold blooded murder. People who torture are evil, and any nation that knowingly and willingly practices torture is also evil. There is no "debate" about this. It doesn't matter whether torture is "effective." Torture is wrong. Wrong. In the unspoken margins surrounding this debate is the real discussion: should America become evil in order to fight evil? Nobody comes out and says it in quite this way, but that's what it's all about, to be evil or not to be evil.
Obviously, I support America being good. Anybody who does not is necessarily a supporter of evil and wants to drag our nation toward siding with the denizens of Hell. Anybody who does not speak out against torture is, through their silence, enabling this slide into Hell, and is arguably just as guilty as the torturers themselves. This includes Democrats, journalists, average ordinary citizens, and some close friends and family of mine. I am saddened to judge my loved ones in this way, but this issue is just about as black and white as any we've ever faced. Torture is evil. We cannot support it.
Allowing the guilty to go free is supporting torture. We lose our national soul if we don't bring these people to justice. We must act quickly.
Posted by Ron at 1:23 AM
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
QUIS CUSTODIET IPSOS CUSTODES
Means "Who Polices the Police?"
From Comcast news courtesy of AlterNet:
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — Two FBI workers are accused of using surveillance equipment to spy on teenage girls as they undressed and tried on prom gowns at a charity event at a West Virginia mall.
The FBI employees have been charged with conspiracy and committing criminal invasion of privacy. They were working in an FBI satellite control room at the mall when they positioned a camera on temporary changing rooms and zoomed in for at least 90 minutes on girls dressing for the Cinderella Project fashion show, Marion County Prosecutor Pat Wilson said Monday.
The Cinderella Project at the Middletown Mall in the north-central West Virginia town of Fairmont drew hundreds of girls from 10 high schools in five counties. Organizer Cynthia Woodyard said volunteers, donors and participants are angry.
"I can't even begin to put words around what I consider an unspeakable act, the misuse of surveillance by a branch of our government in a place we felt so secure," she said. "Never in a million years would we have thought something like this would happen. We're in shock."
So last week some Republican tea-baggers came into the restaurant where I work for a quick bite after their protest--the local demonstration site was only about a block away. They even brought their signs: one of which proclaimed "Love your country; distrust your government."
"Now that's a statement this liberal can agree with," I thought to myself. I mean, I agree for different reasons, of course, but I certainly agree. And we should never forget that police are the government. They are not to be trusted. They represent the government's interests, and oftentimes their own, but never the interests of the citizens they ostensibly protect. Okay, sometimes government interests and citizens' interests overlap, but not enough to make cops above suspicion. We really ought to think of them as the armed security agents of the state, rather than your friendly neighborhood policemen.
Anyway, while Ms. Woodyard's anger is well justified, her shock and surprise are not. From rape to graft to brutality to various forms of corruption, cops do this shit all the time. Just do a Google search for "police corruption" or "police brutality" and you'll get tons of recent hits. This literally happens every day of the year. And as for "the misuse of surveillance" she decries, it's almost as though Woodyard hasn't been reading the paper for the last eight years: since 9/11 we've been living in a surveillance state!
Wake up and smell the coffee, woman. This isn't the nation you've been led to believe it is.
Posted by Ron at 10:39 PM
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
THE ENEMY WITHIN
"The Enemy Within" is an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, and was broadcast on 6 October 1966. It is a first season episode #5, production #5, and was written by Richard Matheson and directed by Leo Penn.
Overview: A transporter mishap divides Captain Kirk into two versions of himself, one good and one evil, but neither is able to function separately for long.
Okay, this is definitely one of my favorites. Totally a Captain Kirk showcase. I mean, it's always a showcase when you have good Kirk versus evil Kirk, which happens twice more, in the second and third seasons, but this is the first time they did it, and it's quite a romp. Lots of Kirk pain-faces, lots of screaming and pumped up over-the-top acting for which Shatner has been lampooned repeatedly for many years. I mean, this one's fucking fantastic. And it ought to be: the teleplay was written by science fiction great Richard Matheson, who wrote several classic Twilight Zone episodes, the book I Am Legend, which has been turned into three movies including the Charlton Heston must-see The Omega Man, and the book Bid Time Return on which they based the wonderful scifi romance film Somewhere in Time starring Christophers Reeve and Plummer, and Jane Seymour. But it's not just the writing and Shatner's acting that's so notable. This is the first episode to really feel like Star Trek would eventually feel for the rest of the series. Good pacing, clear and unforced character relationships, nothing weird or out of place. This is easily one of the best the show had to offer.
You'll love it. And you'll love Sulu's space dog, too.
Posted by Ron at 10:11 PM
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
In Adopting Harsh Tactics, No Inquiry Into Past Use
From the New York Times:
Agency officials, led by Mr. Tenet, sought interrogation advice from other countries. And, fatefully, they contacted the military unit that runs the SERE training program, the Joint Personnel Recovery Agency, which gives American pilots, special operations troops and others a sample of the brutal interrogation methods they might face as prisoners of war. Mr. Tenet declined to be interviewed.
Overwhelmed with reports of potential threats and anguished that the agency had failed to stop the Sept. 11 attacks, Mr. Tenet and his top aides did not probe deeply into the prescription Dr. Mitchell so confidently presented: using the SERE tactics on Qaeda prisoners.
A little research on the origin of those methods would have given reason for doubt. Government studies in the 1950s found that Chinese Communist interrogators had produced false confessions from captured American pilots not with some kind of sinister “brainwashing” but with crude tactics: shackling the Americans to force them to stand for hours, keeping them in cold cells, disrupting their sleep and limiting access to food and hygiene.
“The Communists do not look upon these assaults as ‘torture,’ ” one 1956 study concluded. “But all of them produce great discomfort, and lead to serious disturbances of many bodily processes; there is no reason to differentiate them from any other form of torture.”
Worse, the study found that under such abusive treatment, a prisoner became “malleable and suggestible, and in some instances he may confabulate.”
Okay, to a great extent, while quite interesting, this is all beside the point: it doesn't matter whether torture is "effective" or not; torture is immoral, something which, in theory, greatly differentiates us from terrorists. Having said that, this kind of incompetence is utterly par for the course.
Not long after the Abu Ghraib scandal hit the US press, at least one lefty writer observed that the kind of torture being used there and at Gitmo greatly resembled what the Chinese and North Koreans were doing back in the 50s to extract the above mentioned "false confessions." So it's been known, if not verified, for half a decade that the US has been using an "interrogation technique" purposely designed to elicit incorrect information. The only mystery has been how, exactly, such a strange and counterproductive program came to pass.
Now we know. Apparently, the whole attitude inside the White House was "we gotta torture; we gotta torture; who's got some torture for us?" In this atmosphere of panic-for-torture, it was easy for the first loud voice available to step up and command the discussion. Unfortunately, for the "grownups" of the Cheney administration, that voice turned out to be a whack-job psychologist who had been training US servicemen to resist Cold War style coercion. So we immediately went about using a torture technique absolutely guaranteed to get its victims to tell us what they thought we wanted to hear, rather than the truth.
I can't wait for the release of the memos Cheney is demanding that will show us all how his brutal torture regime "worked." My bet is that a lot of these guys confessed to kidnapping the Lindbergh baby and masterminding the Lufthansa heist. But I guess we'll see.
Posted by Ron at 11:19 PM
Monday, April 20, 2009
"Talk Like Shakespeare Day" Declared For Thursday In Chicago
From the AP via the Huffington Post news wire:
In honor of William Shakespeare's upcoming birthday, Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley has proclaimed "Talk Like Shakespeare Day" in the city.
A bit more here.
This New World Mayor's good proclamation seems
A wondrous way to celebrate our love
Of language, stories, universal themes,
The kick-ass high brow shit that makes hearts move.
But how does one launch simply into verse?
Such complicated lines of iambs packed
With soul, with fire, with thoughts and moods diverse
Are better memorized for one to act.
Indeed, from time to time my privilege
To speak his speech so tripp'ly off the tongue,
To feel like God, or, like a bird, to fledge
Makes plain: my words and rhymes are so much dung.
No, there is one, and only one, Great Bard.
Besides, to rip him off is fucking hard.
Playing Shylock in Merchant of Venice back when I was at LSU.
Posted by Ron at 11:58 PM
From the New York Times:
Not-So-Secret Holiday Hints at Change for Marijuana Advocates
They will not be the only ones partaking: April 20 has long been an unofficial day of celebration for marijuana fans, an occasion for campus smoke-outs, concerts and cannabis festivals. But some advocates of legal marijuana say this year’s “high holiday” carries extra significance as they sense increasing momentum toward acceptance of the drug, either as medicine or entertainment.
“It is the biggest moment yet,” said Ethan Nadelmann, the founder and executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance in Washington, who cited several national polls showing growing support for legalization. “There’s a sense that the notion of legalizing marijuana is starting to cross the fringes into mainstream debate.”
For Mr. Nadelmann and others like him, the signs of change are everywhere, from the nation’s statehouses — where more than a dozen legislatures have taken up measures to allow some medical use of marijuana or some easing of penalties for recreational use — to its swimming pools, where an admission of marijuana use by the Olympic gold medalist Michael Phelps was largely forgiven with a shrug.
Long stigmatized as political poison, the marijuana movement has found new allies in prominent politicians, including Representatives Barney Frank, Democrat of Massachusetts, and Ron Paul, Republican of Texas, who co-wrote a bill last year to decrease federal penalties for possession and to give medical users new protections.
The bill failed, but with the recession prompting bulging budget deficits, some legislators in California and Massachusetts have gone further, suggesting that the drug could be legalized and taxed, a concept that has intrigued even such ideologically opposed pundits as Glenn Beck of Fox News and Jack Cafferty of CNN.
Because I am no longer quite the dope fiend I was back in my college days, this issue is no longer quite as personal to me as it once was. I mean, when I was teaching high school I had to have my students explain to me what "420" was all about. I was like, "It's a pot smokers' holiday? Pot smokers have a holiday now? Weird." Strangely, none of my kids were able to tell me how the whole thing started - the above linked Times story asserts that the idea behind "420" began in the early 70s out in California when some stoners made a point of lighting up every day precisely at 4:20 p.m. - but it is now mind blowingly clear that the marijuana culture is big time, and no longer dependent on baby boomer nostalgia for the hippie days. The stoner way is now its own separate entity.
And, of course, all these people have a good point. What does it matter if Americans get high? Sure sure, there are probably some health risks that come from smoking it, although there has never been any scientific data establishing this in the way it has been done for tobacco. But compared to alcohol, America's most popular recreational drug, marijuana is candy. Pot's illegal status has always been an absurdity, especially when you throw cigs and booze into the equation. By and large, pot prohibition is a strange byproduct of some of the odder bywaters of American political culture. It's common knowledge that "just say no" is a political winner, and the law and order crowd always easily chops the legs off any opponent who dares side with the stoners. But in recent years it's become more complicated. The anti-drug establishment is a booming industry. Politicians get elected by being anti-drug. Police departments get more funding by being anti-drug. The schools, too, and let's not forget the prisons. Boot camps and rehabs have sprung up all over the place promising parents and judges that they have the cure for marijuana "addiction." I mean, people are getting rich off marijuana's illegal status.
It is no wonder that ganja remains contraband. Too many powerful people would lose too much if pot were legalized. But this Times article suggests that it all may have reached some sort of breaking point. I don't know. I'll believe it when I see it.
Anyway, happy 420. Here's some Noam Chomsky audio, via YouTube, played over some amusing pot oriented pictures, tracing the connection between pot prohibition and class warfare:
Posted by Ron at 12:44 AM
Sunday, April 19, 2009
HEY! MATT TAIBBI HAS A BLOG!
I had no idea that my favorite Rolling Stone writer's got his own blog. Guess I'll be checking it out pretty regularly now. Anyway, from Taibblog, a nice little rant on the continuing saga of the right-wing descent into irrationality and insanity:
The peasant mentality lives on in America
After all, the reason the winger crowd can’t find a way to be coherently angry right now is because this country has no healthy avenues for genuine populist outrage. It never has. The setup always goes the other way: when the excesses of business interests and their political proteges in Washington leave the regular guy broke and screwed, the response is always for the lower and middle classes to split down the middle and find reasons to get pissed off not at their greedy bosses but at each other. That’s why even people like Beck’s audience, who I’d wager are mostly lower-income people, can’t imagine themselves protesting against the Wall Street barons who in actuality are the ones who fucked them over.
But actual rich people can’t ever be the target. It’s a classic peasant mentality: going into fits of groveling and bowing whenever the master’s carriage rides by, then fuming against the Turks in Crimea or the Jews in the Pale or whoever after spending fifteen hard hours in the fields. You know you’re a peasant when you worship the very people who are right now, this minute, conning you and taking your shit. Whatever the master does, you’re on board. When you get frisky, he sticks a big cross in the middle of your village, and you spend the rest of your life praying to it with big googly eyes. Or he puts out newspapers full of innuendo about this or that faraway group and you immediately salute and rush off to join the hate squad. A good peasant is loyal, simpleminded, and full of misdirected anger. And that’s what we’ve got now, a lot of misdirected anger searching around for a non-target to mis-punish… can’t be mad at AIG, can’t be mad at Citi or Goldman Sachs. The real villains have to be the anti-AIG protesters! After all, those people earned those bonuses! If ever there was a textbook case of peasant thinking, it’s struggling middle-class Americans burned up in defense of taxpayer-funded bonuses to millionaires. It’s really weird stuff. And bound to get weirder, I imagine, as this crisis gets worse and more complicated.
Taibbi is riffing on an observation liberals started making at some point in the 1990s: most Republican voters are not super wealthy, but consistently support policies and views greatly favoring the super wealthy at their own expense. Many liberal brains have exploded while trying to figure out how this is possible, which makes sense because this dynamic appears to be utterly irrational at first glance. My take is that rank and file Republican behavior has little to do with rationality but everything to do with tribalism. That is, working and middle class Republicans, almost always white, see themselves as being the same kind of people as the wealthy elites who fuck them over as quickly and easily as they fuck over other Americans. Consequently, getting a big tax cut, which most Americans just received from Obama's stimulus bill, becomes some sort of tax injustice because their white brothers who make more than $250k are getting a tax hike. Irrational, yes, but it's also tribal. Don't fuck with the tribe.
At any rate, Taibbi's got a really nice explanation of how this dynamic functions, if not an explanation as to why: Republicans, those without any real power or wealth, are groveling peasants. Pathetic in their authority worship. As sniveling as that tattle-tale kid in fifth grade who you gave a swirlie to because he fucking deserved it.
This is why I love Matt Taibbi: he takes old school liberal observations and gives them the fangs they need.
Posted by Ron at 1:10 AM
Friday, April 17, 2009
From the Houston Chronicle blog Texas Politics:
Perry says Texas can leave the union if it wants to
Speaking with reporters after a tea party rally in Austin today, Gov. Rick Perry said Texas can leave the union if it wants to.
"Texas is a unique place. When we came into the union in 1845, one of the issues was that we would be able to leave if we decided to do that," Perry said. "My hope is that America and Washington in particular pays attention. We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, who knows what may come of that."And
Just FYI, on Perry's 1845 statement, Texas came into the union with the ability to divide into five states, not withdraw. After seceding during the Civil War, Texas was allowed to re-enter the union after ratifying the 13th Amendment. The 13th Amendment banned slavery in the United States and any territory subject to its jurisdiction.
UPDATED: Texas v White, a U.S. Supreme Court case decided in 1869, said Texas cannot secede.
Not to mention the fact that the entire Civil War was about states not being able to secede.
Wow. This is pathetic. I'm all for cutting people some slack on a few details here and there as far as important history and civics issues are concerned, but this is extraordinarily basic stuff, third grade American history. Okay, to be fair, I didn't personally learn about my home state's unique ability to divide into five states at will until I was a college freshman, but the whole secession issue I've understood since 1975. When I was seven. How could Perry get it so wrong?
Well, my answer is that he's a moron, possibly stupider than Louisiana's current embarrassment-in-chief Bobby "Jesus" Jindal, but that's just my gut speaking: more likely, Perry, like many other right-wing Republicans, has learned to play fast and loose with facts, so "ability to split into five states" becomes "ability to secede." I guess that's close enough for the lunatic fringe. But for people who prefer reality, it's totally wrong, and when I say "people who prefer reality," I mean "everybody."
Call me old school, but shouldn't our leaders have a basic grasp of basic governmental issues? You know, a mastery equivalent to at least the third grade? I wonder how many elected officials throughout the land are as ignorant as Perry. This really is disturbing the more I think about it.
Posted by Ron at 12:14 AM
Wednesday, April 15, 2009
"Mudd's Women" is an episode of Star Trek: The Original Series first broadcast October 13, 1966 and repeated May 4, 1967. It is a first season episode #6, production #4, and was written by Stephen Kandel, based on a story by Gene Roddenberry and directed by Harvey Hart. The episode introduces the recurring character Harcourt Fenton Mudd.
Overview: The Enterprise picks up a galactic conman and his beautiful female "cargo".
Like last week's "The Corbomite Maneuver," this is not among my favorites. Really, several of these early episodes just don't feel like Star Trek. I mean, yeah sure, they're definitely Star Trek, but the pacing is a bit slower than later episodes, and the writers and actors still haven't quite figured out the characters and their relationships yet. On the other hand, what amazes me is how quickly the show caught its stride: about a third of the way into the first season, they had it all figured out; the show felt like Trek from that point on. Compare that to how the Simpsons didn't get it together until the third or fourth season, or how Seinfeld took at least a year to really get it going.
Don't get me wrong. Even though I greatly prefer the second season's sequel, which is much more fun, and much more Trek-like, I do indeed like "Mudd's Women." And just because I criticize early episodes doesn't mean there aren't some standouts: "Where No Man Has Gone Before," the second pilot posted here a couple of weeks ago, is as good as anything produced later.
Anyway, check it out. In spite of everything I've just said, it's a good watch:
Posted by Ron at 11:59 PM
Homeland Security Report Warns Of Rising Right-Wing Extremism
From the Huffington Post:
In the report (a full copy of which is below), officials warn that right-wing extremists could use the bad state of the U.S. economy and the election of the country's first black president to recruit new members to their cause.
In the intelligence assessment issued to law enforcement last week, Homeland Security officials said there was no specific information about an attack from right-wing extremists in the works.
The agency warns that an extended economic downturn with real estate foreclosures, unemployment and an inability to obtain credit could foster an environment for extremists to recruit new members who may not have been supportive of these causes in the past.
In November, law enforcement officials were seeing more threats and unusual interest against then- President-elect Barack Obama than ever before.
9/11 rattled me for a week or two, for sure, but once a little time had passed I was thinking once again that homegrown terrorists, of the right-wing variety, continue to be the bigger threat. When you get right down to it, Islamic terrorists have succeeded here in the "homeland" only twice, and both times in the same place, the World Trade Center. Granted, their second attack was spectacular, with an instant death toll in the low thousands, but, as numerous reviews and studies of the attack have since shown, it could have, should have been prevented if the Bush administration hadn't been asleep at the switch.
Much trickier are American terrorists. They're already here. They don't need to obtain illegal documents like passports and drivers licenses. They speak English. They're white. Guns, ammo, and explosives are cheap, plentiful, and readily available thanks to the gun-nut lobby. And we have an extraordinarily well established historical tradition of enduring them.
I mean, the Ku Klux Klan is the original American Al Qaeda, violently conservative, paranoid, secretive. The far-right militia movement of the 1990s is the Klan's bastard son, and the militias' bastard son was Timothy McVeigh. But let's not forget the abortion clinic bombers; they're still out there, too. And who the fuck sent out those letters to Democrats and journalists immediately after 9/11 filled with anthrax grown by the US military? The FBI's main suspect, a scientist working for the Pentagon, is dead from an apparent suicide, but little is publicly known about his political views or contacts, and there are more than a few who have cast doubt on the government's theory that he was actually the guy. My bet is that this was yet another homegrown right-wing terrorist attack.
If you include Klan activity over the decades, American right-wing terrorism's murder toll utterly dwarfs the numbers put up by their Islamic rivals. Far-right terrorists are indeed a bigger threat. And shoe-screening in airports will do little to make us safer.
Posted by Ron at 12:48 AM
Tuesday, April 14, 2009
WHAT THE FUCK IS WRONG WITH THE SOUTH?
From the Daily Kos:
Poll: Americans love France, San Francisco, Europe, and NYC
All of them feature the same dynamic as San Francisco -- Republicans have solidly favorable ratings (as do every other demographic tested), but head down South, and it's a whole different world, dramatically out of step with the rest of America.
What's this mean? It means that all that France and Europe demonizing, and all that talk of "San Francisco liberals" and "San Francisco values", and all that New York bashing (like Rush leaving Manhattan), plays to a very small core of people, and specifically to the conservative's Southern base.
This is clear evidence that the GOP has become a rump regional party. Because everyone else in America is just scratching their head at all that hatred directed at these places.
Click here for the rest.
A couple of weeks ago I was checking out a bar here in Metairie. It was really late on a Wednesday night, so there were less than ten people or so there, a small enough crowd for me to take a bar stool and eavesdrop on the conversation: one guy, about my age, dressed in business attire, was going on loudly about how President Obama and the liberals are fucking up the country. He was a bit drunk, so his ranting didn't make much sense. Actually, the drunkenness may not have had anything to do with it; he wasn't terribly articulate, but his rhetoric, if you want to call it that, wasn't much different from what I hear the morons on FOX belching every night. Anyway, the point is that I hear this kind of shit all over the place out here.
The country, after enduring disastrous Republican rule from 1994 through 2008, may have now lurched back toward the center, but not the South. Down here, below the Mason-Dixon, people, white people that is, are pissed. And I just don't get it. I mean, President Obama isn't a Republican, but he's definitely got some conservative tendencies. He's really not too far, ideologically speaking, from President Clinton, who ruled the nation more conservatively than President Nixon, a conservative Republican. Really, in many ways, and in spite of the their recent electoral losses, conservatives have won a great deal over the last thirty years: they've pulled public discourse and the overall sense of American ideology well to the right of where we were back in the 70s. Obama, a center-right Democrat for all intents and purposes, is understood by many Americans to be "liberal." TV guys like Glen Beck and Sean Hannity, both far-right extremists, are seen as being simply "conservative."
The Conservative Movement has altered our political landscape as drastically as 60s radicalism did. So why the fuck are Southern white people so enraged?
Increasingly, since moving into the deep South, I'm coming to think that this all has something to do with slavery and its lasting cultural dynamic, which exists to this very day. That is, Southern culture, the sense of Southern identity as being distinct from the rest of the United States, was born as a reaction to Abolitionism in the North during the nineteenth century. So from the get-go, Southern culture was brimming with a sense of persecution by outsiders; likewise, Southern culture historically fears non-white insiders, specifically African-Americans, and with good reason given white oppression of them. And the traditional way of dealing with such persecution and fear here in the South is violence. Not discussion. Not negotiation. Violence. Fear spawned violence. Really, when you get right down to it, Southern pride, Southern heritage, whatever you want to call it, is far less about grandma and fried chicken than it is about sheer paranoia, enemies everywhere ready to rape your daughters and force you to listen to hip-hop.
I've really got to think this through some more, do some reading and research, but I think I'm coming to the conclusion that the Civil War never ended. It simply went political. And that means we've got a much bigger problem in these United States than I have ever imagined.
Posted by Ron at 1:48 AM
Monday, April 13, 2009
Tea Parties Forever
From the New York Times, Nobel Prize winning economist Paul Krugman finally takes a break from opining on the economic mess left behind by decades of neoliberalism to talk some politics:
But here’s the thing: the G.O.P. looked as crazy 10 or 15 years ago as it does now. That didn’t stop Republicans from taking control of both Congress and the White House. And they could return to power if the Democrats stumble. So it behooves us to look closely at the state of what is, after all, one of our nation’s two great political parties.
One way to get a good sense of the current state of the G.O.P., and also to see how little has really changed, is to look at the “tea parties” that have been held in a number of places already, and will be held across the country on Wednesday. These parties — antitaxation demonstrations that are supposed to evoke the memory of the Boston Tea Party and the American Revolution — have been the subject of considerable mockery, and rightly so.
But everything that critics mock about these parties has long been standard practice within the Republican Party.
Last but not least: it turns out that the tea parties don’t represent a spontaneous outpouring of public sentiment. They’re AstroTurf (fake grass roots) events, manufactured by the usual suspects. In particular, a key role is being played by FreedomWorks, an organization run by Richard Armey, the former House majority leader, and supported by the usual group of right-wing billionaires. And the parties are, of course, being promoted heavily by Fox News.
But that’s nothing new, and AstroTurf has worked well for Republicans in the past. The most notable example was the “spontaneous” riot back in 2000 — actually orchestrated by G.O.P. strategists — that shut down the presidential vote recount in Florida’s Miami-Dade County.
I've been wondering for a couple of weeks if I ought to simply ignore these ridiculous "tea parties" put together by dead-ender Republicans. I mean, they're so obviously staged by right-wing insider organizations, shamelessly and relentlessly promoted by FOX News. This ain't "the people" protesting: this is just bad PR--it'll probably all go away in a few weeks like any other ineffective ad campaign. Besides, everybody knows conservatives don't protest in the streets. That's for hippies, communists, homosexuals, and Black people. Conservative "tea parties" are fake. Non-events.
But they're just so absurd, it's really difficult to keep my mouth shut about them.
My personal take is that "tea parties" are a sign of desperation. The right-wing is in total disarray, and conservatives know it. But they have no idea what to do about it. Consequently, they're becoming increasingly irrational. I mean, to some extent the Conservative Movement of the last twenty years or so, as opposed to more traditional American conservatism, has always been irrational, but this tea-bagging thing strikes me as being along the lines of how animals in weird psychological isolation experiments eat their own feces or pull out all their hair. That is, conservatives are literally going nuts. And that's pretty frightening, if only because they've all got guns.
On the other hand, Krugman rightly observes that the basic ideological content these tea-people are pushing doesn't really differ in any way from what they've been vomiting for years, and he seems a bit afraid that these views may come to dominate national politics again at some point in the near future. It's always a good idea to fear the right-wing nut fringe, but I'm not, myself, particularly afraid of the Conservative Movement gaining new momentum anytime soon. That is, the excesses of the Bush administration laid bare for all the world to see the inadequacies of the movement. No WMD in Iraq meant either gross incompetence or straight-up lies. "There is no insurgency in Iraq" contrasted starkly with daily reports of American soldiers being blown up with IEDs. Hurricane Katrina revealed that an ideology bent on dismantling government was also an ideology incapable of adequately running government. Tax cuts didn't create new jobs, nor did they prevent the financial meltdown. Deregulation didn't prevent the meltdown, either. Same with imported poison pet food and poison toys from China. In short, movement conservatism developed some severe problems with the real world, and everybody's noses have been rubbed in that fact.
We're all going to have to die off before conservatism starts to smell good again. I mean, too bad for the future, but for now, for the next two or three decades, conservatism, as we've understood it since the early 80s, is kaput. All that's left is theater. Bad theater. But if that means we don't have to put up with this Nazi shit for awhile, I'll take it.
I mean, it's not like Andrew Lloyd Webber or anything. "Tea parties" have some kitch value, at the very least.
Posted by Ron at 12:30 AM
Sunday, April 12, 2009
Yeah, I know I link to this every Easter, but it's a message I think well worth repeating. From Real Art back in April of 2003:
Easter is sin and punishment. I am no longer able to conceptualize morality in such a black and white way. Furthermore, I believe that such thinking actually undermines morality. We ought to do good things because it is the right thing to do, because it eases suffering, because it makes us and others happy. Doing good things in order to avoid Hell and gain admittance to Heaven is ultimately self-centered and greedy. See the paradox? Selfishness and greed are widely acknowledged to be evils: the notion of Heaven and Hell necessarily maneuvers people into a very problematic philosophical position. It is difficult for me to accept that good can be motivated by evil.
Today, most of America celebrates Easter. This means that America also celebrates its dedication to rigid, absolute concepts of good and evil, reward and punishment. This is no overstatement: “tough on crime,” harshly condemned sex scandals, boot camps for youth, and numerous other American social and legal institutions are the rotten fruit of the diseased tree of Christian morality—the dangerous oversimplification of terrorism as performed by “evil doers” results from this morality. I cannot be happy on Easter Sunday; there is nothing to celebrate. In fact, the reverse is true. Because this wildly popular, yet utterly misguided point of view results in so much unneeded suffering and pain, Easter makes me sad.
Since I first managed to articulate my thoughts on Easter five years ago, it just becomes more and more clear. Easter is all about Hell. I mean, okay, it's ostensibly about Heaven, and God's "wonderful gift," the get-out-of-jail-free card known as "salvation," but really, when you take a no nonsense look at the overall philosophy surrounding the concept of salvation, you see that you simply cannot separate it from the notion of Hell, and the Christian point of view that we all deserve to go there. No matter what.
And the only way out of this "eternal suffering," which is cruel and inhumane at face value, is to embrace an ideology, or in Christian code-speak, "accepting Jesus into your heart," that is deeply immoral: in short, becoming a Christian is to endorse torture as right and good.
No thanks. I'd rather laugh with the sinners than cry with the saints.
So, where I'm at today is believing that if the Biblical God Yahweh is, in fact, the creator of the universe, which he's not, but hypothetically speaking, I would still reject Him. I mean, He's the god of genocide, always commanding his chosen race to destroy utterly various tribes and ethnicities occupying land He promised to his children, or doing it Himself when the mood strikes him. He's the God of cruelty, commanding his prophets and other believers to sacrifice their children or stone sinners to death. He inflicts lightning quick death for the slightest transgression, up to and including calling a prophet an "old bald man."
You just can't get away from the fact that the great god Yahweh, if you take the Bible seriously, is crazy, or evil, or both. No fucking way I'm going to worship such a monster, much less claim its "morality" as my own. But today hundreds of millions throughout the world are doing exactly that, totally convinced that they are siding with "good." I wish I could simply play glib and say something like, "bunch of poor sots," but cruel inhuman Christian "morality" is omnipresent, at least in the US. And people pay the price for that.
When you get right down to it, Easter is sick and horrible. If you're serious about morality, serious about creating and promoting good in the world, Easter is a day of grief.
Posted by Ron at 12:14 AM
Friday, April 10, 2009
Thursday, April 09, 2009
Blackmail: GOP Threatens To Filibuster
Nominees If Obama Releases Torture Memos
From the Daily Beast courtesy of the Huffington Post news wire:
Senate Republicans are now privately threatening to derail the confirmation of key Obama administration nominees for top legal positions by linking the votes to suppressing critical torture memos from the Bush era. A reliable Justice Department source advises me that Senate Republicans are planning to “go nuclear” over the nominations of Dawn Johnsen as chief of the Office of Legal Counsel in the Department of Justice and Yale Law School Dean Harold Koh as State Department legal counsel if the torture documents are made public. The source says these threats are the principal reason for the Obama administration’s abrupt pullback last week from a commitment to release some of the documents. A Republican Senate source confirms the strategy. It now appears that Republicans are seeking an Obama commitment to safeguard the Bush administration’s darkest secrets in exchange for letting these nominations go forward.
And just a couple of years ago, Senate Republicans, when they were in the majority, were so outraged by the possibility of Democrats filibustering Bush's judicial nominees that the GOP was ready willing and able to use another version of "[going] nuclear," or as they called it then "the nuclear option," that is, using a simple majority vote to end the Senate rule allowing unlimited debate as a strategy for indefinitely forestalling unwanted legislation. My my, how times have changed. Well, Republican Senators' use of the word "nuclear" as a metaphor to describe politics surrounding the filibuster tactic hasn't changed. But their hatred of the filibuster certainly has. Now they love it.
Good thing for the Republicans that the Democrats backed down; if they hadn't, the GOP would have no weapon today for extorting the White House into essentially becoming an accomplice after the fact to Bush and Cheney's brutal torture regime.
Of course, this is a total outrage. Never mind the fact that the Republicans are so depraved and amoral that they would deny the executive branch key personnel over what is an essentially unrelated issue. What's so disgusting here is how the GOP so unashamedly wants the United States to join a club that includes the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, Khmer Rouge Cambodia, the Spanish Inquisition, the Mafia, and various other third world dictatorships, despotic regimes, and evil organizations. Torture is immoral and evil. If America practices torture, America is immoral and evil. If we do not repent, if we do not bring the people who authorized and directed this torture regime to justice, our nation will continue to be immoral and evil. It is a total outrage that the Republicans just don't care.
I see two possible outcomes from this extortion scheme. The first, and most likely, is that the Democrats and President Obama back down, in the name of "bipartisanship" or "political expediency" or "pragmatism" or some other cowardly euphemistic bullshit. This would be awful, but unsurprising. The second possible outcome is that the Democrats in the Senate tell the "loyal opposition" to fuck off, and employ their own "nuclear option," using their majority status to change Senate rules and end the filibuster forever. This would be the most favorable outcome, effectively ending the choke hold Senate Republicans have placed on all manner of much needed legislation, but much more importantly, would also open floodgates of damning evidence against the Bush administration.
I'll jump and sing and dance if the Dems do the right thing.
Posted by Ron at 10:12 PM
Wednesday, April 08, 2009
THE CORBOMITE MANEUVER
"The Corbomite Maneuver" is a first season episode of Star Trek: The Original Series, first aired November 10, 1966, and repeated May 11, 1967. It is episode #10, production #3, the first regular episode of Star Trek produced after the two pilots, although it was aired later in the season. It was written by Jerry Sohl, directed by Joseph Sargent, and created and produced by Gene Roddenberry.
The episode features a very young Clint Howard, brother of actor-turned-director Ron Howard, who plays the alien "child" at the end (with an overdubbed, deep voice provided by Vic Perrin). This was also the first episode in which DeForest Kelley played Dr. Leonard McCoy, Nichelle Nichols played Lt. Uhura and Grace Lee Whitney played Yeoman Rand, although viewers saw them for the first time in "The Man Trap".
Not my favorite episode, but still pretty cool. Indeed, comic book writer John Byrne, who I greatly admire, once claimed "The Corbomite Maneuver" as his favorite episode when my old pal Brian asked him about it years ago at a book store signing--Byrne's fondness for the episode reportedly comes from the efficiency and fun with which Star Trek establishes its core themes and overall mythology.
Even if you don't like it, it's worth watching if only to see weird Clint Howard as a bizarre dubbed alien. Check it out:
Posted by Ron at 11:41 PM
Tuesday, April 07, 2009
Obama: U.S. "Not A Christian Nation Or A Jewish Nation Or A Muslim Nation"
From the Huffington Post news wire:
At a press conference in Turkey, President Obama casually rebuked the old chestnut that the United States is a Judeo-Christian nation.
"One of the great strengths of the United States," the President said, "is ... we have a very large Christian population -- we do not consider ourselves a Christian nation or a Jewish nation or a Muslim nation. We consider ourselves a nation of citizens who are bound by ideals and a set of values."
Click here to see a quickie CNN debate on the President's statement.
Of course, I agree entirely with the President's assertion: the United States is a secular nation, ideologically driven by a commitment to democracy and freedom. But seeing as how some sectors within our great country, most notably the right-wing fundamentalist Christian koo-koo sector, see such a notion as "controversial," it's worth a couple of words.
This all depends on what one means by the phrase "Christian nation." I mean, sure, most Americans self-identify as Christian, and in that sense, even though the word "Christian" means many different things to many different people, it is fair to say that America is a "Christian nation." On the other hand, for the time being, and historically, most Americans are white. Does that make America a "white nation"? If you use the same reasoning, the answer has to be yes, but I'd hate to be told such a thing if I was an American of color. Actually, I'd hate it in any case.
But the real problem here is that the "Christian nation" people play fast and loose with these ideas. They think religious popularity means religious governance. Yes, America is Christian if you're looking at religious demographics, but in no way does that mean the Bible is an authoritative document in terms of running the country. I mean, setting aside the idea that there are as many interpretations of the Bible as there are Christians, and the practical impediment to democracy such multiple theologies-as-civics would present, the US Constitution, our actual authoritative document, mandates a clear distinction between government and religion.
That is, true American values, found in the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and other writings by our Founding Fathers, and the Enlightenment Era philosophers who inspired them, utterly reject the idea that a democracy ought to be religious at all.
Seems obvious to me. Why are these "Christian nation" people so fucking stupid?
Posted by Ron at 10:20 PM
ECONOMIC POP PHILOSOPHY: COMING FULL CIRCLE
From New Perspectives Quarterly:
Nathan Gardels: You have outlived Milton Friedman, who died in 2006. And now your Keynesian ideas have also outlived his radical free-market ideology. Is economics back to where you started?
Paul Samuelson: You are right. I am old enough to have seen the cycle come full circle. My experience is more valuable now than it was even a year ago, since I first became actively engaged in economic policy on Jan. 2, 1932, at the rock bottom of the Great Depression, when I was an adviser to the Federal Reserve Bank in Washington. In subsequent years, I was principal economic adviser to President-elect John F. Kennedy in 1960 and recruited the team for his Council of Economic Advisers.
I became a centrist early on. Of course, the central planning system of the socialist states we still contested with ideologically in those days was idiotic, but that didn't mean government doesn't play a critical role.
And today we see how utterly mistaken was the Milton Friedman notion that a market system can regulate itself. We see how silly the Ronald Reagan slogan was that government is the problem, not the solution. This prevailing ideology of the last few decades has now been reversed.
Everyone understands now, on the contrary, that there can be no solution without government. The Keynesian idea is once again accepted that fiscal policy and deficit spending has a major role to play in guiding a market economy. I wish Friedman were still alive so he could witness how his extremism led to the defeat of his own ideas.
No real commentary about this tonight. I just wanted to assert an opinion on this from a Nobel Prize winning economist who isn't named Paul Krugman. And this isn't even to entirely invalidate Milton Friedman, either, just his more radical ideas that have taken root in the US political mainstream. That is, neoliberalism, as popularly understood, with its strong emphasis on government non-interference in the economy, is now shattered as a pop philosophy. I mean, certainly there are numerous areas of the economy, numerous individual instances, where government intervention is unwise. But the conventional wisdom that it is always better for the government to stay out of the economy is now obviously flat out wrong. Quite the reverse, in fact, as Samuelson observes, the government must involve itself in the economy. The only questions to be debated concern how that's going to happen, and why.
A related thought: politicians and the mainstream media continue to ignore that this philosophical shift has taken place. Right wingers like Congressional Republicans and FOX News have an obvious stake in doing this, but I'm genuinely perplexed by Democrats' refusal to put the debate in terms of Keynesian economics versus neoliberal economics. Doing so would head off many if not most of the Republican talking points on Obama's economic initiatives. My guess, and this is supported by how the White House seems to be controlled to some extent by the banking and financial sector, is that the Democrats aren't entirely ready, themselves, to admit that a new economic reality has dawned. That is, neoliberalism has been embraced by the Dems almost as thoroughly as by the GOP.
I just hope the Democrats can shake off their hangover soon. Things are going to get worse before they get better, and pussyfooting around while Rome burns isn't going to help things one bit.
Posted by Ron at 12:30 AM
Monday, April 06, 2009
Saturday, April 04, 2009
Iowa becomes 3rd state to legalize gay marriage
From the Washington Post via the Houston Chronicle:
Iowa became the third state in the country and the first from the rural heartland to legalize same-sex marriage when its Supreme Court Friday unanimously struck down the state's decade-long ban.
Gay advocacy groups hailed the decision as another example of same-sex marriage gaining traction in an increasing number of states, despite a ballot initiative in California last year that banned it there. They also said the emphatic ruling probably will sway other courts, including California's Supreme Court, which must decide by early June whether the November referendum is constitutional.
The Iowa Supreme Court decision upholds a lower court's ruling that a 1998 state law defining marriage as a union between a man and a woman violates the equal protection clause of the Iowa Constitution.
The only other recourse for overturning the decision is a state constitutional amendment, which would take at least two years to be adopted.
At least one group opposed to same-sex marriage, the Liberty Counsel, said it plans to advance a referendum to amend Iowa's Constitution to prohibit same-sex unions. "The Iowa Supreme Court has become a proselytizing engine of radical social change," said Mathew Staver, the group's founder. "Untying the knot that holds together traditional marriage will unravel the family, destabilize the culture and harm children."
You know, the conservative Christians always insist that gay nuptials will cause all manner of apocalyptic social destruction, but they never quite explain how that works. Will seeing gay married couples make heterosexuals want to get divorces? No, of course not, that's fucking stupid, but nobody in the so-called "liberal" media ever presses these fools on that point. The reality is that gay marriage is likely to affect society not at all, excepting maybe a little more equality for GLBT Americans, married and single alike, which only the morally crippled would oppose. But then, fundamentalist Christians are probably the most morally crippled among us, so I fully expect these buttloads of irrational outrage to do nothing but increase as the US slowly, state by state, becomes more gay-friendly.
What's particularly satisfying about this Iowa Supreme Court decision is that it was virtually predicted by famous homophobe and far right-wing US Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia in his dissent to the landmark SCOTUS ruling back in 2003 that legalized gay sodomy, Lawrence and Garner Versus Texas. That is, the equal protection clause of the US Constitution was one of the deciding factors in the case, and Scalia observed that granting homosexuals status as a protected social group under the Fourteenth Amendment meant that they must necessarily also be granted the right to wed one another. Of course, the Iowa Supreme Court ruled on its own state's equal protection clause, but the same reasoning applies.
So I guess Scalia can say "I told you so." Whatever.
On the whole, even though I have a few issues with gay marriage myself, this latest move of inclusion can only be seen as a good thing, and yet another step in the long forward march toward sexual freedom and right of association for all Americans. Man, Iowa. What's next? Texas? Alabama? I'd really love to see married gay people running around Alabama.
Posted by Ron at 10:30 PM