How we think about almost any issue is informed by how it is reported to us, and therein lies the nub of understanding this tragedy. The shooter, George Zimmerman, is invariably identified in press reports as a Neighborhood Watch volunteer or even a Neighborhood Watch Captain, even in the paper of record, the New York Times.
But that assertion is completely inaccurate and should be retracted, because the local Neighborhood Watch organization has long been on record as wanting nothing to do with this guy. So he was acting on his own, proactively and without supervision or coordination, in an attempt to enforce the law as he saw it. Moreover, Mr. Zimmerman was armed with a pistol, which would be in direct violation of the code of conduct for any Neighborhood Watch organization in this country.
There is a word in the English language to describe someone who proactively and without legal authorization attempts to enforce the law. Mr. Zimmerman is, by definition, a vigilante. And because he was packing heat, he is by definition an armed vigilante. That is the central fact of this case, and that is the only way he should be described in the media. If that characterization of Mr. Zimmerman seems incendiary, it is because the indisputable facts of this case are incendiary.
Among the dozens of outrages in this story is one that should trouble absolutely every law abiding American: George Zimmerman was not tested for drugs or alcohol. Where I live, testing any shooter for drugs or alcohol, fatal or not, including the police, is standard operating procedure, and done in every instance. Not testing would have only one purpose: obstruction of justice. The police in Sanford, Florida should be so charged (I would bet the rent that Zimmerman is a steroid abuser). All you should need to know about how the police in Sanford regard young black men can derive from the fact that they made no significant effort to identify Mr. Martin, despite the fact that he was carrying a cell phone. He was taken to the hospital as a John Doe, where his father had to identify the body after searching for him for hours. If that’s not enough, a Sanford police officer corrected a witness, a schoolteacher, who described hearing Trayvon Martin scream for help, telling the witness that it was George Zimmerman calling for help. That’s witness intimidation, a felony in all 50 states.
Here’s a challenge for the media or more likely, given our media’s notorious cowardice, some enterprising criminal justice or journalism grad student: go back over the last several years in the states that have enacted Shoot First laws and investigate the circumstances of each and every instance of “justifiable homicide” in those states. In Florida alone, the average number of such homicides each year has almost tripled since the law was passed, from about 12 each year to more than thirty. That’s a lot of blood, and a lot of grief and loss.
But whether Mr. Zimmerman himself is ever arrested, indicted, and convicted is almost beside the point. Rather, there are two larger points we should carry from this tragedy. First, Florida’s Shoot First law and the laws like it in 21 other states encourage and protect armed vigilantism, which is directly contrary to the interests of public safety and the rule of law. And second, the obvious likelihood that the events in the tragic murder of Trayvon Martin would have unfolded differently had Trayvon been white should have all of us searching our souls at to why still so many of us regard some others among us as less than fully human for literally the most superficial of reasons: the color of their skin.
We live in a country where a black man can be president, but heaven forfend should one of them walk around one of our gated communities unaccompanied. Just what are those gates for, anyway?
...I just wanted to get this out there before the exit polls start rolling in. As I endeavor to call out through the pall of crippling depression, I am struck by how all of us, not just Americans, succumb to the thrall of mass delusion, leaving us powerless to avoid repeating history.
Seriously. The Germans are just as bad as we are, slashing budgets in the face of economic collapse throughout the Western World. In the end, whatever real or imagined intellectual justification any of us might cite, the reality is that we’re suffering economically and lashing out in compensatory anger. No good will come of this. None. More people will suffer and die. And those whose malfeasance and mendacity caused this catastrophe will only be rewarded. It’s really hard to take.
On the topic of that intellectual justification, the self-serving rants by the Glenn Becks of the world, it’s worth noting that if the core value of the supremacy of the individual in law and society is actually carried to its logical conclusion, then the crowd is running full tilt in exactly the wrong direction. Upset at the prospect of bailing out the mortgage of your neighbor with the extra bathroom? Reserve your anger for the banks, not the borrowers. The borrowers had a fiduciary obligation to borrow the money if it was available, because borrowed money is how all of us get rich, or even get by. Instead, reserve your anger for the BANKERS, who had a fiduciary obligation NOT to loan YOUR MONEY to someone who couldn’t repay it. And if the bankers felt they had no choice because the regulatory regimen was allowing other banks to benefit from reckless conduct, then they had a fiduciary obligation to insist on tougher regulations. They did the opposite, and gambled away our money. So what are the voters doing now, in their anger? Siding with the bankers and against sanity.
I have come to think of myself as an archliberal Tea Partyite. The difference between the Tea Party and me, other than the mass delusion and the Koch Brothers’ bankroll, is that I reserve my fury for the banks and the corporations that pull the strings of the government that angers everyone else. Supremacy of the individual? I’m there. That’s what makes the Citizens United decision so outrageous. No corporation or group should be able to use their money to shout down the individual in political discourse. Christian country? So long as we’re talking about Christian principals, you have my enthusiastic endorsement. Freedom and perhaps even civilization itself are likely impossible except in the context of forgiveness and redemption. Global heating as fake science? In reality, global heating is at best a secondary and more likely a tertiary consideration in public policy. The reasons to stop burning fossil fuels are overwhelmingly financial (not sustainable) and geopolitical (stop sending trillion$ to people who hold us in contempt). End abortion? Make the alternative more appealing. We always get more with sugar than with salt. Criminalizing the female condition is just wrong. Curtail Latin American immigration? Legalize recreational drugs (if only for the sake of individual liberty), thus undercutting the violent drug gangs that have crippled the economies of a dozen Latin American economies, and stop corporate welfare to make the global economy (and thus our economy) more viable. Gays in the military? We’re all God’s children, we need the gay translators, and the soldiers in the field are telling us, “I don’t care.” Avoid bank bailouts? Force the banks to revise the principal of troubled loans and write off the difference. If that hobbles the banks, then consolidate them; and regulate them the way the Canadians do. Transparency is the cornerstone of individual responsibility. Shall I go on?
The key problem with our society and the current interpretation of our constitution is that groups are accorded the same rights and privileges as individuals. That problem is getting much worse, and it might be fatal. Sound familiar, Glenn? Why DID you stop smoking cannabis anyway?
So now we’re repeating the history of 80 years ago, except this time it’s the good guys getting punished. Let’s hope this doesn’t lead to another World War like last time, but no promises there. So when these cretins go to cut spending next year, remember the immutable law of economics, Rule 1 really: total spending exactly equals total income. So cutting spending when the economy is operating far below capacity is suicide; if the economy doesn’t grow, we’ll never pay off the national debt, even if it were two cents.
That’s kind of how I’m feeling these days.
One of the refrains from the days of the Bush Regime was that the Bush White House was so incredibly assiduous in rending the fabric of our republic to unrecognizable tatters that it was physically impossible to keep abreast of it all. Every person of conscience suffered from chronic outrage fatigue.
While the Obama Administration has done an unexpectedly credible job of repairing some of the damage (contrary to public perception), the pace of developments has not slowed. Let’s hope this month is an exceptional example, but I fear it will not be.
Which is the story of the month? Is it the Republicans regaining their 41-59 “majority” in the US Senate, enabling them to block any meaningful initiative or reform under the current Kafkaësque rules of the chamber (you probably know someone who will die prematurely for lack of healthcare reform; I do)? Or is it Great Britain raising the current threat level to “severe”? The succession of suicide attacks in Iraq? The demonstrated nonviability of the Internet as a secure commercial or communications vehicle by the (presumably Chinese government) hack attacks on our nation’s most savvy Internet companies (blame Microsoft)? The proposed “purity test” for Republican candidates that spells the final death knell for functional moderation in our political system? NBC (and by extension, broadcast TV) throwing away its future by kissing off Conan O’Brien (and paying $44 million just in severance for the privilege)? An all-white basketball league (even if it is a hoax)?
My vote goes to what amounts to nothing short of a fundamental rewrite of our Constitution, issued by our right-wing Supreme Court, in an act of unprecedented judicial activism (even more so than Bush v Gore), that provides unbridled First Amendment protections for corporations, an artificial construct of the state that was never mentioned or even conceived by our nation’s founders, and whose sole purpose is to make money. Hereafter, lobbyists will be able to look any political officeholder in the eye and credibly claim that they will spend any amount of money necessary to defeat him or her. As one cartoonist put it, the Supreme Court has now ruled that corporations can now own as many politicians as they can afford. What representative democracy can possibly survive that? Hint: none. Think about it: who would even want to be a political officeholder in such an environment? Answer: amoral sock puppets and retarded celebrity hounds.
The Bay State’s new Senator, Scott Brown, fits neatly into both categories. How much of a misogynist do you have to be to announce in your very first appearance on national television that your daughters, who are standing right behind you on camera, are “available”? I’m half surprised he didn’t set a price. Evidently, he intends to negotiate the dowry. How shrewd. And this after he trotted them out to defend his indefensible record proposing “conscience” exemptions for dispensing emergency contraception to rape victims. That’s right. Rape victims. But I digress.
Clearly, the motive for the ruling in Citizens United v Federal Election Commission is to create an insuperable advantage for the forces of reaction and darkness. Even John McCain is appalled. The list of concerns is too long to enumerate here. I’ll start with a few that should raise alarms across the political spectrum. Most corporations, and all large corporations, are owned at least in part by people who are not US citizens, and most large corporations have operations abroad. Should these foreigners be able to influence our political system in this way, even indirectly through their equity? Justice Samuel Alito shook his head and mouthed, “Not true,” when Obama raised this very point in his State of the Union address, but Alito himself affirmed this problem in oral argument before the court. He doesn’t think it’s a problem, clearly, but that’s different from “not true.” Or how about the legions of corporations whose management views are in obvious and direct opposition to the opinions and interests of their employees, to say nothing of the communities in which they operate (think Enron, which helped propel Bush to the presidency and before that to the governorship of Texas)?
Here’s a tip for the right-wingers: money is not speech, and corporations are not people, and I’m sure I’m not the first to say this. The reason I ended my membership with the ACLU decades ago is because up to now they have been wrong on this critical point, defending the First Amendment for any and all entities. Belatedly, they are now seeing the evil of this view and may change their policy. That small and likely pyrrhic gesture will be a welcome development, perhaps the only one since the new year.
Peggy Noonan has written in the WSJ about a pending “Catastrophic Victory” for Republicans in the coming Congressional elections this November. Essentially, she makes the point that if Republicans are victorious only as a consequence of the self-destruction of the Democrats, then we’re all screwed, because they won’t return to power with anything remotely resembling a coherent governing philosophy or platform. About this, she’s half right. Regardless of how the Republicans manage their campaign and legislative initiatives, if they win, we’re screwed.
But she makes another point about which she is entirely correct: everything of significance that we are about to get from the pending healthcare legislation could have been achieved last winter: individual mandates, ending discrimination against pre-existing conditions, and the lame cost controls now under consideration. Everything else that has gone on in Congress has been wasted breath, whose effect has been the erosion of essentially all of the Democrats’ popularity advantage. All the tea-bag froth, all the Congressional grandstanding, all the innuendo and lies (death panels?), all of this was unnecessary and avoidable if the Obama Administration had not bitten off more than it was prepared to chew.
Meanwhile the focus of the American electorate has shifted elsewhere, mainly toward terrorist paranoia and joblessness. The former misses the mark, but the latter does not.
Now that the healthcare reform law is, one way or another, almost behind us, we are only now getting around to financial reform. Demonizing Wall Street would be a good way for the Democrats to get some of their mojo back, but we could have been doing this eight months ago. Why do I think that all that lost time will come back to haunt us big time?
If you are an advocate of legal abortion, then now would be a good time to give up on the idea of a “public option”. For real. Why?
There is long-standing ban on Federal funds being used for elective abortions. 30 years. None of the health insurance plans available to Federal employees cover abortion for that reason. It’s not going away soon. Now, there’s a looming battle in both houses of Congress to see to it that no Federal healthcare subsidies are used even implicitly to fund abortion. This would mean that since no plan that receives Federal subsidies can offer abortion, and since all plans would receive those subsidies, all plans would drop abortion coverage, and everyone who has it now would lose it.
Worse, in the so-called public option, abortion coverage would have no chance.
This battle over abortion is probably make-or-break for national healthcare. If the legislation defunds abortion, even Republicans would have to vote for it. But there’s a loophole.
All the bills allow for a rider that would allow ratepayers to purchase a rider that covers abortion. Well, if that rider is priced in line with the actuarial benefit, the cost is zero. Why? Because abortions, even multiple abortions, are a fraction of the cost of maternity care.
So write your Rep and Senator, and tell them that’s what you want. To hell with the public option. Tell the insurance companies they have to provide an abortion rider, and can’t charge more for it than the NET cost of the benefit. I want Federal regulation, like the Netherlands, Switzerland, and Japan, and I want access to legal abortions.
While America agonizes over joining the rest of the advanced industrialized world circa 1949 vis a vis healthcare, and while America’s foreign policy establishment rightly directs its focused gaze on South Asia, especially Pakistan and Afghanistan, our longest standing policy vexation festers, namely, Palestine and the Middle East.
In what quickly became a widely disseminated piece, Aluf Benn, editor-at-large for what in Israel passes as a liberal newspaper, Ha-aretz (literally, The Land), complains in a NYT op-ed about the Obama’s lack of direct engagement with Israeli people. In doing so, he unconsciously reveals the inherent, corrosive prejudices of Israel and nearly all Jewish Israelis on the issues most pertinent to the question of regional peace. Since all of our considerable trouble in the Muslim World will defy solution in the absence of a solution in Palestine, these underlying assumptions cry out for refutation, herewith.
Firstly, Benn squeals about the American position, enunciated by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, freezing the expansion of Israeli “settlements” in the occupied West Bank. He rationalizes this by saying that Israel had understandings with previous presidents to allow such expansion, including with the administration of Clinton’s husband, and that since all proposed permanent agreements will cede these larger “settlement blocs” to Israel anyway, what’s the harm?
Let’s be clear. All the “settlements” are illegal. They are completely outlawed under every widely accepted standard of international law, and the expropriation by any means, including purchase, of property to create these “settlements” is a war crime, or more accurately a series of war crimes. The Palestinians cannot ever be deemed to consent to these “settlements” because the territory is occupied by adversarial military force, in the same way that a slave cannot ever be deemed to consent to sex with her master. The reason these so-called understandings Benn cites were never codified (if they ever existed) is because, well, it’s a crime. If the US were to acknowledge these “understandings”, they would be acting as an accessory to a war crime, and we have quite enough of that on our plates already. If, as Benn implies, the US can have cordial relations with Israel only by allowing “settlement” expansion, then we have a problem.
If there is ever a permanent agreement with the Palestinians that refashions Israel’s borders to include some of these “settlements”, then and only then will building there become legal (for the first time). Until such an agreement is finalized, don’t look for our consent. And oh by the way, just how motivated will the Israeli government be to negotiate seriously if “settlement” expansion is permitted to continue in the absence of such an agreement?
Benn tells us that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has gained political capital by referring to two senior Obama aides, Chief of Staff Rahm Emanuel, and Political Adviser David Axelrod, as “self-hating Jews”, a characterization that Benn does not bother to refute. Allow me.
This tired and maddening device, at base an accusation of apostasy and treason, is almost entirely a propaganda instrument of Zionism, which draws a major portion of its legitimacy, at least parochially, from the notion that Israel is the sacred right and destiny of Jews. Zionists, together with their less rational enemies, both seek to conflate Judaism (the religion), Jewish ancestry, and Zionism. That ought to be a tip. For the roughly 9 million Jews who do not live in Israel (almost twice the number that do live there), it’s not that simple. Every religion has its reformers and apostates. Does that make them self-haters? Might it mean they have the confidence to seek another path? Literally billions of believers of every faith have very serious problems with the policies of the Israeli state. Are those objections less legitimate if they come from Jews?
There is considerably less latitude for discussion in America about the justness and effectiveness of the Israeli government than there is in Israel itself. Does Benn suggest there should be no such discussion at all? (Please don’t get me started about AIPAC). I think that’s not what he means, but the reference to self-hating Jews is so odious that it should never go unchallenged.
If all the world’s Jews could vote on the Israeli government, Netanyahu’s Likud party would be more of a rump party than the US Republican Party, or even Jean Marie Le Pen’s fascist wingnuts in France. And I don’t know about you, but I strongly doubt that either Emanuel’s or Axelrod’s self-esteem leave much room for self-hatred. Have you ever met these guys?
Then Benn goes on to turn it around and accuses Obama of conflating Israelis and American Jews. In doing so, he points out that Obama’s visit to Buchenwald was largely lost on the Jewish Israeli audience that is trained to believe that only “Zionist determination and struggle” spawned the State of Israel.
If that’s the case, there needs to be some concerted retraining. No Holocaust, no Israel. Period. The underlying motivation of the Jewish fighters who made their way to British-Mandate Palestine during and after World War II was to provide a haven for Jews from future holocausts, as in “Never Again.” Indeed, the majority of these fighters literally fled the Nazis. Would they have done so had the Third Reich been smothered in its cradle in 1934?
The UN vote that established Israel, about the only UN vote by which Israel has ever abided, succeeded only because of worldwide guilt over the Holocaust. Absolutely every other factor weighed against statehood. Had the vote taken place literally at any other time in history, it would have failed. Today, it would fail overwhelmingly. Ask yourself how receptive the world would be to a plan to establish a Christian homeland in Palestine, where the national language would be Aramaic.
Benn’s assertion that diplomacy is naivete is downright frightening. Indeed, time has already borne out the absolute need to pursue diplomacy with Iran. And with Hamas. As history has repeatedly shown, only the Iranians can bring just government to Iran. If we bomb them, we condemn them, and us, to decades or even centuries more of repression and threat. Even talking about bombing them strengthens the hand of the government against the simmering, spitting popular insurrection led by Mir Hussein Moussavi, which, as is the case in all Shiite movements, features striking martyrs like Neda Agha-Soltan, a young woman shot dead by a government sniper during the June 20 protest, whose last moments were captured on a mobile phone video and famously posted on the World Wide Web. As one Israeli diplomat put it, “How do you bomb Neda?” And even now, Hamas has largely abandoned their rockets for community services to shore up their political credibility. Why? It is at least in part because in an environment where credible diplomacy is promised, political credibility matters. Such considerations were irrelevant when Bush was president, because absolutely no one thought he was serious about negotiating with Israel.
Which brings us back to the “settlements”. Benn tells us that most Israelis are oblivious to them, so that the focus on them seems like unprovoked punishment. If Benn is right, that obliviousness needs to end now. The cruelty of the occupation of the West Bank is largely driven by their existence and the consequent need to restrict movement by the Palestinians in the West Bank in order to provide security for them. Those restrictions are inhumane, to say the least, and must be lifted.
Jewish Israelis’ willful obliviousness to the “settlements” is likely in turn driven by the fact that they are out of the way. But their residents are front and center politically. It’s understandable that Jewish Israelis would not wish to confront vociferous settlers (civilian occupiers, really), but there is no other option. The fact that Israel effectively subsidizes these “settlements”, indirectly with aid from US taxpayers, makes Obama’s position on their expansion even more compulsory.
The “16 rosy years of Bill Clinton and George W. Bush”, as Benn calls them, have brought only deliberate stalemate and with it, misery, oppression, and death for yet another generation of Palestinians (not all of them Muslim, in case that matters to you). I suspect that Obama and his senior aides have not spoken to Israel because they know they have nothing to say that most Jewish Israelis are ready to hear. Living as they do in a perpetual state of denial, this is probably for the best. I expect that Obama will not change the substance of his policy, however slightly more just it is than that of previous presidents, merely so that he can have a dialogue. And I further suspect that the reason Benn inveighs against Obama’s continued silence is in the belief that in doing so, Obama will be forced to backpedal on his policies. Hopefully, that is just more denial.
Race has been the tragic and ubiquitous subtext of American politics since about 1700, before we were a country. So while it was deeply disappointing, it was hardly surprising that race utterly co-opted President Obama’s press conference on healthcare reform earlier this week.
His characterization of the actions of the Cambridge, Massachusetts police was correct, but that hardly matters. Any mention of race invariably eclipses all other topics of discussion. That is true in almost any forum, and it is especially true in the White House.
But because race is our ubiquitous political subtext, it is a fairly trivial exercise to find a substantive connection between race and almost any other issue. Healthcare is full of such connections, and someone, if not Obama himself, should be making those connections while the controversy of the Skip Gates arrest is still warm. Incredibly, I have not heard or read about anyone making the attempt, so I hereby volunteer.
Let’s start with the most overt connection:
The US is a very violent country, and well more than half of that violence, in terms of injuries and deaths, is directed at the quarter of the population who are people of color, and particularly at the 12% of the population that is black. The problem is so great that violence is the leading cause of death and serious injury for black men between the ages of 15 and 34, even more than automobile accidents. This is not just an ongoing humanitarian tragedy. It is a massive and very expensive public health problem. A majority of these victims lack the money or insurance to cover the tens or hundreds of thousands of dollars of healthcare expense typically incurred for the treatment of a gunshot wound, and people who are so injured very commonly become a lifelong burden to their families, to the economy, and to the healthcare system.
Then there’s the fact that police (not just white police) stop, harass, arrest, injure, and kill people of color disproportionately. When I say “disproportionately”, I don’t just mean in terms of their proportion of the population, or even in terms of their proportion of violent criminal perpetrators. This topic could fill a book. Central to this issue is that unlike most other advanced industrialized countries, most police in the US have not been inculcated with the notion that they are public servants, and that they should at all times be deferential to the people whose taxes pay their salaries, not the other way around. I’ve had my share of contact with the police over the years, and I can’t ever recall hearing the words “please” or “thank you” pass the lips of an on-duty police officer. No form of apology is part of their vocabulary, either. It is a machismo culture that must change. (Full disclosure: 40 years ago, I was without warning kicked and bloodied by a Cambridge, Massachusetts police officer for the offense of standing alone on a sidewalk waiting for my friends who had gone into a store to buy a magazine in Harvard Square). This has a lesser but still significant effect on the public health of people of color. There is a chasm of mistrust between police and people of color, and that makes it far more difficult to stem the tide of violence directed at people of color. And then of course, there are the victims of police brutality themselves.
Finally, there is the fact that what passes for America’s healthcare “system” is fundamentally antidemocratic, in effect assaulting the health, well-being, and longevity of those who exist at the margins of our society, namely the poor and those who are less likely to have long-term employment in an enterprise that offers healthcare insurance. Both groups tend disproportionately to be people of color. So even if the “system” does not overtly discriminate against people of color (which it certainly does through racial prejudice), then its design does so implicitly and inexorably.
As usual, most of this will blow right by the ears of most Americans, who are offended by any suggestion of culpability they might have in racism. Our positions in the short term will probably harden further, and the prospect of national healthcare will dim a little further from the omnipresent subtext and distraction of race. Our healthcare crisis is existential in nature, and so for that matter is racism. Unfortunately, both private sector healthcare and endemic racism are as deeply ingrained in American culture as slavery was 200 years ago, and it took an epic civil war and a century of Jim Crow to get rid of that.
Never underestimate the power of denial.
Please pause to remember heroic obstetrician Dr. George Tiller, who was murdered in cold blood earlier today by a handgun-wielding assassin in the lobby of his church in Wichita, Kansas.
Dr. Tiller was one of the few remaining physicians in the US who provided third-trimester abortions to pregnant women whose lives or health were at grave risk. In 1993, a would-be assassin shot him in both arms, but he recovered and bravely carried on, until today.
For much of the last four decades, Kansas has been the epicenter of the struggle for American women’s reproductive rights. In that struggle, Dr. Tiller was the object of abusive protests, official persecution, and lethal threats to himself and his family, culminating in today’s assassination. The purpose of these threats was to intimidate him and to discourage others from helping pregnant women carrying nonviable fetuses, women who would otherwise die or become crippled, infertile, or both. Why anyone would wish to deny these women treatment is just unfathomable.
With his death, it will be substantially more difficult for these women to find and receive the life-saving treatment they urgently need and richly deserve. Already, there are no facilities that legally provide abortion services in more than 90% of America’s counties. We are now tragically that much closer to the Talibanization of America.
Fight back. Express your outrage at this assassination to your representatives in Congress and your state legislature, and demand that medically necessary abortion services be widely and freely available as part of the upcoming healthcare reform.
With Joint Chiefs Chairman Admiral Mike Mullen repeating his position that we should close Gitmo, it seems that the Congress (both parties) are severely out of step with America’s strategic interests, and with reality.
As for the assertion by Republican Arizona Senator John Kyl and others that is “palpably false” that Gitmo is a recruitment tool for Al Qaida, uh, that’s not what our military is saying fellas and gals, and don’t we want to support them?
If the concern is that these prisoners are too scary to house in the US, well just buck up folks. What are we made of, anyway? It seems that if 8 million people in New York don’t have all that much qualm about living in a terrorist target (Starbucks, anyone?), we ought to be able to handle a few dozen bad boys in a supermax prison in the middle of Colorado or Montana. Maybe we should build one in Vermont.
And if the concern is that we don’t have a constitutional legal pretext to hold them, uh, BS. How about simply finding that their stated desire to kill large numbers of people is prima facie evidence of insanity. Since they’re an imminent danger to themselves and others, they can be institutionalized in a secure facility indefinitely. Lots of legal precedent for that. C’mon people!
The real reason this won’t be settled soon: national security is the rump Republican Party’s only marginally credible issue. So the politics of national security will never, ever stop. Nor will the consequent danger to every American, especially New Yorkers and our brave military.
One of the single greatest disasters of the Clinton Administration was the failure to do anything of significance about global heating. At the top of that list of missed opportunities was the fuel (in)efficiency of the American vehicular fleet.
If there was any cause worth Bill Clinton’s political capital, it was our gas-guzzling cars and trucks. His failure to act has left our economy wheezing, our citizens asthmatic, our car manufacturers bankrupt, and our nation insecure due to the trillion$ we’ve spent on oil imported from some of the world’s most dangerous countries. To be sure, this was a bipartisan failure. The auto industry’s principal protector against the need for competition was none other than Rep. John Dingell, D-Mich, the nation’s longest-serving-ever member of Congress, whose career on Capitol Hill began during the Truman Administration.
Now in just four months, Obama has crafted a revolution in our nation’s fuel efficiency. By raising the standard to 35.5 mpg, the US will join the rest of the world. 35 mpg has long been the fleet average of almost every other advanced industrialized country. And the technology for 35 mpg has existed for a long, long time. If you’re old enough to remember, Honda used to sell a car with four seats called the Civic CRX that got over 50 mpg. That was in the 1970’s. And all of America’s import car manufacturers sell tens of millions of cars in other countries that exceed the 35 mpg standard. Thanks to Clinton and Dingell, now GM, Ford, and Chrysler will have to play catch up. It didn’t have to be that way. We could have been the leaders.
Unable to find secure facilities for the most dangerous of Gitmo prisoners, Obama has relented and will now modify and use the “military commissions” to try them. If Obama is set upon avoiding distractions to his legislative agenda, he’s going about it all wrong.
Even more than the dangerous Gitmo prisoners, the crimes of the Bush Regime will not go away quietly. Two persuasive articles among many, one by Marcy Wheeler in Salon, and one by Frank Rich in the New York Times, illustrate convincingly why. By continuing Bush Regime policies, whether it be the suppression of photo evidence or the extralegal trials of stateless prisoners, Obama conflates the problems and taints both his administration and the very institutions of democracy that the inevitable investigations must redeem.
Write to President Obama and urge him to move immediately to empower the truth commission that is the necessary first step on the path to rescue our democracy and America’s mantle of liberty. Every delay is lethal, to our forces abroad, and to our democratic institutions at home.
Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi stuck her neck out on the defining issue of our time, the US violations of the Geneva Accords that took place during the Bush Regime. As I’ve said on numerous occasions on Outrage Radio, the US cannot reclaim the mantle of leadership in the “Free World” until those responsible for torture have been held to account.
I’m not naïve about this. Really. On more than a dozen occasions in the last century and a quarter, the US has forcibly overthrown the sovereign government of a foreign country. But before Bush/Cheney, we hadn’t done it since Panama. You may recall that Noriega, a wanted criminal in several countries, got a trial in Federal court. Under Bush/Cheney, our standards fell two orders of magnitude, below that of the world’s most authoritarian governments. They don’t waterboard in Russia, China, or even Iran. We have prosecuted waterboarding as a war crime for more than a century, and it has been regarded as torture since the Spanish Inquisition.
Pelosi’s claim that the CIA misled her or lied to her in 2002 in their briefing about Gitmo interrogations is a major event. The CIA is very good at these kinds of confrontations.
Most of the political pundits call Pelosi’s gambit stupid. It certainly distracts from Obama’s necessarily ambitious agenda to upgrade US domestic policy to that of an advanced industrialized country in, say, the latter half of the 20th Century, and it’s clear that he will compromise almost any principal to avoid such a distraction. But I think Pelosi is, on balance, courageous. She knows that she might well be damaged by the revelations. We should have no doubt that many, many Democrats were complicit in torture. That’s why her call for a Truth Commission is spot on. And by putting herself in the line of fire, she has gained Republican support for the idea from House Minority Leader John Boehner and from others.
Republicans believe that any involvement by Democrats validates their claims of hypocrisy, but that of course completely misses the point. This is not merely a Republican problem. Torture has disgraced not only our entire country. It has disgraced the very idea of democracy itself. Until we act to hold those responsible to account, there will be no redemption for America or democracy. If Democrats are also swept up in this drive for accountability, then we are that much more cleansed of these sins. A truth commission is a critical first step.
One of the central challenges of the next president will be to restore a sense of justice to America’s justice system, if ever there was one. Our puritanical culture is so obsessed with control and punishment that we spend as much on prisons as college and we can’t even manage to prioritize the arrest of rapists.
Nationally, there is a years-long backlog of cases of DNA analysis that frustrates the capture and prosecution of murderers and rapists. Why? Because the nation’s crime labs are required to spend the overwhelming majority of their time analyzing drugs. No joke.
Despite fierce opposition from police, the voters of Massachusetts are about to pass a proposition that would decriminalize the possession of marijuana in amounts less than one ounce. That would be an important step in the right direction, but far short of the kind of new priorities that we need in pursuing crime in this country. Frankly, the situation in the nation’s crime labs needs to be reversed. DNA samples from violent crimes need to processed within hours, not months or years, and drug tests should be put on the back burner or the back porch.
Meanwhile, California is being pressed to the point of bankruptcy by a prison system filled to the rafters with petty and nonviolent offenders. An insane parole system assures that the system will remain that way, and that their recidivism rate remains above 70%. California now spends as much on prisons as they do on higher education, and that’s before implementation of a court-ordered mandate to spend almost $2 billion to improve prison healthcare to a minimally humane standard. This simply can’t continue. Parole for nonviolent offenders should be abandoned, and mandatory prison sentences must be eliminated. And again, laws against drug abuse must be rewritten to treat such abuse as what it is, a health issue and not a criminal issue. Ditto the other 49 states.
On top of the culture of punishment and the severely misplaced priorities, the cruelty of American “justice” is challenged by its reckless pursuit of capital punishment. The US Supreme Court has now cleared the way for officials in the state of Georgia to execute a demonstrably innocent man, Troy Davis, who is destined to become the Sacco and Vanzetti of our time.
Finally, the rebuilding of America’s reputation at home and abroad will require some level of accountability for the literally countless criminal misdeeds of the Bush Regime. Already such efforts will be hampered by the obscene Military Commissions Act of 2006 that contained a blanket pardon for all members of the Regime in regard to the incarceration and torture of prisoners in their so-called “War on Terror”. The wheels of justice must not be deterred. The next president must insist that these misdeeds receive official exposure to fresh air and the light of day. Only then can the healing and reconciliation begin, a necessary precursor to any comprehensive effort to bring about real security for our beleaguered nation.
I don’t know about you, but now that the pundits have declared this race over, I’m starting to panic.
I’ll try to go easy on the sports metaphors here. To win, you have to run through the finish line.
I was all set to mock McCain for making the classic mistake of memes in the final debate when he declared that “I’m not George Bush.” It reminded me oh so much of Nixon’s declaration, “I am not a crook.” Thereafter, no one was able to separate “Nixon” and “crook” in their minds.
But incredibly, polls indicate that enough people, people who are actually allowed to vote, may be buying McCain’s line. And that might give him just enough credibility to sneak back in this race. A look at the New York Times electoral vote breakdown gives me a sense of high anxiety.
Five states are tossups: Ohio, North Carolina, Florida, Colorado, and Nevada. All went for Bush twice, at least by the official tally. So if McCain carries them, and he has two weeks to pull them out, then he needs to steal only nine more electoral votes from among the Democratic leaners to defeat Obama. It could be New Hampshire and New Mexico, or just Pennsylvania, or just Virginia (is Virginia really leaning Democratic?), or just Wisconsin, or just Minnesota, or just Washington State. A single solitary slip-up from among any of half a dozen states and we’re toast.
So don’t stop working those phones. And don’t yet mothball your plans to retire in Central America.
E-mail and the Republicans: a Portrait in Incompetence, Irresponsibility, and Injustice [ by James Linkin] [News You Can Abuse]September 18, 2008
Governor Palin should be impeached for using Yahoo e-mail for official Alaska state business.
As the global economy and the presidential election continue to unravel at light speed, it’s instructive to look at how Sarah Palin has handled the communications logistics in her 21-month term as Alaska governor.
Earlier this week, Governor Palin’s Yahoo e-mail accounts were hacked, which as an IT professional, I can tell you was almost inevitable. Everyone has physical access to her Yahoo e-mail as there is no firewall intervening to protect the mail servers; it is by design a public service. All that remained for hackers was to guess the passwords, which, given the cavalier carelessness of the Palins, was only a matter of time.
It is for exactly this reason that every major corporation on the planet, without exception, has a strict policy on the protection of e-mail and their contents. Personal, public e-mail accounts like Yahoo and Gmail must never be used for company business. The accounts are easily hacked, their contents live on Yahoo or Gmail servers indefinitely, out of the control of the corporation, and there is no corporate controlling authority that can keep custody of the correspondence, thus exposing the company to liability lawsuits, not to mention espionage. As a matter of law, the contents of all e-mail transmitted on the job belongs to the company, not the employee.
In the case of state and Federal government, the employer is we, the voters and taxpayers. That correspondence, that e-mail, belongs to us. If Governor Palin hides it vulnerable public e-mail accounts for the purpose of evading subpoenas, there can only be one reason: official corruption. Hiding e-mail correspondence from the government you run is stealing. It is cynical, it is irresponsible, and it is incredibly, breathtakingly stupid.
If Governor Palin worked at a major corporation and conducted business in this way, she would be warned, demoted, or summarily fired.
Couple Governor Palin’s official corruption with John McCain’s belligerent computer illiteracy at the top of the ticket and Bush’s years of lost e-mail backups at the White House, and you have a portrait of cynicism, elitism, incompetence, and corruption that should offend every voter and taxpayer in America. Is Governor Palin so special that her official correspondence should be immune from the prying eyes of the voters who pay her salary (and expenses) when there is cause? Oh, now we’re claiming that the Troopergate investigation is politicized? Where have I heard that before? Oh yeah, didn’t the Clintons use that line ten years ago? Hey Governor, didn’t you say “Hold me accountable”? Didn’t you promise to cooperate with the investigation? Oh, but all that was before McCain showed off his executive decision bona fides by nominating you for VP.
Where, where is the accountability? How is the Republican claim of “reform” remotely possible without it? Just from this one issue, I can genuinely say that 90% of the people blogging about Governor Palin are more qualified to be president than she.
With Barack Obama’s clarion call of “Enough” still ringing in our ears, John McCain makes what might be the purest political pander I have ever seen in my life.
Still smarting from an unresolved scandal in which she fired Alaska’s Public Safety Commissioner for refusing to involve himself in her family vendetta, Governor Sarah Palin offers us a resume with less than two years experience in her job running one of the least populous states in America (smaller than Joe Biden’s Delaware). There are fewer than one quarter as many people in the entire state of Alaska as there are in Obama’s hometown of Chicago. Before that, she was the part time mayor of a town of about 6,000, again a fraction of the size of Obama’s state senatorial district in Illinois.
A right-wing anti-abortion, climate-changing-denying, ANWR-perforating, fundamentalist Christian who is utterly clueless about foreign policy, national economics, or just about any other issue of national import. She brings nothing but her gender and a whole lot of baggage to the national ticket. Her selection is an insult to every Hillary supporter, and it completely undercuts every argument McCain has made about his experience.
On the plus side, there’s at least a chance that Palin will help McCain carry Alaska.
I’m in one of those moods today. I’m reading an article about a group of Muslim separatists from western China (or “East Turkestan” as the separatists want it to be known) who are promising to attack the Olympic Games and pleading for everyone, especially Muslims, to boycott the affair. The more I read this article, the more I worry. But not about any fucking terrorists.
Here’s the article. The group in question released a video. “Please do not stand together with the faithless people.” These wing nuts are claiming responsibility for some bus explosions and an attack on a police station with an explosive-laden tractor. Nonsense, says a Chinese public security official. The bus explosions had nothing to do with terrorist groups. And the tractor attack involved no police; it was a revenge attack by a disgruntled gambler.
Where do I begin?
I don’t know about you, but the idea that China has buses that just blow up is a considerably more distressing phenomenon than any terrorist attack. Here in America, our public transportation system may be in shambles, but we haven’t yet devised the bus that just blows up. How the fuck do you make a bus explode by accident? I could be sitting there, minding my own business, listening to some vintage Carlin on my iPod, and suddenly: BAM, my wife is a widow. How does that happen? Is someone lighting one of those ubiquitous Chinese cigarettes with a bottle of cooking gas they just happen to have on hand? I know, some messenger is making a fireworks delivery.
As for the disgruntled gambler, uh, what the fuck? The article notes that “revenge attacks are relatively common” in China. Really? So how can they tell the difference between a “terrorist” and some run-of-the-mill, dime-a-dozen, butt-smoking, cuckolded, bankrupt, pathological killer? What, he didn’t go to terrorist school? Not a Muslim, so he doesn’t qualify? “Explosive-laden tractor” sounds a lot like a terrorist attack to me, regardless of the source or inspiration. Or to put it another way, terrorist attacks are an everyday occurrence all over China, but we just don’t call them that.
Here’s the scary part. The people who brought you exploding buses and murderous gamblers are staging an Olympics!! And they’re providing security for it!!! There’s a reason to stay home and watch it on TV if ever there was one. Maybe I’ll see some fireworks.
Much ink has been spilled on why Hillary can’t be Barack’s running mate, but I for one think we need to solicit her input, for better or for worse. She after all will have to be the one to sell Obama to her disaffected supporters.
It’s a bit tragic or even pathetic that Obama will have to spend as much political capital as appears likely to woo back the Clinton voters to the Democratic fold when the Republican alternative, McCain, actually voted against equal pay for women. That Federal law was recently and greatly weakened by the Supreme Court, by the way.
A great many influential Clinton supporters want her on the ticket with Obama, which would tag the Democratic ticket with all of her negatives and completely undermine his anti-Washington message. But another perhaps equally bad idea is making the rounds of the blogosphere now, namely Virginia Senator Jim Webb. Unfortunately, former Republican Navy Secretary Webb has been around long enough to have acquired a record that is atypical even for a Republican in its misogyny. As recently as 1992, he opposed the investigation into the Tailhook scandal, which you might recall was a convention of Naval aviators that essentially turned into a semi-organized gang rape.
Maybe a less flamboyant choice like Virginia Governor Tim Kaine might be in order.(0) Trackbacks
Anyone who thinks otherwise should consider the following fact: severely violent weather, the kind that causes loss of life or mass displacements, is now four times more frequent than it was just 30 years ago. And no country is more affected by these severe weather incidents than ours.
Check out the chart accompanying this short piece in the NYT by Charles Blow. Most notable is that the cost of all these weather-related emergencies exceeds even our war spending.
Jimmy Carter was right. The moral imperative to act immediately to reduce, even to decimate, carbon-based energy consumption is both compelling and immediate. The prissy far-less-than-half measures proposed by our presidential candidates are laughably inadequate, or would be if this weren’t an existential crisis for humanity.(0) Trackbacks
What is OOXML and why should we care? It is Microsoft’s proprietary file format for documents of every type that is about to be adopted as a global standard. And that means that in future and in a very real sense, Microsoft will literally own much, if not a majority of the world’s information.
OOXML stands for Open Office Extensible Markup Language. The XML part of the acronym refers to a programming convention that grew out of HTML (Hypertext Markup Language), which is the page descriptor language used by the World Wide Web to display Web pages on your computer monitor. XML allows those conventions to be adapted for other purposes, to describe and display information of all types in a wider variety of settings.
The OO part of the acronym is Microsoft’s proprietary take on XML. It is covered by more than 50 of Microsoft’s software patents, patents that Microsoft has pointedly refused to surrender to the public domain. Microsoft has promised not to charge royalties for their use, but the promise is vague, and Microsoft has reserved the “right” to modify these patents in future. In essence, improvements made to OOXML by the public can in a roundabout way be appropriated by Microsoft as their intellectual property, since any such modifications build on patents they continue to own.
The competing standard is ODF, Open Document Format, that was developed entirely in the public domain. It contains no software patents, and it is technically superior in every respect, especially in terms of security, ease of use, and ease of modification. It is not much of an exaggeration to say that OOXML works about as well as Microsoft Vista; you get the idea. Nonetheless, Microsoft has gone around the world essentially bribing the standards organizations of dozens of countries to lobby for the adoption of their format. Not surprisingly, it worked.
The ISO (literally International Standards Organization) that will grant its blessing to Microsoft governs international standards on everything from manufacturing processes to threads on screws to wireless networking and thousands of devices and processes you never think about because you don’t have to. Up to now, the ISO has worked precisely because it is seen as free from the kind of corporate hegemonic influence that Microsoft has exerted in this case, influence that might even violate US law if it were to happen here.
The triumph of OOXML is a watershed tragedy for at least two reasons.
1) It means that even those of us who never purchase a Microsoft product are nevertheless held hostage to Microsoft’s intellectual property. Further innovation in the area of document file formats, a field that potentially encompasses applications not yet imagined, will be hamstrung by Microsoft patents that are less than fully transparent.
2) From now on, we should assume that no non-corporate entity will ever be permitted to engage in broadly accepted technical development for the public good. How important is that? Consider that the Internet is just such a development. There will be no more Internets.
So when you hear politicians like John Edwards rail about corporate greed, recognize that not only is he right, or even that it is not only a national problem. It is a global crisis.(0) Trackbacks
I have previously complained in this space about the first woman ever to be nominated by a major political party for the Federal Executive, but the scandalous disgrace of her utterances about Barack Obama have not received nearly enough play.
Ferraro continues to stand by her racist comments about Obama’s candidacy and, like Don Imus, Michael Richard, Bill O’Reilly, and countless others before her, she is utterly indignant that anyone would think she is who she has revealed herself to be.
Remember that as recently as a mere three months ago, Obama’s candidacy was considered a long shot BECAUSE he is black. Does anyone doubt that if, say, Jack Kemp had said that Hillary Clinton had gotten as far as she has only because she is a woman, that such a remark would be sexist?
Our corrosive social prejudices will persist only as long as we refuse to acknowledge them for what they are. Take a long look in the mirror, Geraldine. Obama’s candidacy is far less novel than was yours 24 years ago, and he has done far, far more than you to earn his place in the American political landscape. Get over it.(0) Trackbacks
So I’m reading a NYT column about the Spitzer debacle and related political trends when I happen to glance over at the Google ads box. Three ads: on top, “Korean Beauties...Browse Photo Profiles...”; the other two are ads for “Client 9” T-shirts!
I’m having just a little bit of trouble determining whose hypocrisy is greater, Eliot Spitzer’s or ours. We love this stuff. Anybody whose job is not directly affected by Spitzer’s call girl addiction is lying if they tell you otherwise. If you’re a guy, you’re only pissed that it’s not you in Room 871 with thousands of dollars to burn on a 5’5” 105 lb. brunette. Be honest. The media know what we want, even if it’s just an algorithm in an ad-placing search engine.
So when we wag the finger of shame, as I did in an earlier post, we’d better be specific about our disapprobation. We’ve long needed in this country to bring our laws in closer alignment with what we do, not what we think the PC establishment wants to hear. Legalizing and regulating sex work would be a start. Legalizing and regulating marijuana would also help enormously. While we’re at it, let’s work up the courage to do something about that gun problem.(0) Trackbacks
Of all the revelations, the one that ought to be the least survivable for Spitzer is the news that he was a “difficult” client of prostitution who reputedly asked women to do things that were “not safe”. If true, that should be a felony.
In the US, we generally don’t prosecute the johns, the patrons of sex workers, with nearly the same vigor with which we prosecute the real victims, the sex workers themselves. In part to ameliorate that injustice, I make the following legislative proposal.
Anyone who has sex with a sex worker, sex that penetrates any part of the sex worker’s body including the mouth, and does so without using a latex condom, is guilty of felony endangerment, the penalty for which is a month in jail. Should the endangerment be aggravated by the passing of a STD to the sex worker in a knowing manner, meaning that the john knew he was a carrier, then the penalty is increased depending on the severity of the STD. Syphilis and gonorrhea that respond to antibiotics are less serious than HPV, which is less serious than herpes, which is less serious than hepatitis, which is less serious than the granddaddy of STD’s, HIV. For HIV, the penalty should be several years.
We should call it the Spitzer Law.
If you’re allergic to latex, you’re out of luck. Get hitched, stay on good terms with your wife, and have sex at home. Doesn’t work for everybody, but that should always be Plan A.(0) Trackbacks
The paradigm of a fight in an election is all that the MSM knows. But the Obama campaign is about something else; it’s about voter empowerment. Therein lies the seeds to its success going forward.
Now we have both McCain and Hillary campaigning on fear. Hillary wants voters to be afraid that Obama won’t know what to do when the “red phone” rings. McCain wants voters to be afraid that we’ll back down from our existential war to the death with the “terrorists”. For most of these seven long years now, the voters have been controlled by fear.
All Obama needs to do is hold up a mirror to our fear, and it will evaporate.
Fear is the opposite of hope. Hope resonates as a message to voters (as it did for Reagan when he unseated Jimmy Carter). If the dialectic of fear and hope is explicitly described, the voters will understand what is happening, and what is at stake. From now until November, every Obama stump speech should point out that both Hillary Clinton (never just Hillary) and John McCain seek to govern by the same fear that is the hallmark of the worst presidency in living memory, that of the Bush Regime.
It was true 75 years ago and it is true now: the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.
Is there any part of the world where the Bush Regime’s diffidence hasn’t brought or threatened repression or mass violence? Now it’s Colombia; after decades of US military support, they’re on the verge of war with both Ecuador and Venezuela.
Bonus if you can find all three countries on an outline map of the world. I’m sure Bush can’t.
There hasn’t been a regional war in South America in three-quarters of a century. Why now? The Bush Regime’s cold-war-style military support of a murderous regime in Colombia has ratcheted up tensions in the region. Meanwhile, we also prop up the autocratic regime of Hugo Chavez in Venezuela with our unslakable thirst for oil. Our black/white good-versus-evil world view has put both countries in an untenable position, and we are in no position to mediate. Cross your fingers. You don’t want to know what will happen to world oil markets if this blows.(1) Trackbacks
How is it possible for any American credibly to protest human rights abuses in any foreign country when the US leads the world in prisoners. The US incarcerates a higher percentage of its people than any other nation. In absolute numbers, we have more prisoners than anyone else, even China.
Too much of the world sees us as the bad guys. To understand why, look no farther than our nearly merciless, racist courts and our all-too often medieval prison system. No advanced civilized country has ever or should ever tolerate such an injustice that is a daily fact in our country.
The biggest reason we must withdraw from Iraq is that only such measures will enable us to reclaim the moral high ground we once owned.(0) Trackbacks
After some Dramamine, I finally got around to reading Geraldine Ferraro’s unintentionally hilarious op-ed in the NYT defending the suggestion that superdelegates should go right ahead and steal the nomination for Hillary.
Ferraro points out that superdelegates were created to get buy-in of the Democratic platform, fights over which on the convention floor had alienated the electorate for as long as anyone could remember:
“In 1984 I headed the party’s platform committee. We produced the longest platform in Democratic history, a document that stated the party’s principles in broad terms that neither the most liberal nor the most conservative elected officials would denounce. It generated no fights at the convention. It was a document that no one would walk away from. We lost in 1984, big time. But that loss had nothing to do with Democratic Party infighting.”
Yeah, that’s right Geraldine, we got our clock cleaned not because of party infighting but because YOU LIED to the people on Vice President Walter Mondale’s staff who were vetting you to be his running mate! And in so doing, you set back the cause of women in national politics by two decades! Nobody remembers that Mondale was right on the issues because you were the center of that three-ring circus. Had there been any justice, the soft-hearted Mondale would have dropped you from the ticket and drummed you out of the party and the House of Representatives. Advocates like you nobody needs.
It’s a long leap in logic to go from buy-in on party platforms to stealing the nomination from the voters, Geraldine. I see a quarter century has done nothing to dim your arrogance. You’re as much in denial as Ralph Nader.
So for the sake of the entire free world, please go back to your slumlord husband and keep your nose out of politics, now and forever.(0) Trackbacks
What is supposed to be the singularly empowering aspect of Hillary’s historic candidacy is her gender. She is the first woman ever to be a front-runner for a major party nomination for president. But that story doesn’t resonate with much of the voting public. Why?
Because she’s a Clinton. And as Princeton professor Melissa Harris-Lacewell says, it’s not a case of race trumping gender in Obama v Hillary, it’s that Hillary is a less-than-perfect icon of women in politics, tragically and inevitably compromised by her association with her powerful husband, a former president.
All the critiques I have seen so far of this article completely ignore that Clinton connection. But that connection is not the only the substance, it is the essence of her candidacy and, indeed, her place in America’s political pantheon. Our judgment of her is in no small way shaped by our opinion of whether she is at all deserving on her own of her place at the head of the Democratic class. I for one think not. Is that misogynistic? Is it fair to say that having reservations about Hillary translates to reservations about all women in power? Again, I think not. Why not any of the dozen women senators and governors elected “in their own right”? Why not Dianne Feinstein of California or Maria Cantwell of Washington or Claire McCaskill of Missouri? Or how about Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, the first woman ever elected to the Senate in her own right, and with years more experience than Hillary?
I say enough of political royalty and clan rivalry. The very idea of royalty and nepotism in the Federal Executive is fundamentally unAmerican. If ever America needs a fresh start, it’s now.(0) Trackbacks
At the risk of running afoul of the FEC, the agency perhaps most responsible for turning our 1st Amendment on its head, here’s my endorsement for president. If even one voter in Iowa reads it and takes it to heart, it will have been worth the effort…
...and of course, we’re only talking Democrats here. The Republicans are too dangerous for words.
By process of elimination, and mincing as few words as possible:
Joe Biden can never be forgiven for his harsh questioning of Anita Hill during the Clarence Thomas confirmation hearings, so no. There’s a place for people like Joe Biden and that place is in the US Senate. Stay there, Joe.
Dennis Kucinich is simply too much of a flake. Sorry, but just being a vegan is a symptom of dangerous fanatacism, a fatal flaw in any president.
Chris Dodd is political royalty, which in a perfect world should be an automatic disqualifier. But he has been the most serious and engaged of candidates, and he has been a consistent champion of families. That makes him a top tier choice.
John Edwards has evolved as a person and as a candidate in the last four years. Perhaps because of his background in litigation, he alone seems to understand the need for confrontation and partisanship in an era in which the American Dream has been hijacked by crypto-fascists. His passion is needed but his judgment is still a big question.
Barack Obama, from his personal background and his unique experience as a community organizer, is the candidate with the most legitimate claim on the mantra of change. But, perhaps because of his age, he seems to lack the historical perspective of how the power structure of our country has changed in the last forty years. We live in an era where corporations exert extreme undue influence on our country’s policy and dialogue, and Obama seems far too ready to cede them their ill-gotten gains. He’s as smart or smarter than Jack Kennedy, another president with similar inexperience, and he’s more liberal than Kennedy. As a symbol, he represents our best hope for changing the face of America to the world, and that might be the most important mission of our next president.
After years, of experimentation, Hillary Clinton seems finally to have found her personal voice, but there is every reason to believe she would engage in the same kind of triangulation her husband did when he was president. While much of the nation’s corporate leadership has come around to the idea that change must be embraced, the fact that corporations have grown so powerful means that our choices for change will fall far short of what is necessary if we give those corporations anything resembling the voice they now have. That and her pedigree of political royalty tragically means that the prospect of a woman president is best postponed.
Finally, I think that we must keep the range of choice as wide as possible for subsequent primaries, so that as many voters as possible can weigh in on this, perhaps the most important election in human history. John Edwards is the man with the most to gain and the most to lose in Iowa, and he more than deserves to stay on the ballot as a viable candidate. For that reason, and for the compelling need to right the power structure in our beleaguered democracy, I endorse Edwards, Obama, and Dodd, in that order. How about you?(0) Trackbacks
Despite unprecedented pressure by the international community, and in the face of revelations that Arctic ice melting has shattered records set just two years ago, far exceeding even the most pessimistic of computer models, the Bush Regime continues to stonewall on global heating ("warming" is far too benign a term). As a consequence, no significant progress will be made at the United Nations climate conference in Bali this week.
For those of us who, along with half the world’s population, live within 60 kilometers (~36 miles) of a coastline, the obstinacy of Bush on this issue in particular might be the most maddening aspect of his legacy. Wars end, economies recover, debts are repaid, but we only have one planet. What makes it especially frustrating is that the US is squarely in the crosshairs of some of the most serious near-term consequences of global heating. For example, less forceful high pressure areas over the Arctic probably contribute greatly to the unprecedented drought in the southeastern United States, where Atlanta may be weeks away from running out of water. A faith-based approach to water conservation in Georgia hasn’t helped.
As predicted by Al Gore in his Nobel Peace Prize acceptance speech, the US and China are essentially using each other as an excuse for inaction. China claims the right to burn more and more coal and produce more and more cement for the purpose of economic development and poverty remediation, while the Bush Regime makes the schoolyard claim that it would be unfair for the US to reduce carbon emissions if China doesn’t also. To get everyone off the dime, let me make the following modest proposal:
The world’s baseline energy needs cannot realistically in the foreseeable future be met with renewable energy generation: hydro, wind, and solar. While there is a vital role for that kind of generating technology, we still need hundreds and perhaps thousands more generating plants that produce hundreds and thousands of megawatts. In the world’s collective capital investment plans, that means not only vast increases in carbon emissions, but also runaway oil prices and the accelerating depletion of the world’s oil reserves. Bad, more bad, and still more bad.
But most of the countries where the most rapid economic growth will occur are also particularly well suited to host nuclear reactors, even, and perhaps especially countries that are now oil exporters and will soon reverse that flow. There are vast areas in these countries, such as China and yes, Iran, where population is low and reactors can be safely and permanently sited. The greatest danger to such reactors, aside from the perennial security concerns, is seismic activity. But we now have the ability to build reactors that can withstand even the most serious temblors, such as the one that destroyed the Chinese city of Tientsin in 1976.
We have long had the technology to build reactors that cannot be mass-weaponized, such as light water or thorium reactors. They produce no bomb-fissionable materials, and cannot melt down like Chernobyl. The electricity they produce can be transported over enormous distances much more safely, cheaply, and efficiently than any other energy commodity. At this point, we really don’t have a choice about how to build out our baseline energy capacity.
Nuclear power is not entirely free of carbon emissions; much carbon is emitted in extracting and transporting the reactor fuel from mines. But the net emission of carbon is probably less than half as great as for fossil fuel power generation. The biggest technical sticking point to building nuclear reactors is the housing of nuclear waste. But this is a problem we must confront regardless, because as much as 90% of the world’s nuclear waste comes not from energy generation but from medical uses. If this new generation of reactors is sited in places where the waste can be stored indefinitely, then we will not find a more optimal solution in the tight time frame in which we must decisively act.
For the US, the greatest opportunity to ameliorate global heating is to improve the efficiency with which we use energy. Just the act of banishing 5,000-pound passenger vehicles and incandescent light bulbs could knock as much as 5% off the top. Studies done as far back as the Clinton Administration provide a road map for reducing energy consumption as much 35% without a serious impact on economic growth. 35%! And arguably, implementation of such a plan would boost long-term growth in the US, because the US would become the center of energy-saving technology that would have permanent and global application. I would wager that the 35% number could be significantly exceeded with the implementation of technologies developed since those studies were done a decade ago. The biggest impact will be in the hundreds of power-generating plants that we WON’T have to build. But every day’s delay is a lost opportunity. The next president of the United States must make this an Inauguration Day priority of the first order, assuming it’s now too late to get rid of the president we have.
For China and other rapidly developing countries, industrialization using coal-fired power plants is an act of madness, in which these countries repeat the calamitous mistakes of the West from literally centuries earlier. China is becoming an industrial wasteland at breakneck speeds, and the cleanup costs will be more than they or anyone can bear. Already, it’s causing a massive crisis in the availability of potable water for 300 million people. Recently, because of intense industrial pollution, the fresh-water dolphins of the Yangtze River became the first large mammals to become extinct in recorded history.
China must undertake urgent and massive reform of its governance to combat the corruption that leads to this runaway destruction, and they must reform their industrialization plans by insisting on using only the most energy-efficient technology. But we must stop kidding ourselves that this is a zero-sum game. It’s not. It never is. If we immediately undertake the concerted conservation effort that is inevitably part of our future, we are the biggest winners, and we lose none of our leverage in negotiations on climate change.
The unifying theme of the Bush Regime legacy is an abject failure to lead by example. Like the brightest adolescents, the developing countries of the world are finely tuned to our breathtaking hypocrisy. If we incarcerate, torture, maim, kill, invade, and occupy while preaching democracy, we should not be surprised if the enemies of civilization continue to find support in their violent opposition to us and our democratic institutions. If we continue our astonishingly profligate energy consumption to our own grievous detriment, we should not be surprised if the Chinese take our money and tell us to get lost. The status quo is not an option. The destruction of the Earth as a place fit for human habitation is, tragically, the default.(0) Trackbacks
Former Peruvian president Alberto Fujimori, extradited to his country last month, has been found guilty and sentenced to six years.
The crime: obstruction of justice and evidence tampering. He ordered a military aide to impersonate a prosecutor so that he could search the residence of Fujimori’s disgraced head of intelligence. As serious an offense as this is, I would wager this might be a lesser crime than any number committed by Bush and his Regime.
Every day it seems there is some new revelation. Anyone want to bet on whether the destruction of the CIA torture tapes tracks back to Cheney’s office? If the US is ever to regain its moral standing, we must prosecute.(0) Trackbacks
In a recent Washington Post op-ed, Former Bush speech writer Michael Gerson wrote: “The political effects of conservative opposition to immigration reform have been swift as well. Latino support for GOP candidates dropped back to 30 percent in 2006. According to one poll, Latinos under age 30 now prefer a generic Democrat over a Republican for president by 42 points.”
Gerson goes on to write, “ A harsh, Tancredo-like image of Republicans has solidified in the mainstream Hispanic media. And all of this regression will be even more obvious in the next few months, because more than half of the Hispanic voters in America live in states that are part of the new lineup of early primaries.
“I have never seen an issue where the short-term interests of Republican presidential candidates in the primaries were more starkly at odds with the long-term interests of the party itself. At least five swing states that Bush carried in 2004 are rich in Hispanic voters—Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, Colorado and Florida. Bush won Nevada by just over 20,000 votes. A substantial shift of Hispanic voters toward the Democrats in these states could make the national political map unwinnable for Republicans.
“There is a moral hazard as well. Surfing on a wave of voter resentment is easier than rowing on the calmer waters of inclusion and charity. But the heroes of America are generally heroes of reconciliation, not division.
“In politics, some acts are so emblematic and potent that they cannot be undone for decades—as when Republican presidential candidate Barry Goldwater voted against the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Goldwater was no racist; his constitutional objections were sincere. Members of the Republican Party actually voted for the Civil Rights Act in higher percentages than Democrats. But all of this was overwhelmed by the symbolism of the moment. In his autobiography, Colin Powell says that after the Goldwater vote, he went to his car and affixed a Lyndon Johnson bumper sticker, as did many other African-Americans. Now Republicans seem to be repeating history with Hispanic Americans.”
To which I would respond: since when was the animosity of African-Americans to the Republican Party ever undone? It’s been more than decades, and there’s no end in sight. Here’s a thesis: Goldwater’s vote against the Civil Rights Act not only condemned the Republicans to the eternal enmity of blacks, but it caused the Republican Party to abandon the notion of social justice, since they knew they would never be credible on the issue. Hence Nixon’s Southern Strategy (I’m convinced they paid off to get George Wallace shot in 1972). It’s been all downhill from there.
Gerson’s not necessarily wrong, but he oversimplifies. There is also a palpable backlash against immigration (legal and illegal) in those states (read anti-Hispanic racism). Huckabee is the candidate who seems most to benefit from this. He is (correctly) portraying this as the outgrowth of wealth polarization (not exactly in those terms) and has even said that this is the stuff of which revolutions are born.
Even if we don’t gain a net benefit from this in the current election cycle (and I think we won’t), it augurs well for us long term. Hispanics are 13% of the electorate now, and that figure will double by mid-century, regardless of what we do about immigration.
Unless the US economy tanks as badly as I fear, and large numbers of immigrant and first generation Hispanics leave. That won’t stop the growth, just slow it down.
So by 2050, non-Hispanic whites will be less than 50%. Here’s a formula for you: one-third of whites, three-fifths of the Asians, two-thirds of Hispanics, and all of the blacks, and you’ve got an unbeatable majority, 57-60%. The Republicans change or die.
The US will be bitterly divided over the issue of immigration for decades, and it crosses party lines. Nativists and unions on one side, liberals and corporations on the other. As always, the Democrats gain by equivocating, because they know most of the unions can’t ever support Republicans. Two-party system. What we need is for all people of color to join forces to effect a national agenda for social justice. With the Republicans behaving the way they are, that seems a lot less far-fetched than it was even a year ago.(0) Trackbacks
For days, the most e-mailed story at the New York Times has been this revelation about a Colorado man who became gravely ill from eating butter-flavored microwave popcorn. Unbeknownst to nearly all of the general public, an ingredient in the butter flavoring is a known agent in pulmonary obstruction. Don’t we have an FDA and an OSHA? How are we supposed to protect ourselves against these stealth menaces in our consumer society?
At the dotcom where I worked for a few years in the late 1990’s, the president of the company forbade the preparation of microwave popcorn during working hours, because the aroma was so pervasive. As it turns out, the smell of that artificial butter flavoring was a workplace safety issue as well. How are we supposed to know this if agencies responsible for our protection take our tax $ and don’t do anything? Why do we have to wait until hundreds or thousands of people get sick and die? From popcorn! How much more pathetic can it get?(0) Trackbacks
The danger of wacko groupthink has never been more clearly illustrated than in Paul Bremer’s finger-pointing CYA in the NYT.
Reading through this travesty causes gasps several times each paragraph. Perhaps my favorite: Bremer uses as an excuse for not recalling the Iraqi Army the fact that looters had destroyed all of the Army’s barracks! But if ever there was a symptom that suggested an immediate need for a force that could keep order, it was the looting. Moreover, if the Iraqi Army was not to be trusted, then what pray tell would be the best way to account for their activities? By recalling them, getting them to rebuild their looted barracks, and then stay there. At a minimum, the Iraqi Army could have been used to keep order in the Sunni areas. Or the Shiite draftees and NCO’s could have been separated from the Sunni officers and used as a structured force elsewhere.
Attempting to reinvent the wheel, to rebuild that force from scratch violated all the rules of occupation. You need to keep order, and you need to account for all the people who might make trouble for the occupiers. In one stroke, by disbanding the army, the undermanned occupiers guaranteed they would be able to do neither.
Bremers insists that everybody signed off on this catastrophe. The only names not mentioned are Cheney and Rice, coincidentally, the only ones besides Bush who are still in the Regime. Gee....(0) Trackbacks
One would think America’s right-wing fundamentalist dead-enders would welcome a campaign whose effect is to encourage mothers to stay at home with their babies. Except when there’s money to be made. Then they’d rather injure or kill the babies. Just say no to that obscene custom of breastfeeding.
A planned advertising campaign by the Federal Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) to encourage mothers to breastfeed their babies was toned down and scaled back at the insistence of the baby formula industry, at potentially drastic cost to public health. Never mind the gay sex scandals in the Senate. This is the kind of story (and there are thousands of them) that goes to the heart of the corrupt darkness that is the stewardship of America’s government by the Republicans. People die because of this.(0) Trackbacks
We have long lambasted wack-job Oklahoma Senator Tom Coburn at this Web site. You may be interested to know that he is now single-handedly blocking passage of a bill to track and care for suicidal veterans out of fear that they would be prevented from purchasing the guns they would use to kill themselves. I’m not making this up. I never do.(0) Trackbacks
Blowback: American-Distributed Handguns Kill Turkish Civilians [ by James Linkin] [News You Can Abuse]
The latest blowback from the America’s invasion of Iraq: weapons (including handguns!!) distributed by current theater commander General David Petraeus, are ending up in Turkey where they are used for robberies and murders.
First, can someone explain why we are distributing handguns? Glocks, no less. Petraeus has said that in the early days of the occupation, arming the populace was more important than controls on the weapons. We here in American cities know first-hand exactly where that attitude leads.
Second, does anyone expect the Turkish people to take this sitting down? Do we have the right to expect equanimity on the part of Turks when we arm an ethnic adversary who has killed tens of thousands of Turkish civilians? Should we be surprised that the popularity of the United States has now plunged to the single digits and that they’ve now elected an Islamist president for the first time in their 82-year history? And is there a country in the Muslim World of greater strategic importance to the West than historically secular Turkey?
Oh and btw, do we think it is lost on the Turks that General Petraeus is of Greek ancestry? My how sensitive we are.(0) Trackbacks
Read this op-ed by Jack Miles of U Cal Irvine about the potentially imminent expiration of America’s UN endorsement to occupy Iraq. Never mind our hopeless Congress. If the UN pulls the plug this fall, what will Bush do?(0) Trackbacks
Finally, there seems to be some broad recognition that partition in Iraq is inevitable. But General Petraeus is still pursuing counterinsurgency. How many more will die before our policy aligns with reality?
The conclusion to which conservatives like David Brooks have belatedly arrived ($) was carved in granite the moment the American viceroy, Paul Bremer, disbanded the Iraqi Army and with it any hope for a functioning central authority there. That was four years ago.
In the interim, around 3,000 American soldiers and marines and countless tens of thousands of Iraqis have died, perhaps 20,000 Americans (that we know about) and untold numbers of Iraqis are wounded or otherwise damaged, millions of Iraqis have fled their homeland, and millions more live in daily terror of their lives, terror that we and we alone unleashed.
The reality we are now starting to appreciate is that this place called Iraq was never really a country in the sense that we typically understand it. It was always either the property of a despot, or a colonial asset as it was under the British and before that, the Ottomans, under whom it was administered as three separate provinces, one Sunni, one Shiite, and one Kurdish. This information was publicly available in history books before the war to anyone who cared, a category that excludes the Regime and the MSM.
77 months without a reality-based foreign policy is taking a cataclysmic toll on lives, not just now, but for years to come. By pursuing counterinsurgency and resisting partition, General Petraeus postpones and thus draws out the paroxysms of violence the Iraqi region will experience as it returns to its partitioned state. There is no longer a central authority to prevent partitioning, and we are powerless to impose one.
In the power vacuum we blithely created, this partitioning is inevitably the state to which it will revert. But our forces in Iraq are actively swimming against this tide and in so doing, raising the final body count. If this is all we can do there, then it really would be better for everyone if we would just leave. Now.
The reluctance of nearly all our political leaders to acknowledge this stark reality is leading this blogger to conclude, also reluctantly, that the best candidate the Democrats can put forward might just be John Edwards. Does he mean what he says? Let’s hope we get to find out.(1) Trackbacks
No, I’m not talking about Halliburton or Blackwater. It’s the pharmaceutical companies. Cancer researchers are complaining louder than ever that the most effective remedies never find their way to patients because of the almighty profit motive.
If you get cancer, it’s probable, even certain, that you will not have access to many of the most effective treatments, because these treatments are not patentable and therefore not profitable to the pharmaceutical companies who must pay for the clinical trials that bring them to “market”, i.e., desperately ill people who will likely die without them.
As I’ve said before, the research, development, marketing, and sale of life-saving medications for profit is fundamentally immoral. It’s the moral equivalent of war profiteering. Every day, life-saving medication is withheld from a desperately ill patient who cannot afford to pay. That profit motive is how we end up with Viagra, while half a billion cases of malaria go untreated.
As discussion of national healthcare belatedly elbows its way back to the center stage of American political discourse, it’s vital that we also maintain a dialogue on the moral bankruptcy of for-profit pharmaceutical companies.(0) Trackbacks
The entertainment of football comes at great cost to a great many who play the game. An emerging story to keep in mind as we watch the great American pastime.(0) Trackbacks
In Yekaterinburg in Russia, hospital staff have been gagging orphan babies because their crying is too annoying. But the proliferation of cellphone cameras means outrages like these can no longer be kept a secret.(0) Trackbacks
More than 5 years in the making, Microsoft’s Windows Vista comes out tomorrow. To use it, you’ll almost certainly have to buy a new computer. Cha-ching!
Depending on whether it’s a laptop or a desktop, you’ll part with $500 or more, of which 15% or more goes directly to Microsoft’s bottom line, ill-gotten gains from a predatory monopoly about which I have ranted repeatedly for well over a decade. MS is charging more than ever for their operating system software. Is it worth it?
To answer that question, I must first describe the baseline machine you’ll need. Vista comes in four flavors (five if you live in a developing country). It’s really only worth getting one of the versions, Business, Premium, or Ultimate, that imitates the functionality and the user interface of Apple’s OS-X. In Vista, that interface is called Aero (not to be confused with Apple’s Aqua). To use an Aero version of Vista without annoying performance problems, you need a very fast CPU with multiple cores, like an Intel Core2 Duo running at least 2 MHz. You need 2.5 GB of RAM or more. And you need a high-performance video card with 256 MB of dedicated RAM or more. And a huge, fast hard drive, at least 250 GB and 7200 RPM. In other words, you need a gaming machine. I’m not kidding.
Which brings me to why it would have taken Microsoft five-plus years to release Vista, even missing the all-important Christmas 2006 ship date. Yeah, I heard how much trouble they had with security, which I would wager will amount mostly to naught. The fact is this operating system is so bloated and complex that, apparently, they had to wait this long for the computer manufacturers to come out with gear that could actually run it. Even the minimum configuration for Aero versions of Vista were not widely available as recently as nine months ago. And recommended configurations only became widely available much more recently. Even now, I would suggest you still look for a gaming machine if you want to avoid performance issues. Get the highest end machine you can afford.
But unless you work in an environment that requires Microsoft, such as a business with a Microsoft network that uses one of Microsoft’s sharing databases, or unless you like to play games written for Microsoft Windows, this upgrade is a colossal waste of your hard-earned money and time (most of the hard-core gamers are still making do with Windows XP). And like previous versions, it is almost guaranteed to give you headaches for years, as so much of the malware out there that runs on (or against) earlier versions of Windows also affects Vista.
Once again, I offer my copyrighted advice on computer acquisition. If you want in future ever to have a conversation with me on a topic other than computers, buy a Mac.
Oh and one other thing. The “Ultimate” version of Vista can output video to your TV. If you think that’s a useful function, you’re watching WAY too much TV. Get a life.(0) Trackbacks
...are all of us. Adrienne Shelly, an emerging 40-year-old film director, was, it is alleged, murdered in her Greenwich Village office last fall by a 19-year-old Ecuadorean construction worker fearful that he would be deported following a violent argument with her over noise.
When Americans complain about high crime among undocumented aliens, they might be right, but for the wrong reason. Undocumented aliens are already living outside of the law, which makes them both victims and victimizers. And law abiding citizens like Ms. Shelly, mother of a 3-year-old, can end up as secondary victims.
Our punitive, almost medieval immigration laws make no more sense than our medieval drug laws that incarcerate millions of nonviolent offenders, ruining their lives and those of their families for no good reason with taxpayers footing the bill for this wanton tragedy. Instead, how about getting American employers to pay a living wage so Americans will fill the jobs now done by “illegals”?(0) Trackbacks
The NYT carried an op-ed that breaks down and debunks Bush’s escalation of the war as well as anything I’ve seen. Check it out.(0) Trackbacks
The world is going to hell in a hand basket faster than Justin Gatlin can run the 40 with a needle in his shorts (how’d that get there? I don’t know either). Our president, unhappy with the pace of violence in Iraq, has promised to up the ante, ignoring the electorate, his generals, and just about everybody but the delusional voices in his head. Time to talk football. It’s the playoffs.
I know. Readers of this blog will recall my expressions of horror at the violence of the game of pro football and the consequences for players’ health and longevity. Consider my fandom then to be proof of my loyalty to America, which more than a few right-wing types might call into question.
If the oddsmakers are to be believed, Sunday’s late game is essentially this year’s Super Bowl. It’s the only game in which the pundits believe the visiting team, the Patriots, has at least an even chance. But they’re playing the team that everyone believes is the best in the NFL this year, the 14-2 San Diego Chargers.
A few observations: first, how fair is it that the Chargers’ defensive standout Shawn Merriman gets to play? Pumping steroids affects athletic performance far beyond the four-week suspension period he sat out. I’m no fan of the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA), but their two-year penalty for this type of infraction sounds just about right.
Despite LaDainian Tomlinson’s record shattering year at running back for SD, I’d be inclined to pick the Pats and their brilliant coach, Bill Belichek, except that the Pats will again be without the services of Rodney Harrison. As a Chargers castoff, Harrison desperately wants to play, but even he is mortal. The fact that the Chargers are coached by Marty Schottenheimer is, I think, overdone. He’s gotten a little smarter with age and delegated more. His team’s lack of playoff experience is probably more important.
As you’ve probably heard, Schottenheimer is 5-12 in the playoffs, and on a six-game postseason losing streak. Do you know how good you have to be to be 5-12 in the playoffs? You only get to lose one playoff game per season. That means that Schottenheimer has been around long enough to get teams to the postseason twelve times. You can count on the fingers of one hand the number of active NFL coaches who have been around for twelve seasons, much less twelve playoff seasons. Belichek isn’t one of them.
Belichek is rightly regaled as the most ingenious coach, and especially the most ingenious defensive coach in the game. But even he can’t entirely make up for the loss of Rodney Harrison. At strong safety, Harrison is one of the rare players who has changed the way the game is played. It’s partly because of Belichek’s brilliant defensive schemes, but it’s mostly due to his extraordinary talent. Before Harrison came along, SS was the position where you played the guy who was too small to be a linebacker and too slow to be a free safety. Now it’s the position you play the guy who is too fast to be a LB and too big to be a FS. Several other SS around the league, most notably Pittsburgh’s Troy Polamalu, owe their stardom to Harrison. In days of yore, Polamalu would have been just another above average outside LB who would have been beaten regularly on the screen because he could be counted upon to overrun the play.
Yeah, I’ve heard that Harrison is a dirty player. So too, I’m sure, have the seven guys in stripes. If he commits an infraction, they should call it. If the rules don’t cover it, we should change the rules. Until that happens, shut up and play. And play is what I hope I get to see Harrison doing before these playoffs are over.(0) Trackbacks
...are felt far beyond the Middle East. Case in point, the US can’t get a UN resolution passed condemning the brutal Burmese military dictatorship. Our Iraq misadventure has made it safe for Russia and China to blow us off. After all, who are we to feign paragons of the world’s moral standards?(0) Trackbacks
2006 was the hottest year on record and probably the hottest in more than 118,000 years. In the US, it was more than 2 degrees above normal (which is HUGE). And we’re not soiling our pants because why exactly?
Let’s put this in relative perspective. Suppose instead of El Nino and global heating (my strongly preferred name for it; warming is too benign), we had La Nina and global chilling. Suppose this winter’s temperatures over the last month were 30 degrees below normal instead of 30 degrees above, so that here in New York daytime highs were around +5 and overnight lows around -10. You think maybe that would get our attention?
The single biggest cause of the enormous improvement in living standards and longevity over the last century has been the enhancement to our ability to live in temperate climates (where winters occur each year). The mediation of winter through global heating directly affects public health in a very negative way. Unless we undertake drastic measures to control global heating, you should start to think of yourself as a threatened species.(0) Trackbacks
The report by the Iraq Study Group is a muddled mess that says just about anything that anyone wants it to say. But there is at least one good thing that it tries to do, however lamely: focus some attention on the core issue, Palestine.
In so doing, the ISG extends its recognition of the obvious, that the US has no hope of garnering good will in the Arab World so long as Palestine remains brutally oppressed. But so daunting and inflammatory is this problem that not only has Bush ignored it these last three years, but so has the media. Indeed, it might be the most ignored part of the ISG report, and the most important.
Now Jimmy Carter, the Nobel Peace-Prize-winning former president, has penned a new book on this very topic, entitled Palestine: Peace not Apartheid. Predictably, the analogy to apartheid in the title has provoked a storm of fury, and in doing so, revealed more plainly than ever how huge a blind spot is Israel for the American body politic. Michael Kinsley, normally one of the most incisive American columnists, has written a response so irrational, it might be the dumbest thing he’s authored since high school. How does he get to be American editor of the Guardian writing pfaff like this?
I’m being nice when I say irrational. We could use the term Kinsley himself applies to Carter’s book, moronic. If this is the current state of thought among even the MSM, then we are probably all doomed. Kinsley wants to know how the philosophy of Israeli governance is anything like apartheid. Is he kidding? Arabs who comprise one-third of the Israeli population are identified as Arabs on their national identity cards and are constrained to one tenth of the representation in the Israeli parliament, the Knesset. Isn’t that exactly what the Apartheid-era white South Africans did to the blacks? Making them an enforced political minority in their ancestral homeland? He goes on to say “Palestine is no Bantustan.” Really? It’s actually more like a dozen Bantustans, each partitioned by checkpoints traversed at peril of one’s life or liberty and then only after hours of agonizing, interminable, and humiliating delay. None of these Bantustans are economically viable, and the effect of their existence is lethal in every sense to their Palestinian residents. Then Kinsley goes wandering in history, opining that “Israel is fortunate that, for whatever reason, most [Arabs] fled [prior to 1948]. “For whatever reason”?! Such scholarship! How about because Israeli soldiers forced large numbers of them from their homes, often brutally, a fact now acknowledged even by the Israeli government?
Until we recognize that the humanitarian disaster that is Palestine cannot endure, there is not an iota of hope for peace in the Arab World. None. Nothing that we do, or could ever have done in Iraq can change that. Palestine will always be the central question. If Bush fashions himself a real leader, then he’ll have to muster the courage to try to answer it. Fat chance.
While I am not among those who think Carter deserved that Peace Prize (one word: Iran), I can certainly understand why the Nobel Committee would have wanted to rebuke Bush, which they did. Nonetheless, I am grateful that Carter would take on this task, and perhaps only he can, since as a former president, he is more inured than the rest of us to the perils of political irrelevance that the media and blogosphere automatically bestows on anyone who might dare to speak the truth about Palestine. The tragic reality is that when it comes to the Levant, the truth is always flamebait.(0) Trackbacks
With the violence in Iraq now officially out of control, how can I say that? Was the Balkan War a civil war?
The Washington Post and the Los Angeles Times have stopped pretending that the level of violence in Iraq is short of a civil war. But for the war in Iraq to be a civil war, Iraq has to be a country, like Lebanon or maybe Sri Lanka. Does anyone doubt that Iraq will avoid partitioning? Most of us are in denial about this, but how can it possibly turn out otherwise? And we are right on the cusp of no longer being able even to facilitate that. In the end, we’ll probably have to pull out and watch it unravel.
The Balkans are really the war this most closely resembles. Three major ethnic groups at each others’ throats, locked in a cycle of ever more vicious revenge killing. The biggest difference is that in Iraq, the antagonists don’t bother with uniforms, or at least not their own.
It’s time for us to start thinking what we’re going to call these entities when they finally break apart. In the north, Kurdistan is easy. But what about the Sunni and Shiite areas? Let’s come up with names and then start plugging them into the media to get the frame of this war changed. Otherwise, we’ll never stop the killing.
Write us at with your suggestions. Or just comment this blog.(0) Trackbacks
The maddeningly escalating violence in Iraq has served to maintain at least some of our wavering focus on this tragic part of the world. As much as our nation’s commercial interests would like to divert the attention of the American people to the patriotic task of conspicuous consumption this time of year, the daily headlines of hundreds more murdered, abducted, tortured, and even immolated have a way of slicing through the numbness and denial with disturbing regularity. Try as we might this holiday season to inure ourselves to the horror and to the continuing sacrifice of our volunteer military, each of us knows the price of procrastination.
So it seems we have berthed in the last safe harbor of national paralysis: the lack of credible leadership, the realization that no one knows what to do. Even opponents or skeptics we think of as knowledgeable about Iraq and the war do not agree on what should be next. And in the absence of an informed consensus or a clarion voice, staying the deadly course becomes the immutable default. As much as we know we are heading to inevitable catastrophe, we can’t bring ourselves to turn away from the fast-approaching headlights, almost as if we’re overcome by curiosity to know how it will feel when the truck finally hits us. The dark forest by the side of the road seems so much riskier. And so much more cowardly.
But while we procrastinate and ponder, people die. They die by the hundreds each and every day. We have set in motion the machinery of death in Iraq, and that machinery will now grind on for years unless we act to stop it. The deaths we observe today are incremental to the ultimate death toll. We MUST do something, but what?
We will never answer that question until we first make a clean break with the very frame of thought that ushered us blithely into this war. No logical thinking about this problem is possible so long as we maintain the illusory objectives of this adventure. Concepts like victory, democracy, and freedom have become unaffordable luxuries, utterly irrelevant to the daily reality of the long-suffering Iraqi people.
In particular, there are three frames constantly repeated by the Regime, our politicians, and the media, that we must now abandon:
1) We must stop thinking of Iraq as a country, in the sense that we would apply that word to almost any other national entity. How long have I been saying this, four years? The forces pulling Iraq apart now are far stronger than those giving lip service to pulling Iraq together. Any effort to promote or preserve the ill-conceived government there inevitably undermines any remotely effective effort to preserve life. Those two objectives are flatly contradictory.
Remember that Iraq was governed for centuries as three separate provinces under the Ottomans: Kurdish, Sunni Arab, and Shiite Arab. And though those three provinces were primarily governed from Baghdad, that was mostly a matter of the sultan’s logistical convenience. Partly because the Ottoman Turks were Sunni, the Sunni Arabs of Baghdad, who had dominated the Arab Caliphate, were supported as the preeminent group.
When the British took over, their cartographers delineated the national frontiers explicitly for the purpose of creating an entity that was ungovernable, fraught with internal conflict, and therefore dependent on outside authority, so they could exploit the oil wealth. Shortly after the British departed, their proteges, the Baaths, took over, and inevitably, a Stalin figure, Saddam Hussein, seized control. No authority in Iraq but his survived his rule.
Unlike even Afghanistan, Iraq has no legacy, and certainly no recent legacy, of decentralized power or civil authority. There are no political institutions on which to build and no faith in such institutions for which the critical mass of people are willing to sacrifice themselves. And we disbanded the only military institution that could keep order, the Iraqi Army. Game over.
2) We must abandon any notion that our invasion will have brought about a result that will be better or even as good as the Kafkaesque horror that preceded us there. “Victory” is not merely impossible. Talk of it is nonsensical. We didn’t just break all the china. We kicked over the kerosene lamp and set the place ablaze. There’s nothing left to glue back together.
Can we get real? What are the prospects that a hopelessly corrupt Iraqi government, deeply divided by ethnic loyalties, can provide a framework for civil order? There are already upwards of 80,000 dead civilians in a country of 25 million, and the killing is apparently only getting started. That number is roughly equivalent to just under a million dead in a country the size of the US.
Since “freedom” and “democracy” are now unattainable goals, our sole objective should be to minimize the long term body count. If, for example, that ultimately means that half the country becomes an Iranian satellite, it would be a small price to pay for peace.
3) Finally, we must recognize, as soon as possible, preferably yesterday, that leaving a significant US troop presence in Iraq is not an option. America’s adversaries across the globe, from Venezuela to North Korea, are acting out because they know that so long as we are committed chest-deep in Iraq, we pose no credible military threat anywhere else.
And it is not merely the fact that we have no ground troops to spare for other theaters of action. It is because that, thanks to our invasion of Iraq, the very concept of American military intervention is thoroughly discredited. Outside of 10 Downing Street, no one would believe an American military gesture in any other part of the world would be defensive in nature. To the world, we have become what we oppose, the violent military threat that flouts the Geneva Accords and the will of overwhelming global sentiment.
It will take years to rebuild America’s frayed military and decades to rebuild America’s reputation as a beacon of liberty. Since we’re unlikely to prosecute the criminals who dragged us into this corrupt and venal venture, this rebuilding may not be completed in my lifetime, if ever. But the longer we wait, the longer it will take, and the more ineffectual will be any effort by America to secure itself. Wasn’t that the rationale all along?(0) Trackbacks
I am continually amazed even after six years of intensively destructive leadership by Bush, that our republic hasn’t disintegrated to wet sand. Latest case in point: the appointment of a delusional wack job, Eric Keroack, to be in charge of the Federal government’s office of family planning.
This “physician” thinks that condoms promote sexually transmitted disease and that contraception demeans women. You read that right. Never mind the obvious, supported by countless peer-reviewed studies, that contraception has empowered women and carried America’s economy to new heights. Never mind the millions of lives saved by condom use. Now he’ll actually be in charge of the beleaguered program that dispenses contraceptives to poor women. How much more cynical can the Bush Regime get?
How does this guy even have a license to practice medicine? Somebody call the AMA!(0) Trackbacks
In the past week or so, Speaker-elect Nancy Pelosi has received an enormous amount of unfavorable and unfair media attention, even in the liberal blogosphere. You should be pissed about it. Livid. Here’s why.
Let’s start by talking about what Pelosi did. She came out in support of John Murtha for Majority Leader, attempting to promote him ahead of Steny Hoyer, who as the sitting Minority Whip was in line for the job. A matter of personal loyalty to Murtha, who floor-managed her campaign for Minority Whip years ago? Certainly. But more importantly, a statement of principal. Murtha had stuck his neck out in opposition to the Iraq War, a “Nixon to China” moment that catalyzed broader opposition in the Congress, marked the turning point in public opposition for this tragically criminal venture, and ultimately crystallized support for the Democratic Party in the 2006 elections. In supporting Murtha, Pelosi sent a signal that the House Democrats would keep the Iraq War front and center on their legislative agenda, keeping faith with the electorate. How is that a failure of leadership?
Now let’s contrast Pelosi and the Democrats with the House and Senate Republicans. In the House, as a reward for having lost the majority, the Republican caucus saw fit to promote Tom DeLay’s chief protege, Roy Blunt, to be Minority Whip. And in the Senate, the Republicans have resurrected Trent Lott, the very man who just four years ago publicly expressed regret that America didn’t elect a segregationist president back in 1948. Consider that just a few months ago, George Allen was considered an early favorite for the Republican nomination for president in 2008. Virginia’s voters have just shredded his political career in no small part over a racist remark that looked like a spilled cup of coffee by comparison to Lott’s gaffe. The fact that Lott was even considered for a leadership position in the Senate should demonstrate that these Republicans are firmly and forever the party of appeals to the basest of human instincts, of racism, sexism, and religious bigotry. So much for listening to the voters.
So why is it exactly that we have to sit and watch while misogynistic media “experts” deride the Democrats as they gather their first majority in a decade, while ignoring the tainted Republicans who got us into this mess (and who seem bound and determined to keep us there)? Write some letters, folks. Let’s get the media to focus on the problem.(0) Trackbacks
It eats at me every time I see it. But it’s gotten far more annoying now that the Democrats have miraculously overcome Republican gerrymandering and fearmongering to prevail in the Congressional elections just past.
I’m talking about the framing of American political debate. As a hybrid socialist (there’s no such thing as a “free” market) and a social libertarian (prohibition has never worked and never will), you would think I would be most offended by the persistently pejorative association with the word “liberal”. Almost every time that word appears in print, the context suggests aberrant, deviant, or even extreme. But that’s not what bothers me most. After all, how well have we been served by “liberalism”?Rather, what really gets me exercised is the characterization of “conservative”. It’s a profound insult. Let me explain.
One of the reasons that the bully pulpit of the presidency is so important is that it defines what I call the fulcrum of political debate in this country. The president’s position becomes normative in the media, no matter where it actually falls on the political spectrum. If the president is a delusional nut job, like Ronald Reagan, who thought that President Grover Cleveland and the baseball pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander were the same person, that’s accepted. If a president, like Bush-baby considers the Bill of Rights to be a grave threat to our liberty, that becomes the legitimate establishment perspective. How could this be?
Ironically, it’s a structural flaw in our private sector news media, the so-called Fourth Estate. They require access to the halls of power to report the news, and if their reporting is unfavorable, they lose access in favor of other, more pliant media outlets, as we have seen with Rupert Murdoch’s Fox “News” and the Moonies’ Washington Times. In the UK by contrast, government owned media outlets like the BBC are guaranteed access (and an audience), so they, ironically, are more independent. And their presence assures most of the private media there that they too won’t be shut out, thus inviting a much wider spectrum of opinion in news reporting.
If the talking heads of the American evening news were, in the course of their reporting, to characterize accurately the Bush Regime’s assault on the Bill of Rights, then they would stand accused of unfair prejudice by [wait for it], the Bush Regime, the very same people working to repeal our rights. Yes, the logic of that statement is circular. And the result is Orwellian.
The news media must instead attempt to provide “balance” around this drastically shifted fulcrum of political debate. So we are treated to the spectacle of people discussing what possible objections any of us could have to repealing the Bill of Rights, or how serious an act of treason it is to oppose suspending habeas corpus for “terrorists”.
Where this plays out most insidiously and ubiquitously is in the shorthand notation of political positions: liberal, moderate, and conservative. In a 22-minute news show or a 2-minute news update, talking heads do not have any time at all to characterize positions with precision, much less to consider their dimension (I’ll come back to this later). So they are limited to single adjectives that orbit around the most immoderate Federal leadership in our history.
Here are a couple of recent examples, both of which have occurred since the 2006 election results became final. In an editorial, the New York Times praised the voters of Kansas for “[ending] conservative control of the Kansas State Board of Education, which tried to replace evolution with creationism in public school classrooms.” Let’s be clear about this. Someone who wants to teach creationism instead of evolution in the public schools is NOT a conservative. Such a person is a delusional right-wing zealot. I’m being nice. It is strongly arguable that such a person is psychotic, in that he or she does not cope with reality to an extent that results in a level of sociopathy. Characterizing this person as conservative is an insult to conservatives and conservatism. The definition of these words literally implies a strong and abiding connection to reality. Why don’t we say this?
Another example: numerous outlets report this morning that Bush is ignoring his recent call for bipartisanship by renominating six judicial nominees previously rejected as too “conservative” by the Democrats, and four new nominees. One of the new nominees previously served in the House as a floor manager prosecuting Clinton’s impeachment in the Senate. Enough said. In the Washington Post article, Senator Charles Schumer is quoted as accusing Bush of making a “sop to the right”, but the last paragraph actually uses that word again, “Conservatives...say [the nominations] will test Democrats’ commitment to bipartisanship.” Some of these nominations were not qualified, according the ABA. How is that “conservative”? How is that a test of bipartisanship? How is that not a sop to the right-wing? Oh, and how much space does the Post devote to the substance of the Democrats’ objections to these six nominees? Two vague sentences.
As if that’s not enough, pundits throughout the MSM (on Newsweek’s cover!) are falling over themselves to pigeonhole the freshman Democrats as conservatives, deprecating the mandate given them at the polls. Really? Their favorite example, Montana’s Jon Tester, opposes most new free trade agreements, wants our troops home from Iraq, does not oppose civil unions, favors federalizing health care and reregulating the energy markets. The man is a populist, hewing closely to the Democratic Party’s populist roots from the Great Depression. How are those views conservative?
Conservatism has gotten nothing but a bad rap for decades. The term has been expropriated to describe outright head cases, while real conservatives have become almost ashamed to show themselves. Anyone remember the term fiscal conservatism? Has our “conservative” Republican Congress ever shown any inclination in that direction? Ever? What was their biggest achievement? Creating a Medicare entitlement program that’s a sop to the pharmaceutical industry and a bigger unfunded liability than Social Security?
One would think that now that the American public has shown unequivocally that they want the Democrats to set the agenda, shouldn’t the news media move that agenda to the center? And wouldn’t it be great if the MSM made itself more relevant by acknowledging that the aspirations of the American people are more than one dimensional?
Let’s start calling a spade a spade. When you see the word conservative applied to people who clearly are not, get strident. Write your local news media outlets and complain. Loudly. If we don’t restore some real balance in America’s political dialogue, we’ll end up giving this all right back. Don’t think it won’t happen.(0) Trackbacks
It took, what, 72 hours for fights to break out over the spoils of Democratic victory? Is Nancy Pelosi risking her newfound authority by supporting Jack Murtha for Majority Leader over Steny Hoyer, who is ostensibly in line for the job?
Arianna Huffington has offered a full-throated endorsement of Murtha, both for Dem Leader and for Time Person of the Year. Even though his paradigm-shifting press conference happened in November of LAST YEAR, he was the decorated Marine veteran who gave political cover to the emerging anti-war movement, both on Capitol Hill and around the country.
It was a remarkable press conference. Murtha served continuously in the Marine Reserves until just a few years ago. He’s a Viet Nam vet in his 60’s. The guy’s previous reputation was that he was a widely respected and relentless hawk, perhaps Congress’s leading expert on matters of military personnel, a hack in the hip pocket of the mining companies, and one of the most camera-shy members of Congress. He’s about 45º to the right of Chris Shays, the “moderate” Republican Representative from Connecticut (who will be the only Republican in the 22-member New England delegation in the 110th Congress). It was a remarkable press conference. Within hours, Bush and Cheney were swift-boating the guy, but even the MSM wasn’t buying. At all.
When Jean Schmidt, the freshman Republican from Ohio (who leads but whose race is still not officially called) called Murtha a coward on the floor of the House, Harold Ford leapt up and got in her face for the better part of a minute. She later apologized.
I think it’s a no-lose proposition for Pelosi to support Murtha. Personal loyalty aside (Murtha floor-managed her bid for Whip some years back), she is signaling to the world that Iraq remains issue #1 on the Democrats’ agenda. Steny Hoyer, Murtha’s opponent, is a pragmatist. For him, this is about power, not policy. Assuming Hoyer has the votes anyway, which is likely, Pelosi gets a pass, because of America’s focus on Iraq. Hoyer will not be an obtrusive presence as Leader if he wins, and he certainly won’t rock the boat on the most expedient party priorities.
And that’s because those priorities are well understood. The pundits and the MSM can blather on all they want about independent voters and political moderation and all the imbecilic one-dimensional analysis. But the reality is that the Democrats are in power for one reason and one reason only: Iraq. Even DCCC chief Rahm Emanuel admits this now, and he admits he was wrong not to think so before. And that’s why Murtha’s is the ugly face we want out there as much as possible. Pat him on the back every chance we get. His cover is still golden.
And looking ahead, Iraq is the formula for victory in 2008. Make Bush eat every lie he’s told for the last four years. Rub his nose in it every chance you get. What’s your plan, Mr. President? Oh, and PLEASE don’t forget the great lesson of every other political calamity in history: follow the money. More about that in a future blog.(0) Trackbacks
Rumfeld resigns! Hallelujah! Of course, he should never have been appointed. And it comes years after the world called for his scalp. That’s the pace of progress.
For the first time in years, I actually had the stomach to sit through an entire Bush press conference. The MSM hounds said he looked humbled. They’ve been covering the Bush beat way too long. Didn’t look like that to me at all. Bush looked like one pissed-off bully. Like he was standing up there taking this flak because his loyal lieutenants didn’t do their jobs. He even got in a dig at Rove for not working as hard as he (Bush) did on the election. And he looked just a touch lonely, like he was now going to have to talk to people he didn’t like at all, and that there was nothing he could do about it.
Frankly, I thought his tone was combative, asserting that Democrats were now going to have “responsibility”, never mind that the president alone determines foreign policy, and congratulating Rahm Emanuel on running a disciplined campaign and getting out his voters, as though the issues had nothing to do with it. When asked about sharing power, his answer seemed to make James Baker’s commission studying Iraq strategy to be a co-equal partner with Congress. Lots of hidden bully digs in every answer to every question. Later, he had the temerity to repeat his 2000 mantra that he wanted to change the tone in Washington. I guess scorched earth only works if you control all three branches of government. Once the voters insist on accountability, it’s time for your whipping boys to forget their lash wounds, grow up, and take responsibility for things they still can’t control. Are the MSM flaks saying that this edition is toned down?
As usual, what kills me is what is not said. Nobody, NOBODY mentions that Bush met individually with each cabinet member in the last month to develop a legislative agenda for the last two years of his regime, AND that none of these meetings were to take into consideration the possibility that the Republicans would lose the Congress. Isn’t that how we got into trouble in Iraq, not acknowledging reality, and not preparing for it?(0) Trackbacks
The House falls, and if we run the table, the Senate, too. Pollsters, and yours truly, greatly underestimated the outrage of the American people. Tomorrow, we’ll find out that turnout was far higher than expected, and the extra voters were angry voters. The levee has broken.
Some particularly onerous scumbags bit the dust. Here are some of my notables:
John Sweeney, NY-20th; he was the principal villain of the Florida 2000 fiasco. Clay Shaw, FL-22nd; words fail me. Rick Santorum, Sen-PA; a year ago, this theocrat was the presumptive Republican presidential nominee for 2008. Nancy Johnson, CT-5th: the sixth most powerful Republican in the House, she was a stealth right-winger in a moderate district that deserved far better. There are many, many others.
It may yet turn out the George Allen’s “macaca” costs the Republicans control of the Senate as well. How sweet would that be.(1) Trackbacks
The UN’s chief humanitarian official, Jan Egeland, has called for the banning of cluster bombs. What exactly are cluster bombs?
They’re actually single-delivery collections of hundreds of tiny bombs, many of which remain unexploded. They carpet an area the size of a football field, and remain a lethal hazard for years until removed or exploded by bomb removal experts. Most victims are civilians, significantly greater in number than the victims of Palestinian rocket attacks or kamikaze bombers in Israel.
The Israelis dropped hundreds of these cluster bombs in southern Lebanon in the days immediately preceding the ceasefire that ended that conflict. Their clear objective was to end the use of that region as a staging area for Hezbollah rocket launchers. But what about the civilians who must live there?
And what’s our connection? These bombs are made here in the US. Sometimes I think more than half our remaining manufacturing capacity is war materiél. Anyway, the victims of these bombs have understandable difficulty differentiating between the source and the deployer. And because of the way these bombs are used, selling them to Israel probably violates a treaty we signed.
Our claim of promoting democracy and humanitarianism in the Arab World just gets hollower and hollower.(0) Trackbacks
Flash for those who forgot to check their calendars: Saddam Hussein sentenced to hang. This is supposed to make us feel better about maiming 20,000 American soldiers? Can we now just declare victory and go home?(0) Trackbacks
Got your attention? Most readers and listeners on this site probably think of me as irredeemably and unapologetically liberal, but on at least one topic, I am proudly a right-winger: transnational adoptions.
In Guatemala, the flourishing market in infants and toddlers is accelerating in advance of a promised crackdown in the US on the abuses there.
Most transnational adoptions are evil. I don’t use that word lightly. These adoptions provide an excuse for the originating country not to deal with incipient poverty and abuse. They provide “professional fees” for a bureaucracy whose principal role is to sunder families for a living. And they are usually racist, in that American, Canadian, and European families adopt lighter-skinned Chinese and Latino children when, at least in America, there are hundreds of thousands of darker-skinned children languishing in our foster care system desperately in need of permanent homes.
If you feel compelled to adopt and “save” a child from Guatemala (or China or Russia or even Malawi or Namibia), go live there. If what you really want is to help a child in trouble, become a foster parent, or adopt a child domestically. If you will settle for nothing less than raising a child of your own from infancy, and you can’t bear any, please don’t take your anguish out on an impoverished country like Guatemala.(0) Trackbacks
...next year? Inscrutible voting machines, provisional (placebo?) ballots, voter suppression laws, an impending mountain of litigation, and even insufficient postage on absentee ballots all add up to the likelihood of an uncertain outcome for weeks or months after the election next Tuesday. When democracy unravels, it really unravels.(0) Trackbacks
It seems every day we shake our heads at yet another new low. This time, it’s an unspeakable assault on the infant children of undocumented aliens. Under new guidelines, these babies, American citizens, will be ineligible for Medicaid!
Medical care in the first year of life is pivotal, second only to prenatal care, in determining a person’s life long health profile. Yet the same president who stays up at night worrying about cruelty to stem cells sees fit to deny healthcare benefits to these, the most vulnerable of American citizens. Is that compassionate, or even conservative??
Coming on the heels of his announcement that we’re stuck with Cheney and Rumsfeld, do we need a clearer sign of the moral bankruptcy of this regime?(0) Trackbacks
It’s here. As anticipated, the Republicans have launched a full-out campaign of the most inane lies you’ve ever seen on TV. Why do TV stations consent to run these slanders? Will Americans fall for it? Have we ever won that bet? Will this year really be different?(0) Trackbacks
Our “adventure” in Iraq will be an enduring source of shame ($ubscription) for every American adult for the rest of our lives. Now, just in time for the elections, it appears the MSM recognizes how Americans feel about this.
Time features a cover depicting the isolation of George W. Bush. This election has become a referendum on his rule (there’s no other word for it). NewsweekNewsweek features a cover story on a purportedly realistic assessment on Iraq, whose author suggests that the best we can hope for is another Korea. That’s hopeful. Polls show that Iraq is the #2 issue on voters’ minds, right behind the economy that Bush thinks is so great. And it’s a Democratic issue. Republicans, especially the “moderates” whose jobs are most in jeopardy, are running away from Iraq and away from Bush.
Polls are also showing that three vital tossup Senate races, in New Jersey, Virginia, and Missouri, are turning slightly in favor of the Democrats in the final week. If that plays out, the Democrats will control the Senate, and if they do, they won’t surrender it for at least six years, as the overwhelming preponderance of vulnerable seats in 2008 and 2010 are Republican seats. I may yet eat my words about the Democrats’ chances for Senate control, and no one would be happier about that than me.(0) Trackbacks
The Bush Regime never lets up. This time, it’s the EPA. They’re closing the EPA research libraries, making it that much harder to fight back against the hegemony of the transnational corporations.
Every time something like this happens (and it happens constantly), our freedom is corroded, because we need strong political institutions to defend ourselves against hegemony by transnational corporations. Only a Congress that is on the job can put the brakes on this assault on democracy.(0) Trackbacks
Real Clear Politics Web page on the race for the House shows the Democrats needing at least six of fourteen toss-up seats to win. Don’t bet on it. I’m sticking to my 40% odds. We COULD lose. What then?
Like Cheney not comtemplating losing in Iraq, losing the race for the House next week is just too painful to think about. So whatever you’re doing to make it happen, redouble the effort. Two more years of government with no accountability means lots more dead people. As I said six years ago, it really is a matter of life and death.(0) Trackbacks
One of the big three voting machine companies is now owned by Venezuelan shell companies. Maybe that will give some impetus to standards for verifiable voting. Not.(0) Trackbacks
You knew it was coming. In Tennessee, where Congressman Harold E. Ford, Jr., is running a strong race to succeed Bill Frist, Republicans financed an ad designed to play on entrenched prejudice against interracial dating.
Republican Party Chairman Ken Mehlman is pleading ignorance, claiming that he never reviewed the ad. He’s also claiming that he thinks it’s not racist. How much has changed in the last forty years? Really? We’ve just gotten more sophisticated in our racism? Should Mehlman worry that his inroads with African-Americans will take yet another hit? Watch the ad and decide for yourself.(0) Trackbacks
Polls look better and better for Democrats, but don’t celebrate yet. Please. There are many structural obstacles that might leave us bitterly disappointed yet again.
For starters, remember that many fewer House seats are in play this year than were in 1994, when Democrats lost 54 seats (including the Speaker’s!) and gained zero. This time, only a few more than thirty seats are even in play, thanks to a masterful job of redistricting by Republicans, who have excelled at the task of political shoring up. If only they were nearly that good at governance.
Next, keep in mind that equally spectacular effort by Republicans to prevail at the polls by erecting barriers to voting and vote counting will mean that we very likely won’t know the results on November 8. Diebold voting machines will lose votes, i.e., vote tallies won’t match voter turnout, and that means lawsuits. Plus laws restricting access to polling places and provisional ballots will mean more lawsuits. I’ll bet the rent that some of these lawsuits are still unresolved by Christmas.
Now the good news. If the anti-incumbent Democratic tide grows large enough, it could sweep away ($ubscription required) the wall of gerrymandered districts in unpredictable ways. A 3% edge in the Congressional vote will probably not be enough to win the House, and even 7% might not get us there. But the current margin is 14%, and that might be a bloodbath, sweeping away Republicans in districts designed to have, say, a structural 10% advantage for Republicans. There are dozens of seats like that, and a great many of them have viable Democratic candidates.
Because of the threat of a surprise, and out of respect for the Republican voter turnout machine, I’m sticking close to my original odds estimate: 40% we get the House, 4% we get the Senate. But there is huge upside potential. Dare to dream.(0) Trackbacks
The current Senate debate over the sanctioning of torture and suspension of due process is the most important in at least a generation. Read this screed by Richard Schragger, a law professor at the University of Virginia. Abrogating the Geneva Accords, as Bush has already done to at least three other international treaties, crosses the line.
Without Geneva, the entire premise of just war goes out the window. We become a fascist country in every sense, including the ideology of a superior creed. Remember, Hitler was elected.
McCain has said that he could not have survived in the Viet Nam prison camp if he thought that Americans would treat prisoners as he was being treated. And now with his opposition to torture, he is sabotaging his chance to be president, as he alienates the extreme right-wing that has veto power over the Republican nomination.
Even I didn’t think it would come to this after the coup six years ago. But without an effective opposition, there is no check on our descent, and no bottom too deep to plumb.(0) Trackbacks
Far from making America more secure, the Bush Regime has done nothing but assault America’s public safety. Case in point, the FAA is cutting staff at the nation’s air traffic control towers. Already, this has resulted in a fatal crash in Lexington, Kentucky that killed scores.
Recall that the beginning of the end of America’s labor movement was the firing of all of the nation’s air traffic controllers by Ronald Reagan in 1981. How soon we forget that, contrary to capitalist dogma, labor organizations are perhaps the best protectors of our safety and health.(0) Trackbacks
It will be all but impossible to repudiate the legacy of Bush for a generation or more, and that’s being optimistic. Today’s outrageous speech at the UN set a new standard for American hegemony. Shame. Shame.(0) Trackbacks
For years, I have been calling in this space for the partitioning of Iraq, in recognition of the inevitability of partitioning occurring anyway if we didn’t do it. Now comes the news that the Iraqis will seal off Baghdad from the rest of the world by trenches. Does anyone doubt the necessity of doing this?
I really don’t like saying I told you so.(0) Trackbacks
There are two schools of rational thought about Iraq: staff up to contain the violence there and put them on the road to civilization, or withdraw and hope the fires burn themselves out quickly. For those who feel we are honor bound to do the former, we have news. It’s impossible. As predicted, military readiness has taken such a huge hit that it’s physically impossible to deploy more forces there. And our enemies know this. America is militarily weaker right now than at any time since Pearl Harbor. Way to go, Bush Regime!
Don’t hold your breath hoping the Dems make an issue of this.(0) Trackbacks
A Princeton University study has demonstrated the vulnerability of Diebold voting machines to hacking. A single individual with a few minutes unrestricted access to a single machine can infect multiple machines undetectably. Remember the “sleepovers” in the California Busby v Bilbray race to succeed disgraced felon, “Duke” Cunningham? These machines are now a permanent feature of the electoral landscape across the country until, ironically, we elect a Democratic Congress that will throw them out.(0) Trackbacks
Think you’re safe when you fly. If you are, it’s not because of airport security. Cargo still isn’t screened adequately or at all, and passengers carry on all kinds of bogus banned items. What a waste of time and money, all so that white people can feel safe, to paraphrase George Carlin.(0) Trackbacks
There is no depth the Republicans will not plumb to stay in power. For a taste, read how Lincoln Chafee and the Republican machine hypocritically savaged his primary opponent in Rhode Island. This election season will be the worst ever, folks. It’s all downhill from here.(0) Trackbacks
Harbor no illusions, folks. Fearmongering always works. So do negative ads. The Dems, especially Ted Kennedy, play right into Bush’s hands when they accuse Bush of politicking 9/11. The Dems CAN’T win on this issue; they MUST find a way to make the war part of the larger fabric of the naked Bush power grab. Our lives are miserable because of Bush’s presidency. Connect the dots, PLEASE.(0) Trackbacks
I’ve read a lot of the September 11 handwringing in the NYT and elsewhere, and what’s amazing about all of it is that while most rue the lost opportunities, no one mentions the carnage. Absolutely amazing.
Everything about our response to 9/11 has been wanton and reckless, like a predator who gets poked in the eye. Rational thought went out the window on Day 1, even, or especially at Ground Zero. Ultimately, we will have killed more people in our reckless recovery at the site of the World Trade Center than were killed in the attack.
In the five years since, America has fostered hostility to ourselves, to the West, to democracy, to freedom, and to secularism with singular efficiency. More than 100,000 people are dead in Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo, Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza, and who-knows-where-else. From the Muslim perspective, the Islamic world has paid and pays still, in blood, for America’s reckless and vengeful response to the wanton act of a handful. Now that we know for certain that Hussein despised al-Qaeda, how wrong is that perspective?
One of our own top government officials concedes that, “There is no plan for Iraq. There is no plan. No plan.” That country flirts with civil war. Our own military concedes that we have lost the war politically in Anbar Province. The Taliban is resurgent in Afghanistan, killing hundreds and flooding the world with cheap heroin to fatten their coffers, while the British military commander there pleads for more troops. And to add insult to injury, Osama bin Laden himself lives in comfort, secure from American troops, circulating professional-quality videos to taunt us, and probably sustained by his own personal late model dialysis machine of American manufacture.
The missed opportunities and mislaid plans of which editorial writers complain are not abstractions. They are lost lives in numbers too painful to count. They are the dashed dreams of whole civilizations. There are places in the world more lethal than Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, or Palestine, but there is no hope that we can staunch that bleeding either so long as America’s reputation lies in tatters and our military is prostrate in Babylon.
Yes, it is a profound tragedy, perhaps the greatest of our lives, that the “unity of courage” from 9/11 has been squandered so, but for the families of the fallen, the tragedy is far more immediate than the rest of us can ever know. For those of us whose consciences are offended by America’s recklessness and our leaders’ single-minded political will, there is more to these wars than our wounded pride. Real lives are at stake. There are no stakes higher. Isn’t that what we’re supposed to mean by a “culture of life”?(0) Trackbacks
If you ever doubted that America lost whatever capacity it had to think clearly after 9/11/2001, here’s more evidence. A new study has proved a causal link between the toxic dust at Ground Zero and the debilitating illness suffered by thousands of recovery workers, sent to pore over the wreckage of the WTC with little or no protection long after it was apparent there were no more survivors.
Thanks to the leadership of people like Bush, Mayors Giuliani and Bloomberg, and EPA Administrator Christie Whitman, we will end up having killed more people in the recovery than the hijackers killed that day.(0) Trackbacks
The overwhelming commitment of our ground forces in Iraq is not just coming up short there. In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re also losing in Afghanistan. If last week’s news of the record opium harves there was not enough, here’s an item about how we’re losing a place in which we invested millions. Warning: the carnage and oppression is heartbreaking.(0) Trackbacks
With speeches by Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, the Regime’s election season fall offensive has begun, branding their adversaries as unpatriotic and worse, and offending the intelligence of just about everybody. Of course, these guys are delusional, and they’re betting America is too. It’s a good bet.(0) Trackbacks
Hey, the Levant may be going to hell in a handbasket, but it being an election year, Congress has no time for reality. It’s all wedge issues all the time. The latest cruelty is parental notification, one of the Republicans’ big winners.
Let me rant against the grain here. Three quarters of Americans favor a requirement that they be notified if their underage daughters get an abortion. That’s fine, except these girls aren’t the ones in peril. It’s largely (not entirely) the daughters of violent, dysfunctional (and non-voting) families that are truly at issue. It’s the 15-year-old runaway from an abusive home who, in her hour of direst need, will now be forced to risk her health and start a dysfunctional family of her own. The thought makes me sick.(0) Trackbacks
While Israel calls up its reserves for a massive invasion of Lebanon, most of the news outlets focus on the return of a minor and belated contingent of Marines in Beirut for evacuation duty. Hello? How many thousands of Lebanese will be displaced by a massive Israeli land strike, and for how long? How many more will die? Israel plans a 20 mile “buffer zone”. Why isn’t that the lead story, New York Times? USA Today? Are we already so tired of war that all we can focus on is the evacuation of Americans? Do anybody else’s lives count for anything?(0) Trackbacks
The NYT’s Nicholas Kristof mostly gets it right in his op-ed column in today’s NYT ($ubscription required). The fire spreads in the Middle East and what are we doing about it? Hello, is this the White House? Is anybody home?(0) Trackbacks
The democracy graft is failing. Surprised?
Thomas Friedman writes in today’s New York Times ($usbscription required) that Shiite Islamists have hijacked the region’s experiment with democracy. Right about the dynamics, wrong about the characterization. What’s the difference between Hamas, Hezbollah, and the Iraqi Shiites on one hand, and the Bush Regime on the other? Aside from their religious affiliation and the professionalism and strength of their militaries?
Friedman proclaims that “the roots of democracy are so shallow” in this region that we’re “getting the worst of all worlds”. But isn’t that how democracy has played out in the US? Does any sensible person think that the right-wing crypto-theocrats who control the levers of power in our own government truly represent the consensus of Americans?
In the Middle East, it’s clear, especially in Iraq and Palestine, that the region is not yet ready for free and fair elections. The political institutions have not matured enough, the electorate is predominantly bound by tribal and religious loyalty rather than rational civic judgment. Like Yugoslavia before it, emerging from decades of communist dictatorship under Tito, this is a formula for perpetually escalating civil and regional warfare.
And like Yugoslavia before it, ultimately there will be no peace until the outside world intervenes. We’re far past the tipping point. About five years too far. And that’s exactly what Bin Laden was trying to achieve. Bush was the perfect patsy.
Now the descent into hell is approaching at light speed. Iraq is a cataclysm. The liberation of Lebanon has been unraveled by a single terrorist act. Now, it will take a broad international consensus and millions of troops to put the lid back on. And none of that can even begin to happen until Bush and Blair are gone.
At this point, it is useful to ask what is our capacity to absorb tragedy and its consequences? We’re about to find out.(0) Trackbacks
There are millions of little ways that technology makes our lives more pleasant and millions more that it could make our lives more pleasant still. But with the passage of time, it becomes increasingly apparent that, increasingly often, the principal impediment to adoption and distribution of beneficial technology is not the development of that technology but the hegemony of the holders of the intellectual property upon which that technology is based. It’s not that the technology doesn’t exist, it’s that the owners of the technology or the intellectual property won’t sell it to us at all unless they can be guaranteed an outsized share of profits. To put it succinctly, the problem is greed.
Let’s look at a non-lethal example. Consumer society columnist Rob Walker speculates in the New York Times Magazine ($ubscription required) why it is that Bluetooth headsets haven’t caught on with America’s under-30 crowd yet. Why is it that “Golf Course Guy” is leading the charge to adopt this technology, while it is the 11-year-olds who take the lead on almost every other technology innovation? Is it the over-the-top geekiness that even puts off the geeks? Is it the headset’s association with the rudeness of “business-world alpha chatter”?
Unsurprisingly, Walker literally misses the beat here. It’s not what Bluetooth headsets connect to that’s the problem, it’s what they don’t connect to: iPod music players. That’s partly the fault of the hegemony of Apple, the iPod’s maker. But mostly, it’s the fault of the copyright holders of the music that people under 30 want to hear. Or more broadly, it’s the fault of the legislators, our Representatives and Senators, who draft the laws that overprotect those copyright holders. Because of these laws, phones that incorporate music playing technology (not just Apple’s) are clumsy (awkward protection software), constrained (just 100 songs on an iTunes-compatible phone), and exorbitantly expensive. Few iPod users can make do with less than about 2 gigabytes of music, and most want at least ten times that amount. 100 songs won’t even get you to and from work in some typical New York commutes.
There’s simply no other acceptable reason to have your ears plugged all the time unless tunes are flowing into them. Making the ear pieces more fashionable or less geeky doesn’t solve the underlying problem at all.
Now let’s look at a lethal example. Prices for cancer drugs increased 16% last year. Already the most profitable businesses on the planet, pharmaceutical companies justify this by noting that drugs that save lives add enormous value, which is hard to dispute. Most people are worth far more alive than dead, unless they’re wealthy and the estate tax is repealed (we’ll save that for another rant). But is this pricing ethical? Should we tolerate what amounts to blood extortion for the sake of our capitalist fetish? Are the owners of the pharmaceutical technology really entitled to drive us into bankruptcy? Should they be allowed to withhold life-saving treatment if payment can’t be arranged? Don’t think that doesn’t happen; in cancer, treatment delayed is treatment denied.
And don’t get me started on AIDS treatment, anti-malaria regimens, vaccinations, and pain medications, to name just a few. Anybody remember the electric car?
Technology is ubiquitous today, so that everywhere we look, we see important technology development delayed or derailed by greedy marketing, patent disputes, and perhaps worst of all, improvidently granted patents. From Blu-Ray discs to business-method patents to biotechnology (gene patents!), the field of intellectual property has come to resemble the worst scenes of Baghdad bloodshed. And like Baghdad, it seems that no one has the moral compass to guide the combat to a resolution of benefit to society (that’s you and me).
If it hasn’t already happened, someday your life or the life of someone dear to you will depend on how we as a country manage our intellectual property and the extent to which we respect the value of shared knowledge that is implied in the First Amendment. When our political leaders craft a more authoritarian government and disrupt or choke off the flow of information, we tend to see the development as a mostly abstract intellectual exercise on a question of security. But it’s not. That authoritarianism is a direct, physical threat to your well being, and to the well being of everyone you have ever met. And not just because we don’t know, say, how or even if our chemical plants are secured against attack. It’s not just accountability, as crucial as that is. This kind of authoritarianism denies us the very tools we need to protect ourselves against any manner of physical threat. Not to mention access to our precious tunes.
Think about that the next time you read about a patent dispute.(0) Trackbacks
We finally got our hands on the DHS’s list of “terror” sites and according to the NYT, it looks like the list was assembled by children. Are they living in Muncie and Omaha? Indiana has the most sites. New York is third behind Wisconsin. Just how strategic is the nation’s cheese production? California is eighth behind Nebraska. Nebraska! And of course, Vermont is dead last, behind Guam and the Virgin Islands, and the Spanish speakers of Puerto Rico are last in per capita sites.
Isn’t it incredible how the Bush Regime’s national security priorities so neatly align with their political pandering? What must Al-Qaeda think when they see this list?(0) Trackbacks
Mexico teeters on the brink of a constitutional crisis because leftist presidential candidate, Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador, alleges a fix in the election just past. This despite the fact that Mexico has a widely respected independent election commission.
This skepticism is an American export. Bush is fond of touting democracy as a cureall for the world’s ills, but that hasn’t stopped him from ignoring the law or his party from fixing elections.
On matters of civil rights, war and peace, even life and death, Bush’s hypocrisy is stark and sickening. And the world hasn’t let it go unnoticed. So Bush’s real legacy is cynicism and hatred of all things democratic, American, Western, and secular, among the people who would most benefit from them. So expect more challenged elections and more vote counting fraud. Thanks George.(0) Trackbacks
I can’t think of a more effective way to discourage foreign investment in the United States of America than the Bush Regime’s recently uncovered program to scrutinize foreign banking transactions through the Belgian-based financial clearinghouse known as SWIFT. The terrorists long-ago stopped using banks to transfer funds, just as they long ago stopped using cell phones. Not so the foreign bankers who prop up our sorry-ass economy.
Think about it. If you’re an arbitrageur or hedge-fund manager, the value of whose financial transactions is highly contingent on secrecy, how will you feel about moving funds to and from the United States if you know the CIA is looking over your shoulder? If this program reduces investment by 10% or even 1%, how many American jobs will be lost? And how much sooner will America’s sea of red ink drown us all?
Guys, really, all you have to do is establish a legal framework for this (and all such) scrutiny, so investors can have confidence that the privacy of their investments is protected. Nobody likes to do business with cowboys and vigilantes. And that’s essentially what we’ve become.(0) Trackbacks
Now that the United States team has flunked out of the World Cup (we finished tied for 25th with Iran), it’s time for some reflection on the world’s most popular sport and America’s place in it.
For starters, I am at a loss to understand how the US was ever ranked fifth in the world. I think it was an effort to pique interest in the US market. It backfired. We should not have had inflated expectations of this team. They’re good in flashes, but they’re too inconsistent, and far too many things can go wrong in World Cup. I don’t want to get into the specifics of the American style of play; I’ll leave that for others. But four years from now, Americans will only remember disappointment and hype. That’s not the way to build support for a sport.
I would like to delve into the specifics of why soccer in general and World Cup in particular is offensive to American sensibilities. And I think that the objections are those not merely of Americans but of those of us with an outsider’s perspective. Just as we would benefit from heeding the perspective of outsiders, I think the soccer world would benefit from ours, to wit:
TIMEKEEPING: Apparently soccer is such an ancient sport, that their notion of timekeeping dates from before the 20th century. It’s fine for the referee to be the timekeeper, but it’s not OK for the ref and only the ref to know how much time is left in the game and to set the duration of the match arbitrarily. Nor is it OK for the clock to continue to run during stoppages in play. In the 19th century, they didn’t have stopwatches. Now they do. When play stops, stop the clock, and show everyone that the clock is stopped, and how much time is left. The technology to do this has been around for a very long time and is well-tested. “Extra time” is BS.
INTEGRITY: Even in World Cup play, the inconsistency of pivotal calls from game to game and even from moment to moment is maddening. We’re told that the World Cup referees were told to call the games more closely. But why should they call these games differently than any others? They should all be the same. Much can be done about this. Certainly, the decision to hand out cards can and should be left to a conference of the referee and sideline officials who view infractions on instant replay. Instant replay can also end the tragedy of disputed goals.
PENALTIES: A related topic--the consequences of a red card early in a game are far greater than late in a game. As a result, play is often more tentative early in a game than later. Not good. But a bigger problem is that players act like injured toddlers in an attempt to draw penalties against their opponents. To an American (or a Canadian, a Japanese, or a Korean), this behavior, acting really, is extremely offensive; I can’t overstate how much so. And I’ve never seen this behavior penalized. The problem has much to do with the need for an instant verdict from the referee, combined with the fact that unlike American football, basketball, and hockey, there is no free substitution. You can’t sub the injured player out and then back in. And you can’t stop play for long enough to deal with even minor injuries. Partial Solution: if a player isn’t back on his feet within 30 seconds, he must remain off the pitch for at least five minutes. And that’s five minutes of actual playing time. Will that lead to intentional fouling of the best players? Doesn’t that happen already? Isn’t that what the cards are for?
SCORING: There is something fundamentally wrong when a high-scoring game is 2-1. Even life-long soccer fans complain about this. There should be an AVERAGE (a median, actually; the arithmetic average would be higher) of about four goals scored per game; half the games have more goals, half fewer. Any number of solutions present themselves. Allow more substitutions, I would say six instead of three. Create “blue lines” the way they had in the old North American Soccer League, and the way have it now in hockey. Limit offsides calls to infractions at the blue line and upon entering the box.
TIES: FIFA clearly recognizes that ties are a problem, because they award only one point for a tie and three for a win in group play. I’ll get to the evils of group play in a moment, but ties should be rare, and should never occur in a playoff like the World Cup. Scoring reform will help cut down on the incidence of ties, but that won’t be sufficient. Solution: sudden death overtime, in which two players go off for each side (nine on a side instead of eleven, opening the field), two additional substitutes are permitted, and players subbed out during regular time can return as substitutes in the overtime. Still no goal after 15 minutes? Send off two more players from each side, and allow two more substitutes. NO SHOOTOUTS.
GROUP PLAY: Stop it. Just stop it. It’s a joke. Even with concurrent games, teams still play in collusion. And it’s unfair. There are strong groups and, more scandalous, weak groups. Is Ukraine or Switzerland really stronger than Croatia, the Czechs, Paraguay, Poland, or the US (or any number of teams, like Belgium, Colombia, Denmark, or Turkey, that didn’t even qualify for World Cup play at all)? Please tell me that Argentina and Netherlands played at their top level in the concluding game of their group after both had clinched spots in the next round. Teams should play only to win, every time, and absolutely never in collusion. And teams should only advance on a win, never on goal differential or some other BS tiebreaker. Solution: institute a double elimination format, as is used in volleyball, fencing, rowing, and lots of other sports. The College Baseball World Series is a double elimination format. Repechage, as it’s called, from a field of 32 to a field of 16, then single elimination to the championship and a consolation game would yield 56 games. Reseed the teams in each round based on record, goal differential, and goals scored in the previous round. And those 56 matches can be played with no need for concurrent scheduling. If we add a round of repechage to get the field from 16 to 8, then the total number of games climbs to 68, four more than now, again with no need for concurrent scheduling. Everybody gets to see all the live action of every game.
So how about it FIFA? Bring the game to the 21st century? Or continue to do without the world’s most lucrative market? Perhaps it’s just as well that the world need not tolerate American hegemony on the pitch. American hegemony on the battlefield is plenty bad enough.(0) Trackbacks
You read that right! Here’s how they did it: The Supremes just ruled that so long as they have a warrant, police can break into your home illegally. Any evidence they find can be used against you. Earlier, they ruled that even if the warrant was obtained fraudulently, the police can use any evidence they find so long as they act in “good faith”. Reach for your blanket as I put this together for you.
This means that police can trump up evidence for a warrant, barge into your home unannounced, plant evidence, and that evidence can be used against you in a prosecution. The burden of proof that the evidence is illegal now falls on you. Good luck if you can’t afford a decent lawyer or court access.
The decision overturns a precedent from 1914, the Exclusionary Rule, that every living lawyer has studied in law school. That’s right, even back then courts were concerned about police abuse of power.
And where is the MSM on this? Ringing their hands a little. NYT has a pithy editorial, USA Today a bland summary. Nobody puts the story together.
We are now officially a police state.(0) Trackbacks
Populist former Mexico City Mayor Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador (AMLO) is still the odds-on favorite to pull out a win in next month’s balloting for president of Mexico. His victory would complete a near-sweep by the left of Latin American presidencies, a seismic realignment from the right-wing dictators who dominated during the Cold War. In choosing leftists, Latin American voters are rejecting the false promise of “free markets” in favor of governments that show some palpable concern for the plight of the poor. Isn’t that a “values” issue?
Mexicans are furious with US treatment of its Mexican immigrants. For Lopez Obrador and many of his supporters, the situation is a transparent rigging of markets that doesn’t even merit reporting here in the US. Because while American and European leaders promote “free trade”, they still protect their markets at home with subsidies, especially in agriculture. These domestic farm subsidies depress the global price of agricultural commodities making even subsistence living all but impossible in the Mexican countryside. So these Mexican farmers must risk their lives to come to the US to work on subsidized American farms, dividing their families (another “values” issue?).
The joke is that current Mexican president Vicente Fox fulfilled his campaign promise to create ten million jobs for Mexicans, but unfortunately all those jobs were in the US.
Subsidies, debt, poverty, immigration, justice, racism, they’re all connected folks.(0) Trackbacks
The latest Homeland Insecurity funding outrage: New York and DC must absorb 40% cuts! DHS chief Michael Chertoff was quoted saying, “There was no suggestion about anything we did that New York is not the No. 1 terror target. But I do think it’s fair to ask this question: After a city gets $500 million, more than twice as much as the next-largest city, is it correct to assume they should continue to get the same amount of money year after year after year after year with everybody else dividing up what remains?”
I’ll answer that question: aside from it being the world’s preeminent terrorism target, isn’t New York more than twice the size of the next-largest American city? So yes, New York should get that money year after year after year after year.
The DHS report claimed that New York hadn’t properly filed its application for the money, an outright lie. But most incredibly, the report asserted that New York has no major monuments or icons!! Is there any point in reading a report that makes an assertion like that? Can there be any doubt at all that the DHS money is being distributed for political patronage in an election year, at peril to our lives?(0) Trackbacks
It’s the Republicans’ turn to be the victim of a wedge issue. Immigration. It’s dividing their party irreconcilably in half and it’s about time. For years, Republicans voters have supported a party opposed to their economic interests. Not this time. If this is still on the table come November, it could cost the Republicans dearly.
Here’s how it works. Republican VOTERS want to wall off the United States. They want to take the 11 million illegal immigrants, men, women, and children, and maybe a few million of the legal immigrants as well, put them all on a boat in the Gulf of Mexico, and sink it.
By contrast, Republican DONORS, mostly wealthy corporate interests, want a large, mobile, cheap, exploitable labor force that DOESN’T VOTE.
As always, Bush is siding with the MONEY. Can you really blame him?(0) Trackbacks
The House version of the pending immigration legislation makes it a felony to be in the United States illegally. Now the Senate has just voted 99-0 to deport anyone convicted of a felony. Oh, the Senate provides an exception for “hardship” cases or for people who didn’t know about a deportation order, but they still do not provide legal aid to the millions of hapless victims of our immigration police. What chance will they have against our xenophobic judges and bureaucrats? Hey, folks! What about the millions of illegal aliens who showed up here when they were children, some of whom don’t even speak the language of their native countries?
This latest outbreak of paranoid xenophobia is nothing but a cruel distraction from the real issues of the day: Iraq, Iran, skyrocketing energy costs, a tanking US dollar, out-of-control deficits to name just a few. If we really want to do something about immigration, then let’s stop inviting the immigrants by:
(a) offering them jobs when they get here to work our farms, cut our meat, cook our food, and make up our hotel rooms, and
(b) subsidizing our own (factory) farms to the extent that these people can no longer make a subsistence living working the land they and their ancestors have worked for centuries back home in Mexico, El Salvador, and who-knows-where.
Besides, no one who wants to blow up our buildings is going to bother taking the risk of hiking across the Mexican-US frontier. They’ll come in legally, the way all the 9/11 bombers did. Let’s take the money we throw away on farm subsidies and spend it on deficit reduction. That will do more for national security (and America’s healthy nutrition) than anything we’ve yet heard out of Congress.(0) Trackbacks
The crypto-you-know-whats in our House of Representatives are considering another of their patented Orwellian bills, this time to permit our telecom companies to charge fees for tiers of service to content providers. In other words, the telecoms are campaigning for permission to trash your network traffic, and to fleece the major media companies and financial institutions and ultimately you for the privilege of doing so.
Here’s how the Internet has worked ever since it became a conduit of commercial traffic: you, the consumer, pay for a connection to the Internet. In order that you should receive something of value when you connect, the service provider uses some of that money to support the vast web of connections that comprise the Internet. Specifically, the provider connects their network to other networks on the Internet at one of thousands of “peering points” that are jointly maintained by every provider with a connection there. The faster the connection to the rest of the Internet, the better the service for that service provider’s subscribers (that’s you), a fact that the provider can use to promote its services to others.
As broadband has replaced dialup, this model has broken down. Effectively, just a few telecoms like AT&T, Verizon, Qwest, Bellsouth, and Comcast, jointly hold a monopoly on all Internet access. Their incentive for improving service tends to be limited to a threshold of what is acceptable rather than what is competitive.
In theory, it almost makes sense for telecoms to be able to charge money to content providers the way they charge content consumers (us), except that the content providers only have a contractual relationship with their service providers, not with other telecom companies who just happen to handle Internet traffic. But the real issue isn’t content or contracts or even free speech concerns. It’s about ownership. Who owns the Internet?
The answer is that we all do. It doesn’t belong to the telecoms, because it wouldn’t exist without us. They didn’t create it. We did. With our tax dollars and with our patronage. So the telecoms can’t discriminate in favor of bigger paying customers at the expense of small consumers like us because we’re not second-class owners. It’s a ripoff. The telecoms claim they need these fees to invest in better network service, but there’s no statutory relationship between that revenue and any investment they’ll make. They’re not regulated. All the telecoms have to do is program their routers to discriminate against you and me. It’s a two-pronged attack. We’ll have slower access, and we’ll end up picking up the tab in higher prices for premium content.
Call and write your Representative in Congress. Tell them, it’s our Internet.(0) Trackbacks
The site of the World Trade Center is a place that makes us remorseful and angry still. But our response has been downright pathological. Now it is reported that the memorial, just the memorial, will probably cost $1 billion (with a “B"). Wouldn’t it be wiser to use that money to track down Al Qaeda, or even to reduce the Federal deficit?
And that $1 billion doesn’t include the billions it will cost to build the Tyranny Tower, on the northwest corner of Ground Zero. This monument to the egos of the politicians like NY Governor George Pataki, who want forever to be linked to the most humiliating and tragic attack on American soil, is nothing short of a monstrosity. The hubris is greater than that which attempted the Tower of Babel. Construction on the Tyranny Tower should simply stop. It should not be built, now or ever.
(A) The tower will forever be a terrorist target.
(B) It is being built into a market that already has a persistently high commercial vacancy rate of nearly 20%.
(C) By itself, it will add more than 20% to that glut of office space.
(D) It will be the most expensive large office building per square foot ever built in New York.
(E) It will likely never attract a signature tenant from the private sector, which means your tax dollars will subsidize both the construction and the rent in perpetuity.
(F) Its location is the most remote and least viable of any on the Ground Zero site; workers will have to walk an extra ten minutes to and from their offices each way in the morning and evening.
(G) Once fully occupied, a complete emergency evacuation of the building (no elevators) will take well over an hour, assuming all stairs and exits are functioning normally and no one panics.
Larry Silverstein, the leaseholder at Ground Zero, finished building 7 World Trade Center last year, across the street from the site of the Tyranny Tower. 7 WTC is still 75% vacant, and it’s a fraction of the Tyranny Tower’s size. And three more buildings are slated for the Ground Zero site. Really, what’s the point? Building the original twin towers was a huge mistake. We’ve forgotten how controversial they were. Why compound the problem now?
Thousands and thousands of back office jobs in the financial sector have left Lower Manhattan and are never returning. The reason Lower Manhattan’s commercial vacancy rate isn’t far higher is that developers are turning the area’s older office buildings into condos as fast as they can. Residential occupancy is both the distant past and the immediate future of Lower Manhattan. Let’s embrace it before it’s too late.(0) Trackbacks
As we have seen from bitter experience, both here and elsewhere, elections are not guarantors of democracy and peace. Fred Kaplan explains the Iraq perspective on that tragic fact in his latest edition of his War Stories column on Slate.
If I were Iraqi, I might be inclined to vote for Mahdi, because he has promised regional autonomy for the three ethnic regions of the country. It would indeed be complicated, but lacking the economy and institutions that are requisite for truly democratic rule, there may not be another plausible option.
Cosmopolitan cities like Baghdad and Kirkuk can and should be the focus of continued attention by “coalition forces”, but in the rest of the country, the overstretched Iraqi security forces can only hope to succeed in an environment of ethnic homogeneity. That homogeneity will happen either under our stewardship or as a result of civil war, as it did in the Balkans and in Pakistan before it.
It is too late for us to build the institutions of democracy in time for those institutions to be of any help to the nascent Iraqi government. We blew that chance. If civil war breaks out, our own exhausted military will be powerless to do anything but save their own skins.
All along, our effort in Iraq has been plagued by a persistent failure to plan for bad outcomes. Let’s keep in mind that there is a 250-year supply of ordnance floating around that country, ordnance that we failed to secure in the first days of the war. If we don’t partition now, expect it to be used.(0) Trackbacks
Just as Senator John McCain is trying to wrap up negotiations with the Bush Regime and their right-wing sycophants in the House on banning the protocols of torture, the Army has done an end-around McCain’s proposed ban with a new addendum to their field manual that tells soldiers how to tread right up to the very edge of legality when interrogating “unlawful combatants”. Even I am impressed at the chutzpah. They couldn’t even wait for the McCain resolution to become law. Wow.(0) Trackbacks