Monday, July 21, 2008

Condi shows she's as petty as the rest of the gang

Condoleezza Rice sent a cable (forgive the secondhand link, but I refuse to link to the Washington Times if I can help it) to the relevant US embassies on the eve of Barack Obama's swing through the middle east detailing how "additional restrictions should be placed" on the services these sitting Congressmen receive from the staff, telling them for example, "[i]f the campaign staff wants to rent a bus for press, tell them where they can rent a bus". Rice attempted to sound less like a 3 year old by stating that, "It is imperative that, in implementing these various requirements, we treat both major presidential candidates evenhandedly" which sounds grandly fair. Fair, though, only in the sense FoxNews is fair, which is to say, not at all. You see, Rice did not send out the same notice when John McCain went on his mideast tour 4 months ago! These restrictions have apparently not hurt the Obama tour much, probably because the Democrats on the trip presumably are capable of renting a bus all on their own.
Nice job, Ms. Secretary! I'm sure Thomas Jefferson, James Madison, Daniel Webster, and George Marshall are so pleased to have you among the long list of respectable Sec's of State we have had.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

*sigh* Why didn't he run again?

Al Gore has given another rousing speech on the need to change our energy policy. In it, he explicitly made reference to JFK's famous entreaty for the US to land a man on the moon (and bring him back safely) in 10 years, by asking for us to make the same kind of political commitment toward renewable and non-polluting energy. Even though Obama has endorsed it, he didn't make it, which is yet another reason I'm lukewarm for Obama and would have been ecstatic for Gore. Please do yourself a favor and read the whole speech.

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Thursday, July 10, 2008

FISA postscript

I can't put it any more plainly than this. The American way of justice and governance suffered an incalculable blow yesterday. Here's a great take on the "very darkest day of a very dark decade" . . .


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Yet another pathetic day for America

The Senate is in the process of passing the new FISA bill, including all the heinous immunity clauses intact. What we have here, folks, is the gutting of the 4th Amendment, the enshrinement of a royal presidency, and the loss of checks and balances in our system of government. Think I'm being overdramatic? This bill enables anyone in the executive branch to compel private citizens and businesses to secretly spy on anyone without triggering any of the legal safeguards our Constitution provides for us. Every single phone call, email, text, letter, and conversation you have, any TV program you watch, any radio station you listen to, and virtually anything else you do, can now be recorded by the government and used by them to do anything it wants. Lest you be one of the shortsighted ignoramuses who are saying, "If you have nothing to hide, why should it bother you?", think about this the next time you apply for a loan, or are going through a divorce, or are applying for a job, or are arrested, or have to appear in court, or any other freaking thing having to do with anything other than breathing: there's nothing you've ever done that can't have been recorded (without you knowing about it), and held against you (without you knowing what it was), and you don't get any chance to fight it, because no one has to reveal any of it--to you, or your attorney, or the judge trying your case. Legally. Unless, of course, the Supreme Court rightfully rejects it as unconstitutional. I'm sure Scalia, Roberts, and the rest of those tools will save us, right? Uh huh.
All in the name of national security. What a horrible, sad day. You win again, right wing scumbags. I hope you all die painfully and soon, and may you rot in hell for all eternity. Record that, motherfuckers.

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Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Some times, it's just too ridiculous to think about

Hey everybody! There's a new poll out that has McCain in the lead!
The media is clearly reallllllllly reaching to serve this load of crap up: AP-Yahoo!News funded a poll to garner some simple data on the political scene, and the best they could come up with for their guy (because why else would they use this, unless McCain is their guy?) was that pet owners support McCain by 42-37 percent. Yep; there's even a whole article about it--to the exclusion of the rest of the entire poll!
Among the unreported results:
Over 75% of those polled say "things" are on the wrong track.
Twice as many polled have a "very favorable" impression of Obama v. McCain.
Obama actually outpolled McCain overall, but really, it's even.
On 13 out of 18 issues, those polled trusted Obama to handle them better, and on a 14th, Obama was only 1 point behind.
And this was a self-defined conservative (35% v. 21% liberal) and southern (37% of total, 14 pts. higher than next highest geographic region) group!

Monday, July 07, 2008

The self-reflexivity is mind-boggling

In Denver, a 61-year old librarian was cited for trespassing the "open to the public" McCain town hall meeting. Confused? Why should you be? See, she was holding a sign that read, and I quote in full, "McCain=Bush". That's it. McCain's security forces called in the Denver PD to escort Carol Kreck off the premises, and thereby cemented his equivalence to Smirky, or at least his lack of tolerance for dissent.
Irony? Self-fulfilling idiocy? You make the call . . .

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Saturday, July 05, 2008

It's not just the politicians

People who vote for republicans are simply sick, and there's no way around it. At best, they are merely delusional, but the base? Read this and explain how I can think anything else . . .
Choice quote: "'Just take a couple of these anti-war people off to the gas chamber for treason to show, if you try to bring down America at a time of war, that's what you'll get.' She squints at the sun and smiles. 'Then things'll change.'"


Book review: Just How Stupid Are We?

There are a few shibboleths in American politics, mostly created by politicians fearful of electoral retribution. Probably the most salient these days is being, or more accurately, being seen as soft on "national security". Another is raising taxes, no matter how vital taxation is to our national economic well-being. Rick Shenkman, in this relatively extended essay, takes aim at one he asserts underlies them all: the stupidity of the American voter. (Shenkman conflates the two descriptions of ignorance and true stupidity, but in effect, there is no difference, so this is a minor quibble.) That Americans are plainly ignorant of civics and history, let alone the more sophisticated study of political science, almost goes without saying. Poll after poll demonstrates our citizenry's unrelenting decline in the awareness of the world around them and its context. Shenkman rightfully devotes just a few pages specifically to proving this charge; the book is more concerned with the effects of this stupidity, which have almost destroyed our capacity for keeping our republic alive.
While Shenkman points to the role crafty political strategists (Karl Rove et al), our failing educational system, and our mass media have played in this phenomenon, he makes the argument that these are all merely reflective of the underlying willingness of the public to be fooled by crass appeals. We are unable to see through these charades and elect wise leaders because we aren't bright enough to know any better, and we aren't able/willing to put in the time and effort to educate ourselves any further. The portrait Shenkman paints of the public is a bleak one, but unfortunately, election after election is proving him right.
On the night of November 7, 2000, I stayed up all night waiting for the final result (which would obviously not come), finally giving up around 3AM. I had seen enough to know, however, that regardless of who won, the fact that such an idiot as Smirky could have gotten that close was an incredibly dispiriting sign. I was in the first quarter of library school, and one of my classes (covering the larger civic and political responsibility librarians have in the "information age") had a listserv to which we could all post messages. I wrote a long, impassioned screed about whether I had chosen the correct career, because if 1/2 the populace could conceivably vote for that clown, there was a serious lack of care about knowledge in the country. (At the time, remember, the most popularly stated reason for voting for Smirky was that he was the candidate "you wanted to have a beer with.") What was the point, therefore, of becoming an "information professional", when so few people even bother to become informed? So, I've been predisposed to agree with Shenkman's analysis all along.
The main issue for Shenkman isn't necessarily that people are stupid, however, it's that no one is talking about it. Politicians and pundits on both sides fall all over themselves trying not to upset "The People", currying favor with "The People", and pretending that "The People" are the sole wise, just, and correct arbiters of how the country should be run; arresting the slide to tyranny and the destruction of our way of life--let alone the whole world we are antagonizing--has become nearly impossible. How can we address this problem coherently if no one is willing to even state that there is one? Shenkman argues forcefully for a return to civics education for all as the primary means of recreating political and social awareness, and it is here that I think his book runs into problems.
Shenkman places an unhealthy trust in the same media he acknowledges has been failing us to help us. His argument that schools should require civics classes is a good one, but from whom do we get our information? He wants everyone to read newspapers to access the current events of the day, but critical assessment of almost every major newspaper reveals severe and increasing right wing bias, so how will that help? The right wing has been the political beneficiary of the "dumbing down" of the populace; they have zero motivation to arrest it. Current events testing in elementary, secondary, and collegiate education levels is a decent enough proposal, but who decides which events to cover, and whose analysis of them would we rely upon to give us insight? Shenkman blithely suggests that we can use "other sources" to augment newspapers to provide the raw materials for study, but which "other sources"? The Drudge Report? Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity? (Of course, I would argue that Daily Kos provides an actual fair and balanced look at political, science, and some economic topics, but my guess is that it would be an impossible sell to any governing board of education, unfortunately.)
I don't have the answer, either, so it looks like we may have the makings of an underpants gnomes crisis. For those of you wondering what the heck I'm talking about, one South Park episode showed a group of gnomes whose business plan read:
1. Collect underpants
2. ?
3. Profit

In this case, it would be:
1. Idea: teach civics
2. ?
3. Informed electorate

(Ok, it's not as elegant as the original, and way less funny . . .)

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