Wednesday, February 27, 2008
Those Who Forget the Past ...
We are a stupid people, so willing to believe respun versions of the past, ginned up belittlings of faintly-remembered heroics in favor of inflated celebrations of current empty political posturing:
In an on camera interview with NBC’s Andrea Mitchell, Rep. John Lewis—one of the most influential African-American members in Congress—has said he will support Obama as a superdelegate. Congressman Lewis had endorsed Clinton last year, but says that Obama’s candidacy is a “movement and something in American politics that cannot be ignored.”
Lewis has said his decision to change from Clinton to Obama was harder then his march across the bridge in Selma 43 years ago when he was beaten and bloodied by Alabama State Troopers.
Harder than REAL resistance, REAL fights for change and justice and fairness? Turning your back on a political ally and probable contributor rises to the level of snarling dogs and raised clubs?
The political language in this country is beyond debased.
“The central question… is whether the White community in the South is entitled to take such measures as are necessary to prevail, politically and culturally, in areas in which it does not predominate numerically? The sobering answer is Yes…. National Review believes that the South’s premises are correct…”
And a homophobe:
No. Apparently, according to his son on NPR today, he was the savior of the Republicans from the extreme right:
"He drove out the kooks of the movement,” Christopher Buckley said. “He separated it from the anti-Semites, the isolationists, the John Birchers. He conducted, if you will, a kind of purging of the movement."
He didn’t put an intellectual face on hatred and greed and fear and bigotry! NO! He saved the Right and the Republican Party to develop into the peace-loving, civil and altogether positive force that is ruling this country today.
You’d think I’d be used to it by now, seeing as in how despite what I thought I knew about history, America is a Christian nation, the Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was really a Republican and George W. Bush is actually a great humanitarian ending the scourge of AIDS in Africa.
So, it goes on, with meaningless arguments and claims that have nothing to do with reality. We float free, bobbing on the waves of swamp gas poured out by our media and ruling political duopoly. Tethered to nothing to ground how we talk about who we are, what we should do, where we should take our country. A nation of PR flacks and sophists. It’s all just a big fabulist’s show.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Hard to care ...
As tomorrow’s open primary approaches up here in Wisconsin, I find myself remembering a presentation we “gifted” children were given in high school as the election that proved to be the beginning of our conservative nightmare approached, sometime in the winter of ‘79 or early ‘80.
We were extolled on the virtues of our two-party system by some worthies from some university or another. It’s hard to remember the details, mainly because it was the usual line of crap, but I do remember standing up when they opened the floor for questions, and asking “so what are we supposed to do when there is little real difference between those two parties?”
A long-winded version of “shut your fucking pie-hole” followed, of course, but I was well on the way to paying WAY too much attention to politics.
Yet here I am, in this election season which is supposed to be “historic” and “transforming”, and ...
... I’m having a hard time caring. Yes, I’m spending more time reading the news and watching the coverage than a lot of people do, but I find my attention wandering.
A dear friend, not yet willing to give up on the whole mess, asked me to go out tomorrow after work and at least vote to cancel out a Clinton vote, for Obama of course. We had stood in together in a fieldhouse in Chicago nearly four years ago and watched an Obama speech, the weekend before the election. I had been impressed by that speech, by his general engagement with the crowd (he looked especially good in comparison following the introduction from the reptillian Rahm Emmanuel).
Here I am, four years later, and I’m really lost on the idea that any of it matters.
Though it’s tempting, I don’t mean to piss on the hope people are projecting on Obama. Well, maybe I do ... just a little.
I think in a lot of ways his rhetoric is a welcome change. In a lot of ways, I understand that people want to believe that he’s some kind of crafty lefty trojan horse, planning to let loose the forces of justice and peace and fairness behind the stone walls of official Washington. At least it’s nice to hear someone not mispronounce words all the damned time, or sound like a teacher reading out of the study guide in a dull drone. I enjoy some soaring speechifying as much as the next guy. Not long ago, I would have fell for it.
Hell, ANY kind of change has GOT to be an improvement, right?
Yet I just can’t believe that. Reducing the size of our monstrous imperial military won’t happen. Feeding the nation’s banking and insurance systems on usury and protection schemes will continue. Our justice system will continue its defacto system of apartheid on the poor and the black. The drug war will go on, destroying families and wreaking lives, both here and abroad. We’ll continue to support the slow genocide of the Palestinians. Women will continue to see their healthcare options disappear if Obama or Clinton or McCain is elected. Take Obama’s indifference to women’s freedom, for example:
I don’t know anybody who is pro-abortion. I think it’s very important to start with that premise. I think people recognize what a wrenching, difficult issue it is. I do think that those who diminish the moral elements of the decision aren’t expressing the full reality of it. But what I believe is that women do not make these decisions casually, and that they struggle with it fervently with their pastors, with their spouses, with their doctors.
Our goal should be to make abortion less common, that we should be discouraging unwanted pregnancies, that we should encourage adoption wherever possible. There is a range of ways that we can educate our young people about the sacredness of sex and we should not be promoting the sort of casual activities that end up resulting in so many unwanted pregnancies.
Ultimately, women are in the best position to make a decision at the end of the day about these issues. With significant constraints. For example, I think we can legitimately say — the state can legitimately say — that we are prohibiting late-term abortions as long as there’s an exception for the mother’s health. Those provisions that I voted against typically didn’t have those exceptions, which raises profound questions where you might have a mother at great risk. Those are issues that I don’t think the government can unilaterally make a decision about. I think they need to be made in consultation with doctors, they have to be prayed upon, or people have to be consulting their conscience on it. I think we have to keep that decision-making with the person themselves.
I could go on. While I think it would be good for this country to face a serious run for the Presidency by a black candidate, it would be equally good for it to face a run by a woman. Whichever one of them runs, if they manage to survive the onslaught from Senator Crypt Keeper and the media, little or nothing will change. There is little difference between them. One may have black skin and one may be female, but they are both solidly part of a ruling class that believes in an exceptional America that can do no wrong, an exceptional nation of good-hearted and worthy people who have no need to face the crimes committed to get us where we are (a fact which another country with a history much like our own is facing very publically). They are part of a privileged class that thinks the uncontrolled movement of capital is more important than any other consideration, a class that protects religion before the needs of the general public, a class that feeds on our arms dealing, that turns a blind eye on our war crimes. A class that believes that a large and continuously growing military is the most important task of government. Clinton or Obama, if either of them take office, will not hold the Republicans accountable for their lawlessness of the past two decades, any more than Bill Clinton did.
How can they? They and their party enabled it.
So, hard to care. Maybe I’ll go and fill in the little space next to Obama’s name just for shits and grins, because watching the Republicans attack will make the media and our quiescent citzenry face the nasty racism still running under the surface of this country like lava beneath a Hawaiian moonscape. We do seem to be in a place where we’re more willing to deal with that problem than we are to deal with the equally disgusting misogyny, if the continued antics of Chris Matthews and other pundits are any indication. Maybe I won’t. What I won’t do is believe that voting for him or for her is anything other than a vote for the status quo, for one line of bullshit over another line of bullshit, one ticket at the multiplex versus another ticket at the multiplex. It will only be trying to guess which storyline will be more entertaining.
As a friend would say, get some popcorn and watch.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
In the interview with the Law in Action programme on BBC Radio 4, he said it was “extraordinary” to assume that the ban on “cruel and unusual punishment” - the US Constitution’s Eighth Amendment - also applied to “so-called” torture.
“To begin with the constitution… is referring to punishment for crime. And, for example, incarcerating someone indefinitely would certainly be cruel and unusual punishment for a crime.”
Justice Scalia argued that courts could take stronger measures when a witness refused to answer questions.
“I suppose it’s the same thing about so-called torture. Is it really so easy to determine that smacking someone in the face to determine where he has hidden the bomb that is about to blow up Los Angeles is prohibited in the constitution?” he asked.
“It would be absurd to say you couldn’t do that. And once you acknowledge that, we’re into a different game.
“How close does the threat have to be? And how severe can the infliction of pain be?"
Hmmm, so the Constitution doesn’t address this question?
All debts contracted and engagements entered into, before the adoption of this Constitution, shall be as valid against the United States under this Constitution, as under the Confederation.
This Constitution, and the laws of the United States which shall be made in pursuance thereof; and all treaties made, or which shall be made, under the authority of the United States, shall be the supreme law of the land; and the judges in every state shall be bound thereby, anything in the Constitution or laws of any State to the contrary notwithstanding.
The Senators and Representatives before mentioned, and the members of the several state legislatures, and all executive and judicial officers, both of the United States and of the several states, shall be bound by oath or affirmation, to support this Constitution; but no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States.
Treaties, you mean like THIS?
Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment
Adopted and opened for signature, ratification and accession by General Assembly resolution 39/46 of 10 December 1984
entry into force 26 June 1987, in accordance with article 27 (1)
1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term “torture” means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.
Of course, we all know how much attention Americans like Scalia have paid to ratified treaties, but it’s still appalling that an idiot like this occupies the highest court in the land.
Every institution in this country is broken.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
To the Polls, Little Doggies!
Rush right in, folks, offer up your rump for the brand of your choice! Turn down this chute and get a big C for Change, or maybe an E for Experience if you’re of the Donkle breed of beef. Wait, don’t want to be part of THAT herd? The other ranch has some cooler symbols. You can get branded with a CROSS if you like cooked squirrel and JEEBUS. No? How about a BEEHIVE on your fat, ignorant ass? They’ll put some magic underwear on for you until it heals. Still doesn’t feel right? Well, there is always the straitjacket symbol, if crazy old coots are your thing.
Yes, yes ... I know. You’re helping to choose the leader of the “free world”! You’re turning down that chute because you WANT to!
You’re a free citizen in the greatest Ranch on EarthTM, after all. How DARE I suggest that you’re being led astray, that you’re just the product in a well-oiled enterprise engineered to deliver meatsacks to the owners?
After all, some of you are independents! You’re free to pick a side and keep the center alive!
CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Well, of course, in Georgia, we’ve got some pretty restrictive laws, and we‘ve challenged them in the courts, the open primary, the second primary. And basically, by utilizing the open primary, people can go to the polls and they can pick up a ballot of a political party of which they have never before participated, and that’s what’s happened to me twice.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain what happened exactly. You’re saying that Republicans came and voted in the Democratic primary to get you out?
CYNTHIA McKINNEY: Yes, to determine—and so their votes then determined who the Democratic nominee was going to be.
If you don’t do your part, some mavericks who won’t run with one of the accepted herds will lead us all off a cliff, or some other dire outcome.
Moo, go where they lead you, head right down that chute into the
pen polling station and play your part in this grand enterprise.
It doesn’t really matter, but if it feels good to play along, then more power to you. You’re a piece of beef to them, livestock, a captive breed that exists to be exploited for the people who write their checks. Have fun.
For the Democrats, the real game is being played between two factions of the elites. The economic, military and political elites are solidly behind Hillary Clinton. The cultural elites have lined up behind Obama. We the voters are sitting in the stands passively watching. Hillary Clinton should be able to win. Goldman Sachs and the arms industry usually trump Oprah Winfrey and Hollywood. But if there’s any explanation about why Obama has exploded so brightly onto the political scene in 2008, it’s the fact that TV and Hollywood have stepped up to shroud the political debate in a fog of big budget escapism. They’ve managed to convince a good chunk of the cultural elite and millions of American voters that you don’t have to confront the occupation of Iraq or the destruction of the Constitution at all, that you can simply retreat into an expertly produced big budget epic of an escapist fantasy where a black Kennedy revives Camelot and where the invasion of Vietnam or Iraq, the terrorist attacks on 9/11, or legalized American torture never happened. This is politics as entertainment, an attack on democracy using an 18 month long Presidential campaign.
My vote is not to participate.