Thursday, January 31, 2013

Gun (debate) Control

Solid, straightforward, factual article in today’s Mother Jones refuting the top 10 pro-gun arguments you hear from the NRA and others. One of the problems in America with trying to have a reasonable debate on gun control is that the media, both FOX News and the mainstream outlets, allow opponents of gun restrictions to make outrageous claim after outrageous claim without challenging them to provide any research or data to back up their assertions. If you are not a well-informed viewer and you hear someone with a position of authority in the NRA or a congressperson make a statement as if it is a proven fact, you might be inclined to believe it is true. Anyway, the article is worth a read.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Civil Obedience

Thanks, Dan.

It's the Stupid, Stupid

It’s startling and apparently newsworthy when a prominent Republican says something that doesn’t sound like a quote from Forrest Gump’s evil twin. As the keynote speaker at the Republican National Committee's winter meeting, Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal chastised his party and its dismal performance in recent elections, saying, "We've got to stop being the stupid party. It's time for a new Republican Party that talks like adults. We had a number of Republicans damage the brand this year with offensive and bizarre comments. I'm here to say we've had enough of that."

Mmm, okay. Good luck with that.

Seriously Bobby, let me offer a simple observation: You will always be the stupid party as long as your party embraces stupid ideas. I’m afraid simply gagging the most obnoxious and outspoken Republican wingnuts isn’t going to quite do the trick. Just so you know I’m not merely a partisan hack, I am willing to offer you and your party some free advice that I believe will help you shed the, “I’m with stupid” vestments your party has worn since Lincoln…slept in Lincoln’s bedroom. Remember, don’t get discouraged. You have to start somewhere. Ready? Okay.

1.     The Economy: Trickle down economics doesn’t work. Gross income disparity is a bad thing. Policies that hurt the middle class are bad for the economy. Americans want to keep social security, Medicare and Medicaid financially strong entities run by the government, not private enterprise.
2.     Corporate America: Running the government and running a business are different. Government workplace regulations that protect workers are necessary. Unions have their place and should not be demonized. The private sector does not do everything better than government. It’s only right that corporations and billionaires pay their fair share of taxes.
3.     War and Peace: It is not in our best interests to be the world’s police department. We need to spend less on our military and more on encouraging peace. We should stop being the world’s leading exporter of weapons. Supporting brutal dictators because we believe it is in our national interest is always a bad thing. Drone bombings, indefinite detention, torture—these actions do not win the hearts and minds of people in other countries.
4.     Security: We should never give the American intelligence community carte blanche to spy on anyone at anytime. Fences don’t work. Suppressing legal dissent or treating protestors as terrorists is wrong.
5.     Social Issues: America is not, and should never become, a theocracy. Christianity is not the national religion. Imposing your religious beliefs on others through public policy as a bad thing to do. More guns is not a viable solution. Health issues should be between a patient and doctor; the government should not be involved. The War on Drugs has been a colossal failure and should be ended.
6.     Misc.: The world is not 6,000 years old. Religious beliefs should not trump science. Man-made climate change is real and should be immediately addressed. FOX News is not your friend.

Wow. That’s enough for now. I know your mind is reeling, Bobby, but if you really want your party to stop being considered “stupid,” this is your chance. Start spreading the news today. No need for thanks. Just know I’ve got your back. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

A Day of Irony

The beautiful irony of today is that we observe the inauguration of an African-American President on Martin Luther King Day. I think this would be a very bittersweet moment for King if he were alive to witness the day’s events. Could he have imagined a black man in the White House within 45 years of his death? Perhaps, but I think he would be pleasantly surprised to know that we went from Jim Crow to Barack Obama in a single generation.

At the same time, I think he would be dismayed to see what has become of America in the intervening years. Were he standing at the dais giving a speech today, he would certainly be speaking out against the intolerable income disparity that exists in this country, where a small cabal of billionaires controls the vast majority of the nation’s wealth. He’d lament the weakening of labor unions and the ongoing hemorrhaging of investments and jobs to overseas destinations. He would heap scorn on the greed and avarice of Wall Street as it continues to turn its back on Main Street.

 And I have no doubt he would lament the extremist security and national defense policies that have been implemented since 9/11. He would surely scold Washington for creating a perpetual state of war that fulfilled the Orwellian prophecy declaring war is peace and dissent is treason. Drones, Guantanamo, Afghanistan, a bloated defense budget, it would all draw King’s ire and condemnation. As others have pointed out, King was a radical both by 1960s standards and perhaps even more so by today’s. Calling Obama a socialist is laughable. Calling King a socialist would be much closer to the mark. In his later years, he was more and more critical of the abuses inherent in modern capitalism and accurately predicted were our greed and arrogance would take us as a country if the problems of economic disparity were not addressed. And of course, they weren’t.

I think King would take time to celebrate today’s inauguration, and would, if he were here, no doubt be a featured speaker. But he would tell us that as far as we had come, we have a very, very long way to go to fulfill the promise of the America he once foresaw in a dream. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Killer Toys for 2013

The United States Department of Defense, in conjunction with the CIA, unveiled the first die-cast metal toy in a new line of products being sold on Amazon under the name, “America Owns the World.” The initial offering is the Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) RQ-1 Predator shown here. This indiscriminate killing machine has seen combat over Afghanistan, Pakistan, Bosnia, Serbia, Iraq, and Yemen, killing and disfiguring women, children, and the occasional terrorist, since 1995.

On the schedule for release this spring is 1/12 scale replica of a CIA waterboarding operation, complete with paid mercenaries, buckets and leaders of the international community standing outside the facility covering their eyes and ears.

Future releases include a model black site prison in Bosnia (includes pliers and death metal CD), the Abu Ghraib hooded prisoner doll, and “My First Shredding Machine” with copies of the Constitution, Bill of Rights and other useless documents for your child’s shredding fun.

To Pee or Not to Pee, That is the Question

More and more states are considering drug testing as a condition for receiving unemployment benefits. Bills are being introduced in statehouses across the country by Republicans who offer a variety of muddled rationales for their actions that defy the simplest tests of logic. As civil liberty activists have pointed out time and time again, Republicans are spending taxpayers’ time and money addressing a non-existent problem.

This drug-testing frenzy is an interesting and telling contrast to one of the top stories of the moment, gun control. On the one hand, you have fervent gun owners who insist that any infringement on their right to own weapons is government intervention and intrusion of the worst kind, while on the other you have Republican state legislators wanting to know what you’re doing in the privacy of your own home while you collect unemployment benefits.

The irony is painfully apparent. Although Republicans claim to be the party of personal freedom and limited government, they have no problems using the federal or state government to pursue their ideological goals, whether it’s drug testing or abortion or prayer in schools.

Actually, I’m all for drug testing, if it includes our state and national political representatives. Pee away.

Wednesday, January 09, 2013

Barack, we hardly new ye

How are we to understand Barack Obama’s transformation from an idealistic, highly intelligent, progressive, socially conscious young American black man to today’s marionette of the industrial/military complex’s puppet masters? 

Today’s issue of AlterNet features and article by Alex Kane, “5 Ways President Obama Has Doubled Down on Bush’s Most Tragic Mistakes.” One of the primary reasons why many of us voted for Obama in 2008 was the clear indication in his campaign that his administration was going to move in a new direction AWAY from the previous eight years of secrecy, militarism, isolationism, antagonism, and aggression. However, as Kane points out in his article, not only has Obama extended many of Bush’s most reviled policies, in many cases he has expanded on them. Programs related to the use of drones, warrantless wiretapping, proxy detentions, Guantanamo and indefinite detention have all been expanded under Obama.

And now, as his second term administration begins to take shape, we see Obama once again going to an establishment-friendly, change abhorrent list of nominees like John Brennan, a Bush era supporter of that President’s most controversial anti-terror tactics, as new Central Intelligence Agency director, and conservative Republican former senator Chuck Hagel for Secretary of Defense. This was Obama's modus operandi at the beginning to his first term, as well, much to the dismay of his supporters.

Why? Why has this president gone out of his way to endorse policies and nominate cabinet members that so glaringly represent everything that was and is wrong with American domestic and foreign policy? I can’t explain it. There are days when I feel like I’m reading a Tom Clancy novel about an idealistic new president who is threatened into compliance by an evil cabal in Washington, D.C. to do their bidding. I’m not sure what other explanation makes sense. The Obama who sits in the Oval Office today is not the Obama I voted for in 2008. That person never made it to the White House.