Thursday, May 30, 2013

Is a conservative’s call to dissolve the federal government treason? And, Dude, where were you during the Bush years?

A radio host named Adam Kokesh is calling for mass marches on 50 state capitals on July 4 to demand “an orderly dissolution of the federal government.” According to an article at Media Matters, he was originally promoting a march on Washington, D.C. and encouraging participants to carry weapons, but has now changed tactics. Oh, and he’s putting a time limit on compliance. If said dissolution hasn’t taken place by July 4, 2014, well, who knows what could happen.

There’s an occasionally interesting back and forth in the comments section of the Kokesh article about what constitutes treason. One thing that comes out loud and clear is the idea promoted by conservative contributors that the Obama administration is ignoring the Constitution and is therefore acting illegally, making open rebellion justified. This is a fait accompli in right wing media circles. While FOX News is not openly promoting armed rebellion (I don’t think), their talking heads spend program after program, week after week, attacking Obama and his policies with a fierceness that borders on pathology, and as a result, fanning the emotional fires of those who might actually strap on a rifle and take to the streets.

Here’s my question. Where were the “dissolve the federal government” patriots when it became clear that George Bush lied us into a war that cost nearly 5,000 American lives, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi lives and trillions of our tax dollars? Where were the “dissolve the federal government” patriots when the Bush administration ignored the Constitution to create the Patriot Act and the Office of Homeland Security? Where were the “dissolve the federal government” patriots when Bush approved torture, indefinite detention and Guantanamo? Where were the “dissolve the federal government” patriots when the Bush crowd threw habeas corpus out the window?

These self-proclaimed patriots aren’t interested in saving America. The goal is to remake America in their conservative image, to create the dumbed-down, church approved, gun-toting, patriarchal utopia they have wet dreams over when they’re not attacking that uppity black guy in Washington.

We shall see what comes of the Kokesh rebellion. Is it treason? Here’s Article 3, section 3 of the Constitution:

Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying War against them, or in adhering to their Enemies, giving them Aid and Comfort.

You be the judge.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Michele, we will miss you

I couldn’t let Michele Bachmann’s announcement that she isn’t running for Congress again go by without comment. I’ve written many times over the years about Minnesota’s favorite loon; her dispatches from Planet Tea Party have been comedy gold. In fact, go to today’s issue of Mother Jones for a compendium of her most cherished misstatements, muddled messages and made up shit.

I will miss Bachmann. Unlike many of her fellow conservatives, she never tried to cover up her extremism with a veneer of socially acceptable behavior. She never once turned to any of her advisers and asked, “Does that make me sound insane?” She never made any excuses for living in an alternate reality. She was, and remains, crazy and proud of it. I respect that. She will be hard to replace.

We will miss you, Michele. Godspeed.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Of mermaids and manipulation

I watched the Animal Planet show Mermaids: The Body Found last night. I didn’t have any background on it and assumed it was a documentary for the first few minutes (yes, despite the title), however it didn’t take long to realize that this wasn’t an actual documentary, but a pretty well-done faux documentary peppered here and there with genuine scientific facts.

It originally aired on Animal Planet in 2012 and was then re-aired by the Discovery Channel. According to press reports, on both occasions it caused a huge stir on social media sites with pro and con mermaid camps battling it out. What has piqued my interest is not the subject matter as much as the concept of the piece itself. It was originally shown not on the Comedy Channel or Sci Fi, but on Animal Planet, which generally airs content based in fact. I don’t know how much effort either Animal Planet or Discovery put into letting people know that this was a work of fiction, but there is none in the piece itself, and it was not enough to keep thousands of viewers from assuming it was genuine.

The technical quality of Mermaids: The Body Found was actually quite good. The biggest giveaway for me was that the “scientists” were all attractive and articulate, which is, of course, totally unrealistic. But it’s made me contemplate the potential misuse of this technology. Think Wag the Dog. Perhaps we’ve already been victims of it, but with sophisticated CGI and more realistic actors, this type of faux documentary could be a very powerful propaganda tool. Mermaids fooled a lot of people, as have a lot of CGI UFO vids.

As CGI technology becomes more and more seamless with real action, it is going to be tougher to identify fraudulent video from the real thing. Hopefully the ability to detect CGI in videos will keep up. For now, my advice is this: Stay skeptical, my friend.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

Tonight's Presidential press conference...

Tonight President Obama is scheduled address the nation and discuss Guantanamo, six years after he promised to close the prison, and lay out his rationale for drone strikes. Should be entertaining.

I would like one courageous reporter…oh, I forgot, we don’t have those anymore, okay, one very drunk reporter, to ask the President this question: Is there any rationale of any kind that we would accept from a foreign government for dropping bombs on American soil? 

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Obama administration applying Soviet style tactics to silence the press

American politics has entered a truly surreal phase. For once, liberals and conservatives are united in their anger over the DOJ’s surveillance of the Associated Press and investigation of FOX News reporter James Rosen, and rightly so. In addition, as Glenn Greenwald points out in his latest New York Times editorial, “The administration of Barack Obama has prosecuted more accused leakers under "espionage" statutes than all prior administrations combined -- in fact, double the number of all prior such prosecutions.

The same Obama who talked about greater transparency in government during his first campaign for President is now employing Soviet style suppression tactics to make sure the only news that’s reported is government approved. This goes way beyond fighting terrorism. It is a blatant program to intimidate critics and punish those reporters who dare challenge the administration’s policies.

To reiterate a point I’ve made before, it was the post 9/11 Bush administration that opened the Pandora’s Box of executive prerogative in the name of fighting terrorism that has led to the abuses we are seeing today in Washington. Instead of repudiating and rescinding Bush’s blatant overreach of Presidential power, Obama has embraced it, expanded on it and taken it to new levels of secrecy and persecution.

We can’t call ourselves a democracy under these circumstances. If we don’t allow our press to speak truth to power, we are no better than any other totalitarian regime.

Unless Obama makes some drastic changes to the laws governing the surveillance and treatment of reporters and whistleblowers, we will continue slipping into a very dark and surreal episode in American history where the truth is the enemy and freedom a distant memory. 

Saturday, May 18, 2013

For Republicans, destroying Obama trumps everything

Republicans have spent almost a year now trying to turn the attacks on the U.S. embassy in Benghazi into Obama’s Waterloo. We now know that the supposedly incendiary emails relating to the event were doctored by Republicans in an attempt to embarrass the President. In the end, the only entity left embarrassed was ABC News, the one mainstream organization to eagerly represent the tainted emails as fact.

Although the administration is mired in an authentic scandal at the IRS, Benghazi is only the latest in a long line of mudslinging by Republicans in congress and the conservative media to try and destroy Barack Obama. The hatred of Obama on the right has reached a pathological stage. Facts don’t matter. Reality doesn’t matter. The prime directive is to bring the uppity negro to his knees at all costs.

The never-ending attacks on Obama are not really about the man himself. They are about what he represents. The election of Barack Obama marks the beginning of the end for the elite white patriarchy in America, and the remaining members of that small but powerful club are not going to go quietly into that good night.

Even though Obama’s policies and proposals are for the most part remarkably moderate, he stands for everything the elite worldwide fear; people of color rising to positions of power, the poor having a say in government, hope for the oppressed, accountability for the one percent. Obama is the vanguard of the future, and he is despised for that. Benghazi is a blatant and failed example of the unfettered hostility among the puppeteers to the emerging new world, but you can be sure there will be more attempts to bring the President down.

What’s most frightening is that the Right’s hatred of Obama is stronger than their love of this country. Real solutions to real problems are not on the agenda of Boehner and the Tea Party radicals in congress. Their true allegiance is to their corporate masters and the one-percenters; the people who bought them their seats in congress.

As Benghazi reveals, the Republicans and America’s elites are becoming more and more desperate to destroy Obama and all that he represents, and there’s nothing more dangerous then a wounded animal in the last throes of life.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Can Obama go from bullied to Bulworth?

So four years and five months into his presidency, Obama is reported to have told aides he’s tempted to “Go Bulworth,” an allusion to a 1998 Warren Beatty movie about a politician who decides to stop playing political games and be brutally honest. Whether this will actually happen seems unlikely, but the sentiment reflects the President’s frustration with a recalcitrant Congress.

The question that I have is what the hell took so long for Obama's pot to boil? Obama is not a dumb man, and yet it seems to have taken the Prez nearly five years to figure out that Republicans do not care about what’s good for America, but are only concerned with symbolically lynching the black man in the Oval Office.

I still don’t understand why Obama has chosen to take the path he has so far. Why has he been willing to give up so much to a band of yahoos in Congress who made it crystal clear years ago they were not going to support anything he proposed. Was it stubbornness? Lack of backbone? Bad advice from his cabinet members? It’s a mystery to me and many others.

If he really does have the courage to “Go Bulworth,” I will be the first to congratulate him on finally waking up and seeing the light. If he continues down the road he has been on for the past four years, he will end up having little to show for having spent two terms in the White House.

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Minnesota's Moment

I’m very proud to live in Minnesota right now. Governor Dayton deserves praise for standing behind the marriage equality effort and signing it into law. Ours is an interesting state politically. At one point, we sent one of America’s most progressive senators to Washington, Paul Wellstone, and then turned around and elected one of the most conservative representatives in Michele Bachmann. Our politics, like our weather, is defined by extremes.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

John Lennon was human. Imagine that.

Something called Listverse posted an article yesterday by Edward Benjamin titled, Top Ten Unpleasant Facts About John Lennon.

The list of John’s sins is dark, and includes, “wife beater,” “pathological liar,” “hypocrite” and other equally nasty attributes. Benjamin’s disdain for the late Beatle drips out of his prose like acid from a wounded Alien.

This type of article, the “So-and-so-was-not-the-great-person-you-think-he-was,” is truly the product of an unpleasant, unfulfilled writer. Whether the author is trashing Gandhi or Elvis or Martin Luther King, it’s a petty and childish form of gotcha that says much more about the author than the person about whom he is writing.

After all the categorizing and contempt, this hit piece boils down to the simplest of points: John Lennon was a flawed human being. Okay. Is it time for cocktails yet? The startling revelation that Lennon had many faults — was in fact like every other human being on our planet — is not news, and no one should get paid money to make such a mundane and pointless announcement.

Benjamin offers numerous examples of Lennon’s bad behavior throughout his life, and I don’t doubt that many of them are true. However, let’s take a moment to think about what your life would be like if you were instantaneously thrust into the public eye and regarded with almost god-like reverence by millions of people around the world. Everywhere you turn there are drugs to be had, beautiful women to sleep with, and sycophants granting your every wish. If you are honest, you know that your personal and private flaws would be magnified a million times and you might not look like the stellar individual you wish to think of yourself as in the eyes of your inevitable critics. And who would Benjamin put on the list of “healthy, well-adjusted superstars?” Michael Jackson? Elvis? Whitney Houston? Judy Garland? Kurt Cobain? Lennon is only one among many for whom stardom was a curse rather than a blessing.

I don’t even know to what audience Benjamin’s piece is directed. Lennon was a “Rock Star,” a phrase synonymous with drugs, sex and generally bad behavior. As far as I remember, Lennon never ran for Pope. Is there some subset of Lennon fans out there who think he was a flawless deity sent from Mt. Olympus? His fans don’t care that he used drugs or lied about his past. They care about the legacy of his music.

Then there is number five on Benjamin’s list: Talentless. “He wrote a handful of inspired songs,” the author concedes, but basically he was a hack as a musician. Average guitar player, poor lyricist, and in another section, Benjamin excoriates Lennon for being influenced by other musicians like Bob Dylan and Roy Orbison. Can you imagine that?

The absurdity of this assertion is mindboggling and I’m not even a huge Lennon fan. The man’s cannon of work speaks for itself. He was among the most influential musician/songwriters of the past 50 years, and to dispute that is to take a flat-earth position about modern music. Again, I would like a list of R&R stars past and present who were not influenced by others. I have no idea who would be on that list.

So to sum up, John Lennon was a flawed individual whose music was only sometimes brilliant. Careful Benjamin, with insights like that you could someday hit the big time, win a Pulitzer, and then, after you’re dead, some hack will write about what a horrible human being you were.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Today’s best news headline

Traveler from Saudi Arabia Arrested at Detroit Metro with Pressure Cooker

So here we have either the world’s stupidest terrorist or the world's most clueless international traveler.

If you are a terrorist, why would you bring a pressure cooker into a country where you can easily buy one, especially if you’re traveling from the Mideast going to the United States? 

“And why are you bringing a pressure cooker from Saudi Arabia?”

“Uh, I really, really like steamed vegetables. No? American pressure cookers are so cheap and badly made. Everyone knows this…. I’m going to start a falafel stand.”

“Come with me, Sir.”

"Oh, sure, and now I suppose you're going grill me about the sticks of dynamite strapped to my vest. It's because I'm Saudi Arabian, right?"

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Donald Trump seeks crowdsource funding for biopic of his life

New York City — Billionaire entrepreneur, presidential candidate and TV personality Donald Trump is asking for the public’s help in financing a biographical film about himself. He is seeking $20 million in crowdsourced funds for a film that is tentatively titled, “The Donald.”
            Trump was  asked why a man as wealthy as he is would need to solicit money for a movie project.
            “I don’t actually need the money, but I wanted to give the public a chance to be a part of this monumental event. You see, the film isn’t just about me, although most of it is, but it’s also about America and the opportunities this great country provides for success. This is a theme that I think millions of citizens believe in and would want to be a part of. Plus, I want Scorsese to direct it and he don’t come cheap.”
            There has been a backlash from many independent filmmakers and others who think Trump is simply trying to get a film made on the cheap. George Bishop, president of the Independent Filmmakers of America said, “It’s absolutely the ultimate in narcissism for Trump to believe that average Americans are so in love with him that they would help pay to have a movie about him made. The guy is unbelievable.”
            Trump shrugged off the criticism. “No matter what you do in life, there are going to be whiners and complainers. This is going to be a film of historical importance and every donors name will be run in the credits. I don’t know why anyone would not want to be a part of this.”
            While a spokesperson for Trump declined to say how much money had been raised so far, a person close to the project said that after four days, they had taken in $27.00.

Monday, May 06, 2013

What the hell are Republicans so angry about?

A recent poll conducted by Fairleigh Dickenson University asked various audiences if they felt that armed revolt in the near future might be necessary to protect our liberties. According to the results, a surprising number of Americans, nearly 30 percent, said yes. When it came to Republicans, however, the number jumped to 44 percent. Almost half of the Republicans asked think we might need to don camouflage, load up the 12-gauge and take to the streets of Des Moines. Wha…?

Here’s my question. What the hell are Republicans so angry about? Yeah, they lost the last two presidential elections, but the previous eight years were all about them. Republicans own the House of Representatives and have stopped or stalled a good deal of Obama’s initiatives, including background checks. State governments around the country are working vigorously to turn back the clock to pre-Roe v. Wade America, and school boards across the South are rewriting school textbooks to include conservative fables in place of facts. Nearly 80 percent of Americans identify themselves as Christians.

My guess is that a major source of strong negative feelings among conservatives is the palpable hatred of that socialist, Kenyan, America-hating Barack Obama. It doesn’t matter that the man is a very, very moderate Democrat, that he’s left in place many of Bush’s national security measures, that he’s gone so far as to accept Social Security cuts in his budget proposal, that he’s bombing suspected terrorists with drones across the Mideast, he’s a black man with a funny name sitting in the Oval Office.

Add to this the hysterical right-wing media machine attacking the President 24/7 and I guess you have a rebellion in the making. Not to worry. The revolution will never materialize. Go back and look at video of the Republican National Convention and scan the crowd. You’ll find a sea of overweight, silver haired white people who spend their evenings watching Dancing With the Stars, not reading revolutionary tracts and breaking down assault rifles.

Republicans may be angry, but it is a misdirected, personal anger that will not translate to an organized uprising. Somewhere deep down in the dark recesses of their psyche I think they realize they are losing the battle with progress, and while maddening, they understand that defeat is inevitable and armed resistance futile.

Friday, May 03, 2013

TZIF (Thank Zeus it’s Friday)

It’s May 3 and I’m sitting at my desk watching snowflakes swirl around the parking lot outside my window. Yesterday, some locations just south of the Twin Cities got 16 inches of snow. Global warming or the new Ice Age or both? It really doesn’t matter. It’s depressing either way.

Yesterday Clive Crook, a columnist for Bloomberg View, wrote a piece on economist Paul Krugman, essentially saying, “Hey Paul, love your work, but if you would just tone down the snarky and condescending attitude, more people might listen to you.”  The basic premise of Crook’s argument is highly dubious. People who dislike Krugman do so because they have fundamental disagreements with his economic philosophy, the snarky attitude is only icing on their ire cake. And why does Krugman occasionally snipe at his detractors?

Let’s say you have a friend who believes the earth is flat. You want to help your friend understand that all the evidence we have indicates the world is round. However, your friend says all of his ancestors believed the earth was flat and when he looks to the horizon it is flat. You show him all of the photos and maps and scientific studies that demonstrate the earth is round, but your friend still refuses to believe you. What happens? You become frustrated. Very frustrated. All of the economic evidence we have indicates that austerity is not the approach to take at this point in time. In his articles and blog, Krugman has been pointing this out in every way conceivable, yet European leaders and our own political elites refuse to alter their views. So he gets frustrated. Even if Krugman’s solutions are wrong, the fact that the world’s leaders continue to cling to austerity in the face of overwhelming evidence that it is not working will make a person frustrated to the point of…well, snarkiness.

The good news: The economy added 165,000 workers in April and unemployment dropped from 7.6 percent to 7.5 percent. The bad news: We are in the slowest job market recovery since WWII.