Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Three more things to add to my list of the worst things about the last eight years.

3) The focus of the nation’s consciousness shifting from policy to scandal and conduct.

Actually, this was also a problem during the Clinton administration. Everyone seemed to more concerned with defending their guy or attacking the enemy that nobody seemed to be talking about the merits of the issues.

Debate was and still is more or less stagnant in this country.

We need to be out there trying to change peoples’ minds, not wasting our energy trying to defend some sleazebag because he happens to be on our side.

2) Texans and Evangelicals being taken in by one of the best pretenders in history.

One thing I’ve learned about both Evangelicals and Texans is that you have to pass incredible scrutiny before they are willing to truly consider you one of their own. (You actually have to be born there to be considered a proper Texan.)

It’s not really hard to imagine how he’s been affirmed as a bona fide Christian. He says the right things about the big issues like homosexuality and abortion.

It’s not hard to fake that.

His glowing reception from the state of Texas is a little more baffling.

It’s surreal to see a spoiled, New England, Ivy League spoiled brat put on a cowboy hat and a pair of boots, throw a phony accent into the mix and find himself embraced by those who seem to think that elitism is the worst crime anybody, particularly a public official could be guilty of.

1) My liberal friends actually falling for the stupid act.

One of the things that Sun Tzu says in The Art of War is that it’s imperative to have your enemy underestemate you.

Yale educated men don’t mispeak the way that Bush does. It’s an act.

People like Karl Rove and Karen Hughes understand too well that the more people are laughing about how stupid you are, the less they’re thinking about what you really are.

I mean, he can’t be evil. He’s too fucking stupid. Just a harmless dope.

Fucking don’t believe the hype.

He is an unbelievably shrews and intelligent man. But, if we think he’s dumb, then suddenly he isn’t quite as dangerous.

It was the strategy that worked with Dan Quayle and it worked with W.

Monday, January 12, 2009

The 8 worst things about the past 8 years (aside from the obvious carnage)

A friend of mine, who has a blog called Conservatism With Heart decided to eulogize the Bush Administration with a list of ten things the President got right. So, here, from my vantage point are 8 things in the last 8 years that pissed me off.

8) Sean Hannity and others feigning outrage and criticizing people like Bill Maher and Christopher Hitchens for their attacks on Jerry Falwell shortly after his death while calling Shirley Phelps Roper a ‘nut.’ Actually, Hannity was right about Phelps. It was one of those rare occasions where I agree with him. I’ll even go him one better. She, her family and her church, Westboro Baptist Church in Topeka, are not only nuts, they are dangerous, evil cunts and it is of the utmost importance that we fight them with everything we have. He told her, “You are as mean and as sick and as cruel as anybody that I've ever had on this program.” Again, he’s right about her.
But to then turn around and eulogize Jerry Falwell, praising the work he’s done, indignant that anyone would dare criticize him so soon after his death is disingenuous at best. Falwell did have the good taste not to show up at funerals with picket signs, but the things he had said about America, about homosexuality, about the loss of life in Iraq, about why 9/11 happened are virtually identical to the things that Westboro Baptist Church has been saying. It’s frustrating when those fashioning themselves pundits concern themselves more with manners and how people express themselves than the substance of what they’re saying.
And delicacy and good manners are the only difference between Falwell Ministries and Westboro Baptist Church.

7) Hearing countless conservatives demand ad-nauseam that Obama roundly condemn Reverend Wright. This would have been easier to take if these weren’t the same people who consistently ally themselves with the likes of Falwell, Robertson and Dobson. Somehow, the insistence that a public official not be tied in any way to an extremist hate-filled pastor sounded disingenuous.

6) Being torn between wanting to read What Happened by Scott McClellan, and at the same time, being unwilling to contribute to that piece of shit’s wealth. Way to grow a conscience after helping get thousand of people killed. You’ll pardon me if I invite you to suck it. It was a conundrum. Then, a friend suggested I just check it out at the library. I’m kind of embarrassed that I didn’t think of that first.

5) The systematic discrediting of anyone who turned on the administration. When I checked out What Happened from the library, my wife, Joia, (rabid Republican for those of you who don’t already know) said, “You know he’s a pathological liar, right?” My response was, “Yes, yes he is.” Obviously our difference of opinion lay in when he was lying.

4) The RNC’s cynical strategy of putting marriage amendments on ballots in swing states across the country to polarize their base by dividing Americans in 2004.

3) My cat, Atticus died. He was the greatest cat in the history of the world. And while I can’t prove it, and while words phrases like ‘old-age’ and ‘natural causes’ were thrown around, I believe in my heart of hearts that Karl Rove is somehow responsible.

2) The silencing of dissent and/or ‘offensive’ speech from Don Imus to the Dixie Chicks to Ward Churchill to Janet Jackson’s tit. We also saw the return of the Flag Desecration Amendment and countless local ordinances across the country banning picketers at funerals in response to the depraved, vile, despicable, noxious, iniquitous and many other synonyms for stomach churning, Westboro Baptist Church. (I love my thesaurus.) It seems that there are still a lot of people who think that the best way of dealing with someone saying something you don’t like is to force them to shut up.
At one point, I was arguing with a friend at work about the sacking of Don Imus and my friend actually said, “Free speech doesn’t mean anyone can just say anything.” Actually, that’s exactly what it means, fuck-nuts.

1) Traitors questioning my patriotism. I can’t let this one go. I’m sure most of you are tired of hearing about the outing of Valerie Plame, but we can’t afford to drop it. The right seems to think that nothing improper happened, while the left has pretty much treated the whole incident as if it were any other scandal. No. This is different from anything else the Bush administration has done. It’s worse than lying about Oval Office head. Hell, it’s worse than Watergate. We shouldn’t be afraid to use the word ‘treason’ here because it is applicable. I posted at much more length about this here. Also, Bill Maher said it much better than I ever could, so I’m going to shut up now.

Saturday, January 10, 2009

straight to hell, do not pass go, do not collect 200 pounds of flesh.

Okay, I think we've established that I'm going to hell when I die. I'm just too twisted to be granted access to the great BatCave in the sky.

But at least I'll be going to the cool hell with Anton LaVey, George Carlin, Che Guevera, John Cassavetes, Lee Marvin, Steve McQueen and the like, not the square hell that Rumsfeld and Cheney are going to and it currently populated by John Wayne, Regan and Charlton Heston.

So, last weekend, there was a story about a suicide bomber who killed 35 pilgrims in Baghdad. I just pictured bits of pumpkin and buckle hats strewn everywhere and couldn't stop giggling.

Seriously, though I feel really bad for those people.

I just can't help but thinking that if they had more modern weapons than the muskets you have to pour the ball bearings into and tamp down and can only fire once ever three minutes or so, they could've protected themselves better.

I apologize to all mankind.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Obama's inauguration: tolerating intolerance - 01/08/09

A couple of weeks ago, I was talking to my sister who wanted to know why everyone was making a big deal about the selection of Rick Warren to give the invocation at President Elect Obama’s inauguration.

A lot of moderates and conservatives think that this is much ado about nothing and that we on the left are overreacting.

First, let me answer this question with a question. How would the fundamentalist Christian right have felt if one of the first things George W. Bush did as President Elect was to pander to the Pro-Choice community? They’d be pissed as hell.

This is how we feel about Obama’s association with Warren.

During any election, candidates have to move toward the center and most of us on the left, while we find this distasteful, realize that it is something we have to put up with.

So, we didn’t complain when Obama chose to attend a candidate forum at Warren’s saddleback church. We’ve come to expect some kind of pandering.

But here’s the thing. Obama won.

The midterms are 22 months away.

Now, the time between election cycles seem to be getting shorter and shorter, but our newly elected President does have a few months at the very least when he doesn’t have to worry about making nice and just do the right thing.

Even McCain, when he wasn’t trying to cozy up to the far right had the courage to call these people what they are: agents of intolerance.

Let’s get one thing straight. I support, love and voted for Barack Obama.

But I did not vote for him so that he could make inroads, show his bipartisan spirit or make nice with the fundamentalist Christian right. I voted for Obama so that he could stop them.

It’s not too late to rescind the invitation, Mr. President Elect.

Please, on behalf of all of us who voted for you because we wanted a change, because we wanted to take a step forward in abolishing intolerance, do not let Rick Warren be your choice of who ought to lead our nation in prayer.

Mixed Post-Election feelings & Prop 8 - 11/11/08

Of course, I'm angry about this, but I'm also saddened and disappointed.

I really don’t get it at all. What kind of threat to traditional marriage does gay marriage pose?

Like I'm going to wake up one morning, turn to Joia and say, “Baby, you’re my best friend and the love of my life. You are the reason I believe that we silly humans have souls because I know that I have a soul mate. We’ve been together for 16 years, we have two incredibly smart, kind children who we both love dearly and would readily die for. But honey, it’s just not gonna work out. There’s just too much butt sex in the world.”

I’m sorry, but if defending marriage was the motivation, they’d be dealing with issues like divorce, adultery, promiscuity, domestic violence and even poverty.

I am so proud of people I care about who refuse to take this sitting down.

They simply will not move to the back of the bus and they shouldn’t.

Every human right struggle has involved some measure of civil disobedience.

So, Mayor Newsom, keep issuing marriage licenses. Everyone else, stay in the streets. Bring it all across America. Bring it here to Missouri.

All of us, straight, gay, agnostic, Christian, atheist, black, white, etc. have to shout it from the mountaintop.

We refuse and we resist.

It doesn’t matter who you are because human rights are human rights and when there are Americans who do not have the rights that I have the luxury of taking for granted, we need to stand up.

This fight is not over.

My last pre-election rant - 11-03-08

The following is a list of things I refuse to accept.

1) Patriotism being defined as refusing to hold to account our leaders no matter what they do. I’ve been hearing ever since 9/11 that opposing Bush is the same as opposing America. Please. If I had told you ten years ago that to criticize Clinton was tantamount to treason, you would’ve punched me in the sack and you’d have been right to do it. Refusing to accept the actions of leaders we deem as reckless in no way detracts from the love we have for our country.

2) Support for our troops being defined as assent with the actions we have taken in Iraq and Afghanistan. I would say that demanding that we not get our people killed unless we have no other choice is the best kind of support I can offer. There is a lot of talk about honoring our men and women in uniform. I choose to honor them by being furious that more than four thousand of them are dead when they shouldn’t be.

3) Pro-Life being defined solely as the belief that abortion should not be legal. I have so many problems with this, I don’t know where to start. It might be easier to swallow if those talking about the sanctity of life have such a flippant attitude to our actions around the world that costs people their lives, particularly in the Middle East and in South and Central America. If these people fought for the rights of the born as well as the unborn, I would be more willing to listen. I do not accept the implication that the belief that abortion should not be allowed is somehow ‘anti-life.’ When doctors can no longer perform abortions, women bleed to death. Pro-Choice is Pro-Life.

4) Words like liberal, socialist, Marxist among others are something to run from. Everyone who accuses Obama or anyone for that matter of being a Marxist really should read something that Marx has written. That way, you won’t look quite as douchey.

So there, I’m back down off my soapbox and I’m going to play some incarnation of Resident Evil. Everyone have fun tomorrow.

In defense of Reverend Wright - 03/26/08

Republican pundits have been talking a lot lately about one Pastor Wright, friend and minister to one Barack Obama. They have been calling on Obama to denounce what they see as anti-American comments made by Pastor Wright.

And if there is one thing that Republicans will not stand for, it’s dangerous, hate-filled religious leaders influencing the people we elect into office.

(One of the shortcomings of the written word is that you can’t hear the inflections in one’s voice. But let me assure you, that as I wrote that last sentence, the tone of the voice in my head was dripping with sarcasm.)

First of all, before you condemn someone for their association with someone who has said things you don’t like, you really out to listen to what they actually said and not what someone on Fox News said he said.

Seriously. For many reasons, time constraints being one and bias being another, you are generally going to hear the most jolting lines from anyone in any given sound bite.

They simply don’t have the time to play you an entire sermon so you can get a good idea of what the nature of what he said was.

They keep sound bites down to twenty seconds or so. They just don’t have the time to deal with nine minute clips.

Aside from that, the news in our country has become more and more sensationalized.

What we hear from our ‘journalist,’ if you can still call them that, is more like gossip than real substantive debate. “Did you hear what that guy said?” “Can you believe the nerve of that guy?”

These questions have replaced any meaningful discussion.

We’d rather be indignant than informed.

And the truth of the matter is, if you can find someone to say something angrily, you really can make him look crazy by putting only that sentence up for scrutiny, leaving out what he said before and what he said after whatever it was that is supposed to piss us all off.

If the only thing you show us is an angry statement, then that’s all we’ll see and we’re going to think, “Damn, what an angry dude.”

So before we go any further, take nine minutes to listen to what Pastor Wright actually said.

There’s a link right here.

Go ahead, I’ll wait.

Back already? Good, that didn’t take too long, did it?

The first thing I find disturbing is that in all the indignation that I’m hearing, the ‘how dare he say that’ what I’m not hearing is some kind of refutation of some factual error.

I call this the Ron Paul syndrome. Nobody is addressing what was said, or even questioning the truth of what was said; they’re too busy yelling about how they should not be saying it.

When Ron Paul said that the terrorist don’t hate our freedom, but rather our ties with the Saudi royal family and our support of Israel, people were pissed.

How dare he say that?

But I don’t remember anyone saying that what he said was untrue, just that it was offensive.

Ron Paul pointed out that the reason the terrorists hate us is not for our freedom but rather because of the role we have played on the world stage.

What he said may not be what you want to hear, but it is correct.

Same with Pastor Wright.

You might not want to hear someone say that our country started with the genocide of Native Americans, but it’s true.

You might not like hearing that our infrastructure was built with slave labor, but it was.

You might not like hearing that we killed civilians when we bombed Grenada, but we did.

You might not like hearing that we are the only country to ever uses nuclear weapons against a civilian population, but we are.

But rather than debating the merits of the short, controversial clip we’ve all heard, I want to talk about the content of the sermon as a whole.

He talks about how this should be a time of reflection for all of us, a time to examine our relationships with God.

He talks about the cycle of hatred.

He speaks from Psalm 137: 8-9, where there is a call, not for justice but for vengeance against Babylon. He talks about this passage serving as a spotlight to the insanity of the cycle of violence and the cycle of hatred.

Pastor Wright asks his congregation to think carefully about what our response should be to 9/11.

He asks what the Bible says about the concept of retribution and payback.

These are questions that a pastor ought to be asking.

And yes, he talks about the actions of the United States and the role it has played in the events leading up to this tragedy.

I am a pastor’s son, so I’ve heard more sermons than most people and part of what every pastor does is speak out against what they feel is immoral about our society.

It is nothing new.

I’ve heard preachers lamenting American tolerance for all kinds of sin, from premarital sex to pornography to divorce to rock music to homosexuality, the list goes on and on.

Pointing out society’s immorality is part of a pastor’s job.

The only difference here is that Pastor Wright, instead of preaching against sexual immorality or dishonesty or something like that, he is condemning things like genocide and slavery.

So why was it acceptable for people like Falwell or Robertson to, in the wake of 9/11 to say that God brought it about to punish us for our sexual immorality but not for Pastor Wright to say that our actions may have contributed to this event?

There are several reasons for this.

First, and most grave, is the state of what we call Christianity in America.

The Evangelical movement is very selective as to which passages in the Bible it is willing to pay attention to.

Any passage having to do with sexual immorality is magnified and trumpeted as if this were the most dangerous type of sin a society could engage itself in.

The law, the rules set out are given a great deal of attention.

There is a fight that never seems to end about the Ten Commandments being posted at courthouses around the country.

But does the law make up the majority of the Scriptures? Is it even the most important part?

Christ said no.

I find it interesting that in this debate, nobody has suggested that Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount be posted in a courthouse.

Why not hang the Beatitudes up next to the Ten Commandments?

Because conservative America doesn’t like that part of the Bible.

Do we really want jurors who are deciding criminal cases to read things like “Blessed are the merciful?”

What kind of soft-on-crime leftie, hippie shit is that?

So, we condemn Pastor Wright, for many reasons. He chooses to point out different sins in our society than white, conservative Evangelical leaders do. Also, he has given conservatives a convenient, angry sound bite that they can use to try to take down one of their political rivals.

Never mind that if you hear the entire sermon, it is very much in keeping with the teachings of the Scriptures.

Also, and I hesitate to bring it up, because it feels like too easy of an answer, but I truly think that racism has something to do with this.

For all the progress we’ve made, an angry black man is something that white Americans are still terrified of.

One question is, does this fear betray a guilty conscience or is it simply fear of revolution, a shift of power out of white hands?

When it comes down to it, anyone who has heard Pastor Wright’s sermon in its entirety and actually understands what a pastor’s role is could not have any problem with what he said.

They may disagree with some of what he said and that’s fine. But claiming that a minister ought not to point out sins that our nation has committed is ludicrous.

If a religious leader, one who is supposed to help us understand God’s nature and his will is not supposed to comment on our sins, then what is he supposed to be talking about?

If you watch this clip, it is clear that this is just a pastor, doing his job, pleading with his parishioners to examine themselves before God.

Remember, the separation of church and state does not only protect the state and the public from the dominance of the church, it also protects the church against the interference of the state.

So please, for the love of God, just let the pastors, leftists as well as conservatives do their jobs.

Profoundly Unpatriotic - from 07/14/07

When future generations look back on the 2000 Presidential Election, they will see George W. Bush’s platform of restoring honor and integrity to the Oval Office as the great irony of our time.

It has been almost two weeks now since Bush has commuted the sentence of one Scooter Libby.

For those of you just joining us, Libby was convicted of lying to a grand jury and obstruction of justice. He helped assure that Special Council Patrick Fitzgerald’s investigation into the leaking of the identity of covert CIA agent Valerie Plame went nowhere.

The granting of commutations and pardons are the prerogative of the President, so what exactly makes this particular act of this particular president so revolting? More importantly, why did he do it?

Is it possible that the explanation was as simple as he said it was?

Did he commute the sentence just because it was excessive?

Considering the fact that we are talking about a man who prides himself on being tough on crime, who advocates harsher sentencing and presided over 152 executions as the governor of Texas, I would say no.

George W. Bush does not believe in mercy. Period.

The idea that he would consider 30 months to be too harsh a sentence for lying to a grand jury and obstructing a federal investigation is laughable.

Am I going so far as to say that Bush was lying when he gave us this explanation for his actions?

Absolutely. You are goddamn right.

So, there must be some other reason why he would do this.

Many feel that Libby was a scapegoat for what was, at its heart, a witch hunt.

Some claim that, from the beginning, this has been an overzealous investigation relentlessly pursuing an imaginary crime brought on by those who wish to undermine this administration.

When it comes to Libby’s guilt regarding the charges he was convicted on, the motivation for the initial investigation is irrelevant.

Remember Clinton’s impeachment?

Every time one of us lefties would complain that the President’s sex life was nobody’s business but his own, we were told that the Oval Office hummers were no longer the issue.
Once the President lied under oath, it was a whole other ballgame.

So why apply a different standard to Libby?

Once he lied to a grand jury and impeded a federal investigation, was not the validity of that initial investigation a moot point? Apparently not.

One argument is that since nobody was charged with the crime being investigated that there was no underlying crime.

The flaw in this logic is maddening. The lack of charges being filed is not vindication.

It just means that Libby’s obstruction of justice was, in fact, a success and extends that obstruction.

He assured that the right people were shielded from prosecution and he was duly rewarded.

Now, to the crime that started it all.

It has been asserted that there was no crime to investigate in the first place because Valerie Plame was not covert.

This claim is not an exaggeration, nor is it a distortion of the truth, nor is it spin.

It is simply a lie.

I did not hear anybody say any such thing until Judith Miller said the names Libby, Armitage and Rove.

Up until then, Rove was saying that he had never heard of Valerie Plame and Bush was promising us that if the leak originated from inside his administration, whoever was responsible would be fired.

You do not promise the American people to fire the guilty party if there is no underlying crime.

The CIA would never have asked the Justice Department to open an investigation into the leaking of the identity of an analyst.

If this whole thing had been started by Congressional Democrats, you might be able to argue that this is a political vendetta, but we are talking about the CIA.

Not only was Plame a covert agent, maintaining two identities; she was the operations officer in charge of counter proliferation.

Not only was one our spies outed, an operation to prevent terrorists from obtaining nuclear weapons was compromised.

We will most likely never know to what extent Plame’s outing had on the CIA’s counter proliferation efforts. What happened to her overseas contacts? Were other agents affiliated with her exposed?

This had to have been a significant setback. We were all put in danger so that Joe Wilson could be punished for informing us that Iraq was in fact, not trying to buy yellow cake uranium from Niger.

So first, Bush has progressed from promising to fire anyone involved in this leak.

Then, he claimed that he was unwilling to comment on an ongoing investigation.

And now, he has taken it upon himself to undermine the investigation.

The only hope that Fitzgerald had of squeezing something meaningful out of this mess was to try and use Libby’s impending jail time as leverage to compel him to finally tell the truth.

And now, Bush has cleanly and effectively taken away the only tool that prosecutors had left.

With this commutation, Bush has seen to it that Libby has no reason at all to cooperate with prosecutors.

Was this the plan from the beginning? Was Libby told at some point to just keep his mouth shut and he would never have to worry about prison?

We will never know, but I think that it is likely.

In a time when we see so many yellow ribbons and are reminded, and rightly so, that we should ‘support our troops,’ this whole mess takes on another meaning.

We have been told that we are fighting a new kind of war against a different kind of enemy.

It will be fought on many fronts.

One of these fronts, perhaps the most vital, is intelligence gathering. So in this war, like none other before it, spies are troops.

So congratulations, Mr. Bush. You have passed the likes of Pierce, Johnson and Hoover to become the single worst president this Republic has ever seen.

Not only are you entirely devoid of integrity or any sense of morality, you have shown a blatant disregard for both the security of our country and for the well being of the men and women who dedicate their lives to keeping us from harm.

You are more than unseemly, smug, arrogant or immoral.

You are profoundly unpatriotic.