Wednesday, June 28, 2006

The nauseating reality of modern political culture, part 1

'Pentagon Resists Ban on "Degrading Treatment"'

That's from the Inter Press Service today. The US Pentagon resists writing in a ban on 'humiliating and degrading treatment' from its new detainee policies. Let's put aside the fact that such treatment is specifically banned by the Geneva Conventions to which the US is a signatory, making said conventions US law. And let's also put aside the fact that the US screeches from the rooftops at every opportunity the 'fact' that it is leading the way in promoting human rights. And we'd better not consider the idea that such activity not only further degrades the image of the US to the rest of the world (past those of us who have already cynically dismissed the idea of the US as the guys in the white hats...), but also incipiently opens up US personnel to being treated in such a manner without fear of reprisal by anyone else in the world.

Why, then, create 'new detainee policies'? Because in the world of political doublespeak, although there was 'no systematic or widespread mistreatment of detainees' the opportunities for same existed so the procedures had to be changed. This is military procedure for CYA. (And, uh, we're not even examining the legality or convenience of the term 'detainee' at the moment.)

Of course, as noted, I'm well within the group that expects exactly this kind of behavior from the US at every opportunity. Why? Because it has been going on since the inception of the nation, despite all of the flowery rhetoric that attempts and has attempted to belie it. Any routine examination of the writings of Major General Smedley Butler (Wikipedia is an excellent place to start...) will give you a good examination of the concept in the early 20th century. Let's not forget such historical treats as delivering smallpox-infected blankets as gifts to the natives, or even bring it closer to home by reading some of the accounts of GIs clipping the leads to a field radio to the genitals of Saigon hookers and giving'em a few cranks to see what they could get out of them.

Once you get past the lies, you run smack into the rationalizations: This happens in war! All nations do this! It's a regrettable occurrence when the chain of command breaks down! The gun didn't know I was loaded!

Sure. Great. That's right. Everyone does this. But not every regime in the world continually highlights itself as the promoter of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and tries to condemn other nations for exactly these kinds of activities. And not every nation in the world tries to play 'sole remaining superpower' while wailing plaintively about what the 'terrorists' are or could be doing to it. No hypocrisy is more galling than that crap. Reminds me of a quote from the Richmond Enquirer, 1856, during the height of the argument about slavery:

'Democratic liberty exists solely because we have slaves... freedom is not possible without slavery.'

Dwell for a minute on the mind it takes to write something like that and you'll soon be understanding the mindset of the criminals that currently run our government (and have been present in it for a long time, especially when it comes to the rights (or lack thereof) of darker-skinned people, whether in our nation our outside of it.) Mightiest nation in the world, but because some people MIGHT be thinking of disagreeing with our approach, they need to be treated as the greatest threat to Western society since communism (and we'll soon cover the so-called 'threat' of the latter for all of you idiots who believe in its inherent dangers.)

But... but... WE'RE AT WAR! Yeah. So was Oceania. That one was bullshit, too, but those fictional people, because they were stupid, still swallowed it; just like most of our non-fictional simps. And despite the fact that war is the one sure place you go to lose your humanity, if you're trying to spread the light of civilization to all corners of the world, humanity has to come with you, or all you are is another occupying army...

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

Democratic boogeymen: where hast thou gone?

While we're on this topic of political parties, let's talk a bit about electoral strategy, or the lack thereof. Democrats are the leaders in the latter category, as their primary 'motivational' strategy in presidential elections for the past 20 years has been using two key issues as threats to hang over the voters' heads if the ignorant plebeians didn't vote for the Dems: Supreme Court justices and its corollary, abortion.

As the story went, if a Republican president of any stripe were elected, he would nominate some hideous fascist to sit on the Supreme Court and when the inevitable argument over abortion entered the docket, said right would be swept away from women forever more. The way this story was presented, you almost couldn't get more Republic of Gilead with it (Handmaid's Tale reference; look it up.) Strangely enough, the Dems never seemed to use this argument very prominently in their Senate campaigns which would seem to be far more important, since the president can nominate whomever he likes, but if he can't get the nomination through the Senate, the game she is over. Of course, presenting that argument in a Senate campaign might get people to actually think hard about Congressional races (you know, the people who actually write the laws) and that's really not a good idea for the autocrats who control the Democratic party.

So, when it came time to put forth a new chief justice, Roberts was tossed out to what the Dems had always promised would be a firestorm of interrogation and criticism; a last stand of justice against the forces of the evil Republicans; a courageous sacrifice of... what? Only a couple days of hearings? Passed with 78% of the vote? Including a MAJORITY of Democratic Senators? Oh... Democrats, thy name is Janus.

But, wait! Wait! There was ANOTHER nomination. And all but 3 Dems voted against that one. See? Well, sure, but the chief justice has a bit more sway than an associate justice, since the chief kinda sets the agenda for what the Court is going to cover, so the horse was more than a bit out of the barn in that case (not that said metaphor is probably useful to most Democratic Senators whom, millionaires all except for Feingold, have likely never been inside a barn in their lives.) And Alito still got confirmed.

Wasting little time, the anti-choice jerkoffs (how appropriate that term is for people who insist on the viability of abstinence...) in the South Dakota legislature issued a ban on abortion. Confirmation of the threat? The Democratic and NARAL prophecy coming true? Hardly.

See, here's the thing: the Supreme Court is a reactionary body. Throughout its history, it has rarely ever made decisions that disrupted the existence of a large body of people (witness Dred Scott...) Only after serious public turbulence has it finally assented to letting something momentous pass. Expecting that the Court will want to inject itself into this debate in the first place is far from a sure bet. The wheels of bureaucratic justice turn slowly.

Even more importantly, it likely won't even get there, as there seems to be a burgeoning movement among the people of South Dakota (you know, the entities that are supposed to be the actual rulers of the state, according to that thing- what's it called? -the Constitution! Yeah. That's it.) to countermand the ill-starred decision of their own representatives. Even more interesting is the decision by the local Oglala reservation to install a clinic that will perform abortions on their own sovereign territory. Local tribes in Louisiana, where the legislature is also acting out of turn, have made similar suggestions. Pretty soon, you might see people flocking to the rez to do more than just sit in front of a slot machine with a cup of quarters. It might get so bad that people will start petitioning the leaders of the rez to live there, perhaps even by buying space. Wouldn't that be a thought? White people actually asking permission and/or paying fair market value to Native Americans for their land.

Of course, if the tribes are smart, they'll refuse. No sense deluging the neighborhood with idiots.

And why strike up the chord of this relatively back-burner issue today, when there are so many other issues of more importance dominating the thoughts of most Americans (war, jobs, money, etc.)? Because it's election time, baby! That's why the Senate fast-tracked a debate on and spent most of the afternoon arguing about a Constitutional amendment on flag burning! These are your elected representatives at work, America! Saving you and your children (we always have to think of the children, just like Helen Lovejoy says...) from the terrible menace of someone burning the flag... just like the flag code says that you, um, have to do when a flag is being retired... It's, uh, standard training in the Boy Scouts... Of course, if you ask Bill O'Reilly he'll probably tell you that only happens in the troops led by GAY scoutmasters!

Monday, June 26, 2006

So, who are these idiots?

Many of you reading, unfortunately. And said definition stretches across the political spectrum and out of it, but let's examine some major colors of that spectrum just for a few moments.

Democrats: Seemingly wedded to the idea that their party actually stands for something other than not being like those 'other guys' (read: the ones in power with a message, albeit normally a bad one) with representatives wanting you to re-elect them every 2-6 years so they can keep saying that. For how many years now has the media branded the Dems with the hated title of 'no message' and for how many years have most Dems claimed to be for some vaguely progressive ideals that most of them quickly abandon as soon as campaign season is past? That's if they bother to espouse those things in the first place. I've met one worthwhile Democratic Congressman in my life. The rest are money sops and the lower officials aren't that much better.

Republicans: The Dems just kowtow to money. Republicans kowtow to money AND religion; twice over the root of all evil. Funny thing is, most Republicans that I know personally revile the trend of their own party... but they keep voting for them because it seems like a better thing to do than vote for those 'other guys' because they could only be worse, right? I keep telling them: No, they'd pretty much be the same thing. This is beyond the traditional definition of insanity (Google; I'll wait) and arcing toward a simple refusal to accept reality. Even in the case of the intelligent GOP supporters, all one has to do to activate the idiot response is to use the hilariously ironic warning: "Protect your guns!", which also leads us quite neatly to

Libertarians: I'd really enjoy these guys if they didn't have that little mental tic: Protect free speech... and our guns! Legalize grass... and save our guns! Promote local control... and our guns! Oh, and don't make me pay one thin dime for the roads, or the schools, or the water system, or the fire department, or the parks, or... I mean, well, until *I* need it! Then, those things should be present... along with our guns!

Veering aside on our political wheel, we have the Greens. Now, as some of you may know, I have a bit of an attachment to the Green party, as the only party to field decent candidates for the highest office in the land in the last two Presidential races. If only that same decency could be present down through the rest of the party, which often seems comprised of people screaming at windmills to defend themselves. If you think the major parties are tunnel-visioned, focused in on their own little agendae, then you've never seen a vast body of people, consumed by their own little tree (one might even say 'hugging it'), and completely missing the incredible forest...

There's a reason some people say "I don't like politics." But, then, those people are the real idiots...

Saturday, June 24, 2006

Afghan PM Karzai: Dorlock Holmes in action

A story fresh off the AP wire has a statement from Hamid Karzai that is summarized as "One of America's closest allies says the war on terrorism fails to address its root causes."

There's a plethora of reactions one can have to this seeming thunderbolt-from-the-sky revelation. The foremost in my mind is what I usually refer to as a 'Dorlock Holmes moment'. For those of you intelligent enough to be fans of the old Warner Bros. cartoons, you may recall the one entitled 'Deduce You Say', wherein Daffy Duck spoofs Sherlock Holmes and his name. While Daffy is at a tavern, gathering clues in his search for the Shropshire Slasher, a huge knife slams into the bar in front of him with a tag proclaiming it the 'property of the Shropshire Slasher'. Dorlock continues to sip his tea for a moment before whipping out a magnifying glass, training it on the knife, and yelling: "A clue!" This is what everyone gathered around Karzai should have said to him once he started bemoaning the fact that the US is more interested in expending ammo than in dealing with the real problems of the world. Everyone, that is, who wasn't an idiot.

It's difficult to feel sorry for Karzai, of course, as he knew what he was getting into. As a paid stooge of one of the many oil interests quite enchanted by the endless barren territory of Aghanistan, making it a wonderful place to run pipelines from the Caspian Sea (via Turkmenistan) to the Arabian Sea (via Pakistan; yes, that means propping up two other execrable regimes of the world, par usual), there was little chance he would have credibility with the Afghan people, even if they were to look past his Western education and mannerisms and air of secularism and, of course, even if he were to somehow wrest power from the warlords/poppy growers that rule the countryside wherein said pipeline will have to run.

So, he played the game for a while, saying all the right things to encourage the mindless, fawning US media that the 'war on terror' is a positive development that's actually, you know, accomplishing something. But, finally, with abject poverty and continued violence playing the pins to his balloon, he has to place the blame somewhere before he's not even safe in Kabul anymore. Thus, he criticizes the US military for killing hundreds of innocent Afghans over the past couple of years in the 'war on terror'. Sounds more like the 'war on peasantry' to me but- sshhh -don't tell anyone! See, that's where the TERRORISTS come from!

(pulling on the Stephen Colbert mask) What?! Really?! Terrorists come from poor people who have few other options in life and are often easily swayed by religious fanatics to commit extreme violence against the people that have killed their relatives and neighbors? That's preposterous! We all know that terrorists are simply evil! Evil, evil, evil! That's it. No further explanation needed. And clearly some of them are intelligent, so they can't all be the poor riff-raff. They're just corrupted by that evil religion: Islam.

Far be it from me to completely disagree with the neo-cons, since I'm of the opinion that all organized religion is contemptible to one level or another. But the buzzwords 'evil' and 'Islam' are just the convenient, no-explanation-needed reasons that both government and media feed the idiots so they don't have to use the words 'poverty', 'fair trade', 'justice', and so on. If they mention it about Afganistan, pretty soon someone will start to ask why those things can't be discussed here (Let's hearken back to that statement by the Bush Administration about setting up national healthcare in Iraq... Hello? Hello, McFlye! Hello!)

So, Karzai speaks up, followed quickly by his spokesman, Khaleeq Ahmad, who gets us right back with the program: " We want to fight (terrorism) in a way that we fight the roots of it: where they get trained, where they get equipment, where they get money, where the recruitment centers are"

Wow. That's a great idea. You get right on that. Tell me how it works out...

Jon Stewart, Enemy of Democracy

Here's the research (just to get all of you lazy types off on the wrong foot): Brainless columnist decides that young people becoming more negative about complete tools George W. Bush and John Kerry and the electoral process in general is a bad thing, apparently solely because The Daily Show is encouraging them to be so. Morin, if he's not being a typically disingenuous 'America has the greatest system of government in the world' pinhead, really needs to buy a clue.

I don't suppose it ever occurred to him that people thinking negatively about a system or situation might actually lead to those people attempting to change said system or situation. Or to look for alternatives, especially politically. Yes, believe it or not, there are genuine alternatives to the collection of morons that supposedly inhabit opposite 'sides' of the aisle on Capitol Hill. There's also a better way to run the railroad to begin with, but we'll get to that later. But, let's look at the most telling quote of the column:

"Participants also expressed less trust in the electoral system and more cynical views of the news media"

[gasp] What?! More cynical views of the news media? You mean, people might get a more intelligent perspective about our government and its policies by reading something OTHER than the Washington Post? Say it ain't so, uh... Richard! It wouldn't have anything to do with the Post spoon-feeding the public the same bullshit that's handed to them by the Powers That Be without blinking an eye, would it? No! That can't be it! Not possible. The 'proper' news sources are the source of all knowledge and reason. Really.

Little newsflash here: Stewart goes out of his way to proclaim his show as exactly what it is: a fake news program. Nevertheless, The Daily Show was awarded a Peabody for excellence in broadcasting for their coverage of the 2004 election (Google; look it up.) That's right: the FAKE news show was considered to be providing better input on the electoral process than the 'real' news shows. Why? Maybe because it was the only show to actually ask questions (y'know, reacting negatively can lead people to question accepted institutions, too) rather than just parroting the platitudes shoveled down the gullets of anyone who watches CNN ----> Fox News and believe that it's a) accepted by them as good for their lives; b) genuinely understood by them; and/or c) spoken by someone who actually gives a shit about a) or b).

Less likely to vote? Maybe so, especially where the only choice offered up is socially retarded Republicans and Democrats. But if they are less likely to vote, then the blame certainly doesn't rest with Stewart, but more with the system that they're disenchanted with and the jerkoffs who flog it as the shining example of democracy for the world... like the Post. Richard Morin, you're an Idiot. Here's hoping your writing doesn't encourage more.

Friday, June 23, 2006

These are the rules

1. I leave it up to the reader to define who the 'you' is in the title, but here are some guidelines:

- If you're a devoted follower of either Democrats or Republicans
- If you allow your political and/or religious affectations to supersede common sense
- If you allow said affectations to supersede your sense of humanity
- If you allow news programming from major networks to give you your vision of the world
- If you get all of your news from political bloggers (including me)
- If you find American Idol to be even vaguely entertaining

You're most likely an Idiot. Please note that these are only guidelines and can be modified (read: added to) at any time.

2. Do your own damn research. If I mention an article or a website that's fairly obscure, I'll link it. Otherwise, all of you should be using a web browser that is in some way enabled with that magical, Intarweb creation known as 'Google'. Use it and amaze yourself with its awesome power. In the process, read more about said cited topic from different sources. That's how one creates an educated opinion.

3. If you have anything to say, by all means, comment. Because that's part and parcel of the most important rule, set aside here from the rest to provide emphasis:

If you're not stopping to give your opinion, to rail against the sheer incompetence, corruption, and outright stupidity of most of our major institutions, then you, just like they, are an Idiot. You're playing along. Be a productive citizen: stop playing. Speak out. Do something about the rest of the Idiots. By this path shall society eventually achieve RE-Enlightenment... Maybe.