Sunday, June 29, 2008

How will the deniers of global warming explain an Earth with no polar ice cap?

Via Yahoo News:

WASHINGTON - There's a 50-50 chance that the North Pole will be ice-free this summer, which would be a first in recorded history, a leading ice scientist says.

The weather and ocean conditions in the next couple of weeks will determine how much of the sea ice will melt, and early signs are not good, said Mark Serreze. He's a senior researcher at the National Snow and Ice Data Center and the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colo.

The chances for a total meltdown at the pole are higher than ever because the layer of ice coating the sea is thinner than ever, he said.

"A large area at the North Pole and surrounding the North Pole is first-year ice," Serreze said. "That's the stuff that tends to melt out in the summer because it's thin."

It’s pretty frightening that we have moved from the realm of the “possible outcomes” of global warming to the here-and-now reality. Just imagine our Earth without a northern ice cap in the summer months. Isn’t that enough evidence to convince the most devout ideologue or skeptic that something is going on, and it isn’t in some mythical far-off future that we can keep ignoring because it’s inconvenient?

No, probably not. The wingnut conservatives of this country have decided that the liberals are lying to them once again. That is much easier for them to deal with than actually believe that, 1) liberals may be correct about something, and 2) human society really needs to change how we are living on this planet, because things could get very ugly for the human race within our lifetimes. No, that’s too farfetched, liberals knowing something that we don’t and telling the truth.

Societies do not remain constant. Throughout history, we have seen civilizations start from humble beginnings, expand and grow, become great, and then wither and ultimately die. Rome, ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Greece, Inca, Toltec, Mongol, ancient China, the list goes on and on. Given that we are facing several major problems at once (the disappearance of cheap and abundant energy and global climate change, both of which could have severe impacts on our ability to produce enough food, water and habitable lands to support our population), we may be looking at the first major scale back of civilization on a global scale. If that is true, it may not be very pretty. “Society” may only be an outdated concept when it comes to hungry and desperate people looking for ways to survive. Wars for dwindling resources may become the norm.

I am appalled that polar bears are drowning. However, I look at the loss of the polar ice cap as a harbinger of worse to come in the not to distant future.

Icecap graphic from Livescience

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Dixie Chicks: Shut Up and Sing.

I just saw this film the other day on cable. I’m not particularly a fan of country music, but I was very interested in all the crap these ladies had to put up with from their nutjob fan base. Not to say that everyone who likes country music is a nutjob. That is not my point at all. There were quite a number of fans who stuck with these ladies throughout. It's the people who went after them and any radio station that played their music because Natalie Maines said that she was “ashamed that George Bush was from Texas”, that I am complaining about. Those people are just flat out nuts.

I can see that someone might shy away from supporting an actor or musician because they don’t agree with said actor’s/musician’s politics. Stop going to see their movies or buying their CD’s. Many people stopped supporting Tom Cruise when he went bonkers and attacked Brooke Shields over something that he had absolutely no first hand knowledge about (i.e., post-natal depression). That’s fine. But to go out of your way to boycott radio stations that played their music, well, that’s getting into censorship. A free society is supposed to mean that you can disagree with what someone says, but they are still allowed to say it. And then, death threats? For saying something that you didn’t like? In what rational universe is that acceptable behavior? And what kills me is that the Dixie Chicks have been vindicated! They were right all along! I would be ashamed of a president who had a 28% approval rating as well, if he were from my state or not.

That’s the one thing I find most unnerving about today’s society. Free speech is no longer that free. Listeners feel that they have some God-given right, if they hear something that they don’t like, to shut the speaker up! And to do so any way they can, including threats of violence. In the case of the government, they can just arrest said protester, as in the case of the man in Denver who went up to Dick Cheney and said something that Cheney didn’t like. 10 minutes later, the guy was under arrest by the Secret Service, even though he had his young son in tow and had done absolutely nothing except tell Cheney that his policies were reprehensible. That isn't freedom, that's a police state.

These kind of people bitch and moan about how us liberals “hate America”, “love the terrorists” and generally oppose “freedom”. But they obviously only mean their kind of freedom. Just as long as every single thing that you say, sing, paint, write or make a movie about agrees with the listener, then freedom is great. Once that very, very narrow line has been crossed, well then, all bets are off. Somehow this concept of freedom of speech is no longer such a good idea.

I think I might go on Amazon and buy a Dixie Chicks CD or two.

Dixie Chicks photo from here.

UPDATE: When I wrote the original post on this topic, I was a bit remiss in several aspects. I would like to correct that now.

When I wrote that, I was rather upset about the attitudes of people like the detractors of the Dixie Chicks. In my annoyance, I didn’t mention the fact about how impressive I found these ladies. I am now a fan of theirs, for no other reason that who they are. These ladies are pretty amazing, aside from being kick-butt musicians. They held their families together through those very difficult times, which was no small feat. They kept their dignity throughout. Well, there was that whole “FUTK” episode, but that was absolutely warranted, in my mind. And, they kept their love for what they were doing. And, they never backed down. Never. From the movie, it certainly looked like it took a toll on them, to be sure. But it is a testament to who they are that they held it together and triumphed.

The other thing I wanted to mention is that this whole thing about boycotting the radio stations that played the Chicks music was more than just censorship. It was a punitive action meant to punish the Dixie Chicks. This was how far it went. It was not a matter of, like I mentioned initially, withdrawing your support (loyalty and monetarily) from someone you find doesn’t share your values. It was intended to hurt them financially for “straying from the fold”, for being a "traitor". It was mean-spirited, vindictive and ruthless. That is where the detractors of the Dixie Chicks were coming from.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Sunday morning rhetorical question on FISA and the Democrats caving in when they didn't need to.

Do the Democrats really have something to hide, some complicity in dirty deeds that we don’t know about, and that is why they capitulated on the FISA bill and gave Bush pretty much everything he wanted, including retroactive telecom immunity? That is about the only reason what they did this week makes sense. See Glenn Greenwald, Hullabaloo or Balloon Juice for the story. I’m not going to bother here.

I find it amazing that the Dems would cave on this issue, after standing up to Bushco at least twice in the past. What is the possible motivation here? Why give in now? I am very ashamed of Steney Hoyer and Nancy Pelosi right now. Barack Obama, I am just confused about. Maybe the Democrats still think that they only way they can win elections is to show they are “tough as Republicans” on terrorists.

Just when I was starting to get a bit hopeful that maybe, just maybe, our country could change and actually be the country we like to believe we are, something like this happens. Maybe human beings can’t help themselves. Maybe when we get into a position of power, it is impossible for us to stay relatively uncorrupted. It is physiologically and/or psychologically impossible for us to actually do what everyone in politics likes to pretend they are doing. O.K., I admit that most people who go into politics in the first place are rarely totally selfless, moral and have only the purest of motivations. That’s a given. But still, after the last seven years of all the B.S., the lying and immoral behavior of Bush, the neocons and all the Rethugs (not all Republicans are “Rethugs”), why would the Democrats, who have really been pushed by a very committed electorate to actually clean this mess up, why do they do the same old stuff that everyone was upset about in the first place?

I wish I had some high-sounding flourish that I could wrap this up with. But I don’t. Just the deep disappointment that comes with allowing oneself to hope and then finding out that it was all an illusion. It might not be that bad in the end, and I am still wanting Barack Obama and the Democratic candidates out there to not only win in November, but to win huge. I want no single Republican running for office to win, that’s how I feel about the last seven years. But I harbor no illusions that the Democrats will provide an instant moral compass to a country that has lost its way. I suppose that’s the “glass half full” way of thinking about this.

I’m still hugely disappointed and very empty.

Friday, June 20, 2008

What Karl Rove imagines he sees when he looks into a mirror.

"Correct thinking will be rewarded. Incorrect thinking will be punished. I can control your thoughts, what you see and hear. If you do not cooperate, I will make you see scary brown people under every bed, inside every closet. You must surrender your free will, as well as the Constitution. Democrats are evil. Obama is the Antichrist. I know The Math... Wait! No, really! You must fear me! You don't understand! I'm a genius! I knooowwww eveeerrrythiiiiinnnngg!!!"

(Don't get it? See here and here.)

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The move of the Seattle Supersonics to Oklahoma City takes a bit of a detour through the local courthouse.

I have written a few times about this story before. See here, here, here, and here. I find the subject very riveting for several reasons, even though (as I have stated before) I really do hate NBA basketball. The latest disclosures in the Tim Donaghy officiating scandal has done little more than harden my resolve that there is much to dislike about NBA basketball.

That said, there are several reasons I am following this story. The first is about what this whole clusterf**k says about the mentality of Very Rich People. They want what they want, and they plan on getting it anyway they can. Lying, cheating and acting otherwise very unethically are S.O.P. I also find it very amusing when these jerks get caught with their hands in the cookie jar. “Contrition” and “remorse” are about as outdated as the Geneva Convention these days. The other reason I am following this is that it does affect my (adopted) hometown. I used to go to the Sonics when I first moved here in the 80’s, and they played in the giant concrete mushroom sometimes known as the Kingdome. Even though I dislike the game as it is played by the NBA, I am going to be very sorry when the Sonics finally pack up and move to Oklahoma City. The city will be a little less vibrant, somewhat diminished. And to Oklahoma City, of all places. I am sure there are nice people who live there, but this is the place that has a huge billboard of Toby Keith between the airport and getting into hotel row.

Anyway, I was going to talk about some of the latest developments from the court hearings. These are the “The Sonics v. The City of Seattle”. The one about Howard Shultz’s case against Clay Bennett for essentially lying to him, “Lack of Good Faith” I believe is how it goes, is later.

Neither side is particularly distinguishing itself here. The city’s case took a hit when one of their “expert witnesses” was shown that he was reusing his own writings for something he did about the city of Long Beach, California, I think it was. That’s great. Someone really ought to vet these “expert witnesses”. Anyone who has ever watched “Law And Order” knows how badly those doofuses can screw up a case.

But here is one point I wanted to bring up. I think Clay Bennett perjured himself the other day. It would be hard to prove it, but boy, the circumstantial evidence is rather compelling. Here is what the Seattle Times had to say about it.

When Sonics chairman Clay Bennett wrote "I am a man possessed" in an e-mail, he says he meant "I am a man possessed to keep the team in Seattle."

Any other inference is inaccurate, he said Friday after the NBA Board of Governors voted 28-2 to approve the team's bid to move to Oklahoma City next season, pending the outcome of a June lawsuit from the city of Seattle.

In filings last week, the city revealed e-mails between the Oklahoma City-based ownership in which they spoke about moving the team to their hometown. The e-mails seemingly contradict Bennett's claims that he gave a "good-faith best effort" attempt to keep the team in Seattle after buying it July 2006, which was part of the sales agreement with former owner Howard Schultz.

On April 17, 2007, Sonics co-owner Tom Ward wrote co-owner Aubrey McClendon and Bennett: "Is there any way to move here for next season or are we doomed to have another lame duck season in Seattle?"

Bennett replied: "I am a man possessed! Will do everything we can. Thanks for hanging with me boys, the game is getting started!"

Ward replied: "That's the spirit!! I am willing to help any way I can to watch ball here next year."

On Friday, Bennett denied claims he acted in bad faith.

"I feel very bad about the misrepresentation of that particular e-mail; the fact that it's been misconstrued and been utilized in such a fashion, because I clearly recall that e-mail exchange," he said. "That e-mail exchange took place when I first learned that our bill had died in committee in Olympia, and that there would be no public funding forthcoming relative to our proposition.

"And my absolute feeling and emotion in that e-mail is I am a man possessed; I am only beginning; I will do everything I can to get this done in Seattle. And there's been an enormous misunderstanding of that, misrepresentation of that, misconstrued, I'm not sure which, but I was speaking about my commitment to a process in Seattle."

O.K., just LOOK at the context of that discussion. The discussion among members of the ownership group is CLEARLY about moving the team to OKC. The question to Bennett is: "Is there any way to move here for next season or are we doomed to have another lame duck season in Seattle?" And Bennett’s response is “I am a man possessed! Will do everything we can.” You tell me how that can be interpreted in any other way than he is possessed to move to OKC/not have another “lame duck season” in Seattle. There is simply no way that I can read this to come up with “I am a man possessed to keep this team in Seattle!” No flippin’ way. So, if you are under oath and you tell a whopper, doesn’t that constitute perjury?

The other thing I wanted to dwell on is the attitudes of these people. Very Rich People always seem to expect others to bend over backwards so they can become Even Richer People. Here is a snippet from Art Thiel of the Seattle P-I (one of the hands-down BEST sports columnists I have ever read):

Within days of the arena plan's death upon the Legislature's adjournment, e-mails disclosed in court Tuesday revealed that Bennett was on his way out of town. He wrote Joel Litvin, the NBA's No. 2 man, about how he can get out of Seattle, wrote to an Oklahoma City bureaucrat about reserving NBA dates at the Ford Center, and flew to Seattle to meet the local attorney, Brad Keller, whom he would hire to try to extricate him from the KeyArena lease.

That was four months before he filed papers against the city, and six months before the expiration of his agreement to use "good faith best efforts" to find an arena solution.

While it's hard to blame a guy for fleeing in self-interest, he knew the job was going to be dangerous when he bought a team with four years left on the lease. In addition, he was told by the natives how to fix the problem.

When Jim Kneeland, a longtime political operative and PR man hired by Bennett, said he needed to put up some of his own money, Bennett ordered him by e-mail to "stay way away" from saying anything about offering a private commitment.

Later, an e-mail from Kneeland to Bennett quoted Gov. Chris Gregoire on her position: "I appreciate the challenge faced by Bennett and partners, but they cannot expect taxpayers of Washington to solve their problem by constructing an arena with no direct participation on their part."

In exasperation late in the session, Bennett wrote to his lobbyist, Jenny Durkan: "I am confounded by the focus on our contribution. At end of the day, it will be negligible and has nothing do with the deal or the reality of the imminent need for the facility in the marketplace."

Absolutely amazing. This ownership group from Not Seattle Or Even Somewhere In Washington or Oregon decided they were going to come in, buy the local sports team and then DEMAND the local governments (state, city, county, it didn’t matter) build them a new $500 million arena. And they were not willing to put up ANY of their own money. Not for partial funding, not toward guaranteeing any cost overruns. None. And Bennett “didn’t understand” the fixation that many of the locals had with the lack of any offer to participate in the costs of building a hugely expensive facility that has, as its expressed purpose, to make Bennett and his partners money.

I cannot find the story I read this in, but one of the complaints by the Bennett and his owners group is that Key Arena (the facility where the Sonics currently play and was just given a major upgrade about 12 years ago, done with public financing) “does not have restaurants.” Yeah? There are several things about this. If public money WERE used to build a new facility for the Sonics, including “restaurants”, why does Bennett expect that he and his group would get the proceeds? He wants the city or state to build him a restaurant so he can run it and retain all the profits? Crap, I would like that kind of sweetheart deal as well. I would love it if someone were to come in and build me some guaranteed money making establishment and I didn’t have to contribute anything, yet I would get to run it and keep all the money. Just think how many people unhappy with their currently jobs or just flat out unemployed would just jump at a chance like that. Sounds like the New Deal, brought up to date with a vengeance. WPA for multi-millionaires!

It just is an amazing thing to watch the ruling class of this country (i.e., White Guys with Big Money) make absolute idiots of themselves. They don't even come off as halfway intelligent! How did they become the privileged class anyway?

UPDATE: More from Art Thiel here.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

I had heard that Alaska senator Ted Stevens was a loon, but I wasn’t interested enough to find out why.

I know that he was at the end of that whole Bridge to Nowhere fiasco. But I was always seeing these little quotes about the internet being “a series of tubes”. Odd, I thought, but what can you expect from a Republican ideologue who has no idea what he is talking about? Same can be said of Oklahoma’s James Inhofe.

Well, this post in DailyKos, although about another concern altogether, finally put the entire Stevens quote out there, context and everything. And boy, it’s a doozy.

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o'clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why? Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially [...]

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It's not a truck.

It's a series of tubes.

And if you don't understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

The internet is not a truck. Instead, it’s a series of tubes. Right… Gotcha. Waiter! Check please! Now!!

Photo from here.

I am aware of all internet traditions.

This is about the best trollery on the internet I have seen in a long time.

The original post where this came about is at Lawyers, Guns and Money.

Many other web sites followed along, including a couple here from Balloon Juice.

Here’s my own suggestion, as produced by CrazyDrumGuy.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Republicans and their wingnut supporters are losing their collective minds.

It has always been obvious that the meltdown was coming, but I think it is here. For instance, Lindsey Graham, a senator from South Carlina (Republican, natch) apparently wants to remove Habeas Corpus from the Constitution, because having that little protection for people will apparently allow terrorists a free-for-all, knocking down buildings at their leisure. It’s amazing how important the Constitution and Bill of Rights are to these people when the discussion is about personal ownership of guns, but for everything else, then it’s all just a piece of paper that is getting in the way of what they really want to do to this country. Fox News refers to Michelle Obama giving Barack a little knuckle bump as a “terrorist fist jab”. That is just insane for a “news” anchor on a major cable channel to be dropping the word “terrorist” around with such audacity when talking about a presidential candidate. But when you get to the blog world, it is getting really, really weird. How about Debbie Schlussel, somehow connecting the dots behind a city ordinance in Dearborn, Michigan regarding Good Humor ice cream trucks and Muslims who want to take over this country. I just watched an old YouTube of Chris Matthews taking Michelle Malkin apart when she was trying to infer that John Kerry shot himself in order to get out of Vietnam and get a purple heart. Check out the link, but on my You Tube search, I got at least four other videos where she tried to claim the exact same thing. This was no accident or an example of "misspeaking".

There are many more examples out there, but I doubt anyone would be swayed, one way or the other, by my arguments if I included more examples. I think I could fill up several pages with this crap.

I have stated many times here in this blog that I just cannot fathom supposedly rational adults acting like this. There are probably many factors here in play that allow people to spout off so that they sound like complete morons in the national media. The first off is that they have gotten away with it in the past. No one has really called them on it, other than “liberal” bloggers which don’t really have what you would call a national audience. In the case of Faux News, I think their management not only condones this behavior, they push it. Yeah, E. D. Hill, the anchor who said this, is now out of an anchor job. Many people on the right are saying this isn’t the reason she was canned, though. Maybe, maybe not. Remember, Faux News is the same joint that, whenever a major sexual scandal hits the news, they try to identify the accused as a Democrat. I am not going to go find a link for this, but this was done at least twice when the Tom Foley congressional page scandal first broke. Faux News had a big “D” after his name on the graphics while discussing the story. I mean, how could anyone really think that was just an honest mistake? And when you get to bloggers, they have even LESS restraints on their lunacy, if that is possible.

I don’t know if they are so determined to be “right” and to destroy their enemies that “truth” has lost all meaning to them, or if they really do actually believe what they are saying. But I find it beyond comprehension that these people do not understand how absolutely ridiculous they look. And as the elections in November approach, I think it is going to get worse and worse. The Republican Party has already made it clear that they are going to go after Michelle Obama. Personally, I hope they do. They are going to not only look like idiots; they are going to look like racist idiots.

The wingnuts out there recognize they are losing, and that not only means losing whatever influence and power they once had, they will be losing out to people they have claimed are liars, cheats, frauds, unpatriotic and pro-terrorist. They cannot deal with the reality that a majority of Americans are no longer buying this stupid crap and that they are going to lose, big time, in November. Once that happens, of course, they will find other factors to blame, but it will never, ever be because they were wrong.

George Bush has taught them well.

UPDATE: Hey, I wrote this post before I read Glenn Greenwald this morning. Too bad, as he is on about the same point I am making, only much, much, MUCH better. Point against me: I look like I read his post first and then did a poor job copying him. (Not true, but I concede that it could look like this.) Point for me: Someone who really knows his business was making the same point I was! I love it when smart people say the same thing as I do.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

This is what is being done in the name of the United States of America.

I just don’t understand this country right now. Have we, collectively, become that terrified that we allow anything to be done in the name of keeping us “secure”?

This is from Dan Froomkin.

Michael Isikoff and Mark Hosenball write for Newsweek: "A previously undisclosed CIA report written in the summer of 2002 questioned the 'credibility' and 'truthfulness' of an Al Qaeda detainee who became a key source for the Bush administration's claims about links between Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden. The statements of the detainee -- a captured terrorist operative named Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi -- were the principal basis for President Bush's contention in a major pre-Iraq War speech that Saddam's regime had 'trained Al Qaeda members in bombmaking and poisons and deadly gases.' The speech was delivered in Cincinnati on Oct. 7, 2002, just as Congress was taking up the White House-backed resolution authorizing the president to invade Iraq.

But two months before Bush's dramatic assertion, the CIA had raised serious doubts about whether al-Libi might be inventing some of what he was telling his interrogators, according to a 171-page Senate Intelligence Committee report on pre-war intelligence released last week."

Complicating the story is the fact that "the agency itself had vetted and approved the language based on al-Libi's claims in both Bush's Cincinnati speech and [then-secretary of state Colin] Powell's presentation to the United Nations. Without actually using his name, Powell included the most expansive version of al-Libi's claims about chemical- and biological-weapons training--without hinting that there were doubts about the source's credibility. 'I can trace the story of a senior terrorist operative telling how Iraq provided training in these weapons to Al Qaeda,' Powell said during one dramatic flourish. 'Fortunately, this operative is now detained, and he has told his story. I will relate to you now as he himself described it.'"

As has been previously reported, "al-Libi only made his claims about Saddam's training for Al Qaeda after the CIA rendered him to a foreign intelligence service (later identified by Tenet as Egypt), where he was allegedly subjected to brutal interrogation. According to al-Libi, he was locked in a tiny box less than 20 inches high and held for 17 hours--an interrogation technique known as a 'mock burial,' which was considered even by some of the most aggressive Bush administration lawyers as illegal under U.S. and international laws banning torture. After being let out, al-Libi claimed, he was thrown to the floor and punched for 15 minutes. According to CIA operational cables, only then did he tell his 'fabricated' story about Al Qaeda members being dispatched to Iraq."

I don’t know about anyone else, but this makes me ill. I mean, have we fallen so far that we can’t even recognize when we have become the same as our enemies? Jailing people, U.S. citizens or not, for six years, not charging them with any crime and not allowing them any access to legal counsel? Sending someone to Egypt so they can be tortured, even with this lax standard that seems to be in vogue these days, in our name? And all it did was provide information that was more likely than not to be a complete fabrication?!

How can any self-aware person with a shred of decency really condone this as an acceptable part of our government? You remember the part of the Constitution that talks about the government, by the people and for the people, right? This is being done in all our names. And I am damn upset about it. First, it has been proven over and over again that you don’t get reliable information from someone being tortured! They will say anything to get it to stop, true or not! Secondly, the person being tortured may actually be innocent! We haven’t ever let them have a fair trail! We are torturing people who have not been shown to be guilty of anything! Finally, it is evil! It degrades both the person being tortured AND the persons doing the torture! How much of an idiot does a person have to be to not see this?

I can only say, I have never seen an entire country so ready to piss in our collective pants from fear. I usually try to stay away from voicing really strong opinions, as I don’t like conflict much and, given the anonymity of the internet and the possibility of being taken the wrong way, I try to keep my opinions rather low key and reasoned. This one just makes me mad. I am NOT proud of our country right now. I am ashamed.

Monday, June 09, 2008

And you know what "God" spelled backwards is.

Praying to St. Bernard, possibly?

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Sunday morning thoughts.

I try not to do too many topical posts, as most of my traffic seems to come from people looking for pictures of Buffy the Vampire Slayer or pictures of train wrecks. Topical posts quickly go from being “current” to “outdated” very quickly, especially when no one reads them right away, if ever. So, I try to do things that might be of interest no matter when someone reads them.

I will say that Hillary just conceded yesterday. I’m glad. Let’s get on with it, because I think Barack Obama is going to make John McCain look like a doddering old fool in very short order. Now, I don’t know what is going to happen with all the “special interest groups” around, also known collectively nowadays as “Swiftboaters”. I think we are going to see attempts to make Obama look like a reverse Simon Legree, an ultra scary black man who hates this country and is a secret plant of the Islamofascists. I have a feeling that, even though this tactic has been working for the Republicans since Michael Dukakis, these tactics are going to backfire, big time. They are going to end up looking like the foolish race-baiters they are. Yes, there will be some things that will be said during the campaign that will stick. However, many potentially damaging issues have already been dealt with during the primary. We can all thank the Clinton campaign for that, I suppose. Faint praise, but it is indeed a fact. I am actually looking forward to seeing a McCain/Obama debate. That is going to be rather fun, I think.

I am also rather giddy over the possibility that, not only will a Democrat be back in the White House who actually cares about the country, the Republicans might get run out of the entire election. Although I am not sure about the Dems obtaining a “veto-proof majority”, I think the Democratic party will consolidate their gains of 2006 and there will be a number of seats in both houses that change hands. Many of those will be in places that have been a virtual lock for the Republican party. I see a total repudiation of how Bushco. has run the country for the last eight years (longer, when you look back the House and Senate under Bill Clinton). I am very heartened when I read that voting patterns for a person are set for pretty much their entire life by what happens when they are just becoming eligible to vote. There are lots and lots of young people who are going for the Democratic party in a big way. This bodes well for the future.

Now, I have no illusions that the Democratic party is some glorious thing, where virtue and light rule the day. Democrats can get just as taken away by their own power and authority as can Republicans. Well, based on what has happened in the last eight years, maybe not “just as taken away”. That seems to be the modus operandii of the Republican party these days. However, Democrats are human and, as such, can lose their way. In which case, I hope there is a strong but trustworthy Republican party to act as a check against any Democratic excesses. However, this will require a very drastic change for the current Republican party. I think they need to replace pretty much all the far right crazies who hold office now, who seem to think that governing means getting everything they want while obstructing everything that the other party wants. This isn’t a game of water polo, where the goal is to score as many points as you can and kick your oppenent repeatedly in the groin. This is about governing a country for the good of all. I can’t believe how many politicians lose sight of that fact.

I suppose, cynic that I am, I am mostly cynical about reality, about human nature. I am still an idealist about how I think things ought to be.

Friday, June 06, 2008

From the insane wingnut files: Jessica Lynch gets hate mail for telling the truth.

In the June 9, 2008 edition of Newsweek (sorry, looking at the print version, no link), there is a quick column about Jessica Lynch. You remember her, correct? She was the Iraq War’s “first hero”. Heroine, actually. The column states the following:

March 2003: Three days after the U.S. invasion of Iraq, enemy forces capture 19 year old Army Pvt. Jessica Lynch in an attack on her convoy.

Eight days later, the Pentagon releases a five minute video of Lynch’s dramatic “rescue” from an Iraqi hospital and discloses that she has been abused by her captors. Lynch later accuses the military of exaggerating her story and turning it into propaganda.

Now a sophomore studying education at West Virginia University, Lynch as a 16 month old daughter with her fiancĂ©. She also runs a charitable organization that collects stuffed animals for hospitalized children. In 2007, she testified to Congress about the military’s misleading portrayal of her story. She still gets hate mail accusing her of lying about the rescue effort. “If they want to take their hatred out on me, that’s O.K.,” she tells NEWSWEEK. At this point, I don’t really stress about it.”

Well, I tell you one thing, if I were she, I doubt I would be so generous with either the military or her detractors. First off, how dare the military use her as a piece of propaganda, to make the rest of the country “feel good” about invading a sovereign country that had never directly threatened us? They made her into some sort of female “Rambo”, who overcomes huge odds, guns ablaze, to fight against the Iraqi enemy, all the while being injured. The image presented by the Pentagon fit right in with the narrative of the heroic American military in a glorious fight against the evildoers. Given what happened when Pat Tillman was killed by “friendly fire” in Afghanistan, we shouldn’t be surprised to see the Pentagon attempt to manipulate public opinion with the death or injury of their own soldiers. It’s sickening, but is part of a very predictable pattern.

However, what really upsets me is that Ms. Lynch is getting hate mail for telling the truth! There really are some people in this country who are really insane. Perhaps not insane using the traditional clinical definition of the word, but insane nonetheless. How can anyone possibly write hate mail to a young lady who a) served her country admirably and heroically, b) was injured in service to her country, and 3) is telling the truth? These people are trying to tell other people who were actually present, who the story is actually about, what happened! And they do so in a threatening way! That is one of my definitions of being insane.

There are lots of people out there in our country who absolutely do not want to be told the truth. What really happened has no bearing on their particular version of reality. Reality must conform to their wishes, all other considerations be damned. And beware the person who dares to try to tell them otherwise!

There is something truly frightening and pathological going on with the collective psyche of this country. Threatening violence against someone for no other reason than they have a different opinion or is attempting to tell the truth is now acceptable. That is the thought process worked of the person who sent anthrax powder to several prominent Democrats and media personalities. In what rational universe is this acceptable behavior?

I feel for Ms. Lynch for several reasons, even though she might not really appreciate my concerns. First off, she seems like a very nice person who enlisted in the military for very noble reasons, and she was used by that same military for their own perverse motivations. That must have caused some big-time recalibration on her part, to find that not all involved have the same noble intentions as she. No doubt, she lost quite a lot of her innocence and has been disabused of her naivety. I would guess she is a more cynical person than she used to be. I also feel for her about having to put up with abuse from people who want her to be a symbol of how their view the Iraq War, regardless of the truth behind the matter. No doubt, this column in Newsweek isn’t going to help her fade back into obscurity like she might wish.

This country really needs to undertake some hard introspection about our beliefs and how we view reality. However, do I expect that to really happen? No, I don't.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Thoughts on Barack Obama’s historic nomination: the audacity of hope.

I haven’t been blogging very much, for a variety of reasons. I’ve been very busy at work, and am in the process of changing organizations. My home computer is tied up just about all evening, plus or minus about 45 minutes each side of dinner, by my wife and daughter. I had a bit of a disagreement with a tree that I was cutting down last weekend, in that it apparently didn’t appreciate being cut down. In the process of attempting to extricate my chain saw, which it had in a death grip, a very large tree splinter came very close to severing many veins, arteries, tendons and nerves in my wrist. I was exceedingly lucky and unlucky at the same time. I don’t really want to think about the possibilities that deeply. And, of course, I have run out of things to complain about regarding the Chimp-In-Chief and all his assorted thugs, enablers, obfuscators and the vast echo chamber that accompanies it all.

But I thought that I would take some time and write about my thoughts and feelings regarding the fact that the next President of the United States will likely be Barack Obama, a black man. Many people, including myself, have been so absorbed in the personal psychodramas of the various candidates of both the Democrats and Republicans that we lost track of what a truly monumental thing this actually is for the United States. I, for one, am exceedingly proud and amazed at the same time.

As a candidate, Obama is amazing. Yes, he is relatively young and “untested”. But to hear him speak is almost an otherworldly experience. I am a huge cynic, but even I get some goose bumps and allow myself to start thinking, “Maybe things really can change.” He really has captured the imagination of a huge percentage of the population of this country. From the perspective of just him as a person, a politician, he is doing great things for this country.

It’s difficult to talk about race and the fact that he is the first black man to successfully capture his party’s nomination. I, for one, don’t really want to slip up and sound something that sounds racist. It’s also very hard to get one’s hands around. But there is no way around this; this is an amazing moment in the history of this country. I think we regained some of the respect we lost with most of the countries of this world with his nomination. Obama is amazing about this very touchy subject as well. He goes out and acknowledges the issues and existing prejudices of many in the country without making that a central theme. He is saying, in effect, yes, it exists but we all have to go beyond that. And now is the time. Amazing stuff.

My family moved from Colorado to rural Alabama when I was in the 9th grade. This was in early 1970. When I look back on that, I realize it wasn’t that far (in time or distance) from the awful happenings in Philadelphia, Mississippi and Birmingham, Alabama. My step-father ran a drive-in restaurant that had outside service windows that were still marked “White” and “Black”. The “Black” window was around the corner of the building. I saw and heard some amazing things, and (I am ashamed and distressed to admit) I bought into some of that crap back then. My only defense was I was only 14 years old and we had no exposure to race issues in the small town in Colorado that I lived and went to school. I was witness to some of the overt and hidden racism that still exists in this country.

That is why I have been marveling at what has been going on during the Obama campaign. Black people and white people, along with people of many other colors and backgrounds, have stood shoulder to shoulder, cheering wildly for this person who has captured our collective imagination. Barack Obama drew over 70,000 people to hear him in Portland, Oregon last month. Staggering. He has managed to not only cross that white/black boundary for the most important position in America, he has vaulted over it to the extent that race is no longer a major issue in the minds of most people. We must go out of our way to remind ourselves how historic this moment actually is.

The Clinton campaign and its “What Does Hillary Want” mentality do not matter. John McCain and his metamorphosis from the engineer on the “Straight Talk Express” into a clone of George Bush do not matter. What matters is that this country seems to have turned a corner. We were getting there, little by little anyway, but this is the most visually stunning way of showing us, along with the rest of the world, that we are ready to make that leap. Now, we just need to make that one last step and actually elect the man.

I still harbor very few illusions about our society and our ability to cope with the huge problems that are going to face us in the very near future. However, for the first time in a very, very long time, I do have a small glimmer of hope. Maybe things can really change for the better, and we can overcome some of our shameful past at the same time. That would truly be an amazing thing to behold.

Photo from CNN.