Friday, March 08, 2013

Watching Good People Be Stupid

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a gifted, hard-working journalist.  His work, along with Matt Taibbi's, is the best being done anywhere by anyone.  It is no surprise, then, that an essay published in yesterday's New York Times is receiving a lot of attention.  The best is the simple highlight at Lawyers, Guns, & Money.  The very first commenter manages to demonstrate Coates' position so well, it's a thing of beauty:
I would like to see his definition of ‘racism’. Is it based on the idea of racial superiority? Or does it include racial profiling, based on experience and common stereotypes? Because these are different things, different categories. It would make sense, I believe, to separate them, to use different words.
Does that deli employee believe that people who look like Forest Whitaker are inherently inferior? Or is it that he knows, perhaps by experience, that they are more likely to be poor and desperate (or raised in a poor and desperate environment)? This seems kind of important. To me, anyway. Commenters on these fora reliably disagree, and they reliably express their disagreement by strong denunciations… Oh, well…
A more thoughtful person would hesitate before writing what amounts to, "Now wait just a goddamn minute!  I'm not racist!"  Alas, it is precisely this impulse that is the substance of Coates' complaint.

Thus, nearly three hundred comments long, the tiny notice at LGM shows the world how far too many "good" people still have to go.

The best response in the discussion is this:
I sure see no great tragedy in a multimillionaire celebrity being frisked at a deli. Should I?
If you believe in a society where people are treated with compassion and dignity, yes. You should.
Are your morals subject to means testing?
As polite a way of saying, "When you're in a hole, first put the shovel down," as I've read in a long time.

If you are white and don't see yourself in Coates' article, then you aren't paying attention. 

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Busking In The Senate Chamber (UPDATE)

So it seems some American liberals and those further to the Left are trying to make an old truism true: Go far enough to an extreme, and you meet your opposite number.  Thus you get folks like Charlie Pierce, Wonkette, and Think Progress saying, essentially, that while pretty much wrong on everything else, Rand Paul kinda-sorta might have an eentsie-teeny-weenie point.


I'm not surprised at Glenn Greenwald.  Filled with his own special brand of self-righteousness, Greenwald's feces ceased emitting an odor the moment Barack Obama was elected and Greenwald could prove he wasn't a liberal stooge by going after the newly elected President for . . . doing things all American Presidents since at least Harry Truman if not before have done.  Not that I agree with them; I think I've been pretty clear that, for example, Truman's decision to send American troops to Korea without seeking a Congressional declaration of war first was when the flat ground disappeared and we found ourselves on a very steep, slippery slope.

All the same, does any thinking human being believe any President won't act as President's act?

In any event, on this matter in particular, I refuse to grant Rand Paul even a scintilla of credibility.  Unlike, for example, the writer of the above-linked Think Progress piece, I could never write the following:
Sen. Ron Wyden (D-OR), who referred to himself and Paul (both whom have strong records on civil liberties issues) as the “checks and balances caucus,” also joined the questioning.(italics mine)
Rand Paul strong on civil liberties?  Seriously?  The guy who thinks both the 1964 Civil Rights Act and the 1965 Voting Rights Act are unconstitutional?  The guy who thinks a 100-year-old Supreme Court case (that has since been overturned by later Supreme Court cases) that claimed labor laws interfered with the Constitutional "right" to contract for work is a "wonderful decision"?  How can anyone even remotely familiar with recent events write something about Rand Paul like that?

All the same, I wouldn't make common cause with the two biggest attention-whores in the United States Senate, John McCain and Lindsey Graham.  As Wonkette makes clear, they are just upset that Rand Paul is stealing their precious face time before the cameras.

In point of fact, I would refuse to acknowledge any point to the entire exercise.  This isn't about any concern Paul feels for civil liberties; it's using a reputation other's have given him to do what Republicans do, viz., obstruct yet another Obama appointee to high office.  BATF hasn't had a director since Obama took office in 2009.  There are 87 federal judgeships vacant, with 32 nominees waiting approval.  The ridiculous circus surrounding Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel's nomination was of a piece with this entire rigmarole.

Furthermore, granting Paul any legitimacy on this point cedes the debate wholly to the terms he has staked: Hypothetical possibilities.  It does no one any good to say, "Well, if we say it's OK for Obama to have the power to kill Americans, what happens if a crazy person is President?"

Um, Pres. Obama is not claiming the power to kill Americans.  That and the constant badgering about "drones" completely distorts the entire matter.  The President used his power as Commander-in-Chief to order a strike against an American ex-patriot who was overseas fomenting terrorism against the United States.  After his death, his son picked up the paternal mantle, and he, too, was killed.

Those kinds of things happen in war.

I'm sorry if I sound like I don't care about "due process".  I really do.  The thing is, these men were, for all intents and purposes aiding and abetting enemies of the United States of America.  They were legitimate military targets.

All the discussion since their deaths has been much ado about, "What if . . .?"  Indeed, Sen. Paul said over and over again yesterday that he wanted assurances from Attorney General Eric Holder that the President doesn't have the constitutional authority "to kill Americans here in the United States".  Absent any context or set of initial conditions, this is as meaningless as asking if the President has the constitutional authority to fly to the moon and back.

And Sen. Paul did get an answer:

I should probably mention there's this whole law usually known as posse comitatus.  It was actually revoked by Congress in 2006 and signed in to law by Pres. George W. Bush in that year's NDAA.  It was put back in 2009 and signed in to law by . . . the same President Rand Paul seems to think would kill us in our sleep for no other reason than he felt like it.

Like everything else with these guys and gals, it's best to take a couple deep breaths and realize they're still crazy.

UPDATE: Not only is he funny, he's far more articulate than I could ever be.  Tbogg sums up my view of just how stupid too many lefties are about Rand Paul and DDDDRRRROOOOOOOOOOOONNNNNNNESSSS!!!!:
Ted Cruz wants to know if it is Constitutionally permissible to kill an American on US soil with a drone. Is it okay if a SWAT sniper shoots a kidnapper who is threatening his victim? If yes, then how about with a drone if that were possible? But when Eric Holder tried to explain that Cruz’s question left out any nuance or circumstances, he was browbeaten for not giving it a blanket thumbs down. That is the stupid discussion we are having now in America.
It’s the whole scary “flying killer robot” thing that is making everyone stupid. As for the Bin Laden thing, many of these same people have called his killing an “extrajudicial murder” which is where they lose me because they seem to have no regard for the safety of the people who actually have to do the dirty work of getting in there and getting out. They shouldn’t be pawns in someone’s late night dorm room discussion about ” how the world should be”.
Does the surveillance aspect of drones bother me? Not anymore than stop light cameras that catch some people running red lights and discourage others from doing so. Or CCTV that helps to prevent crime or even exposes the police when they act like criminals. It’s a tool and sometimes it gets misused, but on the whole it serves its purpose and we never think to complain about it then.
Also this.  As an aside, I should add that I'm a tad less blase about the civil liberties aspects of everything from our surveillance society to the militarization of our domestic police power.  All the same, a bunch of mostly white, privileged men sitting around tutting about Barack Obama being history's greatest monster (and by extension, any people who disagree with them being either stooges or stoooopppidd) while waving away what actually is happening makes me want to drop them in the middle of Somalia.
 And I’m not saying drones are passé . Only that I know how the argument is going to go for the next few days, and I have no interest in arguing (again) with people who, in the end, are just going to call me history’s greatest monster because I am not as fanatically obsessed with drones ( or Bradley Manning for that matter) as Glenn Greenwald or Kevin Gosztola to the exclusion of actual everyday issues that affect people who don’t have the leisure time to sit around and have wonky debates at high decibel levels.
Put simply: if you think Osama bin Laden was “assassinated”, as has been asserted, then I’m no more interested in your opinion than if you want to talk about the fake moon landing.

On The Death Of Hugo Chavez

This is just me, but (to quote Alan), "Meh."

I think this from Lawyers, Guns, & Money (including the comment section, a rare example of sanity considering several comment threads there have of late been hijacked by trolls) kind of sums up so much of what is wrong with the way the power structure in the US views the world.  Imagine!  Venezuela earned all those petro-dollars and used them to help the people of the country!  Horrors.

And hanging out in OPEC with all those horrible dictators like the King of Saudi Arabia the leader of Iran.

Considering he survived an American-sponsored coup d'etat, is it any wonder he spent much of his time flipping the United States the bird?

He's dead.  The majority of Venezuelans are more than marginally better off because he was President.  That's something to celebrate, regardless of his clumsiness as an international actor.

All the rest is state-sponsored froth.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Once Upon A Time

Erik Loomis sounds an awful lot like me.
I wonder if any such image in our media-saturated uberironic brains could make any such impact today. Or would we just tell a joke and write it off as ironic in some vague and poorly defined way.
What image would that be?  Well, really, there are two images.  First, the newer one:
 See that tiny dot just to the right of center of the screen?  That's the planet Venus seen through the rings of Saturn, courtesy of the Cassini spacecraft.

The second, earlier image is more famous.
As Apollo 8 orbited the Moon at Christmastime, 1968, and the three astronauts read the first creation story from the book of Genesis, this image appeared on television screens across the world.  Our home.  It's really not that far away, a quarter-million miles.  Yet even from that small distance, there's something so fragile about that image.  Our home planet, as enormous as it seems from our homes and roads and even skies, is a delicate jewel.

That was our first real exposure to what our planet really is.  Those three men, further from their home than any human beings had ever been, were seeing things from a perspective that no one had ever had.  Sharing that perspective with the rest of humanity, it awakened feelings of fear and love, and most certainly wonder, among millions.

Once upon a time, we Americans were inspired to do good and great things.  Once upon a time, we Americans refused to let any obstacle interfere with the expressed wish to accomplish any goal.  Now, our politics is held hostage by Vandals, barbarians of our own making, who would rather watch it all come down than accede to the belief of the majority of the country that there are things we can only do together, and that we do better together.

Once upon a time, we saw images such as these, and we embraced the fear and wonder they engendered and said, "Yes.  We can do this."  Now, we look at our broken roads, our crumbling sewer systems, even our federal system of mail delivery that continues to be the envy of the world, and because a few people insist there is nothing that can be done, nothing is done.

Once upon a time, America was a great place.  That this occurred in my lifetime saddens me no end.  I do so hope some other nation picks up the challenges represented by these photographs and does something about them, because I do believe our fairy tale is over.

The ending, alas, was not at all happy.

Virtual Tin Cup

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