Saturday, June 29, 2013

What A Week

Rage and disgust at the Supreme Court were joined by joy this week as the Voting Rights Act gets gutted then DOMA and Proposition 8 get tossed in history's dumpster.

Personally, I would have preferred if the commentary had managed to include both.  Sad to say, after the DOMA/Prop 8 decisions, too much oxygen was stolen by deserved celebration to notice that the majority opinion in the VRA case - that "things had changed in the South", so the specific provision in question was no longer necessary - was proved wrong by events as Texas moved to enact voted ID laws that would have been prohibited under the close scrutiny afforded by the now-voided section of the VRA.

Having to go back to square one on civil rights legislation is not going to be easy.  It also isn't going to be pretty.  It is, however, necessary.  Congress is beginning to stir, with some discussion of a new VRA.  I applaud the idea; I support it.  With the current Congress for all intents and purposes in the hands of crazy people, I no more see it passing that I foresee John Boehner entering Alcoholics Anonymous.

This anger and sadness does not mitigate the joy at the decision in the marriage equality cases.  There is still a whole lot of work to be done.  The vast majority of states do not allow same-sex marriage.  Here in Illinois, thanks in no small part to rhetoric from religious conservatives playing on the religious sensibilities of some members of the legislative black caucus, the legislature adjourned before it could come up for a vote.  The momentum in the state, however, is clearly on the side of equality; the special session called by Gov. Quinn to deal with the state pension issue should also see marriage equality pass.  At least, that is the talk and I know there are people working toward that end.

Did I mention the disclosure yesterday that the whole phony IRS scandal was something its chief proponent, Rep. Darrel Issa, pretty much orchestrated?  He directed the IG report only to look at conservative groups so the report only talked about conservative groups.  The whole thing, from start to finish, was a sham, a creation of Republican rage at Pres. Obama.

I shouldn't neglect to congratulate the Chicago Blackhawks on their Stanley Cup victory in a game that featured an amazing two-goals-in-17-seconds that takes your breath away, whether you're a fan or not.

I'm still getting used to the new house, new arrangements, new schedule, and such, but I hope to return to my semi-regular posting habits once that all shakes out.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Edward Snowden, Glenn Greenwald, And History's Worst Criminal Nation

The whole Snowden saga has descended from a great epic to ridiculous farce in record time.  It's bad enough we now have huge internet squabbles over his status as hero or criminal.  It's bad enough he positions himself as a champion of free speech only to hightail it first to China (and forgive me if I only take a single grain of salt about the whole "two-systems" business; Hong Kong is Chinese and about as free as . . . well, the rest of China) then to Russia (because Putin has our best interests at heart) en route to Ecuador, whose President wants to be the next Hugo Chavez and whose legislature just passed a sweeping law restricting freedom of the press.

Now he's out there telling the world he took a job with Booz Allen Hamilton so he could steal government secrets.

The question for many is whether or not the information he's released is enough to indict the American intelligence community - and by extension the American government - with sweeping violations of our rights under the Constitution.  As I wrote a couple weeks ago, while I am hardly sanguine about what's been happening, this is only "news" if you haven't been paying attention . . . or have the attention span of road kill . . . or just want to thumb your nose and shout about how Pres. Obama is worse than George W. Bush because he's supposed to be better or something.

If you're naive enough to believe a President is going to give up powers voluntarily, powers granted by Congress regardless of the wisdom of the move, then by all means Pres. Obama is so much worse than Bush. On the other hand, if you're at least clever enough to understand that once granted, power such as this can only be taken away by the force of law; and if it has not been clear from the beginning of his Presidency that Obama can and would use every tool at his disposal to carry out policy, this should not only not come as a surprise but drag out one big yawn.

As for the people involved, Snowden and Greenwald, they are enjoying their moment in the sun and neither is handling it well.  Snowden wants to play the hero.  He shouldn't have run off, then.  If he really were engaging in civil disobedience, he'd have stayed in the US to face the legal penalties for his actions.  Instead, he takes off for various authoritarian places all too happy to flip the bird to the US.  As for Greenwald, he gets to show how much smarter and tougher and clear-headed he is than your run-of-the-mill Sunday talk show host, all the while keeping the focus on him.

Pres. Obama said we needed to have a discussion about secrecy and privacy, and it would be nice if we could do that without people thinking we need to choose up sides like some junior high gym class game of dodge ball.  I hold both Snowden and Greenwald in contempt; I hold much of the left in contempt, with their insistence on "proving" how horrible the US is for doing something we all knew it was doing; I hold the US government in contempt for playing Keystone Kops with this guy as he hops from dictator to dictator; finally, I hold the US government in contempt for doing this in the first place.

We need to repeal all the crap legislation regarding national security that has passed since 9/11.  We need to open the FISA Court process to public scrutiny.  We need to make clear that the NSA's mandate does not extend to US citizens on American soil, and criminalize violations of that clear statement.  Finally, we need to stop quaking in our boots every time some ninny says the words "terrorist" or "terrorism".

This is an ugly mess, and it's going to get uglier, but it would be nice if we could have someone set the stakes out this clear.

Virtual Tin Cup

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