Friday, January 29, 2010

Dumb Letters: Whatever It Is, I'm Against It

Some of them just leave you scratching your heads. This one is almost entirely incoherent. I have no idea what the writer is really getting at, other than "I'm a concerned citizen and I have something to say." Although the Globe editorial board tried to give it some focus in its title.

I am an unenrolled voter. President Obama did not say anything in his State of the Union address that he should not have said long before, and he could not list a single achievement.

Um, okay. So would he have been better off not saying it at all, then? So you could then complain about how he never said it? And if he had listed his achievements, I'm guessing you would have complained that the speech was self-congratulatory and called him an arrogant narcissist. Right?
He chided the Republicans in attendance, and made a misguided attack on the Supreme Court of the United States, by calling for legislation around its recent ruling on campaign spending.

Some of us don't consider this misguided. In fact, most of us don't. The Supreme Court has a long history of making bad decisions. And Congress has a long history of passing laws to mitigate the effects of Supreme Court decisions, most recently the Lily Ledbetter Fair Pay act. Often the Supreme Court makes a ruling in a certain way because Congress has not been clear on what the law should be and so the court reverts to the closest constituional interpretation they can make. If this doesn't sit well with Congress, they clarify the law. If the court doesn't like this, they strike the new law down when a case comes before them. It's called checks and balances. Don't like it? Get a new country.

Oh, and if anyone ever deserved a good chiding, it was the Republicans in attendance. He said nothing out of line about them. In fact, under the circumstances, he was downright charitable towards them. He's done nothing but reach out to them to try and work with the minority party. He's received nothing but scorn (and zero votes) for his efforts. It takes two to tango. And one party isn't dancing. GWB was much much worse when it came to chiding the opposition party over not following his demands.
He promised to open up the rolls in the military to special interests, which
should be the military’s call.

And who is the commander-in-chief of the military? Anyone? Anyone? Bueller? And how much do like that "special interests" business? Exactly which "special interest" are we discussing here? The oil lobby?

President Obama has a long way to go, and continuing to put down traditional
American values will not get him far.

If anyone can point to a single instance of Obama doing anything of the sort I haven't seen it. Exactly what "traditional American values" are we talking about here? Fairness? Equality? (Whiteness, maybe?) This dude is making this up. And I'm not sure how "far" he wants to go, but right now he's the POTUS. And he didn't get there by being anything other than what he is right now.
The nation has woken up, but the current leadership has not.

When did this happen? Woken up from what? The implication here is that the 2008 election happened in some kind of drunken stupor and that cute flight attendant has turned out to be, in the harsh light of day, not only 15-20 years older than we thought but also of dubious gender. And married to a member of the Gambino family. Now that we're all right and sane we don't like what we really liked just a year ago. Okay, bud. Whatever you say.
There is still time for the president to lead and prosper. However, his State of the Union address was unconvincing as to his willingness to put country first.
What the hell is that supposed to mean? Which country was he talking about when he said "my fellow Americans" and "God bless the United States of America"? Slovenia? This was the McCain campaign's slogan and they proved how country-first they were by picking an uneducated spokesmodel to be one rather irregular heartbeat away from the presidency. If Obama isn't putting country first, then what exactly is he doing? Is there some agenda that we don't know about that is ahead of the country's? The writer doesn't say. Which is par for the course.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Free Speech = $$$$$

Here's Mitch McConnell on "Meet the Press" regarding this week's Supreme Court decision, giving corporations carte blanche to spend as much as they want to smear candidates they don't like. (Transcript here.) Host David Gregory has just asked McConnell if he thinks this will benefit Democrats or Republicans.

SEN. McCONNELL: Well, I don't know who it benefits, but it's an important victory for the First Amendment. Right now if you're General Electric and you own NBC, you can say anything you want to about any candidate right up to the day of the election. But if you're a corporation or a union that doesn't own a media outlet, you haven't been able to. So you've had this big gap in the First Amendment applying one standard to media-owned corporations, another standard to unions and corporations that don't own media outlets. Now the Supreme Court has said the First Amendment is for everyone. I think that's a step in the right direction.

Say what?

This isn't bullshit but it is serious spin. He makes a fair point about some corporations owning media outlets and others not owning them. (They just give to the candidates directly.) But the issue here isn't corporation vs. corporation. It's corporation vs. common citizen, the former a legal construct created by the state and the latter the subject of all of those supposed protections in the Constitution.

McConnell is basically saying that everything is fair now because Exxon/Mobil can now spend as much as GE to get its message out. But can I spend that much?

Well, I suppose I can. All I need is several billion dollars and I can have the same rights as Exxon/Mobil or GE. "Saying something", which is protected under the First Amendment, has now officially been equated with "spending buttloads of cash to influence an election".

David Gregory, of course, just lets the statement stand and doesn't once mention the effect on regular people.

Thanks, David, for your hard-hitting journalism. No wonder McConnell is like a barnacle on your freaking show.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Supremely Undemocratic

I was going to post something on the unbelievably damaging Supreme Court decision on corporate money in politics. Then I read this bit from Erwin Chemerinsky of UC Irvine's law school in the LA Times. He's got it covered and he saved me some typing.

Some of the more important points (although this is really a no-brainer for anyone who's been paying attention):

[T]he conservative justices have demonstrated that decades of conservative criticism of judicial activism was nonsense. Conservative justices are happy to be activists when it serves their ideological agenda.


To conservatives...the phrase "judicial activism" has come to mean any decision with a liberal outcome.


For decades, conservatives have argued that judicial restraint requires that courts protect rights only if they are stated in the text of the Constitution or were clearly intended by the document's framers. This, for example, is the core of the conservative attack on Roe vs. Wade. But there is not the slightest shred of evidence that the framers of the 1st Amendment meant to protect the rights of corporations to spend money in election campaigns. The conservatives were glad to abandon the "original meaning" when it served their purposes.

The conservative majority, which in recent years has dramatically limited free speech in other areas -- such as for government employees and for students -- was willing to expand the free speech of corporations. There is no way to see this other than as the conservative justices using judicial review to advance the traditional
conservative ideological agenda.

Almost 10 years ago, in Bush vs. Gore, the five conservative justices for the first time decided a presidential election. One would have thought that decision would have laid to rest the notion that judicial activism is a tool of liberal judges and revealed that the real judicial activism today is from the right. Perhaps Thursday's decision will finally reveal the truth.

Let's all say it together, people. "Judicial activism" is complete bullshit.

I will add two other notes that Chemerinsky doesn't go into, although I understand why nobody's talking about the second one.

1. Roberts, Scalia and Co. have also touted judicial restraint as meaning narrow rulings on the case at hand and not broad, sweeping, legislating-from-the-bench type decisions. They used this to justify claiming that Bush v. Gore could not even be used as precedent, which is laughable for obvious reasons. And yet, they could have made a narrow ruling on the case at hand, which was whether a certain group could play a Hillary-bashing movie on TV right before an election. Instead, the court opened it up to let in corporations who weren't even making a claim and gave them rights that they didn't need and shouldn't have. Judicial activism of the highest order.

2. The group Citizens United, the original claimant in the case, was originally called, get this, Citizens United Not Timid. Ha! Clever. Like the logo? Just in case you didn't get it. You can understand why there's no reference to this on their current website. The old URL doesn't even redirect. But I can't imagine why Keith Olbermann, at least, isn't bringing it up.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Karen Hughes Lies to Us ... Again

It's astonishing to me what some people think other people will believe. Not because I don't think they'll believe it. The Tea Party "movement" is a prime example of being able to get people really fired up about something that doesn't exist. I mean, after all, I'm even impressed that there's a bunch of angry people complaining about how their taxes have gone up and are out of control (Taxed Enough Already, if you buy that) when 95% of them, assuming a representative sample of the tax base makes up the movement, are seeing a tax reduction under this crazy socialist re-distributor of wealth. The re-distribution is going your way, people. Quit complaining. Unless this is really about something else that they don't care to confess. Which it probably is. No, what gets me is how people can spew complete crap like that with a straight face. And get paid big bucks to do so.

Today's jaw-dropper came from Karen Hughes on NBC's "Meet the Press" this Sunday. (Watch it here. Read it here.) The roundtable was discussing how BO has done in his first year and Ms. Hughes, former aide to guess-who, had something really dumb to say. And this is after, by the way, defending Dick Cheney's inappropriate and hypocritical criticisms and calling for criminals to be unilaterally declared enemy combatants and stripped of their rights, which we won't get into.

Bob Woodward had just put the lie to the idea that Obama is some kind of European-style socialist. (Thanks for that, Bob, by the way.) I'll give you the full context.

MR. WOODWARD: But, you know, what's interesting from, who is Barack Obama as president? And, and, and there are people who tried--there was a column The Washington Post Friday in which Charles Krauthammer tried to essentially say he is a European-style socialist because of health care and he's trying to do these other things. Now, I'm trying to do a book on President Obama, and calling him a European socialist is just not even in the ballpark. It's like taking and calling President Bush, because he arranged and worked with Teddy Kennedy on No Child Left Behind, or a prescription drug plan for the elderly, calling George Bush a European socialist, which would be absurd.

MS. HUGHES: Well, I'm not in the name-calling game...

MR. WOODWARD: Barack Obama is not that.

MS. HUGHES: ...but, Bob, would you, would you admit that he has governed far to the left of the way he campaigned? He campaigned as a centrist and has not governed that way.

WHAT? To the left? Far to the left? What the hell are you smoking? You people were all complaining about how left-wing his campaign was. Now, when it's convenient to do so, you act like you all liked him way back when and he's so disappointed you by not being that person you met and fell in love with not so long ago. Come on.

I've noted many times that there is spin and then there is utter bullshit. This falls squarely on the bullshit side, particularly as she states it as if it's just common knowledge and poor Bob Woodward has to just come out and admit it.

Let's review.

Campaigner Obama pledges to end the Iraq and Afghanistan wars.

President Obama has talked about pulling troops out of Iraq but hasn't done so. And he has severely escalated the war in Afghanistan.

MOVEMENT: To the right.

Campaigner Obama pledges to cut taxes for folks making under $250,000 per annum and raise them a little for folks making more.

President Obama does just this.


Campaigner Obama pledges to shut down Gitmo within a year, end torture, release those held without charges and prosecute terrorists the old-fashioned way, through our highly useful legal system that we used to be so proud of.

President Obama has not yet shut down Gitmo. He has made the decision to prosecute some, but not all, suspected terrorists in the courts. Many more are still being held without charge or sent to military tribunals. And we'll just have to take his word that they aren't being tortured. Let's hope not.

MOVEMENT: To the right.

Campaigner Obama pledged to fight for universal health care.

President Obama not only didn't put universal health care forth as the starting point (with an expectation that compromise would be necessary) but he started with a simple public option, which was then jettisoned along with almost every thing else worthy of the word "reform". And the bill is still in danger of not passing. And he doesn't seem all that concerned about the situation.

MOVEMENT: To the right.

That's most of what anybody gives a crap about these days. He's moved the country slightly to the left. (It was already so far right under the Bushies that this is not even an accomplishment.) But to even make the suggestion that he's governed to the left, let alone the far left, of what he campaigned on is the most ridiculous nonsense one could possibly hope to spout. He's either done exactly what he said he would or he's gone to the right. If anyone can tell me one area where he's gone left of what he campaigned on, I'm all ears. But I'm not seeing it.

Good to see you, Karen. (Not.) You haven't changed a bit.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Art Clokey

Geez, this dude was still alive? Apparently so. But not anymore.

Art Clokey was responsible for one of the most oddly beloved of animated characters, Gumby.

I used to watch Gumby when I was a kid, just like everybody else. And I can still sing the song, which is pretty whimsical. But the animations themselves were often really really messed up. I'm talking about the stuff of nightmares here.

This is one of the earliest Gumby shorts. Check it out. The visuals, the soundtrack, the plot (such as it is). Terrifying. This is better suited for college kids on dope than children.

Clokey talked about his scientific background and how he tried to make things realistic, like with a rotating module to create artificial gravity. (Kubrick had the same thing in "2001". Nice.) And yet how do they get Gumby down from the moon? With the effing firetruck!

And nobody ever asks how Gumby got there or why. They just look through the telescope and say "Oh, there he is" as if they had already checked the bathroom and the crystal meth lab and this was the next logical place to look.

And how do you like those little triangle creatures with the eyes that pop out. Eyes that get blown clear off one creature's head by Gumby's dad, by the way. Without even checking to see if the little fuckers just wanted to play. Did they really look that threatening? Did they have weapons?

Thanks for the nightmares, Art.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Dumb Letters: It's All So Simple If You're Not Nuts

From today's LA Times:

So U.S. border security officials learned enough about alleged Nigerian bomber Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab while Flight 253 was airborne that they planned to question him when he landed. I guess they wanted to be sure the horses were well clear of the barn.

Had a sky marshal been aboard this high-risk flight, as we were promised by our government after 9/11, it would have been a simple matter to have the airline send the flight crew a data message while en route, whereupon the sky marshal could have handcuffed the suspect, then searched him -- while the horses were still safely in the barn.

Is this administration nuts, or is it me?

It's you.

It's always a simple matter, isn't it? That 20/20 hindsight sure makes things nice and clear, doesn't it? Damn, if I ran the circus we'd have some awesome shit.

There are over 30,000 commerical flights in the air every day in this country. Let's just say one air marshal can handle being on two a day. That means we'd need 15,000 trained air marshals in action every day. So, taking weekends, vacations and personal days into account, we really need about 25,000 air marshals.

How much does an air marshal make? If is to be believed, between $36,400 and $83,900. You can do the math. Nah, I will. If we take a pure average, we're looking at $1,503,750,000 a year. I suppose that's chump change when you compare it to the bank bailout or, heck, any of our foreign wars. But do we really want to add this to our already anxiety-ridden flights?

So, after sending everyone through a full body scan, removing their shoes, digging through all of their bags and making them sit quietly in their seats for at least the last hour of the flight with no book to read, no iPod to listen to and no snacks, stress-reducing grippy things or barf bags we'll have a sky marshal in there to whom we can send a text message so he'll know which dude got through all of the other stuff. Oh, and rather than watch the dude like a hawk, he'll just cuff him. 'Cause that's how we roll now.

Yep, it's you.