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Friday, December 16, 2005

Murderball

So I get up this morning, first day of my weekend, and read the “paper,” which means cruising a half dozen news sites.  A post critical of Bush’s latest war speeches has been percolating in my mind the last few days.  I’ve already started collecting links, but haven’t started the “analysis,” and now it’s old news.

Check this out:  The president has authorized domestic spying.  (Nixon anyone?)  Of course, the program is classified, so there’s no way for the people of the United States to know the extent of how much their government  spies on them.  There have already been reports that the Pentagon has been spying on Al Qaeda collaborators, er, I mean, war protestors, so we can’t trust that this spying has been solely used to gather intelligence on terrorists.

Some, haunted by the specter of 9-11, may encourage the president to continue using borderline illegal techniques in his Global War on Terror.  They’ve apologized for the Bushies time and time again, for the deceptive WMD intelligence, for Abu Ghraib torture and Gitmo mistreatment, for using classified information as a cudgel to beat their opponents, and yet I wonder if they’ve considered why Their Man must defend the legality of much of what he’s doing.

On WMD, they shrugged it off on the Intelligence Community.  On torture, they argued that the law took a backseat to the President’s war-fighting powers, quite un-democratic behavior from a government imposing a democracy by force abroad.  And now, they have to defend their domestic spying.  I suppose they like the maverick approach, unmindful of the long term consequences and sheer immorality of an executive branch that plays fast and loose with the laws they are supposed to be enforcing.

Thankfully those people are in the minority.

And it gets worse!  One of the GOP talking points has been definitively destroyed.  These same Bush apologists have been running around, deflecting all the guff they’re getting for relying on bad intelligence by saying that Congress had access to the same info and they came up with the same conclusion.  It’s not true!  Congress did not have access to the same intelligence, period.  It’s also possible that since Bush had access to more information with a wider scope, he may have seen credible intelligence that disputed the WMD claims.  If that’s the case, the Intelligence Community can take no blame for the POTUS’s misreading WMD intel.

And here, Bush capitulates to the country’s demand (advocated most strongly by McCain) to legally ban torture.  Cheney and others have stringently argued for exceptions to the torture ban, implicitly supporting cruel and inhuman treatment on detainees if it will help them.  (It might be useful to remind the reader that the first bullet point of modern evil reads:  “The end justifies the means.”)

Wait there’s more.  We had Zarqawi last year, but let him go.  The Bush Administration is kicking itself right now.  Not only did they miss the PR coup, but they lost the opportunity to torture the guy.

In other news, there was another election in Iraq.  Don’t expect it to help the Bush Administration much, though.  It’s the third one this year and the image of all the purple fingers has lost its potency.  However, it is proof that there is a silver lining in all of this.  Saddam is gone (as is hundreds of billions of dollars, tens of thousands of lives, many arms and many legs, not to mention our international reputation) and Iraq is voting.  Was it worth it?  I don’t know.  

The other day I watched a movie about quad rugby players called Murderball.  I was going to do a post on it, because it truly is a great movie.  If you haven’t seen it, watch it.  These guys have all suffered horrendous life-changing injuries.  One guy caught a blood disease when he was a kid and lost both arms and both legs.  Another got through out of a pick-up and hurtled into a ditch.  Another thrown off a balcony.  They all have something in common though:  they are severely disabled, they are world-class athletes, and they all have great attitudes.  

I suppose that had they not been injured, they would not have gone to the Paralympics in Athens, would not have been in a movie about their lives, would not have been friends or met the great people that they’ve met, done the great things that they’ve done.  And yet, I have a nagging suspicion that they would give all that up if they could have their bodies back.

That’s almost how I feel about Iraq.  Was it worth it?  Sure.  Was it worth it all?  Maybe not.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Every now and then I like to go to the right-wing blogs, just to get an idea of what the "other side" is thinking. Somehow or another I came across this post about conservative grievances against the GOP. I'm very anti-GOP, but somewhat more friendly to "conservatives," especially since I'm a Jesse Ventura social liberal, fiscal conservative.

The point about the highway bill is a great point. That bill had more pork than an Easter ham. Social security reform is a good one, too, but the GOP just wants to dismantle it and forget about the "reforming" part. The "death" tax (in my universe, we call it the estate tax) is really low on my list. You have to be rich (or operating under the delusion that you will someday be rich) to worry about that one. Pardon me while I shed a tear for all the Paris Hiltons and Nicole Richeys and Kimberly Stewarts who will lose a small percentage of their inheritances. Maybe they won't be able to afford that doggie makeover....but on the flip side, I bet there's some poor inner-city kids who will have their after-school program extended for another year. (Yet, another reason why I laugh when the GOP talks about "values.")

The comments on the blog post, though, point to perhaps the biggest bone stuck in the craw of conservatives right now: Border security.

Now, I don't think I have to go into a big treatise on the racist origins of this fascination with the border. Suffice it to say that when you hear about "border security," they're not talking about the northern one. No one, not even the looniest right-wing nuts, thinks that Canadian immigration is a problem. (Did you know that Jim Carrey, Pamela Anderson, Mike Myers, Dan Akroyd, and many others, are Canadian?? No? Do you care? Didn't think so.)

The "border security" is a problem because of Mexico, more precisely because of the Spanish-speaking hispanics who come from Mexico. Their crime? They're brown, speak a different language, and they're looking for work. That's what the "border security" is all about. It's not about terrorism. It's not about enforcing the law. It's not about jobs or economic prosperity.

It's all about those damn beaners. Remember that the next time some white conservative talks about "border security."

Monday, December 12, 2005

Tookie Monster

It’ll take a miracle to save Tookie Williams now that Arnie refused to grant him clemency.  I figured that some consideration would be given to commuting his sentence, not because of his celebrity supporters or because he may have been innocent, but because he was nominated for the Nobel Prize.  But unless he gets a federal appeal, an event about as likely as Arnie being elected POTUS, he’s going to be dead shortly after midnight tonight.

I used to be against the death penalty, a position I held as a teenager outraged by the hypocrisy of the state enforcing murder laws with murder, but then something changed my mind.  

April 19th, 1995.  Oklahoma City.  Tim McVeigh ignited a truck bomb that destroyed half a building and killed dozens of people, at the time the worst act of terrorism committed on American soil.  (McVeigh, that other kind of terrorist you don’t hear much about: the whitebread right-wing nutbag variety.)

The 1997 trial, conducted in Denver at the federal courthouse downtown, was literally a few blocks from where I worked at the time.  I saw the barricades and the media circus, read about it in the newspaper.  I probably could have gone down there on my lunch hour and sat in on the proceedings if I wanted to.  McVeigh, of course, was found guilty and sentenced to die, which he did in 2001.  It was the first execution carried out by the Federal Government since 1963.

And I also think that it was quite appropriate.  If there is a legitimate use of the death penalty, then Tim McVeigh deserved it.  Nazi war criminals, many of whom were executed, deserved it.  Ted Bundy, John Wayne Gacy, they deserved it too.  People like that should be eradicated, wiped from the gene pool, their shameful ends recorded for all history, the execution, of course, carried out after a thorough bit of due process.

Is Tookie Williams one of these guys who should be erased off the earth?  I don’t know.  He co-founded the Crips, which is in no way redeemed by his children’s books, and he was convicted (with the convictions being upheld at every legal corner) of murdering four people.  Should he die for that?  I don’t know, but the State of California thinks he should.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

We Have a Dream...

So I was reading some "A-List" blogs this morning in an effort to pass the time at work and somehow stumbled upon this idiotic commentary on Glenn Reynolds's Instapundit site:

"So when homosexuality was unpopular, it was a mental disorder. Now that it's popular, not liking it is a mental disorder."

Admittedly, that statement is taken out of context, but I'm going to ignore that for now, since a) the context is not relevant to why I think that statement is idiotic, and b) I really don't want to debate the merits of the "homosexuality as mental illness" case. Instead, I'd like to talk about that "Now that it's popular" phrase.

For one, is homosexuality really popular now? Is it like bottled water and DVD players, two items whose current popularity is unquestionable? Sure, homosexuality has been more visibile these last few years, what with Ellen and Will and Grace and Tinky Winky. But is that because it's, like, the new thing to do? Like feather hair clips or MC Hammer pants, two trends whose popularity thankfully came and went. Or has homosexuality been more visible in recent decades because of some other reason?

Me, and I know I'm no highly paid college educated TV-coiffed pundit, I think it's the latter. I mean, let's be honest here. Gay people do not choose to be gay any more than I choose to be aroused when I see naked boobies. These things are subconscious and biological, in other words, not subject to rational control. It's simple: If you're gay, you're gay, regardless of the trendiness of it. (The opposite is true for heteros.)

It's also useful to remember that homosexuality is older than Jesus. In fact, it was quite "popular" in the ancient world, and was certainly more accepted then than now in our scientific post-Enlightenment age. Not only that, homosexuality isn't confined to any culture or race, but instead can be found in every race, every culture, even those vehemently opposed to it. That tells me that homosexuality is common to the human experience, and it always has been.

Sure, you may think of it as unnatural, since it does deviate from the "natural order" of things. Sexual organs, after all, were designed for procreation. But it's not any more unnatural, biologically speaking, than monogamy. (Show me a "monogamous" dog, and I'll show you a sheltered pup who would become a butt-sniffing rapist at the doggie park.) After all, wasn't the mouth designed for eating and communicating, but used extensively by both heterosexual and homosexual couples for that "unnatural" act of kissing?

I guess, though, that my point is less that homosexuality is normal and here to stay, and more that the reason you see more of it today is because homosexuals refuse to live in fear anymore. They no longer have to pretend and hide and lie anymore. They don't have to move to San Francisco to find a community. They don't have to be ashamed of who they are. They realize, as millions of others before them realized, that since we live in America, the land of the free, the home of the brave, we live in a dream, a big collective lucid dream that, in some small way, we all control. We live in the American Dream, and though it's gone through some subtle changes over the years, it still finds its roots in life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, as well as in the revolutionary acknowledgement of our Founding Fathers that we are all endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.

The American Dream, unfortunately has not become the American Reality...yet. Our history is littered with dreamers who spent their lives and fortunes trying to create a more perfect union, to fulfill the Dream. Abolitionists sought, and eventually earned, an end to slavery in the 19th Century. Women, it's absurd to believe now, couldn't vote until the 1920s, and only then after a long struggle. Jim Crow stared long and hard at Black Americans in the south, and it wasn't until the 60s that "equality among the races" became an attainable ideal and not some pipe dream comforting the oppressed.

So perhaps the reason why homosexuality is an issue in this country is because homosexuals, as a group, have been inspired by the Civil Rights movement, which in turn, was inspired by the American Dream. They no longer feel the need to remain second class citizens in a country that boasts about life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness but does very little to ensure them. Instead, they are now demanding these things, as they should. Those things, after all, are what make America great...not our Christianity, not our military power, not our "morally superior" leadership, not our economic might.

It's the American Dream, dummy.