Thursday, August 01, 2013

In Memorium

I return to this neglected outpost to note with sadness the passing of Hoosier blogger Doghouse Riley, proprietor of Bats Left/Throws Right. Doghouse, the nom de blog of Douglas M. Case, passed away Saturday in Indianapolis, at the unconscionably young age of 59. The interwebs will miss him.
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Thursday, November 29, 2012

Today in Casual Sexism

Can you spot the sexism in this article that, ironically enough, is about racism? The lede says: "A black police officer and his family said they fled their upscale Orange County community after rocks were thrown through their windows, their tires were slashed and racial taunts were shouted by passing motorists." Four paragraphs down we get a bigger description of the family: "The father is a police officer in Inglewood. His wife is a Los Angeles County sheriff's deputy. They and their two children moved to Yorba Linda in 2011." So, it's a family of a police officer...the male police officer in the family. The wife is just part of his family. Is it really 2012?

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Thursday, August 23, 2012

Before Occupy

Wow, this seems pretty prescient... "Unions are finding it increasingly difficult to establish themselves in the "new economy." I think they are widely viewed by the working public as being irrelevant or, worse, a hindrance to America's economic expansion. The American worker is a strangely optimistic creature. As individuals, they want to believe that they are exceptional, that through perseverance and hard work they can rise to the top. They think that through this they will eventually rise to the top 20, or 10, or 1% of American wage earners. They think that what prevents them from doing this is a stagnant economy unnecessarily and unfairly hampered by labor unions, too much government regulation and frivolous lawsuits. Once all that clutter is cleared away, free enterprise will thrive, producing a rising tide that will float all boats. They have a President and a pundit class that persistently work at polishing and pushing this myth. They want to believe that just by being exceptional individual workers they could gain on their own in a market competing for their services those benefits unions have won through collective bargaining and years of struggle. This is true only in limited highly competetive industries and, even there, usually only for brief periods of time. They want to believe that government regulation of business has been born out of the fevered dreams of vile overreaching bureaucrats intent on killing the American dream, not out of the need to contain the rapacious greed of business men and women who have no concern for the health and well-being of America or its people or, often, even the long-term health of their own companies and will trample on any right and break any law for their own short term gain. The savings and loan scandals of the eighties, Michael Miliken, Ivan Boesky, Enron, et al, belies this belief. They want to believe that trial lawyers are always greedy self-interested leeches drawing their sustenance from the honest work of others, and not that they may be our last guardians, when those running our government have formed common cause with the worst of the robber barons to ignore, undermine, and undo the restraints experience has shown us must be placed on their rapaciousness, at the expense, and with the deliberate intent, of permanently subjugating the working class." I can't believe I wrote that in January 2005.

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Monday, January 30, 2012

Emancipated Compensation


For those, like Ron Paul, who believe that the Civil War could and should have been avoided by means of compensated emancipation, I ask, how much should this slave’s owner have been compensated for being deprived of the ability to further inflict this kind of punishment on a human being? What would be a just amount?

If the cost in human lives that it took to end slavery in America was too great, as Paul believes, what is the cost of this? How to you weigh further immiseration in this equation? And, finally, why would you believe, as Paul does, that a society that so valued its enslavement of others that it would be willing to wage war against its own country and sacrifice the lives of hundreds of thousands of its own in that endeavor would be willing to give up that “privilege” for mere money?

After I posted this at Tumblr, somebody who reposted this wrote, “And you do know the Civil War wasn’t fought to free the slaves, right?” That’s an interesting non-sequiter, no? The paradox in the question is that he or she is correct; the Civil War was not fought by the north to free the slaves, while it was fought by the south to preserve slavery.

(Picture stolen from The Atlantic)

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Administration Preparing to Cave on Civilian Trial for KSM

I just sent the following email to the White House:

"I see in the news today that 'President Obama’s advisers are nearing a recommendation that Khalid Sheik Mohammed, the self-proclaimed mastermind of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, be prosecuted in a military tribunal.'

I can't begin to tell you how disappointing this is to me. I knew from your cave-in on telecom immunity during the campaign that you had no commitment to the Bill of Rights, that you considered them something that could be pragmatically bargained away whenever it suited you. Even with that, though, the craveness of this is stunning. You had previously stated that the choice between our security and our ideals was a false choice, and you were right. It's such a shame that you don't have the courage of your convictions. Or perhaps you just really have no convictions."

What adds to the frustration of this is that the President has caved into right wing pressure to abandon his previous position and doing so will not only gain him any points politically, it will hurt him. The Cheney crowd will announce that they had to school the President on how to do the right thing and that this once again proves that he can't be trusted with our nation's security, yadda yadda yadda... In the meantime, he will have taken our country a significant step farther toward a bi-partisan rejection of the constitutional right to due process.
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Tuesday, February 02, 2010

One for the Gipper

Ronald Reagan's 99th Birthday is coming up, so I thought this was as good a chance as any to reprint my "tribute" to him from 2004.

I was going to try to lay off this one, but I can resist no longer. I had largely resisted reading about Reagan for the last week, primarily because I was there in the eighties, I have my memories about what his presidency meant to me, and I had no desire to revisit that time. Then I read this week's Newsweek, and found myself struck by the disconnect between the sum of what the man did as President and the impression people have of him as a President. The sub heading in the feature story says he became one of our "greatest Presidents," but nothing in the article, or in the other articles accompanying it, and certainly not in my memory, supports that. In fact, reading the article, I find myself amazed that the nation survived being lead by a man with such an inability to distinguish fantasy from reality.
"He invented stories and then believed them. He thought trees produced pollution, confusing carbon dioxide with carbon monoxide. Welfare was bad because of a mysterious Chicago 'welfare queen' who drove a Cadillac while on relief. And on and on. His fictions were real to him, which was both touching and somewhat terrifying. According to Reagan biographer Lou Cannon, Colin Powell, then the national-security adviser, used to cringe when Reagan would trot out his "little green men" theory, the idea being that extraterrestrial life might one day attack us and force the nations of the globe to get along. A fine sentiment, if more than a little disconcerting coming from a president with control of the nuclear codes."
This review, remember, comes in an article describing him as a great president, by a writer clearly in Reagan's thrall. And there's more. Annual deficits hit previously unimagined levels while he was in office and the National debt tripled under Reagan. And he was, at best, indifferent to the poor.
"Though Reagan was a soft touch for individual stories of pain or misfortune, the poor fared badly in the 1980s, and too many Americans of color felt left out. Seemingly oblivious, the president prided himself on his belief that he was without prejudice, often telling an anecdote about how his father would refuse to stay in a hotel that refused to accept Jews or blacks. But that story did not translate into compassion for those left out of the American Dream Reagan so cherished. In truth, he was probably as conflicted as many white Americans on questions of race and generosity. Because he did not hate, he could not see how his ambivalence (about preferences, about spending on the poor, about police misconduct or homelessness) could appear to others as indifference???or, worse, outright hostility. There is no question, however, that it did appear precisely that way to millions of Americans, and Reagan of all people should have known that appearances can be much the same as reality. He should have done better by those on the fringes of his fabled 'shining city on a hill.' For them, stirring words were not enough."
And then there was his foreign policy. People can and will debate forever just how instrumental Reagan was in contributing to the collapse of the Soviet Union. I don't doubt he deserves some credit, but I am unable to give him more credit, as his accolytes are wont to do, than Gorbachev. Even if Reagan deserves all the credit, though, the collapse of the Soviet Union would still rank as his only significant foreign policy success. Let's look at what else happened on his watch.
The bombing of the Marine barracks in Lebanon. If, as many have proclaimed, America had become ripe for a 9/11 type attack because of the impression that we would not fight, our misadventure in Lebanon contributed to this as much as anything other than Vietnam. When our young men died, we cut and ran. Ironically, that probably was the right thing to do. The wrong thing to do was to have been there in the first place, with no clear mission. Hmmm. Got a sense of deja vu there.
Iraq. By now the photos of a younger but no less vile Donald Rumsfeld shaking hand with Saddam (if you know what I mean) have become almost iconic. The stories that George Bush repeatedly has told about Saddam being a mass murderer who has slaughtered thousands of his own people and used chemical weapons on his own people and in combat are true. And much of this happened while Ronald Reagan was president, while George H.W. Bush was Vice-President (most of the rest of such incidents happened when Bush 41 was President), and while Reagan's administration was cozying up to Saddam, with full knowledge of his brutal crimes, because of our animosity toward Iran.
Ah, Iran. Perhaps the single most memorable accomplishment of Reagan's presidency was the "neat" scam whereby we sold arms to Iran to finance the Contra rebels in Nicaragua. I cannot adequately describe the visceral reaction I had when I first heard this. Our relationship with Iran was dicey, to say the least. They were, if not our enemies, as close as you can get to that status. Along with many other Americans I was still sickened by the memories of the hostages held by the Iranians until the eve of Reagan's inauguration. And these were the people we chose to sell arms to in order to finance another illegal venture in Central America.
Central America. In El Salvador and Guatemala we found ourselves backing repressive right wing regimes that were friendly to our business interests and hostile to "leftist" insurgents. This has been our pattern in Latin America for over a century. It's just that while Reagan was President we were particularly busy in a relatively small area. And those we supported ended up, as is so often the case, on the wrong side of history. The governments of those countries, and the militias supporting them relocated, tortured, and murdered tens of thousands of people. Four American nuns and Archbishop Romero have come to symbolize the murders in El Salvador, because a government that could slay such people was seen as particularly vile, as the government was. And the Reagan administration unapologetically supported it. There were no such iconic murders in Honduras, but the US supported regime there was no less brutal.
And finally, Nicaragua, the other end of the Iran-Contra scandal. The Soviet backed Sandinistas took power in 1979 and they became one of Reagan's favorite bogeymen. in language that foreshadowed the supposed ability of Saddam to launch a rocket attack against the US, Reagan actually expressed concern that the Sandinistas were less than a day away from the beaches of Texas. Congress, considerably less overwrought than the President about this putative threat, forbade the use of US funds to support the Contra rebels, who were primarily reconstituted Somoza supporters. That's when the scheme to support the Contras though the proceeds of arms sales was hatched. At best, this scheme was designed to skirt the law. At worst, it violated the law and I don't think any honest man doubts that Reagan knew about and authorized it. It was, and should have been pursued as, an impeachable offence.
You get the drift. I am not only unconvinced that he was among our greatest presidents, I am mystified as to why anybody would believe that of him. And I haven't even mentioned AIDS.
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Friday, May 22, 2009

What They Said

It's been awhile since I've written anything here, particularly anything of any length. I don't wish for my absence to imply that I now believe that with Bush out of the White House all is right with the world. In fact, quite the opposite is true. My worst fears about Obama have actually been surpassed, as he has largely adopted some of Bush's worst practices when it comes to preventive dentention, military commissions, abuse of the "state secrets" doctrine and attempts to squelch, both here and abroad, evidence of his predecessor's torture regime, etc. We got a hint that this might be coming last year during the campaign when he reversed his position on retroactive FISA immunity for the telecoms. A "constitutional scholar" Obama may be, but he's no civil libertarian. I could rant here almost daily about these things, but I don't, partly because even during the flushest of times I've never had more than a dozen readers here and, at least as importantly, because Glenn Greenwald, Digby, and yes, Andrew Sullivan, already have this all pretty well covered. So go there to keep up on the latest on the civil liberties catastrophe that the Obama administration has become.
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