Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Right Wing Terrorism. . .or not

Early on in the Obama Administration, the Department of Homeland Security released a document written during the Bush Administration that warned of terrorist acts by right-wing extremists. Republicans immediately went into a frenzy, and the Obama Administration withdrew the report (something we have seen time and time again).

That's a shame, not just because it showed that the Obama Administration would back down if challenged, but also because the report is right. Extreme views will provoke extreme action from both the right and the left wings of the political spectrum. In my lifetime, I have seen terrorists acts by right-wingers against abortion clinics, doctors, and federal buildings. Left-wingers, as Bogart will certainly attest to, have burned down buildings, destroyed SUV's, and other nefarious acts.

So, why write this post? Terrorism is bad, of course, and everyone agrees with it. Why? Because of this video.

Yeah, its his daughter and all, but Steve King, a Republican congressman has openly sympathized with this guy. Let's be clear - Stack took up arms against his country, and killed someone. Stack may have felt put upon, but he did not have any right to kill people. If he was having difficulties with the IRS, he could have hired a tax attorney. They do good work.

In other words, Stack isn't a hero, or a sympathetic figure, he's a traitor who took up arms against his country and killed a guy. He should be condemned as such.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

On Evan Bayh

I spent the last few days thinking about what to write on Valentine's Day, and came this close to posting some screed about my ex-fiancee, which would have been completely unproductive, whiny, and boring. Luckily, my fair reader, one of my favorite Senators (and I mean that in the most sarcastic way possible), announced he wasn't going to run for reelection. So without further ado, let me eulogize Evan Bayh.

In the past 10-15 years, there has never been a bigger waste of anyone's time like Evan Bayh. During his time in the Senate, Evan Bayh was a "leader" of the "Centrist" Democrats, who believed that the way to electoral success was to cave to the Republican Party at every possible moment. Shockingly, this strategy seemed to work for Indiana, but it didn't anywhere else (which isn't such a surprise - when given the choice between one candidate who espouses a coherent political ideology, and another who gives into the same ideology while whining about it, people tend to choose the former and not the later). So, Bayh tended to do what other Centrist Dems do - he went on "Meet the Press," complained about partisanship, and ignored the disasters his appeasement strategy caused.

Worst of all, for a guy who was relatively young, talented, and popular, Evan Bayh failed to lead, ever. For you political junkies out there, I ask you to name one, just one, policy initiative that Evan Bayh lead. Seriously, is there any? I checked out his Wikipedia entry, and found nothing. Now here's a guy who was seriously considered for Obama's VP, and in twelve years, he hasn't lead on anything.

So, I can't say its entirely shocking that Bayh decided, rather than trying to lead the Senate away from the hyperpartisanship he decried, to quit the Senate and whine about it. Naturally, all the blame will be on the dirty hippies like me (who, by the way, have been right about the following issues: Iraq, health care reform, the economic stimulus, Bush's tax cuts, torture, and education reform), rather than blaming Bayh for quitting a job he clearly never wanted.

One of the rumors floating out there is that Bayh is preparing to run against Obama in 2012, and that's why he's quitting the Senate. If that's true, then Bayh isn't just useless, but also insane. Primary challenges only work when the incumbent is viewed as moving too far from the Party line. Of the two, Obama is clearly more popular among Democrats than Bayh because he actually shares their political views. The Centrists that Bayh purports to represent don't vote in party primaries. See Joe Lieberman's 2004 Presidential Campaign.

So, I'm not exactly weeping over the loss of Bayh, per se. On the other hand, his timing pretty much fucked over the Dems, and gave Obama another week of bad press. Naturally, Bayh will be a hero of the DC press (the same people who cheered the invasion of Iraq, torture, and other atrocities), and my big prediction is that Bayh will be a big whiner for the rest of his term. Good times, good times.

See, this post was much better than whining about my ex.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Why Sarah Palin Won't Win The Presidency. . .

Watch as much as this video as you possibly can

I had to turn it off after the very first sentence. The taunt, "how's that hopey changey stuff working out for ya?" infuriates me beyond reason. Now granted, that's what a good taunt is supposed to do, but in this case, the taunt is completely unnecessary. Its an attack on my principles, on my beliefs, and I'm not even in the room. Rather than take the high road, Palin decided to take a shot not just at Obama, but at his supporters. It was meant as an insult, and I take it as such.

Of course, this isn't the first time Palin went out of her way to attack voters. In her nomination speech, she took delight in attacking community organizers. Now, say what you will about Obama, and his experience, but community organizers work their asses off, for very little money, to improve our country. Fuck you Sarah, I was a community organizer.

Now, prior to that speech, I rooted for Obama on the sidelines. I wrote blog articles about the race, followed the news, but that was about it. Within 24 hours of that speech, I had given Obama $100, and signed up to volunteer on his campaign. And that's why Sarah Palin, no matter how bad things are in 2012, will not win the Presidency - like so many of my fellow liberals, I hate this woman and I hate her because I know that the feeling is mutual. She views me and others like me with contempt - we are dilettantes at best, traitors at worst. Apparently, I'm not even a real American.

Now, its not like I would have voted for Palin anyway, but let's be clear - if Palin is on the ballot, there's no way in hell I'm not voting for Obama, and there's no way I'm not donating time and money to his campaign. And so long as Palin takes joy in taking pot shots at people like me, I won't be alone in that.

Monday, February 8, 2010

On Interrogations. . .

I've written about interrogations before, specifically related to torture, but with the Christmas bomber thing ongoing, I felt the need to comment on the idiocy coming from the Republicans on the Hill. The more and more I hear from these guys, the more I realize that they don't care about truth or policy, but rather, are only interested in scoring political points.

So, here's the reality. The Christmas Bomber is in FBI custody, was Mirandized, and like almost all suspects, HE IMMEDIATELY BEGAN SINGING LIKE A CANARY. No waterboarding, no stress positions, and no smearing him with fake menstrual blood was necessary. The only time the guy stopped talking was when he was under sedation for some kind of medical procedure.

Now, you might ask, how did the Feds get the guy to talk? In reality, the question is, how does anyone not talk to the Feds? Like all law enforcement personnel, FBI agents are expert interrogators (or, at least, the guys interrogating terrorists are) who excel in getting confessions from people who they warn not to say anything. The dance of interrogation is a complex one, but this is pretty much all these guys do. And the suspects thank their interrogators when all is said and done.

Its these interrogators that scare the hell out of Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. When the Bush Administration was torturing suspects, Al Qaeda could use the whole thing as propaganda, and knew that the tortured would resist by lying to their captors. The information would be shitty.

But the interrogation of the Christmas Bomber is a total nightmare. Here's a guy who willingly strapped a bomb to his junk (for lack of a better word), because he had nothing to live for, and the Feds got him talking in a couple of hours. And since he wasn't tortured, the information he's giving is as accurate as can be. So, if the Feds can get one of the most dedicated to sing, imagine what they can do to someone who's less dedicated (i.e., not willing to strap explosives to his balls).

So, by all means criticize Obama for a fair number of things, but let's lay off the whole interrogation thing. For once, interrogations are back in the hands of guys who know what they're doing.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

I think I have Obama figured out. . .

As I ride the train back to San Diego from Orange County (a great way to travel, by the way), I have had time to ponder about Obama during the past few weeks. I’ve often wondered: what the hell is this guy thinking? And I’ve filled this blog with discussions about the failures in health care, etc.

But after the State of the Union and the “question time” deals, I think I finally figured it out. Obama is, at heart, a classicist, and he wants to restore the Republic. Now, this might sound a bit out of “I, Claudius” but hear me out. For the past several decades, the power of the Federal Government has increasingly been concentrated in the hands of the Executive. Not only is the President the Commander in Chief, and running the operations of government, but he’s also pushing legislation, dictating budgets, and otherwise controlling Congress. This concentration of power was most evident under the Bush Administration which, under the theory of the unitary Executive, acted more or less with impunity, and Congress went along with it.

Obama’s actions have shown an interest in changing the dynamic to an earlier time when the Administration might set the agenda, but lets Congress legislate. Thus, to my great annoyance, Obama has left Congress up to its own devices on health care reform. Unfortunately, Democrats are by nature disorganized, and so this approach only makes things worse. But it appears that Obama is trying to strengthen Congress by purposely not stepping in. At least, I hope that’s what he’s doing.

This reestablishment of the Congressional independence also appears to be in line with Obama’s empowerment of the independent regulatory bodies. Under Bush, regulatory agencies were told, more or less, to fall in line with Bush’s conservative ideology. So the EPA refused to regulate Greenhouse gases, even after a conservative Supreme Court issued an order requiring it to do so. And that’s just one example of many. Anyway, Obama’s Administration has quietly gone about reestablishing the independence of these agencies.

Ironically, at the same time Obama is trying to devolve power from the Presidency, the power of the federal government is expanding due to the financial ruin of the economy. And typically, power is concentrated in the hands of an executive during moments of crisis. The takeaway here is that the whole thing is one big mess because Obama is trying to buck way too many trends at once.

Still, one can appreciate what he’s trying to do. When the U.S. government was perfected in the Constitution, there were three equal co-branches of government for a reason. It would be nice to go back to that.