Monday, January 31, 2011

"History Makes Fools of Us All"

It is good to know that, concerning the events in Egypt, there are a few folks out their with their rational thinking hats on. While it ain't all about us, we play an important role, and that role directly affects our nation. It is time to take a serious and sober look at the real effect our policies and diplomacies have on the world. Because:

It’s quite possible that if Mubarak had not ruled Egypt as a dictator for the last 30 years, the World Trade Center would still be standing.

Ouch. (HT: The Daily Dish.)

Good thing this guy is conservative, because if he were a liberal, he'd be accused of riding on the "hate-America-and-blame-us-for-everything" train. (I mean, hell, some individuals are already linking the protests to the onward march of Kenyan-anti-colonial-Sharia-Marxist-fascism, hating America can't be far behind.)

It is a delicate subject, after all. Just look at the confusion many Americans seem to be feeling, since they are unsure which "side" to support in Egypt. Who is doing what, how does America play a part in all this?

The last is, of course, the most complicated due to our cultural fear of introspection. No one wants to remember the US role in Cuba's history; or Iran's; or Iraq's; or Afganistan's or any of those places now that another international client of our tax-dollars is facing another popular revolt. We just like to have bad guys and good guys, and shame on History if it can't be more cut-and-dry than that.

Hell, this thing should be wrapped by now anyway, the 15 minutes of fame over, allowing our national narrative to declare us the liberator/conquerer/victims of something so we can compartmentalize it to the dustbin of national memory of vague recollection of grainy news footage and future "remember when" specials, and get back to the new season of American Idol.

Pesky reality.

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Saturday, January 29, 2011

Fake Ass History

Someday, someone's going to have to explain to me what Michelle Bachmann is talking about when she claims America's founders worked tirelessly to end slavery. (Starting at 1.05 on the video, till about 2.20.) Someone's also going to have to explain to me why the Tea Party operatives cannot seem to explain why she is saying the things she says. Simple question, really.

Did the Founders end slavery? No. They included the ability of already-free people to govern themselves, and built in the mechanisms to expand the idea of freedom to others. But on the slavery question, at that moment? They punted. It does not insult their memory to state the fact that they were men of their time, with weaknesses and sins commonplace at the time.

People who think otherwise are caught up in the romanticism of history, and being fooled by it. Or worse, trying to fool people with it.

Which is why I think that Tea Party spokesman kept trying to change the subject because he didn't want to say that stuff on air from his own mouth. He is committed to the revision of history, from the real dirty messy history we own to the clean, shiny utopia that puts campaign donations in his coffers. Another simple answer, to be sure.

Yeah, Matthews is a fiery interviewer who always swings for the fences, but when he connects (and he absolutely did in this case) he knocks that sucker out of the park.

And, yeah, people are riled up about it. And it ain't just "the left."*

They should be. This latest blatant confusion of actual US History with "shit-that-didn't-happen" is becoming more and more the norm. I'm tired of all these political leaders trying to fool America about some utopian past that never happened.

That's why some folks took notice when these clowns up and read a fake version of the US Constitution, as some sort of Congressional pep rally, ignoring things that actually went on in this country.

You can't write the 3/5's Compromise out of the Constitution. You can't write slavery out of American History. Those who try deserve nothing better than our scorn.

Of course, you could simply assume that the 3/5ths Compromise was the Founders' attempt to end slavery......because I guess they voted for it in order to end it...or something.

(* Unless, of course, "the right" draws a circle around themselves and considers anyone who disagrees with them "left wing.")

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Friday, January 28, 2011

One Man

I'll write more about the international stuff once we see what happens. History is being written right now, maybe in a way we haven't seen since 1989. While it unfolds, and you watch the passions of people yearning to be free struggle against the yoke of those who would curtail their liberty, ask yourself what effect can one man have on the world?

For this is what the blood of patriots and of tyrants looks like in real time. Why must the cost always be so high?

Will this just be another false dawn, forcing the United States again into the realm of realpolitik to protect our interests? Or we be able to come down on the side of true freedom as our moral compass demands? It is time we start looking very deeply at our own motivations, and perhaps even our own complicity in keeping things the way that they are.

For we will not decide the outcome here. Perhaps that is for the best.

And, yes, I choose my words carefully. The very fabric of my being as an American and a Southerner knows the meaning when I see images of a people on a bridge, praying in the face water cannons, tear gas and police batons.

I don't need to think too long to realize where I've seen that before.

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Dancing With the Streetcar That Brung Ya

Here is a nice write up about the dynamics of mass transit. (HT: Jeffrey) But while author Jeff Schwartz is absolutely right in an altruistic sense, he's not looking at things like a cold-blooded sausage maker.

What do we want? Streetcars and mass transit connecting neighborhoods around New Orleans; viable transportation alternatives that make economic sense.

What did we have? Two and a half streetcar lines.

What are we supposed to get? One-and-three-quarters more streetcar lines than we had previously (half on Loyola Ave, half on Elysian Fields, and a long run down Rampart/St. Claude).

So why not run the line all the way down Rampart/St. Claude, into neighborhoods that desperately need investment and populations that need better transportation? Why run a costly spur down Elysian Fields to the River?

Because that's where Frenchman Street, with its famous nightlife drawing folks from all over the city, can be found. Because Elysian Fields-at-the-River is the door into the part of the French Quarter where you want to be. Because there is a money-generating city region that is already developed and sitting right there, and the powers that be want to squeeze. This don't rocket surgery to figure out.

Because without the spur down Elysian Fields, no streetcar line runs down Rampart/St. Claude in the near future, period. This conversation regarding development options remains academic, dreaming of what could be if only. But they ARE running that spur down Elysian Fields, which means we increase our streetcar activity in very meaningful ways.

And maybe, when people see how this works, extending the lines all the way down Rampart/St. Claude to the IHNC, and all the way up Elysian Fields to the lake, won't look like such big risks for the city to take.

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Thursday, January 27, 2011

Somebody Your Mama'd Be Proud Of

Oh, to have a chunk of one's philosophy summed up by a comment on a thread dedicated to SEC fan zealotry that gets into a conversation about the Rebel flag. I know what you're expecting. But check this out from "haveagreatday":

This is quite a robust conversation. here's my take on the flag

we don’t need to fly the battle flag to celebrate our Southern heritage. As many here have pointed out, the battle flag is too bound up in the problems of slavery and the subsequent intolerance of Jim Crow to be flown without referencing those evils. They cannot be effectively separated and the battle flag is lost to history. Let it stay buried there.

The way you celebrate your Southern heritage, that is, what separates this region from the rest of the country, is by living out those values that make the South special. Cherish your family, spend time across generations, stay rooted in a place (I am the 7th generation of a group too foolish or proud or both to leave to Natchez, MS. My daughter represents the 8th generation of my family to be born and raised in here. We have lived in this county for 225 years, some in the same houses for over 100 years), recognize the romanticism of history but do not be fooled by it, help out your neighbor, go to church, give when you can to those who need it more than you do. I’ve said this before in a similar thread, that although the South has much to atone for, the good things of the South make it great. The good things about the South are why we are proud to be Southern. And that’s how you celebrate it, by exemplifying the good things. By being somebody your mama would be proud of. You don’t need a flag for that.


Recognize the romanticism of history but do not be fooled by it. We could all use a dose of that once in a while.

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Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Infrastructure and Spending

Jeffrey at the Yellow Blog rightly points out that the American Society of Civil Engineers has given the cumulative state of American infrastrucutre an "approaching basic" grade. And like the post says:

Failing infrastructure cannot support a thriving economy.

This is one of those fundamental things that Americans don't like to acknowledge. Everyone is wondering why the economy is having such a hard time turning around; then they're wondering why air travel is such a hassle, rail travel doesn't work, gasoline prices change and keep investors skittish, and the streets we drive are cratered with potholes. At the same time our economy bleeds money to traffic, and icy weather shuts down Southern economies unprepared to deal with snow. And that's before we start talking energy grids, levees, and the way we fund all of these projects.

Why is it so difficult to make the connections between the sluggish economy and the state of disrepair? Without working roads, you can't move your goods to market, and people can't get to the market to buy your goods. This should be a simple concept to grasp. But politics and ideologies have taken center stage, ahead of national, regional and local needs. You know all the talk of leaving debt to our children and grandchildren? We ain't leaving them a whole lot of usable stuff, either.

Now, there are a lot of folks out there who think we can grow our way into prosperity, and think spending money on infrastructure is solely the realm of pork-barrell politics. But without the infrastructure to support "growth," we'll never get out of the trough we're in (and have been in for more than a decade). Investments must be made, and we can't let those who equate the idea of sustainable development with Marxism dominate the investment options we have to examine.

Yes, too many past infrastructure projects have been politicized as pork, and used to trade political favors. That needs to stop. Lest we forget, this country has spend billions on "infrastructure" in the past decades, even as everything has fallen apart. Maybe it is time to think about the National Infrastructure Bank, because what we've currently got isn't working.

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A Note About Spending Cuts...

Spending cuts seem to be the global order of the day. It's very fashionable. It's very en vogue. You could even argue that it's very necessary. But all of the implementations I've seen seem to be very short-sighted, top-down approaches. The money will simply disappear from budgets and those in charge of the budgets are expected to make it work anyway. That's not a real long-term solution to budget cuts.

Take education for example. We spend a lot more in the state of Georgia on education than we did a decade ago. But where is that money now? Part of it is paying for updated facilities. Part of it is paying for our post-No Child Left Behind testing requirements. These aren't things you can just yank the rug out from under.

The answer to cutting the budget is to analyze what we are spending and come up with a plan to decrease that over time. We can't just cut our testing funding this year to pre-NCLB levels, but in a 5-year plan we can probably make reasonable progress.

The biggest failing of government budgeting is that budgets are set in reaction to current economic conditions rather than in anticipation of future economic conditions. Busts follow booms but the government continually gets blind-sided by the bust because they were too busy increasing their operating costs to what the economy could bear during the boom. We do need to cut spending, but the answer is to find a budget model that is sustainable during both economic extremes and that requires thinking past what will get our elected officials into office again. So sadly, it'll never happen.

Republican Response Notes

I have my notes on the Republican response. I know it's a shorter speech, but I was surprised by the complete absence of foreign policy. I also think Ryan missed an opportunity to use current events in the UK to take shots at Obamacare (which isn't really a fair comparison but would likely have enough traction to stick). I felt like I was reading a remake of 1994.

-Good, tell us who you are because for the most part we really don't know.
-Leads with obligatory shooting,
-Goes to spending. Likes what Obama is saying there.
-Cut spending. You know... for kids.
-Slams Obama spending and ties stimulus to unemployment.
-Mixing fiscal responsibility and slams health care law for about a page.
-New vision. Forward not backwards. Always be twirling...
-Limited governement good
-Smaller gov't = effective gov't
-Regarding government spending growth: Act now. Supplies running out.
-Europe already in trouble and raising taxes and cutting benefits (This is largely untrue. The UK, Ireland and Greece are making up budget shortfalls larely by cutting spending which is only partially tied to benefits.)
-Washington and Wall St caused current financial mess
-Limited gov't good (in case you forgot from earlier)

More Streetcars

Please let this be true.

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Tuesday, January 25, 2011

State of the Union Notes

I don't actually listen to State of the Union addresses but I do read the transcript. Here are my notes:

-Congratulates new Congress
-Obligatory shooting tragedy mention
-Recites plot synopsis of the 1986 Michael Keaton film Gung Ho
-Obligatory Kennedy quote (Robert, not John F)
-Using a space race comparison, Obama champions his budget which savagely defunds NASA
-Reinventing ourselves through renewable energy for approximately 10 paragraphs
-Education segue to Race to the Top plug
-Repsect teachers
-Make tuition loan subsidies permanent
-Makes hazy point about educating illegals. (If the problem is that we're sending them back after they get their degrees, then why not just send them back before they get them?)
-We should take on illegal immigration but not clear on how
-Infrastructure sucks
-High speed rail good
-High speed wireless internet good
-Simplify tax code
-Willing to work with anyone on altering new health care legislation as long as it doesn't involve any acutal compromise
-Cut spending
-Richest 2% rambling
-Make gov't spending info accessible
-troops troops troops troops troops
-Chilean miners rescued by American
-State of Union is strong

Overall, not too shabby once you get past the Gung Ho bit, but I'm still very upset that the President who is killing our mission back to the moon (and by extension any hope we have of reaching Mars) dares mention the space race. The Russians are running live Mars simulations as we speak.

Like Lambs to the Slaughter

Oh, isn't feudalism beautiful? In such a system, the people at fault can always reap the rewards of position, while asking those who work for them to do impossible tasks without adequate resources. And deny them those resources for years, even when told again and again what is needed to do the job right. Even evidence of these warnings seems no defense.

Then, if something happens, they fire those who work for them and flay them in the court of public opinion. Nothing is learned. The next group of workers steps up to do an impossible task without adequate resources, but the good times roll on for those at the top.

Local. Politics. Matter.

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Government Did Not Do That

David Frum writes a State of the Union I can believe in. It is like a real conservative trying to explain liberal pragmatism to right-wingers who don't want to believe it and left wingers who don't want to hear it.

I'd love to hear some of this tonight. We need the injection of reality.

And a healthy dose of why "the right" owns the discussion about fiscal policy.

Both links HT: Daily Dish.

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Monday, January 24, 2011

Water Word Problems

Pay attention, students, there will be a test at a later time. Or, at least, there will be news media asking "who is to blame?"

Let's see if we can get a figure that out before it shows up in your living room. Say you have a water-holding object. You have one device that puts water into the object, and one device that takes water out of the object.

If the device taking water out of the object moves slower than the devices putting water into the object, what would you expect to happen?

Exactly.

Now, what type of weather pattern might cause a great deal of need for water to be moved from one place to another in a short amount of time? What region of the nation experiences this type of weather activity?

Y'all have been paying attention, class! Good job!

Bonus question, from the Fix the Pumps post: You have one Federal entity removing water from the object, and three Local entities putting water into the object. The Federal entity tells the local entities to stop putting water into the object. How do you think the local entities will respond?

Where does the water go if the local entities cannot put it into the object designed to hold the water?

Points will be awarded based on creativity and accuracy. Discuss.

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Calvinball Theology

Fascinating stuff, and a lot of it.

HT: Daily Dish.

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Sunday, January 23, 2011

The State of Your Seating Arrangement

You know, the "who is sitting where" story regarding the State of the Union address is a cute little distraction. Yeah, some news outlets are making too much of it, just like too many pundits are complaining too much about it. Doing so is just about as silly-political as everyone sitting based on how far to the left or right they are, and the jack-in-the-box applause line behavior that has always been evident in SOTU during my lifetime. Thus, stuff like this has always gone on.

You know what I want to see? The President reinstate the old Jeffersonian tradition of sending someone else to give the speech, in "respect of the separation of powers." That tradition lasted for quite some time, if I recall.

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How to Manufacture Controversy Out of Nothing

You know, I didn't even know the Smithsonian had a major artistic display by homosexual artists. Until the right-wing activated their "Christ in Pee" narrative - you remember that one, dontcha? It exists because of that one time some no-name artist somewhere recieved a small government grant for crappy art that no one would have ever heard of or seen if it hadn't become political.

Anyway, activation of this narrative scared the pants off a Simthsonian curator while he was traveling, and had a piece of negligibly controversial art removed from the exhibit. A small skirmish in the culture wars, to be sure, but the censorship vs. liberals-hate-Jesus conversation always starts up when Congressmen have to start making actual budgetary decisions, and need something else in the papers and editorial pages.

It is like the Breitbart video-splicing racisim-into-a-speech-against-racism firing of Shirley Sherrod. People are now more frightened of right-wing fever dreams and fake controversies than ever. The GOP Gangsta Rap strategy continues unabated.

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Saturday, January 22, 2011

Two Weeks Notice

This is just another example of why we so desperately need tort reform in this country. Courts declaring that energy monopolies have less than 14 days to repair or restore an excavation on a street with high pedestrian traffic is unreasonable in expectation.

If we keep allowing our courts to make such decisions, they will kill the business of every energy monopoly that cannot complete infrastructure repairs in under two weeks! These companies will pack up and leave America for nations that actually like having energy monopolies, and the services and jobs they provide.

Who is John Galt? Will we never learn?

Onward we march towards the Big-Government nanny state, where businesses get punished for success. Won't anybody stand up to the liberal, activist judges who continue to place chains on the free-market idea of competitive energy monopolies?

< / sarcam >

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Stop Digging

If you want to get out of that hole. Or, more specifically, stop talking yourself into an argument that you can't win.

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Friday, January 21, 2011

The Islamic Republicans of New Jersey

The same architects responsible for manufacturing the "Ground Zero Mosque" controversy (which was neither illegal, nor a mosque, nor at Ground Zero, nor controversial when first envisioned) are now furious with New Jersey Governor Chris Christie (R) for turning New Jersey into a hotbed of terrorist sympathy under the yoke of Sharia law.

Not my words, theirs.

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Thursday, January 20, 2011

Left-Wing Narratives: Everything Was Fine Until...

Michael Lind is no left-winger, but after reading a recent article of his, it appears that he is a subscriber to one of the left-wing's most prevalant narratives. Lind falls into the same category of many left- and right-wing elite, especially those who cannot seem to reconcile the positions of others who do not agree with them 100%. Thus is the burden of already knowing everything.

You know how they know this? Because in the past, back when everyone who mattered "agreed" with them (the idea that they could be picking and chosing the agreement of historical figures to their personal philosophy never seems to be taken into account), the world was a far better, almost utopian, place. Just look at the state of things today, and how much better off we'd be if we had continued what was working!

Sound familiar? It should. There is an almost identical past-as-utopia streak running through the right-wing. (I'm not surprised that Lind is described as a "former" neoconservative.) But we can't ignore the danger of the same narrative running through the DNA of the left.

The main difference with the left's version is the understanding of what and where that utopian past specifically went off the rails. Lind fairly nails this current: Everything Was Fine Until The Christians Showed Up (In the 1970's). To many a leftist, society's fall from the rational advance of rational reason can be explained rationally as a result of irrational Christianity's rise to political power some time after 1970.

Because, the narrative tells us, lots of people in this country were Christians in the past, but they weren't very Christian-y. Not like today, anyway. Religion didn't have a very large impact on policy or history, the narrative goes, except as a foil for the forces of rationalism to defeat. The forces of irrational religion never won against the reasonable arguments of rational behavior, until something went wrong in the very recent past.

Oh, and this switch was made without any rational reason, because every scientific advance experienced in American history never had a consequence that was bad, ever.

This very recent and shocking rise of religion over rationality is an exception to the historical rule. Though it does explain, to the left-wing mind, the following things:

1. Why people disagree with their rational beliefs in the first place;
2. Why people vote against their own interests, making their disagreements policy;
3. Why the most left-wing candidates lose elections to dumb people voting against their own interests;
4. Why people who disagree with them should just shut their stupid mouths as not to encourage the dumb people who vote against their interests;
5. Why the only recourse is to make fun of those who disagree - there's nothing that can be done except withdraw into circles of similar thought and maybe throw a protest every now and again to compare witty and ironic signs.

With all that in play, I can tell you that the left doesn't have a problem losing elections because the "dumb people" are "irrationally" voting against their interests. The left loses elections because they subscribe to this narrative, and don't see the value in understanding why voting against their policies can be seen by large numbers of voters as the most rational thing to do.

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Blight, Property Owners & Politics

I've said it before and I'll say it again.

You may associate blighted, run down and derelict propterties with economically depressed, at risk, and racially isolated neighborhoods. But in truth, there is always some much more invested individual or organization that owns these properties and is not being held accountable for their state of disrepair.

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The Local Files

Editor B examines Karen Gadbois' internet activism, and how one person can affect positive change locally through dedication and unconventional means.

Karen is an inspiration. Every time I post something about national politics or culture, I feel like I'm not doing my "job" of affecting change in my own city or state. National politics are easier to follow and write opinions for because they are far away. You don't change anything by doing so.

Going after the local sacred cows and aristocracy like Karen does? That's heroic.

I wouldn't have believed it if I hadn't watched it unfold in real-time.

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Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Atlanta Schools on Probation

Speaking of Southern Schools, and the problems that they face, Atlanta's squabbling School Board has landed their whole system on probation. One thing they have to do is get a professional mediator to run their meetings and communications.

For those of you in New Orleans who may be wondering "probation from what," it is probation from the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). That's the organization that accredits a school system. In other places, accreditation is a very big deal. In Jefferson Parish, accreditation is a very big deal. For the Archdiocese of New Orleans, accreditation is a very big deal.

For New Orleans Public Schools? Not so much.

So while I congratulate the Recovery School District for getting one (1) of their schools accredited (Eisenhower), I dare you to ask anyone at the other 87 RSD schools what their plan is.

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Integration As Social Engineering

At least, according to the Tea Party of North Carolina. (HT: Maitri)

So, what is it, folks? School choice works until at-risk students are able to choose or are placed in the affluent suburban schools? When that happens, we go back to districts and neighborhood schools, which could concentrate at risk student populations? And this is justified because the previous system, with real flaws to be sure, is some sort of "social engineering" forced upon you by "radical leftists."

And critics expressed alarm that the plan would create a handful of high-poverty, racially isolated schools, a scenario that the new majority has begun embracing.

Pope, who is a former state legislator, said he would back extra funding for such schools.

"If we end up with a concentration of students underperforming academically, it may be easier to reach out to them," he said. "Hypothetically, we should consider that as well."
(Emphasis HR.)

So, to address the problem of "diluting" the at-risk populations into adequately resourced schools, the idea is to "concentrate" the at-risk populations in racially isolated schools, to make them easier to identify and recieve additional resources.

Because in all my time in the South, the at-risk, economically depressed, racially isolated schools always recieved the resources they needed to adequately educate their students. < / dripping, biting sarcasm > It it weren't for those radical leftist social engineers, everything would be fine.

Maybe if those schools had actually recieved adequate resources in the first damn place, there wouldn't be a need for all this legally-mandated integration "social engineering" to address the very real inequalities that resulted from the previous system that concentrated at-risk populations in racially isolated schools as a matter of policy.

It was called Jim Crow.

Maybe you've heard of it.

Our nation just celebrated a holiday in rememberance of the most beloved leader of the movement that consigned that national moral failure to the shameful dust bin of history.

That's the reason there was a Civil Rights Movement. That's the reason we have legally mandated integration. That's the reason cultural and economic integration has not happened on a larger scale, nor as organically as we Americans like to tell ourselves it would: because of educational disparities resulting from specific policies of the past that continue replicating the legacy of that shameful past with each successive generation.

That's the reason the libertarian wet-dream utopia of American history sets dangerous precedent - the market was left alone and changed nothing for nearly a this nation's entire scope of history. Despite every economic incentive to integrate. Despite every economic incentive to liberalize and rapidly expand education to include all Americans.

And the folks responsible or advocating this retroactive change can wash their hands of the inherent racism of these policies all they want - I'll take them at their word that the policies they want to enact aren't done so with a hint of racism in their own conscious thoughts.

Bless their hearts, they aren't racists, they're just jaw droppingly ignorant of their own national history. We've been down this road before, and it didn't work.

Hell, we're still traveling down this road in many parts of the country, and especially in the South. Imagine how dynamic our regional economy would be with a highly moderately reasonably educated population? We're still dealing with the concentrated poverty, racial targeting and inadequate educational opportunities every day on the streets. Especially in the South.

Does your current system have flaws? I'm sure it does. Nothing is perfect, and we Americans have the ability to constantly make changes for the better. There's nothing wrong with that.

My problem comes from the idea that the current way of doing things doesn't have a starting point. Espeically when the popular remedy to what ails you is to resurrect the policies that the current system was constructed to correct. Not only that, but resurrect the policies whose legacy directly caused the problems your current system is experiencing.

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. If it is broke, try not to fix it by doing whatever it was broke it in the first damn place.

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Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Neoconservative Fantasy Life

This weekend when I wrote about Tunisia, I wondered how long it would take Neoconservatives to start taking credit for the Tunisian people's revolt.

Back home, failed neoconservatives - architects of our failures in Iraq, Iran and Afganistan - will point to the recent and ongoing Iraq war as the catalyst for the Tunisian revlot. "See!" They will say, "that's what happens when democracy is spread."


Some may see this as prescient, but this is easy to predict. After all, this train is never late.

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Left-Wing Narratives: The Military Industrial Complex

Was Eisenhower a peacenik, darkly hinting that Pentagon insiders and defense contractors would secretly lead America to war every chance they got?

Probably not. Though his Presidential farewell is often quoted, it is done so for the one line - not the realism, pragmatism, internationalism, context and optimism it beautifully displays. Section IV of the address is where you will find the quote, along with these:

A vital element in keeping the peace is our military establishment. Our arms must be mighty, ready for instant action, so that no potential aggressor may be tempted to risk his own destruction.
...
We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals, so that security and liberty may prosper together.
...
The prospect of domination of the nation's scholars by Federal employment, project allocations, and the power of money is ever present--and is gravely to be regarded.

Yet, in holding scientific research and discovery in respect, as we should, we must also be alert to the equal and opposite danger that public policy could itself become the captive of a scientific-technological elite.


So, I guess if you could simplify the context in which Ike utters the phrase "military-industrial complex," you could simplify the context of his "captive of a scientific-technological elite" quote to undermine both Global Warming and Federal participation in university research.

Those aren't good roads to take for the left-liberal-progressive side of the political aisle. The Slate examination goes further:

As Ledbetter's book shows, Eisenhower had estimable motives too. He feared America might become a "garrison state," as the lingo of the day had it, limiting civil freedoms in the name of one military crisis after another. He resented the skill with which Defense Department brass finagled congressional leaders. Even his obsession with balancing the books, though a product of a pre-Keynesian worldview, had the virtue of keeping him alert to Pentagon bloat. And his warnings about military overreach were couched, it's usually forgotten, in passages insisting on the need for a military of unprecedented size, which Eisenhower called "a vital element in keeping the peace."


Narratives. No matter which side uses them, they dull the wits and focus only on those parts that support a "side" in an argument made today.

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Monday, January 17, 2011

The Blood of Patriots

One favorite quote professed by Tea Partiers and the like was made famous by Thomas Jefferson - "The tree of liberty must from time to time be watered with the blood of patriots and tyrants." It has been used with hyperbole and frequency, in the past several years, to protest the actions of a legally and freely elected government. A legally and freely elected government that, I might add, peaceably transferred power to the opposition after our nation's next scheduled legal and free elections.

One problem I have with such hyperbole and emotional rhetorical devices is the expectation that this now mainstream political participant in American government is somehow working to fight the tyranny of non-representation and oppressive rule that Jefferson was discussing. As if the other mainstream political choice in this nation represents tyranny. A tyranny ironically usurped by the iron grip of voter turnout and bound by law.

My problem exists because, in the not so recent past, patriots have had their actual blood spilled and lives lost while opposing to a system of government that entrenched very real tyranny and refused enfranchisement to American citizens on the basis of skin color. This tyranny and oppression was defended with the hanging rope, torches in the night, arson, bombs, billy clubs, tear gas, fire hoses, and bullets; not to mention the tacit public approval of those methods by a majority of the enfranchised public. Thus had such oppression made its way into the legislation these patriots dared oppose.

The Memphis assassination cannot be considered as an isolated incident in this country or abroad. It will stand with the assassination of President Kennedy, the murder of Medgar Evers in Mississippi, the murder of Malcolm X in New York and the slaying of civil rights workers in the South as a stain on our whole society, a scar which cannot be forgotten. Is this to be the mark of the United States in this second half of the Twentieth Century?


Forgetting the very real trials of this time in American History, or at least subconsciously marginalizing them, has become pervasive in our current political culture. Words matter. Culture matters. History, accurately appraised, matters.

These historical sacrifices are trivialized by a movement of wholly enfranchised and empowered citizens claiming to be oppressed at the hands of a tyrannical government elected by the majority. The Tea Party faces no billy clubs, fire hoses or police dogs. Hooded bands of liberals do not arrive in the night to burn things on their lawns. They have openly carried guns to their rallies, and faced only chiding from the media. Their most popular leaders have used rhetoric far more fiery than the non-violence associated with the most popular and numerous leaders of the Civil Rights era. As a matter of fact, you don't even have to look very far to see the esteem in which fiery Civil Rights era voices are held - you only have to compare the pop culture legacy of Martin Luther King, Jr. to that of Malcolm X. Thus is the difference between the "table of brotherhood" and "by any means necessary."

More telling is the historical fact that neither were allowed to make it out of that era alive.

More insidious, in my opinion, is the attempt to rewrite, revise or erase the history of our recent past. This can be found in the way we politically discuss matters of race in our national discourse. Our Congress just read a sanitized and fake Constitution, removing the controversial parts that speak to the darker and lasting historical legacies of this nation, even as they claim to be "originalists" and Constitutional "constructionists" that politically advance a "return" to the Constitutional values of our nation's Founders - many of whom owned slaves.

Further still is the way certain issues are discussed. Political correctness, an academic attempt to modify the dehumanizing language of Jim Crow and segregation, is now used as a political slur; vernacular for lying or misrepresentation. School choice and states' rights are still used as arguments for policy change, and any attempt to point out the race-based history of such policy is met with outright dismissal. The charges of "racism" and the counter-charge of "crying-racism" have diluted the necessity of our national conversation on race; degenerating that conversation to the farcical exercise of rewriting Huckleberry Finn or intentionally misconstruing the definition of the term "tar baby." Affirmative Action is discussed only in terms of reverse racism, without the acceptance - or even acknowledgement - of the very, very real race-based obstacles to some populations and the very real race-based advantages still in play for other populations. Our schools, finally legally integrated, remain culturally and realistically segregated.

But progress has been made. The blood of these patriots, though seldom celebrated with meaning, was not in vain. I have written this post in a city where the most privileged youth of the nation are unashamedly striving to increase the educational aspirations of the nation's most at-risk youth, despite the politics of those who wrecked the last system or who will wreck the next system. I am seated at a coffee shop where the restrooms are labeled only "Men" and "Women," on a street faced with grand antebellum homes. I have just watched a white woman and a black man introduce themselves to one another in public, and share a table and a conversation without any hint of fear or impropriety. They had replaced a duo of women, also black and white, who had giggled over a shared laptop computer for an hour while studying for the same class at the same local college.

An idyllic scene, without a doubt. A new Norman Rockwell paradigm, where all the issues I have discussed don't necessarily occupy the conscious thoughts. On a holiday all paid for with the blood of patriots, in the course of our grand American experiment.

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Friday, January 14, 2011

Tunisia

This primarily Muslim nation in North Africa just drove out their autocratic leader. Americans, still reeling from Tuscon, may not know what to make of this, but Hillary Clinton fairly spells it out:

"While some countries have made great strides in governance, in many others, people have grown tired of corrupt institutions and a stagnant political order," she said. She appealed for leaders to heed calls to rein in rampant graft and offer all of their people a better way of life.

"Those who cling to the status quo may be able to hold back the full impact of their countries' problems for a little while, but not forever," Clinton said. "If leaders don't offer a positive vision and give young people meaningful ways to contribute, others will fill the vacuum."


This is one of the most mature statements I've heard an American Secretary of State make about the Middle East in almost a decade, and it fairly sums up the situation. How does it affect the United States? Because some of those "others" filling the vaccum happened to be Osama bin Laden.

For a long, long time, the United States ended up supporting too many anti-Democracy autocrats in charge of oil-rich Arab nations in the Middle East. Our intention was strategic control of oil, and democratic institutions might have threatened that. Better to engage a client autocrat to keep the communists at bay than foster democratic sentiment and give them a chance to change government through voting.

In the absence of political enfranchisement, the populations turned to the "others," those selling false religious fundamentalism, that could not be effectively controlled by these nation's autocratic rulers.

Our greatest failures? Our support for the Shah of Iran, our support for the Mujahedeen in Afganistan and our support for Saddam Hussien in Iraq. All decisions which have cost American lives, and have been doing so for decades.

What will happen in Tunisia? Hopefully, a liberalization will occur, and this nation will get to embark on their own experiment with self-government. Hopefully, they will never have to experience a rash of political suicides and riots that come along with internal unrest and self-propelled regime change. Hopefully, the people who just gave their blood for economic and political liberty will not surrender that liberty to tyrants of a religious stripe.

Back home, failed neoconservatives - architects of our failures in Iraq, Iran and Afganistan - will point to the recent and ongoing Iraq war as the catalyst for the Tunisian revlot. "See!" They will say, "that's what happens when democracy is spread."

Do not heed their words, for we do not know how Tunisia will reinvent herself, and we know from experience that neocons would have rather played ball with a corrupt autocrat than with a messy but vibrant democracy. This is what happens when the people choose, not when a government is forced upon them.

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Thursday, January 13, 2011

Tracking Comments

A NOLA.com watchdog site is long overdue. I'm not one for censorship, but something tells me a lot of racist, homophobic, sexist and threatening rhetoric would get squashed with just one easy step: no anonymous commenting.

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Better Levees...

Or a failed and offensive advertising campaign? Community boosterism is one thing, boosterism at the expense of your neighbors' tragedy is another thing entirely. Especially if you have nothing to do with the selling point (the Federal Government builds levees).

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Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Profiling

My first post regarding Tuscon focused on seperating the act itself from the guns that were used and the political rhetoric being discussed. But now, in less than a week, the story has gone from the incident itself and stories of the victims to the way the media victimizes "conservatives." Why do all our news stories end up "victimizing conservatives?"

Let's see if I've got this right, Sarah:

Violent rhetoric from politicians against other politicians? OK.
Military metaphors from politicians against other politicians? OK.
Gun and target graphics in political campaign literature? OK.
Talk of secession? OK.
Demonizing political rivals and their supporters? OK.

Questioning whether any or all of the above contributed to the assassination attempt of a political figure? NOT OK.

Now, did the violent rhetoric drive this shooter to murder a bunch of people? We don't know that, yet. Right now, it is looking like this guy is just one of those men who wants to watch the world burn. But I'm willing to say probably not.

So why, in the first shocked hours as our nation tried to make sense of the tragedy, did there come to be a focus on the violent, vile and destructive political rhetoric of the right-wing? One word answer.

Profiling.

Back it up just a second (I mentioned this on Maitri's post the other day). When almost anything bad happens, and the perpetrator has even a slightly Middle Eastern name, the immediate gut reaction is to blame terrorism from fundamentalist Islam. And then crank up the right-wing "Sharia law is coming to get you" meme. And then blame all followers of Islam, everywhere. Hell, as far as over-politicizing a tragedy is concerned, the right-wing wins this contest going away. And soon after, you hear the calls for "profiling" possible evil doers and the assertation that "political correctness" is leaving us open to terrorism.

So, in a country with our political rhetoric being what it is, where we have faced the real spectre of political violence in the past, when a Democratic congresswoman - a congresswoman who has, in fact, gone on record responding to violent rhetoric, images, threats and vandalism to her person and office - her staff, and bystanders are gunned down by a 22 year old white male, in Arizona of all places, what do you think the immediate, gut-reaction is going to be?

That's profiling. Sorry, folks, you got to dance with the one that brung ya.

Because even more than overblown, violent rhetoric in this country, we have developed a well-honed progress-resistant trait called jumping to conclusions. Then we hold onto those conclusions despite contrary evidence. Or we argue about the initial reaction instead of discussing the contrary evidence.

And even as this story began to move away from the initial political aspects, as any story tends to do, the right grabbed a hold of it from their angle and won't let it go. I wonder how many stories were actually written about Sarah Palin's map being at fault for this shooting compared to how many stories, talk radio segments, and breathless pundit appearances have been made about how those few stories unfairly demonize the right wing? Because all I'm hearing about now is the latter.

Thus: "Democratic Congresswoman, staffers and bystanders shot; actual human beings dead and hurt; right-wing noise machine victimized by media."

Perhaps we should not let the right-wing define the terms of the debate any longer, because they're doing it even here. Y'all, I can't speak for others, but I've been concerned with the overblown, hyperbolic and emotionally overwrought rhetoric of the American right for a long, long time. I don't know how many times I can say it. From a sitting US Senator (R-Texas) politically justifying volence against judges back in 2005, to Sharon Angle's "Second Amendment Remedies," this has become a destructive cultural trait of the political right. And it has been years in the making.

Though there may be large numbers of professional protesters, internet meme creators, and even some candidate also-rans of the Democratic Party that spew vile rhetoric against the right; there may be some ridiculous college students who try to silence Ann Coulter by throwing pies - let us try to remember who is doing what.

But there is a big difference between a cafe-press t-shirt and Rush Limbaugh. There is a difference between a poster at a protest and Candidate for Vice-President of the United States of America Sarah Palin. As a matter of fact, I would state that there is a Mount f ing Everest of difference there, in terms of cultural and political power. And before we start comparing apples to apples, even the right-wing also-rans can become political celebrities if you add guns and promise to kick someone's ass.

So is it a shock that, in the hours following what appeared to be a political shooting, people may look immediately at those who have marketed themselves as gun-toting ass-kickers and literally used target images when describing the specific individual who got shot, so much so that the specific individual who got shot publicly raised concerns about it? Think about it another way, right-wing, this just proves that your marketing works as well as you think it does.

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"Disincentive for Restraint"

I actually saw this link on The Daily Dish yesterday. I wanted to incorporate it into a longer post about American society and culture, but it should stand on its own.

Matt Taibbi of the Rolling Stone looks at our political mania, and his part in it. It is a long read, but worthwhile.

The important quote to me (also nearly the same as from the Daily Dish yesterday):

But while I tell myself all these things, I also know that I would never talk to my wife or my mother the way I talk to Lloyd Blankfein. Is it ever right to just wind up and let someone have it with all you've got? That's a question that I think has to be asked. It's certainly possible that we've all become too used to unrestrained rhetoric as a form of entertainment, and people like me live right in the middle of the guilt parabola there. Most all of us are grownups and can handle extreme argument, but clearly some people are not, and obviously I'm not just talking about Jared Loughner.

To see that, all you have to do is attend almost any family gathering, where once-loving relationships have been completely lost because of the overheated right-left culture war. If real family relationships are being lost to this kind of political debate, if someone on TV can reach into your living room and break up your family without knowing anything about you or even knowing that you exist, that tells us that this mechanized mass-media rhetoric has been almost unimaginably successful at dehumanizing whole classes of people.


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Tuesday, January 11, 2011

They Forgot Huey Long

Other than that, this is something to see.

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"Most States Have Some Firearms Laws"

After the Tuscon shooting, I've been engaged in several conversations, both in person and online, regarding gun laws. I've attempted to recall some of my own knowledge and experience, mostly involving what passes for "gun control debate" in this country. But the vast majority of my participation in this conversation is trying to remember stuff my Dad says. He's something of an expert on Federal gun laws.

When asked for specifics, I've been tempted to call my father up on the phone and ask him. But I fear that conversation will ramble somewhat and drift erroneously into the realm of Notre Dame or Alabama football (Roll Tide).

Then I remembered, the old man has a website that goes over this exact topic.

And uses his typical "teacher's voice" of not assuming prior knowledge of a subject by his readers. Which lead to hilariously sublime statements like the title of this post, or this:

"Violations can result in severe penalties."

Which should probably be incorporated into a demotivational poster, but I digress.

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The Telling Response

After the shooting in Tuscon, we've been treated to yet another episode of American political culture tearing itself apart. Some men just want to see the world burn, and this guy is getting exactly what he wants.

Compare that, if you will, to Egypt's response to their latest round of terrorism.

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Monday, January 10, 2011

The Troubled Psychology

First and foremost, I've had quite enough of my society living in perpetual fear that some mentally or emotionally unstable individual is going to pick up guns and start shooting up a place. Every time this happens, several someones admit to being worried their acquaintance would snap at some future point and do harm to others. Every time.

And yet most of the time those several someones powerlessly continue with their day, often making uncomfortable jokes about the situation in order to defuse the nerves or tension they feel. Or tell friends about it. On occasion, someone tells an "authority" figure, such as a teacher or administrator or boss. Sometimes they do something, sometimes they don't. Sometimes they just don't know what to do about it. Eventually you come to the point where there is no preventative next step.

Most of the time, the next step is just to restart the cycle, and the troubled individual becomes more marginalized by society, and they live out their days surrounded by their own troubles, physically hurting no one but emotionally trying for themselves or their family members or friends who try to figure it out.

But sometimes, that next step shows up as "Breaking News." Columbine. Virginia Tech. Fort Hood. The Bad Part of Anywhere, USA. Austin, Texas. And now, Tuscon, Arizona.

What the hell can we do about this? I'm not smart enough to say. I know that the current state of our nation's mental health infrastructure isn't what it should be. I know that our society is not currently set up in a way that culturally promotes mental health or even peaceful resolution of conflict, for that matter. I know we stigmatize the wrong things, and our society is uncomfortable talking about mental health in mature ways. I also know that our society does not have adequate means of addressing mental health issues, once they have been identified.

Hell, even labeling the shooter "mentally ill" could be a cop-out, pure speculation, based on our current view of the situaion.

Let me be the one to say that this kind of tragedy happens too often in the United States. Let me also say that we don't hear about it most of the time. When we do, they are only high profile events. We've gotten so used to this, it takes either deaths in the double digits or the shooting of a sitting member of Congress for it to stay in the news cycle for more than two days.

Second of all, instead of talking about that, we're going to talk about the politics. If the perpetrator was a Muslim, it was terrorism. If the perpetrator was white, maybe it wasn't terrorism. If it was a black-on-black crime, we don't even hear about it.

There is always a push to fit things in everyone's preferred larger narrative. If you are left-wing, this guy in Tuscon shot the place up because Sarah Palin uses firey and violent political rhetoric and this sort of thing has been expected for a long time. If you're right-wing, and enjoy the violent political rhetoric, this guy is absolutely a left-winger. We're not even entertaining the fantasy that there is some legally presumed innocence here, because we're too busy preemptively ignoring any facts that may arise to challenge our preconcieved worldviews.

We don't even wait for the facts or the investigations to make up our minds anymore, we just fill in the blanks ourselves and never let our opinion move from that spot. If you think political rhetoric was violent and abusive before, this tragedy has done nothing to quell that, and has, in fact, only increased the vitriol. Because what we need now is to elevate this shooter to Gavrilo Princip status in a society already bought into the competing "Democrats are Destroying America" vs. "the Tea Party Will Kill Us All." That will calm things down, for sure.

Don't you see it? Tell me, how much have you read about Gabrielle Giffords outside her family particulars and finger movements, and how much have you read about the percieved political motivations of her would-be killer? How much have you read about the three 70+ year olds also gunned down while waiting in line to speak with their Congresswoman?

Third, the guns. Guns don't kill people, people kill people. Guns make it much easier for people to kill people. So do knives. So do automobiles. But because people have proven their intentions to kill other people with such gusto, regardless of armament, the defensive capability of owning guns is as unassailable as the capability of owning an automobile. Should we be more dilligent with background checks? Yeah, probably.

Fourth, the violent political rhetoric. Oh, you thought I was going to let the Palins, Limbaughs, Hannities and Becks of the world off too easy didja? Sorry.

It is still too early to determine whether this particular case has anything to do with the violent political rhetoric of the mainstream right-wing. That doesn't mean such rhetoric isn't a problem and shouldn't be called out for what it is.

Sarah Palin used a bullseye to target political adversaries. You can try an argue that point away all you want, but go play Goldeneye for four minutes. Or pick up any hunting-focused magazine. Don't try to tell me the universal symbol of crosshairs is suddenly something different from what it has always been. Don't try to tell me that the imagery was accidental as her statement that Republicans don't "retreat, they reload." That may work on folks who believe the bullshit Glenn Beck tries to sell as history, but it doesn't work on those of us who actually live in reality.

You want to get political candidates voted out of office without violent imagery? Use a different universally recognized symbol that says "don't do this."

I am a Democratic voter, and a member of the Democratic Party. Neither I, nor any Democratic Party member I know, nor any Democratic Party candidate I have ever voted for, is trying to "destroy America." Regardless of what Rush Limbaugh says on his show every damn day.

And when Republican Senate candidate Sharon Angle talks about "2nd Amendment Remedies," she is advocating armed insurrection against a legally elected United States government. At the time of her statement, the "Congress" she described was politically Democratic. I can only take her at her words that Democratic individuals are the purveyors of tyranny, and subject to 2nd Amendment remedies. As a Democratic voter and Party member, who helped elect that Congress, I wonder if those remedies extend to me and mine or if she just expects individuals like me to let it happen? I don't know what other way to interpret those clearly stated words.

But they are their own words, and they must take responsibility for them. They are not the words of honestly held policy positions, rationally discussing policy change with mild political rivals whom they respect and understand as holding, honestly held opposing positions. No, those words are full of killing and revolution metaphors, describing opponents in terms usually reserved for the monsters of history.

That's not a calm, collected way of talking when anyone does it. And before you go all false-equivalency on me and say "But Pat, Democrats do it, too!" because some Dem also-ran in the suburb of some Northern state wants to try and rile his base up using nonsense. There may be some Dems who do this, there may be many liberal bloggers, and it ain't OK when they do it. But it also ain't in the mainstream DNA of the Democratic Party at this time. Own your own words.

We have now become so passionate about politics in this country that it borders on mania, and some are worse than others. That does not provide a safer environment for any of us. It does not create a society that culturally promotes mental health. And that goes back to my first point: we don't have an adequate system in place to deal with a collective and crippling national mental illness. Which it seems is what politics has now become, and done so completely seperately from any shooting in Arizona.

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Sunday, January 09, 2011

End Energy Subsidies

This is win-win-win-win-win.

1. Cut Federal spending by $20 Billion per year.
2. Puts green energy on the same playing field as fossil fuels, from a subsidy perspective.
3. Stops hiding the true costs of fossil fuel dependence from the American economy.
4. Allows consumers to make more informed energy decisions based on the true costs of the energy they consume.
5. Renegotiates the energy lobby in Washington. If there aren't subsidies to squabble over, there won't be as many lobbyists.

To me, of course, 3 and 4 are the most important.

Bottom line? We already pay more than $3.07 per gallon of gasoline, and the decisions we have made under the illusion that gasoline is that cheap are unsustainable. That's something we can figure out now, or something we can figure out later.

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Saturday, January 08, 2011

A Debate to Have

I don't know why anyone would be unwilling to begin prominently discussing the United States Constitution as it pertains to writing legislation. If the GOTP wants to read the whole thing aloud, and then write every law with an explicit statement of where the authority of that law comes from, let's get to it. You want to talk the text and spririt of the Constitution, and the amendments and court decisions that govern us? Be my guest.

Especially if that same group of people then wants to turn around and convince voters to deliver more power to the states, who have a demonstrably provable track record of abusing power, limiting personal freedom, and expressing far more control over the lives of citizens than the Federal government ever dreamed to have.

And while I don't believe you'll find many "liberal" or "progressive" individuals who think a long term Constitutional refresher course is a bad thing (the document enshrines many, many foundational liberal and progressive beliefs, after all), I'm sure we'll disproportionately hear about the ones who do.

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Where's the Oil? (Still Continued)

On the front page of MSNBC.com.

At least someone's still talking about it.

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Friday, January 07, 2011

Candidate Obama vs. President Obama

I don't agree with much of this article but check out the caption in the article's second photo:
Rick Reilly would like President Obama to follow through on what candidate Obama told him in 2008. (emphasis mine)

It's the first time I've seen candidate Obaba vs. President Obama out in the wild. I wonder if will become a meme?

Cold Blooded Sausage Making

If you don't think this kind of gerrymandering is going on in every state with a GOTP legislature right now, you are out of your mind. (HT: Peach Pundit, though be sure to check out the comments.)

Do I even have to bring up the underlying racial motivations of drawing districts this way? In the past, districts were drawn to dilute minority voting; these days districts are drawn to concentrate minority voting while diluting their representation.

To my more liberal or progressive friends who have yet to accept that liberals and progressives have to begin speaking with folks besides those who already agree with them, this is the end result of letting the Republicans control the national debate. That debate is focused only on Washington, as are so many liberal or progressive pundits, and this results in liberal, progressive, centrist and conservative Democrats fleeing the state parties in droves. Young ambitious candidates interested in politics only have one place to turn in some states.

The Democrats have lost the US House of Representatives for at least 10 years. It doesn't matter what y'all think, it matters what the rules are. The districts across this nation will be gerrymandered to support a Republican majority, and since the Democratic Party has consistently refused to invest in party infrastructure at the state level, they're playing from at least two touchdowns behind at the start of the game. It doesn't matter what demographics change, the folks who draw the districts will just go around them. As they always have.

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The Diagnosis

The two SEC fanbases with the deepest seated psychoses are LSU and UGA.

But while LSU just kind of celebrates their crazy, UGA is always arguing about what type of therapy will work. Mamas, if you let your babies grow up to be Bulldawgs, expect them to participate in a near-constant debate about the metaphysical existence of football reality for the rest of their lives. Right now, I live down in Tigerland, and no Corn Doggish behavior ever exhibited in front of my eyes comes close to the gnashing of teeth on display in the Land of Perpetual Arp.

Luckily, most of the more prominent and mature blog captains in Bulldawg Nation have been out in front of the barbarians for a long time, and remain there.

I know which poll question I clicked. I don't know enough to say for certain what is wrong with the UGA football program. And despite all the attempts to categorize where certain elements of the fanbase are right now, I think we can sum it up two ways.

Some fans have their opinions while accepting they don't know everything, and generally vary thier opinions between the hope CMR can turn things around next year and the expectation that he will be unable to do so.

Other fans already know everything that has ever been wrong with the football program, ever; they want to go back in time and fire CMR two years ago, or yesterday, or right now.

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Thursday, January 06, 2011

Delicious Target

Pop-Up restaurants? While I love the concept, I'll have to get me some food before the City decides to shut this kind of innovation down.

After the food trucks and street musicians, I may not have much time.

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The Fake Constitution (Updated)

For the last several days, we've been hearing about how "politically correct" it is to remove the N-word from Huckleberry Finn. I don't think it has anything to do with "political correctness," I think it has to do with rewriting history.

So isn't it just fitting that the 112th Congress, as worshipful of the United States Constitution as they would like their voting demographics to believe, are reading a version with no mention of slavery. (HT: Jeffrey)

That's it. If I trusted people to understand why I'm linking to that article, I could leave you with nothing but that link, and everyone would get it. But I feel I must expound, for the record.

This nation is exceptional, not utopian. Our founders were great but flawed men, not demigods. Our Constitution is an incredible foundation for government, but not scripture. It has changed. It has changed for reasons. It has changed for reasons we should not be afraid to talk about. It has changed for reasons we should, in fact, be very proud to talk about. This is a nation of adults, not children, even though our leaders prefer to treat us like the latter. Reading a fake Constituion before the nation is just proof of that.

But there are a lot of people in this country who do not want to accept that anything bad has ever happened in America, ever, and do their best to "whitewash" our history and change it. Why did this country need the Reconstruction Amendments? Why are people so upset about the Secession Balls? Why do people think there is some racial undertone to every discussion of "state's rights?" Why did we need the social experiment that was the Civil Rights Act of 1965, and why do we still have it affecting us today?

All of those questions are quite succinctly answered with a reading of the Real US Constitution, something the 112th Congress is now on record as too cowardly to do.

The beauty of this country has been the long, drawn out, protracted, incredibly bloody, sinful, and messy struggle to exand the limits of human freedom and potential. Ignoring that struggle cheapens everything that makes America exceptional.

Update Friday: Dahlia Lithwick exposes even more inconsistencies when the 112th Congress read some document they tried to pass off as the United States Constitution.


There is only one official, canonical version of the Constitution—and most of the folks who read today, Republicans and Democrats alike, have a copy in their offices, if not their breast pockets. The suggestion that there is some other, agreed-upon, document, whose "portions [were] superseded by amendment" is simply untrue. As CBS News Capitol Hill Correspondent Bob Fuss pointed out, the "redacted" version as read this morning had no coherent logic. They skipped over the three-fifths compromise but included the constitutional clause referring to the preservation of voting rights only for males over the age of 21—a provision superseded by the 26th Amendment. They skipped the 18th Amendment (Prohibition) then read the 21st (repealing Prohibition). Andrea Stone at AOL News picked up on the fact that they "read 14 words from Article I, Section 9 about taxation. Under a strict reading of the ground rules, though, it likely should have been excised because of the later passage of the 16th Amendment that legalized the federal income tax."


This is simply a stunning disrespect to this nation's history and to this nation's Constitution. All perpetuated by the same folks who claim to revere the document.

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House Rich & Cash Poor

Another story of the modern South, and how the things that keep dividing us are killing us. This is also an example of real journalism, unbound by the need to cater to short attention spans.

(HT: Leigh)

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Wednesday, January 05, 2011

We're Going to Need Some Bigger Predictions

Dante fairly accurately nailed 2010. Right down to Sarah Palin's overexposure. Despite a whiff on Harry Reid and the GOP in the House, that's a pretty strong list of predictions.

My record was somewhat worse. At least I was right about the Saints and Falcons in the Playoffs.

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Fake Ass Versions

Cliff responds to the Huckleberry Finn revisions.

If your child asks you why they keep using the n-word then explain it to them. Stop trying to change how history happened or how real life works.


It is bad enough that every period movie set these days glosses over what really happened in this nation's past, not to mention the straight up rewriting of textbooks that we use to "teach" schoolchildren about the past (African American brigades fighting for Stonewall Jackson - really, Virginia?).

Maybe they didn't think to include the n-word on any standardized tests, and that's why it isn't considered important.

Let's be clear on one thing. This revision is not taking place for some "politically correct" reason, or because some African-American or Native-American was offended. This revision is happening so white people can continue to believe the illusion that nothing wrong ever happened in America's past, ever, especially not at the hands of white people.

Do not be fooled.

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The Mess of History

In 1811, Louisiana's river parishes experienced the largest slave revolt in United States history. I remember learning about this in school, but I've lived in New Orleans for 4 and a half years now. I've visited Destrehan Plantation and I've kept up with local historical reminders. Until this fantastic article was published in the Times-Picayune, I had forgotten the story.

How easy it is to forget.

Because it might be 200 years since this revolt took place, it is also 150 years since Southern states began seceding from the Union to form the Confederate States of America, and rose up against a government they believed would limit the right to enslave others.

Of those events, 150 years ago, there are plenty of rememberances. Every day I drive down Jefferson Davis Parkway, where his statue also stands. Riding downtown on a streetcar, I pass under the statued visage of General Robert E. Lee - who also has a street and a circle named for him. The streetcar line that terminates near my home does so at the foot of a horsebacked statue of General P.G.T. Beauregard - one of the creators of the Rebel Flag - and his former home is a historical site in the French Quarter. Several streetlights downtown include cast iron reminders of New Orleans "Confederate Domination" from 1861 - 1865 (even though New Orleans was surrendered to Union forces without a shot in 1863).

Across the Southern states, secession is being celebrated. Charleston hosted a Secession Ball. Montgomery is holding a parade, and a reenactment of Jefferson Davis' swearing-in as President of the CSA.

The folks are all awash in the idea of "Heritage Not Hate," an idea as noble as it is unserviceable. They want to look back at the past as if it were some better time for all, without entertaining the true meaning of the sins of the era. Doing so ironically cheapens the true blood-stained yet beautiful heritage, and only serves to keep fanning the smoldering embers of hatred between Southerners. If only we could look back on this sad history with honesty in our hearts, open eyes and open arms then maybe the Rebel Flag wouldn't be so frought with terrible meaning and the notes of Dixie wouldn't hold only her sad, exclusive memory. "Look away" is a phrase dependent on context, after all.

I'm proud to hear that New Orleans will be commemorating a slave revolt this year, as those 200 outnumbered and outgunned individuals fought for their freedom - a freedom that didn't include the right to enslave others. Such struggle gets to the heart of the Southern soul more significantly than any hoop skirt.

But it did remind me of something - something I never see. All of these activities, all of these monuments celebrating secession are billed as honoring the memory of the South. But there were thousands upon thousands of Southerners who also fought in Union Blue. Some, to be sure, were white or Native American, crossing the lines for their own conscience. But most of these thousands were former slaves - Southerners who fought under the Stars and Stripes, under penalty of reenslavement if captured during wartime, making up the United States Colored Troops.

I have lived in the South my entire life, and with the exception of the movie Glory, I have rarely seen a monument or a street or a celebration held to honor the heritage of these Southerners who fought in the Civil War. That is the greatest, most glaring omission from the "Heritage Not Hate" process of thought as it currently exists.

...

As an afterword, I have read that the NAACP will be protesting several of the Secession Celebrations. These demonstrations will, of course, play right into the hands of those who want to politicize these events, and use "history" to keep us divided as the South has always been. What if...

What if, instead of showing up with placards and signs and shouting, the demonstrators showed up as USCT reenactors? They could stand at attention during the proceedings, flags aloft, with only a sign nearby indicating how many Southerners did in fact fight for the Union.

I think that would make the point more beautifully than any shouted word, newspaper editorial, blog post, or television pundit.

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Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Of Republicans & Unions

Jeffrey at Library Chronicles is totally being unproductive and damaging discourse.

:)

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Making Groceries (Continued)

In 2009, the USDA found that 9.26 percent of New Orleans' population did not have a car, and lived more than a mile from the nearest supermarket.

Jefferson Parish has less than 2 percent of residents who fit that description, despite having a larger population.

Looking at the map, you can see that areas with comparable statistics include the Lowland South (former cotton belt), the Appalachain coal belt, and Native American reservations. New Orleans also appears to be one of a few 300,000+ population cities (in major metropolitan areas) with statistics of this nature.

It is high time to stop repeating this "Third World and Proud of It" foolishness.

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The Third Front

Hey, I know what will get us out of these economic doldrums, fix the deficit and keep Comrade Obama out of office in 2012 - LET'S GO TO WAR WITH IRAN!

After all...

We are in the best shape we will ever be in to deal with attempted Iranian retaliation for our part in assisting an Israeli strike. Our posture to disrupt and protect against terrorist attacks at home and abroad has never been stronger
...
The United States outflanks Iran in both Iraq and Afghanistan


These are the same people who claimed we would be welcomed as liberators, find the hidden WMD's in Iraq who have strategized our nation into two wars against 4th or 5th rate powers that have continued for nearly a decade.

War with Iran would be a disaster for the United States of America.

(HT: the Daily Dish, busy fighting the next war instead of refighting the last one.

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Monday, January 03, 2011

Happy New Holes

Leigh points out another case of things (eventually) being done right tending to work correctly.

It is the "eventually" part of that equation that gets me.

Neither of us expected much - the perverse joy this city seems to take in starting big, ambitious things, then abandoning them due to one reason or another (usually financial difficulties) had permeated our thinking. We fully expected Entergy people to stop up the leak, then leave enough detritus and reflective sawhorses around just so the little guy could keep exclaiming, "Look, Mom! Rubble!" every time we went in and out of our front gate.


Of course, the job didn't get done right the first time, so a different crew had to come back around and clean up the mess.

I wonder how much of our city's "financial difficulties" that keep big, ambitious things from getting done could be related to jobs not getting done right the first time.

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Where's the Oil? (Continued)

Yes, continued. Because it isn't gone. It isn't even close to being gone. And yet, our nation's mainstream media caste still can't get the story straight, and actively publish contradictory articles.

At least we have the American people, whose attention spans last long enough to get to the bottom of real and complex problems without relying on the oversimplifications offered to them by our entertainment and advertising dollar driven information rationing system.

Orwell'd.

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Sunday, January 02, 2011

New Seasons

NFL Playoffs begin next week. Saints are in. Falcons are in. Patriots and Ravens await at the end of any road to the Superbowl. Playoffs rarely get better than this.

A host of college teams have yet to play. Even with TCU's epic Rose Bowl win, Auburn & Oregon are still on tap to light up a scoreboard down in the desert. The Bayou Bengals and the Aggies are still on stage in Dallas, and there is a game still to be played in the Superdome.

But football season ended in sackcloth and ashes for my beloved Georgia Bulldawgs. As DADvocate mentioned in an earlier comment, both of the previously elite SEC programs that each of us hold dear have finished this season with more losses than wins.

And if you had told me any time since 1997 that Georgia AND Tennessee would have losing seasons AT THE SAME TIME, I'd have told you how much oceanfront real estate I could sell you in Oconee County, Georgia.

At least DADv gets to enter the new season knowing his team was legitimately robbed of a winning effort by a rule loophole. His team was overmatched in Nashville and still had enough in the tank to notch a win, barring the official buffoonery. His team has a solid coach that got more effort out of that group of players all year long than could reasonably be expected, considering recent events at the flagship university of the Volunteer state. Those players wanted to win that game.

Contrast that to the Georgia Bulldawgs, who obviously had something else on their minds, as they have seemed to so often in recent history. In the past, I have called the 2009 and 2010 seasons of UGA football "rebuilding years," meaning 2010 is the rebuilding year we should have undergone in 2009. But that doesn't seem to be the case. "Rebuilding" at least suggests that there is a blueprint, or a plan of some type; perhaps the laying of a foundation for later success. I'm not sure if our current architects actually have such a plan, or are just winging it as they go along.

This is a significant change from all my earlier opinions, save one. Though he WILL be coach of the Georgia Bulldawgs in 2011, I wonder if Mark Richt WANTS to be coach of the Georgia Bulldawgs in 2011. The new season will answer that question, finally.

And it will do so rather swiftly. Georgia's next opponent is Boise State, in Atlanta, for the Chick-fil-a College Football Kickoff Game.

Not only will we know the answer, swiftly, so will the rest of the college football watching public.

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