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Friday, January 25, 2008

Thoughts on Obama, Race, and Moral Equivalency:

As I was webcrawling yesterday, I had the great misfortune of running across this article by Uzodinma Iweala. This brought to mind several different thoughts, perhaps the most troubling of which was an ever-increasing tendency towards morally equating non-equal acts. To wit, I was bothered by the author's choice to equate by implication the Jena Six incident and the Duke Lacrosse Frame. Any commonalities the two incidents share are, at most, superficial and coincidental. In the Jena Six case, you have six defendants asserting an affirmative defense for an assault that nobody disputes actually took place. I won't go deeper into that except to say that I feel I was wrong in my earlier hell-raising regarding that issue. I owe the town of Jena, Louisiana, an apology for impugning the character of that town based on the bad behavior of a few young men and the overzealousness of a small-town prosecutor. I stand by my assertion that the prosecutor in this case was a bit excessive in the penalties he sought for the six defendants. However, the validity of the defendants' affirmative defense is a matter for the courts to decide. No, a more direct parallel to the Duke Lacrosse Frame is the case of Alan Gell, a man who served nine years on death row because of exculpatory evidence being withheld by truly rogue prosecutors. As it turned out, Mr. Gell had actually been out of state or in jail for stealing a car at the actual time of the murder. I will not speak for the character of Mr. Gell, but no one deserves to have his life threatened by the state for a crime he not only did not commit, but could not have physically committed. Similarly, in the Duke Lacrosse Frame, you have a (falsely) accusing witness who alleged assault only after being referred for a psychiatric evaluation and whose story had holes as deep and long as Valles Marineris on Mars, a fact obvious in the weeks before DNA evidence cleared all of the lacrosse players. In Jena, you have an overzealous prosecutor who, frankly, should have known better, but was prosecuting what all evidence supported as being a real crime. In the Duke Lacrosse and Alan Gell frames, you have gross prosecutorial misconduct and the railroading of demonstrably innocent men. This bothers me, and it should bother you.

I am further disturbed by this article's thinly-veiled assertion that Caucasians are inherently incapable of overcoming stereotypes. Before I continue further, I admit that I view Senator Obama as a candidate, not a black candidate, nor a candidate from Illinois, but a candidate I respect as a man and as a future President of the United States of America. Furthermore, I view Oprah Winfrey as a woman who has translated her particular brand of misandry and marketing skills into a truly formidable net worth. The author's assertion seems to be that by referring to Senator Obama as a "candidate", and not a "black candidate", Caucasian supporters of the junior Senator from Illinois are expressing a deep, hidden racial bias. In the end, I was only able to conclude the obvious from her article, namely, that racism is not a problem restricted to Caucasians, but rather, crosses all racial, gender, and socioecomonic strata. She equated the Jena Six case with the Duke Lacrosse frame, and that was wrong.

With this being the week of the celebration of the Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday, I will share a summation of an aspect of my childhood. I furthermore cite Dr. King's most famous speech. From a time before I even have clear memory, I have lived his dream. As a child, my family was friends with a nice African-American couple. I played with their kids, and thought nothing of it, and I still think nothing of it. Well, that's not entirely true; I marvel at how we were able to get anything done dealing with the horror that was the clothing of the early 1980s *shudders*. Times changed, and that friendship ended as friendships sometimes do. Perhaps my parents grew apart from them, or maybe they moved as a result of some job or another. It's been so long that frankly, I can't remember. This was common throughout my childhood, and later, as a teenager, I still attended church with people of other races, and again, I thought nothing of it, because that was how I was raised. I never saw people of other races as being somehow "other", because I had never been taught to see them as being "other", or at least no more or less "other" than anyone else. I was taught, probably from a time before I could even talk, by my parents to judge people based on the content of their character, and not the color of their skin. Looking back on that now, I view that as perhaps the greatest gift I was ever given by my father, and that I have ever been given by my mother. So when I say that I view Senator Obama as a "candidate", or that I am impressed with his oratory skills, I say that not because I view him as different from some nebulous stereotype. I say that because I view him as different and better than the rest of the Democratic Party field, and because I find him a truly remarkable man. I say that because of my deep respect for him as a human being, not as a representative of one race or another. Finally, I say that because I view him as the best candidate of EITHER party to become the next President of the United States of America!

Enjoy this blast from the past.

Friday, January 18, 2008

Discrimination, Disenfranchisement, and the Democratic Party:

I abandon the biting sarcasm of my previous post, and choose instead to use brutal, unforgiving honesty. This topic has bothered me for a long time, and I've wondered how to properly broach the issue. Finally, I decided to do what I do best on this blog: Piss people off and damn the consequences. Specifically, I'm taking a very hard line regarding the Democratic Party's decision to strip Florida and Michigan of all of their delegates, while choosing not to punish Iowa, South Carolina, New Hampshire, and Nevada. I find it very odd that a party whose former Presidential candidate famously said, "Ignoring votes means ignoring democracy itself. And if we ignore the votes of thousands in Florida in this election, how can you or any American have confidence that your votes will not be ignored in a future election? That is all we have asked since Election Day. A complete count of all the votes cast in Florida," has chosen to ignore the votes of every last person in two major states. That's not entirely true. I don't find it odd; I find it amazingly and disgustingly, yet unsurprisingly, hypocritical. By contrast, the Republican Party merely halved the delegates from Wyoming, New Hampshire, Michigan, and Florida. It's truly a sad day when the Republican Party is the sole example of fairness and respect for the right of every person to vote. If the Democratic Party wanted to punish the various state parties for their choice to ignore their edicts, that's fine, and is their right. However, to do so in such a draconian manner is unconscionable.

Let us dissect exactly how many registered voters were disenfranchised by the DNC. I'm going to cheat more than a bit, and use the number of people who voted for Kerry in the 2004 election from each state. According to Wikipedia, that leads to a total of 3,583,544 disenfranchised voters in Florida, and according to the state of Michigan's web portal, 2,479,183 disenfranchised voters in Michigan. By contrast, Bush and his allies are accused of disenfranchising a few thousand voters, an assertion that has yet to be proven conclusively all these years later. Compared to this year's Democratic Party National Committee, Bush is just a piker.

While I know good people who are Democrats, and while I happen to support a Democratic Party candidate for president, I must take issue with a party's leadership who has chosen to deny over 6 MILLION people the right to vote over an internal squabble. I suppose their reasoning was much like that of Josef Stalin when he infamously said, "A single death is a tragedy; a million deaths is a statistic." But at least they're fair about their policy of disenfranchising voters, except they're really not. Why these two states, and not Iowa, or New Hampshire, or Nevada, or South Carolina? One might even consider this a form of censorship from a party that claims to be devoted to the right of every voice to be heard. I guess that's only as long as it doesn't upset their party leadership too much. For the record, I don't blame Edwards or Obama, or even the lesser candidates on their ticket. Had they not toed the party line, they may have faced sanctions from the Democratic Party leadership, and as we've seen, they're not exactly ones for subtlety or restraint. No, I blame Hilary Clinton, who despite being the only major name on the Michigan ticket, in violation of the spirit of the DNC's fatwa against Michigan's primary, only edged out a win over "uncommitted" by 15%. She was the only major name on the ticket, and "uncommitted" got 40% of the vote to her 55%. That's fucked up. And then, her proxies in Nevada sued to further disenfranchise other voters, a suit that was rightfully eviscerated by the judge. Ah, nothing quite like the smell of hypocrisy in the air. Smells an awful lot like BULLSHIT to me.

Enjoy the music.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

"This is our most desperate hour. Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you're my only hope." Or, a shout out to Mitt Romney:

I post this in objection to Romney's cynical assertion that Michigan's old automotive jobs can come back, that it will go back to being like the days of milk and honey, and that everything will be great again. I also call "Bullshit!" on his assertion that he can "save the South". McCain was right: The old Michigan of the Big Three is gone for good, at least in that form, and the real future lies in high-tech jobs. However, and predictably, Romney has combine the twin terrors of a populist message with gross distortions of his opponents' stances and created something I find truly revolting. I believe he may have been a good leader of his congregation. His record as governor of Massachusetts speaks of his ability to lead a state government. However, I find him personally repugnant and a discredit to the many good people I know and have known of the Mormon faith. So, Mitt Romney, I say with as much sarcasm as I can muster, "This is our most desperate hour. Help me, Obi-Wan Kenobi; you're my only hope." Or, put less politely, "Bugger off, you filthy wanker!"

UPDATE: I changed the song from the original "Just" by Radiohead to something that would be a more fitting, though facetious, statement. Doesn't hurt that it's a kick-ass song. Enjoy

Sunday, January 13, 2008

“Dort, wo man Bücher verbrennt, verbrennt man auch am Ende Menschen.”

“Where they burn books, so too will they in the end burn human beings.” ~Heinrich Heine. I took this quote from Wikipedia's article on book burning, and I took the image from elsewhere on the site. It is with this quote that I announce the change of my blog image change. I said I wanted controversy, and I do. I also want thought, and to express in some small part my protest against the increasing encroachments on our civil liberties by the current administration. The latest outrage is the Orwellianly-named RealID. Those from states that do not comply will have to have a passport to travel within the United States via airplane. In the last 10 years, no more than about 20-30 people committed acts of terror using airplanes in the United States. Given a population of around 300 million, including people who have been born and died in that time, that's roughly 1/10 of a percent of a percent of a percent of the population, legal and illegal, of this nation. Because of this, because of the deaths of a percent or two of a percent of the nation's population, further encroachments are being "justified". Because of an occurrence that has significantly less occurrence than being struck by lightning, and far, far less likely than dying in an automobile accident, we get this steaming turd forced on us by the federal government, in clear and flagrant violation of the Tenth Amendment. What happened to the Republican Party, the party of Barry Goldwater and his allies and friends? What happened to the Republican Party that was a champion of individual liberty and a respect for the proper role of the federal government and the sanctity of the rights of the several states? What happened to the Republican Party that once was the party of fiscal responsibility? I have seen what President Bush has turned this once-great party into, and it has become something frightening, alien, and revolting, and completely anathema to the ideals that once made this nation great. I find myself vacillating between extreme disgust for a political party I once respected and fear of what the Republican Party has become, and I don't know which emotion is stronger.

Recently, I opined that communism is what happens when the state owns the businesses. Fascism is what happens when businesses own the state. Oil is $100 a barrel, and other companies are experiencing record profits. You do the math.

In Memoriam: Ryan Phan, 3 years; Hannah Luong, 2 years; Lindsey Luong, 1 year; Danny Luong, 4 months:

Before I go further, the ages shown above are correct. I did not know these children, and I do not know their family. They were from Bayou La Batre's Vietnamese community, and I'm not familiar with that town. However, their story has touched my heart, and it is with great, though cold, comfort that I report that, from what I've seen on television, the Mobile County D.A., John Tyson, and Mobile County Sheriff Sam Cochran look and sound angrier than I've ever seen them, and I doubt that anger will go away any time soon. The accused in this case, Lam Luong, the father of all but the oldest of the children, admitted to tossing them off the Dauphin Island Bridge, some 80 feet into the water. He later said that he had given the children to a stranger and that they were alive. Two of the bodies have now been found, one in Point aux Pins in the Mississippi Sound, and another on shore at Martin Bay, 5 miles west of where the first body was found. Mr. Luong has, since his arrest, tormented the mother of the children he murdered, Kieu Phan, even going so far as to say that there was still hope for the other three children after the first child's body was found (that of the youngest), and calling to ask for cigarettes. This is the type of story that makes you HURT. From what I've heard in the television reporting, he also admitted that he wanted to gain the same notoriety as the person behind the Virginia Tech massacre and other atrocities. With that in mind, if this has not made national news, or if your local news agencies are not covering this case, please, do not bring this to their attention. Mr. Luong is undeserving of even our contempt. What he did was monstrous on a level I cannot even begin to comprehend, but if it is national notoriety that he wants, then it is national notoriety that he should be denied. In addition, the family of the victims, especially their mother, Kieu Phan, do not need anything else that add to their immense pain, such as what would happen if this were to become a national story. Rest in peace, Ryan Phan. Rest in peace, Hannah Luong. Rest in peace, Lindsey Luong. Rest in peace, Danny Luong. And may their family find some peace in the days, weeks, months, and years to come. As for Lam Luong, I have the following comments to say to him: May the entire weight of the law enforcement and criminal justice system of the state of Alabama come down upon you, and may they, a jury of your peers, and your fellow inmates revisit upon you threefold the pain and suffering you have caused. And should Mr. Luong be sentenced to death, not even the capital punishment opponents will be too sorry to see him die. If any crime is deserving of capital punishment, it is this one.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

A change of heart: Election 2008

I've done a bit of soul-searching, and even before I read some rather nasty bits in Ron Paul's history, I was already shopping for another candidate since I knew he had roughly a snowball's chance in Hell of winning. After reading it, well, I'm feeling a bit Blue. While some of what Senator Obama has said about ethics almost sounds Pollyannish, his positive message and the fact that he's neither Hilary Clinton nor John Edwards really appeal to me.

Also, I oppose the continuation of some or all non-permanent aspects of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 for three reasons: First, it's duplicative of rights enumerated in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America. Second, aspects of the law itself are discriminatory. I would ask why harsh strictures against changing polling places, laws for filling vacancies in state and local offices, and other similar issues should require Justice Department approval for nine entire states, counties in six others, and cities in two more states, when they do not apply to the entire United States equally. This is the epitome of discriminatory behavior. The South is far different from it was 40, 25, hell, even 10 years ago. When problems arise, the states themselves do a good job of resolving them, unlike 43 years ago when the VRA was passed. Bull Connor and George Wallace are dead, and their ilk no longer have any real power. Third, most of the non-permanent sections are no longer necessary, and merely serve to perpetuate a bureaucracy and manpower that could be better used to solve modern problems.

In addition, I think he's too conservative on drug issues, and far too bullish on ethanol. However, reading his positions on the issues as a whole, I find him the most attractive candidate.

Friday, January 04, 2008

New Hampshire Predictions and Iowa Aftermath:

First, the aftermath of Iowa: I'll analyze the Democratic Party side of the equation first, since frankly, that's the more interesting of the two. The outcome in Iowa was the political equivalent of the 1960 Valdivia earthquake. The significance of Obama's 8 point win over Edwards and 9 point win over Clinton simply cannot be overstated. I have simply run out of superlatives to use. Even Rush Limbaugh knows that Obama is the Republican Party's worst nightmare, and admitted as such on his radio show today while he tap-danced on Hilary Clinton's political grave. Obama has already taken some of the worst licks he's going to take from Clinton's camp, and he came out on top. There's no demographic in Iowa that he didn't win, most of them by significant amounts. He won the independents, the youth, the women, the minorities (what few there are in Iowa), and by virtue of the fact that Iowa is 92% white, he won the Caucasian vote. He completely destroyed the twin notions of Clinton's inevitability and that of his questionable viability among Caucasian voters. The main advantages Clinton had, and I use the past tense on purpose, were her experience and the aura of inevitability she carried around with her. Well, people want change, and with this loss in Iowa, that aura shattered like a dish at a Greek wedding reception. Hilary coming in third put her campaign on the canvas, and only time will tell if she can answer the ten count. However, with her two main upsides gone, and a large swath of people from all across the political spectrum not liking her all that much, this could be a first round knockout. Edwards is left in an excellent position, though he's still vulnerable. If he doesn't do well in New Hampshire and South Carolina, admittedly unlikely, he'll be seriously behind on points.

On the GOP side, well, who can be too surprised that a Baptist preacher-boy won in a state with a huge proportion of evangelical Christians? Romney's finish, well, wasn't a complete embarrassment, but certainly hurt him going into McCain's stronghold of New Hampshire. If he doesn't do well there, he'll have a very difficult time winning the GOP nomination. Thompson's campaign stubbornly refused to realize it was dead, coming in third with McCain coming in a whisker behind in fourth. Ron Paul came in with a respectable 10%, good, but not nearly good enough. It will take a miracle for Giuliani to pull it off with the strategy he has chosen, and that miracle will likely never come. As for Hunter, he's a tool.

For New Hampshire, I make the following predictions: On the GOP side, I'm picking McCain as the winner, with Romney coming in second at 5% behind, and Huckabee or Ron Paul coming in 8% off the pace. I see Thompson's campaign ending not with a bang, but a whimper. Giuliani's campaign will linger, but will remain on a morphine drip. As for Hunter, who really cares? Still, he may look back on his 1% showing in Iowa with fondness.

On the Democratic Party side, I have it too close to call between Obama and Edwards. Four days is a long time to digest what happened in Iowa, and neither candidate would surprise me by winning. I predict that the winner will win by 2%-3%. I see Clinton in a distant third at 10% off the pace. Richardson will call it a day, and Gravel and Kucinich are irrelevant.

New Hampshire is a must-win for both McCain and Clinton, and in Clinton's case, it takes on even more urgency by being a must-win-decisively. A 4% win or worse will not help her campaign, and a loss will bury her chances to be anything more than a junior Senator from New York or a former First Lady. In McCain's case, even a 2% loss will be near-fatal to his campaign. A Romney win, as unlikely as it is, will blow the GOP race wide open again.

Enjoy Zeromancer.

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Seven True Lies:

Candace challenged me to write six true statements about myself and one lie. This is a response, but also, a friend of mine pointed me to a cool free online radio website. They have some stuff you're familiar with, and some lesser-known artists, and continually refines itself to find stuff you'll like, no matter how unknown the artist is. I'm referring to Pandora Radio, and I've never been as happy with a radio station as I am with this one, terrestrial or internet-based. Now that I've done the plug for that cool-as-hell site, it's time for you to get involved. Spot the lie. :)

1. I once considered supporting Bill Clinton's run for the White House.
2. I am afraid of precipices and bridges.
3. I have no known food allergies.
4. I was put on cholesterol-lowering medicine for the first time before I turned 25.
5. I have been in a tornado.
6. I have been in an earthquake.
7. I am a fan of Sigur Ros and Bjork, and am developing an interest in other modern Icelandic music.

Today's musical clip (okay, music, no clip) is from a Swedish band named Baxter. I found them on Pandora. Enjoy. :)