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Sunday, March 30, 2008

How does one define something or someone as "anti-American"?

As... interesting as a recent flame war has been, I'm not going to sabotage this blog by solely devoting myself to it. Frankly, it, and that individual, aren't worth it.

So, instead, I will go with an interesting question I've heard recently, and it got me thinking. How exactly does one define the term "anti-American"? The late Justice Potter Stewart famously said regarding hard-core pornography in the case Jacobellis v. Ohio (1964), "I shall not today attempt further to define the kinds of material I understand to be embraced within that shorthand description; and perhaps I could never succeed in intelligibly doing so. But I know it when I see it, and the motion picture involved in this case is not that." While there is a certain sense to that as applied to both pornography and "anti-Americanism", there are those who nevertheless bandy about the term as frequently as we hear the words "sale" and "car" in television commercials, rendering it effectively meaningless. However, there are a few things that can be genuinely considered "anti-American". The easiest of those to discern is treason and related crimes, as defined in Article III, Section 3 of the Constitution of the United States of America.

Next, I refer to Article I, Section 9, and the following quote: "The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in cases of rebellion or invasion the public safety may require it." This is, admittedly, a bit more tenuous an argument. However, I find this particularly apropos given the current Administration. The United States of America has not actually been invaded in quite some time, and outright rebellion has not occurred in the 143 years since the Civil War. However, habeas corpus has been suspended with respect to the prisoners in Guantanimo Bay, a military base occupied by the United States and subject to United States military law. The only problems with such an arrangement are that even military law has been superseded in this instance by the creation of special tribunals, and that the people currently imprisoned there, while allegedly enemy combatants, are civilians. With the gravity of charges against those individuals, I doubt the minimal protections adhere to the higher ideals upon which our nation was founded, and it certainly abridges at least the spirit of Article I, Section 9 of the U.S. Constitution. Furthermore, it almost certainly abridges in spirit the prohibition against bills of attainder contained later in the same section, and it abridges Amendments IV and V, specifically, former's protection of people's right to be secure in their persons against unreasonable search and seizure, and the latter's protection against the deprivation of life, liberty, and property without due process of law. In addition, considering their treatment, I consider this a clear breach of the Eighth Amendment's protections against cruel and unusual punishment. Finally, I also assert that the Sixth Amendment, in its entirety, is abridged by these laws. As such, I consider, on this count, President Bush and a number of his Congressional allies "anti-American," especially given the damage the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005 and the Military Commissions Act of 2006 have caused to the standing of this nation, both domestically and abroad. While this is not treason, it is a breach of the contract our government has made with our people and a violation of the public trust.

I could continue on, but I'll stop with those who oppose personal freedoms. Specifically, I find anti-American the belief that some religious test should be required to hold public office. This is expressly prohibited by Article VI of the U.S. Constitution. Related to this are those who support the elevation of one religion at the expense of all others, in violation of the First Amendment protections against the establishment of religion and the right to the free exercise thereof. By this measure, Gov. Huckabee, Roy Moore, Pat Robertson, Orel Roberts, John Hagee, and a large number of evangelical Christians are anti-American. If history teaches anything about religion and politics, it is that innocent people tend to die in large numbers when church and state get too closely related. The irony of those most likely to use the term "anti-American" being the most likely to actually be "anti-American" is not lost on me.

Those who are most "American" are those who see that something is wrong and do their best to change it in a peaceful manner. By that measure, Medgar Evers, Martin Luther King, Jr., Harriet Beecher Stowe, and a number of others are and were far more "American" than any of those mentioned above. If there is irony in this, it is of a sad sort, because it means that several of those with great power are not using it properly, instead using their positions of power to spread fear or simply expand their sphere of influence. It means that several of those with great power are, to use a phrase by Hannah Arendt, encouraging the banality of evil.

Enjoy this music by Chronic Remorse. The song is Commander.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Artificial flavoring:

An odd title for a post, to be sure, but an apt one. I find the concept of artificial flavoring deeply offensive when dealing with food that's supposed to be good for me, a cheap substitute for something real. For example, when I'm eating oatmeal, I don't want to see ingredients that came from some chemist's lab. I want to see oatmeal, real fruit, real nuts, real herbs and/or spices, and not much else on the label. Perhaps a preservative or two, but that's it.

In the same way, I don't like people who pretend to be something other than what they are. I don't understand why some feel the need to do that, and I have little patience with it. The closest I come is remaining cordial with people I detest yet cannot avoid being around. Eventually, though, it always comes out. I make no excuses for my temper, though I have made serious headway towards taming it over the years, nor do I attempt to pretend that I am anything other than what and who I am. Anyone who doesn't like that is cheerfully invited to place their complaints in the nearest round bin.

In comments on another post on my blog, 1138 sent me this link from Congressman Norm Dicks' office. Wow. I'm impressed. I find it completely unsurprising that a yellow-dog Democrat would send me documentation to "support" his position from the office of a Democratic Congressman "representing" the 6th Congressional District in Washington State. However, he's left out one minor, almost insignificant detail. In fact, it barely bares mentioning. After all, when corruption benefits Democrats, it's not really a crime, is it? Well, try telling that to Darleen Druyun. With all that corruption and industrial espionage-by-proxy (Ms. Druyun WAS still technically employed by the USAF at the time), who can know how that dead tanker deal would have turned out if the playing field were level? But as long as Boeing gets the deal, who cares if little things like "laws" get broken and "ethics" are ignored. After all, they don't matter as long as the end result is a multi-billion dollar multinational corporation with powerful friends getting what they want, right?

1138, you've made your stance clear. I won't ask you to let little things like "facts" get in the way of your bias. To wit, I won't ask you because I already know your answer. You have made your stance perfectly clear.

Finally, I submit to you another inconvenient truth I got in my Inbox. This is in no way an endorsement of the current administration. Frankly, a lot of the stuff they've pulled over the last 7 years and however many days makes my blood boil. That said, I'm no fan of another individual either, because I care very little for hypocrites. "Do as I say, not as I do" is bullshit, no matter how popular the purveyor of the false morality lesson is, and no matter how unpopular the actual person in the right is. I guess this was one of the two times every day the broken watch that is George W. Bush is right.

A Tale of Two Houses

House #1

A 20 room mansion (not including 8 bathrooms) heated by natural gas. Add on a pool (and a pool house) and a separate guest house, all heated by gas. In one month this residence consumes more energy than the average American household does in a year. The average bill for electricity and natural gas runs over $2400. In natural gas alone, this property consumes more than 12 times the national average for an American home. This house is not situated in the Northern or Midwestern "Snow Belt" area. It is in the South.

House # 2
Designed by an architecture professor at a leading national university. This house incorporates every "green" feature current home construction can provide. The house is 4,000 square feet (4 bedrooms) and is nestled on a high prairie in the American southwest. A central closet in the house holds geothermal heat-pumps drawing ground water through pipes sunk 300 feet into the ground. The water (usually 67 degrees F.) heats the house in the winter and cools it in the summer. The system uses no fossil fuels such as oil or natural gas and it consumes one-quarter of the electricity required for a conventional heating/cooling system. Rainwater from the roof is collected and funneled into a 25,000 gallon underground cistern. Wastewater from showers, sinks and toilets goes into underground purifying tanks and then into the cistern. The collected water then irrigates the land surrounding the house. Surrounding flowers and shrubs native to the area enable the property to blend into the surrounding rural landscape.

HOUSE # 1 is outside of Nashville, Tennessee: It is the abode of the "environmentalist" Al Gore.

HOUSE # 2 is on a ranch near Crawford, Texas: It is the residence of the President of the United States, George W. Bush.

This assertion is supported here.

1138, I bet you never met many Mormons who were fans of metal either. While I am a fan of good metal bands (early Metallica for example), I think I'll go in a different direction and dedicate this song to Heather Mills, Sir Paul McCartney's ex-headache. Even though I disagree strongly with several of Kanye West's politics, I recognize and respect his abilities as a musician. Also, Jamie Foxx is a perfect choice for this song. Enjoy.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

A set of apologies, though none will appreciate them:

I admit that I made a mistake when I referred to Hillary Clinton, Nancy Pelosi, and John McCain as "cunts", and when I called Barack Obama a "whore". Also, I was wrong when I made a series of inflammatory remarks about 1138. For the verbiage I used and some of the tenor I expressed in my remarks, I apologize. What I should have said is as follows:

Hillary Clinton is a soulless, Swiftboating, amoral bitch with a calculator where her heart should be who will say and do anything (though I pray not anyone) to get power, though on the last point, well, she did stay with Bill, and I'll leave it at that.

Nancy Pelosi is a spineless wonder whose idea of "compromise" is rolling over at the expense of the American people. Though she has promised a fight over refusing to grant retroactive immunity to telecoms over warrantless domestic spying, this was largely a result of pressure from the left wing of her party. Based on her record, I wonder how long this pressure will serve in place of her absent backbone. Nevertheless, I suppose I should be grateful for whatever little token resistance she puts forth. But what the fuck? She rolls over, it's only the Fourth Amendment of the United States Constitution that the current FISA bill has taken a giant, steaming shit on. Who gives a fuck? It's only fascism if the government says it is, right?

John McCain is a hypocritical rat-bastard with anger-management problems on an order that would shock even the late Sid Vicious of the Sex Pistols. Like Sid Vicious, he's an addict, though Senator McCain's drug of choice is power. Based on his record, I feel it reasonable to believe that he thinks his power makes him above the laws that govern the rest of us, and that scares the everlasting fuck out of me, even more so than President Bush.

Barack Obama is a man who, on many issues, I admire, but he has completely fucking sold out on this issue. This contract SHOULD have been about replacing a fleet of tanker planes that should have left service no later than 10 or 20 years ago, yet he apparently supports a corrupt business that offered an inferior aircraft at higher cost, and who, by the way, is far overdue in their extant contracts. We don't need a replacement for the KC-135 10 years from now; we need it right the fuck NOW!

And finally, 1138, I was wrong to make a series of inflammatory remarks towards you. Specifically, I was wrong to make those remarks because I've realized something: You allow Lou Dobbs to think for you. Since that is the case, I was wrong to direct my comments at you. I should have directed them towards your answer to Rush Limbaugh. I can understand, well, actually, I can't understand, how it would be easy to buy into the specious argument that increasing our manufacturing infrastructure for vital defense aircraft would somehow weaken our overall defense manufacturing capacity. It doesn't make a goddamned bit of sense to me, but then again, for all of my well-advertised and obvious hotheadedness, I am capable of logical thought. Still, you did buy Lou Dobbs' bullshit, and for that, I'm sorry. Lou Dobbs is a "defender of the middle class" insomuch as Manuel Uribe is anorexic.

Thus endeth my apologies. Please accept them in the spirit in which they were given.

Now crank this shit up!

Monday, March 10, 2008

Thank you, Governor Spitzer, and other musings:

Well, I'm sure if you've turned on a TV today, you know about Governor Spitzer of New York's involvement in a prostitution sting. Believe it or not, the title of this post is not entirely said sarcastically. While I'm sad for what it means for his family, I know that he brought it upon himself in a display of human weakness. Still, ultimately, it is they who will be innocent people punished for the actions of this flawed man. But apparently, this was not the first ethical lapse of his time as governor, as evidenced by his alleged misuse of State Police to investigate a political rival. It was, instead, the last, and for that reason, I'm thankful that he finally did something he couldn't get away with or brush aside.

Also, I'm thankful for Hillary co-opting the "3:00 a.m." ad created by an Obama supporter. This had the effect of simultaneously exposing further her willingness and eagerness to do anything to win, no matter how unethical, and providing ample fodder for amateur comedians, late-night talk show hosts, and one of my favorites, Saturday Night Live. I can almost see Amy Poehler portraying Hillary now. While nothing will ever compare to the Golden Era of Saturday Night Live, I think this cast is at least very good.

But most of all, I'm thankful that NASA, a government agency I have maligned often and vocally for their lack of progress during the last 30+ years and history of suffocating innovation through excessive bureaucracy, are at least doing SOMETHING towards exploring Mars. While manned exploration and colonization are vastly preferable to tossing robots at our neighbor planet, I suppose even a distant second choice is better than nothing at all. I love Mars. It's a beautiful planet rife with opportunities, and if given the opportunity to be one of those first explorers, I would gladly do so, knowing the risks would be far outweighed by the rewards for science and humanity. I fell in love with Mars when I was young, and though other interests came and went, my curiosity and fascination with Mars has never been sated. The most frustrating thing about it, though, is that the lion's share of the technology needed for safe human exploration of Mars has existed for 40 years or more. We should have had our first manned expedition to Mars when I was in grade school, yet it appears that, thanks to politicians and various special interests within and outside of academia, we might get a manned expedition two generations from now, if we're lucky, and not only is it sad on a level I can barely express, it's pathetic. What happened to the America that planted a flag on the Moon? What happened to that ingenuity and that political will? Bah.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

A slight reconsidering: Super Tuesday, Episode IV Revisited

Perhaps I let my temper get the better of me. Perhaps I've dealt with too many people from other parts of the country who, as soon as I mentioned the state of my birth, started treating me like a less intelligent version of Forrest Gump or an extra from Deliverance, or senile old tour guide bastards who thought that "Alabamer" (his pronunciation, not mine) was a foreign country, and then thought he was funny when he said it. Perhaps I'm tired of yet another defense contractor trying to be another Halliburton and believing that the United States Air Force is a wholly-owned subsidiary of theirs, and then getting upset when they lost the contract because of deficiencies in their offering. Perhaps I'm even tired of the type of cynical pandering for votes and speech before research and thought that, too often, serves as a cheap substitute for the type of statecraft that made our nation great. Perhaps I'm tired of being viewed by the rest of the nation as some sort of Jerry Springer/Gone With the Wind/Flowers In the Attic/Bull Connor-esque reject because I had the audacity to be born in the South. If someone's treated like crap for too many years, they either start to believe it, or they start to get damned angry. Guess which one I chose.

Don't get me wrong. I'm still very, very irritated with the junior Senator from Illinois, and doubly so with Ms. Pelosi and First Lady Clinton for their incendiary remarks. One would think that all of them would know that Senator Brownback, whenever he speaks, is probably wrong. One would think that aircraft for which 60% of the labor and materials come from the United States would still be a boon to American jobs. I was wrong.

In the end, however, I found myself asking a simple question: Is my disgust with Obama greater than my utter hatred for Hillary and McCain? Considering this is his first major misstep, once I simmered down, I realized that the answer was obvious. In spite of his embrace of symbolism over substance, he still has far fewer ethics concerns and other downsides than either of the two remaining major candidates. So, for now, I will continue to support the audacity of his hype. But know this: I have absolutely no loyalty to any politician, no matter how polished they look, or how well they can speak. After all, Adolf Hitler, a man whose name became synonymous with some of the deepest depravities of human evil, was one of the most influential orators of all time, and we all know how much of a fucking nightmare he was. So congratulations, Senator Obama. You're the best of what's left, maybe, this year.

Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Super Tuesday, Episode IV: A New Hopelessness

After this weekend, I must say that, between Senator Obama and Senator Clinton, I don't know which one's Emperor Palpatine and which one's Darth Vader. The junior Senator from Illinois' cowardice and shameless pandering on the Air Force tanker contract, a deal lauded as a good call by at least one insider, will not soon be forgotten. He had my support because I mistook him for a man of integrity and courage. I also mistook him for a man of wisdom and sound judgment, but apparently, I was wrong. I was DAMNED wrong. I was as wrong about him as I was when I voted for President Bush the first time. If he won't trust the experts on a procurement issue, what, exactly, will he trust them with? You can say that he was decrying the loss of "American jobs" just to have a better shot in Ohio and Texas, but that just proves he's a weasel. I should have voted for Romney. Of those still in the race, as much as it pains me to admit it, only McCain had the integrity to ask questions before condemning the deal. I read the following comment from the message board at the Seattle Times:

"My dad spent 26 years in the USAF. My daughter, two of her friends, and a nephew were going to make the USAF a career and join this summer. But, after the unprofessional decision yesterday by the USAF to buy foreign aircraft, I and the other parents have contacted our recruiter to cease all contact with us. Many of us are shocked and outraged at this decision. Where is the "buy American only " clause in our contracts? There''s no factory yet nor a technical base in Alabama. The trival amount of money that will stay in the US is nothing compared to what''s going to fill the pockets of those foreign executives. I ask everyone reading this comment to write their Representatives in Washington to complain about this. Boycot the USAF recruiting stations, prevent USAF recruiters from visiting our high schools and colleges, and request that the names of your children be removed from the high school lists that are provided free from our school districts to the recruiters. Also, write your Representatives to reduce the USAF''s portion of the defense budget. This decision is as STUPID as when the USAF bought blue camouflage tiger stripe uniforms for their personnel going to Iraq. This is a sad day for America when we allow the USAF to sell our country out to a foreign company. I wonder how much money the Secretary of the USAF and his generals made from this decision? I wonder how many of the generals involved in this decision have already coordinated a job with EADS after they retire!

"Sat, Mar 1, 2008 4:25 pm
McChord AFB"

Yes, I see it all perfectly clearly now. It is professional for the USAF to deal with Boeing, a company that has, for years, displayed a kind of haughty arrogance reminiscent of medieval European royalty asserting the "divine right of kings" as they controlled their serfs. The USAF would have truly shown "professionalism" by selecting an inferior and untested craft made by a vendor with whom they have had an excessively cordial relationship in the past, rather than selecting a better plane at lower total cost of ownership made by two of their chief rivals, one of whom is Nortrop Grumman, a Los Angeles-based company. Instead, they "unprofessionally" chose a craft that would better serve the good men and women, above commenter excluded both as either a man or a woman and as a good person, who protect and defend, well, whatever the Commander in Chief tells them to.

Of course jobs are going overseas with this contract. After all, Mobile County, Baldwin County, and Washington and Choctaw Counties in Alabama, are actually part of fucking INDIA! Why, I remember during the Pongal festival a few years ago, my mother and aunt got into a huge argument over who made the best Puliyodarai. It was so fierce, in fact, that they didn't speak to each other until the following Deepavali. In fact, we've never heard of gumbo, fried chicken, POTATO SALAD, SHRIMP CREOLE, CRAWFISH ETOUFFE, COLLARD GREENS, KEY LIME PIE AND FUCKING GODDAMNED PEACH-BLACKBERRY CRISP WITH HOMEMADE VANILLA ICE CREAM!!! FUCK!!! Hilary Clinton, you're a cunt. Nancy Pelosi, you're a cunt. John McCain, you're a cunt, but not for this reason. And Barack Obama, I wonder how your mother feels about having raised a whore!

Now that I've said all that, I'll share what I really think...

Oh, and as a side-note, I read that Gary Gygax, one of the co-creators of Dungeons and Dragons, passed away at the age of 69. The cause of death was an inability to use his experience points to pay a wizard to increase his hit points. And I now need to take a shower to wash off the geekiness I incurred just reading that brief part of that Wikipedia article.

Enjoy the music.