Obama Justice Dept. Should Proscecute the Shit Out Of the Bush Administration

When Obama was inaugurated, there was a general consensus both in his administration and with the country at large, that it would be, at best, a distraction to investigate and possibly proscecute the previous administration. A lot of people just wanted to move on, and focus on solving the problems at hand.

But I am beginning to think that was a mistake, for one very large reason: Those same lying, corrupt shitheads who were fucking us for eight long years are now spending their time trying to derail any positive changes the new Administration and Congress are attempting to put in place. Dick Cheney pops up every couple weeks to snipe at the Obama administration.

See, if he was held accountable for all the evil things he did as Vice President, he wouldn’t have any time to criticize the President — he’d have his hands full trying to avoid ass rape from his cell mate.

The Manhattan Document — Stupidity with a Christian Face

The Manhattan Document is a declaration of supposedly ‘core Christian values’ and they’ve gotten 160,000 people to sign apparently.

Some of the money quotes:
“The present administration is led and staffed by those who want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development, and who want to provide abortions at taxpayer expense.”

That is no doubt objectively true. The primary stance in the Obama administration is pro-choice. However, it is also disingenuous and misleading. The actual standard issue pro-choice position is that abortion should be legal at any stage of fetal development to preserve the life of the mother. In other words, late term abortions when medically necessary. No one supports late-term abortion of a viable fetus. Furthormore, if a fetus is viable, and the mother’s life is endangered by the pregnancy, is there a doctor on the face of the planet who would abort the child? No. They would deliver the baby.

As for ‘abortion at taxpayer expense’ — the Obama administration might support that in the abstract, but there have been a law on the books for a long time prohibiting that and no one in the Obama administration is trying to get that repealed. Not only that, the House Health Care Reform bill is even MORE restrictive on paying for abortions than current law, in that it would prohibit private health insurance from covering pregnancy termination if the patient has any government subsidy of her health insurance costs.

“The impulse to redefine marriage in order to recognize same-sex and multiple partner
relationships is a symptom, rather than the cause, of the erosion of the marriage culture.”

For crying out loud, who is advocating group marriage? I mean, aside from the redneck pedophiles in back-country Utah? This is just another specious ‘slippery-slope’ argument. Try this one on for size: “Accepting Jesus Christ as your personal savior is the first step on the slippery slope to believing all sorts of stupid shit, starting with basing your entire life around magical thinking.” If I were to make that statement in earnest, I think a lot of reasonable Christians might be rightly offended. But “slippery slope” is always an argument with nothing to back it up. It’s basically making the logical assertion “For all B, A implies B.” It’s not an argument, it’s baseless fear-mongering.

And “marriage culture?” Listen, you pious wankers, people get married, people get divorced. Some married people do wonderful things, and some commit all sorts of unspeakable cruelties and crimes. Whether or not gay people get married will have no bearing whatsoever on whether marriage is a strong ‘institution,’ or ‘culture.’ It is a flawed human institution, that on balance is a positive. But whether marriages are good or bad has nothing to do with what sort of sex the parties involved prefer. Besides, married people stop having sex and the issue becomes moot.

“It is ironic that those who today assert a right to kill the unborn, aged and disabled and also a
right to engage in immoral sexual practices, and even a right to have relationships integrated
around these practices be recognized and blessed by law—such persons claiming these “rights”
are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express
their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the
conjugal union of husband and wife.”

OK there it is, all rolled into one. That’s who they’re up against — those butt-fucking, baby-killing, granny-smothering infidels who want to harsh on their mellow. Classic straw man argument. Let’s make this perfectly clear: No one, no where is trying to limit their free speech or freedom to worship. Or if you can actually find such a person, they are by no means in the mainstream, and they certainly have no power to actually implement such a program.

The fact is, people like the Manhattan Document signatories are really lost without someone persecuting them. It defines them, it binds them together, it gets them out of bed in the morning. But this persecution is imaginary. If anything, I think they have too many venues in which to spin their fairy tales, and their phoney-baloney arguments get way too much credence in the marketplace of ideas.

I’ve no doubt that these people are sincere, but sincerity counts for little in American politics. If it did, the entire Republican Party establishment would have to hang up their expensive suits and sell used cars. Ditto for most of the Democrats. The Manhattan Document is a succinct explication of a set of deeply held religous beliefs, but they aren’t everyone’s beliefs, and they consequently cannot and should not be implemented in law! To do so would be a betrayal of the core political values of our country.

My brother Ian, the raging Heathen

My brother Ian goes off.

There’s something awesome about fulminating rage from someone who can actually write. The title of this post refers to the quarter-page ads some fundamentalist nutjob used to buy in the Des Moines Register every sunday, which were dense, incoherent 750 word paragraphs, always under the headline “Why Do The Heathens Rage?”

I’ll add my own two cents with respect to raging about the ‘aughts’ decade. It was a decade so ruled by unreason, greed and nihilism that no one has come up with a name for it like ‘the seventies.’ My brother pretty much nailed it, but I have some specific complaints about the so-called conservative movement:

Dear Conservatives,

The latest in the long line of hobby horses y’all are wont to ride is Fiscal Responsibility. NOW you wring your hands over the National Debt and the Federal Deficit? Where the fuck were you when Cheney and Bush were flying C5As into Iraq full of PALLETS OF CASH and handing out bricks of hundreds to shady operators of all shapes and colors, without even GETTING A RECEIPT? Where were you when we started spending hundreds of millions of dollars a month to prosecute the worst run war in the history of warfare? Why were you silent when the Republicans rammed through tax cuts for the rich shithead leeches they play golf with?

We are in the middle of some pretty frightening deficit spending right now — I’ll grant you that. And I’m not crazy about the fact that we can’t rationalize the international financial system without handing out bricks of hundreds AGAIN without getting a receipt, this time to the shady operators who run banks. But you lot? You can fuck the fucking fuck right off. Health Care Reform, the Stimulus Plan, all the ways Obama and Congress are spending money right now is an INVESTMENT in our country — the education of our young, the care for our sick and infirm, the rebuilding of our country’s infrastructure.

Conservatives have NO problem with profligate deficit spending when it’s used to generate obscene profits for arms dealers and murderous thieving thugs like Blackwater. You have no problem mortgaging our future so a bunch of golf-playing, Swiss ski vacationing parasites can pay even LESS of their fair share for the common good. You have no trouble with paying CONSULTANTS a thousand dollars a day to TORTURE foreigners for the crime of being brown. But try to make government do something POSITIVE is just a bridge too far for you, isn’t it?

It’s all too much for me. It reminds me of one of Woody Allen’s best lines: “if Jesus came back and saw what’s going on in his name, he’d never stop throwing up. ” The modern conservative movement has nothing to do with ‘conserving’ what is good and moderating the more outlandish liberal impulses. It is a coalition of cynical sociopaths hell bent on destroying the Earth and a bunch of deluded millenialist dead-enders who think gay people will somehow ruin marriage. Conservatism as it is practiced today is not antithesis to liberalism’s thesis. It is a ill-constructed system of specious theorems constructed on axioms of the PUREST BULLSHIT.

Sincerely,
The Chaircrusher

Heavy-Handed Policing isn’t just Unpleasant, it’s Harmful

The British Police arresting people just for DNA samples

I have never been arrested. My police encounters, while not always pleasant, have been nominal — i.e. they were examples of proper police conduct. That being said, I’ve seen first hand and heard of second hand, many examples of the police abusing authority, harrassing people for reprehensible reasons, and generally acting like they’re jailors of the general public, not their protectors.

This example from the UK is just another example in a long line of heavy-handed abuse of power by the police. And I’m not writing this to express my righteous indignation, or not just that. Rather I’d like to make this point, which isn’t made often enough: Every time the Police do something shady like this, they don’t just violate the rights of their victims, they harm the law and civil society. How can anyone respect the rule of law if those sworn to uphold it do not?

Police are human beings, of course, which means their behavior will fall short of the ideal. But this is just one example amongst many of the way police, not as a momentary failing but as a matter of conscious policy, make a mockery of law and society. They should aspire to be more than thugs.

Consider this one example; in the US (and I assume most places), it is a matter of settled law that the Police can lie in order to gain information in an investigation. While I can understand that some flexibility is required, particularly where lives are at stake, policeman often make promises they have no intention of keeping to suspects, and tell them things about the law itself that aren’t true. This is extremely harmful to the law and society, because it goes against something that I consider a valuable societal convention. Namely, that you can trust the police.

But that simply isn’t the case. In any situation where you’re being investigated, whether you are guilty or not, you can never, ever, trust the police. It is NEVER in your best interest to tell them anything that may by any stretch of the imagination incriminate you. It’s not the case, as you’re taught as a child, that the Policeman Is Your Friend.

Watching the smoke come out of Andrew Sullivan’s Ears

The latest chapter in Andrew Sullivan’s Mad Obsession with Sarah Palin.

I have — I think — said a few things about Sarah Palin in the past, notably right after her nomination. I’ve not said a lot because I don’t figure it’s worth anyone’s time to say things that others have said. And in the case of Mr. Sullivan and Josh Marshall, said it more eloquently and with good sourcing.

But I will say this to the people who, to me, seem otherwise perfectly reasonable: If you give that empty power suit in pumps any credence at all, you’re immune to reason and fact. I can’t even discuss or debate any issue of policy or politics with you, because if you believe in Sarah Palin, you’ll believe in anything. Like Mark Twain said, “It ain’t what you don’t know that gets you into trouble. It’s what you know for sure that just ain’t so.”

And that’s Sarah Palin to a T — the more certain she is about something, the more likely that it just aint so. How can anyone besides the ignorant, the deluded, and the deranged think even for a moment about giving her any power or authority?
SarahPalin

Dear Libertarians, Ayn Rand Was Wrong, Love Me

Here’s the deal — “Who is John Galt?” signs are showing up at those moronic anti-Obama rallies. Which means that somewhere out there are some Ayn Rand fans are jumping on that bandwagon. If you’ve somehow fallen under Rand’s spell, let me break it down for you.

  • Objectivism isn’t a philosophy, really. It’s just a system of rationalizations that let selfish assholes feel superior to other people.
  • Ayn Rand never actually wrote any rigorous philosophy, just bad novels. Long-winded, stilted, boring, novels. If you’ve waded through one, good for you I guess. I respect people who make models of the Eiffel Tower from toothpicks and Elmer’s Glue too, but in both cases, I don’t really understand what made it worth the effort.
  • Altruism is and has always been an advantage to human survival. Rand’s followers don’t like big government because they think ‘I got mine, get your own!’ But no man/woman is an island, and we all benefit when everyone’s welfare is everyone’s concern.
  • Ayn Rand’s fans, if anything, are worse than the Fundamentalist God botherers. With them, you can quote Jesus to them if they start getting too obnoxious. Ayn Rand fans reject altruism and compassion as weakness, so about all you can do is sock them one in the kisser.

Health Care Town Hall: Fear & Loathing in Washington IA

I went down to Washington Iowa Saturday morning, to attend a Health Care Reform Town Hall Meeting with our congressional representative Dave Loebsack. I’ve been really happy with how Loebsack has taken on the job of representing our district; before running against Jim Leach, Loeback was a professor at Cornell College. I think he is progressive yet pragmatic; despite being low on the seniority totem pole he’s already done a lot of good work, both on House committees, and in helping constituents.

I had heard before about how conservatives had been packing the Town Halls, but I wasn’t prepared for what I witnessed. Not only did the questions (selected at random) tilt about 3 to 1 against Health Care Reform, whenever one of the questioners made some ridiculous claim about the bill, the room erupted in shouting and applause.

A common theme of the opposition was that they disputed whether Congress has the constitutional authority to legislate Health Care Reform. This is a priori bullshit, but it’s all over the Internet, e.g. here. One gentleman stood up and read several quotes from James Madison, which, if I google brings up this.

Another woman stood up and stumbled through listing things in the health care bill to which she objected, citing ‘page and paragraph.’ Congressional bills are, of course, organized in numbered sections and subsections, because page numbers are arbitrary and subject to change, and she quoted purported synopses, not the text of the legislation. Furthermore the things she said the bill says it doesn’t say at all. She must have found this list on the Internet and printed it out to read at the meeting.

But the absolute pinnacle of the opposition was voiced by a man who claimed to be a minister. He stood up, and after fulminating a bit about the Government taking over health care, he went on to decry recent Hate Crime Legislation, and how he could be charged with a hate crime for preaching against homosexuality. To top it off he said that he was afraid the United States was turning from “the land of the free and home of the brave” to “the land of the queer and home of the slave.” At that point, there was a general uproar in the room, half applause and half boos.

Throughout all this, Rep. Loebsack maintained a friendly and unruffled demeanor, to his credit. He answered all of the misinformation with patient explanations of why the bill he helped write, doesn’t, in fact, allow funding for abortion, ration health care for seniors, or force seniors to face death panels. He explained why he supported a public option. And over and over he pleaded for a respectful dialog, when people in the crowd began shouting.

I was pretty angry by the end of this event, especially with the blue-blazered bullet-head ignoramus sitting in front of me who’d say no and shake his head at everything Loebsack said. I do, however understand a little better where people who oppose the bill are coming from: they see this as a sinister intrusion of the government into their private lives, and they have no faith in the government to do a good job with their health care. The think that people in other countries with single payer health care plans (i.e. almost the entire rest of the industrialized world) get worse health care. They believe that the government will begin funding abortion, even though the Hyde amendment and explicit language in the HR Health Care Reform Act prohibits it.

In short, they don’t trust the government. Now normally, I’d applaud mistrust of the government on principle, especially after living through eight years of Bush and Cheney. Healthy scepticism of government is a good thing — it’s a human institution and subject to human failings. But what makes me crazy about what those people at the Town Hall were saying is that they see the government as something that can never be trusted.

For this there is one person who I think is to blame: that affable old fucktard Ronald Reagan, who said in his first inaugural “government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem.” These people — and every one was of an age to remember Reagan’s time in office well — have taken Reagan’s words to mean that there’s an “Us” the freedom-loving patriots and “Them,” the government, and that “They” are never to be trusted.

They’ve made a fundamental category error with respect to the relationship between citizens and the government in a representative democracy — they think that the only influence they can have over the government is a negative one — if they shout loud enough at their elected representatives, maybe they can keep them from doing any harm. They seem to forget that if they don’t like how government works, they can influence and change how it works.

And in the particular case of Health Care Reform, they’re willing to oppose something that is clearly in their own best interest to support, because they feel like it represents a move towards oppression. Even though there are dozens of counter-examples from around the world, including a country six hours away by car. Even though their health care is already rationed and meddled with by insurance companies. It is true that every country’s health care system has problems, but the fact remains that we in the United States pay the most for our health care and get inferior health outcomes in the bargain. This isn’t subject to debate — it’s a fact.

But facts didn’t seem to matter to the people at the Town Hall meeting. And I honestly don’t know how you have a policy debate with people who insist on believing things that aren’t so.

Obama v. 5-0 — Obama backs down?

Mr. President — I campaigned for you. I haven’t been with you 100% since you’ve been inaugurated — warrantless wiretrapping, not killing ‘Don’t Ask Don’t Tell’, Issues of the Guantanamo Bay prisoners — I’m a dyed in the wool Eugene McCarthy liberal, you know where I stand.

But yesterday you said something I could really get behind — you said the Cambridge police acted stupidly when they arrested Henry Louis Gates! Now THAT’S my President — not afraid to call cops stupid.

Now today he came close to apologizing. Weak.

Fact is, an able-bodied Cambridge policeman arrested an old crippled man, because the man — Gates — cursed him out. Why is it that cops think they can arrest people just for being lippy? WTF man — a few years back my next door neighbor stood in his front yard yelling at me for 5 solid minutes. Can I put him in cuffs? Is it a crime to be rude to a cop? Apparently so, because many, many people have been arrested or even put in the hospital for talking back to the police.

And as Harry Allen pointed out — this happened to a black man, and no one can come up with a SINGLE case where a white professor was arrested in his own home. To say race doesn’t matter in this issue is bullshit.

Health Care Reform: What To Do So You Don’t Get Fucked … Again

Someone twittered This interview by Bill Moyers with Wendell Potter of Cigna. Quick summary: they make their money by denying sick people care. They spend millions of dollars to prevent meaningful health care reform.

Everyone needs to be lobbying their Representatives and Senators to force them to do something real about health care in the United States. If we don’t threaten to toss their sorry asses out of office if they don’t, nothing useful will get done. The insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies and doctors and for-profit hospitals will continue to dictate the terms of how you receive health care. And even though they are theoretically in the business of helping others, they do not care about you. They care about their profits, and about maintaining the status quo.

It’s important, when the talking heads are throwing up a smoke screen and trying to say there’s a ‘debate’ about health care to remember some simple facts about how things work in the United States:

1. We have the most expensive, least effective, and least fair health care system in the industrialized world.
2. There is no debate about universal health care. A solid majority of Americans want it.
3. The people who are fighting to keep it from happening are not your friends. They’re not a reasoned, loyal opposition. They are the people that bankrupt sick people and let them die, in the name of making a profit.
4. The people complaining about the cost of universal health care are being disingenuous. We’re already paying through the nose for NOT having universal health care.

It’s a complete cliche to trot out Edmund Burke in a blog post but I’m going to do it anyway: “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.”

We elected Obama to, among other things, fix health care, but he’s just the President — he can’t do it alone. Every one of us has to be an active proponent of fixing the system, or it won’t get fixed.

Palin, Iran, Healthcare — quick capsule opinions

I’ve gotten away from political posts since the election, for two reasons: 1) I don’t need to waste my time saying things other people have already said, and 2) After the election, I’m sick of the whole business. The idea that there are adults in charge means I can worry about other stuff, like music, music software, and random silly shit.

But I have one moderately original thing to say about the Healthcare Reform process that is underway: I’m all for dialog and making places at the table for all interests in putting the plan together but there is one really big thing no one seems willing to say: It is morally reprehensible to profit from the suffering of others. All of the major interests fighting real reform in the Healthcare system — Doctors, Insurance Companies, Drug Companies — have one thing in common: the current system, which is frequently horrible for patients, and expensive beyond all rationalization, is one from which they profit.

It’s not politically practical to do what we’d do ideally, which is to go to a single payer system. The insurance industry is just too large a sector of our economy to wipe out all at once. Drugs are expensive to develop, and while doctors can make a lot of money relative to most people, their pay tops out a couple of orders of magnitude lower than, for example, corporate executives and investment bankers.

But in order for anything other that yet another bullshit fake reform that keeps punishing people for not being wealthy and immortal to take place, the President, the pundits, and everyone else needs to have the courage to stand up against those groups, and speak the truth. And the truth is those people are getting rich on the suffering of others. They are no different, morally, than the arms dealers who sell to the government and militias in Sudan.

The argument has to be framed in those terms, and people need to bring it up again and again, because otherwise we’re all going to get fucked over yet again.

Oh those other two topics?

1. I feel a lot of goodwill towards the people of Iran and the courage they’ve shown in standing up to their government. Not an original idea, but this last weekend is one of those moments like Solidarity in Poland, Tienanmen Square in China, and the Orange Revolution in Georgia, where you get a feeling of hope for change. A more democratic Iran will benefit the Iranian people, and the world at large, and the only way it’s going to happen is when the Iranian people stand up to their government.

2. Fuck Sarah Palin. Again not an original thought, but every time you think she’s plumbed the depths of unprincipled political opportunism, she finds a way to go lower. There is nothing more despicable than transparently using your own children as props for your own ambition, and it’s something she’s done again and again. It’s hard to think of another figure in American politics whose ambition so completely outstrips his or her abilities or sense of shame. Mitt Romney comes to mind, but Sarah Palin makes Mitt Romney look like Abraham Fucking Lincoln.

Ongoing twitter bullshit — Mitt Romney Sycophants following moi?

I guess I shouldn’t ask why These fucktards are following me on twitter. We couldn’t have less in common if they were methane breathing creatures from the depths of Jupiter. I think this is a ‘fake’ twitter account, which is to say they don’t actually read their own twitter feed, they just add everyone they can find in hopes you’ll add them back.

If anyone from coMITTED to Mitt Romney is reading this: Hi! Did you know that Mitt Romney represents two things I can’t stand — the Mormon Church and the Republican Party? For a guy who theoretically gives 10% of his massive income to the LDS Church and spends half his week in church, he sure is an unprincipled hack. Fuck Mitt Romney — the best thing I can say about him is that George W. Bush makes him look competent by comparison.

Vermont Passes Gay Marriage: Look Forward to Gayple Syrup!

The dominos are falling. We’re up to 4 states with legal gay marriage, and I think there’s a good chance Prop 8 will be thrown out eventually by the courts in California. I expect even more states to go this way over the next few years.

A big factor will become evident after several months of legal gay marriage in Iowa and Vermont. Once it stops being a headline, people will see what a non-event it really is.

And while State Constitutions vary wildly in how they deal with Equal Protection, the Iowa ruling is a pretty powerful precedent for any other state with Equal Protection clauses in their constitutions. I’m sure the Lambda people are all over this already.

But the fact that the sky isn’t falling is a hard argument to refute. The real obstacle to this change taking place everywhere in the US is that older Americans just can’t get their head around Gay marriage. An overwhelming majority of people under 40 have digested the fact that being Gay isn’t a crime or a sin or a perversion. They’re over the Gay thing — it’s just something people are. The older folks who aren’t swayed by facts or logic on this issue are going to have to die off. Not to put too fine a point on it.

Iowa Strike Down Gay Marriage Ban, Pegs FABULOUS METER

Iowa Supreme Court Strikes Down Gay Marriage Ban

Iowa used to be synonymous with rural backwater, something that has always irked Iowans. To the extent that was ever true, the Internet and Satellite TV made Iowans no less globally connected than the skinniest black-t-shirt rocking chainsmoking Manhattanite. Except they don’t have to lock their doors at night, and can leave the keys in their cars on Main Street all day long.

Now, in addition to world class pork and sweet corn, Iowa has a new claim to fame, as Midwest Capitol of The Gay. Iowa City has always prided itself as the Queerest City in Iowa, now gay people all over the state, even in What Cheer, Grundy Center, Mechanicsville and Altoona can join in civilly sanctioned matrimony.

Still up in the air. Can gay couples get married at Little Brown Church In The Vale? Because that would be sooo awesome. At any rate I expect a big economic boon from gay couples visiting to get married. Any of y’all gay brothers and sisters out there who are looking for a more rustic spot to tie the knot, Iowa is home to many insufferably cute Bed & Breakfasts, Antique Stores full of bargains, beautiful State Parks, and miles and miles of natural beauty. I’m sure we have our fair share of homophobic rednecks, but the vast majority of them are too polite to spoil your visit.