Monday, July 27, 2009

F#ing Republican Morrons

I don't mind the fact that conservatives are opposing Sonya Sotomayor's appointment to the Supreme Court. That's what they are supposed to do. I hae a few problems with their infusion of political ideology into what should, ideally, be a non-ideological discussion. But that's a minor quibble. The senate gets to confirm appointees to the bench, and its the right of every senator to vote yay or nay for whatever reason (barring selling their vote) they see fit. And it's not like the democrats never played politics with Supreme Court appointments.

No, here is what I have a problem with: they are morons.

Ok, maybe I'm being too harsh. Maybe the Republicans are not morons. Maybe they are just bald-faced lying to the American people in order to score political points with their rabid base.

An article in the AP today proves my point. It's full of stupid blather by republicans on the judiciary like Jeff Sessions. Stupid blather like the following:

Sotomayor's speeches represent a "dramatic expressions of an activist view of judging." (Jim Sessions)

Chuck Grassly says he's not sure she understands the rights Americans have under the constitution, and that some of her rulings sidestepped constitutional issues and ignored bedrock principles.

Mike Johanns says he's troubled by Sotomayor's stance on gun rights. Well, ok: so am I. But that not enough to prompt me to oppose her.

Sessions is an ass. Nobody who reads Sotomayor's famous "Wise Latina" comment could take it as activist. Sessions is also a racist himself: his own confirmation hearings were torpedoed by racist statements he admitted to and did not retract. And he's a hypocrite, since after he was denied a seat on the bench he criticized exactly the type of partisanship in judicial appointments that he is now engaging in. And if Sessions is so concerned about activism on the bench, why isn't he up in arms over Antonin Scalia, the most activist justice we've had in my lifetime? Might it be because he agrees with Scalia's politics? Judicial Activism is just code for "I don't like their politics?"

As for Grassly's comments would that be principles such as "Stare Decis," the principle that past rulings should be left to stand? Grassly seems to be worried that she'll ignore precedent in regards to DC v. Heller (to name one example) but he desperately wants the court to ignore and overturn Roe v. Wade. Hyporcite. And what about the bedrock principle that we have a supreme court in the first place. We have nine justices precisely because legal issues are open to interpretation and based upon legal principles that are constantly in flux--and yes, these principles are occasionally linked to politics. If that were not the case Scalia would not vote as he does and Ginsburg as she does. Both are performing their roles as justices, and as much as I can't stand Scalia (and on occasion can't stand Ginsburg) both of them are part of one of those bedrock principles that Grassly seems not to understnad himself: that the court has a variety of opinion because none of this is rote. If it were we wouldn't need nine justices. One would do. But Grassly can't seem to get it through his head (though I'm sure that if the one was Scalia Grassly would go for it).

The simple fact is that they lost the election and they don't like it. They honestly believed that if they could have won this one they could have gotten rid of Roe v. Wade. They've already eviscerated civil rights and environmental protections, so Roe v. Wade is really the whole ball of wax. But these damn hypocrites can't handle the fact that politics informs justice, it always has, and it always will--and our constitution acknowledges that. That's one of our bedrock principles. And either Grassly and Sessions know this, but they doesn't want to admit that their votes against Sotomayor are politically motivated, in which case they are deceiving the American people, or or they are just a couple of morons.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Not Just Any Black Guy

Henry Louis Gates is the director of the W.E.B. Du Bois Institute for African and African American Research at Harvard and, with the possible exception of Cornell West, is the preeminent African American Studies scholar in the world. No one is more qualified to discuss the issues race and racial profiling in America today. Gates was arrested last Thursday afternoon after breaking into his own home, according to a story in the AP. He had returned from a trip to China. The door to his house had been jammed so he entered through the back and then went onto the porch and forced the front door open. Somebody had called the cops saying there were two black men (Gates and his driver) breaking into a house. Gates was inside his own home. He showed the officers his identification. They arrested him anyway.

Of course race had something to do with his arrest. Anybody who suggest otherwise has never lived in a city where suspicion for most crimes falls first on black people. Every black adult in America has been profiled as a possible criminal, and every white adult in America has looked at a black person and and worried that he might mug him. It is the way we live. Is it right? No. Is it excusable? No. The fact is that blacks are more likely to commit crimes than whites. Of course, blacks are also more likely to be the victim of crime than whites. According to the justice department, in 2007, of the 7.4 million people arrested in the United States more that 3.3 million were black. This doesn't in itself prove that blacks commit more crime, only that they are arrested more often. Of course, on TV, closer to 90% of crimes are committed by blacks. We are programed to be scared. And apparently, the police in Cambridge MA are programmed to be suspicious.

Of course, 57% of the bozos responding to the stupid AOL poll on the story believed race had nothing to do with the arrest, but the people who take those polls are notorious for having an ax to grind.

Regardless, I would not want to be the arresting officer, who for the next fifty years is going to be branded a racist in African American studies textbooks all over the country.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Media Roundup

Apparently, the kid who bombed the Starbucks in NYC was inspired by Fight Club. It's obviously more meat for the violence in the media debate, but it is not like a child killing another with a wrestling move. The ideas this kid got from Fight Club were not simply violent but also political. Bombing the Starbucks was an act of terrorism, and thus was a political act. That doesn't excuse it, that simply means that he didn't have to go to Fight Club to get the ideas that prompted him to bomb the star bucks. He could have gotten them from Che Guevara or Trotsky or any number of political theorists. So to blame Fight Club would be extremely naive.

Kronkite is dead and we will never see his like again. Not because he was so unique, but because the internet, cable, and the fragmentation of information have rendered it impossible for anyone to control that much attention. Never again will one man represent the voice and view of middle America (nor one woman. Sorry, Ms. Palin).

It was refreshing to see an editorial asking if, in venerating Michael Jackson, we are worshiping a monster. I don't know. The guy was acquitted. I got swept up in Michael's death a bit too, and I stand by what I've written, but it is good to see that not everyone was taken in by the mourning.

Michael, Farah Fawcet, Carl Maldin, Kronkite, and that Billy Mays guy. Tough summer so far. But did anybody notice (besides the Times) when MacNamara died a couple weeks ago? That's at least as big a deal in the non-celebrity world.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Lawers Guns and Money

Principle IV of the Nuremberg Principles, which we put in place during the military tribunals at Nuremberg, which *we* insisted in 1946 carry the force of law, states:

"The fact that a person acted pursuant to order of his Government or of a superior does not relieve him from responsibility under international law, provided a moral choice was in fact possible to him."

So what is this crap Obama and Holder are saying that if somebody acted on orders and didn't exceed the guidelines given them in torturing terrorist detainees that they won't be prosecuted. At Nuremberg we didn't settle for that. "I was only following orders" became THE symbolic phrase for Nazi culpability. In fact, we even convicted the lawyers who wrote the legal justification for Nazi war crimes, as well as anybody whom we could prove ordered those war crimes or carried out those orders, whether or not they had been given "legal justification." This was US, by the way, not the United Nations, not the allies, but US. We supplied the judges, the staff, and the prosecutors. We held the tribunals in our zone of control, stating that we had the authority to do so by virtue of the fact that we were the de facto government there, and we did it without any help from the British, French, or Russians (or, of course, the Germans). These were OUR rules, OUR principles, OUR laws.

But not President Obama's laws, and not AG Holder's laws.

The Nurmemberg principles were later adopted by the UN and ratified as an element of international law. I know that we ignore IL all the time, but these were OUR OWN RULES. Shouldn't we be upholding them now? What meaning do our laws have if the president can chose to ignore them whenever it is politically or militarily inconvenient to enforce them? We asked the same question about Bush and were told that the presidents authority in war time is absolute. Mr. Obama promised change. I don't see it.

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If I may...

If I may take a moment to say something in Sarah Palin's favor:

When the snot nosed little punk who knocked up your daughter goes onto the today show and bad mouths you on national TV, you should have every right to horse whip the little punk and then stake him out on a rock out on Kodiak island, stripped naked and speared with honey. Ok, maybe not that. But the horsewhipping, that's what woodsheds are really for.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Oh, and while you are at it....

Here is the stupidest headline I've ever seen on AOL:

"Obama asks Africa to end tyranny, corruption." It makes you wonder if he added "Pretty Please?"

The actual headline to the AP story was a bit more forceful. AOL of course always looks for a stupid way to get get people to click on a news item, like saying "Harry Potter Star Busted For Drugs," without saying who, and then when you click on it you find out it was one of Draco's pals, whose character you couldnt' name, let alone the actor who plays him.

Oh, speaking of Obama, did anyone but me notice the nice little conservative swipe taken at Obama by Michae Bay in Transformers? The duplicitous Defense Department guy from the Obama administration who is given presidential authority to negotiate with the Aliens who are trying to explode the sun and wipe out all life on the planet while President Obama hides in an undisclosed bunker? Yes, it's standard fare in adventure movies to have some part of the government, usually the whitehosue but sometimes congress, as hapless morons or occasionally traitors. Setting Obama up as the obstructionist political hack is just giving equal time. It's hard to say. He was highly critical of GW Bush, but Pearl Harbor, Armegedon, and both Transformers movies are very right-wing.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

Video Terror

Vox Pop, the cafe and bookstore where I used to work, has been getting some good press lately. Having re-opened a few weeks ago after remodeling, restructuring, and a hefty dose of investment from the local community, VP has once again captured the media spotlight. But the biggest publicity, and the most sympathy, has come from the theft of their Statue of Liberty replica. A rally was held and a reward offered after the seven foot statue was taken in June, and it made the local Brooklyn papers and a lot of blogs.

Well now the fate of the statue has been learned. As covered in the Daily News, the statue was decapitated in a "Death to America" video now on You Tube. Tonight at eight VP will be covered on CNN.

They say no publicity is bad publicity, and this actually helps Vox Pop, which had a not entirely deserved anti-American revolutionary image under founder Sander Hicks. Suddenly Vox Pop, which has always stood for a very lefty, almost Marxist brand of liberty, is now seen as a victim of anti-American protest and terror. I mean, lets face it: from a Marxist point of view the message of the video "We don't want your freedom" "Death to America" is pretty standard. And if, indeed, private property=theft, as many Marxists proclaim, then stealing the statue wasn't theft at all, because Vox Pop's ownership of it was part of a capitalistic structure designed to oppress the masses--or something like that. Anyway, the destruction of bourgeois symbols in an effort to tear the mask off of the hipocracy of the state certainly furthers the cause of revolution and should be embraced by the proletariat.

Shouldn't it?

Well, VP is a corporation. It is liberal but not really leftist. They believe in social justice but not really in revolution. It tries to be a business with a conscience, but it is still a business. And it's always a bit different when its your property being vandalized in the name of the people.

Vox Pop, while it's long struggled and while I've had my own issues with them, is a great place. Although seen as being part of the gentrification of Cortelyou Road, VP was on the early edge of that movement, and they are now an integral part of the community. Although some locals resent them, they are in fact one of the most community conscious business in the city, and also one of the coolest cafes in the world. And they deserve a break. And they deserve not to have their stuff messed with.

Just sayin'.

Tuesday, July 07, 2009

The Jacksons Knwo How to Throw a Funeral

Michael Jackson's funeral was a slickly produced event, with music and video, dancing and singing, and moving tributes. Brooke Shields talked of being a friend, Magic Johnson talked of being a fan, and Paris Jackson broke everyone's heart. It was for all intents and purposes an Black church service, and that should have been expected. I lost count of the numbers of preachers who spoke, but Sharpton was one, and Sharpton as always brought the house down.

It was also an exercise in myth making, and there it was truly revealing, because it failed. It fell short. Watching it I came to realize that nothing they could do could capture how great, how talented, how important Michale Jackson was. Did MJ make it so Barak Obama could be elected? Maybe no more than Jackie Robinson, but Robinson and maybe Ali are the only people before Jackson who could compare to his impact on race in America, and because Michael could write about it and sing about it and not just play his way into people's lives and hearts, I'd say his influence was possibly greater. Of his music there is no question: Thriller is the number one selling album of all time, and he is the most popular entertainer of all time, and that alone entitles him tot he title "greatest." But what I learned from his memorial service is that no tribute can do justice to how big he was, how important, how great. And I wasn't particularly a fan. I just recognize that he truly was the King of Pop.

You can't build a myth around that. It is already there, and your attempt will fall short.

Monday, July 06, 2009

The Footnote From Alaska

Sarah Palin is on facebook. Who knew. Apparently she announced on her facebook page that she quit her job as governor of Alaska because of a "Higher Calling." Well, unless she is entering a nunnery I think we all know what that higher calling will be. Sure, it might simple be to "whip the democrats," but I'll bet it more likely has to do with the black guy in the white house. Question is, did Mitt Romney write this script? Jindal gets on TV and looks like an ineffectual boob. Sanford goes down to Argentina and comes back a has-been. Sarah Palin will forever be painted as the woman who couldn't handle the high-pressure position of chief executive of Alaska. The economy continues to worry people and so does the president's plan and Romney, a former auto executive with ties to both Michigan and Massachusetts, is suddenly the Repubblican front runner -- which might just make him the next domino to fall.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Music Musings

Hmmm. Sarah Palin likes Van Halen. Hey! That Rhymes!