A member, and hoping to stay that way, of the reality-based community

18 December 2008

War crimes trials would be a good start

The New York Times has finally said what so many others have said for so long about the Bush Administration and Guantanamo (and Abu Ghraib, and Bagram, and the we-don't-really-know-how-many "black sites"): investigate and punish. Frankly, I'd like to see us just hand over Bush, Cheney, Addington, Yoo, Rumsfeld, Feith, and any of the rest of them that are implicated to the International Criminal Court and be done with it. That's the most reasonable approach, as far as I am concerned.

Really— plainly and simply, any American official or officer above the rank of Colonel who approved of torture (in the sense of "agreed that it was an acceptable policy or helped to implement it") should be handed over to the ICC for trial on crimes against humanity. Bush, for those not sure of his culpability on simple grounds of mental capacity, deserves attention because he agreed that the United States would unilaterally abrogate its responsibility under the Geneva Convention.

I've argued elsewhere that Scalia ought to be impeached for ignoring the plain language of the 4th Amendment, but this is arguably worse. My own father, who is very much a partisan Republican most of the time, said at the time of Abu Ghraib that it was a horrible stain on our country. If we can publicly acknowledge that these horrible things were done in our name, and still not feel compelled to punish them, then we are weak, and deserve the horrible things that will be done to us. If by-then-President Obama wants to be a true leader for all people, one thing he will have to lead us to do is to see that torturers are punished fittingly.

Music to stay at home and drink to

I am a fan of much music, but I make an effort to expose myself to the music being made around me that is even remotely of interest, because it is more fun to me to watch someone trying earnestly to build an audience than it is to see someone preen, having succeeded. That being the case, I often feel like there are people who make music that is grossly under-appreciated. Today, among those people I would list the Denver band Everything Absent or Distorted (A Love Story).

Their most recent release (and first "full length"), The Great Collapse, is beautifully heart-wrenching. It's lush pop music, made by the modern equivalent of a big band (a friend who shares my addiction to music you can see up close counted 15 players on stage at one point at the CD release party they threw at Denver's Bluebird). And the title is a none-too-subtle reminder that these are perilous times. Other commenters have noted that EAOD (as they are called for short) sound like Arcade Fire at times, and resemble Broken Social Scene in ways, but I'd say that's not a bad thing. Their harmonies on their first effort, A Soft Civil War, were certainly less like Arcade Fire, and they have a way with horns that Broken Social Scene completely lacks, so maybe these comparisons are more the result of Arcade Fire and BSS being a bit too ubiquitous. I don't care. I know what I like, and this is on that list.

03 December 2008


Via Political Animal:
It may not top the list of Obama administration priorities, but Hawaii Democratic Congressman Neil Abercrombie is urging the president-elect to take on one more controversial issue -- creating a new playoff system for college football. [...]
Oh, fer crying out loud!

Please, there is so much more to do than this for the DOJ. No time need be wasted on it by anyone except the NCAA.

And they need to pull their heads out of their asses and make it work. FWIW, the BCS doesn't work.

05 October 2008

Excuse me?

Thanks to Political Animal, I was pointed to something that goes like this:

I am listing for your consideration the platform of Barack Hussein Obama as best as I can figure it out....
TERRORIST THREAT TO AMERICA: Learn to speak Arabic....
REPARATIONS TO THE BLACK COMMUNITY: Opposes before Election Day and supports after Election Day...
FREEDOM OF RELIGION: Mandatory Black Liberation Theology courses taught in all churches--- raise taxes to pay for this mandate....
There's more, but I think you get the picture.

What I want to know is how is the author of this considered an acceptable occupant of a post in the Republican Party if the party is not racist? If it were my party, I'd want him tossed. Now. If it's your party, what are you waiting for?

24 September 2008

Unrelenting deception

I'm more than a little disgusted by the fact that the McCain campaign has so few scruples (none, possibly) that it will think nothing of literally making up letters to the editor that they then mass-mail to newspapers in the hopes that one or two will stick. When you can't even count on your actual supporters to work on your behalf honestly, you are morally bankrupt, and you deserve NO votes.

16 September 2008

Wrong on Energy. Wrong for America.

So I follow Factcheck.org, just because I'm too lazy to do the hard work on my own.

I noticed that Sarah Palin (and the McCain campaign generally) claimed Alaska produces 20% of America's domestic energy supply (Palin) or simply America's energy supply (McCain campaign).

As Factcheck.org points out, this is plainly, simply, egregiously wrong.

But, hey, figures lie, and liars figure, so who cares? Right?

09 September 2008

McCain is a crafty old SOB

From Gary Kamiya at Salon:

Palin is the pinup queen in that war. She's feisty, she's a mom, she's from a frontier state, she guns down wolves from the air, she's a devout Evangelical, she poses as a reformer, and she insults the Washington elites.

And large numbers of Americans think she's hot.

This latter point cannot be underestimated. Iraq may be a quagmire, a new cold war may be looming, the economy may be tanking and the world may be heading toward environmental doom, but the presidential race may be decided by the perceived doability of the governor of Alaska.

This is regrettably, astoundingly, almost certainly true.

It make me very, very sad that we're so far down the road to Bread and Circuses that this is true, but I'm convinced that McCain recognized the many ways Sarah Palin appeals to the people that voted in large numbers for George W Bush and have expressed reservations about Johnny Mac. And I'm absolutely sure that one or more of the younger staffers expressed the, "Dude, she's hot!" meme in a meeting or two....

For so long I thought we'd manage to avoid letting W play the role of Nero to completion, but now I see that half of the country is almost certainly going to be persuaded, especially given that the MSM is going to give her a pass. You almost wonder if she could have plugged her sister's ex with a few dozen pellets and still have gotten nominated...

12 August 2008

When to fight

There's been an exciting set of developments in the world of beating up on the weak these past few days. As you may have heard (if you weren't too distracted by the puffery in Beijing), Georgia (not the US state, but a country that borders Russia) tried to see if the US had any time or resources to back it up while it beat up the little brother of the biggest, baddest muthafucka on the block (BBMFOTB)-- which is to say it attacked the South Ossetians to bring them back in the fold while they are under the watchful eye of the Russian Federation's "peacekeepers."

The US, distracted by two other wars in which it isn't exactly wiping the field with the opposition, pretty much has had to say, "You're on your own," without actually saying anything. Oh, sure, we've said, "Bad Russia! Don't do that!" You may have noticed how well this works with a teenager when the parent has never been able to impose discipline in the past. It works about as well when the US says it to another nuclear power.

So, many American commetators have called for the US to "do something." I'm especially amused by Mr. Kristol:
The United States, of course, is not without resources and allies to deal with these problems and threats. But at times we seem oddly timid and uncertain.
Yeah. Because we have so much leeway for action, here. I mean, what's a nuclear war?

One day maybe we'll start to realize that being the BBMFOTB isn't much fun if we can actually get beaten up once in a while because we don't have enough sense to keep fights from starting in the first place.

Until then, we'll get to watch the Georgians, Iranians, Iraqis, Palestinians, North Koreans, and a few more suffer.

09 August 2008

Please can we prosecute President Bush for war crimes?

I realize that it would be fraught with political danger. I accept that a lot of Americans don't get that a President (and a host of his lawyers-- yes, I'm looking at you John Yoo and David Addington) is capable of violating the law of war, never mind the Constitution, and appearing to get away with it. I have met actual people who think that if the President does it, it's OK (even before this line of argument was being pursued in court).

I just think that allowing that kind of behavior is certain to lead all of us (those who are still alive, anyway) to a place we don't want to be. So proceeding with an investigation, and a trial, is the only way to prevent ending up in a very bad place.

Prosecute all war criminals, not just the ones from other countries....

On the Trail With Barack Obama

On the Trail With Barack Obama

Yes. There are many ways in which this poll is misleading. Unfortunately, ochairball is also misinterpreting the results. Ochairball assumes that none of the respondents noticed that the question seemed misleading, based on the yes/no answer they were expected to give.

Reflect that this may not be the case.

There are more than enough people in this world, who, when faced with a situation presenting a false choice, will give the perverse answer. I, for example, would be sorely tempted to answer this by saying "no", even if it were true that it would significantly lower fuel prices.

"How could this be?" you may ask. Well, I'm pretty comfortable with the notion that humans are causing a shift in climate that may either destroy the ability of the Earth to support human life or will compromise the habitats of most of the other species on the planet. "No more humans" is an unlikely prospect, given our technological capability, but making life inhospitable for 90% of the species that were alive at the start of human civilization is certainly within reach, particularly if we panic in the face of the only tool our political economy will tolerate (if only barely)-- economic pressure on the users of fossil fuels.

It seems we can't bring ourselves to accept that taxes on the emission of carbon are the best and only way government can actively reduce carbon emissions without also choosing a winner among the remaining technologies. Virtually everyone uses it in the US (to pick a random example), so by taxing, we'd force the burden of paying the price of getting us out of the mess on the people least willing to change their ways. Yes, it would be a pretty good idea to use some of the taxes taken this way to fund mass transit, since this would ease the transition for people who would otherwise be unable to feed or shelter themselves. In the end, though, those funds have to dry up and people have to make choices they can afford. This would only happen, though, if the course of the taxes were properly arranged, as those taxes would have long before risen to a level that chokes off all carbon-consuming industry.

So (and I'll bet you were wondering what any of this had to do with the poll), suppose a group of similarly perverse people with an inclination to demand more drilling everywhere are contacted in a poll, and asked exactly the question referenced by ochairball. They, too, know that gas prices won't fall immediately as a result of drilling oil in 5-10 years that would be a tiny fraction of our current needs. Maybe they're also interested in testing the idea gas prices will fall in the face of more drilling in ten years (McCain's argument on psychology). Maybe they just don't care what effect it will have on gas prices. Whatever the motivation, my bet is that more than a few (say 20%) would answer, "Hell yeah! Drill Here! Drill Now!"

I'm just sayin'.