Monday, May 28, 2007

Memorial Day 2007

After a big election victory in November, majority positions in both the House and Senate, and with public opinion on their side, the Democrats have once again proven that they are the most worthless, spineless, and incompetent group of politicians in America.

If you had not heard, the Democrats passed the Iraq funding bill without the time lines for a troop withdrawal. That's $100 billion to keep fighting a war that this president has waged unsuccessfully for five years and has killed nearly 3500 American soldiers.

This gives me yet another example of why I cannot commit to one of our two political parties. As Lewis Black once said, the Democratic party is a party no ideas and the Republican party is a party of bad ideas. This is not a good combination. And the people in both parties who actually demonstrate the ability to think, the ones willing to say what reality is, such as Republican Congressman Ron Paul or Democratic Senator Joseph Biden, are minimized and pushed aside in favor of politicians who make better bumper stickers than leaders. I know Bush and the rest of the White House carries the lion's share of the blame for getting us into this disaster, but the opposing party and the mainstream media also share responsibility for enabling a President who had no business holding his position in the first place. This has been a constant pattern of behavior for the Democrats, much like a spouse in an abusive relationship. Bush makes empty pledges of bi-partisanship and the Democrats keep giving him another chance, and then he again pulls some stunt and violates his word. And then, rather than leave him or make him accountable for what he has done, the President and his advisers threaten, coerce, and sweet talk the Democrats into believing that he deserves one more chance, that he can change, that he's doing it for their own good, and that he'll never do it again. But then, of course, he does.

There is one element of passing this funding bill that may pay off in September, when the funds run out (yes, it costs $100 billion to go to war just for the summer). At that time the continuance of the war will be up for debate and at that point the Democrats will be able to say that they have given the President all of the support he needs, allowing him to attempt his troop surge and giving him the financial means to do so. This will put them in a position to reign in his war efforts and demand that he end this debacle. Still, I have to ask why, after five years, are we still allowing this to continue? Why not just bring the troops home?

Georges Clemenceau once said, "War is too important to be left to the generals" and it may very well be said that sedition is too important to be left to the politicians. It is up to the people to put the war to an end. I'm no pacifist, but this conflict is one of the stupidest and most disastrous foreign policy decisions made by our government in decades, over shadowing the interventions in South American during the Reagan era and the Vietnam War. This is not a matter of Democrat versus Republican or conservative versus liberal. This is a matter of seeing what is, realizing what has to be done, and doing it. And so, on this Memorial Day, here are my modest suggestions for how we can win the war against the Bush administration:

  1. For all of us on the home front: (A) Withdraw all support for any politician, Democrat or Republican, who does not demand the with drawl of our troops. Some will be up for re-election in November and can be removed. There is just enough time to demand a recall election on the November ballot for those who will not support our with drawl, especially after the evaluation coming in September. (B) Educate your fellow citizens on the nature of the war, inform them about what is really happening, and build grass roots activism in your community. (C) Abandon media outlets that will not provide accurate or penetrating coverage of the war and support those who do. This means giving up Fox News and CNN and many mainstream newspapers and looking to international sources like NPR and the BBC. (D) Abandon businesses that cooperate with the White House projects like illegal wiretapping. (E) Demand the impeachment of the President. Contact our politicians with the same outrage we saw toward Don Imus' remarks about the Rutger's basketball team and send them the message that it's either him or them.
  2. To families of soldiers in the field: Keep sending them care packages of body armor, food, and other essential supplies. Also, send them information about what is going on here and information about the true nature of this conflict. It may seem silly to send troops in the middle of action stories about the war, but you can't see the forest for the trees and most soldiers are denied access to non-military approved information. The supplies and information add up to an escape package that will lead to my next point.
  3. For the soldiers in the field: Refuse to follow orders or carry out any more missions until the American government agrees to set a withdrawal plan. If the government refuses, abandon your posts and leave Iraq. Use the tanks, trucks, airplanes, and other means of transport and just go.
  4. For soldiers currently on leave or preparing to be deployed: Don't go. Show support for your brothers and sisters on the field by refusing to follow orders given by those who don't care about you and don't know how to run a war.

That is my four point plan to win the war for America. And it is a war worth fighting. Remember, George Bush and his companions hate us for our freedom and if we don't fight them, they will follow us into our homes.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Various Updates and Rumblings

I've been mostly inactive on the blog for the past month, aside from a few amusing anecdotes. I've been hard at work getting a new job, working on Maverick at the Movies, and some other writing projects and so blogging had to take a back seat in a while. I had fully intended to weigh in on some of the past month's big stories but as I was formulating positions on one, some other controversy/scandal/tragedy would strike and I was on to something else. So here is a quick recap of some of the recent stories that I missed but feel a need to comment upon.

Don Imus
Don Imus was fired from MSNBC for calling the Rutger's basketball team "nappy headed hoes."

While no one really felt a need to defend Imus (I certainly didn't) the news media was saturated with commentary on the use of words like "ho" in the culture. What boggled my mind was the idea that we had to have a national discussion on whether calling a group of black women "nappy headed hoes" and "jigaboos" was stupid, inappropriate, racists, and sexist. Weren't we all on the same page here?

On a personal level, I found the Imus story interesting because in the past I have made some hurtful, insensitive, or downright stupid remarks about people or places and done it in very public forums. No question about it, Imus' remark was cringe worthy. Should he have lost his job over it? If it were a one comment slip, like John Kerry's botched joke about US troops or Joseph Biden calling Barak Obama articulate and clean, I could over look it. However, this is a pattern of behavior for Imus. I have often defended the offenders but only when they say something of substance. Marilyn Manson ripping pages out of the Bible in concert is a political statement, Eminem's apparent misogyny is intended self consciously, and Oliver Stone's Natural Born Killers is a cinematic indictment of a media that glamorizes violence. But Imus's remarks have no intention of enlightening us. The vapidity of his remarks is indicative of his entire show, which was not particularly good to begin with. As a political and cultural commentator, Imus always reminded me of a drunk sitting on bar stool, waiting to tell his sad story to any unfortunate barkeep willing to listen. He had nothing interesting to say, and the airwaves are better without him. So, yes, Imus should have lost his job, but primarily because he is an idiot than for any one remark.

Virginia Tech Shooting
There isn't much to be say here that hasn't already been said. I was happy to see that the media and the culture did not go crazy about this like they did in 1999 with the Columbine massacre. That may have to do with the place we are in now, with post-9/11 anxieties about terrorism and the war in Iraq. There were two related items that did concern me, however.

The first is the effect that the shooting might have on classrooms. Shortly after the shooting, an honor student was arrested for disorderly conduct after he wrote a violent essay for a creative writing assignment. The student had not other red flags and he was arrested without any detective work. The hysteria surrounding events like the shooting tend to have ripple effect as the public and pundits demand that we protect everyone from every possible threat all the time. The realization of this kind of environment will only come at a considerable loss of liberty, the kind of unfreedom that is freely chosen for the illusion of security.

The second item is how Americans are still more focused on their own backyards and lack any sense of connection to Iraq. Two days after the massacre at Virginia Tech, nearly 200 people were killed by roadside bombs in Baghdad. While I do not wish to take away from the loss suffered by the survivors of those who died at Virgina Tech, I do wish to place the carnage in some sort of context. If people were so shocked by the death here, why are we not equally shocked by the staggering death toll in Iraq?

Bush Vetoes Iraq Bill
I have already commented on this, but it is worth looking into again. With the defeat of the bill, this leaves us with the question, what now? If Bush has disregard for the wishes of his constituents, refuses to change course, and the current "plan" does not work, then perhaps it is time for a change in leadership. Since the veto, a group of House Republicans met with Bush in what can be described as an intervention, warning him that he has reached a crisis point and that this is his last straw with the Congress. What will happen in September, when the surge will be evaluated, may redefine the military powers of the Executive branch for future Presidents.

MSU Student Senate Kills Funding for Blue Earth Review
I know that placing this in a discussion about Iraq and Virginia Tech seems almost vulgar, but it is worth addressing. The Blue Earth Review, Minnesota State University's literary magazine, has had all of its funding eliminated by the student senate. Without bothering to discuss any line items of next year's Student Allocation Committee budget in session, the senate voted to ax the $7,000 yearly budget for the magazine. The student government claimed that there will be a reduction in student enrollment next year and that students were not adequately represented by the magazine and so the Review was not worthy of student fees. To put this in perspective, there are 13,000 students at MSU and 22 were featured in the latest issue of the magazine. Full time students pay $368 per semester. $368 multiplied by 22 students equals $8,096. To figure it another way, $7000 divided by 13,000 students is about $0.54, and the students are given a large, professional literary magazine for less than a dollar each. Any way you figure it, the Review is a reasonable cost to the students but the SAC and the MSA were too lazy to work on trying to find some kind of accommodation.

The message that this decision sends to the arts community in Mankato and at MSU is very disheartening. It tells students that their peers do not support artistic endeavors no matter what the cost. At the same time, MSU Campus Recreation and Intercollegiate Athletics receive over a million dollars in funding from student activity fees (See a pdf of student allocations here). This kind of allocation decision reinforces the notion that college has become a four year diversion for young people rather than molding the next generation of thinkers and providing the base for Western Civilization, as the academy has since Plato.

Gonzalez Fires Attorneys
US Attorney General Gonzales fired a group of federal prosecutors mid-term in a move that was without precedent and that stinks of being politically motivated. This demonstrates a dangerous trend toward moving law enforcement into partisan politics. While giving testimony, Gonzales could not remember why he fired anyone, but we do know that he and others kept track of the political affiliation of the prosecutors.

This story has been more interesting to me for the side issues than for the center scandal. Many of those around Gonzales had little or no legal experience but many were ideologically sympathetic to Gonzales and the Bush administration. Two of Gonzales's top aids, Monica Goodling and John Nowacki, were graduates from the law school at Regent University, an institution founded by televangelist Pat Robertson and carries the slogan "Christian Leadership to Change the World." The school is ranked a Tier 4 school by US News and World Report, which is the lowest rank given. Giving people with no experience and unimpressive educational credentials in places of high power is fitting for an administration that placed or attempted to place figures such as Harriet Miers and Mike Brown on the Supreme Court and the head of FEMA.

Jerry Falwell Dies
I know that when people die, we often tend to forgive their faults, but I have no intention of giving Falwell such a pass. This man fought advancement of civil rights, science, and art and was one of the chief architects of the so-called Moral Majority, which was an attempt to fuse religion and politics in such a way that would lead to a theocratic state. Don't ask me to mourn a man who blamed the September 11th attack on gays, pagans, feminists, and liberals. Pass the cigars, kids.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Say Hello to My Little Friend

If anyone questioned the ongoing relevence of De Palma's Scarface and the gangster film (particularly as a criticism of capitalism) check out this YouTube video.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Mission Accomplished, Year Four

Today is the fourth anniversary of Bush's Mission Accomplished speech, supposed to herald the end of major combat operations in Iraq. Ironically, on the anniversary of his speech, Bush vetoed the Iraq spending bill because it set a timetable for troop withdrawls.

This comes as no surprise, as Bush had warned that he would veto any time table for withdrawl that comes from the outside. He has disregarded any outside assessment of the war that does not fit his unwavering optomism about the final outcome of the war, from pre-war intelligence to the Iraq Study Group report.

Cheney has derided those who have called Iraq a failure and argumed that wars cannot be fought be committee. All things being equal, I would agree with the second part of Cheney's statement. To effectively wage a war, orders must be followed, and the chain of command must not be disrupted. However, after over four years of failure, it is clear that the leadership at the top is simply not doing the job and it is congress' perogative to take the war out of Bush's hands the way a parent would take away a child's BB gun when the child has proven that he cannot be trusted with it.

Something significant about this veto, aside from its political symbolism, is that it is only the second bill that Bush has vetoed in all his time as President. The other veto was on a bill to expand stem cell research. Maybe if we told Bush that the soldiers dying in Iraq were embryos at one point he would stop the war.

Explaining his most recent veto, Bush said "Our troops and their families deserve better, and their elected leaders can do better." How true.