Saturday, April 30, 2005

Scratching My Head

Runs with Scissors commented on our posting of April 28 about Dubya kssing various parts of Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah's anatomy and converting military bases to oil refineries with the following:

And your solution would be?

Conservation comes to mind. No one really wants to conserve energy, we have too many uses for it. Leadership, as Harry Truman once said, is the ability to get people to do something they don't want to do, and have them think it was their idea. That's what's needed now, not a bunch of feel-good ideas about how we can fix problems that involve finite resources without giving up anything.

Sometimes I think people have to have these things read to them so they can dictate a response.

The South has Risen Again

I’m about halfway through Bruce Catton’s trilogy on the Civil War. The Confederacy’s largely unfounded hope for success has several parallels with contemporary politics.

The South seceded from the Union with no real understanding of what it was getting itself into. Had the North rolled over and let them go, gallantry and their strangely Southern type of honor would have been enough. Things got out of hand when the North decided it was willing to go to war to enforce its interpretation of the Constitution.

The South had virtually no manufacturing capability, many fewer able bodies to fight (even fewer than they thought, since some were required to keep certain sapient property in line), grave transportation issues, no navy, and absolutely no sense of irony. The firebrands’ talk of secession was largely in anticipation of the North severely restricting freedoms southerners held to be divine truths; primary among these was the freedom to own other humans.

The rich plantation owners who drummed up the most sentiment for secession were consistent in some ways. They didn’t care much if those bearing the greatest burdens to maintain their way of life would gain the least from its continuance. Most southerners were small subsistence farmers, owned few, if any slaves, and could have got by without them if necessary. Slavery was already on the wane in most of what would become the Confederacy; the war was provoked by the Cotton States. Those who followed would never have gone first. Kentucky and Missouri didn’t go at all. Western Virginia went so far as to secede from the secession.

Four years later much of the South was in ruins, and institutions that went far beyond slavery were rent beyond repair. Moral certitude and arrogance gave men license to ignore facts, and the results were as might have been expected in the hard, cold light of common sense.

Move to today. Modern neo-cons are convinced they are morally superior to, well, everyone. (Editor’s Note: “Neo-con” is an inelegant phrase. It appears today for two reasons: “neo,” meaning “new,” to distinguish these conservatives from those who put forth their principles with honor and dignity for many decades; and “con,” since so many of them are con men of the highest (lowest) order.) The neo-con needs not the international community, except to support our economy, either through cheap labor, markets for our goods, and plentiful oil. The United Nations and international law are institutions to be vilified at will, unless we want something from them. Sacrifice is for someone else, either so we can use as much oil as we feel like, or so someone else’s child can go to Iraq.

The common thread is a failure to consider consequences. With God on their side, neo-cons do what they want with impunity. Look at Iraq. Shock and awe worked well for a war, but once the “mission” was “accomplished,” shock and awe were found to be much less productive in winning hearts and minds.

The biggest shock in this is why this surprises anyone. The purpose of a shock and awe offensive is to inspire fear and hopelessness in the enemy, excellent objectives in time of war. Now it’s three weeks later, and people who just watched us blow their friends and relatives to tiny bits are supposed to see us as saviors. Donald Rumsfeld expected throngs of joyous Iraqis to dance in the streets, celebrating us as liberators like the French did in 1944. The difference was the French were already a harshly occupied country; we removed the yoke of their oppression. The closer parallel is with Germany in 1945. Most Germans were happy to be rid of Hitler by then, but they weren’t delirious with joy at being conquered.

Neo-cons insist on a strict adherence to the Constitution, except when it’s inconvenient for them. Witness Terry Schiavo. Not only did Congress run a bill through in the dark of night, trying to intimidate federal courts into intervening, they made thinly-veiled threats when the courts didn’t see things their way. Their strict interpretation doesn’t seem to extend as far as the principle of separation of powers.

The current fiasco a-brewing is an attempt to make the Senate, formerly known as the world’s greatest deliberative body, a rubber stamp for presidential judicial appointments. No where (I looked) does it say in the Constitution that a President is supposed to get any judges he wants. The requirement for all judges to be confirmed with the advice and consent of the Senate argues just the opposite: judges should be palatable to a cross-section of the population. Not necessarily middle-of-the-road bland, not somewhere out past the cotton field, either.

I’ve wondered about these parallels lately, and how they have come to be after so many years have passed. (People with my commute have lots of time for such reflection.) The single thread, aside from a short-sighted, selfish, pigheadedness, seems to be that the vast majority of neo-cons come from the same states that seceded from the Union lo, these seven score and four years ago. I have assessed my hypothesis from several angles, and feel as comfortable as any reasonable person can be with my analysis of the common trait between secessionists and neo-cons.

They’re ignorant crackers.

One thought creeps into my mind at least once a day as I read Catton’s books. Every time I see a description of another carnage, or lives ruined and institutions destroyed, I wonder if we should have just let them go? I’d feel a lot more comfortable with Dubya, Tom DeLay, and Bill Frist running the Confederacy instead of the United States.

Thursday, April 28, 2005

Springtime in America

President Bush was seen walking hand-in-hand with Saudi Crown Prince Abdullah this week amongst the blossoms at the Presidential Ranch in Crawford, Texas. The Home Office has been unable to see if their fingers were intertwined, but we have it on good authority kisses were exchanged. On the cheek, to be fair, which may bode well for our nation, considering what part of Crown Prince Abdullah Dubya usually kisses.

In more presidential news (and woudn't we all love it if he were more presidential), Shrub has proposed an end to the oil crisis by turning retired military bases into refineries. And we thought he stopped drinking and taking drugs when he was forty.

Tuesday, April 19, 2005

The Story That Will Not Die

From the Aging Gracefully Correspondent.

So the cardinals have all gathered in Rome, wearing red dresses and little white aprons, to elect the new Pope. Of course these guys have to eat, even if they are holier than you and I.
So they shipped in a bunch of nuns to do the cooking. What I want to know is, if the cardinals are the ones wearing the dresses and aprons, why can't they do their own cooking?

Friday, April 08, 2005

Trashing the Media, Part Two

I’ve been a little derelict in my blog postings for the last week or so, with good reason. The news media, trashed here last week, got even by showing what hard working, industrious journalists they are by keeping me (and you) posted on the following stories:

Sunday, April 3 – The Pope is dead.
Monday, April 4 – The Pope is still dead.
Tuesday, April 5 – The Pope is still dead. Red Sox win!
Wednesday, April 6 – The Pope is dead. Sox win again, Rivera blows second save in a row!
Thursday, April 7 – I haven’t checked, but I’m willing to bet my daughter’s confirmation money the Pope’s still dead.

Nothing else happened this week. Not a thing. The heights of investigative journalism are scaled daily by asking people who barely speak English how long they’ve been standing in line.

(Note: Not all of this coverage has gone to waste. I did learn what the Pope has in common with Elvis. They’re both dead.)

No one has been as dead as this pope since Saturday Night Live reminded us weekly that Generalissimo Francisco Franco was dead back in the 70s. They quit reminding us a long time ago, and there have been no subsequent reports of Frankie crawling out of the ground, so I guess he’s still dead. That’s how it usually works: people stay dead, except in vampire or zombie flicks, and occasional soap operas. Daily reminders are superfluous.

No disrespect meant toward the pope—who is, in case you haven’t heard, dead—but do your job, media. They’re burying him on Friday. That’s news. Standing around hoping a warm spell doesn’t ripen him up isn’t.

Dear Senator Reid

The Democrats want me to join them on the floor of the Senate. Not just me, anyone who agrees with them. The debate on the Republican “nuclear option” for shutting off debate comes up soon, and Harry Reid wants to take my words on the floor with him to show what real Americans think. I obliged him, good liberal that I am. I’ll bet the candy-ass doesn’t use them.

Let’s get one thing straight. We’ve done pretty well for two hundred plus years by allowing minorities as small at 41 percent to stop the show if they thought they were getting screwed. Republicans held up some court appointments this way themselves when Bill Clinton picked some judges they didn’t like. Now they want a rubber stamp on whoever Rain Man sends up there. It can safely be said that I’m against it.

On the other hand, the Democrats have become so devoid of anything resembling commitment that I refuse to have my name (such as it is) associated with them. Here’s the response I sent to Harry this morning.

Dear Senator Reid:

Thank you for sending me this message, looking for support on the Senate floor during the debate on the "nuclear option." As Democratic actions during the "debate" on the Terri Schiavo bill show, you need all the help you can get.

I have been a life-long Democrat, and I believe George W. Bush needs to sprinkle bread crumbs along the way to the Oval Office every morning so he can find his way home at night. Still, the recent action, or lack thereof, by Democrats in general, and Democratic leadership in particular, have disillusioned and disgusted me.

Not one Democrat could be found to request a roll call on the Schiavo vote, so it would be on the record? No one thought to suggest the absence of a quorum? I am against the nuclear option, as well as against President Bush's repeated efforts to jam unpalatable nominees through the process, and the Republican leadership's clear implications that the world's greatest deliberative body should serve as a rubber stamp to a President's idea of justice. (This seems to be a new concept for them, as Republican senators had no qualms about stonewalling President Clinton's nominees.) I would just like to see the Democratic leadership show some spine and come up with some ideas and strategies better than "we're against it," which is about all you've shown for several years now.

I thought Tom Daschle was gone. Show some strength for a change. You're losing ground because the Republicans stand for something. No matter how repugnant it may be to many of us, they have something to rally their supporters around. All the Democrats have given us for going on ten years now is "We're not Republicans." A noble motive, but hardly worth getting excited about.

So there.

Shoot First and Ask Questions Later

The State of Florida hasn’t been a laughing stock for almost a week. I guess they were getting itchy, thinking maybe they lost the knack. Don’t worry. If there was a Dumbass Award, Florida would have retired it by now.

Both houses of the Florida Legislature passed the “Stand Your Ground” bill by overwhelming margins (94–20 and 39–0) this week. People in Florida no longer have to try to get away from a life-threatening situation. They are now legally entitled to shoot your ass.

I’m a big fan of the HBO series “Deadwood,” but I don’t want to live there. You’re legally allowed to carry a weapon openly in Florida already. Now you have the right to use deadly force in a public place if you have a reasonable belief you are in danger of death or great bodily harm. “Reasonable” has a broad definition in Florida, where Terri Schiavo had a “reasonable” chance of recovery.

Now it’s not enough to be out at night hoping some malcontent doesn’t rob and/or beat you; you have to be alert for those “safety first” whack jobs who came heavy and think someone’s giving them the hairy eyeball and decide to draw down on the miscreant. Since the Second Amendment allegedly forbids requiring something as meager as a firearm safety class as a prerequisite to gun ownership, keep your head down. Innocent bystanders could be an endangered species if Floridians don’t shoot any better then they vote.

Florida may be nostalgic for the good old days in Texas, when “he needed killing” was a valid legal defense. Don’t piss anyone off in Florida and make any sudden moves for a handkerchief if you feel a sneeze coming on.

This is one more example of the Bush family doctrine of pre-emptiveness. Rain Man applies it to entire countries, and expects to go blameless because he had faulty intelligence. (It pains my fingers to type anything about Rain man and intelligence in the same sentence without typing “no” in front of “intelligence.") Now Jethro—er, Jeb—is going to grant the same right on an individual basis, without even George Tenet to tell them if there’s any danger or not.

Maybe Tenet could get a job as a consultant to Floridians. He might as well, being the only Bush Administration official involved with Iraq who wasn’t promoted.