when the status quo frustrates.

Aviation Stupidity Bill

Saturday, December 12th, 2009

This post does not have much to do with progressive politics, except that I believe that the progressive side of the spectrum supports being intelligent.

Early this last year, there was a terrible crash in Buffalo, New York. The NTSB discovered that the crash was a result of significant ice build-up on the wings of the aircraft. Many people died and were injured as a result of that crash.*

But, as a another result of that crash, the House immediately sprang into action to “Do Something”. They Must Make Aviation Safer!** So they created the “Aviation Safety Bill” H. R. 3371; a sweeping piece of legislation, and by an overwhelming majority passed it. Now it’s shipped off to the Senate, and they are the only hope to block it. And this is a bill to be blocked. Most of the stuff is actually a pretty good idea- for example, it basically kills overnight quick turns. It is currently pretty standard practice to have a pilot fly somewhere, and get 8 hours between their last flight, to when they need to be back in the morning at the airport. That sounds like enough to sleep, right? Except that you have to include the time to drive to and from the airport to the hotel, wind-down time, and getting ready in the morning and being at the airport early enough to inspect the plane. Then, all of a sudden, that 8 hours of sleep is more like 5. Having pilots that are more rested and awake will certainly make aviation safer.

There is also the redundant in this bill- such as the “pre-employment screening” of prospective pilots. It’s true that there is no law mandating such a thing, but all airlines do it anyway. They’re not going to waste their money on a bad pilot; not even American-based airlines are that stupid.

But, in section 10, there is the awful reason this bill needs to be killed, or at least amended. In section 10, it now requires that all first officers have an FAA ATP license.
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You’re Fired.

Tuesday, September 15th, 2009

…if only I had that power. Oh well.

The Obama administration supports extending three key provisions of the Patriot Act that are due to expire at the end of the year, the Justice Department told Congress in a letter made public Tuesday.

Wrong!

Bad!

No!

…ignoring me. Yep. Figures…well, my vote WAS meaningless, wasn’t it?

On the brighter side:

Operation Rescue says it’s broke, may shut down

Scott Roeder, 51, of Kansas City, Mo., faces charges of murder and aggravated assault in the slaying of Tiller as the Wichita abortion provider ushered at a Sunday morning church service.

Tiller’s killing has also been a public relations nightmare for the group — despite its public condemnation of the slaying — since the name and phone number of the group’s senior policy adviser was found in Roeder’s car when he was arrested. A television crew zoomed in on the scrawled note inside the car in images that made their way to the Internet.

…ALL TOGETHER NOW….”Awwwwwww!” :D

The Passion of Ayn Rand

Monday, April 27th, 2009

That is the title of her biography, written by one of her ex-adherents who also happened to be the wife of a man Ayn had a long-term affair with–given all that, one would expect the tone of the book to be rather more unsympathetic than otherwise. However, that’s not really the case. I read it over a decade ago for a college class–the one and only women studies course I ever took required us to choose and write an in-depth paper about an influential woman of the first half of the twentieth century. I chose Ayn Rand, for three reasons: first, because she fit the criteria as presented; second, because I have a rebellious streak and knew full well that we were expected to choose a feminist, regardless of what the criteria explicitly stated; and third, because I was genuinely interested in the woman behind Atlas Shrugged and The Fountainhead.

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Q: When is a democracy not a democracy?

Tuesday, March 24th, 2009

A: Let’s let the official Team Obama Unnamed Source explain.

The US and its European allies are preparing to plant a high-profile figure in the heart of the Kabul government in a direct challenge to the Afghan president, Hamid Karzai, the Guardian has learned.

The creation of a new chief executive or prime ministerial role is aimed at bypassing Karzai. In a further dilution of his power, it is proposed that money be diverted from the Kabul government to the provinces. Many US and European officials have become disillusioned with the extent of the corruption and incompetence in the Karzai government, but most now believe there are no credible alternatives, and predict the Afghan president will win re-election in August.

…A diplomat with knowledge of the review said: “Karzai is not delivering. If we are going to support his government, it has to be run properly to ensure the levels of corruption decrease, not increase. The levels of corruption are frightening.”

Another diplomat said alternatives to Karzai had been explored and discarded: “No one could be sure that someone else would not turn out to be 10 times worse. It is not a great position.”

Well, I’m glad that the Obama administration at least gave serious consideration to regime change.

…Other recommendations include: increasing the number of Afghan troops from 65,000 to 230,000 as well as expanding the 80,000-strong police force; sending more US and European civilians to build up Afghanistan’s infrastructure; and increased aid to Pakistan as part of a policy of trying to persuade it to tackle al-Qaida and Taliban elements.

…The risk for the US is that the imposition of a technocrat alongside Karzai would be viewed as colonialism, even though that figure would be an Afghan.

Naw. That’d just be silliness! After all, the figure would be an Afghan!

Hey, anyone mind if I just go ahead and install Noam Chomsky as prime minister of the US? I mean, Obama is not delivering.

(Via.)

The Definition of “Needs a Life”

Thursday, March 12th, 2009


Remember when all there was to do was watch the neighbors..?

Via CNN:

When her baby girl takes an afternoon nap, or on those nights when she just can’t sleep, Sarah Andrews, 32, tosses off her identity as a suburban stay-at-home mom and becomes something more exotic: a “virtual deputy” patrolling the U.S.-Mexico border.

From her house in a suburb of Rochester, New York, Andrews spends at least four hours a day watching a site called BlueServo.net.

There, because of a $2 million grant from the state of Texas, anyone in the world can watch grainy live video scenes of cactuses, desert mountains and the Rio Grande along Texas’ portion of the international border.

When Andrews spots something she deems suspicious — perhaps a fuzzy character moving from right to left across the screen or people wading through the river with what appear to be trash bags atop their heads — she and the site’s 43,000 registered users can send e-mail messages straight to local law enforcement, who then decide whether to act.

“Today, there’s a couple vehicles that are parked side by side next to each other,” she said by phone, her 7-month-old cooing in the background, “but I can’t tell what’s going on, you know?”

You know, I don’t generally pontificate much on the waste of taxpayer dollars. But this particular scheme struck me as, er, a pretty pathetic example of that…and that was before I even got to this part:

Since the site was launched in late November, only four arrests can be attributed to the cameras, said Don Reay, executive director of the sheriffs’ coalition, which runs the project with money from Texas Gov. Rick Perry’s office.

All of those arrests were related to marijuana trafficking, he said, with about 2,000 pounds of the drug seized.

Those aren’t the kind of results planners were looking for when they started the program, but Reay says the program’s unseen value is in the fact that it prevents drug-related violence and trafficking.

Yeah, marijuana, the drug scourge of the United States! (eye. roll.)

He said sheriffs along the border have seen decreased crime in recent months, partly because of the camera program, although he said he could not cite statistics to back up that claim.

Further descent into ludicrousness:

Abernethy and Andrews, the two “virtual deputies,” said they would like to see greater transparency in the project. Both said they have e-mailed notes of suspicious activity to law enforcement, but neither has heard whether their alerts were of any help.

“It’s interesting. You see different things on there, but I just — I don’t know that it’s doing any good,” said Andrews, the stay-at-home mom. “I wonder if it’s a waste of time.”

Answer: YES!! …hello?!

She also said the site draws her interest because she’s nosy

Gah!

Abernethy said he will continue to watch the cameras because he feels like he’s part of an altruistic group of volunteers. Friends tease him about watching the site, he said. But he sees it as no worse than any other form of quick entertainment — and maybe he can be of some help in the process.

“It’s no different than watching ‘Everybody Loves Raymond’ reruns,” he said. “It’s just something to do.

DUDE…TV shows at least pretend to have a plot. With people. Speaking dialogue. To each other. Security cameras are not entertainment…the fact that you are able to think so is not something I would admit in public if I were you. Ever thought of taking a correspondence course? or going bowling? buying a kitten..? something?

Sad.

Thought for the Day

Sunday, February 22nd, 2009

(Via.)

Third Party Blues

Thursday, October 2nd, 2008

From the same thread I’ve been lovin’ so much, MH wrote:

People who are “non-voters” turn into voters if you actually give them a candidate who inspires them.

If you believe that, then you have to ask yourself: so why haven’t the Greens done this?

This was the second time MH made this point, so I figured I should address it.

Most people who vote, want to vote for somebody that they think can actually win. The last time a third party candidate seemed to have a reasonable chance of winning was 1992, with Ross Perot’s first run. Here was a guy who really seemed like he could win– at points, he even had a strong lead in the polls over both Bush I and Bill Clinton. Even though he stopped running for a few months in the middle, he still won 19% of the popular vote (though no electoral college votes, because of our whacked election system).

Why did Ross Perot get as far as he did, while other third parties have failed utterly? In large part, because he was an utterly unique case. Let’s take a closer look, and see if there’s anything to learn from it.

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Weighing in Verbosely on the First Presidential Debate

Sunday, September 28th, 2008

Well, I just watched the debates myself. Via YouTube. The easiest YouTube to find was via Fox News’s feed, which was annoying because they so often did closeups or split-screens of the candidates and never did wider shots– so I couldn’t judge for myself if it was true, that McCain was supposedly never able to look at Obama in the eye. But even regardless of that, McCain came across shifty; Obama, self-assured. Which just means, if Obama was saying evil things too, then they were doubly dangerous, because he was able to present them as though they were reasonable.

Now, as anyone who reads my posts knows, I’m critical of Obama/Biden. More than McCain/Palin, actually– everybody with half a brain already knows how evil the Republicans are; I just want people to assess more rigorously just exactly how much of a lesser evil the Democrats really are– if indeed, they are a lesser evil at all. Anyway, if you’re an Obama fan, I urge you to look at my analysis and tell me where you think I’m being unfair. Maybe I’ll see the light. If I did, I can tell you I’d be much happier in general right now.

Let’s just review some of the things Obama said in the debate. (All emphasis mine, of course.)

We’ve spent over $600 billion so far, soon to be $1 trillion. We have lost over 4,000 lives. We have seen 30,000 wounded, and most importantly, from a strategic national security perspective, al Qaeda is resurgent, stronger now than at any time since 2001. We took our eye off the ball… So I think the lesson to be drawn is that we should never hesitate to use military force, and I will not, as president, in order to keep the American people safe. But we have to use our military wisely. And we did not use our military wisely in Iraq.

Wait– Iraq’s a clusterfuck… and so the lesson to be learned is that we should never hesitate to use military force??? Maybe we’d have a better chance of using our military wisely next time if we hesitated just a little bit more.

Now here’s Obama praising Bush and McCain’s Glorious Thrusting Surge:

Senator McCain is absolutely right that the violence has been reduced as a consequence of the extraordinary sacrifice of our troops and our military families. They have done a brilliant job, and General Petraeus has done a brilliant job. But understand, that was a tactic designed to contain the damage of the previous four years of mismanagement of this war.

Actually, this is not even nearly so bad as when Obama went on Fox News recently to declare that the surge had “succeeded beyond our wildest dreams”.

Or,  as Juan Cole put it in his recent assessment, “The level of violence at this moment in Iraq is similar to what prevailed on average during one of the 20th century’s worst ethnic civil wars! It is still higher than the casualty rates in Sri Lanka and Kashmir, two of the worst ongoing conflicts in the world.”

But nice of Obama to internalize Bush/McCain talking points so well. I’m sure he’s run the numbers and it’ll win him more votes, so that’s all that matters, right?

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Weighing in Briefly on the First Presidential Debate

Saturday, September 27th, 2008

Best part of the whole debate:

When Jim Lehrer asked the candidates, “Much has been said about the lessons of Vietnam. What do you see as the lessons of Iraq?” McCain babbled about how awesomely we began there, how (for causes not even remotely articulated) we had a wee bit of a strategic stumble (managing also not to specify that said stumble stretched from about a month after we got there in 2003 til the end of last year) and finished up by announcing that we have won the Iraq War. (News to me.) Obama, who went second, then gently stepped in to say that, yeah, the actual lesson of the Iraq War that pretty much everybody (except McCain) has learned was, we should never have gone in there in the first place. Har.

Worst part of the whole debate:

Jim Lehrer’s first question: “Gentlemen, at this very moment tonight, where do you stand on the financial recovery plan?”

(Candidates each speak for several minutes, demonstrating remarkable ability to discuss their tax and spending platforms without once touching on the financial recovery plan.)

Jim Lehrer’s next question: “All right, let’s go back to my question. How do you all stand on the recovery plan? And talk to each other about it. We’ve got five minutes. We can negotiate a deal right here.”

(Candidates further demonstrate ability to say nothing to the point and also refuse, even when point-blank instructed by Lehrer, to speak to each other.)

Jim Lehrer’s next try: “All right, let’s go to the next lead question, which is essentially following up on this same subject. And you get two minutes to begin with, Senator McCain. And using your word “fundamental,” are there fundamental differences between your approach and Senator Obama’s approach to what you would do as president to lead this country out of the financial crisis?”

(Candidates argue about the differences between their tax and spending platforms. Neither apparently has any idea that we are even having a financial crisis.)

Jim, who has the patience of a saint and is my new hero: “All right. All right, speaking of things that both of you want, another lead question, and it has to do with the rescue — the financial rescue thing that we started — started asking about. And what — and the first answer is to you, Senator Obama. As president, as a result of whatever financial rescue plan comes about and the billion, $700 billion, whatever it is it’s going to cost, what are you going to have to give up, in terms of the priorities that you would bring as president of the United States, as a result of having to pay for the financial rescue plan?”

(Candidates go on as if they never even heard the question.)

Jim Lehrer: “What I’m trying to get at this is this. Excuse me if I may, senator. Trying to get at that you all — one of you is going to be the president of the United States come January. At the — in the middle of a huge financial crisis that is yet to be resolved. And what I’m trying to get at is how this is going to affect you not in very specific — small ways but in major ways and the approach to take as to the presidency.”

(Candidates suggest that maybe we’ll stop spending money on something or other, described respectively as “things that aren’t vital” (McCain) and “things we can cut out with a scalpel rather than hatchet” (Obama). I go to the internet and start looking up emigration requirements to Australia.)

Jim Lehrer: “Before we go to another lead question. Let me figure out a way to ask the same question in a slightly different way here. Are you — are you willing to acknowledge both of you that this financial crisis is going to affect the way you rule the country as president of the United States beyond the kinds of things that you have already — I mean, is it a major move? Is it going to have a major effect?”

Apparently not.

Can’t wait for the veep debate!

I’ll gladly pay you Tuesday for 700 billion dollars today

Monday, September 22nd, 2008

I’m not really at a moment in my life where I’m able to post properly, alas. Just thought I’d pop in to register a quick nod acknowledging that this Hellbound handbasket we’re all riding in has just picked up some steam, now that the Democrats appear to be joining hands with the Republicans to raid the US Treasury and hand it all to the rich bastards who got us into this mess in the first place. Rather than, say, bringing them up on charges for it.

For the in depth analysis, I recommend any of Arthur Silber’s last 10 posts or so. Please don’t mind the naughty words he uses. Sometimes “stupider than shit” really is the apropos turn of phrase.

And if you don’t mind a healthy dose of smug in your pith (and I for one don’t!), IOZ really satisfies:

How can I make this into a metaphor that everyone can understand? Remember in mob movies, how they’d set up a front business to launder money, run as much through as they could, run the business into the ground, torch the place, and then collect the insurance? Well. There it is.

In the mean time, I’m going to make a small prediction.

Although much of Charlie Chaplin’s humor is timeless, some of it doesn’t fare as well today. One reason is because so much of his humor was “food humor”. The Little Tramp was perpetually hungry, and scrounging or stealing food in ingenious ways (sometimes even from children!). This is a famous scene from The Gold Rush (1925– do your best to ignore the unnecessary narration that Chaplin added later):

Humor like this is only moderately amusing today; but it used to be HILARIOUS. That’s because starvation was a common cultural theme 100 years ago. Americans could relate in a way that, nowadays, most of us (thankfully) don’t.

I think that, the way things are going, “food humor” is poised for a comeback before too very long.

The Minority People Care a Lot Less About

Thursday, July 3rd, 2008


“Geronimo,” or “Something people say when they jump out of airplanes.”

It’s funny because I think if I wasn’t actually of Native American ancestry, I’d write more about them–as it stands, though, I suppose I feel like there is much less excuse for my lack of real in-depth knowledge about the history and culture–I’ve always had an odd reluctance to study more, as well. One reason for that sounds very strange to me (and it’s my reason! so it shouldn’t, but it does anyway): I’m afraid to get even more upset about it than I am from my basis of general historical knowledge only. After all, a full quarter of my relatives from my paternal grandfather on backwards, that is who they were–an exponential climb every generation–yet I have never met personally anyone who is a full-blooded Apache. Not once. The only person I have ever known who was even half was my father.

And mostly, people don’t care. They are either entirely ignorant or they think all Native Americans live on reservations and operate casinos. And they don’t even know what “reservations” really are, other than that’s where Native Americans can be found. Why not?

Probably in part because there are so few of them left. Of the approximately 300 million US citizen currently floating around, only about 3 million of those self-identify as Native Americans, or about 1%. According to Wikipedia, eight out of ten people of Native American ancestry today (including Yours Truly) are of mixed blood, and that number is expected to rise to nine out of ten by 2100.

The other part, of course, is that the government as a whole has been quite dedicated to wiping them out, either literally or culturally, for a very long time now, and that hasn’t really changed, either. As recently as 2000, the Washington State Republican Party adopted a resolution of termination for tribal governments–it’s even hard to believe they’d want to bother, given the statistics in the previous paragraph, but clearly for some, the desire for complete destruction is still quite strong. The Jim Crow laws with their “one-drop” policy of racial classification are thankfully gone–however, the “blood quantum” laws for Native Americans, which to my knowledge very few people are even aware of, still exist and are even in use both intertribally and on the Federal level today. (A cute anecdote–when I was about a year and a half old, a woman from the Bureau of Indian Affairs came out to visit my mother to get the paperwork started on my “blood quantum” legal status–apparently she knocked on our apartment door and my mother, me slung over her hip, answered. The woman took one look at the tall, white-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed woman with the little white-skinned, blond-haired, blue-eyed baby girl in her arms, muttered something about “sorry, wrong address” and just turned around and left.)

Something pretty cool happened back in May, though–

The Crow Nation welcomed Sen. Barack Obama Monday afternoon before thousands of people, marking the presidential candidate’s first campaign visit to a U.S. reservation.

Obama was invited to visit the tribe’s homeland after leaders of the Crow, or Apsaalooke, decided to endorse the Illinois senator last week.

Obama’s visit to the Crow Reservation marks an unusual presidential campaign foray into tribal lands. Bobby Kennedy is arguably the last known presidential candidate to do so, campaigning on South Dakota’s Pine Ridge Reservation in 1968.

That’s pretty different. And not only is it different, the vast majority of American voters couldn’t really care less–so clearly it wasn’t done to impress anybody important, was it?

And apparently on his website, Obama promises to “appoint a National American Indian Policy Advisor to serve as a member of his White House staff and create the National American Indian Advisory Council.” Far as I know, that’s a complete first in terms of presidential candidates period.

Gives lie to the title of this post. I’m humbled, and heartened.

Note: I haven’t posted any stats here about Native Americans and their truly hideous, as far as I know the very worst among any group classified as a “minority” in America, numbers on, say, violence and alcoholism and failure to graduate even high school and living below the poverty line, etc. etc.–if there’s an interest, let me know and I’ll throw up some links.

On the Death Penalty, Partisanship and the Rape of Children: Part One

Thursday, June 26th, 2008

I am leery of the death penalty for two reasons, one philosophical, one brutally concrete.

The philosophical reason is that I object to the State, that amorphous and unaccountable collection of legislation, having the absolute power of life and death over any individual. The State already has a fair amount of control over our daily lives, sometimes with our explicit consent, sometimes only with the implied consent of I’m still choosing to live here so I guess I have to..? And I swallow a lot of things that fall short of taking an individual’s life, as non-mortal injuries carry with them the chance (in varying degrees of course) of recovery and restoration–however, your life is the one thing you can’t ever recover from losing. There is no recompense for that. When one individual takes another’s life, he or she has a set of consequences to face for having done so, and I am not just referring to legal ones–it is right that there should be a price exacted from anyone who does the ultimate, unrecoverable injury to another. In the case of the State, no recompense can ever be exacted; no one can be held guilty; no price can ever be paid–society did it! Whatever that means, and it can mean anything and everything and boils down every time to mean precisely whatever the person using the word wants it to mean. (Other words that have become so soggy and fluid are “government” and “culture” and “values.” It amazes me sometimes that those words are still in the dictionary. The way they are most commonly used robs them of any objective meaning at all.)

The brutally concrete reason is the complete imbalance in whom it is applied to in terms of race and gender. Even if it were something we were all philosophically prepared to accept, obviously that it is used disproportionately against a specific flavor of citizen is completely unacceptable.

However, you may have noticed, I do not object to the death penalty on any moral grounds–I don’t claim I think it’s wrong always, for any reason whatsoever, for one individual to kill another. There are instances of individuals killing other individuals that do not deeply disturb me, though I’m always saddened that any situation ever deteriorates to the point where that’s a viable or even the most viable solution. It IS sad.

Is it because I am consumed with “bloodlust?” Is it because I don’t “respect human life equally?”

Um, definitely not the first one. As a matter of fact, I am far more immune to bloodlust than most Americans I know. I do not watch reality TV, nor do I watch any sport that is centered around one person pounding on another while froth-spitting crowds roar them on–in short, watching real people inflict pain and humiliation of any degree upon each other not only does not attract me, it actively repulses me. That is “bloodlust,” my friends. I agree that it may be a significant part of our society, but it isn’t any part of me.

As for the second–that’s both true and not true. I do not respect all human life equally, but it has nothing to do with my feelings on the death penalty. I do not hold every speck of life that happens to have Homo sapiens DNA in its cell nucleus as being of equal worth, which is why I support reproductive choice, living wills, physician-assisted suicide and the concept of “brain-dead.” My philosophy here holds, though, that what I personally value the lives of others at is completely meaningless; my “valuing” of them should have no impact upon their continued existence whatsoever. The only “valuation” that should have that impact is their own. The only individual who gets to set a value on any individual’s human life is that individual. Period. In the cases where the human life in question is not capable of setting value upon its own life because it lacks the cognitive ability to do so, such as pre-viable fetuses and anyone at any stage of development who does not have a functioning brain, the person who is most affected by the continued existence or lack thereof of that individual gets to set the value on that life. Period.

In terms of a child rapist and his eight-year-old victim, say, I would consider both of them able to set their own value on their own lives and those values are the only ones that should ever count.

So, I am unhappy enough about the death penalty to consistently oppose it, regardless of the “worth” I feel any other individual has. However, if someone I personally find to have little to no value drops dead, I don’t even pretend to be upset about it or attempt to work up any feelings of “oh but we’re all EQUALLY valuable as human lives!” It’d be a lie. Even there, I make an automatic distinction between the method of death and the fact that the death results in the absence of that person from Earth–I am always repelled by and opposed to any deliberate and avoidable infliction of pain upon one human being by another and do not ever find any moral excuse for that. (Back to why I don’t watch all that sadistic crap on TV and how deeply horrible I find the practice of torture.) However, in regards to the bare fact of the sudden absence of certain human lives? I don’t care and in some cases, I think the world is an improved environment from when that person was alive. No doubt cold, but quite true.

Next: The Joys (or lack thereof) of Partisanship