Thursday, October 03, 2013

Government Shutdown: Political Apathy Leads to Hyper-Partisanship, Leads to Desperate Gambits

How is it that about 80 Republicans can shut a government down, send 800,000 government employees home without pay, and effectively hold an entire country's legislature hostage?

It seems ludicrous. There are 435 Representatives and 100 Senators. How can just 80 befuddle their 450 colleagues?

Those 80 are elected from hyper-partisan districts that absolutely despise Obamacare and are willing to do just about anything within the law to defeat it. Those 80 are vital to Republican control of the House. And the Democrats don't want to negotiate with those 80. Which is an important fact that's being passed over.

There was very little effort among the Democrats to reach an understanding with the Tea Party wing of the Congressional Republicans. And while this shutdown has been caused by that conservative faction, the Democrats let it happen. Which is a smart political move. As Napoleon is believed to have said "Never interfere with the enemy when he is in the process of destroying himself." And that's what the Tea Party and the Republicans are doing.

At the same time, this extreme faction of the Republican party was duly elected by actual voters. For years, there has been a swelling movement of people who believe in strict conservative ideas. The Left has tried to dismiss these people as racist and ignorant. They've been dubbed "tea-baggers" (even a Senate Democrat used that crude term a few days ago). But they are voters, and they have expressed their "extreme" conservative views with their votes and elected many of the 80 Republicans who have shut the government down.

And that's the problem these days. Only people with strong, strict, extreme beliefs actively participate in politics these days. Only people with firm convictions play any role in the political process. When only uncompromising people engage in politics, why are we shocked when there is no compromise?

Even those of us that regularly vote don't follow politics closely. We know more about our fantasy football teams than we do about our Representatives and Senators. We read tabloid websites about celebrity hook-ups. We squabble with friends and strangers about college football rankings, and Manning vs. Brady, and PEDs in baseball.

And that's fine, except when half the country doesn't vote, and most of the people that do vote only take a passing interest in politics. Then we create a vacuum, a breeding ground for hyper-partisanship. Because only the hyper-partisans in our country take an active role in the political process.

Things are so divided in Congress because only the supporters of the extreme wing of each party invest themselves in politics. Most of us don't care. We gripe about our leaders and representatives, then continue to elect them and pay their salaries. Only for a few months every 4 years do we pay attention to what's happening, and who runs our country.

Even though I'm a conservative, I do hope this latest Tea Party gambit fails. This kind of brinkmanship (please, political pundits, stop saying "game of chicken" when there's a perfectly good word to use) is a shallow, unevolved, and unproductive way to accomplish objectives. It's also not in the spirit of a representative democracy. Representatives from a handful of districts shouldn't wield more power than those from the rest of the country. And any political mechanism or ploy that allows them to do so is undemocratic.

I don't like Obamacare. But I want to see it repealed the same way it was passed, fair and square (although it wasn't called a tax when it was moving through Congress, then the Supreme Court upheld it because it was a tax, but that's just typical misleading political labeling). It's law right now. Congress approved it, the President signed it, the Supreme Court upheld it. Conservatives, especially those who claim to love the Constitution, should swallow their pride and live with it, hoping to convince people to repeal it through traditional, Constitutional means.

To Tea Party people, what would John Adams or George Washington say about this government shutdown? What would Jefferson, the ultimate anti-big-government guy, have to say about this strategy?

I don't think many Founding Fathers in tri-corner hats would approve.

Wednesday, September 04, 2013

No Defined Objectives or Path to Victory in Syria

I honestly don't know what to think about getting militarily involved in Syria's Civil War. I don't know because I don't know what exactly that involvement hopes to achieve. Before going to war, a country should define its ultimate objectives. Then the country should define a path to victory that achieves those objectives. Finally, the country must ask itself if those objectives are worth the use of force and if the defined victory can feasibly be achieved.

In the American Revolution, for example, the British objective was simple: restore British order and control in the American colonies. However, their path to achieving that victory was much more complex and eventually unfeasible. They had to eliminate or scatter all enemy armies, conquer and control cities and vast areas of countryside, and do so without alienating the local population (which they did by allying themselves with Native Americans).

All the Americans had to do was survive as a fighting force.

The Redcoats were rarely beaten on the battlefield. Even after the surrender at Yorktown they still had significant forces available to them. The British weren't driven to the sea, they were recalled by a Parliament that finally tired of the war.

A similar thing happened in Vietnam. All the North Vietnamese Army and Viet Cong had to do was survive, while America needed to conquer land, as well as hearts and minds. That's pretty much impossible to do.

Then we get to the First Iraq War. Easily defined victory there: Eliminate and eject Iraqi forces from Kuwait, seriously weaken their ability to wage any future offensive wars. A definition of victory that could be achieved, and was.

The Second Iraq War and Afghanistan, not so much. The objectives were complex and the paths to victory was unclear. Remove current governments, install democracy, keep the peace in cities and countryside, oversee the conversion from militaristic dictators to peaceful democracies, rebuild infrastructure, rebuild economies, fight local and foreign terrorism, support national and local government institutions, fight corruption in national and local government institutions, secure a massive borders and isolated hinterlands. That's something you can't draw a battle plan for.

So what's the goal in Syria? Do we want to destroy all the chemical weapons? I'd support that objective, but then ask the tough question "how?" How could we do that without committing ground troops who would search buildings and underground storage dumps? Removing all chemical weapons is a fine goal, but difficult/impossible to achieve.

How about removing Assad? That can be done with an assassination or bombing whatever building he's in. But I'm not sure I like this as an objective. Assad's replacement will likely be just as bad, whether he's from Assad's camp or from the opposition. And there's something especially unsavory about people who assume power in vacuums. At least when power is won, even with brutality, the one holding the power has earned it in some way. People who assume power in vacuums tend to more grotesquely abuse that power.

One objective that might be feasible is to cripple Assad's ability to deliver chemical weapons. This means destroying missile and rocket launchers. I don't think we'd ever be able to eliminate all chemical weapons without a ground campaign (in other words, without getting us intimately involved in their war), and the air campaign would last an indefinite amount of time (perhaps as long as the war). But we can make it difficult and dangerous for Assad's chemical warfare troops and equipment. We can call it Operation Referee.

At the same time, intervention might not be a long term positive for Syria or its people. We intervened in Afghanistan in the 1980s when the Soviets were trying to conquer that country. It was a moral war to get involved in, there was a path to victory, and we prevented the Soviet Union from taking over. Years later some of the men we trained, like Osama bin Laden, turned against us. That was bad for the US and was bad for many people in Afghanistan.

Sometimes even good interventions have bad results.

So what's the objective in Syria? We're not going to try to end the Syrian Civil War. We don't want to support one side or another. So what is it that we want to achieve? NO OTHER QUESTION CAN BE ANSWERED UNTIL THIS ONE IS. We cannot decide whether to engage in Syria until we know what we'll try to do there and how we'll try to get it done.

The Left criticized G.W. Bush for not having an Exit Strategy in Iraq. Rightfully so. Before the exit, though, you need a path to victory. How do you get from the start of involvement towards your goal? We don't know what victory is yet, let alone the route to get there.

I blame Obama for the current cloudy and confused situation we are in with this mess. His stupid Red Line decree put himself against the wall, not Assad. Although now Obama denies setting a Red Line. Even though he did...

One perk to being a Liberal is that you can say what you want, then deny what your words meant because people who aren't as smart as you (which is everyone who criticizes you) misinterpreted what you were trying to convey.

Also, if he doesn't want to activate the military without Congressional assent, perhaps he shouldn't have set a Red Line without first conferring with Congress.

What he did was bluff. And Assad raised. And the proper thing to do after a failed bluff is fold. It'is braver to retreat and be embarrassed than it is to attack and be destroyed with pride. It's also the smart thing to do and it's the only thing to do. Live to fight another day. That's a figure of speech for Obama, but also a reality for the American servicemen who would be risking their lives in and above Syria, trying to attain a victory that can't be attained, and attempting to reach an objective that either isn't worth achieving or cannot be achieved.

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Profiling for Racial Profiling

I haven't seen any evidence that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin, I have seen significant evidence that people have profiled Zimmerman as a racial profiler.

I'm glad in our country the burden of proof is on the prosecution. And not because of this case. Screw George Zimmerman. I probably wouldn't like him if I met him. He seems like a wannabe Charles Bronson mixed with Dirty Harry. And his side of the story so absolves him of any and all blame that I struggle to believe it. It's too pristine. But doubt isn't proof. And our system requires proof. Innocent until proven guilty. That's why he is free. Not because of race, not because our system is broken.

I have a similar philosophy that I wish were applied by more people: Not-racist until proven racist. It would be nice if there were more of a burden of proof on MSNBC pundits, protesters, Ivy League professors, Twitter rabble rousers, and a New York City mayoral candidate, before they blame racism.

I'm struggling to see the racist element in this case. I feel like I'm staring at one of those 3D Art posters and I'm unable to see the hidden image of a spaceship that everyone else seems to see. Where's the racism? I see no smoke. Where's the fire?

Blacks, Hispanics, whites, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Americans, we all have the right to not be treated as criminals. Zimmerman was suspicious of Trayvon Martin. We can't get into Zimmerman's brain and discover the underlying reasons why.

Zimmerman has been accused of racial profiling, even though in his call to police he's initially not certain Martin is black. Not until Martin walks near his car. And he doesn't mention race until asked. He focuses on Martin's behavior as the reason he's calling. How can anyone presume to know the motivations in Zimmerman's mind as he calls the police?

Where's the proof, or even suggestion of racism? Did Zimmerman racially profile Martin? It's possible. But what evidence supports that? Martin was black. Zimmerman isn't. Zimmerman called the police about a young black kid. Is that all the evidence needed to prove racial profiling? What a light burden of proof.

It seems as though everyone who thinks Zimmerman racially profiled Martin reached their conclusions when the few facts available to us included a deceitfully edited audio clip of Zimmerman describing Martin's race. Immediately, Zimmerman was profiled as a gun-toting, racist vigilante. And those same people who profiled him are the ones now accusing him of doing the same.

The people that jumped to conclusions about Zimmerman have now seen that audio clip debunked, learned he is Hispanic, learned he's a Democrat, seen the media make endless mistakes in their coverage, seen cuts on the back of Zimmerman's head (even though ABC initially reported there were none at all). And despite all this, their opinion of Zimmerman is the same as when they thought he said "fucking coons" in his call to police, not "fucking punks."

I'm not going to victimize Zimmerman as others have, because he's not a victim. It wasn't a crime to get out of his car, but it was good common sense to stay in it, and an unnecessary risk to leave it. It's not a crime for him to carry a gun. But I think he wouldn't have had the stones to walk around that dark sidewalk without his firearm on him. People who carry guns don't become victims. That's one of the reasons gun rights advocates support gun rights. So Zimmerman is no victim.

Zimmerman was, however, profiled. By a media hungry for a story about a white man killing a black man, hungry for a story that involved race and guns. Who cares if it turned out to be an Hispanic man, the race story was already there, just ask the New York Times who called Zimmerman a "white Hispanic," maintaining that white vs. black narrative. NBC aired an edited phone call that made Zimmerman seem like he was racially profiling Martin. ABC used fuzzy, unenhanced images of the back of Zimmerman's head to say he wasn't injured at all, despite police reports that said he was. The Times came up with a completely new race for Zimmerman to be part of.

There's no proof or even suggestion that Zimmerman was worried about Martin because of race. There's been no evidence presented that Zimmerman is prejudiced against black people. He's a registered Democrat. His life has been investigated and turned upside down, and nothing has emerged to suggest his actions on February 26th were in any way motivated by race.

Why is it the people think that Zimmerman following Martin was wrong because it was racist, not wrong because it was stupid/zealous? Why does it have to be racist to be wrong?

People worked themselves up in a frenzy when on The Today Show they heard Zimmerman say "This guy looks like he's up to no good. He looks black." Which was proven to be a misleading edit by NBC. The same people incensed by hearing that, were not deterred in their outrage when it became known that the audio had been spliced together, making Zimmerman seem like he was racially profiling Martin. They're still now just as angry at Zimmerman, and at the system, as they were when they thought that's what Zimmerman actually said, and wasn't an editing trick.

In reaction to the verdict, many have said that the justice system failed to do justice for Trayvon Martin. And that this was because he was black.

Where is the exact failure in the justice system? Zimmerman wasn't just taken at his word by police, he was placed in handcuffs the moment an officer arrived. He was detained, brought to the station in the back of a police car, questioned, questioned again. The scene was examined, photographed. Tapes were analyzed, clothing was taken into evidence. The investigating detective admitted that he didn't feel there was enough evidence to accuse Zimmerman of murder. And due to pressure from other officers to do so, that veteran detective requested to be put back on patrol duty. Did the Sanford Police fail Trayvon Martin? If so, where's the evidence of that?

When the media was fed a story by political activists, public outrage eventually motivated Zimmerman be charged with murder. And I think that's a good thing. It's the public's duty to watch the watchers, to keep an eye on what our police do, and make sure they're doing their jobs. For all of us. The people wanted Zimmerman to be put on trial. He was. All the facts became available to the public. And the prosecution couldn't prove he committed murder.

Did the State of Florida fail Trayvon Martin? If so, where's the evidence of that? Was it when the judge berated the defense lawyers? Was it when Martin's disciplinary records at school and his texts were deemed inadmissible?

Was the jury racist? The jury was composed of 6 women: 5 white, 1 black or Hispanic (so that's a non-white Hispanic, New York Times). They were selected from a pool of 40 potential jurors. During jury selection, one eventual juror believed Zimmerman did something wrong by getting out of his car and following Martin. Another believed that it should be harder for people to receive concealed carry permits. Two had been victims of nonviolent crimes. One had been arrested in her life. Two volunteer to rescue animals. One is a nurse. One is a safety officer. One is active in her church and her children's school.

Where's the racism?

These jurors spent weeks as attorneys argued in front of them. They were isolated. Their entire life became State of Florida vs. George Zimmerman. Can you imagine that? And they didn't think the prosecution proved Zimmerman guilty.

One thing that's great about this country is that 6 women decided that a man should be free, even though thousands, even millions of others want him in prison. This country would be a scary place without due process. Look at the South before the Civil Rights movement. Look at people like Che Guevara, who executed 500 people without trial, including a 14-year old boy he shot himself, while running a prison in Cuba. Look at Iran and their lack of self-defense laws for women who are raped.

I like that we have due process here. I like that we have self-defense laws here.

I only wish that the people now crying racism had more than just their gut-feelings (along with the psychological need to feel as though their opinions are being opposed by powerful forces of wrong/evil) to prove that racism. I wish people accusing Zimmerman of profiling had more proof than just possibility. I wish people criticizing the system could point to one moment when Martin's race was a reason the system worked against him.

The people convinced that Zimmerman racially profiled Martin are the same type of people who were equally convinced that a Cambridge cop racially profiled a Harvard professor in 2009, instead of two men just being jerks to each other. This was the Cambridge Police sergeant who "acted stupidly" according to President Obama. Remember the "teachable moment?" The Beer Summit?

Weirdly enough, when talking about that incident, Obama mentioned another ethnic group that has received unfair treatment: "What I think we know separate and apart from this incident - is that there is a long history in this country of African-Americans and Latinos being stopped by law enforcement disproportionately, and that's just a fact." Zimmerman is a Latino. Until he became accused of racially profiling. Then he became "white Hispanic," or just white.


Why did a Cambridge cop have to prove he wasn't a racist when he was accused of racial profiling? Why does Zimmerman have to prove he wasn't profiling? Why do the people fighting against profiling profile so much?

Racial profiling is a real problem. It happens all the time. But instead of spreading all the outrage and anger over the entire issue, people have focused it like a laser beam at one man. Why not try to understand and deal with the problem as a whole?

Instead of seeing George Zimmerman as an opportunity to extract justice on someone who may have racially profiled a black child, maybe we should figure out how to identify and eliminate racial profiling in our society. Why do people profile? That's a complex question to answer.

Instead, people just want to see Zimmerman rot in a jail cell.

If Zimmerman were in jail right now, some black kid being frisked in New York might still feel profiled. Some worried homeowner or business owner might be more likely to call the police because black or Hispanic kids are loitering around their home or business. The problem would persist, with just as much horrible strength as it's persisted for years.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Since When Did Criticizing Become Politicizing?

The questions would stop if the answers started.

On September 11, 2012, four Americans were killed in Benghazi, Libya, including an Ambassador. That's a fact. There were several requests for added security before the attack, and those requests were denied. Another fact. As the consulate was being attacked, there were pleas for help. Nearby special forces were ordered to not help. As the country reacted to these deaths, US Ambassador to the UN Susan Rice went on the Sunday talk shows and repeatedly insisted that the attacks were a spontaneous and unplanned part of a demonstration protesting an anti-Muslim YouTube video that had sparked rage in the Islamic community. This was not a fact. This was not supported or even suggested by any evidence, and it eventually became clear that the deaths of 4 Americans were the result of a planned attack by terrorists.

However, if you criticize the actions of the State Department that didn't help their Ambassador, you are politicizing. If you question the role of the Secretary of State in all of this, you are politicizing. If you ask what Obama was doing as these attacks were taking place, you are politicizing. If you ask why Rice, an appointed voice of the Obama Administration, was talking about YouTube videos, you are politicizing.

You also, apparently, like Chick-fil-A. At least that's what the Washington Post declared...

The Post, which uncovered the Watergate scandal, is actively making fun of and dismissing people who are questioning their government and potential deceptions being issued by government officials. Does anyone else see an historical irony here?

Jonathan Stewart also questions the motives of people talking about and questioning what happened at Benghazi. He pointed out that dozens of diplomatic installations were attacked under George W. Bush, and 13 Americans killed in those attacks. He then asked why such a big deal was being made over Benghazi.

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Big Benghazi Theory
Daily Show Full EpisodesIndecision Political HumorThe Daily Show on Facebook

The Daily Show with Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
The Big Benghazi Theory - "If"
Daily Show Full EpisodesIndecision Political HumorThe Daily Show on Facebook

Although Stewart helps make a great point that because Republicans throw a tantrum over everything Obama does, when there is a legitimately major issue, it's the boy crying wolf, and nobody listens.

Because nobody ever blamed a YouTube video for those attacks, Jon. Nobody ducked and dodged questions about those attacks. And no part of the media seemed eager to move on from those attacks.

And Stewart only had Fox News video to use in his clip because the rest of the media doesn't seem to care. CNN barely covered Wednesday's Benghazi hearing. MSNBC didn't cover it AT ALL. CBS was the only network to give it any significant time. One thing The Daily Show and Fox News had in common was that they were among the few shows to lead with the hearing. Most buried it behind the Arias trial and the Cleveland kidnappings.

Back to the issue, if you raise any questions about how the State Department and the White House handled Benghazi, before, during, or after the attacks, you're politicizing. You're not criticizing, you are politicizing.

What's the difference (at this point) between criticizing and politicizing?

We all criticize politicians. Obama criticizes Bush for the deficit, Conservatives criticize Obama for increasing the deficit. And so on. Criticizing policies and politicians is part of politics.

When you politicize, that's when you criticize just because you don't like that person's politics in general. When you politicize, you take an event that has nothing to do with politics, and use it to further your political agenda. Like when Barney Frank said that tax cuts wouldn't have saved anyone from the Boston Marathon bombers (which is now ironic considering how much taxpayer money went to the bombers over the years). Or like how I just pointed out that taxpayer money went to the bombers. Barney and I are both politicizing the Marathon bombings.

So if you question what happened in the State Department around September 11, 2012, you're just politicizing. You're taking advantage of a tragedy and trying to destroy Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

If you ask why Susan Rice's talking points were changed from terrorism to YouTube, 2 months before an election, you're politicizing.

If you ask Hillary Clinton what happened and why Susan Rice's talking points were changed, she'll get mad at you. Because you're politicizing.

I don't blame Obama for Benghazi. That'd be like blaming FDR for Pearl Harbor or Bill Clinton for the attack on the U.S.S. Cole. I don't blame Hillary Clinton, either. It seems like requests for additional securities were made, they were denied. This was a mistake. A catastrophic mistake. Made by people and an organization. That happens, unfortunately. I don't see any malevolence or incompetence from Clinton or Obama leading up to the attack. They can't know the future.

What pisses me off is what happened after. The blaming of the YouTube video. An Ambassador, whose job it is to be the voice of the President, firmly and confidently blamed outrage over a video for this attack. And this assertion was based on NOTHING. They didn't get inaccurate information, they didn't get any information. They just went with a talking point that didn't involve a coordinated terrorist attack.

Barack Obama, addressing the UN, criticized the video and its anti-Muslim messages. He has spent far more time criticizing that video than he has explaining why a video was blamed for the attack.

And we still don't know how or why that was the message that Susan Rice was instructed to deliver. That seems like a relatively simple mystery to solve. That is, of course, if the government were trying to solve it.

They're not. They've moved on. And if you have any questions about this incident, you're politicizing. How dare you.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Dzhokhar Tsarnaevs Was an Equal Partner, Not a Little Brother Led Astray

This is now the narrative of the Marathon bombers: Older brother Tamerlan struggled to adjust in America, didn't make many friends, kept to himself, was a serious person, and eventually became a radicalized jihadist. Younger brother Dzhokhar's personality and experience was the opposite  He was easygoing, described as something of a class clown, captain of the wrestling team, scholarship winner, went to parties, smoked weed. The narrative being built in the media is that socially awkward Tamerlan led friendly Dzhokhar down a path toward evil. Tamerlan led the way and influenced his younger brother to follow.

Fuck that. Even if it were true, that's just as bad, if not worse.

I have an older brother, and I love him, but if he ever hinted at killing innocent people, I wouldn't tag along. I'd do everything I could to convince him to rethink such a crazy idea, and stop him if he didn't. Dzhokhar was either too much of a pussy to do this, or he was an equal partner in the plot.

Back when they were known as Suspect #1 (Black Hat) and Suspect #2 (White Hate), you can see from their body language how different the brothers' personalities were.

Tamerlan is serious, like he's on a mission. He's hidden his face with sunglasses and a hat to make him almost unidentifiable. Dzhokhar is casual, carrying an explosive packed with shrapnel by just one strap of his backpack. His hat backwards, his face visible (why didn't Tamerlan exert that alleged control he had over Dzhokhar and make him cover his face?). Dzhokhar looks nonchalant as he's about to commit murder. He struts. He's quite happy with what he's about to do.

And they both watched the bombs go off. They didn't leave, they stayed to watch what they were doing, watch the carnage, watch the death, and enjoy it. And then they strolled away.

Dzhokhar's behavior after the Marathon doesn't suggest that he's some kind of lackey, just doing what big brother says. He seems relaxed, completely fine with what he had done. Regret free. Guilt free. They didn't try to get out of town. He even attended classes at UMass-Dartmouth during the week. On Thursday, the day before the FBI released pictures of him as a suspect, he tweeted:

He shows no remorse for what he did or fear he'll be caught for it. They had 72 hours to get out of town, maybe go to Canada, maybe go to Russia. Instead, they hung around Cambridge. Relaxing.

Dzhokhar might have been a friendly, outgoing guy. He apparently brought that carefree attitude to how he viewed human life. He didn't care about it. His carefree demeanor is more like a sociopath than someone with a domineering big brother. He wasn't an innocent young man corrupted by the "influence exerted" (a phrase I'm tired of hearing) on him by his older brother. This was an equal partnership. He was INSPIRED by radicalism. He loved what he was doing and why. Leading up to the Marathon, he was quite proud of what he and his brother were scheming.

Five weeks before the bombing:

Not "rebels," but "rebel." He enjoyed the role of rebel that he was assuming.

A week before the bombing:

These are tweets written in the days that these two built their bombs, wired triggering devices, stuffed pressure cookers with nails and ball-bearings. They likely tested them, and decided where/when to drop them, as these tweets went out.

We've heard a great deal about Tamerlan's politics, but none about Dzhokhar's. The portrait being painted of Dzhokhar is that he didn't have any political opinions whatsoever. At least none that are apparent on the surface. When in fact, it seems like he had some very bizarre ones.

That's an interesting political opinion. Doesn't seem easygoing at all.

On his Vkontakte page (Russian version of Facebook), he shared two videos on April 9th, less than a week before the Marathon. Here's one, which on his page had Russian (or possibly Chechen) subtitles instead of English. It's very graphic, very emotional.

The other video is a 4 minute clip from a TV show of a blind boy being interviewed. I can't understand what that videos is actually about (it's in Arabic, with Russian subtitles). At the very least Dzhokhar seems to be very emotionally invested in events in the Islamic world. Six days later he left a bomb on Boylston Street.

What disturbs and perturbs me about that Syrian video of bodies and crying mourners is that he seems so sympathetic to the suffering of these people, then he decides to make other innocent people suffer and go through the same horrible experience. What a hypocrite. What a fraud. This guy is an asshole. He sees no value in human life, particularly non-Muslim human life. He wanted us to die because of his political motives. He was angry and decided to resolve that anger by stuffing a pressure cooker with nails and ball-bearings that would shred flesh, shatter bones, and tear through arteries. How selfish can you get? He was upset, so strangers had to suffer for it.

He wasn't led astray by Tamerlan. Dzhokhar proudly went down that path with his brother, as equals, with his hat backwards, head held high, and a douchey carefree look on his face.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Big Tobacco and Big Government: Both Taking Advantage of Cigarette Addiction

Thanks to a recent spam phone call and a brief monologue delivered by a man who sounded like he'd been smoking two packs an hour since he was 7, I've recently become aware that the Massachusetts State House will soon be voting on a measure that will raise the tax on cigarettes to $3.51 a pack. This is an increase of $1. And it, coupled with a 3 cent per gallon tax increase on gasoline, will help generate $500 million in revenue. This money will be used to fund "transportation improvements" such as paying for the MBTA's annual losses.

Health enthusiasts might love this tax increase. These vice taxes are always sold as efforts to improve general health and welfare.

Except they're not. We can argue about the merits and effects of such taxes, but one disturbing, disgusting fact tarnishes them. They are solely an effort to raise revenue. The motivation isn't health, it's dollars. The Government is doing exactly what Big Tobacco does: They're making money by charging people more for an addictive product. Marlboro and Massachusetts, using the same business model.

How is that right?

And the money raised by these taxes doesn't go to reduce tobacco addiction, or to pay for the healthcare of smokers. If tobacco tax increases were balanced with increased tax credits for nicotine patches, gums, and addiction support groups, then the health aspects of tobacco taxes would be valid reasons to support them. But credits don't raise money for the Government.

There would be logic to tobacco taxes if they paid for the increased cost in healthcare that smokers cause. Instead, the extra $1 that John Q. Smoker will pay for his pack of Marb Reds will pay the MBTA's inability to support itself.

Instead of trying to help people quit smoking, let's take their money. And instead of trying to fix the MBTA's problems, let's just have smokers pay for them.

And Governor Patrick doesn't want to stop the taxes there. Taking a cue from the colonial Governors that were in office before the British evacuated Boston, Patrick wants to raise even more money for a number of pet projects. He wants to replace part of I-91. With all apologies to Springfield and Western MA, who cares about I-91? Is it a priority? Is that really where our money needs to go to? And he has an even grander scheme to expand the commuter rail. Railroad expansion drove the economy back in 1850, why not now in 2013? And seeing as the MBTA is already operating at a deficit, maybe we shouldn't add to their costs and responsibilities. Especially since Deval's plan would cost upwards of $3 billion.

We have, in Massachusetts and in the nation, governments that do not spend responsibly. They extract money from us every day, and we painfully give it up. Every hour we work, every gallon of gas we use to get to work, every item we buy. The Government takes what we strive for, study for, work our asses off for, and throws it around like confetti. They spend on everything and anything they want. Governments have the luxury and the power to take what they want from us. Until we don't let them. Until we demand Governments that spend responsibly.

Unfortunately, the politician who promises more services and benefits will always defeat the politician who promises less. And as long as the Government focuses its tax increases on isolated and specialized groups like smokers, gun owners, and the rich, most people won't bat an eye.

Tuesday, November 06, 2012

Did You Vote Today? Then Thank a Veteran

I cast my vote today. It was an uneventful drive from my house to the Balch School in Norwood. There were no IEDs blowing up along the way. No guerrillas ambushed me from the trees. No Panzers hid themselves behind buildings. No Zeros strafed my car. No distant artillery rained a storm of shellfire upon the school parking lot. No saber wielding cavalrymen charged into the gym as I filled out my ballot.

All I had to deal with was road work on Route 1 and a small line to receive my ballot. Voting is relatively easy in this country because of people who did difficult things, who had to live with and fight through the threats I mentioned above. From SEALs taking out Osama bin Laden in Pakistan to Minutemen fighting the British at Lexington, our Veterans have sacrificed and we've reaped the rewards. So if you voted today, thank a Veteran.

Here's why:
Whoever wins this election, they were elected. They're not Royal Governors appointed by a monarch in Britain. Thanks to our Veterans.

Whatever happens with our economy, we're free to trade with other countries across the world. We don't have British ships commandeering our ships and kidnapping our sailors. Nor do we have to compete in trade-wars with the Spanish Empire, the Japanese Empire (which would have controlled China), or the Nazi Empire (which would have controlled Europe, Russia, and the Middle East). Thanks to our Veterans.

We have a black President, at least for the next few weeks, maybe the next few years. Thanks to Union Veterans, slavery was abolished. Thanks to Soldiers and National Guardsmen, schools were integrated. We have no poll taxes, no literacy tests, no more Jim Crow.

General Eisenhower sent the 101st Airborne to Bastogne in 1944, then President Eisenhower sent them to Little Rock in 1957

We no longer fear nuclear Armaggedon with the Soviets because our Veterans were a strong presence in Western Europe, Southeast Asia, and in the world's oceans.

Thanks to our Veterans, Al-Qaeda's destructive activities have been contained to the Middle East and North Africa. They no longer terrorize us.

Thanks to our Veterans, Osama bin Laden is dead.

Thanks to our Veterans, we live in a peaceful country. And when disaster strikes, men and women in uniform are there to assist us.

New Jersey National Guard, Hoboken, NJ

US Marine Corps, Staten Island, NY

US Air Force, Newburgh, NY

New York Air National Guard, Staten Island, NY

Our rights are written in the Constitution with ink, but the blood of our Veterans is what gives those words life. "The price of liberty is eternal vigilance." Our Veterans have been the vigilant ones, paying the price for our freedoms.

So if you exercised your right to vote today, remember how much hard work, how much sacrifice was made for you to be able to.

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Obama Wins Debate #2, on Points, Not a Knockout

Barack Obama apparently pounded a few Red Bulls as he came out swinging last night. I think the town-hall forum suited him. And as has been the formula for this Administration, Joe Biden tested the waters, then Obama dove in. Biden in the VP debate was aggressive, interrupted, and bordered on smugness and arrogance. Obama pulled back the haughtiness a little, but still interrupted, still made smug remarks, was still aggressive. He not only debated Romney, he worked the ref. At the end of the debate he even prompted moderator Candy Crowley to cut Mitt Romney off. He told the moderator how to moderate the debate.

Rude and aggressive wins. Passive and polite doesn't. It's a fact. I'm fine with it. Supporters of either candidate can point out the opposite candidate's lack of politeness, but both are rude, both are pompous, both are somewhat disconnected from us. As much as some would like to think their man is well mannered, neither side supports a polite, respectful angel fighting against a rude bully. They're both bullies.

Candy Crowley didn't do a good job at moderating this debate. And that's how I know Obama won. The loser of a debate frequently blames the moderator, and here I am, a Romney supporter, criticizing the moderator.

She did insert herself far too much into this debate. I wanted to see Obama and Romney in a verbal brawl, and she broke it up far too often. There were times when they needed to be separated  but she frequently didn't allow them to discuss issues. She moved on to new subjects far too often. She seemed to have money on the over/under for the number of questions the audience would get to ask.

The debates are the only chances for candidates to directly address each other and their points, Crowley didn't allow them to do that. They answered a question, insinuated something about their opponent, and Crowley didn't let the opponent respond. We moved on to the next question.

I'm sorry, but I wanted to hear Obama and Romney last night, not Joe Undecided from Islip, NY. And certainly not Candy Crowley, who by the way did not do her job in ensuring the candidates answered the question asked.

So cue the out-of-context talking points. On the Left, I'm already seeing that apparently Mitt Romney thinks women exist in binders (trapper keepers?). Also, Mitt Romney is rude (and Obama is polite and humble? Really?). There was also that stupid question about AK-47s, about which Romney talked about single-parents. Although this study from the University of Chicago points out that gun violence is disproportionately carried out by children of single-parents. But don't let an actual discussion of Romney's points interrupt the Left telling jokes to each other. The memes must go on!

All these debates are entertaining, but I feel like this election boils down to a difference in philosophy not a difference between two men. Do you want Government to take care of you and also guide your life, or do you want an opportunity to take care of yourself and guide your own life? As far as the candidates go, they're both rude, both kind of jerks, both skew the truth, so it's the philosophy that separates them.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Union Fines Members if They Don't Campaign for Elizabeth Warren

I was tempted to use stronger words in this post's title. "Union Forces Members to Campaign for Warren," or even "Mercenary Campaigners: The Unholy Alliance Between Warren and a Carpenter's Union."

Now that's just a guy being filmed. Who knows who he is, where he is, et cetera. Hardly a firm source.

But hidden (and I mean hidden like opening scene in Raiders of the Lost Ark hidden) in a Boston Globe story was confirmation that if union workers don't participate in rallies, they will lose $150.

Mark Erlich, executive secretary treasurer of the New England Regional Council of Carpenters, said the worker was describing an annual assessment that is waived when members do community service, which can include attending a political rally.

"Brown is flat-out wrong," Erlich said. "We have never and never will fine any member for not participating in political activity and have never paid any member to participate. Brown’s voting record is motivation enough."

So it isn't technically a fine. You just lose money if you don't participate in the rally. Which actually sounds very much like a fine.

How is a political rally considered community service?

If that's the case, would going to an Obama or Romney rally count as hours for court ordered community service?

Elizabeth Warren denied knowledge of this policy and I don't doubt it. What does she actually know about what working people do and have done to them? That's probably why Scott Brown has an unusual amount of union support for a GOP candidate (one WHDH poll had Brown supported by 46% of union members, and Warren by 41%). Maybe not from the unions themselves, but from the members who actually work.

Friday, October 05, 2012

All the Left Has Are Memes

After Mitt Romney soundly defeated Barack Obama in the first Presidential Debate, all Obama and his supporters could do was make each other laugh with funny memes about Mitt Romney.

Then again, that's all he and his supporters have done for the past few months. Whether it was making fun of Romney's $10,000 bet offer to Rick Perry, or Romney's comments about 47% of Americans who don't pay income taxes, or Bain Capital, or putting a dog in a crate on the roof of his car, or having a car elevator in his garage, or not hugging his garbageman, or giving tax breaks to the wealthy, or the alleged war on women... et cetera.

There haven't been many factual arguments emanating from the Left. And there certainly hasn't been any talk of Barack Obama's illustrious 4 year record as President.

Now it's Big Bird's turn to be a Liberal meme.

Seriously, that's the best the Left has. Funny as it may be, it addresses no issue, and adds nothing to the discussion of this country's problems except snark and dismissiveness.

The day after Mitt Romney pointed out that Barack Obama's record with the economy is questionable, all the Left seemed capable of doing was spreading this meme around. Why is that? Maybe because when actually talking about issues, the Left has nothing but air and fluff. They couldn't really address any of the points Romney adroitly made in the debate. The Left can't stand on Obama's record. All they can do is make jokes that make other Liberals laugh.

One common thread - before the debate and after - for Liberals was that Mitt Romney hasn't been detailed with his proposals.

I think it's hilarious that the same people who screamed ambivalent slogans like "Hope" and "Change" and now "Forward" are demanding details. When did these people become so meticulous? All Obama has to do is say "Yes we can" and they cheer wildly. But with Romney, they demand details.

However specific or nonspecific Romney has been, he has a general plan to alter the course of the economy. All Obama has are jokes about Sesame Street characters. Well to borrow a word from my favorite Sesame Street resident, I think it's time for Obama to scram.