Babble Fish Enabled

Friday, July 19, 2013

Born Suspect

 We have met the enemy and he is us – Pogo

In a move surprising no one, the military judge presiding over the trial of whistleblower and nude sleep enthusiast Pfc. Bradley Manning decided to maintain the charge of "aiding the enemy" yesterday, ensuring the possibility of life in prison remains on the table. Patriots defend this charge by pointing out that before his death Osama Bin Laden was highly interested in the material leaked by Private Manning. This informally shared informtion, the prosecution holds, is tantamount criminal collaboration and puts our ever-fragile national security at risk. However, beyond the hovering menace of Al Qaida there is another, far graver threat to this fine nation: the American Public.

As revelations continue to emerge about the creeping powers of the massive surveillance state, one thing has been made perfectly clear: every single citizen of this great nation is viewed a potential terrorist. Anyone can be radicalized and turned against the state to serve the nefarious purposes of the freedom haters out there, just look at the Tsarnaevs– even the boys next door are capable of evil on a massive scale. Given these types of attacks it's easy to understand the government's vigilance. How can we be kept safe if our life histories are not thumbed through to prove we are one of the good guys?

When the destructive reach of zealots extends into our sporting events government adherence to the principle of presumed innocence would be exhibition of naivete. It is behind this rule of law that these fear mongers love to hide. But with the greatest surveillance system in the world, no one can hide from Uncle Sam. Before him, an appeal to privacy sounds like an admission of guilt. Let him judge your internet history and be free. Your penchant for brony erotica is of no concern, fair citizen.  So long as the rest of your browsing log is clean, your perversions will remain between you and the technician sifting through your data, and whoever else that data may forwarded to. Complaints about profiling miss the point, the government doesn't do this because it enjoys intercepting your communications like a common stalker, it does so because you deserve it. Or at least you could.

As Americans we share a common original sin, a healthy mistrust of authority, which is ingrained in our national conscious and is the basis of our holy founding documents. And when revelations of massive government overreach stirs the desires of rebellion, I suggest you not take it personally. Turn away from the sin of mistrust and realize it's just your healthy suspicion of the government that tends make the government suspicious of you. So relax, let them check you out, confirm you're not plotting some terribly destructive act and you can be on your way. National security depends on it. And you do love your country, don't you?

In a nation as rife with freedom as these United States, temptation is abound and with the advent of the internet there exists no flaming sword to serve warning in front of the tree of knowledge. For deceitful serpents the web is a perfect venue for them to offer fruit from the forbidden tree, to lure in poor souls and destroy their love of country by revealing classified information. Snakes like Julian Assange, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden – the Unholy Trinity– offer knowledge without discretion or context, failing to understand that some secrets are kept for the greater good. The promise of such knowledge is tantalizing, but be still, and know the government has kept those secrets to protect you. The NSA is my shepherd; I shall not want.

Every American will have to struggle with sin, and triumph is by no means assured. But even when the situation is bleak know that it exists within all of us to succeed – just as John Steinbeck so beautifully explained East of Eden, "timshel-you may overcome sin" Despite being born with this exceptional burden of Americanism, there exists within each of us the ability overcome any temptation. And even if we don't stop the devil at our door, that's why the government tracks our every move so when we falter Uncle Sam will right be there with salvation and a feeding tube, all lubed up for us down in Guantanamo Bay. Hallelujah!

Friday, June 7, 2013

At Least Mitt Romney Isn't President

President Obama has come under attack recently due to a slew of "scandals" that has both sides of the aisle demanding satisfaction.  The right is upset abut the use the IRS to target Tea Party groups for audits, while the left incensed at the DOJ seize months worth of AP call logs . No one is happy. But despite these recent missteps by the current administration and regardless of the general malaise that is hanging around this country, at least Mitt Romney isn't president.

On more than one occasion President Obama has betrayed his campaign promise to not allow cuts to Social Security, offering a substantial reductions in benefit payouts by switching to chained CPI only to be rebuffed by typical Republican obstructionism.  Much of the presidents base saw the offers as needless and felt the move reinforced the meme that "entitlement programs" like Social Security are bankrupting this nation. As a result there exists little trust that President Obama won't offer larger, even more substantive cuts in future deficit deals. Still, at least Mitt Romney isn't president. If that was the case social security wouldn't even exist and old people would just be recycled into foodstuffs for school children to save money.

To the delight of many progressives, the President recently admitted that the war on terror must eventually end. This sentiment echoed what many Americans have long felt, that America cannot afford to be at war with a concept. However, he offered little in the way of concrete ways in which the wind down would take place and even the Assistant Secretary of Defense Michael Sheehan admitted that America would be involved in low-intensity conflicts for at least another 10-20 years. For those hoping for a more dove-like Obama in his second term, this must be disappointing. But hey, At least Mitt Romney isn't president. This country would probably be in multiple high-intensity conflicts around the world, including one with either Canada or Mexico, and be in the process of trying to rebuild a failed state or two. How's that for an end to the war on terror?

The flicker of hope that existed among progressives that this administration might finally get tough and prosecute the big banks for their various gross misdeeds was snuffed when Eric Holder admitted that HSBC was too big to jail. Fearing the economic repercussions convicting HSBC's of board members of money laundering for drug cartels and terrorists, the DOJ opted for the equivalent of five weeks profit as settlement instead trying to prosecute. As disheartening as this development is there exists cold comfort in knowing that Mitt Romney is not president. Not only would have he given HSBC a gold medal in capitalism, he would have blown to bits anyone who dared disagree. To add insult to injury he would posthumously convert to Mormonism all deceased dissenters, a cruel fate for standing up for what you believe in.

There exists a palpable smog of disappointment over much of America right now. The man touted as a liberal savior is perceived by his base to be a weak-willed centrist at best, or a Nixonian acolyte bent on maintaining the perverted status quo at worst. The American people are notoriously fickle and rarely appreciate a ruse, Obama may have been relegated to the one-termers club had it not been for his opponent. Lacking a viable third party in many states, or substantive difference in policy between candidates, the vote came down to not to who had the best ideas on how to lead this country, but rather on strength of personality. This electioneering method might not be optimal, but hey, at least Mitt Romney isn't president

Friday, March 8, 2013

Smooth Criminal: A Dashboard Barry Confessional

 It was Septemeber 30, 2011 and NPR was reporting Muslim cleric, alleged al-Qaida leader and American citizen Anwar al-Awlaki was killed by a drone-fired missile in some far off province of Yemen. Two weeks later his son 16 year old Abdulrahman al-Awlaki would meet his end as collateral damage in a similar attack, this one allegedly aimed at another radical al-Qaida leader.
Two America citizens targeted for killing by their own government with only one trial in absentia to show for due process. The thought was chilling. This sort of executive overreach would have elicited harsh rebukes had it been committed by G.W Bush, but under Obama, well, it still felt wrong but it also felt right. Conflicted I sought my moral compass, surely it could provide some much needed clarity.
My friend owns a royal blue 1971 VW Microbus. Over the years this outdated hippy steed has hauled him from concert to concert like some burnt-out stoner dharma bum, his vehicle a symbol of his elitist Northwest liberal heritage. It was late 2008 when this pot-mobile received her patron saint, and my moral compass, Dashboard Barry.
Shirtless and flashing his signature smile, Dashboard Barry is a Barrack Obama bobblehead that looks ready to hit the waves with a surfboard under his left arm, his right hand flashing "hang loose", and with his relaxed demeanor, I like to imagine he's just coming from a session with the choom gang. It is this effortless calm he exudes that fosters my trust. Uncertainty from the earlier reports still reeling in my gut, I ask, "You wouldn't target American citizens abroad unless you really had to, right?" I tap his bobble head for a response. He nods in agreement and I am relieved. An indiscriminate murderer our President is not.  Sadly, there are fringe elements in this country that do not understand this.
Nowhere was this disconnect more apparent than Sen. Rand Paul's filibuster of the Senate confirmation for John Brennan as head of the CIA the other dat. Using the cover of civil liberties, Paul took nutbag obstructionism to a new level, stalling governmental progress over a professed disgust towards use of drone strikes targeting American citizens, i.e., the possibility of the President ordering a strike against a citizen on US soil.
Paul was not satisfied with Eric Holder's response on the hypothetical use of drones on domestic targets, and so with the backing of only one other senator, Ron Wyden (D) from Oregon, the distinguished gentleman from Kentucky sought to hold up the confirmation of one of the few Obama appointments to receive mass bi-partisan support. What life events imbued Paul with such a sense of self-importance that he should feel the need to make a scene over a hypothetical abuse of presidential powers is beyond me. Perhaps something from his upbringing.
It seems to me that Sen. Paul would be better served working to accept the new normal. That's what music-journalist turned MSNBC personality Touré has done, with aplomb. He recognizes that many of President Obama's actions could be considered war crimes and would be found abominable had they been performed by Bush II. Despite this admission Touré goes on to say that because Obama is a constitutional scholar-- more than that, because he is a good man-- we should trust his judgement on such weighty matters. I can't disagree.
Like St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas and Cicero before him, President Obama has ever been grappling with the concepts behind a "just war", he has struggled with how to justify exporting violence as a means to lasting peace. With the philosophies of his forebears providing a moral framework the president has attempted to codify into law the process by which he chooses names from his disposition matrix. He is methodically retrofitting the constitution to fit his vision of justice so that we are not encumbered frivolities like the Geneva conventions, habeas corpus, posse comitatus or any other Latin phrases of whose meanings I am ignorant. In times like these our country cannot afford any hesitation. We are at war with a savage faceless enemy, to hesitate is to die.
I'm sure the President has had many a tortured debate with himself on the best means of fighting terrorism, while also limiting collateral damage. I'm sure he has asked himself "Barry, is setting up  an assassination program so secretive that its existence cannot be confirmed or denied, instead existing in a quantum state of uncertainty, really the best means of combating the perverted ideal of terrorism?" To which he has answered, "Yes, Other Barry. Yes, it really is." The moral and emotional strain of these decisions cannot be underestimated.
Were not President Obama not a constitutional scholar perhaps there could exist concern about the legality of some of his policies. But it's more than his Harvard Education and deep understanding of the constitution that calm any worries about his policies, there is genuine feeling that Barrack Obama is a rational, reasonable, self-aware family man. It's the way he speaks to the public that provides a sense of inclusion and understanding that Bush's limited intellect and beady eyes could never convey. The American public trusts this man.
Barrack Obama is far from a saint, and he certainly has his flaws. For example his financial policy is a disastrous rehash of failed economic principles; he appointed the Vice-President of oft-vilified big ag company, Monsanto, to be the head of the FDA; his appointment of Wal-Mart's budget Operator to head the budget office doesn't exactly signal a trong backing of worker's rights; environmentalists have to be worried about him giving the ok on the Keystone XL pipeline. Still whether he is singing a few bars of Al Green, giving fist bumps to white house janitors, or hooping it up with the Secret Service in his down-time, Barrack Obama always seems so affable and the American public by and large loves him for it. Liberals just can't stay mad at the guy, no matter how many times he offers to needlessly cut Social Security.
It is this illogical love that drives me to the arms of Dashboard Barry again and again. News is released that HSBC received a fine equivalent two 5 weeks profits for their role in a massive money laundering scheme for terrorists and drug cartels, and I ask Barry is the punishment can be considered justice. His silent, grinning nod answers affirmative. He talks about needing to improve our public schools and then offers massive incentives to charter schools and I question whether this is the best way to improve our education system. He nods again. And I notice again his left hand reminding me to hang loose. That Dashboard Barry, he has all the right moves.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013

The Postman's Last Ring

America must rein in the runaway of federal waste if she is to survive in this austere new world. Government spending has become a fatted beast that consumes grotesque amounts of tax dollars while proving nearly useless in its limited services, Lady America can suffer such wasteful gluttony no longer.  With Congress preparing to vivisect social services and President Obama again demanding his pounds of flesh from Social Security and Medicaid in order to avoid the violent cuts of sequestration, the attitude towards government programs on Capitol Hill is, "If they move, kill 'em!"

The downside to such a scattershot approach is the indiscriminate damage on functioning and non-functioning government programs alike. Still, if a beloved service like the US Post Office has to go down unnecessarily to save us from our own voracious debt, then so be it. Better by you, than me as Old Taft would say.

Before we start to wax nostalgic about the glory days of mail delivery let me remind you that the Post Office has lost $1.3 trillion over the last three months of 2012 alone. That's a monumental amount of waste, even for our government. This failure only proves the truism that the United States Government is horribly incompetent in most all it does, and would be better served handing most services over to the efficient management of the private sector.

The factualists out there will counter with claims of a Congress-imposed full-guarantee of seventy five years worth of pensions, as if such a trivial obligation could really sink such a storied service like Post Office. Sure, it would be complete madness for a private sector company to honor such exorbitant pension programs, but government jobs always provide insanely cushy pay and benefits, so it seems only fitting they would have to pre-fund pensions for so many years out.

The advent of email was a major nail in the coffin of the US Postal Service, with pen and paper made antiquated  the only people who still sent letters were basement-dwelling curmudgeons scrawling out manifestos to be sent in with the letters to the editor. The proliferation of international overnight carriers like FedEx, UPS, DHL, and others made the post office's snail-paced deliveries redundant. Sure the price was triple with private carriers, but it got there twice as fast!

So you see, it was not this unprecedented mandate to pre-fund three quarters of a century worth of pensions that closed the post office, but instead it was an inability to evolve with the businesses the grew up to challenge its monopoly. There is no need to grow wistful over the postman's last ring, no need mourn the loss of an American institution, instead we should all trust in the infallible hand of the market to more efficiently to deliver mail, for triple the price. 

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Anti-Capitalist Militants Impose Limits on Swiss Cheese

Long has Switzerland been renowned the world over for its delicious chocolate stores, its precision clocks, and its long-held neutrality, and while much international good will remains for Swiss clocks and chocolate, respect for their impartiality has been compromised. Recent radical legislation has put this Alpine nation on the path to becoming a failed state, filled with rogue factions posing threats to U.S and world interests. The resulting chaos could destabilize big Swiss banks whose failures would have a cascading effect upon the international finance markets, toppling Wall Street in a surge of uncertainty.  Such a scenario must not be allowed to come to be, lest the world follow America's Swiss demise.

Popular sentiment here in the U.S and abroad seems to say, "First they came for the billionaires, but I didn't say anything because I could only afford two seasonal European vacation homes, not four like the fat cats down the way."  It is this type of thinking fractures the bonds of society, seeking to pit us against our neighbor and using manufactured jealousy to spur support for destructive policies.

Much like the attempts to raise the minimum wage in this country, installing a wage cap seeks to impose arbitrary limits on the financial possibilities of an individual. This is tyranny plain and simple. The leftist utopian dream of imposing a higher minimum wage and a lower maximum wage inevitably leads to a narrowing the gap between the two until there exists only a single national hourly pay rate, with the workers lacking any kind of autonomy, wage slaves chained to a broken system.

Ever vigilant against oppression in all its forms, America has long been the sole protector of human freedoms around the globe. After ten plus years and some number of official and semi-official wars there exists cynics would would question the wisdom of once again playing world police. But as long as freedom is impinged --financial or otherwise-- it is our responsibility to use all our given power to defend it. We can worry about "morality" after the problem is solved

The Department of Justice's white paper on lethal drone use made clear the point that a threat to this nation's financial interests and security was tantamount to a threat to US national interests and security, and must be dealt with accordingly. We cannot allow a violent reactive mob of majority infringe the rights of a hard-working, high-paid minority. We must take action. A drone strike on Thomas Minder, the man behind the Swiss anti-free market legislation, would send a message to any future fascists that Lady Liberty has no problem cutting down those that stand in her way. After all, our freedoms won't defend themselves.

Monday, March 4, 2013

The Obama Doctrine: It's Comin' Right For Us!

With the Department of Justice's release of a "White Paper", the parameters for drones on the use of lethal force against American citizens are becoming a bit more clear, despite the drone program remaining in a state of quantum uncertainty that prevents either confirmation or denial of its existence. Despite much hand wringing by liberals who have gone a little soft and are defending the civil liberties of al Qaeda, the program is not an excuse for wanton death and destruction of anybody anywhere. Quite the opposite, in fact. Lethal force is only ever authorized when a person poses an "imminent threat", a description that places severe, and quite wise, restrictions on whom our Government is targeting for disposal.

You see, the President is hardly simple-minded good ol' boy driven by Ahab-ian levels of obsession and revenge. Already this puts his tactics ahead of Bush's reckless actions, for sure. He's not ordering strikes hopped up on bloodlust and hate. Instead, he is calmly and rationally constructing a legal framework that allows an unprecedented accumulation of executive power so that he can better defend this country. He was president of the Harvard Law Review, as well as a constitutional professor at Chicago Law School, after all, so you know we can trust him.

By limiting the course of lethal action to a person who represents an imminent threat to US security, the American public can rest assured that the use of drone strikes is not an arbitrary act of aggression, but instead a meticulously planned event only ever used in matters of national defense.

Because groups like al Qaeda have such a deep unyielding hatred for American freedoms, they are constantly planning attacks against our great country. The events of 9/11 proved that even with the utmost vigilance tragedy can strike. We cannot stand idly by as evil marshals forces against us. Much like the various "Stand Your Ground" laws on the books around the country, the "white paper" provides legal exemption for preemptive self-defense, proving that the best defense is a good offense. 

Despite its best efforts, the defense apparatus of the United States is not omniscient, and therefore can never be 100% sure that some al Qaeda leader isn't holed up in a cave somewhere with a cadre of fanatics, plotting the demise of this beautiful nation. As such, any threat to America must be treated as imminent, and dealt with accordingly. Much like how George Zimmerman dealt with the imminent threat of Trayvon Martin.

Because the DOJ "white paper" makes clear that we now live in a constant state of imminence, the removal of foreign threats is no longer slowed by the tiresome and inefficient slog of due process. There is no wait for a warrant. No dog and pony show of presenting evidence for trial. No opinion of a judge can stay the hand of justice from meting out lethal punishment upon an evildoer. For this we should be very glad.

Americans should be thrilled that quaint twentieth century notions like international law and the Geneva conventions can no longer stall protective action and leave us vulnerable to those who would see us destroyed. We have ceded power to our unitary executive, leaving him to make the determination if a threat is, in fact, imminent. If it is, we can trust our Nobel Peace Prize winning president to protect this country, with lethal force. After all, it was coming right for us!

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

It's All Fun and Games Until Someone Loses A Life

It all started with "Duck Hunt". Before the release of the classic NES shooter the most popular video games revolved around non-violent activities like Pac-Man eating blue ghosts and Pong tournaments. Then Nintendo released the still reigning king of first person shooters (FPS) and the world of video gaming was permanently changed. Millions of innocent American children spent hours in front of their televisions assuming roles as dealers of pixellated death, their minds warped from the cheap thrill of massacring countless ducks. And we wonder how things got so bad.

Of course the  success of Nintendo's avian death simulator brought about many imitators, each hoping to outdo the other until at last they devolved into grotesques that rewarded players with bonuses for shooting opponents in the genitals.  Ever since "Duck Hunt" generations of this nation's youth have been only able grasp the concept of death as an expression of 1's and 0's, not as the physical act of life leaving a body. It is this disconnect between the virtual and the physical worlds that drives a bunch of mentally deficient, emotionally unstable, mommy-coddled man-children to view society as an outlet for their vengeance for being socially awkward creeps, shooting movie theaters and schoolhouses with impunity.

Backed by unfalsifiable and inarguable anecdotal evidence,  everyone from President Obama and Vice President Biden, to Wayne LaPierre and the NRA acknowledge what the Army has known for years; if you want to turn someone into a conscience-less killing machine, there is no better tool than video games.

These political paragons assuage fears that the root of this societal violence stems from a massive systemic inequality pervaded by a violence obsessed culture whose myopic goal of making money renders the concept of respect a quaint notion. Good thing too, I won't have anybody bad-mouth the dual pillars of this nation. Greed and violence have led us this far, and I'll be damned if some squishy liberal ideal like income equality causes us to abandon them now.

Still, I'm not sure if these proposals penetrate deep enough into the world of gaming, a dark and insidious culture to be sure. Think of the delusion-sharing adventures of Dungeons and Dragons, how long til they deem us all orcs and unleash their nerd-rage on society? And what kind of violent, militaristic messages are being sold to our children in games of Battleship and Stratego? Which is to say nothing of Risk, and it's teachings of strategic conquest, which could lead to whole city clocks being unceremoniously annexed into Kamchatka.

No, dear reader, banning video games does not go near far enough to keep us safe. We must ban all violent or objectionable distractions whether they be board, war, or head games. America's streets will be filled with the nation's youth once again, as children play with their official government sanctioned cup-and-ball toys in front of their houses, tossing and catching in beautiful synchronicity.

We must work towards a society where we so severely limited out children's minds they can scarcely imagination an alternative to their highly-structured grey-scale lives, let alone performing such a transgressive act like blowing away their friends with a semi-automatic second-amendment protector. It is only then that we will be safe from the scourge of mass shootings that plague the soul of this nation, and people will be truly free.