Monday, August 31, 2009

War is Exciting, Sexy and Not At All Bloody

Truffaut once said it would be impossible to make an anti-war film that featured actual war footage, because war still looks like fun. All that dodging, skulking, hiding, shooting, and running away seems like an adventure, still gets the blood moving, is very exciting!...

So are the recent spate of "join the service" ads running on TV.

Like the Navy Seal ad that features a calm beach in the moonlight, a wave comes in, recedes to reveal footprints, then the next wave comes in and obliterates the footprints, hinting that a large force has just snuck silently past you. Cool.

Then there's the Predator drones, floating above a battlefield, or over mountainous terrain, or sandy desert, or something, then linking back via satellite to a guy (or gal!) on an air force base or carrier or somethingorother, piloting the drone with a joystick.

Join the Air Force. Be all you can be with a Nintendo Wii!

Then there's the actual war. Where you see the results when a small child picks up an unexploded cluster bomblet, and having it blow his arm and half his face off.

Or cleaning the blood and body matter out of a humvee after an IED blew your best friend apart on some godforsaken road in Afghanistan.

We still use cluster munitions and land mines, even when the rest of the world has condemned both. We still use white phosphorus (we say) as an illuminant, or as a smoke munition, unless it gets too close to the ground, and there's half your face melted off.

Being a US Marine is an honorable profession, so long as the war you're supposed to fight in hasn't been manufactured for the sake of fulfilling some chickenhawk's videogame fantasy of playing Commander-in-Chief.

War isn't pretty, sexy, edgy (well, I guess it's a little edgy), cool or fun, unless you're talking being on leave. War is brutal, painful, leaves men and women burned, maimed, psychologically damaged, and dependent on us for their care; in some cases, for the rest of their lives. Civilians who had no complaint with us before become the next generation of terrorists, insurgents, or whatever you want to call them, because we dropped a 500 lb bomb that blew up their house and killed their child, or their wife, mother, father, husband. Because we fight from a distance, so that we don't have to see the face of the victims of our mistakes or our successes, we can look at war as clean. And the Muslims look at us as cowards.

There was a photo on the front page of a local Sunday paper about two years into the war, showing a pool of blood running out of someone's door into a street in Baghdad. No body parts, no screaming children, just a few gallons of someone's blood. Many people wrote to the paper to complain that they didn't want to see that kind of thing on a Sunday morning over the pancakes. At least one or two wrote in to cancel their subscriptions because they felt this displayed a lack of taste.

I'm all for it. Publicize the violence, show the carnage, let people see the results of their being able to sit back and eat pancakes in peace while other people, many of them innocent victims ("collateral damage"), lay dying in the ruins of what were once their homes. If the only thing this prompts a person to do is cancel their subscription, what does that say about the American character? That, so long as we're not made aware of what is being done in our name, we're OK with it?


Saturday, August 15, 2009

Can Open, Worms Everywhere

This is one horribly long, rambling post, and I apologize, but a lot of things hit me at once.

Common Grounds

A Republican friend (yes, I have a couple) is convinced the current health care reform proposals are all about encroaching government control, i.e., Socialism. He has no problem with the Department of Homeland Security, warrantless wiretaps or torture.

A Libertarian friend (only really have one that I'm aware of) is convinced that the controls are already there, but that some form of universal health care should be part of what government does anyway. He's not a very good Libertarian, apparently.

Both of them think the tax structure stinks (one says he's paying too much taxes, the other says no income tax at all), and in this I heartily agree, but for different reasons. With which they will both disagree. No big surprise there.

What I am finding is common ground. And it's disturbing me. But I'm not sure the R will believe my side of things. I'm certain the L will, but again, he'll have different reasons.

The bank bailout: I agree with you both, we bailed out the wrong people. But to the R, remember: the bailout began under Bush with zero restrictions. Only when Obama continued it did he say, well, if we're going to do this we want to know how you're spending it. Oh, and bonuses? You're kidding, right? You're gonna get bonuses for reaming out our economy? This idea of treating the banks as if we're the shareholders (which, under the Obama plan, we are) is regarded as socialism by the right, justice by the left, and as an example of everything that's wrong with our whole economy to the Libertarians.

Personally, I regard the whole thing as socialism. These guys make record dollars by rigging, gaming, and then tanking the whole system, and then they want the rest of us to bail them out? Not on your nelly. Private profits should not equal socialized losses. There is a special ring in Hell assigned to Joseph Cassano.

We could halve our military expenditures and still be spending more than China, Russia, the UK, France, Japan and Germany. Combined. My L friend would say, oh, so true - bring back state militias, and kill the Standing Army. My R friend has said, "we have enemies." Apparently that's all you need to know in terms of whether or not we're spending enough on the army - if we have enemies, no amount of money is too huge or ridiculous. Our 2008 military budget is 48% of the entire world's military budget. And we're mostly fighting guys who occasionally resort to muskets and rocks.

We're Sheep

We watch television - while one side says something very provocative, and the other side responds with something very provocative, no one actually comes out and says one of you is lying, or both of you are lying. But someone has to be lying, or wrong, or stupid. The Right has no problem calling the Left liars, cheats or thieves, and the Left goes along its merry way trying to be "fair", "nice", or whatever you want to call the affliction of having no damn spine.

Here is my problem with news and newspapers - when someone says something that's not true, don't just print the other side and call it "balance." Balance equals justice, and justice requires facts and proof, not consensus or worse, "fairness."

True fairness is about being fair - not just giving everyone equal time to be stupid. But we accept the dumb with the smart as if both were equally valuable. We trust the large, two-legged beings that feed us, and ignore rumors about the "slaughterhouse."

Will Work for Food, Shelter,
Warmth and Dignity

People should be allowed to work for a living, even a job they may not like, but at least they have the option, and they should make enough money to survive on the one job. Welfare does indeed corrode society, especially if it's unending and simply gives one no incentive for getting a job. Forcing people to work for their welfare, or worse, forcing people to work more than one job for their welfare, on the other hand, is cruel and unusual punishment.

We are the world's richest country, and I'm sure there are quite a few people who live here that simply don't want to work. That doesn't mean everyone who can't find a job doesn't want to work. Poverty breeds illnesses of all kinds.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Agitate, Agitate, Agitate*

In no way is there anything good to be seen in the current administration regarding foreclosed homes, Guantanamo, government transparency, or financial bailouts. And (as with my post below) healthcare isn't too far behind in terms of badness.

We elected a "Progressive" African-American to the White House. Who appointed a Puerto Rican woman to the Supreme Court. So far, so good.

At every town hall meeting that our Senators and Congresscritters are currently putting on to sell the healthcare plan, Repugnicans have been showing up in force to shout the speakers down. In one case, a representative decide not to have his town hall after receiving multiple death threats. Effective, though wrong. But the main thing is, the Rs are getting the noise out there.

FDR once told one of his supporters to "make him" promote the policies she wanted, to change the laws to benefit the maximum number of people. No President will go completely against the will of the people (mostly), and if all the news that's being printed or displayed on the TV machine involves angry people in town hall gatherings protesting health care reform, then the Pres will look at it, and think, well, maybe I should back off a little.

Or when the policies for negotiating a new mortgage with your bank are voluntary - for the bank - I don't know whether many banks would bother.

I think this all boils down to the same basic issue: people are greedy and stupid. They don't want to pay taxes, even if there's a war on, and the idea of sacrifice is not even considered as an option, unless your talking sacrificing a plate of brussel sprouts to the starving children in China.

So we sit here and whine, and wish that Obama would get off his duff and start doing something, use that powerful, articulate voice of his and the bully pulpit and whack a few Repugnican moles back down into their holes. Instead, we get safe speeches and safe actions, and no one's political career is really going to tank over any of this, are they?

Protest. Write letters. Write an angry blog. Talk to your neighbors. We mobilized like maniacs to get Obama elected; did we think that once he's in, that's all we had to do?

*with thanks to Frederick Douglass

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Rants At Rallies

I'm thinking of turning up at one of these Health Care Town Hall meetings and yelling "He's BLACK!" really, really loud, and see if anyone joins me.

Or would that be over the line...?

"President" Obama Was Born On Alpha Centauri!

They're called "Birthers," and they're really stupid, and they're really nuts, and they're really getting a lot of press. And apparently, there are a LOT of them.

Begun just after Obama's grandmother passed away (no witnesses, see?), a movement questioning the validity of Pres. Obama's Certificate of Live Birth (not a Birth Certificate - can you see the difference?), sprung up and has not only grown, but flourished, most specifically within the ranks of Republican voters. Unfortunately, many Republican Senators and Congresscritters are proclaiming themselves "unsure" if the documentation provided by the White House is sufficient to settle the issue.

Normally, this is where someone ought to say, "joke."

A woman by the name of Orly Taitz is now famous for posting Barack Hussein Obama's Kenyan Birth Certificate on the internets and calling it genuine. Everyone with half a brain has looked at it and pronounced it an hilariously easy-to-spot forgery. So many inaccuracies on it that it could only come from the mind of someone who simply wants to believe what they see, rather than actually looking for references to prove their point.

David Weigel, of the Washington Independent has posted a wonderful dissection of this new piece of Repugnican hogwash.

Orly Taitz: who is she, and why is she selling real estate, fixing teeth and going to court?

The photo on her website is pretty priceless, as it would appear to be a few years old. I imagine that's the picture she uses for her real estate sales ads. Or her dental practice. Or her legal practice. Seriously - she claims all three titles when she appears on TV. She has apparently appeared before the Supreme Court, for which her current law degree (from a correspondence school) is not sufficient.

Anyway, enough about her. Apparently she's already had one meltdown on MSNBC, and is probably waiting for her next chance to appear hysterical and, well, just plain nuts. The fact that the only other person whose photograph appears on her website is Alan Keyes is another leaf on the crazy tree.

However, while the official spokesnut for this "movement" is not worth the pixels she's printed on, there is one more horrifying fact: 60% of registered Republicans either don't believe Obama is a native-born citizen, or they're "not sure." It's about a fifty-fifty split between the "not sures" and the "certain he's furrin" crowd.


I really don't know what to say about this (obviously, since I've spent so much time talking about it already), except: "ARE YOU PEOPLE STUPID, OR WHAT?"

The worst part is you have supposedly respectable TV pundits like Lou Dobbs bring this item up all the time and giving the Birther movement more airtime than it deserves.

Just like I did.

Anyway they're fun to throw verbal tomatoes at.