Archive for February, 2010

28
Feb
10

Spoiled Little Brats

Via Glenn Reynolds, “campus activism” at its finest:

BERKELEY, Calif. – A late-night demonstration over budget cuts turned violent in Berkeley when protesters broke into a campus building, torched trash cans, smashed windows and threw rocks and bottles at police, authorities said Friday…

[…]

[A]bout 50 people broke through a fence surrounding Durant Hall, which is closed for renovation, and about 20 entered and occupied the building, said Cpt. Margo Bennett of the UC Police Department.The group smashed windows, sprayed graffiti, damaged construction equipment, knocked over portable toilets and hung up a banner promoting the March 4 rally, UC officials said. Others blocked police from entering the building…

[…]

The crowd later marched to nearby Telegraph Avenue, where protesters broke the glass doors of a Subway restaurant and set fire to trash bins…

With CNBC gearing up to air a documentary about the Baby Boomers (yawn.), perhaps now is the time to ask if perhaps the Boomers have finally been bested by a generation whose narcissism and sense of entitlement make all those tiresome tales about being “THERE, MAN” at Woodstock or arm-in-arm with Martin Luther King, Jr. look tame:

[W]e’ve built up the confidence of our kids, but in that process, we’ve created a generation of hot-house flowers puffed with a disproportionate sense of self-worth (the definition of narcissism) and without the resiliency skills they need when Mommy and Daddy can’t fix something.

[…]

Armed with a steady influx of trophies just for showing up, “I Am Special” coloring books and princess parties, it is hard for kids to understand why an abundance of ego might be bad for them.

One would hope that maybe a couple of days in jail for smashing up some Subway restaurant, coupled with the realization that some immigrant janitor is going to have to clean the mess up would do the trick. Sadly, it’s more likely that getting tossed in the stir for burglarizing a building under renovation and subsequently destroying everything in sight in the name of demanding more money from a fiscally insolvent state will be treated as a badge of merit.

You remember when we occupied Durant, man? When we kicked over all those port-a-johns and sprayed graffiti all over everything? I was THERE, MAN. I was fuckin’ THERE.

27
Feb
10

Chile Hit by Strong Earthquake, Pat Robertson to Issue Press Release

Only a day after Japan was hit by an earthquake, Chile was rocked by an 8.8 (!!!) magnitude quake of its own. So far, around 150 are confirmed dead, but more casualties are expected. Thankfully, however, it seems that Chile will be mostly spared from the staggering devastation that was visited upon Haiti in January.

In other news, Christian fundamentalists are still incredibly stupid and malignant (warning: link also contains “2012” lunacy):

To what do the signs and portents point?  According to the Bible, just prior to the Second Advent there will be a series of natural disasters.  These tumultuous events advise mankind that the Second Advent is imminent.

[…]

The Seventh Trumpet of Revelation 11 heralds the Second Advent.  Verse 13 records that just prior to God’s descent to earth the city of Jerusalem will be destroyed by a tremendous earthquake.  “And at that hour there was a great earthquake, and a tenth of the city fell; seven thousand people were killed in the earthquake, and the rest were terrified and gave glory to the God of heaven.”

I guess no one noticed that Jerusalem is a long way from Chile.

Nevertheless, we’re now getting reports that Pat Robertson is scheduled to hold a press conference later today. Early reports indicate that he will blame the earthquake in Chile on the fact that a Chilean symphony played a rendition of the music from “The Lord of the Rings,” which, in Robertson’s words “is a Satanic book full of demons, goblins, and Luciferian sorcery. The book contains references to reincarnation and resurrecting the dead, which is entirely opposed to Christian teachings. Also, we have reason to believe that several of the characters, including the hero, are homosexuals.”

27
Feb
10

Oh, Good Grief [updated 02/27]

Progressives can’t seem to figure out what to think about the so-called “Tea Party” activists. Long accustomed to maintaining a strangle-hold on “idiotic, self-righteous street activism,” the “Tea Partiers'” success in getting a Republican elected to “The Kennedy Seat” in Massachusetts has provoked a variety of reactions on the left. The Eugene Weekly described the “Tea Party” as

a bipartisan group with conservative and Libertarian ideals. They want to get back to basic values like God and the Constitution. They say they are Republicans and Democrats alike — though EW was not able to find any Democrats associated with the Tea Party for this story — and, in Lane County, they represent people who are unhappy with the direction this country is heading.

The article goes on to focus on some organization called itself the “9.12” project, which seems to espouse a lot of religious-fundamentalist doctrines and whose platform reads suspiciously like the platform of the Constitution Party, at least to me. There are a few other suspiciously convenient examples of things like “Tea Partiers” posting breathless YouTube videos calling Nancy Pelosi a “communist” and ranting about immigration.

Throw in some references to Glenn Beck, astro-turf, a few “coded” racial hints, and some scary-sounding Biblical stuff, all capped off by an archly written conclusion quoting someone encouraging people to be “informed” about politics, and you’ve got a pretty by-the-numbers Eugene Weekly article about anything to do with conservatives or conservative causes.*

Ah, but it should come as no surprise to find that the Weekly, as usual, is one step behind their fellow travelers. Their sneering “exposé” of the “Tea Party” movement is as past its shelf date as shopworn “teabagger” insults now that someone has come up with the idea of… you guessed it: the Coffee Party, which is kind of like a snobbier and more smug liberal version of the Tea Party:

Annabel Park did what any American does when she feels her voice has been drowned out: She squeezed her anger into a Facebook status update.

let’s start a coffee party . . . smoothie party. red bull party. anything but tea. geez. ooh how about cappuccino party? that would really piss ’em off bec it sounds elitist . . . let’s get together and drink cappuccino and have real political dialogue with substance and compassion. [emphasis added]

What was that about “sounding elitist,” again?

But with a Democratic majority in Congress and the messiah of Hope ‘n Change(tm) solemnly revolutionizing the Way Things Are Done in Washington, what do disaffected liberals need for a “Coffee Party?” Hard to say, except that “[t]he Coffee Party is not so much a party or movement as a slow-drip ripple through online nano-politics.” Oh, and the Bush Administration was like being on meth:

You’re dealing with a nation that’s jaded, paranoid, distrustful, broke, angry — it’s like they just woke up from an eight-year meth bingeWe’ve become so polarized. [emphasis added]

Uh huh. Wait. What were you saying about being polarized?

Anyways, I’m sure you’re wondering what this “Coffee Party” stands for.

[The party has] goals far loftier than its oopsy-daisy origin: promote civility and inclusiveness in political discourse, engage the government not as an enemy but as the collective will of the people, push leaders to enact the progressive change for which 52.9 percent of the country voted in 2008…

Progress is patriotic, they tell the camera. Wake up. Espresso yourself. Something is brewing, America.

How cute! How fresh! How innovative! How… exactly like every other progressive grassroots organization ever. In short, if you throw in a few diatribes denouncing the  “Ask-a-Mexican” column and a bullet-point or two about the Pacifica Forum, the “Coffee Party” sounds like a political movement based on the Eugene Weekly’s letters-to-the-editor page.

Quoth the Washington Post: “The ideas aren’t exactly fresh…”

Quite.

* Nothing in this post should be taken as anything even remotely approaching support for the “Tea Party” movement. In fact, I think they’re a bit silly.

[update]

Glenn Reynolds links to this, writing of the “Coffee Party: “This is actually the second imitation; the first was an epic fail. Maybe this one will do better, but so far they’ve got a message problem…”

I’m not sure I entirely agree with his characterization of the New Way Forward rally as being imitative of the “Tea Party” people. Glancing over their website, New Way Forward looks to be a pretty traditional progressive “grassroots” operation that happens to be advocating a restructuring of the economy “in the public’s interest“:

We need to talk about why after so many years of hearing there was no money for health care, schools, new transit, you name it, just like that, overnight trillions were found for the banks and Wall Street.

We need to talk about what the Federal Reserve is and how without approval from the Congress they can give the banks over 2 trillion dollars we don’t have.

We need to talk about the power of large corporations. Do we want entities in our society that are too big to fail, that assert so much power that laws are written every day for their benefit?

We must reform our politics so that one dollar – one vote is replaced by one person – one vote.

We the people must regain control of our economy, our politics, and our government.

[…]

Through their blind and unconditional faith in the financial markets, the banks and the government have made us all into victims of greed gone out of control.

Basically, it’s pretty boilerplate anti-capitalist/anti-corporation rhetoric that we’ve seen at WTO protests for decades, only dressed up for the recession.

The “Tea Partiers” seem to be a mostly motley assortment of disgruntled Republicans, libertarians of various stripes, Constitution Party types, and other fringe conservatives who’ve kind of coalesced, at least for the time being, to agitate for some vague common cause. That makes it a bit novel, at least in modern American conservative politics.

“A New Way Forward,” on the other hand, just looks like pretty traditional progressive advocacy.

26
Feb
10

Cowardice and Cynicism

A Danish newspaper has apologized for any offense that was given when it published the infamous “Mohammad cartoons,” which provoked a bunch of ignorant yokels to torch an embassy, kill some nuns, and threaten to murder the artists who drew the pictures. The newspaper, Politiken, apparently re-printed one of the cartoons in the wake of a recent attempt on Kurt Westergaard’s life and was immediately slapped with a lawsuit by “eight Muslim organizations” that “represent 94,923 of Muhammad’s descendants.”

Of course, the real problem here isn’t that some newspaper issued an “apology.” The real problem is that the discourse on Islam is increasingly being dictated by cowardly, cynical, and ignorant Muslims whose actual belief in the tenets of their own religion is questionable at best. Such people — whether they’re the Saudi lawyer representing 95,000 of Muhammad’s putative descendants or Muammar Ghadaffi — know that Western governments, corporations, and individuals are afraid — justly or unjustly — of “Islamic terror” and use their religion as an implied threat whenever they perceive a need to influence the situation. It’s a way of punching above their weight, as it were.

It’s become a bit passé to speak of such figures as Pat Robertson and Fred Phelps as being people who wrap themselves in piety and use religion for essentially political (or economic) purposes. Yet Westerners, perhaps out of fear of being perceived as being culturally insensitive, have tended to be more reluctant to criticize political leaders of other faiths (with the possible exception of Jews) for acting in a similar manner. Instead, such figures are treated as “authentic” voices of whichever religion they happen to adhere to and the public is treated to a lot of tiresome rhetoric about “building bridges” and “engaging in dialogue” with people who clearly do not speak for the majority of their co-religionists.

When Pat Robertson publicly attributes earthquakes in Haiti with Satanic pacts and Fred Phelps blames… well, just about everything on homosexuals, no one talks about “dialogue” and “building bridges.” No one (excepting, of course, their followers) accepts their words as being authentically Biblical. Yet when reactionary Muslims raze embassies and kill defenseless women because of their supposedly religious outrage, we are much less willing to condemn them as the acts of outlaws and lunatics. Instead, we wonder if apologies are in order and worry about the offense we have apparently given.

The views of those countless Muslims who are not carrying on like a reactionary mob out in the streets or issuing press releases on behalf of one “Islamic” organization or another are seldom taken into account. The most extreme voices thereby are taken to be the most authentic voices.

We have heard the phrase “…then the terrorists will have won!” countless times over the last few years. In a sense, it is true — though not in the way the phrase is usually meant. By capitulating to the demands of the Pat Robersons and the Fred Phelps’ of the Muslim world, we are legitimizing them. We are conceding that they have a right to speak for all Muslims and it is made implicit that, if we fail to comply, the wrath of their religion will be turned against us.

We would never accept such terms from Christian fundamentalists and we should not accept such terms from their Muslim (or Jewish, or Buddhist, or Hindu, or…) brethren.

Politiken may have issued their “apology,” but the real cowards and the real cynics are those who are so insecure and ignorant of their own faith that they have to wrap themselves in a green flag and attempt to silence, through lawsuits or violence, people who say things they don’t like.

26
Feb
10

I Can’t See What Could Possibly Go Wrong…

French lawmakers are in the process of debating a new law that proposes to force men that could be “seen as likely to be violent towards their wives” to wear a tracking device at all times. Even worse, lawmakers are also considering outlawing putative “psychological violence“:

If you insult your wife or husband repeatedly, you could soon find yourself in court if you live in France.

Once considered a purely private domain, rows between married or cohabiting couples could now prompt intervention from the state.

The French government wants to take the controversial step of introducing a new law banning “psychological violence” between married couples or partners living together.

This, to put it frankly, is utterly insane. The potential for abuse (no pun intended) is staggering. This is idiotic college speech codes, which exist to “ensure” that no one’s feelings get hurt, turned into law, with the coercive power of the state to enforce it. While there is a convincing case that most physical domestic violence is committed by men (though the numbers are a bit fuzzy, since cases in which men are the victims are frequently underreported or simply ignored), I’m not sure that the same argument can be made with regards to ostensible “psychological violence,” which both sexes seem to engage in in roughly equal proportions.

In any case, it isn’t difficult to imagine that, as with custody cases, men will more often than not find themselves on the losing end of such laws. Moreover, if the aforementioned legislation mandating tracking devices for any man deemed “likely” to commit physical violence against his partner passes (and as far as I can tell, that law is specifically targeted at men only), any man could potentially be marked as a dangerous predator and forced to wear a humiliating tracking device until further notice for little more than saying a few unkind words.

That, apparently, does not count as “psychological violence.”

24
Feb
10

UC San Diego shuts down student media to stop ‘hateful speech’

Just in case you thought contempt for and ignorance of the First Amendment was endemic to the University of Oregon, the good folks at FIRE have bad news for you:

The University of California, San Diego (UCSD) and its student government have violated the First Amendment by freezing funds for 33 student media organizations, dissolving the student-run television station, and threatening to punish students involved in a controversy over a party invitation for an event called the “Compton Cookout.” Student government president Utsav Gupta has explained that his repressive actions were due to “fracturing of the student body on an issue” and “hateful speech.” Further, under pressure from state legislators who seek to punish protected speech, UCSD has launched “aggressive investigations” into the party invitation.

Yeah, the student government of UC San Diego actually shut down its student-run television station after it broadcast a defense of the controversial party. Student government president Utsav Gupta justified the decision by saying the broadcast was “deeply offensive and hurtful.” Gupta then said, “[W]e will only open [SRTV] again when we can be sure that such hateful content can never be aired again on our student funded TV station.”

Not to be overly dramatic, but do you know who else shuts down media they don’t like? Hugo Chavez and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. This is the kind of road you go down when the government is allowed to decide what speech is wholesome and socially acceptable.

I’m usually fairly loathe to do this sort of thing, but … if you care about free speech, consider spreading the word about this travesty, writing a letter to UC San Diego or donating a little cash to FIRE, which battles this kind of illiberal lunacy on a daily basis.

20
Feb
10

Report finds “torture memo” authors were clouded by ideology

File this one under “You Don’t Say!”:

“I fear that John Yoo’s loyalty to his own ideology and convictions clouded his view of his obligation to his client [President Bush] and led him to author opinions that reflected his own extreme, albeit sincerely held, views of executive power.”

That was Associate Deputy Attorney General David Margolis in a recently issued report on the infamous “torture memos.” The report found that Yoo and Jay Bybee, two of the Justice Department members that authored the memo justifying so-called enhanced interrogation techniques, exercised “poor judgment” in their opinion.

However, Yoo and Bybee were cleared of any official misconduct and will not be disbarred or otherwise reprimanded.

The reports were issued by the Office of Professional Responsibility, which acts as the Justice Department watchdog. Perhaps in the future the OPR can perform its watchdog function sometime earlier than eight years after the fact. Y’know, because these sort of things might have some important ramifications in the meantime.

P.S. Flipping through the actual memos, I noticed that, in addition to the more extreme “techniques,” the memo also authorizes some favorite schoolyard moves like “pink belly” (although the DOJ calls it “abdomen slap”). I didn’t see any references to “stop hitting yourself” or “Indian burn,” though. What I’m trying to say is this led me to a Wikipedia List of School Pranks.

P.P.S. According to the list, alternate names for a titty twister include: “nipple twist,” “ruby booby,” “tweak,” “nipple gripple,” “titty twister,” or a “(purple) nurple,” “purple Herbie” or “diddy nip.”