Archive for the 'Stupid' Category

19
Nov
11

OWS and the things we choose to do together

When I attended the University of Oregon, I was the editor of a libertarian-leaning opinion magazine. I argued forcefully — often vulgarly — against government power. If you’re not familiar with the political makeup of most public college campuses, this went over about as well as a plate of pickled pigs feet at a kosher potluck.

The liberal students I debated with often responded to my arguments with equal parts smug condescension and amusement. I obviously was too much of a whacko, knee-jerk anti-government nut, they concluded, to understand the finer points of the social contract and government authority. Government is just the collective will of the people, they sighed, not a leviathan.

Funny, then, how many of my generation suddenly discovered in the past week or so that state-sponsored violence exists. The most egregious example came yesterday at UC Davis, where a police officer pepper-sprayed a group of protesters who were sitting peacefully on the ground.

Surprising, I assume, because they weren’t paying attention or were not part of a minority group frequently targeted by police. Not surprising to me. I’ve been reading about this kind of thing — excessive force, no-knock drug raids, warrantless search and seizure, evidence suppression — for several years now.

I suppose one of the nice parts about being “knee-jerk anti-government” is I don’t have to deal with any surprise or cognitive dissonance in situations like UC Davis. Despite my disagreements with the Occupy movement’s rhetoric, tactics and goals — e.g. protesting for more of the same government that pepper sprays them in the face — I’ll never condone or apologize for police brutality. Excessive police force is wrong. Always.

Nor do I have to perform the mental gymnastics necessary to ask, “Where have our civil liberties gone?” while simultaneously supporting politicians and policies that expand the size of the very government suppressing those rights.

Shepard Fairey, creator of the iconic Obama “Hope” poster, released a new poster today in support of Occupy Wall Street. The poster reads, “Mister President, we HOPE you’re on our side.” In a statement, Fairey calls Obama “a potential ally of the Occupy movement.”

This, as Reason editor Nick Gillespie points out, is depressing.

That Fairey would consider Obama a potential ally shows either willful disregard or flat-out ignorance of what the president has actually done since taking office. This is the president who voted for the bank bailouts while in the Senate. This is the president who has continued, if not accelerated, the previous administration’s line on foreign policy, the drug war and state secrets. This is the president who ordered the assassination of two American citizens without due process via Predator Drone. This is the president who received the most Wall Street donations of any candidate in history in 2008. This is the president who continues to hold fundraisers with Wall Street executives, such as the head of bankrupt Wall Street firm MF Global, which is under investigation for misappropriating $600 million of its customers’ money.

It’s abundantly clear where Obama stands, and it’s not with Occupy Wall Street.

It’s alright, though. Every generation of idealists has to learn on its own that, when the chips are on the table, government is not “another word for the things we choose to do together” or a synonym for national greatness, as MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow pseudo-fascistically suggests in her “Lean Forward” commercials.

One more quick trip down memory lane: Those same college friends who are now outraged and likely shouting about the “corporate police state”* also argued with me that there was no reason to own a handgun because we can just call the police for protection. When I suggested the Second Amendment was more than just protection against random criminals — in fact largely intended as a defense against threats to liberty both foreign and domestic — they laughed at me. Such fear of the government was incomprehensible to them.

I would say I’m the one laughing now, except I’m not.**

* “Corporate police state” is a term I find particularly amusing and illustrative of the OWS crowd’s misplaced ire. The corporations the protesters are railing against don’t care if they camp in public parks or march in the streets, insofar as they don’t disrupt those companies’ productivity. The government cares. Mayors, many of them Democrats, are the ones who ordered the evictions of the Occupy encampments. Putting aside the question of whether or not illegally camping in a public space is a First Amendment right, it was the the courts, not Wall Street fat cats, who upheld those orders. Police, vested with authority by the government, not K Street lobbyists, are the ones who enforced those orders.

** I’m not suggesting violence against police or armed revolution in any way here, merely that there is a very real reason the drafters of the Constitution did not leave the people’s security solely in the hands of the state.

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15
Aug
11

The road to hell is paved with half-baked activism

If you want a case study in how well-intentioned government actors and NGO activists can royally screw up the lives of those they claim to be helping, you’d be hard pressed to find a better example than this — an obscure provision in the Dodd-Frank act meant to ensure that minerals bought from Africa didn’t benefit warlords.

Unfortunately, the provision simply stopped companies from buying minerals in conflict regions altogether — because no one wants to be accused of funding homicidal warlords. The provision devastated the economy of the eastern Congo and, in a sad twist, actually empowered local warlords even more.

From the New York Times:

For locals, however, the law has been a catastrophe. In South Kivu Province, I heard from scores of artisanal miners and small-scale purchasers, who used to make a few dollars a day digging ore out of mountainsides with hand tools. Paltry as it may seem, this income was a lifeline for people in a region that was devastated by 32 years of misrule under the kleptocracy of Mobutu Sese Seko (when the country was known as Zaire) and that is now just beginning to emerge from over a decade of brutal war and internal strife.

The pastor at one church told me that women were giving birth at home because they couldn’t afford the $20 or so for the maternity clinic. Children are dropping out of school because parents can’t pay the fees. Remote mining towns are virtually cut off from the outside world because the planes that once provisioned them no longer land. Most worrying, a crop disease periodically decimates the region’s staple, cassava. Villagers who relied on their mining income to buy food when harvests failed are beginning to go hungry.

Meanwhile, the law is benefiting some of the very people it was meant to single out. The chief beneficiary is Gen. Bosco Ntaganda, who is nicknamed The Terminator and is sought by the International Criminal Court. Ostensibly a member of the Congolese Army, he is in fact a freelance killer with his own ethnic Tutsi militia, which provides “security” to traders smuggling minerals across the border to neighboring Rwanda.

Well, that’s a real tragedy, but there’s no way the U.S. government and the advocacy groups pressing for the provision could have predicted this outcome, right?

The Rev. Didier de Failly, a Belgian priest who has lived in Congo for 45 years, insistently warned Western advocacy groups of the dangers posed by their campaign. He told them it was no defense for them to claim that they weren’t proposing an embargo, since what they were doing would inevitably lead to one.

But once the advocacy groups succeeded in framing the debate as a contest between themselves and greedy corporate interests, no one bothered to solicit the opinion of local Congolese.  As the leader of a civil-society group, Eric Kajemba, asked me, more in confusion than in anger, “If the advocacy groups aren’t speaking for the people of eastern Congo, whom are they speaking for?”

Answer: their own smug little selves.

08
Aug
11

I’m not saying certain ‘progressives’ harbor authoritarian tendencies, but …

Jeffrey Wells, Hollywood Elsewhere:

Many times I’ve riffed on a dark, delicious fantasy about rounding up Tea Bagger types and sentencing them to green re-education camps for minimum one-year terms. Not to punish per se but to expose these contemptible morons to facts, to truth, to the way things really are and how they’re being played by the rich, and the fact that Boomers have taken almost everything and that diminished lifestyles and economic security are being bequeathed to Genx and GenY for decades to come, and that the best is definitely over. The infra-structure that once provided decent, fair-minded quality of life to middle-class people in this country is disintegrating. The game is rigged. This is the fall of the Roman Empire.

All largely because of impediments to logical, intelligent governing put up by the knee-jerk, mule-like, corporate-kowtowing mentality of Tea-Bagger types and their 60 or so looney-tunes Congresspersons now in office. We’ve truly become a South American society of rightist oligarchs, angry lefties, disillusioned wage-earners, retirement-age fuddies and struggling, debt-smothered have-nots, and the rightist boobs will never understand that they’re primarily the problem. The deficit-reduction deal will almost certainly hurt growth and kill jobs, most analysts are saying. And the radical right will own this when it happens. This level of ideological denial is no longer appalling — it’s become lethal. Ignoramuses can no longer be tolerated. The right is killing this country, things have gotten really crazy, and Obama will never stand up to them.

A second Civil War would be an incredibly destructive thing, but it would feel so good.

Well then … re-education camps and civil war … I, uh … um … wow.

If you read the Reason post I culled this quote from, you can see quite a few other examples of liberals saying, basically, that the American public is too stupid to know what’s good for them, and we should just leave complicated things like the debt ceiling up to experts. “Planners,” I suppose you could call them.

19
Jul
11

Tuesday Misc.

Via The Agitator, we learn that the Koch Brothers are responsible for the Casey Anthony verdict. No, really:

But, more than an inability to understand complex legal theories, I think the reason the jury was unable to convict Anthony was that it just didn’t buy the prosecution premise that a woman who enters a hot-body contest while her child is lost has both the motive and propensity to kill her. In a society where people have the fundamental right to enjoy themselves – others be damned – an immature and self-obsessed mother is no more likely to murder an innocent baby than your run-of-the-mill reality-show hausfrau. And anyone who criticizes her for those acts of carefree self-expression is a judgmental prude.

That’s where individualism of the libertarian model has taken us. The idea that no one has the right to tell us how to live our lives (Legalize drugs! Ban motorcycle helmets! Don’t ban violent videos! Keep your rosaries off my ovaries!) has led us to a place where caring about No. 1 has become a secular religion, and turned all of those who preach restraint into heretics.


The Koch Brothers could not be reached for comment.

—–

Why does President Obama hate Mexicans?

Administration apologists claim that these tactics are meant to create the political space for comprehensive immigration reform. But the president has made literally no effort to advance that objective. What he has advanced is a labor agenda under the guise of immigration policy.

The great hope from President Obama when he took office was that, having spent his formative years abroad, he’d understand—and use his bully pulpit to help the American public understand, too—that immigration is not a zero-sum game: Immigrants seeking a better life make America better off, just as his family made the countries where they lived better off. Instead, he has pandered to Republicans’ parochialism and labor’s protectionism to advance his own political prospects.

—–

Remember that neo-Nazi group Prussian Blue (you know, the one with the Aryan Olsen Twins)? Sounds like Lamb and Lynx (these are their real names…) are still kicking around, though it sounds like their drug of choice these days is cannabis, rather than Zyklon-B:

In college, Lynx was diagnosed with cancer, and suffered from other serious health problems. Lamb suffers from chronic back pain. In connection with these two conditions, they have begun to smoke cannabis, which is permitted in parts of the USA for medicinal purposes…

““I’m not a white nationalist anymore,” Lamb told The Daily in an exclusive interview, the twins’ first in five years. “My sister and I are pretty liberal now.”

“Personally, I love diversity,” Lynx seconded. “I’m stoked that we have so many different cultures. I think it’s amazing and it makes me proud of humanity every day that we have so many different places and people.”

29
Jun
11

The Progressive Problem With Race

Over the past several years, since Barack Obama was elected to the Presidency — and indeed even before that, during his candidacy — we have seen a lot of hand-wringing, particularly among progressives and in the press, about race. Early hopes of a fanciful and long-heralded “national conversation” about race quickly gave way to dark accusations that, in the words of former President Jimmy Carter himself, “… an overwhelming portion of the intensely demonstrated animosity toward President Barack Obama is based on the fact that he is a black man, that he’s African-American.

Continue reading ‘The Progressive Problem With Race’

24
Jun
11

Is This What They’re Teaching Them Over in the Journalism School?

It’s been awhile since I’ve taken pot shots at the poor old Oregon Daily Emerald. Hell, it’s been awhile since I’ve even bothered to pick up an issue. Sitting in the storied old Cafe Siena this afternoon, however, I made the mistake of taking a glance at the “opinion” page for this week’s issue.

Now, it’s no secret that the quality of the ODE’s opinion writers, never stellar to begin with, has witnessed in the last half-decade or so a steady decline into what can only be called “pedestrian sub-mediocrity.” Each year, one subjects oneself to another round of banal “first post!” essays by the new pack of commentators in the vain hope that — just maybe! — one of them will claw their way out of the scum and the muck, take a few gasping breaths, and say something moderately interesting. Or at least hilariously stupid. Each year, alas, one is inevitably disappointed.

So it was today, reading Ian McKivor’s “inaugural column” — a rather lofty way of referring to what is is essence a fairly uninteresting blog post, which is ironic, since the gist of his piece is that blogs are like… bad, and stuff. And not just bad, but dangerous. No, really:

People are idiots, and people who read blogs and take their word for it are dangerous idiots. They aren’t just a danger to themselves, but to those around them and society at large. In fact, I’ll go as far as to say that they are a major source of societal regression.

“Societal regression.” Got that?

Unfortunately, after dropping that bombshell on his readers, the esteemed author has nowhere left to go but straight back to 1995, making the staggeringly fresh case that you can’t believe everything you read on the Internet:

Any schmuck with an opinion can get on the web, set up a WordPress account and go to town spewing out whatever vapid crap happens to get into his head. [“Vapid crap” you say? Perish the thought. -ed] A blogger doesn’t have to have any experience in the field in which they write, nor do they have to adhere to the most basic tenants [sic] of journalistic professionalism or integrity.

So, in effect, they can pass off filth as fact while remaining anonymous. And oh, by the way, people will believe them en masse for the same reasons people believe everything they see on TV. Brilliant.

“Brilliant.” Took the words right out of my mouth, he did. Ahem.

McKivor then launches into a clumsy philippic against Tom Macmaster, the cybernetic crossdresser who got his thrills masquerading as a Syrian lesbian on websites before it came out (no pun intended) that he was neither Syrian nor a woman, to say nothing of a lesbian. While it’s hard to take issue with the spirit of his condemnation of Macmaster, McKivor’s amateurish prose effectively blunts whatever power the one and only example backing up his thesis might’ve had. Example:

MacMaster never had to face the looming threat of imprisonment, intense torture and eventual death at the hands of some demented regime. He was safe in Scotland, probably writing at a Starbucks with an Exxon Valdez-sized Latte [sic] in hand without even contemplating the harm he was doing.

“Probably writing at a Starbucks with an Exxon Valdez-sized latte?” From whence does our intrepid reporter come by these details? Or maybe he’s just engaging in a sly performative joke intended to illustrate why we can’t believe everything we read. Yeah… maybe that’s it.

One could go on, of course — the expected, sneering reference to “blind sheep” (what, no “sheeple?”) comes in toward the end, as does an unintentionally funny suggestion to go watch a documentary called “Talhotblond” if you’re not already convinced by McKivor’s dazzling  rhetoric about how dangerous online anonymity can be. Finally, we’re assured that we can trust the things we read in the mainstream media — because it’s fact checked, you see.

The problem is that, as monumentally hollow and paralyzingly routine as McKivor’s piece is, it nevertheless serves as a powerful example of how far standards have fallen. Is the sort of err.. “incisive criticism” and “sterling prose” — to say nothing of the lunk-headed Luddism — that they’re peddling over in the University of Oregon’s School of Journalism these days? Why would anyone pay for such a self-evidently worthless degree? And is this drooling scribbler really the best the Emerald  could dredge up for next year?

Alas, McKivor himself gives away the answer in his very first sentence:

Because this is my inaugural column for the Oregon Daily Emerald, I feel I should start things off by making my stance clear, just so all of you know what to expect from my weekly opinion column.

Ah. So puerile rubbish, then. Wonderful.

Glad I won’t be around to read it.

19
Jun
11

A Sobering Map [Updated 06/21/11]

This image, courtesy of this website, is a visual representation of the roughly 40,000 people who have lost their lives as a result of drug-related violence in Mexico. According to the site,

The RED balloons are civilians. The RED balloons with a dot are politicians, and other high profile killings. The BLUE balloons are police officers and soldiers (and other law enforcement). The BLUE balloons with a dot are high ranking officers. The YELLOW suns represent car bombs while the 2 GREEN people represent mass graves.

There are a number of different views on the website itself, allowing you to select out certain time-frames, etc.

I think it’s important to note that the ongoing violence in Mexico is related in large part — though not exclusively —  to the American demand for cocaine and marijuana, as well as for other drugs such as methamphetamines, which are increasingly being produced and smuggled into the US from Mexico. Perhaps more important, however, are the effects of American government policies, such as the so-called “War on Drugs” that, just as during Prohibition in the United States, effectively cede control of lucrative markets to criminal organizations while simultaneously pouring tens of millions of dollars into the struggle against those selfsame criminal enterprises. Unless wasting millions of dollars, strengthening brutal paramilitary mafias, and filling American prisons with drug offenders is the desired result of these policies,  it is difficult to discern what the American people are supposed to be getting out of this “war,” which has already killed 40,000 people south of the border.

Moreover, it’s almost certain that many of the firearms that the Obama Justice Department allowed to be smuggled into Mexico were used in at least some of the murders depicted on this map, just as they were used to kill American Border Patrol agents. In case you’re interested, the Congressional report about the so-called “Gunwalker” scandal can be found here.

In any case, ending the “War on Drugs” makes sense not only from an economic perspective — legalization and regulation would provide both the American and Mexican governments with badly needed sources of revenue, and emptying prisons of thousands of harmless drug offenders would ease some of the pressure on already strained state budgets — but also from a humanitarian perspective. President Obama committed the American military in Libya ostensibly to prevent the senseless slaughter of innocent civilians. Would that the President — or any other politician in this country, of either party — had the courage to finally bring to an end government policies that have resulted in a civilian body count orders of magnitude greater than anything that has taken place in Libya.

Alas, it seems that we have no problem marching into Tripoli, but no one can be bothered to take seriously the humanitarian catastrophe playing out just across the Rio Grande.

UPDATE:

Surprising exactly no one, Congressional Democrats have used the “Gunwalker” scandal — which the government itself was responsible for, as a pretext to introduce new gun control laws:

While Republicans have focused on Fast and Furious, three Democrats in the Senate this week called on Congress to beef up gun laws to try to curb the violence.

“Congress has been virtually moribund while powerful Mexican drug trafficking organizations continue to gain unfettered access to military-style firearms coming from the United States,” Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California said in a statement.

The cynicism and opportunism of these people never fails to dismay.