Esoteric Dissertations from a One-Track Mind

January 21, 2009

A Perfect Metaphor

Filed under: politics — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 9:00 am

Barack Obama became the 44th president of the United States yesterday.  Still, there were reminders of the Bush legacy as Chief Justice Roberts managed to bungle the oath of office

Several news commentators expressed their disgust for people in the crowd who had the audacity to boo and taunt the 43rd.  I think Bush deserves no more respect than he has shown.  There are those who would say we should act like bigger people and be gracious in victory.  However, it is that very graciousness that would allow Bush to whitewash the past.  If the public does not repudiate Bush then who will?  The lapdog press?  No, it has been and will continue to be the people.  If Chris Matthews doesn’t like it then it is because his nose is too brown and must have come to the conclusion that everything now smells like roses. 

It is beyond a reasonable doubt that Bush has committed war crimes.  The United States has water-boarded prisoners, Bush has admitted to authorizing it.  

Call me cynical, but it is not clear whether Obama will prosecute.  Failure to prosecute Bush for his crimes would demonstrate a supreme lack of principle and moral courage on the part of the Obama administration.  He may deem it impractical or too alienating, but the simple truth of the matter is that Barack Obama would find himself face to face with injustice, with the power to stand for what is right, and would turn his back like so many others.  Denying justice would be an action of a small man.  Yes, it might grease the wheels with some Republicans to help pass a stimulus package, but such victories are fleeting, and such compromises seldom last.  It is impossible honor an agreement between two parties without mutual respect, and likewise, it is impossible to respect a man who compromises his principles.

But regardless of what Obama does, I will continue to call for justice.  Unlike Obama, I cannot drag George W. Bush into a court of law.  All I can do is voice my disapproval, and emphatically point out that George W. Bush never represented me or what I believe in.

July 10, 2008

The FISA Capitulation

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , — codesmithy @ 10:26 am

The Senate voted to help cover-up the crimes of the Bush administration and the telecom companies, and presumably some elements of complicity on the part of democratic party leadership.  If Nixon were alive today, he would no doubt be wondering why he couldn’t have been so lucky.

Barack Obama voted for cloture and the final bill, thus reneging on his campaign promise to filibuster any bill that had telecom immunity.  Notably, Clinton voted against cloture, cementing my suspicion that she is vying for the VP spot.

Some are holding their breath that some type of criminal investigation will be launched after Bush leaves office.  This is like hoping that the United States won’t bomb Iran.  We are already in a heads we win, tails you lose scenario on that one.  If McCain is elected, Bush will probably put it off.  If Obama is elected, I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Bush went ahead.  At this point, what does Bush have to lose?  Impeachment is off-the-table.

This isn’t just about Congress looking the other way, or performing ineffectual oversight.  It is about covering-up Bush’s previous crimes and vesting the executive with even more power.  We all know how the Bush administration set-up a vast legal framework about executive power which is laughably unconstitutional.  Nevertheless, Congress is doing its part to ensure that a case that challenges Bush’s legal theories is never ruled upon.  Again, this isn’t about some sort of passive indifference.  Democrats are the key enablers in an active cover-up.

Honestly, what do you think fascism looks like?  Is our understanding of it merely superficial?  Is fascism just swastikas, marches, and salutes? Does Bush need to grow a mustache before we start to catch on?

It is important to remember that this capitulation didn’t happen inspite of democratic victories in 2006, but rather because of their victories in 2006.  This Congress has proven its willingness to go along with unpopular policies while cynically pleading for more power.   Just maybe if they had a few more seats, or the presidency, they could have stopped this.  Screw that.  Nader/Gonzales ’08.

July 2, 2008

The Obama FISA Fiasco

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , , , — codesmithy @ 9:16 am

Keith Olbermann gave a “Special Comment” on Monday encouraging Obama to do the right thing on FISA.  Olbermann’s suggestion to try to strip immunity, vote for the bill when that fails, then promise a full criminal investigation if Obama were to become president is a rather ineffectual gesture as Olbermann describes in his comment.  Olbermann is correct when he says it frees telecoms from civil, not criminal prosecution.   However, Glenn Greenwald points out the glaring flaw in the analysis.

That the FISA bill only immunizes telecoms from civil but not criminal liability isn’t some mystical discovery generated by John Dean’s Talmudic examination of the fine print, but rather, is something that was crystal clear and known to everyone for a long time. Indeed, from the start, the Bush administration only proposed, and telecoms only sought, immunity from civil — not criminal — liability. That’s because criminal prosecution would be extremely difficult, if not impossible, and beyond that, Bush could and likely will simply pardon telecoms from prosecution before he leaves office (nobody who has watched the last seven years would believe that Bush would be deterred because pardons are deemed by courts to be technical admissions of some level of guilt, and those asserting that pardons can’t be issued until there are charges brought simply don’t know what they’re talking about).

Immunizing telecoms from civil liability will ensure that the vast lawlessness of the Bush Administration is never aired in a court of law.  They have already knowingly broke the law.  We already know that they have a vast array of legal opinions from the likes of John Yoo and Alberto Gonzales that basically say the president can do what ever he wants in a commander-in-chief capacity.  The executive branch has turned any congressional oversight into a complete and utter farce.  This is precisely because Congress is unwilling to use the one tool they have for curtailing an out of control presidency: impeachment.

That said, it is not the case that the legal opinions of the presidential advisers are law.  In fact, they are most likely intended to shore up plausible deniability, to give the president fall guys.  The facade of legality only last as long as the doctrines are tacitly accepted and unchallenged.  Their true test is within a court of law.  There is no doubt in my mind that they will crumble under judicial scrutiny.  The legal opinions were always just pretense.  This is precisely why the Bush administration is so keen on getting the civil lawsuits dismissed.  With a pardon it is just he said, she said, Bush will come up with something lame like: “I don’t want to see members of my administration having to defend their actions in order to protect our nation.  I know they did the right thing under difficult circumstances.”  And that will be it.  Dismissing civil liability is giving Bush a trump card.  Is Olbermann really going to be that surprised if and when the president plays it?  THE DEMOCRATS ONLY GAVE IT TO HIM!  IT WAS ONLY WHAT HE OBVIOUSLY PLANNED ALL ALONG!  After all this time, does Olbermann really believe Bush cares what the public thinks of him?

Of course, there is Obama’s stance in the whole matter.  Krugman did a good job summing the current problems with the Obama agenda.  Obama might actually be centrist.  However, the one attribute I thought Obama had that Clinton lacked was moral courage.  The ability to stand by a principle and unabashedly defend it.  Clinton seemed too willing to compromise principal to meet some political end, which I felt was particularly displayed in her attempt to get the Michigan and Florida delegates seated.  So, even if Clinton had better policy papers, I thought Obama would be more effective in actually implementing something.

Telecom immunity is one of those issues that has no constituency outside of K Street.  Congressional oversight has proven itself to be a complete failure because punishment is off the table.  I want this administration judged in a court of law.  Any other issue is largely irrelevant.  What is the point of enacting new provisions when the president wasn’t following the old ones?  Really, what good does that do?

For a campaign that seems to be planning on continuing popular support as part of their fund-raising strategy, Obama surely demonstrates his willing to bite the hands that feeds him.  This isn’t to say Obama is worse than McCain.  However, a lot of my enthusiasm for his candidacy has certainly dissipated to a degree.  If his fundraising drops, he shouldn’t be wondering why.

May 17, 2008

Obama and West Virginia

Filed under: culture, politics — Tags: , , — codesmithy @ 11:45 am

The Real News has a segment called “Obama faces racism in West Virgina.”  The piece created a lengthy discussion on reddit.  As such, I thought there were a couple themes worth addressing.

First, some people called the segment cherry-picking.  We can compare and contrast it to Jay Leno’s “Jaywalking” segments which is obviously cherry-picking.

Here is a typical segment “Jaywalking.”

One thing to notice is that Leno really prods the interviewee to answer.  Many times, it is obvious that the interviewee is aware of their own ignorance and just answers to get it over with.  It is also obvious that their answers are sometimes made in jest.  Matthew Palevsky doesn’t press the people he interviews for answers.  They opine directly and authoritatively on the questions they were asked.  Tracy, the one wearing a “Hillary” sticker, declared that Obama is a Muslim, apparently in opposition to the fact that Obama has been a member of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago for over a decade.

Others tried to draw an equivalence between black people voting for Obama because of his race, and people who won’t vote for him because of his race.  As I wrote before about “Hillary Clinton and Female Solidarity,” I do not see the moral equivalence.  The argument rests on a few factors, but a parallel argument can be made.  Racism exists in society today as a real, measurable phenomenon.  The group in question has not achieved proportional representation in the halls of power.  The question of the morality is not over the means, but rather the ends.  Is the solidarity being used in such a way to disenfranchise a group of people or to properly secure their rights as citizens?  In 2006, blacks made up around 12% of the population.  In the 109th Congress, 42 Representatives are black and 1 Senator (Barack Obama).  I’m not saying that there is some quota.  However, voting against a candidate, solely because he is black has the effect of further disenfranchising a race that is barely achieving proportional representation.  The converse, voting for a candidate solely because he is black helps maintain the balance.  Admittedly, it is not an ideal solution and one has to accept the fact that racism is a real phenomena.   There are arguments against this view, although in some ways I find them as disingenuous as some of the responses from the West Virginia voters.

Another commenter dismissed The Real News report because they had a “very specific political agenda” they didn’t agree with and was therefore, most likely, biased.  What exactly that political agenda is, who knows.  I just find it odd because I was accused of having an “agenda” before.  Honestly, Martinsburg just seems like a small town in Eastern West Virginia.  It didn’t look like Palevsky had to search that hard, he just talked to various people in the town.  How many people were there to cherry-pick from?  Around 16,000?

Finally, one commenter remembered:

During his 1956 presidential campaign, a woman called out to Adlai E. Stevenson: “Senator, you have the vote of every thinking person!” Stevenson called back “That’s not enough, madam, we need a majority!”

We’ll see if we are actually in better shape 52 years after Stevenson made his cynical comment.

March 19, 2008

Obama: A More Perfect Union

Filed under: culture, Education, history, politics — Tags: , — codesmithy @ 8:50 am

Still transcendent.

History is a mighty dramos, enacted upon the theatre of times, with suns for lamps and eternity for a background.  -Thomas Carlyle

February 17, 2008

Ralph Nader on the Leading Democratic Candidates

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , — codesmithy @ 9:08 am

Ralph Nader was on Democracy Now! giving his opinion on the two leading Democratic candidates Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama.

Nader has stated that he will run if Clinton gets the nomination.  His purpose in running for the presidency is not to win, but rather to get the Democratic ticket to address concerns that deeply concern him, and affect countless other Americans such as health-care, the environment, corporate welfare, to name a few.  In short, his purpose in running is to play a foil.  The practical implications of his candidacy, and particularly how it interacts with our plurality voting system, is part of what makes him such a controversial figure in American politics even among those who support his causes.

February 6, 2008

Super Tuesday Redux

Filed under: politics — Tags: , , , , — codesmithy @ 9:48 am

Super Tuesday ended without a clear winner being crowned in race for the Democratic presidential nomination. By all indications, it looks like it will come down to the wire.

To begin with, I want to say that I believe Clinton or Obama would be a better president than George W. Bush has been.  So, I don’t want to come off overly negative on Clinton.  Paul Krugman provides some sound technical reasons to prefer Clinton over Obama when it comes to health care.  Krugman is also correct that a full suite of Rovean attacks will be launched at either Democratic nominee.

The rational side of me even agrees with Krugman that the nature of American politics will be partisan for years to come but, that doesn’t stop me from hoping for a different future.  The president is a leader.  A great president is someone who inspires us.  Someone we are willing to make sacrifices because they call upon our help.  America has already managed to dig a massive hole for ourselves and the world.  I believe we need a leader, a president, who will inspire us for massive tasks that lie before us, not necessarily the most experienced and skilled political technocrat.

After 9/11, the United States changed, we changed.  We are a country that openly tortures.  We wage wars of aggression based on proven falsehoods.  We have proven incapable of upholding the rule of law and sustaining our system of checks and balances on power.  Even the short-term problems we face as a nation are almost overwhelming to say nothing of the long-term issues surrounding nuclear proliferation and the threats posed by climate change.  In that respect, viewing a future with Hillary Clinton as president feels more like trying to go backwards in time.  It conveys a message that after 6-8 years, this nation finally decided that it didn’t really like the policies of George W. Bush and decided to go back to Clinton, or the closest thing we could get.  A decision I agree with, but is that all we really need to say?  After all that has happened?  After all we have done?  Is that all that we have learned?

Lawrence Lessig gives a presentation on his choice between the two candidates.  He conveys a similar point.  Both candidates offer change.  Clinton offers a change in the guard, away from the policies of George W. Bush.  Obama offers a change in how we approach the every issue in politics.  If one believes the nature of politics won’t change, that it will always be like a fight between cats and dogs, then I understand giving their support to Clinton for better handling of specific concerns.  However, if we want a transformative figure in politics, someone who demonstrates that there is another way of solving our problems and resolving our differences, then I think Obama offers something that Clinton just doesn’t.

The largest mistake the cynical make is to underestimate the naive and determined.

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