Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Bush Isn't Done Bringing his Allies Down

The Bush Effect claims another victim.

My OU women's basketball team wins in Waco, 56-51, in an ugly game.

Health Care Reform Article Number 142,857

With very few potatoes to quibble with recently and little time for thorough investigation of current political events, I'm just going to post a health care article that more clearly explains why our free market health care system does not produce better health.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Hey, haters! The Inaugural Speech Didn't Suck!

Look out, America, Barack Obama's at the wheel now!

Unlike a lot of commentators, I thought it was a great inaugural speech. Maybe they were expecting the best speech of their lives, perhaps a speech that would make sweet, sweet love to the English language as Daily Show correspondent Aasif Mandvi said. But what we got was something that I was hoping for; a polite implicit castigation of the policies of former president George W. Bush.

He started out by listing all the big problems in our country today; job losses, health care costs, oil-dependent energy policy, et cetera. Then he started with the hope spiel, which all along has been an implicit put-down of the fear politics of former president Bush. Obama made sure to proclaim an end to the "recriminations and worn-out dogmas that for far too long have strangled our politics." Always an expert at reframing the debate, Obama put the big government vs. small government argument to rest by saying we need a government that works; and he pleaded for a new era of transparency to replace the shadowy dealings of former Lord Cheney and his minions. And then he said probably my favorite line of the whole speech, "The nation cannot prosper long when it favors only the prosperous." Take that, tax cuts for the wealthy!

Of course this was a good line too: "As for our common defense, we reject as false the choice between our safety and our ideals." This is about as flowery as a statement of rejection of torture and illegal wiretapping can get. Obama went on to make the case for diplomacy over brute power using history and pragmatism as a reference. "Our security emanates from the justness of our cause; the force of our example; the tempering qualities of humility and restraint." Speak softly, even if you do have a big stick.

As a president, Obama must now make tough statements directed at unfriendly nations just like former president Bush was fond of doing. But even Obama's tough statements are tempered with moderation. Take for instance the sentence that is now banned in China: "To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history, but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist." If former president Bush was the one speaking, he probably would have stopped after "history".

Then Obama wrapped it up basically by saying we shall overcome if all nations can see we share a common respect for humanity, and that we shall prosper by taking responsibility for our actions, and let's keep gettin' better, America! So while it was maybe not an epic speech, it served its purpose of turning the page on the Bush administration and uplifting a nation that has taken a few punches over the last 8 years.

So now the real business begins!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Our Long National Nightmare is Over

It was 12:04 pm after I had started my car to go home for lunch when I first heard this phrase while listening to NPR's news bulletin: "Former President George W. Bush".

It's all smiles today!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

In George W. Bush's Final Press Conference, a Parting Jab at the Elites in Europe

A very interesting question from Monday's press conference with outgoing president George W. Bush:

One of the major objectives that the incoming administration has talked frequently about is restoring America's moral standing in the world. And many of the allies of the new President -- I believe that the President-elect himself has talked about the damage that Gitmo, that harsh interrogation tactics that they consider torture, how going to war in Iraq without a U.N. mandate have damaged America's moral standing in the world. I'm wondering basically what is your reaction to that? Do you think that is that something that the next President needs to worry about?

The still-president responded, "I strongly disagree with the assessment that our moral standing has been damaged." He went on to list Africa, India and China as regions that still cling to a generally positive view of the United States. The problem is with those "elite" Europeans.

I disagree with this assessment that, you know, people view America in a dim light. I just don't agree with that. And I understand that Gitmo has created controversies. But when it came time for those countries that were criticizing America to take some of those -- some of those detainees, they weren't willing to help out.

Well, the Europeans and I are in agreement on this one. The problem with Guantanamo is the problem with the whole War on Terror concept in the first place. Normally how it works, via the 6th Amendment, is that the accused has a right to a speedy public trial in whatever district the crime was committed in. The prisoners at Guantanamo were not picked up in the United States, and plus the United States can't pin any particular crime on the accused. This is preemptive action in work. Logically if you get detained before you commit a crime, there is no evidence against you because there was no crime.

Ordinarily such a situation would mean that the accused detainee would be released back into his own country. And this has happened for American citizens, as well as citizens of most European nations. But many of those detained could possibly face persecution and (more) torture if they were released back to their own countries, such as Yemen. And this matters because it is an international violation of human rights to release anyone to the custody of countries that have committed human rights violations.

So Europe is the one place that could take Guantanamo detainees from the United States without the latter getting accused of human rights violations. This is because Europe has roughly the same detention laws as the United States. But of course, unlike the United States, European nations have realized that a prisoner not charged with a crime has to be released, or else it's a human rights violation.

In addition, the United States insists that the detainees be indicted or put under 24-hour surveillance if they are transferred to other nations. Of course in order to get an indictment, a formal accusation that a person has committed a crime, a crime has to have been committed. And 24-hour surveillance, if you're not actually in prison, can be very costly and likely an abuse of power.

The Bush administration insists that the prisoners who aren't charged with any crime must not be released, neither in the United States nor in any other nation, because they could potentially commit a crime in the future. If Castro or Saddam threw people in prison and claimed that it was because those people could potentially commit a crime in the future, we'd all just chalk it up to the despotic rule of a dictator. Of course we wouldn't accept prisoners of those nations with a stipulation that they must be detained indefinitely.

So it comes as no surprise that England, France, Germany, the Netherlands, etc., don't want our Guantanamo detainees, especially if they had to continue the detainment themselves. But the reason isn't because the Europeans are jerks who criticize America without helping the human rights situation. It's George W. Bush who is the detainment jerk.

It should be noted that with the election of Barack Obama, European nations are now signalling that they would be more open to helping out with America's little torture camp problem. Barack Obama has strongly declared his intention to shut down Guantanamo Bay starting on Day 1 of his presidency, and European countries have answered his call (before he even made a call for it, no less). So maybe in the end it's not a matter of human rights issues but more of a diplomatic plea: "We'd be glad to help you out if you'd stop calling us elitist do-nothings in your press conferences."

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The Media's Racial Quota Obsession

Happy Epiphany!

Did you know that there are currently no black U.S. senators since Barack Obama got a promotion? I feel this is really important for everyone to know, and a fact that almost certainly is being buried by the media. I mean, think about it: racism would almost surely cease to exist in this country if we were to have a senate with one token black person in it. But since our racist nation would never be able to vote a black person to a high-powered office, a black person is going to have to be appointed to a high office. By some embattled white governor, most likely. After that happens, we can move on to appointing random token black people as college football coaches.

So let me get this straight: some people are upset that Barack Obama has chosen someone from outside the CIA's sphere of torturers and torture apologists to reform the CIA. Honestly I couldn't be happier at the choice of someone like Leon Panetta; if he had picked Dianne Feinstein, who fell prey to the "imminent terrorist threat" what-if scenario in an interview in the NY Times last month, I would have demanded my Change back.

Bill Richardson ... *shakes head*.

Oklahoma is getting new license plates this year, and they're a vast improvement over the old ones with the Osage shield in the middle that looks like a plate of cat barf from any sort of distance. The new plates feature a statue of a warrior firing an arrow at the sky: in other words, they're just like this weird Boston side project's only album. The new license plate rates somewhere around a B- in my book because of its small numerals and lack of embossment, but may get some kind of fictitious Most Improved award from ... me.