United Airlines and its ‘calculated misery’: happy customers just aren’t needed to make money

The future of Oscar Munoz, the CEO of United Airlines, has just been re-accommodated.

You remember him, of course. After airport dragoons dragged a boarded, seated, paying customer off a United aircraft, Munoz’s first PR apology contained what Scholars & Rogues has called the “word of the year”: “I apologize for having to re-accommodate these customers.”

telemmglpict000125651009-large_trans_nvbqzqnjv4bqbe6o56qrl4zbrlmqqi7ubfvse9jsn00kzbur3ixhagoWell, that’s cost him. Munoz had been groomed to move upstairs from CEO to chairman of United Continental Holdings, the airline’s owner. (You do remember, of course, that Continental agreed to merge with United seven years ago.) Well, Munoz won’t get that top job.

United’s twin clusterfucks of policy execution (overbooking issues) and PR aftermath (“re-accommodated”) have derailed Munoz’s career — well, a little. He may lose about $500,000 from his bonus, because it’s tied in part to what airlines call KPI — key performance indicators, as indicated in consumer satisfaction surveys. But don’t shed a tear for Munoz — he received $18.7 million in total compensation for 2016, more than triple that of 2015. Continue reading

Narcissism, promises, and job approval: They might not mix well for President Donald

An inability to focus on consequences that do not center on him. Check. An absence of empathy for others. Check. A lack of impulse control coupled to a need to lash out at perceived offenses (and offenders). Check. A vainglorious view of himself. Check. An ever-present, almost childlike, need for praise. Check.

Build the Wall TrumpPresident-Elect Donald is a narcissist. That’s the conclusion of Alan J. Lipman, a clinical psychologist, chronicled in a commentary on CNN. But we already know that, don’t we? We’ve seen it repeatedly at his rallies and in his Twitter rants. But so far, he’s insulated himself from the consequences of his narcissism. Even past Republican critics, such as the speaker of the House, and big-money donors who did not support his candidacy are falling in line, creating an imaginary unity.

President-Elect Donald’s egregious behaviors have become acceptable because so many legislators and donors have too much at stake (power, influence, government contracts, etc.) to suggest the emperor-elect is naked.

But there’s one judge of presidential behavior, character, and leadership President-Elect Donald has yet to face — George Gallup’s question:

Do you approve or disapprove of the way ____ is handling his job as president?

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CNN (and others) and its overuse of anonymity: There’s more to the story …

First, there’s this headline:

Secret Service spoke to Trump campaign about 2nd Amendment comment

CATEGORY: Journalism Then there’s this lede graf:

(CNN) — A US Secret Service official confirms to CNN that the USSS has spoken to the Trump campaign regarding his Second Amendment comments.

Then there’s this second graf that does not identify “the official”:

“There has been more than one conversation’ on the topic, the official told CNN.

Then there’s this fifth graf: Continue reading

An American president under age 35? Oh, my …

Captain Morgan’s real campaign premise here is just to increase its share of the rum market.

Tcm_logo_image-e1427478632990rump (age 70) vs. Clinton (age 68)? This is the best choice the vaunted two-party system can provide for Americans?

If they’d like better, they ought to begin drinking rum. Especially Captain Morgan, a brand owned by Diageo, which bills itself as “the world’s leading premium drinks business.”

Captain Morgan will campaign for a constitutional change — allowing American residents under 35 years old to serve as president.  A petition is already parked at the White House, hopeful of attracting at least 100,000 signees.

According to AdAge, “The effort will get significant paid support, including a print ad running in Tuesday’s New York Times.” Continue reading

Another Fourth, another episode of blissful national blindness

No red, white, and blue adorn my flagpole. No patriotic bunting arches over my front door. No fireworks await their flaming demise. I no longer enjoy the nation’s formal parting from Great Britain (which was on July 2, anyway).

2f45d-free_wallpaper_patriotic_eagle_american_flag_background-1-1024x768I suppose, at one time, July Fourth carried great meaning to all Americans. After all, because of the acts of the Continental Congress and subsequent versions of it, I can (and do) criticize my government without fear or favor. I can own a weapon. My home and person cannot be searched or seized without cause. I am not obligated to incriminate myself. I can practice the religion of my choice — or decide not to — without government coercion. I can peaceably assemble with others to protest almost any damn thing I want to. I can vote to select who will govern me. And Congress cannot prevent me from owning a press in which I tell others what I see and what I know and what I feel.

I love my country because of the ideals inherent in the Constitution and especially in the Bill of Rights.

But lately, I have come to dislike this overwrought holiday. Continue reading

On labor and survival of the species

I’ve had a political reckoning, of sorts.

CATEGORY: BusinessFinanceAs much as I hate boxes and labels, I think I’ve finally figured out where my political inclinations actually lean. I’m labor, but we have no party that I’d currently be comfortable with.

Basically, I think the workers should benefit equally with capital, and I’ll work with my own loosey-goosey definitions so I don’t get bogged down by not speaking fluent socialist or capitalist, and trust that a better-read reader will get the gist of what I’m saying. I’m open to correction, but it’s the point, not how I say it that matters. Now, if my gist is wrong, I need to know that for sure. Otherwise, this is what I’m going with.

Without labor, nothing happens. Our labor has worth. Push that idea far enough so that labor takes predominance and one lands somewhere in socialism or communism or some such -ism. But I’m not so quick to condemn the management and financial classes as I believe my comrades on the far left are wont to do. Continue reading

Hillary, give ’em the bird

2dc1cb1bf5c2308b-birdie-sticker-500#BernieOrBust movement feels democracy itself is threatened. Sanders as VP candidate would ease those worries.

Hillary Clinton is worried about party unity. She should be. Bernie Sanders leads a grassroots movement larger than the one which swept President Obama into office in 2008. Ten million people have voted for him already. Worse, a large and vocal part of this grassroots movement feels betrayed by the Democratic Party, which has unsuccessfully waged war against the Bernie Sanders movement at every turn, beginning with a biased debate schedule, and culminating in the vulgar display of power by which the remaining Nevada delegates were assigned three days ago. Continue reading

2016: so far a bleak year, fettered by anger

anger_quoteI began 2016, the year in which I turned 70 years old, so damn angry.

More than sufficient reasons exist for all that anger. I, like many of you, am unwillingly steeped daily in the raw, heavily mediated sewage of billionaire-induced partisan politics; increasing and intolerable economic inequities; a deeply flawed educational system; conflicts in law, society, and government spawned by religion-fueled hostility; assaults on racial and ethnic sensibilities; the slow, agonizing death of democracy; and the decades-old rise of greed-driven, power-hungry oligarchy.

That’s just the background noise obscuring intelligent discursive signal about so many more problems — local, national, global — that the billions of us ruled by oligarchical forces sense are beyond our control or, often, our comprehension. Continue reading

Teddy Roosevelt vs Ammon Bundy: why white thugs should be treated with respect by police

The “Arson Rebellion”: justice and due process matters whether you’re rural and white or urban and black

ammon bundy.jpg

image courtesy of heavy.com

Let me tell you a story about Teddy Roosevelt. As a young man, he lived in the Dakota territory, hunting, ranching, watching the American bison disappear, and resolving to preserve the land and its bounty from a “class that always holds sway during the raw youth of a frontier community, and the putting down of which is the first step toward decent government.” One day, three such men stole his boat, the only one on the river, while he was hunting mountain lions. He and his two companions built another boat, pursued the thieves downriver, captured them, and then marched them three hundred miles to Dickinson and turned them over to the sheriff. During this pursuit of justice, he also managed to read Anna Karenina, musing in his 1888 book Ranch Life and the Hunting Trail that “my surroundings were quite gray enough to harmonize well with Tolstoy.”

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Should the First Amendment protect lying?

Susan B. Anthony List v. Driehaus case asks SCotUS to extend constitutional protections to to those who intentionally lie to voters.

I do not know anyone whose parents or church taught them that lying is permissible and bears no taint of sin: Thou shall not bear false witness is ingrained from childhood in everyone I know. Do not ever lie, we are taught.

So why, then, is an anti-abortion advocacy group asking the highest court in the land to allow it to lie with impunity? At stake in the case is whether the federal government has the legal right to police political advertising for lies. The case involves claims by the anti-abortion group, Susan B. Anthony List, against then-Rep. Steven Driehaus (D-Ohio). From Politico’s Bryon Tau:

During the 2010 election cycle, Susan B. Anthony List accused Driehaus of voting in favor of taxpayer-funded abortions by supporting President Barack Obama’s Affordable Care Act. Continue reading

Politics

The Kennedy assassination: from Camelot to Clusterfuck

Yes, I know precisely where I was when someone murdered John Fitzgerald Kennedy. No, I do not want to hear where the hell you were. Nor do I want to read or watch any “retrospectives” on his assassination. Nor do I want to read or watch orations on what might have been had the shot or shots missed. I’m only concerned with what the hell actually happened in and to America since Kennedy died.

A half century has passed since my infatuation with Camelot. Fifty years have passed since the naïveté of my youth promised me wars will end, peace will reign, and society will be equitable. Even after the brutality of Daley’s thugs disrupted the 1968 Democratic convention in Chicago, Camelot sang as my siren. Even after gunfire from the National Guard killed four students at Kent State, I still believed in what the precisely cultivated mass mediations of JFK presented to me while he lived. Even after Nixon and his protect-me politics of Watergate, I had faith in process, politics, and people — even some politicians.
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The Senate gun control vote reveals our lizard overlords

sandyhookA few nights ago there was a segment on NPR about the demise of the most recent, tepid gun control legislation. The host had the standard breadth of guests to discuss this issue, and the portion i heard focused on how a relatively innocuous measure like universal background checks could fail. The host pointed out that recent polling showed support for universal background checks at more than 90%, with even something like 88% of gun owners in favor. She asked her guests how the Senate could ignore what clearly seems to be the will of the people. Right. That’s a stupid question, but the answers were still interesting.

Both guests explained that even though politicians look at the polls, on issues like gun control they factor in the ability of interest groups – especially single issue interest groups – to wield a congressional vote against them through fear-based advertising and voter mobilization. In this case it was suggested that the NRA and like-minded groups would take a vote for universal background checks and use it to stoke fear among a subsection of voters. “Universal background checks are the first step in a string of government actions to register and confiscate all the guns.” That sort of thing. There was general agreement among the guests that politicians look at issues like this and make the decision based on their personal, political future. Vote for universal background checks on gun sales and you probably lose your next election, even in a gerrymandered and protected seat.

It’s no surprise, but it’s still disheartening. All these people who’ve been told by God to run for office for the greater good of America, and it turns out that the Lord is only concerned with their career and the greater good of America is the same as their professional advancement. A career in politics is creepy. Imagine the type of person who pursues a career in politics. Or just turn on CSPAN. Any questions about why we live in a politically dysfunctional country?

These men and women aren’t concerned with doing what’s best for the you, me, or the nation as a whole. They’re not looking at the medium or long-term future of the country. They’re concerned about their career and their next promotion. They need the corporate donations and the good favor of the special interests groups. Our votes are an unfortunate requirement on the path to their greater good.

No, it doesn’t matter which party the politicians you like more belong to. There may be a few exceptions to this that prove the rule, but you didn’t see Obama go out on any limbs during his first term to do what’s right even if it cost him reelection. And you won’t see him do it now, even with no possibility for reelection because the political career is wedded to the flow of money into politics. Clinton became a rich man after his presidency, mostly from the special interests he helped to the detriment of the nation he supposedly represented. That’s Obama’s next step. I’ve heard long-serving Representatives after retirement talk about their move to lobbying and plainly say that it’s now time to make some real money.

We’re cooked, America. We’ve put people with the temperament of used care salesmen into power and allowed them to believe that what’s best for them personally is best for the nation. So while it sounds funny that something like 4% of Americans believe the country is run by lizard people, the fact of the matter is that the country is run by people who only use their lizard brain.

Guns, knives, pit bulls and the new Gallup poll

CATEGORY: GunsThis morning I walked past a man about my age, sixty, who was wearing camouflage and a fatigue-style cap. He had two Bowie knives on his belt and was walking a ferocious-looking pit bull that had to weigh eighty pounds.

My immediate thought was, “Who’s this guy and what’s he afraid of?”

Who knows? Maybe he’s got good reason to be afraid. Maybe he’s in witness protection and the Mafia just put his home address up on their Facebook page. Or he just started a Salman Rushdie fan club. Or he’s a disguised federal prosecutor from Texas.

But I doubt it. I suspect he’s an extreme example of a surprisingly large group of people who are paranoid, perhaps not in clinical psychological terms, but in a not-quite-right sort of way. He’s obviously afraid of something, and whatever it is might show up at any minute on a quiet residential street in a nice small town like Bloomington, Indiana.

I’ve spent much of my life around poor and poorly educated white people and have met many folks who remind me of this guy. I’ve had them proudly pull handguns out from under their car seats and when I asked why they needed guns in their cars, the generic answer is they want to be ready in case somebody “messes with them.”

Who are the somebodies that’re going to mess with them, I always wonder?

I’ve asked that, too.

Sometimes the answer is enemies of the U.S. It’s hard to see how Muslims, or Russians, or Mexican cartels are going to mount an attack in the U.S., especially in central Indiana, but it’s always possible I suppose. No doubt those Bowie knives will scare a Spetsnaz or mujahedeen with an AK-47 right back to whatever unpronounceable place they came from.

Sometimes the answer is the government. However, most of the paranoid people I know are right-wingers. If the government helicopters ever do come, it’s far more likely they will have Christian crosses on the side and be coming not for righties, but rather for lefties like me. The great victory of the Nixon Youth has proven not to be a successful ideology that won most Americans over to their way of thinking, but rather a concerted and successful plan to infiltrate and take over the U.S. military. Motto: If we can’t convince ‘em, we can still kill ‘em.

Sometimes it’s their neighbors who might mess with them. This isn’t so silly a fear. According to the FBI, there are over a million violent crimes per year in the U.S. That means on average, a citizen has a one in 300 chance of being assaulted, raped or murdered each year, which says that one in four people will be assaulted, raped or murdered in their lifetimes. Now, of course, most of the people being assaulted tend to be young minority men in urban areas, not college-educated white people who live in the suburbs. But the man with the pit bull didn’t look well-to-do, and it’s entirely possible he lives in one of those neighborhoods.

Sometimes it’s people of color who will invade their homes in the night. According to hot-off-the-shelf Gallup data, 43% of Americans own and keep a gun in the home (I’m one of them.) Of these, 67% own one for self-protection (I’m not one of them.) Obviously, there’s a real fear here. Perhaps In Cold Blood scared the shit out an entire generation. It’s hard to say how real the perceived home invasion threat is. There are no reliable statistics on how many occur each year. Violent home invasions are probably relatively rare. But they happen and they are horrible. When they do happen, it’s usually to the poor and vulnerable. My mother was the victim of a violent home invasion by a man of color.

So the guy with the knives could be afraid of lots of things. Mujahedeen. The government. Neighbors. Strangers that come in the night.

Or not. I suspect President Obama had it right back in 2008. What people like the man I saw walking his dog really have to fear is that the world is leaving them behind. They lack the skills and education to catch up. The world economy is messing with them, it ain’t gonna stop, and they should be afraid. They can’t easily buy cheap protection against economic trends, so they arm themselves in the ways they can. They cling to defenses they know against threats they don’t.

I once worked on a dredge in Louisiana, a mammoth crane on a barge that dug canals through the delta. The digging was done by what’s known as a clam bucket which hangs by thick wire ropes from a boom. The bucket had two inch thick steel walls and was eight feet tall and big enough to put a half-dozen men in.

One day the bucket took a big mouthful of dirt and water and snagged a muskrat. The small animal was caught by one leg, and it hung there suspended fifty feet in the air, frantically trying to push open the bucket with its other foot. Kenneth, the operator, opened the bucket and let it go. He laughed about it for weeks, the idea of a muskrat trying to outmuscle a giant machine. He’d mimic the muskrat, contorting his face and imitating the animal’s frantic efforts.

Of course, if you’re a muskrat, and some giant force from the sky suddenly grabs you in massive steel jaws, you have to bite and push, because that’s all you know to do.

If you’re poor, you buy knives and pit bulls.

The devil is in the details: WHICH Christianity are we making the official state religion, exactly?

CATEGORY: PoliticsReligionLegislators in North Carolina recently introduced a bill to make Christianity the official state religion. That bill has now been turfed, but we can probably expect similar moves in the future.

An Omnibus Poll, sponsored by YouGov.com and the Huffington Post, reveals just how far from the nation’s roots we have traveled on the subject of separating church and state and retaining the nation’s neutrality when it comes to how Americans chose to practice their respective religions.

According to the survey, 34 percent of Americans would favor making Christianity their official state religion while less than half (47 percent) oppose the concept. Thirty-two percent of those polled indicated that they would also favor a constitutional amendment that would make Christianity the official religion of the United States with just over half (52 percent) opposing the notion.

Leaving aside for a second the abject failure of millions of Americans to grasp the most basic precepts of their Constitution, this poll actually provides more questions than answers. Lots more. And in truth, these are questions with roots that are hundreds of years old.

If you’ve visited America anytime during the past couple of centuries, you realize that the nation has something of a church and state problem. You can argue the details all you like, but the bottom line is that the Framers of the Constitution set the stage for controversy by being too damned vague. I mean, “separation of Church and State” – what the hell does that really mean, anyway? We have these problems before us today because Jefferson, Madison and Co. didn’t have the basic good sense to insist on specificity, which is odd, given that all the Founding Fathers were pretty clearly fundamentalists. As, one assumes, were the Founding Mothers. They just toss terms like “God” and “Church” and “separation” around like we all know what they mean, when clearly we don’t.

So here’s what we have to do. Let’s forget separation of Church and State and accept that we are One Nation Under God, In God We damned sure Do Trust, and that we are a Christian Nation® (this part is crucial). Let’s get past all that soulless secular humanism and By God establish a state religion. Better yet, let’s charge Congress with the job, since so many of the members of that august body have thought long and hard on the subject already.

Here’s how it works. The U.S. will adopt as our national religion that which Congress can agree on sufficiently to pass by a two-thirds majority, and by this I mean they must pass each plank of the resolution by that margin. Understand, “God” is way too vague, and you can’t very well build a moral society around vagaries. We have to insist that Congress agree on what God is and how He (She) should be worshiped.

For instance, we’ll need Congress to decide whether the Bible is intended as a metaphorical guide or as literal, journalistic fact. Was Mary literally a virgin? Did Abraham literally live 900 years? Did Moses literally tie his ass to a tree and walk 40 miles? These are not small issues, and if they are not settled by legislative fiat we risk another millennium of sectarian strife.

Other issues we’ll need Congress to rule on:

  • Should baptism be by sprinkling as an infant or by immersion once one is born again? And, how quickly can we set in place an emergency re-baptism program for all those people that had it done wrong the first time?
  • Is God a man, a woman, both, or neither?
  • What race is God? This will be important when we do physical and artistic representations of Him/Her/It.
  • What about those places where the Bible appears to contradict itself, as in Genesis 1 & 2? Are we to take these as tests by God, or error by monks, or what? Confusion in one’s prime legal texts can lead to all sorts of mischief, as I think is more than evident from the fact that we’re even having this little chat to start with.
  • We’ll need a plan to transfer power from the President to Jesus when He makes his triumphant return to Earth after the Rapture.
  • We’ll also need a policy of engagement for Armageddon. When do we launch the nukes, and at whom? Once we know who’s on God’s side and who’s on the side of Satan, shouldn’t we just go ahead and launch a pre-emptive strike?
  • How old is that darned Earth, anyway? I mean, it’s important to know what to tell kids about dinosaurs if the world is only 6000 years old.
  • What the hell do we do about those damned Jews, who have made clear that they aren’t on board with Jesus as the Son of God? Do we wait and let Jesus deal with them himself or should we set about making them either believe what we believe or leave?
  • And don’t even get me started on Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, Mormons, and other varieties of Satanist. If we’re truly a Christian land, is it right that their blasphemy should be tolerated, and worse, that they should be able to benefit from social programs paid for by Right-thinking Christians?
  • Should the Office of Homeland Godliness be a Cabinet-level appointment reporting to the President? Should the President be the de jure head of the Church? Should it be a separate branch of government insulated from the meddling influence of future secular legislators, and especially from Satanic minions on the Supreme Court? Or, for that matter, should we rework the government and Constitution so that we replace the democracy with a Christian theocracy?
  • What should our foreign policy toward non-Christian nations be like? Some of them are Godless, but strategically important (Britain, Canada, anybody with oil, etc.) Should a nation’s relationship with God be a consideration in conferring most-favored-nation status?
  • There’s also the woman problem. Are they to be submissive to their husbands, as dictated by some, or are they to be accepted as full partners in God’s Church of America? Can they be ministers, for example? And while we’re on the subject of troublesome sorts, is the Church going to take the “accepting” stance toward gays or are they all going to hell? If the latter, should we get them on their way or let God deal with them in His own good time?
  • Finally, what about the athletics programs? Back in the ’80s in Wilmington, NC, there was a huge hullaballoo over – of all things – softball. The local Mormon church signed up for the city-run league, causing the other churches to pitch a galloping hissy fit. Said one spokesman, “we do not feel we can extend the hand of Christian fellowship to people who do not worship the same god we do.” The Mormons stood their ground, those who worshiped a different god from the Mormons stood theirs, and the city was forced to cancel the whole damned league. But that was over 20 years ago – we’re past all that now, right? Nuh-uh. The same kind of conflict broke out again last year in Pennsylvania.

Give me another hour or two and I’ll come up with more questions, but you get the idea. The success of a faith-based government hinges on getting these issues settled and chiseled into stone sooner rather than later. If Congress leaves wiggle room and unanswered questions we’ll be at each other’s throats until the Second Coming, and I’m pretty sure that’s not what the Framers intended.

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An earlier iteration of this post originally appeared on January 20, 2010.

Rand Paul filibuster: If a Senator talks to an empty chamber, does he make a sound?

Rand Paul is still talking after almost 8 hours. One wonders how he has managed to not leave the floor for the Senate lavatory in all that time. It’s ok to dislike Rand Paul and still think he’s currently doing a public service. It’s probably not correct to suggest that this was prompted by standard GOP obstructionism. They’d use the modern, silent filibuster to demand a more warlike demeanor, and it took hours for even a few other GOP Senators to show up and give the guy a break from talking. (Like Cruz is now by simply reading Tweets about the filibuster.) There are also the small issues of Paul having previously sponsored a bill that would require issuing a warrant before using a drone for surveillance in the United States as well as this being the culmination of his pecking at the administration over drone issues. It appears that the final prompt for this filibuster was the letter that Paul received from AG Holder which claimed that the executive branch has the authority to run a targeted killing program inside the US against US citizens, though it probably never would.

So the eye of this storm is the administration’s wishy-washy statement that the President can kill Americans without legal process but that he won’t. Filibustering the vote for John Brennan’s nomination as director of the CIA is an appropriate place to force the conversation, given that Brennan is largely the architect of the administration’s targeted killing program.

Paul, however, has not kept to such a narrow issue. He’s been questioning the whole concept of Battlefield America and its place in the unending War on Terror. He’s questioned the lackluster and expansive definition of al Qaeda that includes anyone “affiliated” with al Qaeda. It hard to be sure whether following the wrong link on the internet would classify you as affiliated. Just now, he’s talking about how most of the drone strikes have not been against people who are actively involved in combat. Of course the big example is Anwar al-Aulaqi, the Yemeni-American who was killed in a drone strike.

What little we do know about the targeted killing program, and it’s very little since the administration only releases information under extreme pressure, is that it’s based on the concept of imminence. Targets are supposed to be an imminent threat, which most would read as actively planning an attack. Nothing i’ve read indicates that al-Aulaqi was actively involved in any imminent threats against the United States. If he was, the administration never bothered indicting him for a crime. Instead, it launched a Hellfire missile from a drone, which not only killed al-Aulaqi but also his 16 year old son (also an American citizen). The administration’s response to questions about the son were basically, “He had an irresponsible father.” Of course the son was affiliated with someone who was affiliated with al Qaeda, which by our War on Terror definitions make him a terrorist. In any case, at 16 he’d be considered a combatant by the Obama administration because he was of “military age.”

The al-Aulaqi case pretty succinctly sums up the targeted killing issue, though there are enough examples, discussions, and nuances to fill books. Paul’s not addressing every one or getting them all right, but that’s not enough reason to discount him. It all boils down to the Executive Branch deciding that it has the right to kill anyone, anywhere, for reasons that it alone knows. AG Holder has written that “due process” doesn’t involve courts. It can be nothing more than President Obama and John Brennan sitting in an office deciding who lives and who dies.

It’s disturbing. It’s been disturbing for the last 11 years, and it’s only grown larger and more malignant to whatever is left of our Republic. Until 2008, Democrats and liberals who generally vote for Democrats would probably be up-in-arms if they found out that Bush was doing the same things Obama does today. So far there’s only one Democratic Senator involved in this filibuster. I’m no fan of Rand Paul, and i won’t be a fan of his when this filibuster ends. But on this he’s right, although 11 years is a long time to wait for even a glimmer of Congressional oversight on Executive power. What’s most unfortunate is that it had to come from Senator Paul, and that liberals and Democrats appear willing to allow a Democratic president to trample the rule of law … never mind morals.

There will be at least a few of us who will remember this day. When America elects another Republican to the White House and he uses these new powers in such a way that upsets Democrats, we’ll be here to remind you that your party didn’t stand up for what was right. It didn’t stand up between 2001 and 2008, and it kept extremely quiet after 2008 when it was a Democrat doing the evil. You won’t listen. After all, you voted for for these people, just like all the Republicans who voted for Bush twice and never raised a voice in defense of what are supposedly our most cherished principles.

For now, i’m going to go back to watching the Senator from Kentucky continue pushing through this. He seems to be one of the first to say a lot of things that need to be said on the Senate floor. That’s probably why the place is empty.

The perils of self rule

Either these elections are getting worse or i’m getting more cynical, or maybe both. Look, i can respect opinions other than my own so i can see a healthy republic that isn’t a model of my political views. But there’s nothing to salvage here. The political system is well and truly fucked. We’ve got two candidates who will gut the social contract to the full extent of their ability. Both will continue solidifying and expanding the imperial presidency. We’re all inside the disposition matrix now. The poor, a healthy economy, the environment, these truths we hold to be self-evident and whatever else gets in the way will be sacrificed for the power and wealth of the few.

And if all that shit wasn’t enough, the answer to a dysfunctional political system appears to be ballot measures. Now i’d be in favor of a little direct democracy, but these ballot measures are even more easily manipulated than our politicians. For example, we’ve got one about building a second bridge to Canada on the ballot. The ballot language is such that if you’re against it, then you have to vote “yes.” Granted, ballot language is always confusing but the new wave of direct democracy seems particularly well designed to confuse the average voter…who is likely to be ignorant, irrational, and willfully misinformed, because that’s what makes us great. These measures are written and fought over in the public square by the dreaded “special interests.” They’re the ones buying the commercials and sending me flyers. We complain about politicians not reading the bills they vote on, but I can’t imagine that my fellow Americans are reading (and understanding) the measures they’re voting on. They’re doing what they’re told by liars, based on whose lies most comport with their personal feelings.

We’ve also got a “collective bargaining” measure that sounds good if you’re for the Platonic ideal of organized labor. But it may only be for public sector unions, admittedly under the gun of our new breed of Randian superheroes and self-made men with public educations collecting a paycheck from the State. See, i haven’t read the amendment either, and i know that i should as well as likely being capable of understanding it … which says nothing about whether my understanding will have anything to do with the implementation of the amendment.

And then there’s one about renewable energy mandates, which if the eyes of the actors in the commercial are to believed, will cause you to have a stroke when you open your electric bill. I like the idea of renewable energy and I get that without significant prodding, the holy market can be slow to react and accomplish what needs to be done. The problem is, do i trust the people writing the measure that we can pass into law to be doing it honestly and without corruption … and well … any more than I trust voting for assholes who think that rape is just all part of god’s plan?

No.

I voted for our medical marijuana amendment four years ago, enthusiastically, and cheered when the results came back showing that dope is significantly more popular than hope and John McCain is a distant third in that popularity contest. I don’t have a card. I just saw an opportunity for the people of my state to end run the colossal stupidity of the war on drugs. But as it turns out, that was a horribly written amendment. It left all sorts of loose ends like not establishing a legal distribution network beyond decriminalizing the black market network. So of course the politicians and cops have attacked that glaring loophole in addition to trying to find a way to overturn the will of the people. The same thing is happening with Arizona’smedical marijuana law. And if Colorado passes its brave decriminalization bill you can bet that all holy hell will break loose. Either of the liars that may win the presidency will come down with the full force of the federal government on Colorado for daring to practice democracy.

We like to think of ourselves as a nation of laws rather than men, but when you go to the polls tomorrow, stop and think about the men you’re electing to write and implement those laws. Think about your fellow men (and take a long look in the mirror) who are crafting and voting on these ballot measures. It is men who will be enforcing the laws. It is men who will take your vote as an enthusiastic acceptance and support for them doing whatever the hell they want to do. And don’t forget that it is men who will look at the results of your experiments in direct democracy and decide whether you’re right, wrong, or incompetent to make those decisions. Unfortunately, we probably are incompetent to make those decisions, and since we vote for politicians based on who we’d like to have a beer with and which church they attend, those assholes are every bit as incompetent as we are.

I’ll go vote. I was raised to view it as an obligation. But it won’t be for Obama or Romney. It won’t be for Stabenow or Hoekstra. It won’t be for McDowell or Benishek. I don’t know what i’ll do with the constitutional amendments on my MI ballot. I should probably abstain, because i’m old, cynical, and apathetic enough to realize that none will be what they seem and most will be the equivalent of voting Democratic or Republican. I won’t vote for a Democrat or a Republican for the rest of my life. i wouldn’t vote for Obama if i knew ahead of time that mine would be the deciding vote. Let it end in a tie and they can fight to the death for it. And more, and more, i’m coming to the conclusion that my compatriots who vote for either of these parties hate America, freedom, Democracy. That you tactical, strategic, and disturbingly ideological voters are what’s wrong with this nation; it’s you that allow the foxes into the henhouse and the chickenhawks to rule the roost.

God Bless America. We’re gonna need it, because the people entrusted with maintaining the Republic sure as shit aren’t up to the task.

A vote, but not for any candidate

Romney vs. Obama. This is the exact matchup I was hoping for a year ago when the Republicans were looking under rocks and tearing up logs to find someone, anyone who wasn’t the former governor of Massachusetts and a Mormon. But at the time, Romney was the reasonable, adult candidate compared to the other candidates in the field. Perry? Newt? Santorum? Bachmann? Lunatics running the asylum.

There was a point in this election season when I wasn’t sure who I’d vote for in a (then) hypothetical Romney vs. Obama race. I was so unhappy about Obama’s lack of progress in solving our nation’s real problems (with one thoroughly mixed bag, namely health care) that I was ready to vote for a change.

But then Romney tacked hard to the right and started running against the very things that made me consider him in the first place. He went from being the moderate governor of a blue state to a firebrand Tea Party member in order to appeal more to the base of the Republican party, and in the process he threw away his own sanity and joined the lunatics.

When Romney did that, he made my decision easy because he demonstrated that he was a slug – small-minded, spineless, and slimy. If elected, would Romney run the country as he had the state of Massachusetts, or would he rule as a Tea Party king over the 99%? I don’t know, but I do know that his personal transformation clearly demonstrates that Romney lacks a properly functioning ethical compass.

I’m still saddened that voting for Obama became so easy, though. It’s not like I’m really voting FOR Obama, since he’s not really my candidate – he’s ignored climate disruption, expanded the use of drones, failed to shut down Guantanamo, expanded the imperial presidency, and adopted too many of Bush II’s policies just for starters – it’s more that I’m voting against Romney.

And when I fill in the bubble next to Obama’s name tomorrow, I’ll worry that I’m doing the wrong thing. Not because I think Romney would be good for the United States of America over the short run – he’ll be horrible for the country over the short run – but because there’s an argument to be made that Romney will be so bad for the country that the backlash will create a generation of honestly progressive leadership and change.

Romney winning would lead to an era of internal conflict that the USA hasn’t seen since at least Vietnam, and as horrible as that would be for us to live through, I’m not convinced that there is any way to avoid it. And if you can’t avoid the pain, best to get it over quickly so you can start healing sooner.

The United States faces real issues. The perversion of our election process by money, a faltering education system, pollution, industrial climate disruption (aka climate change), degrading soil, health care, a bloated defense budget, etc. all need to be addressed, and by leaders who are serious about addressing them. Back in 2008 I hoped that Obama would do that, and I have been largely disappointed. I will vote tomorrow in the hope that Obama’s second term will be when he can focus on the real, serious issues that need to be solved and turn away from all the stupid bullshit that merely distracts.

And I’ll vote against the candidate whose entire campaign has been about distraction.

Conservatives are a frustrated lot

We Democrats aren’t very good at this campaigning stuff. But we don’t need to be. Because we don’t have Fox on our side.

The conservatives are a frustrated lot. They are frustrated that a Negro is president. They are frustrated that no matter what they write in their homeschool textbooks, it’s getting warmer and everybody knows it. They are frustrated that economics (and arithmetic for that matter) don’t work the way they think it should. They are frustrated that admitted homosexuals get to sleep with members of the same sex openly and they have to sneak out to toilets in the Minneapolis airports. And, did I mention the thing about the black guy in the White House? Continue reading

A speech Obama should give

As President, I’d like to set the record straight about myself and my administration. We are intelligent people engaged in a search for solutions to the modern problems that face us. I call them the five E’s: Economy, Education, Environment, Equality, and Energy. These are the building blocks of our society. We need each of these functioning properly in order for civilization to move forward.

Economy: The economy is recovering from a disastrous experiment in deregulation, which allowed a large volume of worthless stock to pollute many of our most trustworthy financial institutions. I have addressed this problem in the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, with the goals of increasing transparency, increasing accountability, and ending bailouts. If you haven’t read Rolling Stone’s article about how Wall Street strangled it in the womb, you should. It’s an eye opener. Continue reading

American Oracle and the dangers of American fanaticism

Reading David Blight’s American Oracle this weekend, I’ve noticed a subtle, cautionary note that keeps playing itself as an occasional undertone. It reminds me again why the study of history has something to tell us about current events—and also that no one ever seems to listen to those warnings.

Blight’s book examines the Civil War writings of four major American writers of the Civil Rights Era: Robert Penn Warren, Bruce Catton, Edmund Wilson, and James Baldwin (Ralph Ellison gets some treatment in there, too). I’m only halfway through the book, so I’ve only read about Warren and Catton, but both have sounded the same note: fewer things are more dangerous to America than our own political fanaticism. Continue reading