Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Obama and Constanza?

Anyone who followed the great sitcom Seinfeld may remember George Costanza pitching a "show about nothing" to the NBC executives. President Obama is being accused of something similar: making a speech about nothing. The critic,Suleiman Al Osaimi, made the following biting criticism (referring to the speech last week on the Middle East):

What he says, however, is of little interest. When … you go back to the speech … you will soon realize that he has said nothing of consequence. They are mere words strung together in a nice way …every word is delivered smoothly and there is lot of clapping at the end, nothing else.”

Source: The New Republic, May 24.

I did not hear the speech, so I can't analyze the criticism. I just thought it was clever and I can rarely resist a TV or sports analogy.

Monday, May 16, 2011

My theory on the future of Tea Party

This is my theory, or more accurately, educated guess about the future of the Tea Party and the antiwar left. First, we must assume an obvious fact--There are only two possible scenarios in the election. Either Obama wins reelection or a Republican candidate taking over the presidency.

Scenario 2 will mean the end of the Tea Party. They will be absorbed into the Republican party, as the Populists in the late 19th century/ early 20th century were ultimately preempted by William Jennings and the Democratic Party . In 2013 there will be no (supposed) anti-American leftist Democrat in the White House. Without Obama's presence, there is no longer much motivation for the Tea Party to continue to organize and protest. So, ironically, a Republican victory will end the movement as we know it.

A political pundit more sympathetic to their cause than me might argue that they would continue as a protest movement under a big spending Republican. The history of American politics in the 21st century says otherwise--there were no protests of No Child Left Behind, the Medicare prescription bill, or any other of the many big-government legislation passed during the Bush administration. The national debt did not bother them until January 2009. It is unlikely they will be much of a force in American politics after a Republican President takes over in 2013.

In Scenario 1, the Tea Party still has a reason to keep protesting, with a Democrat in office. So, ironically, the continued existence of the Tea Party is dependent on the reelection of a President they despise.

So, yes, the Tea Party is guilty of partisan bias. But, to be fair, there is just as much hypocrisy on the left. The antiwar left faces the exact opposite position. They've been fairly quiet during the wars and militarism of the Obama administration, not wanting to criticize a "progressive" (as they see it) Democrat. Obama's reelection will keep them on the sidelines for another 4 years. Their continued relevance is now dependent on the victory of the Republican candidate, a party that they despise.

I've quoted the brilliant scientist Neil Tyson before and will do so again: "There's hot air on both ends of the spectrum." That statment is basically all a novice needs to know about politics. The rest is a footnote.

Sunday, May 08, 2011

No it wasn't the waterboarding that got OBL

New spin from (certain) Republicans: waterboarding KSL repeatedly--which is not of course particularly harsh--broke him and got key information. Apart from being contradictory, this explanation isn't true. KSL gave false information while being waterboarding 183 times. I've always doubted the ability of "harsh interrogation"--some will call it torture, but labels aren't the main issue. At the conservative website Townhall.com, I posed the following mock scenario, around early 2002:

I'm captured and mistaken for a jihadist--maybe I'm reading the Koran or another book sympathetic to Islam--perhaps by Karen Armstrong or Reza Aslan. I am dunked under water a few times and forced to listen to very loud Brittney Spears music that I cannot stand. By the way, this scenario is not completely hypothetical--her music has reportedly been used in some interrogations!

The questioning begins:

Interrogator, which we'll assume is a man:"Are you the mastermind behind the horrific crime, Mr.Davis?"
Me: No, I'm a law-abiding citizen. I wasn't even alive when JFK was assassinated!"

Him:"No, Mr.Davis, that's not the crime we're referring to."

Me: "I can't take this abuse anymore. Sure, I confess to watching Keith Olbermann, but it was only once. I find him overly strident and partisan and haven't watched it since."
Him: "No, that's not the crime we're talking about, Mr. Davis.We mean 9-11. We believe you are a member of Al-Qaeda and you knew some of the conspirators. Your neighbor said you were reading jihadist literature."

Me: "Are you insane? First of all, my neighbor is an idiot who dislikes me and vice versa. Second, I'm not even Muslim, let alone any kind of jihadist. I don't speak any language other than English and a little Spanish. I've never even met any of the 9-11 terrorists. I was just walking through the bookstore and glanced briefly at Aslan's book. I saw him debate Sam Harris and was curious. I've never even met this bin Laten or whoever's in charge of this terror group. Al-Fida, is it?"

Him:"You're making this more difficult than it has to be. Fine, we'll keep up the dunking and we'll go through every song on Brittney's greatest CD, even louder than before!
Me: "Can we switch to Madonna or at least No Doubt? Even Colbie Caillat would be an improvement."

Him: "Unfortunately not. I like them better, too, but we find that Spears' music breaks prisoners much quicker. Caillat is more annoying than unbearable to most prisoners."

Me: "OK, OK, I did it. I was involved, in some way, I guess, whatever. Can we stop this? I'm really wet, can't breathe well, and my ears hurt. Do people actually pay to listen to this music?

Him (laughing a bit at my last remark):"I agree with you--Spears is pretty bad. My daughter seems to like her, though. I guess it's a young female thing. Anyway, now that you confessed we can stop this interrogation. I assume this confession will hold up in court, but I'm no lawyer. In any case, Cheney will be happy, we got the evidence he wanted!"

Me:(under my breath): Whatever.

The next day, predictably comes the spin from the right-wing pundits: Sean Hannity, the Wall Street Journal editorial page, Rush Limbaugh, Ann Coulter, Malkin, Laura Ingraham, Bill O'Reilly, John Yoo,et al. In unison they agree: The criminal mastermind behind 9-11 broke under harsh interrogation. This proves that waterboarding (which is not torture, they quickly add) does work! Thank God for George Bush! John McCain weakly protests, pointing out that he confessed falsely under duress during the Vietnam War, but no one listens to him.

All of these people urge caution to my would-be sympathizers: Don't listen to the whiny left-wing blogosphere, which is defending Mr. Davis. That's a clear sign of his guilt. No true patriot would have any association with websites like Think Progress and Daily Kos. Of course, he claims to have been coerced. Isn't that just what someone with a guilty conscience would say? And he may be technically correct that he isn't a Muslim, but who other than a jihadist would be reading Aslan or Armstrong? Plus he has a subscription to The Nation. You might well wear a tatoo saying I heart Al-Qaeda.

Friday, May 06, 2011

College aid for illegal immigrants?

The California Assembly recently passed a bill providing for aid to California students who are illegal immigrants. The complete article is here. This bill doesn't seem either fair or constitutional to me. If the federal government wants to legalize illegal immigrants it can do so, but the state of California has no right to provide for the education of teenagers who are not legal residents. Until the federal government legalizes them, these students should not be eligible for any financial aid. The proposed law is not only legally dubious, it is morally unfair. Students applying for aid who are citizens or legal residents should not have to compete for scholarships with illegal immigrants.

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There's another aspect to this story. As opponents of the bill point out (correctly), federal law does not allow illegal immigrants to work here. Many businesses proudly display their allegiance to the e-verify program, which (in theory, at least) prevents illegal immigrants from obtaining employment. The result may be that we are educating people who won't be allowed to work here! This doesn't make any sense.

For what's it worth, I have no objection to legalizing illegal immigrants presently here, but that needs to be done at the federal level. While these students remain illegal under federal law, the states have no right, morally or legally, to award any sort of financial assistance to them.

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Take that back!

This video is funny. Someone is slandering my name!

POLITICO: David Catanese: Essential intelligence from the campaign trail - NY-26: Corwin up on TV against Jack Davis

On a serious note, this video shows the bankruptcy of our electoral system. We have a two party monopoly in America. Any third party candidate ends up helping the party they like least--e.g. Ralph Nader in the 2000 election.

Monday, May 02, 2011

The politics of Osama's death

I'm not a fan of the conservative magazine The National Review, but Andrew McCarthy (not the actor) makes an excellent historical analogy at their website The Corner (nationalreview.com/corner):

In terms of a presidential election cycle, bin Laden has been killed at a time roughly similar to the point in the ’92 cycle when President George H.W. Bush won the Gulf War. (I realize there are a couple of months’ difference, but that’s immaterial.) The victory gave Bush approval ratings that brushed 90 percent — i.e., significantly higher than President Obama’s are today. Just as now, it was unclear which member of the opposition party would run against Bush (unlike the case with Obama, Bush’s sky-rocketing polls actually convinced big-name Dems not to make the race). Bush seemed like a shoo-in — which Obama does not. But the election turned out to be about the economy . . . which was a dream economy compared to the one we’re in.

Biased as he may be, McCarthy is right. If the economy doesn't rebound by Nov.2012, this day will be mostly forgotten. This may be unfair, as this was a great victory for America, but the economy trumps everything else in politics. Every day Americans see the unemployment rates and high gas prices. Al-Qaeda simply isn't considered at the same level of importance to most of us. So, no, the Republicans don't need to give up and wait for 2016.