Thursday, June 27, 2013

The Supremes

When you stop to think about it, John Roberts was right, in a way.  Times have changed.  Back in the 1960s, southerners wanted to keep blacks from voting because they were black.  Now, they want to keep blacks (and Latinos) from voting because they vote for Democrats.

Given the dismal state of Congress, the chance of it "fixing" Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act anytime soon is very unlikely.  Personally, I think Section 5 should apply to all states and counties, because you don't have to be a racist to take an interest in voter suppression.  Also, considering how clever our programmers are, wouldn't it be possible to develop computer algorithms to create rational (rather than politicized) voting districts in every state?  (Perhaps the criteria could be crowd-sourced.)

As for the Defense of Marriage Act, I was hoping for something better than the usual five-four split, but you take what you can get.  The California marriage case, which turned on the litigant's standing to sue, was more a matter of ducking the issue than a statement about marital rights.  I wonder if the nine of them got together and negotiated which of them would vote on one side or the other?

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Myth of the Two-state Solution

John Kerry is headed back to the Middle East, trying to restart talks between Israel and the Palestinian Authority.  Since Bibi Netanyahu just visited a West Bank settlement to cut the ribbon on a new school that just happened to be named after his father, the symbolic handwriting is on the wall.  Maybe it wasn't as bad as when he announced 1000 new units of settlement housing while Joe Biden was in Israel trying to restart talks in 2010, but Bibi seems unable to resist tweaking America's nose.

There never will be an independent Palestinian state, because there is no way to make it happen — not as long as American politicians are so terrified of AIPAC, Americans are convinced that "Arab" and "terrorist" are synonymous, and the region remains in an uproar everywhere from Mali to Afghanistan.  Even in the unlikely event that the "Arab Spring" turns out to be something positive, Palestinians in the occupied West Bank will continue to live under apartheid.

Personally, I favor a one-state solution — end the apartheid, give the Palestinians Israeli citizenship, and integrate them into the Israeli economy and society.  Oops!  I forgot!  Israel is a "Jewish State," and its existing Arab citizens have never been fully integrated.

Well, if Jews can have their own state, why not Sunnis, Alawites, Druse, Maronite Christians, and Kurds?  But don't stop there!  Why not let every little sect, wherever in the world it happens to be concentrated, have its own state?  Before we knew what hit us, Vatican City could be a superpower.

I understand that Jews had special circumstances following World War II, because, in truth, nobody really wanted them anywhere.  Well, that was over sixty years ago.  Israel really is no longer a "Jewish" state, it is a secular state, finally taking steps to integrate its ultraorthodox Jews and Arab citizens into the mainstream.

Maybe the notion of a Jewish state should be a thing of the past.

Sunday, June 16, 2013


Have a look at Robert Reich's blog post, What We Need Now: A National Economic Strategy for Better JobsWhat a shame that we live in a world where such rational recommendations sound so radical.

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Chemical weapons

I don't get it.  Why is killing people with sarin gas any worse than killing them with bombs or guns or artillery?  From what I've read, just a tiny fraction of dead Syrians were lost to chemical weapons.  How did those come to be the "red line?"

My guess is that when a President of the USofA shoots off his mouth, he's kind of stuck putting our money where his mouth was — so now we'll be shipping unspecified weapons to unspecified SLA units, with no idea of where they'll finally find a home.  Best bet for final destination is the guys with the beards.

There are times you just can't win.  Like now.

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

... and a couple more

Immigration and Border Security

Why are Republicans so insistent on "sealing" the southern border of the USofA?  As usual, it's less a matter of xenophobia (although there's plenty of that in their base) so much as money.  As was noted in a Times article on June 6, military contractors are looking at declining revenue streams with the decline of American involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan.  Further militarizing our southern border will help plug the holes in their profits.

Greatly expanding the number of "guest workers" and making it impossible for those workers to change jobs will make another batch of Republican contributors quite happy.  If Democrats are willing to go along — and since they share many of the same contributors, many will — the "amnesty" argument just may fade away.

The Farm Bill

Farm bill?  What farm bill?

I don't see much likelihood of an "compromise" between Senate and House versions of a new farm bill, but I guess the inept assholes will manage to extend the 2008 bill for another year.  For poor families that depend on SNAP (still commonly referred to as "food stamps"), that might be a good outcome.  Both Senate and House versions would toss even more of the poor into food insecurity, and the House proposal would help eliminate poverty by the simple means of starvation and death.

The Senate bill would cut federal crop insurance subsidies for big agriculture by about 15%, which would not do much to curtail the incomes of Representatives Stephen Fincher (R-TN) or Doug LaMalfa (R-CA), both major recipients of farm subsidies and vocal proponents of slashing SNAP.  Hell, they could go without insurance, considering how both are filthy rich and also deniers of climate change.  What do they have to worry about?  Nevertheless, they want their subsidies maintained or enlarged, mostly because of something else they have in common.  They're scumbags.

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Some short subjects for June

Edward Snowden

The President, confronted with Snowden's leaks and questions about the formerly "top secret" programs, said "I welcome this debate."  Needless to say, had it not been for Snowden's leaks, no "debate" ever would have ensued, and a warrant was issued for Snowden today so he can be extradited from wherever they eventually find him.  He'd better stay off the phone, and the internet.

Snowden reminds me of those internet wunderkinder — brilliant, alienated — only he's missing the self-serving psychopathy.  How many people his age would give up 200 grand a year for the sake of conscience?  That was his motivation, you know — conscience.


Syria is a mess — but then so are Iraq and Afghanistan, so it seems very unlikely that American intervention there would help in any way.  Being the world's foremost "superpower" doesn't necessarily mean the USofA can do anything to impose its questionable hegemony anyplace else.

As for the "Arab Spring," it doesn't look too springy.  Egypt and Libya are falling apart, and then there's that prime example of Muslim "democracy," to wit...


Ergogan, Turkey's Islamist leader, is more than a little bit out of control, and moving towards "democratic autocracy" (as opposed to our much preferable "democratic plutocracy.")  Had the Biblical God allowed the Biblical Abraham to go through with the sacrifice of the Biblical Isaac, resulting in no Judaic based religions, the world might be a better place today.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Surveillance State

If the FISA court approved a warrant for the FBI and NSA to obtain all of Verizon's "metadata," I think it's safe to assume it approved warrants for all the other major carriers as well.  I am certain that neither my friend Prudi not my friend Judy are terrorists — they just don't have the skills, much less the motivation — and they're my primary telephone correspondents.  Yes, my kids call every week or two, and they're not terrorists either, so I guess I won't be scooped up in some anti-terror dragnet.

On the other hand, I do get fairly frequent calls from other parties who must also be calling terrorists.  You probably get the robo-call that begins, "This is an important message about your current credit card account..."  I'm betting that the real terrorists get more calls from that outfit than from any of their terrorist buddies, and I'm calling on the FBI to shut them down.  They might even be calling from outside the USA — who knows?  Maybe they are terrorists, trying to drive us so crazy we go out and start killing each other.

Seriously, though, Barack Obama and his administration have been a total disappointment with regard to Fourth Amendment rights and with regard to transparency.  "Oh," exclaim the administration hacks, "but the things we do are for the sake of national security — to protect your safety.  And if it weren't for those horrible leakers letting you know they're happening, they wouldn't bother you at all!"

Once again, it's time to quote Jefferson:  "They who can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety."

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Bradley Manning

I am certain that Bradley Manning's intentions were pure.  I do not think that the Obama administration is persecuting him any more vociferously than any other administration would.  I just think he's getting a raw deal.

It's unlikely that anybody except Manning actually read all the documents he released.  I have seen no evidence presented that anybody in the CIA or any other government agency actually was put in danger by the voluminous pile of mostly unsurprising "secrets" Manning released to Wikileaks.  Yes, some agencies were embarrassed.  Big deal.

The kid is willing to go to jail for ten to twenty, which still seems so totally wrong to me.  Sadly, that's not good enough for the prosecutors/persecutors of Manning.  The kid does not deserve life in prison.  He deserves a parade.