Friday, May 04, 2007

No More Debates, Please...
We've had two Presidential Debates thus far. That is one adjective and one noun too generous, in my estimation.

We had 9 or 10 (it's hard to count people that intellectually small as actual human beings) democrats the week before last, and this week, it was the turn of the 10 or so republicans. This is the state of American politics; 19 people are vying for the chance to spend an estimated $1 billion (of other people's money, of course) to be publicly humiliated, to have every aspect of their lives pried into in a manner which makes a proctological examination seem like a good way to spend the off-evening or two, to run themselves ragged attending prayer breakfasts in Iowa before jetting off for the hog-wrestling in Alabama, and then off to the Jackhammer -Iron Man-Face-Rodeo in San Francisco (all in the same day), all for the purposes of obtaining a job that pays $200,000 a year, and comes with the added benefit that it will age the hell out of you, probably destroy your health, and drive you insane with the amount and vigor of the criticism aimed at you.

But you do get the swanky address and that really boffo helicopter. Oh, and the nuke privleges. Anyways...

What does that tell you about the Presidency, and more specifically, the type of people who run for the office? I could start at "shameless", move on to "hypocritical" and then really get all warmed up with "narcissistic", and I truly wouldn't even be getting started.

But what really gets my goat about this process thus far, is that the quality of candidate seems to have sunk to all-time lows. We can expect the usual nonsense; which democrat can adequately convince you that he or she is the second coming of Lenin (only with compassion and a better wardrobe), as opposed to which republican can convince you with a straight face that they understand concepts like responsibility and propriety. Neither side apparently knows anything about the Middle Class, which they all "speak to", but who are being tossed aside faster than panties on Prom Night. What was totally unexpected, by me, in both debates, was the general lack of anything appealing ---- in all 20 individuals. Never mind ideology, give me someone who isn't molded, reshearsed, focus-grouped and demographically-approved!

Personally, I think instead of debates we should hold steel-cage matches --- first one to emerge with a serious brain injury gets inaugurated.
Sean Hannity: Unhinged...
Can we finally stop? Please? It hurts too much.

Raw, unbridled partisanship, unfortunately, permeates every nook and cranny in our society. It's beginning to become counter-productive and detrimental to our continued existance as a unified, democratic state. Nowhere was this more vividly on display than on last night's edition of Hannity&Colmes, which despite the war in Iraq, despite the Republican nominee's debate, despite a million other important things. started it's show with a...ahem...debate...about Time magazine's list of the Hundred Most Influential people in the Universe.

I watched Sean Hannity in full, excruciating, near-menstrual dudgeon over the fact that Time's readers managed to compile a "100 Most influential" list that had Usama Bin Laden on it, but not George W. Bush. This sent Sean into paroxysms of panty-bunching as he debated (snicker, snicker) Juan Williams over who is more influential; a has-been Terrorist leader who might be dead already, or a soon-to-be-has-been President who might sometimes wish he were dead, given the criticsm (deserved or no) heaped upon him? Ex-Senator Rick Santorum came along, apparently to add 'gravitas' to Sean's position, or maybe because the guy from the BudLight "Rock, Paper, Scissors" commercial wasn't available. In any case, Santorum did nothing but echo Sean, while Williams floundered attempting to answer questions that are, in effect, about style and personal tastes, rather than substance.

In terms of informative, provacative television that makes you think, I think I would have preferred it if FoxNews just televised the activity in Britt Hume's fish tank for that sixty minutes (assuming Britt has one),or pehaps ran re-runs of "Love Boat". It would have been far more entertaining, vastly more informative, and overwhelmingly less childish.

It wasn't all that long ago that I got fed up with Bill O'Reilly, and now Hannity&Colmes is headed down the toilet too. I never watch Greta Van Sustern because, well, who gives a damn about what she "investigates", except people who can't tell a tabloid from their butthole?

FoxNews is getting progressively worse, not better, as time goes on. Bill O'Reilly is allowed to pollute the airwaves with 60 Minutes of narcissism every night (when he isn't playing Trivial Pursuit with Steve Doocey) and now Sean Hannity is allowed to go ballistic for 20 minutes on a subject that in the world OUTSIDE narrow, hyper-partisan-eight-second-sound-bite-gotcha-tea-cup tempests 'political debate' , means absolutely shyte.?

Don't get me started on the waste of airtime that is "Red Eye".

Sean, buddy, relax. Deep breath. Calm down.

Now go get an enema...

Thursday, May 03, 2007

George Tenet is a Big, Fat Liar...
Former CIA-director George Tenet is in a snit recently, having just found out that words can, indeed, come back to haunt you.

Mr. Tenet claims that his use of the phrase "slam-dunk" relating to pre-war intelligence of Iraqi WMD potential was used, improperly, in the justification of a war against Saddam Hussein's murderous regime. Apparently, Mr. Tenet (three years AFTER the fact) is claiming that his reputation has been unfairly tarnished because anytime someone asks "Why did the United States undertake what seems to be a losing war in Iraq?", the answer involves the fact that Mr. Tenet said, at some point, that the intelligence was airtight that Saddam had WMD's, the capability to produce more, and that he had the information to prove it. Thus the use of the colloquial phrase "slam-dunk". He now claims, in hindsight, that perhaps his information was not exactly airtight and that in any case, members of the National Security apparatus (in particular Dick Cheney) had war against Iraq in their heads from the first day of the Bush administration, and that they were just waiting to hear something in order to justify it. The implication is that they (Bush and, especially, Cheney) heard only what they wanted to hear, and damned the rest.

His contention is that "the fix" was in, and whatever he said is irrelevant, so, could we stop all this foucs on "slam-dunk" and get back to the real problem at hand, which is how to surrender as quickly as possible and leave millions of Iraqis who might support us hanging in the breeze, so that he can get back to perhaps lobbying for another job in a possible democratic administration in 2009?

What Mr. Tenet still refuses to answer, however, is how his agency could have been so wrong in the first place on 9/11, terrorism in general and Iraq specifically, and why it all happened on his watch? What was he doing when he was giving assurances which later turned out to be erroneous? What the heck does CIA do besides hand out plum intelligence assignments to non-intelligence types based on apparent nepotism (the entire Plame fisaco)?

Until Mr. Tenet answers those questions, without his whining about his repurtation and the uttering of a phrase he now claims was innocuous, I'm not exactly motivated to a) listen to him or b) believe him on anything.

Iraq and democrats (small 'd' intentional)...
Benchmarks. Timetables. Metrics.

Amazing how the party that typically pooh-poohs things like "accountability" and "evidence"
suddenly wants both, post-haste, huh?

Look, I'm not going to defend the Bush Administration on the Iraq fiasco (and that's exactly what it is). I've probably posted this before, but there's a host of reasons why Iraq has not been a glowing success for the Administration to date. They are:

1. No actual "war" was fought. The Iraqi army was not defeated on the batlefield, bayonet-to-bayonet; it was allowed to run away.

2. The rather simplistic plan (i.e. bumrush Baghdad, get Saddam, open a Stock Exchange, poof! Instant Democracy!) wasn't exactly realistic. It neglected an awful lot of cultural and religious issues, and took it for granted that Iraqis not only knew what freedom meant, but would understand what to do with it once it was provided.

3. Neglected to remember that after every dictator has been deposed there is a host of would-be dictators who would love to take his place, and are willing to fight for it, too.

4. the American government is far too easily persuaded by small groups of expatriates that their homelands are fairly screaming for democracy and that the population is straining at the leash to try MTV and free-market economics.

5. Democracies are not created in a few months. Purple fingers do not a deocracy make. They are the end result of a complex process of cultural, legal, and political amalgams that requires time to work themselves out. What works stays, what doesn't gets chucked, but everything typically gets a try.

Now, as to the democrats and all this blather of not funding anything if they don't get their checklist of "prerequisites for surrender by other names"; umm, you all voted for it (this war) at some point, did you not? You can forget about the semantic arguments of 'giving the president the authority to use force, if necessary' and then making the case that Iraq was not necessary. Doesn't hold water. The American public was behind this effort when it was a three-walk cake walk, and you voted accordingly. Some democrats claim there wa sno time to debate military action; I seem to recall 18 months of debate, including a large portion of it in front of the United Nations.

Get this through your skull; the United States, for better or worse, broke Iraq (or made it even worse than it was). We (and that includes YOU) are responsible. You moreso --- you voted for the war and you voted to pay for it. Repeatedly. You can't run out on the Iraqi's and if you do, you will be rightly accused of cheapening the sacrifice of 3,500 Americans. You don't have the right to have a clean slate for your presumptive president in 2009, which is what all this crap is about. God forbid President Hilary has to actually handle a war! That's not the Clinton M.O. ---Clintons like it nice and quiet, so that they can do nothing and then take credit for everything.

Then again, Mrs. Clinton will only see the inside of the White House again when her Senate days are over and she has to take a job as a chambermaid because the Social Security money ran out, so I guess that's all wishful thinking on your part anyways.

As for the present occupants of the White House; how come you haven't made this case? How come you haven't fessed up to the mistakes you've made? How come you haven't put the case before the Iraqis that they should get off the stick? You know, you can sit here and cry that democrats beat you on an issue that should have been ironclad for you (national security and war), but you're not exactly instilling confidence in anyone, either.
Of Maniacs and Campuses...
Several weeks late and a few dollars short, time to chime in on the Virginia tech shooter.

I guess I should, I mean, everyone else has. And most of them, I think missed the mark, so why shouldn't I take a whack at it?

To begin with, Cho Sung-hui (or whatever his name is, I can't be bothered to actually look it up) was a deranged man. That should be obvious to even Ted Kennedy. Sane people do not murder 32 people, make rambling video statements, and mail them off to NBC News, apparently all on the same day.

The obvious questions have been asked; How did this hapen? Where were the police and campus security? What made this guy flip? What made him tick?And then the stupid questions were asked; Isn't this a wonderful example of why we should have gun control in this country? How many more Cho's are out there? I can answer those last two questions: no, and, who the hell knows?

There was one interesting development in this case that I noted just as soon as I'd heard it; at some point in his life, Cho was deemed insane by a judge (and we all KNOW what fine arbiters of sanity American judges are), and let loose on his own recognisence, i.e. on the premise that he get himself some help.

Now here is where I can sympathize with Cho. I certainly don't agree with what he did (I don't see how any reasonable person can), but given that shred of information and viewing his rambling video monlogue in this light, I can make a leap (and I admit, I have no idea if it's correct) and see where a guy just might get pissed off enough to shoot 32 people; someone labeled him a lunatic (whether or not he was prior to his enocunter with the legal system is immaterial to this argument) and then made no effort to get him any help.

Worse, and I can attest to this, since I've suffered from the same stigma; once you have that (you've been branded a lunatic or have a history of mental illness, no matter how slight) in your jacket, God help you. It follows you around. Want that choice job? You won't get it after your prospective employer does a rudimentary background check on you. Want insurance? You won't get it when the insurance company finds out a judge said you're off your chump.

Now, What if...

What if Cho was indeed mentally ill, but that it was an illness of such a nature that it was treatable with therapy and medication, and would not impair him or cause him to be a danger to himself or others? Is that fair to him to have that stigma attached, and worse, electronically transmitted everywhere in the world for anyone willing to make an effort to find it? (Do a Google search on yourself and see what comes back. You'd be amazed!).

What if Cho seriously was ill and the judge abrogated his responsibility (not wanting to seem harsh to a sick man) to society, and instead of doing the proper thing (commiting this guy against his will), let him go, without supervision, without treatment, and probably stewing in his own juices long enough to go postal on his college campus?

The one question that has NOT been asked in the aftermath of the entire episode is this: was this man sick enough to go beserk BEFORE he ran afoul of the law and the judge, or was his intial condition perhaps treatable and curable, but the resulting stigma of a ruling of serious mental illness propelled him further into psychosis? For all we know, Cho might have had something as simple as an anxiety disorder or maybe was bi-polar, conditions that are easily treated, and that relatively slight disorder became something else because he felt persecuted for it afterwards.

The news media was much too quick to drop this story, and for obvious reasons. The storyline had run it's course; man shoots 32 folks, man is identified as a lunatic, man leaves rambling video for Brian Williams to exploit. There's nothing left to talk about after that. Just one more crazy bastard roaming our streets, but fortunately, they only pop up every few years in this fashion and then we can go back to ignoring them again.

A million "experts" will now rummage through Cho's diaries, writings, computer, etc. in an attempt to "understand" the "mind of a mass-murderer". They will learn very little, I'm betting, and in another year or so we'll have another Cho.

The only lesson to be learned form this is that how we treat people who are mentally ill, (especially those who exhibit symptoms that are, of their nature, usually temporary, and completely curable) just might have repercussions. Deadly repercussions. I'm not for imprisoning people against their will (unless there's simply no other way), but I'm also convinced (from personal experience) that the current methods leave much to be desired when it comes to getting people back into society either during, and particularly after, treatment.

Let Brian Williams do some "investigative journalism" on that! What he finds will shock you, not so much because there is a host of disturbed folks out there, but by how shabbily they are treated by the medical establishment, the insurance companies, the police and social services, and especially by employers. And pay special attention to what happens to them once their 'condition' becomes common knowledge, courtesy of the Information Age. It makes Nuremberg Laws regarding the wearing of the Star of David seem tame by comparison. (Ed. Note: Yes, it is as bad as the Holocaust and the harrassment of Jews under the Nazis. Please, don't bother to complain).

Sometimes, that's even after the medical establishment, such as it is, considers them cured.
Yet Another Hiatus...And A New Idea...
Long time, no blog.

It's inevitable, sometimes. Sometimes I don't feel like ranting. Sometimes the potential subject matter is so inane or so disinteresting as to make it impossible to get up the ambition to post something. Anything.

Unless, of course, you get yelled at for apparently not having anything to say at all.

That's what happened to me last week, if you'll believe it.

I was informed by an old friend, who now lives in England, that having started this little screed, I have a sorta-kinda responsibility to continue it on a regular basis. Not the least because, it's some sort of outlet for me, but because he actually reads this thing in order to get some idea of what is actually happening here in the United States. Somehow, he's come to depend upon me (silly bastard!) for an 'unbiased' view.

The BBC must really suck.

Of coure, it's flattering to know that someone is reading this (and taking it seriously, no less!), and that this slender audience is, as they say in the business world, 'global'. Never mind the actual numbers, dammit (I never have); someone in another time zone, on another continent is scarring his eyeballs with this caustic bullshit.

Which got me to thinking (which hurt incidentally); if there's one guy in another country looking at this, then the potential is there to have another guy in Bombay reading it. And then, with any luck, some lady in Japan with a few minutes to spare (and a similar mental affliction) , might think this is a good way to brush up on her English. Going global? Who woulda thunk it?

I certainly didn't. But in a sense, this is a global medium. On the 'net there is no such thing as borders (no matter what the Chinese gov't and Google say). So, why shouldn't I make an effort to take this global?

The only problem is I'm one person. I can't possibly know everything that's happening everywhere, let alone form opinions on it all. Sooooo...I think I'm going to allow other posters to use my site, too. Not only would it be interesting to get more feedback about what happens here (when it does happen) from one guy in Watford, but it would also be interesting to see what other people are thinking. No more monlogue to myself; perhaps a forum for actual debate on world-wide issues and viewpoints?

Lord knows doing so might actually get someone reading this besides me and my relatives.

So, if there is anyone, anywhere, who is interested in joyriding and taking this beyond it's current, limited scope, please respond to this post. The only requirements, I guess, are that you can write in English and can make a half-way decent argument, about anything, without getting too venomous. Various viewpoints welcome, but I reserve the right to editorial control. I don't wish to impose censorship upon anyone, but I will not allow a post that is extremely nasty or somesuch. After all, my name (for what that's worth) is attached to this.

So, I hope to hear from several eager, wanna-be bloggers in the very near future!