All posts by Jay

Michele Bachmann’s irresponsible duplicity

Let’s preface this with a few qualifiers: should Michele Bachmann win the nomination for president, I will actively campaign for her, volunteer for her and in fact spend less time shouting at Obama supporters online and turn my support into action. I will not countenance Obama’s reelection. However, this is primary season, and there’s something Michele Bachmann needs to answer for before I could even think of being as supportive of her as I have before.

It’s not about her ideology: if anything, her strong commitment to fiscal responsibility is one of the things that tuned me in to her. However, she does this…thing. And it’s this thing that has annoyed the hell out of me since this morning and I just can’t seem to let it go. Here’s how it happens:

  1. Boehner has a bill (spending, social, whatever) and consults with her as the leader of the Tea Party Caucus for ideas that would have her lend their support.
  2. Her demands are of the nature that would make the bill unpalatable to the Left—no problem there—but would make the bill impossible to get past Harry Reid.
  3. Boehner then goes elsewhere for support, even courting whatever few moderate Democrats are left. Well, now that there’s also a large Republican majority in the House, he doesn’t even need to consult those. He consults the more moderate wing of his own party.
  4. The House passes the bill. Michele Bachmann votes against it “for not going far enough.”
  5. The bill dies in the Senate, because Harry Reid is Majority Leader and won’t let whatever bill hit the floor.
  6. (Also note that whatever originates in the House will face Obama’s veto pen, anyway.)

Hooray divided government! Seriously. If we captured the Senate—thanks Christine O’Donnell and all her enablers, and thanks Sharron Angle for giving us yet another six years of Harry Reid—we would have a better chance at having a showdown with Obama over whatever legislation we would throw on his lap. We would pass Obamacare repeal every week and tire him out and turn it into a show. No. Unfortunately, our dreams of a truly Divided Government are going nowhere, because we aren’t passing the bills that we can manoeuvre Democrat senators in Conservative states to vote for (despite their ideology, as a matter of personal preservation). The House has passed quite a bit that hasn’t even made it to the floor of the Senate.

This story thus far is no surprise to anyone. Here’s where  I got floored: Michele Bachmann later goes and demagogues the issue against Republican Congressional leaders on talk radio and cable news. She doesn’t spend as much time demonizing Harry Reid’s tactics; she doesn’t spend as much time saying that The People have spoken in 2010 and that the Senate needs to get a clue even though we don’t have a majority; she doesn’t spend as much time as she should be doing telling Dear President that he needs to get a clue from the 2010 election and have a showdown. None of that!

She sits back, and whines. Then, she becomes the center of attention for movement Conservative “leaders” who then threaten to primary rather effective Establishment Republican Leaders with their cartoonish candidates who would lose in the general. Because, let’s scorch the Earth and go down in flames, better to die pure than live flawed.

I swear: I am not calling for moderation, but her demagoguery towards the Republican leadership is irresponsible. They are not the enemy here. If she spent as much time attacking the right targets, focusing on Blue Dog—hate the term—Senators and not so much her should-be allies, you wouldn’t be reading this. But this is what she does, and this may be a politically beneficial move for her in the House, but she is running for the President Of The United States, not the President of The Tea Party, not the President of The Republican Party. We have a President in office right now who already governs with spite and vindictiveness. If she can let this go, she would make a good President. If not, all I can say for her is at least she’s not Obama.

New York passes same-sex marriage

Congratulations and credit where they are due: the state legislature has passed same-sex marriage without dictates of the court. All hail procedure and the legislative process. Hooray.

I can’t stand the gloating from the more activiste homosexualists. I’ve had to turn away from all the smug. There is, however, concern for the religious freedoms of those Churches—Islam, Orthodox Judaism, many sects of Christianity—who consider homosexuality a sin. Let’s not discuss whether it’s a sin or not, or if homosexuality is separate from gay sex and that merely the latter is the sinful act. Not tonight.

Let’s talk about this sinking feeling of dread. I dread that the Churches would be on the receiving end of State action in response to their continuing disapproval of homosexuality, First Amendment be damned. I dread that, if the First Amendment is upheld, that picketing and public shaming would do what the State is legally bound against doing.

Oh, the smug. They weren’t kidding about it in South Park. I hate, hate, hate seeing otherwise reasonable people call The Faithful bigots for finding homosexuality sinful. It’s Faith, and yes, while you might believe that all morality is the purview of reason, it really isn’t. Faith can seem so irrational at times, but it is what it is, and the best way to combat misconceptions is to have a respectful dialogue with those willing to listen.

Consider: some of these so-called bigots might not be so keen to speak sharply on the matter if they personally know a gay. Maybe this friendship becomes a reminder that we are all sinners. But is not within the limits of human dignity for a gay to humiliate a Faithful because of his moral stance. Tonight, I tweeted this series:

Friends: always remember that the moral objections of the faithful on this matter is NOT bigotry; you might disagree but their judgment has no bearing or sway on your rights, unless you are a member of their Church, which in that case u settle this inside, within that House. Do not, I repeat, DO NOT make the mistake of trying to shame the faithful out of their beliefs. It will backfire spectacularly. The main argument for SSM is the common dignity of gays & straights alike. Treat the faithful w/dignity. You say you believe in love. Show it.

To conclude: if you want to keep the Holy Books out of the Constitution, keep the Constitution from being used to rewrite the Holy Books.

I wish my kind words and concern could reassure my Faithful friends that what they worry about will not come to pass; that I will be alongside them should a legal assault on their religious freedom would happen. I wish I can accept the assurances of my Liberal friends without worry. I know they mean well, but among their allies is a cohort that would take things too far, just as in any movement.

I’m happy that same-sex marriage has passed in New York in the way that it did. I hope this settles the issue for homosexualist activists.

The deficit: obvious solutions, impossible politics

It’s like a boogeyman, a looming shadow above us, and the harsh realities of the deficit don’t always translate to daily life. However, the deficit affects interest rates which affect business which affects hiring. We know this, so I’m not going to argue against this. It took a while for the concept to sink in, but it did, for me. We know the deficit is bad.

Here’s the rock and the hard place: we aren’t making enough money to support not just discretionary spending—which includes military spending—and entitlements, not to mention the interest on the debt which we have to repay, or else our credit rating goes out the window and our money becomes worthless. If you don’t see a vicious cycle here, you probably believe in unicorns and faeries too.

What’s worse is the kind of discussion in Washington and how to go about this problem. Short story: Democrats won’t talk about cutting entitlements, which econ pundits call “mandatory spending.” Republicans—except for Paul Ryan—equate “broadening the tax base” with “raising taxes,” dragging the quality of the discourse to moronic levels.

There are two conflicting ideas here, which you have to keep in mind and try to reconcile. Concept 1: We are spending too much. So much so that if discretionary spending were cut to zero, we will still be crushed by our entitlement obligations. Concept 2: Hauser’s Law states that as a matter of outcome, total tax receipts have come out to a historical average of 19% of GDP. Which means, that no matter how you tweak the marginal tax rate, no matter what credits you add or remove, no matter what kind of tax policy you have, this is the percent of GDP collected. (Basically, if you tweak the marginal tax rate, “something” in “the economy” reacts and you get 19% of GDP, even as you try to rake in more hard dollars.)

The only way to increase gross receipts is to increase GDP. But how can you increase GDP when the deficit crisis basically creates a climate of fear for business, a climate that makes it difficult to hire people? The budget cutters believe that if you cut from the budget the right items, the government removes its competitive presence against the private sector in that market and you offset the loss in production generated by the government with production generated by the private sector. This is not just an “in theory” way of thinking. It’s been demonstrated.

However, cutting discretionary spending is not enough; we need to have a mature discussion on what to do with entitlement spending. No politician except for Paul Ryan is willing to have this discussion., and he’s taken flack from the Left with lies about how he wants to cut benefits for current receipients today.

Lastly, another item that Only Paul Ryan Has The Courage To Discuss, is this so-called “broadening the tax base,” or, as the President likes to call it, “spending in the tax code.” Over fifty percent of people do not, on net, pay taxes. They pay sales taxes, but not income taxes (on net). I say “on net,” because they pay taxes during withholding, but due to a slew of credits, they get everything back.

This untapped tax base is so large and so fragile and so populous that neither Republicans nor Democrats seriously discuss having them pay their “fair share.” I hate that term, but many of these people are voters, and they’ve elected leaders in Congress and the President and have given them the consent to govern and spend as they believe is right for the country. They have a fair share in this spending, because they are a party to this politics whether they want to admit it or not.

So: we know the solution. We have no political will or acumen to make it happen. And this is the biggest problem.

On the matter of Jose Antonio Vargas, illegal immigrant

Read his autobiographical account on the NYT. Read everything, before you continue with my commentary. There are nuances that are distinct and important to remember. Once you’re done, read on through for my comments.

On a personal level, I am furious at Mr. Vargas’ mother. I am angry, because the worst stereotype a Filipino has to live with in the United States is that we find ways around The Rules, and in fact ignore The Rules such that we have a reputation for being cheats. It’s not just on the matter of illegal immigration either; there’s the matter of building permits, quarterly tax filing, sales tax collection. Name it: the stereotype of the Filipino businessman is that he will maximize what he can before he has to leave the country and live a comfortable life in the Philippines with all the dollars he’s earned.

His story of alienation and fear, his life of constantly looking over his shoulder, is fairly typical. What we need to remember is that throughout many points of his life, he’s had the opportunity to “get legal.” (Based on best practices and what’s in the current Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), he after ten years of residence he could’ve gotten gone through the section 245(i) process, paid his back taxes, paid a fine, and gotten legal.)

Unlike many other Filipino illegals—we call them “TNT”, tago nang tago (those who keep on hiding)—Mr. Vargas considers himself American, and would love to stay here, unlike those who have no path to legality. Those without an out work as hard as they can, save as much as they can, and then leave when getting caught becomes a distinct possibility, never to return. Thankfully, there is a legal process that allows him to do this. It carries a risk; a denial in the 245(i) process will funnel him to removal proceedings and his battle will be of a different nature.

I am torn on this, because Vargas entered illegally by way of his mother and grandparents’ machinations. However, when he became aware of this, he has become complicit in the crime. In this, he is just as deserving of legal status as any other border-jumper.

Mr. Vargas’ confession on the pages of the NYT muddle the debate because he is just one of many kinds of “illegal alien.” The proper term, legally, is an “out of status” person, and immigration law is a thorny path. Foreign students can lose status by going below their required credits per semester; someone on a tourist visa de facto loses status once he accepts gainful employment. This is not a matter of being caught, but one of Following The Rules, and yet some aliens can lose status just by turning 21 (Akhtar vs. Burzynski).

Yes, Virginia, there are people who fall out of status out of no fault of their own, and amnesty lobbyists need to focus on them instead of making every criminal, Transgressor Of The Rules, out of status person a cause célèbre with a sob story to tell.

We all have sob stories. Want to know what’s mine? My sister moved to the US after marrying a naturalized Filipino American citizen. After three years, my mom went here. After six years of me living in the Philippines, finishing high school (commuting 2 hours each way by bus and jeepney) and finishing college (living in a townhouse with a domestic and roommates), I went here. I was away from my family for a very long time. I had lonely Christmases and I didn’t have my mom to talk to when I needed her. It’s not as tough a sob story as Mr. Vargas’ but it’s mine. And my sob story doesn’t matter.

I wish, I wish the best for Mr. Vargas. I wish he succeeds in his 245(i) attempt. I wish he didn’t make a cause celebre out of himself, especially since his case is still pending. The timing of this article is offensive. He should’ve waited until he had won, or lost, his case. He will face the consequences of this choice, just as he now faces the consequences of his previous choices.

Welcome to the legal world, Mr. Vargas. It’s so very nice to see you play by the same rules we’ve been playing.

A “glitterbomb” isn’t funny, ironic, or harmless. It’s a threat.

This weekend at Right Online, Michele Bachmann was “glittered” by gay rights activists. Newt Gingrich and Tim Pawlenty got a similar treatment before, too. As a result, Bachmann canceled any further media appearances at the event (more than a few wanted to interview). Some considered this to be an overreaction. I do not. On Saturday night I went to the GOProud happy hour at the hotel bar in the event, and some of those invited were a few attendees of Netroots Nation. There I explained to one why a glitterbomb isn’t a good thing.

At its heart, a glitterbomb is a proxy for whatever object that, when flung at a person, would lead to charges of assault, or worse. It’s a projectile, one that replaces spit—assault with a bodily fluid, anyone?—or something else. It’s a replacement for pies, which also leads to charges of assault. But no matter how E.B. Lang may describe it, it isn’t as harmless or light hearted as she claims. A pie attack foreshadowed Pim Fortuyn’s assassination.

What these assailants know and won’t admit in public is that flinging objects at someone, even as innocuous as glitter, is degrading to the flingee. It’s an act of humiliation, one that’s been used to great effect using other materials (pie, water, spittle, blood, name it). When you degrade someone like that in public, it becomes a sign that the victim is fair game for even more dangerous material.

What these assailants know and won’t admit in public is the power of the third participant* in causing a cascade of activity. When glitterbombing someone gets “cool” and “hip” enough, someone, somewhere, is going to get carried away. If you think the sentiments behind glitterbombing Bachmann and others are funny and lighthearted, remember that when they think no one is looking, these are the same people who call Bachmann, Palin, others, the wost possible epithets. (I’m trying to find a link tweeted out yesterday about how someone wanted to shoot Michele Bachmann in the face for being so stupid. On their tumblr blog.) Glitterbombing is a refusal to engage your opponent in an exchange of ideas, even if the only goal is to publicly prove that their ideas are wrong, hateful and bigoted. It’s something you do because you know and accept that this person you’re glittering is someone you hate, but feel is undeserving of the time to discuss anything with them.

Maybe I’m overreacting, but I think people you disagree with deserve more than having stuff flung at them. At the GOProud happy hour, I spoke to Pam Spaulding, Ian Finkenbinder, and a few other folks from the gay left. They were total sweethearts and we had an exchange of ideas that you’d never see happen on a blog, or on Twitter. Naturally there are issues we agree and disagree on. We also share common ground. It was just another human and humane interaction. This is how it’s done; not dehumanizing them by throwing stuff at them.

(* – The “power of the third participant” can best be seen in this video from the Sasquatch festival. One person out of norm is weird, the second is dismissed as his friend, and a third participant causes the cascade.)

Rightonline general session recaps: Friday and Saturday

Friday

(It may be odd to have an opening session in the middle of the day, with breakout sessions in the morning, but when one remembers that there are people flying in from all over on Friday who couldn’t take off on Thursday because hello, we Conservatives work, then, yes.)

I missed the first few comments; I saw Erik Telford from Americans for Prosperity introduce the Mayor of Minneapolis, who made notorious waves yesterday in greeting Netroots Nation because we at Rightonline were “to be tolerated.” Mr. Mayor was quick and emphasized commercial support for Minneapolis business and thanked us for our money despite our principles.

Ann McIlhenny took the stage and introduced herself as a “recovering European.” Hers was a passionate speech, one where she lists all the many issues Republicans and Conservatives compromise on when they really shouldn’t: energy, drilling for oil offshore and on. And while Conservatives may be obsessed with what happens in the bedroom, Liberals obsess over every other room in your house, and then some.

John Hinderaker talked about the deficit, and his early roots as a low-traffic blog, and how it is now one of the more significant blogs out there. One recurring theme in this conference is the reassurance that the Internet is a huge place, and that there’s much room for everyone to make a name for themselves and make a difference.

Marsha Blackburn closed Friday’s general session with a warning on the dangers of growing government. One of her main causes is what she calls “net neutrality,” and one of my main issues is that the phrase has changed meaning depending on who you’re discussing it with. It really does depend on the regulations that the FCC is pushing and the debate is a challenging one to have.

Saturday

The speakers today all had words for encouragement to the attendees. Right Online is, at its heart, a conference for Conservative activists, and while the breakout sessions are great to learn something, the big name speakers at the general sessions are great for inspiration. Michelle Malkin placed great emphasis on the president’s rule by executive fiat, citing crushing regulations that increase costs for business. (Sidebar: Bush2 may have exercised the executive’s powers to a great extent, but our president today has turned it into an art)

A surprise video address from Glenn Beck ended abruptly due to a bad video file.

Erick Erickson came with unscripted comments. He reminded us that while the founding principles and ideas of our country are important, it is more important to engage people on practical terms.

Other speakers included Jim Hoft of Gateway Pundit, Jason Lewis, Guy Benson of Townhall, and SE Cupp, and they all struck the theme of being able to make a difference no matter how insignificant one is at the time one starts.

Rightonline session recap: intro to activism, by Patricia Simpson

Patricia Simpson of the Leadership Institute presented an introduction to activism. She asked the audience the definition of “activism,” and it was centered around the organizational aspect: making things happen.

The common thread of her suggestions—engaging Liberals, attending townhalls even if your representative is of the opposition party—centers on the fact that activism is not a risk-free activity. Political activity, even in this country requires taking risks—perhaps not as large as those in countries where the citizenry is actively oppressed—especially in personal relationships, and even in employment.

Another good point she made was there are different personality types in volunteering for a campaign: there are quiet types, passive types, people types, and even nutters, and that everyone can be put to good use in a way that benefits the campaign and still keep morale up for the volunteer. It’s basically management 101, putting people with the right capabilities in the right roles.

Doctor Who season six mid-season review

Last year, Steven Moffat took the reins from Russell T. Davies and steered the cart on a very different, mature, intimate, and direction. The main theme then was memory: every episode stressed its importance, and it was central even his guest appearance in The Sarah Jane Adventures. This year, the theme explores the malleable nature of reality as it is affected by impressions, misconceptions and deception. Every episode deals with the realization that nothing is at it seems.

In The Impossible Astronaut and Day Of The Moon, the Silence have corrupted the memories of humanity throughout our development, living among us, visible but perfectly forgettable. In The Curse Of The Black Spot, the siren was no hunter, but a healer. In The Doctor’s Wife, House has fooled many Time Lords before The Doctor, and Idris’ initial behavior concealed her true nature. The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People explore personhood, existence and the self.

At first I was a little resentful towards The Rebel Flesh and The Almost People because they served little more than vehicles for the (rather surprising) twist at the end of the story: that the Amy we’ve been watching on their adventures was not, in fact, the real deal. However, once you leave that big reveal at the end, the two-parter has merits of its own. The show is rather confusing when you’re trying to keep track of who’s who. The only differentiating characteristics were the costume, and the blocking of the actors, the framing of the shots, the non-stop dialogue all serve as constant, intentional obstacles to a critical viewing.

A Good Man Goes to War has a little bit of everything for everyone, and it does so in style. Just as in last season’s The Pandorica Opens, the Doctor’s old friends reunite to help him in his our of need. We also meet a few new characters whom the Doctor has met offscreen: Straxx, Madame Vastra and Lorna Bucket. (This is one technique Moffat does that RTD never did; the fact that their histories were revealed during dialogue is further proof of Moffat’s superiority over his predecessor.) The whole episode is an emotional rollercoaster for both The Doctor, his friends, and viewers of the show. The episode is steeped in falsehoods: false impressions of The Doctor, one that, in the 51st century has grown to epic and demonic proportions; false impressions of the other characters, of victory, of defeat, of the very nature of River Song.

Astute viewers would’ve made the connection between “Melody Pond” and “River Song.” The analogous words were a dead giveaway for anyone who’s been looking to piece things together for years. With Steven Moffat, these big reveals are barely the goal, it’s like the icing on the cake that is the story itself. Like any good storyteller, he does not have us yearning to see how the story ends, rather he writes stories that have an ending that’s worthy of the ride he just took us on.

Suddenly, everything about River Song makes sense. The details go as far back as her first appearance in Silence In the Library. Consider the continuity issues and how Moffat ties a neat bow around everything:

  • When The Doctor asked her why she’s in prison, her answer was: “I killed a man; the best man I ever knew.” We can assume that she killed him as Melody Pond, in the astronaut suit, by the lake. (Or so we’re lead to believe.) Six months after the events of Day Of The Moon, she regenerates.
  • “Our lives are back to front.” We first meet River Song when she dies in The Forest Of The Dead. I wonder what her role will be moving forward.
  • There are two hundred years of The Doctor’s adventures before he is killed by Melody Pond, but we still don’t know how he will save the baby from her kidnappers, and how she becomes the Melody who kills him.

Even if the above conclusions are proven wrong by any future shenanigans of Moffat’s, this still constitutes a very disciplined, far-seeing writing style. It’s a stark, stark contrast to the works of Russell T. Davies, so much so that a recent re-watching of his work has proven all but a few episodes unwatchable.

Splitting in half to keep myself whole

I’ve written on this blog before 2003—which is the year I included in my tagline—but I nuked my archives over personal matters and started over, so I guess it’s since 2003. In eight years I have: written about my day-to-day life; opined on politics; offered non-starter solutions to social problems that would outlive me; had online fights with people that has spilled into the personal; kept friendships with a select few over the years; written about WordPress; caused commotion about WordPress; been greatly embarrassed; embarrassed others; posted nice photos; posted crappy photos; laid my soul to bare; made up some bullshit (who hasn’t?). This blog has been a window for others to get to know me for eight years, and I plan on keeping it running.

However, blogging has changed over the years. Readers like focus. I’m also trying to get my entrepreneurial legs running, and while my politics and identity are no secrets, keeping a tight focus on work-related stuff on one site and everything else on this one makes sense. Don’t worry: whatever tone and personality readers have come to know me for will be just as there on the new site. There go all the WordPress, design, (some) photography and work-related thoughts. Here stay the personal stuff, politics, (most) photography and ranting. I also still have my moblog.

This decision wasn’t just a matter of business sense, too. I’ve found my productivity to actually go down because I have worried about the continuity and coherence of my posts qua each other. One day I’d post on one topic—three times, even—only to shift gears trying to write about something else, and failing. By moving professionally-oriented posts to the other site, I can ramble here without having to dilute any kind of instructional writing I’ve previously posted.

Oh yes: and the other site is eponymous.

A quick primer on Bin Laden detractors

It’s all Bin Laden, all the time here at One Fine Jay. He’s the topic of the week, I guess.

Let’s take a look at the groups of people who aren’t too happy that Bin Laden is dead. We can categorize them by the following points they would make:

  • The raid on Bin Laden is a “murder.” (Note that I have used a similar term—assassination—to refer to the events in Abbotabbad, and I believe it’s a poor choice of words.
  • The raid on Bin Laden is a perpetuation of the endless war on terror.
  • Bin Laden was unarmed, so this was a murder.
  • Bin Laden deserved a fair trial.
  • Pakistan is sovereign territory and we shouldn’t have gone in there to kill him
  • Dick Cheney is a war criminal for using EIT
  • DevGru has committed war crimes and need to be extradited for trial in the ICC.

There are, of course, factual counterarguments against any of these assertions. Except, the people who says these are already fixed in their ways and it’s just a huge drain on time and mental resources to try to argue them out of these positions. They’re wrong, but who would want to be faced with proof that their strict deontologies have to be tempered with a little bit of consequentialism?

Bin Laden, waterboarding, and morals

I won’t be debating the efficacy of waterboarding and its role in finding Bin Laden. Reports have come out that it has, and the hypothesis is impossible to test.

Let us look, instead, at how the Bin Laden raid makes us reveal to the world our own personal biases and moral foundations. This is important, you see, because some people wouldn’t be worth discussing with depending on how they define certain things.

First: if you think that “waterboarding” and other “enhanced interrogation techniques” constitute “torture,” it’ll be very hard to break past this definition. It’s like the public standards of decency test when it comes to pornography. The definition as stated by UN Convention Against Torture is subject to interpretation: it becomes a question of severity.

So, you would have some people who consider waterboarding to be an acceptable means of discomfort, because it doesn’t cause lasting physical damage, cf. the Spanish Inquisition. We’re not talking about iron maidens here, right Then there are some people who find any kind of discomfort or suffering to be unacceptable, and so the discussion becomes not a question of what to do with an enemy combatant in order to gather information, but whether it’s even acceptable to try to do so.

If an enemy combatant is asked for information and refuses to do so, what do you do? This kind of question has been asked in a number of TV series, Criminal Minds being one example where EIT doesn’t work. Of course it doesn’t, because we wouldn’t want to give anyone any ideas, no?

Second: definition of torture not notwithstanding, this really becomes a matter of the Moral Cost of Civilization, a concept that I sorely wanted to write about during the height of the Wikileaks diplomatic cables fiasco. The sad, sad truth is that States and their Governments will act in a manner that acts in its self interest and hopefully this interest reflects the interests of its Citizenry.

We rendition enemy combatants to nations friendly to torture—not just EIT—because our jurisdictional philosophy isn’t universal. Does it lead to results? We may never fully know. Is this a moral blight upon us? Assuming that it is, what are we going to do about it?

Do we, as a people, relinquish these actions completely, such that we draw the line at merely asking a captured combatant for his cooperation and giving up upon his refusal? There are people who think so and I’m not sure I want them in charge, nor do I want their standards. At the same time, I don’t want anyone who would think that EIT is in itself completely acceptable; that it is a standard to use, misuse and abuse against those we label as enemy combatants.

If asked whether EIT is “acceptable,” I’m afraid I don’t have a clear answer. What I do want, though, is a government that keeps the privelege to do so and yet accepts the heavy moral burden it takes on if it does. Because while it hurts to be a part of a society that embraces these techniques, the hope is that our children won’t have to.

Marking Osama Bin Laden’s death

Good riddance to bad rubbish, I say. A few points:

It’s too easy to think, as a politically active Conservative, that this is bad for the Republican Party because this is a victory for our current President. I’d rather not fall into the trap of zero-sum virtue; besides, while Liberal commentators would never acknowledge Bush’s role in laying the foundation for this, Obama’s choices and actions will have vindicated his predecessor’s policies. Let’s not forget that we can congratulate our President and not want him for re-election in 2012 anyway.

On the matter of the apparent vulgarity of the celebrations last night, perhaps the best response is from Aaron Brazell (emphasis mine):

We all mourned in our own ways on September 11, 2001 and that was expected. We all now have an opportunity for closure and that process cannot be dictated. People are wounded and scarred. This news is a reminder of that day 10 years ago and, like me, many are now re-living it. However one gets the necessary closure at this time, let it be done and get out of peoples way.

— Aaron Brazell: Osama, Closure

It may seem tasteless to remind everyone that 9/11 is not the only act of warfare Bin Laden has committed against us; in fact his ties to 9/11 aren’t as solid compared to Khalid Sheik Mohammed’s. Bin Laden may never have stood a chance at a fair trial in this country, especially since he’s issued plenty of broadcasts taking responsibility for his actions.

This is the dirty part of warfare: 9/11 has basically changed the rules. Stateless agents acting as terrorists can no longer be merely considered criminals, but as—I hate the term—“enemy combatants.” A nation can now declare war on groups of individuals, especially since a group has declared war against an entire nation. So assassinating Bin Laden on sovereign Pakistani territory is a little bit of a state action against a stateless individual. It’s messy, but it’s what we’ve got.

In a perfect world, private mercenaries acting as stateless agents could’ve committed this assassination on Pakistani soil. Following the same rules of warfare 9/11 has written for us,  the Pakistani government really could only declare war on them. But the world isn’t perfect, and Bin Laden has confessed to his guilt so many times for other crimes that have cost lives that is it really so bad for someone to say that his life is forfeit?

And what of Pakistan? Bin Laden’s conspicuously low-tech compound couldn’t have existed without State assistance. Innuendo is not evidence , so if there is one thing Pakistan should be held accountable for is their reaction to our presence there. Their planes tried to find our helicopters. This is a foreign relations challenge, one that needs to be dealt with by reminding Pakistan that we know they are not exactly our friends. Their government can claim they’ve killed more Al-Qaeda operatives than any of our allies, but this is not impossible math. They can kill as many AQ operatives who are considered useless, but they can pal around with the biggest names in terrorism. This is duplicity and hypocrisy, plain and simple, and the Pakistani government will have to answer for this.

Lastly: let us use this event to reflect on the  moral depths Bin Laden has brought our nation to. I have been a civil libertarian for over a decade; even in my most left-wing days I believed in the importance of civil rights. I have defended Bush and Obama’s policies in the name of national defense, but not without a heavy heart. Radley Balko has a list of sins done in our name and these are matters of fact. Yes, the initial intelligence was a product of enhanced interrogation and rendition. But let us never forget that we will have to roll back some of these things, not to regain the innocence that Bin Laden and friends have taken from us, but to make sure that future generations will never forget that these measures were necessary but nonetheless extreme, that this is not the “new normal,” and that such actions in the name of our safety should never be embraced in a cavalier fashion.

A note to the perpetually easily offended

This is not about politics; this is not about oppression by the politically correct crowd, at least not on a national scale. Nor is this post about you, unless it speaks to you, but remember: I didn’t write this with you in mind. Besides, if you’re easily offended, you may as well leave now, because I’m about to trample on that garden of brambles you call an emotional defense mechanism.

We get it: you know people who suffer from a plight that others might find funny: this could be a friend, or family member or even yourself. Some of these people may even have lost their lives as a result. I feel for you, but this gives you no right to be a thought policeman when an ongoing conversation isn’t even about you.

Just because someone is engaging in levity doesn’t mean that they intend to slight you. Because most of the time the chuckles aren’t about you. And if you shied away from, or drove away, those who would occasionally make light of a dire situation, you would find yourself in very boring place dominated by your misery, populated only by those too afraid to stand up to you.

Misery and repression are defense mechanisms as valid as levity can be. I’ll get a little personal and share a story or two.

A high school classmate drove drunk with a passenger who was too high to drive. He got into an accident which killed the passenger and injured him only lightly. And yet, comedic renditions of car crashes and accidents don’t offend me. I have had to deal with alcoholic family members and yet will make fun of a drunk who has pissed himself in the depths of his intoxication. I have had to deal with friends who are addicted to drugs, yet I will laugh at this back-alley crackwhore.

Personal stories aside, have some perspective. What you think is courage in speaking up against insensitivity of others is not always courageous, nor is their insensitivity malicious. With each time you express offense at something, the people around you build a list of things that they’d rather not mention—not even make light of—in front of you for fear of offending you.

This might make me seem insensitive or callous. To a point, I’m already known for being so. However, there is a place for humor, and it only works when the fear of offending someone is not the paramount concern. As this article in Salon concludes:

In the worst moments of life, humor can be a potent force for healing (think of The Onion’s brilliant post-9/11 coverage) — or salt in a still bleeding wound.

Sometimes, the wound that keeps bleeding isn’t because of the salt others put on it; it’s that you never let it heal by picking at the scabs continuously.

Meet Jonathan Tasini, modern-day Jacobin

I’ve never thought I’d see the day when I defend Arianna Huffington from the likes of this guy, but she deserves a little fair treatment because this is a matter of professionalism.

I am no legal expert, but Tasini is not suing as a statutory nor contractual manner, rather, he says that this is “about justice.” The nature of progressivism as antithetical to success is laid bare in Mr. Tasini’s rhetoric. He and his fellow unpaid writers have no right to claim any of the sale price of the Huffington Post to Aol. Here’s why:

The writers are under no obligation to write. If they were feeling slighted for not being paid, the door is freely open for them to leave.

The writers gain a benefit from writing for HuffPo. They get exposure, and the throngs of sycophants in the comments are a constant source of ego stroking.

The writers assume none of the risks Arianna took when she started the site. Nor do they assume any risks for the ongoing operation. They don’t pay her anything for the web hosting—which for a heavily trafficked site like hers would be enormous—nor do they have any liability for any damages the site may have been sued for. If the Huffington Post went out of business instead of succeeded, Arianna would be in no position to blame the writers she welcomed into her bevy.

This is why, after so many years I’ve learned to avoid having to trade services “for free.” The value of the returns becomes fuzzier as memory fades. Exposure doesn’t always lead to additional business; in fact, a reputation of doing services for free or cheap will only attract the worst of possible “clients.” I have little sympathy for Arianna, and much less so for the likes of Tasini. But as a professional matter, let this be a cautionary tale: nothing comes for free.

Gov’t shutdown averted; Boehner loses some and wins a lot

Jennifer Rubin has the definitive commentary on this budget deal. Predictable stuff: the Left claiming credit for avoiding the shutdown and the President’s “ability” to have  bipartisan solution; elements of the Right claiming Boehner sold us out.

I’m quite disappointed in losing the Planned Parenthood rider. This deal comes at the cost of every unborn child who dies between now and the time that the organization is finally defunded from the federal till. This has been a moral weight on this nation and will continue to do so.

We have, however, gotten a glimpse of the Democrats’ arguing tactics. So few have predicted how virulent the Left would argue the sanctity of a woman’s abortions, and now that we’ve seen this demagoguery we can expect worse once Paul Ryan’s budgetary proposal is debated for next year’s fiscal year. We have to be prepared to counter such messaging issues as forcing the elderly to choose between pills and eating dog food. If not, the weight of our entitlements will crush us.

Libya and schadenfreude

Our President took a long time to get his head together on the matter of Libya. This is nothing new for him of course, and this indecision has led to us diving in at the worst possible timing. We could’ve turned the tide on this matter two weeks ago when the Libyan citizenry were crying out for our help with a no-fly zone.

However, we’re there now, and through a shameful process no less: no Congressional consultation—which is forgiveable under the War Powers Act—but not until there was a United Nations Security Council vote. This is, as I said on Twitter, a feature of This President’s brand of misgovernance, although it is a bug in what we’ve grown accustomed to as the American way of doing things.

I am with my fellow Conservatives in ridiculing Our President for the way he’s acted in this matter, because of the rank hypocrisy when it comes to process. Our President, back when he was a Senator and a candidate, was not exactly a believer of the “Bush Doctrine.” In 2007, Biden openly stated that military action without Congressional approval is cause for impeachment.

The reaction from the left is amusing. We have the die-hard anti-war folk like the soon-to-be-gerrymandered-out-of-a-career-and-finally-so-for-the-love-of-God Dennis Kucinich, whom I admire—to an extent—for sticking to their misguided principles. Then, we have the clownish Defenders Of The One whose First Cause in everything is defense of Our President. The latter group, in its defense of its idol, has basically validated everything Bush has done, and have tied themselves in knots over their former anti-war stances. Laid bare, many of them aren’t so much anti-war as they were anti-Bush.

I may enjoy a little bit of schandenfreude over all of this, but, despite all the bungling and punting, the Libyan citizenry is fighting for their freedom and we’re there to help now. I support the freedom effort in Libya, and I want us to root for success in that endeavor.

Why the Egyptian protests are personal to me

In 1986, I was but a little child. My mom took to EDSA on the first day of that historic People Power Revolution. I remember only a few details. One, the first day was okay, but my mom left after that and fled to our ancestral province of Pampanga, where we waited out the events in case the demonstrations turned for the worse. I don’t blame her for fleeing.

I went to school in La Salle GreenHills; it was there that the NAMFREL count that exposed the corruption of the 1986 election was held. To this day, the blackboard that held that tally remains preserved at my school’s gymnasium.

I grew up with reminders of hard-earned national freedom. In my third year of high school we read Dekada ’70, a harrowing, realistic depiction of the darkest days of the Marcos era. We compared our national experience with the events of Tiananmen square. By the time I was 20 years old, I was one of the people who were on the streets calling for Estrada’s expulsion from office.

It is this background that has made me sympathetic to popular, (relatively) peaceful revolutions such as the Ukrainian Orange Revolution of 2004, Lebanese Cedar Revolution of 2005 and the Kyrgyz Tulip Revolution. Egypt, however, is quickly descending into madness when what is needed is the leadership of our country to provide the necessary impetus to tip Egypt in the right direction.

Egypt is personal to me, because I cannot imagine being an Egyptian whose revolution is suppressed by an American-propped dictator, with goons hired with American money, armed with American guns. What if, in 1986, the interests of the United States were such that it needed the tyrant Marcos to stay in office? Would they have supplied him with material aid to suppress a demonstration of millions? You’ll excuse me, then, if I do not toe the anti-Islamicist line on this matter. There are far more important things than worrying about outcomes. We have to pay for realities first.

My opinion on opinions on Egypt

Following the overthrow of Tunisia’s dictator, on January 25, protesters took to the streets of Cairo to protest Hosni Mubarak’s 30-year reign. I haven’t been silent on Twitter, but I’ve been in support of this movement despite a few concerns. The reactions from Americans is wide-ranged, but cross party lines. Members of both parties tend to hold similar positions.

A common opinion is that Hosni Mubarak is a really terrible person, but we can’t afford Egypt to fall into Islamicism because of the Muslim Brotherhood. The true nature of the protesters remains a mystery from this distance. I’ve heard it all: that this protest is a Socialist revolution, that it’s Islamicist, that it’s moderate, that it’s not anti-Semitic. If this were truly a Islamic Revolution of 1979 Iranian levels, we won’t see photos like this. I will acknowledge that Egypt is on the brink of a more Islamic government, but it is also possible that it won’t be. What the Egyptian people want is to be able to make this choice.

Mubarak himself was our little guard dog in Egypt. He’s kept the government secular for the most part, and has kept a peace treaty with Israel. However, his policies have come to a head and his people are fed up. Mubarak has governed his country into a position where his continued tenure is indefensible. He is seen as an oppressor of his people and if we were to support him in the name of our self-interest, we would be guilty of continuing a crime perpetrated upon Egypt by the West for the past 30 years.

What is happening today is the result of a political and moral calculus that may have worked at the time, but had no way out. There was no follow-through. The Shah of Iran and Mubarak are merely tiles in a pattern. If Egypt descends into Islamicism, we—the United States, through its historical actions—are partly responsible for laying the groundwork of this outcome. The Islamic Revolution was not unforeseeable, and neither is what is happening in Egypt.

The outcome in Egypt is not beyond our control. Despite our president’s disappointing statements over the past days,  he and our government still have the chance to help on the side of freedom. We might well be able to atone for such missteps as the 1991 Iraqi uprising. Erring on the side of freedom is not a bad policy.

(A few links that I couldn’t contextualize in my post above but well worth visiting: National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez: Naïveté on Egypt Is Dangerous; Daniel Pipes: Turmoil In Egypt and Roger Simon interviews “Sandmonkey”. Three pieces with three different perspectives on the turmoil in Egypt. All worth reading.)

The Unicorn Express on the Rainbow Railroad

The idea of a nationwide, high-speed railroad system for passenger use has been bandied about long before our President mentioned it last night; it will be bandied about by other “visionaries” long after the mediocre dolt has been voted out in 2012. It was mentioned by the one Conservative guest at TEDxMidAtlantic in 2009, Aris Melissaratos. It’s the grand vision that seems to be the panacea from Liberals who want to solve the environmental issues surrounding travel.

The Unicorn Express on the Rainbow Railroad is a quixotic idea. Here’s why:

The politics of Eminent Domain. Even after the atrocious Kelo decision, a modest tic-tac-toe layout of nationwide high-speed rail will result in massive land grabs, cutting across communities the way the Interstate system didn’t do. Americans are a scrappy bunch, and being told that you’ll have to relocate, while being bought off with money that won’t recoup what you’ll lose, is not something they’ll take lying down.

Geography. I’m not going to discount the ability of civil engineers to produce what they need to. But how exactly will the national bullshit train run through the Rockies and the Appalachians? Yes, the Europeans have rail systems that cut through mountains using tunnels, and cross them using bridges. But the geographic challenges over such a large expanse means construction cost will skyrocket.

Sociology of travel. Americans love the open road. The National Route system, and even the Interstate, allows us to travel wherever we want, on our terms. We love cars for that very same reason. For very long distances, flying has been a great solution. It needs improvement and innovation—and not the Ryanair kind, either—but our high-speed travel already exists. It moves on railroads of air. American consumer air travel is democratized and affordable. It is the envy of other nations, even European ones (of course none of those snooty bastards would ever admit to that). Despite what our president says, our cars and planes aren’t going anywhere. Our Interstate isn’t going anywhere. Of course, if he impliments policies that make it difficult for us to use our cars (higher taxes on fuel, etc), I fully expect an effort from the opposition to prevent these things from happening.

The way our communities are set up. We have major cities that serve as hubs for industry and commerce. We have the suburbs that surround them and house those who work in the cities. We have exurbs. In order for the national bullshit train to work, population density between the cities served has to reach a critical mass of demand. This requires enough people to choose not to fly nor to drive from one city to the next. There are two ways to make people choose rail: make rail a better choice, or take away the choices that aren’t rail (again, backbreaking taxes on fuel and air travel).

People are not cargo. (No, this is not a Nazi reference, even though a friend of mine @akhanukov made humrous note last night.) Our national freight train system is the envy of the modern world. Combined with our very advanced trucking system, we are able to transport goods across the nation at high speeds, and efficiently. And by “efficiently” I mean as compared to the logistics of other nations, not “efficiently” according to the standards of one who thinks that this system is inherently flawed or evil. People, however, don’t take kindly to being moved around like cargo. This remains a big problem in the airline system, where some companies offer cheap flights with long travel times because of multiple stops to maximize passenger participation. The Unicorn Express offers a limited number of routes to reach a destination. Say, you want to get to Chicago from Baltimore. You may have to stop through Columbus on the Unicorn Express. And you know that stop isn’t going to be a one-minute load/unload like you see in the DC Metro, either! It remains a more convenient choice to fly in.

These are but a few issues that I can see with the Unicorn Express. I haven’t even delved into the economics of running that damn thing, but if it’s even anything like what’s going on with the Phoenix light rail (thanks Keith Casey!), it will be a project that will never turn a profit, one that will continue to suck away at taxpayer revenue for generations to come.