Friday, May 31, 2013

Reason #291: GTFO

Lots of fun stuff this week, so I thought it was time for a grab bag.

Na-na-naa-na, etc. - Michelle Bachmann has decided not to run for reelection next year. Because of the Congressional investigation into the finances of her presidential campaign last year? Nope. Because of the FBI investigation? Nope. Because she only won her last reelection by one percent? Nope. You see, she just feels like she's done enough, you know? America will have to get by without her assistance from now on. And flights of angels sing thee to thy rest.

Weed to go - Colorado, having already decriminalized possession of small amounts of marijuana last fall, has now become the first state to explicitly decriminalize recreational use of said small amounts, in defiance of existing federal law. The new measures are restrictive to be sure--my favorite part is that businesses aren't allowed to sell it for use on the premises, but they can sell it to go--but the important thing is they're going to tax the hell out of it, which is just the first in a long series of steps on the road to weed being a legitimate part of American commerce.

You see, they can be reasonable - Early polling is starting to come in on the state of Obama's presidency (and, incidentally, Hillary Clinton's prospects) in the wake of this month's Scandalpalooza, and it's looking like people don't overly give a shit--at least not as compared to the economy, which actually appears to be doing well. It's unclear whether Obama's favorability has actually gone up, but at the very least it's held steady, and lots of people seem willing to not hold the scandals against him personally as long as they can still find a job.

There definitely needs to be some manner of reckoning here, and the IRS thing in particular is seen as easily the most damning--an overwhelming majority wants to see a special prosecutor appointed to lead the investigation--but it's good news that at the very least, people aren't jumping straight into Fox News Witch Hunt mode and calling for Obama's head. Ask Bill Clinton how that worked out last time.

Further Reading

Reading Between the Lines of Michele Bachmann's Retirement Speech

Colorado governor signs recreational marijuana regulations into law

Obama’s poll numbers hold up despite the storm of scandal

Poll: Americans want special prosecutor for IRS scandal

Friday, May 24, 2013

Reason #290: Reframing

Like, apparently, every liberal ever, I'm conflicted about this whole drone business lately. Not the drone program itself; I've made my position clear on that already. But as for the speech itself--it really is starting to feel like the old conservative complaint is valid; that Obama thinks he can make any and every problem go away if he just gives a rousing enough speech.

Of course, when the content of the speech is as meaty that this one, that's not a crazy assumption to make. For the first time since 9/11, the American president is coming out and saying that we're never going to defeat "terror" as a tactic or as an ideology, and we need to start backing off from that cliff we've been tiptoeing for twelve years now.

And even beyond just making that point--which would have been unthinkable to George W. Bush, and still appears unthinkable to a number of prominent Republicans today--he's actually taking real steps to bring this reframing of counterterrorism into being, including relaunching his efforts to close Guantanamo Bay, refining the parameters of the Military Force Authorization that enabled the War on Terror in the first place, and most significantly, refining the parameters of the drone program, the operation of which will now be shifting from the CIA to the Pentagon--which in and of itself is huge, especially given that drones have been such a favored pastiem of Obama himself over the past four years.

Indeed, the frequency of US drone strikes has already been declining for a while now, so really all Obama did was officially acknowledge the reality that already exists. But that's what made the entire speech so important--finally, we have a president whose rhetoric has caught up to what Americans--progressives, at least--have been saying all along.

Further Reading

Obama reframes counterterrorism policy with new rules on drones

Bureau of Investigative Journalism - Minimum Reported Drone Casualities Per Year

YouTube - Obama's Entire Counterterrorism Address

Friday, May 17, 2013

Reason #289: Ways and Means

Not a lot of good in the last week of political news, so I thought this would be an appropriate time to talk about the House Ways and Means Committee, since we'll be seeing a lot of them as the current IRS scandal drags on.

Ways and Means, a term that dates back to the British Parliament, is the committee responsible for taxation and revenue, an exceptionally broad jurisdiction that includes programs like Social Security, Medicare, welfare and unemployment, and for some reason, adoption and foster care. As such, they have their fingers in a lot of pies, and appointment to the committee is often a fast track to either fame or infamy, as the sharp-looking fellow above this post can tell you.

Obamacare in particular, while generally under the purview of Health and Human Services, has an interesting relationship with Ways and Means--all laws related to taxation are supposed to start there, but because the Affordable Care Act wasn't conceived as a tax, it took on its final form in the Senate prior to being approved by the House. So far so good, but then last summer the Supreme Court ruled that the law was constitutional because it could be interpreted as a tax, which falls under the purview of Ways and Means, even though Ways and Means didn't write the law--the Senate did.

Confusing, huh? But it's still better than thinking about this week.

Further Reading

Wikipedia - United States House Committee on Ways and Means

Wikipedia - Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act

Friday, May 10, 2013

Reason #288: Nancy Fucking Grace

So annoyed am I by all the Jodi Arias talk this week that I was going to go off-script a bit and talk about something that's neither governmental nor positive: Nancy Fucking Grace.

Then I realized that there's nothing I can say that's more perfect that the above three-minute video, which should be drilled into the skulls of everyone who's ever given Grace a moment of their attention, for worse, their genuine interest.

Forget Hannity, O'Reilly, and Beck; forget Schultz and Blitzer. Nancy Grace is the single worst thing about cable news, and no Jersey Shore or Honey Boo-Boo does a tenth of the damage to our worth as a culture as she does every night.

It would honestly be better if she were just ignorant or misguided. Sean Hannity may be the devil, but I honestly believe his ideology is borne of good intentions. But Nancy Grace used to be a real-life prosecutor, albeit one with "disregard of the notions of due process and fairness", according to a judge before whom she once argued. She knows exactly what she's doing. And someday she's going to get someone killed.

Further Reading

Wikipedia - Nancy Grace - Prosecutorial Misconduct

Reason #28: Dead Racists

Monday, May 6, 2013

Reason #287.5: Death From Above, Part Deux

Well, it took nearly two years and almost 300 blog posts, but it looks like someone finally listened to me. Israel may not have the purest of motives here, but they could very well force Obama's hand one way or the other. Should be interesting to watch.

Further Reading

Israel Reportedly Attacks Syrian Facility, In An Escalation

Israel: Air strikes were 'against Hezbollah and not the Syrian regime'

Friday, May 3, 2013

Reason #287: Death From Above

Someone needs to explain to me why air strikes are so out of vogue all of a sudden.

Let's run down our list of options in Syria:

  • Invade, Iraq-style. Take down Bashar al-Assad in a month or three, with the rebels at our side, then get stuck rebuilding and operating the country for ten years, ultimately turning the rebels against us for a host of likely-understandable reasons. Ultimately, we leave Syria under the command of an ostensibly-elected puppet who either doesn't have the respect of the people or who promptly turns against us once we're not paying attention.
  • Send a drone after Assad. Best-case scenario, the bulk of his regime stays intact and whoever takes over in his absence agrees to stop slaughtering people; the violence ends, but nothing gets fixed. Worst-case scenario, we miss, and piss him off even more--and even if we get him, such a tactic could weaken our standing in the rest of the world, opening up assassination as a viable strategy against those the US decides it doesn't care for.
  • Do nothing. Obama looks like a wimp and a prevaricator, and the US sets a precedent for stubborn dictators to use whatever weapons they please against their own citizens with no repercussions from the West.
  • Arm the rebels. See: Bin Laden, Osama.
  • Air strikes, Kosovo-style. Cut the Assad regime off at the knees (and elbows, for that matter), making him easier pickings for the rebels, who ultimately take over and set up a new government according to their own interests. Maybe not as friendly as a puppet, but certainly friendlier than Assad. No boots on the ground, no American casualties, we can stop the moment we feel we've done enough.

Make no mistake, every single one of these options gets more civilians killed. Most of them get civilians killed by us. There are only bad options in this situation, and I've explained before that any American president's moral standing is basically SOL by default in my opinion.

That being the case, Kosovo seems to me to have been the closest we've ever come to a clean--and cheap--war. Would I do it, were I the president? No. But I didn't run for president--Obama did.

Further Reading

The Stakes of Being Too Late

Reason #256: Classified