Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Mr. President.

He is not the Messiah.  He is not the second-coming.  He has already made mistakes.  He is human.  He smokes (sometimes).  He is just a leeeeetle bit conceited.  

However, he is the president--mine, yours...ours.  He is not George W. Bush.  He is change simply because he sent a certain Texan packin' today.  Progressive change will take years, but today Mr. Obama is Mr. President.

Mr. President.  It has a nice ring, huh?  O Captain, My Captain!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Rules of Engagement?

As the war in Gaza rages on and the peace talks have all but evaporated, the Israeli Defense Forces have been air-distributing leaflets warning--urging, really--Gazan civilians to evacuate their homes, and cut off all contact with Hamas.

The New York Times ran a story today that quoted Fred Abrahams, a senior researcher at Human Rights Watch, as saying "you can't drop a 500-pound bomb in an area crowded with civilians."  Abrahams also discussed how the emerging humanitarian crisis stems from Israel's unwillingness to battle within the confines of the internationally recognized rules of "distinction and proportionality."  

While I understand that "rules of engagement" are necessary for conflicts (especially with the constantly evolving and increasingly complex urban-guerilla warfare tactics) I think that Abrahams has jumped the gun here.  The conflict is difficult and unusually critical for civilians as the Gazan borders are closed, but the strong response by the Israelis is as pin-pointed as possible.  Hamas militants are hiding in underground bunkers, and more difficult still, are unabashedly mixing with civilians while under fire; in some cases, Hamas elements have been witnessed using civilians as shields.

I think that the "rules of engagement" should be changed.  The rules of war have changed, after all, and that change necessitates a switch in the philosophy of humane conduct under conflict. 
Is it wrong to call the Israeli response inhumane when Israeli civilians had been suffering under Hamas attacks in the southern region?  Is it wrong to call Hamas inhumane for fighting a war in tunnels and amongst the cities, thereby increasing civilian casualties?  The lines have blurred, and instead of increasing the finger-pointing, it's time for diplomatic leaders to reconsider humane action in 21st century warfare.  

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Bailing out Porn.

If I were Larry Flynt, I'd be camping out on the Capitol's stairs.

You've gotta admire the audacity of these folks.  I mean, to stroll up to Capitol Hill in your flesh-financed Prius (see Joe Francis' take), rocking your Fuck This Congress T-Shirt, sporting an entourage of 18-year old sorority air-bags from north Texas with a hand outstretched seems just ludicrous.  

But, is it really any more ludicrous that a few businesses getting more money than the current dollar amount of the national debt?  Or any more ludicrous than car companies that, for years, and fucking DECADES, fought tooth and nail on environmental reform, energy efficiency and fuel efficiency getting more than ten times as much money as the annual GDP of Zimbabwe?  


I say give the porn kings their cash--it doesn't matter that most people don't buy pornos anymore (what with the invention of free porn on the Internet, who needs a 90 minute, poorly constructed story that ultimately ends too far in the future, and too predictably), what matters is that the government is fair in its assessment and correction of the economy.  Is porn to big to fail?

You bet your latex-enclosed ass it is.

It's Official: Google is Running the World.

Quick update:

You know how the Chicago Tribune Company recently filed for bankruptcy, and the New York Times Company took out a 225 million dollar mortgage against its NYC property, and the Christian Science Monitor has eliminated its print production entirely, and many, many daily newspapers have limited their circulation to 2-3 times a week, and nearly every print publication in the US is laying off workers, freezing all raises and hiring procedures, and generally cutting the fat?  

Meanwhile, Google is raking it in.  Their online ad revenue stream continues to gather strength.  I mean, I certainly don't begrudge them, but holy hell are they ever the new captains of the world.  

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Gaza War Just Got Brutal.

Same old story, right?  Israelis hate the Palestinians, etc., etc.  Right?  Not so fast.

In this situation, I'm inclined to side with the Israelis.  They, after all, have been getting rockets tossed across their borders ever since Hamas took power in 2007.  And, as Hamas is an internationally-recognized terrorist organization, it seems that the indiscriminate rocket attacks coupled with the threat of worldwide terrorism, Israel has a certain right to attack.

But the reports out today confirm that citizens are not only the majority of the casualties, but that many recently were seriously injured or killed by an attack that struck near a UN school.  Now, we all know that war is shit, it's hell, it's the worst thing in the world; who's to know what really happened, and who's truly to blame for harming and killing innocent people taking refuge from the fighting.  But, at the same time, will this war do anything to promote a successful negotiation of the mutual agreement of land borders?


Israel has the right to protect itself, as does Gaza.  And if any conflict is set to boil over at nearly every moment, it's this one.  Look for a quick toppling of Hamas, but continued strife and an emerging humanitarian crisis in Gaza in the coming weeks.  

Sunday, January 4, 2009

The 'Invisible Hand.'

"A market needed no longer be run by the Invisible Hand, but now could create itself--its own logic, momentum, style, from inside.  Putting the control inside was ratifying what de facto had happened--that you had dispensed with God.  But you had taken on a greater, and more harmful, illusion.  The illusion of control.  That A could do B.  But that was false.  Completely.  No one can do.  Things only happen, A and B are unreal, are names for parts that ought to be inseparable..." 

-Thomas Pynchon, Gravity's Rainbow (1973).

Indeed, Pynchon.  Indeed.

However, I think he's got it only half right--both the 'Invisible Hand' and the self-created control mechanisms do nothing to control the one element of human nature that is infallible: greed.

On the one hand, we can scream and moan and preach and finger-wag at Bernie Madoff and the assholes running the American car companies--companies, mind you, that are icons of American culture--and the hedge fund gurus who discovered new and interesting ways to further confuse the already head-spun SEC agents, and we can lock up the mortgage brokers and the mortgage companies and all the willing and unwilling (or unwitting) participants in the scandalous mortgage nightmares; but will this solve things?


On the other hand, we can turn our focus to the government and Barney Frank and the Financial Oversight Committee, we can lock up our legislators who failed us, we can impeach and bring charges against Bush and his cohorts, and we can attack and steamroll those regulators who failed us so miserably; but will this solve things? 


As pitiful and defeatist as this sounds, things will not change--not permanently, at least.  We are humans and we are Americans, and Americans are Capitalists.  Unless they're is another revolution on the horizon (and, who knows, have we fallen than far?), we are stuck with the same miserable financial system, the same miserable wizards who were educated in the context of the same miserable archaic system.  We are products of products, and we have learned well from our own history.  

What we can do is fight small battles: feed the hungry, house the poor, enlighten the ignorant, expose small corruption, catch liars, and, most importantly (and simply), do good work.

Oh, Garrison Keillor, are you ever wrong?


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