Alive and ranting…

I probably haven’t actually blogged on this blog in a good few months. Semi-witty three-liners and pointless factoids aside, content has been sparse lately. Here is at last one good reason for all you two readers still checking this page to bitterly regret that blessèd old time.

Today we are gonna rant. And we ain’t gonna rant on any topic either. We are gonna rant on US Politics. Can I get a hell yay, brethren?

Considering how long I have kept shut on that particular topic (not for lack of things to say, mind you), you better grab an umbrella, because I have a good year’s worth of rant spittle ready to come out. For similar reasons, I have opted to ditch my usual pointless attempts at structures and grand outlines and will just lay a few random thoughts as they come.

Let me start with a small story. A memory. My own belated September 11th, 2001’s “Where were you on that day?” recount.

As the cliché now goes, I remember perfectly what I was doing that day when it happened. I was sleeping. When my girlfriend’s phone woke us up: her best friend, attending Columbia university a couple blocks down from the WTC, was absolutely breaking down, trying to tell us what had just happened. We got up, went to the living room TV and saw on CNN as the first, then the second, towers went down live, amidst the usual empty buzzing of clueless newscasters. By then my two roommates were also up and watching.

But my strongest impression of this event, wasn’t this very morning. Sure it was tragic beyond words, yet I could not help but think all along, that 5,000 people dying an unfair and horrible death somewhere in the world is not such an exceptional event…

At this point, 80% of my US readership is reaching for their AK47 and the remaining 20% has stopped reading… But whether you like it or not, 911 was not, I repeat not, “one of the greatest tragedy of the past hundred years”, probably not even one of the 100 greatest tragedies of the past hundred years.

I can certainly accept that, as a US citizen, one would feel firstly concerned about the mass murder of their fellow American citizen, but then you should accept that, for the rest of the world, this is merely yet another occurrence of fucked-up senseless killing of Man by his brother Man somewhere on this planet… and that the one reason it made the news for the past 5 years, while most CNN anchors still couldn’t place Rwanda on a map, is that 911 was the killing of mostly white, upper-middle-class Americans (and please note the “mostly” in the preceding sentence and leave that reply button alone). Of course, this event also marked the first “attack” on American soil since Pearl Harbor, the temporary collapse of entire sectors of the economy and the beginning of The War on Vaguely Defined Abstract Concepts. But how exactly are such landmark statistics supposed to weigh against a couple thousands mass murders occurring every day at random corners of the world?

Anyway, my point wasn’t to start on the macabre deathtoll comparison game; rather, to tell you about what happened to my roommate back then. She was a nice, somewhat couch-potatoesque girl, overall easy to live with. Politically, she was absolute granola with a side-dish of tofu and large sips of Napa wine. Serious hippie crunchiness, even for my own pinko commie worldviews, but harmless. She was also a New Yorker, and took it all very personally, even though she knew of absolutely nobody who lived, worked or strolled anywhere near the towers on that day. In fact, I had more personal friends over there than she had. Yet it was all very emotional for her, and trust me: I spared her my own aforementioned reflections on the relativity of death. I just tried to comfort her the best I could and wait for things to settle eventually.

Except they never really did.

Like a lot of Americans, she went through through her own states of grief, focussed mostly around depression and anger. While I wasn’t so sure about her spending a week prostrated on the sofa, watching CNN’s droning 10 hours a day while eating comfort food, I was outright worried about the phase that followed. I mean: she used to burn incense and wear freaking hemp clothing, and all of a sudden, she was about the most rabid NRA member. She drank every last word blurted out by an obviously inept POTUS, nodded at the most asinine suggestions of retaliation or protection measures uttered by scared pea-brained soccer mums on Fox News, would have hung her panties on a flagpole, had it got stars and stripes on them…

In a word, she had morphed into the all-too-common stereotype of the modern reactionary conservative. People whose collective paranoia of Red Invasion, Homosexual Agenda, Islamic World Domination and everything remotely resembling vague unknown threats, are responsible for this ongoing sixth year of Chimpy wrecking havoc on the world at large.

Then one day, in the middle of arguing with her the finer points of “with us or against us” Orwelian rhetoric, I realised how much her grasp on reality had slipped, how a little fear and emotion had been enough to tip her over to the nutjob side, the dangerous kind of nutjobs. And this is my scariest memory of that time, because this is when I saw firsthand how fascist ideas gain momentum.

You know that ubiquitous quote about liberty and how those willing to trade it for security are deserving of neither? Every month I look at the news and come away convinced it simply cannot get truer as far as US politics are concerned, this is just it. Yet, every month without fail, the American public and the Rovian oligarchs that govern them, manage to outdo themselves. For fuck sake, do you realise that the current president of the United States just repealed the Habeas Corpus.

And some people are still on the fence as to whether this government has some authoritarian leanings?

Let me tell you: historically speaking, the US is now sitting well beyond fascism, it lays somewhere between medieval times and torture chamber-equipped 17h century despotism. Dubya’s official leading man in the realm of democratic advances is now Edward I: a guy who slew his way to the throne and completed the Tower of London. Just in case you haven’t heard of that place, let me tell you: it would have made Abu Ghraib look like the Four Season.

Talking about quotes, there’s another one, slightly less popular, perhaps on account that Nietzsche didn’t help frame the US constitution, but worth re-hashing nonetheless. That wise man, who knew a thing or two about fascist temptations, once said: “He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster”. By now, a cursory look at any random die-hard conservative columns makes me seriously wonder which side the monsters started on. I try, you know, I try, to be that bleeding heart joke of a guy, with enough empathy to at least understand, where he disagrees fiercely, to understand how much fear and misery it takes to become such shallow egotistical beasts as the guys still standing behind Rove’s buddies and justifying their actions… But I am afraid my abilities stop just short of that, I am ashamed to realise how easily I reach that point where I just want to acquaint their head with the pavement in lieu of ideological debate. And that’s when I remember how they turned into these lumps of toxic knee-jerk hatred, take a long deep breath, and resume a healthy non-violent contempt toward them, content in the knowledge that even by the most optimistic karma estimates, Rush Limbaugh, Michelle Malkin and O’Reilly will all reincarnate as the hairy lower backside of a diarrheic baboon.

Now, before I go and resume pounding walls in anger while verbally abusing my collection of plush toys, let me deliver one last small message to the important proportion of the US population who has, in recent times, come to change their mind about the greatness of their Commander in Chief. Depending on which landmark polls you go by, you’d be somewhere between 30% and 50% of registered US voters to be much less enthusiastic about him than you were, 5 years ago. You’re a mixed bunch of relapsed liberals, libertarians, sane moderate conservatives (an incredibly rare occurrence, but they exist, really, I even know of a few), hell, I bet my former roommate is in there, as well as a long list of random people who woke up sometime during the recent months with a strong rectal pain and some idea where they got it from…

First of all, Welcome Back to Reality-Based Politics, it kinda missed you whilst you were gone.

Second, and most importantly: Fuck You.

Fuck you for daring one second pretending you could not foresee where it was all heading when you took your example after a grown man talking like a six year old talking like a John Wayne movie. Fuck you for pretending now that you care more about the war in Iraq than the cost of your daily gas refill. Fuck you for looking wide-eyed surprised as if you had seriously ever bought that whole bunch of WMD bollocks. Fuck you for changing your mind long after damage has been made. Fuck you for finally hankering after constitutional rights, when you realise that their loss potentially also applies to your pale suburban ass, not just them dark-skinned furriners. Fuck you for not seeing how one thing always lead to another, especially when that one thing involves invading a country, detaining people illegally and letting one branch of power completely take over the two others.

In fact, fuck you for a lot of things: I may have more sympathy for the actual nutjobs who are still under some delusion that they made the right choice, back in 2004. They may be utter morons, but at least they are consistent morons. And your gullibility, hypocrisy, momentary lapse or reason, absence of imagination, whatever… are the reasons we all got here in the first place.

That being said, take a deep hard look at the state of the world and how it’s improved so fan-fucking-tastically in 6 years of Bush fanaticism. Think about the few millions Iraqi kids who now hate your guts and are channeling their anger into the next generation of anti-western terrorism. Think of your constitutional liberties and how few of them are still currently effectively guaranteed by your government. Think of exactly how safe you are with half the world willing to blow your country up and the other half no longer giving two craps about it.

Alternatively, just think about how much your Ford Excursion is costing you at the pump, if that’s what it takes.

Then fucking go vote next month and try using your brain this time.

Thanks.

Oh and sorry on the liberal use of profanities in this entry, I guess I am a teeeny bit miffed by that particular issue…

21 comments

  1. yet I could not help but think all along, that 5,000 people dying an unfair and horrible death somewhere in the world is not such an exceptional event

    Unusual for it to happen within a few hours… but you’re right… not unusual overall. Nothing compared to automobile accidents that year, either.

    You know that ubiquitous quote about freedom and how those willing to trade it for security are deserving of neither?

    It’s misquoted, but the concept is good… and almost completely forgotten here.

    For fuck sake, do you realize that the current president of the United States just repealed the Habeas Corpus.

    (I think you meant “the concept of Habeas Corpus“”… doesn’t read right.) And yes. I’m aware, and pissed off.

    And some people are still on the fence as to whether this government has some authoritarian leanings?

    Some people have the idea of unquestionable government authority so far shoved up their ass that they’ve lost all sense of perspective. They don’t care that the government could listen to their phone calls at any time because, well, it’s the government. Our government could never be bad. Heavens no.

    Let me tell you: historically speaking, the US is now sitting well beyond fascism, it lays somewhere between medieval times and torture chamber-equipped 17h century despotism.

    This is the point where, in spite of invoking the god of The Reality-Based Community, you sort of head off the deep end. I don’t like where America is or where it’s heading, but let’s not overstate the case.

  2. Yay! Mark is here! The troll is on! 🙂

    It’s misquoted, but the concept is good… and almost completely forgotten here.

    It’s paraphrased, therefore not quoted, therefore could not possibly be misquoted… But you’re right, I meant to write liberty, not freedom. Though I’d venture both words are fairly equivalent in this context. I edited this in the original.

    (I think you meant “the concept of Habeas Corpus“”… doesn’t read right.) And yes. I’m aware, and pissed off.

    I obviously meant so, but then again, he didn’t repeal any law either, least of all the actual 9th amendment, so let’s kindly step back and take it for the voluntary hyperbolic formulation that it ostensibly is. On the other hand, the question of how this bill and existing constitutional amendment could coexist remains to be seen.

    They don’t care that the government could listen to their phone calls at any time because, well, it’s the government. Our government could never be bad. Heavens no.

    Although I’m sure we agree on the conclusions, we may differ on a lot of the way to there. I don’t really have the feeling that the problem is in the people putting too much trust into the government. After all it would only be natural and reasonable for them to do so, since they elected it. To me, the problem lies in the fact that, regardless of how much trust they’d have, they would be willing to disregard the matter altogether, if it came with some false promise of increased security for them. So it’s not so much a matter of ignoring the gov. authoritarian leanings (for most), more a matter of accepting them and justifying them, or rejecting them as unjustifiable, regardless of the goal. There again: liberty vs. security.

    This is the point where, in spite of invoking the god of The Reality-Based Community, you sort of head off the deep end. I don’t like where America is or where it’s heading, but let’s not overstate the case.

    Dear god, I dare hope you did sense te tongue firmly planted in cheek of that one troll-baiting comment. While I do think I could successfully make a case for the current US government fulfilling a lot of the characteristics commonly associated by cold-blooded down-to-earth Pol Sci professors to “fascist regimes”, I both do not think America is truly there yet, nor that the term has any use any more, given among other things the amount of abuse it has received from variously educated anti-establishment types.

    As far as my historical re-focussing though, I stand by it and invite you to check which century it was, when medieval England eventually acquired civil protections the average US resident does not have any more. Hint: a long time ago.

  3. Well, unfortunately that loss of civil protection doesn’t just apply to US citizens, but also applies to practically anybody anywhere who is suspected of detaining any information that might help Georgie with his War On Terror(tm). That is what we should be pissed off.

  4. You’re absolutely right to rant and rave — I think everyone here in the US who cares is also too exhausted by now to rant and rave over yet another atrocity committed by Bush and the gang. Also, I have the impression that 1) people are waiting to see what actually happens in the upcoming elections and 2) we are waiting to see if the law will be held to be constitutional if it comes up for judicial review (a tricky point, I understand). A lot of people seem to feel that it will be thrown out if it is challenged, but the matter of how it might be challenged, given the auto-immunity from judicial challenge it seems to contain, is unclear.

    There is also the fact that a lot of folks believe the law was passed principally to protect the CIA investigators, who had stopped their investigations due to concerns about the legality of their methods — and they’d been hiring lawyers as well in the event they were accused of war crimes — and to protect retroactively George et al from prosecution. But I do believe there are legal ways around that effort (see Argentina and the generals, and Pinochet, and even the Nuremburg trials). Anyway, the interesting moment begins if and when the Democrats retake control of Congress and are allowed to subpoena Administration officials — that’s when the fur will fly, as they say. And if the Democrats fail to take control, well, I guess the US will continue its sad descent into totalitarianism “lite”.

  5. Hello, I reached your blog through a link at mine (the one near the spam counter, great addon, by the way). And I should say that I feel relieved every time I see an American expressing ideas like this.

    It is incredible how a bunch of radical conservatives seem to have taken over such a great country in a couple of years and turned it into the opposite of what it was in many ways. To quote only an example that you haven’t mentioned, some years ago, the U.S. was the Mecca of brilliant college and Ph.D. students all over the world. Now, for the first time in history, the number of foreign students going to the U.S. is declining, due to restrictive immigration policy and to the general deterioration of your country’s image. This is only one of the many negative consequences of Bush’s policy for your country.

    Here in Europe we usually receive news from America with fear, because what your country does has a great influence in the rest of the world. In many ways, “thanks” to politicians like Blair or the luckily retired Aznar, we are following the path Bush has marked for us, although fortunately we are not so far into that path.

    I wish you and all the thinking Americans best of luck in the next election. Greetings from Spain.

  6. Doc, I’d have to second Martine’s comment.

    A very timely and important post, thank you. It’s too bad I don’t have a vote in the USA… (which is rather unfair considering that Formosa is totally xxxxed because of American policy).

    By the way, I’ve moved if you can be bothered to update your link.

    Mi casa nueva es aqui: doscentavox.blogspot.com

    Byebye.

  7. This is unrelated, but i noticed you Japanese word in your header and for the life of me I cant figure out what it means( mainly beause of your third letter like looks like a ウ” but that is not anything (that i know of) any way I like your theme, I want it 😆 and thanks for your Anti-spam tool. most of the ones I find are ussless I nowhave three ( SK2, Bad Behavior, and Askimet). Thanks so much!!!!

  8. Urchin: in fact, it’s still the other way round: US citizen still supposedly have the right to a writ of Habeas Corpus, whereas foreign residents (or any foreigner detained on somewhat US soil) do not. In practice, though, it’s not too hard to foresee how the US could go about claiming a certain prisonner is not a US citizen and deny him any access to a fair trial and the chance to prove otherwise (pretty much a catch-22).

    As for residents of foreign countries, they are of course unaffected by this change, since their status would never be governed by US laws (only local laws and possible international agreements with the US).

    Edouard: Indeed, much doubt remains about the constitutionality of this law. As I have written in Laurent’s comments, I personally do not think it would be upheld if/when challenged: Supreme Court has been quite clear in its rulings over similar amendments, that it usually consider personal freedom protection to apply to citizen and residing non-citizen alike (although it has never pronounced itself on the 9th). Furthermore, “temporary” exception clause cannot be invoked, since this is obviously a long-term legislation, not motivated by any recent emergency.

    All in all, good chances it will be thrown out, and I’d venture Karl Rove already knows that, it is simply a very convenient way to keep all these murky Gitmo cases closed for a good few months (years, if the Reps keep the Congress and nobody’s there to press the SC on to its review of this case). To me, more than the practical impact of this law (hardly noticeable, since it only officializes an established situation), is its range in terms of what it means about the shape of democracy in the US. The fact that the American people is ready to sit back and watch while Congress amputates the Bill of Rights is a major milestone in an already loaded path to “Totalitarianism lite”, in an episode that combines government ruthlessness and people’s apathy. both at their paroxysm.

    I like to think that, were the Democrats to regain control of the Congress next month, subpoenas would rain and things would eventually fall back into shape, but honestly, their past record in recent times isn’t all that conclusive in terms of biting back. While the Republicans have most definitely been the ones trashing whatever little ethics remained in DC, I doubt the Dems have either the means or the courage to bring back the debate to a more healthy ground. As it is, US democracy has been beaten out of shape, its legislative branch has become a complete joke, the key to change lies now completely in its executive, which might be even tougher to regain than Congress this year.

    Tijl Kindt, AxMan: sorry to crush your hope, but at the moment, and although San Francisco is probably the place in the world where I spent the biggest share of my life so far, I am neither a resident nor a citizen of the United States. Nor do I have any plans for returning there in the near future. The very matters discussed above played no small part in this state of things.
    However, US politics is what I studied, it is also of personal interest to me, as it is to practically anybody in the world, seeing how its impact goes way beyond the lives of mere US residents.

    Miss Two Cents: Thanks, I’ll update the link.

    Mister Droid: Hmn. I don’t think that word up on top is of any use to your Japanese studies. As for the rest, well, huh, thanks.

  9. hell yay brother. I couldn’t have expressed it with anymore brevity and clarity myself.

    “You are either with us or you are with the terrorists…”

    Remember?

    Funny how George W. Bush, I prefer to call him an “Oil Robber/Baron Thug” myself, likes to use a quote originating from the Soviet leader Lenin instead of a quote from one of America’s founding fathers isn’t it?

    You speak about collective paranoia and fear leading our nation and I agree totally. Has the majority of America been put to sleep? Or are they just sitting idly by while this mad man expands his executive power towards dictorial powers??
    Meanwhile KBR, a Halliburton subsidary is busy building a small army silently on its own of mercenaries and retired generals as the American public in majority know nothing of the sort…

    These are dangerous times for Americans.

    Who will save us from the tyranny?

  10. @drDave: I was referring to the interrogation centres that the US is tought to maintain abroad. Furthermore, French citizens have been detained in Guantanamo bay, and the French government did f- all about it, even though some of its nationals were detained on no judicial basis and without trial for several years. In Britain where I dwell at the moment, “terrorism” charges (however vague the accusation may be) can cost you three months between bars at the sole discretion of the police forces.

  11. Designdroide:

    It means “Dave’s blog” and yes, I did the theme myself.

    Staticbrain:

    Who will save us from the tyranny?

    Voting booths? and gas prices?

    urchin:

    Regarding some of the foreigners detained in Guantanamo, the rulings used to keep them indefinitely are actually older than that the Military Act of 2006. The claim they depend solely on military justice (quite an oxymoron, to paraphrase George Carlin) rests on two rulings: one Supreme Court decision from the late 40’s, that brings the notion of “lawful” and “unlawful” enemy combatants, and the much more recent Congress ruling, in late 2001, regarding detainment and military trial of members affiliated with Al Qaida or the Talibans (thus declared unlawful combatants). Of course, as is the case with any hasty ruling motivated by fear and pandering, it contains blatant contradictions, in that it denies people the right to prove themselves innocent, on the ground that they might be guilty… But that’s unfortunately old news, since this law was passed 5 years ago now…

    As you said, at this point, a lot of the responsibility is also on the foreigner’s own government to use diplomatic pressure to ensure his release or speedy trial… France has never been particularly good at this, especially when the citizen’s motives where questionable in the first place.

    Regarding Britain, it is matter for another post someday, but it equally affects me. Perhaps even more than the US, from an affective standpoint.

    For, if I don’t think it has anywhere near the same impact on world affairs, I was also expecting much more of a level-headed response from European countries in general, and Britain in particular. Instead, I’m seeing Labour ministers, of all people, uttering surrealistic comments about how “times have changed”, justifying their own take on Totalitarianism Lite. And it doesn’t worry me so much as it saddens me.

  12. Well! I wasn’t expecting this when I came looking for that great WP pluging, SK2! 🙂

    I am sincerley impressed. I have been bloggong on a political (mostly political anyway) blog called LoadedMouth for almost 2 years. We try to just be as real and honest as we can, it isn’t always easy, and don’t even mention knowing what the *thruth* is! That’s a concept that seems to becoming more vague every day. But we do try to stick to the truth as far as we know it. Generally, if it can’t be backed up with solid facts, it’s suspect. We have given hell to anyone who deserves it, left, center, right, whatever! 🙂

    Anyway… We have many *rants* on the subject, and the Miderm elections. Feel free to vent there. 🙂

    I am no longer in the uSA, but my fience is. And it worries me. I see the Bush administration getting ready for martial law. Not a good sign, and I very much hope I am wrong.

    In any case, thank you for what I am told is a killer (and most useful) plugin, and for showing me that there are truly some sane American’s left! 😉 😀

    Cheers! 🙂

  13. Just a side note: Habeas Corpus is granted in Article I section 9 of the US Constitution. Note, that Section II is where the president’s rights/abilities are listed. This used to be taken as an indication that the founders thought Habeas Corpus to be worth fighting to defend. Indeed, the fact that it may not be suspended “Unless when in cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it (sic)” is not ambiguous. Oddly, I don’t notice any Rebellions or Invasions currently underway and somehow I think I’d be told about that sort of thing.

    Sorry guys, as of this post, the USA is gone. As an International Relations major (among others) on 9/11 I wasn’t at all surprised. Except that none of the terrorists chose the nuclear plants/chemical plants that surround NY and would have wiped out most of the Northeastern seaboard.

    But the serious activists in this nation have mostly given up and are trying to run like hell. What you have left are a bunch of ineffective hand wringers that worry about offending people and delaying commutes while protesting. It’s really hard to describe the environment here… The sheer oppressive weight of the social/political/economic/security atmosphere crushing down.

    Just for reference, my apartment was raided by police/FBI twice based on “anonymous tips” saying I was a “security threat.” No warrants. (I’m a small white guy too). That sort of thing is combined with a complete lack of an educated population and health care (a fellow activist had a foot broken at a protest and couldn’t get it looked at until it went to hell. Now he can’t really walk). Not a lot of people, here really care if that sort of thing happens to you. “You must have done something to deserve it.” or “that can’t be right.”

    There is no social consciousness, no outrage, no comprehension that fascism doesn’t make you safe, no understanding of what this nation is supposed to stand for. Without a basic minimum level of education/social awareness there isn’t any room for effective activism. I need someone other than Amnesty International/ACLU here to care about “detentions without arrest.” (that’s where we get thrown in jail for three days until whoever we’ve been protesting against leaves town – then the prosecutor decides not to bring charges… But by then we’ve served three days in jail or more depending on when it is. A private for-profit jail in some cases. For-profit jails are much worse than the old kind of American luxury jail).

    Basically there are 2% of US citizens that want to end fascism. Even the Dems that were elected in a landslide don’t want to end fascism. None of the presidential candidates have said they’ll restore the constitution. So just voting isn’t likely to do much. Yes, lots of people oppose the war now… But mainly because we’re losing.

    Activists just don’t have the “room” to work here anymore. We can fight a delaying action and try to temporarily slow down the slide but, with the state of education here, its gonna get worse. Much worse. I’d advise building some ships and planes because you might have to fix this. Come on France you did it once (yes there are Americans who remember the whole “bail out the Colonial Army from the mess it was in with the British… About 2% of us anyway). I’m really not being hyperbolic about that.

    Yes, (most) Americans are stupid. Really really, unbelievably stupid. My partner teaches art part time in a public school and she’s had girls named Vagina. I’m so very not kidding. Does that tell you how bad things are? I have a looong list of names that are similar. It’s because the born-in-USA parents don’t know enough English to know that the nice sounding word should not be made into a name. We’re not talking about people who have moved here and haven’t learned the language. Most Americans can’t read with comprehension. Given that. Things aren’t entirely the fault of the current crop of idiot Americans. Our education system has been completely destroyed. If you don’t know enough English to name your kid something other than Vagina you’re not going to get Habeas Corpus. And THAT is why the US is the way it is. And probably will not change. If we lost an entire city to official complacency and neglect – and *nothing happened* I don’t have much hope that anything else will change things.

    Learning French like crazy… And hoping I can actually *get* a passport (those detentions without arrest go on your national security record even if you’re never charged much less convicted). If you’re an US citizen with a civil disobedience record (without conviction) you will be refused entry into Canada and US Customs will toss you into a border holding area to asses your “Security risk” – even US citizens have no rights at a border crossing. It’s bad. Really bad. Sorry.

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