Monday, December 15, 2014

Ugly Christmas Sweater

A "punishment" for forgetting a shirt on my double mileage day last Friday was that I had to wear an ugly Christmas sweater today at our office meeting. Stephanie helped me find an appropriate sweater. I thought a bow tie would compliment the sweater. Steph came through for me there, too. I practiced and practiced but tying a bow tie neatly is difficult. Looks like I'll be practicing some more.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Reality Is Way Out Of His Grasp

The Inlander's attempt to have "both sides" represented in their commentary in the form of our former congressman, George Nethercutt, again has paid off in spades. Nethercutt presents a bizarro world that doesn't come close to touching reality.

First he ties together the events of Ferguson, Missouri, where a police officer was not indicted for killing a young unarmed black man, and President Obama's executive action on immigration as if they are intertwined. And he has this to day:

Young people need to be taught right from wrong, how to deal with authority figures, what it means to be law-abiding and responsible; doing so shows them someone cares about them. Racial profiling by vindictive police forces isn't the sole cause of racial division in America. My experience is that the vast majority of police officers work to assure that society is orderly and to prevent crime. Certainly there are national examples of police abusing their authority, and such abuse may be race-based. But that abuse is outweighed by overwhelmingly honorable police officers, facing tough duty and danger each day. First responders deserve our respect and our thanks.

Apparently, young people are not being taught right from wrong, how to deal with authority figures, or how to be law-abiding and responsible. And there's the answer. If only young people were obedient and subservient, we wouldn't have these problems. Oh, and most police officers don't profile people based on their race and those that do are not the cause of racial division.

Well, isn't that special? What are the causes? A long history of oppression, lynching, and Jim Crow laws? New voter ID laws? The systemic institutional discrimination? He doesn't say. Also, George Nethercutt has no clue that "my experience", as he calls it, with police officers is from the perspective of someone who benefited from white privilege all his life.

But he's not done jumping back and forth between two unrelated topics.

Nationally, Republicans are in a lather about President Obama's left turn on immigration. Constitutionally and philosophically, he clearly reversed himself with his convoluted "prosecutorial discretion" legal argument for stopping deportation of immigrants in the United States illegally. In my opinion, his executive order was unlawful.

Who knew George Nethercutt paid so much attention to alleged unlawful behavior on the part of the Executive Branch. No wonder he was screaming so loud about the illegal invasion of Iraq, use of torture, indefinite detention, and dark sites. Oh...wait. I guessed he kept that to himself or something.

Time to change subjects again.

Rather than threaten government shutdowns and cumbersome defunding of government immigration agencies, Republicans nationally should adopt the Boys and Girls Clubs of America and the Big Brothers-Big Sisters models of reaching out to immigrant and non-immigrant children and families, not only to give them a helping hand, but also to educate them about politics and policy.

Yes, he's referring to the Republicans who want to deport, deport, deport, as if they were interested in any demographic other that old white males.

Back to racism.

Obama, as America's first biracial president, must be careful not to show racial bias himself. Racial discussions are valuable as long as they take a critical look at all aspects of bias, not laying all blame for racial disruption on white bias.

George Nethercutt, blindly benefitting from white privilege, has no idea how much he benefits from white privilege. Sometime ago, a local state legislator, Kevin Parker, dressed up as a homeless person and noticed a remarkable difference in the way he was treated. And he was still white.

I bet George Nethercutt could take it a step further and learn a valuable lesson in racial bias if he wore the right makeup and walked through a "nice" neighborhood or drove a car up and down Division a couple of times at night. Yes, even here in bland, white bread Spokane. Then maybe he wouldn't be so concerned about a biracial president talking about the realities of race in America. It's not blaming racial disruption on white bias. It's a matter of talking about the reality of racism in America.

And George Nethercutt could use a healthy dose of reality.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Double Mileage Day

As usual, I rode to work today. While unpacking I realized I forgot to bring a shirt. This is the first time I've ever done that. I've forgotten to bring a towel more than once, which I can work around. I wore my bike shoes one day when I forgot to bring shoes. But I can't be shirtless or run around in my sweaty long underwear top at the office. So I rode home and back again. It cost me a little PTO but I got to spend all that time riding my bike so it wasn't a complete waste.

Thursday, December 11, 2014

The Fall Of An Honest General

Over at the New Yorker there's a great article about Army Major General Antonio Taguba who investigated the abuses at Abu Ghraib. His honest report sank his career.

Taguba, describing the moment nearly three years later, said, sadly, “I thought they wanted to know. I assumed they wanted to know. I was ignorant of the setting.”
Taguba, watching the hearings, was appalled. He believed that Rumsfeld’s testimony was simply not true. “The photographs were available to him—if he wanted to see them,” Taguba said. Rumsfeld’s lack of knowledge was hard to credit. Taguba later wondered if perhaps Cambone had the photographs and kept them from Rumsfeld because he was reluctant to give his notoriously difficult boss bad news. But Taguba also recalled thinking, “Rumsfeld is very perceptive and has a mind like a steel trap. There’s no way he’s suffering from C.R.S.—Can’t Remember Shit. He’s trying to acquit himself, and a lot of people are lying to protect themselves.” It distressed Taguba that Rumsfeld was accompanied in his Senate and House appearances by senior military officers who concurred with his denials.

It's A Whole New Ball Game

The US Patent & Trademark Office denied a trademark application for Comfyballs because it's vulgar.

There is an approved but now abandoned trademark for Nice Balls, which was for boxer shorts. And there are trademarks for Big Balls (alcoholic beverages), Pot of Balls (meatballs), PartyBallz (alcohol again), Got Balls? (meatballs), and Shut Up And Ball (online gaming). 

It's a balls up situation.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Bad, CIA! Bad!

The Senate's Torture Report (big honkin' 500+ page PDF), otherwise known as the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency 's Detention and Interrogation Program, was released today. Well, the Executive Summary was released.

To nobody's surprise, it describes the forms of torture our country used against people. Forms of torture we imprisoned or executed people for after World War II after finding them guilty of doing the same thing. Forms of torture we condemned other countries for using. Forms of torture never dreamed up before.

Former Vice President Dick Cheney had this to say:

“What I keep hearing out there is they portray this as a rogue operation, and the agency was way out of bounds and then they lied about it,” Mr. Cheney said in a telephone interview. “I think that’s all a bunch of hooey. The program was authorized. The agency did not want to proceed without authorization, and it was also reviewed legally by the Justice Department before they undertook the program.”

Cheney admits to the Bush administration's knowledge of and authorization for the use of torture. The euphemism "enhanced interrogation techniques" made torture sound so much more acceptable, especially to protect ourselves from a global terrorism threat. Fear and propaganda can make you accept anything as reasonable. You can even contrive a legal justification for it even if it is discredited and withdrawn later.

But don't expect anything to come of this. After his first election, President Obama said he believed we needed to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.

In other words, nobody will be held responsible for the crimes committed in our country's name.

Doing the right thing is a hard choice. Should a former president and vice president be prosecuted and possibly imprisoned for war crimes or should our country admit to using torture and just say it's time to move on.

Yep. A hard choice.
The CIA should have no problem surviving the stern looks and finger pointing. Our country on the other hand abandoned the moral high ground years ago and has no chance of recovering it. We can express indignation at others all we want as long as we're prepared to have Guantanamo, Bagram, dark sites, water boarding, and rectal feeding thrown into our collective faces. Because now it's a shame we all share.