Monday, July 30, 2007

Regarding Michael Vick

By now, everyone has heard the details of Michael Vick's dogfighting charges. Without rehashing them, suffice it to say that assuming they're true (and luckily, I'm not on the jury, so I have that luxury. And I intend to avail myself thereof), he's one sick fuck. Of course, I believe in the concept of innocent until proven guilty. And Mike Nifong demonstrated the danger of trying a case in the media. But for a moment, let's assume this asshole is guilty and examine some of the periphery.

There's an article on that quotes the director of the Atlanta NAACP pontificating on how unfair it is that everyone is "piling on" poor Mikey:

The president of the Atlanta chapter of the NAACP criticized the prosecution of Vick at a news conference Monday morning.

Dr. R.L. White Jr. accused the government of "piling on." "There's a penalty in football for piling on," White told reporters. "After a player has been tackled and somebody piles on, they're penalized for unnecessary roughness.
"Today, the NAACP blows the whistle and warns the powers that be that you are piling on."

OK. Time out. Poor Mikey; he's so downtrodden and oppressed. He doesn't deserve the flood of public outrage (a Google search for "michael vick dogfighting" yielded 2.34 million results) being directed toward him. It must be because he's a black man worth more than $100 million. It couldn't possibly be the fact (excuse me, allegation) that he was personally involved in the brutal execution of no fewer than eight dogs who had performed poorly in testing sessions. The government's reaction couldn't be based on the manner in which these dogs were destroyed (electrocution, gunshots, and bodyslamming at least one dog into the ground until it was dead) or the testimony and allegations of Vick's co-defendant.

Seriously, Dr. White: Do you really want to spend the NAACP's political capital on this inhuman thug? Implying that the reaction to Vick's crimes (sorry, alleged crimes) has anything to do with race saps the credibility built by Thurgood Marshall and other previous NAACP leaders.

Perhaps the NAACP is outpacing its constituency., in an article entitled "Guilty or Not, Vick Deserves Everything Coming His Way," argued that Vick is not being victimized by the vitriol being hurled in his direction. We probably should be careful of ascertaining guilt by association (again with the Duke lacrosse debacle), regardless of how appalling the conduct alleged may have appeared. That said, the Blackathlete article does raise some good points. It's definitely worth a read.

Let's keep in mind that Vick is an iconic figure. Children treasure his jerseys and idolize him. Vick had a responsibility to conduct himself with that fact in mind. The law shouldn't take that responsibility into account, but the NFL most certainly should. What better message to send to children across the country than that such unconscionable conduct will not tolerated? What worse message to send than that you can do whatever you want, regardless of how cruel or atrocious, so long as you can throw a football?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Delusions of Churchillian Grandeur

Bush loves to compare himself, outwardly and not, to Churchill. He reputedly keeps a bust of Churchill in his office. He equates the Iraq war to a slog through hell, and knows his idol would advise him to "keep going."
But just as Bush half-assed his way through Yale and the Texas Air National Guard, he apparently neglected to read deeper than the Bartlett's Familiar Quotations version of Churchill. Hell, he didn't even read all of that. If he had, he would know that the second part of the familiar "never give up" quotation was a qualifier: "except to convictions of honor and good sense."
The Australian has some interesting analysis of comparisons between Bush and Churchill. The web news magazine notes that

The report [on progress in Iraq] will give more political cover to those calling for the US to quit Iraq or, to use a more inconvenient and ominous historical analogy, more calls for the US to stop wasting its blood and treasure in the "thankless deserts" of Iraq. That phrase was first used by Churchill in 1919 as British war secretary when he consistently advised Britain's withdrawal from Mesopotamia, as Iraq was then known.

"I hate Iraq. I wish we had never gone to the place," Churchill would say later.

Whether one day Bush will feel that way remains to be seen. For now he's in no mood to give any comfort to Republicans who want a change in strategy and to bring combat troops home.

"When we start drawing down our forces in Iraq, it will be because our military commanders say the conditions on the ground are right, not because pollsters say it'll be good politics," Bush said. Iraq, he said, can, and must be, won.

Now, it's certainly no secret that Bush is not the sharpest tool in the shed. He'll be lucky to get a "gentleman's C+" from historians when he finally bows out. But you don't have to be a genius to read the writing on the wall. When the level-headed leaders of the party are questioning your judgment, you might want to listen. You're better off with backing from Richard Lugar than you are with backing from John Boehner. It's not about polls, it's about common sense. Stop attacking those in your party who finally have the courage to call a spade a spade. Get a clue, and get us the hell out of Iraq.

Friday, July 13, 2007

McCain's impolsion

John McCain's political woes have been well-documented. He's nearly broke, with just over $2m cash on hand. His top advisers have rather conspicuously jumped ship. And the race for the GOP nomination is currently being dominated by Rudy "Hey! Did I mention I was mayor of New York during 9/11?" Giuliani and Mitt "Keep it simple, stupid. Voters: This means you" Romney. Tangent: Romney is using Google AdWords, as are the other candidates I'm sure. Romney's tag line is something like "Security. Family. Inanity." When these pithy ads come up, click on them. That way, the candidate has to pay. And pay they should for such dribble. Lift up the discourse. You can't just throw out words. Have a position. It's not about your hair.
But of course, I digress. Back to McCain. He joked with reporters about the reason for his campaign's freefall:

“My position on immigration was obviously not helpful with the Republican base,” McCain conceded, laughing as if he recognized he was stating the obvious. “I think that my position on the war in Iraq is obviously at least not helpful with independents.”

Well, yeah. That's part of it. But the deeper reason is that you're a sellout, John. You made your career, you defined yourself as being a "maverick." You were going to beat Bush until Rove in South Carolina made that autodialing campaign about you having a "black baby." But instead of fighting back and calling him on it, you rolled over and then sprinted for the middle. Then, having found the middle, you continued for the far right. You sidled up to Bush. He kissed your head like he was the goddamned Pope. You spoke at Bob Jones University. Bob fucking Jones. Didn't you once attack the polemic right? You were correct back then. I respected you. Everyone respected you. But you've become the worst kind of opportunist. You've forfeited principle for access to Bush's donors and Robertson's mailing lists.
It's not about immigration. It's not about Iraq. You aren't the victim of circumstance. You aren't the victim of a fickle base. You're the victim of your own feckless politics. Shame on you, Senator.

Lighting the "Dark Continent"

There's a movement afoot to outfit Africa's children with cheap, durable laptops. A fine goal, and one major corporations should certainly support. Intel, in fact, has gotten into the act. But it seems to me that there are some other considerations here, and even stronger reasons to support this and similar programs. Think about the implications of widespread, high-speed WiFi access across the continent of Africa. How much would food distribution logistics be improved? What about coordination of African Union and UN forces in Darfur and other conflict zones?
Governments, NGOs, and philanthropic organizations ought to be getting in this game.

Surgeons general silenced for political reasons? Gasp!

The other day, a group of former surgeons general (including the Colonel Sanders-looking guy from the Life Alert commercials) testified before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee about their work and reports being silenced by various current and former administrations. Of course, it's no surprise that the Bush administration has stiff-armed its chief medical scientist; right-wing ideology has always trumped scientific consensus (global warming and stem cells, anyone?). But there were surgeons general from both sides of the aisle at the hearing, so it's not an pachyderms- or asses-only problem.
It seems to me that there will always be political pressure to silence medical research. So here's a solution: make the Surgeon General an independent entity. (S)he will still be the principal adviser to the President, but will not be subject to Executive branch control and censorship. In practice, this should work out well for all parties. The American people will have access to quality information (like the fact that abstinence-only sex education is the dumbest idea this side of letting Cheney's oil pals write the energy policy), the Surgeon General will be treated as an actual scientist should be treated, and the administration would be able to answer extremist critics by saying that they will not interfere with an independent entity. It's not too hard, folks.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

Decline and Fall of Dow Jones

A British news magazine has reported that the deal by which the Dow Jones company, owners and publishers of the Wall Street Journal, will be purchased by Rupert Murdoch, publishing's Montgomery Burns, is about to go through. Murdoch, of course, runs Fox News. Fox is the standard-bearer for neocons, religious fundamentalists, and right-wing ideologues in general. Now, Murdoch is about to take what previously was one of the most respected and respectable newspapers and use it to shill for Bush, et. al.

I'm reminded of a speech before the U.N. a few years ago. Trying to channel Adlai Stevenson in 1963, Bush and Rumsfeld send Colin Powell, the most widely-respected member of the administration, to make the case for invading Iraq. The utterly flimsy nature of the "evidence" they gave Powell to present came to light, and what Bush/Rumsfeld had done became clear. They'd raped Powell's good name and reputation to support their foolish war of choice.

How long, do you think, will it be before the Murdoch-run Journal is used for a similarly cynical purpose?

Some serious chutzpah

Congressional Democrats have directed the Bush administration to provide by tomorrow a series of documents relating to the politically-motivated firing of a raft of U.S. Attorneys, or, at the very least, a list of the documents the administration says is protected by executive privilege. "Not only are we not going to give you the documents," they seem to say, "but we're not going to tell you which ones we're claiming are protected. Go fuck yourself."

This attitude, of course, is typical of the Bush administration. But seriously, guys: at least a head fake toward the rule of law wouldn't be totally out of line. These guys have interpreted Article II, Section 1 to mean they can do whatever the hell they want to do, from letting oil and gas companies write the country's energy policy, to torturing detainees at Gitmo, to doing an end-run around what's left of the checks and balances after seven long years.

In the latest manifestation of legal prestidigitation Whack-a-Mole, it looks like the issue is headed to the courts. I don't have very high hopes for a good resolution coming from Roberts and company. At this point, it's a waiting game.

Saturday, July 7, 2007

Cheney not part of the Executive Branch? Go with it.

The Washington Post today has an article describing the dwindling of Cheney's power and influence in the West Wing. It's about time. The article mentions the embarrassment caused by Cheney's statement that he's not really part of the Executive Branch, on the count of he's really in charge of the Senate, where he has the power to break ties. So Cheney's power is kind of like throwing fire in Rock, Paper, Scissors: a very powerful move, but a one-and-done type thing. I think we should go with this. Let's boot the Dark Lord (and his puppet, too) from the Executive Branch. Let him break a tie in the Senate... Perhaps something on the order of whether or not to commend the Boy Scouts on their homophobic stance, or something symbolically repugnant but effectively harmless like that. Then, he can't exercise that power again. Let him hide away to his "undisclosed location" until November of 2008. Then, sweet Jesus, evict that crotchety bastard to make room for a Democrat.


Welcome to Cogitozone. This blog, as the title implies, is a place where thought is of paramount importance and where logic rules the day. I intend to use it to comment on events both large and small, monumental and inconsequential. The one common thread will be the pointing out of inconsistencies, logical fallacies, and irony in the world today. I expect never to run short on material. Enjoy.