Things and Stuff

15 04 2012

No apologies or excuses. I’ve been busy, and had to put my ranting and raving on hold for a bit. Assuming there’s still anyone out there interested in what I have to say, I’ll get right into it.

POLITICAL SHIFT

It’s weird. I used to be considered fairly conservative as recently as six years ago. As far as I can tell, my political views haven’t changed a jot, but I find myself increasingly accused of being a democrat. Maybe the fact that I’m fiscally conservative but socially liberal has something to do with it. Once upon a time, I identified more with republicans than democrats- especially in matters of the size and power of government vs the individual and fiscal policy. Oddly enough, my personal politics is still the same as it used to be, but republicans have drifted far from these original points of agreement. The past decade or so has shown that conservatives are no better at fiscal matters than liberals- and may even be worse, depending on your standard of measurement. Having lost this advantage over their foes, the republicans have been forced to stress the only things which really distinguish them from democrats- social policy.

This is not a winning strategy for republicans. In their zeal to demonstrate their socially conservative chops by espousing ever-more extremist positions, republicans are driving ordinary conservatives out of the fold, creating a huge number of conservative voters who are horrified at what has happened to their party. Contrary to the current republican positions (based upon the staggering number of pig-ignorant legislation coming from republican-dominated state legislatures and various extremist groups extracting pledges of ideological purity from national candidates), most people in the US really don’t give a rat’s ass what two consenting adults do in the privacy of their homes and think the government should stay out of everyone’s business- including the lady parts republicans suddenly seem to find so icky. I’m kind of in the same boat. Like the comedian said, “I can’t be a democrat because I like to keep and spend the money I make, but I can’t be a republican because I like to spend it on drugs and whores.”

The end result of this shift to the extreme right by the nominally conservative republicans is likely to be an electoral bloodbath this coming November. I really dislike single-party rule. History shows that such states tend to become very nasty, very quickly. I rather like it when neither side has a massive majority, for the same reason. Our government functions (to the extent it does function) by compromise, and compromise is hard to come by when one party or the other has an overwhelming vote advantage. So, republicans, if you want to avoid going the way the Whig party did, please come back from your extended sojourn into whackjob-land. The vast majority of the voting public will be waiting for you near the center, and I’ll be with them.

RESPONSIBILITY

I own several firearms. I’m licensed by the state where I reside to carry a firearm, and I often do. Carrying a firearm is a serious responsibility. By carrying a firearm, you are taking upon yourself the power to take a life. If you carry a firearm and are not willing to kill should it become necessary, you are essentially delivering a weapon to whomever is willing to take it from you. This is not acting responsibly. Likewise, the person who carries a firearm who goes out of his or her way to find an excuse to use it is not behaving responsibly. Your primary policy of self-defense should be a lifelong commitment to avoidance, deterrence, and de-escalation.

As a (hopefully) responsible gun owner, I am disgusted by the shooting of an unarmed young man by a self-appointed neighborhood watch volunteer in Florida a few weeks ago. The shooter’s actions did not involve avoidance, deterrence, or de-escalation, and a young man is unjustly dead. My personal opinion is that the shooter is guilty of murder, but I’m not sure it will be possible to convict him due to the poorly written laws in Florida regarding the use of lethal force. There are no winners in this incident, but there are lots of losers. Every single person or organization trying to make political hay out of the death of an unarmed young man has lost whatever vestiges of humanity they may have once had.

SYRIA

Bashar al Assad is proving to be less ruthless than his father in dealing with internal dissent. That said, his government’s actions have been overwhelmingly vicious over the past year since the so-called “Arab Spring” uprisings came to Syria. Where Hafez al Assad obliterated the city of Hama, sonny boy has only managed to butcher a few thousand people in the city. Bashar al Assad’s military is beginning to fracture as well, with entire units deserting or joining the uprising.

Syria’s government is not in a particularly good position. The whole world is watching, and Syria has several powerful neighbors who are distinctly unhappy with the slaughter in Syrian cities. Turkey is the big player in the immediate area, and the Turks are easily capable of crushing Syria militarily if provoked. The only thing preventing Syria from being completely isolated is the increasingly tepid support from Russia and China. I suspect Russia is supporting Syria out of a vague paternal feeling for a former client state, but even Russian and Chinese tolerance is growing strained by the continuing bloodshed. I hope Russia and China decide to exert some real pressure on Syria to find a less apocalyptic solution to their internal problem than the current policy of killing everyone in the general vicinity of anyone expressing mild disapproval of the Syrian government. Otherwise, Syria would likely end up a bloodier version of Libya.

Current status: Tired

Current music: Tango to Evora by Loreena McKennitt





Arrogance

22 08 2011

The sacrifices of the last six months are finally coming to fruition for the anti-government forces in Libya. Using a fairly clever maneuver, the rebels surged into Tripoli from the sea and the west, and joined with their fellow anti-government fighters already within the city. Savage fighting ensued as the poorly-disciplined rebels closed with the better trained and better equipped government forces in Tripoli. Many of Qaddafi’s troops have either surrendered or merely slipped away into the city, but the “Brother Leader” still has a significant cadre of troops armed with heavy weapons throughout the city, and combat in urban areas is the most unpredictable and bloody form an already-unpredictable and bloody enterprise can take.

The National Transitional Council (NTC) in Benghazi have been cautioning their people that the war is not yet over, and the NTC leadership seems to be aware of the fact that digging Qaddafi out of his fortresses in Tripoli will most likely be a matter of weeks, but the people in the NTC-held regions are rejoicing anyway. After a long series of lightning attacks followed by undignified routs, the people of Libya are eager to get down to the business of re-building their country- which will probably be much harder than wresting it away from their despot has been.

Amid all the celebrations- in Libya and elsewhere- a truly ugly dialogue has sprung up in the US. Instead of celebrating the courage, dedication, and sacrifices by the people of Libya, a large number of people in this country have been jockeying for position to take “credit” for a victory which does not yet exist. This shameful activity can be easily found on the bread-and-circuses crap which pretends to be the mainstream media in the US, but is most evident in online forums and chat rooms. People from both sides of the American political divide are eagerly claiming this not-yet-existent victory for their favorite political party. To all of these arrogant shitbags, I have only one thing to say:

“THIS ISN’T ABOUT YOU!”

The people of Libya have stood up to be counted and pledged their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor to overthrow a tyrant. Far too many Libyans have died in their attempt to make Libya free, and many more will doubtless make the ultimate sacrifice before they achieve this noble goal. At the start of the uprising, those who demonstrated against Qaddafi literally risked their lives to speak out, but they did so anyway- by the thousands. Even Qaddafi turning anti-aircraft guns on the protesters in the streets of Benghazi and Tripoli didn’t stop the people of Libya from speaking out against him. The sort of courage and dedication the people of Libya demonstrated in the face of torture and death deserves better than a bunch of lard-assed Americans claiming that the “victory” was the result of any particular political philosophy on another continent. While Libyans were dying in the streets, Americans were getting distracted by such ephemera as the football strike/lockout. Unless you travelled to Libya and put your one-and-only tender skin in harms’ way, all of you democratic and republican partisan hacks need to shut the fuck up.

Not quite as loathsome, but still repellent, are the talking heads on some “news” channels whose only interest in the Libyan uprising are what it will do to the price of oil. Here’s a clue chit for those creatures- what is happening in Libya is more important than oil. It’s more important than the state of the Dow. It’s more important than any quarterly earnings statement ever written. The Libyan uprising is a truly popular rebellion against a ruthless dictator, just as were the earlier uprisings against Arab strongmen in Tunisia, Egypt, and Yemen. The political repercussions of this “Arab Spring” are already being felt throughout the lands of Islam, where other rulers are growing worried about their previously-quiescent people. Despots like Assad in Syria, the ruthless Imams in Tehran, and the House of Saud are finally forced to face up to the fact that keeping their people poor and ignorant no longer works in an era where any teenager with a smart phone can outwit government censors with impunity.

There are those in the US and Europe who are wary of this “Arab Spring”, fearful that the newly self-liberated lands will become havens for Islamic extremism. Too fucking bad. The people in Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen, and Libya have chosen to write their own futures, and this is as it should be. Their countries. Their rules. Their decisions. In lieu of poking our noses into the internal affairs of other nations, why can’t we- as a culture- just try to deal with each country on its own terms? If the people of Tunisia want to elect an Islamist government, that is their choice. If the NTC in Libya abruptly decides they don’t want to sell oil to kaffir anymore, too bad. It’s their oil. If the Yemenis decide to grow closer with China or Iran, that’s their business. If we in the west want to do business with the new governments across North Africa and the Middle East, we need to accept that we must do so on their terms. Trying to manipulate or dictate policy to these new nations will be merely repeating the mistakes of the past. Let’s try learning from those mistakes.

For a change.

Current status: Disgusted

Current music: Time of Your Life by Green Day