Miscellaneous musings from the perspective of a lefty (both senses) atheist with a warped sense of humor.

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Location: Madison, WI, United States

I am a geek, but I do have some redeeming social skills. I love other people's dogs, cats, and kids. Snow sucks, but I'm willing to put up with it just to live in Madison.

Friday, October 29, 2010

Notice What's Missing?

Like the dog that DIDN’T bark in the night, there’s a standard feature of election season that nobody has noticed this time around, because it hasn’t put it its normal biennial appearance: the “October surprise”.*

An “October surprise” is an artificial crisis, manufactured in the White House, designed to make its current occupant look strong, resolute, competent, and in charge — or at the very least to scare the bejesus out of the electorate so they fear changing horses in midstream. Of course, it’s ridiculously easy for any given administration to look like it’s on top of the supposed disaster, because
  (1) they know it’s an empty threat, since they invented it themselves, and
  (2) they’re well prepared to deal with that exact situation, since they invented it themselves.

The most recent examples of the “October surprise” came during the Bush/Cheney Administration, when the terrorist threat level jumped up a notch from yellow to orange** just in time for every election, but there have been many, many previous versions, during both Republican and Democratic administrations.

But not this one. In keeping with the nickname “no drama Obama”, homey don’t play that game. The closest he’s come to surprising us is showing up on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, and that wasn’t exactly a glimpse of the potential horrors lurking just around the bend.

I’m sure his thinking is that the great middle of the American electorate is sensible and susceptible to sweet reason and doesn’t deserve to have its socks scared off for no good reason at all. God, I wish that were true. Maybe someday it will be.


*You’ll notice that I waited until the END of October to say this.

**There are 5 color-coded threat levels: green, blue, yellow, orange, and red. The only 2 that have ever been used are yellow and orange. After Tom Ridge left his job as Secretary of Homeland Security, he admitted that the White House had pressured him to raise the threat level prior to the elections, despite absolutely no reason to do so, but by the time this admission became public, the damage had already been done.

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Electronic Voting Machines
Big Brother doesn’t even HAVE to watch you!

-- bumper sticker

Monday, October 18, 2010

My 6 Favorite Words

I would like to share with you the 6-word phrase that I have typed more than any other for the past month:

Get the hell out of Afghanistan.

As you know, it's election season, and pleas for campaign contributions are at a fever pitch. As a long-time donor to Democratic causes, I'm on a ton of mailing lists, and every day brings a fresh crop of e-mails asking me to dig deeply just one more time because it's so very, very important.

Some of these come from progressive groups outside the formal structure of the Democratic Party. These tend to be liberal outfits that are already against the war — like Progressive Democrats of America,, Democracy for America,, and so on.

Some of them come from state-level organizations like the Assembly Democratic Campaign Committee or One Wisconsin Now.

Some of them come from interest groups that are part of the traditional Democratic constituency, like Planned Parenthood, NOW, Public Citizen, or various environmental causes.

All of the above I simply delete without response, because I've already given more than I had budgeted, and I don't want to waste their time dealing with that regrettable fact.

But there's another whole batch that come from official Democratic sources at the national level — the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee (aimed at the US Senate), the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (for the US House of Representatives), the Democratic Legislative Campaign Committee (for state legislative races that the national leadership has determined are most in need of money), Organizing for America (the leftover shell of Barack Obama's 2008 campaign committee, AKA, and of course the Democratic National Committee itself.

To all of THEIR pitches, I have a stock 6-word response:

Get the hell out of Afghanistan.

I've gotten really good at typing it.

George W. Bush may have started the war in Afghanistan, but Barack Obama whole-heartedly embraced it, adopted it, made it his own, and fed it even more warm American bodies and voluminous American dollars. To be fair, Obama told us during the 2008 presidential campaign this was what he intended to do (tho omitting the part about doubling down), so he gets only PART of the blame. The rest goes to the rollovers in Congress, who could have voted to cut off funding for this disastrous military adventurism but did not.

We have blown a trillion dollars down that godforsaken rathole, a follow-up to the previous trillion we wasted on Iraq. That's 2 terabux shot to hell, blowing things up and pissing people off halfway around the world, while our roads, bridges, airports, levees, and electrical grid go to hell in this country. Our schools are crumbling, people are out of work, our infant mortality is among the lowest in the industrialized world and steadily sinking, and most of our decent jobs have fled to Mexico, India, and China. What could 2 terabux have bought for us in THIS country? Well, there are about a dozen websites out there that could tell you exactly that; go ahead and google them.

Let me tell you what 2 terabux has NOT bought for us where we've been spending it. It has not brot us the head of Osama bin Laden. In fact, by recent official estimates, there are only about 100 al-Qaeda members left in all of Afghanistan (NONE of whom is Osama bin Laden), and it costs us $1,000,000 a year to keep each and every one of our 180,000 troops out there looking for those slippery 100 miscreants. If you do a little quick arithmetic, that amounts to an expenditure of $1,800,000,000 (1 point 8 BILLION dollars) for every al-Qaeda operative. That we can't catch. Every year.

And where does a goodly portion of that money go? Into the corrupt pockets of the Karzai regime, whence it is only a short hop to the misogynistic butchers of the Taliban and their copious poppy fields. Yes, the US government is the moneybags behind the opium trade. And, as Americans are its biggest customers, we end up financing BOTH sides of the war in Afghanistan. Lucky us!

You have to be just dipshit stupid not to recognize these facts and the gargantuanly misplaced priorities they represent.

But the only time we average citizens ever have the full attention of our representatives in Congress is when they need money from us so they can keep their jobs. The rest of the time they can feel free to ignore us, but their need for cash during election season is what gives us the 2x4 we need to whack them upside the head and let them know that they need to pay attention to the problems here at home, in America — you know, the land where all that money is coming from in the 1st place, and whose citizens deserve to have it spent on THEM.

So I invite you to join me in sending the message.

Get the hell out of Afghanistan.

If it's just me doing it, they can easily write me off as some kind of lone nut job, a crank, an isolated voice easily ignored.

But if they start getting it from lots of people, it won't be so easy to dismiss.

Get the hell out of Afghanistan.

If they then go on to connect a few dots, they'll realize that the kind of come-on that always used to get them a check for $25 or $50 is now getting them no money at all but instead a justly deserved rebuke.

Get the hell out of Afghanistan.

Again, I encourage you to be discriminating in your use of this phrase. Many individual candidates are already on the right side of this issue. State parties have no influence over foreign or military policy. Many groups on the periphery of the Democratic Party are already doing what they can to deliver this very message.

But for the others, the mainstream Dems, the official campaign committee — they need to hear the message loud and clear in the only way that really matters to them: the absence of the check in the mail. So don't be afraid to tell them WHY you're not sending that check.

Get the hell out of Afghanistan.

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You know, if 1 person, just 1 person does it, they may think he's really sick and they won't take him. And if 2 people, 2 people do it, in harmony, they may think they're both faggots and they won't take either of them. And 3 people do it, 3, can you imagine, 3 people walking in, singin' a bar of "Alice's Restaurant" and walking out. They may think it's an organization. And can you, can you imagine 50 people a day -- I said 50 people a day! -- walking in, singin' a bar of "Alice's Restaurant", and walking out. And, friends, they may think it's a movement.

-- Arlo Guthrie, "Alice's Restaurant"