Friday, May 29, 2009

More Funny

...this time, it's baseball related.

Yes, I know the Internet facts meme has been overplayed like "Smells Like Teen Spirit" during the early '90s, but here's what makes this so funny: Wieters hasn't played a game in the major leagues yet. His first game with the O's is tonight. And yet he's the Orioles fans' Jesus. Not sure whether this says more about Wieters or the desperation of Orioles fans. (Of course, on the off chance Wieters doesn't suck, wouldn't a lineup of Roberts, Jones, Markakis, Huff, and Wieters scare the crap out of most AL pitchers?)

Either this is a desperate cry of hope or a hilarious parody of the massive hype around a 22-year-old prospect, and I'm banking on the latter. That said, the crying Chuck Norris pic (scroll down a little, it's in the background of a box on the right) really makes the site.


OK, this video is just hilarious.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hey Now, That Music Is Pretty Creepy

I'm really starting to like Rachel Maddow. She's basically a coherent, less manic, far more likable version of Olbermann. Here's her hilarious bit on the Senate vote to keep Gitmo open.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

I Win

It's Sotomayor.

I totally called it. You may now stand in awe before my prognostication abilities.

Also, fuck you, Jeffrey Rosen.

Monday, May 25, 2009

Wait, Defense Contract Reform?

So somehow this little piece of legislation got lost in the shuffle and signed into law without anyone really noticing. It seeks to provide the President and Secretary of Defense greater oversight of weapons contracting, especially with respect to cost control, and ensures that competitive bidding exists at all stages of the weapons procurement process. It also starts to fight conflicts of interest in the contracting process, something that runs rampant in the cozy world of defense contracts. It's not the major overhaul the system needs, but it's something, and it'll probably save us a few billion - probably more than the cost cuts Obama asked for from discretionary spending.

So why did no one pick up on this that I saw?

U.S. Constitution (1791-2009)

Shorter Obama: Bush spent eight years ripping the Constitution and the rule of law to shreds. I will now light the remaining shreds on fire, bury their ashes, and stomp on their grave. That is all.

Cue Greenwald's predictably awesome rant here. He makes the excellent point that Obama's system of dealing with detainees basically rigs the outcome in the government's favor. If we can get a conviction, use the courts. If we can't get a conviction in the courts, use a military kangaroo court. If we can't even get a conviction there, don't bother with the courts and just throw them in jail anyway. That's some catch, that Catch-22.

What baffles me is that the Obama administration isn't even considering the possibility that Bush made a mistake by putting some of these people in Gitmo in the first place, and that there might - gasp - be innocent people there. So Obama's saying that Bush screwed up in every conceivable way except that he was perfect in choosing who to detain? I find that hard to believe. So do these people.

Greenwald has an embedded video of Rachel Maddow's take, where she makes the obvious Minority Report reference that, for some reason, everyone else has missed. Charlie Savage explains how this could tie into the SCOTUS appointment, and why the nomination of Elena Kagan would be at least a partial disaster while the nomination of Diane Wood would be a good thing.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

In Which My Head Explodes

This afternoon when I came home, I thought I felt a draft coming from below. "Weird," I thought. "It must be kinda cold down there." Then I opened up an e-mail that Jacob sent me, and I understood why:
Admitting that it may be “political suicide” former Colorado Congressman Tom Tancredo said its time to consider legalizing drugs.
Yep. Tancredo and I agree on something controversial. Hell is freezing over, kids.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Greenwald FTW

In response to idiot Democratic senators caving to the Republican talking points that Gitmo terror suspects shouldn't be kept in the American jails that are good enough to hold Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, Ted Kaczynski, and Omar Abdel-Rahman, Greenwald says:
There's no more mewling, craven, subservient entity in the United States than the Senate Democratic caucus.
Harsh... and yet so true.

Think Before You Regulate

Jacob posts this interesting article about the unintended consequences of do-gooder legislation, in this case the toy safety act passed in 2008. Seems it's threatening small makers of hand-crafted toys who can't possibly afford to test all their toys before selling them.

I probably disagree with the author and with Jacob when I say that it's not an argument against regulation per se. Rather, it's an argument against hurriedly passing regulations without fully understanding the effect it will have on everyone under the law's jurisdiction. In general, it seems that the quality of legislation is inversely proportional to the speed with which it gets through Congress...

Hate Crimes Legislation

Lot of hate blogging all of a sudden. Weird.

Anyway, the Senate will soon be taking up S. 909, which adds gender identity and sexual orientation to the list of groups protected by existing hate crimes legislation. Which, like every other piece of legislation related to gay rights, brings out the crazies. Most of the opposition to this bill is somewhat disingenuous - since the bill only adds to the list of protected classes in current hate crimes legislation, the concept of "hate crimes" is not really at issue here, and it seems only logical that if we're going to have "hate crimes" be a class of crime, crimes committed out of hatred towards gay people ought to fall under that category. And the bizarre argument I hear the most against S. 909 (also called the Matthew Shepard Hate Crimes Prevention Act after the gay Laramie, Wyo. resident beaten to death because of his sexuality in 1998) is that the legislation will somehow make hatred of gay people, or denunciation of homosexuality by churches, a prosecutable offense. This is a patently absurd argument - for something to be a hate crime, it must first be a crime, and usually a violent one. Unless preaching is outlawed, anti-gay preachers have nothing to worry about.

(To be fair, I've heard some weird arguments from the left as well, mostly along the lines of accusing detractors of being in favor of beating up gay people. Last time I checked, beating anyone up is illegal, and would remain that way even if S. 909 fails.)

Wackos notwithstanding, though, there are some good arguments from both supporters and detractors of hate crime legislation in general. It is these arguments I want to look at.

The main argument against hate crime legislation is that it punishes a perpetrator for the thoughts in their head as opposed to their actions. Bigotry is distasteful, of course, but it's hardly illegal, nor should it be. Moreover, punishing someone more for committing a crime out of hate is tantamount to adding prison time for "thoughtcrime," which is not the American way. This is a reasonable argument - we should avoid punishing people for their thoughts.

It is, however, a spurious argument - we already, in many cases, make sentencing decisions based on the perpetrator's thoughts. Is the perp remorseful? If so, he'll probably get a shorter sentence. Ditto if the motive behind the crime was noble (say he robbed a bank in order to pay for Mom's medical bills). These are ad hoc jury/judge decisions of course, but they are frequently codified. If you kill someone, for example, the thoughts in your head are extremely important in determining the crime you committed and the sentence you receive. Did you do it on accident (involuntary manslaughter)? Did you try to hurt someone but not kill them (manslaughter)? Did you want to kill them but do so as a "crime of passion" (second-degree murder)? Did you plan out the whole thing (first-degree murder)? It's not a huge leap to go from here to "did you kill him out of race/sexuality/religion/gender hatred?"

The question, then, is why should we make that distinction? What is it about hate crimes that makes them worth differentiating? The argument is that a hate crime isn't just a crime against another person but a crime aimed at an entire group of people. It's an act of terrorism, so to speak - the goal of the perpetrator is not just to beat up some gay dude but to force all gay people to accept their supposed subordinate status in the social order. Therefore, the crime is more pernicious than just a simple beating, and ought to be punished as such.

The fact is that we punish crimes based on their effect on society already. We punish manslaughter less than murder because the latter has a far more deleterious effect on society than the former. In a case like a hate crime where the negative effect on society is multiplied by the perp's motive, it just makes sense to punish the crime more.

The other argument against federal hate crimes legislation is that it gives to the federal government powers that ought to remain in state hands. Why should a hate crime be a federal issue but a regular crime be a state issue? That's a good point, but there is a role for the federal government here since (as I mentioned earlier) an attack on a gay man anywhere is in essence a crime against gay people around the country. But a federal prosecution seems uncouth, since the crime itself probably did not take place across state lines (like kidnapping or trafficking, say). I would restrict the federal government's role in hate crimes prosecutions to a strictly advisory and assisting role. This lets states take the lead in their own law enforcement, while allowing the feds to step in to help if necessary.

Astute observers will note that I've "flip-flopped" on this issue in the past few years. So I'll reiterate that I reserve the right to change my position on any issue at any time, for any logical reason, so there.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Yep, Hate Still Exists

I saw a swastika painted on a road sign.

Not a big thing, mind you. More of a scrawl than a painting, tucked in a corner of a road sign on southbound Reedy Creek Road in Cary. It's still there, as of this writing. It's been there for about three days now. I didn't take a picture - no point in holding up traffic.

You don't see those much, around here. We in the Triangle are blessed with a rather tolerant community. The three places I've lived for significant periods of time - Northern Virginia, Nashville, and Raleigh - are so welcoming in general that I can honestly say I've never actually experienced any real anti-Semitism. Quite a difference from my mom's family, who weren't allowed to join Pine Bluff (Ark.) Country Club because of their religion. In the past forty years or so, hatred towards Jews and non-whites has faded into social unacceptability...

But, as that road sign chicken-scratch reminded me, it still exists. It's out there in the rantings of people like Pittsburgh shooter Andrew Poplawski. It's out there among the crazy bastards in North Idaho and on Stormfront. And it's out there in some punk with a can of spray-paint on Reedy Creek.

On April 21, Jews commemorated Yom HaShoah, the day of remembrance of the crimes symbolized by that swastika. We swear to never forget... but let's face it, folks, we have forgotten, at least until some halfwit scribbles something on a road sign and we're forced to think about what that symbol really means.

Because we've seen the symbol, we've heard the word "Nazi," entirely too much over the past few years. You go to a protest and you see signs like this. Or this. We throw around slogans comparing Bush to Hitler or calling Obama a fascist, as if we could imagine either of those men slaughtering eleven million innocent people in cold blood simply because he didn't like who they were. The swastika and the word "Nazi" aren't symbols of the ultimate evil of hatred and murder and genocide anymore - they're rhetorical shorthands for policies with which we disagree. And that means we have forgotten.

But it's worse. Not only have we forgotten, it means there's no point in remembering anymore. If we're referencing Nazism and the Holocaust to talk about differences in domestic and foreign policy, how the hell could we invoke the memories of the victims of genocide where it really matters, in cases like Darfur, or the budding anti-gay massacres in Iraq?

Maybe it's just the intellectually lazy fringe who have lost all perspective on the Holocaust, and that most people understand what it means to invoke Hitler and the Nazis. But those fringe idiots make us so afraid to do it when it's warranted, so cynical when it comes to such references that when murderous hate and political power converge and genocide threatens, our first reaction when the Holocaust is referenced is dismissal and derision.

So why does it behoove all of us to condemn, in no uncertain terms, the wanton use of references to fascism and Nazism in our everyday political discourse? Because hate still exists. Because we need to preserve the memory of Hitler's victims for cases when that memory might be useful in stopping actual genocide. And because I don't know what that punk on Reedy Creek Road was thinking about when he scrawled that swastika, but I doubt it was the income tax.

A Question

Isn't it funny how those who yell the loudest for the "lock 'em up and throw away the key" strategy of law enforcement are suddenly perfectly okay with lawbreaking if it's done by the executive branch?

Bonus question for Republicans only: which is worse, lying about cheating on your wife or torturing?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Massive Judicial Fail

Some stupid people north of the border decided to celebrate a "Kick a Ginger Day" where high-school students would kick a red-headed fellow students. The perpetrators are, of course, brought to justice, where the presiding judge blames... South Park?
Judge Lynn Cook-Stanhope said on Friday she was satisfied the teenagers had taken responsibility for their actions, and she saved her scathing remarks for the animated television show South Park, which she called a "vulgar, socially irreverent program that contributes nothing to society."

Unfortunately, the writers and producers of the show will never be called to account for encouraging such action, the judge added.

Okay, dumbshit, the "Ginger Kids" episode that the judge clearly thinks caused this whole incident is a work of art that cannot be seen as having any influence over a bunch of idiot kids in Calgary. Which ought to be clear from the fact that the episode's message is the exact opposite of what these idiot kids did. The "writers and producers" of South Park didn't "encourag[e] such action," they ACTIVELY DISCOURAGED IT. Watch the damn show.

Maybe she's still bitter over the whole "Blame Canada" thing. Which was also sarcastic. Screw it, I'm gonna go try to find "Ginger Kids" online somewhere.

Update: Watch it here.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Mmmm, Tastes Like Greenwash

Congress, in their infinite wisdom, has decided to float a bill offering people money for turning in their old cars if they buy a new, more fuel-efficient one. If you turn in your 18 mpg or less car, you get $3,500 for going up by 4 mpg, and $4,500 for going up by 10 mpg.

Of course, it's wasteful to buy a whole new car and send your old car to the scrap heap when your old car works just fine, thank you. Steve Israel tried to save the green-ness of the bill by suggesting that people be credited for buying fuel-efficient used cars, but that was shot down.

I don't support this bill, but there are a few reasonable excuses for doing so. It could function as another economic stimulus. It would certainly help boost demand for cars from failing Detroit automakers. But for the love of God, please don't try to sell it as "green" legislation, because it ain't.

Maine Event

Maine became the fifth state to allow same-sex marriage today (sixth if you count CA's brief foray into marriage equality). ME also becomes the first state to do so entirely on their own without any, ahem, help from the courts.

Great, Now Tancredo Can Send Me To Jail

Longtime ONAF readers are probably familiar with my frequently over-the-top criticism of former Colorado congresscritter and nativist drumbeater Tom Tancredo. I'm sure my blog posts about him could be classified as "hostile," right? Well, according to this new bill, I could be tried and sent to jail for it! Hooray! Who needs that pesky First Amendment anyway - let's prosecute everyone who makes anyone else feel uncomfortable!

Look, the incident that inspired the bill - where an adult used a fake identity to harass a teenage girl until said girl killed herself - is a tragedy. But just because someone does something evil doesn't mean they should be prosecuted for it. One of the prices we pay for living in a society with guaranteed rights is that evil people frequently have the right to say and do evil things, and there isn't a damn thing we can do about it except shame the evil person. We certainly can't pass a law that forbids any sort of pointed criticism if it leads to "emotional distress."

(Speaking of Tancredo and free-speech issues, I never got a chance to post on it, but this incident in Chapel Hill actually kinda made me feel sorry for the bastard. No one deserves to feel physically threatened for their political views.)

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Wilson County Schools Act Like Their Students

Have you ever asked a three-year-old to leave the playground, but then the kid screams "No!" and runs off to the slide again, at which point you get angry at the kid, which doesn't make the kid come to you but instead makes him stand there pouting with arms folded, refusing to leave, until eventually you have to carry him kicking and screaming from the playground? For some reason, that's the scene that comes to mind when I think about the recent events surrounding the Wilson County, TN public schools.

First, about a year ago, the school system was hit with a lawsuit over their endorsement of a "praying parents" group that went into schools and prayed for kids. As a result, they were told to add disclaimers to posters in order to make sure that students knew that religious activities that took place on school property were not endorsed by the school. However, WCPS' powers-that-be, being three years old, threw a tantrum and decided that no religious events could be advertised on school property, even if the students and parents are doing the advertising and running the event themselves. Naturally, the courts have issued a "no, you dolts can't do that either" response.

Is neutrality with respect to religion really that difficult to figure out?

Jeffrey Rosen's Epic Fail

Regarding this hit piece on possible Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, I have no original thoughts. Rather, I'll paraphrase James Downey...

Mr. Rosen, what you've just said is one of the most insanely idiotic things I have ever heard. At no point in your rambling, incoherent article were you even close to anything that could be considered a rational thought. Everyone at this website is now dumber for having read it. I award you no points, and may God have mercy on your soul.

Greenwald has a far more extensive takedown that's well worth the read.

And a final note: it seems like the innuendo about Sotomayor's "temperament" is a giant dog-whistle, given that she's a working-class Puerto Rican... seriously, can you remember the last time a nominee's "temperament" was even discussed?

Friday, May 01, 2009

How The Hell Does This Guy Win Elections?

Witness Rep. Joe Barton (R-TX) make a complete fool of himself trying to ask a question of Energy Secretary Steven Chu. His question, essentially, was "how come Alaska and the Arctic have all that oil?" At this point, Chu laughs and attempts to explain, in six seconds, plate tectonics and continental drift. Which completely goes over Barton's head - so far over his head, in fact, that he later brags about stumping Chu on Twitter. (Any reasonable person viewing the video, of course, will recognize that Chu was far from stumped.)

Barton got his industrial engineering degree from Texas A&M. Figures. Insert your favorite Aggie joke here.

Barton, who represents Arlington and some of the I-45 corridor south of Dallas, would later go on to claim that no one would drive a hybrid unless the Army forced them to (which is news to this voluntary Prius owner). Also he's holding hearings on the BCS and comparing it to Communism. (OK, I kinda have to give him that one.)

He's not within reach of Michele Bachmann yet (who is?), but if he keeps this up he'll be there soon enough.