September 8th, 2010

Quaero togam pacem.
  • mahnmut

That's not how you win hearts and minds

"[The plans to organize a burning of the Koran in Gainesville] is precisely the kind of action the Taliban uses and could cause significant problems. Even the rumor that it might take place has sparked demonstrations such as the one that took place in Kabul yesterday. Were the actual burning to take place, the safety of our soldiers and civilians would be put in jeopardy and accomplishment of the mission would be made more difficult."

Can you guess who pronounced those words? An anti-American, Islam-loving, terrorism-tolerating liberal, perhaps? Or someone else?

I won't leave you guessing for too long. It was a national hero, the guy who came up with the Surge idea which has made it possible for the mission in Iraq to reach a new stage, where Iraq is hopefully able to look after itself; it was the guy who was subsequently put in charge of the Afghanistan mission as well, and hopes are he'll bring it to a similar stage too. A hugely respected military commander, to whom many people on both sides of the political barricade claim they would dedicate their trust and would vote for, if he ever considers running for President.

Yes, it was Gen. Petraeus.

Of course he was just one voice in the chorus of voices who protested the plans of Rev. Terry Jones to burn Koran copies in front of his small congregation in Florida to commemorate 9-11. After the storm of outrage, Jones is claiming he's "taking the widespread criticism seriously", but it's yet to be seen what this exactly means. Again we're touching the subject of freedom of speech here, and people getting offended by "too free speech", and this is about deliberately inflaming groups of people for the sake of one's convictions (no matter how bigoted). What say you? Do you approve of his way of delivering his message that "we're warning you [Muslims] that if you attack us, we'll attack you"?

And how prevalent do you think this type of mindset is in society? Is it "no biggie", or is it a symptom of something really bigger?

And when you weigh this guy's alleged patriotism vs the type of patriotism of which Gen. Petraeus speaks, and taking in consideration the potential effects of Rev . Jones' actions for the US troops in foreign countries, where do you stand on the issues of freedom of speech, respecting other groups, and defending the interests of fellow US citizens in cases of this particular type?

By the way more anti-US demonstrations have already erupted in some cities in the Middle East, with flag burning, Allah Aqbar shouts and all the respective paraphernalia - and that, as a direct consequence of Rev. Jones' declared intention (note: I'm not even saying action yet). Any bets on the number of new recruits for the anti-US terrorist insurgency?

President Obama's pro business solution & the Party of "NO!!!!!"

One of President Obama's proposals for helping an extremely sluggish recovery, was a series of tax write offs for businesses, most of which have been historically proposed by Republicans, some of them as recently as last year. Including the following:

- Businesses can deduct 100 percent the full value of new equipment purchases, from computers to utility generators, to increase demand for goods and create jobs.

- A provision to expand and make permanent a tax credit for corporations’ research and development expenses; for three decades, the credit has been enacted temporarily, given its revenue cost, and then always extended, but with frequent lapses that frustrate businesses. This is the single largest increase in the history of the credit. Every dollar in tax credit creates over two dollars in the economy. Stimulus measures enacted at the end of the Bush administration and continued in 2009 allowed businesses to depreciate 50 percent of qualified investments. A separate administration proposal to benefit small businesses with tax cuts and loans, which has been pending in Congress much of the year and remains blocked by Republicans in the Senate, would extend this smaller tax break through 2010. According to the draft description from the administration, the proposal “would put nearly $200 billion in the hands of businesses over the next two years — helping companies that make new investments in the United States at a time they need it most.”

Who has supported these ideas? The United States Chamber of Commerce, The American Enterprise Institute, and John McCain's top economic advsior.

But Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky said the plan would raise taxes, even as Americans are "still looking for the 'shovel-ready' jobs they were promised more than a year ago" in the $814 billion economic stimulus measure." [Republicans in the Senate have blocked any extension of the tax credit for businesses for the duration of the year].

Of course, during his speech in Milwaukee, President Obama implored Republicans to support a pro business approach in solving the recession, but at this point in his Presidency, he's certainly politically astute enough to know that's unlikely. By offering their own proposals (or even going much further)-- President Obama is giving the voters a wonderful opportunity in showing how unreasonable his Republican opponents are, and by voting for Republicans in the Autumn wouldn't be a good idea. Interestedly, Gallop shows both parties tied in a recent generic poll.

While some conservatives could attempt to make the case for "Well, it's the deficit!," but it wouldn't have much traction, since Republicans have offered these same proposals before, and there are budgetary offsets within the Presidents proposals to pay for the package. Nevermind Republicans have supported the Bush tax cuts which are estimated to cost the Treasurey nearly 3 trillion dollars if extended through 2018.
  • 404

(no subject)

What is your reaction to the Florida Preacher who is wanting to burn Q'urans on 9/11? Can anything good come from this whole mess? Personally I think this whole deal is tacky, and even though he is free to do what he doing, that is his speech is protected, that does not mean that he should do it. This mirrors my feelings about Park51, but that's a different, and much beaten horse.

On a more useful topic...

Botched Paramilitary Police Raids

If a widespread pattern of [knock-and-announce] violations were shown . . . there would be reason for grave concern.
Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, in Hudson v. Michigan, June 15, 2006.

The linked map shows 294 examples of excessive police actions over the past 25 years. I don't know if it's comprehensive or not, so it's at least a minimum level. I believe that most of these cases resulted in no detrimental effects to either the police officers involved or the police department involved. (Note: I didn't read all of them, and my definition of "detrimental" might not be the same as yours.)

Man Dies in Police Raid on Wrong House

A 61-year-old man was shot to death by police while his wife was handcuffed in another room during a drug raid on the wrong house.

I think this is unacceptable. We should be striving for error-free justice, and as part of that, we need to be punishing those who make egregious errors such as these. The "just following orders" defense may sometimes be ok, but then the ones giving the orders need to be dealt with. Or, if the system just can't handle it, then "no-knock" warrants need to be done away with.
Godzilla, default

Right idea, Governor Palin. WRONG way to put it:

I'll give her this: she actually understands American values and of the traditional sort about that. Screwed up the comparison by an order of magnitude, but hey, it's a start.

I predict, however, that within 24 hours FOX News will start running "Why does Sarah Palin hate America" articles. But in the spirit of her support of the good citizens of New York who want to build on the Holy Burlington Coat factory, I will say this is one of the most artfully written backhanded declarations of support I have ever read. And of course it's a sign that perhaps Governor Palin has progressed to speaking proper English instead of word Salad.That, too, is a step forward for our new Ralph Nader-style punching bag for American comedians.
K-Box cartoon

A former military member contemplates America's identity as 9/11 approaches ...

My least favorite day in the world is coming up this Saturday, so rather than pull a repeat of last year's ill-advised flameout on my own LJ, I think I'm going to try and channel my rage at what I see as the inappropriate appropriation of this day into something that's somehow positive, if only to the same degree of "positive" that Albert Camus managed in The Myth of Sisyphus, to wit:

What does it mean to be an American?

I must have written dozens of essays with subject lines like that back in school, but what strikes me in retrospect is how much the question itself actually seemed to discourage any real thought about its possible answers, even more so than would have been accomplished by never asking the question in the first place.

For all the American exceptionalists' insistences to the contrary, Americans' common defining characteristic is NOT that we are the greatest goddamned people on Earth, as any glance at the exceptional non-Americans who populate my friends-lists reminds me, but neither does this mean that those critics of America who offer blanket dismissals of us all as merely being mouth-breathing, compulsively consuming warmongers are correct, either. Likewise, the line about democracy being the worst form of government except for all the others is probably on the nose, but especially in the wake of democracy's recent and very real failures to achieve either worthwhile public policies or even some sort of accurate understanding of the same, such a self-consciously clever one-liner seems an overly pat response to the complex problems plaguing American democracy at the moment.

I served in the American military for seven years, and by this Halloween, I'll have been a post-service civilian for seven years on top of that, and between the two, I've witnessed eight post-9/11 commemorations in that time, and as I've watched birthers and truthers and every other faction of uniquely American assholes using that day to try and shout each other down, I'm left wondering what any of it actually means anymore, because it seems like everyone's definition of what it means to be a true American necessarily excludes everyone else's definitions of the same, as well as any other flesh-and-blood Americans who differ in any way from themselves. How the hell is anyone meant to figure out what it means to be an American when the only thing that Americans as a whole have in common is that we can't agree on anything, including what it means to be an American?

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