Wednesday, June 27, 2007

The quiet revolution

Here is a good op-ed piece written by Thomas F. Schaller for the Baltimore Sun. He discusses the struggle of equality for gays and lesbians and how it is simply one among many civil rights struggles that is inevitable. He makes some excellent points.
"The movement for sexual orientation-based equality is part of a proud, progressive tradition that includes abolition, women's suffrage, the ending of child labor, racial integration of the armed forces, the civil rights movement and anti-miscegenation reforms."

Though we've certainly had some setbacks, I believe that we are making progress on the equality front. I believe that ours is a struggle that will be won. Just as so many minorities in the past who have been denigrated, stereotyped, and second-classed they eventually won equal recognition to the point that eventually most people look back and question how such bigotry could have ever existed against an entire group of people who didn't deserve any such stigmas. Some day we too will be seen as equals. But it's going to be long struggle. It will take decades. But it is inevitable nonetheless...
"Three patterns hallmark this long tradition: a defiant insistence by conservative doom-and-gloomers that the proposed reforms will undermine the fabric of American life; the inevitable rally by progressive and altruistic-minded Americans to the cause of expanding to others the protections they already enjoy; and, finally, widespread agreement a generation or so thereafter that conservative hysteria was not only misplaced, but America was stronger for having ignored their pinched, wrongheaded warnings."

Thomas Schaller points out how much coming out of the closet has been the real catalyst for winning more recognition for homosexuals.
"Previous generations were not blind, of course. But they were either more oblivious or chose to avoid the reality that some of their neighbors, co-workers, bowling team members and relatives were gay. By outing themselves, gays and lesbians forced the rest of us out of our closet of collective obliviousness."

And here is another article from a few weeks back by Michael Kinsley in Time magazine. While I didn't care for this article as much, Kinsley made some good points too:
"On no issue is history moving faster than on "gay rights" [...] The work is not finished, of course, but what took black Americans more than a century, gays have accomplished in two or three decades (thanks in no small part to blacks, who designed the template for this kind of social revolution)."
Quite right. Of course some criticize us for having the "audacity" to stand up to those who demonize us, and demanding that we be given equal status under the law with heterosexuals...

"We still argue about it, but the whole spectrum of debate has moved left. A right-wing thug like Tom DeLay or Newt Gingrich probably has more advanced views about homosexuals than dainty liberals of the past century like Adlai Stevenson or Hubert Humphrey."
Yes, a lot of conservative folks, at least publicly, aren't as fire breathing with their condemnation of homosexuals.

"The notion that gays must be segregated out of the military for the sake of our national security must strike Americans younger than, say, 40 as simply weird, just as we of the previous generation find the rules of racial segregation weird. (O.K., run that by me again: they needed separate drinking fountains because ... why?)"
Exactly! This is the sort of logic that some of us, myself included have been arguing for years. I've been bringing this sort of no-brainer to the people in rural Missouri where I live via letters to the editor and comments on the online forum provided by the newspaper online. The only thing that I disagree with here is that it must seem weird to everyone under 40. I'd put the number at those under 30 would find it rather absurd to expel homosexuals from the military, except for social conservatives of course {read: the flat Earthers and Creationists}.

"[the GOP] can 'affirm' anything they want, but homosexuality is obviously not incompatible with military service. There have always been gays in the military. The question is what conditions they serve under."
Like Barry Goldwater said, "You don't need to be straight to fight and die for your country. You just need to shoot straight. " It'd be nice if those who claim to care so much about supporting the troops lived up to that and included those soldiers who just happen to be homosexually oriented.

"When opponents of gay rights talk ominously about a "gay agenda," they are not completely wrong. There has been an agenda in the sense of a long-term strategy, not unlike the carefully plotted strategy of Thurgood Marshall and others in the civil rights movement that ended formal racial segregation."
Yep, and just like the struggle for racial equality, we too shall overcome...

The only thing I can say of the Time magazine article that I didn't care much for was the picture that was provided. It was a drawing which includes a soldier in pink camouflage. I think that kind of caricature just perpetuates the notion that homosexual men are marked by effeminacy. It's a bit like arguing for racial equality by using a black man in slave-like clothes eating watermelon surrounded by Klansmen. I think we've had enough of the stereotypes, even from those who support us.

Monday, June 25, 2007

Kennedy conspiracy? Two viewpoints, same conclusion... Yes

For a long time I've always wondered about the Kennedy assassination. I've long believed that there is FAR more to both John and Robert Kennedy's assassination. I admit that some of the conspiracy notions are pretty outrageous and clearly made up by people who just want to believe in such things, but there are some theories that aren't so outrageous, that are credible but certainly disconcerting because they involve elements of our own government. I certainly don't believe there was a massive government cover-up, but I do believe some people in our government wanted rid of both John and Robert, and they did so.

Recently in Time magazine there was an article of opinion about the assassination of President John Kennedy and whether it was a conspiracy. One says yes, the other says no. They're brief but worth reading. The writer in the positive, David Talbot brought up some very interesting facts and dilemmas attached to the assassination and what followed. I think he posited his claims well and raised some interesting questions.

The writer that argues in the negative, Vincent Bugliosi, offered a truly weak rationale for his reasoning which relies mostly on it just seeming unbelievable to him that our government would have done such a thing and would have employed someone like Lee Harvey Oswald in any part of it.

He starts right off with this misleading statement, "After 44 years of investigation by thousands of researchers, not one speck of credible evidence has ever surfaced that groups such as the CIA, organized crime or the military-industrial complex were behind the assassination, only that they each had a motive."

While there apparently isn't enough known evidence to indict anyone, there most certainly is a great deal of credible evidence that Oswald did not act alone, that people within the government and the Mafia had a hand in it and in covering up a great deal of the evidence surrounding it.

The author claims, "I have found there are 32 separate reasons for concluding there was no conspiracy." Believe it or not he starts off with something as lacking in substance as:
"Moreover, the very thought of members of the military-industrial complex (Joint Chiefs of Staff, captains of industry) or the CIA or organized crime actually plotting to murder the President of the U.S. is surreal, the type of thing that only belongs, if at all, in a Robert Ludlum novel."
You really have to question a person who uses a feeling he gets as part of his "case" against something. This guy actually has wrote a book about the Kennedy assassination. Surely his book isn't filled with specious gems like this...

He goes on to argue that Lee Harvey Oswald was clearly guilty of involvement in the assassination, I'm not sure of anyone claiming otherwise, but he seems to operate under the assumption that since Oswald clearly was involved and had no reasonable claim of innocence, that therefore there must not have been a conspiracy... Not sure how one equals the other, but he attempts to make that leap.

"Oswald's efforts to construct a defense [...] turned out to be a string of provable lies, all of which show an unmistakable consciousness of guilt. Only in a fantasy world can you have 53 pieces of evidence against you and still be innocent. Conspiracy theorists are stuck with this reality."
Yes, I think there is no denying that Oswald was involved in the assassination and that he shot the president, the point here is that he did not act alone.

"Even assuming that the CIA or Mob or military-industrial complex decided 'Let's murder President Kennedy,' Oswald would be among the last people in the world those organizations would choose for the job. Oswald was not an expert shot and owned only a $12 mail-order rifle—both of which automatically disqualify him as a hit man."
Again, Mr. Bugliosi relies on his quite limited assumptions, that since Oswald wouldn't qualify as a good hitman then he couldn't have possibly been used by organizations who were conspiring to kill the President as their assassin. So if Oswald doesn't seem like the perfect hitman therefore there must have been no conspiracy... What a weak sense of logic he's got going on here.

This is actually a very interesting point that he brings up though, not only does it not help his argument it actually hurts it. First of all, Oswald was tested during his earlier service in the Marines just above the minimum qualifications as a sharpshooter. So while he wasn't an expert he wasn't a bad aim either. But okay, so the claim here is that he wasn't an expert shot and that he only owned a $12 mail-order rifle. Then just how in the hell did he manage to shoot the President of the United States from over 65ft away as he was traveling 15mph in a motorcade with only 2 shots, the fatal one being a shot to the head?

But, apparently this doesn't matter, Bugliosi does in fact want us to believe that someone who toward the end of his brief service in the Marine Corps only scored as a marksman and who accidentally shot himself in the arm with a pistol was able to pull off this remarkable feat, what Bugliosi himself refers to as "the biggest murder in American history"? I find that to be far less believable than the theory that there was a second, far more qualified gunman...

"If the Mafia leaders, for instance, decided to kill the President of the U.S.—an act that would result in a retaliation against them of unprecedented proportions if they were discovered to be behind it—wouldn't they use a very professional, tight-lipped assassin who had a successful track record with them, someone in whom they had the highest confidence?"

Yes, they might use someone like that... In fact, I'd say they did. I contend that Oswald did not act alone. There was a professional involved, and he wasn't about to get caught. If I were the professional, there is no way in hell I would be counting on just slipping away from that place unnoticed. He needed a distraction, a fall guy. Afterall, there was no way that the assassin of the President of the United States was just not going to get caught, ever.

Since Bugliosi is framing his arguments about what he thinks government officials and mob bosses would or would not do then how about this: Oswald was chosen because he was a loser who was easy to manipulate, he would be easy to villainize what with his past including his ties to communism, and he would be a believable assassin since he had been a Marine and had qualified as a sharpshooter... In short, he was an ideal fall guy that few would suspect wouldn't have motive and capability to shoot the President. If you were going to pick someone to shoot the President who could be a lone gunman, a loser like Oswald would seemingly make a very good choice. And if this is true then it was obviously a very wise decision, because officially Oswald acted alone and the conspiracy deniers still abound.

Of course, as a side note, I think it is worth mentioning that the government and the mob during that era had used incompetent hitmen before, like the miserably failed attempts to kill Fidel Castro.

Again Bugliosi continues on with his all too convenient assumptions:
"let's assume, just for the sake of argument, that the CIA or Mob decided to kill Kennedy and also decided that Oswald should do the job. It still doesn't make any sense. After Oswald shot Kennedy and left the book depository, one of two things would have happened, the less likely of which is that a car would have been waiting for him to help him escape down to Mexico or wherever. The conspirators certainly wouldn't want their killer to be apprehended and interrogated by the authorities. But the more likely thing by far is that the car would have driven Oswald to his death. Instead, we know that Oswald was out on the street with $13 in his pockets, attempting to flag down buses and cabs. What does that fact, alone, tell you?"
This all tells me that Bugliosi isn't very clever. Ok, so let's assume that the CIA and/orMob did decide to kill President Kennedy and that they did use Oswald. Unlike this guy though, I'm not going to rely on his convenient premise that Oswald was the lone hitman. Instead, Oswald was the stooge. He was the guy that would throw everyone off the scent, someone the authorities could catch and convict. Case solved, the country will move on. And if this were true, then no there was not going to be a car waiting for Oswald, there would be no escape to Mexico.

As for his last comment about Oswald flagging down cabs and only having $13, Bugliosi wants us to believe this proves the Mob wasn't involved. Quite the contrary, those details certainly do not sound like the description of a man who was planning to shoot the President and then escape on his own to mingle back into society... Nope, it sounds like someone who was expecting a set up getaway that, to his surprise, wasn't there afterward and so he was desperate to improvise an escape.
"Three people can keep a secret but only if two are dead. Yet we are asked to believe that in 44 years, not one word of the vast alleged conspiracy, not one syllable, has ever leaked out."
The fact that Oswald was killed soon after he was in custody by Jack Ruby, who also died soon afterward, seems to have totally escaped him... Yes, those that wanted Kennedy dead certainly didn't want Oswald to talk, and they made sure he didn't.

As for there not being a word leaked out about this conspiracy {which doesn't have to be as vast as he claims}, that is yet another bogus claim on his part. The many conspiracy theories that exist weren't just created in a vacuum. They have been based on evidence, albeit much of it circumstantial, and there have been claims made by people which it remains to be seen if their claims are true or not. There is no basis for Bugliosi's claim that there is no evidence that there was a conspiracy, and there is no basis for his claim that nothing has been leaked about it. But Bugliosi doesn't want there to be a conspiracy and so anything that would substantiate that conspiracy is rejected.

Of the so-called 32 reasons not to believe there was a conspiracy, Vincent Bugliosi didn't give a single one that was even remotely convincing. Mostly it amounts to it not making sense to him... He can't conceive of it and therefore it just can't be so. Really, he is a major embarrassment to the anti-conspiracy movement.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Dissenters In Uniform

I read a good article of opinion in Newsweek by Anna Quindlen about the attitudes of military personnel about the war in Iraq. It makes the sort of points that pro-war advocates like to ignore or deny.

Here are some of the highlights:
"On the one hand, there's a form of government that is supposed to glory in free speech and support it zealously, even when it incites or offends. On the other, there is the organization designed to protect democracy from its enemies, with one of its guiding principles a monolithic devotion to duty that seems antithetical to individual opinion."
Yes that is the ongoing quandary between a free and open society, a liberal democracy with constitutional guarantees, and the citizen military that is supposed to defend and uphold those very ideals...

"Lt. Ehren Watada has become the first officer to face court-martial for refusing to return to Iraq. 'My participation would make me party to war crimes,' he said at a news conference. Others have applied for conscientious-objector status, including one young decorated combat veteran who described being approached by an elderly Iraqi, who asked, 'Why are you still here?'"

"Unflinching and unthinking obedience may be ideal for commanders, who need soldiers to do what they're told no matter their own opinions. But civilians have learned that it can lead to the worst sort of atrocities. Following orders was the defense in the My Lai massacre, and in the prisoner-abuse scandal at Abu Ghraib. It's now commonly known as the Nuremberg defense because it was used at trial by defeated Nazis."
I've noticed in the excuses offered by the hardline anti-terror/pro-war crowd that it all revolves around the claim that what we do is right and just, yep even when civilians die, even when we use torture, detainment camps, holding people indefinitely without trial, without being charged, suspending justice like in the case of the writ of habeas corpus. But these same people are so quick to condemn the war crimes, the injustice, the treatment of POW's in other country. Talk about moral relativism... If principles like justice are absolute, then why the selective application of it?

"One young man said before his deployment that he was going to Iraq to help those who lacked 'the freedoms that we are afforded every day.' Two years later he said Americans had 'a lot of misconceptions' about the war, adding, 'They'll just say 'freedom.' They'll just spout ... something they've heard that's easily repeatable.' Reminded of his own earlier words, he described himself as having done 'a 180.'"
I've noticed this same old cliche being uttered over and over, that we're 'bringing freedom to the people of Iraq', ah but as it's become more and more obvious that what we have brought to Iraq is ruination we're hearing dissent from more and more former pro-war apologists and soldiers who wanted to believe they were following justified orders and were accomplishing something good for America and the people of Iraq. They wanted to believe the typical propaganda line, and as this soldier serves as an example, they swallowed that line taking comfort in it, but reality has set in and the truth has become too inescapable to deny any longer.

I have been thinking for some time now that in the next several years when things wind down some and a large number of the troops that have been stationed there are civilians again we're going to hear the truth come out. Sure there will still be the apologists, but we will hear from legions of these troops who will confirm what many of those opposed to this war have been saying all along. Bush and his cadre of lieutenants and apologists will eat the lies they've been selling us. There is a time coming, a lot of people are going to be coming back home and they're going to talk...

"There are those who argue that such a conclusion is above the pay grade of anyone but the commander in chief, and that discipline overrides dissent."
Yeah, I've had dealings with those who hold such convoluted views before, one of them is the homophobic Catholic bigot that I've dealt with on the Newsleader Forum...

"it's the guys in the field who are best able to judge whether the mission is right and just and is working on the ground. They are the ultimate embeds. As one man said on a posting to the IVAW Web site, 'When the people who fought the war are speaking out against it ... maybe you should listen.'"
Yeah, you'd think that these people who claim to "support the troops" which actually give a damn whether they were giving their lives for a worthy, justified endeavor or not, that they would care whether the tactics being employed in the war effort were competent, and that they would care what those soldiers think about the situation they know first hand. But they don't, they just deny the inconvenient truths, make apologies for those responsible, and shout down those who dissent. Both those in and out of uniform.

Speaking of dissenters in uniform:
Veterans Against the Iraq War
Iraq Veterans Against the War
Vietnam Veterans Against the War
Veterans For Peace

Oh yeah, and other critics of the war or the incompetence it's being operated with:
Army Four Star General, former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs & Secretary of State Colin Powell (retired)
Army Four Star General Wesley Clark (retired)
Army Maj. Gen. John Batiste (retired)
Marine Corps Gen. Anthony Zinni (retired)
Army Maj. Gen. Paul Eaton (retired)
Army Colonel Jack Jacobs (retired)
Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Greg Newbold (retired)
Army chief of staff Gen. Eric Shinseki (retired)
Air Force chief of staff General Merrill McPeak (retired)
Vietnam Vet, former Secretary of the Navy, Senator Jim Webb (retired)

Saturday, June 09, 2007

The gay is, da bomb!

Oh, this is rich — Pentagon Confirms It Sought to Create a 'Gay Bomb'.

No homosexuals allowed to serve their country and show their patriotism but we can sure make homosexuality into a weapon!!!

I've heard this nonsense before and didn't believe it, but apparently there really was something to it after all...

Saturday, June 02, 2007

Out of What 'Shadows'? Indeed

Here's a good article in Newsweek magazine about immigration by George Will. I don't often agree with him, but this time I did...

Some excerpts:
"Utah's Sen. Robert Bennett has been told by representatives of the county's construction industry that if the flow of illegal immigrants comes to an abrupt halt, so will the county's growth."
If these business people can't make it on paying documented workers decent wages then they should consider getting into a new line of work...

"America's economy would suffer substantially without immigrant labor—including much of that which is already here illegally."
It seems to me the same argument was made in favor of keeping slavery in the Antebellum South. No thanks. Indentured servitude isn't something this country should accept, not even for economic prosperity.

"The government, however, has no cognizance of those who are here illegally. They have proved by their presence here that they have limited regard for U.S. legal niceties. So, what is to prevent those who have arrived since Jan. 1, and those who will continue to arrive by the millions, while—"while" means years—the border is supposedly being secured, from fibbing about when they arrived?"
Exactly! Illegal immigrants have entered this country illegally, they are undocumented. We don't know anything about their being here or when they arrived but from what they tell us. And can we really trust those people that sneak into the country in violation of the law for their own benefit to be honest? Especially if they think they are going to be getting something out of being dishonest? Hell no!

"Sensible immigration policy must arise from more than monomania about the disturbing fact that at least 12 million immigrants are here illegally. Affirming the rule of law is, however, where to begin because when a large and somewhat cohesive cohort succeeds in living in defiance of the law, the scofflaw spirit can have myriad manifestations."
I don't think it can be overstated in the least that it is a very serious problem when 12 million plus people have entered this country illegally and are still living and working here, now demanding citizenship or the next best thing, amnesty, and at least 100 million more bleeding-heart overreactionaries will label anyone that doesn't support this endeavor as "racists" and "xenophobes".

We must not stand idly by as so many people are living in defiance of the law, a very necessary law at that, which protects both the security of the country by controlling who enters it, but also protects the system by ensuring jobs are going to citizens and documented workers, and that benefits aren't given out so widely that it breaks the system.

"Protecting one form of lawbreaking may require protecting others as well. The city of Maywood in Los Angeles County declared itself a sanctuary zone for illegal aliens this year. Then it got rid of its drunk-driving checkpoints, because they were nabbing too many illegal aliens. Next, this 96 percent Latino city, almost half of whose adult population lacks a ninth-grade education, disbanded its police traffic division entirely, so that illegals wouldn't need to worry about having their cars towed for being unlicensed."
That's something you don't hear from the pro-amnesty crowd. It sounds just like the sort of accommodations that have been increasing though for the past several years. Anything to make life easier for those who are not legally supposed to be here... Even if it comes at the detriment of the whole country. think this sums it up all too well:
"although some data suggest that many Hispanic immigrants live in increasing cultural and linguistic self-segregation, clearly some have assimilated in the sense of acquiring one of the nation's unpleasant current attributes, the entitlement mentality: We are here, therefore we are entitled to be here."