Monday, April 27, 2009

The Borat of American Politics

As I observe the spectacle of Obama undermining the national security establishment of his own country, while continuing his generally insulting behavior and comments toward that country, I feel a sense of deja vu.

I've seen this sort of thing before, but where?

Was it while reading Martha Stout's "The Sociopath Next Door"? Well, there are certainly some things in that book which resonate. But no, that's not quite it.

And then it hits me.

This man is the Borat of American politics.

He gets in through a combination of obsequiousness, deceptiveness and, perhaps, people feeling a bit sorry for him (oppressed minorities and all that).

He and his entourage then start taking advantage of the tolerant and kind-natured people who let him in, by "accidentally" breaking things they value, constantly insulting them while smiling ever so politely, and not much later presenting them, in their own homes, with a bag of ... well, if you've seen the film, you know what it was.

I fear we shall see more, and ever larger, such bags presented to the American people as long as this man and his friends remain in office.

Addendum: It appears that at least one other person has noticed these similarities.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

US-Swiss relationship being re-assessed... by the Swiss?

Swiss party wants to punish U.S. for UBS probe

The fact that there was a probe should not be too surprising. Switzerland has long had agreements with the US and some other countries to reveal the identities of Swiss bank account holders, if there is credible evidence they are engaged in criminal activities.

The difference here is that it seems the Swiss were heavily pressured to provide the names, "or else", and that seems to be part of what the SVP is protesting.

Here's the part that makes me sad.
  1. Switzerland and the US have for a very long time had amicable relations, the sort you would expect between two vigorous democracies with similar political traditions. The US founding fathers spoke admiringly of the Swiss.
  2. The current Swiss banking secrecy laws were implemented in the 1930s, primarily to shield Jewish account holders from Nazi officials trying to track down those peoples' wealth for confiscation. If the guy in the Berlin branch of a Swiss bank doesn't have the real account numbers, you can't beat the info out of him. And if you try intimidating a Swiss banker or his family inside Switzerland, you are likely to get shot.
Based on the US behavior in question, and the outcome our recent elections, I wonder if Switzerland is now re-assessing its relationship with the USA, much as it had to with Germany in the 1930s.

"Well, Hans, it seems the US electorate has fallen for the same thing the German one did in the 1930s. Time to start limiting our interactions with them?"

The Swiss banking laws remain in place because there are many countries in the world run by people little better than the Nazis, who would be glad to unjustifiably extort perfectly legitimate money from their citizens if it knew they had some overseas. The Swiss provide a legitimate safe haven for such money.

Sad to think if the US may now be moving into the category of 3rd world kleptocrat governments the Swiss have traditionally been on guard against.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Joseph McCarthy: New Labour Hero?

Reading about the upcoming implementation of the Criminal Justice and Immigration Act, and its likely chilling effect on comics (and other forms of expression), I had a sense of deja vu.

Ah, yes. The 1950s crusade against comic books in the US, during the McCarthy era.

Intolerant, tiny-minded ignoramuses crusading against free expression, past and present.

I think we can all agree that child pornography, in any form, is unacceptable. But the Act's provisions are broad enough to cause a chilling effect on other forms of expression, long considered acceptable, and at times of artistic and dramatic merit (and what's wrong with just plain entertaining?)

What will happen to magazines like Viz under this measure? Surely Big Vern's serial suicides, and the activities of the Boy Scouse, will not be tolerable under the Act.

And yet, in the blunt and brutal (and hilarious) fiction of Viz there is surely more social and political truth to be gleaned than in many an issue of Labour-approved publications such as, say, The Grauniad.

It's been said that Labour dislikes Viz more than the Tories ever did. And one suspects that, as with the McCarthyites, the real goal of this legislation is to stifle social and political commentary of all kinds, based in a brittle intolerance of satire in any form... an intolerance common to those whose who are painfully aware that their activities do not bear close scrutiny, sometimes to the point of laughability.

During the US hearings, Willam M Gaines, the publisher of horror comics now considered classics, not only of comic art but of social and moral comment, printed the following brilliant pictorial analysis in one of his other publications, the early MAD magazine.

(click the image to see the entire thing)

The McCarthyite inquisitors were not amused. Given that it is Labour pushing the current restrictions, perhaps the ghost of Mr Gaines may be amused to see who it is that's out to ban comics in this case.

Incidentally, the wording of his analysis could easily be modified to reflect other forms of political intolerance: "It's not that they don't like free political expression for THEM. They don't like it for you!" "It's not that they don't like guns for THEM. They don't like guns for you!" and so forth. But I digress.

How wonderfully progressive the UK's Labour party is. The longer they stay in power, the more the UK progresses into the past.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

We now need permission to exercise Constitutional rights? Which ones?

Someone has died in a part of the US where the Constitution is not fully respected, arguably due to that very reason. And now, in order to honor him, the rest of us need to lose our own Constitutional rights? Huh?

Here we go... someone has brought a bill to the US Congress to introduce national gun registration.

But well, gosh, who could argue with that... right?

This process began in the same manner in Weimar Germany. And in the UK. Gun registration has always later been used for confiscation, everywhere it's been instituted.

So much easier to round people up for torture, or simply intimidate them into silence, once that confiscation has occurred.

Outright confiscations aside, in practice, every renewal cycle there are more excuses not to grant the renewal, and more prohibitions applied. This was the UK model. In prewar Germany, if you had a Jewish name or were on Hitler's sh*tlist, no renewal. This is similar to how "discretionary" gun registration approval tends to work in those few (but highly violent and corrupt) US jurisdictions where registration is required.

Of course, it's been argued since day one that the FBI instant check system is an instant registration system, and I have never had reason to doubt that's been happening. If most of the country is buying on a daily basis, who cares (much) ? But now it's out in the open... and if this passes, there will no longer be the potential to jail or fire people for violating the "no archive" principle of the current setup.

Worse, there will, of course, be a new inherent requirement to periodically "prove" the right to ownership.

Do I also now need to periodically "prove" my right to free speech, or not to be enslaved?

14 ... The Attorney General shall issue
15 a firearm license to an applicant who has submitted an
16 application that meets the requirements of section 102 of
17 this Act, if the Attorney General ascertains that the indi
18 vidual is not prohibited by subsection (g) or (n) of section
19 922 of title 18, United States Code, from receiving a fire
20 arm.

He shall? After what maximum amount of time has passed? Oops, I guess they forgot to add that part.

"Says here you complained a lot about Obama on the Internet, so we'll need some more time to do the ascertainin'. Haw haw haw!"

Lastly, Blair Holt (for whom the bill is named) was killed in Chicago, which already bans guns, yet has far more shootings per capita than neighboring communities that don't.

Never mind. The proponents of this bill already know these things (or if they don't, they haven't done their homework on the issue and don't belong in office). They don't care. To them, facts and logic standing in the way of their private agenda are just tiresome obstacles.

Remember how the founding fathers warned that if slavery, as an affront to the principles the country was founded on, was permitted to persist the country would end up tearing itself apart?

What about regions where other affronts to the Constitution -- such as tight restriction or prohibition on keep and bear -- have been allowed to fester for generations, for the sake of "getting along" politically?

Entire US cities and states filled with people who've been made to suffer under those political setups, hating those in other parts of the country who aren't oppressed the same way, yet failing to see the real reasons for their suffering. Or they just don't care, and are happy to see other people made miserable like them, or "put in their place". Like Orcs (who started as Elves, don't forget) going to battle in support of their master and oppressor Sauron.

I shouldn't have to prove my right to own something the Constitution guarantees me. I shouldn't be considered guilty until "proven" innocent by some bureaucratic rule.

No more than Obama should have to prove he shouldn't be enslaved by some white cracker. "Hey, the Constitution bans slavery!" "Constitution? Ah don't see no Constitution, bwah! Someone done shredded it!"

That's why we have a Constitution, isn't it? To say that there are certain things the government can't do, even if a majority votes for it?

If we really want to honor Blair Holt, restore the right to keep and bear to the citizens of Illinois, and of Chicago. If the shooter had had reason to believe the bus driver, or one of the parents, or a local resident or passerby might be armed (an impossibility in Chicago) he might have stayed home that day.

Monday, January 5, 2009

"Outmoded" Constitutions... and Civil Disobedience

We keep hearing from the Obama camp how the US Constitution is outdated.

What I'd like to see is their summary of exactly which bits are "outdated", and why.

Freedom of speech? Freedom of association? Prohibition on slavery? Freedom to be armed, against criminals and tyrants? Freedom of religion? The notion that government should be limited to specific, enumerated powers? Which one is "outdated" and why?

The real answer, of course, is that in their Orwellian lexicon, "outdated" simply means "inconvenient"... to their purposes.

By them sagely speaking of something being "outdated", a lot of people who want to appear and feel "reasonable" will nod "reasonably" and go along with it.

The funny thing is, all of the above, and most else in the Constitution, is still considered revolutionary by many governments and "leaders" in the world, and they do not approve. Well, for the sake of being "reasonable" and going with the opinion of "most people", we should ditch the Constitution in order to please them... right?

Here's a related question.

If a majority in the US Congress voted to reinstate slavery, would we expect US citizens to participate in rounding up members of the targeted race? Would we expect members of that race to turn themselves in, or for people to turn in their spouses and children of that race?

Well, why not? If a government creates a law, then it must be OK and we should follow it without question, right?

This why we have a Constitution. Because even majority decisions, or decisions by the Executive branch, need to adhere to certain principles. At least in a society where the Executive isn't given unlimited arbitrary powers.

In the event of the latter... massive, primarily peaceful civil disobedience may be useful to contemplate.

When they demand that newly proscribed people (or items) be turned over, stay home instead. When the newly drafted gangbanger thugs led by lickspittle "political officers" show up at 2AM to collect, the entire neighborhood turns out to suggest they leave quietly.

Too many times in history, people have not responded like that when the thugs turned up and went house to house. I'd like to think that, by now, maybe we've all collectively learned something about this from the 20th century.