Friday, June 30, 2006

Guantanamo Bay Supreme Court Ruling Stuns Bush

The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that the Bush Administration's military tribunals for detainees at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba and the legal procedures surrounding those incarcerations were illegal. President Bush was obviously stunned when he discovered this yesterday, while leading the Japanese Prime Minister Koizumi through a tour of Graceland.

His shock was best captured in his answer to a question posed by reporters:

Asked whether Guantanamo would be closed, Bush thought about this for several seconds before saying that he hadn't had a chance to review the ruling. "I wish I could have given you a better answer," he said, almost pleading for no further questions on the issue, questions he couldn't answer.

I'm no legal analyst and hardly an expert on the Supreme Court, so I can't tell you what the ruling will mean for the detainees at Guantanamo Bay. I'm not sure legal analysts can even agree on what will happen.

What I can tell you is that Bush's shock is evidence that he felt that his decision was not only right in a moral sense, but also right with the law. President Bush BELIEVED that the Supreme Court that he and his father and Reagan essentially hand-picked would side with him on this case. Justices Alito, Thomas, and Scalia all sided with the Administration, while new Chief Justice John Roberts was sidelined because of a previous ruling he made as an appeals court judge on this case.

The President has acknowledged that this ruling will not put suspected terrorists out into the World. The bottom line is that the government needs to offer these detainees the opportunity to have transparency in their legal proceedings. Secret military tribunals do not protect us from terrorism. If anything, holding 400 people without officially charging them provides terrorists with more fodder to recruit and incite Muslims for their cause against our country.

Like many of the other facets of the Administration's "War on Terror", keeping things secret does little to make us safer. The Administration wants us to trust that they will make the right decisions about what to do with intelligence and secret information gathered through these programs. Unfortunately, the Bush Administration doesn't have the kind of track record that puts us at ease when it comes to intelligence and handling it. Remember this is the group of bozos that outed a CIA operative working against Al Qaeda, had intelligence about credible threats prior to 9/11 and claimed that it had proof the Iraq had weapons of mass destruction. Forgive me if I want them to be more transparent, since I think information is the safest when their not the only ones with access to it.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Welfare-to-Work in the Bush Administration

Her kids on the other hand......
It might surprise some of you to learn my opinions on so-called Welfare-to-work programs. You probably think that I'm some bleeding heart, give the poor people their money, kind of guy because of my liberal leanings. But, you would be dead wrong. Not only do I think that public assistance should require some accountability on the part of the recipient (like having a job), I hold the even more controversial belief that if I'm paying your bills, then I can demand that you be put on non-participitory birth control, such as Norplant or the shot. And you thought I was just another bleeding heart.

Welfare-to-work is how welfare SHOULD work. Welfare should not be a retirement program for lazy people. Believe me, I'd rather sit at home and collect a check any day of the week, but that tiny shred of dignity I have left won't allow me to do that. Research has shown time and time again that WELL-DESIGNED Welfare-to-work programs (most have been implemented by individual states, and not the feds) actually are very effective in combating poverty. These programs help people get out of poverty instead of simply maintaining it. Crazy idea, eh?

The Bush Administration recently introduced new federal regulations that will increase the work requirements for people on such programs. Weight management and smoking cessation programs will also be excluded from the new federal regs. This sounds like a fantastic thing to me, except that if you look a little bit deeper you see the following problem: (Source)

"The Bush administration provided an additional $500 million for child care over the five-year program, a fraction of the $4 billion that the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) said was necessary for parents to meet the new work requirements."This is going to be very expensive for the states," said Elaine Ryan deputy director of the American Public Human Services Association, which is made up of state welfare officials. "How are they going to pay for this?" she asked."

Elaine raises a critical point with this issue, and one that most states have done a great job answering on their own in the past: When we send people with kids back to work, we have to have someplace for their kids to go. When the CBO reviewed the issue, they estimated that we would need $4 billion to pay for childcare for these people who are moving from Welfare-to-work. Bush allocated about 12% of that amount. You don't have to be a mathmatician to see the problem with that.

The Bush Administration wonders why people criticize its domestic policies, and this is a fine example of how they take a great idea that states have made incredibly successful and cost-effective, and underfund it into ineffectiveness. We have seen the Bush Administration do this with funding for the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) and Medicaid programs. The federal contributions for these programs continue to fall in Bush's annual budget allocations. Whether you like these programs or not, if we're going to dump billions of dollars into them, we should at least require the federal government to fund them adequately enough so that they actually function.

If you think that welfare recipients will move off of welfare and get jobs if they can't afford childcare, you're an idiot. What incentive do people have to get a job if doing so is going to put their family further into poverty? Childcare is horrendously expensive, and because no one on the right or the left wants to implement my required birth control for welfare mothers program, people on welfare have expensive childcare needs.

If we want these people to get jobs, earn their keep, and contribute to society, we cannot create a federal program that is a disincentive to going back to work. It's nice to see that when the President takes on a domestic issue for a change, it's only to make those programs work better. Keep up the good work, asshole.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Time to Clean House in Congress

Thousand die in flag burning-related accidents every day
Forgive me, if you are one of those pseudo-patriotic dickholes who believes that prevention of flag burning should be a national priority. If you fit into that category, you have way too much time on your hands. Congress wasted a lot of time this week, debating and posturing to protect the American Flag from people who lack the creativity to express their freedom of speech in an original way.
I think that flag burning is a huge waste of time. If you want to make a political statement or affect REAL change, try running for political office at a local level or even just writing a letter to your elected officials. When someone burns a flag, the net effect on society is nothing. Preventing flag burning isn't going to stop genocide in Sudan, improve the US economy, make us more competitive in the world market.
I would bet that if as a country we said tomorrow, "We don't care if you burn our flag, we have real, actual problems that need to be solved.", flag burning in this country would decrease significantly, because doing it wouldn't seem so damned controversial. As an aside, there's nothing we can do to prevent flag burning in other countries, except maybe leaving the rest of the world the fuck alone.
With all the problems we're currently facing at home and abroad, you'd think that Congress would find more important things to worry about. And do not think for a minute that I'm letting the Democrats off the hook here by criticizing a primarily Republican effort. Democrats were supporting this huge waste of time as well. It was a bipartisan shit show, in my opinion. If there's ever been a need for a third, fourth and fifth party, it's now.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

The FCC Knows Best

So you probably know about the Fascist Cuntbag Commission increasing the fine for 'indecency' on over-the-air TV. Of course, our wonderful House of Representatives approved the bill, with only 35 members voting against it, after our fantastic Senate approved it unanimously.

So what will be made of THIS little incident from last night's Game Seven of the NHL Stanley Cup Finals?

Okay, so it wasn't Rod Brind'Amour who said the expletive, but I thought it made for a better picture. I'm not sure exactly who said it, as I was only half-paying attention at the time (it was either the third or fourth player to hoist the Cup, if memory serves). But here's what I wanna know: Was the FCC paying attention? Or do they only watch programs with more than a 5.0 Nielsen rating? I guess we'll see in the coming days if NBC gets fined. After the player said it, there was about a two-second audio drop-out, so someone tried to catch it, but they missed. Do they get a reduction in the fine for at least making an effort? Or maybe a mulligan? I'm sure Lefty would've liked one this past weekend...

Personally, I don't care what I hear on TV or the radio, and that even goes for that windbag Michael Savage (whom I will not post a link to his site, lest he receive any free hits). I may disagree with what you say, but I will defend to the death blah blah blah. And even if I had children, I still wouldn't care. While kids should be taught that swearing is not acceptable in most areas of life, it's still a part of life. People cuss. No FCC fine is going to change that. Lil' Timmy is going to hear the word 'fuck' at some point in his life. Lil' Mister Bling heard the word long before he was in junior high school, but he was also taught not to say it in public.

Does this website count as 'public?' Regardless, here we have yet another example of politicians who think they know better than we do when it comes to our personal lives. They try to tell us what video games we can or can't play. They try to tell us what we can or can't do in the bedroom. And some of them love children so darned much, they're willing to raise them for us.

Years of sheltering children can be erased in an afternoon. Just let Ryan the Angry Midget babysit for you.

Saturday, June 17, 2006

A day in my life

When one gets an office job, one of the so called perks you get is to listen to the radio. This is ironic for me because I have been avoiding radio probably for the last 8 years or so. In fact I can’t remember the last time I was driving and I listened to anything other than a CD. So with this disposition of mine, I was not entirely educated on what the radio had in store for me. In fact the biggest surprise for me was what hadn’t left the radio since I turned my back on it so many years ago.

I was dumbfounded when I realized that Hootie and his blowfish were still in regular rotation on the radio. I know what you’re thinking, that Burger King has re-released the tender crisp cheddar bacon ranch sandwich. However, this is not the case. It turns out some radio station is helping Hootie live out his glory days, the days before he had to dress up like a flaming cowboy and sing about sandwiches. Although I kind of prefer the burger king song to the other Hootie music.

If anyone ever tries to tell you that it is impossible to fit 10 Lbs of douche in a 5 lbs bag, set them straight by pointing out the band Savage garden. That’s right, those ass-clowns are still in heavy rotation on the radio. I really can’t think of anything that was more worthy of fading away than these guys. It was pure hell for me trying to get through hearing them 3 (true story) times in a day. “Was” is the key word, now I can handle it. Normally I can change the words of a crappy song and make it enjoyable for myself. For example, a terrible song by Rob Thomas “I don’t want to be lonely no more, I don’t want to have to pay for this” easily becomes “I don’t want to be lonely no more, I don’t wanta have to pay for sex” A simple change makes the song so much better. Then I laugh and everything is ok. I was unable to do this for savage garden, No matter how hard I tried, I couldn’t change their lyrics enough to make me entertained. My testicles had nearly withered away as I sat listening to Savage garden for the 3rd time that day when it hit me. I could just change the meaning of the song. So now every time I hear “oh I want you” I imagine that the guys are talking about putting a gerbil in their rectum for the first time. I laugh uncontrollably in my Dilbert hole when I hear them say “I don’t know if I need to but ooh Id die to find out”. Try it yourself, you’ll see what I mean.

Another musical bowl movement that is still Plaguing me is “Life is a highway” by some guy. This song sucked when it was released and it still sucks now. Why are these songs still on? I wish the DJ knew how physically painful he makes my day.

Monday, June 12, 2006

Looking to Assert your Individuality: Try a Barbed Wire Tattoo

It's the most individual, unique tattoo I've ever seen....

I play in a sand volleyball league on Monday nights, which is essentially a cover for drinking beer on a work night. The league that we play in is like the G League, as in A league is the best and as the letters go, well, you get the idea. Our league is for people who do not wish to compete, they simply want a way to have their habitual drinking during the work week to seem more socially acceptable. I was sitting there this evening, drinking a beer and examining my surroudings, when I started to notice the newest trend among blue collar males: a tattoo of barbed wire around the upper arm. I've never seen anything so original in my entire life.

It's so rare and cutting edge, that I had to take the above picture of a guy's arm in my league, just so that I KNEW that you all would know what I was talking about. It's not like you can just type barbed wire arm tattoo in Google Images and get like 540,000 results. I knew if I said, "I saw several guys with a barbed wire tattoo around their arms in my volleyball league.", you would have all been like "I can't even wrap my mind around something so tough and unorthidoxed. Ryan must be full of shit. No human being is so crazy and out of the box that they would even think of doing that."

At first, I will admit, I was completely intimidated by these individuals. Does the barbed wire tattoo mean that their arm might cut me in half during an impromtu game of Red Rover? Or does it mean that this individual is SUPER FUCKING TOUGH. Just like a roll of barbed wire?

I would think that this might become incredibly popular among very mean and strong people. Almost like a calling card that says "I am someone who is not to be trifled with. My arm has barbed wire on it, which can only mean that cattle and other livestock, as well as prison inmates, cannot cross my bicep muscle." I am still in awe that so many dudes in my volleyball league have done something so original that it says "I want to assert my individuality with others, who are different like me."

I'm not sure if I'll even be able to go back and play next Monday night. I get goosebumps just thinking about those pasty white arms and black lines of ink. I thought about getting my own barbed wire tattoo, but I am such a creature of conformity, that I couldn't possibly do something like that. And my arm might explode the next time I flex my bicep.

Something has to be done, or the next thing you know, every plumber and journeyman electrician will have a barbed wire tattoo, and those of us without one will be left alone, while our girlfriends and wives flock to these obviously superior individuals, like lemmings into the sea.

al-Zarqawi Autopsy Results Not Surprising

Abu Musab al-Zarqawi's autopsy results are in! Guess what? The cause of death was getting hit with a giant fucking bomb! I think the military investigators probably used more medical and scientific lingo in their description, but I guess I am a little surprised they even bothered to do the autopsy. Although the fact that he was alive when we got to him was interesting, I wouldn't have given a crap if the cause of death was "additional ass kicking at the hands of coalition forces". Good riddance.

Conservatives cannot stop giving each other the virtual reach-around on this one though. I have heard cries from the neo-cons on how this event is equivalent to victory, and how this is a huge loss for Al Qaeda in Iraq. I think it's great anytime a terrorist goes down, but let's keep this in perspective here.

First of all, al-Zarqawi was not affiliated with the same Al Qaeda that ran planes into the World Trade Center. He didn't even start calling his radical Islamic movement Al Qaeda in Iraq until late in 2004. So those of you wanting to make a connection between Al Qaeda and Saddam with this information, need to consider the facts. The guy was a horrible terrorist and inspired a lot of people to kill US soldiers, but to think that this will in any way negatively impact the insurgency in Iraq is to ignore the larger picture here.

A lot of people are stuck in the mindset that we have used to fight wars in the past. In the past, if you killed a leader of an opposing country, it was an enormous deal. Terrorist organizations, as I keep reminding my neo-con friends, are not countries. They do not have governmental hierarchies. The organization of a terrorist group is much more horizontal than it is vertical, which is one of the reasons that terrorist groups are so tough to fight. You can kill really important people, and it will have very little impact because it's very difficulty to characterize the actual role and connections that individuals within terrorist organizations have, how decisions are made etc.

Before we go making bold proclaimations about the impact this will have on global terrorism or even terrorism in Iraq, we should consider that we're not dealing with a conventional leader of a conventional country. al-Zarqawi's death may in fact have the polarizing effect of increasing and inspring more terrorist violence. Only time will tell.

The death of al-Zarqawi was a good thing for Iraq, but let's be careful not to overstate the significance of it in the grand scheme of things, particularly using it as a metric for success in war, when there really isn't ever success in an operation where people are losing their lives.

Raptor Jesus!

I have found my new god.

Behold him.

Raptor Jesus.

Monday, June 05, 2006

You're Still not all that Pro Life

I was trying to think back to a time when a single post generated as much hoopla as my Why you really can't be all that Pro Life post from last week. I received a number of emails and comments, and I felt the issue needed further clarification. I am going to directly answer some of the comments and emails that I received.

First of all, there were a number of emails and comments accusing me of twisting facts to support my viewpoint. And yet, none of these individuals were able to say exactly how I was misrepresenting those facts or what facts were misrepresented. A lot of comments were specifically about the immunizations issue, so I wanted to address that directly.

People who consider themselves to be Pro Life view the issue as black and white. You either have respect for human life or you do not. The irony about this stance is that it is an impossible one to take and not be a complete fucking hypocrite. We have government programs, like immunizations, that are predicated on the fact that we sacrifice a few kids, so that the rest of society doesn't perish from small pox or mumps. People would call you a crazy donkey-raping shit eater if you spoke out against immunization programs. And yet, people who are Pro Life miss the punchline on this one. They think abortions are the only way that innocent people die, and by opposing them, they absolve themselves of any responsibility for all the other killing that goes on with their tax dollars every single day.

My point was that you cannot be a moral absolutist about anything, unless you are completely ignorant of what is going on in the world around you. The only thing moral absolutism does, is make is a little easier to judge other people who don't conform to the impossible standards that you or your religious sect have created for the rest of us. Being a black and white moral absolutist, as so many Pro Lifers are, only shows that you're too stupid to consider all the possibilities.

Another great example of our willingness to accept less than perfection when it comes to saving lives is car safety. As a society, we purchase cars every single day that we know could kill someone. Could we make cars safer by investing tons of money in safety technology? We could save thousands of lives every year by doing that, but we choose not to for the simple reason that cars would be horrifically expensive. We accept cars that are a balance between safety and affordability. While cars will never be 100% safe, we could certainly invest more money in making them safer, but as consumers, we don't think of it that way. And if a car came out that was significantly safer, but also significantly more expensive, very few people would actually choose to drive that car (as emperically proven by Mercedes Benz).

The bottom line is that every single one of us accepts some margin of acceptable death so that things remain affordable, convenient and safe for the rest of us. To ignore this fact is to demonstrate a lack of comprehension and acceptance for what we do as a society. I am not condoning this practice, but we should at least recognize it is out there. If people did acknowledge that, no one would be able to sit here and say "I am Pro Life and you are not." because they would understand that we're all in the same boat, where death and killing are Ok as long as it benefits us in some demonstrable way.

Friday, June 02, 2006

I <3 NY!

I guess I need to call the Angry Midget any time I leave the D/FW metroplex, because neither of us had any clue that we'd both be in NYC on Memorial Day weekend! I'm sure we'd have gotten kicked out of more than one of the countless Irish pubs in Manhattan, so maybe it's not a bad thing.

My girlfriend and I spent three nights in NY. It was our first time there, so it was a little overwhelming. Fortunately, we had a friend who recently moved to Long Island, and he showed us around, and even brought us with him on Saturday to a Fire Island beach house that a friend of a friend had for the weekend. The last thing I thought I'd do in NY is practice kung-fu on a beach, but there's so much to do there that thinking back, it shouldn't have surprised me.

Anyway, I'll post a few pics, just for the hell of it:

When you combine my misanthropic tendencies with my subtle claustrophobia, Manhattan probably wasn't the best vacation idea for me. Shitloads of people, and skyscrapers everywhere. I think I handled it pretty well though. I didn't throw a single Muay Thai elbow at anyone.

Hey, whaddya know? A big fucking hole in the ground. Honestly though, Ground Zero was kind of eerie. Tons of people all around, and a deafening silence surrounded the entire area. I heard a couple of people whispering behind me, and it sounded like they were on a bullhorn.

We had lunch in Battery Park, which was nice. We didn't have time to go over to Lady Liberty, because the wait in line was around four hours, so this is as close as I got. Works for me though, because I wasn't in the mood to climb up that bitch.

Grand Central Station is a busy place? I thought it was just a figure of speech!

I had a few other pics I wanted to post, but honestly, I don't want to turn this into some estranged uncle's vacation slide show. I'm not sure if I could live on Manhattan island, but it was fun for a getaway, and I'd love to go back for longer than a three-day weekend. The whole time, I had Bill Hicks quotes running through my head:

"They say if you quit smoking, you get your sense of smell back. Well, I've got news for ya. I live in New York. I don't WANT my sense of smell back. 'Is that urine?' 'I think I smell a dead guy.'"

And even with the strong smell of urine on every other city block, I'd still take NYC over Los Angeles. People in NYC weren't all that rude. They were just always in a hurry. On the other hand, L.A. reeks of smug. I've never been to San Francisco or San Diego though, and I hear they're both beautiful. Maybe next time...