Tag Archives: drones

Grading Obama

There’s a tendency in this country to speak of ex-presidents with the same generosity one would use to speak of the recently departed. A “funeral parlance” (if you’ll forgive the awful pun) that leads folks to look on the old administration with rose-tinted glasses. Considering the replacement, that’s going to be doubly true this year.

Not at Culture War Reporters, though.

Here’s our final grade for Obama,

Note: The issues selected here are based upon the principles we here at CWR seem to touch on most frequently. We hope to make this a regular tradition, provided the United States still exists in four years and that this writer will not have been imprisoned or sent to work on a lunar penal colony.

Economic Equality:

Advocates of the president will be swift to point out that the unemployment rate at the beginning of the president’s term was in the double digits, and has since fallen to about 4.9% after years of slow but steady recovery. And there absolutely should be credit where it’s due- the Obama administration has seen the recovery of the economy. Can I whine about it not being enough though? You bet I can.

While many Americans are finally back to work, the positions they find themselves in are often low-paying with little to no security. While that’s not entirely the president’s fault, the president himself has been agonizingly slow (and bafflingly conservative) in advocating a raise for the minimum wage. While the extremely wealthy are paying slightly more in taxes, taxes have also risen for folks making less than $250,000 a year (which is the overwhelming ****ing majority of us) with the majority of the president’s proposed reforms having ended in defeat. All in all the extremely rich continue to enjoy unrivalled luxury and unchallenged control of US politics and wealth.

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Final Grade: D+

Continue reading

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Destroy CISPA

The vast majority of my generation was probably too young to remember the Patriot Act even being signed into existence. Hailed as a necessary evil in the so-called “war on terror,” this piece of legislation made sweeping attacks on the privacy of the people it was supposedly meant to protect. Rather than repeal the Orwellian hallmarks of the Bush administration, Obama expanded them.

Every time some new attack on our privacy is proposed, I find myself hoping that this, this, will be the line.

So far I’ve been hoping in vain. Continue reading

Fame Day: Rand Paul

Only got four hours of sleep last night, so bear with me if this isn’t the epitome of proper grammar or decent, coherent writing. It took me almost half a minute to remember the word “coherent.”

The topic for today was brought to me by my good friend Stew, and forced me to look up the definition to the word “filibuster.” Since I’m going to assume that at least a few people have, like me, lived their lives without ever having to read, hear, or use it themselves, it is as follows:

fil·i·bus·ter (noun):

the use of irregular or obstructive tactics by a member of a legislative assembly to prevent the adoption of a measure generally favored or to force a decision against the will of the majority.

b. an exceptionally long speech, as one lasting for a day or days, or a series of such speeches to accomplish this purpose.

c. a member of a legislature who makes such a speech.

Basically, in layman’s terms, a filibuster is a whole lot of talking to make sure that some sort of law or policy doesn’t pass [or the person who does this]. Enter filibuster, and subject of today’s Fame Day, Rand Paul.

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Senator Rand Paul conducted a filibuster [I’m going to be using that word a lot] on the Senate floor to prolong or prevent the CIA nomination of John Brennan. He did this to protest the president’s drone policy, i.e. Obama not eliminating the possibility of military drones being used in the US.

This man began his filibuster yesterday at roughly 12 pm EST, and he kept on going for almost 13 hours. Not only that, but in spite of coming prepared with binders of notes he barely looked at them. He ended his interminable talk with a touch of humour, saying “I would go for another 12 hours to try to break Strom Thurmond’s record, but I’ve discovered that there are some limits to filibustering and I’m going to have to go take care of one of those in a few minutes here.”

Let that sink in for a bit. Rand Paul stood and talked for almost 13 hours. As quoted from the article I linked to above, “As the person leading the filibuster, Paul was forbidden from ever leaving the floor, lest he lose control of the debate.

Rand Paul went without food, water, or the means to relieve himself for over half a day. He did this to protest a very frightening reality, that of the American military using drones on American soil. During the speech he voiced his concern with that, saying “When I asked the president, can you kill an American on American soil, it should have been an easy answer. It’s an easy question. It should have been a resounding, an unequivocal, ‘No.’ The president’s response? He hasn’t killed anyone yet. We’re supposed to be comforted by that.”

I end this post with another quote from the speech highlighting the fervour that this man has for human rights in America, and his unwavering dedication to uphold them:

“I will speak until I can no longer speak. I will speak as long as it takes, until the alarm is sounded from coast to coast that our Constitution is important, that your rights to trial by jury are precious, that no American should be killed by a drone on American soil without first being charged with a crime, without first being found to be guilty by a court.”

Let’s Talk About Hypocrisy

Before I begin, I believe I ought to clarify something.

In this post, I’m going to be addressing the issues of hardship and tragedy and our responses to both of these things as a culture. Naturally none of this is meant to rob any gravity from Friday’s events- pain is, as always, pain. Any and all criticism here is directed strictly at hypocrisy, not sorrow.

There is a scene in season 2 of AMC’s hit series The Walking Dead, in which one of the group’s children goes missing and the other is [accidentally] shot and badly injured- both of which are bad things even without the ongoing zombie apocalypse. After managing to stabilize the boy, his mother begins questioning whether or not her son would be better off dead, rather than going on living the horrific and nightmarish existence life had become. Her exact words went as follows:

Why do we want Carl to live in this world? To have this life? So he can see more people torn apart in front of him? So he can be hungry and scared for however long he has before he…

So he can run and run and run and run and- and even if he survives he winds up- just another animal who doesn’t know anything other than survive…

Now whether or not you’re familiar with the series, this scene will still probably get a reaction out of you. Horror, perhaps, at how vile life must be for a mother to suggest her son dying would be a better alternative. Pity, maybe, for a person so driven and desperate.

Or, if you’re like me, utter indignant rage.

Let’s take a look at that soliloquy again. What’s the criteria this person puts on a life so awful it might as not be lived? Constant hunger, constant fear, and exposure to violence. In other words, the life of the majority of men, women, and children on this planet since the dawn of time.

You heard the lady- might as well just keel over.

And what’s her description of people who live this life? Oh, right- animals.

“And a very merry **** you to you as well”

What really gets me is that this (almost certainly) wasn’t meant to portray Lori as the vicious, self-pitying hypocrite that she came across as. Someone- nay, a whole line of writers and editors and censors- let that whole speech slide on the basis that it’d portray the character as sympathetic and troubled. And it’s this twisted attitude towards life that I want to address.

Early in the summer, I wrote a post on the need to portray graphic violence in media– especially in regards to war. I argued that our distance from the conflicts the US was engaged in made war too easy to ignore. The lack of the presence of violence, or our understanding of the consequences, made it all cheap and trite. Really this problem exists not only with violence, but with every aspect of our alienated society. We love beef, but how many of us could actually kill a cow? I’m not talking about hunting one down using nothing but a smooth rock, I’m just talking about simply ending one’s life. Could you do it? If not, I submit that you shouldn’t have a right to eat beef or wear leather.

Take a look at this cartoon.

Hard to argue with that, huh? Just as you shouldn’t be able to eat meat if you’re unwilling to kill the animal, you really shouldn’t be able to buy clothes and shoes unless you are personally willing to oversee the sweatshops in which they’re made. One way or another, you shouldn’t be able to reap the benefits of something without being at least capable of getting your hands dirty- and nowhere does that apply more than perhaps our government.

You might be familiar with the famous scene from Fahrenheit 9/11, in which Michael Moore attempts to pass out army recruitment flyers to members of congress (not surprisingly, most duck the offer). These people who were more than willing to send other people’s kids out to die in the desert suddenly found themselves far less eager when in the same situation- one congressmen protesting that his son had kids of his own (after all, all soldiers are childless and single).

And before any liberal readers get too smug, you’re far from exempt either. After the tragic mass murder in Newtown on Friday, I came back from work to find a letter in my inbox from a progressive organization I’ve signed petitions with before. “Act now!” they cried, “Demand gun control!”. This from the same people who bombarded me with pleas to re-elect President Obama, author and owner of a freaking “kill list“, to say nothing of his administration’s shoot-first-and-suppress-questions-later policy with drone strikes, and the “operation fast and furious” debacle.

Now all of this is just to demonstrate the social pathology this culture is suffering from.It’s not that we’re involved in countless injustices (that’s all bad in and of itself, but it’s not the point right here)- it’s that we have the gall to act hurt, or shocked, or horrified. Injustice is not greater for having finally happened to you. Pain and suffering don’t intensify based on their proximity to you. If you won’t cry out over the violence overseas, what right do you have to cry out over the violence at home? What right does a person have to feel depressed about cyber-bullying when he’s wearing a shirt made by an eight year old?  If you shrug your shoulders, stick your hands in your pocket, and walk off whistling when you’re told about homelessness in India, what right do you have to complain about mortgage payments in Indiana? Let’s cut the narcissism, shall we?

Shame Day: Rebranding

In the latest batch of lectures offered through the ISO’s [International Socialist Organization] annual Socialism conference, there is a speech regarding the issue of post-modernist philosophy. While the title and speaker escape me, as does the majority of the lecture, one particular line stood out to me, and it went a little something like this:

How do you prove a post-modernist wrong? Drop him in the middle of the ocean and tell him that his petty and self-imposed definitions are the reasons he’s drowning.

Now that’s not exactly how the line went- but that’s pretty much the gist of it. The whole point of the speech was to point out the flaw in post-modernism, that while we do tend to make problems for ourselves with our adherence to self-imposed definitions (you can hear a lot of this reasoning used in the whole debate over sexual orientation), there are nevertheless certain inescapable truths regarding our situations that can’t be overcome by changing our attitudes. Your refusal to adhere to any preconceived notions of health doesn’t stop cancer from killing you. An oncoming train doesn’t care one way or the other if you choose to accept society’s standards.

All of that’s just to say: perspective isn’t everything; some facts are simply immutable; which brings us to the topic of this fine Shame Day.

Rebranding.

I recently came across this collection of shots taken from a Family Guy episode.

As much as you can rail on the show, you have to admit that every once in a while it manages to make some pretty clever points. Obviously the joke here is that we have a pretty twisted double-standard in this country. Simply paying for sex is prostitution, but add a camera and a few loose titles and you suddenly have a completely legal act. Pretty much nothing has actually changed, and as ridiculous as it is, this idiotic mentality is actually taking sway.

You may have heard of the rather clever bars in Minnesota (and England, though I can’t confirm the Brits) circumventing anti-smoking laws by declaring their patrons to be actors, and their cigarettes/cigarillos/pipes/cigars/etc. to be props. Obviously this isn’t actual theater, but because the law prohibits smoking in some situations but not in others, the bars can pretty easily get around the issue (which, by the way, I applaud them for). This isn’t meant to be an example of this mentality going wrong, just an example of it being used (even if somewhat sarcastically). But don’t worry, the uglier side of this is just ahead.

You may also have heard of cadmium, a toxic chemical sometimes used in paint, being used in the making of Shrek glasses sold by fast food empire McDonald’s (though other companies were complicit as well). Upon being discovered, many of these companies simply rebranded their products as being “adult collector’s items,” the FDA having separate standards for acceptable cadmium levels in products geared towards adults. Obviously these items are not “adult collector’s items” and would still wind up in the hands of kids, but hey, what do these guys care? They can get away with it by ducking through this little definitional loophole.

That even goes for the commander-and-chief, who drew fire (rightly so) from most every side of the political sphere when he, to reduce the embarrassment of collateral damage from drone-strikes, simply expanded the definition of militant to include anyone within the bast radius of the strike. There are inner-party members of IngSoc who would call that “a bit much.” I mean, think about it. The single most powerful individual on the planet has declared that the weapons of his country have something that resembles a cross between the logic of a four year old and the papal bull of inability. “We only kill terrorists, we killed that twelve-year old, therefore, we killed a terrorist. High-fives all around.”

My view of pretty much everything the president does

Look, rebranding can be sleazy, but this is simply insane. Naming a fish a bird will not result in different results when chucking it off of a roof. Some things simply are. A smoker is a smoker, cadmium is toxic, and a dead kid is only ever a dead kid.

And that’s just a shame.