Aug 272015


Personalamente, the difficulty of the Mike Vick case is isn’t as simple as my love for animals. The reason is agency, which is the capacity of individuals to act independently and to make their own free choices.

Dogs do not possess agency in the same way that humans do. A dog doesn’t get a choice of his or her master. A dog doesn’t have or even truly understand the choices it makes. It simply makes them. Often out of conditioned loyalty to its master. A fighting dog is still a pet. It still depends on its master, its owner, for every single thing in its life.

Human beings have a separate moral responsibility to the so-called lesser life forms of this world. To be good stewards of our environs. To guarantee the intrinsic dignity of animals and to ensure whenever possible that we do not inflict excessive torture on them. Continue reading »

Jun 232015

Pope Francis released an encyclical today discussing the environment and humanity’s responsibility to be good shepherds of it. Quoth Rod Dreher:

What Francis has written is an encyclical that celebrates life as harmony, communion, and incarnation. He calls on all persons to revere nature as gift, and to think not as atomized individuals, but as stewards who owe a debt to others, as well as to the past and to the future. [Emphasis is Dreher’s]

110307-F-PO994-001There are of course many, many similarities between the religions of the world. One of the most striking, to me, is the Catholic doctrine that, “Man is not saved by faith alone. Faith must be combined with good works.”

This is also a central tenet in Islam. There are stories of the early sahabah (companions of the Prophet), who, during Ramadan, would want to stay at the mosque all day and night praying, such was the fervor and zealousness of their faith. But Prophet Muhammad admonished them to get out of the mosque, to attend to their families and businesses and lives. Not to just sit around and be all religiony. Continue reading »

Jun 162015

Holy effing eff. The mathematical gymnastics needed by Bobby Jindal just to keep his No Taxes pledge to Grover Norquist’s Americans for Tax Reform are stunning.


  1. SAVE raises $350 million in revenue to help close the budget hole.
  2. It also creates a tax credit that—in theory—offsets the new revenue with a $350 million tax cut. So far this is kosher because there’s no net tax increase.
  3. However, SAVE also creates $350 million in new student fees.
  4. Then the tax credit is used—in actual practice—to offset the student fees so students don’t have to pay any more than they did before.
  5. The net result is $350 million in new revenue that’s not offset.

Let’s see if I can get this straight:

$350mil tax increase + $350mil student fees – $350mil tax credits = No tax increase

Even though the -$350mil in tax credits is actually used to offset student fees increase, Norquist-Jindal (aww what a progressive conservative same-sex marriage made in heaven) allow it to be viewed as an offset to the tax increase instead. Voila! $350million in new revenue that is revenue-neutral.


This is laughable even for Bobbo! From a national standpoint, Jindal doesn’t matter. He stands no chance of attaining the Republican nomination let alone winning the Presidency. I don’t think anyone outside of Jindal’s family and campaign employees truly believes in him.

But for the sake of their state, Louisianans should impeach his pandering arse, regardless of how soon his term is up.

Jun 152015

Kevin Drum on Hillary Clinton’s lovely but completely ineffectual and unimplementable announcement speech:

As near as I can tell, Americans seem to vote for president based almost solely on affinity. That is, they vote for whoever says the right things, with no concern for whether those things are obviously impossible or little more than self-evident panders. It’s kind of amazing, really. Most voters seemingly just don’t care if presidential candidates are lying or stretching or even being entirely chimerical. They merely want to hear the desire to accomplish the right things. Every four years, they really do take the word for the deed.

Six of one, half dozen of the other

Six of one, half dozen of the other

One of the reasons that politicians spend a lot of time trying to woo “independent” voters is because most of us, despite protestations to the contrary, are pretty well locked in. Oh sure, you might not like that the Democrats [blah blah blah] or the Republican [yak yak yak] but if you’ve been voting one way most of your adult life, you’re highly unlikely to switch.

More important that wooing Independents is the simple act of turning out the base. Whichever party is more energized will ultimately win. The base doesn’t care much about specifics. It’s all about the high-minded rhetoric. And reminding them that the world will come to an end if the other party wins.

President Obama didn’t give us the in-depth specifics about his plans of universal healthcare during his first campaign. At the least, that’s not what I remember anyway. But he did speak about it. And eventually followed-through. So, although Drum & Daniel Larison are a little disappointed as to Clinton’s announcement speech, the rest of us just don’t. Like auto racing fans, we don’t care so much for the skill of the drive; we’re waiting for the spectacular crashes.

Jun 102015

Or… Chafee’ing at the Bit

Last week, former Rhode Island governor Lincoln Chafee announced his intention to run for the Democratic nomination to the Presidency. I think most of us would predictably yawn. Chafee intends to press Hillary Clinton on her foreign policy record which I think is all good and well seeing as how Clinton has functioned as the war-mongering foreign policy hawk that I had hoped her former-rival-turned-boss, President Obama, would not become. He did. Very disappointingly. Clinton had a chance to be a steadying hand as Secretary of State but she fell right in lock-step with El Presidente.

Chafee has almost no chance whatsoever in preventing Clinton from winning the Democratic nomination. Barack Obama had a magnetic presence that Chafee does not; Clinton will not be denied again and definitely not by an old white boy. Given current Republican alternatives, I have a hard time picturing myself voting for the eventual Republican nominee.

So why should we care about Chafee’s predictably doomed campaign. Because predictably, Congress is full of lily-livered jagoffs who care more about being able to complain about the occupant of the White House than actually fulfilling their constitutional duties. Witness:

In 2011, President Obama announced that he could go to war against Libya without congressional approval. Congress hemmed and hawed, but in the end was unable to agree to do anything about it. Two years later members of Congress were vocal about Obama’s lack of action against Syria when it was revealed that the Assad regime had been using chemical weapons. Obama eventually responded and asked Congress for approval to take military action. Congress did nothing. Now we have yet another war, this time against ISIS, and Obama asked for congressional approval months ago. Result: nothing. Members of Congress would rather be free to lambaste Obama on the campaign trail than to actually commit themselves to a strategy. [Kevin Drum: Yet Again, Congress Is Too Scared to Assert Its Warmaking Powers]

Continue reading »

Jun 022015
Apocalypse Ahead

Mike Huckabee is a fruit cake but at least he’s an honest one. Speaking to Arutz Sheva TV on Sunday, Huckabee called for the forced relocation of an entire people. Because GOD.

Huckabee cited there being “plenty of land in the world” to find a place for a Palestinian state outside of Israel.

“If there’s a two-state solution, the Palestinians state needs to be outside the boundaries of the nation of Israel. There’s plenty of land in the world where we can find a place and say, ‘Okay, let’s create a Palestinian state.’ But not within the confides of a secure Israel.”

Speaking at the event, Huckabee said “we never can accept the notion that Israel will be divided,” citing the boundaries of Israel being given “not by the United Nations but by almighty God.” [Buzzfeed].

Well, at least he’s not pussy-footing around the issue. One can’t even be too surprised though because as Daniel Larison concludes:

[This] would normally be the sort of thing that would doom a person’s political career, but in this case it probably helps Huckabee with his target audience and mostly elicits a shrug from the press.

Continue reading »

May 272015

… or Shut-up State Farm, Your “Nevers” Commercial is Wrong!

A few years ago, I moved out of my house in the ‘burbs into an old apartment in the ceetee. No longer did I have to brave a 45-60 minute commute to dahntahn or have excuses for not going out after getting home in the evening. I once took a bus home at 2:00 AM after a party. It was a new lease on life and I swore I would never buy again. I was free and unmoored; the world was my oyster!

Today, I closed on a new purchase in the Mt Washington neighborhood of Pittsburgh. Wait, what? … I got bored. And at least it’s not in the suburbs, right? Right.

No matter the allure of the jet-setting modern life, as breathlessly hyped by the media, I don’t think humans will ever stop searching for community in some fashion. It’s why we get to know the local bartender or recognize the same food delivery persons. Why we make friends with neighbors we wouldn’t have otherwise befriended. Why we stop to pet the same dog almost every morning. Why we yearn for old friends to move back to the old homestead.

Why we buy a house in our hometown even while wondering how nice it would be to live in Dubai.
Continue reading »

May 202015

Daniel Larison of The American Conservative, who is one of my favorite writers on foreign policy, nails the failed War on Yemen while reviewing Chris Christie’s jumbled mess of a speech:

The devastation of Yemen is what can happen when the U.S. foolishly sides with its clients in a conflict in which it shouldn’t be involved. If Christie had his way, the U.S. would be doing a lot more of this. Christie goes on to say that “[w]e need to do more to organize our allies into a strong coalition on the ground in Yemen,” because inflicting more death and destruction on that country is somehow necessary and desirable. Nothing says “leadership” like sending poor conscripts to invade an impoverished, wrecked country that poses no threat to anyone.

Click here to read the whole thing.

I give no quarter to President Obama’s administration in this mess. They unswervingly supported Saudi Arabia’s military adventurism in Yemen at the outset and it has turned into a huge disaster.

Saudi-Arabia-and-US-flagsA couple weeks ago, I listened to a BBC documentary, which talked about House of Saud dictatorship’s new-found muscular foreign policy. As the region has become more chaotic and unstable, Saudi Arabia has become more assertive in its foreign policy. And yet:

The Houthis aren’t acting as proxies for Iran, and their conflict with Hadi’s government is based in local grievances and political rivalries. Whatever has happened in Yemen, Iran didn’t “launch” it and has almost nothing to do with it. The thing that has done the most to “devastate” the country (which also isn’t an ally) is the Saudi-led war that the U.S. supports. Yemen is a perfect example of how the U.S. errs so badly when it feels compelled to back up its clients against supposed regional threats.

The Saudi dictatorship can’t even wage war on a failed state properly, nor can they reasonably justify their actions to those not beholden to their oil wealth (read: the US gummint).

May 142015

Or… Am I about to be banished from popular mass culture?
[Note: contains one minor spoiler so if you haven’t watched the first two episodes, please skip].

For years, I’ve resisted being drawn into the popular HBO series, Game of Thrones. Mostly out of laziness. As with most HBO shows, it has a fanatical following. People who wouldn’t otherwise like Fantasy have been drawn in. People who love Fantasy love it all the more.

I acquired season one a few years ago and then just never watched it. My friends used all kinds of reasons to get me to take it up. Arguments about the quality of the production (whatever the #$%@ that means). The acting. The storylines.  The huge amounts of violence. The gratuitous sex and nudity; apparently Game of Thrones boasts the most boobs per episode of any major television series.

Last fall, I watched episode one. My friends weren’t wrong. The opening sequence is really cool. The acting is good. Attractive people having sex. Yay. And yawn.

A couple weeks ago, I watched episode two. And well, eff that shit. Continue reading »

May 122015

In an article on a scheduled summit between American and the six members of the Gulf Co-operation Council on May 13th and 14th, this blurb caught my eye:

And he [President Obama] cannot meet all the Gulf requests for advanced weaponry, because congressional legislation requires that Israel must maintain a “qualitative military edge” over its neighbours. [Emphasis mine]

That the USA and Israel have a special relationship is no surprise. Israel has been the only consistently functioning democracy in a region of states replete with strife and governmental incompetence.

It also makes some type of sense that the USA would want to ensure that its favored state in the region should have the ability to defend itself. But I find no compelling interest in the USA hamstringing itself because of a requirement that Israel continue to be able to kick its Arab neighbors’ collective arse. Continue reading »