Thursday, June 25, 2009


South Carolina's Governor, Mark Sanford, has reminded us that the world in which we live is as imperfect as ever and the players in that world, more imperfect than not. While I can't say I respect Sanford's politics (he thought President Clinton should resign for Lewsinky, yet he continues on as Governor), I do respect that the man came to the podium, faced the media and his voters, and didn't drag his wife and kids out there like so many often do.

This event, while fascinating (Governor's don't just disappear), highlights and issue that I would like to spend some time discussing. Like most networks, CNN had two people on last night to comment on the Sanford issue. First came the softball of all softballs, Candy Crowley, who blathered on for a few minutes about how in America people love a redemption story and Sanford might yet rise from the dead. Never mind that the affair isn't the issue - it's the abdication of his responsibilities as Governor and potential abuse of state funds that dooms him forever on the national stage. Crowley, while likeable enough, just doesn't like to stake out too much ground. She was, after all, still saying that McCain had a chance to win the thing on November 3rd.

The second guest, and infinitely more interesting, was Dr. Drew the famous sex/relationship therapist who has a show on MTV or some such trash channel. Of course CNN wanted Drew to comment on the state of the Sanford marraige and if it could be "saved". Drew, always one to please, suggested that the marraige had "likely" been under threat for quite some time but that it could be saved. He also encouraged other couples with marraiges in trouble to try to save their marraiges through counseling (rather indirectly).

There are two issues here I will comment on. First is the issue of the affair.

My wife, being Colombian and used to a macho society where the vast majority of men cheat, have girlfriends on the side, and lie about it constantly, has told me on several occassions that sometimes in relationships people "slip up" and that doesn't necessarily mean the end of the relationship. She's right in a sense. There is a possibility for "slip ups", especially in a country like Colombia where if you are foreign and married, you're almost more attractive to the legion of single, attractive, and aggressive women out there. I could see a situation where one is drunk, alone (maybe after a fight), and falls into bed with someone who is not your wife.

Of course, I don't think any of those things are excusable. Philisophically, I have always thought that alcohol just enables us to do things that we really want when sober anyway. So even in a "slip up" situation, I think it reveals terrible fissures in the relationship which may or may not be solveable.

An affair is totally different and a thousand times worse. An affair is an active emotional, mental, and sexual replacement of the person to which you are married. It is something that has a beginning, middle, and more often than not, an ending. It has a life of its own, like all relationships, and as such, an affair is often the culmination of a failed marriage. One doesn't just fall into an affair. They grow over time and they grow because one is unhappy or unsatisfied with their significant other. So when Dr. Drew said it probably indicated that their marraige had been in trouble for quite some time, he was vastly understating the significance of this revelation.

The second issue relates to "saving the marraige". This is a common response to affairs and whatnot. Indeed, Dr. Drew said that going into counseling he encourages couples to stay together by thinking of their kids and the lives they have built. Essentially, he suggests that the material things in life value more than happiness. (Obviously children aren't material, but in this context he equates them to possessions.)

I really can't express just how much I disagree with this point of view. Fundamentally, I don't believe that counselors and therapists should enter into marriage counseling with the pre-conceived goal of "saving the marriage". The goals should start at a much more basic level - reestablishing communication, understanding the other, etc. If, after a period of reconciliation and communication, both partners decide to continue in the marriage, so be it. But "successful" marraige counseling doesn't always end in marriage. Sometimes, it ends in divorce.

Marraige is the great fetish of Western civilization. In America, we tend to worship at the alter of marriage. There is a consistent social value that suggests that marriage is sacred and should be preserved at all costs. I call bullshit. Marriage is a legal process which enables us to enjoy certain benefits and privledges. In my case, my wife gets the legal authorization to live and work in my country just as I got the legal authorization to live in hers. We also got a social blessing - marriage is more acceptable in Colombian society than just living together. The church ceremony, blessedly, was in a language I didn't understand at the time, and in the tiniest church around, another blessing because any larger and I would have suffocated. I certainly didn't need a bunch of stodgy old men who have never been married to lecture me on what to expect, on how I should never use birth control and have as many babies as "God" gives me, and on and on.
Don't get me wrong. I love being married to my wife. Every day I know that I have someone who will love and support me no matter what (excluding baby killing cannabalism). And I married her because I knew that I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her laughter and tears, her hopes and fears, adventuring and growing, and on. But, if, God forbid, we reached a point where I no longer wanted those things, I would not want to stay with her just to preserve a man made institution.

The truth is, some marraiges just aren't worth saving. Or, more pointedly, some marraiges can't be "saved". Oh, they can be preserved. Two people can make a rational decision to stay together for the "sake of the kids". They can go through the motions of mechanical sex, put on a show for friends and neighbors, and bury the truth. But it's a sham. And it's a terrible lie to foist upon your children.

It turns out, children are rather savvy. They learn stuff without even realizing it. And when kids see an example of their parents, they internalize it, it becomes part of them. Living a lie, each and every day, imprints a very specific message on children - it's ok to lie about really big stuff. It's ok to be unhappy as long as appearances are maintained. And we wonder why we have drug and alcohol problems.

I don't pay homage to the unholy fetish of marraige. And I wouldn't hesitate to walk away if that was the right thing to do. I won't begrudge others their choices. I can't walk in their shoes. But I do know that we need to take marriage off the pedestal and treat it as it should be treated. When we hear about the 50% divorce rate in the US, we hear a chorus of voices of concern. We should be concerned...about the other 10-15% that maintain unhealthy, sham marraiges and the types of messages that our children learn from those examples.


Thursday, June 18, 2009

Conservative Circles and Race

Living abroad, I've been pretty well insulated from rabid conservatism and its followers. In London, most of the Americans that I met were either politically unformed (young, study abroad students) or were well to the left. That makes a good bit of sense as those who choose to live abroad, in a country that is well left of center by our standards, generally do so with open, accepting eyes. The one exception to the rule is military personnel and dependents stationed abroad. Military personnel tend to be more conservative anyway and they don't really integrate with the population of the host nation. But I didn't mix with those types anyway.

In Colombia, I have met far fewer Americans. There are just less of us down here and the ones that are here, don't generally look to hang out with other Americans. That being said, the few Americans I have met have been disproportionately conservative, as in, hard core George Bush, kool aid drinking, intellectually bankrupt but holding onto that dogma like it's their last grip to reality types. I have certainly tried to avoid these individuals because I definitely have no interest in engaging in unproductive political debate with them and I don't want my reputation tarnished by their presence. The Colombian people that know me, know that I'm reasonable, thoughtful, considerate, and willing to listen to arguments from both sides. Unfortunately, the increasingly dogmatic and bitter right is none of those things and I don't wished to be tarnished by their presence. (I've actually had Colombian people introduce me to others with something like, "He's a gringo, but he's a good gringo, not like the others.")

The reason I recount this brief history is that recently I have made an acquaintance who perfectly fits into the category described above. And, to be honest, he gives me the heebie-jeebies. The first time I realized this was when he went off on an extended monologue about the "merit based society". Short version: We have it, Colombia doesn't and that's why we're rich and they're poor.

I found the entire discussion offensive. The "merit based society" argument is a foundation of republican philosophy which argues we are all equal when we are born and those who rise to the top are those who worked hardest and thus earned it. This quaint view, of course, completely ignores that some people attend $20,000/year exclusive private schools while others attend public high schools with textbooks written in the 60s and no sinks in the science labs meaning you can't ever do an experiment (these things I have seen first hand). Or that some children are raised with parents who know the value of education and hard work while others are raised by drug addicts and crack hos. Or that some people have parents that are well connected and wealthy and have doors magically open for them while others have parents who are teachers and military officers and have to struggle just to get their foot in the door. If there ever was a true level playing field, then perhaps the "merit based society" would be relevant. But since that's a pipe dream, it's essentially, in a word, racism.

I don't like it when people speak pejoratively about foreign countries. We all do it from time to time ('Those Norks are crazy biatches!") but I'd like to think that we say those things more for humor or out of frustration than because we really mean it. But what I have seen, circulating among self-described conservatives living abroad (a "subjugated minority group" according to them) is that they routinely employ pejorative terms to describe why the foreign culture is less valuable than our own. This is especially true in Colombia. In short, instead of looking at the myriad of diverse reasons why Colombia is a developing country with an almost overwhelming load of challenges (and the US role in creating a "developing Colombia", it's just easier to say, "they're culturally less developed than we are because they don't have a merit based system." Or, language less cloaked with sophistication, "Poor people are poor because they don't work hard."

Racism has become a subtle, insidious, and devious disease. Whereas in previous generations, it was culturally acceptable to assert that blacks and women weren't smart enough to vote, it is now necessary to express cultural, racial, and sexual bias with more sophistication and class. "Poor nations are poor because they can't manage their own affairs" tends to mean, "brown and black people around the globe aren't good managers". "Poor people are poor because they didn't work hard enough to rise to the top of society" tends to mean "Brown and black people are lazy."

South Africa is an excellent example of this. Under white rule, the country was "booming", an economic power, a model for the rest of Africa, right? Then, under black rule, South Africa virtually collapsed and everything is worse. The blacks didn't know how to run a country and that's why they're in this mess. This is, quite literally, a summary of a speech I heard a white South African give to me once upon a time. It's a lovely narrative except for the fact that it's utter horseshit and racist to the core. White South Africa wasn't a model of anything for anyone aside from the Ku Klux Klan. Their economy was based on the white population extracting all the riches from the black population. Whites lived well, blacks, not so much. Then, with the power transition, two things happened. First, a group of white economics ministers wrote a economic development blueprint which the black government was forced to accept in order to receive power. This blueprint, written hand in hand with the World Bank/IMF, established a completely independent monetary authority, akin to the US Federal Reserve, that had complete control over economic policy. Then they moved all the white economists from the previous government into that new authority. The second thing they did was the World Bank demanded a series of "structural adjustments" which meant selling of state owned enterprises. The people, of course, who had the money to buy those enterprises, were the very white rulers who were evicted from power. So, not only did the blacks lose control over central economic planning, but they also had to transfer public wealth to a white, elite, minority.

This, my friends, is the merit based system in action. South Africa. A perfect example of how rich, white bastards can screw over poor, inexperienced people of color. For more on this and other unbelievable events, see Naomi Klein, The Shock Doctrine.

Ahem. This isn't to say that ALL conservatives express these concepts as overtly as the two individuals I have described. Nor is it to suggest that the person I know here in Colombia would consider himself racist (although, to be fair, most racists don't consider themselves as such). He is, after all, married to a Colombian woman and that does suggest that whatever racism lives on within his psyche is certainly not strong enough to rule the day.

But it is to say that one of the core foundations of conservative thought is rooted in a concept that is racist to the core. To suggest that we live in an equal society, where everyone has equal opportunity from the time they are born, can ONLY mean that the racial minorities which continue to live in poverty are stupid, lazy, and incapable of bettering themselves. And make no mistake, this is what conservatives are saying when they say we live in a "merit based society" and it's one of the central reasons why long ago I shed my conservative roots. Sometimes, you just gotta call bullshit.

Of course, the very idea that I am proposing is so controversial that I would be ridiculed as a left wing radical for even writing it and who knows, maybe I am a left wing radical. What I do know is that you can't neutrally present a concept like the "merit based society" to explain away poverty without stepping on a racial landmine. Yet, in America's "race debates", you very rarely see anyone make this argument.

As a last note, and tangentially related, is the way that conservatives use the word "homosexual" instead of "gay". My associate did that yesterday and I think a little part of me died. Just so we all know, it's "gay" not "homosexual". We are not Victorian era scientists who see being gay as a sexual disease or disorder, ergo, we don't need to represent their language choices to our gay brothers and sisters.


Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Iran Thoughts

As is usually the case, it's kind of difficult to really tell what is happening on the ground in Tehran and around the country. What we do know is limited due to our own ignorance about Iranian politics and structure, limited foreign news media, and the opaqueness of the Iranian ruling power.

That being said, the facts on the ground seem clear: There was an election for the presidency that was a total sham. We know it was a sham because the attempt to defraud the Iranian public wasn't particularly subtle or well thought out (exactly matching voting patterns across the country, the loser losing his own home district, etc) to the point that one has to wonder if the ruling religious dictatorship was utterly suprised by the result. They shouldn't have been. There was limited polling data indicating that the "moderate" Mousavi was a sure winner as well as an estimated 8 million new voters, most of whom were Mousavi-ites.

But this is really getting into the weeds as far as I'm concerned because I'm simply not expert enough to authoritatively comment on Iranian politics. If you're interested in that sort of thing, the Washington Note is doing banner work in reporting what's going on. Or the Huffington Post, which is going beyond the pale in its efforts to get accurate on the ground information.

What I want to talk about is the impact on US foriegn policy. First, a bit of a primer on Iran's government. Then how this event impacts our interests and approach.

Iran, like a lot of virtual dictatorships, uses the guise of "democracy" as a way to placate its population. People feel good about voting, feel like they have a role in the development of their country, and generally don't riot in the streets as long as their voice gets heard. This is an important point in Iran in particular as the last time the students took to the streets it ended with a new, anti-West, radically Muslim regime. So I would expect the Ayatollah to have a bit of indigestion at seeing a new generation of students marching in the streets.

At any rate, Iran is functionally ruled by the Ayatollah and his twelve wise men (and his 86 member Assembly of Experts, but who's counting). In a word, dictatorship. This matters because no matter the final outcome of the current "green revolution", the US will still be dealing with a radicalized, anti-Western government that would only marginally moderate its tone internationally with Mousavi as its president. So, Mousavi wins, no more speeches at the UN about the how the Holocaust never happened.

From the perspective of US interests, Iran only matters in two, perhaps three, issues. The first is nuclear policy. Since George Bush's famous "Axis of Evil" speech, Iran has been in the forefront of US national consciousness. This is mostly because of their rather clandestine nuclear program. The Bush policy on Iran was one of indirect threats and diplomatic ignorance or shunning (as in, just ignore the problem, not stupidity). Obama has taken a more direct approach, suggesting high level talks, the establishment of diplomatic relations, and perhaps even the removal from the State Department's Terrorist list. (While he may not have directly said that, eventual removal from the List would be the logical result of what Obama has proposed). All of this was predicated on Ahmadinejad winning reelection.

Now that there is greater uncertainty, US foreign policy makers are in abuzz about what this all means for the US negotiating tactic vis-a-vis the nuclear program. This article in Time makes the argument that Iran Czar Dennis Ross and others actually hope that Ahmadinejad remains president because it's easier to negotiate with a hardliner that a reformer. I know, it seems counterintuitive. And, well, it is. But their argument is that if negotiations fail, which they probably will since the Ayatollah is calling the shots at the end of the day, it's easier to levy foreign policy "sticks" against a hardliner than a reformer. Essentially, a "reformer" presents a PR problem for Western diplomats while the continued presence of a hardliner clears the path for aggressive sanctions.

While I understand this argument, I find it to be a fairly bad one. On the one hand, a "moderate" Iranian president is fairly far outside of our understanding of what the word "moderate" means. There will be no rapproachment with the west if Mousavi is the ultimate victor. Nor will there likely be an end to the nuclear program. Iranian moderation occurs in inches, not miles and to expect otherwise is to invite folly.

But there is an advantage to having a more moderate Iranian president. At the moment, the US has basically no leverage over Iran. The much talked about sanctions have no support from Russia and others. Sanctions regimes are like leaky dams; first a leak, then a flood. For all the hard work that Dennis Ross and his crew have put in, there is essentially no chance that an effective, enforceable sanctions regime gets enacted.

Further, as much as Obama would like to engage in diplomatic rapproachment, there's very little chance that that happens with Ahmadinejad for the very reason I mentioned above: he's a Holocaust denier and if anything is ananthema in US politics, it's that. For all Obama's talk during the election, Hillary Clinton is calling the shots on this one and she's not about to jeopardize Obama's political standing by allowing him to buddy up with Israeli Public Enemy Number 1.

So I fail to see how Ahmadinejad winning would be a good thing for US foreign policy unless you're a radical neocon who actually wants to invade another country.

On the other hand, a Mousavi win would enable some level of diplomatic engagement and could, perhaps, open Iran up to US oil investment, our number 2 strategic interest. Again, I don't propose that this could or would happen overnight. These sorts of things take time. But the one policy area that the Iranian president does have significant influence over is economic policy and I could see a world in which Mousavi argues for opening up to the West as a means to improving a rather dismal domestic economy. I have no real evidence to back up this claim but, on balance, it's an awful lot more likely with Mousavi than Ahmadinejad, no?

This is also the type of policy that I believe the US would jump at. Obviously, from our perspective, business is first and foremost at all times. But even beyond that, the upper echelons of Clinton's State Department are staffed with Clinton era loyalists - that is - those who believe that engagement with China had a moderating effect on the country and helped to bring it into the community of nations. While that may be in some dispute (China hasn't moderated much and it frustrates our efforts to promote freedom, human rights, and democracy across the globe), there is certainly a belief that China is no longer our enemy because of its huge vested interest in our economic well being. (Of course, the Chinese are savvy realists and know that their huge investment in our economy has given them more leverage over us than it has given us over them, but that's another story altogether.)

Now, faced with an opportunity to replicate engagement in Iran, it seems to me that the US foreign policy establishment would (or should) prefer Mousavi to Ahmadinejad simply because we know that engagement yeilds more positive results than containment (see Iraq, Hussein, etc). Or, to put it more succinctly, after the first Gulf War, the entire world backed the idea of sanctioning Saddam Hussein's Iraq and yet, he repeatedly defied the UN levied regime, oppressed his own people, and created a greater PR disaster for the West by promoting images of poor Iraqis suffering because of the sanctions. If that sanctions regime failed so spectacularly when it had global support, then why is it rational to suggest a new regime leveled against Iran with much more uneven support would work?

In the end, I believe that Obama and Clinton are as on top of these issues as one can be. As responsible leaders, they've withheld all but the most innocuous statements so as to limit the regime's ability to accuse them (or every dictator's favorite bogeyman, the CIA) of playing a role in the protests. And as responsible adults, they seem to be waiting this out much like world leaders waited out the sham election of George Bush in 2000. At the end of the day, there is very little the US can do at the moment aside from monitor the situation and plan out the various scenarios that could come to fore.

As foreign policy practitioners, Obama and Clinton undoubtedly see both sides of the coin: If Ahmadinejad wins, they can roll with their targeted sanctions strategy. If Mousavi wins, they can roll with their engagement/rapproachment strategy. In fact, the only risk of screwing this up is by doing what John McCain suggests and that's acting too quickly with less than clear measures (he always was a rash, old chap, wasn't he). At the end of the day, though, I think, given the choice, it's much, much more rational to prefer a moderate than a hardline, Holocaust denying radical.

(The third US interest in Iran, which is much less attainable, is Iranian support for terrorism. I don't include this because the US has shown, repeatedly, that this is only a marginal interest. Our longstanding friendship with Saudi Arabia is the best example. The Kingdom is the world's biggest state sponsor of terror, yet we continually and convienantly ignore that fact because they got lots of black gold. The same could be true of Iran, especially if oil becomes scarce and/or prices continue to rise.)


Saturday, June 06, 2009


I've always suffered from headaches. From the time I was a wee lad to now, headaches have been an ever constant companion on the road of life. Over time, I have managed their appearances with aspirin, tylenol, advil, excedrin, excedrin migraine, dolex, dolex strong, and most recently, for the really horrid migraines that are so debilitating that I lose an entire day lying down in a dark place if un-medicated, Imigran (which is a totally amazing medicine).

As I have had these experiences, I have done some research over the years to get at the root of why I suffer from periodic (weekly) headaches or migraines (monthly). The short answer is, there is no answer. Oh, the doctors got some theories, few of them sufficiently comprehensive, but for the most part, we just don't have a really good explanation for why someone wakes up with a migraine or a headache.

Several factors have been compounding over the past several years. First, in my mid-to-late 20s, the headaches became more severe and the medicine less effective. This marked the appearance of occasional migraines as well as my transition to excedrin migraine. And second, in the last 2-3 years, I have developed what can only be described is a hyper-sensitivity to alcohol. This is very odd. In London, I drank like a fish, consuming my weight in beer on a bi-weekly schedule. I, of course, had hangovers, but they were all very manageable with late night kabobs and water.

Now, I am finding it very difficult to have even a few drinks without waking up to a really horrid hangover. Last night is a good case in point. As part of an ongoing self test, I drank two beers (Aguila in a can) over a course of four hours. The second beer accompanied half a pizza. That's 24 oz of beer in 4 hours with food. I never felt a buzz. This morning I woke with a mild headache and nausea. After eating a banana, a dolex, a glass of water, and a glass of orange juice, I'm feeling much better. But the question lingers: How could I possibly have a hangover from 24 oz of beer?

Hangover literature is not particularly helpful. Most of it includes "remedies" more suited for storybooks than reality. Even the scientific lit has very little to offer that one would term "solid". This is perhaps because alcohol is poison and human phisiology reacts to poisons differently and thus studies are complicated by poorly understood biological variation. It could also be that much of the science into the hangover is driven by pharmaceutical companies looking for a magic pill that prevents hangovers. I don't really know. But what is clear is that there is very little hard data on why hangovers persist in some people and not in others. I won't speak to that point as it is rather imprecise. Instead, I will speak to the one factor that stands out in the literature that might just be relevant.

When I was a lad of eight or nine, I had the misfortune of being placed into a 3rd grade class with a horrible witch of a teacher named Ms. Manners (no joke there - that was her real name). My father, as a naval officer, had been transferred to Newport, Rhode Island for a year, which meant I had to integrate into a new school, make new friends, etc. The social part wasn't problematic. I quickly made friends with another lad on my block as well as with a really obese kid in school (I've always loved fat people). But the classroom was different.

In Virginia Beach they taught cursive writing in the 3rd grade (don't get me started on how useless cursive is). In Rhode Island, they taught it in the 2nd grade. So when Ms. Manners discovered that I knew nothing of cursive (and thankfully, still no nothing), she immediately tagged me idiot and began to treat me like yesterday's garbage. This had a profound effect on me. Every day, I was walking into a hostile work environment and before long, I became ill. That entire school year, the only year I spent in Rhode Island, I was sick. It was the only year of my life that I was consistently sick and missed considerable time. And it wasn't because that fresh wintery air was germ filled either. It was simply a psychological reaction to a hostile environment. Fortunately, my mother is a teacher and she sorted me out with the cursive and then we moved on to Idaho and Japan, but that's a whole 'nuther story.

I relate this narrative because I believe that more than any other factor, my physical well being is quite closely related to my psychological well being. Anyone who reads this blog or knows me well knows that I'm not particularly happy in Colombia. In fact, I feel limited and out of options, so to speak and that has had a huge effect on me. While this stagnant period is coming to a close in less than 2 months, I do wonder if my inability to metabolize alcohol is related to my underlying dissatisfaction with my current state of being.

Over the past months, I have run basically ever self test possible. I have compared: domestic beer versus foreign beer, beer in a bottle vs in a can vs on tap, rum vs vodka vs wine, and every combination therein. The results have been universally consistent with only two exceptions. On my birthday, we had a part in the country where we played Tejo and gorged ourselves on steaks and all the goodies that go with that. I drank a sizeable amount of beer over the course of the day and don't remember any hangover the next morning. Similarly, 2 weeks ago we had the grandparents and some others over for lunch on a Sunday. I cooked a Lomo Al Trapo with mashed potato stuffed tomatoes on the side. While I didn't drink a great deal, I did drink beer and no hangover the next day. These two events support my psychological theory. Obviously, playing Tejo in the sun and eating gorgeous amounts of meat is a high point. At the same time, I love to cook and offer delicious food to guests.

In sum, my recent alcohol consumption has resulted in a typical hangover symptoms, no matter the type or amount of alcohol consumed. Further, these hangovers have had a duration and intensity greater than previous hangovers. Shortly, I shall find myself in different circumstances which will necessitate more tests. If the symptoms continue, then the problem must be considered physiological. If not, then the psychological explanation has salience.

Update: In addition to the comment below, my mother sent me this link. She is gluten intolerant although not full blown Celiac's apparently (I'm going to pretend like I know the difference). And to be fair, I can't remember the last time I drank vodka but the last time I drank rum it was a 12 hour session, which could explain the extended hangover (and there was some scotch on the tail end). At any rate, for the next 30 days, I'm on a gluten free diet which will hopefully provide some answers one way or another.


Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Almost 5 months in

You know, I dig Obama.  Pretty much everyone that knows me knows that I dig Obama.  He was the right choice then and he's the right choice now and I don't expect that to change.  In the coming months we're going to get our first Latina Supreme Court justice and we might, if Congress gets it's ass in gear, we might just get a national health insurance plan that would be much like Medicare but for everyone not just the crinkly and wrinkly.  

These are good things.  Neither of these things would have a snowball's chance in hell of passing in any other circumstance.  GOPers don't like non-whites that much (if their leadership is to be believed) and they sure as hell don't put much stock in government doing anything right.  

Of course, only the GOP could so cleverly make the self fullfilling prophecy of "government is shit, private better" come true by coming to power and then spending the next 8 years guaranteeing that government is shit by appointing unqualified partisan hacks into positions of power and sending marching orders to all agencies that basically say "go eff yourself" if you're involved in anything related to oversight, regulation, or, well, really anything that has anything to do with the word "governance".  Not to mention slashing the budget of every investigative and enforcement office in every agency and privatizing as much as possible, including large portions of the US military.  But I digress...

I still like Obama.  I like that he's over there, chatting up world leaders, leaders that actually appear to look him in the eye and think, "Hey, I better pay attention, this guy ain't no fool like the last one".  He's done wonders for our reputation abroad (I can only judge from personal experience and the shittified AP) and at home, where people from all walks of life are actually starting to think that the American dream is true, not just something for rich, white, connected, sons-of-bitches.  No offense to all those rich, white, connected, non-sons-of-bitches.  I found it particularly telling that even hackolas like Ruben Navarrette, who, from what I can tell, likens himself the conservative mouthpiece of latinos everywhere, and clearly makes a definite effort to be as nobbish as possible with virtually everything he writes, actually wrote an editorial style article for CNN praising Obama's choice of Sotomayer, expressing how proud he was of that moment, and even going so far as to tell his 5-year old that it was a groundbreaking day in America.  

Obama did that.  He did that simply by having the guts to stand up and say, what the shit, we've got tons of qualified people in this country that didn't go to Country-club U and rub assholes with the Dick Cheney's and George Bush's of the world.  Clinton didn't do it.  Obviously Bush didn't do it.  Instead, he offered up the least qualified person to ever be nominated for the Supreme Court which is really beyond the pale since, you know, we already have that deaf mute Clarence Thomas who seems to just click "copy all" and "paste" when Scalia sends him his decision.  Again, I digress.  

Anyway, we now seem to have a government that functions (as in, doing oversight, not continuing to privitize everything down to the last toilet bowl washer, actually trying to do something to fix the financial crisis, health care, etc).  We have a government that more accurately reflects America as it is.  Our government is not just some frat boy club of chubblys who get the shits out of ill-advised, poorly planned foreign adventures or botched natural disaster response.  The gubnent sure as hell ain't perfect, but it's more perfect when you actually try to make it work.  So we can all be thankful for that.


(You knew there was a "but" right?)

But, Obama hasn't scored like LeBron in the 4th quarter of Game 5.  And I'm getting pretty pissed off about it because as this blogger more or less said, we got all kinds of shitstorms circling our globe and there's one issue that is as simple as Sopa de Tortilla, an issue that Obama is sitting out of, an issue that is THE defining civil rights issue of our time.

And that's Gay Rights.  

Did you know that in most of the US, not to mention the world, you can be fired for just being gay?  How shit ass insane is that?  I practically soiled my daintees when I saw Milk because as much as shit changes, it stays the same.  By the way, the makers really missed out on a powerful opportunity at the end of that movie.  I mean, wouldn't it have been pretty damn impactful to have put up something like, "Even today, 20 years later, gays and lesbians can be fired for just being who they are...blah, blah, blah."  I mean, bloody hell, the reason I wrote "blah, blah, blah" is because I literally am not educated enough about this issue to write a full sentence about it!  

Anyway, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act or ENDA, as it is fondly known as by the few policy wonks that engage in regular gay friendly wonkery, is languishing on the floor of the Congress, where it has sat for what, 15 years?  I mean, what the shit is that?  A very simple law that says you can't fire someone because of their race, sex, gender, religion and some other shit that ain't controversial AT ALL.  Is it just institutional laziness?  Is that why they haven't gotten up off their lobbyist fed asses and gotten that shit passed?  I know, I know, there's this whole issue of adding in "transgendered" as well.  Well slap my ass and call me bitch, we shouldn't be discriminating against transgendered people either because we shouldn't be discriminating against ANYONE.  That's, you know, FUNDAMENTALLY EVIL, and the kind of shit that we're supposed to be getting over.  

If ENDA wasn't bad enough, the military continues to kick openly gays and lesbians out just for the hell of it.  Now, maybe, and this is the quite literally the biggest damn "maybe" in the history of all maybes everywhere and in every language, but maybe in times of peace you could make an argument for a "go slow" approach to changing Don't Ask, Don't Tell.  But bloody hell, we're in 2 damn wars and we're kicking out openly gay men who speak Arabic and are experts in the Middle East!  There is no logic or reason to that and makes me wonder if Robert Gates sits around saying, "we're just a bunch of sticky pricks that can't have those queers running around us because we don't know what we'd do!"  

And let's not even get into Gay Marraige or we'll be here all night.  But I just gotta ask all the fundamentalist, sick bastard, wacko, wanna be party of Reagan, really be party of Falwell asshats out there: Given that the world is falling apart about us, with animal flus to one side, terrorism and piracy to the other, and the giant bloody elephant in the room that is Global warming about to trample the entire shebang, do we really, I mean really, do we really need to be going to the mat over this issue?  Nobody's proposing that you marry gays and lesbians in your hovels of God where you do crazy shit like pretend to speak in tongues and other creepy scary shit that I don't even want to know about.  Are you really so hyper-sensitive that you think that the mere presence of married gays and lesbians is going to undercut the foundation of your ever so "sacred and sanct holy matrimony" as described in your book of the dead which we all call the Bible?  Because if you are, then you gotta a whole little bit of faith and you should be ashamed of yourself.

This topic reminds me of the sheer stupidity of the radically conservative Christian movement and its spokesman and de facto leader James Dobson, Dr in what, who the hell knows.  The stupid bastard has said on various occassions that "the gays" are why the Roman empire collapsed which has just about got to be the biggest misreading of history of all time.  It's such a stupid proposition that it should be automatic disqualification from putrifying our public airwaves ever again.  I mean, think about it.  If you were to write something like that in a History 101 class, you would not only fail, you would become an instant assclown for the rest of your college career.  Because only someone who is fundamentally deficient in the brains department could suggest something as idiotic.

Guess Dobson ain't got a PhD in History.  But that's how bad the arguments from the Religo-Fascists have to be because they can't really come out and say, "we just hate all them faggots and their kissing and hand holding," and be considered good Christian folk, now can they?  

Well, I'm well good and off course now, aren't I.  

Obama.  The man can do this.  He can tell the military: finish this, now.  With a short, simple executive order, he can stop the military from kicking out people we desperately need.  And with the strength of his voice, his rhetoric, and his near universal respect across the parts of America that really matter (you know, the relatively rational, sane human beings that don't believe the utter horse shit that spews forth from the Triumverate of Unholy Evil that is Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and Bill O' I sexually harassed my assistant Reilly).  

My point is, Obama is the most powerful orator in my lifetime.  He has changed attitudes and ideas simply for being.  He can push us forward on the most salient and important civil right and human rights issue of our time.  I know he's got a rather full plate right now, but he can do this.  It just takes a little courage.  So please, White House overlords, please Obama, get on it.  If they can discriminate against "the gays" then they can discriminate against us all.  And I don't want to live in a country like that.  Nor do I want my children, who will be called "Latinos", to grow up in a country that is one step away from deciding that there are certain inalienable rights that we can just take away when we good and damn feel like it.  

ENDA, the end of Don't Ask, Don't Tell, and Gay Marraige now.  American values demand it.

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