There Are Still Good Things

treebeard.jpg Tree-Hugger Civilizer

Here’s your happy for the day.  The world’s most endangered species of cat, the Iberian lynx, its habitat shrinking due to human encroachment and mismanagement, and its prey species populations thinning due to disease, was thought to be on the way out.  Though a captive breeding program in its native Spain was reporting some success, the species was believed to be constricted to just two breeding grounds, and to be too small to be genetically sustainable.  Until, that is, those magnificent bastards at the World Wildlife Fund found a whole new population, in Castile la Mancha.

castilla-la-mancha-map.jpg

It’s enough to make me want to forgive them for forcing the World Wrestling Federation to become “World Wrestling Entertainment.”  Anyway, the discovery brings the total number of Iberian lynx to just 150 worldwide, still critically endangered, but the existence of a greater degree of genetic diversity is a significant boost to conservation efforts.  So, down but not out.

iberian-lynx.jpg

 

Get Off The Throne And Back Behind The Desk, Please

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

The Bush presidency has been historically notable not just for the immediate nature of its ineptitude, but also for its potential, depending on how the next decade or so goes, to have done long-lasting, truly structural damage to our country and constitution.  The administration’s signature blend of domestic bullying and maladroit foreign policy has produced a laundry list of sins, follies, and crimes that not only act as a millstone around the national neck today, but may well prove to weaken the very foundations that led to the American Century – our military, our economy, our educational system, our workforce, and our environment.  Most of the transgressions that populate the list are well-known to us all, so I’m not going to dwell on them here…after all, do you really need to be told that Bush and Cheney have enacted, or attempted to enact, myopic regulatory changes to natural resource and land management policy for the benefit of large energy conglomerates?  Of course not – the Bush administration has produced so many sensational, banner-headline scandals that anybody who pays attention to the news can name several with little difficulty.  What’s interesting, though, is that the broad context of these scandals is rarely elucidated, at least, not thoroughly.

The unifying theme of many of the Bush administration’s machinations has been power consolidation.  The detainee issue, the torture issue, the warrantless wiretapping issue, the U.S. attorney scandal, they have all angered those involved and those who observe because they amount to a flagrant short-circuiting of the American constitutional process.  The question of how to investigate, interrogate, and try suspected terrorists will be one of the most important ones to face the United States, both from a military and judicial standpoint, for the duration of the War on Terror.  The spectrum of opinion on the matter ought to be aired in the media, in Congress, and in the courts.  At the risk of being naively reductionist, what is democracy but debating and then voting? 

Rather than listen to the country, the Bush White House instead acted unilaterally, of course.  No, suspected terrorists would not be given attorneys.  No, suspected terrorists would not be tried in an American court, or any other court.  Yes, if we think a suspected terrorist has tactically useful information, we can torture him or ship him to a country that will torture him.  And finally, no, we aren’t interested in hearing your opinion on the matter.  (And just so you don’t think I’ve gone soft on the ululating suicide-monkeys, I didn’t exactly cry a bucket of tears when I heard that we were hot-wiring terrorists’ genitals to car batteries, but it did occur to me that without a trial, we could be hot-wiring innocent genitals so maybe due process ought to have its day even for the scum of the earth.)  

No matter your opinion of W’s power grab, the fact remains that he has made it, and it has changed the landscape of government.  Through presidential findings, classified security memos, and hasty executive orders, George Bush has expanded the role of the presidency dramatically, marginalized Congress, and run an end-around the Supreme Court.  Of the hundreds or thousands of academic theses that will undoubtedly be written in poli-sci classrooms across the country in the coming years, the central focus will most likely be the “unitary executive” or, if you’re from the East Coast and/or own a hacky-sack, the “imperial presidency.”

What will be interesting during the coming years is what future presidents do with this inflated authority.  I liken these new presidential powers to stolen goods left in a house.  What if you bought that house, and when you walked in you found a big plasma television, leather sectional, some nice art on the walls, and a hot tub.  The realtor says “All this stuff was stolen and just left here – you can turn it over to the police, or you can keep it.”  Would you see that everything was returned to its rightful owner?  Or would you keep it?  It’s a question that cuts right to the issue of your character, your sense of right and wrong, and your self-control.

Only an honest person, an individual with a healthy sense of fair play, sees that those things are returned.  In the case of executive power, an incoming president clearly, firmly, and publicly returns certain elements of wartime authority, certain issues of civil liberties, and other matters involving the American character to the legislative and judiciary branches so they can be given a full and fair public hearing. 

So it concerns me that, given the gravity of the situation, we need an honest person with a healthy sense of fair play to assume the presidency, and we’re going to elect a career politician.  When I say the words “honest,” or “sense of right and wrong,” do the names “Rudy Giuliani” or “Hillary Clinton” leap to mind?  Personally, when I hear those names, I think “nutjob” and “ladder-climbing opportunist.”  Britain’s Guardian newspaper recently did an interview with Clinton where they put the question to her: will you give up some of these powers?  Some lowlights:

  • “Well, I think it is clear that the power grab undertaken by the Bush-Cheney administration has gone much further than any other president and has been sustained for longer.  Other presidents like Lincoln have had to take on extraordinary powers but would later go to the Congress for either ratification or rejection.”  Yep!  So, would you give up those extraordinary powers? 
  • “There were a lot of actions which they took that were clearly beyond any power the Congress would have granted or that in my view that was inherent in the constitution. There were other actions they’ve taken which could have obtained congressional authorisation but they deliberately chose not to pursue it as a matter of principle.”  Right on, so, again…you’d undo all that, right?
  • “I mean that has to be part of the review that I undertake when I get to the White House, and I intend to do that.”

You have to review it?  You “intend to” review it?  Boy, there’s a comfortingly clear stance.  This is, to my knowledge, the only time a major media outlet has explicitly asked a candidate about this issue, and Hillary’s response was disconcerting in its prevarication.  Furthermore, I’m not sure who among the major candidates would give a different one.  I hope that as the race takes shape, the media does its job and presses the candidates on this issue, and doesn’t let them duck it by citing “national security.” And I hope the electorate rewards the candidate with the most respect for our constitutional system of checks and balances. It would be truly depressing if the effective end of a free republic was portended in “Revenge of the Sith.”

Mocking TAG Body Spray Users Is A Noble Pursuit: Quote Of The Day

 tag-body-spray.jpg

I hate this product and all its brand image stands for with an intensity far greater than is probably reasonable.

From The Onion’s September 20th article “Massive Tag Body Spray Slick Spreading From Jersey Shore“:

“An Environmental Protection Agency spokesman said that Tag levels were already becoming dangerously high in recent years due to the thousands of migratory bros and dudes who flock to the area’s beaches during the summer months.”

 

This Is What The “Home Of The Brave” Part Of The Song Means

firefighter-in-socal.jpg

Link? LINK?! Oh, This Will Not Do.

ryu-2.jpg Civilizer’s Inner Geek

It’s a common complaint today that the powers that be are out of touch with the average person, that grassroots movements can’t stand up to the slick, well-financed corporate cabal with its political access and marketplace domination.  “I can’t make a difference” is the sad conclusion that a lot of people come to after years of reading the news, going to town hall meetings, and casting their vote.  Well, I’m here to tell you that there’s an issue of paramount importance facing the public right now, and your vote can make all the difference.  Don’t screw this up.

Over at IGN, there’s a “Hero Showdown” happening, pitting Nintendo’s Link, hero of the Legend of Zelda series of games, against one Cloud Strife, ass-kicking, impeccably coiffed protagonist of the greatest video game ever made, Final Fantasy VII.  (Suck it, Contra)  It’s a simple pick-and-click, where you choose the guy you think would win in a fight.  And as of this writing, Link is winning, and winning big – 64% to 36%. 

This cannot stand.  Just to get everyone up to speed, this is Link:

link.jpg

Real men don’t use shields.  I certainly don’t.

Look at the guy.  He’s like 5’6″ and maybe a buck twenty-five.  He has some magic weapons, notably the Master Sword, and he’s an elf, which is only cool sometimes, not always.  Link makes a living beating up on meat-headed demons and wizards and saving Princess Zelda over and over again, when what he ought to be doing is putting his foot down and telling her if she’d pony up for a damn bodyguard, he wouldn’t have to go chasing her ass all over Hyrule.  So not only is he scrawny, he’s whipped.  Impressed?

Now here is Cloud:

 cloud-strife.jpg

Isn’t that silver lion thing awesome?  Yeah, Link doesn’t have one of those.

Cloud is a genetically enhanced former member of an elite paramilitary corps who, in the course of FFVII, joins an underground movement called AVALANCHE dedicated to freeing its populace from the environmentally crushing grip of the evil Shinra corporation.  Along the way, it is revealed that one of the results of Shinra’s many insidious experiments was the creation of a nearly unstoppable, supernatural super-soldier named Sephiroth, hands-down the best villain in the history of video games.  And Cloud takes him down, so on a strength of schedule basis, Cloud drops Link like a bag of bricks.

Plus, Cloud wields the Buster Sword.  It’s awesome.  For comparison, here is Link’s “Master Sword” and here is Cloud’s Buster Sword:

master-sword.jpg            

Master Sword  

 buster-sword.jpg

Buster Sword – All 8 feet of it

Sorry, but the Buster Sword eats the Master Sword’s lunch.  It’s frickin’ huge, look at it!  It’s like he’s swinging a sharpened I-beam around!  You can’t tell me that if Cloud and Link go head to head, and Link has that metal toothpick of his, and Cloud has the Buster Sword, that Cloud doesn’t dissect Link like a frog in biology class.

For Link to get past Cloud in IGN’s Hero Showdown would be a disgrace, and this country can ill-afford another one.  Are we really going let Alberto Gonzales remain attorney general for as long as he did AND deem frigging Link the superior man in a knock-down drag-out with Cloud Strife?  America, get over to IGN.com and set this right.  We couldn’t save SCHIP, but if we can put Cloud Strife over the top, the year isn’t a total loss.

I Don’t Think Fred Thompson Thought This Through

walter-2.jpg Civilizer

So there are a few decisions in life that assume a supercessionary degree of importance.  These decisions really demand you hit pause on most of your other cognitive activity so that you can devote any and all available reflective, logical, and decision-making resources to them…where to go to college is usually the first one that arises.  Then maybe who to marry.  After that, whether or not to have children.  And some people, not a lot of us but some, are confronted with the question, “Should I run for President of the United States?” 

Now, that’s a big one.  Saying “Yes” means you’re giving yourself over to over a year of constant travel, asking for campaign contributions, being raked over the coals by your opponents and their henchmen, having people pry into your private life, and weathering the gale force winds of Hurricane Matthews.  If it were me, I’d spend a lot of time deliberating, talking with my wife, children, confidants, pundits, elected officials, and anybody else whose opinion I respect.  If I did run, I would have well-crafted positions at the ready at the time of my announcement, and I’d try and turn my personality up a little, politics being theater and all that.  In other words, if I ran for President, it would appear to the press and the voting public that I’d done more than just sleep on it.

But I’m not Fred Thompson.  Is it just me, or does it seem like Thompson treated the decision to run for President the same way he treats the decision of whether to buy the Cool Ranch or the Nacho Cheese Doritos?  You know what I mean?  Just kind of this nonchalant, shoulder-shrugging “Aw what the heck” kind of deal.  Nobody in the mainstream media has come out and said it yet because I think they kind of like having him around, but let’s just all admit it (the admitting will be done in Thompson’s trademark “folksy” style): when it comes to this whole runnin’ fer President thing, Thompson needs to put this horse back in the barn.

Conservatives faced with the unhappy prospect of casting a vote for a pro-abortion New York City mayor or a Mormom were drooling all over a Thompson candidacy, deeming him Reagan: The Sequel.  Well, they sure got their wish – and just like most sequels, Fred Thompson is a bloated, aimless, long-winded disappointment.

 fred-thompson.jpg

You’d think a guy whose candidacy came with so much breathless fanfare would really hit it hard coming out of the gate – shake a lot of hands, smile a lot, spend a lot of time nodding along at whatever a random Iowan has to say, maybe even shoot a TV spot where he’s tearing across Mount Rushmore on a Harley wearing one of those helmets with a bald eagle painted on it.  Instead, he gave a speech this month in Nevada, Iowa where he literally had to ask the audience to please applaud when he was done.  When a reporter asked if he would stick with any Bush Administration policies (memo to all candidates: say “no” to this question), he said “I would keep the good things and let go of the bad things.”  He called Russia “the Soviet Union”

Aside from revealing himself to be the 2008 model of the Gaffe-O-Matic, he has nothing in the way of substance.  Take his “healthcare policy” on his official website (the “On The Issues” section):

Americans have the best healthcare in the world. Some, however, choose not be insured; others cannot afford it. Every American should be able to get health insurance coverage that is affordable, fully accessible, and portable. Coverage should meet their individual needs and put them in control. Those who propose a one-size-fits-all Washington-controlled program ignore the cost, inefficiency, and inadequate care that such a system offers. Access to affordable, portable health care can be made available for all Americans without imposing new mandates or raising taxes. Current government programs must also be streamlined and improved so that those who truly need help can get the health care they need. I am committed to a healthcare system that:

  • Realigns programs and creates a system around individual consumers and patients by providing more information and more opportunities to choose affordable health care options that best meet their needs and those of their families.
  • Improves the individual health of all Americans by shifting to a system that promotes cost-effective prevention, chronic-care management, and personal responsibility
  • Modernizes delivery and administration of care by encouraging the widespread use of clinical best practices, medical information technology, and other innovations.
  • Increases competition and consumer choice while streamlining regulations through free-market solutions that benefit individuals and reduce costs for employers.
  • Promotes and speeds medical research and life-sciences innovation.

That’s a policy statement written by an intern who has to produce 500 words for the website, to hell with actual “content.”  The only way the healthcare policy could be more vague is if Thompson just boiled it down to “Medicine is good.  If you are sick, I want you to have it.”

I think my favorite section, though, is “Government Effectiveness,” which offers this pearl:

“Attracting and rewarding the best Americans to serve in government and ensuring they have the authority and resources needed to get the job done.”

Whoa, whoa whoa, Fred!  Whoa!  Information overload!  Too many specifics!  You’re going to make sure that people in government have authority AND resources?!  I need to go lie down for a minute, because I am spent!  (By way of contrast, check out Joe Biden’s section on healthcare.  The guy, God bless him, has it broken down all the way to a section on “Uniform Billing and Claims.”)

That Thompson is still considered a factor in this race speaks more to the weakness of the rest of the field (looking at you, Duncan Hunter) than his promise as a candidate, obviously.  But still – this is our highest office.  It’s the Presidency.  Best of the best, that’s who we want running.  And somehow, we’ve got a seemingly uninterested “folksy type,” an apotheosis of average, being kept afloat by hopeful Republicans.  A guy who says this about global warming:

“Some people think that our planet is suffering from a fever. Now scientists are telling us that Mars is experiencing its own planetary warming: Martian warming. It seems scientists have noticed recently that quite a few planets in our solar system seem to be heating up a bit, including Pluto. NASA says that the Martian South Pole’s ice cap has been shrinking for three summers in a row. Maybe Mars got its fever from earth. If so, I guess Jupiter’s caught the same cold, because it’s warming up too, like Pluto. This has led some people, not necessarily scientists, to wonder if Mars and Jupiter, non signatories to the Kyoto Treaty, are actually inhabited by alien SUV-driving industrialists who run their air-conditioning at 60 degrees and refuse to recycle. Silly, I know, but I wonder what all those planets, dwarf planets and moons in our solar system have in common. Hmmmm. Solar system. Hmmmm. Solar? I wonder. Nah, I guess we shouldn’t even be talking about this. The science is absolutely decided. There’s a consensus. Ask Galileo.”

Somebody in the media, anybody, please…TELL THIS GUY TO GO HOME!

New Cut List!

arrow-up.jpg

New cut list is up!  So click that link up at the top there.