Category Archives: Politics

Trump Fixin’ Nixon

We’re live in interesting times. It’s something that I’ve been looking at and wondering about without a lot of hope, so I’m writing this down. I’m not sure it completely makes sense, but it’s a start.

We have a problem. It started with Nixon. We might be able to solve it with Trump.

Hear me out.

When Richard Nixon made the deal to resign the presidency in exchange for a pardon for the crimes he committed, he changed how we see the president. I’m not talking about Nixon himself, who we, as a nation, saw as a crook and a criminal for a while. That tarnish wore off relatively quickly, and by the 1980s he was mostly viewed as a former president, and by his death, he was almost completely seen as “that guy who might’ve done a thing or two wrong” but mostly he was just seen as the 37th President, the one before Ford.

Because Nixon was pardoned, and there wasn’t an impeachment, wasn’t a removal, and wasn’t a criminal prosecution nor a sentence or jail time, he escaped justice. He was excused from the normal parts of the system, and was given freedom he didn’t deserve. This was done for many reasons, but the biggest was, I believe, to not have a president that we as a nation viewed as shameful. We didn’t want to be embarrassed.

To avoid embarassment, we decided to do far more damage to our republic, damage that continues to this day: the notion that the president is, somehow, above the law.

When Nixon was pardoned, the others in power in Washington D.C. were trying to save face and keep the office from being besmirched by the activities of its current occupant. We don’t have a president in our history books that we look back on and say “and this jerk went to prison for breaking the law” and we, honestly, should. But our national pride got the better of us, and instead of doing the right thing we did the easy thing because we thought that saving face somehow was more important. That’s not true at all, but we did it anyway.

While Nixon was pardonedm, his vice president and many in his administration went to jail. Nixon deserved to go to jail, and would have if all that we now know he did had been presented in a court of law. Would that have made a laughingstock of the U.S. in the eyes of the world? Maybe for a while, but as our government got back to doing its job, it would have been simply one of those things that happened, and we move on from it.

Instead we pardoned Nixon, and in doing so, we made the president above the law. Now, to be clear, I know the president most expressly is not above the law, legally, but in practical terms, they are. And that’s the damage that Nixon wrought. I get that this is unintended, but it’s still very real. That was our mistake, and we’ve been paying for it ever since, although it’s been relatively small payments up until very recently.

In the Reagan administration we saw many people go to jail for their actions, most notoriously the Iran/Contra scandal that took down Oliver North. It didn’t even destroy North’s ability to affect politics, as he’s currently a talking head on cable news, but at least he went to jail.

Reagan was never even charged with anything, because of a certain party’s allegiance to itself over the rule of law and our country. If he’d been charged, would he have been removed? Probably not. But if Nixon hadn’t been pardoned, do you honestly believe that the Reagan administration would have the guts to even attempt that fiasco?

George H.W. Bush was also part of the Iran/Contra, and if the congress had the courage to do its job he would have been charged when he was VP, and never would have been elected to the presidency. While there he didn’t do much worse than pardon some who had been convicted of being involved with the Iran/Contra affair, which is all kinds of ick, but understandable from a certain point of view. I think that he kept his nose as clean as possible during his presidency because someone knew something and it could blow up. But again, had Nixon not been pardoned and instead processed through the legal system as any other citizen, Bush would have been hard-pressed to avoid a much harder investigation into his actions as VP and probably wouldn’t have been able to run, much less win.

Clinton had a stack of scandals, but in the end the worst that anyone can say is that he told a young woman to lie about a beej. The details are not worth going into, but what is worth covering is the fact that congress, emboldened because the president wasn’t of the same party in power, decided to do something. That something included created the legal structures that now hold that a sitting president can be litigated against for his actions, even those prior to becoming president. While I find the partisan attacks on Clinton to be unworthy of praise, I find the irony in the tools created to carry out those attacks being the first line of tools to use against Trump to be delicious. On so many levels.

Obama was, as the saying goes, drama-free. His administration had one incident that took up the airwaves of Fox News for years, Benghazi, but that wasn’t to go after Obama himself, it was to go after Hillary Clinton. Not much to see here.

And for the eagle-eyed among you, you might’ve noticed I missed a Bush. On purpose.

George W. Bush, and his vice president, Dick Cheney, had more controversies than any administration prior to the current one. Rife with plagiarism, theft, embezzlement, violations of secrecy acts, contempt of courts, congress, and so many others, it’s hard to even begin. But the worst was the stack of lies and misdeeds that lead to a vote of war that took the U.S., and several of our allies, into Iraq. This unbelievable act was only made possible by the missteps of the past, where we as a people decided that the president was above the law. That protection had trickled down to the vice president at some point, and even Dick Cheney managed to avoid direct prosecution for his actions.

You can disagree with me on the politics of their actions, but if we didn’t see the president as above the law, the democratically controlled congress of the first two years of Obama’s administration could have easily gone after them for their actions, but didn’t.

Now, here we are with Trump. All the signs are pointed to a collusion with a foreign power, Russia, to win the white house and an administration filled with people who lie for breakfast, brunch, lunch, and then eat their own lies for dinner. The stack of crazy is appalling, and the already known criminal activity, specifically the foreign contact security form lies, is staggering. The GOP is not doing anything, choosing party over the rule of law, and over country, as they did when it came to Nixon. Nothing new there.

The silver-lining that might be present is that with the overwhelming pile of criminal activity that Trump is involved with, there may soon come a time when congress has no choice but to pursue him with impeachment and criminal charges – and if he’s found guilty, he needs to be punished to the fullest extent of the law. In doing so, and being able to do so, Trump may actually give us something we’ve been missing for half a century – a government by the people and for the people that is lead by people who are not above the law.

I might be crazy, but it’d be something to be thankful for from Trump. It sickens me that it takes this staggering pile of crap to fix this issue, but I guess I’m not really surprised.

I hope it happens.

Why not me?

I’m 42, soon to be 43, and I’m HIV-. I’m a gay male in the United State who grew up with the warning that if I had gay sex I would get AIDS and die. It hasn’t happened to me.

But why not? Luck. That’s all it can be.

I’m not particularly promiscuous, nor am I a prude, and nothing near a virgin. Sex can be amazing, and why not enjoy it?

I look at my friends, so many of whom are dealing with the disease in their lives. In their bodies. Living with it. Owning it. Not letting it control or destroy them.

Undetectable.

Alive.

Living, loving, and wildly still out there creating and changing the world. Fighting for a better place. Standing tall and proud and not backing down, not for the disease and not for the world, either.

Inspiring. That’s what they are.

I find that, on this day when we yell from the roof tops that AIDS is still here, still very real, and still very bad, that these amazing people stand on the front lines and fight to remove a stigma and that inspires me. I stand with them, beside them, hold their hands and shedding tears at losses just like them.

And because of dumb luck, I’m not on the front lines. I don’t have HIV, that I know, and I need to get tested today as it’s that day, and I’m pretty sure I know how it will come back, but it’s something we do.

I remember my first HIV test. It had to be a blood draw. In a doctors office. And sent away, like a macabre cereal box-top prize that would arrive in a few weeks. And it did. In a plain white envelop, with my name typed on the outside, with a single sheet inside it, and I had to steel myself to open it. I sat in the huge windows of my apartment in Bozeman that overlooked Main street and I cried as I opened the letter, sure that my world was about to crash to nothing.

But it didn’t. I was spared.

I move to Portland not long after, and met amazing, wonderful, talented people. And after a short few months, I got to go to my first funeral for one of those amazing, talented, wonderful people I’d just met. That was weird. It also started a pattern that I’ve kept for nearly 23 years of getting tested every 6 months. Not everyone died, but too many did. I still miss them, even though I can’t recall their real names, only faces or drag names or nick names or something they once said that was so funny I laughed until I cried, and it still brings a touch of joy with a soupçon of melancholy when I do remember it.

I moved to Phoenix, and met more amazing people. I was there when some found out they’d seroconverted. Most are still alive, but not all. Medical science has changed the world, but not eradicated this plague. It’s amazing what we can do, and it’s more amazing what people faced with this choose to do. Inspiring doesn’t really cover it.

I moved to Caribou, and met amazing people, who couldn’t wait to get out of The County and move to a city. I spoke about condoms and caring for yourself, and saw them leave and it was good. And things happen, and it’s not always good things.  But they stand and they fight and life continues for most of them.

I moved to Houston and got a taste of a truly metropolitan city, and worked at a nightclub of outstanding proportions. And I met many who were positive, and knew many who seroconverted and I know they face the challenges head-on and don’t shirk away from the fight. And they are awesome. And still, life continues for many, but not all.

I moved home to Montana. I met a group of gays, and found a life I love, and a community that accepts me for the bombastic asshole I am, knowing that my passion and my inability to shut up can work to make a difference in our lives. I thought maybe I could hold the virus at bay, stop it from creeping into my life here, but I was the first person called when a friend seroconverted, and we got together and I made sure he was ok and wouldn’t do anything to harm himself, and I was pissed at the virus that it was back and I couldn’t stop it. But I wasn’t going to sit down and stop fighting.

So I stand. I fight. For equality. Against the stigma. And when people ask me if I’m HIV+ I have to tell them, no, I’m not. But it’s simple luck, and I still get tested. In fact, I’m getting tested tonight, at 5:30, and while I don’t know the results, and I’m supremely lucky, I get tested with a pall of dread covering my mind because it can happen to anyone. It can happen at any time. It’s still here. It’s still deadly. And it’s not cured.

On this World AIDS Day, I stand with my friends who have been directly afflicted or affected by this scourge and miss so many of you. I want one more time to hold you, to tell you I love you, to give you warmth and a moment of safety, fleeting and imaginary that it may be. I don’t know why it got you. I don’t know why I’m so fucking insanely lucky.

I just know I want it to go away, and never bother anyone again. And I wish those it took were never taken, and that tears at my heart with sharpened claws and bloodied talons. I never want to lose another, but it seems I will because we have no cure.

Except knowledge.

Get tested. Know your status. Get on PrEP. Change the world. Love your friends.

AIDS-Ribbon

Just fucking stop!

Oh, my head.

I’ve read this posting twice, and looked into it enough that I had to reread it another three times, thus reaching a fifth, but one that lacked liquor.

Fuck. Me. Sideways.

There is so much that’s wrong with the current level of disturbing language/signage/garbage surrounding our politics that I’m beyond flabbergasted. I’m appalled. I’m disgusted.

I see people, some of whom I’m related to quite closely, tossing about divisive, destructive, delusional arguments that, when examined, lose whatever microscopic patina of sensible disagreement completely, only to be exposed as the contemptible whining of sore losers. Then there’s the contemptible, vitriolic, asinine boot-licking that oozes out from the other side of the aisle in the hopes that someone will mistake it for caring, thoughtful, discerning governance.

I must pause, because I feel I need to point out that I’m not a lapdog to the liberal side of the aisle, nor am I somehow blinded by and enamored of the conservative side of the aisle. I love my parents very much. They are both very amazing people. My dad and I didn’t always get along. There were times, not so very long ago, when if we spoke to each other more than once every three years, we’d been in contact too often and needed some space. That’s not the case anymore, although we don’t agree on everything and still get into arguments about who is right and who is wrong. Dad tends to think the liberals are wrong, and being lead there by the unions. Can you guess what I tend to think?

Nope. You’re wrong. Thanks for playing.

I tend to think everyone is wrong.

I’m hoping that I’m center of the road, but currently that means I’m pragmatic and thoughtful and I do care, quite a bit, about the human race, I just don’t like much of it. I find the lack of movement on LGBT issues by the Obama administration to be a huge betrayal. Worse, I know it for a horrible mistake on his part, but he won’t listen to me. I find the bitching by the conservatives about the $1Trillion cost of reforming health care, after they just spend $3Trillion on two wars in the Middle East, and almost another $1Trillion on bailing out banks that were “too big to fail”, to be hypocritical at best, and insane and criminal are also possibilities.

Yes, it’s going to cost some money, but listen up fucker, it’s money spent directly on our citizens – that’d be you, your family, friends, neighbors and countrymen – directly. I think that taking out Saddam makes citizens of the US safer, but it’s an indirect benefit. Healthcare would be a direct benefit to all of us, although it won’t solve every fucking problem either.

The liberals want to “make it all better for everyone”, not realizing that the only way to make everything equal on all levels is to whittle everything down to the lowest common denominator. It doesn’t take much past a day in kindergarten to realize that won’t work, but their hearts won’t let them see reality, and their heads are wont to follow.

The conservatives want to make sure that any changes we do make are in the direction of biblical supremacy and theocracy, but they like to hide it under the guise of “the directives of the Founding Fathers” and that other bastardized bastion of the weak-minded, “Original Intent” which has come to mean “shit we like, so there, nyah”. They also want to make sure that if anyone is spending their money, it’s not the damn government.

Which brings me nicely to the article that prompted this post. Let me quote you the good parts:

“These individuals came all the way from Southeast Texas to protest the excessive spending and growing government intrusion by the 111th Congress and the new Obama administration,” Brady wrote. “These participants, whose tax dollars were used to create and maintain this public transit system, were frustrated and disappointed that our nation’s capital did not make a great effort to simply provide a basic level of transit for them.” — Rep. Kevin Brady, R-Texas

No, for real. Read that shit again. I’ll wait.

Done? All five times? Are your eyes trying to backflip in your head, or have they just succumbed to the stupidity and are now bleeding?

First off, if there is an investigation opened on this, it will be, by virtue of the fact that DC Metro is part of, well DC, which is Federal, so this would be a Federal Issue. A Federal Issue that will cost Federal Money. Federal Money that those very same protesters were trying to tell this idiot to stop spending like it’s going out of style.

Second, Metro is under attack from all fronts – political, obviously, but also from time and age, the metropolitan area’s growth, the ridership, etc. Metro doesn’t have the resources to up the trains for the event, and thus couldn’t even if they wanted to.

Third, they didn’t want to. Or, more precisely, there wasn’t a real need for more trains. If you’re going to any big event, like an NFL, NBA, or NHL game (ha! could happen), it’s just like going to the airport – go early, pack the night before, don’t bring a gun (even if you’re in Arizona and you can, don’t) and know that you will be delayed. Metro can handle anything, if people are patient and plan ahead a bit. I know, I was there for a hugely busy event called Gay Pride, and it was fine. Yes, I had to wait for the next train. Yes it was *gasp* nearly 15 minutes away. How. Did. I. Survive?

We may never know.

Regardless, as using a publicly-funded socialist/communist system such as the Metro-rail is counter to your argument – since it is paid for by all for the betterment of all and it is therefore a completely socialist system – your group should have worked together and pooled your money and gotten buses that could transport everyone just like they do in communist Portland, OR fucking walked. After all, it was a MARCH ON WASHINGTON.

Those that took cabs did what this 9.12 movement says it’s really all about – keeping their money and spending it their way on things that help them, as the government cannot be trusted to build something that works. Those of you who are going to try to be a smart ass with me (bad move, I’ve got that gig down), I will cut you off at the pass by pointing out that just because it doesn’t work the way someone expects doesn’t mean it’s broken. (Except for Windows.)

So, Rep. Brady, think about what you are going to do next. And then think again. Maybe three or four more times. And then just drop it. Don’t apologize, we know it won’t be sincere, and frankly, it isn’t needed. Just pretend you were never speaking.

It’s what I’m trying to do with the lot of you.

The shot speech heard round the world

There are so many things to point out about what went right for the McCain camp today with their announcement of Sarah Palin for Veep. Perhaps the most right was her speech. Not because she said so much that it’s clear that she’s the real deal, but because she, in her first stump before national and international press, she was cool, calm, focused, and clever. And it’s the clever part that made it.

It’s quite possible someone else wrote parts of her speech. After watching McCain turn on his maverick positions to solidify the base, we know that someone has been Roving him with “if you want to get elected, just say this, you don’t have to mean it, it’s just to get their vote” for a while. So it’s entirely possible that one of them wrote this speech. I just doubt it because it was too clean, to wide, and too specific to be from that camp.

Here’s the video, you can watch it again if you missed it.

Most specifically, the parts where she first starts to outline the best parts of McCain (emphasis added):

And this is a man who has always been there to serve his country, not just his party. And this is a moment that requires resolve and toughness, and strength of heart in the American president. And my running mate is a man who has shown those qualities in the darkest of places, and in the service of his country.

Gang, it doesn’t get any clearer than that. The possessive is dangerous most times, but it was brilliantly used here to show McCain’s sacrifice and to service, and in a very “This land is your land, this land is my land, from the friggin beltway to the bridge to nowhere” sort of way. She didn’t play into the politics of ultra-inclusiveness, the politics of “we”; she played up the individual, the politics of “I”, which, for Republicans, has to be a sigh of relief – after all, political accountability can only come from personal responsibility. She came across as a Woman of the West, to me, which, of course, she is. She’s a hunter, a member of the NRA, and today she proved she can hit a bulls-eye.

She stood proud-yet-humble, strong, humane, and approachable. Yes, she’s a hockey mom. Yes, she’s relatively new to politics. Yes, she’s a chance. But her speech proved that she’s a good bet, even if the odds are long. Not because she’s just like everyone else, but because she’s just enough like us to relate, but seems to shine with the good qualities we all look for in ourselves.

I don’t know what my mom thinks, but I’m sure she’ll post something over there soon. Regardless, The Fight™, it’s on!

Rights and Restrictions

This week the Supremes are coming out of a 69-year long hibernation and taking up the issue of Gun Control. Dahlia Lithwick’s coverage over at Slate has been both about the court and about the dubious activities from the Bush administration. I don’t get a good feel for where she stands on the issues, but she tends to be liberal, so I’m guessing she’s for gun control. I happen to be for *some* gun control, but not for eliminating them entirely. Which is a much harder stance than it should be. But that’s not what I want to discuss. I want to discuss the U.S. Constitution’s Second Amendment, so let’s first quote that mutha:

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Now, I’m not going to get into the debate about the commas and capitalizations, you can read up on that yourself. It’s worth it, but only academically, as it serves to incredibly cloud what is, in reality, a very clear issue.

As Ms. Lithwick states, the problem comes from interpretation. Which is a nice way of saying it’s a PEBKAC error. Or an I.D.10t error. Ok, fine, it’s the reader, not the words, and whether the reader comes to the conclusion that the militia is a group right or that having arms is an individual right. And this is where it’s good to point out that this bit of inked flotsam is a fucking amendment, and therefore follows the tenor and impressions of the document that is amended by it. And since that document is the Constitution, which only does two things, we should first look to those things.

The first thing the Constitution does is establishes the rights of people. Why? Because it’s the people who then, as a group, determine the functions of government. The only other task that the Constitution does is restrict the rights of government. Those are the only things that the entire document does. Nothing more, nothing less. Don’t believe me? Read it. And all those places where it outlines the branches of government and all that jazz – that’s where it explicitly tells other branches what they can’t do, and who has what power and how it’s all balanced. That’s more restrictions on government. Rights are for people – period.

Now, is this always followed? Nope, but any amendment that does the reverse and takes away people’s rights while giving more power to the government, like the one about “Thou Shall Not Drink” are reversed.

Which leads me back to the lovely Second Amendment. While I am certainly a child of the last 69 years, having only been alive for about half of that time, I’m not a pawn of the NRA. I have my own brain, I choose to use it every once in a while. Like now.

The Second Amendment gives people a right to bear arms. Nothing more, nothing less. The “well-regulated militia”, the reason given, is just that, a reason. The states’ ability to form and keep militia is outlined earlier in the Constitution itself, along with all the responsibilities of it. But remember the time this was written. It took 20 days for the Continental Congress to recess and reconvene when delegates from South Carolina needed to confer with their leaders. There wasn’t a telephone, and certainly no way to drop lift in a battalion at any of the battlefields. Citizens had to defend themselves, and they needed to keep guns to do so. Which is why this is patently obvious as just a reason for the next bit.

Now, to be clear, I’m not one of the nutjobs that advocates getting rid of the government because they suck, but if the U.S. were attacked and I were forced to protect those I love, I’d rather not do it with kitchen utensils. Sporks aren’t nearly as effective as guns when faced with Hamas. Do I honestly believe this will be needed? Not in my lifetime, I hope, but why not be prepared?

As for those nutjobs? They are why I think some gun control is good. How to do this is harder than it should be, but there’s got to be a way. And we should keep striving for it.

To me, the Second Amendment is clear – the people have the right to bear arms because the people may need to become a militia to defend themselves. In modern terms it would be worded different, but the meaning would be the same. Probably something like

People may need to gather and become a local militia if the infrastructure of the USA and/or their state is compromised or destroyed. Because of that potential need, people have the unrestricted right to bear arms although they are never absolved of the responsibility of ownership of such lethal, powerful items.

It all boils down to people have this right so that government, our own or another, can’t take any rights away through force. “Live free or Die” isn’t a bumper sticker, my friend.

Politic-tick-boom Montana

Yep, just when it seemed that we could finally have a news report that wouldn’t include the phrase “latest poll results” we hear that the twits who thought that Ron Paul was a good idea have, now that McCain has the nomination, lost their shit. And no, it’s not funny. These people are off kilter already, and now they are mad, which has turned them into a mob, complete with torches and sack-cloth tunics. But I digress.

Roger Koopman has decided that there are 14 Republican traitors that need to not be re-elected. And here’s the best part, Koopman is already a complete right-wingnut with a special phone direct to Jesus and a rather spiteful hatred of anything that he doesn’t understand. While he may have a triple-digit IQ (I have no idea) after reading what he’s got to say, and what he plans on doing, I’m pretty sure that the first digit is a zero. Why? Oh because

Assisting Koopman in “the liberty project” is David Hart, state coordinator for Republican Ron Paul’s presidential campaign in Montana, who, via e-mail, urged Paul’s “Montana Freedom Fighters” to help recruit candidates.

is why. I don’t know if you caught it, but given that my readership is generally outside of Montana, let me tell you.

Realize that this is Montana, The Last Best Place. Well, the last best place to hide while writing a manifesto and sending out mail-bombs, Teddy. And Teddy was merely one of the more notorious figures nationwide because of where he sent the bombs. Had he just mailed them in Montana, he’d have been relegated to the slag heap of history with the rest of Montana’s nutjobs.

Nutjobs that tend to be hiding in plain sight in my lovely home state. Nutjobs that Ron Paul has riled up and organized. You know what happened the last time nutjobs got organized in this state? They went nuts.

Let me sum up this little gem from 1996 for you:

  • Nutjobs near Jordan, MT, keep hearing about the national debt.
  • Nutjobs start bitching about the debt. None can shut up about it. Ever.
  • Nutjobs decide to do something, because something must be done.
  • Nutjobs do what is obviously the right thing to do to reduce the debt the U.S. has to other nations.

Allow me to interject, as you might be thinking “Gee, Hamm, that doesn’t seem too bad. What is your problem?” and if I weren’t from Montana, I would be thinking exactly that. But I’m from here. I know these people. Trust me, it’s not going to end well. Just from going over the story I hear their voices in my head as they verbalized their hatred and distrust of “the gubbament”.

  • They decided to try to create their own, new, country, complete with a court system and currency.
  • They then placed liens on property owned by people who worked for “the gubbament”. The liens were, of course, authorized by the new country’s courts. (Presumably, The Honorable Bubba Cockbite presiding.)
  • The money from those liens was to be collected and used make a “good faith” payment on our national debt. (Which, if you followed along, would be the debt of a foreign nation – if any of this crap had been legal!)

Yes folks, Montana. Lovely state. Great skiing. Amazing summers. Fantastic wilderness, resources, and even a lot of good people. I can’t forget the good people, just because I’m pointing out that we grow the World’s Largest Nuts™ – only ours don’t grow on trees, but they do have the ability to vote. These are the people that Ron Paul and his Baffling Brigand of Bigots have decided to rile up. These are the people that they’ve decided to organize and aim at a target.

Are you following along here? Do you get how very dangerous this is? Just in case you don’t, it’s like covering a baby in bacon and tossing it to a pitbull. And like those 81 days in 1996, this, too, won’t end well.

The pot calling the kettle crazy

So, I was reading the latest gem over at JMG, which is about this insanity, and figured that I had to point this bit out:

…whines about imaginary victims, rages against imaginary villains and seeks above all else to run the lives of persons competent to run their own lives…

Fundamentalists, be they Christian, Muslim or whatever other religion, are the one’s who have, throughout history, believed in righteousness of their God, who, I would point out, is the Ultimate Imaginary Friend. Religious wars are fought on the basis that one groups UIF is better than the others’.

Fundamentalists, be they Christian, Muslim or whatever other religion, are conservative, yet they constantly whine about their god, their beliefs, their “moral fiber”, and rage against marriage equality, the gay agenda, activist judges, and many other “liberal” causes, and seek to enforce their own way of living on everyone else.

Yes, people who think and act along the lines of the quote are truly insane. I think more of them spend several hours a week preaching about their UIF than spend time fighting for basic human rights.

Nicely done, Hillary

So, Hillary responds to the announcement that clippy Ralph Nader will fuck up your homework run for President again. Could someone just take him out to the woodshed and clear up his thinking?

Anyway, the press, being the fantastic people that they are, told the candidates what had happened to get their reactions. And while none of them are surprising, Hillary did an amazingly clean dismissal of Ralph, with the following (from the New York Times):

She added, “I didn’t know that he had said that this morning. Obviously it’s not helpful to whoever our Democratic nominee is. But it’s a free country and I don’t know what party he’ll run on. What did he run on last time, does anybody remember?

The Green Party, a reporter replied.

“Well, you know his being on the Green Party prevented Al Gore from being the greenest president we’ve ever had,” Mrs. Clinton said. “And I think that’s really unfortunate.”

Without being insulting, or evil, or even really catty, she showed exactly how everyone should feel about this twat.

Leaks of Other News

Wow, talk about an Activist Judge. I don’t know all the details, but I got the basics. And now, I have them to share with you.

Wikileaks.org was set up to expose the wrongs of the world that fools have documented. This would be the Web2.0 version of the parking garage where Post reporters Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein met with the mysterious-yet-hilariously-named Deep Throat. A repository of some of the shittiest things orchestrated by groups of humans that have caused real harm to many other humans.

And how effective is Wikileaks? I’m guessing you’re wondering that because, well, I’d never heard of it before today, either. Hat tip to The World’s Toughest Programmer, Mike.

Well, apparently the site is so good they’ve pissed off China. And several other questionable regimes. Which is all well and good, because governments deserve that sort of headache.

But Wikileaks didn’t stop there. Hell no. They go after everyone who exhibits snake-like behavior. Including a bank in the Cayman Islands. And in going after the oppressive and corrupt, Wikileaks has become the ultimate expression of Freedom of the Press, which is, you might recall, one of our primary rights here in the United States.

Ah, but never let it be said that bankers aren’t clever bastards, since they managed to buy a federal judge in California. How else do you explain that Judge White signed the order, drafted by the Cayman Islands bank’s lawyers without a single amendment? Judge White is a Bush appointee, so it’s certainly conceivable that he suffers from a whiff of douchedom, but Vice President Cheney wouldn’t even pull this stunt, and that man would kill a puppy for a quarter.

Wikileaks have basically registered under every top-level domain, so you can go to, say, wikilinks.cx. If heavy hands are going to try to use our nameservers against us, we should publish their IP address as well: http://88.80.13.160. They have also promised to step up publication of any and all leaks that pertain to the banking industry, which should very quickly ruin several bastard’s days.

I’m dismayed that this Judge didn’t toss the bank’s lawyer out on his ass. I’m disgusted that this Judge even entertained the idea for a second. And I’m absolutely livid that he signed the order. This guy shouldn’t be allowed an opinion on strawberry jam, let alone a core Constitutional Issue such as this.

Winnings And Losers

Ok, so the Montana Democrats had a contest. I, along with another creative gentleman, won. We each got $50.00, which is a nice round of drinks that I fully intend to have tonight. And while bragging about winning is always fun, there’s more to this story than meets the eye.

You see, not only does my mother work for the illustrious “Brad’s Johnson“, she’s the head of the Lewis & Clark County Republicans. Did I mention I’m gay? Oh, but wait, there’s more.

Know how I found out I won? Mom got asked in the office if she knew I’d won by someone who’d been contacted by someone else who apparently had read the press release that went out from the Montana Democratic Party on Friday of last week. For the record, she didn’t even know I entered. My guess is that someone from the press called to get a quote from Brad’s Johnson about the contest because it’s a slow news week, Apple having announced the new iPods last week. Even better, the MDP hadn’t even managed to get their site updated as the press release about this contest was the last official duty of their outgoing communications director.

The press release followed by the request for comment to the reporter becomes even funnier because, let’s be real, Brad’s Johnson (nor any other part) wasn’t in the office, which is his normal routine. He might have the title of secretary of state, but he’s never in that office.

Alas, it seems he’s pissed at me. (HA! Brad’s Johnson is pissed! Get it? HA!) He might be pissed:

Whatever the reason, he’s pissed. I don’t care. Frankly, the people of Montana are pissed at him for the poor job he’s done and incredible lack of ability he’s displayed. So let him be pissed at me for my wit. That’s fair, fine and dandy.

However, there are some rumblings that life at work for my mom is going to be rough. And I have a few thoughts on that: I doubt it would come down to such childish behavior, but it might. I know the reason our society is as great as it is, can weather the storms of stupidity that periodically race through our history, and will get through the current debacles that abound, is because we have the freedom to speak our mind. Anyone who thinks that towing the party line is more important than exercising our rights has more in common with Putin than our Founding Fathers. I’m sure everyone would hate to find out that our state government was riddled with that crap, but I don’t know that anyone would be shocked, if only because people tend to already be pessimistic about government.

Anyone who has met me knows that I’m going to speak my mind, no matter what. Client meetings where I’ve been asked “What can you make with vinyl?” have elicited “Ass-less chaps for Pride.” from me with nary a blink or a pause. I have worn a shirt that says “No. Dude. Seriously. Fuck You.” to client meetings, lunches with business people, a school and a church. Freedom of speech is important to me, and I invite anyone who sees that shirt or hears my words to debate me on it. Yes, I’m on the edge, but that leaves more room at the middle for others.

If Brad’s Johnson is bent out of shape (curves left now? odd that) and he wants to debate his benefits against his deficits with me, I’ll gladly meet him at a podium, anytime.

That, of course, presumes he could bother to make it to Helena at some point.

You don’t say.

The oral arguments are over so the Supreme Court is currently deciding the fate of the Bong Hits 4 Jesus case. Regardless of the outcome, we are left with the comforting fact that, once again, the system has proven itself too willing to step into a case. Or, as is my current thinking on public schools, the administration doesn’t have a clue, nor do they care to find one, and so knee-jerk reactions to, let’s face it, creative-yet-disturbing moments by students have become Supreme Court Cases.

I remember when, way back in the day, there was a common phrase here in Montana. Before Bart Simpson enriched us with “Don’t have a cow, man!” we had people calmly saying, “It’s not a Supreme Court Case, chill.” I’ve not heard that phrase in nearly a score of years – 19, to be precise – and it was my 8th grade science teacher, whose name I can’t remember, but whose soft-spoken demeanor yet intense passion for the wonders of world made science interesting. He said it after a demonstration of an electrical circuit caused a student to freak out a bit. Holding hands in a circle, we created a circuit, and to prove this concept, two of us let go of each other and instead held the positive and negative wires from an alternator. The alternator was cranked over, only once and by hand, and produced electricity, and the circuit of teens lit up – one teen to the point of hysterics. But it wasn’t that big a deal, it was not a Supreme Court Case. It wasn’t even painful, just odd. I can’t imagine that he’s still allowed to do this demonstration, but I hope he is.

Which brings us back to the fundamental problem here. We have a student who wanted to test the limits of Free Speech. We have a principal that wanted to further her career, which one would hope would mean educating students better, but the cynical side of me suspects that means not upsetting the status quo.

You can’t expect teenagers not to push the boundaries. That’s just dumb. Anyone who was a teen knows that. If you didn’t push any boundaries when you were a teen, you were either in a persistent vegetative state or you did so many bong hits 4 Jesus that you’ve just forgotten what else you might have done. But it’s a good thing that teens push boundaries, it’s fundamental to learning. Every advance we have made has come about because someone said, “What if?” and didn’t listen to the chorus of people who responded in the negative. The trick, for teachers, is to channel that urge into positive events. I’m currently teaching a bit at the high school I attended, so I know it’s hard, but more on that later.

So this teen decides that on the day the Olympic torch is going to run past his school, he’s going to put up a message that he thinks, quite reasonably, will get him on TV. And he succeeds in his goal. Having put that much thought into creating the sign, there’s a very real chance that the kid knew he was going to get in trouble. So what happened next was a shock to the aforementioned carrots and stoners. The principal sees the sign, confiscates it, and confronts the student, giving him 5 days suspension. When the student quotes Jefferson on Free Speech, instead of being impressed by the kids knowledge on the subject, or hell, for even being able to quote Jefferson at all, she instead doubled the suspension to 10 days.

I won’t go into why suspension from school as punishment is about the dumbest thing ever. There isn’t enough ice-cream to keep me from blowing a gasket, so that, too, shall wait.

So the kid, armed with the ACLU, files suit. Round one goes to the principal, because it’s a school, and while the kids don’t lose all their rights when going to school, they do lose some of them. Some speech must be limited, after all, yelling “Fire!” in a crowded school is the same as yelling it in a crowded theater.

The kid and the ACLU appealed, and the 9th Circuit, not seeing any smoke, much less a fire, said that not only was the kid unreasonably stripped of his rights, in doing so the principal may be liable for monetary damages to him. So it’s no surprise that the principal, who by now is at the superintendent’s office, appealed this decision to the Supremes.

And the justices are quite overcome with joy on this one. I suggest reading Dahlia Lithwick’s Dispatch, as usual, rather than me trying to sum up her work. Apparently Justice Stephen Breyer managed to hide the fact that he spent his teen years doing his best impression of a rutabaga . I say that because he couldn’t have managed law school and his legal career to such great success if he was a pothead, yet he said that ruling in favor of the student would cause teens to start “testing limits all over the place in the high schools.”

Again, testing limits is how we all learn and create. That’s nothing new, and stifling that instinct is just as bad as letting it run rampant, yet those are the only options that anyone involved with this case can apparently see. Which just goes to show you how bad things are, because some of the brightest minds around can’t see what the sign said, and are off discussing completely irrelevant issues.

This case demonstrates one of the fundamental flaws of the current teaching regime, and it’s one of the biggest. Rather than confronting this student in a positive way, the principal was acted as a power-obsessed and power-corrupted coward and neglected all students, not just at her school, but now, due to the coverage that this sort of thing would obviously generate, at every school. And yes, I lay the neglect at her feet because it’s her damn job to lead teachers, which should mean she can think at least as well as the students. It’s not unreasonable to expect that since the sign got on tv already, she might want to really think about the best way to confront this.

“And how,” you ask, “is that possible? What should she have done?” The only thing she is really supposed to do – use her head.

Instead of suspending the student for 10 days, the principal should have given the kid 10 days to prepare the affirmative defense for his slogan. As in, debate. As in debating against teachers, because the principal would choose 3 teachers to prepare the negative. And the principal would pick the judge, too. And on the 11th day, at 10 am, the kid would debate the teachers. At school. In front of every other student, who would watch through either attending (if you had to) or through the announcement or the closed-circuit TV system at the school.

Now, let’s discuss the pros and cons of this event. Pros first, since I can actually think of a few of them.

  • The kid is required to defend a controversial position in front of his peers, but the peers aren’t able to help in any meaningful way.
  • The slogan is brought before the students not as a rallying cry for the oppressed but as a learning tool.
  • The teachers get to bring out the big guns, go for the jugular (verbally, of course) in a way that, legitimately, showcases their greater knowledge, wisdom and experience.
  • The students see that, rather than just getting a free 10 day vacation, pushing the boundaries can have consequences they really don’t want to face – namely, public speaking, but also being resoundly beaten down by teachers in front of the entire school.
  • Everyone learns that “With great power comes great responsibility” actually is true.
  • Everyone has a chance to THINK.

As for cons, the only real downside I can see is if the teachers aren’t capable of holding their own in the debate. That would suck, but, in my experience, even the worst teachers are always ready with a snappy retort to the smartass kids. In the debate, these teachers don’t have to win, as the phrase is nonsensical. So long as they expand the discussion to include why sometimes it’s better to not say something, or to hold back your free speech, they ultimately win.

And isn’t “Bong Hits 4 Jesus” really “Religion is the opiate of the masses” in disguise?

And now the fun begins!

Does anyone else think that The Washington Madam’s case is going to ruin more than a few of the careers of inner-beltway boys? Pretty much a no-brainer.

But think about it for a moment – with a list that numbers around 15,000 clients, is it too much to think that just a few, like say less than 10%, could be women? And who, my dear readers, might they be? I can think of a few, but I’m going to hold off for a bit. And I’ve got a big soda and popcorn for the show.

Post Gender Presentations

There has been a lot written lately about gender as it pertains to professional conferences on web technologies. First off was Jason Kottke presenting the question. Then I caught Eric Meyer, the Patron Saint of CSS, who responded with a resounding “meh” followed by John Gruber’s gender-fireball post, and a comment of clarification by Zeldman in the linked list. Truly Eric received the torment he knew he was setting himself up for. Ouchie. And so totally not deserved. I suggest reading those articles and comments, and then coming back here. I’ll wait.

Back? Good. I love discussing gender, because as a gay man in 2007, it’s certainly a topic that provides countless hours of amusement. And frustration. And a couple of attempts to rewrite the U.S. Constitution. It’s also a subject that, when taken out of context, is beyond frustrating, it’s insulting. And that’s where I think this discussion has gone.

If you look at what Kottke presented, yes, there is a dearth of women speakers at web conferences, and most especially those that focus on HTML and CSS. Kottke is particularly off when he says:

…it seems to me that either the above concerns are not getting through to conference organizers or that gender diversity doesn’t matter as much to conference organizers as they publicly say it does.

Gruber goes off into the realm of Title IX, which has, truthfully, done a world or three of good for women in all things. However, he misses the point of Kottke’s piece, which is that things are inequal in a professional setting. Title IX doesn’t really apply there, so going off into the studies of who got educated where and for what is off-topic. Interesting, and well worth reading, but off-topic none-the-less. And don’t think I’m against Title IX, nothing could be further from the truth. We are all improved when everyone receives an equal chance, which is what Title IX was designed to do. And amazingly, considering it’s legislation, it seems to do relatively well.

Notice that I said “everyone receives an equal chance” and not “everyone receives everything equally.” and for good reason. Title IX doesn’t mean that there will be a women’s football team at your local high school, but it does say that for every men’s sport there shall be an equally funded women’s sport. Don’t care what they play, but they get the game. That’s equality at it’s finest. Which is what Gruber was leading up to.

However, it’s not what Kottke was on about at all. Kottke is about specific equality for professional roles. Can’t, and won’t, happen. Not because it’s a bad idea, but because after giving everyone equal chances, what those people do with those chances will be quite unique to each individual, and therefore, we are unable to predict their results in such a way that we could ever guarantee that there is a 50/50 split along the sex lines.

Meyer doesn’t mind this situation, not because he doesn’t want women around or thinks they are inferior, but because he, quite rightly, sees that while there are fewer women there, overall the web is very well represented by both sexes. And, in this case, gender means less than nothing.

While I, having been discriminated against because of an external trait (e.g. who I have sex with) and have had professional roles given to others because of it, I still agree with Meyer. Kottke thinks that having a vagina attached to some of the speakers would improve the quality of the presentation. That’s thinking that a woman who happens to be a mom can only socialize with other moms if all are either a) not drinking, or b) if they want to drink, they must be chaperoned by someone with a penis.

I don’t see how being male, female, white, black, brown, purple, queer, asexual, cancerous, capricorn or a carrot would matter if you happen to also be a professional in the web-standards-meets-development world. I would, honestly, attend a speech given by a carrot if that carrot was recognized as a leader in the field. That’s what professional speeches are all about.

I have a huge problem with people getting so bent sideways in the effort to be politically correct that they lower the quality of the product. I know it’s rough, and I can’t say that I understand why people are racist, sexist, homophobic or just flat out fucked-up, but I do know that for a conference where people are going to learn about a specific topic, finding the best people, regardless of gender is more important than counting the number of XX’s versus the number of XYs sharing their knowledge.

I want more brilliant people, I don’t care who you are or how you fuck. I don’t even care if you do. I want you for your mind, and guess what, Kottke is wrong to reduce the talent and knowledge of the people involved with these events to their gender. Alas, I’m a bit chubby and have a decent set of tits if he truly thinks that physical traits make a shits difference.

[UPDATE] I see that Zeldman has joined the fray with more on his blog, but I disagree that it’s a fundamental part of the conference planner’s concerns. He thinks it’s important to include women, I think it’s more important to not exclude women, and those, truly, are completely different tasks. Oh, and I still think I’m right.