Yesterday’s newspeak.

President Obama rejected senior White House counsel when he decided to continue engagement in Libya without seeking approval from Congress. On PBS News Hour, Senator Harry Reid defended this action saying:

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid: The War Powers Act has no application to whats going on in Libya.

Jim Lehrer: None?

Senator Reid: I dont believe so. You know, we did an authorization for Afghanistan. We did one for Iraq. But we have no troops on the ground there, and this thing is going to be over before you know it anyway. So I think its not necessary.

While presidents have been pissing on the War Powers act since its inception, it’s hard not to get upset over this. First, whether we went through congress to authorize interventions in Iraq or Afghanistan has no relevance to the discussion at hand. It’s just noise. I’m reminded of the observation (I believe it’s from Orwell) that our “defense” organization is like a cuttlefish: it defends itself by spewing forth a cloud of ink. Of course in the modern world this is done over the television rather than in print, but it’s a good simile.

He goes on to say that the war powers act isn’t relevant here because

  1. We have no ground troops in Libya
  2. “This thing is going to be over before you know it anyway”

But the war powers act doesn’t restrict itself to ground troops, so the first point is irrelevant. The entire purpose of the war powers act is to specify a time limit to military engagement, above which the president must request congressional approval.  We have exceeded this time limit, so the war powers act is relevant.

I have to say, it’s distressing that a politician can come out on PBS and spew such utter and complete bullshit without being called on it.  Harry Reid should be drummed out office.  We should go ahead and impeach Obama.  Whether these guys are Democrats or Republicans is absolutely irrelevant to the issue, which is their abuse of power.  Frankly, as much as the Republicans hate Obama, we might finally have a chance of getting a president impeached for a real abuse of power, setting an important precident.

Robert Gates, Secretary of Defence, joined in the bullshitathon, sayin about Afghanistan:


U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates: My own view is that real reconciliation talks are not likely to be able to make any substantive headway until at least this winter. I think that the Taliban have to feel themselves under military pressure and begin to believe that they cant win, before theyre willing to have a serious conversation.


Okay, we’ve been at war in Afghanistan for 10 years.   Mr. Gates feels like we need an additional 6 months before they will feel themselves under military pressure?  If they still feel like they can win after 10 years of U.S. assault,  if they are not “willing to have a serious conversation” after ten years of brutal bombing and attack from the worlds largest military force, what’ going to happen in the next six months to change that?

These statements should be compared to the bullshit spewed towards the end of our vicious, cruel and unjustified assault of Vietnam.  One might note that the bullshit is of very similar texture, color and smell.  The only difference is this stuff is fresh.


Nuclear Power and Democracy

I was having a discussion about programming languages with a work colleague the other day. Like many people, he felt like restrictions of freedom were useful, making the points that apple’s iphone is better than android because of their walled garden approach, that Java is better than C++ because it prevents you from writing certain specific cases of retarded code (no matter what the language, you can write retarded code, don’t let anyone tell you differently), and that Japanese society works well because it has so few foreigners. While I list these points in unconnected fashion here, the connections were reasonable in the conversation, and I’m the one who pushed the metaphors. What I find enlightening in the conversation is how conditioned people are to accept authority and hierarchical power structures, and how this spreads across broad swaths of subject matter.

What blew me away was his observation that Japan has a well functioning society. While I’m sure Japanese society functions well by certain metrics I don’t think it’s fair to say it functions well, nor to arrive at the conclusion that the merits of Japanese society draw from the homogeneity of their culture.

In particular, since Fukushima Germany and Switzerland have made the decision to wean themselves off of nuclear power. Japan, suffering terribly from their disaster, prone to earthquakes and tsunamis, has not. This is a clear indication of a malfunctioning society, and indicates a lack of democracy in their institutions and power structure.

While the media and the pro-nuclear camp like to focus on the risks of disaster, nuclear power is gigantic crime against our children and the poorer elements of our society, even if the reactors run flawlessly. The pundits like to praise nuclear power as being clean and cheap, but this is for very specific definitions of clean, and an equally special accounting to arrive at cheap.

Just look at the waste, which is some of the most toxic stuff on earth. We have no idea how to deal with the waste we have already generated. How do they define that as clean? Well it produces no CO2, never mind the toxicity of the stuff. If clean is defined in terms of CO2 production, yeah, ok, it’s clean… but only a fool would accept such a definition. But hey it’s ok, we have the mafia to help us deal with the waste.

Want one metric of how democratic and well functioning your society is? Take a look at it’s attitude toward nuclear power.