Cuba, The Interview, and Freedom

My kid brother came to town and on top of it I have been a little under the weather with whatever cold is passing through town.  Because of this posting has been a little slow.  I’ve been paying attention to the news in bits and pieces.

I’m extremely happy that the U.S. establishing a diplomatic relationship with Cuba.  Our policy was outdated and clearly didn’t achieve anything anyway.  I think this is something that will be looked upon well in the history of the Obama Administration.  This is a victory for peace and sanity.  Anything that leads to a more open world where there is at least the chance that people can solve their differences through conversation is a good thing.

On the other end of the spectrum the whole thing surrounding the movie The Interview is mind boggling.  Did we really allow a movie to not be released because of fear of what might happen?  It kind of reminds me of the whole take your shoes off at the airport thing.  I have traveled a lot in recent years and we are the only country that I have been to that makes you take your shoes off at the airport.  One time someone had explosives in their shoes that didn’t even go off, and we are forever allowing ourselves to be hassled by it.  I think we need to have a serious conversation about freedom in this country.  The word freedom is too often a mask for allowing stupidity to run ramped.  If you want to live in a free and open society you have to allow for a certain manageable amount of risk.  We’ll allow ourselves to be scared into taking our shoes off at the airport when the odds of you dying in a suicide attack are slim and none.  We’ll allow ourselves to be scared into limiting free expression, yes even if it is goofy comedy.  Meanwhile we’ll shout freedom driving down the road in a giant vehicle while pumping pollutants into the air, which over the long run is proven to harm a lot more people in real and tangible ways.  We champion freedom when the results actually hurt other people and run scared when the things that actually constitute what freedom should be about are challenged.

Conservatives Grudgingly Praise Warren, Pelosi For Opposing ‘Wall Street Giveaway’

Conservatives Grudgingly Praise Warren, Pelosi For Opposing ‘Wall Street Giveaway’

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/16/elizabeth-warren-conservatives-_n_6334528.html

Even if they only picked off a couple, this is exactly the kind of thing Democrats need to be doing.  They need to be using populist language.  Even more so they need to be trying to past populist legislation and instill their words with true integrity and meaning.  Thank heavens Elizabeth Warren is speaking out. 

Elizabeth Warren Takes On Wall Street

Above is a speech by Elizabeth Warren, someone that genuinely seems to have the interest of the American people at heart.  I have paid attention to Warren since she first came into mainstream view a couple years ago.  She has remained consistent in her message.  If you don’t have time to watch the whole thing, here is a key part of the speech as also quoted by Huffington Post:

Democrats don’t like Wall Street bailouts. Republicans don’t like Wall Street bailouts. The American people are disgusted by Wall Street bailouts

And yet here we are, five years after Dodd-Frank with Congress on the verge of ramming through a provision that would do nothing for the middle class, do nothing for community banks, do nothing but raise the risk that taxpayers will have to bail out the biggest banks once again…

So let me say this to anyone who is listening at Citi[group]. I agree with you Dodd-Frank
isn’t perfect. It should have broken you into pieces!

If this Congress is going to open up Dodd-Frank in the months ahead, then let’s open it up
to get tougher, not to create more bailout opportunities. If we’re going to open up Dodd-Frank, let’s open it up so that once and for all we end too big to fail and I mean really end it, not just say that we did.

Instead of passing laws that create new bailout opportunities for too big to fail banks, let’s pass…something…that would help break up these giant banks.

A century ago Teddy Roosevelt was America’s Trust-Buster. He went after the giant trusts
and monopolies in this country, and a lot of people talk about how those trust deserved to be broken up because they had too much economic power. But Teddy Roosevelt said we should break them up because they had too much political power. Teddy Roosevelt said break them up because all that concentrated power threatens the very foundations up our democratic system.

And now we’re watching as Congress passes yet another provision that was written by lobbyists for the biggest recipient of bailout money in the history of this country. And its attached to a bill that needs to pass or else we entire federal government will grind to a halt.

Think about that kind of power. If a financial institution has become so big and so powerful
that it can hold the entire country hostage. That alone is reason enough to break them up.

Enough is enough.

Enough is enough with Wall Street insiders getting key position after key position and the kind
of cronyism that we have seen in the executive branch. Enough is enough with Citigroup passing 11th hour deregulatory provisions that nobody takes ownership over but everybody will come to regret. Enough is enough

Washington already works really well for the billionaires and the big corporations and the lawyers and the lobbyists.

But what about the families who lost their homes or their jobs or their retirement savings the last time Citigroup bet big on derivatives and lost? What about the families who are living paycheck to paycheck and saw their tax dollars go to bail out Citi just 6 years ago?

We were sent here to fight for those families. It is time, it is past time, for Washington to start working for them!

Navy Uses Lasers

Watch: Navy Ship Uses Energy Weapon In Arabian Gulf

http://www.npr.org/blogs/thetwo-way/2014/12/10/369922915/watch-navy-ship-uses-energy-weapon-in-arabian-gulf

The best part of this is close to the end where you see the guy controlling the weapon using something that looks a lot like an Xbox controller.  We had a good run…

It is going to get a whole lot cheaper to kill people!  Unlike ridiculously expensive missles, this weapon only costs a dollar a laser. 

“Something is squeezing my skull / something I can barely describe / There is no hope in modern life…”

Top Ten Torture List and Other Related News

I am getting ready to go on the road today, so time is a little short.  However, I have been reading various articles about the torture report that just came out.  Here is just a sample of the many articles out there.

10 Truly Terrible Things the CIA Did In Our Names, Because Freedom

The above link is a very brief overview of some of the worst parts of the report.  Below is a reposting of Andrew Sullivan’s from 2005 about how Freedom and Torture are at odds:

“Torture is the polar opposite of freedom. It is the banishment of all freedom from a human body and soul, insofar as that is possible. As human beings, we all inhabit bodies and have minds, souls, and reflexes that are designed in part to protect those bodies: to resist or flinch from pain, to protect the psyche from disintegration, and to maintain a sense of selfhood that is the basis for the concept of personal liberty. What torture does is use these involuntary, self-protective, self-defining resources of human beings against the integrity of the human being himself. It takes what is most involuntary in a person and uses it to break that person’s will. It takes what is animal in us and deploys it against what makes us human. As an American commander wrote in an August 2003 e-mail about his instructions to torture prisoners at Abu Ghraib, “The gloves are coming off gentlemen regarding these detainees, Col. Boltz has made it clear that we want these individuals broken.”

What does it mean to “break” an individual?

As the French essayist Michel de Montaigne once commented, and Shakespeare echoed, even the greatest philosophers have difficulty thinking clearly when they have a toothache. These wise men were describing the inescapable frailty of the human experience, mocking the claims of some seers to be above basic human feelings and bodily needs. If that frailty is exposed by a toothache, it is beyond dispute in the case of torture. The infliction of physical pain on a person with no means of defending himself is designed to render that person completely subservient to his torturers. It is designed to extirpate his autonomy as a human being, to render his control as an individual beyond his own reach. That is why the term “break” is instructive. Something broken can be put back together, but it will never regain the status of being unbroken–of having integrity. When you break a human being, you turn him into something subhuman. You enslave him. This is why the Romans reserved torture for slaves, not citizens, and why slavery and torture were inextricably linked in the antebellum South,” 

In my mind anyone that condoned or performed torture should be prosecuted, plain and simple.  I am aware however, that these crimes will probably go unpunished, or if they do, those at the highest level will probably be exempt.  We paid 80 million dollars to psychologists to advise the CIA on torture.  Those are the kind of tax dollars that people should be up in arms about, not implementing things that will benefit citizens like public transportation.  Hopefully someday that will be the case.

If you are interested at reading a more in-depth portrait of the CIA, I recommend Tim Wiener’s book Legacy of Ashes: The History of the CIA.  It not only contains a wealth of fascinating information, but is extremely readable.

The Secret Deal to Save the Planet

The Secret Deal to Save the Planet

The above link is to an interesting article over at Rolling Stone about the deal that Obama made with China over climate change.  Rolling Stone’s music coverage is pretty terrible, but they have pretty great investigative political reporting.  I kind of look at what they do as being like a Trojan horse.  They put out a magazine that is mostly meaningless pop drivel on the outside, but inside they actually have some articles that are trying to make people think.  I can’t really get too mad at them as long as they keep people like Matt Taibbi and others employed.

Coal Guns Freedom Aneurysm

My brother was out driving the other day and he saw a Mitch McConnell bumper sticker that said, I shit you not:

COAL, GUNS, FREEDOM.  TEAM MITCH

All I could think of was the following comedy bit where Lewis Black talks about how you get an aneurysm (The bit starts where Black has gone to an IHOP for breakfast.):

From behind me a young woman of 25 uttered the following.  It was the dumbest thing I ever heard in my life until Dan Quayle was elected the Vice President of the United States.  She said, “If it weren’t for my horse, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college.”  I’m going to repeat that, because it bears repeating.  If it weren’t for my horse, as in giddy-up giddy-up let’s go, I wouldn’t have spent that year in college, which is a degree granting institution.  Don’t think about that sentence or blood will shoot out your nose.  The American medical profession does not know why we get an aneurysm.  An aneurysm is when a blood vessel bursts in your head for no apparent reason.  There’s a reason!  

You go to the mall with your friends and someone over there says the dumbest thing you ever heard and it goes in your ear.  Now you turn around to see if your friends heard it.  But your friends didn’t hear it because they are pretending to buy a cellular phone.  But they’re not going to buy a cellular phone ’cause these idiots don’t even understand what rate structure means.  So you turn back to see who said it, because if you can turn back to them you can just ask them what they mean by that.  But they’re gone.  And now those words are in your head.  And they stay there.  They don’t go away.  And your driving to work, but you’re not driving to work.  All your brain is thinking is, “If it weren’t for my horse, if it weren’t for my horse.”  You sit down and you are having dinner with your family.  You think you are having dinner, but it’s not.  It’s going, “How did you get to college on a horse?”  It’s like a mobius strip in your head that goes over and over.  For 7 days that’s all you think about.  You don’t know you’re thinking about it, but your brain is going overtime.  And at the end of the week they find you dead in your bathroom.

I now know at least one of the possible things that will bring about my death.