Tuesday, April 28, 2009

I Heart Washington DC

We just got back from an amazing trip to Washington DC. We had the BEST time. Kirk's law firm argued a case in front of the Supreme Court and we were all able to be there - even the kids and I had a front row seat. It was awesome to see our judicial system working before our eyes. I have further insight on the whole supreme court aspect of the trip, but I'll go into that more in another entry. We were there for about 10 days total and every day was full of wonderful things. We managed to squeeze in:

Double Decker Bus Tour of DC & Georgetown
Supreme Court
Printing and Engraving
Air & Space Museum
American History Museum
National Gallery
all the memorials!
White House
DC Temple
Dupont Circle
Sculpture Garden
Union Station
Natural History Museum

Plus some amazing four & five star hotels, wonderful Thai, Indian, Italian and American food, and some time every evening to RELAX. Who could ask for more?

Here's a slide show (Kirk's sister, and her husband and kids were able to meet us there the first couple of days too, which was fun, they live in New Hampshire so we don't get to see them that often):

Friday, April 17, 2009

Political Thoughts - Not My Own But Points to Ponder

Bob Cesca writes an op-ed that I think raises some good points. Mostly I think they are good points because they are points I raised in my own head without writing them down when I heard all the flack recently about this new report on right-wing extremism. Nuts come in all flavors, leftist nuts and righty nuts. Here's Bob's take:

One of the very bizarre accusations overheard at the tea bag protests Wednesday was that President Obama is somehow a "fascist." At the same time, and often in the same protest, he was also accused of being a "communist."

Of course it's ideologically impossible to be both, in the same way it's impossible to be both informed and a FOX & Friends host, but then again I'm expecting too much logic and message coherence from people who spent all of Wednesday protesting against socialism and wealth redistribution while gathered in publicly funded -- dare I say "socialized" -- parks and town squares.

But back to that "fascist" accusation. I'm not convinced that tea baggers like Michelle Malkin understand that fascism is, in fact, a form of right wing extremism. Because for the last 24 hours or so, Malkin, Limbaugh, Glenn Beck and the usual band of apoplectic brainiacs appear to have been vigorously defending "right wing extremism" after having previously accused the president of being on the same flank of the ideological spectrum.

Yeah, I know. It doesn't make sense.

Rewind to Tuesday morning: a Homeland Security report covering potential threats from "right wing extremist" groups, including militias, white supremacists and neo-Nazis, was obtained by talk show host Roger Hedgecock. And, predictably, the gang who can't seem to decipher basic high school level social studies concepts, kneejerked into one of their paranoid tantrums -- insisting that the report was entirely about them.

Almost right away, the far-right blogs and FOX News Channel were set ablaze with reports that the Obama administration was targeting conservatives with a massive surveillance operation. But here's the thing: the DHS report wasn't about conservatives. The word "conservatives" doesn't appear anywhere in the report. It was all about radical domestic terrorist groups who happen to subscribe to outlandish ideologies well beyond the mainstream of political discourse. Notwithstanding this very clear distinction, Malkin and the broader wingnutosphere lost their collective shpadoinkle and insisted the DHS was targeting the mainstream tea baggers.

Now, when this story first broke, I was at a bit of loss as to how to accurately interpret the right's wildly conspiratorial, victimized reaction. Either Malkin and Beck were just as confused and incoherent as always, and, in their loud noises anti-government rage, they were inadvertently coupling themselves with right wing extremists. Or they not-so-subtly admitted that there isn't much difference between a garden variety conservative, a garden variety wingnut and a garden variety right wing extremist -- that they're all basically militant racists who are plotting to blow up federal buildings. I don't know.

There's one thing we know for sure, however: they're definitely freaked out about the government's post-9/11 intelligence apparatus -- the very same bureaucracy they actively and vocally cheerled throughout the Bush years. Malkin, in particular, was one of the most outspoken and cheerleadery endorsers of allowing unchecked executive power via the vice president's office, the NSA, the CIA and the military, while encouraging these agencies to use any means necessary to smoke out the evildoers. This included illegal wiretapping, rendition, suspension of habeas rights and every awful provision found within the USA PATRIOT Act.

Yet in light of this DHS report, Malkin seems to believe that the government might be spying on people. Her people. "Right wing extremists."

So they're suddenly worried about privacy are they? Whatever happened to Rush Limbaugh's maxim: "Our civil liberties are worthless if we are dead!" Or Senator Big John Cornyn's words of wisdom: "None of your civil liberties matter much after you're dead."

Glenn Greenwald wrote on Tuesday:

When you cheer on a Surveillance State, you have no grounds to complain when it turns its eyes on you. If you create a massive and wildly empowered domestic surveillance apparatus, it's going to monitor and investigate domestic political activity. That's its nature.

It's like that classic SNL sketch from 1988 with Tom Hanks as Mr. Short Term Memory. Hanks is at a restaurant and orders his favorite meal: poached salmon. He takes a bite of his fish then, forgetting he took a bite, shouts, "Ah! There's something in my mouth! There's something in my mouth!" The wingnuts begged and fear-mongered for this gigantic overreaching surveillance state and now they're suddenly alarmed that it's covering terrorists other than brown-skinned foreigners with funny hats?

That could be the clincher, though. The far-right outrage might have something to do with skin color.

In 2005, the Southern Poverty Law Center's Intelligence Project reported that as many as 60 domestic, white right wing terrorist attacks were thwarted by law enforcement in the ten year span following the Oklahoma City bombing which, by the way, was also perpetrated by an American right wing extremist with boy-next-door white skin.

The plots, all foiled by law enforcement, reportedly included violent plans by antigovernment militia groups, racist skinhead organizations, and Ku Klux Klan members to use various types of chemical bombs and other weapons.

Nice. More examples of right wing extremists. Extremists who are evidently being coupled by Malkin with the broader conservative movement. I hasten to note here that I'm not citing these examples for the same reason Malkin and wingnutty websites such as Religion of Peace like to highlight Islamic terrorist attacks: as an ongoing feargasm intended to incite more wars and cultural intolerance. I'm merely presenting evidence that, yes, right wing terrorists do exist. Sorry, Malkin. There are also left wing terrorists, by the way, and they were the subject of their own DHS report issued back in January, according to the Washington Times.

The point being that terrorist attacks can be orchestrated by anyone -- not just brown religious zealots. (I can't believe I actually have to write that.)

Whether intentional or not, the talkers and bloggers who appear to be driving the post-Bush crazy train, have, intentionally or not, opened up the conservative tent to some pretty unsavory and dangerous characters. And in light of what happened in Pittsburgh, are they really so sure that deliberately conflating conservatism with the radical, violent end of the ideological spectrum is such a wise strategy? Beck and the others were so shocked and disturbed that their rhetoric was being partly blamed for Pittsburgh. But that was last week. This week, they definitely seem to be sharing their tea bags with the psychotics. And such behavior can cause a serious infection. Political infection. Is what I meant.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Dude...this is pretty awesome...

Okay so last night late (didn't start til after 10 pm, which for people like us on a work/school night is a tad bit late dontcha think?) we went to the Phoenix Film Festival and the Phoenix premiere of a local film - the name of the film is "Hi, My Name Is Ryan" - it was directed by Steve Rose and Paul Eagleston - Steve is Brian Rose's brother, for those of you who know Brian, and Paul is his cousin.

It was pretty awesome. It's a documentary about a bizarre kid who lives here in Phoenix. I don't know if the movie is ever going to get distribution, right now you can only see it at film festivals, but it's seriously a great little film. Here's the trailer:

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Sofia Bulgaria Mission!

Okay - a lot of people have already heard this news through word of mouth and facebook, but in case you missed it:

We've been waiting for Holden's mission call for 3 weeks now and he finally got it yesterday! He's so excited that he'll be serving in the Sofia Bulgaria mission!

He doesn't leave until August 12th, so he has a lot of time to prepare! (I think that's the only slight downside - I think he was wishing he'd be leaving by June, but it seems like they send out the missionaries in huge groups about 4 times a year)

It will be a huge adventure!


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