President Emeritus of the Center for Constitutional Rights Michael Ratner, one of the "founding fathers" of the "Guantanamo bar" which coordinated representation of GTMO detainees, as well as a life-long fighter for human rights, has passed away; Candace has more. I interviewed Michael in 2006.
On issues local, national and international, Michael was a consistent voice for the downtrodden and brought the full might of his legal and rhetorical skills, often representing those who might otherwise be unrepresented.
This is a big loss.
Happy fifth of May, boys and girls.
I'll be part of an awesome panel at NYC's "Left Forum," on May 21st at noon at John Jay College for those interested, entitled "Close Guantánamo Now or Move Guantánamo North?"
But ... enough about me. Where was I going with this post?
Ah yes... le plus ca change plus ce meme chose. Now from where would "anti-establishment" candidate and now all-but-certain Republican nominee Donald Trump draw his campaign's finance chairman (and likely Treasury secretary and director of economic policy, or at least the king-maker for whoever said person will be)? For starters, it should surprise no one that Hillary Clinton hired Gary Gensler for that post, Mr. Gensler a former "financial regulator," but more importantly, an alumni of the Goldman Sachs. In all seriousness-- no one doubts that Hillary was hardly going to be particularly critical of an organization paying her fabulously well to speak to it... in this case, the illustrious Vampire Squid (the speeches were said to ostensibly be cheerleading sessions... yes, that was a bit of a parody... but you get the idea... there are really good reasons we probably won't see any transcripts.)
Alright, alright... Hillary stands for "the status quo" such as it is, of which Wall Street and Goldman are very significant players-- and, to some, big parts of the problem. We get that.
Which brings up "anti-establishment" candidate, Billionaire [reputedly] Donald Trump. OK... Mr. Straight-talker, who called out both Crooked Hillary Clinton and Lyin' Ted Cruz on their respective Goldman Sachs connections.
Well, advantage those of us who believed that the Republican Establishment's antipathy to rich White rich male alleged Billionaire Donald Trump was, oh, a kabuki... Some of us think that the whinging on the part of GOP mandarins was overstated.. unsurprisingly, the RNC Chairman now urges "party unity" behind Mr. Trump.
And so, it seems... we had a point on that. The only actual anti-establishment candidate running (not counting Rand Paul, perhaps) was none other than Bernie Sanders, whose bashing of Goldman Sachs, as far as we know, remains sincere. We know that the Donald stands for "business as usual," because the Donald has selected one Steven Mnuchin, a hedge fund manager, to be his campaign finance chairman. And in what I don't consider a surprise, Mr. Mnuchin spent a significant part of his career at... wait for it... the Goldman Sachs, where he was a partner.
In all honesty, Goldman's rather high-profile representation in the top-ranks of government (two of the more recent Treasury secretaries, Bob Rubin and Hank Paulsen, were Goldman honchos, as was former New Jersey Governor, Senator and Super-Villain Jon Corzine) is actually a variety of transparency. There are obviously other major players in finance with significant roles in the direction of economic policy, and we can't readily identify them. And, of course, in the "deep state" realm of the national security apparatus, finding the actual loci of power is even more difficult, if not downright hazardous to your health and safety.
That said, however, and I say this un-ironically, it's actually a breath of fresh air that we now know where each of the two almost certain major party nominees are drawing their key financial advice from-- because it means, boys and girls, that as usual, voting for one of the two "business as usual" major party candidates will not only be futile for those wanting any kind of "change"... there's an argument that it's affirmatively dangerous.
You can't say you wasn't warned. iFeliz cinco de mayo, todos!
Prince Rogers Nelson, once known as "the Artist" or "the Artist formerly known as Prince," or simply PRINCE, at 5'2", the biggest thing ever to come out of Minnesota, was found dead at age 57. Autopsy is likely.
Prince was iconic in so many ways, among them, that you could pretty much not find his music online... He was quoted as saying, “If you don't own your masters, your master owns you.”
Well, a miserable day for music, art, and culture in general.
And did you ever notice how much Hillary Clinton might remind one of "Dick Nixon in a pantsuit"? Zero Hedge did...
Donald J. Trump is well known as a New York based real estate developer, casino operator and media and reality television personality, and is presently the frontrunner for the Republican presidential nomination. On April 1, 2016, I had the privilege of interviewing Mr. Trump in between appearances.
The Talking Dog: Where were you on September 11, 2001?
Donald Trump: I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City,New Jersey where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down.
The Talking Dog: Do you have any comment on those who have noted that there is no evidence that happened, and that includes among others, the Jersey City police department?
Donald Trump: You know, it really doesn’t matter what the media write as long as you’ve got a young, and beautiful, piece of ass.
The Talking Dog: There are those who might consider your remarks about women to be somewhat condescending and problematic...
Donald Trump: All of the women on The Apprentice flirted with me – consciously or unconsciously. That’s to be expected.
The Talking Dog: Well, you've taken on specific women, such as Fox News reporter Megyn Kelly...
Donald Trump: “There was blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever."...
The Talking Dog: Or Rosie O'Donnell...
Donald Trump: If I were running The View, I’d fire Rosie O’Donnell. I mean, I’d look at her right in that fat, ugly face of hers, I’d say ‘Rosie, you’re fired.’
The Talking Dog: And women who get abortions...
Donald Trump: There has to be some form of punishment for the woman...some form...
The Talking Dog: Why don't we move on...
Donald Trump: Ariana Huffington is unattractive, both inside and out. I fully understand why her former husband left her for a man – he made a good decision.
The Talking Dog: I'm sorry but...
Donald Trump: I have so many fabulous friends who happen to be gay, but I am a traditionalist.
The Talking Dog: What does that even mean? Please, sir... you're running to replace (my college classmate)...
Donald Trump: My IQ is one of the highest — and you all know it! Please don't feel so stupid or insecure; it's not your fault.
The Talking Dog: Barack Obama...
Donald Trump: An ‘extremely credible source’ has called my office and told me that Barack Obama’s birth certificate is a fraud.
The Talking Dog: OK...
Donald Trump: Our great African-American President hasn’t exactly had a positive impact on the thugs who are so happily and openly destroying Baltimore.
The Talking Dog: Why should you be the man replacing him?
Donald Trump: One of they key problems today is that politics is such a disgrace. Good people don’t go into government.
The Talking Dog: So then, if that's the case... why should anyone vote for you?
Donald Trump: I think the only difference between me and the other candidates is that I’m more honest and my women are more beautiful.
The Talking Dog: Seriously?
Donald Trump: The beauty of me is that I’m very rich.
The Talking Dog: Alright... let me throw around some issues... like global warming...
Donald Trump: It’s freezing and snowing in New York – we need global warming!
The Talking Dog: Any other scientific observations you'd like to make?
Donald Trump: I have never seen a thin person drinking Diet Coke.
The Talking Dog: Are you done?
Donald Trump: My fingers are long and beautiful, as, it has been well documented, are various other parts of my body.
The Talking Dog: OK... you went there...
Donald Trump: Look at those hands, are they small hands? And, Little Marco referred to my hands: 'If they're small, something else must be small.' I guarantee you there's no problem. I guarantee.
The Talking Dog: Let me go back a bit and ask if you have thought further about your controversial immigration comments...
Donald Trump: When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending the best. They’re not sending you, they’re sending people that have lots of problems and they’re bringing those problems with us. They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists… And some, I assume, are good people.
The Talking Dog: Apparently you haven't...
Donald Trump: I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me – and I’ll build them very inexpensively. I will build a great, great wall on our southern border, and I will make Mexico pay for that wall. Mark my words.
The Talking Dog: Could anyone question your demeanor and temperament to be the commander in chief?
Donald Trump: The other candidates — they went in, they didn’t know the air conditioning didn’t work. They sweated like dogs...How are they gonna beat ISIS? I don’t think it’s gonna happen. Lyin' Ted Cruz just used a picture of Melania from a shoot in his ad. Be careful, Lyin' Ted, or I will spill the beans on your wife!
The Talking Dog: Is that your complete answer?
Donald Trump: My Twitter has become so powerful that I can actually make my enemies tell the truth. Robert Pattinson should not take back Kristen Stewart. She cheated on him like a dog & will do it again – just watch. He can do much better!
And I’ve said if Ivanka weren’t my daughter, perhaps I’d be dating her.
The Talking Dog: Well, I see we are just about out of time... anything else you'd like to tell our readers?
Donald Trump: The point is, you can never be too greedy.
The Talking Dog: Wow... didn't expect that... I join all of my readers in thanking you for your time.
Donald Trump: Thanks sweetie. That’s nice.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-People's Liberation Army), not merely content to take his opposition to the President's nominee to the Supreme Court to the steps of the Capitol, tells a Fox News Sunday morning cartoon show that he “can’t imagine that a Republican majority in the United States Senate would want to confirm, in a lame duck session, a nominee opposed by the National Rifle Association [and] the National Federation of Independent Businesses.” The Majority Leader then puts some "nuance" on the Senate's usual rule of "advise and consent" on judicial nominees.
Listen, I thought the President's decision to nominate Merrick Garland, Chief Judge of the U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, to be boring. I mean, Garland is brilliant, politically moderate, and almost unassailable by Republicans... except under the crassest of circumstances. Alas, a Black Democratic President, of course, dealing with a Cracker-dominated GOP Senate, just happens to constitute the crassest of circumstances, however. That said, since McConnell was likely to block anyone the President put up, Barack might have considered settling an old score and nominating his old classmate (no, not me, though I would probably have accepted the honor, even if this is about little more than being a human piñata for a while)... but how about Columbia '83's own Miguel Estrada? Or how about nominating Republican Senators, say, starting with nicer ones like Orrin Hatch and John McCain... before eventually making Mitch McConnell block himself? Or best of all, how about a nominee who just happens to already be a sitting federal appeals court judge... and just happens to be the sister of the Republican front-runner! Oh, the fun we could have if only we weren't trying to take our damned job so seriously. No Drama Obama indeed.
Of course, now that we have the Majority Leader setting a standard on an acceptable nominee from this Senate, maybe it's time to consider handing President
Sanders Clinton a spanking new Senate, that will consider... other factors...
Don't know. My view is that "there are no rules": the President was certainly not obliged to hold back from making a nomination to the Supreme Court simply because the other party controls the Senate and is likely to block that nomination, and the Senate is actually not obliged to take up that nomination. Of course, there may be a huge political price for that
ginormous douche-baggery particular tactic, in the darndest of places.
And in this cosmic fight for control of the ninth black robe, we will have to see whether the checks or the balances... or, dare I say it, the voters... carry the day.
I just love quoting Shakespeare, even if there's no particular context. The Grey Lady treats us to an analysis of five huge primaries today (for the record, FL, IL, OH, NC and MO). Bottom line: in 24 hours or so, Trump will be a little bit closer to the GOP nomination, Rubio will be gone, and Cruz and Kasich will be emboldened to fight on, and in Democratic action, Hillary will continue her dominance of states with big Black populations, and Bernie will do very well in the Rust Belt... but he ain't goin' anywhere will be the real takeaway.
I've been invited to speak on a GTMO related panel at this year's Left Forum, with very distinguished panelists... I will provide details as they develop. And hence, in honor or the occasion, just maybe I'll get myself going on either publishing or self-publishing "the interviews."
In other news, I finished marathon #43 [?] in the nation's capital, just a week after not finishing a 50K in Long Island.
Here's probably as good an idea as we have this electoral season:
Item: Don't think
perhaps the most evil corporation on a planet already dominated by evil corporations the Monsanto corporation will take the proposal in California to label glysophate (a key component of its Roundup weedkiller product) as a likely carcinogen lying down, as that company is suing to stop any kind of public notification of any kind of the [insane public health] risks posed by its products.
Item: Don't think that children as young as three or four years old can't represent themselves in immigration court as they are facing removal from the United States, sayeth a government official responsible for, among other things, training immigration judges.
Item: Don't think that putative Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump, in an apparent stunning reversal, wouldn't say that he won't order American military personnel to commit various war crimes.
Don't think that the U.S. Supreme Court, now with only eight justices, wouldn't stay a lower court order which would have effectively reduced the number of abortion providers in Louisiana to only one.
I'm sensing a theme here... well... don't think about it!
February 29th only comes once every four years. And apparently, getting Justice Clarence Thomas to ask a question during Supreme Court arguments comes around once every ten years, it seems... but, to gasps of shock from the audience, he did so! The case concerned Second Amendment (gun ownership) rights, an area he presumably cares about a great deal.
I tend to think that the late Justice Antonin Scalia, widely believed to be Thomas's intellectual godfather, largely bullied him (in some way, probably intellectually), and Thomas, now free from Nino's shadow, can show some interest in the goings on of his job himself without fear of belittlement by the elder justice. Thomas lamented a lack of civility in Court arguments, but I can only think of one justice who might be responsible for that (and hint, said justice is now deceased). Notwithstanding that I usually find myself disagreeing with Thomas, those who disrespect his intellect are greatly mistaken.
Anyway... just another curiosity... like leap days... that evidently doesn't come around very often. All will be washed away by the cleansing power of Super Tuesday...
The U.S. Supreme Court's senior Associate Justice, Antonin Scalia, was found dead in a Texas resort, apparently of natural causes; he was 79. He was a mixed bag, of course, even if the ultimate conservative darling in the judiciary... in my view, he is (or was) the (until recently) living embodiment of why life tenure for federal judges (Supreme Court especially) is infinitely more trouble than it's worth, and should be eliminated forthwith, by Constitutional convention if necessary, seeing as for every one John Paul Stevens we get, we end up with lots and lots of Scalias and Rehnquists... just how it is.
That said, I turn it over to Professor Lemieux:
…had Scalia’s dissents ultimately shaped America, women would not have reproductive rights, the federal government could not effectively regulate health care, LGBT people would not have the right engage in sexual intercourse without fear of arrest – let alone alone the right to marry – and states could single them out for legal disabilities. Women could be excluded from state educational institutions, public schools could teach creationism in science classes and prisoners could be assaulted by prison guards. And, in large part because of Scalia, in America today, the Voting Rights Act has been gutted, the rights of employees and consumers have been curtailed, Brown v Board is more likely to be used to stop integration than to promote it and moneyed interests increasingly dominate elections.
What he said...
A U.N. Human Rights panel (hilarious as that is to begin with) has just determined that the effective detention of Wikileaks founder Julian Assange (in the Ecuadorian Embassy in London) by American lapdogs Britain and Sweden violates international law. It is noted that this is "non-binding" and mostly a matter of moral suasion, but it seems clear that the Western imperial nations, should they refuse to abide by the ruling (as seems inevitable) will have a harder time going forward using this sort of ruling to embarrass weaker states (say, in Africa or Latin America) when similar rulings come down against them. The American imperial imperative to silence the would-be whistleblowers of the world willing to embarrass the empire and its enablers will, ahem, trump, as it were.
It may be a few days after Groundhog Day, but... is it?
Item: Elite Amherst College in a town by that name in Massachusetts has decided to drop its heretofore mascot, "Lord Jeffery," named after a colonial era soldier, Lord Jeffery Amherst (the college is named after the town, not the man). The charming Lord Jeff supposedly greeted Native Americans with smallpox infested blankets, among such other attributions of genocide, and, in the early twenty-first century, this mascot, evidently adopted in the early twentieth century, is seen as "divisive." American campuses are now at the forefront of free speech controversies these days, and quite frankly, I'm perfectly o.k. with saying that something as, well, banal as a school mascot is something that should be periodically reexamined in light of modern sensibilities (certainly, schools like NYC's own St. Johns U. dropped its mascot "the Redmen" in favor of "the Red Storm" some years ago on this basis). So... if "Redmen" (or "Washington Redskins") gives legitimate grievance to legitimately oppressed First Peoples, why wouldn't someone who, if history is to be believed, Murdered them? So... conditional "good on ya'", merry old Amherst.
Over to Iowa, where Donald "The Donald" Trump promises to sit out a Fox News sponsored debate (presumably because Megyn Kelly is hosting)... maybe he will... and maybe he won't. Can't criticize the man's tactics so far... he can't seem to do anything wrong if he tried... and Lord knows he's tried.
And on to Oregon, where (apparently) one man is dead and a number of "militia members" (including "leaders") are in custody in the standoff over a federal wildlife preserve. Others remain holed up, so the standoff over White men's ability to private exploit federal lands previously stolen from Native Peoples can go on unabated... will apparently continue, at least for the moment.
Overall, things are... who knows? When the biggest company in the history of the universe announces the biggest quarterly profit ever... and it might be greeted as not particularly good news? Don't know... some cognitive dissonance out there... The Donald is tapping into a strange zeitgeist... Oh... I just... don't... know...
The woman who singlehandedly gave us a Black President (with a middle name Hussein) stands poised to give us an outer-borough New Yorker as our next President... Donald Trump from Queens is polling well against her, for example. (His tacit praise of Kim Jong Un notwithstanding.) And Bernie Sanders from Brooklyn is a mortal lock to win the New Hampshire primary (as is Mr. Trump.)
Aside from the horse-race thing, one could go all big picture, stop a moment, and realize that Hillary [I have to tread carefully, as she and I share a birthday] has had a series of positions that were "fuck-up proof"... first lady of Arkansas, first lady of the United States, legacy celebrity senator from New York, and Secretary of State... and yet, she managed to, well... fuck each of them up, be it with her respective roles in Whitewater (and that cattle futures thing), as First Lady of the United States with, well, the original health care debacle. Vince Foster and the White House travel office scandal, as senator, with that all-important Iraq war vote (thanks again, Hillary), and finally-- as Secretary of State-- a job that entails stepping down the steps of an airplane and having your picture taken, she managed to give us Benghazi, the e-mail fiasco, and of course, she was in charge of the genius neocon underlings who gave us the coup in Ukraine. Say what you will about her, after No Drama Obama, we are sure to have... Drama.
In short, Fuck. This Shit.
Some interesting developments (of the "may you live in interesting times") variety coming out of the always interesting Middle East, as Saudi "We'll Execute Anyone We Damned Well Want" Arabia has unsurprisingly cut off diplomatic relations with Iran. It seems that Shiites everywhere (and especially in Iran) were none too pleased when prominent Saudi Shia cleric Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr (and 46 others) were executed on Saturday after being convicted of terror-related offenses. Iranian protesters stormed and set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran... that sort of thing always goes well.
And so, in a region that already includes Syria, where all of the nuclear-armed U.N. permanent members of the Security Council (plus or minus China, Ben Carson) are engaged to some extent, with nuclear armed Israel right next door, two of the world's largest oil exporters (and possibly state sponsors of terrorism) as well as regional provocateurs in places such as Yemen, Bahrain, Syria and Lebanon, as well as religious rivals, are now having an open urinating contest with each other. Yes, this can only go well.
Meanwhile, today's cause celebre in the domestic blogosphere is the apparent takeover of a building on a federal wildlife refuge in remote Eastern Oregon, coherently explained here at Rolling Stone.
Some would complain that [White, male] right-wing protesters, such as these dudes, or similar activists in Nevada recently, are treated more leniently than (arguably) left-leaning protesters, like Occupy! for example, They might also note that while American police routinely gun down people of color, in cases such as the Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood attack, extraordinary effort seems to be undertaken to retrieve the [White] perpetrator alive. Well... your point is? Oh... Texas has "open carry" now. That will go well. Anyway, the fire-starting ranchers in Oregon whose stepped up federal sentence (supposedly) caused (or at least inspired) this will likely surrender to authorities tomorrow, and we'll see what happens then.
ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State purportedly released a video showing the execution of five purported British spies, supposedly a propaganda effort in the face of military set-backs suffered by the group (at the hands of... the Russians?) Meanwhile, fellow New Yorker Donald J. Trump has offered his explanation of the provenance of ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State: it was created, of course, by Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama, says Mr. Trump. For his part, concerning the apparently self-fulfilling prophesy by Mrs. Clinton that Mr. Trump's inflammatory statements might make their way into an ISIS/ISIL/Islamic State video [it was actually a video by Al-Shabab, the purported Somali affiliate of al Qaeda], Trump's response was "what am I going to do?" Specifically...
"They use other people," he told CBS' Face the Nation in an interview aired today. "What am I going to do? I have to say what I have to say. And you know what I have to say, there's a problem."
And so... 2016 is off and running. In eight days time, I expect I'll be down in D.C. yelling at the White House as I don't think the detention of around 107 men still held at Guantanamo Bay will end before the 14th anniversary of the opening of the maximum security military prison there (January 11th at noon at the park across from the White House for those of you who want to join in the righteous indignation).
While I don't know if the freak storms that have brought horrific flooding and tornadoes to parts of this country (and brought the North Pole to over 50 degrees above normal) have anything to do with it, the first hard frost of this winter here in Brooklyn will be tonight; I managed to retrieve vegetables (well, deeply buried sweet potatoes and some dried beans) from my roof-top vegetable micro-garden as late as yesterday; still didn't manage to mulch everything... well, I'm sure everything will go well. We'll see what all this brings... but I'm sure the weather, and the climate, will all... continue to go well.
Well, maybe this year will bring a greater degree of enlightenment to a greater number of people, and perhaps, some suffering might be alleviated somewhere along the way. Little kindnesses on your part, regardless of concern for any recompense, or even concern that they will have any macro effect at all, are the best advice I can give. A lumine. A lumine.
Happy new year, boys and girls.
Item: Satan sends his annual Christmas letter. Let's just say that this holiday season is looking good for the Prince of Darkness. You go, Janet!
Item: The latest in the wave of campus protests apparently hits "America's Most Liberal College [TM]" (that being Oberlin College). Watch out, Jazz Department!
Item: While no matter what he does or says, Donald "the Donald" Trump remains "teflon" as his lead expands, Matt Taibbi tells us it's "too late to turn off Donald Trump," noting that like most of those who support him, The Donald's "reality" is... wait for it... only what
it he sees on television... where Muslims are terrorists, Mexicans are rapists/drug dealers, and all uncomfortable situations are either resolved in 21 minutes or less, or avoided completely by changing the channel.
Item: The Democrats are apparently having a debate tonight... who knew? Bernie "Feel the Bern" Sanders apologized to Hillary Milhaus Clinton for the possibility that some of his campaign staffers might have tried to take advantage of an apparent vendor-driven data breach... Hillary and anything electronic... not being something she wants to talk about. Ever.
And a group of political scientists at Western Illinois University had correctly predicted the Presidential election winner since first making such predictions in 1975, and they predict that a Sanders/O'Malley ticket will vanquish a Bush/Rubio ticket... While such exercises are entertaining, they fail to note that JEB Bush and Marco Rubio are from the same state (admittedly, George W. Bush and Dick Cheney were both from Texas... details), and, of course, that The Establishment is probably not going to stand for a Sanders win (although... with Hillary, all things are possible), and Heaven knows, the media does not want you to believe that Bernie's cause is not hopeless before it begins (of course, repeat after me, with Hillary, all things are possible...)
Only you can make this a reality-based Festivus season... will this be the year we can finally ease up on the airing of grievances?