The Talking Dog

January 31, 2008, Calling Dr. Kafka Orwell

Candace again vouchsafes that her client, Abdul al-Ghizzawi, of Libyan nationality, Kabul, Afghanistan domicile and Camp 6, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba apparently permanent residence, has, in addition to contracting tuberculosis, now contracted AIDS there. Chief Justice Roberts, in a surprise to no one, denied Candace's motion seeking immediate medical treatment for her client, who contracted both TB and AIDS while in American custody. She will now have to seek that relief in other fora.

As Candace sometimes lets me review drafts of her court submissions (including her historic original habeas corpus petition now pending in the United States Supreme Court), I continue to take more than a rooting interest in this situation. The real question is why more Americans don't seem to be the least bit concerned with this (or even presidential candidates, other than the ravings of some who tell us that the cruelties of Guantanamo should be expanded).

There will come a point in our future when we look back at this era and realize that far from our being any kind of "greatest generation", this will be far, far less than our finest hour. We will wonder why a nation that once legitimately stood as a shining beacon of human rights has turned the light off and then smashed the bulb and set the lighthouse on fire. At a time when we could have reached deep inside ourselves for greatness, we chose panic and cowardice. Throwing away due process. And of course... the acceptance, if not embrace, of torture.

We will look back at this part of our history and realize... this could have been a moment of greatness-- a generational struggle against the forces of nihilism and chaos to create something better. Instead, while we watched, our so-called leaders (both parties, btw) have led us into anything but our finest hour.

War is peace. Ignorance is strength. Freedom is slavery. Your talking dog is outraged.

January 30, 2008, McCain-mentum

Fresh from victories in the Florida and South Carolina primaries, with the vanquished Rudy Giuliani handing him his endorsement and apparently Ahnold doing the same, and all the momentum in the world going into Super Tuesday from which he is all but certain to emerge as the Republican nominee, it seems things couldn't get any better for John McCain... until they just did.

That's right: Ralph Nader wants to ensure that no matter who the Democrats nominate, John McCain will be elected President, as Nader announced his own presidential exploratory committee.

Let's just say that while the perfect is the enemy of the good... the enemy of Ralph Nader is my friend, and leave it at that. It's a free country, and Ralph is certainly free to run as a spoiler to ensure Republican victories. But let's all be damned if we let him pretend that he is doing anything else.

January 28, 2008, Hillary runs into a Hitch (II)... Barack goes for the Ave Maria...

We'll start with Christopher Hitchens wall-to-wall Hill-Bill-bashfest, this time taking on the latest Clintonian race-card play. Frankly, at the end of the day, other than the Clintons' willingness to destroy a fellow Democrat to win (and let's face it, this is an endemic problem among most Democrats, who'd rather crucify or burn internal apostates than even argue with Republicans, let alone stand up to them), the policy and even stylistic differences between Sens. Clinton and Obama are at best superficial. Sure, Obama has a better speaking voice and seems more inspiring to many, but to be fair... I think we can expect very similar governance from either of them. IMHO, we at least know exactly what we'd be getting from "the devil we know" that some are calling Billary, or HillBilly, though I must say I much prefer Hitch's "the Gruesome Twosome" (though IIRC that was a different car from "the Arkansas Chugabug").

Anyway, citing Ricky Ray Rector (the mentally incapacitated Black man whom then Gov. Clinton rushed back to Arkansas to have executed during the 1992 election, who left his pecan pie "for later" during his last meal) and Bill's all-White country club in Little Rock and... other stuff... Hitch concludes:

Say what you will about the Clintons, you cannot acquit them of having played the race card several times in both directions and of having done so in the most vulgar and unscrupulous fashion. Anyone who thinks that this equals "change" is a fool, and an easily fooled fool at that.


Moving right along, Sen. Obama choses to enter what is an extraordinarily dangerous area, in an attempt to garner some late Latino support in California, and offers his support to a plan to permit illegal immigrants to obtain driver's licenses. Such a stand nearly bit Hillary on the tush in one of the debates (though as much for her own bad attitude than for the substance), though the substance has also bit my fair state's new governor on the tush, and in CA, it had previously bit the deposed former governor Gray Davis on the tush.

Say what you will, but Obama's going for it anyway, in the hope that it will highlight his willingness to take courageous stands that appeal to swathes of the electorate (in this case, Latinos), perhaps because it's one of those "right things to do". Obama's stated reason-- driver's licenses should be issued to people who can drive-- is an interesting statement, but in our current post 9-11 paranoid nation, officially state issued identification, such as driver's licenses, have much more functions than that... try to board an airplane without one. The issue is emotionally charged, and while many Latinos favor this position, most non-Latinos seem to go the other way on it.

We'll see. We know bloody well (see above) that if the play to win Superfund Tuesday is to play Latinos and Blacks off each other... the Clintons will do that (at this point, it seems, there seems to be no "she"... only "they"... something that Sen. Clinton may want to consider doing something about). Unfortunately here in the US of A, even in 2008... that may still be the "safe" strategy.

Eight days to go. No matter what happens, at least St. Rudy may well be out of this in 24 hours time.

This has been... "Hillary runs into a Hitch (II)... Barack goes for the Ave Maria..."

January 27, 2008, Vox parvi populi

[Ed. note: this is an exceedingly rare "guest post".]

Hi there. If you think I'm the real blogger here, you are mistaken. Although I am thinking about starting my own blog, I really don't know anything about politics, other than what I hear from my Daddy (who my Mommy tells me is very, very bitter.) I guess I could write my blog about what goes on in my world-- a world in which my Daddy wouldn't last 5 minutes. For one thing, I'd like to see him keep his tamagachi alive for more than an hour. For another, my Daddy thinks that the Disney Channel Games should be fought to the death, but some kids I know would be really upset if anything bad happened to the Jonas Brothers.

This has been "vox parvi populi".

Please check out my Daddy's American Street entry this week, "Be Vewy Quiet, We'we hunting bin Waden."

January 26, 2008, Baracklash

CNN is projecting that Barack Obama has won the South Carolina primary, and won it big.

Stay tuned to see how the bigger Barack's margin of victory is, the more certain that it will still be spun as a major win for Hillary Clinton, despite her likely distant second place or possibly even third place finish. Our old friend Dick Morris kind of hints at just how this might happen. I'm not calling February 5 "Superfund Tuesday" for no reason, boys and girls: "It's the Clintons, stupid."

January 25, 2008, Honor and Integrity

Words not often associated with Bill or Hillary Clinton... indeed, "restoring honor and integrity to the White House" was the rallying cry of George W. Bush in his campaign against boy scout and demigod, the sainted Al Gore, only to replace the Clinton Administration with not only one of the most incompetent Administration in our lifetimes, but probably the single most cynical and morally debauched in American history, and one that will leave so much perhaps irremediable damage in its wake.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yes... Bill and Hill are at it again, trying to pull the ultimate switcheroo to capture tactical advantages by their decision to try to renege on a deal by insisting that MI and FL delegates be seated at the Convention. It had been understood that Michigan and Florida would lose their delegates for putting their primaries ahead of the first four contests (IA, NH, NV and SC) and the candidates would not participate in MI or FL... a deal honored by the other candidates, but deliberately broken by Hillary who left her name on the ballot in Michigan. Now, she wants to blow the deal (and indeed, the race) wide open by claiming preemptive victory in Florida (where she leads in beauty contest polling)... thus screwing her rivals, and demonstrating that she is sneaky, dishonorable and, let's face it... DISHONEST... all at the same time! Sounds like a Clinton win- win-win, to me!

What's fascinating is how the overall campaign is now reported-- Obama on the ropes while Bill Clinton injects the toxicity of racial division and outrageous accusation into this race (John Kerry thinks Bill Clinton's gone overboard on this lying thing)... and despite the fact that in the three relevant contests so far (IA, NH and NV), the candidates are, in fact, 1-1-1, with NV properly being a tie insofar as Hillary had a slight vote win but Barack won more delegates (as he has overall). And yet... you'd think it was an out and out Clinton landslide thus far. Just wait... we are building up to "Superfund Tuesday" in just 11 days!

While we may not have yet seem a landslide, we have certainly seen a mudslide. It certainly seems that Bill and Hill would much rather see a President McCain than a President Obama... if they can't have it, no one can.

The kind of reason why so many of us look forward to yet another Clinton Administration... (We just never knew that sensible policy and competent governance could be so darned... dirty.)

January 23, 2008, First they came for the Padillas

I could speak about the latest chapter in the sorry saga of the U.S. citizen chosen as "the demonstration project for the elected dictatorshipTM", Jose Padilla, sentenced to 17 1/2 years more for a nebulous role in a nebulous plot where the jury heard the words "al Qaeda" and "Osama bin Laden" a lot... but Andy Worthington does it far more succinctly than I.

The most important case of our life times will now be appealed, and perhaps, no one will pay heed to the fact that all a President needs is enough public hysteria, and he can pick any of us up, torture us (43 months of isolation, sleep deprivation, loud noises and God knows what else)... and get away with it. And then have the real court system throw us away "officially".

And yet, our "opposition party" in Congress, its candidates for President, even most of its cheerleaders here in left-blogistan... nary a word on this most basic of all outrages, which dwarfs in importance the 35th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, and is of the same order of magnitude in terms of moral and legal crises that the financial world is now feeling (interestingly, from the same causes, said causes living and working on Pennsylvania Avenue).

January 21, 2008, Reality bites

The stock markets in Europe and Asia... duly collapsed, to the tune of around 5%, 7%, declines... which are expected to be reflected in a 3%, 4% decline or thereabouts in the Dow Jones Industrial Average and other American markets tomorrow.

And finally, a debate worthy of the name... Let the fur fly, Senators! I feel a little bad for Edwards... but then, third place sucks. Especially in a two-way race.

Something to amuse us while we watch our net worths circle the drain, as the government we're stuck with for the next 364, 365 days is utterly clueless about managing... pretty much anything besides a political campaign.

Finally, apropos of not much, on this Martin Luther King Day... while Sen. Barack Obama was in my college class, TD mother reports that none other than Gen. Colin Powell was in her college class. Go figure.

January 20, 2008, Just a year left!

To be fair, it's a leap year... 366 days... 20 January 2009 at 12 noon-- someone who isn't George W. Bush will be sworn in as the next President of the United States. Whether it's Clinton or Obama (who now duel it out as to who "won Nevada"... since it seems Sen. Clinton won more votes, but Sen. Obama won more delegates)... well, with any luck at all, one of them will be there at inauguration, or possibly even both (Clinton/Obama in '08? Obama/Clinton in '08?)...

Meanwhile, Romney won the GOP side in NV, McCain won in SC (Huck just behind), but Romney, Hollywood Fred and 91u1iani are still in it. It really is taking on the feel of "Wacky Races" (although Dick Dastardly appears to be driving all the cars)... as we approach the Slammy in Miami... or whatever the Florida primary may be called.

Don't forget to check out this week's AmStreet entry, "A working public-private partnership". And say hi to Torquemada for me.

January 19, 2008, Change in "Change" Strategy

As we go into today's NV caucuses for the Dems (and the SC primary for the Republicans... the Dems will be there... Tuesday?)... Sen. Barack Obama is forced into having to directly challenge the hot and cold running smears coming at him from the Clinton camp. It's not quite "no more Mr. Nice Guy"... but after whatever-it-was-that-worked-for-her-in-NH... the Obama team simply cannot take anything for granted any longer. In short, transcendent campaign or no, the nitty gritty cheap shots from the Clinton campaign (and now, from the Edwards camp) must be rebutted. A sea-change? Or just a reality check?

Well, let me not take anything for granted, either: with just over two weeks to go until Super-Duper Tuesday, which Bill and Hill (and I mean in that order) are going to do their damndest try to make so toxic that we should call it "Super-Fund Tuesday", let me unequivocally join Pat Leahy and Janet Napolitano and John Kerry... and endorse Barack Obama for the Democratic nomination (Barack may end up winning the delegates from my district in Brooklyn anyway... but he can count on my vote!) Sen. Obama presents our best shot at the kind of genuine progressive reform we need to take the country off the shnide of never-ending-fiscal-irresponsibility-for-the-benefit-of-the-super-rich, to restore investment in our infrastructure and the tools to face the future (and that includes national pensions and universal health-care and first class education), to reengage with the rest of the world as a responsible member of the international community to restore our once proud moral authority, and most importantly of all, to restore the moral authority garnered by governance by the rule of law.

For me, it always comes down to character. And in the end, on the signature issue of our day, the Iraq war, while it may have been fortuitous as he wasn't then in the U.S. Senate, Clinton and Edwards were, and they voted the wrong way, failing a critical character test.

While Obama may say things on the campaign trail that harken to arguably right-wing talking points, be they about "Social Security crises" or Ronald Reagan... while I may or may not have been ambiguous on this point before, let me say now... I just don't care. If running for President were just about pitching to left-wing bloggers, then President Feingold or Dean and Vice-President Boxer or Kucinich would be running for reelection right now. This is a VERY conservative country (whether because it actually is or because a corporate-whore media makes it operationally so doesn't really matter at this point)... it's why our first female Presidential candidate with-a-shot-at-winning is a dynastic one. It's why our first Black Presidential candidate with-a-shot-at-winning... has to strike tones that are occasionally tinny to left-blogistan. Ultimately, a winning candidate has to garner broad constituencies.

Is this to say that the country would not be better served by Sens. Clinton and Edwards than by any of the Republican candidates? No... we surely would. Even the once sainted John McCain (sainted until he sold us out on torture, of all things) is... problematic. And after McCain, the GOP bench gets very thin indeed (even if the GOP itself may not see it that way... although, none of their candidates would be as good, none would be totally catastrophic save 91u1iani... who must be stopped, period.) So, if either Edwards or Clinton prevails with the nomination, or even some Democrat to be named later after a deadlocked convention... they'll have my support.

Right now, however, IMHO, Obama is our best shot for putting this nation on the right track.

January 17, 2008, It's just bid'ness

Every so often, we need to wrap our minds around the fact that while we watch Hillary, Barack and John battle for the Democratic nomination, while John, Mitt and Mike battle for the Republican nomination, while Fred continues to sleepwalk and Rudy... well, one can't quite figure out why he's still around, but I guess he is... oh yes... there is still a year (and a leap year at that) and 3 days until one of them-- or someone else selected at a nominating convention-- will become our next President. But until then... we have... that guy up there.

And that guy is off in the Middle East, kissing the rear ends of our principal financiers... you know: the guys in Riyadh, who are buying up our nation's debt and hard assets using that $100/bbl. we're paying them for the black gook that we desperately need to drive our SUV's around to our exurban McMansions... and Palast reminds us that this is the way the world goes 'round.

We could try to put the nation's finances (and our children's futures) on some kind of sensible footing and tax our own rich people... but then, that would likely exacerbate the recession, cause even more defaults than we're already going to see, and you know... look bad. Better to keep the party going this way, by taxing people at the pump. And I do NOT mean my way, by having a "Patriot Tax" on every single gallon, cubic foot or ton of fossil fuel consumed in this country which would both fund our Defense Department AND encourage efficiency at a time when both national security and global warming alone demand it. No... better we send "your money"... to Riyadh... rather than to Washington!

Palast, of course, quotes the great economist Paddy Chayefsky, who first published this in 1976 or so... but it's still true:

The Arabs have taken billions of dollars out of this country, and now they must put it back. … It is ebb and flow, tidal gravity…. There are no nations, there are no peoples. There is only one vast and immense, interwoven, multi-national dominion of petro-dollars. … There is no America. There is no ‘democracy.’ The world is a business, one vast and ecumenical holding company, for whom all men will work.”

To coin a phrase... Indeed!

January 17, 2008, The case against Obama: character witness

The Baltimore Sun gives us this discussion of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright, the preacher at Barack Obama's church, Trinity United in Chicago. The candidate himself regards Rev. Wright as his "spiritual mentor", and supposedly, BHO's book title "the audacity of hope" is a phrase originating with Wright. One TD friend recently e-mailed to let me know just how huge a liability Wright's association with Obama was and will likely become as we move on. Maybe so, but this BaltSun article, at least, is unconvincing on that score.

Yes, Wright has the traditional watermarks enabling one to accuse him of anti-semitism (at one point, joining in the chorus that Zionism is racism, and one of his church's house organs made Farrakhan its man of the year)... but there is no indication whatsoever that Obama holds any views like this (and we won't even talk about, say, Ron Paul, who may well).

In some sense, any publicity that establishes that Barack is a Christian (and his church happens to be a mainstay of the White, liberal, largely New England based United Church of Christ) is good news for a candidate still trying to convince many that he is not a Muslim! And to the extent that certain White people will regard Obama's attendance of an arguably "Black nationalist" (though probably "Black-centric" seems a better adjective) religious institution as troubling, they are likely the same people who wouldn't vote for Obama (or Nixon, or George W. Bush, if they were running as Democrats) under any circumstances.

Obviously, a lot more is going to come out about Sen. Obama, say, in the next... 18 or 19 days? Stay tuned...

(For the real case against Obama-- hint-- it's about the DLC, stupid-- check out Digby... who else? Of course, IMHO... the perfect, or even the very good, is the enemy of the good enough... that's just me.)

January 16, 2008, Michigan J. Bog

And so native son Mitt Romney pulls out all the stops to win the GOP Michigan primary, around 39% to McCain's 30% and Huck's 16%. Not a terrible surprise, though McCain's last big chance to put it away before Super-Duper Tuesday is gone, and without the Michigan Mo', Huck looks good in South Carolina, and just a little later in Florida, Rudy is somehow still in it (God help us all). If Democrats would rather face Mitt in November than McCain, this probably helped that scenario. Who knows where we go now.

On the other hand, running quite literally unopposed in a token beauty contest, Hillary Clinton won a plurality against Kucinich, but exit polling shows serious, serious divides between poorer whites (overwhelmingly favoring Hillary) and... everybody else (overwhelmingly favoring Obama, or Edwards, or at least... not Hillary). The implication, as Bill runs around calling Obama "the Establishment candidate" (correct answer being "they both are-- only Hillary moreso") is that we may well have what we usually have-- a nationally polarized racial unit. If indeed Bill Clinton was "the first Black President", rather than "the favorite President of Black elites," then it's clear that the mojo isn't extending to Hillary... I tend to think it wouldn't extend much to "Centrist Bill" either, but that's just me. And in case no one was looking, we have a Black man in the race with genuine appeal not only to Black voters, but to young voters, and better educated voters...

Short answers: the Republicans will probably not have a decisive nominee going into their convention, barring some late brokering (i.e. "McCain-Huckabee" or even "McCain-Romney" as a pre-packaged deal), unless McCain rallies to win both South Carolina and Florida. The Democrats will be in a similar position if Edwards does well in South Carolina and Florida, as I think Hill and Barack are close enough otherwise, and any late contest that includes the Clintons will turn far, far more toxic than they have already turned it. Proving once again, that in a year when they can't lose... the Democrats may just find a way.

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January 14, 2008, Hillary runs into a Hitch

The often disagreeable these days but sometimes amusing Christopher Hitchens gives us this, The case against Hillary Clinton. Simply put, the big irony is that Hitch feels sold out because Hillary has backed away from her one-time embrace of Neoconservatism and its favorite product, the Iraq war, for the crassest of reasons: to shore up support in the Iowa caucuses. Anyway...

Hitch on Hillary's experience:

One also hears a great deal about how this awful joint tenure of the executive mansion was a good thing in that it conferred "experience" on the despised and much-deceived wife. Well, the main "experience" involved the comprehensive fouling-up of the nation's health-care arrangements, so as to make them considerably worse than they had been before and to create an opening for the worst-of-all-worlds option of the so-called HMO, combining as it did the maximum of capitalist gouging with the maximum of socialistic bureaucracy. This abysmal outcome, forgiven for no reason that I can perceive, was the individual responsibility of the woman who now seems to think it entitles her to the presidency.

I had a brief discussion with some colleagues around the proverbial water-cooler... the discussion was about "experience" among the Democratic candidates, and how Barack Obama had "less" than his rivals. I pointed out that with the old hands Richardson, Dodd and Biden gone, this is utter nonsense: although Obama was never First Lady, counting his time in the Illinois State Senate, he was actually an elected official longer than either one-term senator John Edwards, or early second term senator Hillary Clinton... ah, details, details.

I will simply say what I have often said: Senator Clinton, and Senator Clinton alone, is the only Democrat remaining in the field (and I include Kucinich and Gravel in that) with even a chance of losing to any of the Republicans (and that only to McCain or Romney, should one of them get the nomination).

The fact is, the Bill Clinton era was a relatively happy time for America... we had a lot of Japanese money propping up our internet bubble, we had competent managers on the Clinton team keeping us out of financial crises and out of large scale Asian ground wars and humongously insane deficits... but while competent, they were ultimately soulless, and less popular than they now pretend they were. (Compare and contrast this guy.) They couldn't even get their (far worthier) successor elected to office. The "Clinton legacy," tainted as it was by tawdry and trivial personal scandals, even ended with a final pardon scandal as he left the building! The opportunity was laid wide open for the Bush Administration to merrily squander our nation's financial might and moral standing, and quite probably its military power, in just seven years of total incompetence and venality. Which he did, with a vengeance.

The only "good news" is that Bush has pretty much also destroyed his own party's brand name, and a Democrat-- any Democrat-- will likely be elected. But the irrational visceral hatred many have toward Senator Clinton which may mobilize otherwise unmotivated Republican voters (think of her having sex with Janet Reno over Vince Foster's body in a black helicopter... or don't!) coupled with the very real distaste (of some... well, me, anyway) for endless political dynasties (at least twenty four years of Bush-Clinton-Bush-Clinton), for more "triangulation" (we won't even talk about the current race-baiting and dirty campaigning against another Democrat) or for the fact that Mrs. Clinton's "accomplishments" really do consist of little more than being married to Mr. Clinton... should give one pause.

Don't get me wrong: I will support her if she gets the nomination. But we must admit that she is a glaringly weak candidate. The fact that just days ago, she was so close to elimination, and the fact that she still can't seem to put this one away, despite her humongous advantages in name-recognition, fund-raising, party-establishment support and her famous and allegedly popular husband campaigning for her, all speak volumes about her ultimate vulnerability. And Hitch's point on her supposedly "greatest accomplishment"... should not be taken lightly.

This has been... "Hillary runs into a Hitch."

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January 13, 2008, The rule of law... not

Check out this week's AmStreet entry, Unpersons (Not Even 3/5)!

I think the expression is "disappointed but not surprised" by the D.C. Circuit's decision to toss out a suit brought by former GTMO detainees seeking damages from their torture mistreatment at American hands.

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January 11, 2008, Close Guantanamo. And Bagram. And Pol E Sharki. And...

Well, well. Today, exactly six years and four months since 9-11, marks exactly six years since the first guests arrived at America's tropical beach resort gulag at our naval air station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, more accurately, the flagship gulag of an international gulag archipelago. The ACLU has evidently designated today as "Close GTMO Day". Nice sentiment; necessary but not sufficient, of course. It's not even about releasing the remaining 280, 290 poor bastards we're holding there, or even the other 10,000 or so we're holding in Afghanistan, Iraq, Diego Garcia, Thailand, Romania, elsewhere in Europe, the Middle East and God knows where. Though it would certainly be a huge, and necessary, start.

What really matters is a restoration of our once exemplary commitment to the rule of law, that has been replaced by behavior ranging from juvenile schoolyard behavior to the worst of Medieval torture... none of which has made us as people the least bit safer from our foreign enemies, and all of which have made our lives incredibly dangerous from the most formidable enemy we will ever face, that being our own Government when it decides that it is our master, rather than we its.

And that's where we are now. It's that bad. We've turned the clock back to 1214-- not merely with the repeal of habeas corpus, but with comparable attitudes about acceptable state behavior and state accountability.

Undoing it will take an extraordinary effort. If you look at our most recent interview with Martha Rayner, you can not only read about the arbitrariness associated with Martha's clients, but you can find links to my 36 interviews in this area. Originally, my interest concerned Jose Padilla (we interviewed his attorneys Donna Newman and Andy Patel) , as I found it preposterous that a United States citizen could just be officially "disappeared"; what I failed to realize was, 9-11 shock or no, Padilla, as a Latino (and an ex-gang banger at that, arguably implicated in a homicide) would be the perfect guy to disappear, as a demonstration project that it could be done! And our courts just played right along-- including our current U.S. Attorney General, back when he was a judge. Anyway... that was my entree into the shadowy and much deeper world.

Aside from thirty-six interviews, I have developed some friendships, particularly with Candace Gorman (interviewed here), (check out her own brilliant Guantanamo Blog) who has been nice enough to let me provide input to her historic original habeas corpus petition now pending with the Supreme Court of the United States on behalf of her client Mr. al-Ghizzawi. And thanks to Cage Prisoners, probably the most important web-site for GTMO matters in the world, for picking up most of the interviews, and to Joe Gandelman and Kevin Hayden for letting me cross-post them, and thanks to digby, and Avedon, and Julia, and Lindsay, and Scott, and Thomas, and Barbara, and lots of others for the shout-outs, and thanks to everyone else interested in this subject. Stay interested, and stay involved.

Now, a year after Speaker Pelosi and Leader Reid were supposed to make all the difference... nothing has happened. I'd like to think that President Clinton or Obama (or Edwards... or even McCain) would do the right thing, and immediately take steps to restore our moral authority. But, I fear, that even they will succumb to the pressure to be seen as Torqueamada "tough on terror" because many Americans are too stupid to understand what is at stake (and there is no other word for it). So we will have to educate our leaders that we demand better from them. And then we will have to pressure them by all lawful means necessary. Period.

Well, I think so anyway. This has been... Close Guantanamo. And Bagram. And Pol E Sharki. And...

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January 8, 2008, Comeback Codgers

Yes! What a night for AARP! Two of its members, seventy-one year old John McCain, who as late as a few weeks ago, was written off as (politically) dead, and sixty year old Hillary Clinton, who just yesterday was believed to be crushed to death under Omnibus Obama... have both emerged to win their respective parties' primary in New Hampshire.

On the Democratic side of the roster, Hillary edges out Obama around 39% to 37%, though CNN projects each will get 8 delegates, with Edwards out of the money at around 17%, and frankly, out of a particular reason to remain in this, other than, I suppose as a spoiler. [And so that he can show us all that he's still a mean-spirited ambulance chaser whose first instinct is be a sexist prick. Frankly, for that bit of gratuitous meanness and sexism, I hope he drops out of the race tomorrow; he's only in it on the premise that somehow neither a Black man nor a woman can win. Well, they've just one the first two contests... so there. The only PROVEN LOSER in this race is none other than John Edwards. Did I say that out loud?] Richardson, at 5%, should give up any day now. Dennis Kucinich got around 3000 votes-- around 1000 more than Fred Thompson, who, I'm sorry, cannot be considered a viable candidate.
As Kos said, Hillary's huge comeback (polls showed her down by over a dozen points this morning) makes this a national race again, and all of us-- at least in 22 states, including NY, CA and NJ, will get to count-- on February 5th. THAT is huge-- as now, tiny IA and NH are no longer "the deciders" for the rest of us. That's a victory for all of us--not just Hillary.

The short answer is that the kind of crossover votes that helped Obama in IA stayed with the GOP tonight, to vote for McCain; worse for Obama, on net, some independents and Dems switched to McCain; in any event, whatever Hillary's organization did-- or maybe it was her moment of inadvertently demonstrated she was actually a human being-- who the hell knows? But it means that Obama-- who to his credit, did not pretend any of this would be easy-- is no longer in the driver's seat, and must slug it out in NV, SC and FL, ahead of super-duper Tuesday.

On the Republican side, it seems that the Establishment did its job for McCain, who won here in 2000 over Establishment fave Dubya. Well, they like him, even at 71. Romney, from neighboring MA, comes in second; many feel that his campaign strategy-- of having to win IA and NH, and winning neither, means he's toast. Well, yes, by rights... but he has a lot of money, and will probably fight in (and he's at least finished second, tonight, a closer second than in IA). Huck comes in 3rd at 11%, Rudy improving to 4th with 10%, Paul at 9%, and Thompson at 1%. Let me say... he is just not a viable candidate. Get rid of him. He really should be considered a national joke... not even up to Wesley Clark's late arrival... Just get out Fred... you're taking up space on the stage. Rudy, who has made FL his firewall, is polling no better than 4th there... Swirling the bowl is Rudy... frankly, he was the one candidate, either party, who had to be stopped... and his own personal corruption seems to have stopped him, along with insanely stupid strategy.

And so... McCain, who himself was written off as dead, emerges as the GOP Establishment favorite, going into MI, SC, FL and NV; Romney, who won WY, and will probably win his native MI, is still in it, and Huck is still a movement of his own, though in the 22 state melee on February 5th, not having any money or real organization may be a problem for him (though if he wins SC, and wins or does well in FL... again, whoa Nelly, though the GOP Establishment will promise him McCain's veep spot to keep Evangelicals interested in the general).

And aside from the big winners tonight being old people, the other big winners are old money, as in "Grand Old Party". Not only do the Republicans place their own strongest candidate back in play (despite their bizarre visceral hatred for him), but the Democratic candidate they would most like to face has emerged as the NH winner from a five-day maelstrom of doom... as ready for prime-time.

What a night! This has been... Comeback Codgers.

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January 7, 2008, Systemic failure

We reward our politicians for being not-very-bright twits who can stay "on message," at least, if 2000 and 2004 have taught us anything. Enter Hillary Clinton, trying to smash through the glass ceiling in the likeliest way it will be done here (in an America that's way more conservative than any would care to admit): dynastically.

As a woman, of course, she must contend with having to be a fragile little thing who is tough enough to have her finger on the button. Ah, but as Hillary Clinton, she is supposedly already a ball-busting automaton... So, of course, when the presidential campaign for which she has been preparing for at least eight years (if not far longer) begins to fall apart on her after one caucus in which exactly zero national delegates were selected, and she will, of course, likely lose in tiny New Hampshire tomorrow, she has a moment in which she reveals that in between those two images lies an actual human being... naturally it's the biggest moment in the history of the world (bigger than Britney, Paris and Brangelina combined!)

I don't know how to say this: how we pick presidents is really stupid. The irony, of course, is that it was somewhat less stupid before Bill Clinton and company organized things beginning around 2000 to "compress" the primary season "so that the Democratic candidate would have more time to prepare for the general election" (and IMHO, to try to rig it to favor Hillary and her fundraising and name recognition "advantages" for this very 2008 year). In practice, this has meant that the first caucuses and primaries, in tiny unrepresentative states, decide everything, because there is no time to recover from an early setback; the American people want to back a winner, and if someone (think... John Kerry) is good enough for Iowa and New Hampshire then by golly he (so far it's been he) is good enough for the rest of us.

Which is precisely where we find ourselves right now. The Republicans have never been a party to be troubled by the will of the stupid voters, and when Pat Buchanan or John McCain won their New Hampshire primary, the party denizens had no problem summoning discipline thereafter to be sure that someone named Bush duly won. Well, their dynastic candidate is the superannuated John McCain, who, to secure his party's nomination (and he will likely secure it), has made himself sufficiently untenable in a general election that Dennis Kucinich might beat him (although Hillary Clinton might not). But no uppity Arkansas government whose only appeal is that voters like him has a chance. No siree, Mitt (who can really mess things up by finishing ahead of McCain). So... by hook or by crook, look for the truly dynastic candidate to get the nomination. The voters be damned.

Ah, but the Democrats. The Democrats. Bill Clinton became the first president to have failed to first win the New Hampshire primary since the advent of the damned thing in 1948. Indeed, he won neither Iowa nor New Hampshire, but a meandering primary season allowed him to appeal to voters in larger states over the course of time. Which, as noted above, Bill himself has been very instrumental in ending, for the dubious reason of permitting a long preparation for the general election.

And so here we are. One can sense the exhaustion, and frustration, of Senator Clinton, as she realizes just what she is up against (including not a little of the hoist on the petard of Bill's construction). Yes, she will likely win her home state of New York on February 5th's super-duper Tuesday; but Barack Obama will likely win his home state of Illinois on the same day, and California, New Jersey and 18 other states are also up for grabs. And Florida and South Carolina come before! In short, the overwhelming majority of delegates will be dispensed by Valentines Day, and, if 2000 and 2004 are meaningful models, the New Hampshire winner will go on to get the Democratic nomination.

With Dodd out of the race, my favored candidate is Obama, and he's in the driver's seat. That still doesn't mean that this "retail politics" thing isn't still stupid. This has been... "Systemic failure".

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January 6, 2008, Times They're A Changin'

First, check out this week's AmStreet entry, "Never the Crime, Always the Cover-Up" in which I give a hearty welcome to the Street's newest co-blogger (and TTD's newest commenter!), BossKitty.

The point there is that, as with the case of Abu Ghraib, and even Plamegate, it's not the people actually responsible (i.e., Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Gonzales, et al.) who pay the price for official misdeeds, but people down the line... usually way down the line. It is my hypothesis that the American people at least as expressed by their 1/100 scale model in Iowa, are sick and tired of it. Hence, they rejected the spouse of Bill "all my friends are celebrities, millionaires or both" Clinton on the Democratic side in favor of the Black Constitutional law professor. Hence, even the Republicans rejected Hedge Fund Mitt (whose sons are "helping America" by not volunteering to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan, but by aiding his candidacy), and Hollywood Fred Thompson, and Deal-with-the-Devil John McCain, and Rudy "Influence Peddler to the Stars" Giuliani and the other "above-the-law" Republicans, in favor of the sincere socially conservative but economically liberal Mike Huckabee.

Huh? You got it: the Black man Obama, and the not-all-that-affluent White man Huckabee, are gentlemen who have at least thus far had to live in the same world as the rest of us, rather than in the rarefied world of privilege that has one set of laws for themselves (i.e. none) and another for the rest of us. (Sorry Hillary, but Hyde Park is closer to the world the rest of us live in than Chappaqua and Georgetown are.) Hence, the corporatist super-elite can merrily favor candidates who will criminalize abortion, knowing that their own family members will always be able to obtain grey-market or even overseas abortion should it become necessary. Or espouse the view that sacrifice in a time of supposed national emergency shall be borne solely by military members and their families, while America's most affluent will not only not send their own children to fight, but won't even pay more in taxes!

And here we are. While I have little doubt that the super-smart and super-charismatic Barack would ultimately prevail in a general against the insular Arkansas governor, it is conceivable that if these two gentlemen emerge as their party's candidates we might have a genuine campaign based on actual visions for the future of this country based on the lives of, oh, over 99% of the people living in it, rather than of those of the super-elite (who have been more than well-served in the era of Bush-Clinton-Bush).

A dog can dream. This has been... Times They're A Changin'.

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January 5, 2008, It's the economy skin color, stupid

While I won't dignify the individual posts of Mr. Scaife's loyal retainers Goldberg and Reynolds by actually linking to them, Glenn Greenwald does, in the interest of demonstrating that the preemptive race-baiting among Republican mouth-pieces has begun. Son of Lucianne gets things started for us by suggesting that "some people" will not take kindly if Obama is either out-played by Clinton for the Democratic nomination, or worse, screwed (Gore or Kerry style perhaps) in the general election... you know (wink, wink)... "race riots". "He's right, you know." The Old Perfessor quickly adds, in a pile-on (extraordinary reminiscent of "Mr. Hilter's" assistant in the Monty Python sketch where a certain ex-dictator appears in North Minehead to run in a bye-election). It won't be long before Michelle piles on as well, if she hasn't already.

Well, well. The Scaife-employee generated nastiness comes... one... TWO days after Obama's historic victory. Amazing, no? The thing is, an Obama nomination will confound the crap out of the right... the GOP is stoked to face Hitlery or Shrillery or the Feminazi or the Bitch or... some other slur based largely on misogyny (which it evidently believes it can express publicly, at least as to Senator Clinton). Overt racism will be an extraordinarily dangerous game to play against Obama; but for "Macacagate," the GOP field would be in far less disarray as Virginia Senator George Allen would very likely have just dominated the Iowa caucuses... but Macacagate happened. As Paul Krugman has surmised, we are a different (and to that extent, better) country than the one Sen. George Allen grew up in.

But it's there... certainly in the hearts and minds of some if not many likely Republican voters, it's always the racism, stupid. It explains the current mania with immigration as an issue; direct attacks on people of color are no longer cool, so some "acceptable" outlet must be created. (The irony is that Karl Rove was trying to expand the GOP base to include Latinos, but his own party bolted on him, and turned it into an issue likely to piss off Latinos for the foreseeable future.)

But is this trick going to work against Obama? Willy Horton codes work fine against a White candidate... but just how dangerous in the post-macaca world is it to try that against a Black candidate (especially one running what amounts to a "trans-partisan" "trans-race" campaign)?

Well, we shall see. In my view it's an attack almost tailor made for a counter-attack from Obama-- "the old politics of fear" rearing their ugly head. Why can't we all get along? Given the popularity of a similar message on the Republican side from the non-money-man and non-war-monger Mike Huckabee, a man whose "moral values" might actually mean genuine Christian charity for his fellow man... this might not be the best time for this particular attack.

But old habits die hard, I suppose.

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January 3, 2008, The triumph of hope (and Hope, AR) over "experience"

The results are in from the Iowa caucuses.

On the Democratic side, it's Obama (38%), Edwards (30%) and H. Clinton (29%), with Richardson and Biden in low single digits, and Dodd under 1% and withdrawing from the race. This was predicted as a close 3-way, and it was. It seems that, at least in lily-white Iowa, America's First Black PresidentTM proved a liability for America's First Woman PresidentTM, and may well help elect America's actual first Black President (not to mention the first President from my college-- and my college class no less)! Oprah, it seems, is every bit as popular as we think she is. That, and Barack is just so God damned likeable. Will everyone finally get off Al Gore's back, and realize that but for the Monica Lewinsky scandal, he would be the President now... not having Bill campaign for him was not a mistake. There, I said it.

I looked up the Wiki results for the 2004 caucuses, and it was most fascinating:
Kerry (37.4%) got around the same percentage Obama did, with Edwards virtually duplicating his 2004 performance (then 31.4%), with the remaining third or so split by Dean (around 18%) and Gephardt (around 10%). Anyway, New Hampshire is in five days, and Hillary has now gone from badly needing a win there to being in an almost must-win situation there, in short, the Howard Dean situation of 2004. Edwards needs Obama not to win there, otherwise, he will soon be lobbying Barack to be his veep candidate! And just as Barack strangled Hillary with her supposed "fundraising advantage", he is now 1-0 in a contest involving actual voters; IMHO, Hillary cannot let him go 2-0, now matter what super-duper Tuesday, or Florida or South Carolina polls show. Her entire appeal is based on her inevitability... that would seem to be a problem now.

On the Republican side, it's the darkest of dark-horses, yet another Arkansas governor (from Hope, AR, no less!), Mike Huckabee, with 34%, followed by Mitt Romney at 24%, Thompson and McCain tied at 13%, Ron Paul at 10% and National Frontrunner Rudy GiulianiTM... at a pathetic 3%. It seems that the voters in Iowa actually appreciated the fact that Baptist minister Huckabee might have sincere religious principles, rather than the usual Republican tendency to trot out "moral values" which would never ever meaning providing food, clothing, education or medical care to the poor if it meant not cutting capital gains taxes for the super-rich. In short, much as Democrats would rather run the Harvard, Yale or Chapel Hill law school grad against Huckabee, the folksy preacher whose answer to foreign policy questions is "I stayed in a Holiday Inn Express last night"... the Republicans would rather not run him, as unlike Hedge Fund Mitt, or Influence Peddler Rudy, or Hollywood Fred, or even I-sold-my-soul-for-this-nomination-damn-it-John... Huckabee cannot be trusted by the moneyed interests dominating the Grand Old Party to look out for the interests of the powerful.

Which takes us to New Hampshire. The folksy Southern governor isn't going to win there, however, if he finishes third or better there, it would be huge, and he may well win South Carolina, in which case, whoa Nelly going into super-duper Tuesday. Romney, who bet the farm on Iowa and New Hampshire to carry him, simply must win New Hampshire, period. Fred Thompson has to do third or better in New Hampshire, or at least "better than McCain". McCain has to do second or better, or at least "better than Romney". Ron Paul is the under-covered story of the year; his anti-war stance render him a threat to the powerful of the GOP as well, which is why Fox excluded him from its debate. And Rudy should, by rights, drop out but then, by rights, he shouldn't still be here. Look for a comparably disastrous finish for him in New Hampshire, then in South Carolina, and somehow that huge win in Florida ain't happening.

Let's just say that the Huckabee situation is more staggering even than the huge Barack story... outsiders (Jimmy Carter or Bill Clinton) always have a chance among Democrats if they can appeal to voters; Republicans are about primogeniture... this is the first time since 1964 that there won't be a Bush, a Nixon or a Dole on the ticket... their candidates are not merely conservative but dynastic. The sincere, folksy, likeable Huckabee is the kind of candidate Democrats might go for... now watch the Republicans unify to shoot him down. There's no place for an actual "will of the voters" movement in the GOP. None. I'm sorry Governor, but you have nowhere to go. Huckabee's win in Iowa shakes up the field like nobody's business.

What a night! This has been... The triumph of hope (and Hope, AR) over "experience".

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January 2, 2008, America's influence peddler mayor

It's 2008, the Iowa caucuses are tomorrow, so it's time for... another Rudy Giuliani scandal. In this case, for a change (and I do mean for a change) there appears to be no crime actually committed by Rudy himself... the Grey Lady gives us this lengthy article on the subject of St. Rudy's intervention with a rural Virginia federal prosecutor concerning an investigation and ultimately guilty plea of a Connecticut based pharmaceutical company who misled doctors and consumers and regulators about the addictive effects of the pain medication oxycontin.

It seems that many relatives of young people who died after abusing oxycontin believe that the principals of Purdue Pharma, the drug company, avoided jail time (though they paid fines and penalties in excess of half a billion dollars) thanks to the hand of Giuliani.

Of course, this might be a big part of the reason that Giuliani still refuses to tell us who the clients of Giuliani and Partners actually are. So this sort of thing might be a regular occurrence in Rudy-world.

I once had this discussion in the context of Robert Luskin, Karl Rove's criminal defense lawyer. My take is that there is no reason to be hard on the guy (Luskin, that is): a top criminal defense lawyer is paid quite handsomely to get disagreeable people off... or at least, to minimize their exposure (whether measured in jail time, money or both). It's nothing for the rest of us to hold against them: it's their job. That we have a system under which reasonable doubt may often be purchased for a reasonable (or unreasonable) fee is not the fault of those individuals who undertake to do their part in the system as criminal defense attorneys (most of whom, btw are not particularly well paid.) Some, of course, do make quite a handsome living at it, particularly when their stature (or sometimes their legal acumen) make them formidable, and prosecutors might well re-think their cases and cut seemingly unimaginably good deals for the defendants.

Is it an "honorable" living? Hey, that's up to one's own conscience. Rudy is a man who told his wife he wanted a divorce by announcing it at a television news conference before telling her. He is a man who is himself arguably responsible for the deaths of dozens if not hundreds of firefighters who could not evacuate the World Trade Center because they could not hear the "mayday" signal because Rudy the mayor never bothered (in nearly 8 years in office) to ensure that they had basic communications equipment that actually functioned in high-rise buildings like the WTC-- an issue that first arose during the 1993 WTC bombing. Nonetheless, Rudy campaigned on their very blood, assigning himself the role of "head hero" and adopting 9-11 as his own noun, adjective, verb, and self-description. In short... Rudy Giuliani is simply not a man to be troubled by mundane matters of conscience.

And Rudy has built himself quite a nest-egg doing this sort of thing. At $30 million or so (or perhaps, more), Rudy's net worth is around the same as John Edwards, who of course is duly derided as the "wealthy trial lawyer," famous for getting pricey haircuts (Hillary, btw, whose husband was also famous for getting expensive haircuts, lists her family assets at between $10 and $50 million). But I digress...

Needless to say, Rudy has made most of that blood money income since his 9-11 days; prior to that, he spent much of his career in the public sector, not exactly raking in the bucks. It would seem, btw, that a lot of his presidential run might be more about drumming up business than winning the presidency; his poll numbers have been tanking and he will, almost certainly, do poorly in Iowa and New Hampshire. Well, who knows? Maybe Rudy can stop taking time off from lucrative influence peddling with this annoying presidential run in 2 or 3 weeks time, and get back to that $15 to $20 million per year paycheck.

Let's all hope that the candidate best described by New York's uber-columnist Jimmy Breslin as "a small man in search of a balcony"... does just that. For his sake... and for ours.

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January 2, 2008, National pride

Finally, the bad news about the United States of America not being in the top tier in stupid things like life expectancy, infant mortality, education of our children, and so forth, just has to give way, because we are among the world's elite... in the category of surveillance states. (h/t/ U.O.) We join other notables like China, Russia, and the United Kingdom in this elite category.

Yes, the U.K. has a big edge on us in surveillance cameras; we certainly have our work cut out for us to catch up on that one. Further, the U.K.'s "unwritten Constitution" gives that the nation the "flexibility" to do what needs to be done to keep an eye on its citizens and residents getting too uppity. To our nation's credit, our monitoring of the internet and telephone calls-- particularly since, doing so without a warrant violates our Constitution and statutes-- helps keep us safely in the first rank, as does our over-the-top information gathering on anyone who dares (legally!) visit here as a tourist or business-person or temporary worker.

Canada, which of late has been kicking our ass in terms of its currency, doesn't even come close to our nation's current paranoid obsession with needing to keep tabs on everyone. Hosers, eh?

So, in short... we Americans have much to be proud of. U.! S.! A.! U.! S.! A.! U.! S.! A.!

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January 1, 2008, Welcome to 2008

As I sit here listening to a repeat local broadcast of Naomi Wolf tell us about current parallels to Weimar Germany (hint: think "Blackwater in the streets")... we'll jump right in with the WaPo's account of the detention of Saudi blogger Fouad al-Farhan. Fouad had, evidently, been warned that his blogging, which often was critical of government corruption and critical of other arbitrary detentions in Saudi Arabia, might get him in trouble. Apparently it has, as he has been arrested for violating mysterious "regulations not related to state security".

Our supposed key ally Saudi Arabia, now led by King Abdullah, who, to his credit, has lightened up a bit on the usual absolute ban on dissent, is nonetheless in no sense, no sense whatsoever, a bastion of freedom of, well, anything.

In Fouad's case, it seems, his criticism of the arbitrary detention of a group of men detained must have pissed off someone important:

Even so, Farhan told The Washington Post and others in early December that an Interior Ministry official had warned him that he would be detained because of his online support for a group of men arrested in February and held without charge or trial.

At the time of their arrest, the government accused the Jiddah-based group, made up of a former judge, academics and businessmen, of supporting terrorism. The men's attorney, Bassim Alim, had said they were arrested for their political activism and their plans to form a civil rights group.

Oh well. An aberration (Fouad is supposedly the first arrest of an on-line government critic in Saudi)... or a roadmap (after all, China has been doing this sort of thing for... some time)?

We'll just file this as one of the early cautionary tales of our brand new year.

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