The Talking Dog

November 30, 2009, Yada yada yada...

This year of 2009 has been an amazing year for notable men of color... obviously, Barack Obama has led the charge as the first African American President... but after him, it seems to have been a tough year indeed. Poor Michael Jackson got a fatal overdose of some tranquilizer while trying to prepare for his comeback tour...and now Tiger Woods gets clocked on the head by his wife with his own golf clubs in a "car accident"... just saying.

Where was I going with this? Oh yes... I was going to note that President Obama has done a complete 180 with respect to the position once taken by alleged constitutional law professor senior lecturer Senator Obama with respect to proposed extensions of some of the more egregiously intrusive provisions of the USA Patriot Act. Yada yada yada... the ACLU isn't pleased.

And the rest of us shouldn't be either. Greenwald notes the odd acceptance of policies reviled when Bush engaged in them simply as a matter of partisan preference... a troubling trend that completely overlooks the fact that our two political parties are so close ideologically they can only be separated by a crowbar (and highly paid pundits must come out to tell us what the differences are), and hence, only a cad would expect the President to actually adhere to those promises he made during the campaign.

And I'm not even going to mention that country that begins with "A" that he's planning on sending more troops into... beyond that, anyway...

But hey... you'all kind of knew all of that... so, let's all just hunker down and realize that the war to restore this country's soul and the precious liberties for which it was founded will be a long one, and our supposed allies, the alleged constitutional law professors senior lecturers... may be the first ones to sell us out as soon as they acquire power. This has been.... yada yada yada...

November 28, 2009, Sublime blogging

This homily from Chris Dashiell pretty much sums up Western civilization (of which as Gandhi said, "I think it would be an excellent idea") as succinctly and eloquently as anything I have ever read.

And from "the sublime" to the... "less sublime..." Candace lightens up an otherwise dark era with this.

Enjoy the remainder of your holiday weekend.

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November 25, 2009, And then there were...

Greenwald tells us about the resignation of Phil Carter as the DOD official in charge of detainee affairs, a job once held by Cully Stimson. Carter, a former blogger and staunch critic of the Bush Administration's detainee policies... got to watch the Administration he helped elect... adopt the same policies, lock, stock and barrel (only throwing in the element of going back to the loathsome Congress for even more dictatorial authority).

Supposedly, Carter's resignation, after less than a year in office, was for
"personal" rather than "policy" reasons. Well, Carter, a lawyer and former Captain in the Army, is a good soldier in the Colin Powell model of not publicly criticizing the boss. He joins Greg Craig as a friend-of-the-Constitution who has abruptly up and left the Obama Administration. Is personnel destiny?

Don't know. Given the events that have transpired as explained in my most recent posts... just color me... horrified.

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November 22, 2009, Disappointments

We'll start with a rare running-related disappointment (my standards are low!)... an unprecedented involuntary DNF ("did not finish") in yesterday's JFK-50 miler... I failed to meet an intermediate time cut-off, and my day was over at mile 27.3; I might have met the 12 hour cut-off for the 50 miles, but just could not do that after 13 miles of extremely unpleasant Appalachian Trail terrain. Such is life. Genuine introspection to follow.

And in a less surprising disappointment, see my prior post, ___ at last. For various reasons, that's all I'll say on the subject.

This has been... "disappointments."

November 17, 2009, ____ at last

This post over at Scotusblog explains why the post that was here (and should still be here) isn't here anymore.

That's pretty much all I can say on the subject. We should at least have the presence of mind to recognize our worst fears: after a seemingly interminable, dark eight years of the Bush Administration, we finally elected a Democratic President, believing that he would even remotely keep to the spirit, if not to the letter of his core promises re restoration of the rule of law. He did no such thing. The only thing he has proven effective at thus far is shivving liberals, and of course, perpetuating (and then upping the ante!) on the Bush "national security state". He was elected to end two wars, and hence, he is continuing them and increasing their intensity. I am 100% convinced that his prior status as a "Constitutional Law Professor Senior Lecturer" is 100% a fraud. Apparently he and his Justice Dept. missed the lecture on the First Amendment.

That's that. It seems the endlessness justifies the meaningless. The only point is the ability to bring down the jackboot.

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November 16, 2009, Happy birthday...

To Mrs. TD.

November 13, 2009, Triskadekophobia

On this Friday the 13th (that we wish Andy a happy return to the Mother Country; we were delighted to host him at Stately Dog Manor as he brought his wonderful film "Outside the Law" to its North American debuts), we'll start with news of Andy's appearance on Democracy Now! which fortuitously coincided with the day's big news, that Ron Jeremy Khalid Sheikh Mohammad and four others allegedly implicated in master-minding the 9-11 attacks will be tried in federal court in New York City.

Unfortunately, the announcement coincides with plans to try five others in the rightly much maligned kangaroo courts military commissions, and, just to add to the large scale news-burial on a Friday (Greenwald has more)... perhaps something is being signaled in that White House Counsel Greg Craig resigned today... I can only surmise that he was asked to fall on his sword and will doubtless be the public face of having dared suggest that Obama promise that he would close GTMO within a year of inauguration... I, and many others, felt that a month might have been workable to close GTMO, but a year was out of the question, as it would permit the forces of totalitarianism otherwise known as "Congress" to be their usual dimwitted and fascistic selves... and, well, you know the rest...

The thing with today's announcement is that there is something in it to infuriate just about everyone. Many Americans of the true-fascist variety want to know why we're bothering with "trials" at all, and don't just move right into executions... after all, we've been told these guys are all guilty for so long that it must be true, right? Some of the squeamish are upset that our Holy City of New York will have to dredge up difficult feelings of 9-11 (such people have obviously never heard Rudy Giuliani give a speech). And sticklers for "the law" like me are appalled that the military commissions are still part of the equation: why must some detainees get a recognized set of due process protections, and another group gets the arbitrary, made-up "justice" of the military commissions... or perhaps, one could ask why do some detainees get the possibility of the rather lenient sentencing of the commissions while others face the harsh sentences in the federal courts? Either way... why not one consistent method of adjudication, say, either the federal courts or military courts marital (not military commissions), which are internationally recognized as procedurally fair?

The unspoken premise is that federal court protections might result in some unwanted acquittals... but if the problem is releasing people we don't want to release, international and American law already give us the expedient of simply calling the detainees... wait for it... "Prisoners of War." We can justifiably hold them until the end of hostilities-- for Taliban, when Mullah Omar surrenders or signs a peace treaty, for A.Q., when OBL and Zawahiri turn themselves in and renounce jihad. Since some of you will rightly note that neither of those events is very likely, that hostilities against the Taliban and A.Q. may go on for decades if not generations... I've answered the issue with a lawful, recognized basis to hold Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters for a long, long time without the insidious and dictatorial prospect of codified "indefinite detention" whose real purpose is to silence our nation's house-guests lest they reveal the full extent of the torture and abuse they have suffered under our hospitality. Let's just say that's not a very good reason to undermine our international standing and jeopardize our own troops in harm's way... not to mention shred the Bill of Rights and quite literally risk our own fundamental liberties with a "by-pass" provision handed to the Government to "protect us" by locking any of us up indefinitely at executive whim... but hey, that's just me.

Enjoy the remainder of your Friday the 13th folks... and let's be careful out there!

November 12, 2009, A tale of two pities

A plethora of non-bloggy obligations has slowed posting down to... none-existent, come to think of it! Well then...

The Grey Lady gives us this op-ed comparing the judicial reactions to two "extraordinary renditions," one from an Italian court that convicted nearly two dozen defendants for the (unbelievably brazen broad daylight) kidnapping of Abu Omar off of the streets of Milan (to a dungeon in Egypt), and the other in my fair city, where the Second Circuit of Appeals dismissed the civil suit brought by Canadian kidnap victim Maher Arar (to a torture chamber in Syria). Let's just say that the Times prefers the Italian court's decision to the American one's.

Interesting... the Obama Administration did not miss a beat in asserting precisely the same defenses as its predecessor, and the Second Circuit did not miss a beat in rubber-stamping the notion that when it comes to ordering innocent people to be tortured abroad... the American courts just head straight for the fainting couches, and simply "cannot" step in to "create rights" that they don't want to.

(Discussions of the background of Marar's case may be found in my interview with Jonathan Hafetz; background re Abu Omar may be found in my interview with Joanne Mariner).

The Grey Lady urges the Supreme Court to accept review and then reverse Marar's case; I see that as "unlikely." Indeed, not much is going to happen until a genuine political groundswell of more than a few activists develops... if Americans want our halos back (as doing the work of the angels on the world's human rights issues, and otherwise enjoying the reputation as the gold-standard in international behavior)... we're going to have to demand that we get them back. Until then... we just won't.

November 4, 2009, Party building

No real surprises yesterday in the big ones (NJ, VA, NYC), where Republicans swept. Most interesting was my fair city's Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who won by a much narrower margin than anticipated, despite outspending challenger Bill Thompson by something like $100 million to $8 million. NJ and VA, being uniquely states with gubernatorial races the year after Presidential races, frequently vote against the party in the White House, and this year was no exception. And in NYC, Mike Bloomberg is actually a Democrat who cynically ran as a Republican to cut through the professional pols on the Dem side, and then left the GOP, and this year, after ditching term limits he once supported, took their nomination again... making this the 5th mayoral election in a row that the Democrats lost in an overwhelmingly Democratic city.

And where was President Barack Obama, who you'd think might want to help support the possibility of our nation's largest municipality having not merely a Democratic mayor, but an African American Democrat at that? While he wasn't damning Thompson with faint praise (and tacitly supporting Bloomberg), he was out there stumping for a man Democrats should actually be delighted to see go, former Goldman Sacks chairman and all-around jerk, now outgoing New Jersey Governor Jon Corzine who lost to Chris Christie, a man selected by Karl Rove to be U.S. Attorney for New Jersey (and who also seems to have issues with traffic laws). Christie actually ran one of the vaguest and mushiest campaigns since... Barack Obama. And Corzine was just never popular. The spin will be that it was about high property taxes; the reality is that no one really liked Corzine, who never polled above 43%... political death for an incumbent. (In VA, Creigh Deeds just ran an awful campaign; not much more to say there.)

Anyway... WTF re: the President? With Barack, it seems to be about "follow the money." It certainly has defined much of his own political rocket-ride. Thanks to money, Barack exempted himself from the exhausting (and often ambition and soul destroying) tedium that the rest of us have known as "careers" through the expedient of getting his million dollar book deal, plus his sweetheart gig at U. of Chicago Law School not to teach Constitutional Law (which probably explains why he doesn't seem to know any; "those that can't do teach," and "those that can't teach take positions as "senior lecturer" so they don't have to.") And he befriended investment bankers and others capable of bankrolling his meteoric rise. (For the most part, it's just professional jealousy on my part, because, quite frankly, there was a time in my life, probably a short time, but a time anyway, probably when we were both juniors or seniors at the same college, when I may have been better positioned than Barack... he just seized opportunities that I, taking a much more conventional path, did not even see... but I digress...)

TD... TD... Whoah, there, man! You're harshing our mellow about your college classmate the President, man! WTF? Oops... sorry. I sometimes have to say it like it is. I'll keep supporting Barack because the Republicans aren't going to give us any alternatives-- they're going to keep getting more and more bat-shit like they did in upstate NY's 23rd C.D. (where their suicidal/fratricidal idiocy allowed the Democrat to win.)

While the 23rd C.D. was, at least, an opportunity to see Republicans behave the way Democrats usually do (with the results that Democrats usually get for that behavior), the broader picture, of national-standardbearer Barack Obama behaving like just another DLC corporate whore simply aligning himself with the money... is disheartening. Throw in his stand on the Constitution and the continued glorification/expansion of the national security state... (one where torture of admittedly innocent men is now officially court sanctioned) and it's more than a little disheartening.

Well, we'll all have to take a deep breath, and go about our days, and try to make this a better world to the little extent that we can, I guess...

This has been... "Party building."

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November 1, 2009, Leaving comfort zones

Although today's ING NYC Marathon marked my 25th marathon distance race (and 9th consecutive New York City Marathon), it was the first time I ran a distance longer than the 26.2 miles, having elected to add a 3.5 mile or so jog to the Staten Island Ferry, and then a 3.5 mile or so jog from the ferry to the start at Fort Wadsworth. It's hard to believe that a 5 or 5 1/2 hour marathon distance race is a "comfort zone," but after dozens of such in the last few years... it ends up working out that way. And so, in preparation for a really big departure from comfort zone, the JFK-50 miler, I had to do something resembling an "ultra," today's mileage totalling 33 miles or thereabouts.

And the other (bigger) comfort zone for the marathon is that "American runners don't win the big ones"; indeed no American man had won the New York since Alberto Salazar did it in 1982 when I was in college, and it had been since 1979, when I was in high school, that six Americans finished in the top ten. Well, today, both of those comfort zones were smashed, as the great Meb Kaflezighi led a stunning showing by the Americans, finishing something like four hours ahead of... me. I take some comfort in knowing that if I duplicated my NYC best... Meb would have finished something like... three hours ahead of me. Plus... unless I'm mistaken, there don't appear to be reports of any deaths at this year's NYC... go us!!!

In other news, it appears that there are political capitulations all over the place... such as in Honduras (sort of), in Afghanistan,
and in upstate New York's 23rd Congressional District. Apropos of... well, never mind.

Let's justsay there was no capitulation on the streets of New York City today... nosiree.