The Talking Dog

December 31, 2009, Alas, another New Year's Eve

I see that this time last year, I was much more upbeat than I am now. Maybe it was like finding a shiny new penny... so exciting, until you realize that it has no buying power. Or perhaps it was like embarking on that long-awaited vacation, before the unpleasant reality that "it may be fun while it lasts (or perhaps it won't be), but in any event it's not really going to change anything once you get back to the usual humdrum or pain or whatever it is that defines your life." But it proved to be something like that.

And so, it seems, we have encountered 2009. Obviously, the year still started with the dominant figure of the decade, Dubya, a man best known by a mispronunciation of the first letter of his middle name (which is "Walker," btw) sitting in the big chair, doubtless counting down the days until he left Washington with the same gusto as the rest of us. And after him, we would finally have someone whose very name deviated so dramatically from the monchromatic Anglo-ness of Presidents past coalesced with his twin nebulous campaign promises of "hope" and "change" (the latter properly pronounced in the French and rhyming with the last syllable of "duck l'orange").

But it's clear that by the end of 2009, we are not merely disappointed (say, our anticipated week of Caribbean sunshine was, instead, met with a solid week of rain, in which case, we could at least have the good sense to chug pina-coladas and head for the casino), but affirmatively disillusioned, or more accurately, devastated. WTF happened?

Things foreshadowed badly in a political sense pretty early-- maybe a week into the presidency-- as it appeared that the President was pursuing "bipartisanship" as if it were some kind of good in its own right,
even as the most popular tune in much of America was "Barack the Magic Negro"... and if the Republicans would not play ball on a comparatively easy economic stimulus package at a time when Obama's stock was at apex, it seemed clear that wasting time trying to get their support-- any of their support at all-- was nuts, when the expedient of budget reconciliation and its mere 51-votes-in-the-Senate needed-- i.e., how Dubya governed-- was the way to go. So... the foreshadowing of political incompetence was set. But then...

Not even a fortnight in, "extraordinary rendition" was retained "as a policy option." The Obama Administration continued the mean-spirited appeal to bar cleared Uighur Guantanamo detainees whose only crime was hostility to Communist China from entry into the United States. And, this is the one that tipped most of us that "change" was, at best, going to be of the "pocket change" variety, the Obama Administration was hellbent on maintaining "state secrets" as an overarching legal position designed to evade accountability-- not just of itself, but of its predecessor and their contractors.

The following month saw the kind of "change" we would actually get: change in nomenclature. A bit later, we saw some more stonewalling on release of photographic depictions of abuse, and by mid-May, we knew that nothing at all had changed when the Administration announced that it was going back to the use of military commissions that candidate Obama had railed against so eloquently. While it was good to see the nomination of the nation's first Latina Supreme Court justice, this is more atmospherics than substance, which is pretty much all one can say about the Obama Administration. Any doubts that we had, in fact, evidently voted for a third term of George W.. Bush were disabused when the Obama Administration began touting its own version of "preventive detention."

And we had an inkling last summer that "health care reform" wasn't exactly on track; ultimately, what we got amounted to a government fiat that millions of people who can't afford private health insurance pay for it anyway. And we were going to get months of dithering on "what to do with Afghanistan" (followed ultimately by "more of same.")

We then got more stonewalling; more stupidity; and of course... more stonewalling. To interrupt the stonewalling and stupidity, the Supreme Court took Kiyemba, for the proposition that habeas corpus might mean something... maybe.

And speaking of stonewalling, by November, for the first time in over eight years of blogging, most of them during the despised Bush Administration, I found myself the subject of government censorship at the hands of my college classmate's Administration; it being the subject of censorship... I can't really explain further.

Unsurprisingly, a much vaunted climate change summit went nowhere, coupled with the President espousing the virtues of war while accepting a peace prize.

That's the year that was, in macro- terms. At least in micro-terms, things here at Stately Dog Manor progress along; we're all a year older but still together and still mostly there (even as I fear the ravages of time are ravaging my intermediate term memory)... we traveled to new and exciting places... we're still gainfully employed even in these troubled economic times... and now we even have two bouncy kittens... and maybe those are the only things that truly matter? Hey, we have our health, right? This has been, "Alas, another New Year's Eve." Happy new year, everybody! May next year be a healthy, happy, fulfilling and productive one.

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December 30, 2009, Fin de siecle

Loyal reader Michael from Mass. sends along this piece of snarky brilliance from "Who is IOZ?" I can't really top it; the brilliant synthesis of the micro- and macro- of what my country has become, makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time. To wit:

While good progressive types bray that the traitorous Obama econ team is feverishly working to reinflate the bubble, as if Larry Summers et alia were unaware of their own project, from my cheap seats it seems the perfectly reasonable thing to do, if indeed your ultimate goal is the maintenance of a vast, underliterate, overweight, edge-of-poverty, reactionary, religious, chauvinistic, bovine, compliant, wage-slave consumer class down whose ever-hungry gullets you can shove ever more crap in order to fund the vast and indifferent engine of hegemony. Do you think America is going to get any less fat and stupid over the next ten years? Whyever so, when precisely that society has so well served the interests of expansionism? I was in a Wal-Mart last week and saw a man the size of seventeen of me zipping around in a Rascal. On the back-end of the seat was the old, familiar bumper sticker. "These Colors Don't Run!"

To coin a phrase... indeed.

Happy new year, everybody. I'll doubtless say that a few more times... but, hey... happy new year, everybody.

December 27, 2009, An enigma...wrapped in a pita

This Ashura, things is heating up in Iran again, with reports of violent clashes between street protestors and forces loyal to the "government" led by Mahmoud Ahmadinedjad and supreme leader Ayatollah Khamani; among the reported dead is the nephew of opposition presidential candidate (and opposition leader) Mir Hossain Mousavi.

Assuming arguendo that our Presidential elections actually matter (and if the 2008 election hasn't already disabused us of that ridiculous notion, I don't know what will), one must still at least give the Iranians props for refusing to sit idly by when a presidential election is so clearly stolen right in front of them. Then again, maybe their elections actually do matter.

Whichever scenario it is, the ongoing protests of the "reelection" of Iranian President Ahmadinedjad with the help of well-organized government thugs "complicate" American policy toward the usually perceived as inscrutible Iranian regime. Alas, neither the comic-book "Axis of Evil" Bush treatment, nor the New Agey "we have to engage and invite 'em over for 4th-of-July-barbecues" Obama approach, seems to provide all the answers. Because, of course, the situation is... wait for it... "complicated." A big part of the complication will come from our friends in Israel, who are rightly concerned about the threat of a nuclear-armed Iran. Notwithstanding my preternatural attachment to Israel's interests as an American Jew, I have come to the conclusion after the role of the Neocon/Likudnik alliance in getting us suckered into the Iraqi quagmire as supposedly in Israel's interests, that given the aftermath of that fiasco and the fact that it was easily foreseeable, those purporting to speak for the hawkish Israeli wing... have no credibility whatsoever, and have demonstrated that they are not competent enough to even tell us what is in Israel's best interests, let alone the best interests of the United States.

That said, it seems to me that the relevant way to deal with Iranian protests is to quietly support them, while not overtly giving the regime any basis to scream that the Great Satan is intervening in a way that has any credibility. As to Iranian nuclear ambitions, alas, the Iranian regime itself is highly cryptic, and given American regime change policies elsewhere in the Muslim world, it seems hard to believe Iran will surrender its nuclear ambitions if that is the question in a vacuum. A deal involving principal nuke supplier Russia as well as likely U.N.-anything-vetoer China would have to be worked out, and a sale made that something containing Iran is in their broader interests... how? Don't know... but it might involve American ambitions (as if we didn't have any) elsewhere (starting with, say, Iraq and Afghanistan...)

Don't know if it can all be worked out... as I said in a prior post, most of the "options" are bad... I'm just hoping one is definitively less bad...

December 26, 2009, Boxing Day Musings

I don't agree with Congressman Dennis Kucinich on everything, but after a while, I find that I agree with him on more and more things, such as his sentiment that generals who publicly advocated certain military policies viz Afghanistan should be fired [as an aside, note the tenor of the comments, and one can, I suppose, get a flavor for who reads "The Hill," or at least, who read that particular post.] Kucinich went much farther than I did, of course, in calling for a complete American pullout from Afghanistan (which, unlike a pullout from Iraq, which is essential), I remain unconvinced is "a good idea," though of course, I am certainly also unconvinced that "a surge" from the 189,000 American personnel already in Afghanistan is going to make much of a difference either, other than, probably, getting more people killed (on all sides of the Afghan conflict). But what can you do? As with Iran, Afghanistan/Pakistan (they have to be seen as a unitary situation) has few or no "good" answers, albeit lots of bad ones.

And as time goes on, I'm not as convinced as I once was of the silliness of Kucinich's proposed "Department of Peace." Obviously, the military-industrial-Congressional-entertainment-financial-healthcare--energy-complex (I think that's all of them) isn't just going to dismantle our over 60-year old permanent war machine...but it's a nice thought, and maybe nice thoughts might deter crazy-ass Nigerians from trying to set themselves on fire on airplanes ("I'd like to sit in the 'no self-immolation section', please"), although to be sure, it probably would not.

Well, it is less likely, of course, that thanks to the universal paranoia that has swept the world (particularly the West) since 9-11, that a lone madman could take out an airplane in that manner without the other passengers intervening to thwart it, the question is whether the wild official American overreaction (two major wars and the attendant thousands of dead and wounded in blood costs and trillions of dollars in treasure costs, embrace of torture, civil liberties rollbacks, etc.)... has made us any "safer."

Here's the thing (while I conveniently evade the question, allowing the reader only to infer my answer, though I will submit the question is ridiculous and irrelevant): until to a great extent China and to a lesser extent India began dramatic movement toward industrializing, we had a reasonable chance of deluding ourselves into thinking that our peculiarly untenably gluttonous use of planetary resources could go on indefinitely (defined as "the party won't end until at least the far end of the life-spans of anyone currently alive"). Well, now that China and India and their 2.6 billion people have added their pent-up demand to that of the USA/EU/Japan and "our" billion or so people... you see the problem, starting with oil and electricity, moving right on to food and water and land and timber and minerals and you name it. Eventually, an equilibrium of sorts will set in, and on the scales of billions of people, the usual way we settle such things is with conflicts great and small... and since everyone involved at the forefront of the struggle (save Japan) is nuclear armed... well, one can draw their own conclusions.

The grim realities of global flooding are such that we can probably no longer afford to screw around with the usual failed human organizations (the modern nation-state, the pathetically weak international organizations that the modern nation-states have allowed, and the modern business corporation) within the time frame we have, before the climate alteration becomes... irreversibly unpleasant (maybe 20 or 30 years, probably less). We won't talk about "Venus Syndrome," because, well, it would be too depressing.

How does this tie in to Kucinich, Afghanistan, etc.? You got it: by and large, these are all forms of weapons of mass distraction, to divert attention so that none of us can ask the fundamental question: is our "technology" (and we must include "organizational" technology of the nation state and the business corporation) up to the necessary task of "self-correction" on a global scale to ameliorate the worst effects of their excesses to date? Once again... I'll leave it to you to infer the answer I would give, and otherwise ask you to draw your own conclusions.

December 23, 2009, The most wonderful time of the year

Festivus spokesperson Frank Costanza

December 22, 2009, Good riddance, 'aughties

On this, the final Festivus Eve of this decade... one is just never quite sure what to call the first decade of the new century/millenium... from 2000 to 2009... obviously, the decade ("the aughties"? the "2000's?" the zero's?) has a personal significance to each of us...

Still, on a macro-scale, I find it difficult to argue with Juan Cole's assessment that it was basically "The Bush Decade," and as such, it sucked. Bush himself was more of a stand-in for the aspirations of the already rich and powerful to suck up whatever means of production and wealth they didn't already own and control... and as such, Juan's perverse "top ten list" makes one cringe with recognition.

The most miserable recognition of all, unstated by Juan so I'll say it, is that while the Bush/Cheney era was peculiarly toxic, it was largely amplifying trends already well in motion (and largely accelerating in the Clinton years), and the corporate interests (that's simply "very rich people") largely have had their way no matter which political party held nominal power, and why the departure of that loathsome parasite known as the Bush Administration on our body-politic... probably won't matter too much...

Let's face it, the election of Obama isn't going to change very much (as we have seen with something as simple as relocating 200 or so mostly acknowledged as innocent men from a gulag officially under his direct command), as even if Obama actually wants to do something his our corporate masters don't like (and, btw, it's not clear to me Obama isn't delighted with the whole police-state thing)... it simply won't happen. So imagine genuine health or welfare or environmental reform, let alone electoral reform or the restoration of progressive taxation.

Why? Because of the genius of turning our Constitutional structire on its head, via the brilliant tie-in of racism to get Southern and Midwestern regional lower- and lower-middle-class White voters to consistently support the interests of the plutocracy (despite the clear detrimental nature of policies favoring the rich to lower- and lower-middle class people's own interests). That tie-in has permitted the leveraging of the already absurd veto points in our system... and voila... nothing happens that the corporate interests don't want, and with simple appeals to racism [duly coded, of course, as "God-fearing, family values"], there is always enough juice to defeat any actual social reform.

Besides...many Americans are simply stupid, and have no idea what their interests actually are. And since our forbears were energetic enough to place us in a dominant economic, political and military position, we're likely to take that stupidity all the way toward rendering human civilization unviable on this planet, and we'll certainly make things far, far less comfortable. But I'll agree with Juan that it all came to the fore in the '00's, under the banner of George W. Bush, and he and his minions brilliantly played every angle to seize and then hold power... though again, I assert that his reign was a matter of degree... the trends were already in place, and lest we forget, Democrats merrily supported the sacred Bush tax cuts that were the underpinning of much of the rest of the crappy decade, such as happily going along with virtually every police state measure that came down the pike in the aftermath of the 9-11 attack that Bush's minions failed to take any effort to prevent in the first place.

Well... on a macro-scale, a decade that left much to be desired, not the least of which is the fact that we'll be paying for it one way or another at least for the rest of our own natural lives. This has been... "Good riddance, 'aughties."

December 21, 2009, Vox parvi populi

Not the most bestest singer in the universe Taylor Swift

So you didn't think you'd see me back here, did you now? Well, here I am, in an obvious demonstration that with "health care" reform safely through the Senate, global warming safely on track to be flooding my home town of New York City well before the time I'm Daddy's age, and other stuff, Daddy is simply out of ideas... it is clear that once again, only a cool picture of some teeny-bopper superstar remains the only hope for traffic on this blog. Hence, even though it's a school night... it's time for... Vox...Parvi... Populiiiiiiiiii!!!!!!!! Yes... we're baaaaaacccckkkk!!!!

And up there is superstar singer Taylor Swift. Her best work is "Just a Zombie."

Beyond that, come to think of it, I seem to be as out of ideas as Daddy is. Enjoy the video. Happy winter solstice. Have a nice day.

This has been... "Vox parvi populi!"

December 18, 2009, The imperfect is the enemy of the good

The "climate deal." "Too little too late"... much ado about not much...

Well... those of us who had little hope for anything constructuve out of the Copenhagen summit... weren't disappointed. We got a rather vague "agreement" with no numbers, no oversight... and I'm not quite sure what. Perhaps "details" will follow.

Not particularly good news for humanity, of course, especially those of us who live close to sea level.

December 18, 2009, The Perfect is the Enemy of the Better than Nothing

Krugman suggests, simply, "pass the bill." This, of course, is the flawed "health care reform" bill. I will just say that the Senate bill, if anything gets passed, can be reconciled with the inconsistent House bill, and then a bill, by no means good but better than the crap that is left in the Senate bill, can be rammed through via the 51-votes-needed reconciliation process, if the President and the majority leadership have the cojones to do things the way Bush and the Republicans did for years. And, as Krugman notes, the bill can be improved in years to come... I fully agree that if no bill passes now, then we can expect that no health care reform will ever pass.

Well... I'm cynical enough as it is -- I'll give the Administration credit for at least trying to do right on this one, and just not having the ability to get it done, rather than because of any ill-intention. (For ill-intention of the Obama Administration, just read any other post on this blog in the last few months.)

I have long since given up trying to keep up with the public option, the Medicare expansion, or anything else put forth for the sole purpose of disappointing progressives. The Obama Administration feels that it must appease the hard-right elements of its own party, notwithstanding that without them...Obama would have been elected President anyway. As usual, the Administration writes-off the progressive base, without whom... Obama would not have been elected. And, I suppose, if the President is not re-elected in 2012, he can look back at this moment, and note his refusal to stand for any principle, or anything else, or otherwise discipline the wayward members of his own party; he, after all, personally intervened to ensure Joe Lieberman's seniority and committee chairmanship. But some will say this is the "structure" of the Senate and the almighty filibuster. Balls, says I.

Short answer on the filibuster: the time for the Democratic nuclear option has arrived. Simply end it, legitimately, with 60 votes (remember that the Republicans proposed doing it illegitimately with a mere 51 and Dick Cheney's gavel... if only that bluff would have been called!). If appropriate discipline were shown, and an end-the-fililbuster-rules-change were put forth and any Democrat who voted against eliminating the fillibuster were stripped of their seniority... and an actual agenda can be advanced. Accept, of course, that the Democrats like not doing anything... "doing anything" takes valuable time away from campaign fund-raising.

Which is the real problem.

Update: Aside from a commenter noting my evident lack of understanding of the arcana of Senate rules, as of now (12-19-09), it looks like Ben Nelson's back on board... Alrightie then. Dysfunction is the new "yes we can."

December 17, 2009, Global Warning

It seems that any meeting of human beings to engage in anything constructive will quickly be highjacked by the jocks, cheerleaders, kewl-kidz and the assorted others whose daddies bought them shiny new Beemers... while the rest of us have to cower in the corner, waiting for the approval of the "important people." We just saw that happen with "health care reform." And similarly, it seems, the Copenhagen global climate change summit seems to be going... nowhere. For those, like me, who believe in pursuing lost causes (out of boredom if nothing else) our friends at Avaaz.Org have a massive world-wide petition they think will help. Go ahead and sign it; I did. It may or may not help, but it certainly can't hurt.

I finished reading my advance copy of Dr. James Hansen's "Storms of My Grandchildren" recently. Dr. Hansen, as you might know, is regarded by many as the world's premier climate scientist. Anyway, the book has lots of technical and non-technical details, but I'll summarize it thusly: we are no longer debating the efficacy of climate models-- we now have the benefit of geological and geo-physical data and improved satellite observations so that we can say with a reasonable degree of scientific certainty that we can correlate atmospheric Carbon Dioxide levels with ocean levels in prior geological time, and now, not as a matter of scientific modeling or conjecture, but now, as a matter of the best reading of actual data, we are due for a 1-2 meter ocean rise in the next 30-50 years or so, possibly accelerating if we have warmed the atmosphere to the point if the massive glaciers and ice-caps in Greenland and Antarctica have begun melting in a manner that cannot be "turned off", but we will guarantee that result if we don't act fast.

Hansen has other things to say, such as a criticism of "cap and trade" that Krugman disagrees with (and I would defer to the economist on this one), but all and all... Hansen's book certainly scared the hell out of me, and anyone paying attention should also be scared about not acting on this, and now.

And acting fast means a moratorium on new coal-fired power plants, and a phase-out of existing ones. Americans, of course, behave like teenagers smoking: don't tell us about the future, man: we don't care! Well... the future is now... it is going to hit in the current lifetimes of most of us. The usual suspects (the 500-1000 spoiled people who own and run this planet) don't seem to believe that they actually live on it. But they are going to be drowned, or pounded with storms, or hit with drought or floods or whatever other chaos emerges... just like the rest of us.

Many of us will demand "technological improvements" such as the jackalope Santa Clausperpetual motioncold fusion "clean coal", or renewables such as solar or wind to "save us"... but the "technological improvement" needed happens to be in our own mind. Humanity existed without electricity at all until less than 150 years ago; much of humanity still does. The technology needed IS PSYCHOLOGICAL, NOT TECHNOLOGICAL. The fact is, easy measures (and no, I don't mean "mini-fluorescents") of an incentive nature already exist, such as California's efficiency pricing of utilities and tight regulation of appliances being extended to everyone, or "hard caps" that cause a brown-out or black-out in your house if you use too much electricity (such as running all the lights, the tv, computer, air conditioning, washer dryer, cuisinart and cyclotron all at the same time)... are what's in order, and right now. We have to get off the mindset of "more is always better"... right f'ing NOW.

Will we? There's no evidence that the spoiled teenagers in charge (either here, in Europe, China or India) can be appealed to by reason, or by much of anything else. The smart money says "we're f'ed," because by the time short-term incentives get round to warranting action... the glaciers and ice-caps will be irretrievably melting, causing other nasty feedback loops. I hope this isn't true, but I know it is... this has been, "Global Warning."

December 15, 2009, Great new location... same great totalitarianism

All hail "GTMO North"... a prison in Thomson, IL (recently acquired by the federal government from the President's home state of Illinois) will serve as the home gulag-away-from-home gulag for an as yet unknown number of prisoners now illegally detained at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Candace hasn't told me if either or both of her clients might be moved there, as it would doubtless shorten her commute from Chicago, though it would otherwise mean little or nothing to the prisoners themselves, or to anyone else watching whether this country complies with its own laws under its "Constitutional Law Professor Senior Lecturer" President (answer: we're still waiting for compliance... and waiting...)

Indeed, in a number of senses, Republican critics of this move kind of have a point (just as they rightly criticized the "two-tiered justice" of federal trials for some prisoners and military commissions for others): if these men are too tortured to actually try in a court, but somehow still "too dangerous to release"... why don't we just keep them where they are, hundreds of miles offshore on a military base in Cuba, rather than have them a few hours drive from Chicago and St. Louis? The "symbolic" problem of Guantanamo is what it is, not where. Greenwald correctly observes:

The sentiment behind Obama's campaign vow to close Guantanamo was the right one, but the reality of how it's being done negates that almost entirely. What is the point of closing Guantanamo only to replicate its essential framework -- imprisonment without trials -- a few thousand miles to the North? It's true that the revised military commissions contain some important improvements over the ones used under Bush: they provide better access to counsel and increased restrictions on the use of hearsay and evidence obtained via coercion. But the fundamental elements of Guantanamo are being kept firmly in place. What made Guantanamo so offensive and repugnant was not the fact that it was located in Cuba rather than Illinois. The primary complaint was that it was a legal black hole because the detainees were kept in cages indefinitely with no charges or trials. That is being retained with the move to the North.

There is, I suppose, symbolic value in closing Guantanamo. But what made Guantanamo such an affront to basic liberty and the rule of law was far more than symbolism, and it certainly had nothing to do with its locale. If anything, one could argue that it's now more dangerous to have within the U.S., on U.S. soil, a facility explicitly devoted to imprisoning people without charges. Even worse, by emphasizing that Thomson will be an even more "secure" supermax than the utterly inhumane hellhole at Florence, Colorado -- even boasting that it will be the most secure prison "of all time" -- it's likely that individuals who have never been charged with any crime will be held indefinitely in a facility even worse than Guantanamo.

Are we really supposed to believe that the Muslim world -- at whom this symbolism is supposedly aimed -- is so simplistic that they'll be happy because Muslims are now being indefinitely imprisoned with no charges in Illinois instead of on a Cuban island? In many ways, this move is classic Obama: pretty words, rhetorical appeals to lofty ideals, self-congratulatory preening, accompanied by many of the same policies that were long and vehemently condemned by him and most of his supporters.

I'm inclined just to say "what Glenn said" and leave it at that. But I'll go further. And it disappoints me no end to say this, since the President is a college classmate and all... I helped out the campaign on Election Day, contributed cash, and of course, vocally supported him on the blog. But I have to just say it.

The President is a fraud. Oh, he is an utterly brilliant politician, in the current model of what politicians are, and that, of course, is used car salesmen. He's a great one... of those. But what he is not, boys and girls, is that thing upon which his meteoric rise is based. He is not a lawyer, in the generic definition of that word (one learned in law). Perhaps this is because there is no record of him ever having practiced law. Oh, I suppose he was a "summer associate" somewhere, and "of counsel" somewhere else...but for those wondering what lawyers do all day... we write. Whether it's research memoranda to a law partner, or written argumentative briefs submitted to a court, or contracts or corporate papers... a lawyer leaves a lengthy paper trail. In the case of the President's (and my own) classmate Miguel Estrada, this
paper trail included position papers within the Justice Department, later used an excuse to filibuster his nomination to a federal appeals court. In my own case, besides thousands of things written on this blog (such as this post!) that would doubtless be used to discredit me should I seek any office from city council or school board member, let alone President, I have enough cumulative written legal work floating around to fill dozens, if not hundreds of volumes.

To the extent one has philosophical differences with the positions I may have taken as a lawyer (which were almost invariably in the course of representing someone else's legal position and interests)... one might rely on this to launch a political attack on me. Many lawyers find themselves in similar positions.
But not Barack Obama. Because, other than his two memoirs, the President doesn't seem to have a written record. Not law review articles, not briefs, certainly no important bills or even committee reports as a legislator... little, or nothing. Which, for a lawyer, is... unusual. But for a man who has parlayed an entire political career out of being the first Black Law Review President at Harvard Law School... it's well-nigh inconceivable. And yet... there we have it. No unfortunate written words that might come back to haunt the President... because he apparently didn't write any.

The thing is... one of his campaign themes was that unlike "businessman" George W. Bush who never "thought deeply about the Constitution"... the President had "thought deeply about the Constitution" because, of course, "he was a Constitutional lawyer." Well... there is... no evidence of that.

And now, the proof is in the pudding. As some of us feared, or even suspected, this too was something on which we took a flyer, because Barack Obama "had no record." And it seems... we were rightly fearful. Because anyone with any knowledge of the law at all would realize that there is no God damned difference between running a prison that violates the Geneva Conventions in Cuba or in Illinois or in Afghanistan or on the moon... all of them constitute an ongoing war crime, and hence are not "legal". Extra-judicial permanent "preemptive"detention... is not "legal." Adjudicative bodies that can hear evidence obtained by torture... are not "legal." The refusal to investigate probable war crimes committed by the predecessor Administration, and indeed, pulling out every stop to try to thwart litigation that might reveal the full scope of such crimes and other abuses... is not "legal."

In short, the President's one-upping the Bush Administration on its policies of lawlessness (but in a pretty, self-congratulatory, rhetorically appealing way)... is as much a fraud as "health care reform" or "financial reform" or "climate change legislation" or anything else that he sells us from the used car showroom known as the Oval Office is going to be... as much a fraud as is the President himself...a man who, prior to being elected President, had not had a real job since his 20's. No, Barack H. Obama was almost designed to be elected President: a man unencumbered by either the tribulations of an actual career... or the irritating record that one accumulates in the course of having one. Unfortunately, those are also the sources of wisdom and judgement... which are all too undervalued by most Americans. And so we got what we wanted: a politician par excellence... indeed, a perfect political machine-- handsome, articulate, and in the end... entirely capable of running policies every bit as sociopathic as his predecessor's. But what we do not have in the President... is a lawyer... a President with even a clue as to what "the law" actually is.

And that, piling more lawlessness on, after eight already lawless years under Bush-Cheney, is a tragedy from which I do not believe our nation will likely recover. Those of us, like me, who are just too ornery to concede the soul of this country in this way, will continue to bang our heads against the wall anyway. But that's what we're doing. This has been... "Great new location... same great totalitarianism."

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December 10, 2009, Irony continues death-spiral

A sense of humor is now an essential piece of survival equipment, and headlines like this continue to make me wonder if The Onion hasn't gone on a massive acquisition binge of every other news organization on the planet.

Since, if one is handsome and glib enough, and gets elected President while not being named "Bush" or "Clinton," he now gets a "peace prize" for escalating a war (and more importantly-- far more importantly-- for failing to a God damned thing to end the pointless carnage in Iraq), I'm wondering how we can adequately honor the other two elements of the triad of our time, to wit, "ignorance is strength" and "freedom is slavery."

Ah... we have the Copenhagen meeting on global warming flooding coming up... maybe Obama can work on the rest of his Orwell there... he might consider taking a lesson or two from our newest sidebar member, Students for an Orwellian Society. Then again, given his policies on state secrets, torture accountability, military commissions and the like... maybe he should actually be teaching the course... (as opposed to just being paid to teach, like back at the U. of Chicago.)

Just saying.

December 6, 2009, And now for something completely different...

The Grey Lady gives us this handy-dandy superficial overview of the Copenhagen U.N. climate meeting. There are "disagreements" between "poor nations," "rich nations" and "newly industrializing nations" about the rather modest lifestyle changes needed (hint: drive smaller cars) in the first world to prevent an irreversible civilization-destroying climate change (hint: as ocean levels rise an almost certain 10 to 20 feet in the next 30-50 years, large parts of the world, such as most of New York City, for example, will be uninhabitably underwater). As is the custom of reporting these days, we are told things are "complicated."

I don't think they are, actually. I'm waiting for a definitive report on the economic impact of the increased intensity storms and coast-line "instability" that would effect not merely Bangladesh, but the United States... (I'm guessing several times current planetary GDP) let's just say it dwarfs any "adverse economic impact" to the short term profit reports of the 50 or 100 or so corporate interests that control the planet. And yet the poobahs who run the planet don't seem to believe that they or their children actually live on it, and they will likely see to it that the First World governments (plus China and India)... do little or nothing, until we're a wee-bit farther down that road of no-return.

In some sense, it is a necessary survival skill these days just not to pay attention. Because otherwise you'll be utterly paralyzed, after you notice (1) the total moral collapse that followed 9-11, that led our country not merely to engage in torture, but to insist on its correctness, necessity and even legality; (2) the fact that our entire financial system is based on the fraudulent perpetual repackaging of residential mortgages which in turn were fraudulently issued with no concern as to whether they would or could be repaid, and the only solution to this bad bet was simply to double down on it... the 2008 post-Lehman-Bros.-collapse will be repeated in the next year or two, absent regulatory reform, on which there is no movement; (3) health care is now an insane 18 plus per cent of American GDP, without any actual demonstration that the American people are "healthy" by any meaningful measure... its growth continues unabated, and "conservatives" have ganged up to ensure that the only meaningful cost control measures in any "reform" are stripped out of it, lest "the other side" have any kind of "political victory;" (4) the American economy as a whole is on life support, and absent a massive, albeit insanely inefficient Government "stimulus" might already be dead, and is far more perilously close to a 1930's style collapse than any would care to acknowledge; and the grand-daddy of 'em all, (5) all of this is related, and actually overshadowed, by our ridiculously inefficient use of oil and fossil fuels, on which we are dependent for not merely heat, transportation and industrial output, but our food (not to mention everything else), and which ill-use is leading inexorably to the environmental catastrophe hinted at above.

We could make minor lifestyle changes beginning now, or unbelievably major ones in the next 5 or 10 years... I'll leave it to you to guess which one it's going to be (hint: "we're fucked.") This has been... "And now for something completely different."

December 1, 2009, Happy birthday...

To TD Daughter.

December 1, 2009, More of same

Even when I don't fundamentally disagree with him, the President's insistence on trying to appear "measured" and "careful" still manages to piss me off these days (possibly because he keeps fucking me and everyone who supported him with his outrageous stances on civil liberties and of course GTMO, et al.)... thus the big "Afghanistan speech" whereby he will up the ante by 30,000 more troops.

I am consistently appalled by Democratic Congress members polluting my in-box seeking my money, who have thought nothing of fucking me themselves on virtually every issue I hold important but who then still have the temerity to ask for money... even as they seem to live for money from their corporate contributors rather than me (at least with Republicans, we expect this...Democrats... it's just appalling.) I'm referring specifically to an unnamed upstate New York Congressman, a former Naval officer, btw, who keeps insisting we have to end the war... the Afghan war.

Wrong. We have to end the Iraq war. Today. Only issue is how fast we can bug out. Any long term adverse consequences of pulling out will be outweighed by the fact that we will stop killing people (including our own people). Period.

Not so Afghanistan. Lest those of you who do not work a block from the World Trade Center quibble on this point, the United States was absolutely right to engage in a military action against the Taliban, who harbored (and largely facilitated) the criminal group who had the audacity to launch attacks at New York City and Washington, D.C. For good measure, the Taliban are brutal monsters in their own right and insanely unpopular, but they have gained traction simply because the alternatives to them are so insanely corrupt and disorderly (not to mention violent). But unlike Iraq-- which just needs to be ended-- Afghanistan must be ended on our terms, and that means with Messrs. bin Laden and al-Zawahiri and Mullah Omar dead, in custody, or at a minimum, on the opposite side of the surrender table, having formally renounced jihad and any territorial claim to any part of Afghanistan or Pockeestonn. (Yes, I know Afghanistan has been a graveyard of empires; but prior to 9-11, it had never actually harbored anyone who attacked either London or Moscow iin the earlier imperial engagements there; our empire's vulnerabilities arise from the eventual collapse of "cheap oil" and from its very wide-spreadness.)

That said-- the Taliban simply have to be defeated. Unlike Iraq, which Republicans have no problem saying "we might be there for 50 years"... because it has oil (which, btw, will be long gone well before the 50 years... and hence, so will we...)... as long as Afghanistan has either the Taliban or A.Q., we have no choice but to be there, possibly for all eternity. I know that's troubling, particularly coming from me, someone who is generally a pacifiist, and is himself an undraftable 47, and who doesn't have sons ... Anyway... that's reality. Afghanistan is "the good war"... we were attacked, and if we let up there, we will be attacked again. Period. We can't say this about Iraq. And it cannot be solved by some worldwide nebulous "war on terror." No. The Taliban and A.Q. must be defeated. Period.

I'm not convinced that 30,000...or 40,000... or 400,000 more troops is going to "turn the tide" or "change the course" or whatever the metaphor of the day is... and it troubles me that the man who spent months making the political calculus did not get as good grades as I did in political science back when we were both undergrads at the same institution... but I tend to agree that there is simply little choice on this one-- we have to play out Afghanistan, until we win. Winning can be defined not in nebulous "war on terror" terms, but in plain old traditional war terms: when the other side surrenders, lays down its arms, and gives up its toxic ideology... or simply lies dead, having refused to do so.

If the President has at least recognized this, finally, once and for all, then I applaud him, and respect his decision. Alas... I'm not convinced he has.

If, as is much more likely (and, btw, I believe this to a moral certainty... the West Point backdrop only confirms my view on this) that this is just another crass political decision to try to appear to be a "tough Democrat" who nonetheless is "independent" of General Stanley McChrystal (who, btw, should have been fired for overstepping the bounds of civilian command in publicly advocating his own military policy and then prosecuted for his war crimes in Iraq), but the President still nonetheless seeks the political cover of providing "only" 30,000 more troops rather than the 40,000 troops asked for, then I am appalled at "the triangulation."

Which one? Don't know. Either way-- it's going to be more of same. The war(s) will go on; the pointless killing will go on; Mullah Omar and OBL and al-Zawahiri will continue thumbing their noses at us while still serving as useful bogeymen for the military industrial complex as it seeks to suck out whatever money is available in our economy that isn't being sucked out by health insurers and pharmaceutical companies and investment banks.

In short... this has been... and is going to be... more of same.

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