The Talking Dog

April 29, 2010, Tortured reasoning

The pointlessness of American detention policy in the fiasco formerly known as the war on terror is best exemplified by the peculiarly awful case of Omar Khadr, whose poorly conceived military commission trial appears to have been revivified this week, Khadr, you will recall from my interview with his former attorney Rick Wilson among other places, was captured as a 15 year old child in Afghanistan, after American forces bombed the residential compound he and his family were in., Supposedly Khadr threw a grenade that killed an American soldier and wounded another. Even if true, last I looked, Afghanistan was a war, and soldiers get killed in war without it being a "war crime". Worse, in addition to the United States refusing to give Khadr either belligerant immunity or treat him as a juvenile (we can join Somalia as the only other country so enlightened as to have refused to sign the international treaty dealing with the rights of child soldiers)... Khadr was almost certainly unconscious at the time of the alleged "crime".

Nonetheless, he has spent the last eight years in American custody, and suffered egregious abuse (most civilized people would call it "torture;" since we're Americans and that term doesn't really apply to us, I'll just say "abuse"). And the alleged confessions obtained as a product of torturing a teenager are "the evidence" that the government wants to use.

And this is what alleged "constitutional law professor senior lecturer and President Barack Obama has decided to make his first case for the not quite fully reformulated military commission trials. (BTW, we're "just weeks away" from hearing if KSM and the premier division terrorists get their trials in civilian courts, particularly in New York City, or if we'll see "one kangaroo fits all" justice).

The military commissions are problematic enough; one look need no further for harsh criticism than former prosecutors in them, such as Darrel Vandeveld (interviewed by me here) or former chief prosecutor Morris "Moe" Davis,.who is not happy with President Obama on this one,

Thus far, the problem for the government with the military commissions has been... the military. Those damned officers, whether defense counsel or prosecutors or judges-- refuse to give the White House the whitewash it has insisted on, and have actually behaved honorably and lawfully (damn them), and other than the case of a man who stood mute, have handed out rather lenient sentencing, and been extremely undeferential to the government's dodgy legal theories. Obviously, we'll have to see what happens in the Khadr case, but there seems no reason to think the military judges will give the government a pass on this one either.

The amazing thing remains just how easy it has been for bastard politicians of both parties to play the fear card on all this, when the numbers belie everything. Even accepting that the 50 or so men slated for lifetime arbitrary imprisonment ("enough evidence to sentence to life imprisonment, but not enough evidence to try!") and that 30 or so men can actually be tried, whether in federal court or in the Bush league commissions, that means of the nearly 800 men to pass through GTMO, nearly 90% shouldn't have been there, a remarkable failure rate... indeed, even in those cases the government has been willing to allow to go to habeas corpus hearing, detainees have won something lke 36 out of 47, or in any event, well over 70%. And yet, most Americans still believe that everyone at GTMO is "a terrorist" (see above re "civilized people"). The rest of the world, of course, doesn't buy anything we say-- to the ultimate detriment of us all, particularly of our countrymen and countrywomen on the front-lines of our ill-conceived conflicts.

Trying a Canadian youth who was almost certainly innocent of what he is accused of and what he is accused of wasn't a crime anyway... isn't going to make any of this better. Not that anyone listens to me, of course. This has been "Tortured Reasoning."

April 25, 2010, Cry me a river

Well, whaddaya know? It seems that those real estate declines on which the masters of the universe Goldman Sachs claims it lost money as a "defense" among other things to the recent S.E.C. civil enforcement action against it.,.. were, surprise,, surprise, in fact very profitable to the firm, because, because of course, the game is rigged, and Goldman could short the real estate market knowing bloody well it could bring it down itself if it had to to make sure the firm (and more importantly, certain individuals) profited extremely handsomely. That's how a rigged game works. The only suckers are the rest of us... whether we chose to play, or not!

The only question is whether anyone will be the least surprised that when the rules are "I keep the profits and you pay for the losses," that the titans of Wall Street always managed to make lots of money out of it. ALWAYS.

We will continue to wait and see just how much effort the Obama Administration will put into its financial reform efforts (hopefully as much effort as I put in to finishing yesterday's tiny but spectacular -- and spectacularly hilly-- Sibyl Ludington 50-K, my second 50-K this year-- and ever; that is, a slow but steady slog that while not pretty, got the job done). The smart money (!) says that a President whose own career has been bankrolled by financial interests is probably engaging in a kabuki, but since my old classmate is the only game in town, we can at least hope he has some sincerity on this issue. The fact remains that an extraordinary amount of taxpayer money has been committed to propping up Wall Street firms, and yet, no reform at all designed to prevent a recurrence of the '08 financial collapse is yet in place... Republican opposition to this reform, like any initiative of the Obama Administration, can best be summarized as "He's still Black, isn't he?" So, we'll see if a few Republicans are willing to at least try to save what's left of our economy and go along with at least some necessary reform... and hope that reform is more than a kabuki. What else can you do?

This has been... "cry me a river.

April 17, 2010, Trivialities

A federal judge in Madison, Wisconsin made the legally correct (and entirely irrelevant) decision that the National Day of Prayer is an unconstitutional infringement on freedom of (or from) religion, as mandated by the First Amendment,

With all due respect to the (oh so self-important) "serious minded" atheists: who the f*** cares? Americans are dying, right now, in every sense and every way! For starters,. our countrymen are dying in misguided, pointless imperialist wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. And they are dying of the effects of obesity at a rate never before seen in human history (and not likely to be seen again); they are dying from the effects of a hopelessly broken (yet insanely expensive) "health care" delivery system; they are dying from the crappiest food people have ever eaten (see above re: obesity)... and from an economy that, after years and years of shifting its underpinnings for cheaper haunts in Mexico, China, and (the one true) God knows where else, has finally caught up, rendering us the empty shell of a country we find ourselves today (although a select few still manage to extort billions from the rest of us via financial frauds and shell games).. Oh... and thanks to irresponsible energy usage patterns (and btw, our social structures, such as the exurban McMansion and the SUV are just a small part of this,,, wild and crazy energy usage such as the very means by which you are reading this now is also a big part of the energy problem) we can count on oceans rising, storm intensity increasing, farmlands dwindling amidst drought and other issues, and of course... all this will hit at times we are utterly unprepared to deal with any of it. Boy, oh boy oh boy. And you'all know my feelings toward the creeping (or not so creeping) totalitarianism that millions of Americans are begging for, to "protect them" from swarthy people (even as swarthy people are poised to become the majority of our citizenry within a few decades). It seems I picked a bad week to give up drinking... no wonder my referrer logs say traffic is down... Christ, I'm even depressing myself!


If some people want to pretend that everything's o.k. by pretending that a Supreme Being will make everything o.k. and from that get succor for an existence that has largely been pointless since the Industrial Revolution sucked all the meaning out of human existence and replaced it with singleminded pursuit of cash and worship of Mamon... just who the f*** are you atheists to get in their way? No one is making YOU pray to anyone (and btw, the One True God is going to be awfully pissed at you all one of these days... just saying...) So, let our countrymen have their damned "national day of prayer." Maybe a few of them won't decide to solve their problems by flying airplanes into government buildings, if you know what I mean, if they think that "someone up there" actually GIVES a s^^^ about them. Honestly... in a nation where the Government insists you have no privacy, and no rights whatsoever if it feels like calling you "a terrorist" (and folks, one of these days, it won't be a Muslim to whom this special treatment is extended)... spending good time and effort to advance the symbolism of state sponsored atheism may be a luxury that we just can't really afford. If you know what I mean.

This has been... "Trivialities,"

April 16, 2010, Ice ice baby

Not quite sure of the science behind it, but just the threat would make most sane, intelligent people (thereby ruling out many Americans, of course) crap in their pants. That of course, is the possibility that increasing global temperatures might increase volcanic activity on Iceland. The current eruption of an unpronounceable volcano in Iceland has pretty much shut down air travel in much of Europe and is otherwise... bad.

Interestingly, increased airborne particulate matter (as spews out of volocanoes) might temporarily mask the trend of rising global temperatures... who knows...

Earthquakes, tsunamis, volcanoes... oh my. And yet... don't you think all of it pales in cosmic significance to the anouncement of SEC charges against the source of two of the last four Treasury Secretaries and the actual masters of this country Goldman Sachs? The allegation is a mere billion dollar fraud associated with a mortgage-backed securities scheme (Goldman's impact on the world economy for its fraud is somewhere between 10,000 and 100,000 times that number, of course), but even a chink in the fortress of uber-money is interesting. Given the Obama Administration's fealty to big money, of course, the question is whether this is a real action, or just a populist kabuki. Will we be on the cusp of reform... or just the recipient of more ice in the winter?

Time will tell... this has been... "ice ice baby."


April 11, 2010, Holy fool!

I mean that in the Shakespearean sense, that of the only character generally permitted to speak the unvarnished truth, because, well, he is, you know, a fool. A fool, even if, of course, he is, speaking the truth.

And hence, we get Congressman Ron Paul's address to the Southern Republican leadership conference, in which he tells his fellow Republicans the unpleasant truth that pretty much cleans them out of talking points, wait for it, i.e. Barack Obama is not a "socialist" after all, but is instead (like most of the Republican audience he was addressing, who had selected Mitt Romney over him by a hair's breadth in their "straw poll"), a "corporatist." Further, Paul told the audience that when he got back to Washington, he would introduce legislation to amend the truly offensive part of the health care legislation just passed, that being the individual compulsions to buy private health insurance. And he would try to reduce the presence of the American military on foreign soil.

But for the fact that he's a Republican (and hence, will be involved in a primary I can't vote in), and the fact, of course, that he has a troubling history of racist, antisemitic and homophobic rants, and otherwise spouts many things (ra ra for gold, down with the Federal Reserve) commonly associated with fools, knaves and assorted nuts, I might think "hey, this guy makes some sense," and, assuming I had any interest in voting for anyone, I might consider him.

What's interesting is if any part of his message ("Barack Obama isn't really a socialist") will trickle down to his ideological supporters. That's not how you bet; the back-story and myth are always more important than the facts; just how the mind, especially the pre-programmed, short attention span American mind, functions.

But taken at face value, Ron Paul's speech makes some sense. Go figure. This has been, "Holy fool!"

April 10, 2010, The end of an era

The announced retirement of Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens represents a wee bit more than pretty much the last "Rockefeller Republican" (a holdover from the days when the Dixie-free Republican Party were the social liberals in this country) in major office in the United States (Snowe and Collins, folks, for all the talk of their "centrism," are "new Republicans," i.e., "fascists").

As hinted at in this piece by Greenwald, Stevens's departure from the Court and likely replacement by former Hahvahd Law School Dean and current U.S. Solicitor General Elena Kagan represents the probable end of any semblance of American constitutional government. (As a bonus, Greenwald also briefly discusses the "on cue" withdrawal of the excellent Dawn Johnsen's nomination for DOJ Legal Counsel, another somewhat ominous sign insofar as her "problem" was criticizing the very executive overreach that Kagan is so jiggy with). On the meaningless sideshow issues that we will hear about in the corporate media (gay marriage and the appearance of legalized abortion), Kagan will vote to uphold he sanctity of Roe v. Wade (perhaps this will let us forget that the President who she serves just signed an executive order banning all federal funds for abortion services, and that same President has railed against gay mariage). That should get NARAL, NOW and the usual pressure groups off her back.

No, it's the "usual" things that Greenwald (and I) like to talk about that will likely define "the Kagan era" (aside from the rather anomolous situation of the nation's dominant religious group, Protestantis, being entirely unrepresented on a Court consisting of six Catholics and three Jews). "Justice Kagan" will mean that Stevens's eloquent suspicion of the unchecked power of the American executive under cover of "the war on terror" even as against U.S. Citizens-- a position that Stevens shared with uber-conservative Antonin Scalia-- will likely be lost, and even the Court's comparatively limited checks on executive overreach (often imposed by 5-4 vote) will fall away. The triumph of de jure fascism in America will be "bipartisan."

In short, like the totalitarian regimes to which the American government aspires (and to which it has allied itself all over the world), the words "national security" will prevail over any purportedly countervailing "constitutional rights," and the only thing keeping you or I out of a dungeon of "our leader's" whim will be our leader's whim, rather than the government's obligations to provide us with evidence of our guilt under due process of law.

FWIW, here's hoping that somewhere along the line Ms. Kagan hasn't paid her nanny taxes.

Update: What Bmaz says.

April 8, 2010, Sportin' life

It does this middle aged White man good to see guys who are older and Whiter than him kicking ass... such as Fred Couples leading and Tom Watson one shot back after the first round at the Masters golf tournament. (Not my game, of course, and quite frankly, I'd ban the damned thing on environmental grounds... but still and all...) And, despite the compelling nature of the almost unprecedented situation-- a couple of over-50 men in the hunt for a major sporting championship-- Tiger Woods-- the only thing anyone cares about-- is only one shot behind Watson.

Good for you, Tiger, is all I have to say. I couldn't care less about your personal life: at least the sporting realm is an American institution honest enough to recognize that what happens in the field of play is all that matters, and your problems off the field are your affair (as it were), and not ours.

Sports, like everything else in this country, have been ruined by money. Tiger's issues are between he and Mrs. Woods. The only "public" issue with Tiger is his kazillion dollar made-up image, to sell Nike apparel (hence the creepy ad), GM cars, financial services and God knows what else (all of which have netted him many times his earnings from just playing golf) . His corporate sponsors, of course, profit from commoditizing everything in the universe (including sex, love, life, death...). And so, the fact that Tiger is a rather indiscriminate whoremonger becomes some kind of "problem" only because of "the image" that the people paying Tiger believe they are paying him to maintain. Well... fuck them and their role-model bullshit.

So, good for you, Tiger, in saying "fuck you" to corporate America, which, let's face it, is populated by people who are more clearly whores than any waitress or "nightclub hostess" that you've ever done. And good for you, Fred Couples, and Tom Watson, for showing everyone that middle aged White men still have it.

This has been... "Sportin' life."

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April 6, 2010, Cheap energy isn't cheap

Condolences for the families of the at least 25 dead in a coal mine accident in West Virginia, the worst American mine disaster in at least 25 years, The mine at issue, owned by the Massey company, which itself was involved in other recent accidents, had numerous violations found by federal inspectors, but continued to operate anyway.

Coal has always been deeemed "cheap" energy because "the market" has valued the human cost (of both these kind of tragedies and of the horrifying medical conditions suffered by miners) and the environmental cost (we can add global warming to the air pollution and ground and water devastation wrought by mining)... to be naught, compared to the profit involved. "Profits before people" has been the religious credo of capitalism now for about two centuries; I suppose it would be futile to try to point out that it WAS NOT ALWAS SO. No... crazy talk...

At this point, the United States uses more coal in the summer months than at any other time (think "air conditioning"). Just something to think about in a moment of reflection; not that anyone will give it a second thought, or of course, demand that their government force us to in any way adjust our behavior to a more sensible and rational course any more than school massacres cause us to re-think our national love affair with firearms, The myth is always more powerful than the facts, I'm afraid.

Well... deep sigh. Life is full of tragedies. The preventable ones just seem a little bit worse.

April 5, 2010, Fourth Amendment Still Technically the Law

Let me be among the last to comment on the decision of Chief Judge Vaughan Walker of the U.S. District Court in San Francisco to the effect that the Bush Administration's warrantless electronic eavesdropping on Americans is not only illegal, but as Dan Froomkin tells at Huffpo, the Obama Administration can stick its "state secrets" assertion up its tush too.

This is one of those things that kind of give the public the correct impression that in sheer cojones, the Republicans have a humongous edge over their pathetic Democratic "colleagues." The Republicans, of course, brought articles of impeachment against Bill Clinton for nothing (technically, under the perverse definitions stipulated to in the perverse Paula Jones case, Bill Clinton did not "have sex" with Monica Lewinsky.)

By contrast, George W. Bush bragged about breaking the law, specifically the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, or FISA, and its requirement that electronic eavesdropping of Americans requires a warrant. Folks, that is the clearest "high crime and misdemeanor" ever committed by an American President-- and it goes right to abuse of the office itself. Naturally, because David Broder might accuse them of being not only mean but soft on terrrrrrror... the Democrats did nothing (except amend the applicable law to provide more protection for Bush and less protection for American citizens, of course) thus, reinforcing the popular, and accurate, view, that the Republicans are simply more ballsy... assuming, of course, that "ballsy" is what we value in our politicians, which without doubt, many Americans believe. Anyway...

Fast forward to the present, and the case of the Al Aramain charity, which unlike everyone else, actually had documentary proof that the Government spied on it, has overcome the usual weasel-way the Government gets out of these cases by establishing that its "standing" was not hypothetical, but that it was actually spied on. Forced to consider the merits of such a case, Judge Walker reached the only possible conclusion: the Bush program, as duly supported by the Obama Administration is illegal. Not "justifiable because we're at war with the Klingons the Third Reich al Qaeda..." but because there ain't no such exception in the law: the Government needs a warrant. Not hard... in practice, not too difficult at all... but the Bush Administration (and its successor) want no accountability at all, ever.

Hey, what can I tell you? Sometimes... a crime is just a crime.

April 1, 2010, TD Blog Interview with Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin is the former Governor of the State of Alaska and was the Republican candidate for Vice President of the United States in 2008. She is currently a Fox News commentator, and the author of the best-selling political memoir, "Going Rogue". On April 1, 2010, I had the privilege of interviewing Governor Palin by telephone.

The Talking Dog: Governor, as you know, my usual first question is "where were you on September 11, 2001"?

Sarah Palin: I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I'm going to talk straight to the American people and let them know my track record also.

The Talking Dog: My understanding is that you often used your Blackberry device during your term as Governor; since you appear to be hip on things "wired," do you have any favorite blogs?

Sarah Palin: All of 'em, any of 'em that have been in front of me over all these years. I'll try to find you some and I'll bring them to you.

The Talking Dog: One of the themes of the McCain-Palin campaign was that John McCain, as a former military officer, had the "toughness" and experience to lead the nation through the two major wars now raging in Iraq and Afghanistan, whereas the Obama-Biden ticket did not. In light of the last fifteen months or so, including President Obama's decision to increase troop levels in Afghanistan, can you comment on that?

Sarah Palin: I would hope at least that those protesters have the courage and the honor of thanking our veterans for giving them the right to protest! They are also building schools for the Afghan children so that there is hope and opportunity in our neighboring country of Afghanistan.

The Talking Dog: Another major news story this week seems to be the ongoing series of terrorist attacks in Russia. Can you comment on that?

Sarah Palin: They're our next door neighbors and you can actually see Russia from land here in Alaska, from an island in Alaska. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border.

The Talking Dog: Can you comment on how the Congress has performed for the last year or two, particularly with respect to health care reform (which I know you have voiced opposition to)?

Sarah Palin: Absolutely not. I think that, if I were to give up and wave a white flag of surrender against some of the political shots that we've taken, that ... that would ... bring this whole ... I'm not doing this for naught. They're in charge of the U.S. Senate so if they want to they can really get in there with the senators and make a lot of good policy changes that will make life better for Brandon and his family and his classroom.

The Talking Dog: Can you comment on the recent Supreme Court case that many believe will have greatly enhanced the ability of corporations, including foreign corporations, to influence American elections?

Sarah Palin: In what respect, Charlie? Well, let's see. There's -- of course -- in the great history of America rulings there have been rulings.

The Talking Dog: Let me ask the question on the minds of most people who follow politics... have you made a decision to run for the Republican Presidential nomination in 2012?

Sarah Palin: I have not, and I think if you go back in history and if you ask that question of many vice presidents, they may have the same answer that I just gave you. If I cost John McCain even one vote, I am sorry about that because John McCain, I believe, is the American hero. I'll be a careful shot. We believe that the best of America is not all in Washington, D.C. ... We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation.

The Talking Dog: One of your campaign slogans was "drill baby drill," obviously encouraging greater domestic oil exploration. President Obama has proposed expanding permissible offshore oil drilling sites. Do you think that's a good idea?

Sarah Palin: The America I know and love is not one in which my parents or my baby with Down Syndrome will have to stand in front of Obama's 'death panel' so his bureaucrats can decide, based on a subjective judgment of their 'level of productivity in society,' whether they are worthy of health care. Such a system is downright evil.

The Talking Dog: Given some of the controversy that has emerged from the 2008 campaign, what do you come away from it with?

Sarah Palin: I'm very, very pleased to be cleared of any legal wrongdoing ... any hint of any kind of unethical activity there. Very pleased to be cleared of any of that.

The Talking Dog: Well, I can't thank you enough for taking the time to speak with me, but do you have anything to say in conclusion, anything you'd like to leave our readers with by way of explaining your political philosophy?

Sarah Palin: I was trying to give Tina Fey more material. Job security for Saturday Night Live.

The Talking Dog: I join all of readers in thanking Governor Palin for that... interview.