The Talking Dog

June 30, 2010, Nothing personal, just business

That of course, sums up the Senate Judiciary Committee's hearings pertaining to the confirmation of Elena Kagan, currently Solicitor General of the United States, to the position of Associate Justice on the United States Supreme Court. I have listened to portions of the question and answer session on the radio, and heard hints of the current Republican challenge-point, to wit, the late Justice Thurgood Marshall, for whom Ms. Kagan served as a law clerk in the 1980's, was "too Black activist."

Ms. Kagan's observations in the 1990's that these kinds of hearings featured inane questions and evasive, if any, "answers" seems applicable, although to be sure, her current role as Solicitor General does afford as many opportunities to duck discussion of specific pending cases as the usual nominees, federal appellate judges. (My feelings on the likely result of Justice Kagan's replacement of Justice Stevens are expressed here.)

So, no, the hearings are not the least bit enlightening in any sense of... enlightening, assuming the Senate's "advise and consent" role involves the Senate being enlightened in any way.

Unsurprisingly, these hearings have been subsumed by the only thing that seems to infuse government in the 21st century: fundraising. The questions, which the senators invariably seem to end by accusing Ms. Kagan of not answering, invariably drift toward the standard-issue hot button subjects such as abortion, gay marriage and gun control, although in the present case at least, with the occasional references to (heavens) the possibility that Ms. Kagan might not find that the President has dictatorial powers with respect to swarthy people deemed terrrrrorists (at least an interesting line of questions, given that, in this case, Ms. Kagan is likely to deviate significantly from Justice Stevens whom she is likely to replace). But that last line of questioning isn't dedicated to crackpots like me who believe that this country should at least try to be a constitutional republic adhering to its own rules... it's doubtless dedicated to the millions of potential donors who will be given the suggestion that a Justice Elena Kagan might not be willing to protect them from... you know... those people.

And similarly, "my" side will bombard me with descriptions of how only Justice Kagan can protect abortion rights, the environment, and presumably, race relations in this country, and so forth and such. And not just the Democratic Party and candidates, but Planned Parenthood, the Sierra Club, etc., etc. Most of the claims will be gross hyperbole, or of course, outright lies. But that's neither here nor there: the purpose of the entire exercise will be to extract political campaign cash from the rubes. This has been true for a while, of course. All I;m saying is that there used to be a pretext that something else was going on... maybe some exercise in civic virtue or something, maybe something that wasn't largely a comic book exercise in political stereotypes.

Otherwise, I really don't see what the big deal is. Harriet Miers was blatantly unqualified for the Supreme Court because she went to Southern Methodist University. Ms. Kagan, by contrast, is totally qualified, because she went to Princeton (as did Scam Alito and Sonia Sotomayor; Kagan then went on to Harvard Law... that and/or Yale now being the almae matrae of all nine justices assuming she is confirmed). Don't you see that this is an absolute qualification for the Supreme Court? Frankly, one wonders what we were all thinking with this John Paul Stevens guy, who only went to Northwestern.

My point is that this is all a hollow exercise: Ms. Kagan will be confirmed as Ms. Justice Kagan by the Senate; the only suspense will be how many more senators than the 59 senators who caucus with the Democrats (who will vote on party line) believe it will politically benefit them to vote against her, to make whatever statement they need... to raise campaign cash. And "my side" will make the same point. "Ever thus" is certainly not inaccurate... I'll just say that I vaguely remember a time when these kinds of civic proceedings at least seemed more interesting than all that. Indeed, I remember a time when life in America (and life in general) seemed more interesting than a grand exercise in money-grubbing. But then.,. I'm kind of getting old...

June 26, 2010, More from the department of "Duh"

Charlie Savage, who is one of the heroes of American journalism, tells us in the pages of the Grey Lady that, wait for it, closing Guantanamo is no longer one of the Obama Administration's priorities. Savage, who, like a few others (Carol Rosenberg of McClatchy comes to mind,,, as do... well, my friend Andy Worthington and.,. me) has been on top of this story for years, and "the story" is not merely some backwater island prison somewhere, but an entire seachange in American attitude and acceptance of arbitrary totalitarian behavior by American governments (now of both parties), as long as that totalitarian behavior is directed at "them," and termed "in the interest of national security and combating terrrrrrrorism."

Currently, "them" at the federal level has meant "Muslims" (including Anglos who convert to Islam), but at the state and local levels, "them" now includes anyone of dark complexion, particularly but not exclusively of Latino origin.

Dostoevsky of course told us that a society's civilization can be measured by its prisons; oddly enough, by the standards of some of America's brutal, gang infested prisons where rape and homicide run rampant, Guantanamo is hardly the worst of the lot by any means. Its reputation in the Muslim world is not based on its brutality: Middle Eastern prisons (some of which we have contracted with as part of our war on terror) are notoriously nasty. No... the problem is the arbitrariness, and the absolute and total hypocrisy that we purport to be the exemplars of "due process" for ourselves (except for... well, Muslims and all) while throwing out any semblance of it for "them." That's actually proven to be a far more potent recruiting tool for our enemies than anything else, a fact not lost on our war machine, for whom the only thing worse than defeat would be victory, and having to dismantle.

The only real "problem" with GTMO from, say, an American penological standpoint is that the place amounts to a giant, permanent holding cell: only one man has actually been "convicted" of anything (someone named Al-Bahlul, in his case, after a trial under questionable procedures during which he stood mute; my interview with Wes Powell, one of his former attorneys, is here.) But the other 180 or so men, including my friend Candace's client Razak Ali, haven't been convicted of anything. While most of the men have pending (or completed) habeas corpus petitions, the Government can continue their detention on far less demanding showings of "guilt" than in criminal proceedings, but most troublingly, there are a number of men who have won their habeas cases and had their petitions granted, but are nonetheless still imprisoned.

Anyway... regular readers know all this. I'm hoping to make a somewhat different point than one I've made umpteen times on GTMO's arbitrariness, its gratuitous and self-defeating nastiness and all that. It's a point I'd like to make about my college classmate the President, inspired by an e-mail from another of his and my classmates, who old time readers will recognize as "the Unseen Editor" from way back when this blog was constructed on Microsoft Frontpage, hand entered by UE based on e-mails from me. Anyway, UE's point is that Obama's backpedaling on "closing GTMO", admittedly one of his most forceful campaign promises, may be an act of "necessary" preserving or allocating of "political capital."

And I guess that's where I was going. I was going to say, preserve political capital for what? Charle Savage's article quotes some Congressional sources in noting that the Administration has been remarkably passive in the face of Congressional opposition on these issues-- passivity not present on seemingly more mundane issues that were not fundamental campaign promises, like trying to cut certain unwanted fighter planes from the military budget. In other words: this is not like trying to impose full-paid socialized medicine and child-care and a 30-hour work week, if only those damned Republicans weren't so obstreporous... this is a quite conscious choice by the Administration to not try very hard to "close GTMO." Now don't get me wrong: moving the problem from Cuba to Illinois would not solve anything, unless the intent were clearly to empty the place lest "they" languish on our sacred and holy shores... a stateside endless and lawless holding cell would hardly be an improvement.
But the intent, I suppose, was to use the pressure of that to get yet more men out, and as such, I can at least see the point to it.

But once again: the problem of "Guantanamo" has never been the location; it's been the ethos-- that the United States even can operate something "beyond law." That, like those miserable tin-pot dictatorships we look down on, we seem to have an unwritten "suspend the Constitution" clause that we can invoke whenever some terrorist act (that I saw live, btw) gets broadcast on t.v. enough times.

And the real problem is that after eight long dark years of Bush and Cheney, fools like me, and I suspect milions of others, actually believed Barack's bullsh*t... that, as an alleged teacher of Constitutional Law, he would be faithful to it. Apparently, it's more important that he "preserve his political capital." I know I'll preserve my own, and the President and his party can rest assured that I will be preserving my political capital, including what I contributed to the last two election cycles, monetary contributions, volunteer work and my vote... sorry, but like you, I have more important priorities for which I have to "preserve my capital." (Particularly when we have been shown in the most graphic terms imaginable that on what counts... the structure of a government based on law rather than brutal expedience... there is no difference whatsoever between the two parties.) So... just letting you know. You'all might want to save your efforts trying to get me to contribute in any way. I'll be using my "capital" for my own benefit, thanks, and for those projects that might, you know, have a payback. Which clearly does not include the President or his party.

That's the point I was trying to make.

June 20, 2010, The way it is

First off, happy Father's Day to those readers for whom said is applicable; familia TD will be doing a circuit that we hope will take us to see both Mrs. TD's and TD's father, and I think I'll be able to do it notwithstanding a grueling 45+ mile completion of yesterday's Joe Kleinerman 12-hour run (and yes, I certainly did say hi to Frank the proprietor of the Run Dangerously site by introducing myself as a fellow 47year old New York area attorney with a blog who runs ultra races; Frank is a tad more accomplished than I at ultra-running, and his blog is a great resource on the subject).

And moving right along with the way it is here in America in 2010, under alleged Democrat (and my college classmate) Barack Obama, who has carried on all of the inanities of his predecessors and in some cases to new levels, we give you this cautionary tale of an illegal immigrant (he lost an asylum application, notwithstanding his later marriage to an American citizen) who was picked up by immigration authorities... wait for it... after his wife wrote a letter to President Obama asking to intervene to alleviate their plight

It looks like the subject immigrant Hervé Fonkou Takoulo, 34, of Cameroonian origin, who is a trained engineer, will not face immediate deportation and may even get a work permit... but could it be because his wife Caroline Jamieson also managed to get the intervention of The New York Times, and the couple are seemingly upscale residents of Manhattan? But in a way, the denoument is more interesting and maybe more troubling-- we see a prompt reversal of a cold-hearted bureaucratic decision made because the people making such decisions have desensitized themselves to... everything, because the American public demands cruelty in the administration of our laws, and this is especially so with immigration laws where the people involved are likely not to be White. We don't see it because the underlying decision, a discretionary refusal to reopen an earlier asylum case based on a change in circumstances (marriage to a citizen) was deemed "wrong" or "incorrect" in some way-- but because the Government was caught doing something egregious, in this case, using a citizen's letter to the President seeking redress as a lead to pick up a non-dangerous immigration law violator.

We're somewhat fortunate that in some cases, such as that alluded to in my recent post regarding the recusal of a GTMO habeas judge, the Government, at least at present, often discloses its own misconduct, even as it simultaneously argues that its misconduct should have no consequences (except to the poor schmucks it impacts adversely, of course). But at least it's something. In this Takuolo case, it appears it was something of a self-disclosure and a newspaper intervention and an overall embarrassment-- a rather ad hoc administration of laws, all things told... and it does lead me to conclude we have one set of laws for Manhattanites with connections and the ability to get The New York Times involved... and another set of laws for everyone else.

In a nation where seemingly everything is against the law, but what matters at a practical level are enforcement decisions, and those enforcement decisions appear to be administered quite harshly depending on who you are, one fears that the ability to get prompt publicity for your plight should really not be the determining factor. But it seems... that's... the way it is.

June 18, 2010, Much ado about nothing? Or a comedy of errors? Tempest... or teapot?

In a move that I believe unprecedented in a Guantanamo habeas case, Chief Judge Royce Lamberth of the United States District Court for the District of Columbia recused himself from further proceedings in the case of Candace's client, Razak Ali.

Although it has been reported that the sole basis for recusal was Judge Lamberth's public comments both in a bar association breakfast and in an interview with "Pro Publica" to the effect that federal judges hearing Guantanamo detainee habeas cases might have trepidations and be concerned that the people they might order the Government to release might just go on to blow up the United States Capitol or the Washington Monument... this is not actually the full story, nor indeed, is it even the actual reason that Judge Lamberth recused himself.

While the public statements present an interesting question that certainly raises a number of issues concerning the fairness of a proceeding when the arbiter has expressed such concerns that may impact his decision for reasons other than the merits of the case itself, despite how this is being reported, this is not what ultimately led Judge Lamberth to recuse himself. It's what happened after Candace filed her motion to recuse (which motion, as usual, is near and dear to my heart). Specifically, seconds before filing its opposition papers, the Government advised Candace that at the very same bar association breakfast where Judge Lamberth made his statement, an attorney in the employ of the U.S. Dept. of Defense assigned to the very same case of Razak Ali buttonholed the judge, and asked him questions about discovery on the case, an exchange that might well have been casual, brief and not particularly interesting in its own right (notwithstanding that it is an ex parte communication, and wholly improper as a matter of both legal and judicial ethics and rules of conduct)... except for the fact that the Government, when asked by Candace to disclose who had the communication and precisely what had actually transpired, the Government asserted that the communication was... wait for it... privileged.

On reply in response to the Government's late revelation, Candace observed that such an assertion rendered the question of whether Judge Lamberth could properly continue to serve as the judge all but answered in the negative: an appellate court simply could not review the communication and determine if it was sufficiently "no harm no foul" for the judge to go on hearing Razak Ali's case if the Government insisted that it would not even disclose what it was. Judge Lamberth ultimately accepted this proposition, although he attempted to characterize the issue as "a sideshow" and "much ado about nothing."

Candace advises me that Razak Ali's case has been reassigned to Judge Richard Leon. In "scorecard" terms, IIRC, GTMO detainees are 0 for 2 before Chief Judge Lamberth and 7 for 12 before Judge Leon in habeas petitions decided, but this is not the issue. In these cases in which nothing short of life-imprisonment without any showing of actual criminality is at issue, all the Government needs to show is pretty much any connection at all to al Qaeda or the Taliban, seemingly no matter how tenuous, and it wins. Needless to say, there is plenty of room for nuance and for conflicting interpretation of the same set of facts, and if there is any doubt at all as to whether the arbiter cannot do so fairly... that is really too much doubt. In this case, the Government's own misconduct of having an ex parte communication in the first place (and then insisting on covering it up!) removed any possibility that Judge Lamberth could stay with this case: absent full disclosure of just what that communication even was, no one could really assess whether it resulted in an unfairness.

And so, as the Afghan war passes Vietnam as the longest-length conflict involving the United States military ever, the hapless captives picked up in that conflict continue to languish at Guantanamo Bay, just waiting for their day in court. With Judge Lamberth's decision, at least, in my view, we can all be that much more assured that the proceedings will be fairly adjudicated.

June 15, 2010, Obama kabuki-rama

obama kabuki Pictures, Images and Photos

I guess the President regards his first primetime Oval Office address to the nation as his way of showing he means to "kick someone's ass," presumably the British Petroieum BP Corporation, whom he tells us will "soon" be containing around 90% of the oil leaking into the Gulf of Mexico (although, of course, there might be a bit more oil leaking out than heretofore thought,.. just a little), Oh, and BP will be placing large sums of money necessary to pay damage claims in a lockbox an independently administered escrow account, and the barndoor will be shut the Minerals Management Agency, responsible for regulating oil drilling, will be overhauled, and lots of other things that the President's clearly inept and feckless advisors think will stop the political hemorraging, even as BP (which is inexplicably still "in charge" of cleaning up a mess caused by its deliberate actions which can only be classified as criminal ineptitude) can't stop the hemorraging of oil into the Gulf. And yet, that $75 million liability cap still seems to be inviolably there, does it not? With that in place... seems we have a bunch of... idle chatter.

The President refuses to state the actual, miserable truth: oil containment technology has not improved in the decades since the Exxon Valdez disaster, because it costs too much. Oil extraction technology has improved, but so have the risks of using it. And we are more dependent on oil from all sources now than we have ever been. And nothing the President is doing, or has done, will change any of it. And therefore, we just have to live with the consequences, and sorry folks, but that's life, because our vaunted oil-dependent lifestyles are more important than anything else, including the environment or liberty or human life.

Of course, saying those sorts of things would be "impolitic." Instead, the President is behaving like his trained profession of lawyer, seemingly for the first time in his life, albeit like an ambulance chaser looking for someone to blame,

Well, we'll have to see what the political consequences end up being, given that the President has allowed his presidency to be highjacked by the oil spill at this relatively early 1/3 point in his (first?) term. We know what the environmental and human consequences will be. As if we give a sh**. Forget it. It's Chinatown, Boss. We're talking oil, folks. Got to know one's priorities.

Update: On cue, BP announced that it was paying $20 billion into a lockbox an escrow fund and suspending its dividend, I'm guessing that BP anticipates that the ultimate financial toll from the Gulf mega-spill will be somewhat more expensive, but $20 billion will at least cover the first wave of claims until something else takes over the front-page.

June 13, 2010, Department of "duh"

It's Sunday here in New York, and among the bourgeoisie, especially on an overcast or rainy day, we're supposed to curl up with our copy of the Sunday Times. The Grey Lady's op-ed page obliges us this week with a level of obvious con-ventional wisdom that outdoes its already insanely mediocre standards.

We'll start with the queen of "duh" herself, Maureen Dud Dowd giving us this stupid (there's no other word for it) assertion that Joe Biden is more press-friendly than Barack Obama. The occasion seems to be a picnic thrown by Biden where Biden was more friendly to the people covering him than the often testy (and I would suggest "petulant") President Barack Obama. Well... if true... and who the bleep cares if it is... WHO THE F*** CARES? First of all, it's not as if the President isn't receiving a continuing honeymoon from the press... he is. But this is all part of the equation designed to infantilize the rest of us into believing that what matters with Governmental officials isn't that they have (unconstitutional... as if that matters!) unbridled power to declare war or peace, or to increase our tax load, or pass laws and regulatiopns that can make our lives even more unliveably dependent on our betters in the finance, pharmaceutical, energy and similarly powerful "businesses," No... what matters is whether our betters in the press think they are nice... to our betters in the press. The personality-based-bullsh** isn't just about Lindsay Lohan and Brangelina... you see, it's about our politicians and business "leaders" and all... not what they do... but, well, whether our betters-- like Maureen Dowd-- like them. She liked Poppy Bush, you see, He was nice and polite and used the right fork and knew the secret handshake. Barack Obama, you see, refuses to get angry at the right times. As if any of it matters. Well, at least there's a new kabuki afoot about the oil spill. Perhaps if not the appropriate anger, the President will sweat on his upper lip, or "show resolve," or whatever part of showbiz is required to make us forget that our government is, contrary to what the press keeps telling us, united in proceeding with what matters to it and to those who matter,

So... moving along, we'll go to Tom "F*** You I'm A Billionaire" Friedman, who tells us "this time it's different, which in this case means some "real American" in South Carolina (real Americans can't live in places like New York, of course) finally knows that he has to give up (just a bit) on his lifestyle,.. you see, the fault dear Populi lies not in our stars but in ourselves... it's our lifestyle, and the incentives we created... as if "we" have or ever had anything to do with decisions to destroy public transportation and create exurbs and subsidize oil with millions of troops and aircraft carriers and etc., etc... In short: stfu, Tom. Our betters run us, please. Our elections among our two indistinguishable (except at the margins) "parties" are, at least, avoided by most of our population most of the time, one of the few bright spots in a nation whose system highlights intellectual mediocrity over actual intelligence most of the time. Our "free markets" are rigged by the powerful. Tom: stfu. We cannot "chose" not to have our vaunted lifestyles anymore than we can "chose" to get ouf Iraq or Afghanistan. The best we can do is try to take ourselves out, to try to "crash-proof" ourselves from the inevitable collapse that the Tom Friedmans of the world are trying to divert our attention from.

And we'll move on to the mother-lode... the Grey Lady's own official op-ed entitled "The President's Moment" noting that the kabuki exercise of a big speech over the Gulf mega-spill... well, damned if I know what the f*** the Times is talking about, with such drivel as:

It certainly should not have taken days for Mr. Obama to get publicly involved in the oil spill, or even longer for his administration to start putting the heat on BP for its inadequate response and failure to inform the public about the size of the spill. (Each day, it seems, brings new revelations about the scope of the disaster.) It took too long for Mr. Obama to say that the Coast Guard and not BP was in charge of operations in the gulf and it’s still not clear that is true.

He should not have hesitated to suspend the expanded oil drilling program and he should have moved a lot faster to begin political and criminal investigations of the spill. If BP was withholding information, failing to cooperate or not providing the ships needed to process the oil now flowing to the surface, he should have told the American people and the world.

These are matters of competence and leadership. This is a time for Mr. Obama to decisively show both.

Well, that says it. WTF? We all seem to forget that without oil (gushing into the Gulf or otherwise), we couldn't support our numbers--grow our food, power our industry, make our construction materials, travel, etc. etc. That's kind of what I suggested some time ago: there ain't nothing more important in our society than oil. Not freedom. Not safety. Not human life. OIl first... everything else second. Further... the miserable reality is that I have yet seen or heard anything that this spill can be averted until the oil under insane amounts of pressure under at least a mile of seawater and who knows how much rock and sand decides to stop coming... in short, if we deem it appropriate to drill for oil under these conditions, then this has to be declared "an acceptable risk." We do so intrinsically, of course, with our various subsidies of the oil industry (such as continuing to allow building permits to create exurban dwellings and highways to them and so forth).

Where was I going with all this? I have no idea, really. Oh wait. It's all a grand and glorious misdirection: our civilization seems to be coming apart on us, and in the face of clear knowledge as to why, we chose to repeat the mistakes that got us here, such as, for example, blind faith in our betters, such as our techolology-developing betters who can give us an "ap" on our cel-phone to watch our favorite video and order our favorite pizza... but can't seem to alter our mindset that requires us to believe we cannot live in any manner other than the one we do now, notwithstanding that virtually no one at all lived this way at the time of my parents' birth (and comparatively few people around the time of my own)... damn the cost (even if it means flooding most of Earth's major cities and much of its farmland in the next 30-50 years).

But... a clear mindset is pretty much the only shot we have. And it's not merely about "factchecking their asses"... it has to do with recognizing that "our betters" are in league with each other to keep us distracted, so that they can maintain control over us. The most depressing means, of course, is pharmaceutically: a medicated population is not likely to rebel, or even ask too many questions. Throw in obesity. And high unemployment caused by an affirmative decades long intentional policy to deindustrialize this country, so that its ruling class can make money and have no rivals in any kind of irritatingly powerful proletariat (or even petty bourgeoisie).
Instead, the alleged "paper of record"... the newspaper of our elite must dumb us down with crap like that above, and believe that the obvious failings of those with power is simply some fault of personality or other irrelevant trivialities. I don't know. No, folks, we can't make the Gulf oil spill stop. We can't stop the Iraq or Afghanistan wars. We can't close Guantanamo, or make the water stop rising, or anything else that my college classmate promised us back when he didn't have the ability to do any of the above.

Because he's part of the power now. And he's doing what he wants which, surprise, surprise, is advance the interests of the rich and powerful. Who want us, of course, to focus on... something else. Anything else.


June 12, 2010, By the time I get to Phoenix... she'll be deported

Our friends at No More Mister Nice Blog have a nice discussion about the latest outrage to be proposed out of the Arizona legislature, to wit, the denial of birth certificates to children whose parents have Latino surnames cannot prove that they are White American citizens. What I like about the discussion in particular is what it's about: denial of the franchise to swarthy people who won't vote for the Republican Party, simple as that. The blatant violation of the express wording of the 14th Amendment means nothing: the Roberts Court may well rubber stamp this, assuming Justice Kennedy feels like it,

Yes, the federal government has utterly defaulted in its responsibilities in the immigration area. Yes, the border is out of control. Worse, our self-defeating "war on drugs" has now been escalated to the point where it is being waged as a full-fledged shooting war on the Mexican side of our border, being fought there by both sides of the conflict with weaponry supplied from the United States, and it is only a matter of time before that too crosses the border here.

All that said, notwithstanding some legitimate (and some less legitimate) fears resulting from this, the motivation for Arizona (and for other states behaving similarly) is not, actually "racism" per se (though that is a necessary but not sufficient element), but to protect the continued viability of the Republican Party in the face of the inevitable demographic fact that the United States is becoming "less White" by the day, and in a few decades, will be a "majority minority" country, and the GOP will have had decades establishing itself as an atavistic nativist/racist lunatic fringe not likely to do so well electorally in such a place. [Don't get me wrong; I still remain at a loss to see any meaningful non-cosmetic distinctions in actual governance between the two parties, but certainly, in the GOP's far more effective programs to acquire and then retain power, nasty things can happen in the interim, and it is these kinds of measures, like Arizona's crazy ass laws, that I find troubling... rather than whether or not the Democrats manage to squander what should be a clear electoral advantage for years to come because they prefer to remain asleep while their opponents steal elections.,. as if that ever happened before!]

The solution chosen by the GOP is not, as George W. Bush and Karl Rove would have preferred, of creative pandering by Republicans to try to play to cultural conservatives within the Latino community such as their own immigration reform proposals, but to... wait for it... simply disenfranchise potentially hostile voters. (And as the Greg Palast piece observes, not as some long-term project, though it is that, but to avoid losing power right here, right now, in the very next election, by harassing the bejesus out of all likely Democrats.)

And what did the Obama Administration do about this sentiment? Well, aside from the rhetorical atacks on Arizona's law from the White House, other than the President's actually enabling it by elevating former Governor Janet Napolitano to Homeland Security Secretary (where she's doing a heckuva job, btw), and thereby removing the one bulwark against this sort of thing in the state.. damned if I know.

Well... not to worry (even as a couple of attractive ACLU activists tried to accost me on the street today to "get active" on this issue... sorry folks,,, I'm already a "card carrying member")... the courts will ultimately decide, and we'll just have to hope that Justice Kennedy is in a charitable mood toward the continued functioning of what's left of our republic. Which, as I keep trying to tell all of you who'll listen... is far less than we think it is. Not that I am advocating spending too much effort on trying to get things back to when we were a better functioning constitutional republic... au contraire, I'm suggesting not wasting too much energy on that, and instead, focusing on how you and your families are going to get by in a country whose political and economic systems are on track to fail more or less simultaneously. Think about it: how are you going to eat? where are you going to live? how will you get around? will you have personal and physical security of any kind? will you be in a community of like-minded people? And so forth... we're going to discover that "Going Galt," while vacating ourselves "from the grid" (rather than from the tax system) and not being selfish right-wing Randian assholes about it, and while not actually physically going anywhere or saying anything... might not be such a bad idea, all things told. Certainly, growing our own food near where we live, knowing the herbal medicine practices of our great grandparents and so forth, getting around on foot or bicycle... all not such a bad idea-- even if the republic somehow pulls through..

This is especially true in the kind of country where too much moving around or even talking --might just get us deported, or worse. ,Just saying.

June 6, 2010, We all have to watch what we say and do...

Long-time White House correspondent Helen Thomas deserves all the grief she's getting and then some for her outrageous remarks that the Jews in Israel can "go home," to which she specified as destinations Poland and Germany, as well as the United States. Thomas has later apologized for her remarks, which of course, isn't good enough for some of the usual suspects,

What I find most interesting about the Politico piece, however, is that none other than former Bush Administration mouthpiece Ari Fleischer has weighed in, insisting that Ms, Thomas be sacked from her current gig with Hearst papers... Fleischer will should go down in infamy for his remarks shortly after 9-11 to the effect that, because of one fortuitous terrorist act, we ceased to be anything resembling a free or constitutional republic any longer, and the White House wanted us to know that "we all have to watch what we say and do now."

And so there we have it... Thomas, who Fleischer and the Bush
Administration clearly never liked much, has stepped into this one with remarks that simply can't be defended. And yet, strangely, I find myself constrained to observe that we have a First Amendment, that supposedly protects freedom of speech, even if the Ari Fleischers of the world feel the need to feign offense at freely made remarks. And let's face it: the third rail of American politics isn't social security, it's plainly Israel: even as the State of Israel boneheadedly massacres peace activists in international waters, Americans-- even Jewish Americans-- aren't really even allowed to criticize its actions. No, it's not just the crazy-ass anti-semitic ravings of a (near) nonogenarian blowhard... any criticism of America's ultimate protege state... I mean criticism in general... it seems we're back in the "we have to watch what we say and do" stage. The Constitutional law professor senior lecturer has not restored the Constitution one little bit (you know... the reason we elected him) ... instead... the corporate/police state continues on, unabated...

Anyway... I guess that's my message. Apparently, in 2010, nearly 9 years after 9-11... we still all have to watch what we say and do. While I hold no brief for a batty old broad who harbors pent-up anti-semitic sentiments... whether or not her employer is offended enough to relieve her of her duties... somehow, this just does not seem to be the business of the former Reich Minister for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, now does it? DOES IT?

Just saying...

Update: Ms. Thomas announced her abrupt retirement The whole story is deeply problematic, While I disagree with her views, she is entitled to them. Further, her Arab background (she is of Lebanese descent) certainly shapes her views... to which she is entitled. Any doubt that the remarks were off-hand or in jest can be overcome by listening to the interview; Her remarks were considered, and I believe, sincerely held. Still, one likes to think in a pluralistic society with freedom of the press, we can tolerate divergent views by members of the press (and everyone else), even really "divergent" ones. But when it comes to Israel, apparently, we can't. Then again, we seem to have forgotten that Ms. Thomas's and others' opinions are their business, and not ours, and worse, we have given "fair and balanced" the stupidest, most simplistic meaning possible, which alas, doesn't seem to account for what matters, to wit, the accuracy of the reporting. While Ms. Thomas's remarks are not to be defended... there is a bigger picture here, that is a cautionary tale for us all.

June 3, 2010, The end is nigh

Well, that's more or less the kind of consistent theme here at the talking dog that has pretty much devastated my traffic numbers, along with the "big box" blogs... but Chris Bowers, himself a pretty good demonstration of the phenomenon he describes, notes that money (i.e. bloggers working for it) has pretty much decimated the ranks of the free-standing amateur blogger, who he now suggests is an endangered species in the progressive blogosphere, anyway. Bowers specifically notes that Nate Silver's "" is going to be hosted by the New York Times web site as the occasion for his discussion, but Nate was pretty big to begin with, and had already been tied to the Daily Kos, among others who are themselves tied to the media/political money establishment. But still.,.

Anyway,.. good riddance to those damned amateurs, says I: they and their damned independence... they might do things like go out and question the sanctity of St. Barack and the rest of :"our" leaders when they prove to be little more than clones of the people they purported to run against and replace... and those amateurs go out and do things like their own basic journalism where they interview people on their own and do things like "embed" themselves with GTMO detainee legal teams and... oh, right... those are the things actual independents (such as... moi...) do, who, not in any way having their blogging tied to money, can afford to do, because if their (our) traffic is decimated by the loss of links from the big-box bloggers who are in whole or in part dependent for their livings on their popularity and/or their fealty.. we/they can go on, because, hey, it's only a hobby anyway. Did I say that out loud?

Folks, those few dozen of you who are left out there and still reading this know bloody well that here on the talking dog, at 8 1/2 years, just about the oldest extant liberal blog that I can think of (Kaus and Sullivan are older, but are they "liberal"?)... we're not beholden to.. well, we're not beholden to much of anything, really, because "amateur" means... wait for it... independent. Not beholden to the big media establishment, to political parties or candidates, to advertisers, to big-box bloggers... not beholden to anyone... other than to you, of course, who can comment away, if you feel like, or not, or read this blog, or not read it... and while I love adulation and attention as much as the next guy... let's just say that I make a perfectly nice living utterly unrelated to blogging, and I have no intention of altering that arrangement.anytime soon.

Just as truly independent media doesn't take corporate contributions (PBS and NPR, I'm talking to you), the progressive blogosphere until a couple of years ago (and folks, I mean this... the entire blogosphere prior to the Iraq War) were fresh, original and downright interesting... there really was no "party line"... or at least, none that could be traced directly back to the party, as there is now ("both sides", btw)... the last truly interesting work on the blogosphere is by the truly independents... academics, particularly tenured or tenure track, come to mind in this regard, as their living is safe, whether or not if their blog tanks... that's what I'm talking about, really.

With all due respect to the great big box bloggers... they're just not as interesting, For one thing, at just over 1/3 of the way through St. Barack's first term, independents (or as I prefer to call us, actual liberals) have concluded that the Obama Administration has sold out virtualy every value we hold dear and for which we supported him in the first place,,, well, try getting a blogger dependent on advertising and.or media connections and/or political consulting to acknowledge that both parties are virtually the same-- that we really ARE in a "post-partisan" era... just not in any kind of good way, To be truly honest, we are a one-party state:.. neither blue nor red.,.. more of... the Green Party... just not in any kind of good way, as we have the best government money can buy... i.e. not good at all . Not gonna happen, folks.

Anyway.. even though Bowers says I'm extinct... I still seem to be here, paying for my own damned band-width and writing what I perceive to be "just the facts" whether you care to click in or not... so... sorry Chris, but I'm an amateur blogger... and I'm not dead. And neither are my amateur brethren. Nobody but those who need to know will be reading... and that's fine with me.

The fact is, folks, as civilization collapses around us (and feel free to believe me or not... but I believe it) we're totally in an "if it's going to be, it's up to me" posture. Our businesses, unions, and political parties have sold us out; we can be all "victimy" (and of course, racist) like our overweight friends in the "tea party"... or we can take matters into our own hands, and try to at least get ourselves and our families off the grid... off the political dependence grid, and maybe off the electrical, communications, finance, and corporate food and medicine grids too, come to think of it. A tall order, and like Rome, not easily built in a day.,.. but baby steps... today. And one of those steps is to realize that with their dependence on money, even our favorite progressive blogs are "compromised"... and maybe that's not a good thing.

Just saying.