The Talking Dog

October 31, 2010, Seasons Greetings

Seasons Greetings

October 30, 2010, October surprise

I know I'm supposed to be scared s***less about today's official thing-I'm-supposed-to-be-incredibly-afraid-of, be it incompetent would-be terrorists trying to blow up their underpants on airplanes, or blow up Times Square, or mailing explosive packages from Yemen... to synagogues in Chicago.

Thing is... I've seen this movie... the last-minute-before-the-election "surprise" of some kind of "terror thing." The Bush Administration used it beautifully, and Republicans magically got elected. The Obama Administration, it seems, appears to be using it for the identical purpose (that would be getting Republicans elected in this mid-term election).

Naturally, without any "evidence" besides its own say-so (and we're supposed to "trust it" with respect to everything else), we are told that the perpetrator of this is "radical cleric" Emmanuel Goldstein Lex Luthor Anwar al-Awlaki. Not to worry your pretty little heads, all you "security moms"... al-Awlaki has been "marked for death" by those patriotic killers at the CIA. Thing is... he's never been convicted of anything... or even tried... or even charged. He's just been marked for death because the Government says so Oh... I think I should mention that Mr. al-Awlaki is a United States citizen. The Fifth Amendment to our Constitution... that no person shall be deprived of life or liberty without due process of law...?

I guess the Government's response to that would be... "surprise"!

The other thing I'd like to throw out there is that the [we are told] targeting of synagogues in Chicago [where former White House chief of staff Rahm Emmanuel, himself a Jew of Israeli background... is running for mayor... coincidence?]... comes within days, if not hours, of Omar Khadr's pre-composed-by-the-government guilty plea that includes his confession that in addition to wanting to do battle against and kill Americans, he also wanted to kill Jews.

Maybe it's all just... a coincidence... that our nemeses at the new-and-decentralized al-Qaeda, in the Arabian peninsula, or wherever, are changing their M.O. to unibomber style mail bombs... to synagogues... in Chicago... and it just happens that we catch them a few days before a federal election... or maybe it's... something else. Like a government in need of a public justification for a step-up in the dictatorial powers it is taking on for itself... just as it is about to go into full-time Presidential reelection mode [that would be the day after the mid-terms, btw], the last thing it wants to be reminded of is that Barack Obama campaigned against the totalitarianism of the Bush-Cheney Administration's executive excesses... and that not only is it not reversing the dictatorial arc the country was on, but, in its policies on state secrets, eavesdropping, accelerating the wars, and programs to liquidate enemies of the state... it is going way beyond where the Bush-Cheney Administration ever dreamed of, and worse, proposes to institutionalize this with legislation and court precedents and the like.

I guess the Government's response to all that would be... "surprise"!

October 26, 2010, Happy birthday to...

Secretary of State Hillary Clinton... actress Jaclyn Smith... game show host Pat Sajak (all three born on this date in 1947, btw)... the late Jackie "Uncle Fester" Coogan, Leon "Party Animal" Trotsky (at least according to some calendars), gospel singer Mahalia Jackson... oh, and "Family Guy" progenitor and voice-guy Seth McFarlane... one of whose characters, Brian, is in fact, a talking dog... and of course... to your talking dog, who, despite his preposterous stamina, at two score and eight, can nonetheless no longer deny his chronological status as "late forties" (nor, of course, as "middle aged.")

October 25, 2010, President Gus Monty Hall

What else can you say about the Obama Administration's sudden willingness to play "Let's Make a Deal" with respect to the poster child for show trials Kangaroo Courts military commission trials, when it reached a plea deal with Canadian national and juvenile defendant Omar Khad. Pursuant to the deal, at least what is being reported (since, once again, it seems, details like "the sentence" are evidently not to be shared with the public... "state secrets" you know) is that Khadr would serve up to an additional year at GTMO before being transferred to the custody of Canada, where he will serve the remaining seven years of his sentence, or eight years on top of the nine he has already served in America's gulag Guantanamo Bay.

Some background on Khadr's case may be found in my interview with his former counsel Rick Wilson. In brief, "what's wrong with this picture" is that Khadr (1) was 15, and (2) was probably unconscious, at the time he allegedly threw a grenade that killed a soldier in combat, (3) which is not a war crime, let alone a crime at all, and (4) Khadr was heinously abused, if not outright tortured, while in American custody. But other than that... a fine day for American justice, as the Obama Administration avoids the spectacle of being the only country to try a juvenile for war crimes since World War II or earlier.

I'm thinking that this will go down the way the David Hicks case went down in Australia... this action was taken before the spectacle of a trial inure and redound to both the detriment of the Harper government in Canada and to the Obama Administration. Once Khadr is in Canada... which I'm betting will be sooner than the year suggested... I'm thinking he'll serve quite a bit less than that seven years. But who knows? Canada hasn't exactly been nice with respect to Mr. Khadr until now. (As an added bonus, presumably, the Obama Administration has added a card to the Republicans' deck going into the elections in eight days that it is "soft on terrorism" by cutting such a deal... and if the Democrats lose a few more seats as a result... I guess this would be a true "win-win" situation!)

Well... there is now a possibility Khadr will be a free man around his 30th birthday or thereabouts... a damned site better than the intention of the cowardly Obama Administration for those men who have not been convicted of anything, but whom it nonetheless asserts that the government can hold for life anyway. Well... some resolution of something. The President is already over nine months late on his "close GTMO" promise... but at least we avoid the spectacle of trying a juvenile for "war crimes." In what now passes for our "civil discourse"... we take what we can get.

October 22, 2010, War is hell... etc.

Another day, another massive document dump by Wikileaks, this one concerning the Iraq war, and numerous allegations of torture possibly mean treatment by American troops and mercenaries contractors. Supposedly, the latest document release shows numerous incidents, including assaults, rape and murders, as well as more garden variety torture mean treatment, of Iraqi prisoners in American custody from 2004 through 2009.

Of course, the United States doesn't torture, so we might as well just stop there, and call it a day. You know, you go to war with the men and materiel you have, not those you wish you might have... and all that. And if a combination of too many tours, a (deranged) culture of psychotic permissiveness (which started right in the White House), the ongoing horrors of maintaining an occupation of an already hostile well-armed population on the verge of a civil war as it is, and a nebulous ever-changing "mission" (complete with inadequate body and vehicle armor) aren't enough to drive some of our military personnel utterly over the edge... well, then we'd have to entirely reject "the few bad apples" theory and suggest that the enumerated atrocities were, like a matter of deliberate policy and all... and, you know... we can't go there.

So... we'll just have to satisfy ourselves that most of our military personnel behave themselves honorably and within the law... even as the Dick Cheneys/David Addingtons/John Yoos of the world tell us there is no law, and the Eric Holders/Barack Obamas/Elena Kagans of the world tell us that whether there is law or not... it's a state secret.

Damn Wikileaks and their goody goody "disclosures." Don't they realize that many, if not most, of us would just prefer not to know any of this?

Update (10/24/10): Those namby pambies at the U.N. made a demand that Obama "investigate." See above re: "the United States doesn't torture." Why won't they just take our government's word for it and be done, the way the American public does?

October 21, 2010, If Mrs. Thomas calls...

What Andy Borowitz said.

[BTW... just one more example that our nation really is circling the drain: the environment, the economy, and, of course, the moral fibre of the country are ablaze... and the imperial class... fiddles.]

October 19, 2010, Bronx tale

I suppose I'm not talking about the mighty New York Yankees, whose game 4 starter in a "must win" situation (the Yankees now trail the upstart Texas Rangers 2-1 in the American League championship series)... the incomparably awful A.J. Burnett, has decided to do early Halloween shopping this year.

No... I'm going to talk about the verdict in the case of the would-be Riverdale synagogue bombing jihadists case, to wit, guilty on 30 out of 32 counts. And there you have it. Regardless of the asserted entrapment defense and the other flaws in the government's case, it seems that courts-- with actual lawyers, judges and juries-- seem to have no trouble finding ways to convict accused terrorists, usually of whatever the government wants them convicted of. Regular readers know my general skepticism of the American court system, largely based on what's now nearly a quarter century of working in it for a living... but that said, if one has the staying power to take their case to a high enough court, much of the time, one can achieve a result at least approaching "fair" if not necessarily "just" (whatever that means anyway). And the fact is, in these alleged terrorism cases, and in some of the more spectacular plots (the shoe-bomber, the Times Square bomber, etc.) at that, we've seen prompt confessions and/or guilty pleas, followed by convictions and life sentences, or even in guilty-after-trial situations, like "20th highjacker" Zaccarias Moussaoui (remember him?)... the same thing.

And hence, the question of just wtf the government is afraid of by insisting that it can't have "almost-guaranteed-to-result-in-conviction-and-long-sentence trials" for suspected terrorists in some contexts remains... interesting. The answer, of course, remains "structural": your government wants the option of not having to bother even to pretend to afford due process when it feels like it... the entire Bill of Rights, you see (except for the Second Amendment, and that in "Red States" only), is "optional"... a matter of expedience for the Government, no matter what you may have thought.

And this is bipartisan folks... to the extent there is "a difference" between the Bush-Cheney ad hoc approach and Constitutional Law professor senior lecturer poseur Barack Obama approach, it is that the latter is attempting to permanently institutionalize the worst aspects of totalitarianism of his predecessors (and hence, ends up being a greater threat to us all.) Did I say that out loud?

Because that's the point. Yes, to be sure, Mr. Holder has to sometimes go on t.v. and justify to blowhard Fascist Republican Party Senators why he is "reading rights" to terrorist suspects, but the fact is, his response is little more than "that's our system"... one wonders if his heart is really in it. With few exceptions (and none I can think of), those poor bastards the Government has accused of terrorism and brought to civilian trials... tend to get convicted, followed by lengthy, if not life-long, prison sentences. (And yet, notwithstanding this... we still can't bring ourselves to have a trial of KSM and the other alleged 9-11 plotters in downtown Manhattan (or anywhere else in the United States) because... well.... it would be inconveeeeeeeeeenient.)

Trials, you see, are only for bit players who are almost certain to be convicted anyway. Hmmm... short of pointing out that "only the fool is authorized to speak the truth"... I got nothin'. This has been... "Bronx tale."

October 17, 2010, Nifty Fifty

The concept of a "blog" (a term not yet in vogue at the commencement of this particular blog, btw) was a contraction of the words "web" as in "world wide web" and log, as in "captain's log, star date 462.3 mark 7"... the premise was a personal narrative, preferably with one or more links to things, and some commentary. The political was never a requirement, and I suspect, comparatively few blogs (in the immense intellectual void otherwise known as what passes for our culture blogosphere, anyway) are "political" in nature... notwithstanding the insistence of some, like yours truly, on doing that.

But, of course, as I like to say, "on this blog, it's always about me." And hence, you'll get to read about... well, me. Whatever little I want to tell you about myself, of course. Which will invariably be of a self-aggrandizing nature because... well, see the first sentence of this paragraph.

Which takes us to a sort of life goal, or a recent goal, or whatever, something I've certainly been itching to do for the last year or so, since I was unceremoniously removed just after the halfway point of the JFK 50-mile ultramarathon last year for missing an intermediate time cut-off. And so, this year, in my fourth ultramarathon of the year... and ever... (plus a 6-hour race I truncated to an "infra-marathon" three weeks ago), and thanks to the amazingly nice race organizers, who not only allowed me to finish beyond the 12 hour "regulation" time, but provided a trailing vehicle with headlights on and two very nice ladies to serve as "pacing crew" for the last eight miles or so, allowing me the thrill of a finish in the Tussey Mountainback Ultra and USATF 50-mile championship. Most people who do this sort of thing do so "competitively"... that is to say, with some sort of "athletic talent," which they supplement by some sort of "training." I bring a minimum of both to these events, with a "goal" of... finishing under my own power. And... that's what I did.

I read somewhere that over 90% of American marathon finishers will never run a second marathon. To be frank, for over 18 years, I was in that position, having completed the 1982 Charlotte Observer marathon when I was 19, and retiring from the sport. I resumed my "career" at the 2001 Achilles Marathon in Brooklyn's Prospect Park, and have run 25 after that (including the last 9 New York City Marathons), plus, of course, this year's 4 ultra-marathons. I don't "win"; I don't win my age group, or even come close to an award. In fact, in 2 of the 4 "ultras," I finished dead last (and I wonder if my "last in age group" double at both 2010 USATF's 50-K and 50-mile championships has been accomplished all that many times). You know what? It's still fun.

I know that no more than a few thousand people could even bring themselves to line up at the start, let alone haul themselves to the finish knowing there was no one to beat except themselves. No prize-- no glory, save that of just being there, and bringing what you got... which, hopefully, would be "enough." There is something so horribly perverse at the American... no, the entire Western world's attitude that "winning isn't everything, it's the only thing," etc., etc.

Because that's bullsh*t. What matters is not riches or poverty... material success or failure, academic or business or social "achievement"... or anything exogenous. What matters is whether you-- YOU-- are happy... and find your life meaningful and fulfilling. That's it. If, for you, it takes physical exertion... or "winning"... or "success"... or whatever... good for you. But it has to be meaningful to you. If you find that you have lots of money, and lots of trappings that society tells you should have, like fancy academic credentials, a cool car, a physically attractive spouse, etc., etc.... and somehow it doesn't seem to be "working" for you... Well... Am I seriously saying that someone who may have finished hours and hours ahead of me, but who went home "disappointed" because they failed to meet some "time goal" they had set for themselves or to place at a certain level is a bigger loser than the guy who finished dead last? Yeah-- that's precisely what I'm saying. Because the guy who finished dead last considers himself a winner. And in any walk of life: it's fine to use "life's little failures" as motivational tools to improve one's performance... we used to call that sort of thing "learning" before our schools simply became the socio-economic version of the Harry Potter "sorting hat," and faux-achievements started to out-rank real ones. But to take actual accomplishments in their own right and be disappointed simply based on some nonsensical idea of "competition"... is as asinine in an ultra-marathon as it is as an organizing principle of a so-called "society."

You see... we can all "win"... every last one of us... if we simply allow ourselves to...... regardless of our material or social standing. If... we are happy and find our lives fulfilling. That's it. Because after that... dignity... the most underappreciated but oh-so-critical intangible I can think of... follows from fulfillment. And this is the biggest threat to "the power" that there is... the great secret "the man" doesn't want you to know.

And all it took for me to realize it was 12 hours and 55 uncivilized minutes of pounding up and down central Pennsylvania mountains. I wonder what it will take you?

October 10, 2010, Perfect 10 (10...10...)

10 October 2010... a day that will live in... anniversary... as MSNBC tells us of an unusually high number of weddings on this numerically auspicious day. An interesting Sunday curiosity, to be sure.

Hey, I like this sort of thing. I'm delighted to hear that there may soon be hope for the rescue of 33 miners in Chile.

Happy news in what now passes for our civilized world... [for those wondering what irks me in particular, WaPo hits the nail with this discussion of the outrageous use of the "state secrets defense" to cover a multitude of governmental sins in... secrecy. Just the tip of the iceberg of course... the perfect analogy, as most of the iceberg is... out of view...]

And so, as I took my holiday weekend jog around lower Manhattan, going by "the Mosque"... a sad looking building on Park Place guarded by two NYPD police officers (who, I hope to God have been removed from Rudy's personal security detail that I understand the City's taxpayers-- like me-- are paying for), and a Brooklyn Bridge walkway dominated by picture taking tourists (bring us your tired, your poor, your euros...)... and spending much of the day with the family... on a picture perfect day weatherwise here... we picked some carrots from the roof container garden... and had some milkshakes at our neighborhood Brooklyn soda fountain... maybe this is as good as it gets...

Or something.

October 9, 2010, Happy birthday, John

John Lennon was born 70 years ago, today. We'll never know what he'd have accomplished in the last 30 years had our nation's gun fetish not allowed a mad-man to have the ready means to kill him... but at least we know... whatever Lennon is, was or would be... the FBI remains interested.

Fascinating. Rest in peace, John. Even if, it seems, our government remains threatened by a man who has been dead for decades. Huh.

October 3, 2010, Broken records

Yes, I do sound like one myself, as I regale with you tales of completed marathons (this week, state no. 15 and marathon no. 27, "Freedom's Run" starting and finishing in the great state of West Virginia, albeit mostly of its course being in Maryland, in a comparatively blazing fast time for yours truly... and coincidentally ran into a high school friend there, who is much farther along in her quest for 50 states glory than I am... she is also somewhat faster than I). And this, just a week after an early exit from what was supposed to be an "ultra-"... the Trail Mix-Up Six Hour. Well... going into the USATF 50-mile championship in two weeks... hopefully... I'll be ready for it. (Thing is, it's not just about the physical fitness... it's about being out of contact with the vagaries of our civilization, and the misinformation provided by the corporate p.r. dept. media, and in contact with the universe itself, unfiltered and unvarnished.)

The other point being that the broken records I'm trying to talk about do not involve peak performances and fastest time ever kinds of things... just that I keep talking about the same things over and over... kind of like the United States Government, which, like the British government, has issued an alert advising of possible terrorist activity that Americans traveling to Europe are supposed to worry about.

Is it... red? Orange? Yellow? Until you tell me the color... I don't know what to think about this... other than... somewhere, I've heard this sort of thing before. I guess passengers should be prepared to pounce on any other passenger doing anything suspicious.

Your government wants you to know this. Be afraid. It's patriotic.