The Talking Dog

November 27, 2010, Thwarting... what, exactly?

I'll vaguely defer to this from Steve concerning a supposedly thwarted car bomb plot involving a Christmas tree lighting ceremony in Portland, Oregon... though, of course, unlike Steve, I have no particular "admiration" for an FBI that devoted so much of its efforts to setting up some jerky native-Somali kid into a "terrorism" plot that he might or might not have otherwise engaged in (probably not, being my implication) rather than, you know, hunting down actual terrorists (either of the top two guys at al Qaeda might be nice). But hey... that's just me. (For more of my thoughts on the [jackbooted] activities of the Portland office of the FBI, see my interview with Steve Wax.)

What everyone who gives a f*** any longer (and to be honest, it's probably a sign of mental health if you do not), the key part of this is that no one was in any danger: the "explosive devices" in the suspect's vehicle were inert. This was a governmentally controlled operation... which leads me to believe that it is about continuing to keep the public on edge going into the holiday season, because edgy people spend more money.

Sorry folks: I've lived through 9-11 from a block away from the WTC site (and still work a block away from the WTC site)... and you probably didn't, and don't. I recognize "the danger" as much as anyone...more than most, actually, and I'm more than willing to trust in our regular, standard law enforcement procedures, all consistently executed within the limits of our Constitution a f*** of a lot more than I am to be scared sh**less and believe we should extend our betters the dictatorial powers that they crave (to the extent that, with the general acquiescence of a prozac-addled populace, they haven't already seized them).

In short... what we have been told about in Oregon was indeed part of a big, insidious plot against us... it's just not the plot being described in the headlines.

November 25, 2010, Tidings of the season

TD tribute to vegetarianism

Happy Thanksgiving to you and your families; Brother Dmitri tells us what, as Americans, we should actually be thankful for.

Of course, that said, one does marvel at thie timing of this. Just saying.

November 21, 2010, Tempest in a tea party

We'll start with the preposterous moral/legal state we now find ourselves in, whereby the prospect of having a criminal trial for actual criminals is now so controversial, the Secretary of State has to defend it.. I remember back 'round a quarter century ago, when I personally had to take an oath upon joining the very same Department of Justice that is now asked to be the courtroom face of outrageous American governmental policies (like liquidation of enemies of the state, state secrets, the end of habeas corpus, etc., etc.)... and that oath required me to oblige myself to defend THE CONSTITUTION-- not the sitting executive or the ruling class or Goldman Sacks for that matter... but THE CONSTITUTION-- against all enemies, foreign and domestic. Seems to me that anyone-- members of Congress ESPECIALLY (Peter King, I'm looking right at you)-- who would assert that they have a problem with our Government's compliance with our Constitution is, himself (Peter King) one of those very enemies of the Constitution I swore to defend it against. Just saying.

Which is the sort of, you know, "liberal" statement that might make some of you surprised that I would reach the conclusion (after reading the Grey Lady's Frank Rich's attempted hit piece of Sister Sarah Palin (to the effect that she could well secure the GOP nomination, and at least in her mind, be elected President in 2012))... that if she does manage to get the GOP nomination (and Barack Obama gets the Democratic nomination), at least, as of this moment, Sarah Palin would then have my unconditional support... financial and rhetorical, and I might even work on her campaign. Vive la revolucion! I've supported what I considered to be principled Republicans in the past; right now, I'm willing to favor an unprincipled one, if my alternative is the ultimate in unprincipled Democrats. Give me the REAL Republican over the ersatz Republican (with the Democratic ballot line) every time. If Barack Obama wants to punch me in the gut in every conceivable way, complete with selling me out on expiration of Bush-era tax cuts for the uber-rich AND privatizing social security no less... well, at least with Sarah Palin, I'll do no worse, and actually have a chance that she (unlike Obama) might investigate and prosecute Bush-era torturers (up to and including Bush and Cheney themselves) simply out of a sense of personal payback... which, if you must know, is the real reason Karl Rove is leading the class-based crusade against Palin and her ilk. Did I say that out loud? [You'all know I have come to the conclusion that American national elections don't really matter anyway-- our corporate masters run the place, and the specific identity of the executive and legislative branches of the complaint department are as unimportant as most Americans (most of whom don't vote most of the time) believe them to be.]

Apparently, our government's reading our e-mail, listening in our phone calls, locking us up (or ordering our deaths) don't seem to bother most people ... probably because the people who matter (that is to say, White people) don't believe the government is really going to do it to them... of course, with air travel, the unreasonable measures of the total security state effect everyone, and White people get no special treatment... which, of course, is just not the American way... and hence, the huge kerfuffle over the new airport security measures, particularly out of the San Diego airport for some reason. What the regular media won't talk about is the fact that the new machines that pornographically expose your wife, mother and daughter... and you... to total exposure and gawking by a minimum wage screener... is that good old Bush-era Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who ran around the country telling us the sky would fall unless airports got the [untested] full-body scanners causing the Obama Administration to fall over itself to buy them... works as a lobbyist for the companies that manufacture them! Paranoia pays, bitches!

Quite frankly, my answer to all of this remains: just try not to let it bother you too much. Try not to go anywhere by airplane, or really, by any means other than public transportation or self-propulsion... try to "take yourself out" of the system. However you can, in ways big and small. You might start by looking at this ("the daily green"), and things like it. Baby steps will eventually add up to significant distance. Just saying.

This has been... tempest in a tea party.

November 17, 2010, Imagine that!

A former Guantanamo detainee was... wait for it... tried in a civilian court in New York City and... wait for it... he was acquitted of all but one count; he was convicted of one count of conspiracy to destroy government property.

Ahmed Ghailani had actually been indicted by a New York federal grand jury before 9-11, for his role in the 1998 bombings of United States embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania, in which hundreds were killed, including a dozen American nationals. Key rulings by federal U.S. District Judge Lewis Kaplan included the blocking of a key witness because the Government only learned about the witness by torturing Ghailani (and implicitly, because that witness was probably tortured as well). Kaplan declined to dismiss the case against Ghailani on speedy trial grounds, even though Ghailani was held for years in CIA or military custody before being brought to trial.

On the one count of conspiracy, the charge carries a possible sentence of 20 years to life; given that the jury specifically asked for a read-back of the law of conspiracy, let's just say this will be a very interesting appeal.

For those feckless politicians who continue to insist that the alleged 9-11 conspirators can't be tried in New York... well, an alleged terrorist was tried, and convicted, in what by all accounts was a fair proceeding... and the world didn't come to an end. Not that reality means much to politicians looking to score points-- and Democrats (Chuck Schumer) tend to be far worse about this than Republicans, who at least have the virtue of sincerity in their hardass macho bullshit. And so... yes, I am going to guess that the Obama Administration is going to do... (Brother Andy explains it all for you.)

I for one welcome our new ant overlords am proud of my fellow New Yorkers who served on the jury, for doing the highest service our justice system can do: be fair to the most hated man around, in this case, an accused mass murderer, by carefully assessing the case before them, rather than, as virtually all our politicians seem to do, relying on prejudices or propaganda or expedience. Obviously, this is what our politicians are most afraid of, and why the Ghailani trial will probably be the last of its kind. Which is a disservice to us all, but most of all to the victims of September 11th and their families, who may be satisfied with politically expedient vengeance, but justice, it seems, is more than our government is willing to provide.

November 16, 2010, Happy birthday...

To Mrs. TD!!!

November 15, 2010, Opposite of courage under fire

I'll defer to Krugman for this explanation of the President's various failures in the economics front which led inexorably to the mid-term election results, to wit, an electorate with no love for Republicans handing them control of the House of Representatives anyway, because the President sold them out on everything they hold dear economic recovery, both as a matter of style and as a matter of substance. And substance, especially.

Professor Krugman nicely weaves in Obama's bogus campaign themes that genuine hostility between the party of the richRepublicans and the other party of the rich, only less effective Democrats was strictly one of "process," and somehow, the guy who never had a real job in his freaking life before becoming President of the freaking United States "great conciliator" in the form of Barack Obama could get the feuding ill-tempered children and assorted industry-owned whores diametrically opposed political forces to shake hands and work together in a spirit of harmony.

"Bollocks," says I. And "fat chance" says Krugman, as just as Obama caved before the game even started, and began negotiating with himself to make the stimulus ineffective (and the health care reform not so reformy)... so it seems, he's doing it again, by handing the Republicans their wet dreams most cherished treasure, tax cuts for the rich, despite telling us for years that he would stand firm against them.

In watching a t.v. montage of the President in East Asia, I saw that in Japan, he attended a genuine kabuki show... one assumes he did so as a matter of professional development, as the kabuki seems to be the only coherent theme of governance he has (that, and capituation, which kind of sounds like kabuki).

November 11, 2010, Post-Armistice Day Pot Pourri

Jim Henley gives us his take on the highjacking of Armistice Day by the forces of militarism and war-mongering, thereby investing the Newspeak holiday of "Veterans Day" with a creepy vibe that's exactly the opposite of what was originally intended for the holiday.

TD Sister sends us this Grey Lady piece on the legal, financial and other troubles encountered by a former coal baron trying to take on one of the most evil corporate empires in America (and as you know, that's saying something).

And in perhaps his greatest act of contempt yet for the City of which he is the Lord Mayor, Mayor Mike Bloomberg has replaced the heinously unqualified Joel Klein as chancellor of the (by far) largest public school system in the country with one Cathie Black, who has the trifecta of no professional educational experience herself (she, like Bloomberg himself, is a media executive), not sending her children to public schools (they go to private boarding schools), or even attending public schools (she went to parochial schools). But, of course, Joel Klein, the Clinton/Reno -era Justice Dept. Antitrust Division head whose qualification for the job he's sucked at for nearly nine years was that Mike Bloomberg is a billionaire and knows everything and thought Klein wouldn't give him trouble (and Mike's a billionaire... and knows everything)... will be replaced by Ms. Black... who, if you believe in coincidences (and you know I don't)... and speaking of evil corporations... just happened to serve on the same charter school board as Rupert Murdoch, whose News Corp. will now be Mr. Klein's new employer.

And over in South Korea, the U.S.A. is receiving unusually vociferous criticism from other world leaders over our policy of "quantitative easing", or looser money to try to stimulate our moribund economy, which other nations fear will end up screwing their economies... Lighten up, boys and girls... it's not as if the United States ever really does anything else!!!

And the affectionately named "catfood commission" chairmen have issued their draft report intended to cut the nation's never-ending deficits... I think their explanations can best be summarized by "have we not prisons and workhouses?" Their deficit reduction plans will cause pain now and result in fiscal benefits decades from now, when everyone involved is senile or dead... and the rich are... still rich, and everyone else will hopefully go away... Boys and girls would do well to remember that while Alan Simpson was a Republican senator, Erskine Bowles worked for arch-rightwinger Bill Clinton (remember, Bob Dole could never have "ended welfare as we know it" or set in motion what became the financial crisis we are currently in; only a so-called Democrat, like "New Democrat" Bill Clinton, or "WTF Democrat" Barack Obama could).

This has been... "Post-Armistice Day Pot Pourri."

November 10, 2010, Still crazy after all these years

Marcy Wheeler gives us this report on events in a D.C. federal court before U.S. District Judge John Bates re: ACLU's "next friend" suit viz Emmanuel Goldstein Anwar al-Awlaki, an American citizen targeted for death because he's an extremely conveninet poster child for pushing the envelope he's a bad man and evil incarnate should be wiped off the planet the President says so. Marcy notes that even the Government's usual shamelessness on matters like this seems less enthusiastic, as "state secrets" was offered to the Court as "only a last resort"... and otherwise, more transparent lies were offered as a justificaion for the unconstitutional, illegal, immoral, and otherwise not-nice hit placed on an American citizen by his own government.

As a bonus, Marcy throws in a link to this Grey Lady piece documenting the Justice Department decision not to prosecute the poor bastard at CIA who was designated to take the fall for the White House's decision (and btw, that's both the current and former Administrations) to destroy interrogation tapes that would have shown torture and abuse enhanced interrogation of prisoners in American custody, tapes, which (as revealed on this very blog) were the subject of court orders not to destroy them.

We are now, officially at least, assuming we accept the Justice Department's legal briefs and actual policies and actions, a dictatorship. Yes, our dictator is up for plebicite every four years or so... but one can think of some German guy with a funny moustache who was first elected via a democratic process... or if you'd like a current and English speaking example, so was Robert Mugabe. The liberal/progressive belief that having "our guy" as the dictator is in any sense meaningful should be recognized for the idiocy, if not outright lunacy, that it is. What matters, boys and girls, is the system and the rules, and the robustness of the checks and balances to make sure the rules are followed. Maybe it's an "ever thus" that the powerful are above the law... but maybe it isn't.

But until enough people wake up and realize that it matters not one microscopic jot that the President spying on us, torturing (and if not outright engaging in torture, condoning it and covering it up and thereby facilitating future torture), and ordering hits on our fellow citizens is George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Barack Obama, or Sarah Palin for that matter... let's just say... this has been "Still crazy after all these years."

November 8, 2010, Streak show

Amongst formerly trapped Chilean miner Edison Pena demonstrating the power of the human spirit, Subway sandwich shops' pitchman "Jared" cheapening the whole thing by his commercial presence (fortunately, most media refused to cover him), and the usual world class super-elite runners (sadly, the world record holder and many people's "greatest marathoner ever" Haile Gebrselassie announced his retirement after dropping out in the 16th mile; his countryman, Ethiopia's Gebre Gebremariam won the men's race and Kenya's Edna Kiplagat won the women's race, with American Shalane Flanagan taking second in her marathon distance debut), not to mention numerous other celebrities and 43,000 or so others in presumably the largest marathon ever staged, your talking dog kept intact his streak of running every NYC Marathon since 9-11, finishing yesterday just barely in the expected range (that's between 5:20 and 5:40, a minute or so faster than Senor Pena!) for TD's 10th NYC finish in a row (and 28th marathon overall... plus this year's 4 ultra finishes). A brisk day in the mid-40's and a relentless wind took their toll... as did the possibility of lingering fatigue from the 50-miler of three weeks ago... but none of this was going to force a surrender. "More training outside" (such as... any) might be next year's plan... along with that 'speed work"... whatever THAT is! We'll somehow need to knock off 130 minutes or so for Boston qualifying... that, or turn 80 and knock off only 40 minutes... hmmm....

Anyway, what I love most about the marathon is its elemental simplicity: the clothing and the sneakers and the timing equipment and the elite training methods may be space-age, the paved roads and urban backdrops of the high industrial era... but the act of propelling oneself over the distance is entirely primal... our forebears did it to run down their food, or to out-run the possibility of being food. One foot in front of the other... nothing more. (The barefoot running craze is alive and well as I saw one man... barefoot. I'm not sure that makes this more simple... or harder... but good for him for trying it.) Some days are better than others... and like everything else, the challenge is getting through it on days when everything isn't clicking into place... knowing (or sometimes just hoping) that the preparation has been adequate for nearly all contingencies.

Yes, yes... a metaphor for everything else. I'm sure many, if not most of the participants can check their marathon off their life's to-do or bucket list; something so pointlessly American in that-- an experience to be had, checked off and thrown away. I hope that many more will see it as I do-- an ongoing challenge. Something to be endured to be sure, but also something to learn and to grow from. Marathoning's popularity has a way of increasing in comparatively difficult economic times here in the USA... and God knows, that's where we are now. One hopes this is because so many realize that joy and fulfillment are to be derived not from material success... but from valuable experiences, and meeting the challenge of something like a marathon is just that.

Well... God willing, we'll see you this time next year for a report on TD's 11th. Until then... this has been... "Streak show."

November 5, 2010, Living large

It was pointed out to me by the young 'un, and confirmed by Mrs. TD, that in Orwell's 1984, the all-encompassing state used the mechanism of a state lottery as one of its numerous means to keep the proles in line; the lottery was extremely popular amongst the proles. State lotteries as of the 1940's (when Orwell wrote 1984) were not all the rage as they are now; but as in so many things... Orwell was prophetic. It was once suggested to me in blog comments that 1984 was not intended as a manual. Well, whether or not it was or wasn't so intended, it has sure as hell been used as one, especially here in the United States of late, from its creative methods of torture, to serving the public rot-gut cheap crap (Victory gin, anyone?) to keep it in line... to state lotteries.

Anyway, fast forward to Canadian couple Alan and Violet Large, who won over $11 million in a lottery prize, and then proceeded to give every last loony, quarter and penny away to friends, charities and hospitals, noting that... they're happy... they have each other!

Everything I read tells me that "stuff" doesn't make one happy: experiences and especially doing nice things makes one happy, and, not coincidentally, will help one live longer and healthier. Which is one of the truly great ironies of a Western world that is choking with stuff, but starved for "doing nice things." And so we come to the United States, with tens of millions of people on antidepressants while choking amidst stuff (much of it made in Eastasia, with whom we're at war... or is it Eurasia?)... virtually none of whom would even dream of doing what the Larges did, no matter how good it might make them feel.

I throw this out there because when we run out of comparatively-cheap oil in the next few years... the incidence of "stuff" (that would also include food and pharmaceuticals, as well as i-pods and x-boxes) is going to collapse (along with so many other things)... if we were already inured to "doing nice things"... such as favors for friends or just random kind acts... we might be of the kind of mind-set that would get us through the privation. Of course, being Americans, many of us feel "it's about the stuff," and even though, the ultimate irony is that money really can't and won't be able to buy happiness... most of us probably won't adjust.

Well... an exemplary (and cautionary) tale from the Great White North... one we might consider heeding.

November 1, 2010, Happy day of the [politically and economically] dead

Here we are, one day after Halloween, on "All Hallows Day" in some places, a/k/a "Day of the Dead" in others. Given that I'm down to no more than a few dozen of you (if that) who are still likely to be reading this, there's no real reason to sugar-coat here.

And so, it seems, many Americans have figured that out... Based on polls like this, we can apparently conclude that 75% of those surveyed believe things suck right now (although the bizarrely American pollyannish streak has 58% believing things will be just fine in a year)... we can expect those that vote tomorrow to take things out on the party nominally in power, the Democrats (rather than, of course, on the party actually in power, the Republicans Rockefeller family plutocrats who run corporate America which, of course, since that party controls both of the nominal parties, can't actually be "voted out" by any means other than citizens either taking to the streets in protest, or taking themselves out of the money economy.)

Having spent the last two years in a desperate quest to convince me that every minute of effort (such as spending the last two federal election cycles in Pennsylvania on Election Day) and every nickel I contributed to Democrats and Democratic causes was not only unappreciated, but a huge mistake, as not only issue after issue I hold dear was thrown back in my face, but the White House itself felt the need to say that any dissent to its corporate program on liberal grounds by dirty hippies was to be derisively dismissed.... let's just say... I'm sold! I'm done helping the Democrats; I'll be staying home tomorrow. I'll be voting-- but only because there are state and local elections at stake that, unlike the federal ones, might make a difference in my own life; I plan on leaving the federal lines blank. After decades of Democratic Party attempts to convince me, the Obama Administration has finally done it and convinced me: there is no meaningful difference between the two parties on anything important, be it advancing the interests of investment banks and the military industrial complex, the shredding of the Constitution, or, of course, asinine recitations of the Pledge of Allegiance when actual considered action is required. I wish I'd've been listening sooner: I could have saved myself some time, effort and money. Well... better late than never.

And just as our political system, as far as I'm concerned, is on its last legs (if not past them), our economic system is not going to be far behind, as Brother Dmitri reminds us... we've done nothing to diversify our economy away from oil (foreign or domestic), and, since Earth ain't making any more of it,,, we'll be running out pretty soon, and well... things won't be pretty.

The only thing we can be absolutely certain of is that the collapse of our political and economic systems will not be met by any kind of rational response. Many can take delight, or misery, at the results of the elections tomorrow... but why? Regardless of which of the two parties our plutocrats allow us to have that "prevails" tomorrow, we still won't ease up on either our program of exporting homicide or our program of importing petroleum (and both on money borrowed from the Chinese.) Yes... the benevolent incompetence of Reid and Pelosi will likely be replaced by the malevolent incompetence of McConnell and Boehner... but... so what? Is anything going to fundamentally change? Other than possibly for the worse (and that, regardless of the electoral results).

So... in some sense, much of this might end up being liberating. Many if not most of us were being ground under by industrial capitalism as it was... maybe we'll have a fighting chance in what comes after. Who knows? The one thing not to do is to somehow think "conventional wisdom," such as the pollyannish conclusion that life can magically go on exactly as it has before even amidst evironmental, economic and political collapse, is anything other than a suicide pact. If I can do you any service at all, I'll just say-- do something to "take yourself out." In my case, I've started to grow vegetables on my roof, but am way behind on where I need to be... and yet, I still know that most people won't even start until things have already collapsed.

Here's the thing: Americans are far smarter than our elites give us credit for; after all, we generally don't vote, and we don't like soccer. So we at least have something to work with. But we'll have to at least start acknowledging the reality of our situation, and start taking action, preferably starting yesterday. And on that... well, I'll just hope for the best, I guess.

This has been..."Happy day of the [politically and economically] dead."

Update: In a baseball World Series no one really cared about (since the New York Yankees weren't playing), just 53 years after the team left New York for greener pastures Westward, Nancy Pelosi's San Francisco Giants have defeated George W. Bush's Texas Rangers 4 games to 1. Boo ya.