The Talking Dog

December 30, 2010, Snow job

It's nice to see our Lord Mayor "take responsibility" for a series of acts bordering on criminal indifference on his part associated with the City of New York's utter inability to clear most of its streets following this weekend's mega-blizzard (interestingly, the 20 or so inches that were recorded in Central Park were the sixth highest total ever recorded, but the second-highest this year, after February's 26 inch fall). Still... the Lord Mayor's sudden humility on this seems... disingenuous. To be fair, in my dozen years in Brooklyn, this was the hardest I've ever had to work in terms of clearing snow from our front walk... a lot of snow, heavy, nowhere to put it, and viciously cold outside forcing frequent breaks. But still and all...

What I have yet to see reported anywhere in a Bloomberg-friendly news media (professional courtesy to another media mogul, doubtless) is that the principal difference involves personnel: experienced personnel who have been "incentivized" to take retirement or otherwise "attrit" between February and now, and what I really suspect is going on, to wit, a huge number of sanitation workers-- more than would be rational or prudent in this or any winter season-- were permitted to take Christmas week vacations, and I have no doubt whatsoever that our famously control-freakish Lord Mayor knew all about this, and still refused to do the only two rational things required by this set of circumstances (other than be honest about them, which might or might not have caused some level of panic), those being (1) declare a snow emergency banning all non-emergency vehicles from driving in the streets altogether [no... some rich fucks will need to get to their cocktail parties in their own vehicles] and (2) hire day laborers immediately to hand shovel everything that the shortage of professional vehicle operators means can't be reached with the heavy plows. There. That wasn't so hard.

Except, it seems, we have a "rugged individualist/captialist" ideology masquerading as a relevant and useful doctrine, where genuine government services that can only be provided by the government are what is actually required. Alas, had a general announcement to the effect of "anyone driving a private vehicle on NYC Streets after 5 pm on Sunday for any purpose other than driving someone to a hospital will be fined $1,000" would probably have kept most of our major intersections clear, permitting easier snow clearance... as would a general announcement of $10 an hour snow-shoveling ($11 if you bring your own shovel) throughout the outer boroughs. No... that would cost money... money that could otherwise be used to bail out our friends on Wall Street. Indeed, not even a real call for voluntary action [e.g. please help shovel out your own street so emergency vehicles could get through] went out. Just something like "we'll take Manhattan, but the Bronx, [Brooklyn, Queens] and Staten Island too... you're on your own!" Nice.

These sensible measures which would have taken just a slight investment of political capital... didn't happen. A cautionary tale: in a community of 9 million people (as with a nation of over 300 million), when the political leaders feel for people like themselves (that would be "the super-rich"... and Mike Bloomberg is actually New York's richest resident) and not with the average Jose who elects them (and has to live under their "governance") ... you end up getting breakdowns. And after nearly a week of it, even the invariably arrogant Bloomberg had to admit it. As if it will matter, or in any way change the behavior of our elected elite anytime soon.

December 26, 2010, Back to the future (or "meta-myths")

With his piece "Who killed the Disneyland dream?" the Grey Lady's Frank Rich reminds me of questions I've been wanting to ask for years about him... (1) what is it that first qualified him to be a theater critic in the first place? (and that's easy: he went to Harrrrvard), and (2) what qualifies the theater critic to be a general op-ed columnist for our so-called paper of record? (and that's easy too... he went to Harrrrvard). You see how easy this all is? Too easy... which is my point.

Anyway, the present column opens by noting three notable deaths this year: former JFK speech writer Ted Sorenson, diplomatic envoy Richard Holbrooke, and the wonderfully named Robbins Barstow, who died at age 91, and whose notable achievement (according to Mr. Rich) was the making of an amateur film in 1956 of a family trip from Connecticut to the then one-year-old Disneyland in Anaheim, California [a trip acquired, btw, because Barstow's then four year old son won a contest sponsored by the 3-M Corporation for a Scotch Tape slogan] of such note that it is in the National Film Registry at the Library of Congress. Rich is within his area of expertise to note the film's brilliance as a period piece... he is, of course, out of his depth (as are most of our media's "experts" on just about anything) when we leave the realm of the superficial. Hence, Rich writes:

Many of America’s more sweeping changes since 1956 are for the better. You can’t spot a nonwhite face among the family’s neighbors back home or at Disneyland. Indeed, according to Neal Gabler’s epic biography of Disney, civil rights activists were still pressuring the park to hire black employees as late as 1963, the same year that Martin Luther King Jr.’s march on Washington and Betty Friedan’s “Feminine Mystique” started upending the Wonder Bread homogeneity that suffuses the America of “Disneyland Dream.”

But, for all those inequities, economic equality seemed within reach in 1956, at least for the vast middle class. (Michael Harrington’s exposé of American poverty, “The Other America,” would not rock this complacency until 1962.) The sense that the American promise of social and economic mobility was attainable to anyone who sought it permeates “Disneyland Dream” from start to finish.


The Barstows accept as a birthright an egalitarian American capitalism where everyone has a crack at “upper class” luxury if they strive for it (or are clever enough to win it). It’s an America where great corporations like 3M can be counted upon to make innovative products, sustain an American work force, and reward their customers with a Cracker Jack prize now and then. The Barstows are delighted to discover that the restrooms in Fantasyland are marked “Prince” and “Princess.” In America, anyone can be royalty, even in the john.


This month our own neo-Kennedy president — handed the torch by J.F.K.’s last brother and soon to face the first Congress without a Kennedy since 1947 — identified a new “Sputnik moment” for America. This time the jolt was provided by the mediocre performance of American high school students, who underperformed not just the Chinese but dozens of other countries in standardized tests of science, math and reading. In his speech on the subject, President Obama called for more spending on research and infrastructure, more educational reform and more clean energy technology. (All while reducing the deficit, mind you.) Worthy goals, but if you watch “Disneyland Dream,” you realize something more fundamental is missing from America now: the bedrock faith in the American way that J.F.K. could tap into during his era’s Sputnik moment.

How many middle-class Americans now believe that the sky is the limit if they work hard enough? How many trust capitalism to give them a fair shake? Middle-class income started to flatten in the 1970s and has stagnated ever since. While 3M has continued to prosper, many other companies that actually make things (and at times innovative things) have been devalued, looted or destroyed by a financial industry whose biggest innovation in 20 years, in the verdict of the former Fed chairman Paul Volcker, has been the cash machine.


In last week’s exultant preholiday press conference, Obama called for a “thriving, booming middle class, where everybody’s got a shot at the American dream.” But it will take much more than rhetorical Scotch tape to bring that back. The Barstows of 1956 could not have fathomed the outrageous gap between this country’s upper class and the rest of us. America can’t move forward until we once again believe, as they did, that everyone can enter Frontierland if they try hard enough, and that no one will be denied a dream because a private party has rented out Tomorrowland.

Oh boy.

We'll start with the most obvious things driving the world in 1956. At that time, most Americans lived in either unabashedly rural areas (and probably on farms), or more likely, they lived in cities-- large, industrial cities, and usually in the Northeast or Midwest. "The suburb" that seems to be the unspoken backdrop of the piece by selecting as its focal point a family from Connecticut, which now dominates the American ethos, was then in its proto-state, or infancy; suburban Rockland County, New York, the situs of my own upbringing, was still the realm of sleepy farms, as the Tappan Zee Bridge would not open until 1959, and the dramatic suburban development that followed it was still years away. [In other words... Rich's interprepretation of suburban bliss as a kind of default state, because of course, it was what was depicted on television, largely did not yet exist by 1956, at least, though one could certainly see it coming.]

And of course... there was still something fresh on people's minds called World War II (which Robbins Barstow's birth in 1919 or 1920 would have dumped him in prime position to serve in) or the Cold War [except for its most superficial comic book aspects Sputnik] and its components such as the Korean War, which seems to be missing from Rich's consciousness... but presumably not from the consciousness of those visiting Disneyland in 1956... the same year that the Soviets invaded Hungary.

Oh... one more thing not mentioned by Mr. Rich: Robbins Barstow's formative years would have been during the Great Depression, which would have been the overarching reason the family preferred picnic meals to over-priced commercial fare. Rich's post hac observation, "The Barstows accept as a birthright an egalitarian American capitalism where everyone has a crack at “upper class” luxury if they strive for it (or are clever enough to win it)" would doubtless have surprised the Barstows at the time, who would doubtless have appreciated the economic vibrancy of the post-war era, but who would have understood-- apparently far more than our public intellectuals of the present-- the fragile nature of its rewards, because of circumstances of the times, rather than because of supposed "birthrights." Indeed, it has only been since the 1970's-- when the last liberals [Ford and Nixon] to occupy the White House tried to use government to help the little guy-- that the myth of American exceptionalism and entitlement to a bourgeois lifestyle-- have really taken hold. Precisely, as Rich correctly observes, when broad trends toward egalitarianism reversed toward the income and wealth disparities we face today (the kind that would make Argentina gag).

In other words: the good old days-- the "Leave it to Beaver" supposed optimism of the 1950's, a time when Rich correctly notes that a Disneyland was homogenously White, as race and gender issues were in a less enlightened state than they are now... wasn't quite as stable as Rich pretends. "Ozzie and Harriet-world" had a number of underlying draw-backs... race/gender issues, which plague us in some form to this day notwithstanding our prep-school educated Black President (who also went to Harrrrvard... another story we'll talk about in a minute),.. the 50's dark-side included McCarthyism (substitute "Muslim" for "Communist"... lather, rinse, repeat) and the unspoken threat of instantaneous nuclear annihilation looming over everything... Oh... the purported "economic security" that Rich fantasizes about being provided by big corporations was understood to be meaningful only because of governmental backstops such as New Deal measures unemployment and bank depositary insurance, social security and government regulation of market excesses. In '56, every American would have told you that capitalism FAILED in the 1930's. Repeat after me: CAPITALISM FAILED. And only government-- BIG, HUGE GOVERNMENT-- of the kind wielded by FDR and the New Deal-- is the ONLY THING that saved it. A universal lesson seemingly lost to us these days.

To paraphrase both Santayana and Mr. Kotter... those who forget their history are doomed to repeat it... or something. But you have to learn the correct lessons from your history in the first place, and try to understand things from the context of the time at issue. Even purported progressives like Frank Rich seem to buy into the notion that there was ever blind faith in capitalism in our recent past. Bollocks, says I (whose own parents were, much like himself, at various times, entrepreneurs and employees of the welfare state). The blind faith in capitalism is extraordinarily recent-- when St. Ronald Reagan, a man much like Rich himself, whose own reality was based upon the unreality of movies and theater, took over the national consciousness, defeating the dower peanut farmer who insisted that we had to eat our vegetables... and we never really looked back.

Until, arguably the present, when the Great Recession and the financial meltdown and the double-digit unemployment and all, one would think, would finally kick-start some sense into some people... maybe hey, this capitalism thing (and those mighty corporations)... just ain't delivering. And so, Rich hearkens to the lone conservative President the nation suffered between 1933 and 1977 (that would be JFK) for his fast-forward to the present, noting that our current President "called for more spending on research and infrastructure, more educational reform and more clean energy technology. (All while reducing the deficit, mind you.)"

All of which is good as far as it goes, except, of course, "educational reform" means "reform" for the non-elites (note that President Obama himself nd his own childdren have been educated at exclusive private schools)... you know... us fools who are, by choice [or usually by necessity], relegated to sending our children to the public schools... [which are an after-thought to the Clintons and Bushes and Obamas of the world, who have no stake in them ] And infrastructure and "clean energy technology," which could be accomplished much more expeditiously and cost-effectively by government programs such as a new Works Progress Administration. You see, my college classmate the President, and "progressives" (at least of the public intellectual variety, such as Frank Rich), are still operating from assumptions-- the premise that obvious falsities of the present, such as that "great corporations like 3M can be counted upon to make innovative products, sustain an American work force, and reward their customers with a Cracker Jack prize now and then," were accepted as Gospel truths even in the day. Because they weren't.

"Optimism" among White middle class people in the 1950's was certainly going to be their public face. The reality was much more complex and dare I say "nuanced" than anyone cares to admit. The fact that the "amusement park" of the 1950's hearkened back to its own highly fictionalized version of good old days... the turn of the 20th century of Walt Disney's own [imagined!] youth... should make us take these trips down memory lane with full consciousness. In fact... we should try to live our whole lives in full consciousness... the efforts of the Walt Disneys of the world to bamboozle us with fantasy-spectacle and unreality notwithstanding. Cause "the good old days" never really were... And if we mistake the lessons they actually have to teach us... we'll be even that much more worse off.

Just saying.

December 21, 2010, Dep't of more of same and redundancy dep't

Having blown his "close Guantanamo within a year" promise (and well before then, of course, sacking White House counsel Larry Greg Craig for having the audacity to make him publicly state the promise in the first place)... the Obama Administration proposes an "executive order for permanent detention"... which... is kind of exactly where we are now... isn't it? Some four dozen men would still be too-dangerous-to-release-but-too-tortured-to-prosecute, trials would have to be by military commission... oh, but there would be some kind of meaningless "review process"... perhaps even every year! As with the terms "enemy combatant" and "war on terror"... the nomenclature will change... but the Kafkaesque horror will continue (at least until morale improves, anyway).

I'll say this for my old college classmate Barack: one can't be disappointed when one has no expectations. After all, it's not as if there were prior executive orders suggesting, say, that Guantanamo Bay's detention facilities would be closed within a year of Obama's taking office...

Well... thanks to "net neutrality," at least we can all still freely talk about it all on the open internet... it's not as if Obama flip-flopped on that too and sold us all out because the hedge fund guys (telecom branch) wanted him to...

Every day, in every way, the people of the Obama Administration just want you to know that if there is any material difference between it and the Bush Administration... they must not be doing their jobs right.

December 19, 2010, Nothing personal, just business

Attorney David Coombs, counsel to one [ex-?]-PFC Bradley Manning justs wants to give you "a day in the life" of Private Manning. I won't go into much more detail (Mr. Coombs does that himself... read the link if you want it), but Private Manning is required to sit in his rather small cell (and sit it is... he will be stopped from any form of exercise) for 23 hours a day or so, then allowed for a figure-8 walk in a concrete room for up to an hour a day, with limited opportunity to read, watch television, write to approved persons, and I suppose once in a while, confer with his counsel. Other than some more privileges (watching local television, reading material on an approved list), it's not terribly different from the "full-GTMO" (although still "nicer" than "what Padilla got").

No, the military is not physically abusing Private Manning in any way... many if not most torture experts would tell you that's irrelevant-- the prolonged solitary conditions forcing Manning to be totally alone is one of the most effective forms of torture there is. Ah, Barack "the One" Obama's Totally Corporate America. What can you say?

Manning's "crime" of course is leaking purportedly secret (though mostly simply "embarrasssing") information to Wikileaks by the diskful, a crime which could carry up to 52 years in the stockade if he is convicted... which, at the moment at least, he has not been. (Of course... one might wonder whatever happened to the Eighth Amendment? Boss... it's Chinatown Wikileaks.) Manning, of course, is being "persuaded" in the not-so-subtle-ways of the Spanish Inquisition the People's Liberation Army the United States Government to rat on Julian Assange so that a made-up-conspiracy charge against him (who not only embarrassed the Imperium, but used it to get laid) might be viable... "or else." Or else, presumably being, more of the same-- the prolonged isolation conditions, until Manning goes mad, and will, of course, say anything at all to make it stop, or just mindlessly repeat what the Government wants him to say ("good enough!")

This, boys and girls, is how we treat members of our own military who stray from the most important principle there is: don't fuck with the powerful.. Sorry Brad... it's "Nothing personal, just business." America. Fuck YEAH!

[Oh yeah: don't ask don't tell got repealed. Go Barack.]

December 16, 2010, America *&^%'n A

The Grey Lady treats us to the comedy stylings of Tom "the billionaire" Friedman. The title is a reference to the former President of Costa Rica imploring the world (that would be, of course, the United States) to "do something" about climate change, because there is no "Plan B" for the planet; Friedman conflates this to note there is no "America B" (forgetting that, of course there is an America A and B: the America A of the uber-privileged people sitting on mega-millions, such as... Tom Friedman himself.,. and the America B of the rest of us, where even the supposedly affluent "middle class" know that they are a paycheck or an illness away from disaster, and the less than affluent "middle class" have already had at least one such hit...)

Anyway, today's monologue tells us that the (inevitable, not to mention self-inflicted) collapse of American hegemony will screw with United Fruit ExxonMobil the "world stability" that has been inflicted by American military aggression, and such screwing will only benefit the forces of (1) China, a nasty totalitarian regime that gratuitously invades countries sitting on oil or oil pipeline routes, maintains garrisons in over 140 other nations, kidnaps people from around the world solely on the basis of their religion and throws them in dungeons in Cuba, Afghanistan, Iraq and God knwos where else and pretends to afford some of them due process of law jails whistle-blowers and doesn't go to Nobel Prize award cemeremonies it doesn't like and shit, and (2) Julian Assange, who publishes embarrassing e-mails that the Imperium doesn't want out there...and according to Friedman, they are pretty-much equally bad.

Man, you just can't make this shit up. Honestly... the America that gets in the faces of the entire planet with an over-deployed military paid for by borrowing from our supposed rival super-power in China, thereby generating enemies who on rare occasion will actually inflict some damage here, causing an inevitable over-reaction that causes us to generate more enemies at incredible cost, lather, rinse, repeat... is not exactly the "stabilizing force" and all-around-good-thing that Friedman insists it is... now is it? I'd much rather live in Julian Assange's "anarchy" world, where the smug have to watch their asses lest they be "embarrassed," thanks. Christ. That's what the leading public intellectual internationalist at our purported "paper of record" thinks is anarchy.

Reason number 6483 of why we are SO fucked.

December 14, 2010, Public displays of deflection

Well, the L.A. Times gives us this editorial suggesting that "Guantanamo Must Go," in the case of the editorial, specifically opposing adoption by the Senate of a poison pill slipped into a recent Defense Authorization Bill by the House of Representatives that would preclude funding of transfer of Guantanamo detainees to the United States even for war crimes trials... though, Congress's fecklessness in this area is even ahead of that of the Obama Administration's.

Which takes us around 200 miles South of my usual haunt in Brooklyn (and my workplace in the shadow of Ground Zero), where, in a case near and dear to my heart, Candace finally got the opportunity to present the merits of her habeas case on behalf of "Detainee 685," Razak Ali of Algeria (his actual name is "Bakush") in the courtroom of Judge Richard Leon in the District of Columbia federal courthouse. Your talking dog was there for the "public opening;" most of the day was devoted to presentation of classified matters, during which the doors to the courtroom were locked and windows covered over; being part of "the public," I was not privy to those proceedings.

Yes, in just a few weeks, we will arrive at nine years of Guantanamo Bay being open with its sui generis brand of law free detention, thanks to the Supreme Court's Boumediene decision, the habeas cases are inching forward, slowly but surely. And the "day in court" that Candace's client (who heard the "public" openings-- but not the "classified" proceedings-- via audio link to Guantanamo) has finally arrived... after nearly nine years in American custody.

I'll just say that Candace, with deft skill and painstaking attention to details that the Government just glossed over with "trust us, he's a terrorist" poked hole after hole in the Government's rather pro forma presentation, which amounted to "he's a terrorist because we say so." But that led me to a revelation that was so obvious, one would think that after all these years, I would have gotten it by now. Certainly, I've been dancing around it, under it, over it and through it all this time, sometimes stumbling right on it, and sometimes just missing it. And it's a point I've doubltess even made myself, on this blog.

The point is obvious: Guantanamo is full of a bunch of nobodies that our Government has always known are a bunch of nobodies that it must nonetheless tell the public are the most vicious terrorists in the history of evil... except, of course... they are nobodies... poor schmucks who had the misfortune of driving while Black being Arabs in Afghanistan or Pakistan at a time when the United States military and the CIA were paying bounties for Arabs... bring us the Arabs, we'll make up a reason we're holding them later. And the scared-shitless American public will buy anything bad we tell them about dark-skinned people. Guantanamo, you see, is entirely a show, and always has been. I suspect that if there are any "genuine bad guys" there... it is entirely an accident, and it is entirely beside the point. Today's (non-talking) dog and pony show by a quintet of attorneys at my former employer, the U.S. Dept. of Justice (which, btw, at the time I was there, would probably have gagged at the overkill of sending five attorneys on the same case, particularly where their adversary was a solo practitioner... but the show must go on) was... less than impressive. Like it was phoned in. Because, of course... it was. And I don't mean to Guantanamo Bay. I mean... even accepting the Government's extraordinarily dubious propositions of Bakush's connections to a non-existent "terrorist organization" based upon "witnesses" that the Government itself concluded were liars, lunatics, or at best, not recorded accurately... Bakush is still a nobody. Jose Padilla... David Hicks... Omar Khadr... Salim Hamdan... binyam Mohammad... even Abu Zubaydah himself... egregiously treated to "extract information" and at the end... bit players, who the Government needed to tell us were Hilter, bin Laden, Manson and Dahmer rolled into one... ebola in human form.

And Barack "close Guantanamo within a year" Obama and his Government has not deviated so much as a millimeter from the bullshit put in motion by the Bush Administration. Yes, to its credit, the Obama Administration has managed to find third countries to place no more than a few dozen detainees who would have likely faced abuse, torture or worse had they been returned to their own countries (including Candace's other client al-Ghizzawi, now resident of the Republic of Georgia)... notice it hasn't offered to make the USA itself available... but has, otherwise, continued the bullshit, unabated.

And if you must know, notwithstanding the thousands of dead American soldiers (and tens of thousands more maimed for life), and untold hundreds of thousands of dead Iraqis, Afghanis, Pakistanis, Yemenis, and God knows who else, and trillions of dollars down the toilet, the whole "war on terror" is a show too. We can end our pointless occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan tomorrow, and stop our airborne homicide campaigns in Pakistan, Yemen and everywhere else, and not only will "national security" not suffer... by not bankrupting what's rest of our economy, and of course, by not making so many damned enemies... it would actually improve.

But that's not what it's about. And never has been. It's about the show-- and the show is bipartisan, of course. Weapons of mass distraction, indeed. And it will continue grinding up and eating human beings, whether they are the unfortunates caught in our bounty-and-vilification machine, or caught in cross-fire or under an unmanned murderer-drone aircraft. And the very same people who will decry "too much government" think government is just fine when it murders or imprisons or tortures dark-skinned really foreign looking and foreign sounding foreigners, at economy-destroying cost no less. Then it's all "honorable" and shit.

Best of luck to Candace and to Bakush; maybe justice can prevail once in a while. But the big picture is still not a pretty one.

December 7, 2010, NOW it all makes sense!

For our first ever embedded video, we at TTD thought we would use the occasion to explain to you something fundamental about the nature of (our college classmate) President Barack Obama, as he, once again, in not only selling out the rest of us to keep the Bush millionaire tax cuts, but to de-fund social security too..(and even more troublingly, to be pissy about it). behaves bizarrely if one thinks we were going to get that "hopey changey" thing... but perfectly reasonably if one realizes that he is just a guy doing the job that hedge fund guys put him in to get done... take it away Brother Marlon, and keep it real for Barack (and the rest of us):

December 5, 2010, Get your war on

David Rees is just a freaking genius, as "The Return of Get Your War On" demonstrates (via the incomparable Bill Scher.)

Warning: do not read while drinking anything.

December 4, 2010, Fantasy-league "hardball"

I actually like the mechanics of this proposal from Professor Jack Balkin, which he terms a form of "constitutional hardball". The proposal, in a nutshell, is to by-pass Congress altogether-- let all of the Bush tax cuts expire (as they are scheduled to do absent Congressional action, in less than 27 days), and then unilaterally declare an executive "payroll tax holiday"-- as a matter of national emergency-- ordering the Treasury Secretary to refuse to collect the highly regressive federal payroll taxes, and then daring Congress (presumably the Republican House) to sue him. The problem with this is fairly obvious, and noted by Balkin: today a Democrat might use this to grant relief to beleaguered workers; tomorrow, a Republican will use it to grant "relief" to "beleaguered" billionaires, by refusing to collect corporate or estate taxes. But hey... no plan is perfect!

I picked up Balkin's piece in the comments to this Steve Benen piece observing the futility of trying to reach "compromise" with Congressional Republicans, particularly on the issue-de-jour, that being an attempt to maintain current tax rates for the middle class ("middle" all the way up to $250,000 per year for a couple), unless the terrorist hostage takers' the Republicans' demands to extend the current tax rates for everyone, so that millionaires' tax rates don't go up... are met. The Republicans have actually threatened to bring all business of government to a halt unless this demand is met, btw. (For his part, the President has tried to give away the store in advance, and telegraphed that he would accede to extend Bush era tax rates for billionaires in exchange only for extension of unemployment benefits... a move many see as... wait for it... "weakness".)

While both Balkin and Benen make very intelligent observations, they fail to pick up an essential meta-point: this is all a big kabuki. Barack Obama couldn't give two craps about the average American working man or woman. This is not because Barack is a fire-breathing monster, or even because he's a bad guy... it's simply because the average American working man or woman, unless they work for a hedge fund or are an executive of an insurance company or financial institution, just didn't put him where he is. Obama isn't some naif being played by the big bad Republicans... he is simply a corporate middle-manager doing the job he has been hired to do by the people who hired him. Hint: the people who hired him... isn't us.

Which is why he has killed the public option, failed to put through a meaningful "stimulus" that would actually stimulate much of anything (except yet more high-income tax cuts), or really done much of anything that corporate American didn't like (regardless of the public position taken from time to time). I mean, he's escalated the Afghan war, not de-escalated the Iraq war, done little if anything to secure meaningful reform on climate change or energy policy, established a "look forward not backward" attitude on war crimes (an approach which is itself a war crime), and let's face it... he's pretty much out-Bushing Bush on virtually everything... Even in selecting Supreme Court Justices, Bush's first choice of a crypto-lesbian spinster middle-of-the-road Harriet Miers seems in many ways indistinguishable from Obama's first two choices of crypto-lesbian spinsters middle-of-the-road Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, with the notable difference being that Sotomayor and Kagan went to Princeton... as did Scam Alito... Bush's choice... I'm telling you... no meaningful difference!

At this point, one even wonders why any of us bother. The unemployment rate, even with the bullshit Bill-Clinton way it is now measured, is approaching 10% again (and the real rate is still in the low 20's)... and yet, the "bipartisan" ideology is to somehow insist that only "private" investment is good... and that "public" investment is bad, even if such public investments as interstate highways, airports, the internet, bio-medical research, public universities, hospitals, schools, firehouses, police stations and the like are the only things generating jobs in this economy. One would find themselves talking to a bipartisan wall, I suppose.

Which is why I'm going to be expanding my rooftop vegetable garden, come the spring, and taking out that bike from the basement to fix, and maybe learning how to sew, and some elementary wood-craft and all. I'm going to try to plan for certain unpleasant contingencies and prepare for how I and my family might deal with them... and I'm not going to worry so much about "the big picture." Because God knows, our government officials aren't. This has been... "fantasy-league hardball."

December 1, 2010, Wiki wakey

Among the massive load of State Department internal communications that were the subject of the most recent document release by Wikileaks (if Barack Obama refuses to honor his promise of "transparency in government, it seems that Julian Assange of Wikileaks is going to do it for him... by the way, if Julian Assange isn't "the man of the year," you got me as to who is)... is a comment by State Department officials that public enemy number one that terrorist former GTMO prisoner Moazzam Begg was doing the United States' work for it in speaking throughout Europe in an effort to get European nations to admit released GTMO prisoners.

Well. Regular readers are more than a little familiar with Moazzam; (my interview with him is here.) In brief, Moazzam is a British national (from Birmingham, actually) of Pakistani descent who was in Afghanistan doing humanitarian work, when he was picked up in the American dragnet after September 11th. After years held in solitary at Guantanamo Bay, he was abruptly released to the British after about four years; since then, he has written about his experience, helped organize the Cage Prisoners web site and organization, written a book entitled "Enemy Combatant," and otherwise spoken out. At various times, his speaking out is considered "returning to the battlefield" by our feckless and criminal American government, that would prefer that the details of its heretofore hidden crimes against humanity... remain hidden.

And thus, we fast forward to these "truly embarrassing" State Department communiques, which observe the obvious point: getting other countries to accept the poor, harmless unfortunates who were wrongly held (and abused) by the United States for years requires getting others to acknowledge that these are, in fact, poor, harmless unfortunates, and not hardened terrorists. Which, in the overwhelming majority of cases (and don't argue with me on this) the United States government itself has so concluded, having released over 3/4 of the men cycled through GTMO, and acknowledging that the majority of those left present no threat, did nothing wrong, and shouldn't even be there.

And we come to the real problem for Obama and the fact that he was elbowed in the face by a freaking lobbyist even as the White House tells us his "pick up" basketball game only involved close family, inner staff, "and friends" public disclosure. You see, the American government believes there is supposed to be a disconnect between the depiction of reality it disseminates to the moron masses the American public and to itself. Which is all well and good to a point, but as the present situation points out, when it has come to the "war on terror"... everything seems to take a back seat to the propaganda points associated with "looking tough"... even if it means undermining other affirmative policies (such as... getting other countries to take GTMO prisoners off our hands). And hence, everyone held at GTMO must be depicted as the worst of hardened terrorists, notwithstanding even the government's own quite public conclusions to the contrary,

The cognitive dissonance of it all would ordinarily cause one's head to explode. Fortunately for the United States, the average American is sufficiently medicated not to think too much be concerned enough to inquire beyond the face of what he or she is told... and that... is just that.