The Talking Dog

April 28, 2012, Old High school

It's hard to figure out even where to begin with this (apparent) observation that "Barack Obama is too cool for American voters," based, perhaps, on a recent appearance of the President on the Jimmy Fallon show.

Well, back when he and I actually were in school (albeit two or three years after high school), the young Barack that I encountered in our junior year at Columbia [in some political theory class or something, IIRC] was pretty damned cool... actually, he was probably cooler than he is now, truth be told.

But... does this matter? We're way beyond mere "style vs. substance." There, is of course, no "substance," because there is no "democracy," only a pretty bad impersonation of one. The same goes with "freedom," "checks and balances," and, other than in appearance, our "republican form of government." "Equality under law" has always been more aspirational than real, but it sure ain't real now. At this point, only paid shills of the system itself even attempt to deny that the "two parties" are both beholden to (and wholly owned by) the financial sector.

The fact is, whether it's totalitarianism expanding the Bush/Cheney approach to national security, or totalitarianism extending the Bush tax cuts or totalitarianism seeing to it that Jon Corzine and the financial sector are above (indeed, beyond) the law, or just about anything else I can think of, it's really hard for Republicans to sincerely challenge the Obama Administration on the substance of its programs (which, to be fair, were largely also the Bush programs, the Clinton programs, the first Bush programs and the Reagan programs, with only Jimmy "Eat Your Damned Vegetables" Carter as an exception to pure governance-by-the-financial-sector-and-defense-contractors that we have "enjoyed" along with flat or declining real incomes for the overwhelming majority of Americans, made up by skyrocketing debt levels) since 1981 or so.

In the imminent "election" between "the two parties," neither party can really challenge the other on policy... the "war on women" is far more bipartisan than anyone will care to admit, the "war on the poor" continues unabated, the "war on everyone else in the universe" drives everything else in American policy, and the über rich consolidate whatever power and real resources that they don't already control, and those unhappy with their lot are welcome to pound sand, while the police state also consolidates... the logical extension of the repeal of the Bill of Rights by the Supreme Court in Padilla has given us the NDAA and other abominations, seen on the ground in the form of heavy-handed reactions to the largely peaceful Occupy! movement, or indeed, to any actual expression of dissent from Our Perfect American System [TM].

Anyway, it seems we are "enjoying" an "election" coming down to "coolness" amidst the otherwise nightmarish economic, environmental, social, moral, legal and other morasses we are now "enjoying"... I suppose this is all consistent with being a nation (any nation) where Kim Kardashian gets a dominant place in the national discourse.

How to deal with it all? I think I have the right idea by trying not even to think about it (hence the light blogging)... but old habits die hard. First, of course, the traditional bottom-of-the-hole advice is "stop digging"-- and so I'd also suggest that we please stop pretending there is any meaningful substantive difference between "the two parties" (if there is, someone did something wrong.) That said-- feel free to vote based on "coolness;" at least style may be a genuine difference (can't seem to figure out any others.)

Still and all... even though none of this matters... I do agree that Mitt Romney is incredibly uncool. Well... I guess it's back to the old Etch-a-sketch.

April 8, 2012, Happy Easter

It's a nice day; let the President play golf, says I (after we lay out our preconditions to talks with Iran presumably to assure that there won't be any.)

Sadly, long-time CBS news staple Mike Wallace passed way, though at 93, he certainly had a nice run.

Of course, given the reports of the potential for the spent-fuel rods at Fukushima , Japan to discharge perhaps 85 times the radiation released from Chernobyl, and likely take out much of Earth's life... he may be among the luckier ones. Also, the fact that their home might soon be uninhabitable should give some solace to the people of Catalina Island, California, for whom gasoline prices have passed $7/gallon.

That sort of "destruction of civilization" thing kind of takes the thunder away from everything else, really. We can pay less attention to the fact that the United States Government is training an Iranian group that the U.S. State Dept. classifies as terrorists (and naturally has ties to the killing of Americans). [Hey, I hear the Knicks took one from the Bulls today...]

Happy Easter, everyone (and a Zissen Pesach to my lantsmen.)

April 6, 2012, You know it's an election year when...

It's time to crank up the GTMO Show Trial Machine [TM], in this case to reopen the long-lost military commission cases against KSM and four of his friends [for the record, besides Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, the listed defendants include: Walid Muhammad Salih Mubarak Bin Attash, Ramzi Binalshibh, Ali Abdul Aziz Ali, and Mustafa Ahmed Adam al Hawsawi] down at Guantanamo Bay.

Well, y'all know my feelings on the subject, and you're welcome to check out those of former commissions prosecutor Darrel Vandeveld and former commissions chief prosecutor Morris Davis, as expressed in my linked-to interviews with them. Let me highlight some of Col. Davis's comments:

The Talking Dog: You have stated that the commissions were neither "military" nor "justice." Do you believe that the Obama Administration's later tweaks with the commissions process, applying to those commissions going forward, and to the extent contained in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2011 (recently signed into law remedy) this -- in a non-superficial way?

Morris Davis: [T]he answer is "no": I don't think the "reformed" military commission process is significantly different from the military commissions as I left them in October 2007.

Candidate Obama was adamant about the gross injustice of the military commissions, until, of course, he flip-flopped and embraced military commissions. He needed something face-saving, so enough "changes" were made to give him some political cover to claim things were different.

The Military Commissions Act of 2009 was just a politically motivated veneer slapped onto the old process to give the administration an excuse for embracing what it had condemned. If you look beneath the veneer you see that the most significant change to what had been the last “reformed” incarnation of the commissions is a slight change to the hearsay rule. Under the old rules, hearsay was presumed reliable and the burden was on the opponent of a hearsay statement -- most often the accused -- to show by a preponderance of evidence that the statement was unreliable. The "big change" made in 2009 was that the burden shifted to the proponent of hearsay evidence to show, by a preponderance of evidence, that the hearsay evidence is reliable. This change is, basically, a burden shift from the accused to the prosecution, in most instances, of about 1/100th of one percent. A preponderance of evidence is a 50.001 percent versus 49.999 percent standard. If swapping the hearsay burdens around represents a significant change, then there has been a significant change. I don't think it’s anything more than a little coat of whitewash to give President Obama some political cover.

After a while, given the simultaneous convergence of environmental catastrophe, peak oil, financial implosion/depression, broader issues of overpopulation and possible planetary overshoot (read "mass starvation"), and so much other bad sh*t already on their way for us this 2012, coupled with the fact that we are well on the way to domestic dictatorship as it is, the seemingly minor injustices of Guantanamo... just don't seem quite as central as all that anymore. I should note that, for those who still, against all evidence, actually think "elections matter"... we can note that Mitt Romney once suggested that the problem with Guantanamo was that it wasn't big enough (by half).

And obviously, the alleged perps of 9-11 seem a perfect coda for a citizenry always willing to sacrifice the rights of "the other," never quite figuring out that unless everyone gets benefit of law, then no one really does... heck, even a kangaroo court seems better than the summary execution that al-Awlaki (and his teenage kid) got, right?

The heady days of Shiny New President Obama signing executive orders to close the place and other good stuff once hinted at in his inaugural address on that cold January day (in my case, I saw my college classmate-- we both graduated a year before 1984-- take the oath of office on a large screen set up near Wall Street, just a few feet from where George Washington took the first Presidential oath of office)... are all long behind us.

We have since learned that perfect's the enemy of the good and all... and, of course, that freedom's slavery, war's peace, ignorance's strength, etc.

And I guess that's it. It's an election year again.

April 1, 2012, April First Greetings

Obviously, since this is my April 1st edition, everything I write here is some kind of April Fool's joke. That's how it's been pretty much through the run of this blog. But I'm not going to go give you, say, a blockbuster April Fool's Day interview, like I have in the past with, say, Rumsfeld, Cheney or Palin. Just, you know... interviewed out. So this year... I'm going to "keep it real," and just give you April Fool's Day... straight up.

So, for example, the [hilarious!] idea that it would be House Republicans trying to curb the terms of the NDAA statute to, say, limit the power of the executive to arbitrarily detain whomever the President wishes, say, citizens if nothing else, has got to be some kind of a joke. I suppose they're the ones who will stand up to that mean old Mr. Holder, who couldn't possibly be wrong in suggesting that it is perfectly legal for the President to execute anyone he wants, Bill of Rights be damned. I mean, these are the same House Republicans who liken America's immigration detention facilities to campus holidays. Those House Republicans, man. Kind of makes me all warm and fuzzy-- like I want to go out and build my own Museum of Creationism, or something.

No, that can be real.

Neither can, say, the Obama Administration be doing its utmost to make the Bush Administration look like a model of transparency when compared to it.

Or that "the Walmart of Weed" will be opening in Washington, D.C. Or of course, the government needn't trouble itself with monitoring the patrons of such a cornucopia of cannibis... it can just spy on you through your major appliances.

Nope. I'd better stop this here. Sorry this has gotten to be rather tasteless on my part. So... please forgive me. This has been... April First Greetings.

And don't get me started on "Health Care Reform."