The Talking Dog

October 27, 2016, Pussy-gate indeed?


The Grey Lady treats us to a snapshot of Trump supporters in rock-ribbed right-wing Colorado Springs who suggest that they expect an insurrection if Hillary Clinton wins the election, and, despite often being gun owners... don't think they'll be part of said insurrection... indeed, as Kevin Drum notes, saying they themselves definitively won't do anything.

Anyway... that tends to be my ultimate view of the significance of the bipartisan fear-mongering surrounding what the other side will do should the election not go their way... that being... not much. A peaceful transition of power, simply by default. The biggest wahoo Trump supporters tend to be people with something to lose, such as their suburban lifestyles... yes, rumors of "the downtrodden working man" being the quintessential Trump supporter are a tad exaggerated: Trump supporters tend to have a higher income than the national average.

The revolution will not be televised. It won't be live either. It just won't be.


October 26, 2016, Happy Birthday Hillary Clinton


Secretary Clinton shares her birthday (today being her 69th) with a number of other notables, including game-show-host-who-isn't-Donald-Trump Pat Sajak, Charlie's Angel Jaclyn Smith, the late Gospel singer Mahalia Jackson, French Revolutionary Georges Danton, actors Bob Hoskins, Cary Elwes and Dylan McDermott, and a talking dog.

Happy birthday, all.


October 22, 2016, Future Schlock


We'll start with this Gizmodo piece noting the potentially "bleak future" assuming the ever-more-regular event of massive hacks and denial-of-service attacks of intermediate/wholesale internet operators, such as this week's attack on a company called "Dyn" that took down quite a number of popular internet sites.

I note that as recently as today, I myself received notification (presumably as did 46 million other people) of a data breach associated with a company I never heard of called "Modern Business Solutions," which, unbeknownst to me or anyone else, is some kind of "leaky bucket of the internet," that our data seems to be poured into by entities beyond our control.

And breaches of internet security are a significant issue in the current presidential campaign (even today, for example, Wikileaks-- whose very name tells you that the term "internet security" does not mean what you think it means-- released hacked emails purporting to show that the Clinton Foundation paid women less than men for comparable functions [the article, of course, is from an anti-Clinton partisan-- which is fine-- but, drilling down, the alleged "disparity" is relatively small-beer... just sayin']...)

Alrightie then. I'm going to quickly go meta- and give you this broad-based piece from one of my favorite thinkers (that would be John Michael Greer) concerning a recent Pentagon report on future planning (circa twenty years from now), in which JMG observes that the Pentagon seems to "predict" a future that looks remarkably like the present-- as Greer notes, a dubious, if not utterly ridiculous proposition. The piece goes on to make a number of potentially grim predictions (particularly if the normalcy bias that grips our Establishment does not permit sufficient anything but group-think, thereby allowing the antecedents of the grim predictions to fester, and the bad stuff to come true.) But among the observations JMG makes are that American strategic rivals (that would be Russia and China for starters) have every incentive to support what amount to assisting in the marginalizing of American power (for one, they are much more rational-- as compared with American "exceptionalism" making our nation's foreign entanglements less rational if not messianic in comparison), by, among other things, supporting "monkeywrenching" of things like our military infrastructure that is shockingly complex yet not particularly resilient if anything goes wrong (and lots of things go wrong), or even supporting "warband culture"-- easily thought of perhaps in a "mad Max" concept, but more likely to be simply opportunistic thugs (think Yeltsin's Russia) operating in a suddenly more "fluid" environment able to challenge ever weaker state institutions... And these, of course, don't account for affirmative stupidity on our part, such as anyone (both Hillary Clinton and Mike Pence, for example-- though, interestingly not Trumpolini) publicly suggesting that they could implement a no-fly-zone in Syria and thereby potentially start a direct shooting war involving Russia. As our nation's greatest philosopher (that would be Yogi Berra) once said, "Predictions are hard. Especially about the future."

Anyway, as the future rolls toward us... we won't even discuss our absurd dependency on diesel fuel and trucks, or a continually-operating-electric grid, each of which is shockingly vulnerable, be it to failures just from not performing basic maintenance (many of our infrastructure systems--such as the electrical grid and many municipal water systems-- have elements that are well over a century old now), or our dangerous vulnerability to seemingly mundane things like crop failures (say, from drought, whether or not exacerbated by climate change, or disease, whether or not exacerbated by our insistence on dumping unproven GMOs into the environment), or just plain "weather events."

Here's the thing: a certain technology has been perfected. It's just not the technology you think. It's what the man considered the father of modern public relations Edward Bernays (perhaps not coincidentally Sigmund Freud's nephew) called "engineered consent." In this case, that is the widely held belief that all [scientific and technical] progress is not only inevitable but an affirmative good, as if ordained by the Divine. So, that said, as people basically see the strings holding modern life together fraying in front of them, they nonetheless go back into their bubble of talking to each other on mobile phones rather than face-to-face and spending their lives watching electronic images bounce around rather than, oh, living, and... yes, we have seen what our betters in Silicon Valley have done, and it was good.

Well, maybe... but whatever it is seems highly vulnerable, and it is not clear that we are not looking at a "bleak future" by any means... my advice, as usual, is to "grow your own garden"-- I suggest literally-- I for example have raised-bed container with a variety of vegetables on our urban roof and in our back yard, "cultivate" your relations with other people-- loved ones, friends, perhaps neighbors, try to rebuild the civic pride (via churches/synagogues/mosques, or civic clubs or freaking bowling leagues)... in short, try to live the way people did in the 1950's and 60's (preferably without the overt racism, sexism, etc.), but, you know... with a sense of community and grounding. Because I don't enjoy living in a world involving people walking around in their own zombie apolcalypses buried in their electronic apparatuses... I think this world is already lonely and unpleasant... think how much worse it will be when--not if-- those things go dark too, and the basic skills of human interaction (not to mention, human survival)... have not been learned.


October 20, 2016, Sympathy for the Devil


The "big takeaway" from last night's third (and, thank God, final) Presidential debate of 2016 was, of course, Donald "the Donald" Trump's refusal to agree in advance to abide by the results of the election (presuming, of course, that, please God, he loses); indeed, the Grey Lady's take on it is Mr. Trump has contempt for democracy.

I will just say this: show me the part of the Constitution that obliges Mr. Trump to "personally accept" the results of an election-- indeed, any election (one of the bases for his popularity among a certain set, for example, is his steadfast refusal to recognize the legitimacy of the 2012 election, because, of course, Barack Obama is a Black man). That said, just because he has unlimited contempt for women, and the likely 2016 election winner will be Hillary Clinton,,, where in the Constitution is he required to acknowledge that he lost, concede, say a nice word, recognize that the "people have spoken", or anything like that? I'll tell you where: the same place that requires him to release his tax returns, or that requires him to use traditional code words to "wink wink" over the unfortunate racist/white nationalist/xenophobic/sexist/atavistic streak in an apparently large portion of the electorate, whose imagination Mr. Trump has captured, or that requires him to have the most rudimentary conception of how our constitutional system works (such as his irritating insistence that a single junior senator in the minority party can single-handedly enact major and controversial legislation.) In short-- he is allowed to do these things.

And if the voters-- as reflected in a majority of electoral votes, anyway-- back him-- he's the President. Yes, yes, I get the fact that potentially mobilizing millions of angry and presumably heavily armed people to deny the legitimacy of an American election would be "bad" (and, honestly, Trump's calls for racist thugs to act as "poll watchers" does bother me, though it is not likely to deter me from taking my law degree and my body down to swing state Pennsylvania on Election Day (as it did in '06 and '08) to poll watch for the flawed but serviceable Hillary Clinton.)

Alrightie then. The Establishment has a series of assumptions as to how presidential candidates behave with no particular basis in any written law, or for that matter, in anything other than what can be construed as the secret handshakes of the elites themselves. Yes, we were hoping that as a matter of societal consensus, the civil rights era had locked in certain assumptions and had put at least many aspects of overt bigotry in the rear view mirror... but apparently, they haven't.

Don't get me wrong: Trump-- a man who has not an ounce of anything redeemable in him-- calls Hillary Clinton the devil. She is not: she is problematic, duplicitous, indecisive, evasive... but she is nonetheless a knowledgeable, competent politician,,, and most critically, she does not fancy herself a fascist banana republic dictator, who will likely use the awesome power of the American presidency to play out personal vendettas-- which Trump has not only indicated he will do in his campaign, but it is how he has lived his entire seventy years.

If anything, his campaign-- at a gestalt level-- has been refreshingly honest. He's not hiding how he'd govern. He'd rubber-stamp the most backward, atavistic legislation republican majorities would place in front of him, and he'd play out his personal grudges and vendettas. And, certainly, racial minorities, be they Muslims or Mexicans, or really, anyone not White (and presumably not male)... can expect to be on the receiving end of his vindictiveness.

That said... while it is "a tradition" that the loser-- even, a sore loser as in Trump's case-- "accept" the results of an election... there is no such requirement. Nonetheless, it is at least an aspiration-- one that hopefully, enough of the electorate will recognize to place Mr. Trump's political aspirations, and eventually the man himself, in the dustbin of history, and maybe we can start to heal some of the open sores he has exposed in our social matrix.


October 19, 2016, And then there were sixty


Each GTMO prisoner release is another victory; the latest is pretty big, as best-selling author Mohamedou Ould Slahi has been released from Guantanamo to his home country of Mauritania; Andy has more on this happy development for Mr. Slahi. I previously interviewed one of Slahi's attorneys, Nancy Hollander; that interview may be found here.

Slahi's long and quite-literally-tortured tale is laid out in his best-selling book, Guantanamo Diary.

With barely ninety days left in Barack Obama's Administration, there are sixty prisoners left, of whom ten are subject to military commissions, and, if I'm not mistaken, twenty are cleared for release... and thirty more... are not (as confirmed by this Miami Herald assessment). Perhaps most of the twenty "cleared" prisoners can be moved out; it would appear that the military commissions prisoners aren't likely to either ever be released or even have their trials completed. On the commissions front, in an "unusual" (I prefer the term "psychotic") development, a civilian, in this case, a not activated military reservist, also known as a civilian within the United States was arrested, and detained, to force his testimony via teleconference at a Guantanamo military commissions hearing. (h/t/ to Candace.)

This raises more issues than anyone could count (not the least of which is why the military didn't simply place the witness on active duty, and then court-martial him if he refused to testify... particularly given that the military commissions presumably have no authority over a stateside civilian, or indeed, over anyone not charged with violations of the laws of war already within their jurisdiction). Oh well... more blurred lines and all... as I've said many times about all things GTMO, a lot of the abuses and overreach are as much a matter of the powerful simply demonstrating that they can get away with it as anything else. Indeed, not only will there be no public outrage, there may well be cheering, as a sadly not insignificant number of Americans (including majorities in both houses of Congress) beg for a military dictatorship as fast as it can be provided to them. Is it any wonder that inane platitudes like "Make America Great Again" have such resonance among so many?

So... twenty cleared and ten subject to commissions from sixty leaves the thirty currently forever prisoners (including Candace's own client, an Algerian named Saeed Bakhouche). These men are being held pursuant to nebulous "law of war" authority (in many cases, as upheld by United States courts), as "forever" prisoners of a presumably "forever" war against a common noun. Some "forever prisoners" actually took up arms against American or allied forces; the rest (by my reckoning, most of them) were simply wrong place/wrong time schmucks for whom some "guilt by association" angle was invented as an excuse to hold them. And they, like the "cleared" prisoners (as well as the "commissions" prisoners) will remain guests of American hospitality until such time as the United States government decides to release them, or until the day they die.

Prior to the seamless continuity of the Bush/Obama Administration, while there could be forever wars against metaphors (wars on poverty or drugs, for example), only the war against terror added the concept of taking prisoners of war... that is, while there are many-- possibly millions-- of prisoners from the war on drugs, they have, at least notionally, been subject to charge and trial (even as a system hellbent on mass incarceration got what it wanted along the way).

Not so the much smaller set of "war on terror" prisoners, although, of course, many more people than those held at GTMO have been convicted of crimes associated with terrorism, and are duly serving often quite draconian sentences in American penal institutions.

In the great panoply of injustices in the couple of centuries worth of American history, including, oh, slavery (followed by Jim Crow and if you like, the New Jim Crow of mass incarceration), the "trail of tears" and numerous other heinous acts committed against native peoples, the internment of Japanese-Americans during "the good war" of WWII, and so many other events too numerous to count, the mistreatment of Muslim men captured during the "war on terror" (whatever it's called now) is obviously morally irksome (and legally so to those of us who care), but must be kept in broader historical perspective. Still, at least this one is happening in real time, right in front of us, and, while it is not clear what any of us can "do" about it, I, for one, can sure as hell grouse about it.

Anyway... until the last decade and a half, the American government had never publicly professed that it could detain anyone (without charge or trial) forever because never before had one of its metaphorical "wars" been deemed an actual war for legal purposes, such as holding prisoners of war (even as it insists it needn't comply with Geneva Conventions when doing so). As an added bonus, no President before Barack Obama had ever insisted that he could order the murder of any person, regardless of where on Earth they may be found (i.e., whether or not in an actual combat zone), just because a drone provided the technology to do it.

And so... here we are. GTMO is by no means the entirety of what we are up against, as the Orwellian walls of authoritarianism "to keep us safe[tm]" keep closing in on us (and, as noted, a huge portion of the American public wants its fascism... good and hard.) That said, fortunately at least for Mohamedou Ould Slahi, his days under this particular American jackboot have just come to an end.


October 13, 2016, Trump Called (Deaf "Celebrity Apprentice" Contestant) Marlee Matlin "Retarded"


Seriously. At least, thus sayeth three staffers.

Look: Mr. Trump is a guy who hates babies; has publicly made fun of the disabled as it is. A lawyer for the Grey Lady puts it best by observing that The Donald has no reputation to protect in a libel suit he threatened:

The essence of a libel claim, of course, is the protection of oneís reputation. Mr. Trump has bragged about his non-consensual sexual touching of women. He has bragged about intruding on beauty pageant contestants in their dressing rooms. He acquiesced to a radio hostís request to discuss Mr. Trumpís own daughter as a ďpiece of ass.Ē Multiple women not mentioned in our article have publicly come forward to report on Mr. Trumpís unwanted advances. Nothing in our article has had the slightest effect on the reputation that Mr. Trump, through his own words and actions, has already created for himself.

This all continues to defy parody.

Unfortunately, the joke remains on the American people, insofar as Hilary Clinton remains a dreadful enough candidate for this to continue to be a race. She'll probably win (and Lord knows, I'll do what I can to help make that happen)... but it will be far, far closer than it should be, given Mr. Trump's evidently inconceivably high degree of awfulness (whether at a policy level, at an operational level, and, of course, at a character level.)

Yup: defies parody.


October 12, 2016, Trump Wanted O.J. For Celebrity Apprentice


Seriously.

We are, and have been, beyond parody.

The next 27 days are going to be... anything but dull.


October 8, 2016, I didn't get a harumph out of you


It seems a recording of Donald "the Donald" Trump has emerged, showing him making "lewd remarks."

Near as I can tell, the only thing more offensive (about what Mr. Trump said eleven years ago) than what he says (or tweets) on a daily basis is that he used "the P word" (I suppose if there were a recording of the Donald using "the N word," that would be even worse). Got it: that's what American life is, these days. Substance is irrelevant. We don't go more than a micron below the surface of anything. The wrong word was used. The fact that a party that has been seeking the support of racists, xenopohobes, misogynists and other assorted troglodytes since the days of Dick Nixon's "southern strategy" has finally put up its omega candidate-- a candidate that David Duke can full-throatedly endorse-- isn't the issue. No, the daily barrage of verbal (and occasionally, at Trump rallies, physical) assaults (be they on Mexicans, Muslims, women, or any dissenters of any kind) wasn't enough to cause the defections of certain polite Republicans... Utah Congressman Jason Chaffetz (who now "withdraws support" from Mr. Trump) ... or from Colorado Congressman Mike Coffman, who says Trump should step aside... or former Utah governor (and Presidential candidate) Jon Huntsman, who says the same... all I can say is... why now?

I mean, to their credit, leading right-wing Evangelical leaders, apparently, are somewhat offended, but will not withdraw their support from Trump, noting, ostensibly, that "it's about the Supreme Court, stupid." For them, it's never been about "principles," but about "ends justify the means." This, boys and girls, is why the Republican party, despite perennially being out-gunned numerically in voter registrations as well as in polling on many issues of importance, remains in charge of most governor-ships, state legislatures and both houses of Congress. The Republicans have their eyes on the prize: even though they currently have a candidate without an ounce of discipline himself, they, as a party, at least, have the discipline to swallow (as it were) whatever it is he puts out there, and support their candidate because of the big picture.

Democrats and alleged progressives, it seems, just don't. And, IMHO, the results are going to be catastrophic this election cycle.

So I'll say it again. Sure, I'm as offended as anyone about the latest Trump revelations; but they are merely of a piece with everything else the man has said and done in his offensive and rapacious 70-year existence (in my "interview" on 1 April, note everything the Donald said). Aside from his use of "the P word"-- and I swear, that's got to be what this is about-- why is this some kind of inflection point? I'll tell you why: because it isn't.

Hillary's strategy of relying 100% on the Donald offending the electorate has resulted in this being a horse-race-- a horse-race that can, and if she doesn't generate affirmative enthusiasm to increase support from her own base, will-- result in the election of, well... not her. She's not a very good candidate, to be sure. That's really not the issue. I'm usually the last one to go there, but, boys and girls, "it's about the Supreme Court, stupid." And about every right-wing wet-dream program piece of legislation that Republicans can dream of-- a President Donald Trump will hardly be a "check and balance" about that-- it will simply be a right-wing feeding frenzy. Hillary can't seem to even get the words out of her mouth: "Mitch McConnell, Paul Ryan and the rest of the Republicans have told us that they would rather have Donald Trump appoint judges than Barack Obama, and we have to stop them."

No, the Donald's use of the P-word won't stop them.

Just sayin':


Update: Aside from effectively taking a whole bunch of Wikileaks released Hillary-related-disclosures out of the public's cognizance, for his own part, The Donald says he will "never withdraw."



October 1, 2016, End of an era


I exercise my privilege to write about things of particular interest to me, noting the passing of Oscar Brand at age 96, a singer, song-writer, author, arranger and all-around good guy... and notably, the world's longest running radio host, setting the world record for radio programs with a single host for his show "Folksong Festival", which was on our local public radio station for over seventy years, debuting in December, 1945, seventeen years before I was born.

Rest in peace, Oscar.