Monday, June 30, 2008

Keeping it Simple, Stupid!

The quickest way to reduce our dependence on foreign oil, according to the Alliance to Save Energy, is to reduce driving by 5%, drive more slowly, and keep tires properly inflated. This would reduce crude oil consumption by 1.3 million barrels per day.

I drive about 100 miles per week now that I work in Santa Monica. My wife drives about 200 miles. We would have to cut about 15 miles a week from our driving. This would mean mean me working from home once a week (16 miles), or cutting a trip to Grandma's once a month (about 60 miles).

Long-term solutions include raising fuel efficiency standards and incorporating more biofuels, which could result in savings of an additional 5 million barrels a day. Electric cars could boost that number dramatically.

The article suggests that 5 million barrels does not make a big dent in overall consumption by this country which consumes 20.7 million barrels a day, but I say a 20-25% reduction is phenomenal. This does not take into consideration the possibility that suburban living may decline as more people choose to live in cities to cut down on drive time and take public transportation. So the number could be much higher.

General Clark Has Support from Veterans

A great piece by Jon Soltz, an Iraq War veteran with degrees in political science and history. With mild sarcasm, he derides the media for jumping down General Wesley Clark's throat for saying that McCain's experience as a prisoner of war or a voice on the Senate Armed Forces Committee don't necessarily qualify him to be president. One example:
Senator McCain's experience didn't lead him to support the 21st Century GI Bill -- he opposed it. It didn't even make him feel the need to get back to Washington to vote on this -- one of the most important veterans' bills this Congress. He twice skipped votes on the GI Bill, to fundraise.

Money quote:
By looking at Senator McCain's positions and votes (or lack of them), it seems that experience has not given him the right judgment on important issues of our time. And, while we should all honor Senator McCain's service, that doesn't mean we should necessarily honor it by putting him in the White House to take up George W. Bush's third term.

Bravo. Click here to sign a petition in support of General Clark.

Now THIS is Legacy

Kristol -- who much of the time I loathe -- actually wrote a respectable column that sounded pretty damn liberal to me. In it he recounts a letter that Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of Independence and a signer of the document, wrote to a contemporary who invited the then-83-year-old Jefferson to Washington for a 50th anniversary celebration of American independence. A choice Jefferson quote:
May it be to the world, what I believe it will be, (to some parts sooner, to others later, but finally to all,) the signal of arousing men to burst the chains, under which monkish ignorance and superstition had persuaded them to bind themselves, and to assume the blessings & security of self-government.
And this tidbit from the Declaration itself:
...all experience hath shown, that mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.
I sense that the former is informed by the latter, and both illustrate the emerging truth that, today, the tide has shifted away from the fearful, cowering populace that found it necessary to accept the most corrupt US presidential administration in history for the past 7+ years. Indeed, the sigh of relief that will be collectively drawn on January 20, 2009 will be heard around the world, as it will be drawn around the world.

Of course, we might all continue to hold our breath should Bush III get elected.

Wesley Clark implodes

Most observers believe that with his harsh critique of McBush's qualifications to be president, he has lost any chance he might have had to be veep. It's a shame. He might be a crappy politician, but his military record is unassailable and he knows as much if not more about the horrors of war than a man who failed to accomplish his mission.

Friday, June 27, 2008


The boys begin camp next week, and I'm taking this weekend to enjoy them -- and my wife, whose birthday is tomorrow -- before next week.

Happy Summer!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

The Scalia Ruling

The Supreme Court has ruled 5-4 (with Antonin Scalia writing the majority opinion) that the US Constitution guarantees the rights of individuals to own weapons, effectively overturning a law in Washington, DC banning the ownership of handguns. In Scalia's opinion, he wrote:

Putting all of these textual elements together, we find that they guarantee the individual right to possess and carry weapons in case of confrontation. Thus, we do not read the Second Amendment to protect the right of citizens to carry arms for any sort of confrontation, just as we do not read the First Amendment to protect the right of citizens to speak for any purpose.
This is a reasonable argument. I have never believed gun ownership could be totally banned under the terms of the Constitution. Given the historical context under which the Bill of Rights was written, the argument is that the original framers never intended for people not to be able to bear arms. Today, in fact, I went back and read the Bill of Rights for some non-legal (as I am no scholar) way to sort this out. I may still get it wrong in someone's eyes, but my analysis is that the Bill of Rights is all about the rights of individuals, while a ban on handguns is about the right of the state to regulate the rights of individuals.

Read the Bill of Rights here. If you read the text you'll see that each amendment specifically refers to individual rights (except the 10th amendment, which I'll discuss later):

1 -- "Congress shall make no law.... the right of the people"
2 -- "...the right of the people..."
3 -- "...without the consent of the owner..."
4 -- "The right of the people..."
5 -- "No person shall be held...nor shall any person...nor shall private
property be taken for public use..."
6 -- "... the accused shall enjoy the right..."
7 -- "... the right of a trial by jury shall be preserved..."
8 -- About excessive bail or cruel and unusual punishment, which doesn't refer to the "right" of the government
9 -- "...retained by the people."
10 -- "...are the people."

The 10th amendment does refer to the "powers" of states to reserve powers "not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States." In a way, I see that as a way for individual states or local governments to challenge the Constitution, which I guess some could argue could serve to balance out the rights of individuals with government powers. (As an aside -- people talk about "states' rights" all the time, but it's a complete misnomer. States don't have rights -- they have "powers," according to the Constitution. The choice of the word "powers" implies that states and governments exercise control over the citizenry, while individuals are given "rights" under the Constititution that protect them against government powers.) However, by adding "or to the people" at the end, the framers of this amendment pass on the right to challenge the Constitution to individuals as well.

Therefore, my argument is that it makes no sense to me that a government can use the Second Amendment to ban the ownership or use of weapons used for an individual's self-defense without infringing on the rights of individuals that run common to every one of the Bill of Rights.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

McCain Campaign Poster...heh

If McSame had had creative control, I think he might have substituted c**ts for pu$$ies.

Monday, June 23, 2008

More Oil Drilling, cont.

NPR today interviewed Henry Lee, director of the Environment and Natural Resources Program at Harvard, about the effects of increased offshore drilling on oil prices.

Some highlights:
  • We don't know until we explore just how much oil or natural gas is undiscovered (my note: so, the claim can't really be made that increase offshore drilling will result in lower gasoline prices).
  • It would take 8-14 years (permits, bidding, planning, construction/development) depending on the complexity of the geological formation and its proximity to shore.
  • In terms of world needs, based on what the White House is saying, total production of oil and gas would be just less than 1% of global production. Not a dramatic change, so no meaningful effect on gasoline prices.
  • There is no oil futures market that speculates on what prices will be 10 years out. Most speculators are in the six-month futures market.
  • There is no way to isolate the "US market" for petroleum -- it is solely a global market. It therefore can't be argued that this oil production, which could be about 7% of total US production, can have an effect on US gas prices. In fact, the only beneficiaries of increased US oil production will be the oil companies drawing the oil out of the ground.
  • Every president elected since Nixon has talked about "energy independence," but ironically, each president has left office with the country more dependent on foreign oil.
The politicians who go on the air or in print and tout the need for increased offshore drilling need to be hammered with the truth. With this issue, as with nearly every other issue, facts need to be checked, and no one should be taken at face value. We can no longer afford to do that.

Sarcasm -- (Uh, Yeah Right)

Turns out I'm on the leading edge of evolution. And I thought I was just being clever.

Is Pastor Hagee Good for the Jews?

I read this piece the other day from Time. After a 1999 Hagee sermon surfaced in which Hagee claimed that God intended the Holocaust because it was God's way of getting the Jews back to Israel. You see, it's Hagee contention that the Jews need to return to Israel so that Jesus can return and promptly kill all of them (at least anyone who doesn't convert to Christianity before the "End Times").

This sermon caused McSame to sever ties with him, but Jewish leaders aren't acting so hastily. There is the matter of all that Evangelical tourism money he brings to Israel, into the hundreds of millions of dollars. Also, most Jewish leaders take Hagee's comments, and his belief that Jesus is the Messiah who will usher in the End Times, as a harmless fiction.

The good news is that Hagee's views are held by a small minority of Evangelicals (not to mention that he's an overweight gasbag who gets more and more ridiculous each time one hears him speak).

Hagee did apologize to the Anti-Defamation League's Abe Foxman, who readily forgave him out of friendship. I think it was typically Jewish (as only a Jew can relate) that Foxman parrotted Hagee's own words in his written acceptance of the apology, and then added: "We mortals sometimes get into trouble fathoming God's ways."


Geo-Engineering -- Pay Attention & Be Skeptical

Today's Los Angeles Times features an op-ed by Samuel Thernstrom on the idea that geo-engineering -- basically resetting the earth's thermostat -- is an idea that is being overlooked but can have major benefits in the fight to combat global warming. In concept, this is an interesting idea, until you look at Thernstrom's reasons for thinking this is such a great idea. First of all, Thernstrom is co-director of an American Enterprise Institute project to study the policy implications of geo-engineering. The AEI is a notoriously conservative think tank. Anything coming out of this "august" body would have to be immediately suspicious and smack of political manipulation. Secondly, check out his webpage at AEI. Thernstrom is no scientist. He has a B.A. in Social Studies (OK, Harvard, but still) and his entire relationship to environmental studies has been from the public policy perspective. Thirdly, since 1996 he has not even been involved in those studies, but has been in the P.R. business, including speechwriter for former New York Governor Pataki. In other words, he is just another political hack with an agenda.

Finally, he apparently feels entirely comfortable with perpetrating half-truths such as this:
Rapidly rising emissions in the developing world will swamp whatever reductions the United States, Europe and Japan may make. Atmospheric concentrations of greenhouse gases will continue to rise for decades to come, and warming will
continue well into the next century.
I won't deny that the steps China and India are taking to ramp up and become major economic players -- which includes ignoring emissions of greenhouse gases -- will have a major impact on the efforts of those going the other way. But think about how much worse it would be if the US, Japan, and Europe -- huge polluters all -- did nothing to reduce their contributions to the problem.

If you need a political allusion to this issue, think about how bad things have gotten in this country since Bush/Cheney, largely unchecked since 9/11, took office. Can you imagine what might have happened had we had a more powerful Democratic Congress? There might never have been an authorization to go to war in Iraq, no military tribunals, no torture debates, no warrantless eavesdropping, and FISA might have remained the obscure law that it was for nearly 30 years. But, I digress.

Thernstrom poses three examples of what could be done in the area of geo-engineering:
A small amount of ultra-fine sulfur particles injected into the upper atmosphere could deflect 1% or 2% of incoming sunlight -- almost unnoticeable, but enough to cancel out the warming expected to occur this century. Or a fleet of ships spraying seawater into the air might achieve the same general effect by increasing the density of (and thereby the reflectivity of) low-altitude marine clouds. Even painting the roofs of buildings white would be a low-tech way of reflecting a little sunlight.
These are such mind-numbingly simplistic ideas that, if this is the best he's got, it would be a good idea to invite him to your next poker game. Even on superficial grounds, they make no sense. There could never be a fleet of airplanes, or a fleet of ships, big enough to inject sulfur or seawater at a scale large enough to make a difference. And if there were such fleets, the amount of fossil fuels that they would consume undertaking these endeavors would undermine any benefits that these endeavors might create. As for painting roofs white -- c'mon, now. As if a few million square miles of white roofs would beat back solar radiation in any measurable way. For heaven's sake, not even something as immense as the Amazon rain forest can churn out enough carbon dioxide to stop the march of global warming.

The idea of geo-engineering, as proposed by Thernstrom, has the effect of creating confusion in the minds of concerned citizens about just what the right approach is to tackling a very complicated problem. Perhaps that's just what Thernstrom wants to do. Sometimes, when we're thoroughly confused, our immediate response is to throw up our hands and do nothing.

Nice try, Mr. Thernstrom. I'll stick to real science to answer my questions.

Conservative Rag Worries About Barr too

The Washington Times, reports on GOP fretting about a Barr candidacy that will undermine McSame in 2008. Typically, Newt Gingrich is busily manipulating words to create a parallel universe: "No reasonable conservative is going to vote for anyone except McCain," [he] said.

Uh, yeah right.

A "reasonable conservative," by definition, could never vote for a candidate where reason plays such a minor role. Fear, superficiality, populism? Those don't play into the decisions of any "reasonable" voter. We, the geeks of reason, nuance, and deliberation, are inheriting this earth, and will put the frat boys out to pasture to live out their days with ESPN and Girls Gone Wild.

NOTE: While I called Barr a spoiler last Friday, I wrongly identified those that would vote for Barr as "right-wing conservatives," as if implying that the typical right-winger today would vote for him and be the tipping factor for Obama. No, I meant to say that Barr would take away voters who would opt for McCain over Obama in the absence of someone like Barr. Mea culpa.

Peeling the Obama Onion

In the months and years since the end of my first marriage, I spent about three years in therapy uncovering the previously-undiscovered layers of experience that contributed to all the mistakes I made. I learned during that time that I was/am a product of my family and my culture. While that doesn't exonerate me from responsibility, it does in a way illustrate the point that "no man is an island."

Similarly, I know that some of you might see my harping on Obama as a bit of cheerleading, or some bizarre sort of liberalist propaganda (though most of you are on the Obama bandwagon already). Actually, for me it is the peeling of his "onion," the revealing of the layers of who he is and what makes him the first African-American nominee for president for a major political party (sorry, Ms. McKinney, that wouldn't include my former party, the Green Party).

Today I came across a Politico piece on Obama which covered his tenure as the first African-
American president of Harvard Law Review in the early 1990s. Very cool read. Sullivan characterizes Obama as "liberal, but open to alternative views." Of course, I characterize myself that way, so this resonates with me in a deep way. The HLR is copyright-protected and not for republication on the internet, so I can't excerpt writings here. However, his first issue as HLR president showcased a piece about Martin Luther King, Jr. which contained a theme that has characterized Obama's speeches during this campaign: "With such mutual respect and openness to each others' pain, suffering and faith, we must work out more fully and struggle towards King's ideal of the Beloved Community and thereby hew from our mountain of despair a stone of hope." There's that hope thing. The passage foreshadows Obama's audacious vision that hope is possible even when we're confronted with that mountain of despair.

Obama showed courage to present alternative viewpoints, as he did in November 1990 when he ran a piece by a former Reagan appointee which railed against affirmative action, calling special rights by groups "sinister" and arguing that such policies would "impoverish the human race."

This willingness to look at all sides of an issue show just how serious a candidate Obama truly is. Since Bush took office, such intellect has taken a back seat to charming homilies, "aw-shucks, ma'am" pseudo-humility, and an aversion to anything more than the merely apocryphal (this continues to be the Republican M.O. as McSame embraces the Bush path).

Populism has reigned supreme, even in Democratic circles, since Gore conceded defeat in 2000. It doesn't take much to seize an opportunity and exploit it -- although I'll concede that Bush's team was especially adept at retaining what was gained through their powerful manipulation of reality and their correct assumption that Americans are easily duped so long as they can continue to go shopping. Reid and Pelosi, for all of their partisan grandstanding, have repeatedly caved when the going got tough, out of fear that they are their party could be painted as weak on key issues. Obama shows, through his deeply intellectual way of approaching subjects, that populism will not have a long life when he becomes president.

Gates or No Gates?

Since Obama is someone running on the concept uniting America after 16 years (28?) of polarization, it has been suggested -- by Andrew Sullivan, Joe Klein, and Noam Schreiber -- that he retain Secretary of Defense Robert Gates for his administaration. Josh Marshall thinks not.

A smattering of their thoughts:

Sullivan: Because in the testing period of a new president, a defense secretary already ensconced and deeply competent would be a great asset.

Klein: The political rationale for a "team of rivals" government is compelling for Obama — it would be the freshest way to turn the page after the ideological myopia of the Bush debacle, a decisive step away from the partisan ugliness Americans claim to hate, the best way to build a decisive governing coalition.

Schreiber: [I]t would buy him some real political cover for withdrawing from Iraq, however he decided to execute that. (Conversely, keeping Gates on while deferring withdrawal indefinitely could be an absolute disaster politically.)

Marshall (partially paraphrased): If ... Obama is elected president ... it will [partly] be [because] the American people desire to decisively turn the page on [a] disastrous ... Bush ... foreign policy that has been characterized by belligerence and in the most direct sense by war, and one in which the Pentagon has played a dominant role, often at the expense of the Department of State. Elected on those terms, I simply do not see how an incoming President Obama can choose to keep on the man who ran the Pentagon on behalf of President Bush and executed his policies, regardless of the man's qualifications in the abstract.

Here's my thought: No f*cking way. I'm with Marshall on this one. Sullivan is talking out of both sides of his mouth. In the past he has said that the GOP needs to lose this election partly to punish them for giving us George W. Bush and alienating conservatives. But he singles out Gates as somehow above the corruption, the insanity, and the rabid secretiveness. I have seen no evidence that Gates has not drunk the Bush Kool-Aid. He occasionally comes across as the level-headed guy in the most partisan and power-hungry administration in modern history (sort of like Paul O'Neill or Colin Powell did). But part of the illusion of his appeal stems from the Attila the Hun-like monstrousness of Donald Rumsfeld, who could make any successor seem like an outright American hero.

Klein has a good point that crossing the divide will counter the partisanship of the Bush Administration, but in my mind choosing a central figure in the Bush war policy is too conspicuous. Further, I think it would show a lack of courage on Obama's part to avoid placing someone in that job who reflects his vision of how this war ought to be prosecuted and finished.

Schreiber falls into the same category as Klein, for me.

As Marshall points out, voters are literally fed up with Bush (20% approval ratings) and his policies. American's just want to clean house, and in this case, Americans are right. Sweep out the bugs (figuratively and literally), burn some sage, and purify the whole town. Then, bring in the Obama team. I think having Republicans in the Cabinet is a bad idea, at least during his first term. Having some as advisers to the President from the White House might be seen as Obama doing some needed listening to both sides of major issues while still keeping the Administration a solidly Democratic one. Not that the Dems are any more capable of handling the situation (they are still all politicians, after all!), but preserving a primary executor of Bush foreign policy implies that Bush was at least partly right. And he was never right about this war.

R.I.P. George Carlin

What an amazing mind. I saw this on Sullivan's website and wanted to share it with you too. Apropos of our upcoming election.

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Scalia fact-checked and debunked

Turns out that a statement Scalia made in his dissenting opinion of the Boumediene decision is his perpetuation of an all-out lie (some call it an "urban legend"), namely this: “ least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to the battlefield.”

A new report (.pdf) by the Seton Hall University School of Law states that Scalia's statement is "belied by all reliable data." Scalia got his information from a year-old Senate Minority Report, which in turn got its data from misinformation provided by the Pentagon (gee, no surprise there). Even the Pentagon later sent out a press release stating that the information was wrong, and the House Foreign Relations Committee held hearings on the matter two weeks before the Boumediene decision was released. But these developments didn't reach Scalia, apparently. Who needs truth when there's an agenda to push?

The Seton Hall report concludes that:
  1. According to the Department of Defense’s published and unpublished data and reports, not a single released Guantánamo detainee has ever attacked any Americans.
  2. Despite national security concerns, the Department of Defense does not have a system for tracking the conduct or even the whereabouts of released detainees.
(Emphasis not mine)

Of course, it's a widely held opinion on both sides of this issue that, for young Muslims around the world, Guantanamo has had a radicalizing effect. Further, there has been no major conviction of a single detainee since the camp was created. And now, the courts have ordered the Bush administration to abide by habeas corpus rules when charging detainees.

More Oil Drilling, Cont.

The LA Times editorial today says it all. Money quote:
Californians have been leery of coastal drilling since a devastating spill from an oil platform off Santa Barbara in 1969. Drilling proponents counter that new technology has greatly decreased the risk of spills, but they nonetheless still happen. And there's more to worry about than spills. Texas is not known for its beaches, which attract the detritus -- such as tar balls and empty oil drums -- from thousands of oil platforms in the Gulf of Mexico. Drilling releases a host of toxic chemicals, creating such problems as dangerously high mercury levels in fish.
I looked online for pictures of dirty Texas beaches, but couldn't find any. Hmmm... must be like those photos of flag-draped coffins we can never see.

Obama Weighs In, cont.

In response to my earlier post, from my dear friend Byron Fry:

You know, I've watched the chipping-away of civil rights by Nixon, by Reagan and by Bush the first, and the patient, dedicated rebuilding of the damage by the conscientious miserables in America's temple yard since my childhood; it's a tired, tiring routine that We The People must never grow tired of. The big powers throw a storm down, and a rag-tag parade of not-so-helpless little boys put their fingers in the dike. Don't ever underestimate the power of grass-roots moxy. It's easy to celebrate the losses, especially in times like these, when We The People have allowed ourselves to get caught with our pants down. Easy to whine about being victimized, as if it's the wolf's fault for eating a helpless child left unprotected out of inattentiveness. Yes it's our fault, it will always BE the fault of We The People when WE allow criminals to feed us a line of shit and take over. SHAME ON US, already. This land and its Constitution are helpless without our vigil. There will always be drooling, murderous corporate wolves in this America; remember, it's their right to exist...if not to destroy our country. We The People are either vigilant or we're not. If we're not, we deserve what we get. VIGILANCE!!! If we tune out, and allow our kids to play video games, or watch too much coporate TV, or obey all the prompts from MSN, the magazine ads and the billboards, and allow ourselves to become an ocean of obedient, brain-washed consumer-lemmings, guess what? Game's over. (sigh)...and that is how the constitution ends: Not with a bang, but a whimper...

Yet, for all that, the line inches steadily uphill. Not as fast as it would in a sane world, to be sure, but nonetheless the progress is forward.

I remember marching with Martin Luther King Jr. up Telegraph Ave from Oakland to Berkeley in '67 (age nine); the concept of a Barack Obama---and all the change in the collective paradigm necessary for such an event to even occur---would have seemed too absurd to mention in even that august company, had anyone thought to dream of the possibility. We've come a long way in my short life, and I'm fucking PROUD TO BE AN AMERICAN. But to get back to our civil rights and our Constitution, gasping for life against the ropes in the ninth round, a circumstance with which they're all too familiar: This tide has washed back and forth in our bathwater here in America since the late 1700's, and you know what?


Friday, June 20, 2008

The Enron Loophole

Cesca posts this video from Olbermann on a special loophole added to legislation during Bush 41's term that deregulated the way oil and energy futures are traded. It's complicated and a bit long, but there is a tie to McCain that warrants awareness of the issue.

The person responsible for the Enron Loophole, Wendy Gramm, is the wife of former Texas senator Phil Gramm, who is one of McCain's chief economic advisors. Further, Mrs. Gramm left her government job and went to work for Enron right before Clinton took office. You'll remember how Enron manipulated markets to triple the cost of Calfornia's energy usage, resulting in 38 rolling blackouts in 2001. McCain voted against a farm bill, which contained a provision closing the loophole.

After McCain started feeling the heat of how this issue could cost him votes, he's changed his position on the Enron Loophole, but now there appears to be other legislation that would open it up again. Given how much the Democratic leadership in both houses bent over for Bush on FISA and telcom immunity, it gives me the creeps to think how easily they'll be swayed over this.

Bob Barr Will Put Obama in the WH

Barr's candidacy on the Libertarian ticket excites a lot of people. He has a lot of sensible things to say, he's anti-tax, anti-big government, and more of a true conservative. Sullivan likes him.

In this interview, I like what he says about Law and Order vs. Due Process: "You cannot have a free society without due process." And, and, AND... this man who was one of the architects in the impeachment of Bill Clinton, would choose Bill Clinton over George W. Bush. "George W. Bush has done such damage to the notion of freedom and liberty and [the] privacy of the individual in our society, and has worked so much to increase government power, systemic government power, over the individual."

I like this guy! Best of all, conservatives all over the country are going to hear his message, because the media will not marginalize him the way they did to Ron Paul, because he's just that much more credible. Those that hear his message and are swayed by him will be more of the right-wing conservatives, those that would vote first for McSame. It will only help an Obama well ahead of his opponent.

Growing Up Dad

All these posts today about the law-breaking Bush and the Congress that enables him makes me think of my kids and how I'm raising them.

Especially my son Max, who turns six next month. A few months ago, I got a ticket for having an expired registration tag (actually, I'd paid for it and had it in my glove box, but I was too lazy to put on the sticker). I explained to him that I got a ticket for breaking the law (I wouldn't have had to do that had I not brought it up over dinner), but since then he's been literally obsessed with registration stickers, their years, their colors. He looks at EVERY car he can to see if they're in compliance. When they're not, he says, "They have a 2006; they're breaking the law, right, Daddy?" Aaaauuuuggggh!

Anyway, I bring this up because I realize now that it really doesn't matter which law one breaks; when one breaks the law, one should pay a price.

Obama Weighs In

on the revised FISA/Telecom Amnesty Bill:
It is not all that I would want. But given the legitimate threats we face, providing effective intelligence collection tools with appropriate safeguards is too important to delay. So I support the compromise, but do so with a firm pledge that as President, I will carefully monitor the program, review the report by the Inspectors General, and work with the Congress to take any additional steps I deem necessary to protect the lives -– and the liberty –- of the American people.

Full text here.

Not downplaying the fact that this "compromise" is really a capitulation to Bush, but it will also give the next president the same power. And power corrupts.

Still, Greenwald softens up his vitriol for Obama:

We should continue to demand that amnesty is removed from the bill -- and fight it to the bitter end -- but this whole separate vote they'll have in the Senate on whether to remove amnesty is principally designed to enable Obama, once he votes to enact this bill, to say: "Well, I tried to get immunity out, and when I couldn't, I decided to support the compromise." It's almost certainly the case that Hoyer secured Obama's support for the bill before unveiling it.

Either way, Obama -- if amnesty isn't removed -- is going to vote for warrantless
eavesdropping and telecom amnesty, and his statement today all but sealed the fate of this bill. There is no point in sugarcoating that, though we ought to continue to fight its enactment with a focus on removing amnesty in the Senate.

Greenwald is organizing efforts to remove some supporters of this bill in the House, including House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Illinois, from office, so the above is actually tame in comparison.

Greg Sargent over at Talking Points Memo has a column about this too, expressing dismay that Obama, who has already made great strides in staring down Republican fear-mongering, did not choose this extremely important issue as a test to prove that Democrats can win arguments about National Security. But it's one of his readers posting a comment that made me smile:
Immunity is the part that really stings. We cannot afford to bicker in characteristic fashion while Republicans slaughter us and laugh afterwards. In an election where there is palpable GOP discontent towards McCain, we cannot outdo our opponents in fratricide.

Hear, hear! Now is not the time to turn on the nominee. Focus on beating down McCain, who is vulnerable but not to be underestimated.

Holy Sh!t Poll Numbers

Concurrent with the recent vote by the House to approve a bill giving Bush his revised FISA law, that basically lets him spy on anyone to track terrorists, FOX News (yeah, how reliable are they?) today released the results of a new poll (.pdf) conducted June 17-18. Check this out:

Look closer, now. It says that Republicans approve of the Democratically controlled Congress more than Democrats do.

This is sickening, and points to another reason why Obama is so needed as President. Still, we haven't heard from him on the FISA issue yet.

Greewald is pretty steamed about this issue. And why not? Basically Bush got caught breaking the law three years ago, and has been arguing ever since that he should be able to break any law or all laws, so long as it's done in defense of the nation.

Uh, yeah right!

The presidential oath of office centers on a pledge to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States, not "the nation." The implication is that by standing up for the Constitution, the President in fact defends the nation. Bush is not only failing to defend the Constitution -- our Constitution -- he is committing felonious acts in the process. And House Speaker Nancy Pelosi lets lie the 35 Articles of Impeachment introduced by Dennis Kucinich weeks ago. No wonder the Republicans like Congress more than the Democrats do!

Further Dissent from the Dissenter

From the same reader who dissented earlier, on my comment regarding Obama's refusal to appear on FOX News (get ready, it's pretty amazing!):
When I hear those who say FOX news editorial is right-wing, I just laugh! It's only because almost all other mainstream media, i.e., CNN, CBS, NBC, are so far left it makes FOX new's distinct position seem far right, when in truth it's as close to the middle as is out there. It probably also explains why their ratings are thru the roof, and that includes an audience of a lot of democrats.

This time, I left the response up to Dr. Levi:

Oh, [dear reader]. Whatever are we going to do with you?

There are no left-wing commercial media. Really. I actually study this stuff, so I know what I’m talking about. The people who whine and complain about liberal bias in media just created that analysis pretty much out of thin air and a highly selective sampling of media.

Think about this: do you actually think that the board members of Disney, Viacom, and Universal are bleeding-heart lefties? You think they want to be taxed to death? You think Sumner Redstone is campaigning for gay rights? I don’t, and there’s plenty of evidence to support my perception.

So here’s the punchline: do you think they will serve up information that is fundamentally at odds with their best interests?

As Eric might say: “Uh, yeah right.”

As far as O’s avoidance of FOX…remember, FOX is not there to serve you. They are not on the air to serve the public interest, convenience, or necessity, in spite of what licensing laws might say. They have no obligation to be accurate, complete, or responsible in what they say. What they are all about is selling you to advertisers. So why the hell should Obama (or anyone else, who isn’t just hawking product) go on FOX News to help them sell Toyotas, toilet paper, Budweiser, and whatever else they sell through their commercial time? Given this, his avoidance makes pretty good sense.

Besides, Bill O’Reilly isn’t about asking tough questions, he’s about Bill O’Reilly. And since he’s fundamentally a narcissist, he really doesn’t need anyone else on his show to get his point across, which is just his opinion. Again, why bother to deal with that?

Words aren’t of much use when people don’t listen. And O’Reilly et al are not about listening. They are about ranting, shouting, lecturing, and posturing. Not to mention being way off base. Or did you miss all that stuff about Iraq having WMD that they broadcast during 2002 and 2003. That bullshit has gotten people killed. It’s no joke.


(back to Eric, now) Dear readers, please feel free to continue this debate. I love it! And if anyone wishes to add anything, I'm happy to include your comments, on any post I write (or anything for that matter).

More Oil Drilling

There has been a moratorium on new offshore drilling in the US since 1981. Recent Gallup Polls show that 57% of Americans favor drilling offshore and in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge "if it helped reduce gas prices" and was done "under strict environmental controls."

Predictably, Republicans are sensing serious Democratic vulnerability on the subject. According to right-wing hack Patrick Ruffini, a recent effort by the American Family Association to generate support for drilling (what's that? Don't they only cover abortion and gay marriage and stuff? Well, now they're telling their supporters that $10 gas is a realistic prospect "in the future.") which has resulted in 400,000 letters sent to Congress to urge them to lift the moratorium. Newt Gingrich has 1 million signatures on a petition supporting drilling now.

Clearly, the GOP's support for drilling is purely political, designed to embarrass Obama and the Democratic Party. A study released last month by the government's own Energy Information Administratoin shows that any drilling begun now in ANWR would have no meaningful effect on gas prices in the near term. It will take us a decade to see any oil, and the study suggests that the median effect on prices is only two cents per gallon by 2025. That's 17 years away, "my friends." If that's the case, then one has to assume a similarly long view on the benefits of drilling offshore.

Sullivan seems to be the only conservative out there who sees the folly in the GOP taking this position:
Well, [voters] know the profit-gouging argument is baloney. But they also know that China is the real culprit for exploding demand, that off-shore drilling won't make any difference to anything in the next few years, and that getting off our oil addiction and innovating non-carbon energy is the only effective way forward. Last time I checked, the cure for oil addiction is not providing more of it.

I definitely do not relish the idea of Obama being painted as the guy who supports higher gas prices by opposing offshore drilling. But Obama needs to hammer on how silly this argument is. Point to facts, produced by the US government itself, showing NO short-term benefit from drilling in ANWR or offshore. Point to exploding industrialization in China create high demand and siphoning off supply and causing the spike (not to mention the fact that the Chinese gov't. subsidizes lower gasoline prices). Point to the notion that this is just another example of Republican fear-mongering that prices for gas are going to go through the roof if we don't drill now.

A Dissent to "De-mystifying Obama"

A reader writes:
I'm a conservative so I don't subscribe to his beliefs, for the most part. His association with his former church and left-wing wackos like Bill Ayres is frightening. Obama needs to cut the fluff and talk about the issues and where he stands. He also needs to include ALL the media in his interviews, including FOX News and the like. Right now, he's still Chauncy Gardner (Peter Sellers in Being There) to me.

If one is frightened by Obama's associating with left-wing "wackos," how about McCain's long-term association with right-wing wackos like John Hagee? Remember him? He's the guy who called the Nazi Holocaust and Hitler God's way of justifying the creation of Israel. Then there was McCain's earlier repudiation of Falwell and Robertson (the wackos who blamed gays and abortionists for 9/11 and Katrina), calling them "Agents of Intolerance," before he decided that their support would help him rather than hurt him.

If the reader can't see past "the fluff," then he's not really listening. Obama is clear on his positions. Perhaps hearing them clearly is difficult when FOX News is turned up so loud in his household. And how can one get a firm grip on McCain's position, who went from a principled Senator to a say-anything-to-win candidate for President in the blink of an eye?

And while on the subject of FOX News, Obama's ignoring them is a fitting punishment for their inability to balance their radical right-wing editorial position. Roger Ailes is of the same mold as Lee Atwater and Karl Rove, in my opinion. I would actually love to see them forced to stay on the outside looking in. Believe me, though, it won't last long. They'll either capitulate and strive for more journalistic balance, or they'll turn into a great big Mike Savage-style hate-a-thon. Either way, it'll be good for Obama and more right-minded individuals.

The Lament of Larry

A recent email I sent to Andrew Sullivan about this post on his blog this morning:


I think your gradual sobriety about an Obama presidency is puzzling to me now that the primaries are over. In your response to Larry Hunter's "lament" about accepting a "little economic suffering today" from Obama rather than an "immoral suicide mission around the world" from McCain, you equate "higher taxes and a nod to redistributionism" with attacks on habeas corpus, a refusal to withdraw from Iraq and "some fiscal responsibility."

Excuse me, but in terms of higher taxes, what Obama wants to do at the very least is to let the Bush tax cuts expire without making them permanent. Those tax cuts did nothing, not one thing, to stimulate this moribund economy; if anything it probably acclerated the bursting of the real estate bubble by giving investors an excuse to pay insanely high prices for real estate. Obama also wants to cut middle-class taxes. Not a huge deal, since the lion's share of taxes are paid by the upper income earners (as it should be).

I don't see what, if anything, McCain proposes to do that is fiscally responsible, as we all know he has limited comfort with areas of domestic policy. If, however, his plan is to put into play the proposals of the lame duck, then I would say McCain has plans to be more irresponsible.

And finally, if conservatives truly wished to punish the Republican party for its betrayal of conservatism and contempt for the Constitution, one way to do that is to abandon the party to the Christianists, who seem unable to muster up the courage to hang up their own shingle. Conservatives should say: "Fine, you don't want to leave the Republican brand that you've so thoroughly trashed? OK, then we'll leave. Watch out for that Obama guy, though; he's got more moral fiber than you guys ever imagined you had."

Love the blog!

De-mystifying Obama

I admit that to some, this man is the second coming of JFK/RFK/MLK and will ascend to Dalai Lama status sometime before Nov. 3.

However, there are those out there who don't find him particularly appealing or truthful. A reader emailed me a vid on youtube that attempts to paint Obama as dishonest, a poor leader, etc. See for yourself.

My opinion? This is quite tame compared to the McCain video I posted earlier.

Here's my favorite passage (at 2:15 in)
[Frame] Obama claims to have foreign policy credentials.
[Frame] Does this qualify as foreign policy credentials? "Probably the strongest experience I have in foreign relations is the fact that I spent four years overseas when I was a child in Southeast Asia." -- Sen. Barack Obama
For one thing, Obama didn't claim to have "foreign policy credentials." For another, I'd say that his overseas residency gave Obama four years' more experience in foreign relations than Bush had when he took office.

The video tries to hit Obama on healthcare, lobbyists, his position on the Iraq War, and his voting record. The implication is that McCain is more of a leader (or Hillary Clinton, since I don't know anything about the maker of the video or its timing, other than it was posted six months ago). I would not argue that McCain might be a leader, perhaps even a better leader, than Obama. But that's not the point here.

Along with the qualities of leadership, I want our next president to lead us away from where we are now as quickly as possible, not to lead us through four more years of what we've had for the past eight. McCain, through all of his flip-flopping and "curved talk," promises more war, more budget deficits and debt, more environmental degradation, more eroding of our international goodwill, and more alienation of the American working class (and, at 72 years old, probably more mid-day naps as well).

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Another Grunt & Punch Moment

Cesca is da man today:

Senator Obama and the Democrats offer an alternative to the Bush Republican endless war and "the domination of the few." And, for that, they're conflated with Osama Bin Laden and other terrorists by fear mongers like Vlad Rudy Giuliani. More laughable is the fact that Senator Obama is being unfairly demonized for his lack of foreign policy experience by a man whose most recently held public office was that of mayor -- a mayor whose only connection with the war on terrorism (besides his political exploitation of it) is the fact that he ran around in the streets while the towers burned. ("It's only fair" to repeat specifically why was he running around like that. He mistakenly put his command center inside the World Trade Center -- after the towers had already been attacked once.)

Unnh! Grrr! You got a damn soft belly, Rudy!

McCain Can't (Make Straight Talk)

Fantastic short film (3:15) by Robert Greenwald, The Real McCain 2. Shown below if you're reading this from my blog-site. Click here to view from your email.

Devastating. And indeed, why isn't the major media all over this like flies on a turd?

How to Serve Your Opponents

Senator Obama on Gitmo detainees and Afghanistan. One feels the urge to grunt in assent while punching the air. Highlight:

I have made the same arguments as Republicans like Arlen Specter, countless generals and national security experts, and the largely Republican-appointed Supreme Court of the United States of America – which is that we need not throw away 200 years of American jurisprudence while we fight terrorism. We do not need to choose between our most deeply held values, and keeping this nation safe. That’s a false choice, and I completely reject it.

Now in their attempt to distort my position, Senator McCain’s campaign has said I want to pursue a law enforcement approach to terrorism. This is demonstrably false, since I have laid out a comprehensive counter-terrorism strategy that includes military force, intelligence operations, financial sanctions and diplomatic action. But the fact that I want to abide by the United States Constitution, they say, shows that I have a “pre-9/11 mindset.”

Well I refuse to be lectured on national security by people who are responsible for the most disastrous set of foreign policy decisions in the recent history of the United States. The other side likes to use 9/11 as a political bludgeon. Well, let’s talk about 9/11.

Read the piece for more. It's a winner.

Just in Case Anyone Still Wondered Why

We invaded and waged war against Iraq for its vast reserves of OIL. Not because Saddam had WMD. Not because he was tyrannizing his people. Not because he had aided al-Qaeda in planning or executing any terrorist attack. It really is this simple.

Today, the New York Times reports that "[F]our Western oil companies are in the final negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power." These are no-bid contracts, by the way, "which prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including some from Russia, China, and India." The contracts are "relatively small by industry standards," but give Exxon-Mobil, BP, Shell, and Chevron an advantage when bidding on future contracts.

The Iraqi government called these no-bid deals "stop-gap measures" to get highly-skilled oil workers in the fields. The plan is to increase oil production by 20% to 3 million barrels a day within six months, then to double it to 6 million a day after new fields are tapped.

Once the short term contracts expire, however, the Western companies "will be allowed to match bids offered by competing companies to retain the work once it has been opened to bidding."

It's estimated that Iraq has approximately 115 billion known barrels of light crude oil in its oil fields, plus about 220-300 billion more that may be undiscovered according to the Council on Foreign Relations. These assets are valued at $30 trillion at today's prices. The cost of the Iraq War is, by comparison, about $1 trillion (these were the estimates about eight months ago, so the value of the oil is probably double now, and the cost is still less than 5% of the value of the oil). You don't think that the administration weighed the cost of a few billion dollars and a few dozen American lives lost each month against access to an asset that large? If you don't, you probably still think "they hate us for our freedom."

How will the US ensure its dominance over Iraqi oil? Why, by establishing permanent military bases in Iraq, of course! You didn't think they were there to demonstrate American goodwill, did you? This is the OIL bidness (or should I say "no-bidness"?).

Sullivan doesn't believe it was a plot from the beginning, but I strongly disagree. Those secret meetings Cheney had with oil company executives early in Bush's first term, purportedly to hammer out the country's energy policy, could easily have included discussions on how the big oil companies could leverage US military power to get its grips on Iraqi oil reserves (which, as we can see, is believed to be largely undiscovered). Maybe Bush didn't know about it, but I wouldn't for a minute put it past the sneering Cheney to have all that figured out years in advance. Remember, he was Defense Secretary under Bush 41 and had the highest security clearance the US allows. To think he didn't bring with him a wide knowledge of military options considered by the Pentagon through the late '80 and early '90s to his next job as CEO of oil giant Halliburton would be just unbelievably naive.

Couldn't Sleep; Did a Little Reading

This from Illinois Congressman Rahm Emanuel, who suggests Bush, after completing his "farewell tour" of Europe, do the same here in America. Choice quote:

Swedish Covenant Hospital, Chicago Illinois

A trip to the emergency room at Swedish Covenant would allow you to meet some of the millions of Americans who can't afford health insurance and others who have seen their family premiums nearly double. Remind everyone of your old comment: "People have access to health care in America. After all, you just go to an emergency room."

Also, a great little bit from Bob Cesca:
I support off-shore drilling in just one place: the coastline of Kennebunkport. Years of messy exploration followed by dozens of giant platforms. In Kennebunkport only.
And, finally, from Ted Rall, on the recent Supreme Court ruling restoring habeas corpus protections to detainees at Guantanamo:
Deranged leaders who carry out horrific acts of mass murder and oppression with the consent of the people are hardly new to American history, reminds Allen Weinstein, Archivist of the United States. "Begin with the Salem witchcraft trials of the 1690s," he told a commencement ceremony at Southern Methodist University. "Move forward to the Alien and Sedition Acts of the early Republic, and from there to the suspension of habeas corpus during the Civil War. Turn then to the arbitrary political arrests of the First and Second World Wars, the many abuses of the Cold War McCarthy era, and from there the civil liberties climate in our time."

So many oopsies! But those are temporary excesses, Weinstein reassures. "Self- corrective forces at work in American society"--lefties, liberals, a single swing vote on the U.S. Supreme Court--always pull us back before we careen off the brink. Disaster is avoided.


We think we Americans are good people who do bad things when we're not on top of our game. "Self-corrective forces," we pat ourselves on our collective backsides, always kick in before we go too far. But that's not really how it is. Some Americans are good. Other Americans are bad. And the good ones are often lazy, willing to let the bad ones get their way.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Tidbit of the Day

A poem by Portia Nelson. An autobiography in five short chapters.

There's A Hole In My Sidewalk

Chapter One

I walk down a street and there's a big hole. I don't see it and fall into it. It's dark and hopeless and it takes me a long time to find my way out. It's not my fault!

Chapter Two

I walk down the same street. There's a big hole and I can see it, but I still fall in. It's dark and hopeless and it takes me a long time to get out. It's still not my fault.

Chapter Three

I walk down a street. There's a big hole. I can see it, but I still fall in. It's become a habit. But I keep my eyes open and get out immediately. It is my fault.

Chapter Four

I walk down a street. There's a big hole. And I walk around it.

Chapter Five

I walk down a different street.

Why No Pictures of American Flag-Draped Coffins

I was pretty disgusted by the fact that the Bush Administration prohibited photographs of flag-draped coffins coming off airplanes since the war in Afghanistan began. I always thought it was about restricting freedom of the press and exercising control and doing the propaganda thing. And of course, most of that is true.

But, courtesy of Maureen Dowd today, I have a more nuanced view. This bit appeared in a column about Bush's dinner with UK Prime Minister Brown:

The Daily Mail’s front page on Monday juxtaposed a picture of the Union Jack-draped coffins of five British paratroopers killed in Afghanistan, lined up on the tarmac before being flown home, and a picture of W. and Laura landing at Heathrow.
Now I get it. Can't have pictures of our men and women coming home in boxes juxtaposed against pictures of a smiling, smirking, petulant Bush now, can we? I mean, the man sacrificed his golf game to be in solidarity with American soldiers and their families! No, wait... he lied about that, didn't he?

Actually, now I'm embarrassed for this president. I don't think I can take anymore.

50 Office-Speak Phrases You Love To Hate

From the BBC. I especially liked #39:

In my work environment it's all cascading at the moment. What they really mean is to communicate or disseminate information, usually downwards. What they don't seem to appreciate is that it sounds like we're being [peed] on. Which we usually are.
My favorite hate was/is "synergy," that nebulous concept of working together to produce results that were greater than the sum of the combined efforts of each individual in the group.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Obama's New Summer Ad Campaign

Much has been written lately about Senator McSame's (I saw another name for him today: McCan't) temper. Well, writer Trey Ellis contemplates how Obama might tap that powder keg during the debates the way Tom Cruise's character did to Jack Nicholson's character in A Few Good Men, which by the way is a great Sidney Pollack film.

I decided then to try my hand at some ad copy Obama might consider when putting an honest face on his opponent. Here goes:

FADE IN (Cue: powerful, military music in b/g): Photo montage of young John McCain in his dress uniform, then as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, then footage of a beaming McCain returning home to his wife after captivity.

V/O: Senator John McCain served his country by being shot down over Vietnam, locked up as a prisoner of war for years where he was mercilessly tortured. And yet he was still able to smile when returning home to his future ex-wife.

CUT TO: video/photo montage of McCain being sworn in as a freshman Senator, then standing in front of the Straight Talk bus as a presidential candidate, with a big smile on his wife.

V/O: He served his country in the United States Senate and as a presidential candidate, serving up "straight talk" that sometimes went against his own party. Eventually he was painted by his own party as mentally unstable. And through it all, there was that smile, even though he couldn't lift his arms above his shoulders.

CUT TO: video/photo montage of a smiling McCain shaking hands with Jerry Falwell, Pat Robertson, and John Hagee. Low shot of him standing beneath a giant cross. Cut to: images of 9/11 and Hurricane Katrina superimposed over the rainbow flag of the gay community (CUE: Powerful military music segues into dark, morose orchestral a la Stravinsky).

V/O: Senator McCain called Evangelical Christian leaders "agents of intolerance," then sought their endorsements, until the intolerance he accurately observed came back to haunt him. And all the while, there's that smile -- although those teeth look a bit yellow, don't you think?

CUT TO: Photo/video montage of McCain and wife Cindy, in front of the flag, waving to crowds, then with his angry face as she shouts obscenities at his wife.

V/O: McCain married a wealthy heiress with stunning good looks, but that didn't stop him from calling her a (SOUND F/X: bleep) c**t in front of reporters. Then he had those same reporters over for BBQ as he shopped for a running mate. Not smling so much anymore, are you, Senator?

CUT TO: Pan across an empty padded cell, antiseptic and white, until you reach the door just as it closes, its small window of thick, reinforced glass the only light into the outside world.

V/O: On November 3, make sure that this is the only "White House" that John McCain ever gets to live in. (FADE TO BLACK)

A Brief Attempt at Devil's Advocacy

The recent ruling by the Supreme Court, regarding Guantanamo and the limits of power for the Executive Branch of the US Government, touched off a firestorm of opinion on both sides of the issue. Personally, I agree with the court that detainees held by the U.S. in any camp have the right under habeas corpus to challenge their detention and demand to address the evidence used to justify their detention.

Yet, the presumptive Republican nominee and scores of others in his party, such as Newt Gingrich, seem to think that the Court has just made it easier for terrorists to escape justice by giving them access to lawyers and due process under the U.S. Constitution. They believe this ruling will lead to untold horrors, including "the loss of a city" if Gingrich is to be believed.

Bottom line, the Bush administration asserted at the Supreme Court hearings on this issue that it had the power and the right during wartime (even a non-traditional war like the Global War on Terror) to capture a foreigner abroad and hold him for the rest of his life without any independent review of the courts. This is about as dangerous and wide-ranging a power as you could find anywhere in a democratic society. It is a good thing the Court rejected Bush's arguments.

Yet, in a brief but thougtful piece today by Dr. Steven Taylor, who is an Associate Professor of Political Science at Troy University in Alabama, he writes three paragraphs that gave me pause. I thought about what an uninformed, average-joe voter might think about them. I know such a guy, a former co-worker of mine who was a combat veteran in the first Gulf War. He and I had one conversation about politics years ago that left an indelible mark in my mind about how people can form opinions independent of reason, empathy, or even basic humanity. He was, in short, one of the angriest people I'd ever met, with a pathology so convoluted I was awe-struck at how he managed not to kill someone each and every day. So I will try to respond to these three paragraphs in his voice.

Since it is clearly possible for US forces to have arrested the wrong people, I cannot see how it is an abuse for SCOTUS to decide that those in captivity should have the right to question their detention.
We don't arrest the wrong people. If they're standing in our way as we go after the bad guys, then they might as well be bad guys. In any event, what's the harm in getting extra Muslims off the street for a few years? They would have eventually turned into terrorists.

It is incredibly selfish and myopic to take the attitude that because foreigners are being detained that it somehow doesn’t matter that innocent people are being caught up in the dragnet.
Selfish? It's selfish to want to stay alive? Those fuckers wouldn't hesitate to bury a knife in my back while smiling and hugging me and calling me Sadiq. What's "myopic" mean?

To put it another way, when the FARC kidnaps someone for political reasons and holds them without chance of release simply because they believe they have the right to do so within the context of a self-defined cause, we all find that to be an abomination. Why is it is any different if the US government engages in the same activity?
Because we're the fucking United States, that's why! We do whatever we want, when we want, and no one can tell us shit. That's what makes us great -- we don't take shit from anybody, and we make up all the rules. And what's the FARC, anyway?

This, in my reasoned, human -- and now empathetic -- opinion, is why we should be afraid through the summer and fall. How do you reason with the unreasoned? How do you generate empathy in the angriest of people, or even those who aren't quite as angry but truly believe that America's always right?

The New Tuskegee Airmen?

From ABC News, a horror story:

[Former US Army sniper James] Elliott, 38, of suburban Washington, D.C., was recruited, at $30 a month, for the [anti-smoking drug] Chantix ... study three years after being diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He served a 15-month tour of duty in Iraq from 2003-2004.
Months after he began taking the drug, Elliott suffered a mental breakdown, experiencing a relapse of Iraq combat nightmares he blames on Chantix.
"They never told me that I was going to be suicidal, that I would cease sleeping. They never told me anything except this will help me quit smoking," Elliott told ABC News and The Washington Times.
On the night of February 5th, after consuming a few beers, Elliott says he "snapped" and left his home with a loaded gun.
His fiancee, Tammy, called police and warned, "He's extremely unstable. He has PTSD."
"Do you think that he is going to shoot or attack the police?" the 911 dispatcher asked.
"I can't be certain. I don't know," she said.
"He was operating as if he was back in theater, in combat theater," she told ABC News. "And of course, a soldier goes nowhere without a gun."
When police arrived, they found Elliott in the street, with the gun in the front pocket of his hooded sweatshirt.
"Are you going to shoot me? Shoot me," Elliott said, according to the police report.
Police used a Taser gun to stun Elliott and placed him under arrest.
It wasn't until three weeks later that the Veterans Administration advised the veterans in the Chantix study that the drug may cause serious side effects, including "anxiety, nervousness, tension, depression, thoughts of suicide, and attempted and completed suicide."
The VA's letter to the veterans, on February 29, 2008, followed three warnings from the FDA and Chantix' maker Pfizer, that were issued on November 20, 2007, January 18, 2008 and February 1, 2008.

Chantix is one of the drugs being used in an estimated 25 clinical studies using veterans by the VA.

The "Soft House"

Imagine that you can install curtains in your house that will absorb the sun's light and convert it into energy. This is not science fiction; it is a prototype of the "Soft House," a concept in energy production designed by Sheila Kennedy, an expert in the integration of solar cell technology in architecture.

The "energy harvesting textiles" can generate 16,000 watt-hours of energy, about half of a compact home's daily needs. This has incredible applications in any number of structure where curtains can be used. Its cost is currently prohibitive, but as we all know, these things lead to more innovation. Remember when the average computer needed a whole room? Those ancient dinosaurs didn't even have 0.00001% of the RAM present in today's average PCs. Now cellphones are thousands of times more powerful than the early computers.

Monday, June 16, 2008

Fear-mongering at its worst

Greenwald takes great pains to go back and show us how former House Speaker Newt Gingrich employs the worst kind of hyperbole to generate the requisite fear that will motivate uninformed, uneducated voters to go Republican. Basically he's suggesting that the recent Supreme Court decision -- ruled 5-4 against the kinds of justices that a President McSame might nominate -- "could cost us a city" because of the fact that the government now needs to present the evidence against detainees.

I remember Gingrich talking about the use of language to frame a debate. He was the architect of the Republican "Contract for America" during the 1994 mid-term elections, when the GOP wiped out a decades-old Democratic majority in both houses of Congress. This was when the use of the word "liberal" had become a four-letter word. By connecting that word to "tax & spend," "weak on defense," and later "cut and run," Republicans tried to frame the debate about who was more suited to lead the country. What Gingrich has been doing since 2006, when the GOP was fighting to hold onto Congress in the wake of Bush's disastrous Iraq War, Katrina, Patriot Act, etc., is to conflate Democratic leadership with an imagined doomsday scenario. Simply put, if there's a big attack on us, it's now the Democrats's fault. If only the American people had seen that it was necessary to strip away their freedoms to preserve their way of life (?!?!?!), none of this would have happened.

Now read this vertically:


Keep in mind that this has worked before, when Condoleeza Rice invoked the mushroom cloud scenario if we didn't take out Saddam Hussein.

And, as I said last Friday, I believe that people who are certain to vote for McSame are stupid enough to buy that hook, line and sinker, the way they bought the Limbaugh/Hannity/Clinton bullshit about Obama being a Muslim. It's now our job to see that some who are on the fence, who have at least the potential for using brain cells they never thought they had, actually use their melons to see through this evil manipulation of their baser sensibilities.

As we have all seen all too clearly, blind faith is no way to elect a president.

Urban Turbines?

I like that headline!

A company called Aerovironment has designed microturbines that can be used in an urban environment, instead of securing huge swaths of land for gigantic wind farms that are home to towers of noisy wind turbines (that environmentalists complain are dangerous for birds).
These units are designed to sit atop multi-story buildings and are installed at an angle that lets them catch the wind that bounces off the vertical building walls. The company claims that their units are 30% more effective at generating power than similar models. These weigh 200 pounds each, are a compact 4 feet by 4 feet, and feature bird screens that shield birds from the whirring blades.
Looking at the pages of the website, I'm not sure I want to see these things dotting the skyline, but then again, I think I'd prefer them over the miles of electrical wire and thousands utility poles that pollute the view just as badly, if not worse. Plus, they're greener.

Sickening Exposure of Catholic Church

Sullivan profiles a new documentary by journalist Jason Berry of the Hartford Courant, called "Vows of Silence." There are clips of the current pope prior to his ascension losing his temper with an interviewer, and the film's trailer. The evidence points to the fact that both the current and former popes knew about and covered up the abuses of a very powerful associate.

Sullivan has seen the film and reports that he was "shocked" at how grave and specific the charges of child sexual abuse are.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

We Didn't Win, But He Did Great!

Max's band, The Golden Dragons, was a finalist at the RockSTAR Battle of the Bands, held at the Hard Rock Cafe at Universal CityWalk. The 21 bands that participated were the best of the best throughout the LA School District. Max's school, Cowan Avenue Elementary, had three bands in the finals, which tells you a lot about how great both the kids and the instruction are.

The judges, which included producer Gerry Brown (multiple Grammy nominee) and '80s singer Taylor Dayne, were to pick the top two bands. One would be comprised of 4th and 5th graders, and one of 1st through 3rd graders. Max, at a month shy of six, was one of the only kids there still in Kindergarten.

During their performance, the band hit the same trouble spots as they have each time they have performed. That is, the singer rushed and didn't follow the musicians, and his vocal got way ahead of the music. I don't think it was nerves; Nicholas never seems nervous about anything. I just think he's unschooled and needs ear training.

Not winning the prize was not a big loss for these kids, so it was great to hear Max say how much fun he'd had. In fact, my wife told me later that, upon leaving the stage, Max asked her, "When can I have another turn? I wanna go again."

What can I say? The kid's a born performer!

A couple of other tidbits: the event host was D.M.C., of the '80s rap duo Run-D.M.C. During Max's set he was seen talking to someone standing next to him, mouthing the words, "Check out that drummer; he's great!" After all the bands had performed, the teachers and D.M.C. teamed up for a rousing rendition of their mega-hit, "Walk This Way." The singer from what turned out to be the winning older band was there too, and the kid just tore into the last verse like he had been singing the song for years. I was thrilled for him, and he wasn't even my kid! What a great event.

Anyway, here's the final picture of The Golden Dragons. Left to right are Nicholas (vocals, guitar), Max, Sabrina (keyboards), Matthew (guitar), Ramsey (guitar), and Parth (bass). Behind them doing Forrest Gump as Randy Jackson is Mark Miller, guitarist, songwriter, music educator, and man about town (from his business card!).

Friday, June 13, 2008

Battle of the Bands Finals Saturday at Hard Rock Cafe, Universal City

My beautiful son Max, who will be six in July, competes for first prize in RockSTAR's Battle of the Bands finale, to be held tomorrow at noon at Universal's CityWalk. Got the camcorder charged, and Max has been practicing his drums all week long. It doesn't get any better than this...

The Genius of Charles Krauthammer

OK, the guy's a flippin' blowhard who is the articulate equivalent of a certain blonde right-wing nut-job whose name will never appear in this blog. In today's Washington Post, CK gives sage advice to McCain on how to win in November. It's right in the headline to the piece: Make the Election About Iraq.

Brilliant! Why didn't I think of that? Here's his reasoning:

McCain's case is not hard to make. Iraq is a three-front war -- against Sunni al-Qaeda, against Shiite militias and against Iranian hegemony -- and we are winning on every front...

So we fight Iranian hegemony with American hegemony? As if we're not trying to assert total dominance in the Middle East?
We did not go into Iraq to fight al-Qaeda. The war had other purposes.

Yeah, like Bushco getting its grubby paws on 10% of the world's oil reserves and sandwiching Iran for the next war. Not to mention Bush's quest for "legacy" as a war president who conquered the middle east.

But al-Qaeda chose to turn it into the central front in its war against America.

And what happened to compel al-Qaeda to do this? Why, our invasion, of course, which created such a huge power vacuum that it was simple for terrorists to set up camp in Iraq. Granted, the counter-insurgency tactics of the US are showing success, as we have enlisted Sunni groups formerly fighting against us to fight against al-Qaeda. But recently, a major Sunni leader was assassinated, and now the supreme Shiite leader in Iraq has issued a fatwa stating that "selling foodstuffs to the Occupying Powers is not permitted."
As for the Shiite extremists, the Mahdi Army is isolated and at its weakest point in years.
True, but this is because their leader, Moqtada al-Sadr, unilaterally called for a cease-fire, which created an internecine conflict within his group. But don't underestimate him. He commands a large force of fighters with all the fervor in any true-believer.

Even the most expansive American objective -- establishing a representative government that is an ally against jihadists, both Sunni and Shiite -- is within sight.
Again, true. The Maliki government in Iraq is feeling pretty good about themselves right now. But what CK doesn't mention is that there is a major struggle going on right now between Maliki's government and the US, which is trying to hammer out a Status of Forces Agreement that establishes permanent bases on Iraqi soil. When Obama becomes president, any advances Bush makes in this area will be reversed. No permanent military presence in Iraq. Believing that such a reversal, if really understood by the American voters, CK urges McBush to give a speech about why having these bases are a great idea as opposed to a withdrawal.

But CK would be wrong (again). Americans have tired of this war, and we want out. We will not abide McBush's recent comments about withdrawing troops if the surge is working:

[T]hat's not too important. What’s important is the casualties in Iraq, Americans are in South Korea, Americans are in Japan, American troops are in Germany. That’s all fine. American casualties and the ability to withdraw; we will be able to withdraw.
Hmmm. McBush seems about as sharp as Ronald Reagan circa 1998.

A Great Question from Glen Greenwald

From his Salon blog today:
[H]ow and why would any American object to the mere requirement that our Government prove that someone is guilty before we imprison them indefinitely or execute them? That is all that yesterday's Supreme Court ruling required -- not that detainees be released, but that their guilt be proven in a fair proceeding. The fact that the Right is so enraged by this basic requirement vividly reveals the authoritarian impulses which define them. After all, key McCain ally Lindsey Graham is actually threatening to amend our Constitution to limit the right of habeas corpus in response to yesterday's ruling. The authoritarian radicalism of this faction can't be overstated.

Indeed. Graham is worried that "liberal" judges and "activist" lawyers will now get to "intervene in basic military matters for the first time in history."

Bullshit. This ruling does not put military decisions into judges' hands, but it does empower them by way of our Constitution to hear certain claims -- properly brought before the court -- under habeas corpus writs. That Graham actually thinks Americans are so stupid as to let the government limit an individual's right to confront those who accuse him and demand to review evidence against him is pretty scary. In truth, I think Americans, at least those who would vote for McBush, ARE that stupid.

Tim Russert, R.I.P.

Sad to hear the news about the death of NBC's Tim Russert, the host of Meet the Press and many political "debates" over the years. He was a major media journalist through and through, but as those types go, he was better than most (Stephanopolous, Schieffer, Williams, Couric) and aspired to be as good as others (Brokaw, Olbermann, Cronkite).

He had a wife and son who were vacationing in Italy when he suddenly died today of a massive heart attack. It's a damn shame.

Major Office Meltdown

No, that isn't me!

This May 23, 2008 meltdown by an office worker, supposedly upset over computer problems, goes completely bat-shit. Here's the link to the webpage, or watch it if you're actually on my blog's webpage:

I'm sure he'd had too much coffee that morning, too. That stuff'll kill ya.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Advice for Pelosi

Wednesday I posted a piece about Nancy Pelosi's cowardly crushing of 35 Articles of Impeachment of George W. Bush brought by Rep. Dennis Kucinich.

Levi's response to me yesterday was spot-fucking-on:
I think it’s more important to keep Shrub and Dick occupied. First, you really need to impeach both; if we only impeach W, we could end up with another Dick as president. That turned out badly last time, no? Heh. Second, impeachment would keep them busy, and we hope, out of new mischief (read: Iran). That’s the main reason; keep ‘em on their heels until January 21st.

In other words, I don’t see it so much through a moral or ethical prism as I do a tactical and economic prism. Press them and tie up their resources. Besides, it’s not like any ground-shaking legislation is going to pass in the next seven months. If you can’t get anything useful done, you might as well prevent really stupid damaging things from taking place.

B Kliban had a great drawing to show how I see this:

"Justice" Scalia Mocks Habeas Corpus

Yesterday, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4, in a stinging rebuke to the Bush administration, that the administration had no right under the US Constitution to enforce a part of the Military Commissions Act of 2006. You may recall that this was the law hastily created to give the president wide-ranging powers to deny detainees in Guantanamo Bay the ability to confront their accusers and rebut the evidence being used to keep them there or to administer "justice" in their cases. The MCA contained a provision that purported to suspend the writ of habeas corpus -- the means by which any accused person can challenge his arrest or the evidence used against him -- against the detainees, even though the Constitution expressly states that suspension is only permitted in cases of "rebellion or invasion."

Now, the detainees have full rights to challenge their detention is US federal courts, rather than the kangaroo-style military tribunals that Bush claimed would be fair in administering justice. These detainees had no access to counsel at hearings, were subjected to government evidence that was presumed to be valid, and were prevented from challenging (and is some cases even knowing) the evidence against them. The Court held that these tribunals "fell well short" of the standards that would mandate suspension of habeas.

In the majority opinion written by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the Court made clear (and revitalized) some of the most important principles of our system of government which the Bush administration has literally trampled upon since 9/11. You see, Bush and his ilk believe in the concept of a "unitary executive," which holds that the President has unique powers to run the country that circumvent and transcend the checks and balances that make the way we do things so ideal. Hence he attaches signing statements to bills he signs but doesn't like, basically stating for the record that he reserves the option to ignore the law. Hence he stands behind radical legal opinions of lawyers like John Woo who gave Bush the legal clearance to torture detainees to extract information, or to spy on American citizens without a warrant, or to transfer detainees to foreign countries where there is a likelihood that they will be tortured, or to classify the president's knowledge about something even if that thing has already been declassified. The Court's decision yesterday undoes all of that and requires the government to justify its actions, and gives back the basic human right of any person to confront and challenge those who accuse him.

Now, Scalia, in his dissent, entirely undoes his argument within the first two pages. He writes:
America is at war with radical Islamists. ... The game of bait-and-switch that today’s opinion plays upon the Nation’s Commander in Chief will make [that] war harder on us. It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed. ... At least 30 of those prisoners hitherto released from Guantanamo Bay have returned to the battlefield.

Well, Mr. Justice Scalia, that is the price to defend our freedom. (Plus, if needed, would we not return an American soldier formerly held prisoner back into action?)

Although I detest war for its own sake, if we're going to fight one, fighting one to defend basic human rights like habeas corpus is infinitely preferable to fighting one to establish permanent bases on the ground that will secure the flow of cheap oil so that billionaire friends and cronies can reap record profits on the backs of working Americans. Remember that this is an objective that the Republican nominee wants to preserve.

As my beloved Code of Honor states (in part):

Never Engage in Battles With Weaker Opponents
Fight Only Honorable Battles
Defend Humanity
Be and Example to Children.

Another twist on the McSame angle, this time from Greenwald:
John McCain has identified Roberts and Alito as ideal justices of the type he would nominate, while Barack Obama has identified Stephen Breyer, David Souter and Ginsberg (all in the majority today). It's not hyperbole to say that, from Supreme Court appointments alone, our core constitutional protections could easily depend upon the outcome of the 2008 election.