Friday, May 30, 2008

Judge Fired in Khadr Case

From CBC.ca:
The U.S. military judge presiding over the trial of Canadian terrorism suspect Omar Khadr has been fired, said Khadr's lawyer.

In a news release issued Thursday, Lt.-Cmdr. William C. Kuebler said the judge, Col. Peter Brownback, was replaced after threatening to suspend proceedings in the case earlier this month.

Brownback told prosecutors they had to provide Khadr's defence lawyers with records of his confinement at the detention camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, or he would suspend the proceedings.

Kuebler, Khadr's U.S. military-appointed lawyer, said he learned Brownback had been fired in an email from the chief judge of the U.S. military commissions, Col. Ralph Kohlmann. Kuebler's news release also included an email sent Wednesday by lead prosecutor Maj. Jeff Groharing, which complained of numerous delays in trial proceedings.

Kuebler told CBCNews.ca he believes the prosecution hopes the change will "speed things up."
The trial of Omar Khadr as an armed enemy combatant has been a showcase for all the ways that Bu$hCo™ can twist the concept of 'justice' out of shape until it's beyond recognition. To begin with, under international convention Khadr, who was only 15 years old when captured should never been treated as a soldier under international conventions, but as a VICTIM of war. He barely survived the wounds he suffered when two rounds hit him IN THE BACK as he tried to flee American soldiers.

Not a pretty sight, is it? Adding insult to injury the government locked him up as an enemy combatant and he eventually wound up in Guantanamo Bay, facing charges for murdering a US marine sergeant by lobbing a hand grenade during a firefight. There are a couple of inconvenient facts that contradict that conclusion, and in any kind of non-Kafkaesque world he'd have been exonerated long ago.

The first fact was that Khadr was captured in a building that also contained another brown-skinned Muslim, who may have been the one to have tossed the grenade. The other person, an adult, was killed when he was also shot by the same marines infuriated by the death of their corpsman. So he could have just as well been the man for whose crime Omar is standing trial. But the other fact is even more inconvenient. There were no grenades found inside the hut where Khadr and his companion were holed up, but the US forces were using them. It was most likely a case of 'friendly' fire. (Now THERE is an oxymoron for you.)

So Khadr's adolescence and brief adulthood have been dominated by this travesty of justice created by the Military Commissions Act, a travesty in its own right. Normal civilian courts were not corrupt enough for the Bush administration, even with prosecutors and judges having been purged of all but 'loyal Bushies.' Even the military courts that might have saluted, said, "Sir, yes sir!" and done whatever they were ordered could not be relied upon to be sufficiently compliant. A whole new legal mechanism had to be created for the occasion, one whose rules could be adjusted in the prosecutions favor as the trial went along. The situation is so corrupted and devoid of normal legal niceties that even the former lead prosecutor has criticized the process openly. From TPMmuckraker:
The current chief judge there has written that the military tribunals have “credibility problems." And the former chief prosecutor, after resigning, publicly criticized the system as "deeply politicized."

Now that former prosecutor, Col. Morris Davis, has given more evidence of that politicization in an interview with The Nation after the six Gitmo detainees were charged. Davis says that in an August, 2005 meeting with William Haynes, then the Pentagon's general counsel, Haynes seemed to completely discount the possibility of the military tribunals acquitting any of the detainees. Now, of course, Haynes has been installed as the official overseeing the whole process, both the prosecutors and the defense. From The Nation:
"[Haynes] said these trials will be the Nuremberg of our time," recalled Davis, referring to the Nazi tribunals in 1945, considered the model of procedural rights in the prosecution of war crimes. In response, Davis said he noted that at Nuremberg there had been some acquittals, something that had lent great credibility to the proceedings.

"I said to him that if we come up short and there are some acquittals in our cases, it will at least validate the process," Davis continued. "At which point, [Haynes's] eyes got wide and he said, 'Wait a minute, we can't have acquittals. If we've been holding these guys for so long, how can we explain letting them get off? We can't have acquittals, we've got to have convictions.'"

Davis submitted his resignation on October 4, 2007, just hours after he was informed that Haynes had been put above him in the commissions' chain of command. "Everyone has opinions," Davis says. "But when he was put above me, his opinions became orders."
I'm no lawyer, but when the outcome of a trial becomes dependent upon how it looks politically for the government rather than on the facts of the case, something is terribly wrong. When I first blogged about Omar Khadr back in June of last year, it was to announce that the charges against him had been dropped. The travesty then was that the dropping of all charges did not mean that Khadr was going to be released. That's right, even though it was ruled that the Military Commissions didn't have the authority to try Khadr, the US government could still hold him in a cell indefinitely. This is why the MCA is such a piece of vile shit, it purports to suspend habeas corpus in DIRECT violation of the US Constitution (Article 1, section 9.) The clowns currently masquerading as the US Supreme Court have refused to rule on this issue, to their eternal shame.

Five months later came the news that the Khadr trial had begun, accompanied by protests from Khadr's defense that the prosecution had withheld exculpatory evidence from an eyewitness. In a normal civilian court that would have led to the charges being thrown out of court and the prosecutor facing sanctions, possibly even disbarment. This is serious shit, or so I'm led to believe.

There has been a glimmer of hope in Khadr's case recently. One development had the Supreme Court of Canada (SCC) rule that Khadr's defense would have access to documents generated when Canadian officials interviewed him at Guantanamo. The other, much more significant, was the move Col. Brownback was making to dismiss the case. And then he gets fired. I'm trying to think of a way that political interference could be more blatantly signaled than that, but I'm having a hard time of it. This latest move reaches a new low even for the Bush administration.

A couple of excerpts from Guantanamo's Child give just a glimpse of the humiliation and pain that this young man has suffered in his brief life.
There were raw scars on his chest where there had once been two deep holes. Shrapnel had punctured the skin along his arms and legs. While the nicks and scrapes can sometimes look minor, they have a cruel habit of causing pain for years to come. Doctors will often not remove embedded shrapnel, preferring to allow the body to work on its own to eject foreign objects. While considered safer than extraction, it is incredibly painful as the shrapnel works its way to the surface, eventually bursting through like blood blisters.
[...]

The guards left him in the interrogation booth for hours, short-shackled with his ankles and wrists bound together and secured to a bolt on the floor. Unable to move, he eventually urinated and was left in a pool of urine on the floor.

When the MPs returned and found the soiled teenager, Omar's lawyers later said, the guards poured pine oil cleaner on his chest and the floor. Keeping him short-shackled, the guards used Omar as a human mop to clean up the mess. Omar was returned to his cell and for two days the guards refused to give him fresh clothes.
When and if the Bush crime family is ever put on trial for war crimes, I expect the Khadr case to be particularly problematic for the defense.

~~~UPDATE:

Oh, and one other thing. Colonel Brown can hardly be considered to be a civil libertarian upstart in this case, or he would have tossed it long ago on any one of a number of points of law. As this story shows, he was dismissive of America's obligation under international treaty with regard to Khadr's status as a child soldier when he was captured.
Colonel Peter Brownback issued a brief ruling in which he described the international statutes dealing with the protection of children involved in armed conflict as “interesting as a matter of policy,” but made it clear that they would have no impact on the kangaroo court proceedings organized by the White House and the Pentagon at Guantanamo.
That story was from less than three weeks ago. Brownback has been ruling in favor of the administration in nearly every instance up until now. But he takes one step out of line and look what happens. It speaks volumes.

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Thursday, May 29, 2008

BREAKING: Lobbyists Not Getting Bang For Buck

A swelling chorus of complaints prompted the crack, and I do mean crack, ONN Team to rush this production to video:


A visibly angry Darth Cheney responded.

"Look, I've done everything, and I mean EVERYTHING that SithCo has asked me to do. Just because this planet isn't an utter and complete shambles yet, doesn't mean I won't accomplish it. Everybody knows the challenges I've had with the Death Star, and SithCo has been a little slow with the bucks, yaknowwhadimean?"


Calls to the Empire for further comment were not returned, however members of the White House press corps who wished to remain anonymous agreed that it appears they do all the twisting and groveling, and that the White House and Congress do not seem to be doing their fair share. "It's just not fair," one source said. "You think there would be at least some honor among thieves, but the old saying is probably true."


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Wednesday, May 28, 2008

McCain Heckled in Denver Yesterday


Via ThinkProgress:

McCain was speaking at the University of Denver yesterday about arms proliferation. Elisabeth Bumiller from the New York times was in the audience; in fact she's been riding around with McCain on the campaign's bus and on the plane and in the blimp and the submarine and whatever other conveyeances Cindy probably owns.


What Bumiller had to say was this:


DENVER — Senator John McCain, the presumptive Republican presidential nominee, distanced himself from the Bush administration on Tuesday by vowing to work more closely with Russia on nuclear disarmament and by calling for a reduction in tactical nuclear weapons in Europe.

In what his campaign promoted as a major speech on nuclear security policy, Mr. McCain told a largely friendly crowd at the University of Denver that he supported a legally binding accord between the two nations to replace verification requirements in the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, or Start, which expires in 2009. The Bush administration has refused to accept such binding limits on nuclear weapons, which the administration’s critics say has created paranoia in Moscow. [emphasis mine.]

Well, watch this largley friendly crowd:







You won't get one whiff of that from the article Bumiller turned in. I call "HACK!" BTW, there's a certain paranoia here about McCain or nuclear or US bombing policies in general. You don't have to go all the way to Moscow.


Pass the cocktail weenies, please.

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Monday, May 26, 2008

Memorial Mile 2008

Gainesville, Florida

At four in the morning on Saturday, over 50 people gathered at the corner of 34th Street and 8th Avenue in Gainesville, Florida to work on a monument to those Americans killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.

From The Gainesville Sun:
Neat rows of miniature gravestones stretch for one mile east of 34th Street on the south side of 8th Avenue. Each of the 4,516 "gravestones," lovingly and carefully made by groups of people getting together for months preceding this Memorial Day weekend, bears the name, rank, date of death and hometown of these brave members of our armed services. Additional markers were ready for 2009.
The Gainesville chapter of Veterans for Peace organized the event, which was also held last year.

I used to live three houses from the intersection where Memorial Mile originates and I used to walk this mile of road daily for months. The statues that normally span this stretch are of the nine planets (we include Pluto) situated roughly to scale. Seeing the head stones literally stretch from the Sun to Pluto is a shattering cosmic metaphor.

Here's a look at the Memorial Mile and the 4,577 monuments.


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Sunday, May 25, 2008

A Ghoulish Open Thread

If any of you are interested in horror films, there's the petrifying tale on Democracy gone horribly wrong called Recount on HBO tonight and tomorrow at 9pm and other various times on other HBOs. Ebert's review is here.

One of the stars of Recount, Kevin Spacey, spoke with the mad prophet of the airways, Keith Olbermann, about the film.


Spacey also talked about Recount with Charlie Rose and his panel.



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Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Blogs Against Kleptocracy - TSA’s Gift To The Airlines

As if all kinds of new charges on checked luggage weren't enough to make you want to stop flying, we now find that TSA is in the business of putting a little extra money in the pockets of the airlines.

Any recent changes in the way you use or spell your name? Did you start using your middle name? What's on your passport? And what about that ticket you just booked...didn't use your nickname by any chance, did you? Well, if you did, beware. TSA has a thing they call the "exact match rule" that allows airlines to deny you boarding if the name you book under doesn't exactly match official documents like your passport or your US government approved identification (i.e., your driver's license in this new era of Real ID.)

And just what do you do if the airline says "no"? Well that's when this situation gets really egregious. TSA allows the airline to just let the whole thing slide for a $100.00 fee. In other words, the supposed reason for denying you boarding—the potential security risk of the inexact name match—becomes irrelevant if you agree to grease the airline's palm. But what if you refuse? Well then...there's extortion, officially sanctioned by TSA. "What do you mean you don't want to pay us $100.00? OK, rebook your damn ticket, chump!"

Another fine example of the Corporate Kleptocracy in action: Anything to help the corporations turn a profit at the expense of consumers.

<< Previous   Blogs Against Kleptocracy


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SERIES: Worst Album Covers - Plant Edition


Hello, it's Spring. That means GROW PLANTS. Well unfortunately, Dr. George Milstein made an album to allegedly help us do so.

He claimed back in 1970 that a 3,000 cycle per second hum greatly increased the growth of plants. In this album, he mixed that hum with allegedly "easy listening" to "benefit both the listener and the plants.

Sorry dude. Love the cover, hate the album. Just give us the hummer, and let it go at that.

Thanks.

I know how you "plant people" are.

Ungrateful and demanding. I have proof:


Cross Posted at The Unconventional Conventionist

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Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Source -- "Bush Intends To Attack Iran"

Today the White House denied an Israeli Army Radio report that President Bush intends to attack Iran before leaving office.

From The Jerusalem Post:
Army Radio had quoted a top official in Jerusalem claiming that a senior member in the entourage of President Bush, who concluded a trip to Israel last week, had said in a closed meeting here that Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney were of the opinion that military action against Iran was called for.

The official reportedly went on to say that "the hesitancy of Defense Secretary Robert Gates and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice" was preventing the administration from deciding to launch such an attack on the Islamic Republic for the time being.

(more)
The report is disturbing because it comes on the heels of Bush's out of control comments to the Israeli Knesset about appeasement. I initially assumed that Bush was injecting into the presidential campaign his idea of foreign policy stumbling blocks for Barack Obama. But if the report is true then it's likely that Bush's babble about appeasement to the Knesset is more about setting up the attack on Iran than Obama.

A lot of rightly paranoid Bush critics who simply can not envision Bush and Cheney relinquishing power believe that some inevitable coup is right around the corner. An attack on Iraq could be the "emergency" they need to pull that off. I always saw this regime as being rogue yet contained within the eight years alloted to Bush. That does not make the attack any less likely. In fact, doing it on the way out might be the idea here. Bush might do it over brunch, twenty minutes before Obama is inaugurated. "Suck on that, Obama! Heh, heh, meh (snort)."

But if this is some wild card intended to reverse an unfavorable playing field for the Republicans, then the strategists behind it are completely insane. Maybe I'm being optimistic here, but I believe the surest way for the Republicans to increase their losses is to sink America deeper into war. Iraq is what got them in the ditch in the first place--believe me it was not the cunning opposition of the Democratic Party. Robert Gates and Condoleeza Rice know America can't take it. Bush and Cheney know it too. But do they care? Doubt it.

By the way something, check out the White House's statement about the report:
[The US] remain[s] opposed to Iran's ambitions to obtain a nuclear weapon. To that end, we are working to bring tough diplomatic and economic pressure on the Iranians to get them to change their behavior and to halt their uranium enrichment program. As the President has said, no president of the United States should ever take options off the table, but our preference and our actions for dealing with this matter remain through peaceful diplomatic means. Nothing has changed in that regard.
Peaceful diplomatic means? Peaceful diplomatic means? Isn't that... appeasement? According to Kevin James, George Bush and John McCain it is.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Lightning Round!



We're getting into Thunderstorm Season, so let's have a Lightning Round!

The White House is at it again - they're evidently just NOT HAPPY unless they're keeping things secret. Steven Aftergood, director of the Federation of American Scientists' Project on Government Secrecy, described it as a "not even half-baked" exercise in policymaking.

"This will make Watergate look like child's play." So says Don Siegelman via ThinkProgress.org

Net Neutrality is heating up again. The indispensable mcjoan has all the pertinent dirt.

You know that Cliff Schecter is in cahoots with Brave New Films and Firedoglake, right? Well good for all of them, as evidently "The Real McCain" has gone viral! Let's watch it!





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Friday, May 16, 2008

Happy Together


How lovely! Bush is in his element this week - sniffing up the Saudis, talking about oil.
It must be such a relief to be among friends....
Imagine what they talk about:
Bush: How high do you think we can get it Abdullah?
Abdullah: It depends. How much kickback do you want?
Ha ha ha ha ha ha - NOT!
So in honor of these moral midgets I give unto you - Happy Together!



Thursday, May 15, 2008

Caught With Your Packets Down

There's an unspoken rule on the Internet that, unless compelled to do so by law enforcement, Internet Service Providers (ISPs) don't actively monitor the sites your surf and don't look inside the data packets that travel across their network. In other words, when you send that nasty-gram to the Chimperor, though the Secret Service is probably taking a looksee at the tail end of the process, your ISP is just a neutral carrier that keeps their nose out-o-the-envelope.

Charter CommunicationIn fact, monitoring your Internet traffic was usually limited to scammers like Phrom, a company that dupes the unwary into accepting their tracking software in exchange for minor ducats. But no more. The massive ISP, Charter Communications has decided to start sniffing your data in order to serve you up some tasty ads right there in your browser. And, although they don't mention selling your data as part of their 'enhanced surfing experience' you can bet your bottom dollar that the number of times your visit www.rodents-gone-wild.com is being bundled up for sale to the makers of Alvin and the Chipmunks tapes.

For those of you interested in the geeky side of this nonsense, the technology is called 'Deep Packet Inspection' and it's good for all sorts of things ISPs...and law enforcement...care about—from traffic throttling to porn prevention, sales to censorship. And Charter doesn't even give you the option of turning the tech off. You have to opt-out in a way that has to be repeated for every browser you use, on every machine you use. Good luck with that.

Seems those not-so-private surfing habits and about to get a lot less private.

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On Another Planet...

...it might work out a little differently.

This little cautionary tale is more about the K-Rove than it is anything else. Nonetheless - BEWARE OF PROCESSES! Sometime they carry out all the way instead of short circuiting! And that's what a short primary is BTW in today's rules. A short circuit. Many are bypassed, and they shouldn't be.

I favor a National Primary, with Runoffs. It would spare us so much of the incivility amongst factions that I see these days.

Regardless, I offer, Barbie, Super Delegate On A Different Planet!

Text follows for any dial-up users, to clear up any hard to hear words, or lack of skill on the videographer's part. (That would be me.)

Characters: UC, Barbie, Kweety, “The Planet Klooge”, "Kobama" & "Kalinton", “The Great Orange Katan: Koz”, “Krove, the Robot” and the “Great Prize.”

SCENE BEGINS: UC begins relating story of weird thing that happened the other day.

UC: So I get this telepathic call from Kweety, the Alien. He’s from Planet Klooge, and that’s just how they make a call. Anyway, I barely know the little silver bastard and I was suspicious from the very start. (harp sound, dissolve)

KWEETY: Greetings Unconventional One. Your presence at the Kloogeementum is required. Report to the teleporter immediately.

UC: Hang on a second here. What teleporter and what the hell is a Kloogeementum, and why am I required?

KWEETY: I forgot you aren’t fluent in Klooge. In your earth language you would say “Konwhenchun.” To save time, I will just transport you by remote control.

(UC beams into interior of KWEETY’s space ship.)

UC: Whoa, that was freaky. I never teleported before. Kinda unpleasant.

KWEETY: But we’ll have to do it again. Planet Klooge Department of Homeworld Security rules forbid teleporting you directly from Earth. Your planet is a security risk.

(UC & KWEETY beam into the Great Hall on Planet Klooge.)

UC: OK, now just what the hell am I doing here Kweety?

KWEETY: The Barbie is required. Her presence is needed to break the tie in our Klooge-emium, how you say “Konwhenchun.” The Barbie, the “Kapow”, the tie-breaker, we have lost track of her.

UC: Kapow? What does that have to do with me?

KWEETY: We thought you knew. You are her alternate. She chose you during the sacred blood and whiskey oath. Now you are Kapow, worth 10,000 Klooge votes.

UC: (shaking head, resigned) OK, what do I have to do?

KWEETY: We thought you knew. Klooge kind compete for the Great Prize. You must choose which Klooge will get the Great Prize. I will introduce you now. This is Klooge “Kobama.”

KOBAMA: Greetings Unconventional One. I am Kobama. My name means “Hope” in your earth language.

KWEETY: I thought you knew that already. And this is Klooge Kalinton.

KALINTON: Greetings Unconventional One. I am Kalinton. My name means “Experience” in your earth language.

KWEETY: Choose now.

UC: Just hold on a minute. I have some questions and this seems like a big deal to you guys, and I want to make the right choice. I like Hope and I like Experience both a lot from what I see, but it’s a tie between you guys evidently. Was anybody named “Wise and Just” in the running? If he was less than 10,000 Klooge votes behind either of you, I might just choose that way.

KWEETY: I thought you knew that already. “Wise and Just” in our language is “Kucinich.” He stopped competing for the Great Prize. He became highly unpopular in the contest after he said he believed in earthlings.

UC: Ha ha, very funny. By the way, what does Kweety mean in my language?

KWEETY: I believe you would say “Cocktail Weenie Party Circuit Pundit.” I thought you knew that already. Nevertheless, hurry up and Choose Now. The Great Prize Awaits!

UC: What exactly is the Great Prize?

KWEETY: Behold! (Picture of the Great Prize – a Golden Egg.)
(Dramatic music, explosion and flame erupts. an imposing Klooge has appeared.)


THE GREAT ORANGE KATAN: Stop! I am the Great Orange Katan! You may call me Koz! Listen to me earthling, Kalinton is DESTROYING THE KLOOGES! Kalinton can never attain the Great Prize! Your duty as Kapow is to choose Kobama! I have Spoken!

(Barbie beams in via transporter.)

BARBIE: Hi everybody. Hi Unconventional one, Sorry I’m late. I was partying in the Mexican Riviera and my Klooge-chip coverage is really bad down there.

UC: Good, now YOU can be Kapow instead of me. I can’t tell the difference between all these people except the big orange dude.

(Next shot Barbie is topless)

BARBIE: KAPOW! I choose…

(Dramatic music swells, and Krove the Robot releases a bomb trying to kill all the Klooges, then disappears…)

UC: How Horrible! What was that?

THE GREAT ORANGE KATAN: I was afraid that would happen…It was Krove, the evil robot.

BARBIE: Well it just goes to show you. It doesn’t matter with all my Kapow powers, you gotta be careful of that god-damn Krove, goes he always wants to kill the Klooge that made it to the Golden Egg. Hmmmm…..(Barbie shoots power beams out of her tits and Kweety explodes..)

UC: Barbie! Why did you do that?

BARBIE: I think Kweety was in on it the whole time. You know those types. Hey Katan –

THE GREAT ORANGE KATAN: Yes Barbie?

BARBIE: It’s a good thing that these Kobama and Kalinton Klooges were clones. You almost helped Krove destroy the REAL hope and the REAL experience AND lose the Great Prize. So you better behave a little more nicely to ALL your fellow Klooges, or else I’ll aim the Kapow tits on YOU!

BARBIE: Come on Unconventional baby, let me take you home.

UC: I hate that teleporter thing.

BARBIE: Don’t worry, We'll just take Kweety's ship. He doesn't need it. Let’s go.

UC: Awesome
(fade….)

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Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Open Thread


I'm really digging this axial tilt thing, now that my part of the planet (I'm at 44° 25' 31" N latitude) is tilting towards the sun instead of away from it. The day is already 14 hrs 45 min. long, things are green, it's nice and warm. I am loving springtime.

Still, we must remember:
To be interested in the changing seasons is a happier state of mind
than to be hopelessly in love with spring.
-- George Santayana --

Ah, screw that. ♥♥♥I LOVE SPRING!!♥♥♥

Maybe We Can...

An Obama Supporter's Call for Party Unity (With a Big
Side Dish of Barack Obama's Going to be a Good President)


Politics is a lot like art in that smart, reasonable people can look at it and see very different things. One of the bloggers I respect the most, our very own Kvatch, is not at all comfortable with the zeal of some of Barack Obama's supporters. In the previous post on this blog, he urged Obama supporters to do their part, at this crucial time, to promote party unity.

He wrote
:
Not only does the the Democratic Party need every supporter from both sides of the primary debate, if the two sides come together, we're unassailable. Do you hear that? Unassailable! So if the Obama supporters would just lay off for a few minutes; give a woman who ran a tenacious campaign her due; and explain to those of us on the fence why, exactly, we should support a Congressional dilettante, then maybe we'll win this election.
I couldn't agree more.

It's hard for me, as an ardent Obama supporter, to separate criticism of Obama supporters with criticism of my personal support of Obama. I am on his team. His campaign doesn't pay my checks or anything, but I am, as they say in the business, in the bag. I've made my decision. But there is no doubt that while I have gone over the top at times, some of Obama's supporters, and Hillary Clinton's as well, have clearly gone too far.

There's peril in focusing on these incidents right now. Kvatch is right. There's no value in continuing an argument against Hillary Clinton. As much as we have clamored, since February, that this is over, we now have to process that fact ourselves. The people who are not convinced about Barack Obama need to be sold on him by those of us who are. That's the task at hand. And it can be difficult. As much as he impresses me, Barack Obama is not, as he has said time and again, a perfect candidate. He makes plenty of mistakes. One of the most powerful arguments his critics use against him is that he talks about removing the influence of lobbyists from the political process, then turns around and uses money from the employees of oil companies. This is inexcusable, and the Clinton campaign hit him hard on it, and rightly so. I am tempted to add, "except the Clinton campaign took more from the same category of donors than Obama did," but that's the kind of thing we just have to let go of.

Another thing that I think Kvatch and a lot of other critics of Obama that blog and comment here don't like is Obama's sugary rhetoric. Change! Over and over we hear it. Kvatch astutely compared the rhetoric of change to Reagan's "Morning in America". I can't argue with that. That's a great criticism. I want Obama to talk about the issues and blow people away with his explanations of what he's going to do. But I am afraid that because of the media we have in this country, he can't just focus on issues. It's sad, but this is where we're at in America. We have established, proven political realities that tell us over and over again that candidates like Dennis Kucinich and Chris Dodd can not beat the Hillary Clintons of the world. The most righteous politician in the world--and my hero, Al Gore--would not even try. John Edwards recast himself well as a liberal avenger, and it went down like a lead balloon.

The way I see it, the rhetoric of change is a way to signal the American people that Obama is a candidate that will try something radically different. I don't think we have a clear sense of what that something, or things, is. If he says what he thinks it is (like when Howard Dean told Chris Mattews he would "break up large media enterprises" just weeks before the media collaborated on the Dean Scream to assassinate his character), he probably loses. More to the point, if Barack Obama thinks he truly knows what it is he's going to change, he's probably wrong. These days in America, good government rarely happens according to some plan. In order to do anything productive, a President with a lifetime of good preparation has to meet a developing situation, quickly and properly evaluate it, then make a good call.

I'm convinced that's the way Obama will do it. I'm about three quarters of the way through Dreams from my Father. I recommend it. His style is a bit slow, but he's a solid writer and this really seems like the work of an honest writer (he was 33 at the time it was published, and I doubt he had this campaign in mind). In the part I'm reading, Obama was in his early twenties and working in Chicago as a community organizer. This part of his story is especially revealing and very useful for anyone trying to understand where Obama is coming from. Obama had to reckon with a variety of local politicians and leaders in the area who had very different approaches to solving the problems of the black community. In the same unflappable manner in which he has run for president, he continued to work with everyone until they found the right mix to actually improve the community. His coalition, which until the time he brought it together did not exist, brought jobs into an area that so many would-be leaders time and again had given up on. No, the skies did not open up and a choir of angels did not sing out, but he helped make that community better.

Kvatch referred to Obama as a "Congressional dilettante." I can see where he gets that idea, but would argue that is a bit of an illusion. Yes, he's not Russ Feingold--another hero of mine who would not run for the Presidency--but, who in Senate really got anything done since Bush became President? In the fifteen months of the Democratic majority, due to the inept leadership of Harry Reid, no Senator has been able to accomplish much of anything because the Republicans are in auto-filibuster mode and the President vetoes everything that gets through. But within that context, Obama has accomplishments. Not as much as Obama wants to accomplish, which is probably why he jumped at his first opportunity to circumvent the political purgatory that is Congress and run for President.

A more reliable way of looking at Obama's record is to consider what he did at the state level. The work of state legislatures doesn't impress many people, but Charles Peters of the Washington Post recently wrote about the way Obama fought and clawed to get controversial legislation passed to videotape interrogations when he was an Illinois state senator.

Consider a bill into which Obama clearly put his heart and soul. The problem he wanted to address was that too many confessions, rather than being voluntary, were coerced -- by beating the daylights out of the accused.

Obama proposed requiring that interrogations and confessions be videotaped.

This seemed likely to stop the beatings, but the bill itself aroused immediate opposition. There were Republicans who were automatically tough on crime and Democrats who feared being thought soft on crime. There were death penalty abolitionists, some of whom worried that Obama's bill, by preventing the execution of innocents, would deprive them of their best argument. Vigorous opposition came from the police, too many of whom had become accustomed to using muscle to "solve" crimes. And the incoming governor, Rod Blagojevich, announced that he was against it.

Obama had his work cut out for him.

He responded with an all-out campaign of cajolery. It had not been easy for a Harvard man to become a regular guy to his colleagues. Obama had managed to do so by playing basketball and poker with them and, most of all, by listening to their concerns. Even Republicans came to respect him. One Republican state senator, Kirk Dillard, has said that "Barack had a way both intellectually and in demeanor that defused skeptics."

The police proved to be Obama's toughest opponent. Legislators tend to quail when cops say things like, "This means we won't be able to protect your children." The police tried to limit the videotaping to confessions, but Obama, knowing that the beatings were most likely to occur during questioning, fought -- successfully -- to keep interrogations included in the required videotaping.

By showing officers that he shared many of their concerns, even going so far as to help pass other legislation they wanted, he was able to quiet the fears of many.

Obama proved persuasive enough that the bill passed both houses of the legislature, the Senate by an incredible 35 to 0. Then he talked Blagojevich into signing the bill, making Illinois the first state to require such videotaping.

Perhaps my original intent in this post, which was to agree with Kvatch and promote Democratic party unity, has been obscured by my rambling Obama apology. I will return to the original point in a moment, but before I do, I just want to underscore the importance of an energized base. Yes, that energy has gotten very ugly at times. We need to do better. My hope is that the base will lose some of their anger and become more focused on the task of ending Republican control of the white House as the process moves forward. Because Kvatch is right, the base alone is not going to beat McCain.

Having Hillary Clinton as the Democratic Party's nominee for Vice President will help the ticket immensely. If Obama supporters think he can just pick a woman and it will get Hillary's supporters to forget the whole saga and go, "hey look, a woman's gonna be VP, whoopee!" they're nuts. If we act like women are interchangeable, this is going to be perceived as a backhanded insult. It would be like Hillary selecting a black politician to assuage Obama supporters.

In my opinion, Kvatch nailed it when he wrote that the unified party is unassailable. My hope is that in the coming weeks Obama publicly offers her the job and I hope she accepts. The idea that we would would fall apart at a time when a great victory is at hand is heartbreaking and if we let it happen, it will hurt this country for a very, very long time. Hillary Clinton doesn't have to accept the slot, but she has to be asked, and it has to be sincere.

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Tuesday, May 13, 2008

"No We Won't"

[Asbestos shorts on? Check! Fire extinguisher close at hand? Check! OK...here we go.]

Senator Obama is the presumptive nominee. Senator Clinton plans to keep on campaigning. And with that we've entered a bizarre new world of amped up character destruction. Does this seem familiar? It should, since it resembles the political environment of the mid-90's when Republicans were doing their level best to destroy Bill Clinton. Now...ironically...we see the same tired charges being slung by, of all people, the Obama supporters!

Clinton is destroying the Democratic party. The Clinton's have buried so many bodies, we'll never find them all. This is the crap that substitutes for reasoned political dialog, and...if you're unlucky enough to have been a Clinton supporter, well then your a turncoat that'll just as likely vote for McCain as support your party when the rubber hits the road—A page right out of some Rovian playbook.

Here's the thing though. Not only does the the Democratic Party need every supporter from both sides of the primary debate, if the two sides come together, we're unassailable. Do you hear that? Unassailable! So if the Obama supporters would just lay off for a few minutes; give a woman who ran a tenacious campaign her due; and explain to those of us on the fence why, exactly, we should support a Congressional dilettante, then maybe we'll win this election.

In other words live up to your campaign slogan and stop acting like puerile children. The alternative is to keep telling the Clinton supporters to, "... drink the Obama Kool-Aid or f*ck-off," and watch McCain steal the election out from under your golden boy.

It's what the Republicans are counting on. I guarantee it.

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Monday, May 12, 2008

Hawt Out of the Oven

By request from JenniLoon last night. It would have been up sooner, but 1) I had to go to bed and 2) I had to p-shop this spiffy photo to accompany the post. You can hardly notice where I changed the lettering. At least I managed to tie in the fact that Jenn bakes her own.

To get the discussion rolling, 60 Minutes had a piece about how Chiquita Banana has admitted to paying millions to Colombia's paramilitary in order to do business in that blood-soaked country. That's a felony, by the way, and Dole, Del Monte and others are also guilty. How much do you want to bet that no corporate officers so much as pay a fine?

(LINK to article with video from CBS)


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Thursday, May 08, 2008

Back To The Future...By Train

For a more personal perspective on this issue, check out Ragebot.

Despite the fact that our governments have turned air travel into a delay-filled, clothes-shedding nightmare, flying is still the most convenient way to get from point A to point B. In fact, many people have no choice—distances are simply too large and alternative too few. But air travel is not the future. It simply can't be.

Though estimates vary, flying creates more greenhouse emissions per passenger mile than almost any other form of transport. The Eurostar Consortium, for example, estimates that their emissions per passenger mile are 1/10 that of an equivalent plane flight. Now the Eurostar runs at near capacity, but no matter how you slice it, air travel is problematic. Check out this chart:
Per Passenger Mile Emissions
Pretty sobering huh? You could do better in a car (assuming you're not by yourself), much better going by train, and much, much better by bus. But that's not even the whole story. Jet aircraft emit greenhouse gases—not just CO2, but NOx and water vapor—directly into the upper atmosphere where they do more damage and are less likely to be absorbed.

So where does this leave countries like the US, countries that lack well developed alternatives to air travel? Unfortunately in the position of playing catch up. We need to begin upgrading our rail systems, and we need to do it right-f*cking-now! More high-speed corridors? Yes. Infrastructure to support work and life during longer cross-country trips? Hell yes! Otherwise...a latter-day Era of the Zeppelins may be the only way to drastically reduce emissions from long distance transport.

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Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Secret Law


Sam Seder interviewed Sen Russ Feingold today, it wasn't on his radio show but you can listen on AAR's website:

The topic was the Bush administration's unconstitutional making of secret laws, from signing statements to the John Yoo memo, the non-disclosure of said laws, and in most cases the classification of laws that governed the behavior of the executive branch. The classification was indeed so high that even members of congress were uninformed about many government programs, most of which exceeded any authority given the executive under the constitution. This is so far from what the founders intended as to qualify as the institution of a brand new form of government hitherto unknown in America.

It should go without saying that Congress cannot fulfill its oversight function in regards to things that they are completely ignorant of. Lest we forget, the illegal warrantless wiretapping program went on for nearly five years before it was revealed.
"A nation that loses control of its check on its commander in chief
is something other than a democracy."
-- John Dean --
So the question to ponder is: if it's not a democracy any more, what do you want to call the current system of government?

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Sunday, May 04, 2008

Lesbians Face Court Challenge From Lesbians

Girl-on-Greek Fight Over Rights to the 'L Word'

I am NOT making this up.

From the BBC:
Campaigners on the Greek island of Lesbos are to go to court in an attempt to stop a gay rights organisation from using the term "lesbian".
[...]
The issue boils down to who has the right to call themselves Lesbians. Is it gay women, or the 100,000 people living on Greece's third biggest island - plus another 250,000 expatriates who originate from Lesbos?

The man spearheading the case, publisher Dimitris Lambrou, claims that international dominance of the word in its sexual context violates the human rights of the islanders, and disgraces them around the world. He says it causes daily problems to the social life of Lesbos's inhabitants.

In court papers, the plaintiffs allege that the Greek government is so embarrassed by the term Lesbian that it has been forced to rename the island after its capital, Mytilini.

An early court date has now been set for judges to decide whether to grant an injunction against the Homosexual and Lesbian Community of Greece and to order it to change its name.
C'mon - the term embarrasses the Greek government?! And violates the human rights of the inhabitants of Lesbos, even disgraces them around the world? That's a little heavy handed, don't you think? Let's try to put things in perspective here.

And think about the possible consequences. What if you end up facing future lawsuits from Melissa Etheridge (pictured with life partner Tammy Lynn Michaels) over the inconvenience and expense of having to change all her publicity bios to read 'Mytilinian?' Because you know that's what they're going to start calling themselves if you win this thing. And who knows, even Dick Cheney might find a way to take offense. He's not exactly stable you know.

..Not to mention the possible reaction from the people of Sodom, Israel. 'Cause you just know they're going to want a piece of this if this lawsuit is successful.

(note: this is where I was going to end the post with a terrific YouTube clip of a classic Saturday Night Live sketch - the Chamber of Commerce of Sodom discussing a promotion campaign for the upcoming tourist season.

Dan Aykroyd's character summed it up, "sure we've got all those other things - great hotels, fine dining, sightseeing. But let's face it, most of the tourists come here for the sodomy." In the end the Chamber decided to keep their slogan from the previous year, "come for the sodomy, stay for all that other stuff."

You'll just have to imagine it. Take my word, it was hilarious.)

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Phrase "Criminal Element" Emerges

From Administration's Orwellian Play book

The White House decided to cover for blowing up a hospital by rolling out a new term for those pesky Iraqis. You see, the terminology has been a perennial problem for the Bush administration and it's even tripped up the otherwise sharp-as-a-bowling-ball John McCain numerous times. So instead of problematic language that might reveal the person speaking doesn't know a Shi'ite from a Sunni, every one we blow up from now on is a "criminal".

From AP:
A US air strike damaged a hospital in the Iraqi capital's violent Shiite stronghold of Sadr City on Saturday, injuring 20 people, as American forces claimed to have killed 14 militiamen.

The US military said it carried out the strike in Sadr City, a bastion of anti-American cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, where US troops in separate confrontations killed at least 14 militiamen since Friday.

"I can confirm that we conducted a strike in Sadr City this morning," a US military spokesman told AFP. "The targets were known criminal elements. Battle damage assessment is currently ongoing."

[...]

The military said it destroyed a "criminal element command and control centre" at approximately 10 am (0700 GMT).

"Intelligence reports indicate the command and control centre was used by criminal elements to plan and coordinate attacks against Iraqi security and coalition forces and innocent Iraqi citizens."

[...]

On Friday, an M1A1 Abrams tanks engaged "criminals" with one round from its main gun after Iraqi army soldiers reported being attacked by small arms fire from a house, the military said.

"Three criminals were killed in the engagements," the military said.

(more)

Criminal element? So we were just taking a swipe at who exactly? Gem thieves pulling a job? Is it the Gambino Family in Iraq?

And by the way something, when John Kerry suggested that the war on terror be fought primarily as a global police action, he was laughed out of the election by a massive number of administrators and pundits who were proven wrong every step of the way, though not to the detriment of their continued employment. Now they tell us these people are criminals?

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Friday, May 02, 2008

Alabama Slammer


Alabama Slammer:

1/2 oz amaretto almond liqueur
1/2 oz Southern Comfort® peach liqueur
1/2 oz sloe gin
1 splash orange juice
1 splash sweet and sour mix

Pour above ingredients into a stainless steel shaker over ice and shake until completely cold. Strain into an old-fashioned glass and serve.

I'm glad to say that we don't have to post the "Arkansas Slammer" since Don Siegleman happens to be free at the moment. Please enjoy the "The Lenigrad Cowboys and the Red Army Choir" courtesy of Divine Dem who turned me on to them.
DFH's for ever Biatches!


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Springtime In The Rockies!

Oy! It's Snowing again, May Day, 2008!


I'm just going to play piano and cook the rest of the day.... Which I did. Pasta bake came out nice. I have total garlic breath now. Cope.


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Barbie vs. Iran AND John McCain


Barbie, and the smuggling of herself, was recently banned in Iran.

She gives a shit. The thing is, the whole Iran-won't-trade-oil-in-dollars thing gives many a good reason to pause and take a deep breath.

Besides, there are many fashion and sexual issues to consider.

See the video.



I say "Barbie UP!" If she can call him a War Mongering Asshole, and mean it, why not everybody else? Put these people to bed and wake up the toys and dolls. They're far wiser than the pundits these days.

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