Sunday, May 31, 2009

Just A Little Something

About the Van Cliburn competition I've been going on and on about in the comments....

A couple things you should know:

The semi-finalists (12) will move to 5 finalists, sometime tonight. Prox 11:00 Texas time which is any minute now.

All of the players are so talented, it's rude. There's so much talent in Dallas/Ft. Worth right now that the piano universe is really out of whack.

How this all came to be is because Van went and won the prized Tchaikowski Award from those stinking pinko Russkis!

He had a ticker tape parade in New York when he came back from Europe. Like the Astronauts did.

Which is my point. In those crazy Cuban, Nuclear Nasty years, Art held sway, and helped bring normalcy to the stoopid world. It really did.

Can it do so again?

Let's hope so. There's a real talented group of kids in this year's Van Cliburn lineup, and they're from everywhere. China. Bulgaria. Japan. England. Italy. Korea.

Personally, I really liked this new music from Naomi Kudo, by a composer named Vine, who I hadn't heard of before:

But she didn't move forward in the competition. That tells you how sharp this particular and literal world stage is. It's the UT!

Forward! I can only lust over the coming concerts.

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Thursday, May 28, 2009

Fox News Analyst's Analysis--Just Kill 'Em

Fox News Strategic Analyst Col. Ralph Peters says that he's not concerned about the human rights of terrorists. He thinks they should all be killed. In fact he says, "Fight for human rights; kill terrorists." Let's watch:

The problem is, we don't know which detainees are really terrorists. Peters admits that he doesn't care. Well, good for him, but that is fucked up. Some of these people were sold into detention by locals with a grudge or out to make a quick buck.

A highly disputed report that says 1 in 7 terror detainees that were released from Guantanamo are suspected to or confirmed to have returned to militant activities. That means 6 out of 7 were released and did not participate in militant activities. Wouldn't that mean they probably weren't terrorists in the first place? Doesn't matter to Col. Peters.

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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Pronunciation Guide for Dummies

I'm a big fan of (the ideals of) the Olympic games. I can remember watching the games as a child and hearing all of the exotic sounding names of the athletes. There was never any question in my child's mind who the American athletes were. They all had very American sounding names like "Smith" and "Jones." Over the years, however, more and more of those exotic sounding names were listed under the United States. And today I can't go by just their name to determine whether any given athlete is playing for the United States or another country. For me, this was a sign of how inclusive our melting pot of a country had become.

Enter Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Poor Mark Krikorian can't figure out how to pronounce her name. Say's it just ain't natural. That if we let people run around pronouncing their names like they want that civilization as we know it will cease to exist. So for the sake of decency, maybe Nature Boy Krikorian can help us out with a few other names we poor liberals have difficulty pronouncing. Like this guy:

It is CHAY - nee? That's how this online pronunciation guide calls it. Or is it CHEE - nee? Gosh, not even Liz and Lynne Cheeney can agree:

When the Dick was asked directly, he had this to say:
"How do I pronounce my last name and how do I want you to pronounce it? Well, the family's always said Cheney with an 'e' and that was especially true out West growing up," he said. "I find, when I came East, that the tendency was to say Cheney with an "a". I'll respond to either. It really doesn't matter."
I guess it just ain't natural for easterners to pronounce it Chee-nee. Not sure what this says about Tweetie.

Naturally, I call him "The War Criminal."

And then there's this guy:

Now according to the same online guide, it is pronounced Bay - nur. BUT THEN it says:
See also: John A Boehner - representative in the U.S. House of Representatives for the state of Ohio
Circular reasoning or repuglican conspiracy? You decide. Me? I call him "The Cry Baby."

As for Judge Sotomayor? The online guide says so-"toe"-may-OR. But if we are to pronounce it the natural way, I would think the pronunciation for dummies would be Soto - mayor. But no, apparently, it's even naturaler to say Soto - Meyer. I probably should withhold giving her a moniker because I really don't know enough about her. But just going with my gut, I'd say "Awesome Activist Judge."


Monday, May 25, 2009

Why I Think Obama Will Pick Sunstein For SCOTUS


People never think about it until one of two things happens; 1) a SCOTUS judge announces retirement or 2) there's a Presidential election. Well we've now had both events occur relatively soon to each other, so the topic is hot, the nominee will soon be known, so why don't I be just as wrong as anybody else on the topic? Hmm? OK.

I predict Obama's SCOTUS nominee will be Cass Sunstein.

The HELL you say! There's Kagan, Woods, Sotomayor, and oh, BTW there's so many white men on the Court already! Pah, you foolish blogger! You Know Nothing!

Well, we have equal opportunities to be wrong in this regard. After all there's no reason to believe under the "Yes We Can (But That Doesn't Necessarily Mean We're Going To [thanks, John Stewart])" banner that um, Sotomayor or any of the SCOTUS front runners have anything going for them from Obama's practical point of view.

Campaign promises about DADT aren't manifesting today.
Campaign promises about ENDA aren't manifesting today.
Campaign promises about DOMA aren't manifesting today.
Campaign promises about closing GITMO aren't manifesting today; neither is the Executive Order (but it's true that the EO gives until January 22, 2010 to be completed)
Campaign promises about IRAQ aren't manifesting today.

Need more? (There is more, but Health Care, Social Security and other issues are for a different post.) The election was, after all, about politics and practicality; Yes We Can! (But that doesn't mean we're necessarily going to.)

And there really weren't any true campaign promises about SCOTUS appointments, so that really leaves everything open, now that you think about it, eh?

So how about this Sunstein cat?

Dahlia Lithwick [glurp] wrote this, about Sunstein and Thaler's book, "Nudge": [UC - emphases added]

The premise of Nudge—the authors caution in their very first footnote that this is not to be read as noodge (noun: from the Yiddish, meaning, "You never call; you never write. ...")—is that in framing public policy, "choice architects" should gently guide us to make better choices, the sorts of choices Albert Einstein or Star Trek's Mr. Spock* might make or that we would make if we were to consult such men on our personal decisions about, say, giving up smoking. Laissez faire economics holds that faced with a broad menu of choices, most of us will choose wisely. Sunstein and Thaler fear that some of us might pull a Homer Simpson and try to eat the menu.


If Sunstein and Thaler are right that we live in a world of too many choices, with insufficient time and information to make the best one and little feedback about the stupid choices we've made in the past, the question is not so much whether we should be steered toward the smart ones as: Where should we be steered instead? Given that someone someplace is often setting the defaults anyhow, wouldn't we prefer that the guy in charge be Mr. Spock? Could any of us agree, however, about which Mr. Spock is truly worthy of making these decisions? The authors urge that "if the underlying decision is difficult and unfamiliar, and if people do not get prompt feedback when they err, it's legitimate, even good to nudge a bit."
Where does one begin? With Lithwick or the damn book? They're both specious and egotistical. "You Cannot Be Trusted, Mere Mortal - (so basically) You Shut Up, Let Me Decide."

This could be expected from Lithwick, but from Sunstein? The dissonance is painful; "The invisible hand of the marketplace compels you, but since you weren't compelled correctly, you need compelling."

So somebody's invisibility, compellingess or correctness is totally fucked up. I get it!

But about Sunstein's political/legal views - Greenwald, July 19th, 2008, re: FISA fiasco:
Writing from the Netroots Nation conference, The Nation's Ari Melber detailed what he calls "Bipartisan Attacks on the Rule of Law," and specifically highlighted the fact that close Obama adviser, Professor Cass Sunstein of the University of Chicago, "cautioned against prosecuting criminal conduct from the current Administration" during a Conference panel. As Melber wrote:
Prosecuting government officials risks a "cycle" of criminalizing public service, [Sunstein] argued, and Democrats should avoid replicating retributive efforts like the impeachment of President Clinton -- or even the "slight appearance" of it.
As I documented last week, the idea that the Rule of Law is only for common people, but not for our political leaders and Washington elite, is pervasive among the political and pundit class, in both parties.
Cass: Don't risk cycles! After all, you weren't compelled correctly, and need better compelling.

Fast forward - Obama wins, and lo, the appointments come. From Ezra, January 8th, 2009:

There's some confusion over a celebrity thinker like Cass Sunstein being appointed to head an office as obscure and bureaucratic as the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs. But OIRA is important! It's just also boring.

OIRA was birthed in the 1980 Paperwork Reduction Act as part of the effort to streamline the federal government's regulatory processes. If Carter had won reelection, the department probably wouldn't matter. But he didn't. Tucked deep within the Office of Management and Budget, OIRA received relatively little notice until David Stockman, Reagan's young turk of a budget director, realized that, properly applied, OIRA could be used to shut down the government's regulatory functions by tying new regulations up in endless rounds of analysis and bureaucratic justification.


The point of all this is that OIRA is quiet, but important. It's the chokepoint of the entire federal regulatory apparatus. If used wisely, it facilitates the flow, provides welcome analysis and judgment, and aids in implementation. If used as an anti-government weapon, it can do a lot of damage. Sunstein can do real good there. But why would he want it? He's shown a taste for celebrity, and OIRA very much does not provide that.

It's worth remembering that Sunstein has recently achieved great fame for Nudge, a book which basically argues that we need to apply the insights of behavioral economics to the construction of regulation. And Director of the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is the ultimate staging ground for those ideas. Reagan understood that OIRA was the central clearinghouse where you could affect the whole of the regulatory state all at once. He wanted to virtually shut it down. Sunstein wants to "nudge" it.

Ezra was a wee bit early - FDL gets to the meat of the matter 2 days later on January 10th this year. Kirk Murphy, PhD:

Who does PEBO want to put in command of OMB's health and environmental rules? A Libertarian who predictably opposes "mandates and bans". Meet the new Borgias -- same as the old Borgias. Meet our new BFF, Cass Sunstein.

But of course. Why should Cass waste his time on environmental justice when the AEI can write him checks? In a free market, everything's for sale. Right, Cass?

For a long time, the nation has been split between two types: old-style Democrats, favoring mandates and bans, and new(ish)-style Republicans, insisting that markets and free choice should be respected. Richard Thaler and I think that there is a way to avoid mandates and bans, and to respect free choice, while also helping people to make better decisions.

In short, we hope that libertarian paternalism might provide a real third way.... Thus, for example, libertarian paternalism offers fresh ways of thinking about the mortgage crisis, credit card reform, savings for retirement, prescription drugs, health care, environmental law...

If you have small children, good ol' Cass's lucrative ideology gives them the freedom to suck down a whole lot more poison. Does it give us the freedom to have our food and water free of man-made poisons? Not so much. Folks, can't you just feel the post-partisan love?

Oh Brave New OMB to have such sophists in it!

Here's the thing; Obama and Sunstein are both friends, they're both Chicago Economics School, Obama already has Sunstein past Congress once, Obama knows Sunstein's Constitutional views.

Did I mention Sunstein is one of the most widely cited legal scholars? Amy Goodman's folks said so, and look - here's Glenzilla debating the execrable Sunstein on Democracy Now! July 22nd, 2008.

Since there was no real push for Dawn Johnsen for OLC from the Whitehouse, and so on regarding other matters, I just would not be surprised if we wake up one day soon to headlines with "CASS SUNSTEIN NOMINATED FOR SCOTUS" with the ensuing right wing hissy fits, wich would account for nothing, as Cass, having worked for AEI, along with his body of work, is one of their own Villagers. He is, in fact, already head of OIRA.


But here's hoping I am wrong about the SCOTUS thing. But I got this nagging feeling...

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Monday, May 18, 2009


Well, new thread was needed. I thought maybe going to one of the "birth posts" of the Unruly Mob would be appropriate; August 1, 2006

There's the pant rack - you know what to do------>

And who knew? There's a youtube video called "My Crew Be Unruly"

Anyhoo, carry on...


Sunday, May 10, 2009

Reclaiming Mother's Day

From the Network of Spiritual Progressives
Julia Ward Howe offered her Mother's Day Proclamation to the world in 1870. Her dream was the establishment of an international Mothers' Day Festival dedicated to the cause of nonviolent resolution of conflict and international solidarity among all women. Her pacifist consciousness had been provoked by the bloodshed of the Franco-Prussian War. Her activism was cultivated in the struggles for abolition of slavery and the quest for women's suffrage. She had the proclamation translated into French, Spanish, Italian, German, and Swedish, working for the establishment of Mother's Day in concert with women internationally celebrating peace and women's empowerment.

Howe died in 1910, four years before President Woodrow Wilson officially declared the day in 1914 in response to the burgeoning success of the movement she inspired. But Wilson avoided any mention of the thrust of Howe's cause in his declaration, instead emphasizing only the nurturing "home and hearth" dimension of motherhood. He also spurned the internationalist concern that was central to Howe's consciousness, distorting this into American nationalism. Howe's central concerns, the universality of motherhood and its natural expression in anti-war sentiment, was excised from the official meaning of the day.

President Wilson proclaimed: "Now, therefore, I, Woodrow Wilson, President of the United States of America, by virtue of the authority vested in me by the said Joint Resolution, do hereby direct the government officials to display the United States flag on all government buildings and do invite the people of the United States to display the flag at their homes or other suitable places on the second Sunday in May as a public expression of our love and reverence for the mothers of our country."

Compare this to Howe's far more high minded vision, still so desperately needed in this suffering divided world. Here is the text of her 1870 Mother's Day Proclamation, so prescient in its understanding, so courageous in its call, so plaintiff in its currency nearly a century and a half later.

Arise then...women of this day!
Arise, all women who have hearts!
Whether your baptism be of water or of tears!
Say firmly:
"We will not have questions answered by irrelevant agencies,
Our husbands will not come to us, reeking with carnage,
For caresses and applause.
Our sons shall not be taken from us to unlearn
All that we have been able to teach them of charity, mercy and patience.
We, the women of one country,
Will be too tender of those of another country
To allow our sons to be trained to injure theirs."

From the voice of a devastated Earth a voice goes up with
Our own. It says: "Disarm! Disarm!
The sword of murder is not the balance of justice."
Blood does not wipe our dishonor,
Nor violence indicate possession.
As men have often forsaken the plough and the anvil
At the summons of war,
Let women now leave all that may be left of home
For a great and earnest day of counsel.
Let them meet first, as women, to bewail and commemorate the dead.
Let them solemnly take counsel with each other as to the means
Whereby the great human family can live in peace...
Each bearing after his own time the sacred impress, not of Caesar,
But of God -
In the name of womanhood and humanity, I earnestly ask
That a general congress of women without limit of nationality,
May be appointed and held at someplace deemed most convenient
And the earliest period consistent with its objects,
To promote the alliance of the different nationalities,
The amicable settlement of international questions,
The great and general interests of peace.


Comedian In Chief

He's hilarious! And not in that "Hillary" hilarious kinda way until a way bit into the monologue.

Continues! [He get's serious near the end, and so will I, but still, watch.]

The guy has charm and wit all over the place. The country's favorable/unfavorable numbers are all moving in the right direction, save for those few dinosaurs who just can't cope.

"Tone At The Top" is a subject that I think is really overlooked, and Obama does it very well. Bush? HAHAHAHAHA! Puh-LEASE.

There's just a few things Mr. O, that you need to REALLY pay attention to. The whole "torture" thing and especially the whole "states secrets" thing. You didn't get to them in your funny business, but they remain funny business.

Step up and do the right thing on both issues.

Yes, You can.

[By the way, this post happen to be post 999. The next post shall be the 1,000th.]

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Thursday, May 07, 2009

Let's Get Unruly

Mike Rogers is busy promoting "Outrage," which opens this weekend. Here's the trailer:

So Mike appeared on local DC program "Let's Talk Live" and during the interview host Doug McKelway...well let's just let the video do the talking shall we?

The money quote is at about 2:45. In case you missed it, my pretty close paraphrase is "Mike I want to take you outside and punch you in the face." Nice, Doug. Oh, and I do believe, criminal.

And here's the apology:

You know what to do. You can reach Doug here. And you can contact the station here. Let's do what we do best and get unruly.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

You Can't Make This Stuff Up

From Jonathan Turley's blog:

Neal Horsley, who is an advocate of secession, is running to be Governor of Georgia. Horsley also admits to having sex with a mule in his youth.
Horsely says that he views himself as the next John Brown in triggering rebellion and is willing to sacrifice his son in such an effort. He previously told Alan Combs that he had had sex with a mule, explaining “When you grow up on a farm in Georgia, your first girlfriend is a mule. You experiment with anything that moves when you are growing up sexually.”

While everyone has been calling for transparency in government, this might be a bit too much information.

You can't make this stuff up. You just can't. And no, Horsley is not a Democrat, whose mascot is a mule, if that's at all relevant. As to what video that could possibly accompany such a post, it is, like Horsely, a no-brainer. It's just gotta be -

Government Mule - "Get Behind the Mule"

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Friday, May 01, 2009

More About Those Damned CIA Torture Memos

Something just occurred to me.
It could be important.

In all of the discussion over the so-called CIA torture program memos authored by John Yoo, Jay Bybee and Steven G. Bradbury, the attention has been focused on how shocking it is that these attorneys in Bush's Department of Justice would assign such plenary powers to the president as they do. That's got everyone straining at the legal gnat of whether the memos constitute just very sloppy legal practice or an actual conspiracy to subvert the law. And sure, I succumbed to the same lure in my latest post on the subject.

Not that I really believe that to be a gnat; in starkest terms you could say that the DoJ under a succession of Bush-appointed Attorneys General (Ashcroft, Gonzales, then Mukasey) actually mounted a sustained attack on the Constitution of the United States of America. With their partisan Republican machinations they not only enabled numerous crimes, but in doing so they were in defiance of certain core constitutional principals, not the least of which are the separation of powers doctrine and Article V - the one that defines how the Constitution can be amended. Because make no mistake, when you purport to suspend habeas corpus, then the Supreme Court rules against you, and you continue to deny the litigant key habeas rights, you have effectively nullified the entire protection.

The first, fourth, eighth and ninth amendments seem to have been gutted during Bush's term in office as well. I must have missed the part where these changes were "ratified by the legislatures of three fourths of the several states, or by conventions in three fourths thereof, as the one or the other mode of ratification may be proposed by the Congress." It wasn't in the news.

So -- it's fair to ask; when did mid-level worker bees in the Justice Department acquire the power to amend the Constitution outside of the provisions of Article V? Because I find it hard to see that as anything short of a coup d'etat; a major intrusion on the Congress's exclusive power to pass legislation.

Looking at the Bush administration through the eyes, as it were, of Article V puts a whole new level of appreciation for just how far they went towards shredding the Constitution in toto, and I humbly submit that I've contributed some insight of value into the analysis of recent history on that point. But wait, that's not the important thing that just occurred to me. And thanks for hanging around while I set up for the delivery of this lightbulb moment.

Here it is: All of these memos were dealing with a hypothetical. They discuss whether, IF Bush were to authorize something like the CIA torture program, it would stick. Would he have the authority as Commander in Chief to over-ride the various US statutes against that sort of thing, the Geneva Convention, and whatever other treaties the US has entered into that prohibit torture? (The correct answer, which neither Bybee, Yoo nor Bradbury got, was and remains NO, he does not. The legal supremacy of ratified treaties is in Article VI of the Constitution)

By now you must see where I'm going with this. All of these memos remain hypothetical until one key question is asked and answered. Did president Bush the Lesser actually sign an Executive Order that authorized torture? A secondary question would be; to whom was such an order distributed and through what channels? And the sticky part of it is that neither question can be answered without putting someone, either Bush himself or someone in the chain of command, into serious legal jeopardy.

I can't believe that no-one else has thought of this yet, especially those attorneys with courtroom experience.

I came to this thought while playing a game of 'let's try to think like a lawyer.' If you were preparing a real case which you expected to bring into an actual court of law, you'd want to connect the dots in a very meticulous way. So imagine that a certain CIA operative - call him Mr. X - has been positively identified as having done some of the hands on work of questioning a suspected terrorist, and is trying to defend himself using the dubious claim that he was following, in good faith, the Department of Justice's assurances that he was in the clear legally. (In my opinion this is the Nuremberg Defence, and is not really relevant under the applicable laws, but just for the sake of the argument...)

So, Mr. X can demonstrate that he was in receipt of the __________ (Yoo, Bybee, Bradbury) memo of ______(date) which tells him that the president's plenary powers as Commander in Chief give him the authority to authorize torture. Does that alone take Mr. X off the hook?

Of course it doesn't. Mr. X needs both the DoJ opinion AND an Executive Order from president Bush. Because all the DoJ opinion can possibly do, at the very maximum, is to confirm the validity of the Executive Order. In the absence of the EO, the opinions of Bybee, Yoo and Bradbury, as I noted above, are nothing more than exercises in how to make bad law. And yes, shabby attempts to amend the Constitution of the United States of America at the bureaucratic level.

Consider the absurdity of any defense Mr. X might make that fails to demonstrate the existence of this Executive Order (that everyone seems to assume must exist, but it certainly hasn't yet been publicly acknowledged.) Suppose X's attorney argues that a Deputy or Assistant Attorney General working at OLC had, through the mere writing of a memo;
a) assigned powers to the president which are not described in Article II of the Constitution and have not been created through legislation,

b) delegated those same powers to himself, through some magical and invisible assignation of Power of Attorney, without the president's knowledge, and

c) exercised those powers in a manner hitherto unknown in the history of jurisprudence, within the same memo that created them.
Do you think that would convince a judge? I mean, presuming the judge is not the Ninth Circuit's Jay Bybee? Of course not, but that is the assumption under which all these torture memos have been discussed so far. And at the risk of hammering my point so far into the ground that it disappears, here's some parallel logic; IF I had a deed to your house, I could charge you rent. So pay up.

Until such time as a Bush Executive Order authorizing torture is made public, the rest of the discussion is moot.
End-note: Before I get called on it, there are all sorts of indications that Bush did indeed authorize torture, but no official acknowledgement as such. It's almost like they're hoping to have their cake and eat it too.

Dan Froomkin reported in the Washington Post last year that Bush authorized the meetings where Cheney, Gonzales, Rumsfeld, Rice et. al. discussed the details of torture, and admitted as much. He did not however admit to attending those meetings himself. Froomkin notes how much media attention this story (which originated at ABC) got: "There was no mention of Bush's admission in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal or the Los Angeles Times. There was nothing on the major wire services. And nothing on CNN, CBS or NBC." Way to go, Lamestream Media!

Even before that, you could find indications that the Executive Order in question did indeed exist, such as this story in the New Standard: President Authorized Abu Ghraib Torture, FBI Email Says.
Repeated references in an internal FBI email suggest that the president issued a special order to permit some of the more objectionable torture techniques used at Abu Ghraib and other US-run prison facilities around Iraq. The email was among a new batch of FBI documents revealed by civil rights advocates on Monday. Other documents describe the initiation of investigations into alleged incidents of torture and rape at detention facilities in Iraq.
While this may have had an impact at the time on the dubious 'a few bad apples' meme that was then (Dec. 2004) going around, it was not very widely circulated. Anyway, my point is not whether the EO exists so much as whether it is publicly acknowledged. The story goes on to indicate it was not;

After the ACLU released the documents, White House, Pentagon and FBI officials told reporters that the author of the email was mistaken, and that the order was not an Executive Order, but a Defense Department directive. All sources refused to be identified in news reports.

The White House does not appear to have ever officially denied that President Bush issued an Executive Order specifying interrogation techniques, though none has been made public. The ACLU and other organizations involved in forcing the release of documents regarding prisoner treatment at Abu Ghraib as well as prison camps in Afghanistan and Guantánamo Bay, Cuba have demanded the White House "confirm or deny the existence of such an order," according to an ACLU press release issued on Monday.

How can any document possibly have any legal weight if;
a) it is never acknowledged and therefore
b) no court ever gets to review it?

The very idea that a single person could make secret laws is abhorrent and in conflict with the basic concepts of democracy. The idea that those secret orders could result in the torture and death of innocent people is doubly so.