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And, yes, I DO take it personally: 09/05/2010 - 09/12/2010
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And, yes, I DO take it personally

Saturday, September 11, 2010

A partial and incomplete explanation of why I'm less than interested in voting in November

cenk uygur talks about the total fail of the democratic strategy as orchestrated by rahm emanuel...

cenk focuses on how obama has failed on various domestic issues but manages to skip the most egregious abuses perpetrated by the biggest political, policy and leadership disappointment of my lifetime (domestic surveillance, detainee rights, state secrets privilege expansion, etc., etc.)...

i'm not going to sit here and vow that i'm not going to vote in november but i can tell you that, since i will be out of the country, i will have to expend a certain amount of energy that i'm not sure i care to expend to arrange for absentee voting... the only thing that will motivate me to bestir myself is so that i can vote for the odious harry reid to keep the mental-patient-on-unsupervised-release, sharon angle, from becoming my united states senator...

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Thursday, September 09, 2010

Sending somebody to be tortured is a "state secret"

i saw this decision announced yesterday and just sighed... what else are we to expect from the administration of george bush barack obama...?

despite his current bout with the flu, glenn holds forth...

[T]he 9th Circuit Court of Appeals handed the Obama administration a major victory in its efforts to shield Bush crimes from judicial review, when the court upheld the Obama DOJ's argument that Bush's rendition program, used to send victims to be tortured, are "state secrets" and its legality thus cannot be adjudicated by courts. The Obama DOJ had appealed to the full 9th Circuit from last year's ruling by a 3-judge panel which rejected the "state secrets" argument and held that it cannot be used as a weapon to shield the Executive Branch from allegations in this case that it broke the law.


I wanted to highlight the first paragraph from The New York Times article on this ruling, written by Charlie Savage. Just marvel, in particular, at the last sentence:

"The ruling handed a major victory to the Obama administration in its effort to advance a sweeping view of executive secrecy power." That says it all.

The distorted, radical use of the state secret privilege -- as a broad-based immunity weapon for compelling the dismissal of entire cases alleging Executive lawbreaking, rather than a narrow discovery tool for suppressing the use of specific classified documents -- is exactly what the Bush administration did to such extreme controversy.


Just to give a sense for how far we've traveled, how low we've fallen, here's what The New York Times' John Schwartz reported in February, 2009, when the Obama DOJ first told the 9th Circuit that they were going to assert the same "state secrets" arguments in this case which the Bush DOJ made: "In a closely watched case involving rendition and torture, a lawyer for the Obama administration seemed to surprise a panel of federal appeals judges on Monday by pressing ahead with an argument for preserving state secrets originally developed by the Bush administration." Schwartz described how the judges on the appellate panel were so startled that they actually asked multiple times if the Obama DOJ was really sticking with the Bush position, as though they couldn't believe what they were hearing. What a quaint time that was, when people were surprised by Obama's replicating Bush's secrecy and Terrorism positions -- the very ones he so vehemently condemned when running for President. After 18 months of seeing this over and over in multiple realms, nobody would react that way now.

even the nyt ain't happy about it...
Five men who say the Bush administration sent them to other countries to be tortured had a chance to be the first ones to have torture claims heard in court. But because the Obama administration decided to adopt the Bush administration’s claim that hearing the case would divulge state secrets, the men’s lawsuit was tossed out on Wednesday by the full United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit. The decision diminishes any hope that this odious practice will finally receive the legal label it deserves: a violation of international law.

just another case in which accountability and the rule of law, fundamentals which the u.s. claims to live by and which we shove down the throats of the rest of the world, simply does not, in practice, function in the u.s...

oh, and btw, fuck you, barack obama...

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Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Wall Street and our government are one and the same and are destroying the rest of us

robert scheer talking with amy goodman at democracy now about how the unfettered greed of our super-rich, elite overlords is destroying the very fabric of our society, particularly among those who have worked the hardest to carve their place in it and are the most vulnerable to economic shenanigans...
This is not a game. It’s not a political game. It’s not a mathematics game. They’re real human beings who invest their whole life putting shelter over their family, caring about their family. And when you go out in these communities—and I’ve done some of that—you know, it’s so depressing. You know, I mean, I talked to people in Riverside who cleaned office buildings, you know, in Long Beach and commuted to Riverside so their kids could live in a better neighborhood. And they bought this house, and they made the payments. They made the payments. They did everything they were supposed to do. And the neighborhood went into the toilet, and they lose everything. They lose everything. And that story is repeated millions of times in America.

And the guys who did it to us, they weren’t those vicious right-wingers. And, you know, it wasn’t all the people that we liberals like to attack. It was our friends. Let’s get that straight, you know? When I call this the Clinton bubble, you know, I mean it very seriously. It was our friends. It was people, you know, like the heads of Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, who claim to be liberal Democrats. But they were being rewarded with enormous bonuses. You know, enormous bonuses. They made out just as well as the people running Citigroup. These were not government agencies. These were actually traded on the stock market, but posing as government-supported agencies. And the fact of the matter is that the damage that was done to us was done by people who talk a very good game. You know, Robert Rubin contributed money to the Harlem dance group, you know? Jesse Jackson even supported the reversal of Glass-Steagall. There’s a whole chapter in my book, you know? The people who acted in a very bad way, in this book, were people who we would probably be more comfortable talking to, you know, over a drink somewhere than the others. So, you know, my book, you know, it’s called "How Reagan Democrats—Reagan Republicans and Clinton Democrats Enriched Wall Street and Mugged Main Street." And the Clinton Democrats, who now control the Obama administration, are—you know, this is turning the henhouse over to the foxes. And I would say the record of Obama on this has been abysmal. He has been a frontman for Wall Street, and it is shocking.

my heart has always been solidly connected to issues of social justice and it pains me beyond words to see common, ordinary, decent, hard-working folks screwed over by those who are only interested in accumulating more money and power for themselves... but, sad to say, i see it everywhere... regardless of the country or the culture, billions of decent people are being used and manipulated by those who only want to enrich themselves and don't give a flying shit for the common good...

i visited a friend in macedonia this past weekend and he was showing me photos of the trip he and his wife took to bucharest, romania, to visit his wife's sister... among the photos were several of the palace built by former dictator nicolae ceauşescu... now, i knew ceauşescu was an ego-maniacal despot, but, even with that knowledge, the size and grandiosity of the palace was stunning, only the pentagon in the u.s. is larger... the palace was built with forced labor... all the premier artisans and craftsmen from around the country were rounded up and moved to bucharest and put to work on the project - without pay - just so dear leader could look around and say, "look how great i am and how much power i have"...

Ceauşescu Palace, Bucharest, Romania

View from Ceauşescu Palace, Bucharest, Romania

we tut-tut and cluck-cluck over that kind of person and that kind of excess but it's going on right under our noses in our very own country... but when it's one of our own, we just choose to look the other way...

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Tuesday, September 07, 2010

Americans should never be compared to primitive, evil foreign Muslim jihadists

glenn is commenting on reaction to markos moulitsas' recently published book, american taliban, and, as usual, offers a much larger and more trenchant observation than would normally be part of a mere book review...
[O]bnoxious jingoism and nationalistic exceptionalism: to wit, no matter how bad the American Right is, they are still Americans, and thus should never be compared to primitive, evil foreign Muslim jihadists. Illustrative of that mentality is this passage from Jamelle Bouie's extremely negative and widely-cited review in The American Prospect:

Like Liberal Fascism, American Taliban is another entry in the tired genre of "my political opponents are monsters" . . . . Yes, progressives are depressed and despondent about the future, but that's no reason for dishonesty and scaremongering, and it doesn't excuse the obscenity of comparing our political opponents to killers and terrorists. As reality-based members of the American community, we have an obligation toward the truth, even when it isn't particularly convenient.

In what universe is it "obscene" to compare the architects of the Iraq War, the torture regime, and endless War with Muslims "to killers and terrorists"? The comparison is true by definition. The people who launched the attack on Iraq are guilty of an aggressive war -- what the Nuremberg prosecutors condemned as the "kingpin crime" that "holds together" all other war crimes -- which killed hundreds of thousands of innocent human beings, turned millions more into refugees, and destroyed an entire nation. The aptly named "Shock and Awe" was designed to terrify an entire civilian population into submission. John Podhoretz criticized the brutal assault on Fallujah for failing to exterminate all "Sunni men between the ages of 15 and 35," while his father has spent years agitating for a devastating military attack on Iran. At least 100 War on Terror detainees in American custody died as a result of their treatment, tens of thousands more (including clearly innocent ones) were put in cages for years with no due process (where many remain), and as recent mosque-related controversies reveal, a substantial portion of the American population craves a religious war with Islam. And that's to say nothing of the acts of other countries which this faction supports: from mauling an imprisoned population in Gaza and attacking a harmless, civilian ship in international waters to propping up some of the most oppressive tyrannies on the planet, including many in the Muslim world.

in my travels, i've become acutely aware of a sad and poignant fact... people in other countries seem to have no problem accepting that their leaders are not only capable of bad things, they routinely ENGAGE in bad things, almost always at the expense of the common folk and their welfare...

those of us steeped in the mythology of the united states have this extraordinarily naive notion that we are somehow above all that... sure, we have the occasional miscreant, the government official or corporate titan "gone bad," but, for the most part, we nourish the delusion that the majority of our leaders have our best interests at heart... we can't seem to grasp that while, yes, we do have some wonderful and remarkable people in our midst, we also have some truly evil types, hell-bent on accruing as much money and power as humanly possible, just like - GASP - every other country... and it is THOSE putrid excrescences who, just like in every other country, tend to gravitate to positions where they can pursue their greedy megalomania even if thousands of people have to die to help them achieve their dark aims...

there are fantastic people everywhere and there are assholes and creeps everywhere... what a concept...!

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Monday, September 06, 2010

The whole point of the Deficit Commission

even though glenn didn't post this with a specific focus on labor day, having in mind instead a snide tribute to the honesty of alan simpson, it's still highly apropos for today's national holiday...
The whole point of the Commission is that the steps which Washington wants to take -- particularly cuts in popular social programs, such as Social Security -- can occur only if they are removed as far as possible from democratic accountability. As the economist James Galbraith put it when testifying before the Commission in July:

Your proceedings are clouded by illegitimacy. . . . First, most of your meetings are secret, apart from two open sessions before this one, which were plainly for show. There is no justification for secret meetings on deficit reduction. No secrets of any kind are involved. . . .

Second, that some members of the commission are proceeding from fixed, predetermined agendas. Third, that the purpose of the secrecy is to defer public discussion of cuts in Social Security and Medicare until after the 2010 elections. You could easily dispel these suspicions by publishing video transcripts of all of your meetings on the Internet, and by holding all future meetings in public . . .

Conflicts of interest constitute the fourth major problem. The fact that the Commission has accepted support from Peter G. Peterson, a man who has for decades conducted a relentless campaign to cut Social Security and Medicare, raises the most serious questions.

That's why Commission co-chair Alan Simpson -- with his blunt contempt for Social Security and and other benefit programs (such as aid to disabled veterans) and his acknowledged eagerness to slash them -- has done the country a serious favor. His recent outbursts have unmasked this Commission and shed light on its true character. Unlike his fellow Commission members, who imperiously dismiss public inquiries into what they're doing as though they're annoying and inappropriate, Simpson -- to his genuine credit -- has been aggressively engaging critics, making it impossible to ignore what the Commission is really up to.


One of the most significant developments in the U.S. is the rapidly and severely increasing rich-poor gap. A middle class standard of living is being suffocated and even slowly eliminated, as budget cuts cause an elimination of services that are hallmarks of first-world living. Because the wealthiest Americans continue to consolidate both their monopoly on wealth and, more important, their control of Congress and the government generally, we respond to all of this by enacting even more policies which exacerbate that gap and favor even more the wealthiest factions while taking more from the poorest and most powerless. And now, the very people responsible for the vulnerable financial state of the U.S. want to address that problem by targeting one of the very few guarantors in American life of a humane standard of living: Social Security.

i would ask just exactly when my country became the bought and paid for property of our super-rich elites but that would be seriously disingenuous on my part... it's been going on for the better part of my nearly 63 years... it's just taken me well over 2/3 of that for me to see it for what it is...

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