Saturday, May 24, 2008
Her mom and dad used to worry a lot about Miss Tween RSI because she was accident-prone in such dangerous ways. She seemed to have a special talent for hitting her head against things.
Now that Miss Tween's just accident-prone in the usual pre-teen ways, her parents no longer heave a sigh of relief and give a toast to having "kept her alive for another year." That makes the eleventh annual birthday party a lot more enjoyable.
P. S.--Advice to parents out there--if you don't have the first birthday party, you won't feel a bizarre obligation to hold the eleventh.
Friday, May 23, 2008
However, Michael Mukasey, the current Attorney General for the Bush administration, seems to view himself primarily as a defense attorney for Bush administration lawbreakers.
In a speech to law school graduates at Boston University today, Mukasey was very worried about the harsh public criticism received by Justice Department lawyers like John Yoo.
Today, many of the senior government lawyers who provided legal advice supporting the nation's most important counterterrorism policies have been subjected to relentless public criticism. In some corners, one even hears suggestions --suggestions that are made in a manner that is almost breathtakingly casual -- that some of these lawyers should be subject to civil or criminal liability for the advice they gave. The rhetoric of these discussions is hostile and unforgiving.
To the contrary, Mukasey believes that Justice Department lawyers should be exempt from civil or criminal liability for their actions because of the circumstances of the time:
those public servants were often working in an atmosphere of almost unimaginable
pressure, without the academic luxury of endless time for debate. Equally ignored is the fact that, by all accounts I have seen or heard, including but not limited to Jack Goldsmith's book, those lawyers reached their conclusions in good faith based upon their best judgments of what the law required.
But then again, Mukasey emphasizes that Justice Department attorneys believed themselves to be obligated to needed "to push to the limits of the law, to give policymakers and operators the most flexibility possible to confront the existential threat of international terrorism."
But this is precisely the question. Were Justice Department lawyers like John Yoo just giving legal advice concerning issues that were put to them in the course of their work on legal issues concerning national security? Or were Justice Department lawyers part of a larger effort on the part of the Bush administration to violate American and international law in their treatment of terrorist suspects and other matters.
Were Justice Department lawyers "pushing the envelope" in a good faith effort to be more effective in fighting terrorism or were they "pushing the envelope" in the sense of providing flimsy rationalization for clear instances of lawbreaking. In other words, were Justice Department lawyers giving ethical legal advice or were they acting like mob lawyers in providing justifications for routine lawbreaking.
Many facts have emerged which suggest that the Bush administration engaged in broad and systematic violations of legal prohibitions on torture and that lawyers like John Yoo were a part of both the conspiracy to break the law and perpetration of illegal acts. Facts concerning the use of waterboarding, severe sensory deprivation, and other forms of torture have emerged and it is evident that these practices are legally prohibited under several kinds of statutes. Moreover, top level officials of the Bush administration like Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, and John Ashcroft met to consider which of these illegal practices would be used.
In this context, there is a question of whether John Yoo's legal memos were part of an honest effort to think through the law or whether they were part of a conspiracy to provide legal cover for crimes against humanity. At this point, I'm not completely sure. Given the involvement of Bush administration "principles" in approving torture, there's a chance that John Yoo's memos were insignificant.
How can all of these questions be answered? How can it be determined whether or not there is evidence that American interrogators were engaged in torture? Whether top Bush administration officials were directing criminal activity? Or whether John Yoo's memos were part of a conspiracy to commit crimes against humanity?
The best way to answer these questions is for Mukasey to act as an Attorney General. Mukasey should launch an investigation into possible criminal activity by the Bush administration and appoint an independent or special prosecutor to oversee the investigation. If the prosecutor finds evidence of crimes on the part of Bush administration officials, he or she should indict those involved and bring the case to trial where defense attorneys can present their own facts and interpretations of the relevant laws.
If Bush administration officials are innocent of crimes, the best way to clear their names is to have a full investigation of the facts surrounding the interrogation of terrorist suspects in the panicked aftermath of 9-11. If prosecutors are able to establish guilt according to the standards of American law, then they should be convicted and subject to punishment just like any other offender.
I understand that Patrick Fitzgerald is done with the Scooter Libby case. Mukasey should appoint him.
"There's a desire on the part of the party to come together under any circumstances, and Hillary and her supporters will do everything in their power to help Obama win, should he become the nominee, whether or not she's on the ticket," Nemazee said to me this morning."But there's a risk that if she isn't invited on the ticket, Hillary's political and financial supporters may not feel compelled to be as integrated and involved in the Obama campaign in order to provide the maximum support that he'll need to prevail in November."I bet Obama and his top campaign staff will be "really" impressed with that and more likely to select Hillary as Obama's VP.
If Hillary's campaign is thinking more about Hillary being VP than being president, she should just run up her white flag, acknowledge that she's lost, and drop out of the race.
If Mr. Nemazee wants to be smart about pushing Hillary for VP, he should keep his mouth shut except to say what a wonderful candidate Obama is and how glad he'll be to support him once Hillary drops out.
In that way, Mr. Nemazee's stupidity won't be reflecting on Hillary's ability as a leader like it is right now.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
I'm a little bit shocked to see op-ed pieces appear in quick succession in two of the nation's most prestigious newspapers calling Barack Obama a "Muslim Apostate." They don't make the assertion that Obama is a Muslim, which he certainly isn't,The idea is that the smear artists have Obama both ways. Whether Obama's a Muslim or not, he's going to be smeared with Islam.
only that Osama bin Laden and other Islamic fundamentalists consider him one since his father was "born a Muslim." This apparently means that bin Laden will be able to rally the Muslim world against America because Obama has abandoned the true faith.
The Republican National Committee has also brought back Tim Griffin, the Bush/Cheney campaign's lead "oppo" researcher to dig up little nuggets about Obama that could be targets for various kinds of smear attacks.
In other words, the GOP is going to go into full smear mode now that the Democratic nomination has been pretty much decided.
Why They Smear. But Digby doesn't discuss why the Republican smear campaign is going to be so ferocious in 2008. The answer is obvious, but it's important to say it anyway. Smearing is all the Republicans are going to have going for them this year.
That's because John McCain is a weak presidential candidate. The only two things that McCain himself is good at are town hall meetings where he can put himself on display and talking with the press on the campaign plane. Otherwise, McCain is uncomfortable, wooden, and unconvincing. Discussing a recent McCain appearance in Kentucky, George Packard observed:
I had seen him in New Hampshire, where he gave off-the-cuff remarks with vigor; when he is stuck with a script, however, he is a terrible campaigner.One of the many things that John McCain is really bad at is organizing a campaign. Even though McCain's had three months to set up his campaign, he still has less of a campaign organization than Obama. His general election campaign is also going to be underfunded.
Finally, McCain is going to be running as the "legacy candidate" of the Bush administration on the war in Iraq, not doing anything about the recession, privatizing social security, and kowtowing to the religious right.
As a result of his endless weaknesses as a presidential candidate, McCain's not going to "win" the election. himself. As a result, the only hope for the Republicans is to make Obama "lose," in other words make Obama look so strange and dangerous that people are unwilling to vote for Obama.
Obama's Been Warned. However, it's not like the Obama campaign, the Democratic National Committee, and liberal bloggers did not know that the Republicans were going to mount a ferocious smear campaign against either Hillary or Obama in 2008. People involved in the Democratic campaign might be morally outraged by the smears, but they should be getting beyond that moral outrage and thinking of creative ways to counter the smear attacks. If the Democrats are not ready to fight back, fight back hard, and win, the success of the smears will be partly our responsibility as well.
Wednesday, May 21, 2008
Twenty years from now, the Michael O'Hanlons and Ken Pollacks and various Kagan Family members of today are going to be viewed the way the Robert McNamaras of the Vietnam era came to be perceived: as coddled, sheltered monsters who -- from a safe and sterile distance -- viewed and endlessly cheered on "war" as some abstract, intellectualized and fun game to play at think tank parties, totally oblivious to the savagery and havoc it wreaked on other people's lives. Perhaps in old age, they'll write some self-flagellating, McNamara-like mea culpa. But nobody else needs to wait until then to describe what they actually are.The class of "coddled, sheltered monsters" also includes George Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Condoleeza Rice, John Yoo and hundreds more.
Hopefully, some of them will end up in jail where they belong.
Even in a state Hillary Clinton appears to have won by 35 points, a majority of Kentucky voters say the New York senator attacked Barack Obama unfairly.
According to the exit polls, 54 percent of voters said Clinton launched unfair attacks on Obama, though that didn't seem to deter voters there from supporting Clinton — 55 percent of those who said Clinton attacked unfairly still voted for the New York senator.
Clinton faced a similar statistic in West Virginia last week. There she won by 41 points, but nearly 60 percent of voters said she made unfair attacks against the Illinois senator.
In other words, even the Dems who agree with Hillary's relatively attacks on Obama still don't the fact that she was doing it. In other words, we're all still wimps.
Our New Role Models: The San Antonio Spurs. Perhaps I'm biased in this regard but I'd like to see Democratic voters enjoy the rough and tumble of politics a lot more than we do. We should be hitting the right-wing harder than they hit us and we should be pushing the boundaries of political propriety when we attack them for their blundering imperialism, warmongering, bigotry, and general disgust with American society and culture. Likewise, we should be able to take the best shots that people like Dick Cheney, Sean Hannity, and Rush Limbaugh and laugh as we hold them accountable for their bad ideas. Why should we be outraged by the latest stupid comments to come from George Bush. Let's save our moral outrage for the destruction and suffering in Iraq or the terrible care received by wounded vets instead.
A good role model for a team that enjoys playing rough and has a lot of success with it is the San Antonio Spurs of the NBA.
The Spurs lately have mixed some unlikability into their formula . . . No stone unturned, no element left to chance, no rule unbent right up to the point of breaking. They let Stu Jackson and David Stern sort it all out in the league office, while taking a "If you don't get a ticket, then you weren't speeding" approach . . . .
For years, Bruce Bowen was San Antonio's lightning rod, a "defensive specialist'' to those rooting for him and his team but a knobby-kneed kickboxer to those rooting or playing against them. Bowen's knack for kicking, tripping, stepping on or otherwise clandestinely punishing the other guys' best players has been his brand, you might say, since he joined the Spurs seven years ago . . . More recently, it has been Robert Horry, "Big Shot Bob'' getting a makeover in late career from some critics as "Cheap Shot Bob'' after his second shady incident in two postseasons . . . . This time, in Game 6 against New Orleans, there was Horry forcefully bracing himself into David West's back, leaving the Hornets' power forward writhing face-down on the court after the hit aggravated the pinched nerve in West's back.
Like basketball, politics is a rough game and it doesn't hurt if you enjoy the suffering of your opposition a little. I'm sure "Big Shot Bob" Horry would have been worried about David West if West had been permanently injured. But "aggravating" a pinched nerve--that's just the breaks of the game and we really should be aggravating the injuries suffered by the right anyway.
Like a top NBA team, the Democrats face more than five months of playoff presidential politics against the Republicans and the right wing. We need to sharpen up our elbows and enjoy the give and take of taking down John McCain.
Tuesday, May 20, 2008
Hillary Pulls Ahead! Even with Obama's 57-42% win in Oregon, Hillary was still more than 180,000 votes up for the day. That means that she's ahead on two popular vote measures according to RealClearPolitics--popular vote with Florida and Michigan votes counted and popular vote with Florida, Michigan, and some of Obama's caucus states counted.
These measures don't mean anything in terms of who's being nominated. It's going to be Obama. But Obama's victory is starting to develop a little bit of a George Bush 2000 aura about it. Obama's getting nominated as a result of the caucus quirks in the system just as Bush was elected as a result of the quirks of the electoral college.
At the same time, Hillary's defeat is a little bit like the Mondale and Dukakis losses in that Hillary didn't hit her stride until it was too late.
The Bell Tolls After June 3. The last two primaries are on June 3 and I expect Hillary to end her candidacy fairly soon after that. Hillary's gotten more than 17,000,000 votes. I think she should be the VP nominee and that she would be the VP nominee if she weren't married to a loose cannon like Bill Clinton. What I hope is that her and Obama meet and see if they can't work out some basis for her to be No. 2. If they can't work out a mutually acceptable arrangement, then I can see Obama nominating someone like Ted Strickland. But I think they should try.
I have to admit that I haven't been a fan of the Kennedy family since I was a kid. It's not like President Kennedy didn't do some admirable things. Getting the country through the Cuban Missile Crisis without a shot fired was certainly remarkable. But time has revealed that the Camelot aura was more a product of celebrity fluff and media promotion than anything else. The towering political figures of the sixties were Martin Luther King and Lyndon Johnson.
But I still have a soft spot for Ted Kennedy.
Having been given unlimited opportunity, Ted Kennedy finally started cashing in on his second chances later in life and really became what John McCain today called "the single most effective member of the Senate."
Good for him! In the final analysis, Ted Kennedy will probably emerge as the most significant of the Kennedy brothers.
I'd just like to live in a society where everybody got as many chances as Ted Kennedy.
Monday, May 19, 2008
The concept behind COG is that the U. S. Government would need to prepare to maintain itself in case there were a catastrophic terrorist attack that killed millions of people and threatened the basic operations of American government. (Radar via Digby)
COG resides in a nebulous legal realm, encompassing national emergency plans that would trigger the takeover of the country by extra-constitutional forces—and effectively suspend the republic. In short, it's a road map for martial law.
It's reasonable to assume that COG has a number of dimensions, but what Digby picks out of the Radar article is that the Bush administration has been using data mining techniques to collect information on potential dissidents who could be considered a threat to the government (Rader via Digby).
According to a senior government official who served with high-level security clearances in five administrations, "There exists a database of Americans, who, often for the slightest and most trivial reason, are considered unfriendly, and who, in a time of panic, might be incarcerated. The database can identify and locate perceived 'enemies of the state' almost instantaneously." He and other sources tell Radar that the database is sometimes referred to by the code name Main Core. One knowledgeable source claims that 8 million Americans are now listed in Main Core as potentially suspect. In the event of a national emergency, these people could be subject to everything from heightened surveillance and tracking to direct questioning and possibly even detention.
It appears that the administration also wants to know about the friends of everyone listed in Main Core as well (Radar via Digby).
Another well-informed source—a former military operative regularly briefed by members of the intelligence community—says this particular program has roots going back at least to the 1980s and was set up with help from the Defense Intelligence Agency. He has been told that the program utilizes software that makes predictive judgments of targets' behavior and tracks their circle of associations with "social network analysis" and artificial intelligence modeling tools.
In my mind's eye, I can see William Kristol claiming that Americans shouldn't worry about the government making up lists of domestic dissidents given that Santa Claus draws up universal lists of children.
He's Making a List and Checking It Twice
Gonna Find Out Who's Naughty and Nice.
George Packard writes in the New Yorker that conservatives
were not much interested in governing . . . They hadn’t made much of a dent in the bureaucracy, and they had done nothing to provide universal health-care coverage or arrest growing economic inequality . . .
True, conservatives prefer defense and foreign policy over health policy, disaster management, and banking. But the right-wing has been keenly interested in using the federal government and private institutions to suppress their liberal competitors ever since the end of WWII. In this sense, McCarthism was mostly about leveraging accusations of communism into a general effort to dampen New Deal liberalism, civil rights activists, feminists, and other liberal activists and conservatives were happy with the role of the FBI, CIA, and other federal institutions in collecting information on American liberals and radicals and disrupting their activities. They were even more happy to have the cooperation of labor unions, Hollywood, the television networks, newspapers, and other private institutions
From this perspective, the 60's not only meant the Great Society, the Civil Rights Movement, and the rise of the anti-war agitation, it also meant the dismantling of the whole apparatus for discouraging liberal activism. By the time Reagan launched his 1980 presidential campaign in Philadelphia, Mississippi, the federal government was doing much more of the domestic policy administration that conservatives loathed and almost none of the "domestic security" work they wanted to see.
The irony of the Bush years is that the 9-11 attacks gave conservatives an opportunity to revive a version of neo-McCarthyite government in relation to the War on terrorism and the occupation of Iraq. Far from being disinterested in government, committed right-wingers like Dick Cheney, David Addington, Douglas Feith, and John Yoo were inspired to trash the laws governing the interrogration of terror suspects and create their kind of government.
Ironically, what's undone the Republicans has been their lack of interest in the non-repressive dimensions of domestic government within the United States. Because of their unwillingness to take health care, wealth disparities, Katrina, global warming, energy policy, and the rest of domestic government seriously, the right-wing is going to lose the national security state they really liked.
Santa Claus came to the American right on 9-11-01 but they blew it.
Sunday, May 18, 2008
People on the left tend to hit the moral outrage button first whether it's Ann Couter referring to Democratic leaders as "faggots," George Bush talking about Barack Obama in terms of appeasement, or John Hagee's anti-Catholic bigotry.
And that's a big mistake.
In fact, "outrage" is such an emotional reaction that liberals often fail to investigate why conservative polemicists make these kinds of provocative statements. Conservatives are trying to sell books, market radio shows, pump up conservative candidates, and support right-wing causes. How does racist, religiously bigoted, and homophobic statements fit into the marketplace and political strategies of people on the right? How do these kinds of statements actually fit in the American cultural landscape? Because liberals are so quickly outraged by right-wing defiance of political morality, we often miss much of what's going on in the world of conservative polemics.
Perhaps the most important dimension of conservative polemics that liberals fail to understand is the significance of liberal outrage for conservatives. Conservatives make bigoted statements specifically with outraging liberals in mind. From the conservative point of view, Rush Limbaugh looked extremely clever when his "Barack the Magic Negro" caused so much outrage while they thought of the outraged liberals as "emotional," "effeminate" because they were so emotional, and gullible for falling into the outrage trap. Conservatives always see themselves as winning these kinds of controversies unless someone like Don Imus goes too far.
In this way, a clever conservative columnist like Kathleen Parker is neither surprised nor unhappy that a liberal blogger like Glenn Greenwald describes her "Getting Bubba" column with its testimony to the "blood equity" of rural whites as "one of the most repellant columns one would ever read" or a Chicago Tribune writer called it "shameful and insulting to Americans of every stripe in this country." Parker has written in defense of date rapists and mooned over George Bush's irresistible sexual attractiveness. So, she knows very well how to outrage liberals. She also knows that liberal outrage will increase her clout as a conservative and further her career as an op-ed columnist. For writers like Parker, there's career gold in outraging people on the left.
But Parker's "Getting Bubba" column is worth thinking and liberals would see the full depth of conservative cynicism if they looked closely.
Parker has two basic arguments. First, building on a remark by Josh Fry of West Virginia about wanting a "full-blooded American" as president, Parker argues that "white Americans primarily -- and Southerners, rural and small-town folks especially"-- should be seen as "full-blooded Americans" because they've built up a full "blood equity" in the United States through military service and agricultural labor. This is the point where liberals get outraged because Parker's rhetoric purposefully mirrors the "blood and soil" rhetoric that the Nazis used to promote the Third Reich.
But what was Parker trying to accomplish besides outraging liberals? By defining Southern, small-town, and rural whites as "full-blooded Americans," Parker is one of a long-line of polemicists who have been looking for a way to give white people a symbolic privilege as "real Americans" without using specifically racist language. Richard Nixon might have begun the trend when he used the term "silent majority" back in 1968. For the late Jerry Falwell, it was the "moral majority." "Mainstream," "normal," and "heartland," are among the many honorific terms have been used to characterize non-urban whites either.
None of the people who promote this kind of language will admite to being racist, but they all mean to convey that traditionalist rural whites are just more "special" than blacks, Hispanics, and Asian-Americans, and more "real" than urban whites or the white liberals in rural areas. According to Parker:
. . . so-called "ordinary Americans" aren't so easily manipulated and they don't need interpreters. They can spot a poser a mile off and they have a hound's nose for snootiness. They've got no truck with people who condescend nor tolerance for that down-the-nose glance from people who don't know the things they know.
Of course, this is all nonsense. People who live in small Southern towns like Morehead realize that an uncomfortable percentage of the "full-blooded Americans" in town are actually "full-blooded Confederates" who fly Confederate flags outside their homes, display Confederate flag bumper stickers, and refight the Civil War with any "Yankee" they see.
Those who live in small Southern towns also know that "heritage" often means isolation from the main paths of American progress. Whether it's isolation from transportation networks, isolation from large-scale industry and finance, or isolation from national trends, West Virginia, Eastern Kentucky and other rural areas in the South have often viewed themselves as separate from the rest of the United States. Kathleen Parker may represent whites in areas like Eastern Kentucky as "full-blooded Americans," but whites in this area are also painfully aware of the stereotypes of ignorant hillbillies, Elmer Gantry religious bigotry, and Deliverance-style deformity and violence that define rural Southerners as separate from the mainstream of American life.
Given the tenuous connections of this region to the rest of the country, the "American-ness" of Eastern Kentucky is always somewhat in doubt. In this context, Kathleen Parker's tribute to "full-blooded Americans" is not only a duplicitous play on racial bigotry, it's also a bitter irony to rural and Southern whites she's exploiting to make her point.
Parker's second argument is even more interesting. She claims that:
What they know is that their forefathers fought and died for an America that has worked pretty well for more than 200 years. What they sense is that their heritage is being swept under the carpet while multiculturalism becomes the new national narrative. And they fear what else might get lost in the remodeling of America.
Here, Parker gets at real dangers with multicultural narratives because contemporary multiculturalism excludes Southern and rural whites. In multicultural narratives, Barack Obama, Tiger Woods, the 180 languages in the Los Angeles School District, and global cities like Miami are the future while the traditions of Southern and rural whites are only seen as significant as sources of resistance to that future. Multi-cultural liberals have schooled themselves in recognizing the value of African-American, Islamic, and indigenous cultures while still engaging in condescension toward traditionalist white cultures in America.
Multi-cultural developments and the Obama candidacy in particular have the potential to create a much wider cultural mainstream in the United States. However, the fully potential of multi-cultural America will never be realized until the multi-culturalism and white rural America come to an accommodation.
through their hard work in clearing the forests, breaking the sod, tilling the soil, and growing the crops.
The circumstances were these. We got a call from some new neighbors on North Wilson Ave. about settling the boundary between our properties. Settling the boundary was the only way they would be able to close their mortgage and they were eager to wrap it up.
The usual problem with these kinds of situations is that people have conflicting claims about their land.
But our case was different and interesting because our neighbor's survey showed us owning 500 feet of land bounding their property that we didn't think we had.
What was tantalizing about this was that the people who sold us the property originally told us that we were getting 22 acres. Likewise, the old deeds to our property claimed that it was 35 acres "more or less."
Our empire was growing every time we looked at a new piece of paper.
But then we took our deed and walked our property with someone who knew something about surveying.
That's when our dreams of empire died. Their surveyor must have made a mistake in our favor.
We still have 16 acres.
But it was nice while it lasted.
[Loeffler] is the fifth person to sever ties with the campaign amid a growing concern about whether lobbyists have too great an influence over McCain and the campaign. Last week, campaign manager Rick Davis issued a new policy that requires all campaign personnel to either resign or sever ties with lobbying firms or outside political groups.Like a lot of conservatives who prefer Israel to the U. S., Loeffler decided to cast his lot with the Saudis rather than McCain.
But that creates a problem for McCain. How does he replace the departed campaign staffers? How many potential Republican campaign officials are not compromised by their connections with the various parties who might offend McCain's sense of ethics? Are there any experienced and effective Republican campaign officials out there who aren't linked to foreign governments, 527 sleaze groups, right-wing hate churches, Exxon-Mobile, Ann Coulter or some other unsavory party?
I'm not so sure.
What's McCain going to do?
I think he can turn Republican lemons into campaign lemonade by searching for an honest Republican the way Diogenes searched for an honest man. McCain could visit the Republican National Committee and business-oriented think tanks with a lamp in his hand and search for an untainted man or woman to help him run his campaign. He could also visit the Hoover Institute, the American Enterprise Institute, Fox News, and Rush Limbaugh.
I'm not suggesting that there are no honest Republicans. There must be a few men or women out there who could serve in McCain's campaign.
But he might have trouble finding them.