Sunday, May 31, 2009

American Terrorists and their Enablers

My father was an OB-GYN and on quite a number of occasions performed abortions for women who were anti-choice...except when it came to themselves. He would ask how they voted on the issue and the incidence of hypocrisy was high. They had legitimate reasons. Like not being able to financially handle a sixth child. Being too old to have to go back to dealing with a baby. For their emotional health.

I write this because the rightwing voices calling the assassinated Dr. George Tiller so many names are at fault in his death for the very use of the word, "abortionist." Obstetricians who perform abortions are doctors, plain and simple, with patients who come to them with private, often agonizing decisions. The American terrorist who murdered Dr. Tiller in his place of worship today, where he was a church usher, in front of his wife who sang in the choir, could just as easily killed my father.

My father acted under the law, which in New York State limited abortion to the first trimester except in certain cases threatening the life of the mother. But what if he did perform a third trimester operation and he had vicious enabler Bill O'Reilly either purposely or irresponsibly goading the violent-minded by branding him a "baby killer" over 28 episodes of his show?

I look forward to the negligence lawsuit again O'Reilly.

Dr. Tiller wasn't bloodlusting for abortions; he actually refused to perform them when spurious, and then there are many women who are forever grateful that he helped them late in their pregnancies when the so-called "pro-life" alternative was actually greater horror.

Here's the man:

Yep, survived an earlier assassination attempt. And those most opposed to female reproductive freedom appear the least saddened. Take Randall Terry, messianic leader of the egregious Operation Rescue, with what can't really be called condolences:
"George Tiller was a mass-murderer. We grieve for him that he did not have time to properly prepare his soul to face God. I am more concerned that the Obama Administration will use Tiller's killing to intimidate pro-lifers into surrendering our most effective rhetoric and actions. Abortion is still murder. And we still must call abortion by its proper name; murder."
After President Obama's wise bridge-building statement about coming together to reduce abortions in his Notre Dame speech, one can only hope that he brings the hammer down, since Terry and the group he leads are equally if not more guilty than O'Reilly in inciting this act of violence against Dr. Tiller:
The following words are used to describe George Tiller in the Operation Rescue video posted here: "corrupt, alcoholic, drug addict, blasphemer, liar, defiler, butcher, perverse, foul, evil, unethical, murderer, malicious." It concludes: "You may be the difference between life and death for a child."
The video, full of grotesque superimpositions, is foul and disturbing to watch -- far from holy, if that's what supposedly drives these people. What we know about he suspect under arrest, Scott P. Roeder, is that he mimicked this violent hate speech in his own web postings:

Scott Roeder
Mon September 03, 2007, 09:49:40

It seems as though what is happening in Kansas could be compared to the “lawlessness” which is spoken of in the Bible. Tiller is the concentration camp “Mengele” of our day and needs to be stopped before he and those who protect him bring judgement upon our nation.

Yep, Scott has supported killing doctors performing abortions for a long time:
"I know that he believed in justifiable homicide," said Regina Dinwiddie, a Kansas City anti-abortion activist who made headlines in 1995 when she was ordered by a federal judge to stop using a bullhorn within 500 feet of any abortion clinic. "I know he very strongly believed that abortion was murder and that you ought to defend the little ones, both born and unborn."

Dinwiddie said she met Roeder while picketing outside the Kansas City Planned Parenthood clinic in 1996. Roeder walked into the clinic and asked to see the doctor, Robert Crist, she said.

"Robert Crist came out and he stared at him for approximately 45 seconds," she said. "Then he (Roeder) said, 'I've seen you now.' Then he turned his back and walked away, and they were scared to death. On the way out, he gave me a great big hug and he said, 'I've seen you in the newspaper. I just love what you're doing.'^"

Roeder also was a subscriber to Prayer and Action News, a magazine that advocated the justifiable homicide position, said publisher Dave Leach, an anti-abortion activist from Des Moines, Iowa.

And is also a member of the "Freemen", which is where it gets even scarier:

Roeder, who in the 1990s was a manufacturing assemblyman, also was involved in the "Freemen" movement.

"Freemen" was a term adopted by those who claimed sovereignty from government jurisdiction and operated under their own legal system, which they called common-law courts. Adherents declared themselves exempt from laws, regulations and taxes and often filed liens against judges, prosecutors and others, claiming that money was owed to them as compensation.

In April 1996, Roeder was arrested in Topeka after Shawnee County sheriff's deputies stopped him for not having a proper license plate. In his car, officers said they found ammunition, a blasting cap, a fuse cord, a one-pound can of gunpowder and two 9-volt batteries, with one connected to a switch that could have been used to trigger a bomb.

Jim Jimerson, supervisor of the Kansas City ATF's bomb and arson unit, worked on the case.

"There wasn't enough there to blow up a building,'' Jimerson said at the time, ``but it could make several powerful pipe bombs...There was definitely enough there to kill somebody.''

Now's where you need to read about the metastasizing of the American terrorist movement:

More and more, anti-abortion extremists, white supremacist groups and the conspiracy-minded "Patriot" movement have come to share the same enemies list. Many in these previously separate movements agree that everything smacking of "one-worldism" — the Olympics, the United Nations and any other global agency — is part of a massive plot to subject Americans to tyranny.

Activists in all three movements describe homosexuals as "sodomites," people who deserve capital punishment. And in the latest development, many of those involved in these groups are bitterly attacking abortion.

"Eric Rudolph is symbolic of this new merger," says Dallas Blanchard, chairman of the University of West Florida's sociology department in Pensacola. "Militia types have shown more and more interest in the abortion issue, while anti-abortionists are becoming more and more militant and allying themselves with the militia movement."

Since the early 1990s, Patriot and white supremacist groups have used mainstream issues like gun control and land and environmental regulation to draw people into their organizations. Now, they are taking up the banner of fighting abortion.

America's Invisible Empire, a Klan group, describes abortion as "America's greatest crime." White Aryan Resistance, another white supremacist group, calls for "future Aryan justice" for abortionists — except in the case of non-white abortions. Leaders of the U.S. Taxpayers Party, a Patriot-linked group, have called for the death penalty for abortion doctors and even their patients.

Sound like logic and exhortation relatively similar to that of an anti-tax television extremist like, say, Glenn Beck?:
Beck literally advises his audience not to worry about the consequences:

"Still, most tax evaders don't end up in jail. [...] Let's just say a million people don't pay - not because they're cheap - but because they believe the principles that we were founded on have been violated. And they think this is wrong and they try to do something that they think is the only thing they can."

Then Beck tells them to...

"Put aside the fact America's federal, state, and local prisons are already overcrowded. They are packed 36% beyond their rated capacity. Overcrowded to the maximum. [...] All in all, it's probably not worth the government's time to toss you in jail."

Since I believe the entire "teabagging" mini-movement, as goaded and abetted by Fox News, has violent, seditionist and racist undercurrents, I'm hoping that Al Giordano is right and this murder actually works against these rightwing interests. My fear is that we're only seeing the beginning, which will be fueled as well by the economic depression, leading to more violence from those who traditionally kill when Republicans lose the Presidency.

The main target, of course, is the man of color at the top. And as I've said before, if anything happens to that leader or any member of his family, then it's those like Beck, who incites his viewers with violent imagery like this, who must be held accountable.

I say let's not wait until tragedy strikes to hold them accountable.

Let it begin now.

Saturday, May 30, 2009

On Point

I believe that our current "decider" is one of the most judicious leaders in the world right now. Anywhere. And I don't believe he's made anything close to a mistake with Sonia Sotomayor. In fact, I believe that the rightwing is terrified of her before the Senate Judiciary Committee, hence the push by losers like Newt Gingrich to get her to withdraw before that happens, because I believe that once she's heard fielding questions from Senators of both Democratic and Republican persuasion, she will prove not just her worth but her superiority as a member of the legal profession.

I'm sure the President does as well, hence he's right out front with this weekend's video address to the nation:

Just watch what happens when Sotomayor speaks for herself.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Hello, Ugly

While Republicans who actually rely on votes to keep their jobs rather than, say, radio ads and base fundraising, there's horror over their fellow travelers' race-based smears (via reverse racism claims based on and inflating wildly upon yet another out-of-context quote) in vicious attempts to derail the historic nomination of Sonia Sotomayor to the United States Supreme Court, the loudmouths are doubling and tripling down:
LIMBAUGH: The real question here that needs to be asked -- and nobody on our side, from a columnist to a TV commentator to anybody in our party has the guts to ask: How can a president nominate such a candidate? And how can a party get behind such a candidate? That's what would be asked if somebody were foolish enough to nominate David Duke or pick somebody even less offensive.
That's right, a Latina Federal Judge from the most diverse city in America, who graduated from Princeton and Yale Law School and worked for legendary NYC District Attorney Robert Morgenthau, and has sat on the Federal bench longer than anyone currently serving on the Supreme Court had done at the time of their appointment is somehow the moral equivalent of the avowed white supremacist and former Grand Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan.

Speaking of which, former Congressman Tom Tancredo, calls the La Raza, essentially the Latino version of the NAACP or B'nai B'rith, "a Latino Ku Klux Klan without the hoods or the nooses" and, regarding the Obama Administration, has "no idea whether they hate white people or not!" So whether or not his long-standing anti- illegal immigrant position has ever had any merit, he's revealed himself for what he truly is, without even knowing it.

Festering Newt Gingrich is getting in on the fundraising action himself, with mass emails going out that seems to nakedly pervert American history to his base-riling, dollar-raising purposes:
"If Civil War, suffrage, and Civil Rights are to mean anything, we cannot accept that conclusion," he writes. "It is simply un-American. There is no room on the bench of the United States Supreme Court for this worldview."
I don't even think I can untangle to parse that logic. Maybe he tweeted it then put it in an email.

But the cake-taker for the week came late, on Friday, with convicted former Nixon dirty trickster, G. Gordon Liddy:
LIDDY: Let’s hope that the key conferences aren’t when she’s menstruating or something, or just before she’s going to menstruate. That would really be bad. Lord knows what we would get then.
So if the Hispanic GOP strategists aren't upset enough at their prominent party members' utterances, how about every woman in America?

That's right, GOP, keep strengthening your base:

Let's see how small you can get it.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Third Rail, Middle East

I know that not all of my fellow Jews are going to agree, but I'm impressed so far with the Obama Administration line on halting Israeli settlements in the West Bank. I've been against them ever since 1970's Prime Minister Menachem Begin started them up.

I understand that my Jewish homeland is small and needs all the land it can get to help grow its population by immigration, but I also feel that those settlers are the most intractable Israelis, the ones most likely to stand in the way of a peace settlement and, yes, I blame that movement for producing the assassin who killed courageous Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin, snuffing out hopes for peace in 1995. And that this assassin is considered a hero by so many of these settlers is...unsettling.

It's not going to be easy. Netanyahu thinks he can manipulate the process and the U.S. to keep peace from happening, and possibly attack Iran in the process. This is dangerous stuff, dangerous to Israel itself, per Roger Cohen in The New York Times:

Netanyahu talks a lot about the “existential threat” from Iran. The United States faces a prosaic daily threat: Many more young American men and women will die in Iraq and Afghanistan over the next several years if no Iranian breakthrough is achieved.

Obama must remind Israel of that. He should also tell Bibi that the real existential threat to Israel is not Amalek but hubris: An attack on Iran that would put the Jewish state at war with Persians as well as Arabs, undermine its core U.S. alliance, and set Tehran on a full-throttle course to a nuclear bomb with the support of some 1.2 billion Muslims.
As everyone knows, the problem is complex, and there are a huge number of factors for Obama, Israel, whatever passes for the Palestinian leadership and the Arab powers in the region to consider. But if Israel can make a three decade-long peace with its once fiercest enemy, Egypt, can't more pieces of the problem be solved?

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Hilarity Ensues

So the GOP line will be that Sonia Sotomayor will rule with emotion rather than reason. Unlike, say, the vein-popping Justice Antonin Scalia. There's also hints that the Republicans will play the soft-on-terror lie, maybe tie that fear meme into the fear of female emotion theme, like she's just a blubbery chick who cries over terrorists and lets them go free.

Except that Sotomayor isn't weak, she's from New York City. You know, attacked on 9/11/01?

So the cartoon hilarity continues, with the Randy the Ram of the Republican Party:
Newt Gingrich, who has twitually accused Sonia Sotomayor of racism, just as he twitually accused the President of being soft on pirates a few hours before the President got very hard on pirates a few weeks ago. Clearly, this is another case of Newt twitting before reading...or thinking.
Then there's the man and grandmother Nate Silver headlines as, Grandmother of World's 23rd Best Economist Posthumously Offended by Sonia Sotomayor's Spending Habits; Will Obama Withdraw Nomination?
I once wrote a short paper called The Savers-Spenders Theory of Fiscal Policy based on the premise that there are two types of people: Some save and intertemporally optimize their consumption plans, while others live paycheck to paycheck, spending their entire income as soon as it's received.[...]

Apparently, the new Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor is an example of the latter. The Washington Post reports that the 54-year-old Sotomayer has a $179,500 yearly salary but
On her financial disclosure report for 2007, she said her only financial holdings were a Citibank checking and savings account, worth $50,000 to $115,000 combined. During the previous four years, the money in the accounts at some points was listed as low as $30,000.
My grandmother would have been shocked and appalled to see someone who makes so much save so little.
To which Nate responds,
...Perhaps Mankiw's grandmother would find her more virtuous if she were saving up for a Lexus or a summer home in the Hamptons, but that doesn't seem to be her cup of tea. Her one real indulgence is the apartment she keeps in the West Village. Although virtually anywhere that would be a reasonable commute from her courtroom in Lower Manhattan would be relatively expensive, she could save a bit by living in the Financial District or perhaps in Brooklyn. But Mankiw, who lives in a zip code where the median price of a house is 1.65 million dollars, should not exactly be throwing stones from his undoubtedly very charming, New England Colonial home.
It's all Kabuki Theater writ partisan, but just when you think the coyote can't get more slapstick, he does. For foodies:
Sotomayor also claimed: “For me, a very special part of my being Latina is the mucho platos de arroz, gandoles y pernir — rice, beans and pork — that I have eaten at countless family holidays and special events.”

This has prompted some Republicans to muse privately about whether Sotomayor is suggesting that distinctive Puerto Rican cuisine such as patitas de cerdo con garbanzo — pigs’ feet with chickpeas — would somehow, in some small way influence her verdicts from the bench.

Curt Levey, the executive director of the Committee for Justice, a conservative-leaning advocacy group, said he wasn’t certain whether Sotomayor had claimed her palate would color her view of legal facts but he said that President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee clearly touts her subjective approach to the law.

“It’s pretty disturbing,” said Levey. “It’s one thing to say that occasionally a judge will despite his or her best efforts to be impartial ... allow occasional biases to cloud impartiality. "But it’s almost like she’s proud that her biases and personal experiences will cloud her impartiality.”
And let's not forget those Jewish Justices with their gefilte fish, that Italian Justice with his manicotti, or the Protestant Justice with his cucumber sandwiches.

As for the empathy issue, it turns out conservative favorite, Justice Samuel Alito, used it to his benefit in his confirmation hearings.

Now for the grown ups amongst us who want to know the whole behind the scenes story of how the President and his White House staff handled the selection process that started and eventually ended with Sotomayor, it's dazzling.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009


It's comedy, like a cartoon now. The GOP leaks out their airtight case against Judge Sonia Sotomayor for Supreme Court Justice, Obama headfakes with his old friend Judge Diane Wood leaked as visiting the White House, instead has Sotomayor in last Thursday without the press getting the least wind of it, and today announces her as his first nominee. And Wile GOP Coyote suddenly finds itself run out of cliff beneath its feet, puff of smoke, long fall.

There will be conservative talking points and smears and no one will be listening this time because Obama has selected the perfect replacement for David Souter, similar in judicial temperament, but a wildly groundbreaking choice, another Obama star-making ceremony today. And who could fail to be moved by the now commanding President, this Horatio Alger story judge representing the hopes of American women and Hispanics -- double sticks of Roadrunner dynamite -- accompanied and blessed by the older Catholic man who will make certain her path through the Senate confirmation process is a successful one.

At the announcement they had her mother, who worked six days a week as a nurse to raise her in the Bruckner Blvd. projects tens of thousands drive by daily. The President reminded us that Sotomayor is the judge who saved baseball. All that was missing was the apple pie:

There's no real play for the GOP, not unless something freaky comes out of the woodwork, because they can't afford to alienate every last Hispanic or non-reactionary woman in the country, even in their current state. But of course, as scripted as a sarcastic prime time cartoon, out comes Boss Limbaugh:
Do I want her to fail? Yeah.
He's so funny when he's fat. But for c-h-u-t-z-p-a-h, how about an instant (as in previously written) oppositional opinion from noneother than war criminal and conspiratorial co-architect of U.S. torture policy, Attorney (for now) John Yoo. I'd quote him, but then I'd have to waterboard you.

What's happening now is The Summer of Shove. Obama had the agenda forced on him by economic meltdown even before he was sworn in. He's handled that well enough that his real agenda -- the one America voted for -- can begin. And per Al Giordano, the President will be backed up by the same grand-scale community organizing that won him the job: grassroots action:

The political class of the Republican and Democratic Parties may plan on spending the summer on Martha’s Vineyard, or in the Hamptons, or in Newport, or in Mountain West resort towns, or along elite California beaches, or at country clubs all over, but like NFL players and soldiers at war, community organizers will be at boot camp: sweltering the summer of 2009 door to door with the rest of America for whom such paradises are out of reach.

The door knocking won’t get much, if any, mass media attention, in this season between Memorial Day and Labor Day (did I mention that the news editors and star pundits will be off rubbing elbows with those same elected officials in those same vacationlands?). The Supreme Court nomination spectacle in the Senate – one in which the final result is has a 99 percent probability of raising Justice Sotomayor up on high through a sleepy summer Senate going through the motions of looking busy – will provide cover for the grassroots push from below.

But the real history will be made, this summer - as during the last two - by the unsung heroes and heroines: the organizers. You know who you are. You’re the ones without a second home, or that valiantly choose to skip that beach house, in order to bend the arc of history toward justice once again.

New national healthcare policy legislation, climate change control legislation and Justice Sonia Sotomayor all by the end of this summer.

Don't forget how fast he moved to win both the primaries and the Presidency.


Monday, May 25, 2009

We Make Mistakes

I don't think there's anything wrong in making a well-intentioned mistake, but there is something wrong in not correcting it as quickly as possible, and something worse in making it uncorrectable. While Lakhdar Boumediene was not waterboarded, he was an innocent Algerian family man detained in Guantanamo for seven years:

In what he describes as an ugly mistake by U.S. authorities, Boumediene, an Algerian citizen, had spent seven years there as terrorism suspect No. 10005. Later he became the plaintiff in a landmark Supreme Court case, Boumediene v. Bush, that in June 2008 gave Guantanamo detainees the right to seek judicial review of their imprisonment.

Boumediene, in a lengthy interview in a Paris suburb, said he joined the case to represent the scores of prisoners held at Guantanamo charged with being "enemy combatants" and having no power to challenge the accusation in court...

Boumediene said he was interrogated more than 120 times during his stay in Guantanamo's Camp Delta, mostly about Arabs and other foreign Muslims in Bosnia. "At first I thought they were honest, and when I explained they would see I was innocent and would release me," he recalled. "But after the first two years or so, I realized they were not straight. So I stopped cooperating."

During one 16-day period in February 2003, he said, the interrogations went on day and night, sometimes with tactics such as lifting him roughly from the chair where he was strapped, so the shackles dug into his flesh. The interrogators, some dressed in military uniforms and others in civilian clothes, were assisted by Arabic interpreters who seemed mostly to be from Egypt and Lebanon, he recalled, and later included a few Moroccans and Iraqis.

"They were dogs," Boumediene said of the foreign interpreters, in his only show of anger. "They were dogs. They often started doing the interrogations themselves. They would tell the interrogators they could get more information."

This is yet another reason why torture is such a bad idea: we don't always collect only the guilty. Seven years of a man's life; imagine losing your life from age 36 to 43. At least he wasn't tortured beyond the description above.

And don't get me started on summary execution -- especially the Cheney kind.

Loss for Us

For Memorial Day, here's the most recent casualties of those who chose to fight for us. We may argue about their mission, but not their sacrifice.

Whether they ever fully expected to die is each one's existential question, but putting on that uniform is taking, at best, a calculated risk.

It's the day we give thanks to those on lists like this one. And deliver our barbecued offering.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Liberty as Irony

I guess there's only one political party that's at liberty to meet in campus facilities at Liberty "University":

Liberty University, the university founded by the late Christian evangelist Rev. Jerry Falwell, has revoked its recognition of the campus Democratic Party club, saying “we are unable to lend support to a club whose parent organization stands against the moral principles held by” the university, The News & Advance, of Lynchburg, Va., reports.

“It kind of happened out of nowhere,” said Brian Diaz, president of the student Democratic Party organization that the school had formally recognized in October.

Diaz, the paper reports, said he got the news May 15 in an e-mail from Mark Hine, vice president of student affairs.

According to the e-mail, the club must stop using the university’s name, holding meetings on campus, or advertising events, the newspaper reports.

Hine said late Thursday that the university could not sanction an official club that supported Democratic candidates, the newspaper reports, but stresses that "we are in no way attempting to stifle free speech.”

I find this particularly humorous considering all the conservative griping about liberal favoritism in academic settings across America. How many so-called liberal-biased universities have banned their conservative counterparts from university facilities?

Per Amy Sullivan, religious and liberal are growing closer every day now, which is perhaps why the Liberty administration feels threatened?
Last spring I met a young woman from Liberty who made her mother drive her to Charlottesville to hear me speak because she had read an op-ed I wrote about being an evangelical and a liberal. She was an Obama supporter and a Democrat, but until she read that piece, she had worried that there was something wrong with her faith, that she wasn't a good Christian.

It's harder to feel that way when there's a critical mass of other people just like you. So even if the College Democrats have been shut down, the idea that theologically conservative Christians must be Republicans has already been challenged. Diaz says that when the College Democrats set up a table at a recruiting fair last fall, "people were a little confrontational, asking us how we could call ourselves Christians and be Democrats." But when they did the same thing this past semester, the response was different. "Now it's more like, 'That's interesting--let me talk to you and hear why you're a Democrat.'" That new openness to political diversity will be harder to shut down.

You know, free speech.

A.k.a. "liberty."

Friday, May 22, 2009


It's been one of the craziest weeks in recent American pop/politics history and, yes, I've chosen to focus on American Idol and Dick Cheney. Two of our finest media constructs. I can't help finding both so compelling, one for the hope, the other for the fear. And I believe the cat is out of the bag, with Liz Cheney revealing that the reason she and her father are both more out than Adam Lambert right now is because they are afraid, not for the country, but for his sorry ass:
Vice President Dick Cheney decided to speak out after learning that President Barack Obama might open prosecutions of former Bush Administration officials, his daughter disclosed Thursday.

Elizabeth Cheney told Fox News’ Sean Hannity that her father decided to speak out after he learned there was a possibility of legal action.

Which is exactly what should happen if someone abuses a powerful office and manufacture a fraudulent interpretation of the law to cover for their illegal actions. More developments this week include former Homeland Security Chairman, Republican Tom Ridge shooting down the Cheney tentpole argument that we're somehow less safe than under his regime; former Chief of Staff to Colin Powell, Col. Lawrence Wilkerson fingering Cheney to the point of giving orders without informing his boss, then-President Bush (per my fisking of Cheney's tangled statement on the matter); and the waterboarding of a conservative radio personality who lasted six seconds and immediately decried it as torture:

What's important about populist conservative influencers like Mancow doing the now almost cliche waterboard-me stunt is that it yanks away perhaps the key tentpole of the Cheney Family argument, their dismissive wave that waterboarding is not torture. For they are even unwilling to admit that waterboarding is torture, which some of their fellow travelers have while still defending it, as if that first brick will bring the whole house tumbling down.

Like I always say, when you hear "enhanced interrogation technique" think "torture" -- and watch how much she blinks when called on it:

Ending with a debater's trick even lame for high school, Liz Cheney reinforces herself as liar, in the service of another, her dad.

How moving it might be, if not so criminal.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Know Your Enemy

Green Day has a new album and single:
Do you know the enemy?
Do you know your enemy?
Well, gotta know the enemy

Overthrow the effigy
The vast majority
Burning down the foreman of control

Silence is the enemy
Against your urgency
So rally up the demons of your soul
I'm with Jane Smiley on Dick Cheney. He's an American citizen so he has the right to speak freely, but I don't have to listen him, just as I wouldn't listen to a crazy person in the street. And with his speech filled with wall-to-wall lies, straw men, false analogies, history bending and general fear-mongering, I advise others to stop listening as well.

If he hadn't been quasi-Commander-in-Chief upending a reporting system that was working, opening us up to the worst terrorist attack in U.S. history under his watch; if he hadn't instituted a torture program for the first time in the history of our Federal government and had it debunked to the point that the elected President stopped it in 2004; if he hadn't masterminded the outing of a CIA agent because her husband spoke out against the disastrous Iraq War he was ginning up; if he hadn't tortured in vain to get the missing justification for the war, I might listen to him.

But Cheney is the Axis of Brutal America, that weak-minded, rigidly Manichean, easily swayed aspect of America that believes might makes right and trumps values. And that it is somehow a posture towards the world that will somehow allow the Republic to last forever. Right.

The President of the United States of America laid out his plan for handling terrorists in great rationality and detail today. This is policy, explained to us as it never was in the previous eight-year Administration, and it is true to the values about America I was taught as a kid. Not soft, strong and legal.

Then there was this crazy man who is not in power. Maybe he's pointing the way for his party: reclaim that fear mantle! It will certainly sway the weaker minds. It always does. It's not rational, it's based on the emotion of fear. It is the past in endless loop, while our elected President is trying to move us in the the future by embracing what has traditionally, throughout our history, made America great:

For seven years, President George W. Bush tried to frighten the American public — and successfully cowed Congress — with bullying and disinformation. On Thursday, President Obama told the truth. It was a moment of political courage that will make this country safer.

Mr. Obama was exactly right when he said Americans do not have to choose between security and their democratic values. By denying those values, the Bush team fed the furies of anti-Americanism, strengthened our enemies and made the nation more vulnerable.

It is an uphill battle. His party controls Congress and they are not yet willing to fund his Guantanamo plan, although a change in that may be the result of his landmark speech today. And the GOP seem to have cowed the Dems with their "Don't incarcerate them here!" meme, as if America can't keep however many terrorist clowns on Guantanamo safely locked up as long as they live in the continental United States, as we've doing with other terrorists -- still in prison until they die.

My take on the "detainees" and eventual convicted terrorists: Bring them here.

I say, frak them, no one is going to cow us on that one, least of all ourselves.

Compare and contrast:

And just remember this: whenever Dick Cheney uses the phrase "enhanced techniques" the word is actual "torture." And that's his gift to America, the World and History.

Do we all really want to be down with that?

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Final Idolatry

Per my post last night, no big surprise or even letdown that Kris Allen beat his new best friend, Adam Lambert, tonight. I believe that Adam lost because he didn't really take any big chances last night, although his "A Change is Gonna Come" was close. And while the conventional wisdom seems to be that Adam did better on the coronation power ditty due to it being written more for his range (tilting the table, producers?), it sounded just like all the other second place finisher versions I've ever heard, i.e. vocally strong but not very unique. Kris' version was much more unique, even if the band threatened to drown out his more muted volume.

In some ways it was a fairy tale ending, underdog pulls it out, leading the others in Obama-era unity to the judges platform, someone having the sense to send his wife up there for the final embrace as the live show vignetted on them in deep embrace, a bookend matching his long embrace of Adam after the victory announcement.

Kris needed this win more than Adam, who will go on to be a big personality in music. They both seemed like completely decent guys, the camaraderie that's developed between them in the winnowing to the finals genuinely moving.

It may not be the Idol of your choice, but it's a pretty great America.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Idol Thoughts

Yep, I watch, but only after they get down into the Final Twelve. No interest in watching the train wreck auditioners during the circus part of the season, life too short. What I found interesting about tonight's final competition episode is that this is the first year that I really felt the two contestants were evenly matched, both entertaining, neither making me cringe or wonder what all the suspense is about.

If judged by the amount of excitement he stirred over the course of the season, Adam Lambert should surely win. And there's the sexual orientation angle, would be great to keep breaking down barriers on that front. Of the three songs he performed tonight I think he hit it out of the park with Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come," chill-worthy stuff, especially if you believe, as I do, that gay rights are the last frontier for full civil rights in America.

On the flip side, I felt that Adam's theatricality may work against him. You'd never see his competitor, Kris Allen, in a Broadway show, but that's actually right in Adam's comfort zone, what he was trained for, albeit with a rather classic rock and roll edge. On the traditionally awful coronation power ballad written specifically for the winner, I felt he was by-the-numbers, going for the audience pumping high notes with his great gift, but not creating something original or moving out of it, relying instead on theatricality, albeit turned down a notch from the opening "Mad World" fog and trenchcoat number (like straight out of a Dracula musical). I also think the premature Entertainment Weekly cover (with a surprisingly thin story) may have been the kiss of death, much like Super Bowl teams consider it a jinx to make the cover of Sports Illustrated the week before the big game.

Which brings us to Kris Allen. Low-key and crafty in a manner reminiscent of last season's winner, David Cook -- in fact, some of those superficial similarities to Cook are reason the producers might be so seemingly in favor of Lambert -- he managed to grow in stature over the final weeks. His choice of the award-winning but still somewhat obscure number from Once for movie night showed very cool and impressive taste, and his adaptation of songs like Kanye West's "Heartless" to his acoustic rock style has been continually pleasing. While he may not be the high-volume excitement machine that is Adam Lambert, his voice and style wear exceedingly well.

Kris got props from the judges for his first round "Ain't No Sunshine" pick and performance, was treated more indifferently for the producer's choice in round two, "What's Going On," but I think he actually won the coronation song round by underplaying the power ballad cliches that Adam simply bit the bullet and dived right into. I didn't believe Adam but, oddly (considering the general awfulness of the song) I believed Kris. It didn't even sound like the same song. It didn't even sound like an awful Idol coronation song.

So on the basis of the season, I'd give it to Adam. On the basis of the evening, I'd give it the Kris. Neither one did anything as bold as David Cook's smart against-the-grain gamble last season when he chose to perform a song he had not done before on the show, rather than the traditional reprise, for which Simon thought him the loser and the next night ate his words.

Within the limitations of the show -- hey, I find it hard to imagine you're ever going to get a truly transgressive, transformative artist this way, so sorry -- this was the best two finalists yet, and no matter the winner, they'll do just fine after the dust clears.

As for all four judges, I'm not so sure.

Monday, May 18, 2009


Congratulations to Rush Limbaugh, Sarah Palin, Ann Coulter, Michael Steele, Karl Rove, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld and most of all Richard Bruce Cheney:
The decline in Republican Party affiliation among Americans in recent years is well documented, but a Gallup analysis now shows that this movement away from the GOP has occurred among nearly every major demographic subgroup. Since the first year of George W. Bush's presidency in 2001, the Republican Party has maintained its support only among frequent churchgoers, with conservatives and senior citizens showing minimal decline...

...The losses are substantial among college graduates, which have shown a decline in GOP support of 10 points. (The losses are even greater -- 13 points -- among the subset of college graduates with postgraduate educations.) This may reflect in part Barack Obama's strong appeal to educated voters, a major component of his winning coalitions in both the Democratic primaries and the general election...

Stephen L. Taylor analyzes the problem hardcore Republicans are having with reality, as they claim the party is in trouble because it has somehow not stayed 100% pure and true to its base:

There are two rather major problems with his “analysis.”

First, the party isn’t losing its base, it is losing everything else.

Second, the Rove strategy, especially in 2004, was a base mobilization strategy, not a treat the base like doormats strategy. Indeed, the Bush/Rove years were not exactly exemplified by the GOP going out and forming a party based on what McCain would call RINOs–indeed, it was just the opposite.

As Daniel Larison rightly notes:

The Gallup findings are interesting, because they show that conservatives are among the least likely to have stopped identifying themselves as Republicans, yet they remain convinced that pursuing an agenda geared towards appealing to them (and only to them) is the means to win back all the other people who have drifted away since ‘01.

It is a odd bit of reasoning that Larison describes, but it does seem to be the dominant mode of thinking within certain Republican circles these day.

The least-touted story on Fox News has to be Obama naming Gov. Mike Huntsman, a loyal but non-ideological Republican, as Ambassador to China. Huntsman was seen by Dems as the only guy in the GOP farm system with real potential for Presidential stature, and he may one day move into the Oval Office, if his party calms down (or if he switches) just as George H.W. Bush was Ambassador to China before ascending to the Office. But in some ways it's a much bigger deal than Arlen Specter, a huge coup for Obama.

Huntsman's political strategist, John Weaver says:
"If it's 2012 and our party is defined by Palin and Limbaugh and Cheney, then we're headed for a blowout," says strategist John Weaver, who advised Huntsman and was for years a close adviser to Sen. John McCain. "That's just the truth."
So, kudos, I say, because I believe what ails the Republican party should not infect the rest of the country, especially as we try to recover from this last infection.

Stay pure, Republican Party. Keep hunting down those heretics, as the President converts another and another.

Keep up the good work.

Sunday, May 17, 2009


At 9:01pm on September 15, 1967, flipped the channels around to watch a show coming back from commercial with several unusually clad men of the future materializing with an eerie whine on a craggy landscape I would soon learn was the planet Vulcan. In my Friday night boredom I had accidentally run across the Second Season Premiere Episode of Star Trek, "Amok Time." By 9:30pm, having witnessed the death of Captain James Tiberius Kirk at the hands of his First Officer and pointy-eared best friend, Spock, due to the primal mating fever of "pon farr," and then Kirk's miraculous resurrection thanks to the death-mimicking drug administered mid-battle by Dr. Leonard McCoy, I was a fan.

In the years to follow I was a loyal fan, a Trekkie, sure, but one who was more interested in science fiction as a whole genre, with Star Trek being the only 99% credible television version for decades to come -- I might argue until the new incarnation of Battlestar Galactica, although I'm sure many Next Generation and Babylon 5 fans would argue that point. I attended Star Trek conventions at the Commodore Hotel in NYC, stood awkwardly before Nichelle Nichols (Lt. Uhuru) as she signed a poster from her record album for me and the next year trailed her in full diva, tight red spangly suit and furry little dog as she made her way through the hotel hallway with what was geek press at the time in tow. I watched classic episodes on the big screen late at night -- nothing like watching McCoy leap through the misty Portal to Forever projected large above your head as you recline on the convention hall floor.

I say this not to call attention to my Star Trek cred in either praising or criticizing the newest incarnation, the feature film reboot called, simply, Star Trek, which I had the pleasure of taking my family to this weekend. I had indoctrinated my two boys a few years ago when G4 ran the uncut original episodes, all running over an hour thanks to the growth in commercial time since they originally aired. Even my wife attended, and if there's one thing she hates, it's sci-fi. The movie is praiseworthy for how well it connects our (my?) forty-years back emotional allegiance to the characters to this new cast, so that we can enjoy Kirk's brashness, Spock's logic, McCoy's irascibility all over again. The biggest success, among many, of J.J. Abrams and crew is that they've successfully refreshed the show's original character constellation, sense of optimism for the future (making me wonder how Terminator Salvation with fare in a week -- zeitgeist disconnect?) and, to a large enough degree, sense of cosmic scale. Nitpicks might include giving Scotty a cute Yoda-meets-Dobby sidekick and overuse of handheld camera in late-innings battle scenes. But what I was struck by after the new movie's rapidly churning events settled in my cerebral cortex was the memory of something from those dark Seventies when the push to revive Trek seemed all so in vain: fan fiction.

Back in the heyday of fan-generated Star Trek literature, reflecting a fandom desperate for new material beyond the mere 79 episodes that existed once the show was finally cancelled for good in 1969 after three seasons (the first 1.75 seasons generally being far superior to almost all that followed). There were mimeographed fanzines distributed by hand or by mail, the first of which, Spockanalia, appeared in the same year I saw my first episode.

Fan fiction was a way for viewers who had connected to the unique and imaginative vision of the show in, let's say, a profound way to create their own stories where NBC was unwilling to create any more. While a very few fanfic writers later made it to the "big leagues" years later with paperback deals for approved Star Trek novels, most of the work was amateurish, if enthusiastic and occasionally credible.

One of the subgenres of fan fiction, however, was a kind of sexual compensation for what might have been latent but never, of course, explicated on the show. Why not show what happens with Science Officer Spock and the eternally pining Nurse Chapel behind closed doors when pon farr's in bloom. Or maybe Spock can't get the feral love he needs from the fair nurse, and instead there's a new crew member, a young woman who's highly intelligent but somewhat shy, of a hidden literary bent just waiting for the right Vulcan to remove her thick plastic spectacles...

Some SPOILERS ahead.

Then there's other unexplored crew matings. Why not Kirk and Uhuru following up on that turgid kiss in "Plato's Stepchildren" with some real black-on-white erotics. Or Uhuru and Spock. (If you've seen the movie, you see where I'm going with this.) And why stop there, what about exploring the depths of the emotional bond between the good Captain and his First Officer when it's just plain Jim, a sub-subgenre known as slash fiction. A heated dissection of whether Kirk and Spock could actually have an encounter appeared in a then-groundbreaking "letters zine" called The Halkan Council way the heck back in 1975.

The other key aspect of fanfic is that it is all, by it's very unlicensed nature, alternative universe (or "AU"). It's not the creator, or even the writers sitting in the room after the creator's been fired or moved on. The best thing about AU is that it allows you to take the characters wherever you want, freed from any formulaic restraints, the mind unfettered with new possibilities since it all off-canon. Maybe some writers aspire to canon, but the writing so very rarely cuts it. One of the main reasons the first couple seasons of the original series are still so great to watch is that so many of those early episodes were written by real science fiction writers with serious sci-fi cred: Richard Matheson, Robert Bloch, Theodore Sturgeon, Fredric Brown, Jerome Bixby, Harlen Ellison, Norman Spinrad, Jerry Sohl.

The bummer about AU fanfic is's off-canon. Who gives a rats ass what happens in any of those stories -- it doesn't count.

So what's interesting to me about the new movie is that it not only has a fantasy coupling off the original series, it also turns on a Lost-like (I am told) time-travel plot where we get Leonard Nimoy elevating the feature film reboot to canon, at the cost of an AU continuity solution. From this point forward, whatever happens with this Pine-led crew, isn't the story of the Shatner crew, so all bets are off. History will be written differently, historical events will be referenced for old fans to enjoys but entering in ways unaccountable to what's been filmed before. On one hand, it's a lazy way out for screenwriters not willing to do the voluminous -- endless -- research. On the other hand, why should we be forcing our 2009 screenwriters to stick to every script fix invention wedged into the canon by a fellow guild member sometime over the past forty years. What this movie proves is that you just have to get the heart(s) of the story bible right.

For all the Spock focus in the movie (very balanced, fascinatingly enough), my favorite addition to the mythos is a Kirk's. The filmmakers have him hanging by his fingertips three times in the story, the first as a young boy over a canyon, the second over Vulcan, the third in the Romulan spacecraft. The Abrahms/Pine Kirk is the embodiment of "cliffhanger" which is a lynchpin of cinema going waaay back to the silent serials. While I've heard criticism that the new movie plays like a high-budget pilot, I actually think one of the unsung reasons for it's success is that it is pretty visual, with a clever Scotty-in-tube throwaway slapstick gag, a recasting of the dino-on-dino surprise, and a Romulan bridge phaser firefight that feels surprisingly O.K. Corral.

So I have to give this to screenwriters Roberto Orci and Alex Krutzman. They have written what may be the single greatest piece of fanfic ever, the professionalization of a suspect genre, and sealed it with the real Spock himself, the flesh and blood actor the movie's biggest special effect. Since Vulcans live an average of 300 years longer than humans, they have the time to gain so much more wisdom, and Nimoy plays his oldest Spock (his 78 human years maybe 234 in Vulcan?) with an almost Buddhist purity of wisdom, 100% free of ego, clear and forgiving.

One other thing the movie gets right. I've heard it said that "this ain't your mama's Captain Kirk" and sure, this one's rock & roll. But he surely evokes Kirk's mental acuity and fluidity -- just like Shatner's Kirk, Pine's is completely read up but can make decisions on a dime when even the better read can't. He knows his stuff but he also knows how to lead, boldly. This young Kirk's boldness start being all about himself -- his joyride, his sudden jumping into service, his risk-taking to get on the Enterprise. His great feats of physical courage and action -- his cliffhanging. And finally he makes the bold decisions as captain necessary to finish the story satisfactorily, although I'll bet they can make a better movie now that they're past the origin(s).

AU, okay. But they remembered to honor the opening words of the show every week, the closing words of this movie, the inspiring thing.

"To boldly go..."


Michelle Merced

The newest school in California's public university system is UC Merced, with less students that some high schools (somewhere in the vicinity of 2000) and set in the agricultural heartland of our state, which gets a lot less press and attention than the glittering cities of the coast. The students of Merced are culturally diverse and, we now, know, innovative and determined, as they launched their wildly successful "Dear Michelle" campaign to get our nation's new First Lady to deliver her first commencement address to their school.

The students sent 900 valentines to Michelle on Valentine's Day, and she responded by sending this nascent school and small farming town into the stratosphere on Saturday with her landmark address:
"Why did I chose the University of California Merced to deliver my first commencement speech as first lady? Well, let me tell you something, the answer is simple. You inspired me. You touched me," Obama said, referring to the unusual campaign of valentines, letters and videos the students produced in inviting her to speak. "There are few things that are more rewarding than to watch young people recognize they have the power to make their dreams come true. And you did just that."
The school is now on the map, no longer a footnote to the UC system, sure to attract more terrific students. These 350 members of the inaugural class received a message of service from Ms. Obama:
"As the students who helped build this school, I ask you, make your legacy a lasting one," Mrs. Obama told the graduates as an enthusiastic crowd of students, family members, dignitaries, university personnel, community members and other well-wishers looked on.

"Dream big, think broadly about your life and please make giving back to your community a part of that vision," she said. "Take the same hope and optimism, the hard work and tenacity that brought you to this point, and carry that with you for the rest of your life in whatever you choose to do."
In keeping with the best of last year's Obama Presidential campaign, it's a story to bring a tear to the eye, and remind us that we're living in a very special age, one that I can only pray lasts a full eight years.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Parsing Dick

The idea that then-Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney ordered up torture to wring a confession of connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq in order to justify his long-planned war is on the verge of metastasizing into the big story, with only the enormity of this possibility holding it back. Read Joe Conason for the latest roundup and check out David Waldman bringing it to a CNN discussion where no one can refute his main point, that if an elected official conducted torture for political purposes, that would be a crime beyond any post-9/11 panic judgment:

The other panelists are woefully underarmed for this and try their usual mis/re-direction and comparative morality distractions to no effect. This is the big story, and no one has called Cheney on it yet:
The single most pertinent question that Dick Cheney is never asked -- at least not by the admiring interviewers he has encountered so far -- is whether he, Donald Rumsfeld and George W. Bush used torture to justify the illegal invasion of Iraq.
And as long as he stays out of investigations or hearings, he won't be asked -- not as long as he sticks to either conservative or wussified news media.

The question he was asked, by Bob Schieffer on this past Sunday's Face the Nation, was whether the President himself (W. Bush, remember?) authorized the torture policy. And his tangled answer, unusual for the always rehearsed and controlled-speech Cheney, has stuck in my mind all week:
Cheney: "I have every reason to believe that he [President Bush] knew [about the interrogation program]-- he knew a great deal about the program. He basically authorized it. This was a presidential-level decision and the decision went to the president and he signed off on it."
So let's take the man at his words -- and parse what he's really saying.
"I have every reason to believe that he [President Bush] knew [about the interrogation program]--
What, he doesn't know for sure if Bush knew about the program? He never had a direct conversation with him about it? He kept his hands clean by sending in his henchmen? Or maybe he slipped him the papers to sign in with everything else? Or maybe just never told him until the questions started coming?
-- he knew a great deal about the program.
What did you hide from him, Dick?
He basically authorized it.
He authorized it or he didn't? He didn't know he authorized it? You did it without authorization because of your Machiavellian view of the legal entitlements of the Vice Presidency? He played along later after he found out about it?
This was a presidential-level decision
Did Bush decider it or didn't he? Does that mean you did it as Vice President under the shield of the general Executive Office or your proximity to the President? Did you make the decision for the country and authorize it at the "presidential-level" yourself?
and the decision went to the president
Wait, so first someone (you?) made the "presidential-level decision" and only after you had decided (implemented?) the torture policy did the President rubber stamp it? Because it sure doesn't sound like the decision came from the President himself but was simply presented to him somewhere along the line without his even asking. (How different from our current Chief Executive.)
and he signed off on it."
And so Cheney comes to rest on this closer, recollecting himself, the plan from the moment he got the job of helping W. select his running mate, which Cheney of course made himself, that this would be the second coming of the Nixon White House only shrewder, standing behind rather than in front of the cameras, with the little self-deluded salesboy providing all the cover necessary to enact The Plans, all down the line.

All the way to indictment, ideally to cut it off at the pass.

This is the most revealing statement ever made by Cheney on the topic, and hats off to the crafty Bob Scheiffer (not as soft as you'd think) for tripping him up. The next question is going to be our will, not to mention our national morality. And if the nation's truthseekers are successful in pressing the question, then we're back to my thesis that either the Bush's close ranks with Cheney (they'll have to be completely sure that by doing so all will get a pass) or there will be a much, much more interesting situation.

I, for one, don't see Barbara Bush allowing her son to be dragged down with Dick.

But I've underestimated that family before.

Thursday, May 14, 2009

The Dirty, Dirty Truth

It's closer and closer to being revealed, hence the panicky Cheney gambit of playing the memo game, as if some Cheney-ordered memos to post-justify the criminal torture he ordered will grant him exoneration for the emerging story, per Josh Marshall:

At last, the torture debate looks to be heading toward what's been the big question lurking in the background all along: was the Bush administration using torture in large part to make a political case for the invasion of Iraq?

Writing on The Daily Beast, former NBC producer Robert Windrem reports that in April 2003, Dick Cheney's office suggested that interrogators waterboard an Iraqi detainee who was suspected of having knowledge of a link between Saddam and al Qaeda.

All the Cheney-Bush gang was concerned with at the time was pushing through the attack on Iraq they had planned before taking office, before 9/11, going all the way back to the father's decision not to press Desert Storm into Baghdad. Imagine Dick Cheney fuming ever since then, a decade of building resentment, his moment having arrived.

From this base sin, if it is proven to be true, all other evil grew including everything covered by Laura Rozen here. It's why they're going after Jane Harman who wanted evidence preserved. It's why they're trying to foist the hot potato on Nancy Pelosi, who never instituted a policy of torture and claims she was lied to by the CIA. It's why Porter Goss, hack GOP Representative turned hack CIA Director, is looking ripe for questioning. And possibly indictment with his co-conspirators, led by Richard Bruce Cheney himself.

And now it's reaching the mainstream media.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009


There's a lot of mojo to report out there, from Obama's decision not to release the torture photos as threatened (I agree with Joe Klein that he made the right decision but I still think there need to be investigations, prosecutions and, if those first two fairly result, disbarments convictions) to Obama announcing a July 31st deadline for action on what is now being called "Healthcare Reform" (as opposed to a "National Healthcare Plan" or, horrors, "National Health Insurance"). There's Obama at Arizona State University with typical aplomb and call to service and his derivatives regulatory announcement, and testimony from both a former Bush official and an FBI interrogator that torture not only doesn't work, it's a disaster on many levels. As in FAIL.

But what interests me is this blog announcing video from Budget Director Peter Orszag:

If the Obama Administration leaves us with nothing else, may it please leave us with fiscal transparency, everywhere possible. Orszag understands that blogging is now the fastest and most direct form of mass communication, with little time for artifice or room to avoid accountability. This is the big change of our age, we're all citizen journalists or at least citizen columnists, when we drop a status update on Facebook. Messages of this size have never in the history of the world traveled so far so inexpensively, and so unmediated.

This is the ball to keep your eye on and yes, torture photos do count. The next Administration may be a step backwards in transparency, but I'm thrilled by how much more citizen access to information, even the in-the-mix thoughts of the darn Budget Director himself, we are increasingly receiving under Obama's change, and I hope that we, the citizenry, avail ourselves of the access, like the Congressional Budget Office blog and (yep, still live) the Recovery Act site.

"But you must remember, my fellow-citizens, that eternal vigilance by the people is the price of liberty, and that you must pay the price if you wish to secure the blessing. It behooves you, therefore, to be watchful in your States as well as in the Federal Government." -- Andrew Jackson, Farewell Address, March 4, 1837
Overdue, Andrew.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Dick never served in the military, he got five deferments. He was wrong on Iraq and he directed the outing of a CIA agent. He's pro-torture, as is his family.

Jesse volunteered to be a Navy S.E.A.L.:
KING: You were a Navy SEAL.

VENTURA: That's right. I was water boarded, so I know -- at SERE School, Survival Escape Resistance Evasion. It was a required school you had to go to prior to going into the combat zone, which in my era was Vietnam. All of us had to go there. We were all, in essence -- every one of us was water boarded. It is torture.

KING: What was it like?

VENTURA: It's drowning. It gives you the complete sensation that you are drowning. It is no good, because you -- I'll put it to you this way, you give me a water board, Dick Cheney and one hour, and I'll have him confess to the Sharon Tate murders.

And, back to the real world, here's our new man in Afghanistan:
“If you asked me the first thing that comes to mind about General McChrystal,” said Leslie H. Gelb, the president emeritus of the council, “I think of no body fat.”
Seriously, McChrystal has Spock ears, check out the photo in the Times link above.

It's the Spock Administration.


The battle of the memos begins:
On Monday, the Washington Post reported the impending release of a May 7, 2004 IG report that, the paper added, would show that in several circumstances the techniques used to interrogate terrorist suspects "appeared to violate the U.N. Convention Against Torture" and did not produce desired results. It is difficult, the report will conclude, "to determine conclusively whether interrogations have provided information critical to interdicting specific imminent attacks."
That's the Inspector General of the CIA. Is Cheney caught in a dragnet? Per one of Josh's astute readers, Cheney maybe spoke too much on Sunday:
Several interesting things just connected in my mind. Saw Jon Stewart show a clip of Cheney saying that Bush "basically approved" of the interrogation program. His answer was as woozy as it gets. Then on the replay of Hardball, watched Lawrence O'Donnell answer Chris Matthew's musings on a Cheney prosection by suggesting it would be for "usurping" Bush on the issue.

Really, where the torture scandal could break open is the exact nexus of who actually authorized the program and Cheney's frantic efforts to get information linking Saddam Hussein to the Iraq war. Wherever Iraq touches the torture question is going to be the flashpoint--it undercuts the "ticking time bomb" rationale for the program. Its also where politicals are going to have their deepest interactions with the program. That's where people need to look. Somebody needs to superimpose the timeline of the Iraq run-up over what we know about the timeline of the torture program. Anywhere Cheney, Iraq and torture meet is going to be radioactive.

This is where I wonder if we're heading deep into E. Howard Hunt territory, with old school CIA George H. W. Bush vs. the "younger" Cheney. The Bush/JFK Assassination conspiracy theory resonates; will someone spike his orange juice with Digitalis?

Sunday, May 10, 2009

Seeking Relief

If you're looking for A-List comic relief, there's Wanda Sykes pissing off Limbaugh acolytes at the White House Press Correspondents Dinner last night, followed by the #1 headliner in the world.

If you're looking to see a man seeking a different type of relief, there's Richard Bruce Cheney on Face the Nation today, panicking to stay one step ahead of the law, per Andrew Sullivan:

...Here is a former vice-president, who enjoyed unprecedented power for eight long, long years. No veep ever wielded power like he did in the long history of American government. In the months after 9/11, he swept all Congressional resistance away, exerted total executive power, wielded a military and paramilitary apparatus far mightier than all its rivals combined and mightier than any power in history, tapped any phone he wanted, claimed the right to torture any suspect he wanted (and followed through with thousands, from Bagram to Abu Ghraib) and was able to print and borrow money with impunity to finance all of it without a worry in the world. But even after all that, he cannot tolerate a few months of someone else, duly elected, having a chance to govern the country with a decent interval of grace.

What character does this reveal? The same character that sees torture - torture - as a "no-brainer". The same man who believes that freezing naked prisoners to hypothermia or strapping them to a board for a 175th near-drowning or stringing them up in stress positions so long the shackles rust up is in line with America's constitutional history and custom. The same tyrannical temperament that cannot abide another reality existing which isn't hammered or tortured into the shape he wants and demands...

...And as history slowly accepts that this man disgraced his office more profoundly than any before him, as it sinks in that this man did not merely make mistakes, as all flawed politicians do, but committed war crimes, with pre-meditation and elaborate subterfuge, he slowly realizes what's happening to him. He can feel it. And so he resists the way he always resists - by lashing out, attacking, smearing, snearing, and grabbing every inch of the limelight he can.

His digs on Colin Powell, choosing Rush Limbaugh over him, Oxycontin-fueled hate speech over the former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "politically" because all Cheney knows is power and paranoia, are not exactly statesmanlike, unless you think of yourself as the state:

The loyalty is to Cheney himself, of course, just as it was never to the President he supposedly served but actually managed, Colonel Tom Parker with real power, real guns, real waterboards to his name. Except in how he drags the former President in with him, maximum flail and, for Bush, maximum anchor. Again, per Sullivan:

How else to interpret this exchange?

SCHIEFFER: Did President Bush know everything you knew?

CHENEY: I certainly, yes, have every reason to believe he knew -- he knew a great deal about the program. He basically authorized it. I mean, this was a presidential-level decision. And the decision went to the president. He signed off on it.

He's not going down alone. Could we ask Bush and Cheney if they watched the actual tapes of torture sessions? And were they in the White House if they did so?

So here's my questions. Cheney has arguably always been more powerful than Bush. So if he's strapping George to him on this whole torture trip, the possibilities are that not only he believes he'll survive by cloaking himself in Presidential privilege, but the ex-President has to be totally fine with it as well. So what if George W. Bush as, by extension, The Bush Family, isn't?

Does Bush, can Bush, throw Cheney overboard?

Saturday, May 09, 2009

In Crowd

Tonight's the second most impressive party of the year -- after the Inauguration. The White House Correspondents Dinner is the lighthearted even where swords are lowered between press and President and comedy rules. It's also the turning point event where in 2006 Stephen Colbert turned the dial up on his career and irrevocably turned the perception of the Bush Administration (and enabling journalism establishment) way down in emperor-has-no-clothes style.

Here's the guest list. My faves: Sam Jackson and Richard Belzer, and host Wanda Sykes.

Wouldn't you like to be in that room?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Inflection Point

This is the year that serious health care legislation comes before Congress and, if successful, the President, at the President's behest, which is to say doing the nation's wishes, having voted for this major platform plant, albeit without having had to agree on the form of that health care relief.

So as the meetings are happening and the existing health insurance industry is getting it's say behind closed doors, it's fair to ask why Single Payer, whether you're sold on it yet or not, is not at the table.

Ed Schultz is the only cable news guy bringing it up...yet?:

This is the first inflection point on national health insurance since Hillary took her shot, and that before that when Richard Nixon sold us down the river, per the recording of his conversation with John Ehrlichman the day they launched the HMO business.

Will Single Player be a real part of the debate?

Always More Dick

Former Vice President Richard Bruce Cheney is the gift that keeps on giving. As the elected figure most appropriately labeled the head of his Party -- no figure more staunch or directive than Rush Limbaugh, who was never elected king -- he continues to invade the headlines with in his own (cloaked) self-defense:

"I don't believe that's true," Cheney said, when asked to respond to Obama's statement that interrogators may not have needed to resort to torture. "That assumes that we didn't try other ways, and in fact we did. We resorted, for example, to waterboarding, which is the source of much of the controversy, with only three individuals. In those cases, it was only after we'd gone through all the other steps of the process. The way the whole program was set up was very careful, to use other methods and only to resort to the enhanced techniques in those special circumstances."

The remarks, delivered during an interview with Scott Hennen, a conservative North Dakota radio host, glossed over the 266 instances in which the United States reportedly used waterboarding on two terrorist suspects -- a figure that would suggest the technique was either not effective or not really used as a last-resort option.

Nothing I like better than the Cheney passive mode. We = he, architect of the policy.

And he's got sage advice for his fellow Republicans:
"I think it would be a mistake for us to moderate. This is about fundamental beliefs and values and ideas...what the role of government should be in our society, and our commitment to the Constitution and constitutional principles," he said. "You know, when you add all those things up the idea that we ought to moderate basically means we ought to fundamentally change our philosophy. I for one am not prepared to do that, and I think most us aren't."
Keep 'em coming. Dick.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

We're Listening

Is Eric Cantor the next Michael Steele?

The first Republican official who doesn't give a shit what Rush says about him will be the first one with any kind of shot at the Presidency.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Team Palin trying to belittle Romney:

Dems drawing targets on GOP:

David Simon, Wendell Pierce and Clarke Peters coming back to HBO via New Orleans.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Slow Learners

With the GOP already coming up with strategies to take on Supreme Court nominees the master strategist hasn't chosen, let alone announced yet, one wait and wonders when the boulder will drop, as goes Roadrunner on Coyote, so it will go on the Republicans, please mark my words.

Is life not, all so often, as overdetermined as the sagest Hollywood drama? As the man drawing the mission of going up against the first part-African American President on his first Supreme Court appointment is ranking Republican Judiciary Committee member, Sen. Jeff Sessions of Alabama.

And this the very committee that rejected him for a Federal prosecutor post years ago as he seemed, at the very least, soft on segregationist judges.

Now imagine how this one plays out.


Sunday, May 03, 2009

The Jebbish Cometh

Wow, that was fast. As I noted on Thursday, the new GOP rebranding effort is actually a re-emergence vehicle for the Bush Family, specifically the originally anointed one, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, the man who did everything in his power to seal his state for his brother back in the disputed, anti-democratic (small "d") 2000 Presidential election.

This is the elected official who had his election commissioner, glitzy hack Katherine Harris, remove 57,700 registered (mainly minority) voters from the rolls for crimes they did not commit and had state troopers blocking access for some minority voters.

If America votes in as President a third member of what Kitty Kelley called a bigger crime family than the Sopranos, after two failed Administrations (the latter most spectacularly), then we deserve all the big business and Christianist damage that follows.

Oh, and on his brother's greatest legacy, America as purveyor or torture, look, how the insiders are starting to leak out their differences...i.e. positioning for the official inquiry(ies) to come.

And why wouldn't they, when even fourth graders are calling them on it.