Today former President Barack Obama spoke to students at the University of Illinois. Read it.
And let me tell you something, particularly young people here, better is good. I used to have to tell my young staff this all the time in the White House, better is good. That’s the history of progress in this country—not perfect, better. The Civil Rights Act didn’t end racism, but it made things better. Social Security didn’t eliminate all poverty for seniors, but it made things better for millions of people.
Do not let people tell you the fight’s not worth it, because you won’t get everything that you want. The idea that, well, there’s racism in America, so I’m not going to bother voting, no point—that makes no sense. You can make it better. Better’s always worth fighting for…
It looks to me as if an ambitious prosecutor could rid us of our so-called “president” without going to all the trouble of impeachment. Anybody listening over there at the FBI? Anybody?
“Whoever, within the United States, knowingly begins or sets on foot or provides or prepares a means for or furnishes the money for, or takes part in, any military or naval expedition to be carried on from thence against the territory or domination of any foreign prince or state or of any colony, district or people with whom the United States is at peace, shall be fined not more than $3,000 or imprisoned not more than three years, or both.”
—U.S. Code, Title 18, Section 960
President Obama, God love him in this instance at least, has finally cracked open the door to Cuba. Soon it will swing wide, in spite of all the shrieking from the GOP and a few Democrats. Their corporate supervisors will see to that. There is, after all, money to be made down there. Count on it, it won’t be long before Sheldon Adelson opens a casino in Havana, with the kind of floor show too hot for even Las Vegas. The legendary Superman himself must be long dead, but surely Sheldon could come up with another foot-long Cuban hot dog to sit up straight for the Yankee tourists.
But enough of the future. Let’s look at the pointless, stupid and murderous past: the undeclared war on Cuba we have been waging for more than half a century. Its most active phase began under Saint Jack, and would have led to a nuclear holocaust if a grown-up, Nikita Khrushchev, hadn’t stepped in at the cost of his own career. Instead our little weenie war continued under a series of cowardly presidents who all, except Saint Ronnie, certainly knew better. So two cheers for President Obama (It would have been three if he hadn’t stalled around till he was re-elected).
For those who have forgotten the backstory of this vicious folly or never knew it, here’s a brief history from Noam Chomsky. We should, as a nation, be ashamed of ourselves. But we, as a nation, consider shame Un-American.
Like all truly workable, practical, sensible and desirable political proposals in the world’s greatest democracy, this one too ain’t never gonna happen. It comes from a comment to this posting on The Dish.
Forget the draft. The way to make both politicians and the electorate think more carefully about our use of military force would be a war tax. Imagine if every foreign military intervention automatically triggered substantial increases in income tax rates, especially in the top tax brackets. It could be arranged so that multiple simultaneous foreign interventions would cause multiple increases, with two or more interventions leading to essentially confiscatory taxes on incomes over $1M.
I don’t know whether a draft would really cause anyone to think more about their foreign policy choices, but if I know Republicans, confiscatory taxes would definitely do the trick. It also seems more just: the draft idea deprives young people of their freedom and possibly their lives in an attempt to influence the donor class’ political choices, while the war tax would leave young people alone and directly target the kinds of people who hold influence over politicians.
The excerpt below is from an op-ed in the New York Times by Karl W. Eikenberry and David M. Kennedy. The first is a retired general and former ambassador to Afghanistan; the second is an emeritus professor of history at Stanford. Read the whole article. It is the only intelligent and useful thing about the military you are likely to run across on Memorial Day.
…The Congressional Research Service has documented 144 military deployments in the 40 years since adoption of the all-voluntary force in 1973, compared with 19 in the 27-year period of the Selective Service draft following World War II — an increase in reliance on military force traceable in no small part to the distance that has come to separate the civil and military sectors. The modern force presents presidents with a moral hazard, making it easier for them to resort to arms with little concern for the economic consequences or political accountability. Meanwhile, Americans are happy to thank the volunteer soldiers who make it possible for them not to serve, and deem it is somehow unpatriotic to call their armed forces to task when things go awry…
…Mother Nature has her little ways of upgrading the gene pool. From Raycom News Network:
“Urologists across the country have noticed a trend in men over the last few years who are getting their vasectomies at the time of March Madness,” Schwartz said. “You have a perfect excuse to watch basketball all weekend.”
Many urology centers report a dramatic increase in the number of vasectomies they perform this time of year, saying business increases by as much as 50 percent.
This modest legislative proposal from James Howard Kunstler deserves the widest possible circulation. So tweet it, poke it, Digg it, friend it, or whatever it is people do to make stuff go viral.
By computerizing all the phone systems we allowed every company, agency, and institution to dump all of their transactional inconveniences onto us, the customers, clients, and citizens. That was done in the name of “efficiency,” another unexamined evil buzzword from the MBA playbook of mendacious bullshit that passes for received wisdom in this deluded nation of craven Babbitts.
Thus, the Acme Corporation gets to save $250-K a year in combined salaries and benefits of what used to be called telephone operators or receptionists. Meanwhile, tens of thousands of Acme callers every year get strung out, jerked off, fucked around, driven mad, and just plain lost in the wilderness of robotic phone trees they are induced to enter in the name of “efficiency…”
The sheer cruelty and stupidity implicit here is too great to calculate — has anyone ever tried? Has anyone at MIT’s Sloan School or the University of Chicago, or Wharton ever tried to measure the suffering inflicted on the American public in the name of all this vaunted efficiency?
Is there anyone reading this blog right now who had not ended such a phone call in tears this past year, or dashed their handset against the wall, or, worst of all, actually found themselves engaged in an insult match with the robot at the other end of the line…
Hence, wishing to oppose these evil and tragic tendencies in the current flow of our history, I offer a potent policy initiative to create hundreds of thousands of jobs in this country: the 2012 Answer the Fucking Telephone Act. My proposal won’t cost a dime. Simply get congress and the senate to pass a law stating that in X, Y, and Z essential services and business, all incoming phone calls must be answered by real human beings, with criminal penalties for failing to do so.
Add to that another layer of less essential businesses, institutions, agencies, and organizations who would not be subject to criminal penalties but would have to pay a substantial tax for every phone line not manned by a live operator — the tax designed to exceed the average salary and benefit package that could otherwise be provided to employ such a worker.
In case you have any friends who are opposed to Obama’s health care plan but amenable to reason — admittedly a tiny demographic — you might direct them to this article by Sarah Kliff in The Washington Post.
Two-and-a-half years later, Baptists’ surgeons have earned more than $950,000 in bonuses. Medicare, meanwhile, has netted savings: Its bundled rate is about 5 percent lower than all the fees it used to pay out for the same services. “It wasn’t a home-run,” says Zucker, noting the start-up costs in administering the program — not to mention a handful of lost employees. “But I’d call it a solid triple…”
Although it’s not fully implemented, some say the Affordable Care Act has already significantly catalyzed the health-care system. Leaders know where Medicare wants to go, even if they didn’t chart an especially aggressive path for how it would get there. “Forever and a day, everybody had been saying we had to change the way we paid for health care,” Roades says. “Now, we have a sense of direction of where the country’s biggest payer is headed. And that provides cover for everybody else to move in that direction…”
But the system, he says, is shifting away from it. “The goal, quite simply, is to improve our quality metrics and bring down per-capita costs,” Blum continued. “That’s going to be the ultimate success.” When Baptist Health Systems started down this path in 2008, it had little idea where it would lead or whether the doctors would revolt. Now that 78 percent of his doctors have received bonus checks, Zucker is more confident.
AMARILLO, Texas – The last of the nation's most powerful nuclear bombs — a weapon hundreds of times stronger than the bomb dropped on Hiroshima — is being disassembled nearly half a century after it was put into service at the height of the Cold War.
The final components of the B53 bomb will be broken down Tuesday at the Pantex Plant near Amarillo, the nation's only nuclear weapons assembly and disassembly facility. The completion of the dismantling program is a year ahead of schedule, according to the U.S. Department of Energy's National Nuclear Security Administration, and aligns with President Barack Obama's goal of reducing the number of nuclear weapons…
When I was a young reporter at the long-defunct Washington Daily News, I was contacted by a group of county employees from the Maryland suburb — whistleblowers, as we didn’t yet call them. They wanted us to expose their supervisor’s use of county equipment and workers to improve his home. I told them that they would lose their jobs if the story ran. They said they didn’t care. I wrote the story. They lost their jobs.
That is what happens to government whistleblowers almost a hundred percent of the time. (I suspect you could drop the “almost” when it comes to the private sector.) In the real world any bureaucrat with an I.Q. in the double digits is smart enough to figure out how to violate the Whistleblower Protection Act without getting punished.
So I admire Carolyn Lerner and wish her well in her lonely fight against human nature. Maybe this time…
There’s been something special lately about the Office of Special Counsel.
It’s doing its job.
OSC is an independent federal agency with a long and well-deserved reputation for failing to protect federal whistleblowers, although part of its mission is “to safeguard the merit system by protecting federal employees and applicants from prohibited personnel practices…”
Carolyn Lerner gets the credit. She was sworn in as special counsel in June.
Her “tenure is very young, but she hit the ground running and appears to be fearless,” said Thomas Devine, legal director of the Government Accountability Project, a whistleblower advocacy group…
Kerry Trueman at AlterNet explores the question of why those irritating Danes go around smiling all the time:
KT: Denmark is famous for having so much less income inequality; do kitchen workers in Danish restuarants make a decent salary?
TH: Yes, a dishwasher in Denmark gets $25 an hour.
KT: Do they get sick days and benefits, too?
TH: Yes, and a pension, and health care, and maternity leave. To me, the more equal your society is, the better it is for everybody. It’s not right for a country as rich as yours to have so many poor people. This thing with Americans and taxes, I don’t understand it.
I make quite a lot of money, I pay 67% tax on much of it, and I don’t mind. I like the idea that the girl who’s sitting next to my daughter, whose mother is a cleaning lady, has exactly the same opportunity to get an education that my daughter has. I don’t think that’s socialism. To me, that’s human decency. That girl didn’t choose her parents, why shouldn’t she have the same opportunities?
I never thought I’d be holding up Bill Clinton as a profile in ballsiness, but here goes. This is from historian Taylor Branch’s 2009 book, The Clinton Tapes:
On tape, Clinton said he had pleaded for calm, and he described the climactic confrontation since as deceptively quiet. A week ago tonight, he almost whispered to Gingrich and Dole his reasons to veto their last, loaded resolutions keeping the government afloat. “You’re not the only people with convictions,” he told them.
His spiel extended full credit for sincerity to the other side. They all wanted to balance the budget, but they could finish the job without riders to the budget that would throw 380,000 kids out of Head Start. Or slash college funds or Medicaid.
If he must close the government to uphold countervailing values, so be it. He promised Gingrich and Dole that they would feel his priorities before this was over. Gingrich especially seemed shaken by the final notice. They were going over the cliff after all, and the Speaker quickly confided his surprise. All his calculations had assumed Clinton would bend or fold.
Clinton said he thought Gingrich and his caucus were fooled by their own propaganda about the moral force of their proclaimed crusade. In the past week of shock or shutdown, as the President’s approval ratings skyrocketed while those of Congress plummeted, they clung to hopes that the adverse reaction was temporary panic. The president thought the mainstream press fed their delusion by attributing his success to nimble posturing and salesmanship — anything but a strong stand on principle…
Since the 1980s, Republicans projected absurdly high growth and low inflation in order to conceal their massive accumulation of public debt, while the Republican Congress now was predicting years of low growth and high inflation to justify their maximum cuts in nonmilitary programs…
His polls had shot up nearly to 70 percent with the likeliest voters, 55 and older, even though he had not yet gotten to veto appropriations slashing Medicare and Medicaid. He said these shutdown vetoes were magnificent teaching tools … If the next continuing resolution contained more poisoned riders as the price of reopening the government, he would veto that, too, gaining a platform to explain. “There are horrible things in there,” he said. “People have no idea.”
A San Francisco-based advocacy group known as Male Genital Mutilation Bill has collected enough signatures on its petition to ban circumcision that the proposal will appear on the city's November electoral ballot…
The rate of complications resulting from circumcision is lower than ear piercing, between 0.2% and 0.6%, with some bleeding as the most frequent complication…
Claims about psychological harm caused by neonatal circumcision are based mainly on anecdotes and Freudian psychoanalysis. If circumcision had the traumatic effects some opponents maintain it has, roughly two out of every three American males would be in trouble.
That last sentence settles it for me. Two out of three American males in fact are in psychological trouble, and possibly a good many more. Concern for the general welfare argues that we should leave future foreskins alone.
Is John McCain coming to his senses at last? Is the old maverick risen from the grave? From Greg Sargent’s Plum Line, here’s an excerpt from a speech the senator gave today:
“With so much misinformation being fed into such an essential public debate as this one, I asked the Director of Central Intelligence, Leon Panetta, for the facts. And I received the following information:
“The trail to bin Laden did not begin with a disclosure from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who was waterboarded 183 times. We did not first learn from Khalid Sheikh Mohammed the real name of bin Laden’s courier, or his alias, Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti — the man who ultimately enabled us to find bin Laden. The first mention of the name Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti, as well as a description of him as an important member of Al-Qaeda, came from a detainee held in another country. The United States did not conduct this detainee’s interrogation, nor did we render him to that country for the purpose of interrogation. We did not learn Abu Ahmed’s real name or alias as a result of waterboarding or any ‘enhanced interrogation technique’ used on a detainee in U.S. custody. None of the three detainees who were waterboarded provided Abu Ahmed’s real name, his whereabouts, or an accurate description of his role in Al-Qaeda.
“In fact, not only did the use of ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ on Khalid Sheikh Mohammed not provide us with key leads on bin Laden’s courier, Abu Ahmed; it actually produced false and misleading information. Khalid Sheikh Mohammed specifically told his interrogators that Abu Ahmed had moved to Peshawar, got married, and ceased his role as an Al-Qaeda facilitator — which was not true, as we now know. All we learned about Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti through the use of waterboarding and other ‘enhanced interrogation techniques’ against Khalid Sheik Mohammed was the confirmation of the already known fact that the courier existed and used an alias.
“I have sought further information from the staff of the Senate Intelligence Committee, and they confirm for me that, in fact, the best intelligence gained from a CIA detainee — information describing Abu Ahmed al-Kuwaiti’s real role in Al-Qaeda and his true relationship to Osama bin Laden — was obtained through standard, non-coercive means, not through any ‘enhanced interrogation technique.’
“In short, it was not torture or cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment of detainees that got us the major leads that ultimately enabled our intelligence community to find Osama bin Laden. I hope former Attorney General Mukasey will correct his misstatement. It’s important that he do so because we are again engaged in this important debate, with much at stake for America’s security and reputation. Each side should make its own case, but do so without making up its own facts.”
This is from a Measure of America report which contains, along with a whole raft of other things you didn’t know, the following:
Rankings by state, for each major racial and ethnic group, on the American Human Development Index. The index reveals that the starkest disparities in well-being fall not between blacks and whites, but between Native Americans and Asian Americans. Asian Americans as a group top the rankings, with Asian Americans in New Jersey coming in at number one. If current trends continue, it will take Native Americans in South Dakota an entire century to catch up with where New Jersey Asian Americans are now in terms of life expectancy, educational enrollment and attainment, and median earnings.
And now, for a change of pace, some good news. Bill Clinton’s misbegotten child, DADT, is dead. Everybody has heard this by now, but whole generations of younger Americans can’t understand just how good this news really is. One who can is author Perry Deane Young, an army veteran and a war correspondent in Vietnam. Let him tell you how it was in the bad old days:
Like many thousands before and since, I lied when I came to this line in the Army’s health questionnaire: “Do you now or have you ever had …. homosexual tendencies?” I had been actively, if secretively, homosexual since early puberty, but I also knew the brutal consequences of being open about those “tendencies.”
There came a moment of terror for me in February of 1967 when I stood at the alphabetical end of hundreds of soldiers posing for our graduation picture at the Fort Gordon Military Police School. Lost among that anonymous sea of olive drab, I was stunned to hear my name called out by one of the officers standing down front.
Words cannot begin to describe the fear and dread going through my mind as I slowly made my way to the front. Like all homosexuals at that time, I lived in constant fear of being “found out.” I honestly felt my hopes and dreams for the future would come crashing down. In fact, I felt I would never have a future except as some silly societal category of lesser human being…
My fears turned out to be unfounded. An officer handed me my diploma and I slowly made my way back into the stands, amid the whispers of what’s he done, why’s he so special?
To this day, I have no idea why I was singled out. All I know is that in that moment, I realized that I could not live with that sort of terror. Some day, somehow, I would have to deal with it. I could not live a lie. A wise old survivor of the death camps in Nazi Germany said it best: “Freedom is not having to lie about who you are.”
How can anybody believe that being homosexual is some sort of moral choice? Nobody in his or her right mind would choose to live the way homosexuals were forced to live in the 1950s and 1960s. Even now, the taint of being homosexual is so strong the suicide rate among gay teenage is several times that of heterosexuals. The suicide of the young Rutgers student last year dramatically illustrates how far we have yet to go.
During my time as a correspondent in Vietnam, I simply got up one morning unafraid to be myself. And, yes, there were some wonderful loving moments I cherish from my days among the military in Vietnam. In his book, Dispatches, Michael Herr mentions two Marines “making love” one night during the battle in Hue. And in my own memoir, Two of the Missing, I describe having sex with a Marine in Danang, a Navy Lieutenant in Saigon and an Army captain in Phu Bai.
Simply put, there have been homosexuals and homosexual activity among service men and women for as long as there have been service men and women. John Horne Burns’ The Galleria was a barely fictionalized account of gay American soldiers in World War II Italy.
The Marine Corps commandant is simply over-reacting to outdated images of homosexuality and masculinity in his recent statements against repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He does a disservice to homosexuals and to the Marines. He helps perpetuate the myth that homosexuals are weak and can’t be trusted to control themselves in a professional manner — and he also seems to think the Marines are redneck rubes who can’t handle being around somebody different.
The truth is the commandant is not nearly as aware of societal changes or as sophisticated as the troops he commands. He is concerned about image, and nothing more. The current Marines grew up in an environment of sexual and racial tolerance where being gay is simply not an issue. They also know that the old stereotypes of homosexuals as sissies, pansies, fairies are no more valid than the old stereotypes that denigrated people of color in our country.
The Marine commandant is wrong about homosexuals and wrong about the kind of men and women who serve in the U.S. military. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, gave an eloquent summary of both counts in his testimony before a senate committee on Feb. 2, 2010:
Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me personally, it comes down to integrity—theirs as individuals and ours as an institution. I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. I never underestimate their ability to adapt.
As a gay man swiftly slouching toward the age of 70, I am dismayed by the attitudes that still cause gay men and women to kill themselves. But, I am heartened by changes in the laws that will make it possible for young gay Americans to grow up with the same freedoms everybody else enjoys. It reflects a healthier time for homosexuals and for America.
…and have been since that night early in the millenium when I first heard Professor Warren on late night radio as I drove through Virginia on I-95. Thrillingly, she was talking about a trick employed by insurance companies to extort fake “late fees” out of customers. The companies, it seemed, would require East Coast customers to mail their payments to a West Coast address, and vice versa. That way a sucker could pay on the dot but still incur a late fee because of the extra day or so in the mail. A few million pennies here, a few million pennies there… It all added up.
Here, I knew at once, was a woman who really, truly understood me to the depths of my socialist soul. We two could find true happiness together, I said hopelessly to myself as I drove forlorn and lonely through the gathering dark of Bush’s America.
Charles J. Brown at Undiplomatic says: “I hope that some very smart Democrat makes sure this bad boy goes viral, because nothing does a better job of summarizing the difference between the two parties.”
I don't claim to be that smart, but I will do my part to make it viral. Pssst! Pass it on!
Pelosi’s great advantage is she has played her cards early and is a proven, aggressive political operative … Yet going forward, Pelosi will have to answer herself for some of the legislative shortcuts taken in her fierce “damn the torpedoes” march toward final passage. “She’s impressive, horrifying at times, but impressive,” said one person who observed the speaker closely in weeks of backroom meetings.
From Bette Noir’s blog, The Frump Gazette. Which I have just discovered, and recommend. I agree with her about President Obama’s political strategy; I hope we’re both right.
Well, frumps, things are definitely starting to look up for Democrats and the Obama administration if my Lunatic Fringe barometer can still be trusted. I’ve discovered, over the past year, that there is a quantifiable inverse relation between the fortunes of the Obama White House and threats of violence from the far-right reaches of the blogosphere. None too stable at the best of times, these folks have a tendency to fly around the room backwards whenever Obama shows signs of succeeding at advancing his domestic social policy agenda.
Obama has an interesting way of achieving his ends. He allows debate to rage unbridled, allows people to act out and vent melodramatically until we are all simply exhausted by the topic. Then, as we mentally move on, he quietly administers CPR and, next thing you know, dead-in-the-water issues are moving apace toward realization. It’s a pretty impressive strategy, to me, at least.
Just think about the health care reform battle. A year went by while we raged and fumed on our various sides of the issue. As Obama put it in his Health Care Summit, last week, “everything that could be said, had been said.” Gray-haired grannies duked it out with the local teamsters in Town Halls. Conspiracy theorists pumped up the volume and warned us all of The New World Order and/or Socialism/Fascism that lie just around the corner…
As an antidote to the contemptible drivel in my last posting, here’s Joe Bageant (shown below) on the same subject:
…We are all brothers and as such are our brother's keeper. Besides, when I look around me, I do not see a nation of leeches. I see damned few folks getting something for nothing. I see the top dogs, who actually are getting something for nothing, using the bullhorn of media to convince us that one of our brothers and neighbors is getting everything. They would have us believe that the most miserable among us — the poorly educated and those whose souls have been brutalized from birth by the system’s failure to provide the basic security necessary for the development of whole people — are indeed getting something for nothing. And further believe that the most wretched deprived among us are a causal factor in the upcoming and rightful collapse of the overall meanest economic system ever devised. I see an empire of theft and coercion — both of our own people and others around the world in our name — which names the victim as the perp.
And I see a people who no longer feel the bonds of coursing humanity and their species, the sustaining earth under their feet, and beneath whose carpet their eternity waits. Rather I see a people conditioned to believe in the state and obey the state’s designated bosses. And I see the moving hand of the corporate state active in all things from birth to death — opening the eyes of the newly born and closing those of the newly dead. There’s a profit to be made in both, and every human activity in between.
Even those among us who can see, who can observe the hardening condition induced by the enemies of human liberty and well being, feel powerless in the face of this darkening and omniscient order. Despite the quadrennial claims of our political parties during national election years, no savior has arrived and none is coming. No Obama, no miracle of “green science,” no national genius will emerge to lead us. We have only the simple, direct, undeceived intelligence of ordinary men and women to rely upon. We must regain respect for the seemingly meager and often lonely powers an individual does have, and choose work and a way of living upon which we can all rely…
Scott Horton over at Harper’s No Comment Blog is rightly agonizing over the fact that we have a torture enabler and what some have seriously referred to as a monster sitting on the Federal Bench. This “subject” ( I use the term here to properly refer to this individual as a prosecutor or police offer would do when an accused is referred to in court) sits on a federal bench judging others who are guilty of much lesser crimes. After all, torturers and torture enablers were routinely hanged by Allied Courts at Nuremburg and in the Pacific Theater after World War II. American court officials routinely participated in these proceedings.
Some may think all of this is quite complicated, but I find it simple since the solution to resolving the problem is quite simple. I am of the opinion that simple problems can be resolved with simple solutions.
Therefore I propose a remedy to the Bybee problem, a problem that every decent lawyer knows is a black eye on the Federal Judiciary and will remain so for years to come if not remedied. I am therefore making an extremely modest proposal which I propose should be taken seriously, despite my labeling this post as partly snark.
The US needs an official representative from our esteemed judiciary to view the proceedings in Spain to ensure that they are carried out in a fair manner. I am sure the Spanish courts would be happy to oblige us if we were to choose the proper emissary. If I were the presiding judge or court official who could carry out the task of assigning the court official to engage in this duty, I would immediately assign this task to a new judge. Since Judge Bybee would have intimate knowledge of what the proceedings were about, he should be sent immediately to Spain to fulfill his judicial duties.
Of course, this might involve the devil and the deep blue sea, rocks and hard places, frying pans and fires and dozens of other things and places that go together like crude oil mixes with water. However, those are individual problems that at least one individual will have to deal with.
However this proposal is not without precedent. Robert Houghwout Jackson was sent to participate in the Nuremberg trials. Why should Judge Bybee not likewise be assigned a task in another country along the same lines? Younger judges should be given the traveling assignments in my opinion and Judge Bybee fills the bill for this assignment perfectly.
I am of the opinion that Judge Jay S. Bybee should be given this assignment forthwith, with Hillary Clinton at the State Department making proper accommodations for his stay, preferably in a five star hotel, for as long as those fine accommodations last. And if free accommodations are given by the Spaniards to one of our own, the Federal Budget would be that much better off. Allowing such an emissary diplomatic immunity is beyond the scope of this modest assignment of course, so that should definitely not be given as it is definitely not needed due to our emissary’s somewhat limited assigned duties. A few select CIA agents might be assigned the task of ensuring the judge’s security.
This assignment should be a mandatory assignment. Refusal to do one’s duty as a judge would of course mean impeachment.
Or Judge Bybee could spare himself and everyone else great embarrassment for years to come by doing the right thing. And he and all right thinking Americans know exactly what that is.
Mr. Obama, are you listening? Some of your former supporters are getting the opinion that you are going to end up letting the Europeans take care of American problems. If we don’t deal with letting the rule of law determine what happens to the torturers and their enablers, then we can expect the pattern and the behavior to repeat itself.
I hope to be dead by then and I don’t and won’t have any children to worry about what they may have to endure when the cycle repeats. Others are not so lucky.
Asher Pavel sends along this pathetic plea:
My sister Patsy went door-to-door for Obama in Michigan, as she wrote about weeks ago here. For weeks my brother Bill worked the phones for Obama in his Pennsylvania hometown, East Stroudsburg. Monroe County, in some small part due to him, went for the Democrat by 11,000 votes.
My lawyer son Ted took unpaid leave to travel to Pennsylvania work the phones as well, and on election day he did sentry duty at two polling places in Philadelphia.
And the blogger Papa Bonk went to Erie County, Pennsylvania to — cut up stickers. The thanks of a grateful nation (and world, for that matter) are due to all four of them, and to hundreds of thousands of others like them, and now here’s Papa Bonk:
Busch (sic) was a continual embarrassment … and finally an endless source of humor. That was his highest value.
Funny how I started getting the idea that it was my fault. Something my daddy told me one election night when he took me and my brother to the county courthouse to watch the election returns come in. “Politics starts with setting up chairs at the committee meeting,” he said, “Somebody has to do it.”
So I went to Pennsylvania…
Friday night before the election I am in Edinboro’s little store front office. I have a stack of sheets of stickers with a nice picture of Barack Obama that say Vote November 4. I am one of three people who are cutting them out and putting them into a box. I am using a little pair of scissors that hurt my hand. Someone asks,“What are you doing that for?”
“I don’t know,” I said. “Georgia (the office manager) asked for them.”
“How many will you do?” I am asked.
“As many as it takes to win,” I said.
I have been reading Gore Vidal’s memoir, Palimpsest, and believe me, he gives great gossip. What person of delicate discernment could fail to love a book that gets right down to business on page seven with this little life lesson taught by Mrs. John F. Kennedy to the author’s still-virginal 19-year-old half sister, immediately following the latter’s wedding:
Later that day, in a bathroom at Merrywood, the Virginia house where we had all served time as stepchildren or children of Hugh Dudley Auchincloss, Jr. (known as Hughdie or, more often, poor Hughdie), Jackie hitched up her gown and showed the innocent Nini how to douche post-sex, one foot in the bathtub and the other on the white-tiled floor.
Nor will you want to miss the description of how Vidal’s mother, poor Hughdie being impotent, had been obliged to conceive Nini in the first place with the assistance of a spoon. But I digress. Our text today is from page 89, where Gore writes of his schoolboy years at Exeter, prewar:
This was at the height of the struggle between the America Firsters, of which I was one of the student leaders, and the interventionists, which included most of the Anglophile faculty. Of the teachers, only Tom Riggs was on my side. A radical young man, he had, while at Princeton, organized the Veterans of Future Wars. This caused a national stir, particularly when he demanded that we be given our bonuses now, before the war and possible death.
We have since adopted the Riggs plan more or less intact, handing out generous enlistment bonuses to the lower classes and recouping the cost at the other end by scrimping on medical care and educational benefits for those veterans who make it home alive.
This reversal of the World War II pattern has so far kept the suckers quiet, or enough of them anyway. For every Cindy Sheehan there were three or four Cindy McCains (although none of them, it is safe to say, was nearly as rich). And Bush was able to get so close to being elected in 2004 that he was able to steal the White House again, this time in Ohio.
But eight years of whacking America’s normally docile proletariat over the head with a two-by-four may have finally succeeded in getting the mule’s attention. If so, President Obama might want to dust off the old World War II approach to veterans affairs and see if it still works.
…There is a much better solution to the current financial crisis. But it requires discarding what has been conventional “wisdom” for too long: that government intervention in the economy (“big government”) must be avoided like the plague, because the “free market” will guide the economy towards growth and justice.
Let’s face a historical truth: we have never had a “free market”, we have always had government intervention in the economy, and indeed that intervention has been welcomed by the captains of finance and industry. They had no quarrel with “big government” when it served their needs.
It started way back, when the founding fathers met in Philadelphia in 1787 to draft the constitution. The first big bail-out was the decision of the new government to redeem for full value the almost worthless bonds held by speculators. And this role of big government, supporting the interests of the business classes, continued all through the nation’s history.
The rationale for taking $700bn from the taxpayers to subsidise huge financial institutions is that somehow that wealth will trickle down to the people who need it. This has never worked…
RALEIGH, N.C. — L.F. Eason III gave up the only job he’d ever had rather than lower a flag to honor former U.S. Sen. Jesse Helms…
“Regardless of any executive proclamation, I do not want the flags at the North Carolina Standards Laboratory flown at half staff to honor Jesse Helms any time this week,” Eason wrote just after midnight, according to e-mail messages released in response to a public records request.
He told his staff that he did not think it was appropriate to honor Helms because of his “doctrine of negativity, hate, and prejudice” and his opposition to civil rights bills and the federal Martin Luther King Jr. holiday.
Susan Sontag, who read books and learned from them and was in many other ways a suspicious person, wrote the following a few days after 9/11. Fools and warhogs, always in the majority, promptly called her a despicable traitor to all that America holds dear. Time has told.
The disconnect between last Tuesday’s monstrous dose of reality and the self-righteous drivel and outright deceptions being peddled by public figures and TV commentators is startling, depressing. The voices licensed to follow the event seem to have joined together in a campaign to infantilize the public.
Where is the acknowledgment that this was not a “cowardly” attack on “civilization” or “liberty” or “humanity” or “the free world” but an attack on the world’s self-proclaimed superpower, undertaken as a consequence of specific American alliances and actions? How many citizens are aware of the ongoing American bombing of Iraq?
And if the word “cowardly” is to be used, it might be more aptly applied to those who kill from beyond the range of retaliation, high in the sky, than to those willing to die themselves in order to kill others. In the matter of courage (a morally neutral virtue): whatever may be said of the perpetrators of Tuesday’s slaughter, they were not cowards…
Let’s by all means grieve together. But let’s not be stupid together. A few shreds of historical awareness might help us understand what has just happened, and what may continue to happen. “Our country is strong,” we are told again and again. I for one don’t find this entirely consoling. Who doubts that America is strong? But that’s not all America has to be.
If you want to read something sane about America’s immigration nonproblem for a change, try this from Pierre Tristam. Pierre is an immigrant himself, from Lebanon, and I’d happily exchange a couple of hundred thousand nativist flamers, slack jaws flecked with foam, for a few more like him. Pierre is a columnist for the Daytona Beach News-Journal and blogs at Candide’s Notebooks.
Why do Muslims in Spain and England feel compelled to blow up trains and buses, Muslims in France feel compelled to riot and Muslims in Holland to murder in the name of Allah, while Muslims in the United States seem content to grab their piece of suburbia and, at worst, vote Republican (as they overwhelmingly did in 2000, but, quick learners that they are, not in 2004)? The question lends itself to many answers, some of them emblematic of the difference between Europe and the United States in one regard: The United States has generally done an admirable job of accepting and integrating its immigrants. Europe hasn't…
Here we learn that crickets in Utah are already living the Republican dream:
But in the deserts of Utah, Dr. Couzin and his colleagues discovered that giant swarms may actually be made up of a lot of selfish individuals.
Mormon crickets will sometimes gather by the millions and crawl in bands stretching more than five miles long. Dr. Couzin and his colleagues ran experiments to find out what caused them to form bands. They found that the forces behind cricket swarms are very different from the ones that bring locusts together. When Mormon crickets cannot find enough salt and protein, they become cannibals.
“Each cricket itself is a perfectly balanced source of nutrition,” Dr. Couzin said. “So the crickets, every 17 seconds or so, try to attack other individuals. If you don’t move, you’re likely to be eaten.”
The war on terror is also a political argument about political priorities and acceptable political reasoning. It is one that subscribes to the ‘precautionary principle’ of ‘better safe than sorry’, where even if no risk can be proved, it is better to prevent the risk from ever emerging. Mueller’s point is a necessary but insufficient part of the critical argument.
The harder part of the argument is to say that security should not be the number one priority of society, and security is here meant in the broadest sense. That is to say, not just in relation to terrorism, but in relation to a broader culture of fear and sense of vulnerability. For even if many do not believe there is a specific terrorist threat, there is a much wider acceptance of the idea that it is legitimate for the government to act to allay public fears, even when those fears have a thin, insubstantial basis.
Major new analysis by Teixeira of the Democrats’ chances to stop or at least stanch Bush’s nation-weakening in the elections this fall.
Bottom line: the climate is favorable, and the Democrats have an opportunity to return the country to strength, as long as they have the sense and self-confidence to put forth a forceful agenda responsive to the clear anti-Bush majorities on specific big issues, such as opposition to the war and fixing the health care insurance system.
Here find the faintest whisper of what a real, truly effective global war on terrorism by the United States would look like:
A small U.S. military task force in East Africa is installing water pumps, rebuilding schools and health clinics, making medical house calls and training national armies — all part of a mission to stabilize a region that’s seen as a potential breeding ground for terrorist groups.… [Said]the task force commander, “We do water projects and build schools that help a poor child in a village, and in 20 years that child will remember us.”
My concern is that now that this tiny $11 million program, inadequate though it is, has been in the newspaper, it will be shut down by the Weakener-in-Chief, since it strengthens America and makes us safer, thus explicitly violating his ironclad policy of weakening our country while doing whatever it takes to strengthen the Muslim hate merchants.
It is to be hoped that on January 20, 2009, America will be able to start a real, effective GWOT, and make up for seven costly wasted years.
It is always good to return to the fact that, contrary to the simplistic Reagan view that policies good for workers are bad for business, morally correct social policies often are also correct in business and economic terms. One good example has been the business community’s recent slow-dawning acknowledgement that universal health care in the end would benefit employers and stockholders and help U.S. companies compete internationally.
Another example of a morally correct policy that strengthens the nation in business and economic terms:
In one research paper, Investing in Disadvantaged Young Children Is an Economically Efficient Policy, Nobel Prize-winning economist James K. Heckman of the University of Chicago said that preschool and other early interventions for disadvantaged children “raise the quality of the workforce, enhance the productivity of schools and reduce crime, teenage pregnancy, and welfare dependency. They raise earnings and promote social attachment. Focusing solely on earnings gains, returns to dollars invested are as high as 15-17 percent” (per year).
And, as with the health insurance issue, a majority of business executives are starting to realize that it behooves corporate America to invest in universal early childhood eductation:
The findings reinforce studies that prove children who attend high quality pre-kindergarten are more likely to graduate from high school, be involved in their communities and succeed in the workplace.
“Concerns about the quality of the American workforce and our economic future were implicit in the responses of business leaders,” said John Zogby, president of Zogby International. “What was truly surprising was not just the recognition that pre-kindergarten is essential to a better educated workforce, but that 63 percent of the business leaders favor active support for such universal programs by the business sector.”
With all this in mind, it can be seen that the fact that one in six preschool teachers needs a second job to make ends meet is more than just wrong; it actually