Monday, June 30, 2008


I knew it was getting chilly in here. That's because my premonitions of an evil shift to the mushy middle by our presumptive Democratic nominee are being borne out by what Obama has done over the past few weeks. I was willing to tolerate the silence on the 2nd Amendment ruling because it would also help shut the accursed NRA up on the issue. But he didn't stop there: in the past three weeks he has pulled off his former questioning attitude towards NAFTA; he has endorsed the death penalty for rape of a child--in other words, he agreed with the minority of the Supreme Court and embraced the same position as Scalia and Thomas, something that by very definition is wrong; he has wimped out on the wiretap bill, something he ought to be raising hell about. Instead he endorsed the toothless compromise that tickled the vile little fraud in the White House plumb to death. Lately he's been stiffening his stance against Iran, by underscoring his determination to protect Israel from Iran. In effect this dilutes his oft-stated position that negotiation is the way to handle the Iranians.

All of this probably because his handlers have told him that he must do these things to attract the undecided voters. Well, I say to hell with this strategy. Arianna Huffington says it better than I can:

The Obama brand has always been about inspiration, a new kind of politics, the audacity of hope, and "change we can believe in." I like that brand. More importantly, voters -- especially unlikely voters -- like that brand.

Pulling it off the shelf and replacing it with a political product geared to pleasing America's vacillating swing voters -- the ones who will be most susceptible to the fear-mongering avalanche that has already begun -- would be a fatal blunder.

Realpolitik is one thing. Realstupidpolitik is quite another.

I really cannot stand, loathe, break out in hives when I hear it or think it: the idea of a John McCain presidency. Oh Lord, please save us from such a fate. What got Obama to where he is now is being an inspiring politician who has made us believe that he's actually different than the rest of those pandering, cringing assholes in Washington. Lately he's beginning to sound just like them. What we don't need now is another politician who acts like all the rest of them. What we do need is one with a set of serviceable gonads on him.

Happiness is Warm Guns for Everybody

OK. Just a few comments about the Supreme Court's ruling last week that the 2nd Amendment protects an individual's right to own a gun for self-defense.
  • As a card-carrying liberal crazy, I'm against this interpretation. As clear as it seems to be to some people that the amendment plainly means everybody can have a gun, it's just as clear to me that the language has to do with members of the militia. I'm in good company: Supreme Court justices Breyer and Stevens agree with me. ;-)
  • The decision was not unexpected. The vote was 5-4. I've been getting emails from a gun nut friend more or less gloating about the coming decision for several months. The solid four-guy block of conservative votes on the Court practically means that any victory for the good guys is by definition going to be thin. (I sincerely hope that if Obama wins the White House, he will quickly get to appoint two or three young justices to the Court so we can get around this.)
  • I read somewhere, forget where, that Obama has sidled over to the popular view (pro-gun) on this issue since he's running for prez. He was on record the other way before. The same piece mentioned how this was not necessarily a bad thing since it took this issue away from the right for the campaign. OK. I'll buy that.
  • I also read that gun control has not been shut off by this ruling. Basically, it says the Constitution allows everybody to have a gun for self-defense, unless there's a good reason for them not to. Like being a convicted criminal, a juvenile, or a certified nut case, to cite a few obvious examples. So maybe, looking on the bright side, this ruling will shut the fucking NRA up about this Second Amendment thing--you know their old standard line: that every single law about guns is about taking my gun away--and force them to start actually dealing with the issue of sensible gun control rather than foaming about what was always a red herring.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Shame, The Horror

Herewith a potent depiction of US national policy during the Bush years entitled Abu Ghraib 37 (2005), by artist Fernando Botero.

US Major General Antonio Taguba, who conducted the official US Army investigation of the Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse scandal is in the news again. His career came to end when he released his report on the torture of prisoners in Iraq; he was accused by his Pentagon superiors as being "overzealous" in the way he carried out his investigation and reported his findings. Don't you just love the Pentagon?

Now in a preface to "Broken Laws, Broken Lives" a report of medical evidence of torture on 11 former detainees by Physicians for Human Rights (PHR), the general has openly accused Bush and his administration of war crimes. (Get the report here.) Their victims deserve compensation and an apology from the US government, he says.

And so does the report, which makes several other recommendations, among them a complete investigation of prisoner abuse at other US detention facilities and punishment of anyone at any level who participated in the torture of prisoners--including the rats in the Pentagon and White House who authorized it and the medical professionals connected with the detention and interrogation of detainees.

Suffice it to say that the poor Iraqis--every single one of whom in this report was guiltless of any crime whatever or any connection with terrorists and who was eventually released--have had their bodies, their minds, their spirits, and their lives totally fucked up courtesy of the United States. Here's a list of the so-called "enhanced interrogation techniques" that the PHR demands be prohibited in written standards for all US government agencies. Every single one of them has been employed in US detention facilities in the Bush years:

• Stress positions

• Beatings and other forms of physical assault

• Use of extremes of temperature

• Waterboarding or any other form of simulated drowning

• Threats of harm to the detainee, his family, or friends

• Sleep deprivation

• Sensory bombardment through the use of extreme noise and/or light

• Violent shaking

• Religious, cultural, and sexual humiliation, including, but not limited to, forced nakedness

• Prolonged isolation

• Sensory deprivation, including but not limited to hooding and blindfolding

• Use of psychotropic, mind-altering, or other drugs for the purpose of decreasing resistance or gaining information

• Mock execution

• Exploitation of phobias, psychopathology, or physical vulnerability

• Rape and sexual assault

• Electric shocks

• Deprivation of basic necessities and sanitary conditions

And here, for your edification is an acount of one prisoner's experience under US custody. This man's experience was typical:

Amir is in his late twenties and grew up in a Middle Eastern country. He was a salesman before being arrested by US forces in August 2003 in Iraq . After his arrest, he was forced, while shackled, to stand naked for at least five hours. For the next three days, he and other detainees were deprived of sleep and forced to run for long periods, during which time he injured his foot. After Amir notified a soldier of the injury, the soldier threw him against a wall and Amir lost consciousness. Ultimately, he was taken to another location, where he was kept in a small, dark room for almost a month while being subjected to interrogations that involved shackling, blindfolding, and humiliation. Approximately one month later, he was transferred to Abu Ghraib. At first he was not mistreated, but then was subjected to religious and sexual humiliation, hooding, sleep deprivation, restraint for hours while naked, and dousing with cold water. In the most horrific incident Amir recalled experiencing, he was placed in a foul-smelling room and forced to lay face down in urine, while he was hit and kicked on his back and side. Amir was then sodomized with a broomstick and forced to howl like a dog while a soldier urinated on him. After a soldier stepped on his genitals, he fainted. In July 2004, he was transferred to the prison at Camp Bucca , where he reported no abuse. He was returned to Abu Ghraib in November 2004 and released two days later.

Makes ya damn proud to be an American, don't it?

Saturday, June 21, 2008

It Makes Me Crazy!

The Lehrer News Hour presented it as a compromise, and some Republican twit, I forget who, was droning on about "bipartisanship" and "reaching acrosss the aisle." What horseshit! I could not agree more with Marty Kaplan in yesterday's Huffington Post who blasts the lily-livered Democratic pussies in the House for caving in to the vile little fraud in the White House on two measures he's been hawking for several months.

First, the war funding bill for $162 billion that will provide more than enough to carry the war well into 2009. Democrats had attached some potent strings to the thing, i.e., setting a timetable for US withdrawal. Bush wanted this out, and the Democrats obliged by removing it in exchange for some pumped up benefits for veterans. This last thing is fine, but the legislation could have waited. The war bill could not wait. All that was required was a set of genuine Democratic cajones to tell this miserable little man to take his war and shove it. Bush's approval rating is 25 percent. Nancy Pelosi could hike up her skirt and piss on his leg and nobody would care. But no. What she does is posture and pontificate and then sanction this surrender to the dark side.

Which the Democrats also did on the wire tap bill: not only continuing to allow warrantless wire taps on American citizens but letting the phone companies--who gladly kissed Bush's butt and did the tapping just cuz he asked them to and to hell with the law and Constitution that say you need a warrant to do this--off the hook.
"Immunity for telecom giants that secretly assisted in the NSA's warrantless surveillance undermines the rule of law and the privacy of every American," said Electronic Frontier Foundation Senior Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "Congress should let the courts do their job instead of helping the administration and the phone companies avoid accountability for a half decade of illegal domestic spying. If this legislation passes the Senate and is signed into law, the American people will have lost their last best chance to discover the true scope of the president's wiretapping program and to determine whether or not the law was broken."
There's no doubt the law was broken. Are you kidding? This is the most lawless administration in US history and even with the president at the lowest approval rating ever and a lame, lame duck at that, the Democratic party cannot bring themselves to tell the little twerp no. Which gives Bush the opportunity to go into the Rose Garden and thank the Democrats for their assistance. Assist Bush with anything??? Hell, no! Let him twist in the wind. I tell you, stuff like this makes me crazy.

By the way, US war deaths in Iraq just went over 4,100.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Search Me

. . . and search my laptop, CDs, flash drive, and stand-alone back-up drive, too. This is precisely what the customs and border patrol agents are allowed to do if they damn well please.

That's right. A U.S. Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has upheld the right of these people to poke through your computer files even without reasonable suspicion of a crime. There's an excellent analysis of the issues involved here, but let me put this to you in plain English. The courts have just held that nothing on your computer or any other electronic storage device you're crossing a US border with is immune from search and seizure by a government agent. You would think that to do this, the search would have to be "reasonable." This is a reading of the 4th Amendment that courts have long upheld. They have also said that the executive branch can operate outside of the amendment's requirement for a warrant by something called "border search exception." Makes sense--customs agents at the border should be able to look in your suitcase and luggage without a warrant.

But such searches, the courts have said, must be "reasonable." Searches that involve the person himself, for example, are not reasonable without a warrant. Not any more, says the Ninth Circuit. Not only can these people rummage through all of your files on electronic devices (including your cell phone, by the way), but they can copy them and store them indefinitely if they want. It rejected arguments that a laptop is an extension of a person or his home.

Are you kidding me??? Your private files--emails, web sites, etc.--can be snooped on without any reason whatever? And the government can hold this information for as long as it chooses and use it against you later if it chooses? Correct.

These kind of outrages against civil liberties could not have even been conceived of in days past. But since 9/11 the extension of fascist powers to the government in this country has become routine.

I just happened upon this story. I wonder how many other similar outrages are being done without our knowing?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Unleashed Keith . . .

There are not enough hours in the day for me to do a lot of things I'd like to do. For example: keep up with reading everything interesting Harper's, Newsweek, The New Yorker, The Atlantic, National Catholic Reporter, and read a book a day and read all the fascinating stuff on the Web that interests me or watching all of The Colbert Report episodes (I do manage to keep up with The Daily Show with Jon Stewart) and Countdown with Keith Olbermann. Simply not enough hours. Olbermann lasts an hour. My TV news allotment is an hour. So I use that hour watching The Lehrer Newshour on PBS, which is the best news program out there. So I have to leave Keith off my record list.

Olbermann is the antidote for the right wing idiots like Bill O'Reilly, Limbaugh, and others of that ilk. He can be funny, and he is passionate in his disgust for the Bush administration. His blast at Bush, which aired on May 14, is classic Keith, but this piece has been described as his angriest ever. He is outraged at the Iraq war and near apolplexy with Bush's assertion that he has shown his solidarity with the parents of soldiers killed in Iraq by giving up golf. He ends by telling the vile little pretender in the White House to "shut the hell up!" Apparently MSNBC executive was a little nervous about the lack of respect shown the president in this last line and asked Olbermann about it. (Well, you know how I feel about respect--it's not a given, it's an earned. Unless we're talking about old people . . . I think respect for them is automatic. Certainly the little pygmy in the White House has done nothing meriting respect.) Olbermann had a great comeback. He told the president to "shut the hell up" only because he could not tell him to "shut the fuck up" on television. Too bad. It's what needs to be said.

"The line stayed in," Olbermann observed.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Here's a Guy with Bad News

One thing the pundits of the mainstream media seem to miss is how much more room for economic carnage there is in the months remaining. They seem to be laying their current odds on the idea that McCain and Obama are starting on a "level playing field." In fact, McCain is already up to his hips in trouble from his sheer association with the Republican establishment, which will be so badly discredited by the shattered economy that it may actually go the same route as the 19th century whig party and dissolve in a putrid vapor of fecklessness. By November, the Republicans will be viewed as the party that wrecked the nation, and McCain will be in a hole so deep (still on the 20-yard-line by the way) that nobody will be able to see his lips move.
So writes Jim Kuntsler in the latest installment of his acerbic, pessimistic, and (for me at least) almost irresistible blog "Clusterfuck Nation,"--truth be told, I've always enjoyed the kind of writing that Hunter Thompson produced back in the good old days when he wrote regularly for Rolling Stone. Kuntsler has a similar style. He argues that the US is going to hit the wall very soon because oil has peaked and the entire US way of life built on cheap oil--suburbs and shopping--will come crashing down with horrid consequences for everybody. That's what's behind what he says above. I am not at all sure he's wrong.

I like the "putrid vapor of fecklessness" idea, and dearly hope it comes to pass. But as I've mentioned here before I fear greatly the shallow, dim-witted, and often-vicious American electorate. I will believe Obama is president when I see him take the oath.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Here's a Bit of Good News

The House has sent articles of impeachment on Bush to the judiciary committee. The vote was 261-166 with 16 members not voting. The majority included 24 Republicans, men and women of courage and conscience all, I'm sure. The Judiciary Committee has had articles of impeachment against the vice president Cheney since November without taking action.

The guy who brought the 35 articles of impeachment, my man Dennis Kucinich whom I favored for the Democratic nomination--not that I'm unhappy with Obama--says impeachment is necessary to prevent the vile little pretender in the White House from launching an attack on Iran. There's been all kinds of saber-rattling about that which reminds me of the run-up to this unconscionable war in Iraq. I put nothing past this little twerp and his handlers. They would not hesitate to launch another war. According to our commander-in-chief moron, Iran "is a threat to world peace." How can anyone not think just the opposite: that the US is a threat to world peace.

I cannot imagine what frenzied and furious opposition a bombing of Iran would cause in this country. According to the London Times on Sunday, up to five top US generals and admirals would resign if Bush ordered such a bombing. This is what should have happened in 2003 with Iraq, but I guess the military brass in this country (always among the slowest learners on the planet)
now understands what they're dealing with with Bush.

More good news: after days and nights of working on the new computer, I've almost gotten everything restored. Naturally, it's not the way it was completely, but the trade-off is more than worth it. The loss of some installed programs is no big deal because I didn't use them anyway. Some utilities I will miss, but in a few months, this new one will have everything I want on it. Upside of the late computer crash: faster, much faster; MS Vista OS--the more I see of it, the better I like it. The crash also occasioned my switch to version 3 of the Firefox browser which is also faster and has a host of improvements on the previous version. Best of all is the new way you can handle bookmarks. But it's got all kinds of new stuff that's great.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Computer Death

Sometimes these things just happen. A few days ago, I turn on my computer--an HP I've had for about five years--and it refuses to boot up. All I can get is the dreaded "blue screen of death" which is always a sign of serious trouble. In my case it was fatal trouble. I tried booting up in the safe mode which has saved my bacon a few times over the years, and I thought I was okay since the computer came up this way . . . but then died again after a few minutes. Refusing to believe that this catastrophe was happening, I fruitlessly went through the same drills several more times as if the computer were just having a joke on me and would decide to stop fooling around and just work. Funny how your mind plays tricks with you like that.

Simply because it doesn't want to face the fact that the worst of computer nightmares has commenced. A computer has died, which means you are in for the whole agonizing process of replacing it, the hardware, and reloading everything that was on it, the software. For me, either task is painful. The first is expensive, but thankfully, not nearly as expensive as it used to be. I managed to find an opened box Gateway at Circuit City for less than $400. (Here are the technical specs.) I have not been able to find many reviews, but 2 out of the 3 that appear on Amazon, are very negative. Ah, well. I've been buying and using computers for almost 30 years, and I've never really gotten a lemon. I used to do all kinds of studying and comparison before I bought a computer. Now I just trust my luck. Besides, this was an emergency. And besides that, I would not have taken the time to do all that shopping. My time's more valuable than that now.

I have not completed the second part of the task, reloading everything onto the computer. No matter what, you're not going to get the new machine back to where the old familiar one was. I've just decided to turn that page and push on. My data files (everything--documents, pictures, music, etc., and, as it turns out, a whole bunch that I would have just thrown away) are being restored by Carbonite which I had the presence of mind to engage about a year ago. This task is not yet completed and it started yesterday morning around 10.

The new situation has finally pushed me into doing a couple of things I've been putting off: moving to a new interface in Gmail and graduating up to Firefox version 3 for Internet browsing. In both cases, these were good moves, especially the latter. And I have to confess, the new computer is a lot faster than the old, creaky HP, that was loaded down with years' worth of crap and had a Trojan virus on it that I never was able to get off. That surely could not have helper performance.

So all of this is painful . . . that's the bottom line. But this too, like everything else, shall pass.