Friday, October 31, 2008

Happy Halloween!

Busy day? You can still fit some tales of terror into your Halloween with these spooky stories that clock in at just 30 seconds:
The Beeps

There are bad people out there--at least that's what the security system guy told me.

"I hate security systems," I told him.

"You are by yourself at the end of a deserted road," he said. "I can even set yours so a beep sounds every time a door is opened."

"I don't need that," I told him.

Nevertheless, when he left, I went out to get the mail, be-e-e-e-p. I came back in, be-e-e-e-p. I put the garbage out, be-e-e-e-p.

I cursed the security system.

But hours later, I am awakened. My heart is pounding. Alone, in the dark, I hear the sound of... be-e-e-e-e-e-e-e-p.

-- Elise Primavera

Thursday, October 30, 2008

Roy the Forklift Driver

"Uneducated Forklift Driver To Address Nation On Rush Limbaugh Radio Show: Nation Eagerly Awaits Ohio Man's Profound Insight Into Current Events." -- The Onion, May 29, 1993
I can't separate reality from parody any more. It's like the smart people are all gone, and our country is becoming an idiocracy.

I thought I had closed the door on Joe the Plumber (aka Samuel J. Wurzelbacher), but he won't go away. In fact, Joe plans to enjoy a lot more than just 15 minutes of fame. He has signed a management deal meant to keep him around long past this election.

God help us all.

The McCain campaign would like to portray Joe as the common working man. But in reality, Joe is a product of right wing talk radio and eight years of the Karl Rove brand of propaganda. And for some absurd reason, people are asking Joe for his insight into the world's problems.

Hey Joe, let me give you some advice instead: Get a plumber's license and pay your taxes.

But all funniness aside, I see the McCain campaign's obvious strategy. Both Joe the Plumber and Sarah Palin are explicitly communicating to a mostly white, rural, undereducated audience. And underneath all the folksiness there exists a dangerous and irresponsible message. The MSM is largely missing Palin and Joe's calls for extreme actions because they (the elitist media) don't understand the vernacular:
Put simply, if Palin says "Barack Obama consorts with terrorists", she is making the assertion that he supports acts of violence against American citizens and the media will refute this obviously false assertion. If, instead, Palin says he "pals around with terrorists", she's used code-switching to mask the seriousness of the charge, obfuscating her meaning enough to get away with making an assertion that inevitably calls for the imprisonment or even assassination of a political opponent.
I know many people have sensed the underlying motive behind Palin's rhetoric, but when described in terms of code-switching, I realized that words I thought were imprecise (like palling) are actually very precise to the intended audience.

But this entire angry hate-mongering McCain campaign is in sharp contrast to Obama's calm and sensible pitch to the American people last night where he made calls for unity and a brighter future... without even mentioning McCain's name once.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Dirty Tricks

"Never tell people how to do things. Tell them what to do, and they will surprise you with their ingenuity." -- George S. Patton
Ingenuity abounds when it comes to disenfranchising voters. I'm certain that my readers won't fall for any of these tricks, but they would be wise to warn their friends, parents, and grandparents.

Pennsylvania Republicans are disavowing an e-mail sent to Jewish voters that likens a vote for Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama to events that led up to the Holocaust.

A phony flier, purporting to be from the Virginia Board of Elections, is circulating in the African-American-heavy Hampton Roads region of the state, falsely informing people that, because of expected high turnout, Democrats should vote on November 5th. The election is November 4th.

Colorado Democrats accused a Republican county clerk Wednesday of falsely informing Colorado College that students from outside the state could not register to vote if their parents claimed them as a dependent on their tax returns.

Finally, here is a trick I never heard before: Sparks [Nevada] resident Raul Murillo, 50, said he received a cell phone call Oct. 13 asking him to vote for his presidential candidate over the phone, which is not legal.

The accused political party will always disavow the dirty tricks and blame it on a lone crank, but that doesn't explain away the far more consequential crimes of voter purges, rigged voting machines, and more voter purges.

Meanwhile, Republicans will cling to the voter fraud hoax, with some rather funny results. Yes, the New Mexico White Pages really does have a listing for Duran Duran.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Blah Blah Blah

This is John McCain's analysis on nuclear power safety (if video doesn't show, click here):

So that's how he dismisses nuclear safety? "Blah, blah, blah?" I guess this shouldn't surprise me coming from the man who would sing "bomb bomb bomb bomb bomb Iran." McCain is not a proponent of careful analysis, and neither are his fans. In fact, they applaud his flippancy. (Check out the impostor Sarah Palin right behind him).

Also, check out this history of nuclear accidents, and then consider the intentional sabotage that could occur at the hands of terrorists:

Considering the fact that a nuclear plant houses more than a thousand times the radiation as released in an atomic bomb blast, the magnitude of a single attack could reach beyond 100,000 deaths and the immediate loss of tens of billions of dollars. The land and properties destroyed (your insurance won't cover nuclear disasters) would remain useless for decades and would become a stark monument reminding the world of the terrorists' ideology. With more than 100 reactors in the United States alone, if one is successfully destroyed, just threatening additional attacks could instill the sort of high impact terror which is being sought by a new breed of terrorists.
If McCain wants to be so nonchalant about nuclear power safety, then voters should reconsider his credibility on the issues of national security.

Sunday, October 26, 2008

The B Hoax

Apparently, 'B' is for big black boogie man.

You've heard the story of Ashley Todd, the young woman who cut a backwards 'B' into her cheek and claimed an angry black Obama supporter did it to her. Before the facts were established, while the police were justifiably skeptical, bloggers and the mainstream media enthusiastically pushed the story. Fox News salivated, and the network's executive vice president, John Moody, commented on the demented scandal:

If Ms. Todd’s allegations are proven accurate, some voters may revisit their support for Senator Obama, not because they are racists (with due respect to Rep. John Murtha), but because they suddenly feel they do not know enough about the Democratic nominee.

If the incident turns out to be a hoax, Senator McCain’s quest for the presidency is over, forever linked to race-baiting.

I'm baffled why any voter would have reconsidered their support for Obama because of the actions of one person reported to be the same race as Obama. I was equally confused why revelations of a hoax would reflect on McCain.

However, the evidence that McCain's communication director pushed an incendiary version of the story to reporters does indeed reflect on McCain and his campaign. At worst, their eagerness reaffirms my fears that they are intentionally fanning the flames of racism. At best, it merely adds to the campaign's stench of desperation.

One reason why I get upset over these stories is because I've seen it all before, and it plays out the same damn way every time. In 1989, Charles Stuart claimed a black man shot his wife after jumping into their car while stopped at a traffic light. In 1994, Susan Smith claimed a black man stole her car with her two sons still strapped in their car seats. In both cases, reporters were slow to ask critical questions, but police eventually uncovered the true stories of murder and deception. I must say that the Pittsburgh Police Department was remarkably quick in getting a confession from Todd.

But there is a sinister history in this country that is too distant to be remembered by the living but too near to to be called ancient. This most horrible part of American history is documented on the once common postal card souvenir.

These images remind me that there always emerges a segment of the population who believe that their own anger and revulsion justifies denying due process to the accused.

That is why I get very afraid when people fan the flames of racism and then think it's not "such a big deal."

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Stand by Me

Last night Bill Moyers interviewed Mark Johnson, the co-director of a remarkable documentary about the simple but transformative power of music: Playing for Change: Peace Through Music.
MARK JOHNSON: Well I think music is the one thing that opens the door to bringing people to a place where they are all connected. It is easy to connect to the world through music, you know. Religion, politics, a lot of those things they seem to divide everybody…
I've posted the music video here, but you can watch the entire interview on the site.

Thursday, October 23, 2008

The Cowardly Lion in Oz

Courage is acting in the face of fear. (If video doesn't show, click here.)

There is one big coward on that stage -- Karl Rove. There is one courageous person on that stage -- Janine Boneparth.

One has to be brave to confront a former Bush adviser and accuse him of treason. However, bravery doesn't guarantee the success of your game plan. I do believe this attempted citizen's arrest needed a lot more planning. For example, how do you hand the criminal over to the police, when the police are clearly not interested in jailing him?

But the many efforts to arrest Karl Rove at least keep his crimes in the spotlight and illuminate his mocking contempt for Congress as he refuses to testify despite being twice subpoenaed.

If our US Congress was courageous, it would exercise its "inherent contempt" authority which permits the person cited to be arrested by the Sergeant-at-Arms for the House or Senate, brought to the floor of the chamber, held to answer charges by the presiding officer, and then subjected to punishment as the chamber may dictate. Congress has not used this authority since 1934.

But late last month, with little fanfare, the Department of Justice released a 356 page report which convincingly presents the scandalous details of the Bush administration's plans to remove US Attorneys in order to influence voter fraud and public corruption prosecutions.

However, the report concludes that the investigation has gaps due to Rove's obstructions:
We believe our investigation was able to uncover most of the facts relating to the reasons for the removal of most of the U.S. Attorneys. However, as described in this report, there are gaps in our investigation because of the refusal of certain key witnesses to be interviewed by us, including former White House officials Karl Rove, Harriet Miers, and William Kelley, former Department of Justice White House Liaison Monica Goodling, Senator Pete Domenici, and his Chief of Staff. In addition, the White House would not provide us internal documents related to the removals of the U.S. Attorneys.

The most serious allegation that we were not able to fully investigate related to the removal of David Iglesias, the U.S. Attorney for New Mexico, and the allegation that he was removed to influence voter fraud and public corruption prosecutions. We recommend that a counsel specially appointed by the Attorney General assess the facts we have uncovered, work with us to conduct further investigation, and ultimately determine whether the evidence demonstrates that any criminal offense was committed with regard to the removal of Iglesias or any other U.S. Attorney, or the testimony of any witness related to the U.S. Attorney removals.

The Department’s removal of the U.S. Attorneys and the controversy it created severely damaged the credibility of the Department and raised doubts about the integrity of Department prosecutive decisions. We believe that this investigation, and final resolution of the issues raised in this report, can help restore confidence in the Department by fully describing the serious failures in the process used to remove the U.S. Attorneys and by providing lessons for the Department in how to avoid such failures in the future.
As recommended by the report, the DoJ has appointed a special prosecutor, Nora Dannehy, to continue the inquiry and determine whether anyone should be prosecuted. Possible targets could include former Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and Karl Rove.

So the next time somebody tries to slap handcuffs on Rove's wrists, maybe -- just maybe -- it will be a sworn law enforcement official doing the deed.

After Janine Boneparth was led off stage, the Mortgage Bankers event continued. Rove complained about some nasty campaign jokes made by Senator John Kerry. Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, sitting right next to Rove, responded, “I have to say I feel like Dorothy in the land of Oz hearing you lecture about negative campaigns by others.”

And Karl Rove should be feeling like the Cowardly Lion.

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

What Are You Wearing...

...for Halloween? I'm never invited anywhere lately, so I usually just put on a witch's hat and hand out candy to the kids. Did you ever wear any of these costumes when you were a kid? Well, I never had any of those particular prepackaged costumes, but that style -- with the one-size-fits-all plastic jumpsuit, the plastic mask held on by a thin rubber band that usually broke, and the mask that made you sweat profusely -- you'd get to about two houses and have to take the damn thing off -- oh yeah, I had plenty of those costumes. Fond memories indeed.

I heard it's not really cool for drag queens to go as Sarah Palin this year (or any year). Though I suppose you can put some creativity into it -- moose burgers, pit bulls, oil drilling, Bush in drag, Republican dominatrix -- there's way too much to parody here, and way too much to be frightened by.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Smarter Than a Third Grader

(If video doesn't show, click here.)

Hey Keith, don't forget about Palin's other parting gift -- a new $150k wardrobe!

Ok, I'm having a little bit of election fatigue right now. How many times can we go over the role of the VP with this woman? Can't she just Google the answer?

Speaking of parting gifts, Bush is giving a particularly sick parting gift to the people of Appalachia.

Monday, October 20, 2008

From Russia With Love

If I understand it correctly, this letter should be scandalous. I have copied and pasted the text of the October 20, 2008 letter here, but you can read the letter and header for yourself on the UN Member States Portal.

20 October 2008



We have received a letter from Senator John McCain requesting financial contribution to his Presidential campaign.

In this connection we would like to reiterate that Russian officials, the Permanent Mission of the Russian Federation to the United Nations or the Russian Government do not finance political activity in foreign countries.
Ok, so what's up with this? I knew McCain was desperate, but this is insane. How did it happen? Did they ask Sarah Palin to help out and send letters to "red states"? Oh, no. McCain's campaign is saying it was a computer glitch. Is there any way they can blame this on David Kernell, the email hacker?

Also, the solicitation was illegal according to the Washington Post:
It is illegal for an American political candidate to accept campaign contributions from a foreign government. "It was just a mistake. We don't solicit folks who can't give," said McCain-Palin spokesman Brian Rogers. Asked whether there were any other ambassadors that they planned to solicit, Rogers laughed and said, "I hope not. Maybe we'll find out tomorrow."
But nobody ever gets prosecuted for these transgressions. What I really want to know is how does this help promote McCain's Red Scare? He's certainly getting plenty of voters worked up over socialism as demonstrated by a diner yelling at Obama, "Socialist, socialist, socialist — get out of here!"

I scratch my head, and I want to ask them, "do ya'all understand what socialism is? Do ya'all understand this bailout bill that Bush signed?"

If the next president creates a modern-day WPA, I think ya'all start liking a little socialism.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

General Powell Endorses Barack Obama

Today, former Secretary of State Colin Powell endorsed Sen. Barack Obama for president (click here if video doesn't show):

Powell cites all the common reasons for not supporting McCain (negative attacks ads, choice of Palin for VP, erratic behavior over issues, narrow focus on unimportant issues), yet Powell says it much more diplomatically than anybody I've heard. I guess that's why he was Secretary of State.

Here is the link to the photograph of the mother at her son's grave.

Friday, October 17, 2008

I am an American

"We believe that the best of America is in these small towns that we get to visit, and in these wonderful little pockets of what I call the real America, being here with all of you hard working very patriotic, um, very, um, pro-America areas of this great nation. This is where we find the kindness and the goodness and the courage of everyday Americans. Those who are running our factories and teaching our kids and growing our food and are fighting our wars for us. Those who are protecting us in uniform. Those who are protecting the virtues of freedom." — Sarah Palin, October 16, 2008
So Sarah Palin loves to visit the "pro-America areas" of this country. She hasn't mentioned specific areas that she finds unpatriotic, but as I remember her RNC speech, the snide twang she put on the words "San Francisco" still screeches in my mind.

But this latest speech -- implying those people are un-American -- is disturbing and offensive. These words don't bring people together. Joe Biden responded today and put it simply, "it doesn't matter where you live, we all love this country."

But the video that Sarah Palin really needs to watch is an ad created after September 11, 2001 celebrating the diversity that keeps this country strong:

Now that I think about it, Todd Palin should also watch this ad.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

A Plumber or a Plant?

During last night's Presidential debates, we all learned about Joe the Plumber. We were told that Joe was the common hard-working man who would be hurt by Obama's tax plan. Throughout the rest of the debate, McCain and Obama both addressed Joe the Plumber more than 20 times as if he was some kind of stand-in for the whole entire nation.

As Samuel J. Wurzelbacher (that's his real name, but I'll call him Joe) enjoyed his 15 minutes of fame today, we were treated to a smorgasbord of his opinions on issues ranging from social security to the war in Iraq. Watch this collage of Joe's greatest hits from the Daily Show, and then tell me if Joe really represents you. He doesn't represent me:

The Daily Show hit on some of today's revelations about Joe: he's not an undecided voter, his real first name is Samuel, he doesn't have a plumber's license, never completed an apprenticeship and does not belong to the plumber’s union, which has endorsed Barack Obama. Also, Joe, who owes back taxes, is unlikely to have an income level that would qualify him for a tax increase under Obama's plan, and if he does make over $250,000... well, then I think he should count his blessings.

Anyway, I don't understand the uproar over Obama's comment regarding "spreading the wealth around." You can watch the entire conversation between Obama and Joe on YouTube. I realize that any talk about redistributing wealth freaks out conservatives, but we've had a progressive tax in this country since the passage of the 16th Amendment, and 81% of economists support progressive taxation. So whether we have Obama's plan or McCain's plan, we're still spreading the wealth around!

One last topic before I attempt to close the door on Joe the Plumber. Was he a plant? I mean is he really an ordinary guy looking for an honest answer, or did the GOP put him up to this? A few blogs are saying he has a relationship to Charles Keating. Of course, guilt by association sucks, but McCain's campaign should have vetted this guy before making him their mascot.

Updated 11/13/2008: Ooops. The entire Keating relationship was a hoax started by a man who is himself a hoax. The MSM also fell for his tricks, so I guess I'm in good company or bad company depending how you look at it.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Joe The Plumber, If You're Out There...

Sarah Palin wants you to give Levi a call. He's going to need a job to support his wife and child...

Tonight's debate wasn't bad. I like this format better. The candidates actually debated! You can read the transcript here.

I thought Obama was cool, clear and collected. I thought McCain grew angrier as the night went on... And as he grew angrier, I grew angrier too -- angry at McCain. Here are a few of the memorable moments.

McCain says his ads went negative because Obama refused to do the many town hall debates that McCain wanted. What kind of whiny excuse is that? Please, McCain, you're responsible for your campaign's actions. You can't blame Obama.

A few minutes later, my anger meter was up again when McCain repeated the right-wing bullshit that ACORN is destroying the fabric of democracy. I blogged about these lies yesterday, so please take a look at that post if you want a little truth about ACORN and wingnuts.

Then came the much discussed issue of Bill Ayers. McCain reminds me of one of those "harsh interrogators" where the truth isn't good enough for him. McCain keeps yelling "tell me more" when Obama is honestly telling him all there is to tell. McCain keeps implying some diabolical plot between the two, while the real story is a dull one about two organizers trying to help their community.

Furthermore, when McCain was asked about the hostile tone of his rallies, his dismissive response was "I'm proud of the people that come to our rallies. " What? I'm disturbed over the angry shouts from his supporters, and I wanted to hear some words of balance from McCain. I guess I was hoping for too much.

Next, McCain brings up Palin's support for special-needs families. That's an important subject. Palin knows something about this subject because of her own child but also because her own state has a unique standing: "The byproducts of oil production can cause serious nervous system disorders, and the North Slope and its environs, home to Alaska Natives and itinerant oil workers, has the highest prevalence of birth defects in the state--11 percent--compared with 6 percent statewide and 3 percent nationwide." Sarah Palin, as governor, has not addressed these concerns.

If the candidates wanted to talk about special-needs, there should have been a follow-up question about the Community Choice Act. This legislation addresses the independence of people with disabilities. Obama has a clear statement of support on his web site. McCain, though, clearly does not support this legislation.

Here is where Obama is the realist. He knows that supporting special-needs means increasing funding. Funding is needed for research and it's needed for support services. You can't say you support people with disabilities while at the same time taking the proverbial hatchet to programs that help them and their families!

Maybe this issue is the best illustration of where Obama and McCain are very different candidates. Obama would give careful and calm consideration to these programs. McCain is an ideologue who speaks in absolute terms of hatchets, vetoes, and drilling. Drill baby, drill.

In contrast, Obama genuinely cares about finding common ground -- notably on the issues of abortion and preventing unwanted pregnancy. McCain, again, aggravates me (and probably a million other women) when he ridicules the life and health considerations of the mother during these difficult decisions.

McCain keeps saying that the American voter is angry. Well, kind of. I've been angry with the Bush administration for quite a while and it's easy to mistake McCain for Bush... But with the current economic crisis, I've been mostly scared. Tonight, however, I am an angry voter... angry at John McCain. That's probably not the results he was hoping for.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Acorns and Wingnuts

ACORN is the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now. Though the non-partisan organization was formed in 1970, most people just heard about them and their voter registration drives in the last few weeks.

Wingnut is a not-so-nice term for people who support far-right conspiracy theories.

When wingnuts hold conspiracy theories about acorns, democracy is threatened.

In a recent article, Brad Friedman clearly explains the voter fraud hoax being spread by FOX News and CNN:
Here are the facts. Acorn verifies the legitimacy of every registration its canvassers collect. If they can't authenticate the registration, or it's incomplete or questionable in other ways, they flag that form as problematic ("fraudulent", "incomplete", et cetera). They then hand in all registration forms, even the problematic ones, to elections officials, as they are required to do by law. In almost every case where you've heard about fraud by Acorn, it's because Acorn itself notified officials about the fraud that's been perpetrated on them by rogue canvassers. Most officials who run to the media screaming "Acorn is committing fraud" know all of the above but don't bother to share those facts with the media they've run to. None of this is about voter fraud. None of it. Where any fraud has occurred, it's voter registration fraud and has resulted in exactly zero fraudulent votes.

You'll hear that Donald Duck, Mary Poppins, Dick Tracy, Mickey Mouse and (new this year) the starting lineup of the Dallas Cowboys football team have all had fraudulent registrations submitted in their names. That's true. And we know this, why? Because Acorn told officials about it when they followed the law and turned in those registrations, flagged as fraudulent.

What you won't hear is that federal law requires anybody who does not register to vote in person at the county office to show an ID when they go to vote the first time. So, unless Donald Duck shows up with his ID, he won't be voting this November. You needn't worry, no matter how much even John McCain himself cynically and dishonourably tries to mislead you.
I guess that means McCain is a wingnut (who delivered a key speech for ACORN in 2006), but the main point is that the MSM is telling lies. And while they tell these lies, they ignore the very real problem of voter purges. The New York Times investigated how swing states are illegally removing voters from rolls:

States have been trying to follow the Help America Vote Act of 2002 and remove the names of voters who should no longer be listed; but for every voter added to the rolls in the past two months in some states, election officials have removed two, a review of the records shows.

The six swing states seem to be in violation of federal law in two ways. Michigan and Colorado are removing voters from the rolls within 90 days of a federal election, which is not allowed except when voters die, notify the authorities that they have moved out of state, or have been declared unfit to vote.

Indiana, Nevada, North Carolina and Ohio seem to be improperly using Social Security data to verify registration applications for new voters.

In addition to the six swing states, three more states appear to be violating federal law. Alabama and Georgia seem to be improperly using Social Security information to screen registration applications from new voters. And Louisiana appears to have removed thousands of voters after the federal deadline for taking such action.
Undoubtedly, some people will go to their polling place on November 4 and find out they are not registered to vote! That will be the November surprise.

The MSM also largely ignores the many problems with electronic voting. As I commented earlier this month, even Homer Simpson gets it.

So why is the MSM lying and promoting the ACORN myths? For one thing, ACORN's priorities have included better housing and wages for the poor, more community development investment from banks and governments, and better public schools. These are issues that many Republicans don't support.

But there is another glaring reason. Those who would complain about voter registration drives obviously don't give a damn whether every eligible American is able to cast their vote and have their vote counted. Instead, these wingnuts want to cast doubt -- doubt about the legitimacy of the results if Obama wins.

I've said it before, but I'll gladly repeat myself. I think it's time for a constitutional amendment guaranteeing the right of every American 18 years or older to vote in federal elections. Until then, people will be at the mercy of every local bureaucracy, every partisan organization, and every wingnut who doesn't believe in democracy.

Monday, October 13, 2008

Torturing Democracy

"I have become an old man here. Death in this situation is better than being alive and staying here without hope." — Detainee #232
Those are the words of an unnamed Guantanamo detainee. The torture of prisoners in U.S. custody is documented in a new film Torturing Democracy (viewable online).

With exclusive interviews and little-known archival footage, the documentary traces how the secret U.S. military training program – “Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape” or SERE – became the basis for many of the harshest interrogation methods employed first by the CIA and subsequently by interrogators at Guantanamo and in Iraq. The tactics designed to “inoculate“ elite American troops mirror tactics used by “a totalitarian, evil nation with complete disregard for human rights and the Geneva Conventions,” according to Malcolm Nance, the former SERE master trainer for the U.S. Navy.

One of the most shocking memos -- more shocking than the infamous Yoo "torture memo" -- is the recently released JTF GTMO "SERE" Interrogation Standard Operating Procedure. This most disturbing document describes our government's cold standards on how to abuse prisoners including bureaucratic details on degradation, physical debilitation, isolation and monopolization of perception, and demonstrated omnipotence tactics.

The accused have faced many hopeless years of these tactics. It wasn't until June 2008 that the Supreme Court ruled that the detainees have the right to appeal to U.S. civilian courts to challenge their indefinite imprisonment without charges.

How are these trials going? The unsurprising answer is not so fairly. The surprising news, however, is who is blowing the whistle:
Darrel J. Vandeveld was in despair. The hard-nosed lieutenant colonel in the Army Reserve, a self-described conformist praised by his superiors for his bravery in Iraq, had lost faith in the Guantanamo Bay war crimes tribunals in which he was a prosecutor.
That's the prosecutor speaking out, and he is at least the fourth Guantanamo Bay prosecutor to resign under protest. His claims are explosive:
In a declaration and subsequent testimony, he said the U.S. government was not providing defense lawyers with the evidence it had against their clients, including exculpatory information -- material considered helpful to the defense.

Saying that the accused enemy combatants were more likely to be wrongly convicted without that evidence, Vandeveld testified that he went from being a "true believer to someone who felt truly deceived" by the tribunals. The system in place at the U.S. military facility in Cuba, he wrote in his declaration, was so dysfunctional that it deprived "the accused of basic due process and subject[ed] the well-intentioned prosecutor to claims of ethical misconduct."
I applaud anybody who stands up to the Bush administration, but there remains a bitter irony. The good guys leave, and the ones without a conscience keep on running the country.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

War By Remote Control

So this must be the secret high-tech weapon that Bob Woodward was talking about last week:

Watch CBS Videos Online

Well, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) are no secret now. The startling evidence has been sitting on YouTube for a few months available to anybody who knew what to search for. I think the government clearly wanted this information out. Intentionally leaking these videos to insurgents is the psychological part of counter-terrorism.

Of course, I am relieved that this technology has brought stability to Iraq, but I am also worried that this powerful weapon introduces a new era of war and nation building. What little country can prevail when the USA says it's time for a regime change? Or when the USA says our corporations need another nation's natural resources? Our imperialist leaders will tell us we're doing it for democracy, but that's bullshit.

Can McCain at least stop saying that it's "the surge" that worked?

Saturday, October 11, 2008

Your E-Mail Is Safe Again

I know the DOJ is trying to make David Kernell sound like a dangerous "computer hacker," but the guy who exposed Sarah Palin's Yahoo e-mail account didn't really hack, he duped. He allegedly answered the standard security questions, reset her password, and posted the mailbox contents to Wikileaks.

Of course, this unauthorized access is a crime, but it's fascinating to watch the over-the-top hysteria from the same government that has been violating our privacy for years. Glenn Greenwald remarks on the irony:
The same political faction which today is prancing around in full-throated fits of melodramatic hysteria and Victim mode (their absolute favorite state of being) over the sanctity of Sarah Palin’s privacy are the same ones who scoffed with indifference as it was revealed during the Bush era that the FBI systematically abused its Patriot Act powers to gather and store private information on thousands of innocent Americans; that Homeland Security officials illegally infiltrated and monitored peaceful, law-abiding left-wing groups devoted to peace activism, civil liberties and other political agendas disliked by the state; and that the telephone calls of journalists and lawyers have been illegally and repeatedly monitored.
Of course, you would expect the right-wing pundits who have defended the surveillance state to announce "if Sarah Palin has nothing to hide, then she shouldn't be worried!" But of course they don't.

And of course, we all now know that Sarah Palin has indeed been trying to hide something -- her personal vendetta against state trooper Mike Wooten.

Here's where these crimes intersect. Governor Palin's exposed email account revealed that she had been violating the Open Records Act:
The bottom line is that Palin appears to have benefited from her decision to conduct state business using private channels. As governor, she has touted the need for accountability and transparency (even though she has withheld about 1100 emails involving her aides, citing dubious justifications). But because Palin used one or more non-state email accounts for official communications--perhaps improperly--she has created a costly mess for her administration's information officers and a situation in which emails from all her accounts will likely not become public before November 4. If her emails contain any information that might not reflect well upon Palin, the McCain-Palin campaign need not worry. Palin, wittingly or not, has engineered a delay that is the functional equivalent of a cover-up.
The exposed email also revealed her possible motive for using the Yahoo email account in the first place -- to hide her husband's involvement in official business.

So now, with good reason, some legal experts are questioning the indictment against David Kernell. If the email intrusion was not committed to further another crime, then it may not be a felony...

But don't expect that to get in the way of this Department of Justice. They will always protect their own. They might save us from one evil hacker, but that's meager consolation when you still live in a surveillance state.

Thursday, October 09, 2008


I don't like to overuse this word, but today is a day I can describe as surreal. When I watch these recent videos at GOP rallies where audience members are shouting "treason" and "kill him" whenever the name Barack Obama is mentioned... when I see McCain's supporters laughing at Joe Biden's tragic story of losing his wife and daughter... when McCain and Palin encourage threats by not discouraging them... what other word can I use?

I've never seen a presidential candidate act so purely anti-American. Nine months ago I never dreamed I'd be so horrified with McCain. I admit I never loved him, but I expected to see a fair and honorable campaign not this desperate shit.

And what will happen if McCain and Palin win? It's bad enough we're fearful over our economy and national security, but now McCain is determined to divide us? I'm disgusted.

McCain is not a man who can lead the world or this country. Sure he can play to his rally audience. That's what he's doing. Working the converted into a mob mentality. I fear the result will be a repeat of last summer's Valley Unitarian Universalist Church shooting. McCain and Palin only need to trigger one mentally-unstable bigot...

McCain and Palin inspire hatred and praise Jesus all in the same breath.

The Secret Service are now investigating the threat made at the McCain-Palin event. What will it take before they investigate Sarah Palin?

Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Dinner With My Parents (Part 1)

I intend for "Dinner With My Parents" to become a multi-part series as I gather more material. This is also my first experiment with Windows Movie Maker, so let me know what you think:

My father, a neoconservative forever living in 1954, loves to ridicule Franklin D. Roosevelt, the New Deal, and the Works Progress Administration. Though I never heard my father criticize other New Deal policies like Social Security, the GI Bill, or the FDIC, he's quick to write off WPA as digging ditches. In reality, the program did a lot more:
But did you know the Alamo, in conservative Texas, was restored by WPA labor? Or that San Antonio's river was beautified by the WPA and became the river walk it is today? Or many improvements in national parks, like roads, trails, and fire towers, were the work of the WPA or the Civilian Conservation Corps?
So I guess this brings me around to one reason I have trouble understanding economics. How can there ever be a shortage of work when there isn't a shortage of work to be done?

Though unemployment numbers are nowhere near those of the Great Depression, I can agree with my father that history does indeed repeat itself -- "the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce" (though he would never quote Marx) -- I can't agree with him on which candidate would start the next world war. That horror would be worse than a farce.

Tuesday, October 07, 2008

Town Hall Debate

Without looking at any poll results, I'm confident tonight's debate was not a game changer.

First, I want to comment on what wasn't discussed tonight: the whole guilt by association bullshit. Neither candidate pursued the attacks face-to-face. That's good, but clearly McCain is leaving that job up to his attack dog Sarah Palin. It must be tricky for McCain to run two very different campaigns at the same time...

On the economy, both candidates seem like socialists. That's no surprise from a Democratic candidate, but from a Republican? And the guy who says government needs to get out of the way? Well, now McCain says he would "order the secretary of the treasury to immediately buy up the bad home loan mortgages in America..." Is this in addition to the $800 billion Emergency Economic Stabilization bill? McCain the gambler wants to double down?

On energy independence, McCain is really pushing nuclear power now. I don't understand why this subject is getting a free pass. It needs to be debated and the public needs to be informed. Solar and wind power are clean and abundant and would lead to true independence. Calling nuclear power "clean" is misleading, and the necessary uranium is mined from a few friendly and not-so-friendly countries. This whole nuclear power revival is estimated to cost $315 billion.

On national security and terrorism, both candidates are confident they know how to catch Osama Bin Laden. Obama sounds like he's sticking to Bush's current course: "encourage democracy in Pakistan, expand our nonmilitary aid to Pakistan so that they have more of a stake in working with us, but insisting that they go after these militants." He emphasized that catching Bin Laden and crushing Al Qaeda would be a national security priority.

McCain's response to that same issue was one of the stranger moments tonight. First he twisted Obama's reply claiming that Obama would attack Pakistan. Does he think we're all deaf or does he think we all lack short-term memory? Or are those McCain's own deficiencies? Anyway, I trust my own hearing-aids and I know Obama did NOT say that. Obama insisted on having a moment to correct the issue where he repeated his strategy once again. I hope McCain got it the second time around.

Let's avoid bizarre moments in the next debate. I offer some advice to the candidates:
  • Refrain from patronizing your opponent. Phrases like "that one" sound belittling.
  • Stop joking. You proved that you're not funny tonight (McCain, I'm looking at you) with your odd jab at Tom Brokaw. Anyway, your audience has been instructed to not laugh or applaud, and I don't think they wanted to.
  • Answer the questions.
  • Mention the middle class. Most people think they are middle class.
  • Don't admit you were a fraternity brother with Teddy Roosevelt. It makes you sound old.

Finally, explain to me how we can afford all these bailouts, bombs and nuke plants without raising taxes on somebody! This country can't run on fumes any longer.

Monday, October 06, 2008

Loaded Words

The loaded word today is "terrorist." It's a hard to define thing. A person is a terrorist if they try to create fear in a population through violence and intimidation with the goal of promoting their own ideology. We're all aware that the people who attacked us on September 11, 2001 were terrorists.

But apparently words evolve.

Yesterday, Sarah Palin picked up a newspaper (one out of the infinite number that she reads), and declared that Barack Obama pals around with terrorists:
"Well, I was reading my copy of today's New York Times and I was really interested to read about Barack's friends from Chicago," Palin told the crowd. "Turns out, one of his earliest supporters is a man who, according to The New York Times was a domestic terrorist and part of a group that, quote, 'launched a campaign of bombings that would target the Pentagon and the U.S. Capitol.' These are the same guys who think patriotism is paying higher taxes. This is not a man who sees America as you and I do -- as the greatest force for good in the world. This is someone who sees America as imperfect enough to pal around with terrorists who targeted their own country. This, ladies and gentlemen, has nothing to do with the kind of change anyone can believe in -- not my kids and not your kids."
Yes, this is clearly a desperate move from McCain's trash-talk express -- a desperate move and a lie:
One might note at the outset that Obama has had dealings with just one domestic terrorist—former Weather Underground member Bill Ayers—and that "palling around" is hardly a good description of this passing acquaintanceship. Obama and Ayers were both politically active members of Chicago's Hyde Park neighborhood, and both were affiliated with the neighborhood's University of Chicago. But the very New York Times article that Palin cited as a source concluded that "the two men do not appear to have been close."
So now, according to Sarah Palin, the new definition of "terrorist" includes those who cross paths with a rehabilitated 60's radical.

I've been reluctant to come right out and say this in the past few weeks, but is Sarah Palin stupid? She wants us to draw fearful conclusions from these crossed paths, yet ignore the straight line between her, her husband, and The Alaskan Independence Party -- a party formed with the goal of seceding from the union and establishing Alaska as an independent state?

Furthermore, how can I trust a McCain-Palin administration to protect me from terrorists when they now stick the label on their political enemies and anybody different than "us"? The trash-talk express is headed down a dangerous road.

Because "terrorist" isn't the only loaded language in Palin's remark. She says "This is not a man who sees America as you and I do." I have no doubt that the "not like you and I" part was carefully crafted racism.

This video shows the real impact of McCain and Palin's fear strategy:

Shouts of "terrorist" now replace any intelligent conversation about the economy, energy policy, or our future. I hope that on November 4, McCain and Palin's loaded words backfire.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Exploding Gift Baskets

Ever since Bob Woodward released The War Within, an inside look at the war in Iraq, everybody has been speculating about the secret weapon he claims is responsible for the current period of stability. Certainly the cash we've been paying the insurgents has something to do with the success, but in a recent 60 Minutes interview, Woodward revealed something much more sophisticated:
"This is very sensitive and very top secret, but there are secret operational capabilities that have been developed by the military to locate, target, and kill leaders of al Qaeda in Iraq, insurgent leaders, renegade militia leaders. That is one of the true breakthroughs."
So when Bill Maher jokingly suggested "exploding gift baskets," and Woodward told him he was "close," I realized that this recent Wired article might have some merit:
I'm going to make a wager about what I think Woodward is talking about, and I'll be curious to see what Danger Room readers have to say. I believe he is talking about the much ballyhooed (in defense geek circles) "Tagging, Tracking and Locating" program; here's a briefing on it from Special Operations Command. These are newfangled technologies designed to track people from long distances, without the targeted people realizing they are being tracked. That can theoretically include thermal signatures, or some sort of "taggant" placed on a person. Think Will Smith in Enemy of the State. Well, not so many cameras, maybe.
I think we need to learn everything about this new weapon before the police state really kicks in. And please, would the next person who interviews Bob Woodward ask him how long until this new weapon is used against American citizens?

Friday, October 03, 2008

Plate of Pork

So is the Emergency Economic Stabilization bill a bailout, a bribe, a rescue, or a rape?

The legislation that aims to save Wall Street was originally criticized for costing $700 billion. How did lawmakers make it more appetizing? By adding pork! (About $100 billion in pork also known as earmarks.) Congress then overwhelmingly passed it and Bush quickly signed it.

What are we getting for our money? I'll just cut and paste a few portions of the bill:
  • Sec. 301. Extension and modification of research credit.
  • Sec. 302. New markets tax credit.
  • Sec. 303. Subpart F exception for active financing income.
  • Sec. 304. Extension of look-thru rule for related controlled foreign corporations.
  • Sec. 305. Extension of 15-year straight-line cost recovery for qualified leasehold improvements and qualified restaurant improvements; 15-year straight-line cost recovery for certain improvements to retail space.
  • Sec. 306. Modification of tax treatment of certain payments to controlling exempt organizations.
  • Sec. 307. Basis adjustment to stock of S corporations making charitable contributions of property.
  • Sec. 308. Increase in limit on cover over of rum excise tax to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands.
  • Sec. 309. Extension of economic development credit for American Samoa.
  • Sec. 310. Extension of mine rescue team training credit.
  • Sec. 311. Extension of election to expense advanced mine safety equipment.
  • Sec. 312. Deduction allowable with respect to income attributable to domestic production activities in Puerto Rico.
  • Sec. 313. Qualified zone academy bonds.
  • Sec. 314. Indian employment credit.
  • Sec. 315. Accelerated depreciation for business property on Indian reservations.
  • Sec. 316. Railroad track maintenance.
  • Sec. 317. Seven-year cost recovery period for motorsports racing track facility.
  • Sec. 318. Expensing of environmental remediation costs.
  • Sec. 319. Extension of work opportunity tax credit for Hurricane Katrina employees.
  • Sec. 320. Extension of increased rehabilitation credit for structures in the Gulf Opportunity Zone.
  • Sec. 321. Enhanced deduction for qualified computer contributions.
  • Sec. 322. Tax incentives for investment in the District of Columbia.
  • Sec. 323. Enhanced charitable deductions for contributions of food inventory.
  • Sec. 324. Extension of enhanced charitable deduction for contributions of book inventory.
  • Sec. 325. Extension and modification of duty suspension on wool products; wool research fund; wool duty refunds.
I've only highlighted the ones I found most crazy. But the craziness doesn't end there.


Subtitle A--General Provisions
  • Sec. 501. $8,500 income threshold used to calculate refundable portion of child tax credit.
  • Sec. 502. Provisions related to film and television productions.
  • Sec. 503. Exemption from excise tax for certain wooden arrows designed for use by children.
  • Sec. 504. Income averaging for amounts received in connection with the Exxon Valdez litigation.
  • Sec. 505. Certain farming business machinery and equipment treated as 5-year property.
  • Sec. 506. Modification of penalty on understatement of taxpayer's liability by tax return preparer.
Subtitle B--Paul Wellstone and Pete Domenici Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act of 2008
  • Sec. 601. Secure rural schools and community self-determination program.
  • Sec. 602. Transfer to abandoned mine reclamation fund.
Again, I'm just highlighting the ones I found most crazy. They are all crazy because they have little or nothing to do with bailing out Wall Street! They were thrown in without any debates. I think something like mental health parity should have been discussed.

This bill was rushed because we were told it was urgent. I heard very few voices questioning the urgency. We were told something needed to be done. When the original bill failed, the Dow lost a record 777 points. But after the new bill was approved by Congress, the Dow ended down 157 points. We're so fickle!

What doesn't the bill have? There is little about new oversight, little to rescue families facing foreclosure, and little to curb executive pay.

Can you remember back about a month ago when John McCain and Sarah Palin wrote a piece for the WSJ titled We'll Protect Taxpayers from More Bailouts? Can you remember back when McCain vowed that as president he would veto every single bill with earmarks? But by casting his first vote in months, he broke those vows.

I guess he shouldn't criticize Obama now for voting on that earmark-laden energy bill that included tax breaks for oil companies while also providing investment for alternative energy.

There are many reasons to criticize this bill and the politics that brought it to us, and I just can't bring myself to call it a bailout or a rescue. That only leaves my other two choices.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Homer Gets It

If Homer Simpson can understand the threat of electronic voting, then what's wrong with the rest of us?

Can I Call You Joe?

Golly, ain't she folksy? Yet worldly enough to know a homosexual or two. Yet arrogant enough to say she may not answer the questions tonight. Yet stupid enough to criticize the MSM (wow, is she pissed at Couric or what?). And dangerous enough to want to expand the powers of the vice presidency. Yikes!

IFILL: Governor, you mentioned a moment ago the constitution might give the vice president more power than it has in the past. Do you believe as Vice President Cheney does, that the Executive Branch does not hold complete sway over the office of the vice presidency, that it it is also a member of the Legislative Branch?

PALIN: Well, our founding fathers were very wise there in allowing through the Constitution much flexibility there in the office of the vice president. And we will do what is best for the American people in tapping into that position and ushering in an agenda that is supportive and cooperative with the president's agenda in that position. Yeah, so I do agree with him that we have a lot of flexibility in there, and we'll do what we have to do to administer very appropriately the plans that are needed for this nation. And it is my executive experience that is partly to be attributed to my pick as V.P. with McCain, not only as a governor, but earlier on as a mayor, as an oil and gas regulator, as a business owner. It is those years of experience on an executive level that will be put to good use in the White House also.

IFILL: Vice President Cheney's interpretation of the vice presidency?

BIDEN: Vice President Cheney has been the most dangerous vice president we've had probably in American history. The idea he doesn't realize that Article I of the Constitution defines the role of the vice president of the United States, that's the Executive Branch. He works in the Executive Branch. He should understand that. Everyone should understand that.

And the primary role of the vice president of the United States of America is to support the president of the United States of America, give that president his or her best judgment when sought, and as vice president, to preside over the Senate, only in a time when in fact there's a tie vote. The Constitution is explicit.

The only authority the vice president has from the legislative standpoint is the vote, only when there is a tie vote. He has no authority relative to the Congress. The idea he's part of the Legislative Branch is a bizarre notion invented by Cheney to aggrandize the power of a unitary executive and look where it has gotten us. It has been very dangerous.

Wow, Sarah Palin's reply to that question was the most disturbing moment tonight. I started to have one of those panic moments reminiscent of when Bush was reelected. I'm seeing a grim future for our country in one sudden flash.

Joe Biden, however, was impressive tonight. He has command of the issues. His answers were clear and crisp, and he defended Senator Obama when necessary. His best quip was "past is prologue" when Palin complained Democrats were constantly looking backwards. Well, the world is still suffering for the crimes of the Bush administration! Palin, in here folksy twang, brushed off these crimes as "huge blunders." Yeah, let's not hold any high-level officials accountable. Let's not look at what went wrong and how to prevent it from happening again. Let's not look back because we might realize McCain-Palin would be as disastrous as Bush-Cheney.

Oh, Palin tried to push the myth that they would somehow be different than Bush-Cheney, but she couldn't offer one single example how. Neither did she offer to "get back to ya on that one."

She also pushed the other myth that our enemies hate us for our freedom. Can we get over this childish explanation offered by... BUSH? (I thought they wanted to distance themselves from Bush?) Let me just make it clear. Our enemies hate us for our foreign policies and they hate us for our airstrikes.

I suppose you can say Sarah Palin exceeded expectations tonight if you were expecting her to cry or pass out. She did neither of those. Instead she met my expectations. I fully anticipated the fake folksy cartoonish personality. I expected the awkward nonanswers mechanically sticking to talking points and attack lines. I expected that she could not explain anything in detail. But I never would have expected Palin's indifferent response to a very personal story from Biden (if video doesn't show, click here):

Where was Palin's folksy hometown response to that? Nowhere. You can read the debate transcript here, and a few more of my own comments on Twitter.

Biden won. Doggone it, that's the unvarnished truth.