Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Stupidest Post Ever

Image from Failblog.org

I can't decide if a coloring book full of zebras would be really boring or really fun. If you're the realistic type, there would be nothing to color in except maybe some background and greenery. Of course, if you're the imaginative type you could color them any color or every color. That's probably what I would have done as a kid -- use every crayon in the box.

But anyway, I was looking for inspiration today. I wanted to spark some passion to write about something or other. Plus, I was also a bit lonely. So I heard about this new internet phenomena called Omegle which has gone viral or so I've heard. You click a button on the site and it hooks you up with a random anonymous stranger to talk with. They used to call this IRC, but I'm showing my age.

Anyway, I was hesitant to try it because I heard you usually get paired with racist homophobes or cyber sex seekers. I am neither. But I figured the challenge to steer the conversation to another level could be both awkward and fun. Here is my first conversation:

Connecting to server...
You're now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
Stranger: hi
You: Hi?
Stranger: what up!?!
You: Nothing. Do you like zebras?
Stranger: I like striped shirts.
You: That's close!
Stranger: for sure.
Stranger: do you like hats?
You: Yes I like hats. I used to have a hat with sunglasses.
Stranger: no way.
You: Yea, built in to the hat.
Stranger: the hat and sunglasses were connected.
Stranger: ?
Stranger: ?!?
You: they were built into the rim, and you pulled the rim over your eyes.
You: and then you had sunglasses. they were awesome.
Stranger: pics or it didn't happen!
You: I can't find one any more! I had it when I was a kid.
Your conversational partner has disconnected.
My second conversation really reminded me why I hated IRC -- the constant age/sex/location question. There are so many more interesting things about people than ASL, and don't most people lie anyway? Here is my second conversation:
Connecting to server...
Looking for someone you can chat with. Hang on.
You're now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
You: Hi
Stranger: hi
Stranger: asl?
You: No, I don't know sign language. Why do you ask?
Stranger: female?
You: ice cream?
Your conversational partner has disconnected.
I think maybe the trick is for me to quickly ask the first question in order to set the tone. My third conversation:
Connecting to server...
You're now chatting with a random stranger. Say hi!
You: Have you ever eaten snails?
Stranger: Hey hey hey
Stranger: NO
Stranger: you?
You: Yeah once. Gross.
Stranger: really?
Stranger: seems like it.
You: it's supposed to be a luxury
You: My sister insisted I try them.
Stranger: weird
Stranger: I would need to be PAID for eating them
Stranger: not pay
Your conversational partner has disconnected.
It's safe to say no lifelong bonds were formed, but at least it's not all elitist like that Facebook with their real name requirements and stuff.

Monday, March 30, 2009


Keith Olbermann reports on the failings of torture:

I'm afraid that one night in the near future I'm going to turn on the TV at 3am and see Dick Cheney with his own infomercial selling torture. It's kind of like his own Snuggie... but at least the Snuggie works. Torture doesn't.

Why are we doomed to learn these lessons over and over? Six decades ago, the US military understood how to get information from prisoners of war:
"We got more information out of a German general with a game of chess or Ping-Pong than they do today, with their torture," said Henry Kolm, 90, an MIT physicist who had been assigned to play chess in Germany with Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess.
So why should we be surprised today when we read that "not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions"? Well, I'm not surprised, but I think I now understand why the CIA destroyed the videotapes showing these interrogations. Certainly Cheney is not embarrassed that the CIA tortured with his authorization. That fact is well established and advertised, but I believe those tapes would have shown just how crappy the extracted information was. That's why they got rid of them.

So the coming Spanish Inquisition can continue without the tapes. At least they have these infamous memos that President Obama recently declassified. However, I'm not certain how the Spanish courts will round up Alberto Gonzales, Douglas Feith, David Addington, John Yoo, Jay S. Bybee, and William Haynes. If our government chooses not to pursue trials in American courts, I doubt they're going to just hand these guys over to Spanish courts. Any Spanish arrest warrants would be simply symbolic...

So ask Attorney General Holder to appoint an independent prosecutor. Nobody is above the law. I only wish we didn't have to beg Obama and his administration to do their damn jobs.

In lighter news, that other snake-oil salesman -- the ShamWow guy -- was arrested for his own harsh interrogation techniques.

Sunday, March 29, 2009


"Capital punishment kills a man at once, but lifelong imprisonment kills him slowly. Which executioner is the more humane, he who kills you in a few minutes or he who drags the life out of you in the course of many years?" — The Bet by Anton Chekhov
There is something about the name SuperMax that seems so doublespeak. There is something about our idea of punishment that seems so primitive. There is something about solitary confinement that is, no doubt, torture:
After a few months without regular social contact, however, his experience proved no different from that of the P.O.W.s or hostages, or the majority of isolated prisoners whom researchers have studied: he started to lose his mind. He talked to himself. He paced back and forth compulsively, shuffling along the same six-foot path for hours on end. Soon, he was having panic attacks, screaming for help. He hallucinated that the colors on the walls were changing. He became enraged by routine noises—the sound of doors opening as the guards made their hourly checks, the sounds of inmates in nearby cells. After a year or so, he was hearing voices on the television talking directly to him. He put the television under his bed, and rarely took it out again.

One of the paradoxes of solitary confinement is that, as starved as people become for companionship, the experience typically leaves them unfit for social interaction. Once, Dellelo was allowed to have an in-person meeting with his lawyer, and he simply couldn’t handle it. After so many months in which his primary human contact had been an occasional phone call or brief conversations with an inmate down the tier, shouted through steel doors at the top of their lungs, he found himself unable to carry on a face-to-face conversation. He had trouble following both words and hand gestures and couldn’t generate them himself. When he realized this, he succumbed to a full-blown panic attack.
The story of Bobby Dellelo, told in this penetrating New Yorker article, is not unique. America now holds at least twenty-five thousand inmates in solitary confinement -- confined to a cell for at least twenty-three hours a day without experiencing any physical human contact.

Before you react with the worn-out argument that solitary confinement provides discipline and deterrence, please do read that article. There are better strategies for dealing with the most violent criminals. The British have had success with providing prisoners with opportunities for work, education, and special programming to increase social ties and skills.

I was going to end on the note that people are mostly hooked on vengeance and politicians can't succeed without some level of tough-on-crime posturing, but then I was impressed to read that Senator Jim Webb has introduced a new bill calling for prison reform. I wish him luck in this politically risky endeavor. He is not only up against private profit-driven companies but also a public faith in a counterproductive system.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Posters For The Paranoid

Over on Boing Boing readers have created some brilliant posters mocking London's insane and stupid anti-terrorism campaign. The gist of the real campaign is "suspect everyone." Apparently you should report your neighbors for even looking at the creepy surveillance cameras around them which of course makes it impossible to even discuss the idea that you might be living in a police state.

A much better approach would be the Keep Calm and Carry On message along with an added dose of "stay rational." Your risk of dying in a plausible terrorist attack is much lower than your risk of dying by car accident, by walking across the street, by drowning, by fire, by falling, or by being murdered.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Keep It To Yourself

Condoleezza Rice was playing it cool last night on The Tonight Show (if video doesn't show, click here):

For one tiny second I wanted to like her. After all, she's rejecting Dick Cheney's harsh words for Obama and basically telling the former VP to keep it to himself. But then I remember that this is the same woman who led the meetings with Rumsfeld and Ashcroft where they decided torture was legal. This is the same woman who was a complete failure as national security adviser. This is the same woman who went along with the charade to link Saddam Hussein to September 11, and then later denied it. No wonder she earned the nickname "kinda-lies-a-lot."

I was also irked by the whole "we did our best" shtick. It's not much different than Bush's petulant reminders that he made "tough decisions." Let's not forget that you only get the pat on the back when you make right decisions.

It's no surprise that Rice's interview was self-serving. She's trying to apply the soft focus lens to her career -- blurring the image and creating an aberration. We wouldn't put such a nice person in prison, would we?

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Totally Swing

Forgive me, but I'm going to show you something truly awful, and if you have any respect for 80's pop music, this video is not only insufferable but also blasphemous:

The announcer asks us "Ever wondered what would happen if you blended the cool sophistication of a Big Band sound with the familiar and well-loved hit songs of that most flamboyant of decades, the 1980's?" Well no, I never did... and um... wait. Is this a joke??? Doesn't every SNL fake commercial start out with"Ever wonder what would happen if...."? Come on. This is as bad as thong baby diapers.

Oh, I know. Maybe he's being ironic?

I never thought I'd see Limahl fall to this lowly state. Actually, I haven't thought about him in years, but my brain is suddenly cranking out every odd factoid I ever read in Smash Hits. His stage name is an anagram of his real last name -- Hamill. He was the lead singer of Kajagoogoo whose hit "Too Shy" was produced by Nick Rhodes of Duran Duran and Colin Thurston. Limahl also had one solo hit called "Never Ending Story."

But right now I'm wishing he'd just follow that one famous lyric -- "hush hush."

Monday, March 23, 2009

Main Street Anger

"It’s amazing how much emotion a little mental concept like 'my' can generate." — Eckhart Tolle
I've been contemplating why last week's showdown between Jon Stewart and Jim Cramer was so damn satisfying to so many people, and I've concluded it's all about the anger. Stewart didn't suppress his emotion, sugarcoat his words, or mollify his charges. "I understand you want to make finance entertaining," he said, "but it's not a fucking game."

So alright. That was cathartic. But we know there is nothing unique about Jim Cramer, and although I can also dish out equal doses of hostility towards politicians, the media, and a complicated financial bureaucracy that I'll never understand, what really aggravates me (and 59% of the public) are the arrogant bailout recipients. Greed is the one aspect of this crisis that is so pure and simple. But it's not just greed of money. It's also greed of power. Rolling Stone explains The Big Takeover and draws this conclusion:
The most galling thing about this financial crisis is that so many Wall Street types think they actually deserve not only their huge bonuses and lavish lifestyles but the awesome political power their own mistakes have left them in possession of. When challenged, they talk about how hard they work, the 90-hour weeks, the stress, the failed marriages, the hemorrhoids and gallstones they all get before they hit 40.

"But wait a minute," you say to them. "No one ever asked you to stay up all night eight days a week trying to get filthy rich shorting what's left of the American auto industry or selling $600 billion in toxic, irredeemable mortgages to ex-strippers on work release and Taco Bell clerks. Actually, come to think of it, why are we even giving taxpayer money to you people? Why are we not throwing your ass in jail instead?"

But before you even finish saying that, they're rolling their eyes, because You Don't Get It. These people were never about anything except turning money into money, in order to get more money; valueswise they're on par with crack addicts, or obsessive sexual deviants who burgle homes to steal panties. Yet these are the people in whose hands our entire political future now rests.
Do you ever get the feeling that we'd all be better off if these Wall Street guys had gone into the pizza delivery career instead?

Anyway, anger isn't for nothing. This isn't a manufactured outrage or a distraction. Glenn Greenwald believes there needs to be more public anger: "The public rage we're finally seeing is long, long overdue, and appears to be the only force with both the ability and will to impose meaningful checks on continued kleptocratic pillaging and deep-seated corruption in virtually every branch of our establishment institutions. "

Of course no sane person yearns for social unrest. I only hope our voiced anger sobers our elected officials so they start fearing for their own jobs and remembering that it's the public that they're supposed to be serving.

Friday, March 20, 2009

Keep Calm And Carry On

This British wartime poster has a strange history. It was commissioned in 1939 by the Ministry of Information as a World War II propaganda tool. However, it was never circulated. It was held back and reserved in case of a total crisis -- like if the Germans invaded.

But the poster with the calm message was rediscovered in 2001 by the co-owner of a Northumberland bookshop, and now demand for the stoic message reprinted on posters, mugs, aprons, and mouse pads seems endless.

I guess that says a lot about our financial crisis. This global depression is hitting us like a great war, and we need a message from the king to strengthen our resolve... Although I'm relieved to know that people still have money to burn on chintzy souvenirs.

I'm also struck by the stark contrast between yesteryear's soothing message and today's cries to fear, panic, and freak out.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Our See-Through Government

Transparency promotes accountability and provides information for us about what our Government is doing. As if our Government knows what they themselves are doing.

I certainly don't think Congress knows what they're doing. Do you? Yesterday we learned that nobody knows who killed a provision in the stimulus package that would have curtailed bonuses at bailed out companies like AIG:
Building on public outrage and presidential denunciations of executives at bailed out companies getting bonuses, Wyden and his Republican colleague, Sen. Olympia Snowe, crafted a provision in the stimulus bill that would have forced bailout recipients to cap their bonuses at $100,000 (any amount above that would be taxed at 35 percent).

According to Wyden, he "spent hours on the Senate floor," working to get the bipartisan amendment passed. He succeeded -- not a single Senator voted against the provision. "But," says Wyden, "it died in conference."
We've seen this monkey business before. In 2007, as news of the purged U.S. attorney scandal spread, the big question was "who changed the Patriot Act to make it easier to replace U.S. attorneys without oversight?"

Before we get all rabble roused again, let's not forget that computer geeks already have an amazing, simple, and well tested tool that enables worldwide collaboration on open-source software. It's called version control software, and you've probably seen it in action if you've ever clicked the history tab on any Wikipedia article. But here's what version control could mean for Congress:
If bills were created under a system where strike-throughs and additions were carefully tracked, the public would know which legislator made which change to a proposed piece of legislation as it made its way through the Capitol.

At last, there would be transparency in the legislative process. Best-case scenario, it would shame legislators from inserting language against the public interest and only meant to reward political contributors; at worst, it would make such insertions public and allow the voters to punish the politicians who made them.
Ah, but will Congress ever agree to this innovation? It would change the whole way they do business... but isn't that what we voted for? Change?

We finally have a tech savvy President who has promised to appoint a Chief Technology Officer in addition to the already appointed Chief Information Officer. I hope they together will push our men and women in Washington -- though they'll be kicking and screaming I presume -- into this millennium. We urgently need a new see-through government.

Now if only we can create software that tracks whether members of Congress actually read these laws that they pass.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pot of Gold

No, this post isn't about St. Patrick's Day, but I hope you had a good one. This post is about easing California's budget crisis by legalizing marijuana:
Could marijuana be the answer to the economic misery facing California? Democratic state assemblyman Tom Ammiano thinks so. Ammiano introduced legislation last month that would legalize pot and allow the state to regulate and tax its sale — a move that could mean billions of dollars for the cash-strapped state. Pot is, after all, California's biggest cash crop, responsible for $14 billion a year in sales, dwarfing the state's second largest agricultural commodity — milk and cream — which brings in $7.3 billion a year, according to the most recent USDA statistics. The state's tax collectors estimate the bill would bring in about $1.3 billion a year in much needed revenue, offsetting some of the billions of dollars in service cuts and spending reductions outlined in the recently approved state budget.
California legalized medical marijuana in 1996, but this proposed law, the Marijuana Control, Regulation and Education Act (AB 390), would legalize the sale of marijuana to adults age 21 and older.

I think if the state had dared to consider this during the Bush Administration, the result would have been near civil war. But obviously we have entered a new era. U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder has indicated that federal raids on pot dispensaries will stop thus ending the old rift between California and federal law.

Ending the paramilitary overkill would also be a good idea, but we only progress one step at a time.

Inevitably, some people will think this spells doom and a "dopier" nation, but Portugal decriminalized all drugs in 2001, and from an
empirical perspective the policy has been a success.

Anyway, can we get any more dopier than this?

(YouTube video)

Monday, March 16, 2009


I feel like if I write anything at all today I'll sound like a Debbie Downer. The stuff I choose to read is so damn infuriating. It's like I want to grab my pitchfork in a populist uprising.

But the pitchfork, as we sometimes forget, is primarily an agricultural tool used for pitching hay. I'm not sure what I'm getting at really, but after you pick up a pitchfork, you can probably decide to do something more constructive with it if you want.

However, once you build a shoe cannon, there's really only one good use for that.

Friday, March 13, 2009

Brawl Street

"You say the name of a stock, and Mad Money's Jim Cramer tells you whether to buy or sell." — Lightning Round OT.

"I understand you want to make finance entertaining but it's not a fucking game." — John Stewart, March 12, 2009.
I'll try to go easy on the wrestling metaphors, because what I saw last night on The Daily Show was actually real journalism. Jon Stewart's interview with Mad Money's Jim Cramer was adversarial but civilized... barely. Here is part 1:

But the real inquisition begins in part 2. I cheered when Stewart rolled out this 2006 video from TheStreet.com TV. The 2006 Cramer boasts that short selling (and crushing the average investor) is very "satisfying." Then the 2009 Cramer squirms. Watch:

Stewart makes it clear that he is holding all financial news shows to the same standard. They should all illuminate what's really going on in the market. They should all strive for journalistic integrity. But Cramer and his show are the face of this financial crisis. The man obviously has some fine market acumen, but the seriousness of guarding people's wealth is incongruous with the hyper theatrics of a show called "Mad Money."

Finally, in part 3, Cramer tries to defend his show saying, "the market was going up for a long time, and our real sin, I think, was to believe it would continue to go up a lot in the face of what you describe..."

The final handshake and Cramer's promise to be a better person were nice touches. Of course, it's not the end. Today I see Cramer's long defense from his pay-to-read blog shared on Hullabaloo. He's trying to do a bit of damage control, but in the end, the blogosphere will just dig harder.

But let's not forget there is nothing unique about Jim Cramer. The larger issue is about media cowards who never investigate claims made by CEOs or government officials. Too many stars of cable news lazily amplify lies and mislead the public leaving the real reporting to comedians.

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Go Directly to Jail

Bernard Madoff is going to jail for life. Today he pleaded guilty to 11 counts of fraud, money laundering, perjury and theft.

His Ponzi scheme defrauded the rich of possibly $65 billion, but it has also harmed the very poor.

Madoff was never caught by the SEC despite a damning report by independent financial fraud investigator Harry Markopolos, despite 8 separate investigations over 16 years, despite a French bank spotting the risks. Instead the shady business came to an end when Madoff confessed to his two sons who then turned him in to authorities.

Portfolio.com has all the details on how Madoff plotted the fraud. The account statements he sent to investors were "elaborate works of fiction," and it appears that no securities were ever even purchased for his customers.

It's an understatement to say Bernard Madoff is a despised man. At Thursday's court hearing, before he was handcuffed and led away with applause, the courtroom spectators laughed when Madoff's defense lawyer described the conditions of his client's house arrest and how Madoff had, "at his wife's own expense," paid for private security at their Manhattan home. His wife will have a hard time proving any of her money is untainted.

In fact, the whole idea that Madoff could possibly be the "single bullet" responsible for the complex crime is ridiculous. But Madoff turned down the chance for a plea deal when he wouldn’t agree to plead guilty to conspiracy. He's not cooperating, and so the investigation has only just begun.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Message in a Watch

From yesterday's New York Times:
Confirming a rumor that has circulated for generations, the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History opened a gold pocket watch that belonged to Abraham Lincoln on Tuesday and discovered a message secretly engraved there by a watchmaker who repaired it in 1861.

“Jonathan Dillon April 13- 1861 Fort Sumpter was attacked by the rebels on the above date. J Dillon,” the brass underside of the watch movement reads.

The inscription continues: “April 13- 1861 Washington thank God we have a government Jonth Dillon.”
The hopeful inscription is like a message in a bottle, or graffiti on a wall, or a tweet -- the writer aimed at nobody in particular, but needed to say what he felt at that very moment.

Dillon was the only Union sympathizer working in the shop. As the only sane adult in my family, I can understand Dillon's difficult situation. I keep my blog hidden from relatives just like the watchmaker's furtive message. Thank DARPA we have an Internet.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Cramer Vs. Not Cramer

Apparently my theme lately is whiny grown men (and one not quite grown boy). Today Joe Scarborough and Jim Cramer responded to a Daily Show segment titled In Cramer We Trust. Scarborough and Cramer proved that they don't get it. Jon Stewart mocks anybody who is hypocritical regardless of political party. He's a comedian. It's his job.

It's not his job to pick out stocks, so he doesn't. Stewart points out lies and hypocrisy and he does it well.

But on another note, if Jim Cramer thinks his stock show is an example of journalistic integrity, then I'd like to remind him of the very serious allegations that he uses his show to manipulate the market:
This rabbit hole involves the thugs surrounding Jim Cramer and some of the top financial "journalists" from the New York Times, WSJ, Fortune magazine and BusinessWeek, top hedge funds, the Mafia, and the DTCC. It also includes "blackmail, smear campaigns, espionage, fraud, harassment, extortion, bribery, rumor-mongering, sabotage, off-shore money laundering, political cronyism, frivolous lawsuits, witness tampering, biased financial research, false identities, bogus credit ratings, bribery, libelous blogs, bad science, forgery, wiretapping, counterfeiting, collusion, lying, cheating, threats and theft."

And if that wasn't fun enough, it may be the underlying story of what collapsed the entire, global banking system or at least served as the catalyst for the collapse.
The whole skirmish doesn't seem so frivolous now, does it?

Jon Stewart had another response tonight. Are these things choreographed like professional wrestling?

Monday, March 09, 2009

Boom to Bushville

Behold the Internet version of the angry mob in this flickr album's comment section! Over on YouTube the crowd is slightly less frightening, but it's amazing anybody has the stamina to view the 10 minute dull prattle of an oppressed wealthy man and still post incensed yet witty comments. See if you can pass the endurance test:

I really only gathered a few things from the above video. TigerHawk sees himself as a member of the Better Class, looks down on people who make less money, and thinks small businesses create "lame jobs." Bizarre threats of Going John Galt are beyond belief because if these presumably educated tycoons were so bloody smart they would understand how our tax system works. All of your income is not taxed at the same rate. The TigerHawks of the country will only pay another 3 cents on the dollar for the income they earn over $250K! To shut down your business or even turn away customers is absurd.

You want to know who I feel sorry for? The families living in Bushvilles. These are the new shanty towns -- named after George W. Bush just like Hoovervilles were named after President Herbert Hoover. Hey, if we're going to relive history, let's make sure we understand it. There's a lot of bull going around that somehow FDR prolonged or even created the Great Depression. Writer Jonathan Chait tackles this new chapter of revisionist history:
Moreover, the classic right-wing critique fails to explain how the economy recovered at all. In one of his columns touting Shlaes, George Will observed that "the war, not the New Deal, defeated the Depression." Why, though, did the war defeat the Depression? Because it entailed a massive expansion of government spending. The Republicans who have been endlessly making the anti-stimulus case seem not to realize that, if you believe that the war ended the Depression, then you are a Keynesian.
I don't know what the Republicans will do when the public figures out that the Democrats' policies have been historically good for economic growth and all these Republican obstructionist battles over President Barack Obama's budget are a blatant sham.

Friday, March 06, 2009

Leave Limbaugh Alone

This video is so immature, doesn't promote constructive dialog or expose government lies and corruption. But it's as funny as hell (if video doesn't show, click here):

The only thing missing is black eyeliner.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

Pursuing the Truth

Maybe I'm not the forgiving type especially when it comes to things like wiretapping, torture, wars based on flawed intelligence, and the politicization of the Justice Department. So why am I finding myself against this thing Senator Leahy calls a Truth Commission? For the same reason four 9/11 widows are against it:

Dear Senator Leahy,

We felt compelled to write to you regarding your recent call for the formation of a "Truth Commission." According to your press comments, this Commission is supposed to look at the following:

* the politicization of prosecution in the Justice Department
* the wiretapping of U.S. citizens
* the flawed intelligence used to justify the invasion of Iraq
* the use of torture at Guantanamo and so-called black sites abroad

These are serious allegations of criminal activity by certain members of the Bush Administration. While we applaud your initiative in looking into these matters, we feel this approach is wrong.

As the Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee, you already have the responsibility and legal authority to investigate matters relating to federal criminal law without having to form a special commission. You are also bound by your oath of office to support and uphold the Constitution by ensuring that those who govern also abide by the rule of law.

Furthermore, a "Truth Commission" will not fix the real problems that our country faces, nor will it guarantee that we will get to the truth. The 9/11 Commission, which you want to model your commission after, is a perfect example of that flawed process.

The 9/11 Commission was mandated to follow the facts surrounding the events of September 11, 2001 to wherever they might lead and make national security recommendations based upon those facts. Sadly, prior to even beginning their investigation, like you, the 9/11 Commissioners agreed amongst themselves that their role was to fact find, not fault find.

This decision resulted in individuals not being held accountable for their specific failures. These people were shown to be incompetent in the 9/11 Commission's Final Report but were left in their positions, or worse, promoted. No one should be allowed to make this compromise on behalf of the American people. How can any agency be deemed fixed or reformed if the people working there are inept? How can anyone feel safer?

At the 9/11 Commission hearings, little actual evidence was ever produced. Many individuals were not sworn in, critical witnesses were either not called to testify or were permitted to dictate the parameters of their own questioning, pertinent questions were omitted and there was little follow-up. Whistleblower testimony was suppressed or avoided all together. The National Security Agency, an intelligence agency that is responsible for the collection and analysis of foreign communications and foreign intelligence, was barely investigated at all.

With the narrative of the 9/11 Commission's final report predetermined and with the preexisting intention to never hold anyone accountable in place, the 9/11 Commission was doomed to fail as a real investigation. The end result of the 9/11 Commission's work was that some of the recommendations that they produced were in fact, based on distortions and omissions. Since their mandate of a complete accounting was ignored, the recommendations were incomplete at best.

There was clearly no desire on the part of Congress to force the Commission to meet its legislative mandate. Accordingly, there were no repercussions for the fact that the investigation and its recommendations were incomplete. It could be surmised that holding no one accountable was more important than uncovering and disclosing the truth. This could compromise the future safety of American citizens. Why then would you want to model another Commission after it? Why would you want another Commission at all?

Senator Leahy, in light of the fact that the 9/11 Commission's worst offense was not fully investigating the September 11th attacks, completing that investigation should also be included on your list of matters to be examined.

America's founding fathers, prescient in their fears of unrestrained power, created three separate but equal branches of government. They had hoped to maintain and enforce the limits of the Executive Branch.

The Bush Administration was allowed to circumvent too many Constitutional restrictions effectively undermining America's system of justice, our nation's integrity and commitment to the rule of law. The Bush Administration's seizing of power proves the adage that "absolute power corrupts absolutely."

The days of no fault government must end; and where there is clear criminal activity, people must be prosecuted. The law must be upheld without exception before we can be assured of the safety of the nation. These duties cannot be ignored for the sake of expediency.

Senator Leahy, our nation needs you to investigate and, if warranted, refer the cases for criminal prosecution in transparent trials. We do not need another meaningless commission resulting in no accountability at the taxpayers' expense. Show all Americans that you have the courage to uphold the law, bring accountability to those who abuse their positions of power and prevent such abuses from happening again.

The November 2008 elections proved that Americans want the rule of law restored for those in Washington who are elected to represent us. You, Senator Leahy, are in the position to lead the way and work toward the change we were promised.


September 11th Advocates
Patty Casazza
Monica Gabrielle
Mindy Kleinberg
Lorie Van Auken

They make a strong case that a commission is simply the wrong approach. And although Senator Leahy claims any truth commission grant of immunity would be very limited and in consultation with the Justice Department, some lawyers still see the commission as a profoundly bad idea and an inappropriate substitute for criminal prosecution.

Take a look at these recently released Bush era memos from the Office of Legal Counsel. Their flawed conclusion is that the president's powers over military and captured combatants -- including U.S. citizens -- is absolute. Yep, according to John Yoo, if the president decided that a U.S. citizen was an “enemy combatant,” he or she could be imprisoned indefinitely.

More secret memos are likely to surface. The New York Times spoke with officials who believe there exists one memo from the fall of 2001 justifying the National Security Agency’s program of domestic surveillance without warrants and one from the summer of 2002 that listed specific harsh interrogation techniques, including waterboarding.

How is it that a president and the Justice Department can go around making these secret rulings with no input from the other branches of government? Does this mean any president can create his own legal bubble, and then withdraw the flawed opinions 5 days before leaving office? Is it a game?

And how can this Justice Department handle a prosecution of Bush officials when 50 prosecutors who served under Bush still remain?

Despite all of President Obama's talk about looking forward, I just want to reiterate that I, for one, am still looking forward to seeing Cheney behind bars.

Wednesday, March 04, 2009

The Youth Vote

Who said the kids are all progressive? Seven years ago or so -- yeah, I remember it had to be when the country was united and frighteningly patriotic -- I was meeting my friend and her little one-year-old daughter for lunch. My friend got out of the car with those knit brows that say "mommy's upset."

We were seated at a table, and I didn't have to ask "what's wrong" because my friend just blurted it all out. She's like that. It seems sweet little Grace, while strapped into her car seat, was pointing at other cars on the road and saying "Fag! Fag!"

Of course I was shocked, but before I could ask questions, my friend explained in hushed tones (so the tot on her lap wouldn't hear I suppose) that her parents babysat Grace over the weekend, and in those two days her conservative father must have taught the child how to recognize homosexuals!

Uh... really? Well, later that night we had a follow-up phone conversation. My friend had confronted her father (that must have been an awkward inquisition) and found out little Grace was saying "Flag! Flag!" Of course! It was 2002 and everybody had an American flag on their car. What we thought was a lesson in bigotry was really just a lesson in civics.

But this wasn't Grace's last foray into politics. Three years later, at the tender age of four, she informed me she didn't want to be friends with one of the neighborhood kids because the parent's car had a John Kerry bumper sticker. Nice. Grandpa was still doing his own homeschooling it seemed.

But I'm not sure "schooling" is the right word. Children at that young age are masters of mimicry (if video doesn't show, click here).

That's 13-year-old Jonathan Krohn at CPAC. He's written a book on conservatism and starred on Broadway. He's a master of dramatic gestures, public speaking, empty words, and the failed Republican talking points. If you think for even one hot second that he understands conservatism, then here's one sobering thought: he would love to see Sarah Palin become president. Sarah Palin, Jonathan Krohn and Joe the Plumber are the trinity of the Republican party. God help us all.

Jon Stewart told me that I can't make fun of 13-year-olds. But in general terms, I must say I cannot tolerate a child that has the poise, stylings and vocabulary of an adult. It's abnormal and creepy, and listening to such a creature is like nails on a chalkboard. In other words, Jonathan Krohn reminds me of Dakota Fanning.

Why can't adults let kids be kids? Don't thrust your failed dreams and aspirations on them. Let them play, make friends, and find life on their own path. They have this tiny slice of time to be a child, and many decades to be a boring blowhard... It takes decades to become a boring blowhard!

Maybe that's what Republicans like about Jonathan. He's young, and for his entire cognizant life Bush was president. A functioning government is like an Aesop fable his parents assured him wasn't real. So during these difficult times, a child is the Republican's savior and symbol for their party.

I need to have another lunch with Grace. She's almost nine now, and I'm sure she can tell me if Jonathan is winning the youth vote or if he just has cooties.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Happy Square Root Day!

Today's date is 3/3/09. The day and the month are both the square root of the last two digits in the year. Ron Gordon, a California high school teacher, promoted these sort of dates as Square Root Days. The festivities include square dancing, drinking root beer, eating square radishes, or other root vegetables cut into shapes with square cross sections and also... well that's it. So party on! The next Square Root Day isn't until 4/4/16.

Monday, March 02, 2009

Homegrown Terrorists

Republicans tell us they have kept us safe and there have been no terrorist attacks in the US since September 11, 2001. But what do you call this? In Miramar Beach, Florida, Dannie Roy Baker shot 5 people killing two of them. Baker had a recent history of e-mailing friends about national political issues. One recipient described the e-mails as "radical" and "inappropriate."

Another acquaintance of Baker commented, "he did come up to me one time and asked me if I was ready for the revolution to begin and if I had any immigrant in my house to get them out." Baker fits my definition of a hateful homegrown terrorist. His demented dreams of creating fear in a group of people through violence and intimidation with the goal of promoting his own ideology unfortunately came to reality last Thursday.

Some people might simply call Baker an "angry white male." Strangely, we didn't hear much about this species during eight years of the Bush administration. Glenn Greenwald points out that this group is not so much fueled by anti-government sentiment but more so by a fear of losing its cultural and demographic supremacy:
What was most remarkable about this allegedly "anti-government" movement was that -- with some isolated and principled exceptions -- it completely vanished upon the election of Republican George Bush, and it stayed invisible even as Bush presided over the most extreme and invasive expansion of federal government power in memory. Even as Bush seized and used all of the powers which that movement claimed in the 1990s to find so tyrannical and unconstitutional -- limitless, unchecked surveillance activities, detention powers with no oversight, expanding federal police powers, secret prison camps, even massively exploding and debt-financed domestic spending -- they meekly submitted to all of it, even enthusiastically cheered it all on.
The angry white male is only pacified when one of his own tribe is in the White House.

Unfortunately the angry tribe has its own political party which is proving itself to be completely out of touch with the American public and reality. Tonight the Daily Show covered the endless hate and malice spewed at last week's CPAC (if video doesn't show, click here):

Though Jon Stewart is awesome, I can't laugh. I can't laugh at the CPAC audience laughing at a nuclear bomb being dropped on Chicago. The whole joke -- based on misquoting President Obama -- was too disturbing. The Republicans are cheering for another terrorist attack in the US. And I fear they are trying to inspire such an attack. This is the new Republican Nihilism.

Because they say socialism is the enemy, or "islamofascism" is the enemy, or immigration is the enemy, they are moved to broadcast creepy fantasies about a coming civil war. It's only a matter of time before more disturbed people take these war games as prophecy. Now I know what Republicans really imagine when they say they want Obama to fail.

I keep waiting for somebody in the Republican party to stand up and stop this vitriol for the sake of the nation.