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DT’s Voting Strategy

Background

I won’t forget 2000, 2004, or 2008. Our democracy was tarnished, torn, and battered on those election years. Perhaps we never had the democracy I always thought we had, but I know we don’t have it now. And that cynical, cruel, destructive action from the political machine has nearly destroyed this country.

Of course what made 2008 much worse for us was it was our party. They tore at the very fabric of society and left a large scar we still see today. It wasn’t enough that they cheated in many of the caucuses, hardly democracy anyway. No, they could even stop at that to steal the election. They went the extra mile, rubbing salt in the wounds, by stealing a whole states worth of primary votes, and then when that wasn’t enough for the heartless greedy soulless appetites, they didn’t even have a roll call and count the votes. Clearly for fear that the real winner might somehow still win. On that day we learned they were the same corrupt corporatist machine as the Republicans. No damn difference. They make different noises, and they throw in a few bones, but on the big issues, they’re the same.

Many in the Democratic party where abused, called old, called women (to them an insult by itself), called Republicans anyway, and called racist. They told anyone in the Democratic party, that if they didn’t like what they did at the convention, they could leave. They weren’t wanted, or needed. The New Democratic party had a new coalition now. They were made up of, funny enough, Republicans, mostly moderate, independents, and young people of no particular political persuasion or philosophy because to them it was all about personality and a messiah. They were made up of a solid group of African Americans some of whom were uncomfortable with how things happened, but understandably wanted an African American president more than anything. And on top of this new coalition were the party elites. You know the ones. The ones that never really liked that working class people were in their party. Never were really comfortable with, you know, little people. And funny enough, mostly white upperclass “progressives” that aren’t comfortable with people of color either, but this new choice gave them what they thought was a get out of bigot jail free card. But make no mistake, the party elite don’t particularly like the members of the new coalition any more than they liked the old group.

So from this, we got a New Democratic president and a supermajority in both houses of congress. Almost unprecedented power not seen in quite a while. With that power and by the winning margins, they had a large mandate to be and do anything different that Bush. They could have easily wiped out injustice in our laws towards women and LBGT and minorities. They could have reformed health care, bringing in at a minimum a public option. They could have made great strides economically with FDR style work stimulus programs. They could have performed a miracle not seen since FDR himself. But what did we get? We got none of that. We got the most cynical health care bill that does the opposite of what it should. It forces people to buy private insurance with massive loopholes allowing no caps and still the ability of the insurance company to effectively kick you out of your plan when you get sick. It puts more power and money in the hands of insurance companies. It is in a word, criminal. And we’ve seen us move backwards in women’s rights. And for DADT, we see the courts pushing forward and this very president pushing us backwards. And that’s nothing compared to the continuation of spying on Americans, wars, and now hit lists of American citizens.

Lessons Learned

The bottom line, the last four years of this same group running congress and the last two years of our president, has been as bad as the other party. Make no mistake, it makes me very sad to say that. My former party has unabashedly become puppets to the corporatists, and they don’t even hide it any more. They make it clear with their actions and sadly even often with their words, that they don’t care about Americans or American. Same as the other party. These two parties are both bad for America. And the saddest thing I’ve noticed, I think this new found power of this New Democratic party makes them even more susceptible to doing the bidding of the oligarchy because they so desperately want to hold on to the power normally granted to the other party.

And so, I resigned from my party of more years than I care to remember. That party does not represent me. Sadly for me there isn’t a major party that represents me. So I am independent. I’m proud to be a liberal independent.

Strategy Basics

Now that I’ve set the stage for you, met me say a bit about my voting strategy. Firstly, party affiliation is irrelevant to me. Those are clearly nothing more than tribes or gangs or country clubs. They mean nothing. As we have sadly learned. As far as I can tell, you can’t tell an individuals values from the party or lack of party to which they belong. You can make some guesses that a Democrat might be more to the left on many issues than a Republican. But you could easily be wrong. So I discount that.

So what’s left. Like with picking a presidential candidate during the primaries, you look at their experience, their record, you watch and listen, and you analyze. You look at who their supporters are, who they associate with, and who their backers are. Some of those are hard to find. But you dig anyway. Sometimes you meet them or see them at rallies. You try not to be taken in by celebrity or charisma or outward looks and charm. That’s not what you’re hiring them for. You do your homework. No one is going to be the same as you on all issues. And sadly I think the longer a politician is in office, the less likely they’ll have integrity and any semblance of what’s best for their constituents. It very quickly becomes about holding power and doing what the powerful want. So how long someone has been in office is a major factor, no matter how much you may think you like them.

Candidate Choices

First there are zillions of candidates and other choices on ballots. So there can be a lot of work. I do look at some organizations material showing their choices and why. We’ve all learned to be wary of such organizations because they have their own agendas. They’re not in it for you, they’re in it for themselves. So verify.

If you’re lucky, you have some choices. If there are more than two party candidates, you may even have some very good choices. Green or other liberal parties often have good choices. Sometimes independents are great. And on occasion the New Democratic party candidate might be great. Sestak comes to mind.

And as mentioned above, how long they’ve been in office is a major factor for me. Perhaps there could be a formula for this that takes away points for every year they’re in office. And then maybe points for matching issues, and independence of funding, etc., etc. We’ll leave that for another post.

Alas, what happens when there isn’t a good choice. What do you do? You can either vote for the lesser of two evils, write in Elvis, or something else.

Other Factors – The Protest Vote

Finally, there is indeed another dimension to this. The something else mentioned above. If you don’t have a great candidate, which sadly is often, there is the protest vote. This can be either to punish or mess up the tribe you’re more likely to be aligned with politically, say Democrats, or it can be to just generally fuck with the two main parties and keep them changing and scrambling. That is, throw wrenches in the works to slow them down.

Why would you consider doing this? After all, the other party is at least 2% more evil. Wouldn’t that help them? Yes, yes it would. And yes, they are a bit more evil. I’m a liberal, and to me, that’s still true despite what we’ve seen happen to the Democratic party. But that’s not the point. Let me put that another way, THAT’S NOT THE POINT! Here’s the point. And we’ve made this point a million times at this blog and still people don’t quite get it. If you will vote for the Democrat over the Republican every time, no matter what, because they are indeed ever so slightly better than the other guy, then why on earth would that party ever, ever, ever listen to you and your wishes and needs? I mean EVER. If they have your vote no matter what, you don’t have any value to them. That’s worth a simpler rephrasing to make sure it sinks in. YOU HAVE NO VALUE IF THEY CAN COUNT ON YOUR VOTE!!!

I think I made that clear. So if you don’t like what your slightly less evil party is doing or your slightly less evil candidate is doing or is about, don’t vote for them. Don’t vote for the lesser evil of the candidates. just don’t vote for them. Don’t do it. Don’t reward that party for putting up crap candidates.

So what choices do you have with your protest. You can actually vote for the other major party. That one is a tough one. Well, not so tough if that candidate is actually relatively moderate. And even on occasion actually more liberal than the one in your party (or closest equivalent). But usually that’s a really tough thing to do. You have to be brave and hold your nose. Now that I think about it, it’s just like how my old party has made me vote for them for years. Come to think of it, they’ve trained me quite well to do that. Not so hard perhaps.

But if that’s too much, another choice is to not vote for either candidate, none of the above if available, or to write in a nonsense candidate. Or, even though mentioned above as a reasonable option, some may consider voting for third party candidates to be in this protest camp. I like that last approach because it’s a twofer. You’re actually voting for someone pretty good, and your protest and and affecting the Democratic party.

My Vote

So what am I going to do. I won’t bore you with all the smaller local candidates like dog catcher or referendums like should we ban coffee houses from using pink whipped cream. OK, I made that one up. But I do have a congressional race to vote for that’s of interest. FYI: Here’s the League of Women Voters sheet on my district ballot (warning, link is to PDF). I get a lovely choice of candidates for congress. (Yes, that’s a snark.) First is the Democrat Tom Perriello who, as you can see from the sheet, is a founder of a number of faith-based organizations. Yes, not just one, but a number. And as you might have guessed, he’s anti-abortion. Worse still, he was an eagle scout. {{Shudder}} So basically a Republican-lite. Then we have Robert Hurt, the real Republican. He really sucks. And third, we have an independent candidate Jeffrey Clark, who is, you guessed it, another Republican. Though at least he was in the Army and did some real work. And I have to admit, I like the part on immigration where he wants to send business men to jail for hiring illegal immigrants. Kind of going against the grain of corporate interests there.

So who am I going to vote for? Well, first the polls seem to be fluctuating between Hurt winning by 5 points to Hurt winning by 10 points. Basically Hurt’s just been running against Obama/Pelosi. And of course as you’d expect from the New Democratic party, Perriello’s been lying about the health care bill (hey, at least he’s trying to defend it I guess), and slinging mud. I can’t vote for Perriello I’ve decided. He’s part of the new coalition that is moving the Democratic party further to the right. But I don’t think I can vote for Hurt. Since it probably doesn’t matter, I’m currently leaning towards Clark just for the protest (of the third party variety). That is, it’s not a good third party candidate where I get a twofer and feel doubly good, but it’s just a protest vote, plan and simple.

November 2nd, The Big Picture

Since others have mentioned their general thoughts on the rest of the elections, I thought I’d do the same. I can’t pretend otherwise, I want this New Democratic party to be dismantled. The new coalition is already falling apart given the poll numbers. The new voters just voting for a personality or messiah are either disillusioned or bored. That’s the thing about new voters, you get what you pay for. And as you’d expect, the Republican’s that joined are back to being Republicans. And it turns out the independents they pulled in are also either disillusioned or bored. None of them seem to be in the coalition any more. And sadly for the Democratic party, they threw out a big part of their base in 2008. So I want them to fall apart. Not because I want Republicans to run the country and destroy it. And sadly that’s possible. But because I don’t want this New Democratic party to destroy the country first. And make no mistake, Obama and Pelosi and Reid will continue down the path of being worse than Bush on a number of fronts and go further by cutting social security and medicare, and education is next after that. I want them out.

So I will not feel bad for them when they lose the House, which I think they will. And I won’t feel bad as they lose some in the senate. I will be very happy to see Reid go. And yes, that means a really scary person would get that seat. I certainly am not for her nor would I vote for her, but I wouldn’t vote for Reid either because he’s only less evil. He has been an utter disaster. He needs to go. And as for Pelosi, what can I say in print after her part in the 2008 primaries. Well, let’s just say I’ll be very happy to see her lose her position and will be happy to see her retire. I’m sure she’ll have fun working for some health insurance lobbyist like may of the other Democrats that leave office.

For predictions, I’m thinking the Republicans will win around 50 seats in the house and about 5 seats in the Senate. Funny enough, that’s been my prediction since the beginning of the mid term season and it hasn’t changed much. We’ll see very soon.

There you have it. My ramblings went a bit long, but that’s my current approach to voting. What’s yours?

Sunday News – Shadow War Edition

I was planning on a regular Sunday news round up, but I’m running late and some juicy stories have already been covered today. So I thought I’d go after the front page story in today’s NYTimes.

As with some presidents in the past, LBJ and Nixon come to mind, Obama has been pursuing a secret or shadow war for some time. This shadow war has purportedly been against Al Qaeda in Yemen and Pakistan and a few other places, and has been driven by the CIA along with our military. There is often some partnering with various groups where we fight. We saw some of this come out in the wikileaks papers. And we’ve seen some small reporting of this in the main stream media.

Today the NYTimes has a front page article about Obama’s shadow war. I’ll include some passages, but take a look at the article as a whole. One thing that really struck me in the article that includes reports of mistakes or collateral damage including leaders on our side of the “war” (central to fighting Al Qaeda) and large numbers of women and children, is that they don’t appear to criticizes this operation in any real sense. They talk about it as if it were just another policy or some possibly reasonable thing that Obama should be doing. There is no outrage, no holding his feet to the fire, no investigation of it as an illegal war, which it clearly is. It’s yet another clear sign that there is no main stream media that includes actual, real journalism.

Anyway, back to the story:

At first, the news from Yemen on May 25 sounded like a modest victory in the campaign against terrorists: an airstrike had hit a group suspected of being operatives for Al Qaeda in the remote desert of Marib Province, birthplace of the legendary queen of Sheba.

But the strike, it turned out, had also killed the province’s deputy governor, a respected local leader who Yemeni officials said had been trying to talk Qaeda members into giving up their fight. Yemen’s president, Ali Abdullah Saleh, accepted responsibility for the death and paid blood money to the offended tribes.

The strike, though, was not the work of Mr. Saleh’s decrepit Soviet-era air force. It was a secret mission by the United States military, according to American officials, at least the fourth such assault on Al Qaeda in the arid mountains and deserts of Yemen since December.

The attack offered a glimpse of the Obama administration’s shadow war against Al Qaeda and its allies. In roughly a dozen countries — from the deserts of North Africa, to the mountains of Pakistan, to former Soviet republics crippled by ethnic and religious strife — the United States has significantly increased military and intelligence operations, pursuing the enemy using robotic drones and commando teams, paying contractors to spy and training local operatives to chase terrorists.

The White House has intensified the Central Intelligence Agency’s drone missile campaign in Pakistan, approved raids against Qaeda operatives in Somalia and launched clandestine operations from Kenya. The administration has worked with European allies to dismantle terrorist groups in North Africa, efforts that include a recent French strike in Algeria. And the Pentagon tapped a network of private contractors to gather intelligence about things like militant hide-outs in Pakistan and the location of an American soldier currently in Taliban hands.

While the stealth war began in the Bush administration, it has expanded under President Obama, who rose to prominence in part for his early opposition to the invasion of Iraq. Virtually none of the newly aggressive steps undertaken by the United States government have been publicly acknowledged. In contrast with the troop buildup in Afghanistan, which came after months of robust debate, for example, the American military campaign in Yemen began without notice in December and has never been officially confirmed.

Of course with any sort of shadow war with little accountability there are ramifications:

The May strike in Yemen, for example, provoked a revenge attack on an oil pipeline by local tribesmen and produced a propaganda bonanza for Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula. It also left President Saleh privately furious about the death of the provincial official, Jabir al-Shabwani, and scrambling to prevent an anti-American backlash, according to Yemeni officials.

And:

The administration’s demands have accelerated a transformation of the C.I.A. into a paramilitary organization as much as a spying agency, which some critics worry could lower the threshold for future quasi-military operations. In Pakistan’s mountains, the agency had broadened its drone campaign beyond selective strikes against Qaeda leaders and now regularly obliterates suspected enemy compounds and logistics convoys, just as the military would grind down an enemy force.

For its part, the Pentagon is becoming more like the C.I.A. Across the Middle East and elsewhere, Special Operations troops under secret “Execute Orders” have conducted spying missions that were once the preserve of civilian intelligence agencies. With code names like Eager Pawn and Indigo Spade, such programs typically operate with even less transparency and Congressional oversight than traditional covert actions by the C.I.A.

And, as American counterterrorism operations spread beyond war zones into territory hostile to the military, private contractors have taken on a prominent role, raising concerns that the United States has outsourced some of its most important missions to a sometimes unaccountable private army.

Remember Obama’s campaign promise, he liked Blackwater’s use in our wars and he promised he would also use them and expand their uses wherever he could. He said it plain as day. He told the truth.

The report continues:

The officials said that they have benefited from the Yemeni government’s new resolve to fight Al Qaeda and that the American strikes — carried out with cruise missiles and Harrier fighter jets — had been approved by Yemen’s leaders. The strikes, administration officials say, have killed dozens of militants suspected of plotting future attacks. The Pentagon and the C.I.A. have quietly bulked up the number of their operatives at the embassy in Sana, the Yemeni capital, over the past year.

Notice they are killing people they suspect are “plotting” future attacks. Yes, you read that right. Even more than was true with Bush II, this new nobel peace prize president is mass murdering people he suspects may plot future attacks.

But wait, there’s more. There is a discussion of how this parallels the cold war with the Soviets, and then continues:

And some of the central players of those days have returned to take on supporting roles in the shadow war. Michael G. Vickers, who helped run the C.I.A.’s campaign to funnel guns and money to the Afghanistan mujahedeen in the 1980s and was featured in the book and movie “Charlie Wilson’s War,” is now the top Pentagon official overseeing Special Operations troops around the globe. Duane R. Clarridge, a profane former C.I.A. officer who ran operations in Central America and was indicted in the Iran-contra scandal, turned up this year helping run a Pentagon-financed private spying operation in Pakistan.

In pursuing this strategy, the White House is benefiting from a unique political landscape. Republican lawmakers have been unwilling to take Mr. Obama to task for aggressively hunting terrorists, and many Democrats seem eager to embrace any move away from the long, costly wars begun by the Bush administration.

Yes, you read that right. We are using some of the same players involved in creating Al Qaeda are involved in creating the next groups. And in killing other groups. After all, they did such a good job before.

Unfortunately these operations of course have some minor consequences:

The initial American strike in Yemen came on Dec. 17, hitting what was believed to be a Qaeda training camp in Abyan Province, in the southern part of the country. The first report from the Yemeni government said that its air force had killed “around 34” Qaeda fighters there, and that others had been captured elsewhere in coordinated ground operations.

The next day, Mr. Obama called President Saleh to thank him for his cooperation and pledge continuing American support. Mr. Saleh’s approval for the strike — rushed because of intelligence reports that Qaeda suicide bombers might be headed to Sana — was the culmination of administration efforts to win him over, including visits by Mr. Brennan and Gen. David H. Petraeus, then the commander of military operations in the Middle East.

As word of the Dec. 17 attack filtered out, a very mixed picture emerged. The Yemeni press quickly identified the United States as responsible for the strike. Qaeda members seized on video of dead children and joined a protest rally a few days later, broadcast by Al Jazeera, in which a speaker shouldering an AK-47 rifle appealed to Yemeni counterterrorism troops.

A Navy ship offshore had fired the weapon in the attack, a cruise missile loaded with cluster bombs, according to a report by Amnesty International. Unlike conventional bombs, cluster bombs disperse small munitions, some of which do not immediately explode, increasing the likelihood of civilian causalities. The use of cluster munitions, later documented by Amnesty, was condemned by human rights groups.

An inquiry by the Yemeni Parliament found that the strike had killed at least 41 members of two families living near the makeshift Qaeda camp. Three more civilians were killed and nine were wounded four days later when they stepped on unexploded munitions from the strike, the inquiry found.

Yes, Obama did that. We did that.

We are conducting a secret, shadow war that is killing countless people, doing immeasurable damage to people’s lives. We are creating generations of new terrorists. We are doing evil. All under Obama. Not because he inherited anything from Bush. But because that’s what he wants to do.

Treat this as a new/open thread. Feel free to discuss this or other topics.

Story of the Week: WikiLeaks’ Julian Assange Releases Afghanistan War Logs

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

The biggest story in the news today is the massive leak of government documents to three major newspapers: The UK Guardian, The New York Times, and Der Spiegel in Germany by Julian Assange of WikiLeaks.

He has been called “The Robin Hood of Hacking.” As the founder and public face of WikiLeaks, which posts secretive documents and information in the public domain, Julian Assange believes total transparency is in the good of the people. But Assange — who reportedly lives an itinerant existence, traveling the world with a back-pack and a computer — is himself a shadowy figure. Little is known about his life: he has refused to confirm his age in interviews or give a fixed address. But on July 26, mathematically-trained Australian changed the media landscape — and possibly the course of history — by releasing around 90,000 classified U.S. military records from the war in Afghanistan.

In 2006, Assange decided to found WikiLeaks in the belief that the free exchange of information would put an end to illegitimate governance. The website publishes material from sources, and houses its main server in Sweden, which has strong laws protecting whistleblowers. Assange and others at WikiLeaks also occasionally hack into secure systems to find documents to expose. In December, the website published its first document — a decision by the Somali Islamic Courts Union that called for the execution of government officials. WikiLeaks published a disclaimer that the document may not be authentic and “may be a clever smear by U.S. intelligence.”

The website went on to get several prominent scoops, including the release in April of a secret video taken in 2007 of a U.S. helicopter attack in Iraq that killed a dozen civilians, including two unarmed Reuters journalists. Assange helped post the video from a safe-house in Iceland that he and the other WikiLeaks administrators called “the bunker.”

From The NYT yesterday: View Is Bleaker Than Official Portrayal of War in Afghanistan

The secret documents, released on the Internet by an organization called WikiLeaks, are a daily diary of an American-led force often starved for resources and attention as it struggled against an insurgency that grew larger, better coordinated and more deadly each year….

The documents — some 92,000 reports spanning parts of two administrations from January 2004 through December 2009 — illustrate in mosaic detail why, after the United States has spent almost $300 billion on the war in Afghanistan, the Taliban are stronger than at any time since 2001.

As the new American commander in Afghanistan, Gen. David H. Petraeus, tries to reverse the lagging war effort, the documents sketch a war hamstrung by an Afghan government, police force and army of questionable loyalty and competence, and by a Pakistani military that appears at best uncooperative and at worst to work from the shadows as an unspoken ally of the very insurgent forces the American-led coalition is trying to defeat.

Here is the NYT “War Logs” page that collects the related stories.

From today’s Der Spiegel article: The Afghanistan Protocol: Explosive Leaks Provide Image of War from Those Fighting It

The documents’ release comes at a time when calls for a withdrawal of troops from Afghanistan are growing — even in America. Last week, representatives from more than 70 nations and organizations met in Kabul for the Afghanistan conference. They assured President Hamid Karzai that his country would be in a position by 2014 to guarantee security using its own soldiers and police.

But such shows of optimism seem cynical in light of the descriptions of the situation in Afghanistan provided in the classified documents. Nearly nine years after the start of the war, they paint a gloomy picture. They portray Afghan security forces as the hapless victims of Taliban attacks. They also offer a conflicting impression of the deployment of drones, noting that America’s miracle weapons are also entirely vulnerable.

And they show that the war in northern Afghanistan, where German troops are stationed, is becoming increasingly perilous. The number of warnings about possible Taliban attacks in the region — fuelled [sic] by support from Pakistan — has increased dramatically in the past year.

The documents offer a window into the war in the Hindu Kush — one which promises to change the way we think about the ongoing violence in Afghanistan. They will also be indispensible for anyone seeking to inform themselves about the war in the future.

Here is the UK Guardian page on the war logs with many stories based on the leaked information.

The Guardian has a video of Julian Assange: Julian Assange on the Afghanistan war logs: ‘They show the true nature of this war’

The Guardian has also prepared an interactive map with their selections of the most significant incidents covered in the war logs.

A good summary of the information in the logs at the Wired blog, Threat Level The story quotes the official Obama administration response to the leaks from the NYT:

“The United States strongly condemns the disclosure of classified information by individuals and organizations which could put the lives of Americans and our partners at risk, and threaten our national security,” said White House national security advisory General James Jones, in a statement Sunday. “Wikileaks made no effort to contact us about these documents — the United States government learned from news organizations that these documents would be posted.”

At the New Yorker, Amy Davidson highlights one shocking incident:

…an incident report dated November 22, 2009, submitted by a unit called Task Force Pegasus. It describes how a convoy was stopped on a road in southern Afghanistan at an illegal checkpoint manned by what appeared to be a hundred insurgents, “middle-age males with approx 75 x AK-47’s and 15 x PKM’s.” What could be scarier than that?

Maybe what the soldiers found out next: these weren’t “insurgents” at all, at least not in the die-hard jihadi sense that the American public might understand the term. The gunmen were quite willing to let the convoy through, if the soldiers just forked over a two- or three-thousand-dollar bribe; and they were in the pay of a local warlord, Matiullah Khan, who was himself in the pay, ultimately, of the American public. According to a Times report this June (six months after the incident with Task Force Pegasus), Matiullah earns millions of dollars from NATO, supposedly to keep that road clear for convoys and help with American special-forces missions. Matiullah is also suspected of (and has denied) earning money “facilitating the movement of drugs along the highway.”

…..The Obama Administration has already expressed dismay that WikiLeaks publicized the documents, but a leak informing us that our tax dollars may be being used as seed money for a protection racket associated with a narcotics-trafficking enterprise is a good leak to have. And the checkpoint incident is, again, only one report, from one day.

Glenn Greenwald also has a post on the leaks.

Greenwald tweeted a little while ago that if Julian Assange got the Nobel Peace Prize he would be much more deserving than the last guy who won it.

This story is huge! This is the modern-day “Pentagon papers” that could bring down the wars pushed by Obama’s “best and brightest.” It’s terrific that the story came out on a Sunday; this should be fodder for cable news all week. Let’s hope they have the guts to cover it.

Daniel Ellsberg, the guy who released the original Pentagon papers and was targeted by a “White House hit squad” in 1972, fears for the life of Julian Assange. He told The Daily Beast last month

Do you think Assange is in danger?

I happen to have been the target of a White House hit squad myself. On May 3, 1972, a dozen CIA assets from the Bay of Pigs, Cuban émigrés were brought up from Miami with orders to “incapacitate me totally.” I said to the prosecutor, “What does that mean? Kill me.” He said, “It means to incapacitate you totally. But you have to understand these guys never use the word ‘kill.’”

Is the Obama White House anymore enlightened than Nixon’s?

We’ve now been told by Dennis Blair, the late head of intelligence here, that President Obama has authorized the killing of American citizens overseas, who are suspected of involvement in terrorism. Assange is not American, so he doesn’t even have that constraint. I would think that he is in some danger. Granted, I would think that his notoriety now would provide him some degree of protection. You would think that would protect him, but you could have said the same thing about me. I was the number one defendant. I was on trail but they brought up people to beat me up.

You believe he is in danger of bodily harm, then?

Absolutely. On the same basis, I was….Obama is now proclaiming rights of life and death, being judge, jury, and executioner of Americans without due process. No president has ever claimed that and possibly no one since John the First.

What advice would you give Assange?

Stay out of the U.S. Otherwise, keep doing what he is doing. It’s pretty valuable…He is serving our democracy and serving our rule of law precisely by challenging the secrecy regulations, which are not laws in most cases, in this country.

Thank you Julian Assange! And thank you to Pvt. Bradley Manning, who is the probable source for the leaks to Assange and is now under arrest. Free Bradley Manning!!

Conflucians, as you work your way through this material, please post anything you think is important for us to know. This story must be pushed hard!

UPDATE: Here is the data that is posted at the WikiLeaks site. Each of the newspapers made their own choices about what information to reveal and what to hold back. The NYT negotiated with the WH in making their decisions. It will be interesting to see if they left out some material that the foreign papers include. The also claim they asked Assange not to post material that would be harmful to troops in the field, although that probably wasn’t necessary.

Independence Day News

Happy Independence Day Conflucians!!

On this day in 1776 the second continental congress of the 13 colonies officially accepted a document to be used to sever ties with Great Britain. The Declaration of Independence was signed and published soon thereafter. And of course not long after was a war for that independence, a revolutionary war. PBS that hosts the Capital Fourth celebration has a nice page with a brief history, including his quote from Thomas Jefferson in 1826 on the 50th anniversary:

May it be to the world, what I believe it will be … the signal of arousing men to burst the chains … and to assume the blessings and security of self-government. That form, which we have substituted, restores the free right to the unbounded exercise of reason and freedom of opinion. All eyes are opened, or opening, to the rights of man. … For ourselves, let the annual return of this day forever refresh our recollections of these rights, and an undiminished devotion to them.

The Library of Congress has the document along with many related manuscripts, letters, and documents of the time. From the text, let’s revisit parts of it:

WHEN, in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume, among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s GOD entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the Causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed, by their CREATOR, with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate, that Governments long established, should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the Necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated Injuries and Usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

Among the grievances then listed are a few worth noting:

HE has erected a Multitude of new Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harrass our People, and eat out their Substance.

HE has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies, without the Consent of our Legislatures.

HE has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

HE has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

And then finally closes with:

WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connexion between them and the State of Great-Britain, is, and ought to be, totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of Right do. And for the Support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of DIVINE PROVIDENCE, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honour.

What brave and brilliant people. They later formed a government and a constitution. And, to quote genesis, it was very good.

We’ve certainly come a long way since then. There have always been controversies, there have been wars, even a major civil war. There have been many, many corrupt politicians, and there have been disasters. But in recent years we have had some larger than life events that have shaken us to our foundation. We had a corrupt president who after impeached resigned in disgrace. We had a very questionable arms for hostages trading behind the scenes by people running for office that helped them get elected. We had an opposing party go on an endless witch hunt of a sitting president as a political tactic. We had a presidential election decided by the supreme court, with embarrassingly obvious conflicts of interest, selecting the loser of that election to be president. We’ve seen illegal wars for oil and profit a number of times, including our current wars. And finally in the latest blow to our system, we have someone who lost his party primaries but was installed by that party’s leaders nonetheless. He was backed when he was unheard of by major financial, insurance, and oil companies to the tune of more money than any established politician. And who has turned out to be a corporatist, uncaring, detached leader with seemingly endless disdain for the citizens. And further, we have two political parties that are effectively the same, owned by the same interests, making the whole system into a cruel joke.

How did this happened, and what do we do about it? Where is the press? As we saw from Myiq’s post last night, we’ve lost some of our rights of a free press and free speech to a British corporation on the orders of this president. Irony much. It’s now a federal crime look closely at what’s happening with the worst ecological (and probably soon financial) disaster this country has even seen. How can this be?

On top of that we are still in two wars, possibly heading to a third. We are still torturing “enemies.” We are still using rendition to get people into countries where it is easier to torture them. And now we have hit lists of dozens and dozens of US citizens marked for assassination. And we still have not regained habeas corpus, so US citizens can still be taken away in the night for any reason, including for asking too many questions.

How did this happen? How could an unknown, empty suit puppet, obviously owned and controlled by a few powerful corporations, with absolutely no experience get to be president? What kind of people would allow such a thing? Would gladly want such a thing? For those in the mainstream media that participated and helped this happen, and those in the Democratic party leadership that killed democracy and helped this happen, and those in the progressive blogosphere that fought tooth and nail for this to happen, how can you sleep at night? How can you stand there and watch everything unravel and continue to act as if you’re surprised? Or worse, continue to rationalize and excuse as if there is some secret plan? There is a hit list for assassinating US citizens for gods sake, it doesn’t get any more blatant than that. Wake up!

Just like with Reagan/Bush, just like with GW Bush, and just like with Obama, many of us saw this happening and screamed at the top of our lungs. We warned you. We told you so. We screamed. We argued. We proved our case. Each and every time. We are tired of screaming. It’s time for the rest of you to wake up and instead of carrying water for the corporatists hell bent on squeezing every last cent and rights from us, carry water for our country instead. Wake up!

As you can see, I got myself on a bit of a rant. Sure it started out nice all about the declaration, but then I started thinking about our current state of affairs and just got pissed off. That doesn’t mean I won’t have a picnic and hope beyond hope that people can still wake up and do better. We did have 8 years of Clinton, though still a bit conservative for me, did quite a few great things and took the job seriously. As if it mattered. So just maybe we can turn around before it’s too late. I’ll end on that tiny sliver of hope. And this song that John Lennon thought was one of the most perfect songs ever written. In this case, for me, it’s about my country:

Please chime in with any news. Yea, I kind of skipped that bit. And chime in with any good things you can find out there. I could use it.

Elena Kagan and Laura Bush: When Pigs Really Fly

Kudos to the President for nominating another lady to the supreme court. Well done. But something’s not right here. What is it…? Oh, yeah.

I’m really, really glad Obama chose a woman. I really, really wish she were more liberal. I suspect she’ll be okay on Roe and other “social issues,” but her attitude to executive power is alarming.

Also, rumors abound that Kagan is gay. Let’s just pretend for a second that we care….

Glad that’s over.

As for social issues, the President has really given us a treat! He picked someone that is kind of pro-choice! OMG! But wait…

As a White House adviser in 1997, Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan urged then-President Bill Clinton to support a ban on late-term abortions, a political compromise that put the administration at odds with abortion rights groups.

Documents reviewed Monday by The Associated Press show Kagan encouraging Clinton to support a bill that would have banned all abortions of viable fetuses except when the physical health of the mother was at risk. The documents from Clinton’s presidential library are among the first to surface in which Kagan weighs in the thorny issue of abortion.

The abortion proposal was a compromise by Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle. Clinton supported it, but the proposal failed and Clinton vetoed a stricter Republican ban.

In a May 13, 1997, memo from the White House domestic policy office, Kagan and her boss, Bruce Reed, told Clinton that abortion rights groups opposed Daschle’s compromise. But they urged the president to support it, saying he otherwise risked seeing a Republican-led Congress override his veto on the stricter bill.

Oh. But still! Since Kagan is probably a lezbo, she must support gay marriage, right? Wrong.

The meme has taken hold that Kagan is a stealth candidate who has avoided taking positions on important constitutional or other issues throughout her career.

But on one issue of critical importance to the left — the constitutional right to same-sex marriage, Kagan has staked out a very clear and unequivocal position: There is no constitutional right to same-sex marriage.

In the course of her nomination for Solicitor General, Kagan filled out questionnaires on a variety of issues. While she bobbed and weaved on many issues, with standard invocations of the need to follow precedent and enforce presumptively valid statutes, on the issue of same-sex marriage Kagan was unequivocal.

Kagan is a winner in other ways, too:

“Like Harriet Miers, she doesn’t have a record to tell us how she would adjudicate from the bench. They led a rebellion against the executive branch and the same thing should happen here.”

“I object to appointment somebody that has no track record. Corporate power is a big one because of the Citizens United decision, and also Miranda. There are a lot of things where it would be helpful to be able to examine past writings.”

“If I was in the Senate, I would vote no, because like Harriet Miers she doesn’t have the judicial experience.”

“Accepting Kagan just because people like Obama is wrong. That’s appropriate for American Idol, not the Supreme Court. Nobody knows what she stands for but him. It’s just a cult of personality with Obama. This is the Supreme Court.”

There is something fundamentally wrong about this. Everyone is used to Obama constantly rejecting his base. They are like devoted mistresses who constantly tell themselves that their boyfriends will leave their wives–he is just making a compromise right now; it’s a secret game of eleven dimensional chest and during the election time he will come crawling back. But really, why do liberals have to compromise in the first place?

The selection of Solicitor General Elena Kagan to be the nation’s 112th justice extends a quarter-century pattern in which Republican presidents generally install strong conservatives on the Supreme Court while Democratic presidents pick candidates who often disappoint their liberal base.

[...]

Along the way, conservatives have largely succeeded in framing the debate, putting liberals on the defensive. Sonia Sotomayor echoed conservatives in her Supreme Court confirmation hearings last year by rejecting the idea of a “living” Constitution that evolves, and even President Obama recently said the court had gone too far in the past. While conservatives have played a powerful role in influencing Republican nominations, liberals have not been as potent in Democratic selections.

Well, I don’t know. Maybe the blogger boyz just need a reality check. For one thing, Obama is just not that into them.

For another, the notion that Obama is a “Democratic President” is laughable anyway. Democratic Presidents don’t pass Heritage Foundation Health Insurance Reforms and then claim it as the biggest victory of their Presidency. Just sayin.’

The Democratic Party is obviously in trouble, and that is no secret. But they can’t be any worse than Republicans, right? NOTHING is worse than a Republican. I mean, Elena Kagan might not be perfect on social issues, but at least she’s more liberal that Laura Bush!

On her media tour for her memoir, Spoken from the Heart, Laura Bush stopped by Larry King Live, where she opened up for the first time about her advocacy for marriage equality, as well as her belief that Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision regarding a woman’s right to an abortion, should be upheld.

Dish: Health Insurance Reform

WHHHOOOOOOOOOO! Health Care Reform for white men has passed! The most historical event evah in the history of historicalness has occurred! A Democratic Congress and a Democratic President has made a Republican Healthcare Bill Law! Insurance companies will be able to not provide helpless children with adequate care at last!

All this change! All this hope! I can’t take it! I’m going to spontaneously combust!

The world is going insane, and while normally I like insanity, this is not the good kind. Obama has just passed national RomneyObamacare–a Nixon wet dream originating from the Heritage Foundation in the 1990s in opposition to Hillarycare, and yet lunatic “Tea Partiers” are running around vandalizing the houses of Congressidiots who voted for the heaping pile of shit, screaming that they are “socialists?”

Obama signs an executive order restricting women’s access to abortion, and so called “progressives” and “feminists” are having kool aid induced orgasms as they compare the passage of a Health Insurance Reform Bill that would be better served as toilet paper to the Civil Rights Act? What the fuck?

Well, maybe I’m being unfair. The Bill IS Historic. Historically shitty.

I find myself–and we all must admit that I am normally so cheerful and chipper, yes, you know you all love me– I find myself feeling gloomy. I’m walking around campus with my hands shoved in the pockets of my fake leather jacket with a cigarette hanging out of my mouth–and I don’t even smoke! Security officers are mistaking me for troubled youth and are performing random searches on me.

Well, I am troubled. I’m troubled about a lot of things, but in terms of politics and current events, I am troubled about the fact that, as MYIQ said a few weeks ago, there appears to be no end in sight.

But what really has me bummed out right now is the realization that there is no end in sight for the mess this country is in. The single biggest problem facing our nation is the illness in our political system. When I say “illness” I mean the equivalent of an inoperable cancer that has metastasized. If we fixed our political system then we would actually be able to do something about those other problems.

For most of my adult life I believed that the Democrats were the good guys so even when they were getting slapped around by the Republicans I could support them and hope that after the next election they would grow a pair and start standing up for the liberal ideals they campaigned on.

I finally realized that the majority of the Democrats who hold elected office are not only corrupt but they have the same agenda as the Republicans. Oh, the say they’re on our side, and when it’s time for them to represent us they might make some speeches andr play some parliamentary tricks but when the nitty meets the gritty they lose on purpose. Lots of times they don’t even bother to put on a dog and pony show anymore, they just vote to bail out Wall Street or take away our civil rights as if that’s what we wanted them to do.

Now as far back as I can remember the Republicans were corrupt and they tended to be pricks or assholes, and sometimes both, but they weren’t insane. Nowadays there’s a lot of GOPers that are crazy as shithouse rats. That not only includes the elected ones but the voters too. Then you got the tea baggers who don’t think the Republicans are crazy enough.

I can’t believe that I am living in a country–I country I have grown up loving with every fiber of my being despite its flaws–where this is happening. The passage of a bill that bails out the Health Care Industry is historic! And in honor of Women’s History Month we passed it on the backs of women and their reproductive rights! Cats bark! Fish have tails! Catholic Priests are ethical in their treatment of young children!

The whole world is going mad I tell you! MAAAADDDDD!

Of course, intellectually I understand, there is always hope. Democrats are going to lose a lot of seats in November and while the Republicans that come into office will be even worse, the door will open for real liberals, not phony “progressives,” to show Donna Brazile and Howard Dean’s “New Coalition” to be ineffective and thus we will be able to take our party back.

But sometimes, in this Golden Era of Hope and Change, politics just isn’t enough. For once in our lives, we needed policy. Good policy that would actually have given broke-ass students like me real Health Insurance. Just a few weeks ago, before my spring break, I came down with the flu and missed a week of classes I’m still making up. If I had insurance, I might have been able to get antibiotics and missed only one day, maybe two. This bill does nothing to help me. For one thing, I’ll be done with my undergraduates and possibly even my graduates by 2014. At this rate I’m going to have to start stripping for my ‘scrips, just like a number of poor senior citizens who will shortly be facing cuts in medicare due to this lame-assed bill.


Sometimes, I get tired. Sometimes, I don’t want to live life day to day anymore. Sometimes I think things will never get better. Trying to get something to eat, trying to fill up my gas tank–always being hungry, worrying about my mom, worrying about my friends, worrying about all the people around me at my school who are going through the same thing.

Sometimes, honestly, I’m just tired. And today, forgive me, but I have to lament over the fact that politics took precedence over policy. Sorry.

Common Sense and the sensus communis: anatomy of an American pressure cooker

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Gay-Lussac

The pressure of a fixed mass and fixed volume of a gas is directly proportional to the gas’s temperature.

This relationship is known as the Gay-Lussac’s Law and a pressure cooker is an example of the law in practice. Cooking under pressure creates the possibility of cooking with high temperature liquids because the boiling point of a liquid increases as its pressure increases. High pressure and high heat can result in delectable dishes.

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Cooking under pressure can be also dangerous because as liquids change phase into gases their volume expands greatly. For example, at atmospheric pressure the volume of steam is about 1700 times greater than the volume of water. To prevent pressure cookers from becoming bombs, relief devices (pop safety valves) are employed that are capable of relieving all of the steam the vessel is capable of producing.

America the Beautiful Pressure Cooker

The political pressure cooker is beginning to heat up. The power brokers and institutions that drive the nation have arrived unannounced on the doorsteps of America like a gaggle of unwanted, high maintenance relatives that demand hospitality for an unforeseeable time and that won’t take no for answer. Furthermore, they’ve announced that more relatives are on the way. Whatever plans America’s householders had, they’ve just gone out the window, with their household budgie and the relatives’ cat in hot pursuit.

People are justifiably angry with this incursion. Their budgie might not have been much, but it was “their budgie”, nurtured from birth into what it had become. Justifiably angry householders are trying to work out why the relatives arrived on their doorsteps and why they brought their fucking cat. Continue reading

Is it absurd to try to weather the storm?

stormIs it beyond our ken to maintain a noble purpose as we guide our battered ships of state through the dark shadows of this mild squall of an economic crisis? Whom of us will risk life and limb to keep the ships afloat? Who will cast away possessions for the same purpose? Who will act to subvert these sacrifices? How will the storm weather us, as we weather the storm?

I ask these question because these darkling foreshadows are pallid compared to those that will attend the forthcoming Category Six typhoon of environmental collapse. How will that storm weather us, if we weather the storm? Given the tendency of people to adopt default positions in crisis situations, how we perform now, should give us some indication of how we’ll perform in much more dire circumstances.

Curiously, given the introduction, the point of this post is not to delve into the ugliness which portends. The point of this post is to ask the question, “How should we behave when faced with the absurdity that the cultural virtues that we cherish undermine the existential preconditions of our culture?” In other words, what does a wine-inspired poet do, when he finds that greater amounts of drink are fueling his muse, but not curing his cirrhosis and, in fact, killing him?

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Uncle Sam Contracts Frater Magnus to Safeguard his Healthcare Liberty

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You can fool some of the people all of the time, and all of the people some of the time, but you can not fool all of the people all of the time. – Abraham Lincoln

There’s a sucker born every minute. – P.T. Barnum

BenjaminFranklinWe, the People, are born every minute. The last ten years provides ample evidence about the regularity to which Lincoln alludes.

Geese are but Geese tho’ we may think ‘em Swans; and Truth will be Truth tho’ it sometimes prove mortifying and distasteful. – Benjamin Franklin

The Constitution of the United States is like a manual for building a nation of equals before the law. It embodies the wisdom that some people gain power and freedom by stealing the power and freedom of others. It enacts principles to thwart those who conduct such thefts. “Liberty” is a common code word for describing the nation’s promise of power and freedom to its citizens.

Interestingly, the founders were all too aware that the apparatus they made to uphold the liberty of the nation’s citizens, i.e. the government, could also fall under the influence of those who would thieve the liberty of others. Accordingly, citizens must be mindful of what they, and others, ask of their government, while using the government as a tool to promote liberty, and other Constitutional and DOI objectives, and thwart liberty thieves. Unfortunately, some citizens are so focused on defending their liberty from the government that they lose sight of the reason that the government was created, i.e. they lose sight of the enemies of liberty. They are so focussed on the tree, that they lose sight of the forest that is being clearcut all around them. Continue reading

This creek smells funny. How did we get here?

Shit_Creek_
Imagine you were rowing your boat gently down the stream and one of the oars got caught in the hatch. What would happen? Logic suggests that the current would slowly move you downstream as you spun the boat in circles.

O.K. Rowboats don’t have hatches, but Orrin Hatch is a creature and a feature of the ship of state and it is people of his intellectual and moral quality who are spinning the boat in circles when it’s clearly in need of proper direction. In fact, abandoning the first metaphor, they’ve piloted the US up the creek to where it is today. When you’re up this creek, you need a paddle, not an Orrin.

In response to Charles Schumer’s statement, that the Democrats can pass healthcare reform without Republican support:

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah), who joined Schumer on the show, said Democrats should not try to use reconciliation to force through a bill which could not overcome a filibuster in the Senate.

“If they use that, that would be an abuse of the process,” Hatch said. He also said creating a government health plan open to all would be a grave mistake. “If we do that, we’ll bankrupt the country.”

Earth to Orrin. What do you think you’ve been actively working at for the last 8 years? What do you think lying to the public to make a war in Iraq, and loosely regulating the financial community, have to do with the current economic situation?

The Republican Party set the stage for bankrupting the nation by adopting neo-conservatism as its political philosophy. Neo-conservatism, which is conservatism without moral and intellectual grounding, is bankrupt at the conceptual level, so it’s hardly surprising that Bush’s application of its principles gutted the economy of the nation. It’s also why so many Republicans continue working to bankrupt the nation by applying the principles they say prevent bankruptcy.

Ideologues whose brains can’t get beyond binaries are incapable of accepting the empirical world when it conflicts with their beliefs. One such belief is that public healthcare would bankrupt the economy, when every study ever published in The New England Journal of Medicine on the topic shows that public healthcare is more efficient and cost effective than private healthcare.

With people like Orrin at the helm, there is no reason to wonder why the country is up the creek. I can think of at least two good uses for a paddle.

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