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Free for all

I’ve been kind of busy in the last couple of days signing documents, sending documents, resigning documents, losing my stylus, dealing with lawyers and two realtors.  Then there is a paper I have to go over from my old job that’s about to go to the publisher.  It’s only been 20 months and nothing to show to future employers so I could get another job but I try not to be bitter {{inwardly seething}}.  Then there is another paper I’ve been fiddling with that’s a lot more interesting and deserves attention.  Plus midterms for the kid trying to convince her that Cornell has a buttload of overachieving asian high school students to choose from.  I mean, if she thinks she can get away with a B+ in AP Bio because she didn’t bother to study… Nag, nag, nag.

AND the skin under my surgical tape is itching like crazy.  (BTW, I highly recommend gallbladder removal to people who want to lose weight.  The inability to process fat containing foods is making think I will be svelte before summer. )

So, I’m here, but, er, not here.  I’ve got stuff and things and bills to pay and many miles before I sleep.

I hear that Obama is about to cave to the Republicans on how to screw us economically and that he doesn’t think he has to tell us whether he felt free to mow down Occupy Wall Street protestors if he thought they were domestic terrorists, which makes me yearn for Canada…

Anyway, this is a free for all.  Have at it!

The left continues to disintegrate

Apparently, this drone issue has become pretty serious among the remaining A-list bloggers of the left.  You can get the full PUMA treatment for even suggesting that the use of drones should be discussed.  I suspect that a no-drone stance will become the new black on the left, with good reason.  At least it’s not dogmatic, although if they’re not careful, it could become a dogmatic issue.  The problem is not that drones drop bombs on innocent people.  It’s that people with unlimited, unaccountable power can drop bombs on people they do not like and, because it is not personally expensive to them, the power will be abused.  You can count on it.  Drones with lethal capacity should be banned. You can’t control power like that.  You need to destroy it before it falls into the hands of the people who, meaning to do good, can ultimately not stop themselves from exercising it for their own purposes.  In a sense, this is the same problem we’ve been dealing with since Magna Carta.  One person has too much power and can use it indiscriminately to the point that no one is safe.

But while the no-droners are getting more than a little sympathy because they have incurred the unfair wrath of the party fanatics, they themselves still think it is unserious that the current president used vote suppression tactics to win the nomination in 2008.  For some reason, that doesn’t seem to bother them, although when Republicans try to invalidate whole populations of voters in PA, lefties have a royal fit.  Throwing a fit *is* the correct response, in case there were any doubts. But it’s no different than what the party did to its voters in 2008.  Inconvenient votes were suppressed, transferred or halved so that one person would have an advantage over another.  To me, it’s just as serious an issue as the drone problem.  Maybe more so.  If you can’t vote out the guy who uses drones, you’re pretty much screwed.

Oh, sure, it all happened four years ago and what does that have to do with today?  Isn’t it obvious?  The party locked itself in with Obama.   I still don’t think the Democrats who are feeling betrayed right now understand what they’re dealing with.  Obama used WALL STREET to get the nomination.   You know, those guys who brought the entire planet to the edge of economic oblivion??  They don’t know limits.  They’re like Enron on crack, PCP and bath salts with a chaser of testosterone. Wall Street culture has permeated the party.  That’s why the partisans are so aggressive.  It’s the way they operate.  They’re smart, they’re driven and they don’t think very far ahead.  They want to win, that much is clear.  But to them, governing is not so important.  What is important is staying in charge, looking out for their own interests and politically obliterating anyone that gets in their way.

So the party faithful decided not to primary Obama this year because that sounded crazy.  Now, some Democrats regret that we didn’t primary him.  I think that just having a concerted effort on the left to discuss it seriously would have been enough to get the DNC’s attention. But at the time it was suggested to push for the only viable alternative to Obama that would have had the Obama Democrats peeing their pants, those of us who could see this day coming were called crazy.

I dunno, maybe you have to be a little bit crazy to see outside the box.  I don’t think that’s a bad thing.  Maybe the left should stop trying to control everything for fear of losing and do something a little crazy every now and then.

Well, whatever, the left will have plenty of time to think about going a bit mad in 2014.  Let’s make the circular firing squad brief this time, shall we?

BTW, I heard that there’s a new NBC poll that put Obama ahead by a lousy 3 points.

Against Mitt Romney.

Obama should be coasting by now.

This ain’t over yet people and Obama’s no longer historic.  He’s no longer a political cypher either. Now we know the limits of his audacity.

The Republicans are sitting on a wad of cash and they will use it in the last couple of weeks to blame Obama for everything that has happened in the last four years.  He’ll get blamed for everything he did and all of the things he didn’t do. These are not ordinary times.  Real people are hurting and they’re angry.  They voted for a Democrat and they didn’t get one.  Political junkies knew that the Republicans would be obstructive pains in the asses.  That was their plan to return to power.  But that’s no excuse for the poor performance of the past four years.  If Obama had acted like a Democrat and used the power that the voters gave him the first two years and failed, he would have a much stronger case against the Republicans this year.  But you have to at least try to do what voters expect you to do before they cut you any slack and all indications are that he did worse than nothing.  He catered to the very people who got us into this mess.

Elections hinge on motivated voters.  Do you feel motivated?

One piece of advice to the new defectors: don’t let the partisans guilt trip you.  They’re going to say that it will be all your fault if Romney wins.  That’s bullshit.  It’s the party’s responsibility to nominate a candidate that represents your values and the platform of your party. You own your vote.  If the party is playing a game of political chicken with you in order to make you feel like you’re trapped into voting for their guy, remember that their job was to court you, not to take you for granted.  You have issues that are important to you and you shouldn’t always have to sit down and shut up while the candidate goes chasing after voters with whom you have little in common.  You don’t owe him anything.  If the polls get too close, he might start sweet talking you.  And if that happens, make him work for your vote.

Yeah, it will suck if Romney and more Republicans win.  I’m planning to vote D down ticket.  But it will suck worse for the guys who highjacked the party because they will be out of power and power is more addicting than anything else.  They’re going to hate that.

Good.

Welcome new Democrats In Exile.  We’re out of our customary initiation packages.  Grab some popcorn and make yourselves comfortable.

Killing Me Softly With His Drone

I keep thinking I should write up something thoughtful.  That I should find a way to express my opinion about The Drones, The Presidential Kill List (complete with Power Point presentations!) and the almost complete silence about the issue in both televised media and the fashionable progressive blogosphere.  But my brain is stuck on a simple phrase, “Are you fucking kidding me?

In a delayed reaction, I’m wondering – Is “militant” more like a religion or an activity?

Glenn Greenwald, Deliberate media propaganda

Earlier this week, The New York Times reported that the Obama administration, in order to conceal civilian deaths caused by their drone attacks, “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants.” Although I wrote at length about the NYT‘s various revelations, I wrote separately about that specific disclosure, in order to emphasize the implications for media outlets reporting on American drone attacks:

What kind of self-respecting media outlet would be party to this practice? Here’s the New York Times documenting that this is what the term “militant” means when used by government officials. Any media outlet that continues using it while knowing this is explicitly choosing to be an instrument for state propaganda.

Early this morning, the U.S. fired a missile from a drone in northwest Pakistan — its first since the NYT story – and killed two people.

(snip)

There is, as usual, no indication that these media outlets have any idea whatsoever about who was killed in these strikes. All they know is that “officials” (whether American or Pakistani) told them that they were “militants,” so they blindly repeat that as fact. They “report” this not only without having the slightest idea whether it’s true, but worse, with the full knowledge that the word “militant” is being aggressively distorted by deceitful U.S. government propaganda that defines the term to mean: any “military-age males” whom we kill (the use of the phrase “suspected militants” in the body of the article suffers the same infirmity).

Jane, at FireDogLake has been silent about Obama’s Kill List (at least as far as I can tell – I’ll add links if I’m wrong.) But I stumbled across this great post by Dissenter, The Media on Obama’s ‘Kill List’.  It’s a long list discussing some of the stories I’ve mentioned in my posts and a couple I’m including today as well as some you haven’t seen from me.

Laugh or cry – or both: MSNBC: No Time for Obama’s Kill List?

The New York Times’ lengthy report (5/29/12) on Barack Obama’s drone “kill list” should provoke serious questions: Is such a program legal? How does it square with Obama’s criticism of the Bush administration’s “war on terror” policies? What does it tell us about how the administration identifies “militants” who are targeted for assassination?

But those questions have been raised only in fits and starts–and are basically absent from the liberal cable news channel MSNBC.

(snip)

But what about the channel that would seem the natural place for some of that left-leaning analysis? MSNBC has been mostly quiet. A search of the Nexis news database turns up nothing on Obama’s kill list. The program Morning Joe had one discussion (5/29/12) where the panelists mostly supported the program, though host Joe Scarborough expressed some reservations.

What was more newsworthy? MSNBC’s prime time shows seemed to have plenty of coverage of “birther” Donald Trump.

In an almost illegibly formatted piece from The Nation makes a pretty good point: US president’s kill list is illegal and immoral:

The Times described the president as poring over terrorist suspects’ biographies – their “baseball cards,” as one unnamed official put it – and making the final determination of whether and when a suspected terrorist leader, and sometimes his family, will be killed.But if the president’s personal involvement is laudable, the killings themselves are no less controversial. And, if the Times’s reporting is accurate, the programme itself is illegal.Becker and Shane confirm what we could only guess from remarks made by Obama’s advisors in the past: that the United States is targeting to kill individuals overseas who do not pose an imminent threat to the United States and who are not directly participating in hostilities against Americans. That’s a violation of international law.

And from Stephen Colbert (Video starts playing – with sound – as page loads!!!) – Two Birds With One Drone

It Lives: The Kill List

I don’t know how long I’ll keep doing these daily lists. It’s too disturbing.

Glenn Greenwald
How extremism is normalized

But that’s the point: once something is repeated enough by government officials, we become numb to its extremism. Even in the immediate wake of 9/11 — when national fear and hysteria were intense — things like the Patriot Act, military commissions, and indefinite detention were viewed as radical departures from American political tradition; now, they just endure and are constantly renewed without notice, because they’ve just become normalized fixtures of American political life. Here we have the Obama administration asserting what I genuinely believe, without hyperbole, is the most extremist government interpretation of the Bill of Rights I’ve heard in my lifetime — that the Fifth Amendment’s guarantee that the State cannot deprive you of your life without “due process of law” is fulfilled by completely secret, oversight-free “internal deliberations by the executive branch” — and it’s now barely something anyone (including me) even notices when The New York Times reports it (as the ACLU’s Jameel Jaffer asked yesterday: “These Dems who think executive process is due process: Where were they when Bush‬ needed help with warrantless wiretapping?” — or his indefinite detention scheme?)

Obama the Warrior

No late-night wrestling with conscience for this Nobel Peace laureate. Even his most radical decision — ordering an American citizen assassinated without a whiff of due process or transparency — is “easy” for him, and he’s so very “comfortable” with ordering people killed, say his aides who believe this to be a compliment.

From Reason.com: Obama’s Secret Kill List

Can the president legally do this? In a word: No.

The president cannot lawfully order the killing of anyone, except according to the Constitution and federal law. Under the Constitution, he can only order killing using the military when the U.S. has been attacked, or when an attack is so imminent and certain that delay would cost innocent American lives, or in pursuit of a congressional declaration of war. Under federal law, he can only order killing using civilians when a person has been sentenced lawfully to death by a federal court and the jury verdict and the death sentence have been upheld on appeal. If he uses the military to kill, federal law requires public reports of its use to Congress and congressional approval after 180 days.

(snip)

Obama has argued that his careful consideration of each person he orders killed and the narrow use of deadly force are an adequate and constitutional substitute for due process. The Constitution provides for no such thing. He has also argued that the use of drones to do his killing is humane since they are “surgical” and only kill their targets. We know that is incorrect. And he has argued that these killings are consistent with our values. What is he talking about? The essence of our values is the rule of law, not the rule of presidents.

A glowing critique from The Raw Story: A Critique Of The New York Times “Secret Kill List” Article (Can you tell where this is going?):

As I was reading it, I didn’t have a hard time imaging what the reaction from some on the left would be. The person that always comes to mind is Glenn Greenwald, whose sentences almost always include “a noun, a verb and drones”.

The Atlantic: Hey Voters: The Kill List Is What Matters

So to sum up, one candidate is portrayed, accurately, as being extremely rich, with a wife who has rich-person leisure-time pursuits; and the other candidate is portrayed, accurately, as someone whose secretive policies have wrought dead children, broken promises, violated due process rights, and possibly created more terrorists. And our political culture in the United States is so blinkered that the story about the rich candidate whose wife rides horses is regarded, by conservatives and savvy Politico journalists, as the one that is noteworthy for being negative; whereas the story about the Orwellian turn in the White House doesn’t even merit mention.

From Robert Scheer: Hope Burning

This is clearly not the Obama whom many voted for in the hope that he would stick by his word, including the pledge he made on his second day in office to ban brutal interrogation and close the prison at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba. “What the new president did not say was that the orders contained a few subtle loopholes,” the Times now reports concerning the early promises by Obama. “They reflected a still unfamiliar Barack Obama, a realist who, unlike some of his fervent supporters, was never carried away by his own rhetoric.”

Parse that sentence carefully to learn much of what is morally decrepit in our journalism as well as politics. The word “realist” is now identical to “hypocrite,” and the condemnation of immoral behavior addresses nothing more than “rhetoric” that only the “fervent” would take seriously. The Times writers all but thrill to the lying, as in recounting the new president’s response to advisers who warned him against sticking to his campaign promises on Guantanamo prisoners: “The deft insertion of some wiggle words in the president’s order showed that the advice was followed.”

American Extremists: "Weapon of choice"

And THIS from Stephen Colbert (Might not be suitable for work — The video with sounds starts right away)

Barack Obama’s Righteous Drone Strikes : The government takes out Al Qaeda’s “number two,” and Barack Obama finds an alternative to shutting down Guantanamo Bay.

Wednesday: I don’t like this

Aside from an Occupy march or three, my life is unexciting.  I’ve never had a speeding ticket, never been arrested, don’t do drugs.  But if I *wanted* to smoke a joint in my backyard, I’d like to think I could do so without some drone hovering a mile overhead watching me do it.  Don’t they even make little drones that look like insects and birds and stuff or did I read that in a Michael Crichton book?

This article in The Atlantic should have all of us pretty pissed off.  There’s a limit to how much surveillance we need to keep everyone on the straight and narrow:

Drones, in my mind, make it clear how many of our feelings about privacy rest on the assumption that surveillance is time consuming or difficult. If someone smokes a joint in her backyard, she is making the (pretty good) calculation that a police officer is not watching. In our cars, we assume we can quickly send a text message at a red light or not wear our seatbelts for a few minutes or drive a few miles over the speed limit. We don’t expect that someone is watching our every move and that gives the law some give, a bendiness that reflects it’s a human construction.

But these little flying video and audio recorders, paired with powerful data analysis tools, make previously unthinkable levels of surveillance possible, even easy. Before the Internet, tracking someone’s reading and shopping activities would have been nearly impossible without a private detective. Now, new online tracking tools make it possible to easily capture every page that you visit on the Internet. So companies do. Technology doesn’t create entirely novel privacy questions, but it tilts the playing field towards or away from increased privacy without many citizens (or courts!) really noticing that anything had changed.

Let’s look at one example of how drones change the privacy equation. We tend to think of our homes as having a perimeter. Property maps are two-dimensional, we talk about property lines as if they were burned into the ground. There are access points in two-dimensional space — paths and roads — that channel visitors through a small number of places. We can build fences or plant hedges and they need not be high to mark the territory out.

A flying drone with a zoom lens, though, makes that whole sense of two-dimensional privacy an anachronism. If one wanted privacy from the government or other citizens, one would have to defend the entire volume of airspace reaching up from one’s property to several hundred feet up, if not much farther. This vastly increases the cost of physically hiding one’s activities. And, vis a vis law enforcement, the idea of “plain sight” hardly even makes sense anymore, as Jonathan Zittrain pointed out yesterday:

“The prospect of constant government surveillance of citizens through cheap drones tests the “plain sight” doctrine by which, under our Constitution, police are generally allowed to scope out whatever is in plain view, without requiring a warrant. Supercharged technologies face some limits — extra-sensitive remote microphones, or heat signature detectors of the sort that might be pointed at the wall of a home to detect marijuana-growing lamps in use inside.”

Anyway, the concept of a drone is sort of what my concept of biblical God is.  Doesn’t God have better things to do with his/her time than watch ordinary people do things that shouldn’t be illegal?  And what kind of life do you have when everyone is afraid to step out of line even a fraction of an inch for fear of being fined or jailed?  Isn’t that like being a cow or some other dumb animal?  You get up in the morning, go out to a pasture, chew some cud, go home and go to sleep.  What would be the point? I’m sure the apocalyptic evangelical fundamentalist crowd would see this scenario as some kind of earthly paradise but what about the rest of us?

On the other hand, all of those people who are looking for houses with a lot of “privacy” from their neighbors might as well give it up.  You’re never going to get a chance to have a threesome in the pool with your wife and that personal fitness instructor that you’ve been fantasizing about.

The writer of the Atlantic article thinks the additional surveillance (just because we can) will prompt citizens to run screaming to their legislatures and courts demanding legal protections and that the backlash will include things we don’t even think about now, like various internet giants tracking our every move through the web.  I don’t care if they check out where I’ve been but there is a limit to how much information I’m willing to share with the outside world and the world right now is pushing it.  And giving an entity this much power is an invitation to abuse.

One other thing that’s worth noting is the effect this will have on our most innovative, artistic, and politically useful people.  If everyone is forced to conform as if they live in a fanatical townhouse association with the Staasi for neighbors, then we’ll get the same cookie cutouts running our elected offices too.  Nassir Ghaemi, author of A First Rate Madness says that in times of crisis, the last thing you want is some normal dude or dudess who has no mental abnormalities and has never tested the bounds of what is socially acceptable, which is why it should come as no surprise that George W. Bush and Barack Obama have been such disasters. Monogamous, normal, sane, conformity minded people make the worst leaders in times of crisis and make horrendous decisions.  In fact, it helps to have had a mental health crisis of some kind or to have broken some social taboo.  Think Winston Churchill and his cyclical political career, JFK and his affairs and illnesses, Abraham Lincoln and his depression and atheism and finally Steve Jobs and his LSD use.  If there’s a drone watching you and listening in to every conversation, it’s much harder to think out of the box and do what needs to be done without fear of severe reprisals.  In fact, you may never get the chance.  Drones are going to nip a first rate madness in the bud (no pun intended).

Maybe the world works best when there’s a little bit of unravelling, a soupçon of testing the limits.  Sometimes you have to go up in energy to overcome some barrier.  That involves a certain amount of risk taking that others may not approve of.  As Nucky Thompson said, “We all have to decide how much sin we can live with.”  With a drone buzzing up above, that decision may be made for us.  And that’s not a good thing.

**************

The People’s Party considers non-violence:

*************

In other news: Chemists are screwed.  The statistic in this article is old.  The pace of job losses has accelerated in the last two years for chemists.  You know, I can’t think of a more depressing prospect for a chemist than to have spent at least 4 years stuffing my brain with all this complexicated nollij and then be stuck in a CRO lab doing the same damn thing, day after day, like some low level factory worker, never being involved in the design of the compound or asked to participate in a project.  So, maybe it’s better if we just didn’t have American chemists at all.  Yeah, let’s all devolve.

*************

The only guy who could compete with Jon Stewart, George Carlin, takes on the pro-life (actually, the pro-dirty, illegal abortionist) position:

It’s hard to believe he’s been dead for 4 years because he could have written this material yesterday.

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