Thursday, January 29, 2009

Less Than Zero

The Republicans in the House showed us what their version of bi-partisanship last night. Not a single Republican voted for the stimulus package in an amazing show of solidarity. President Obama has gone out of his way to try and reach across the isle for this vote, including making a lunchtime visit to chat with House leaders. The stimulus package includes some $200 Billion in tax cuts, some of which was added after Republicans balked at the initial proposal. Every time the Republicans brought a particular aspect of the package that they didn't like, President Obama made a concession in order to try and appease them. And what did he get for his troubles? ZERO votes! Zero. So not only did he not get a single Republican to vote for the stimulus package, but the country is now stuck with a watered down version of the original proposal. Instead of a package that focuses on putting people back to work through infrastructure projects, we have a plan that includes tax breaks that do not pay immediate dividends in the form of jobs. The Republicans, who have gutted the bill to some extent, can now place the blame fully on the President and the Democratic leadership if the package fails to adequately stimulate the economy.

The President went to the Republicans in a show of good faith. He did not need their votes. The Democrats have unassailable majorities in both houses of Congress and the package can be passed without a single Republican vote. The President made a conscious effort to try and get a consensus and in doing so proved himself a man of his word. During the presidential campaign, he said time and time again that the old ways of Washington would not work going forward. He talked about the things that united us, not the things that divided us. He talked about ushering in a new age of cooperation in Washington. And he backed up those words by doing everything that he could to try and respond to Republican concerns about the Stimulus package. And what did he get for his efforts? Zero votes. The Republican leadership (which had initially complained that there weren't enough tax cuts in the plan, and then complained that there was funding for contraception in the plan, and then complained that the package was too expensive), told their members to vote against the package even before the President showed up. The truth is that there was nothing that the President could have done to convince those Representatives to vote for the package. The Republicans offer no alternative except a continuation of the same financial strategy that has gotten us into this mess but since they are led by the likes of Rush Limbaugh these days, obstructionism is apparently their strategy. I know the President will continue down this road because his goal is to build a consensus. Unfortunately, the people across the aisle are following the Rush Limbaugh mantra of "I hope he fails". The idea of true bipartisanship is a pipe dream.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Do As I Say

President Obama signed an executive order last Friday that put in place tough new regulations against lobbyists working for his administration. Here are two of the three paragraphs:

2. Revolving Door Ban All Appointees Entering Government. I will not for a period of 2 years from the date of my appointment participate in any particular matter involving specific parties that is directly and substantially related to my former employer or former clients, including regulations and contracts.

3. Revolving Door Ban Lobbyists Entering Government. If I was a registered lobbyist within the 2 years before the date of my appointment, in addition to abiding by the limitations of paragraph 2, I will not for a period of 2 years after the date of my appointment:
(a) participate in any particular matter on which I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment;
(b) participate in the specific issue area in which that particular matter falls; or
(c) seek or accept employment with any executive agency that I lobbied within the 2 years before the date of my appointment.

Obama had promised during his campaign that his administration would not contain lobbyists. Of course at some point he realized that it would be impossible to eliminate all the lobbyists, so he amended his promise to say that lobbyists would not be running his administration. I just assumed that this was an empty campaign promise and it was certainly not one of the things that I was going to hold him to. So I was pleasantly surprised by the tough new ethics standards that the President created last week. Of course I very unpleasantly surprised to learn of this:

Armed Service Committee Chairman Carl Levin said the administration has removed an obstacle to the confirmation of Bill Lynn to be Deputy Secretary of Defense by waiving the provisions of President Obama's Executive Order on Ethics Commitments that would have precluded Mr. Lynn's service. As a former defense lobbyist for Raytheon, Lynn's service would conflict with the Administration's new ethics rules. Those rules prohibit former lobbyist from working in the area they once lobbied, unless a waiver is given.

So let me get this straight, the President signs tough new ethics legislation and then immediately issues a ethics waiver in order to get around that very piece of legislation. While we try to get a handle on that, let's just think about Bill Lynn and the fact that he will be second in command at the Department of Defense. He was recently working as a lobbyist for Raytheon, which just happens to be one of America's largest defense contractors. His new position would would give him the authority to basically control access for people such as, let's say... lobbyists for various defense contractors. Now I am not suggesting that in his role he would favor lobbyists from Raytheon or perhaps show any favor to Raytheon in a contract bid situation, but wouldn't it be easier to avoid the appearance of possible favoritism by just picking someone else. Why on earth would the President feel the need to counter his own brand new legislation in order to fill the number two job at the Defense Department? I could almost understand this if the Secretary of Defense had a conflict or any of the number one people at the cabinet posts, but for the number two person? I want a better explanation as to why this was necessary. It's great to have brand new high standards for government service, but the don't mean much when the President basically says that they only apply to the people who meet the standard. If you don't happen to meet the new standard, don't worry, the President can just make it go away.

This is slightly troubling to me. Just as potential loopholes in our torture policy is troubling. Just as closing Gitmo, but leaving open similar detention facilities in Afghanistan is troubling. I have stated on this blog that Obama's moral compass is going to be variable at times, but I never thought that he would contradict himself so quickly and in such a public manner. What exactly is our new President trying to say, "Comply with the law, unless I tell you not to"? That sounds dangerously close to the Richard Nixon defense of, "it's not a crime if the President does it", that George Bush and company wrapped themselves in. This is not quite the start I was expecting from this administration. Is Mr. Lynn so singularly qualified that he forced the President to essentially "break" his own law? Is he so indispensable? As the quote says, graveyards are filled with indispensable people.

Monday, January 26, 2009

It's About Time

The New York Times took a long overdue step recently and killed Bill Kristol's column. Mr. Kristol's columns were well known, not because of his ultra right wing views, but because of the almost constant mistakes. He was known to use right wing blogs as his "sources" for information. He never met an accusation against a Democrat, regardless of it's credibility, that he didn't like. He defended the choice of Sarah Palin as if his life depended upon it without ever disclosing the fact that he played a part in her selection. Bill Kristol represents the worst of American journalism. The New York Times is a better publication without him in it. Unfortunately the Washington Post is going to be printing his nonsense from now on. I honestly have no idea how someone as dishonest, disreputable and disgustingly partisan can find a job at publications that claim to be objective distillers of the news of the day. The likes of Bill Kristol should be confined to the fringes of society, but only in America can someone who is this bad at his job see the light of day. My co-contributor SJ, longs for the day when "“news analysts,” commentators and pundits could present their slants or opinions as fact are over". Unfortunately, as evidenced by Mr. Kristol's Washington Post gig, we are not there quite yet.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Work To Be Done

The euphoria over the inauguration is starting to subside as the Obama administration gets down to the work of running the country. The Republicans in the House and Senate are starting to show what their idea of bipartisanship is by slowing down the confirmation hearings of both the Secretary of State and the Attorney General. The overwhelming Democratic majorities will help to push Obama's agenda over the next two years, but I don't think that we are quite in the era of cooperation that we would have hoped for. There are a host of issues that this administration has to tackle in order to undo the damage of the past eight years, but I just wanted to pass along my personal wishlist. These are not the only issues facing the country, but they are the ones that I believe demand the most attention.

My first issue for the Obama administration is Afghanistan. Concurrent with our withdrawal from Iraq, the President has already said that he will be increasing our presence in Afghanistan. The issue that I have with the war in Afghanistan is the same one I had with Iraq. There is no real definition of "victory". We are essentially fighting a guerrilla war against small bands of terrorists across a vast stretch of land. I really would like to know what our ultimate goal is in Afghanistan. Is the goal to wipe out the Taliban and all the terrorists in the area? If so, that seems to be an unreasonable goal. Is the goal to set up a government that is capable of withstanding the challenges from the Taliban or a similar terrorist group? That also seems unreasonable. The Soviet Union tried and failed to subdue similar elements in Afghanistan. In fact that war played a big part in their ultimate dismantling. While I don't think a war of any length would have the same effect here, I do think that the United States is in for a similar fate in the disposition of the war if we do not decide exactly what our goals are there. They cannot be a moving target, as they were in Iraq, but a definite set of reachable objectives that would signal the end of our involvement there. I never heard that from the Bush administration and I have yet to hear from Obama. During the campaign he stated that our efforts in Iraq were misdirected and that we should have been focusing on Afghanistan all along. I have no issue with that, but I do need to know what our exit strategy is. A long term occupation of a country in the Middle East only leads to the breeding of more extremists. Without an exit strategy, we risk a never ending war and the creation of a new generation of people who are dedicated to our downfall.

The second issue on my list is healthcare. The United States is the only industrialized nation that does not provide healthcare for its citizens. There are currently almost 50 million people in this country who do not have healthcare. There are many more whose coverage is insufficient to meet all their needs. I have heard many Conservatives bemoan the possibility of a government run healthcare system. They seem to feel that even when it comes to the health of their fellow citizens that the rule of nature should apply. However, this is not the jungle. It seems almost inconceivable to me that this country, which is still the richest on the planet by far, would allow it's citizens to die needlessly because they can't afford a visit to the doctor or dentist. How can any of us sleep at night knowing that there are children who will die needlessly because of simple infections? How can we allow people to be saddled with mountainous debts because the treatment that saved their lives, wasn't covered by their insurance? How can we continue to make people chose between debt and death? I am sure that the Republicans in the Congress would never allow real comprehensive healthcare reform to take place. Obama has promised some form of universal healthcare, but there are many forces lined up against him. The lobbyists for the drug companies, the lobbyists for the medical profession, the lobbyists from the insurance companies, are all going to be applying as much pressure as possible to make sure that this gravy train keeps on rolling. The human cost in lives lost and lives destroyed is never taken into account.

My next issue is education. President Obama is an example of what a superior education can produce. Unfortunately, our public schools, are for the most part, incapable of producing such a person. We have allowed our public schools to fall into such a state of disrepair that practically every parent who can afford an alternative takes it. The teachers in our public schools are underpaid and overwhelmed. The facilities are crumbling and pushed to their limits. The textbooks are as outdated as the technology. We put programs in place to try and improve performance, but they are not adequately funded. No child left behind is a great idea, but if there is no follow through, then there are many who are left behind. The election of President Obama will give our children hope that they can become anything they want, but our public education system will give them their first taste of reality. Something must be done and done quickly. We are losing generations of kids to crime, to drug addiction, to hopelessness. Obama is in the best position of any President of modern times to address this situation. He has the ability to inspire, but more importantly, the children of this country need more than inspiration, they need a better system. The kids are willing to meet the system half way, but we cannot ask them to do it all themselves.

The last issue for today (I reserve the right to add more issues to the list) is probably the most important and that is having an Executive branch that acts in accordance with and respects the Constitution. For the past eight years we have been subjected to an administration that viewed the Constitution as a nuisance. Will we, as citizens of the United States, be allowed to live our lives free from the threat of torture, free from the threat of illegal search and seizure, free from the threat of recriminations for political dissent? That is the question for this administration. President Obama said in his inauguration speech that the choice between safety and our ideals is a false one. I can only hope that he will live up to that statement. When I hear about possible loopholes in the ban against torture, I shudder. Who ever thought that there would come a day when the government of the United States would be in the business of institutionalized torture? As more information about the transgressions of the Bush administration comes to light, we will see just how far down the road we came from the republic that we are supposed to be. It is up to this administration to put us back on the right track. It will be tempting to hold on to some of the measures that were put in place under the previous administration, but the President cannot allow us anything less than a complete repudiation of those methods and measures that are counter to our Constitution. This country was founded on the ideals of freedom and transparency, let us hope that we are seeing a return to what made us great.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Nobody Likes a Bullshit Artist David.

Transcribed from PBS’ the News Hour commentary on President Obama's third day in office regarding "transparency"
Originally Aired January 23, 2009:

we've been overwhelmed by their transparency, I mean, whether it's pool reports or whatever else, everything that's done seems to be open and it's, frankly, getting tedious.

I don't know about that. I'm trying to figure out what's going on with the stimulus package. I can't get word one.

I couldn't disagree more. I mean, I think the stimulus package was a perfect example of this. Stimulus package -- the House Appropriations Committee put it up on the Web last Thursday. It was there for everybody to see, not simply Republicans, any citizen of the country. They didn't vote on it until Wednesday.I mean, that's precedent-shattering in this city. That isn't the way things are done.


David Brooks, you got “owned” on last night's News Hour by a kindly gentleman.
...A man who you are always joking is too old to still be doing his job.
You must be so very embarrassed.

I’ll offer an unsolicited word of advice to you and every other Conservative “analyst” out there, be they at Fox News or lying in wait at the Wall Street Journal: Concede the facts when you hear them. The days when “news analysts,” commentators and pundits could present their slants or opinions as fact are over.


Friday, January 23, 2009

I Know You Can’t See Me.

“Gilli-who?” was the question this morning on the lips of New Yorkers. Governor David Paterson has selected Congresswoman Kirsten Gillibrand, to fill the United States Senate seat vacated by Hillary Clinton, according to various new reports this morning... Stay tuned.
Gillibrand isn’t someone I’m terribly familiar with other than her distinction as one of the very few female Democrats who have been endorsed by the NRA like Rosalind Kurita in Tennessee or Debbie Halvorson in Illinois. Representative Carolyn McCarthy, who ran for and was elected to Congress (She ran after her husband was tragically shot and killed by Colin Ferguson while commuting on the Long Island Rail Road in the infamous 1993 massacre that left 6 dead and 19 others injured) has already said that if Representative Gillibrand was appointed to Hillary’s seat, she was prepared to run against her in 2010. I don’t blame her; Congresswoman Gillibrand has a record diametrically opposed to that of most Democrats (see the last paragraph).

Out of the frying pan and into the fire.

I don’t think anyone cuts Governor Paterson any slack because he’s blind, he’s just too smart for anyone with any sense to feel sorry for him. I like the way he’s handled a lot of the nonsense in Albany. But there has been definite insularity from policy criticism afforded him due to the fact that he came into office under fire and took the Governor’s reigns so forcefully after it turned out that progressive shining knight Eliot Spitzer couldn’t stop paying for sex on the weekends. He has been using this cushion, abusing it frankly, in regard to recent decisions like the senate appointment/replacement power he is charged with executing. When Governor Paterson makes calculated political moves like this one and trades one kind of chip for another, it doesn’t seem like he has the state’s best interests at heart.

I am really trying hard to see how our process here in New York has been fundamentally different from what Rod Blagojevich has tried to do in Illinois, and I’m having a tough time finding a distinction other than Blagojevich’s tacky and naked gangsterism. Both Governors have put their future political fortunes and power before the needs of the people in their own states in regard to selecting a new Senator. It doesn’t seem like anyone is terribly worried about the consequences of putting someone other than the best person for the job in Hillary’s seat in New York. The state of New York needs a Senator who can alternately get along and fight really, really hard when necessary. This is about our tax dollars and our future. This is serious business. When I hear that only women are being considered for this post, but none of the recognizable female powerhouses in New York politics are actually being considered, I have to face Governor’s Paterson’s more cynical motivations squarely.

The suggestion of Carolyn Kennedy as a replacement for Hillary Clinton was just laughable. Whereas Carolyn Kennedy’s now aborted appointment was both transparent and baffling from the start, the selection of Kirsten Gillibrand is being judged by many as a political move by Governor Paterson who has his eye on his own election in 2010. Paterson has picked Gillibrand because she can help him make gains in key demographics like upstate New Yorkers and female voters.

Now as readers of this blog know, I think guns are pretty damn cool. I am opposed to the NRA’s efforts as an “unofficial” arm of the gun manufacturing lobby, so this doesn't make Gillibrand into someone I’m crazy about, my love of pistols and automatics notwithstanding. I think gun laws and their enforcement are far too lax in our country. When people ask me why... “Colin Ferguson” is one of the myriad of reasons I submit.

Congresswoman Gillibrand is a smart, tough campaigner by all accounts. She beat an incumbent Republican in a very nasty race. She can fight and she can operate in the ferocious Albany environment… but to what end?
In this new era of change, where we are fighting hard to step out of the far right trajectory that the Bush administration imposed on our political system, I don’t see what Gillibrand, (who would make a great running mate for someone like Joe Lieberman,) offers New Yorkers in regard to representing their state in Washington:

Gillibrand is the only member of the 2007 New York delegation in the House to agree to the Bush administration's request to extend the Iraq War funding.
While she was on the advisory board to the Brennan Center for Justice, she supported the Bush administration's rewriting of legislation to enable spying on anyone's telephone conversations and calls.
Gillibrand has repeatedly said she backs the renewal of the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy.
I mean, this is supposed to be my Senator?... Seriously?
Political gains are the only reason I could see for ignoring Gillibrand’s bizarre record as a Democrat.

Governor Paterson, I know you can’t see me, but are you aware that we can see right through you?


Monday, January 19, 2009

Dream A Little Dream

" the unlikely story that is America, there has never been anything false about hope". Those are the words that Barack Obama used in his now famous speech after the New Hampshire primary and it illustrates perfectly his connection with the man whose birthday we celebrate as a nation today. Hope is the tie that binds Martin Luther King Jr. and Barack Obama. The hope and the belief that America can do and must do better. Obama's speech not only made the point that the destinies of all Americans are intertwined, but that people must have hope in order to make a better world. MLK's most famous speech was all about hope. It spoke of a nation that didn't exist. It spoke of the dreams of an America where someone like Barack Obama can reach the highest position in the land. They share the dream of a better America. Whether it is an America where people are judged by the "content of their character", or an America where we strive to build "a more perfect union", their goals were the same.

There has been a lot of talk about whether Obama's election is the culmination of MLK's dream. It is clearly a part of what he hoped for, but it is not the end of what he hoped for. Before his death, he was working on organizing another march on Washington. This one was going to be a poverty march. He looked across the country and realized that the underclass had no one to speak for them. He realized that the poor had no voice and no power to change their situation. His dream had expanded to include the poor of all colors. Whites in Appalachia, Hispanics in California, Native Americans in Oklahoma, they all became part of the dream. Injustice will always exist, that is why the dream will never be fulfilled. It is a moving target, as is Barack Obama's dream to build a more perfect union. Obama's words imply that the union can never be perfected, but we must always strive to make it better.

MLK led the greatest moral campaign that this country has ever known. He led a generation of people who were willing to put their lives on the line to make this country a better place. Tom Brokaw wrote a book about the WWII generation entitled "The Greatest Generation", however I think that designation should go to those who worked and fought and died so that the dream of America could be shared by all Americans. It is somewhat easier to make those sacrifices when the entire country agrees with you, but when you are faced with the opposition of the majority of the citizens of this country, it takes an extraordinary type of intestinal fortitude to persevere. Barack Obama is not the successor to MLK. As President, his moral compass will not be as consistent as MLK's was. His goals will not be as single minded as MLK's were. They can't be. The job of President is much more complicated and Obama is not just the representative of some of us, he is the representative of all of us. Those who have expectations that Obama will lead a moral revolution on the scale of MLK will be disappointed.

MLK was the leader of a movement that changed this nation forever. Barack Obama is about to become the leader of the country and his election has changed this nation forever. They will always be inexorably linked. The fact that Obama will be inaugurated on the day after this nation celebrates the birthday of MLK would lead many to invoke the term, poetic justice. MLK's dream is alive in Barack Obama as it is in every person who strives to make this world a better place. The Dream and the Perfect Union remain out of reach, but it is in the striving for those things that we tap into the better angels of our nature. It is our willingness to try, regardless of the obstacles in our way, that keeps the Dream alive. MLK would most likely be very proud of Barack Obama, not only because of what he represents, but because Obama is still challenging the nation to be better. Indeed that is ultimately what links them. We can be better, we just need someone to show us the way.

Friday, January 16, 2009

Goodbye and Good Riddance.

The extent to which the Bush administration continues to fail and implode would be awe inspiring, -if we weren’t part of the wreckage.

How far can a public figure’s worth depreciate in a person’s estimation?
There appears to be no limit. As with the concept of “Absolute Zero,” you could keep infinitely parsing the increments and never actually hit the full, absolute, last degree. The longer George W. Bush is in office, and I mean every single second, he manages to do more harm, do more corrosive damage to our country and to us all.

Last night our president addressed the nation and made me feel much worse about his policies and his legacy than ever before. Last night, President George W. Bush lied about everything he had done, his motives and even lied about the inarguable, undeniable consequences of his policies.

It’s not as though President Bush began with a vote of confidence from me in 2000. I thought he was a fraud when I saw him in the primaries, and thought less of him after the debates when I heard more of what he actually had to say. I looked at him and saw a media figure that was in large part a creation of Karl Rove and the GOP. Let me be clear, certainly the man, a very public man, existed. There was an individual by the name of George W. Bush who had been Governor of Texas, part owner of the Rangers, etc., etc. But the candidate who the GOP put forth (over John McCain) to run against Al Gore was not “real.” George W. Bush was not:
a leader; a Conservative or a “compassionate Conservative;” an average American you could drink a beer with; folksy; tough; a veteran; a straight shooter; down to earth; or a business man. In short, he was an impostor.
He was a dangerous fraud of the worst kind.
The only thing President George W. Bush has done more frequently than make his friends and supporters rich, is lie to the American people. Last night, as if to cover any bases he might have missed, he recounted his eight-year career in office with some herculean omissions, and then lied and distorted openly and proudly regarding every single action he took with the exception of increasing aid to Africa.

This man was on vacation for almost an entire month leading up to 9/11.

Where do he and Dick Cheney get off telling us they did what needed to be done to keep us safe for eight years? Maybe if the eight years they’re talking about began on September 12, 2001, -but we all know they didn’t.

Who is George W. Bush to say that he is disappointed by anything? He is president of a country that refused to face reality. He is president of a country that has overlooked or ignored his every shortcoming, miscalculation, and criminal abuse of power. George W. Bush and his administration wrecked this country. They came in during a recession, and relaxed the energy regulations, the absence of which, allowed Enron to spiral out of control eight years ago. Now things are falling apart again. They are leaving the country in a recession.

The economy is collapsing. Jobless rates are climbing. We are in crippling financial indenture to Communist China. We are fighting two wars with no end in sight.

Today, even as this crooked administration rushes for the exit, new allegations erupt from all corners. The deepening extent of damage done to the Department of Justice continues to be revealed in ever uglier detail. But in what is perhaps among the most disrespectful and disgusting acts of corruption committed by this or any other administration, the Bush White House forced out career attorneys from the Civil Rights Division in the DOJ and replaced them with lawyers they chose only because of their Right-wing agendas. Glenn Fine, the Inspector General and H. Marshall Jarrett, Chief of the Office of Professional Responsibility at the DOJ have filed a report that states they hired “Right-Thinking Americans” like Federalist Society members for example, for cases being processed through THE CIVIL RIGHTS DIVISION OF THE DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE… It’s like putting Ku Klux Klan members in charge of a Black daycare center on the Southside of Chicago.

But it’s okay... last night George W. Bush said he knows you didn’t agree with all of his choices. I wonder if George W. Bush knows that nobody cares what he knows, or what he doesn’t know, or what he says he knows anymore?

Last night George W. Bush opened by congratulating the country, with a smile, on electing a Black man president of the United States. He has no right to congratulate the American people.
It’s like a car thief congratulating you on getting your car back.

George W. Bush’s attempted imperial reign was like a lot of things, not quite like any of the things he said last night, but like a lot of things to be sure. One thing the president and I can both agree on with regard to his presidency is this: It is over.
The bizarre eight-year twilight in which Americans pretended that having a rich, spoiled dummy with no diplomatic skill as our president was somehow acceptable, has ended.

Goodbye. Good riddance. Clear out.


P.S. NEXT WEEK, we will debut a new media, arts, culture and entertainment blog called THE RANDOM ROBOT. Watch for it!

Fool Me Twice

If you tell a lie enough times, does it become the truth? George Bush and Dick Cheney and their various apologists would have us believe that the greatest victory of this administration is that they have kept us safe from terrorism. Everything they have done, every transgression of the law, every attack on the Constitution was done in the name of keeping us safe from terrorism. The story they wish to tell us is that the ends have justified the means. I live in New York City and I lived here on that fateful September day in 2001. I would like to remind the President, the Vice President and all those who would seek to perpetuate the myth that the Bush administrations responsibility somehow magically began on 9/12/2001, that 3,000 people lost their lives on that day. I would ask them to talk to the families and friends of those who were killed that day and try and convince them that they have been kept "safe" during the Bush administration.

On September 11, 2001 George Bush had been in office for almost 9 months. He had been on vacation for 3 of those months. He was given ample warning of a potential terrorist attack by the use of hijacked planes. He and his advisors chose to do nothing about those warnings. When told about the attack he sat stunned and unresponsive for several minutes as he listened to school children read books aloud. At that very moment he realized that his incompetence had cost the lives of thousands of Americans. He realized that history would blame him for being asleep at the wheel and for ignoring the multiple warnings that he had received. To some extent, his administration did begin on 9/12/01. The campaign to systematically destroy the rights of the citizens of this country and to bring about the neocom dream of military action and nation building, began in earnest on that day.

President Bush came to NY and said all the right things to a shocked and dazed nation. He promised retribution and America stood up and cheered. There was no talk of the fact that this could have been prevented. There was no talk of the fact that the President had ignored warnings of just such an attack. There was no talk of the President being on vacation almost as much as he was on the job. There was no talk of blaming the current administration for the needless loss of American lives. The press focused on the tragedy and the talk of retribution. The American people wanted blood and the Bush administration was going to make sure that they got it.

There was a commission put in place to investigate 9/11. The commissioners were appointed by the President and Congress. Eventually they came to the conclusion that it was the intelligence community and not the President who was to blame for the attack. Of course that was just one part of the strategy to distract and deflect the gaze of the American public. The coup de grace was the war with Iraq. The administration decided to go to war with a country that had neither attacked us or played any part in the 9/11 attacks. Iraq posed no credible threat to the United States and yet George Bush and his pals were able to convince the American people that it was a moral imperative for us to commit our troops to this endeavor. The administration sent out its Boy Scout (Colin Powell) to convince the rest of the world that Iraq posed the greatest threat to world peace since Hitler's Germany. Even today, when it has been proven that there was no like between the 9/11 hijackers and Iraq, the Vice President still insists on trying to muddy the waters by claiming that Saddam Hussein had links to Al-Qaeda.

The truth played no part in any decision that the Bush administration made regarding 9/11. Illegal wiretapping, torture, no bid contracts in Iraq, etc. are all just part of the plan that began on 9/12/01. A lie repeated can sometimes become the truth. We here at Random Thoughts can only hope that there are enough people who will remain vigilant about reporting what actually happened during this administration, that the lie does not become the truth. We were not kept safe by George W. Bush. We died (in war and in terrorist attacks), we were tortured, we were bugged, we were ignored after natural disasters, we had our rights taken away and we were lied to on a daily basis. That is the truth of Bush administration. Let's make sure that we never forget it.

There's a New Sheriff in Town

The Attorney General Designate uttered the words that should long ago have come out of the mouth of the chief justice official of the United States. "Waterboarding is torture". There was no equivocation, no moderation, no ridiculous attempt to claim that he didn't know what waterboarding is (as amazingly our current AG did in his confirmation hearing), he just stated the truth. Mr. Holder stated that waterboarding has been considered torture and prosecuted as such by this country for decades. Even American troops in Vietnam were prosecuted for using this technique against enemy troops.

How hard is it for a government official to actually speak the plain truth? If one were to hold up the Bush administration as the example, then it is practically impossible. The babble that has come out of the Department of Justice during this administration has turned the organization into a sad reflection of what it used to be. The Monica Goodling Scandal and now the finding that the Civil Rights division was run as if to define the word "irony", demonstrate just how dedicated to mediocrity this administration was. Bradley Schlozman , who ran the Civil Rights division of the DOJ was found to have:

"...inappropriately considered political and ideological affiliations in hiring career attorneys and in other personnel actions affecting career attorneys in the civil rights division. In doing so, he violated federal law and department policy that prohibit discrimination in federal employment based on political and ideological affiliations and that he committed misconduct. Moreover, Mr. Schlozman made false statements about whether he considered political and ideological affiliations when he gave sworn testimony to the Senate Judiciary Committee and in his written responses to supplemental questions from the committee.”

Of course, our esteemed Attorney General has decided not pursue any of these charges against Mr. Schlozman, just as he refused to pursue charges against Monica Goodling or Alberto Gonzalez. This is standard operating procedure for the Bush administration. Hire inept people, they commit immoral and possibly illegal acts, and then thank them with the assurance that they will not be prosecuted. How has this been allowed to go on for this long? I always ask SJ my co-contributor if we still actually live in the United States. Have we slipped into some Bizzaro universe (sorry about the obscure Superman reference)? The Civil Rights division is ground zero for discrimination in the Department of Justice! Does that strike anyone else as unacceptable? The fact that this administration has allowed the rule of law to fall to its current state of disrepair should be enough of a crime to send everyone responsible to jail.

In my previous posting, I talked about how important it is for the new administration to demonstrate that America is indeed committed to upholding the rule of law. They can start by cleaning up the DOJ and turning it back into the non-political organization that it was intended to be. I have managed to survive the last 8 years with my ability to hope for better, somehow still intact. I can hope that that the incoming administration will be able to repair the damage done by the current one. I know that it won't be easy or particularly quick, but I can hope that it will be done. There are many voices who will say that going after Bush administration officials only detracts from the more important issues that the new President is faced with. I understand those concerns, but the last time I checked, the Department of Justice is not particularly involved with solving the economic crisis. Mr. Holder's charge is to turn around a department that is now filled with career employees who have been hired under false pretenses. How does one go about affecting a change under those circumstances? Mr. Holder's words yesterday make me hope that perhaps things are about to change.

"No one is above the law, and we will follow the evidence, the facts, the law, and let that take us where we should."

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

The Theory of Relativity

We have written on multiple occasions about this administrations criminal culpability for its use of torture. However I did not expect the almost brazen admissions that we would be subjected to by the chief architects of that policy. Both the President and Vice-President have admitted in interviews to knowledge of and approval of torture. They seem to believe that there is no chance of any repercussions for their transgressions of international law. President Bush is basically using the same defense that served Richard Nixon so poorly. That being that if the President does it, then it isn't a crime.

Over the weekend Barack Obama, when questioned about possible criminal charges, said that his administration would like to focus on looking forward, not backward. The defense that the people who could be charged in these cases is going to be that had legal clearance (in the case of administration figures) or that they were simply following orders (in the case of the CIA operatives) to engage in the torturing of detainees. Barack Obama has promised a return to at least an appearance of transparency in government and a rebuilding of America's moral standing around the world. If his administration were to start off by forgiving the sins of the previous administration, it would be an exercise in moral relativism that would be the opposite of what he has promised.

I am sure there are many Democrats in Congress (I'm talking especially to you Diane Feinstein and Jay Rockefeller) who would be happy if this kind of talk would just go away. There are many in the Democratic leadership who were informed of the illegal activities of the Bush Administration and did nothing about them. In fact, I am sure that there are more than a few who agreed with their tactics. If indeed there were to be an independent investigation into the use of torture in the Bush Administration, the Democrats in Congress will certainly not come out of it with clean hands. I think that the softening of Obama's stance on the possible prosecution for torture is coming from his talks with the Democratic leadership.

The Bush administration has provided a clear example of moral relativism. In their minds, torture was only torture if they said it was. Illegal wiretapping was only illegal if they said it was. In their world, the Constitution and the laws of this land were obstacles for them to navigate around by the tools at their disposal. The Democratic leadership in Congress went along with that attitude and are therefore just as culpable for the crimes that took place. Our new President has a chance to show that the ideals and morals that America has always prided itself on are more than just window dressing. I understand that there are incredibly pressing problems that have to be the priority of the new administration. However, there must also be an admission of what was done in the name of the citizens of this country by those who held our morality cheaply. I am not asking for wholesale prosecutions, but I am asking that the crimes that took place in the name of the citizens of this country be exposed. I am asking that those people responsible are named and exposed to public scrutiny. I am asking that the criminals, who are hiding under the guise of politicians, be exposed for what they are. They are not patriots (which is what they would have us believe), they are the opposite of that. They are enemies of the Constitution. They are the enemies of what this country was founded for. They are the enemies of the pursuit of life, liberty and happiness.

This is one of the first conflicts that President-elect Obama has had to face between campaign rhetoric and actual governing. There can be no doubt that the United States Government approved of and carried out a program of torture. I'll say that again, THERE CAN BE NO DOUBT THAT THE UNITED STATES GOVERNMENT APPROVED OF AND CARRIED OUT A PROGRAM OF TORTURE. Those are the facts. President Obama can either chose to do nothing about that, or he can show the citizens of the US and the rest of the world that the rule of law actually means something. He can either show that the words in our Constitution are universally meaningful or universally meaningless. He can show that the United States believes in it's own laws or that we apply them only when we feel like it. He can either chose to engage in moral relativism or in morality. The choice is his.

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Seriously. Step Down.

"It's a fuckin' valuable thing, thing (sic). You just don't give it away for nothing."
"I've got this thing. And it's fuckin' golden. I'm just not giving it up for fuckin' nothing. I'm not going to do it. I can always use it. I can parachute me there."
-Illinois Governor Rod Blagojevich.

Illinois state lawmakers have voted 114 to 1 to impeach disgraced Governor Rod Blagojevich. Representative Milton Patterson, a Democrat representing the South Side of Chicago was the only "nay." Mr. Patterson said he "read" the report on the wiretaps and was uncomfortable voting for impeachment. I guess he skipped over the actual parts where the Governor talks about the Senate seat as though it were a personal possession of his own.

Despite all the coverage, and painting of Illinois as the most corrupt place on earth (Do a Yahoo Search on Louisiana+corruption) it's the first time in Illinois' history they've had to actually hold a vote on impeaching a Governor... -because they haven't needed to before.
In the past, Governors had the sense to step down when caught so clearly red handed.

Governor Rod Blagojevich's actual trial is scheduled to begin on January 26, 2008, and it was his intention to simply ride this all out somehow, his position as Governor being the only bargaining chip/leverage he could use... but this is ridiculous.

Governor Rod Blagojevich said his work to help the people of Illinois is "not an impeachable offense.'' But the intent to sell or trade a Senate is.

Barbara Currie, chair of the House panel that held the impeachment vote, said the Governor of Illinois: "is no longer capable of defending our liberties. He should be impeached."

Seriously. Step down, immediately Governor. No one wants to go through the absurd pageant of having state troopers physically evict you from your office.

...Well, maybe you do Mr Blagojevich.


Thursday, January 08, 2009

The Media Was Just Too Tough on The Pitt Bull From Alaska…

…because of “class”.

It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out and I think that as we watch that we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here also that was such a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy versus, say, the scrutiny of what her candidacy may be.
– Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin.

Alaska’s Governor Sarah Palin, still not happy that the press didn’t go as soft on her last year as she would’ve liked, (says she) believes Caroline Kennedy is getting special treatment (that I suppose Palin thought she herself deserved instead) in her campaign for the New York Senate appointment because of a “class issue”. She thinks this “class issue” can be “proven” in fact. I suspect there’s a lot of feigned ignorance, contrived inaccuracy and willful ineloquence being expressed and exercised by good old Jolene Six Pack on the Youtube excerpts that debuted Wednesday (fast forward to about 5:54 on that video, -nobody should have to watch more of this nonsense than is absolutely necessary).

We here at “Random Thoughts” are once again not falling for it. Wading through lies is tough work. It’s best to take it one step at a time.

First of all, “they” are going “tough” or “soft” on Caroline Kennedy
(Overwhelmingly soft in my estimation, because let’s face it, just like the pit bull in lipstick from Alaska, she shouldn’t be anywhere near this seat as my collaborator on this blog has already pointed out)
-because she is a KENNEDY.
She is a celebrity. She is the daughter of one of the most mythologized and popular presidents in history. They are not going soft on Caroline Kennedy because she is rich, or because she was born into, or resides in, the upper class strata.

Second of all, nobody “came after” Sarah Palin because of her “class.” They (-by the way, a translation of GOP speak for a term like “they” in this context is: “the news”) “came after” Governor Sarah Palin because of public outings like this one, where she literally stunned anyone who was listening to the broadcasts and interviews with her: inexperience; unawareness of current issues facing the nation; legislation; inexperience with concepts in American civics; unfamiliarity with the Bush administration’s foreign policy; aannnd ignorance of actual politics. It must also be remembered that the meaning of “came after” in this context is actually: “demanded an answer to a direct question.” So the GOP and its supporters would do well to remember that “coming after” someone is actually the news media’s job.

But Sarah Palin and filmmaker John Ziegler already know this.

What they are trying to establish in these excerpts and in the forthcoming documentary on Barack Obama’s election victory, is an underdog’s narrative for Sarah Palin wherein she was excluded/mistreated/persecuted because she was working class.

The truth is, she was a terribly bad choice, shockingly so, for a vice president from any party. It diminished the public’s estimation of John McCain’s judgment in many cases, drawing articulate protest and criticism from Republicans themselves like Senator Chuck Hagel.

But Sarah Palin and filmmaker John Ziegler already know all of this.

They are pretending they don’t know that it was Sarah Palin’s lack of qualifications, lack of relevant experience and skills that have made her a pariah and an embarrassment to the GOP. Sarah Palin and John Ziegler are pretending it’s not the Governor’s own weaknesses and deficits as a politician and a holder of public office, but just the media’s highlighting of her intellectual shortcomings that made the American people turn away from her and openly mock her around the clock.

John Ziegler is hoping to distract Americans like myself from the fact that Sarah Palin is unqualified to hold the second highest office in the land, one heartbeat away from the presidency no matter what her social or cultural background. John Ziegler wants me to believe that Sarah Palin was ridiculed because the “liberal mediadidn’t like her folksy attitude, her blue collar roots, and “gosh golly darnit” way of talking. I guess Mr. Ziegler has no way of knowing that I grew up poorer than him and Governor Palin put together in a neighborhood surrounded by rubble. The persecution rap he is trying to float with regard to Sarah Palin just doesn’t wash with me. I couldn’t see beyond her shortcomings and lack of experience last year, and I still can’t. I shouldn’t have to look that hard beyond mediocrity.

Mark Twain was folksy, Sarah Palin is dumb.
There’s a big, big difference.

John Ziegler wants you to think that Sarah Palin was mistreated by the media.

Sarah Palin wasn’t mistreated by the media.
She was covered by it.

… and that’s all it took for all the world to see what a dangerously inept statesperson John McCain had picked as a running mate in 2008.


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

To NBC: "Grow Some Balls."

Reality Frames the debate now.”
I must’ve been really high off that Obama victory, -baked in fact.
But before I go make myself a bowl of Frosted Flakes and zone out on my couch watching the Cartoon Network and ride the rest of this imaginary “post racial,” “post partisan” hallucination, I have to expose Ann Coulter’s latest so-called “controversy” for what it is: a publicity stunt.

Ann Coulter, who recently had to have her mouth wired shut in November after a fall is a self-confessed devoted admirer of Senator Joe McCarthy. Anyone who needs me to cite anything else to put her into perspective is as delusional as she is. I call her delusional because Ann Coulter is one of those special roving disasters on the airwaves and in print who thinks she is fooling everybody into thinking that she is part of a discussion in our American civic life. She continues to be a distraction from the issues that directly affect the lives of Americans. She is a distraction; like Brittany Spears’ vagina in a car doorway, like Lindsay Lohan’s drunk driving, or like Tara Reid’s boob popping out on the red carpet. Ann just praises Republicans a lot, and calls Democrats “Godless” or “faggots,” or “Godless faggots” or whatever.

Bitch please.”

Who is really taking Ann Coulter seriously? Actually no one when you think about it. There are a lot of people who share her grade school political perspective and pretend she’s making some kind of point to them once in a while, but they already agree with her opinions before they come out of her mouth or her pen(is). They buy her books to be entertained. I’d venture to say that not one person has ever been convinced to change a stance or reconsider a political position because of something Ann Coulter has said. That’s not because Ann Coulter isn’t smart or clever or funny, she’s actually all of those things…

-It’s because you can’t get to the truth with bullshit.

I’ve always thought Ann Coulter was at least smart enough to know, or self aware to the extent that her own “act” was knowingly opportunistic bullshit, but she may be crazy enough to think it’s going over everyone else’s heads. This may be crazy, but we must always remember crazy people can be very bold, more intrepid than sane people. It’s easy for crazy people; they don’t understand things like long term consequences. Ann Coulter has enormous balls and shameless drive for someone who is supposed to be a “Conservative thinker”… There was actually a time in history when that wasn’t an oxymoron, my friends.
Her latest reactionary publicity stunt, which she and Fox News are predictably characterizing as an act of Conservative rebellion went down like this:

Ann Coulter was supposed to appear on the Today show yesterday (ugh) to promote her new book “Guilty,” but just like Ben Affleck on the Jimmy Kimmel show, her appearance was “bumped” for other items and news.
That’s right, -NBC made a judgment call and decided there was other, more important shit going on in the world than a new book by a noted female impersonator (
sorry that was juvenile and cheap, but since she called John Edwards “a faggot”, she should appreciate the irony… maybe not). Ann Coulter accused NBC of caving into “Liberal” pressure from watchdog group Media Matters. She then ran around the table to complain to and get coverage from Matt Drudge and Sean Hannity, -you know those impeccably independent, agenda-less bastions of truth and fair reporting. NBC brought Ann Coulter back on the show this morning.

As well as this worked out for Ann Coulter, it isn’t genius on her part; it’s craven venal stupidity on NBC’s part.


Because they too directly benefit from the artificial stink and phony controversy she created, and they were willing to elevate her at the price of diluting the standards for: what is fair, what is serious, what is legitimate, what is important and that which is news, in a trade off for the possible additional viewers her appearance might garner.

Ann Coulter putting out a new book on why she thinks Americans should hate everyone that doesn’t agree with her isn’t “news”… it’s “weather” at best.

I have said repeatedly that Fox News is to news as the WWF (or WWE or whatever) is to major league sports… which is to say that while the former pretends to be the latter, it only entertains. So is the case with Ann Coulter. If you hate Liberals, are afraid of Progressives and Democrats, Ann Coulter is the celebrity for you. She is Roger Ailes' escaped raging Id, untethered by an official relationship with News Corp. She is the Paris Hilton of the on air pundit circuit. She’s the Ann Coulter of politics (clever huh?)

As for NBC?
Maybe all the feigned calls for the demise of the mainstream media by the Right wing should be taken at face value. After all, if they’re willing to play along and let themselves be handled by Anne Coulter, Matt Drudge and Sean Hannity, just to drum up interest in their own broadcasts at the expense of actual coverage, reporting and journalism, what use are they to Americans?

Bringing Ann Coulter back to the Today show was essentially the airing of a press release for her new book.
It was simple promotion.

Her new book is not news.

Neither is she.


Monday, January 05, 2009

Mr. Smith Goes To Washington

Roland Burris has been named to fill Barack Obama's seat in the US Senate by embattled Governor Rod Blagojevich. Mr. Burris is the former Attorney General of Illinois and was the first African-American elected to statewide office in the history of the state when he became Comptroller in 1979. Mr. Burris arrived in DC today and is planning on attending the meetings for freshman Senators tomorrow. He will be faced with a few obstacles however. Harry Reid, the Senate Majority leader, has said that he will not seat Burris, and his appointment has not been validated to the Illinois Secretary of State.

Mr. Burris is proceeding under the assumption that he has been legally nominated by the Governor and he is now the junior Senator from the Illinois. We are now set up for a confrontation on the steps of the Senate tomorrow. According to the rules of the state of Illinois, the Governor is indeed the only person in the state who can appoint someone to take Barack Obama's place. He is under investigation by the US Attorney's office, but until he is removed from office, he still has the power to fill that seat. The certificate of appointment is supposed to be signed by both the Governor and the Secretary of State of Illinois, who is currently refusing to do so. This is the technicality that will be used to refuse admittance to Burris to the Senate.

The question is, should Burris be allowed to take Obama's seat? There are many who will say that Governor Blagojevich is in a compromised position and therefore anyone he picks illegitimate. No one is suggesting that Burris offered anything for the seat, but the fact that people were excluded from the process because they refused to play ball with the Governor, means that even an appointee who is apparently clean would be tainted. I personally don't think that Burris should be penalized because of the ongoing scandal. He is qualified for the position and he has been appointed by the Governor. That really should be it.

The fact is that the Governor has actually made a very good tactical choice. It may very well be a public relations ploy, but it is a very good one. He picked an African-American who has been elected statewide on multiple occasions and is someone who seems qualified for the position. Barack Obama was the only African-American in the Senate (in fact he was only the third Black person elected to the US Senate) and there has been a lot of talk about trying to find a qualified African American to replace him. By picking Burris, Blagojevich has provided himself with some political cover. The press cannot accuse him of making a bad decision or of having sold the job to the highest bidder. The press is now split over seating Burris. Blagojevich has managed to deflect unanimously negative coverage of him and turn that into a debate about the Burris appointment.

I have no idea what is ultimately going to happen, but it may come down to how badly the Democrats need the extra vote. With Al Franken's apparent win in Minnesota, seating Burris would mean that they would only need two votes from the Republicans in order to have a filibuster proof majority. I think that in the end it's not going to matter who appointed the replacement for Obama, but whether the Democrats need the vote or not. I'm sure that Harry Reid would never admit to this, but because the Blagojevich impeachment may drag out for months, he's probably going to blink first.