Archive for December, 2007|Monthly archive page

Benazir Bhutto

Pakistan’s most promising chance for recovery just died in a bomb blast. Global security and chances for peace keep taking hit after hit after hit…

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ARRRGH

It’s official – USA canceled The 4400. On Joel Gretsch‘s birthday no less.

To add insult to injury, I was in the middle of writing “at least Journeyman is still on” when I decided I should verify that, and lo and behold NBC declined to renew it for the full season. That means it’s effectively canceled, which sucks because it was just starting to get good. How cool was it that he accidentally dropped his cell phone in 1984 and came back to find his son had become his daughter? There were so many possibilities for crazy, unintended-consequences situations like that.

You know… Joel Gretsch played the main character’s father in one episode of Journeyman, and he was a central character in The 4400. Both shows were about time travel. Both met their end in the same month, with one officially axed on Joel’s birthday.

Let the conspiracy theories begin!
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Cartoon time

To further my earlier point about not finishing the damned job…

Rant

What really has my panties in a twist lately is my grudging acknowledgment that our national situation is just not going to get better anytime soon. And by things I mean just about everything.

We are literally living in that tired cliche about abandoning everything that defines us for the illusion of safety:

Our leadership operates in secret and claims executive privilege for terror-related reasons whenever the threat of exposure looms.

Our elected leaders in Congress clamor for a law that makes it easier for the government to monitor us – to protect us from terrorists.

Our leaders assure us that our country doesn’t torture people, but we do waterboard people – a tactic considered torture by our own military – but it’s not torture because our leaders say it’s legal, so it can’t be torture, because torture is illegal. And it’s necessary to protect us from terrorists, of course.

We’re losing Afghanistan because we didn’t finish the damn job, instead diving headlong into a new war like a kid with ADD. While most of the country is back on its foreign policy Ritalin, Bush is busily occupied with antagonizing Iran into yet another ill-advised conflict, in spite of revelations that he already knew they weren’t a threat, even as he made references to WWIII to scare the shit out of his own citizens.

Osama bin Laden (who by the way we still haven’t caught – for the price of our Iraq vacation we could have flattened the entire Afghan mountain range with him with it) said the 9/11 attacks were a response to western military presence on holy lands, so we’re building the largest American military base in history… in Iraq.  What part of a sane plan to keep America safe involves antagonizing the enemy in the shadows?

Things are not going to get better because our system relies on the self-balancing pull of an opposition party.  Unfortunately for America and the world, the Democrats are led by cowards too afraid to meaningfully confront the President and his memory-impaired radical minority. And for God’s sake, the GOP is so morally bankrupt right now that not only can this President not admit to making a single mistake in 7 years, but – as Huckabee found out this week – you can’t even suggest that Bush might not have handled something optimally without being tried in the public square for heresy.

The only hope for change comes in the form of a third party candidate next year. That reliance on an unlikely dark horse is depressing enough by itself – it’s like pinning your hopes on a meteor strike. But with none of the GOP candidates indicating anything other than 4 more years of this, and with Democrats likely to run Hillary as their nominee (indicating 4 more years of this), a third party is going to be the only choice worth going to the polls for.  I’m interesting in seeing where the Unity ’08 movement will take us, although I strongly oppose the idea of simply forgetting and forgiving what this administration has done. We tried that before in the 70’s and it just laid the groundwork for the authoritarians we have today. Try them in court, make the penalties harsh (ideally ban the GOP from national elections for two years), and THEN reach across the aisle and commit to bipartisanship and let bygones be bygones.

Now that’s the American way.

America: are we fucked?

I’m beginning to honestly think we are.  As a child of the 80’s I grew up proud of America, the land of laws and principles that made us morally superior to our enemies.  How then did we become everything I was taught to loathe about the Soviet Union, in a few short years no less?  I’m sure alarmists have raised similar concerns in the past, which makes it all the more difficult to convince anyone that this time may be different.  But it is, and Glenn says it much better than I can:

There are several vital points raised by the new revelations in The New York Times that “the N.S.A.’s reliance on telecommunications companies is broader and deeper than ever before” and includes both pre-9/11 efforts to tap without warrants into the nation’s domestic communications network as well as the collection of vast telephone records of American citizens in the name of the War on Drugs. The Executive Branch and the largest telecommunications companies work in virtually complete secrecy — with no oversight and no notion of legal limits — to spy on Americans, on our own soil, at will.

More than anything else, what these revelations highlight — yet again — is that the U.S. has become precisely the kind of surveillance state that we were always told was the hallmark of tyrannical societies, with literally no limits on the government’s ability or willingness to spy on its own citizens and to maintain vast dossiers on those activities. The vast bulk of those on whom the Government spies have never been accused, let alone convicted, of having done anything wrong. One can dismiss those observations as hyperbole if one likes — people want to believe that their own government is basically benevolent and “tyranny” is something that happens somewhere else — but publicly available facts simply compel the conclusion that, by definition, we live in a lawless surveillance state, and most of our political officials are indifferent to, if not supportive of, that development.

This has caused me enough distress in recent months that for the first time in my life I’ve thought about what other countries might be nice to live in.  I don’t want to leave my country – I rather like it.  I’ve lived here all my life and I’ve been blessed with nearly every opportunity I could dream of.  But just as I would abandon my house if it were structurally unsafe, I’m beginning to see warning signs of a collapse.  It won’t be tomorrow, or even a year from now, which means there’s time to fix it.  But as our failing educational system continues to decrease the available pool of citizens knowledgeable about government, and as corporate election money further negates the influence of all citizens on their own government, the chances for meaningful change before it’s too late shrink ever smaller.

It wasn’t supposed to turn out like this.

Scooter

Now that Scooter Libby has dropped the appeal of his perjury conviction, the White House is free – by their own past admissions and promises – to comment on the case.  Of course they’re a little too busy with other scandals right now to fully address that scandal, but I’m sure they’ll be forthcoming with the details as promised.  Right.

Regarding that case, this is the most intelligent line of reasoning I’ve heard out of Chris Matthews in at least a year:

“[A]ny reasonable person has to wonder about the extent to which the administration has acted to cover up the way it made and then defended its case for war with Iraq, why it allowed itself to be caught in criminality to do so. Ask yourself the following:

“Why did the chief of staff to the vice president obstruct the criminal investigation into the CIA leak case? Why did he so flagrantly lie under oath? Why did he, in the words of the prosecutor, throw sands in the eyes of the prosecutor?

“Why did he, Scooter Libby, refuse to testify when faced with 30 years of imprisonment? Why did the vice president not testify? Why did the president commute Mr. Libby’s sentence, after having promised he would punish those who leaked? Why does the administration refuse to release to the Congress the interview Cheney and Bush had with the special prosecutor?

“Why did they insist on doing that interview together, like the Menendez brothers? Why did Libby just drop his appeal, which would have led to a second trial, where, again, he would have the opportunity to testify in his own defense?”

Vanishing records

Glenn Greenwald knocks it out of the park once again with this summary of the Bush administration’s chronic vanishing document issue.  A brief rundown:

  • May 2004: 2000 of the 6000 pages missing from an Abu Ghraib torture report
  • June 2004: all memos to and from the FBI and CIA regarding White House interrogation policies missing
  • September 2004: gaps found in Bush’s Texas Air National Guard service records
  • February 2006: large gaps found in POTUS and VP email records from 2003 (corresponds to Plame leak)
  • February 2007: key video evidence of Jose Padilla interrogation vanishes
  • March 2007: three week gap in emails and memos related to US attorney firings

There are more but that’s plenty enough to establish the trend.  Money quote from an unnamed source:

As an attorney who deals with subpoenas and requests for electronic documents on a regular basis, I can tell you that if a private entity–particularly one subject to legally mandated record keeping requirements–were to inform government investigators seeking such documents that they had been “mishandled” and were now “lost,” that entity would immediately find itself in a world of hurt and would be lucky if it survived the aftermath.

No amount of talking would be enough to convince the authorities that there was an innocent explanation for the missing documents. They would be absolutely convinced that the “mishandled” documents were intentionally destroyed in order to cover up wrongdoing.

All of this, of course, comes as Karl Rove is attempting to revise history and blame Democrats for the Iraq War, and also while the White House offers changing and painfully-parsed excuses for its hawkish rhetoric in the weeks since it learned that Iran isn’t the external threat that they desperately need it to be.

With each passing week it becomes clearer that President Bush is untrustworthy at minimum, and potentially a bona fide criminal guilty of what the founders actually meant when they identified “high crimes and misdemeanors”.

The American people, while painfully slow, are not stupid.  They see now in Iran what we saw in the runup to Iraq – deliberate obfuscation of facts, selective reading of intelligence, and a complete disregard for the rule of law.  That disregard continues to be exposed as more critical documents and records go missing.  When will it end? How much more do we have to see of this before enough is enough?

Florida evolution battle

First it was Pennsylvania, then Kansas.  Not one to be out-crazied on virtually any conceivable issue, Florida is now set to claim the lead in the War on Science.  The state proposed new standards for science education in October after receiving a failing grade from an education think tank two years ago.  As we’ve come to expect, the new standards – which place greater emphasis on evolution – are being met with growing opposition by indefatigable knuckle draggers who insist that creationism is a valid and equally-supported theory of the development of life.  Four Polk County school board members, a state Board of Education member, and a state representative are among the mentally-challenged opponents of the new standards, so the matter can’t be taken lightly.  The Board of Education will vote on the standards in February, so feel free to share your opinion with them – contact information is in the last paragraph of the article.

Scratch Huckabee

In 1999 current GOP Presidential candidate and then-Arkansas Governor Mike Huckabee lobbied for and achieved the release from prison of a rapist who subsequently raped and killed another woman.  His campaign’s position has been that he acted in good faith and that there was no good reason to believe that the offender, Wayne Dumond, was a further threat to society.  That’s a reasonable and believable explanation, and Huckabee’s overall moral character would seem to indicate that this is probably the truth.

The only problem is, it’s a lie.  Dumond had other victims, and several of them wrote the Governor to explicitly warn him that Dumond would attack again if given the chance.  Those letters have now been made public by a former aide who was troubled by Huckabee’s insistence that no one could have predicted the tragic outcome.

Huckabee continues to deny everything despite the emergence of these documents, and that’s the formula for increased media scrutiny and widespread public skepticism.  More former aides and staffers are coming forward alleging that Huckabee has concealed and continues to actively bury all knowledge about the circumstances surrounding the incident. So now we have the makings of a good old-fashioned American political scandal.

But it’s even deeper than it appears.  See, the victim of the rape for which Dumond was convicted happens to be a distant cousin of Bill Clinton.  This of course meant that the girl had to be a liar and Dumond was innocent, as the New York Post concluded in 1999 just prior to his release.

Absent an elaborate and intricate conspiracy of former coworkers and Arkansas state officials, did Clinton Derangement Syndrome lead several prominent GOP figures to lobby for the release of a killer? It’s still early and a lot remains to be seen, but the initial size-up isn’t looking good for Huckabee Central.  Read the article, look at the letters, and decide for yourself.

John Bolton is the Lorax

John Bolton

John Bolton
Former UN Ambassador
Current Douchebag

The Lorax

The Lorax
Former Seuss Groupie
Current malcontent