Monday, August 25, 2008

The Convention You're Not Being Shown

I believe this image originated at so kudos to them. The reverse side of the bag is a picture of a raised middle finger.
I was going to title this post "The Convention We're Not Being Shown" but I gave away my TV so I'm not being shown anything.

Glenn Greenwald writes a lot of good stuff. It's tempting to post every day with "read this" but I try to save my Greenwald links for his best and most relevant stuff. With that said, read this.

Last night in Denver, at the Mile High Station -- next to Invesco Stadium, where Barack Obama will address a crowd of 30,000 people on Thursday night -- AT&T threw a lavish, private party for Blue Dog House Democrats, virtually all of whom blindly support whatever legislation the telecom industry demands and who also, specifically, led the way this July in immunizing AT&T and other telecoms from the consequences for their illegal participation in the Bush administration's warrantless spying program.
It was really the perfect symbol for how the Beltway political system functions -- those who dictate the nation's laws (the largest corporations and their lobbyists) cavorting in total secrecy with those who are elected to write those laws (members of Congress), while completely prohibiting the public from having any access to and knowledge of -- let alone involvement in -- what they are doing. And all of this was arranged by the corporation -- AT&T -- that is paying for a substantial part of the Democratic National Convention with millions upon millions of dollars, which just received an extraordinary gift of retroactive amnesty from the Congress controlled by that party, whose logo is splattered throughout the city wherever the DNC logo appears -- virtually attached to it -- all taking place next to the stadium where the Democratic presidential nominee, claiming he will cleanse the Beltway of corporate and lobbying influences, will accept the nomination on Thursday night.

The post includes a video by Glenn and Jane Hamsher of FireDogLake of them trying to interview party attendees. Glenn and Jane are exceedingly polite but the attendees refuse to say anything substantial. Police / security soon intervene and force them further and further away from the guests. I imagine most people have been in a situation where authority figures attempt to enforce arbitrary rules and regulations, so at some level I think the video will resonate even with people who don't share its politics.

A private party, thrown by AT&T, for members of congress, in which the press are not allowed and at which the police prevent any interaction between the press and the attendees. That's the convention we're not being shown. And that's not the seedy underbelly of the system, that is the system. As Glenn writes:

The democracy-themed stagecraft inside the Convention is for public television consumption, but secret little events of this sort are why people are really here. Just as is true in Washington, this is where -- and how and by whom -- the business of our Government is conducted.

Read more!

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Reality Intrudes

Something that has gotten nearly zero play in the traditional media is the recent "flip-flop" towards "appeasement" that the Bush Administration has made regarding Iran. I kept waiting for this to become a story and it never did.

Barack Obama stated that he would be willing to talk to Iran and was then attacked by McCain, Bush and the right-wing media as being a naive appeaser. Then lo and behold, the Bush Administration sends new Iran envoy William Burns to talk to the Iranians.

Burns, who as career ambassador holds the highest rank in the U.S. foreign service, will represent Washington in nuclear talks with Iran on Saturday, a sharp departure from U.S. policy that could be a launch point to reduced tensions.
Burns' mandate is to listen and not negotiate in Saturday's talks, but if Iran suspends its sensitive nuclear work, then the United States has promised to join full-blown negotiations.

Another piece on the decision to send Burns:

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice saw it as a "smart step" to depart from usual policy and send senior diplomat William Burns to Geneva on Saturday for talks with Iran along with other major powers, said Rice's spokesman Sean McCormack.

"It sends a strong signal to the world and it sends a strong signal to the Iranian government that the United States is committed to diplomacy," McCormack told reporters.

Hmm, where have I heard that before?

Sen. Barack Obama today continued to his running debate with Sen. John McCain and President Bush over foreign policy in the Middle East and whether it makes sense to have unconditional talks with Iran.


"Anything but their failed cowboy diplomacy that has produced no results is called appeasement," Obama countered. "Here's the truth: the Soviet Union had thousands of nuclear weapons and Iran doesn't have a single one. But when the world was on the brink of nuclear Holocaust, Kennedy talked to Khrushchev and he got those missiles out of Cuba. Why shouldn't we have the same courage and confidence to talk to our enemies? That's what strong countries do. That's what strong presidents do."

William Burns' talks with Iran are unconditional, literally without conditions. Here we have the entire right-wing establishment savaging Obama for a common-sense position, then adopting that same position, validating Obama's view while invalidating McCain's -- and the traditional media has been almost entirely silent on it. When Bhutto was assassinated we were subjected to endless speculation about who would be helped politically, but while Bhutto's assassination was a major event it was unrelated to the campaigns. Obama and McCain fighting over our approach to Iran has been in the news for months, yet this directly relevant action by the Bush Administration has gotten little play. Where are all the talking heads asking which campaign this helps or pointing out the obvious fact that Bush is now pursuing Obama's strategy?

It's as if the media was only interested when it was pure speculation and back-and-forth. Now that real-world action threatens to resolve the debate in favor of one candidate it's no longer an appealing story, the cameras are turned off just as the knockout punch is thrown.

I called this post "Reality Intrudes" because despite the Bush Administration's rhetoric about creating their own reality they have been forced to bend to actual reality. With North Korea we left ourselves only one option: bomb. And since we chose not to bomb North Korea acquired nuclear weapons while our "tough" talk got us nowhere. In Iran we were going down a similar road that would likely have lead to a similar outcomes To their credit the Bush Administration eventually realized that we need options between military action and absolutely nothing.

Read more!

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

And Justice For Most

The new improved justice - less sense, nicer abs.

Judge Allred, after the sentencing of Osama Bin Laden's driver to 66 months minus 61 already served in captivity (also known as a whopping five months):

Mr. Hamdan, I hope the day comes when you return to your wife and daughters and country, and you are able to be a husband and father in the best sense of all of those terms.

Well that's odd. Surely that day comes five months from now no?

Whether that day will come, of course, remains unclear. Although the Bush administration insists enemy combatants can be locked up so long as the global fight against terrorism is under way, Hamdan's continued detention after Dec. 31, 2008, when his sentence ends, will become less sustainable politically in light of last week's verdict.


There have been many legitimate complaints about the trial process at Gitmo. It's a thrown-together mess with much lower standards of evidence and procedure, designed to find defendants guilty. But the entire process appears to be a red-herring -- whether or not the defendants are released is not dependent on the results of the trials.

Had Hamdan been found guilty of all charges and sentenced to life the Pentagon would be crowing about how the system validated its actions. But because the sentence was dissapointing the Pentagon feels free to ignore it. Keep the guilty verdicts and ignore the not-guilty ones -- that's justice?

The true justice system is guilt by decree. We pick people up, we use the parlance of "illegal enemy combatants" to declare them guilty, then the rest is an afterthought. Once we've declared someone an "illegal enemy combatant" they are too scary and dangerous to be let go, even if a rigged trial system still disagrees with that conclusion.

That's the new justice, American style.

Read more!

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Land of the Free, Home of the Dumb

This picture is extremely relevant in that it includes a motorcycle.

There's no part of the McCain appearance at the Sturgis motorcycle rally that isn't embarrassing and idiotic. It's uncomfortable to watch the opening where McCain wears his joker death-grin while calling the entire crowd "my friend." (Singular) It's unfortunate to see the McCains using their children's military service to try to gain votes, something they'd previously sworn off. It's slightly pathetic to see McCain bashing Congress for inaction when he can't be bothered to show up and vote in the Senate. But the saddest thing of all is watching the Grand Old Party once again mocking human intellect and knowledge.

Keeping your tires properly inflated and your car tuned saves energy -- period. But because that's real knowledge based on things like math and science, because that doesn't come from our brilliant guts (the same guts that told McCain that the anthrax attacks were the work of Saddam), it's worthy of nothing but ridicule from people who are proud to be dumb. Not only do they mock the idea that science can teach us about many aspects of our world including energy conservation, they do so while revving their engines. How is this not self-parody?

It's like these guys take pride in being ignorant. They think it's funny that they're making fun of something that is actually true.

It's not "like" that -- that's it. The nation that built the atom bomb and sent a man to the moon is increasingly proud to be stupid. If you know stuff you're an effete elitist, an ivory-tower academic -- you're not a real man, math and science and knowing stuff is for womanly nerds.

It's far too easy to imagine the same crowd, transplanted in time, laughing at washing their hands after going to the bathroom or at cooking their meat. At what point did being ignorant become synonymous with being a red-blooded American?

Read more!

Saturday, August 02, 2008

Sadly Yes, This is our Media

The traditional media thinks that Americans' primary voting criteria is how mediocre a candidate is, where more mediocre is more betterer. Guys who read and know stuff aren't like you and me - we want a lazy moron as president because he won't make us feel bad about ourselves. We can point to him and say "hey, I'm just as smart as that guy" or "hey, I could be doing a better job" and be right.

Along those lines: "Too Fit to Be President?" - Facing an Overweight Electorate, Barack Obama Might Find Low Body Fat a Drawback.

Sadly, No! has much here here and here, including a bit on the anecdotal testimonial from a message board user who was solicited by the author of the piece to produce a money quote.