January 20, 2009 archive

Last day of the Bush Error!

It’s nearing 1:30 AM, I’m cold, I’m tired, and yet, before snuggling into my triple blanket sandwich, I thought I’d pop in and let out a triumphant HALLEFREAKINLEUJAH! It’s over! The last page of the countdown calendar has turned, and at this very moment, George W Bush is dreaming his last dream as President, having finished packing away his crap, so as to make way for a man deserving of that high office, Barack Hussein Obama.

And even as I type that, I’m having a few conflicting thoughts.

Breaking News – Truth is Stranger than Fiction

This is just a quick one. I saw on the news that Dick Cheney strained his back while humping a moving box. Right! Apparently he strained it so bad that he’ll actually be in a wheelchair for (later today!) the inauguration. I hope he wears black leather gloves just like Peter Sellers did in Dr. Strangelove. This reality thing is getting too weird.

Come to think of it, I hope the Secret Service folks have that wheelchair sniffed for C4. Enjoy the video.

In nine hours Joe Biden will be sworn in. And fifteen minutes later it’ll be President Obama.

Thank you, God.

“I’m Mad As Hell.”

Tonight, hours from the end of the Bush nightmare, I sat in my bed, next to my wife, and watched Paddy Cheyefsky’s Network, a movie I had seen before, but never SEEN and certainly never REALLY SEEN since I became one of the people who dream up the kind of media that Cheyefsky excoriates and lays bare.

The film, thirty years old, but as vital and powerful as its ever been, predicts the rise of reality television as well as the birth of “newsertainment”, wherein the truth is secondary to the drama.

Watching it I wondered if maybe… possibly… PROBABLY… the entire 2008 election could have been a subplot left on Sidney Lumet’s cutting room floor.

The political neophyte with the charming smile. The wife of the ex-President who was OWED the highest office in the land. The crazed, if justified preacher, spewing the darkest fear of the WHITE MAN straight from the pulpit. The war hero and the porn star Alaskan governor and the ruin of CAPITALISM played out night after night after night as a necessary means of keeping the viewer on the edge of their seat.


There are many things to say about what is happening right now, and that will, with any luck, continue to happen.  

They didn’t happen by themselves and, if we don’t continue to push, they will stop happening.

Ten years ago, I listened to Democracy Now on MLK Day and heard for the first time King’s speech from the Riverside Church on April 4, 1967.  It was part of a political awakening for me that began with reading David Korten’s When Corporations Rule the World, followed by many of the books by Boston’s Dynamic Duo – Noam Chomsky and Howard Zinn – as well as Jerry Mander’s In the Absence of the Sacred and The Case Against the Global Economy.

Mainly what I’ve been feeling this past week is joy and relief, but also pride that we rid ourselves of the Bush error through the electoral process, without violence.

Many people have worked hard doing what they could – in a spirit of non-violence – from whatever circumstance they were in to change this country.

When I taught at Hopi High School, I learned that the Hopi believe that we are in a period of transition between the fourth and fifth world.  They say that the form of this transition is up to us.  If we make this transition about taking care each other and working together to make it through tough times, then the end result of this effort will reflect that intention.

If you’ve never heard King’s Riverside Church speech, youtube has a good clip of it here. (audio only)

A true revolution of values will soon look uneasily on the glaring contrast of poverty and wealth with righteous indignation. It will look across the seas and see individual capitalists of the West investing huge sums of money in Asia, Africa, and South America, only to take the profits out with no concern for the social betterment of the countries, and say, “This is not just.” It will look at our alliance with the landed gentry of Latin America and say, “This is not just.” The Western arrogance of feeling that it has everything to teach others and nothing to learn from them is not just. A true revolution of values will lay hands on the world order and say of war, “This way of settling differences is not just.” This business of burning human beings with napalm, of filling our nation’s homes with orphans and widows, of injecting poisonous drugs of hate into the veins of peoples normally humane, of sending men home from dark and bloody battlefields physically handicapped and psychologically deranged, cannot be reconciled with wisdom, justice, and love. A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.

Let’s hope that we can work for a civic, political and spiritual renewal together.

Crime of the Century (“About those documents, Mr. Cheney…”) [Update]

From the Washington Post, this rather discouraging tidbit:

A federal judge yesterday rejected the claim by a coalition of historians and nonprofit groups that Vice President Cheney intended to illegally discard some of his official records, and instead accepted the pledge of a senior White House aide that key Cheney documents and other materials will be transferred as required to the National Archives.

Emphasis mine.

Can you hear them laughing yet? Cheney even threw his back out, he was laughing so hard, and he’s attending the inauguration in a wheelchair — probably something else he’ll be chuckling over, thinking that years later historians and citizens will see the poor bastard in a wheelchair and say "Oh, how can the people of the time be so mean to a decrepit old invalid?"

Well, they’ll probably leave out the "decrepit" bit.

Obama’s Best Move So Far? Marty Lederman Joins OLC

From Armando at Talkleft Monday evening:

Martin “Marty” S. Lederman
Photo: Georgetown Law

Lederman Joining Obama Administration:

From Ben Smith [at Politico]:

   A Georgetown source forwards over an email from that school’s administration, reporting that Professor Marty Lederman’s class will be canceled — because he’s joining the Obama administration.

   Lederman, another former Clinton Office of Legal Counsel lawyer, is perhaps the most prominent of several high-profile opponents of the Bush Administration’s executive power claims joining Obama, a mark that he intends not just to change but to aggressively reverse Bush’s moves on subjects like torture. . . . Lederman has been . . . an early and vocal critic of torture, and has suggested Bush Administration officials have committed specific crimes in that regard.

For those unfamiliar with him…

Martin “Marty” S. Lederman [until today was] an Associate Professor of Law at the Georgetown University Law Center, where he teaches various courses in constitutional law, and seminars on separation of powers and executive branch lawyering. He regularly contributes to the weblogs SCOTUSblog and Balkinization, including on matters relating to Executive power, detention, interrogation, civil liberties, and torture. Lederman was an Attorney Advisor in the Department of Justice’s Office of Legal Counsel from 1994 to 2002

Marty Lederman blogs with Jack Balkin, at Balkinization.

In a Balkanization post July 08, 2007, Lederman grouped all of his, Mark Graber’s, Stephen Griffin’s, Scott Horton’s, Sandy Levinson’s, David Luban’s, Brian Tamanaha’s, Jack Balkin’s and a few others posts “on the complex of issues raised by torture, interrogation, detention, war powers, Executive authority, the Department of Justice, and the Office of Legal Counsel” together under the heading The Anti-Torture Memos: Balkinization Posts on Torture, Interrogation, Detention, War Powers, Executive Authority, DOJ and OLC

There are many, almost six hundred, posts in that Balkinization category, but a quick scan of the titles will give you a good indication of Marty’s feelings and leanings on the subjects of torture and applicable “rule of law”, and his very strong and vocal criticisms of torture by the Bush administration.

Banks in meltdown. Take them over.

Original article, by Mick Brooks, via Socialist Appeal (UK):

Stock exchanges in Britain and the USA have been on the slide over the past few days. The reason is not hard to seek. The FTSE has been spooked by bank shares collapsing. Barclays, for instance, saw 25% of its share price shaved off in one hour last Friday (16.01.09). This was the day after the bank announced 2,100 job losses.

Rick Warren, This May Be Jesus Talking

(Emphasis mine)


Yet in the media’s Bush propaganda wing, Fox was still Fox. Bill O’Reilly, deaf and blind to the obvious class implications of the pre-flood exodus, speculated, “A lot of the people who stayed wanted to do this destruction” and wondered why “looters” were not being shot on sight. Indeed, aside from the surprisingly passionate Shephard Smith, much of Fox’s reporting could have been datelined “Neverland.” Neil Cavuto brought in Rick Warren, author of The Purpose-Driven Life, to advise those who’d lost everything to “play it down and pray it up.”

Open Thread

From Tolouse Street, a wonderful reflection on Mardi Gras in The Spirit of the Mask:

For Caslos Casteneda, entry into Don Juan’s hermetic world required a medicine man’s chest of hallucinogenic plants to break down the initiate’s dependence on the mind paths of a trained academic. For entry into the secret heart of Carnival the gateway is not as Odd. You must simply find or make a mask, one that calls you to wear it, that dictates the costume that accompanies it, that leads you to surrender yourself to the spirit of the mask.

It need not even be a mask. My “mask” this year is a tri-corner, Asian-styled hat. I do not have the costume, but I already see the costume. When you can see the character in the object, when you can see yourself in the character, you will have found the one.

Without that mask, you can only be The Tourist. We see them at Carnival common as sparrows, and the camera is their mask. They come, take Carnival’s blurry picture and go home with fabulous hangovers. They see Carnival pass them by, but they are not of Carnival. They are like Lucky Dog vendors, a bit of the backdrop. Perhaps they have fun. I imagine they do. They do not experience Carnival.

Open Thread is open!

The First Official Act

When Barack Obama becomes president, tomorrow, his first official act should be to ban torture. Nothing else would more clearly delineate the full and final break this nation is making from the legal and moral turpitude that was the Bush Administration. For logistical and practical reasons, Obama cannot immediately end the war or shut down Gitmo- although both must be done as quickly as is possible. He cannot immediately stop our economic free-fall. He cannot immediately begin to repair the possibly irreversible damage done by Bush to the environment. But he can ban torture. He can order all government entities that are in any way involved with torture to stop immediately. He can make clear that any government officials still involved with torture will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law, and possibly turned over to international officials for possible war crimes violations.

Corporate media and other Beltway types want Obama neither to end torture nor to prosecute the Bush officials who signed off on it. The law necessitates that he do both. And in this ostensible nation of laws, no one should be above the law. If we are, indeed, a nation of laws.

Last Friday, Big Tent Democrat wrote the following:

…the Beltway wants the torture policy of the Bush Administration swept under the rug and forgotten…

With all due respect to one of my favorite bloggers, I don’t think he goes far enough. The Beltway doesn’t just want Bush’s torture regime swept away and forgotten, it wants Obama to be complicit in it. Because the enabling of the Beltway and the corporate media made them complicit in it.

The best thing our newly inaugurated president can do, tomorrow, is to attempt to begin to establish a fundamental sense of moral and legal integrity in this nation. And to stop hurting people for no reason. As of tomorrow, solving and resolving all of Bush’s countless messes, crimes, and disasters becomes Barack Obama’s responsibility. Barack Obama’s first act as president should be to ban torture.

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