Sunday, October 31, 2010

Olbermann Tells It Like It Is

Scared yet?

Be Very Afraid

... of Tuesday's election, says Paul Krugman. He may be right.

Friday, October 29, 2010

I Remember

Via Mustang Bobby, here's the best general campaign commercial of the year:

Do you remember?

Ohio: Mickey D ***ks The Vote

That's right: an Ohio McDonald's franchise is telling its employees how to vote, and threatening them if GOPers don't win. Here's David Dayen of FDL:

Here’s a truly horrific story that shows the state the United States of Corptocracy circa 2010. A McDonald’s franchise in Ohio sent a note in the paychecks of their workers urging them to vote for Republicans in next Tuesday’s elections. And they implicitly threatened to stop all wage and benefit increases if those Republicans do not win, essentially tying the future economic fortunes of their employees to their vote.
Dayen goes on to remind everyone that that sort of behavior is a violation of federal law, and in at least Ohio, state law as well.

These are the indirect consequences of the Citizens United decision: many corporations now believe they can do literally anything. This is just a close relative of being able to spend unlimited money on campaign ads. Corporations believe they own elections, own employees and own the government. Who am I to say they are wrong, after Citizens United. Dayen provides an image of the franchise's note.

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Cement Mixture: Putzy, Putzy


Inquiry: BP, Halliburton knew well cement was 'unstable'

BP and Transocean, another partner, 'misinterpreted or chose not to conduct' key tests, it adds

BP and its cement contractor, Halliburton, knew weeks before the Deepwater Horizon explosion that the cement mixture they planned to use to seal the new well was unstable but still completed the work, staff for the presidential commission investigating the accident said in a letter Thursday.

That improper cement work "may have contributed to the blowout" on April 20 that killed 11 workers and led to the largest offshore oil spill in history, the staff stated in the first official finding of responsibility for the disaster.

What a surprise.

UPDATE: Rand Paul Will Not Return Stomper's $2,000 Contribution

TPM gives the details. No "modified limited hangout" here... Paul is going all the way with the old "she must've done something to provoke it" approach. Women, please take note, and organize an event at the next Paul campaign stop. Just be sure to remember to dress appropriately: helmets required... high heel shoes optional.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

The Good, The Bad, And The Horribly Ugly

Christine O'Donnell seems not to understand that a Senate election is a public event; her staff threatened to sue radio station WDEL if they posted an interview with her online. Fortunately... "The Good" of the title... she is far behind Chris Coons in her race for U.S. Senate from Delaware.

"The Bad" news: the highly praised Joe Sestak hasn't quite yet caught up with radical Pat Toomey in the U.S. Senate race in Pennsylvania.

"The Ugly " news: Sharron Angle has regained the lead from Harry Reid in Nevada. Now I couldn't care less if Harry Reid headed off to a much-needed retirement (not that he earned it, but that America needs him to retire). But Sharron Angle... ugh. She wants to whack Social Security. Now that's ugly.

The World Turned Upside Down

By tradition, that is the name of the song the British band played when Cornwallis surrendered at Yorktown. It seems to me equally appropriate to the recent spate of conservative offenders' demands for apologies from victims for acts they committed. There's Virginia Thomas's demand of Anita Hill's apology, which to my relief Ms. Hill rejected. Then there's the head-stomping Rand Paul thug Tim Profitt's demand of an apology from his victim Lauren Valle of MoveOn. Here is a video of the incident; Ms. Valle was bodily forced to the street, her head forced onto the curb, where Mr. Profitt placed his foot atop her head and stomped.

Now Profitt (yes, Profitt, the attacker) is demanding an apology:


"I don't think it's that big of a deal," Profitt said. "I would like for her to apologize to me to be honest with you."

"She's a professional at what she does," Profitt added, "and I think when all the facts come out, I think people will see that she was the one that initiated the whole thing."


No one else, as far as I can tell, has stated that Ms. Valle had anything to do with initiating the violence. The video makes it clear that the thugs were not merely removing Ms. Valle from the vicinity of the debate; they were assaulting her. (Look quickly... the YouTube version of the video has already been removed for violating terms of service, and you know where that came from.)

So this is who Mr. Paul's followers are. And this is the trend in Republican and Tea Party politics these days: the victim owes them an apology. Instead of the world, it's the truth that is upside down in the increasingly violent world of American conservatism. How soon will the thugs begin actually shooting those guns the Tea Partiers brought to campaign events in 2008? What will happen then?

UPDATE: Ms. Valle suffered a concussion. Mr. Profitt has been served with a criminal summons.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Was Wellstone Murdered?

emptywheel asks the same question in her post,Wellstone Accused of Voter Fraud, Threatened with Death, Day before His Plane Crash.

I'm not a big fan of conspiracy theories, but Wellstone's crash shortly before an election has always aroused my suspicions. There are undoubtedly people who play hardball out there, and it's sad to contemplate even the possibility that one of the best we ever had in the Senate... and his family... were murdered. But emptywheel has done a lot of investigative reporting of several genuine scandals, and I can't dismiss out-of-hand the possibility of Wellstone's being murdered. There was undoubtedly at least one threatening note, but those are probably fairly common.

While you're reading emptywheel's post, be sure to read comment #66 by rikkidoglake on NTSB's report on the crash. The comment also contains a link to a .pdf of the report itself, if you don't mind downloading 3mb and if you can comprehend the report. I'd be interested to read what any professional pilots out there have to say about it.

(Some editing after initial posting. - SB)

UPDATE: I've just skimmed the NTSB report. It looks to my untrained eye as if NTSB determined the accident to be due to pilot error.


An old friend lent me her bread-making machine. My first effort was a whole wheat honey loaf; it turned out quite decently (it's hard to miss with one of these machines). But I never knew how noisy they are! This one is by Cuisinart, and has the look that belongs in a commercial kitchen. It's old enough to have a display that... rather, I'm old enough to have eyes that can barely read the display. Let me see now... how long will it take me to go through all 100 recipes in the booklet that came with the machine, plus what looks like another 500 in a separate cookbook...

Chris Hedges Isn't Happy With Liberals

... it's all our fault, everything any of the past and current Republican and Democratic presidents has done. Hold your nose and read Hedges's spew. He's not usually like this. I'm too angry to respond constructively; someone else feel free to do so.

Monday, October 25, 2010

3rd District Court: Florida Lesbians/Gays May Adopt Children

I must have been asleep Friday to have missed this one:

Our latest challenge to the law ended in victory this afternoon when Florida Attorney General Bill McCollum announced that he would not appeal the decision of the 3rd District Court of Appeal striking down the statute. After the court’s powerful decision on September 22, the Florida Department of Children and Families announced that it wouldn’t appeal to the Florida Supreme Court, and Gov. Charlie Crist supported the decision, hailing the court’s ruling as a victory for children. But the attorney general had the option to independently appeal and had indicated that he was exploring that option. With his announcement today, the law is officially dead.
I dance on the law's grave. You see, I've known some gay parents. They are decent, caring people as surely as straight parents. And as the story linked above indicates, some of them are willing to adopt children who may be rejected by society at large... e.g., those with serious diseases such as HIV. Several studies have long since demonstrated that the kids don't turn out any different with gay parents than with straight; only raw bigotry could have resulted in such a law. Now it is gone. Good riddance to it. And once again, thanks to the ACLU; the law would never have been overturned without their effort over more than a decade in five successive trials.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Richard Leakey: Man Will Cause Next Great Extinction

He's speaking in Houston this Thursday at Progressive Forum (no, I won't be there), in part about the next great extinction:

Richard Leakey, one of the world's most famous paleoanthropologists and a conservationist, will speak in Houston on Thursday at the Progressive Forum. Leakey, noted for helping to ban ivory trading, has become increasingly outspoken about conservation issues, suggesting human proliferation puts many of the planet's ecosystems and species at risk and warning that we will cause the next great extinction. He spoke with Chronicle science writer Eric Berger.

Please read the interview. If you think Leakey is alone in his concerns, note what Wikipedia says:

According to a 1998 survey of 400 biologists conducted by New York's American Museum of Natural History, nearly 70 percent believed that they were currently in the early stages of a human-caused extinction, known as the Holocene extinction. In that survey, the same proportion of respondents agreed with the prediction that up to 20 percent of all living populations could become extinct within 30 years (by 2028).
(Boldface mine.)

It could never happen, you say? Well, I won't directly call you a damned fool, but here's a clue, again from Wikipedia:

There have been at least five mass extinctions in the history of life on earth, and four in the last 3.5 billion years in which many species have disappeared in a relatively short period of geological time. The most recent of these, the Cretaceous–Tertiary extinction event 65 million years ago at the end of the Cretaceous period, is best known for having wiped out the non-avian dinosaurs, among many other species. The massive eruptive event is considered to be the likely cause of the "Great Dying" about 250 million years ago, which is estimated to have killed 90% of species existing at the time.
Nothing is forever, including the increasingly ill-named Homo sapiens. Much more behavior like that which humankind has exhibited in the past half century, and especially in the past decade, could very well spell our catastrophic exit.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Fucking Nuts, Roasted And [A]s[s]a[u]lted!

Stephen Broden, Republican candidate for Texas HD 30 (that's in the Dallas/Fort Worth area) is proving himself a full-blown, fucking nuts, violent revolutionary:


Republican House Candidate: Violent Uprising Is 'On The Table'

Jillian Rayfield | October 22, 2010, 11:44AM

Stephen Broden, a Republican running for Congress in Texas' 30th District, said he would not rule out a violent overthrow of the government if the midterm elections don't cause a change in government, saying that "our nation was founded on violence" so "the option is on the table."

According to the Dallas Morning News, Broden said in a TV interview yesterday: "We have a constitutional remedy here and the Framers says if that don't work, revolution."

"If the government is not producing the results or has become destructive to the ends of our liberties, we have a right to get rid of that government and to get rid of it by any means necessary," he continued.

The head of the Dallas County GOP has called the remarks "inappropriate."

Broden is challenging incumbent Rep. Eddie Bernice Johnson (D).

Eddie Bernice Johnson (D) is a decent human being who has represented District 30 approximately forever. The notion of her being worthy of violent revolutionary opposition is just plain crack-brained. But this is the inevitable destination of current Republican thinking: "If people don't like us enough to elect us despite our spending more money than Dog on buying seats, well, we'll get our money's worth the hard way. Yeah, we'll show 'em; we'll make them pay for their uncooperative voting behavior."

Does anyone else find Broden's statement completely outside the pale? or are we headed for violent conflict in the near future in Texas?


Let me put it another way: does Broden's constitutional interpretation allow me, an American citizen just like him (well, not just like him), the same right of violent response to my possible distaste for an election outcome that favors him? Or is he alone empowered to decide who may kill and maim in response to an unfavorable outcome? Yeah, that's what I thought.

More On Voter Intimidation Allegations In Harris County

Our Republican County Clerk says it never happened. More than a dozen minority voters say it did indeed happen. Ryan J. Reilly of TPMMuckraker has the details. Believe whomever you will, it's clear that nothing will be done to stop any such activity that is happening.

Poll-watchers take note: there's a distinction between poll-watching and voter intimidation. It should not be difficult to determine the limits to poll-watching: everyone who is vetted by a poll worker against the official list should be able to vote unimpeded and in privacy. Anything else is harassment.

If someone had attempted to stop me from voting, or had looked over my shoulder, or followed me away from the polls, I think I just might have become physically violent. Poll-watchers: I am 62 years old, crippled and get around on a shiny blue walker; please take note that if you try to intimidate me I may remove some of your teeth.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Christine O'Donnell Meets Elvira

... who is not a witch:

New Trend: Candidates Stiff The Press

Candidates, mostly Republican but increasingly Democratic candidates as well, are barring the press and media from their public appearances, declining to publish schedules of events, etc., apparently because, thanks presumably to the Citizens United decision, they can buy plenty of airtime... airtime the content of which they exclusively control. If you read your news on the Web, you're probably unaffected. If you are limited to what you see on the idiot box, candidates can control their image and message; it's a lot more difficult to get info than it once was. Forced ignorance is bad for democracy... and I'm certain that's precisely what candidates intend.

David Lightman of McClatchy Newspapers has the details; this is worth your time to read.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Obama DoJ Would Shield Bush Official (Ashcroft) From All Prosecution

Olbermann and Turley discuss the consequences:
"Above the law": there's virtually no other way to describe the claim Obama makes for high executive officials in Bush's administration and in his own. What will Obama become if he is chosen for a second term in 2012? Greenwald has some answers, and you're not going to like them.

I Voted Today

The Fiesta Mart (our early voting polling place) was not overwhelmingly crowded, but one of the workers told me they've been getting about 1,000 people each early-voting day. That's pretty good, considering how short the hours are (8:30am-4:30pm this first week; longer next week).

As anticipated, I voted mostly for Democrats. There were two kinds of race in which I did not vote at all: races in which there was no Democratic candidate (what's that? Green? ya gotta be kidding; there were only about two Green candidates in the whole list of 87 races) and races in which the Democrat neglected to provide a document to the League of Women Voters... I insist on at least minimal biographical info for any candidate. Much to my disappointment, in Cong. Dist. 7, there was no Democrat running against John Culberson, who might as well be named Tom DeLay II, and I didn't feel like voting for a Liberterrible.

The ballot prop's were few and to the point. I actually voted against the Sierra Club position on Prop. 1... i.e., I voted FOR the prop., which has to do with improving drainage. I voted AGAINST continued use of red-light cameras because the photos they take are evaluated by the company that manufactures and maintains the devices; you might as well ask the cat who should get the cream. If they a) worked reliably and b) weren't primarily a source of revenue for their manufacturer, I'd be more inclined to support them. But too many people are being cited who later take their ticket to court... and win, for good and sufficient reason.

Harris County residents, please vote. You have another 1½ weeks of early voting plus Election Day, i.e., you have no excuse for NOT voting. Go do it!

(BTW, I actually drove myself to the polls. It wasn't that far, and I was able to improvise a hand control of sorts for the accelerator. It felt really good to get to the polls under my own steam.)

'Tea Party Group Intimidating Minority Voters'

The following is a letter from Gerry Birnberg, Chair of the Harris County Democratic Party:


As early voting began in Harris County, we experienced the most overt and extensive effort to intimidate African American and Latino voters and keep them from voting we have seen here since the days of Jim Crow and before passage of the Voting Rights Act.

Folks reportedly paid by the Tea Party have swarmed minority early voting locations throughout Harris County, appointed as “poll watchers” by the local Republican Party and Republican candidates. Once inside, they try to disrupt voting and intimidate voters. They try to block access to polling places and hover over voters trying to vote, even positioning themselves to watch the minority voters while they are casting ballots. They try to talk to voters and election workers and are confrontational and hostile. THEIR GOAL IS SIMPLY TO DISCOURAGE AND INTIMIDATE MINORITY VOTERS AND KEEP THEM FROM VOTING!

Most of the conduct reported is clearly illegal. These people are not only enemies of democracy who don’t want people to vote, they are lawbreakers!

Here’s what the Texas Election Code provides:

“A watcher may not be present at the voting station when a voter is preparing the voter’s ballot or is being assisted by a person of the voter’s choice.” Texas Election Code section 33.057(b)

“While on duty, a watcher may not converse with a voter or communicate in any manner with a voter regarding the election.” Texas Election Code section 33.058(a)(2).

The only conversation which can occur between an election officer and a poll watcher is “to call attention to an irregularity or violation of law.” Texas Election Code section 33.058(a)(1).

They are breaking these laws for one reason only – to try to intimidate minority voters into not voting.


The best way to fight this effort to take away people’s voting is to VOTE! Show them it won’t work! Show them nobody is going to disrupt or intimidate or harass us into not voting!

And take names. If you witness any of this illegal activity at the polls, try to get the name of the “poll watcher” who engaged in it and if they’re too afraid to give it to you, record a physical description. Then fill out an Election Incident Report Form on our website or email us at You can always call us at 713-802-0085, but our telephone lines are so busy right now, we’d really much prefer an email if you can do so.

It’s time to stand up to people who don’t want you to vote.


Gerry Birnberg
Chair, Harris County Democratic Party

Whatever my differences with today's Democratic Party, I stand solidly with them on this one. Intimidation is no part of democracy, not even the sorry excuse for democracy we face these days. Refuse to be intimidated. Confront the bastards... physically if necessary... and whatever you do, vote before you leave the polling place.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Early Voting Begins Today

In several states including Texas, early voting begins today. Please see details I posted a couple of weeks ago, including links to appropriate sites to find your polling place and daily schedules for the polls. (Sorry; if you don't yet have a voter certificate it's too late to register before the election.)

Voting is painful for me this year. On the one hand, I know a fair number of the local and state Democratic candidates, including many that I shall cheerfully vote for. On the other hand, there's the national Democratic Party, apparently wholly owned by its corporate contributors, but still not taking in enough money to compete with Republicans that way... incompetence even when selling out is not an admirable matter. Yes, I know there's a Green Party; you don't need to explain it to me... at least here, the Greens are even less effective than the Democrats. At least the Tea Party is not a big deal in my neck of the woods, though there are other necks of other woods in Texas where they thrive.

Please go vote while you're still able to do so. It may not have much influence on the actual governance of your state and nation, but it's still all we've got. And if you don't vote, you haven't any right to complain for at least two years.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

What Might Have Been... And Why We Must Tax The Rich

From masaccio on Firedoglake, an urgent plea to Tax the Rich Now:


Rich people refuse to pay taxes. They hire compliant economists who support their greed, exactly the same way tobacco companies hired compliant scientists to deny the dangers of their product,. The hired goons pollute political discourse with lies and nonsense. The rich buy off politicians, and their media produce a small compliant majority of populace to vote for those craven politicians. Even today, in the face of monumental deficits and massive national debt, we are told that taxing the rich will wreck the economy, and the University of Chicago economists who infest our policy apparatus nod their bobbleheads approvingly.
The plain fact is that if taxes had not been cut by a combination of soulless Republicans and spineless Democrats led by foolish presidents, we would not have seen the real estate bubble and the Great Crash. If there had been a balance between government investments in public goods and private investments in productive businesses on one hand, and savings and taxes on the other, there would not have been enough cash washing around to get the bubble going.
There is a solution. We increase taxes on a very small segment of the population, say the top .5% of incomes and wealth, at a high enough level to provide meaningful revenues, and invest the money solely in US public goods.

The benefits are obvious. We can fix our infrastructure and increase the quantity of public goods, reducing unemployment and improving the conditions for economic productivity. The less money the rich have, the less they can spend buying democracy and gambling.
I’m not seeing the downside. Oh, now I remember: it will make the heirs to the Walton fortune and the Koch brothers really sad.

And of course we can't have that, can we? can we?

Saturday, October 16, 2010

A Printing Break

A good friend of mine prepares his mathematical papers for publication using LATEX, the scripting language that drives Donald Knuth's ancient and venerable document preparation software, TEX, and I've decided to learn a bit about it. Fortunately, Ubuntu Linux 10.04 comes equipped with an implementation called TeX Live, and I am exploring various editors, currently leaning toward TeXmaker. There's a respectable survey/introduction to TEX here, and a longer (~150pp) but still introductory online book here (I know you'll enjoy assembling the myriad pieces of this work.) If you're as intrigued by this sort of stuff as I am, that should be enough to get you started.
Did I mention... all the software is legally free?
Now all I need is a working printer...
This may preoccupy me for a day or two; please forgive the sparse blogging.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Worst Spell In A Long Time

I'm sorry... you cannot convince me that this misspelling was an accident. TPM:

Illinois Candidate's Name Misspelled As 'Rich Whitey' On Electronic-Voting Machines
Eric Lach | October 14, 2010, 12:06PM

There are typos and then there are complete and utter catastrophes.

The Chicago Sun-Times reports that the name of Green Party gubernatorial candidate Rich Whitney is misspelled "Rich Whitey" on electronic-voting machines in 23 wards -- "about half in predominantly African-American areas." The error only occurs on screens voters would see when they are reviewing their choices (Whitney's name appears correctly on the initial screens), but officials say the error cannot be corrected before election day.

Jim Allen, spokesman for the Chicago Board of Elections, told the Sun-Times he expects 90% of votes on election day to be cast on paper ballots -- minimizing the number of voters who would see the misspelling.

And the guy's a Green Party candidate, no less. It would be funnier if he were a Republican, but the perfect joke is hard to come by these days.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Progressive Democrats... It's Time To Put On Your Leather G

Jonathan Turley tells us what Joe Biden thinks of us: we've got to get out of our lethargy. It's a funny way of spelling it, and I was never much inclined to wear one in the first place, but I'm damned if I'll take personal criticisms from Joe Biden. Now where did I put that thing...

Lying Liar Lies Again

Is anyone really surprised at this?

Obama Seeks Stay on Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell Ruling

Published: October 14, 2010
WASHINGTON — Saying it is preparing to appeal a ruling striking down the law that bans gay men and women from serving openly in the United States military, the Obama administration on Thursday asked the federal judge who issued the ruling for an emergency stay of her decision.
In a set of filings before Judge Virginia Phillips of California, Obama administration officials argued that she should suspend her decision earlier this week to issue an injunction preventing the military from expelling gay and lesbian service members under the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell law. Last month, Judge Phillips ruled that the law was unconstitutional. 
The filings included a 48-page declaration by Clifford L. Stanley, the under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness. He argued that immediately blocking that policy worldwide would create large logistical problems and would disrupt their own efforts to prepare the armed forces and work with Congress to repeal the policy in an orderly way.  

Obama blows in the wind. It's whoever got to him last... and it's always someone conservative, whether opposition party leader or civilian appointed official involved in the military, that gets to him last. Who the fuck is Clifford L. Stanley to be commenting on a judicially determined constitutional issue? Well, he's nobody, but he got to Obama. And Obama once again rendered himself a baldfaced liar by not following through on his promise to try to repeal DADT. The man is utterly untrustworthy.

I can only hope that the political future of America... and future history... give Obama exactly what he deserves.

UPDATE: I missed this one yesterday: Obama Administration Announces Appeal To Reverse Same Sex Marriage Victory [in Massachusetts]. Face it: Obama is turning out to be an open homophobe.

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Lightning Strikes Liberty

Not exactly the Lightning you want to install on your computer. But the symbolism of Lady Liberty being struck by lightning is too appropriate for our times. Please view the original print. (Photo by Jay Fine.)

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Dishonest Bastard Lifts Deepwater Drilling Moratorium Early, As Expected

This Sierra Club document just crossed my inbox and crossed me as well:

Obama to Lift Deepwater Drilling Moratorium
Sierra Club Calls for End to Oil Dependence

Washington, D.C. – Today [Oct. 12, 2010], the Obama administration announced plans to lift a ban on deepwater drilling that was put in place following the BP oil disaster in the Gulf in April. The moratorium was scheduled to end on November 30, 2010.

Statement of Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune
Offshore drilling is an inherently dangerous business. It’s a relief to see the administration announce new, long overdue safety regulations prior to lifting the drilling ban. But these regulations still don’t bring the risk to an acceptable level. The only way to make sure we don’t see another drilling disaster is to end our dependence on oil. Rather than putting coastal communities in the Gulf, the Atlantic, and Alaska at risk for more oil spills, we should be expanding wind, solar, and efficiency measures and creating a 21st century transportation system.

Our leaders should focus on investments that will create clean energy jobs in oil-producing regions like the Gulf Coast. 


Obama not only made very little if any effort toward establishing a permanent ban on offshore drilling... a business whose hazards are by now well-known to everyone, at least everyone on the Gulf Coast... but could not even keep the temporary ban in place as long as it was scheduled. The bastard was just messing his pants to fulfill whatever secret agreement he has with whichever of the major oil companies to continue business as usual even if it kills the entire U.S. coastline for the next hundred years. Something is wrong with this picture. And it is Obama in particular who is committing a significant portion of this particular wrong. Let's all give him holy hell about it (as if that's going to make any difference).

Sunday, October 10, 2010

A Slogan From My Childhood

A BBC News video informs us about efforts to prevent the Dead Sea from drying up completely by 2050 as various consumers of water use more and more, lowering the level of the sea perilously close to empty. The article's headline is "Dead Sea to be topped up by Red Sea water":

Lying in Jordan's Rift Valley, it is the world's saltiest sea and authorities have come up with an ambitious plan to pump water - through a pipeline from the Red Sea - to top it up.

Oh well. I suppose the Sea is better Red than Dead...

Saturday, October 9, 2010

What's Happening At The ACLU

I've been a member of the ACLU for over half my life. As there seems to be some confusion about the role of the ACLU in today's politics (the short version: there is none; it is not a political advocacy group), I thought I'd post a list of several actions and court cases that caught my attention:

President Does Not Have Unreviewable Authority To Execute Americans Without Charge Or Trial, Say CCR and ACLU — As most of you know all too well, Obama has claimed an executive authority that even GeeDubya Bush didn't arrogate to himself: the power to target American citizens for assassination in circumstances far from actual war against the United States, and, just as importantly, without due process of any sort. Needless to say, the Constitution grants no such authority; Obama... who has actually designated individuals as targets... is behaving like a two-bit tinpot dictator in claiming this authority. Follow this legal struggle to reclaim constitutional rights at the ACLU site.

ACLU Lawsuit Charges That Jail Policy Banning Books And Magazines Is Unconstitutional — But a jail in South Carolina has implemented exactly such a policy, banning all books (except for the Bible) and magazines... including books and periodicals about legal self-help... sent to prisoners. There's no First Amendment unless someone enforces it, and that's what the ACLU has as one of its primary missions.

Surveillance Court Should Operate More Transparently And Release Key Legal Rulings, Says ACLU — I find myself humming the tune of an old song, "Once... I had a secret law..." Actually, the original word was not "law" but "love," but think about it: how can you obey a law if you're not permitted to know exactly what it is, in particular, how the courts (in this case, FISC) have interpreted it? This is about as far from American legal doctrine as it gets; let's hope the ACLU has some influence.

ACLU And Brennan Center Reports Expose Resurgence Of Debtors' Prisons — It sounds like something out of 19th-century literature, doesn't it? But debtors' prisons are active in a number of states, incarcerating people too poor to pay their fines. How self-defeating is that? But it's being done, and the ACLU is opposing it.

ACLU Staff Sends Hopeful Video Message To Bullied LGBT Youth — After many reports of suicides by LGBT youth in response to bullying by classmates or coworkers, several organizations including the ACLU (where a number of top leaders and staffers are themselves gay, and know firsthand what an LGBT individual faces... see mandt's post for videos by other individuals and organizations) have embarked on an effort to reassure despondent young gay people that there is, indeed, hope, that life is worth living, that circumstances for gay people in America are improving (if altogether too slowly).

So you can see what the ACLU does for us: it protects the least among us from the most powerful; it does its best to see to it that we live by our own rules of tolerance, civil rights and civil liberties. That's why I am a member. When I joined over 30 years ago, there were not nearly as many organizations doing these essential tasks; now there are quite a few. I do hope you will choose one of them (possibly the ACLU) and give them your support. The Constitution is nothing without our active efforts to implement it properly.

Friday, October 8, 2010

Good News For Dems... Lieberman Losing His Political Assets In 2012

TPM's Eric Kleefeld points out that a PPP Poll shows Joe Lieberman faring very badly in his 2012 re-election bid. Kleefeld:

A new survey of Connecticut by Public Policy Polling (D) provides a fascinating look into the possible future of independent Sen. Joe Lieberman. To be exact, the former Democrat is incredibly unpopular with most voters -- and only marginally popular with Republicans -- and would have a hard time avoiding a landslide defeat should he run again in 2012.


Lieberman's political journey over the last four years has sure alienated a lot of folks. After he lost the 2006 Democratic primary, he was then re-elected as an independent with unofficial Republican support. He then campaigned aggressively for John McCain for president in 2008, and spoke at the Republican National Convention -- but after McCain lost, he settled back into place in the Democratic caucus. Then he helped to stop the public option during the health care debate, promising to support a Republican filibuster, but also voted for final passage of the eventual law sans public option.

Lieberman's approval rating stands at only 31%, with 57% disapproval -- even lower than the 36%-54% for Sen. Chris Dodd, who is retiring. Broken down by party, Lieberman's rating is 20%-69% among Democrats, 46%-41% among Republicans, and 31%-56% among independents.


"Broken down by party..." I don't think so. Lieberman is broken down by being one of the most facile liars and one of the most aggressive betrayers of his erstwhile political party to be found in the Senate or anywhere else. No one deserves to lose his seat more than he does, and I'll dance on his (figurative political) grave if indeed that happens.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Terrorist Trials That Guarantee A 'Guilty' Verdict

The Obama administration, like the Bush administration before it, constructs elaborate courtroom procedures to permit... indeed, insist upon... such trials, with nothing resembling the due process guaranteed in the Bill of Rights. Glenn Greenwald discusses such deplorable practices in his post Opposition to the rule of law.

Fortunately, in the case of Ahmed Ghailani, whose trial Greenwald discusses, at least one judge still sees torture as tainting the process apart from the manner in which it affects the trial. Ghailani was (the government stipulates) abused in a CIA "black site" to obtain the name of a witness against him; the judge did not throw out the charges, but rather forbade the government from using information or testimony from that witness.

As America resorts to show trials, to torture to obtain testimony, to indefinite detention of alleged terrorists without trial, or after trial even if they have been acquitted, I begin to think of the great Langston Hughes, in particular, of his 1938 poem Let America be America Again, in which variations of one thought serve as a refrain: "(America never was America to me.)" As long as certain classes of people can be tried in Star Chamber courts, with tainted evidence, with no possibility of an acquittal no matter what the facts reveal, and with the possibility that a wayward Executive branch can simply detain someone for life without any kind of meaningful due process... as long as those things happen, America is not America to me.

Am I Being Served?

The local Democratic club continues to send me email. That's OK; I know those people, and I don't mind hearing what they're up to. Today I received a notice of a potluck supper before a meeting; here's what they asked people to bring:

 If your last name begins...Then bring this....
 A - DaSalad
 De - HMeat or Vegetarian
 I - MeVegetable
 Mi - SeBread/Pasta
 Sh - ZDessert

As long as I'll be served before dessert...

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Money Money Money Mo-ney... MOO-ney - UPDATED

Speaking of campaign contributions, Eugene Robinson tells us about The Cash Cow of Anonymity... mysterious funding organizations, nominally independent but in fact contributors to Republican campaigns by seven-to-one over Democrats... who don't even need to identify themselves, because they're nominally issue-specific contributors rather than backers of individual candidates. (Yeah, right.) Robinson points out Americans for Job Security and American Future Fund, each of which has spent around $7 million in "independent" campaign contributions, the vast majority of it to Republicans. Please read the article to see how your alleged democracy is being anonymously bought and sold out from under you.

UPDATE: via David Dayen of Firedoglake, we have Zach Carter of Campaign for America's Future, providing us a list of members of Congress who took campaign money from banksters, voted for the TARP bailout, and voted against the financial regulation bill, and how much each received, both in 2010 and over their entire careers. All data is from . The list is an eyeful, but there are truly no surprises. Here's a hint: all the Senators were Republicans. A few Democrats in the House voted for/against. Something like this has probably happened a few times in history, but face it: Wall Street was able to take advantage of a blank check immediately, thanks overwhelmingly to congressional Republicans. Thanks a lot, Party of Responsibility!

How Badly Are The Democrats In Trouble?

Badly enough. Read Glenn Greenwald for details, including quotes from and links to many worthwhile articles. Greenwald's conclusion:
The claim that dissatisfaction among Democrats is confined to a "couple of blogs" might advance [American Prospect executive editor Mark] Schmitt's political objectives.  Given the human craving to make perceptions correspond with desires, it likely makes him feel good to believe that it's true.  But it's so plainly false that it's hard to believe that anyone could say it with a straight face, let alone believe that it will help anything -- their Party or themselves -- to claim it.  As a general proposition, papering over serious problems -- pretending they do not exist -- is never constructive, and that's certainly true when it comes to a Party's political failures.  Worst of all, making this claim obscures a very important truth that ought to be promoted and amplified, one which the establishment media ("move to the Right!") will do its best to deny after November:  Democrats do themselves no favors when they ignore the wishes, values and agenda of their "base":  i.e., those who are most responsible for their being in power.  Quite the opposite is true.
 Emphasis mine. I wish I had been given a good reason to vote for Democrats, but instead I've been given a sharp stick in the eye by the leaders of the party and by Obama himself. I will vote for some local and state Democrats in this election... but not out of party loyalty, because any loyalty I felt has been deliberately destroyed by the Obama crew. Maybe it's time for a separate progressive/liberal party.

Friday, October 1, 2010

Voter Registration Deadline Oct. 4

A reminder from State Rep. Scott Hochberg: If you are a Texan, you must register to vote by Oct. 4. This is also the deadline for updating your registration if you've moved, changed your name, etc. Quoting Rep. Hochberg:

To register, or to update your registration, you can fill out and download a registration form online. Once you have filled it out you must print it and mail it. Or you may submit it at the county building downtown at 1001 Preston, or at any county tax office, like the one on Chimney Rock and Gulfton. You cannot submit it online, as it needs your actual signature.
I realize that for many Democrats and progressive former Democrats, voting in this election may prove a distasteful act. Please do it anyway. It can't hurt, it may help, and if you neglect to vote often enough, someone may revoke your right to do so... don't think for a moment that there aren't people who would try.

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