Saturday, November 8, 2008

I HOPE

By cartoonist Mike Lukovich, downloaded from the net. It was in both local papers this morning.

Here are some things about the last eight years I won’t miss. All of this material was taken from You Have No Rights by Matthew Rothschild.

Abusing the statute concerning material witnesses. The original 1984 statute was designed to prevent mob suspects from fleeing. It was used in the months after 9/11 to hold approximately four dozen suspects that were considered suspects but there wasn’t enough evidence to place them under arrest.

“Jailing people who are simply under investigation is a hallmark of an authoritarian regime. If the government has probable cause to believe a person has committed a crime, it may arrest that person, but misusing the material witness statute poses the threat of making detention the norm and liberty the exception. District judge Shira Sheindlin.

Claiming that since this is a special war and the enemy not covered by Geneva convention protections for prisoners of war; that “enemy combatants” can be held indefinitely. Detainees have been held for years not only at Guantanamo Bay, but alleged secret CIA prisons or shipped to third party countries notorious for torturing prisoners. Essentially the Bush administration claimed the right to seize anyone, anywhere and hold them indefinitely. In a hearing before the Supreme Court it was argued that the Commander in Chief powers under Article II of the Constitution give the president the right to seize anyone, including citizens, even if the nation is not at war.

“At stake…..is nothing less than the essence of a free society……unconstrained executive detention for the purpose of investigating and preventing subversive activity is the hallmark of the Star Chamber.” Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens

On October 31, 2001 Attorney General Ashcroft issued a regulation that allows the Justice department at its discretion to listen in on lawyer-client conversations if, in the opinion of the Attorney General, there is reasonable suspicion that the conversations may further or facilitate acts of terrorism. Before this, prosecutors had to go before a judge and convince that judge that there was probable cause that the prisoner was using these conversations to plan or commit further crimes. It’s kind of hard to plan your defense if the prosecutor knows what you’re going to do before you even go to court.

Using signing statements to get around laws passed by Congress. The soon to be Former Occupant set a record in issuing these. Over seven hundred were issued. Basically the president says he’s free to ignore any portion of a law that that he believes conflicts with his powers as commander in chief. This includes a law passed in December of 2006 that protected first class mail from being opened without a warrant unless there was suspicion that the letter contained a bomb.

Allowing the National Security Agency to attempt to monitor our phone calls without a warrant. Even though there is a law in place that allows such surveillance as long as a warrant was obtained under the Foreign Intelligence Security Act. The ultimate goal was to build a record of every phone call made in the United States.

And finally, in September of 2006, congress passed and the president signed the Military Commissions Act. This act basically blasts laws and protections going back to Magna Charta right out of the water. This allows anyone, anyone including U S citizens to seized as “enemy combatants” and tried before a military tribunal. Detainees are deprived of the right of Habeus Corpus guaranteed in Article I section 9 of the Constitution. In January of 2007 former Attorney General Alberto Gonzalez claimed in a congressional hearing that while the Constitution prohibited the taking away of Habeus Corpus there was no express guarantee that any individual or citizen was guaranteed to right to Habeus Corpus.

We started watching “Band of Brothers” again tonight. Those men didn’t jump into Hell to see us come to this. The justification for these actions is that we need to be "protected" from further terrorist assaults. Democracy is not safe and it's not for wimps.

Cross posted in Women On.

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

MEASURE 65

Oregon has a system of initiative and referendum. Frankly, most of the measures that end up on the ballot are more self serving than anything else. But, if you can get enough signatures on a petition onto the ballot they go. Including Measure 65, I think this is one of the good ones.

Republicans and Democrats in this state don’t agree about much but they do agree that making it harder for independents to vote or get on the ballot is a VERY GOOD THING INDEED. So, the very latest VERY BAD THING is Measure 65. This would create an open primary where everybody, no matter which party you belong to, gets to vote on everybody, no matter which party they belong to.

Back in 2005 the legislature passed a bill that makes it almost impossible for independent candidates to qualify. The bill counts a signature on a qualifying petition the same as a vote. In other words if you sign a petition to let Joe Six Pack run for governor as an independent you can’t vote for someone else when the actual primary is held. Of if the independent candidate manages to qualify by petition after the primary and you voted in the primary your signature doesn’t count. Are we all lost yet? Don’t feel bad. I had to read the news story more than once to make any sense of what was going on. Then I got mad. I believe my first reaction was “what the F&*%!” Then it was “you’ve got to be kidding.”

Measure 65 would allow an open primary and the top two candidates for any office would go to the general election. It wouldn’t matter if the top two were Democrats, Republicans or wombats, their names would be on the ballot.

Don’t think of the parties as collections of people, think of them as competing brands; say Coke and Pepsi. They want to protect their market share and want to limit the shelf space of any competing “beverages.” Both parties offer a brand name to donors; that’s how they raise their money. And the donors want to get the biggest bang and the most influence for their bucks, that’s why they prefer “Coke” or “Pepsi” over any competing brands. And, I believe, the biggest reason for this interminable, mind numbing campaign season. The earlier the choices are finalized, the better chance they have of influencing policy decisions.

I’m voting yes on Measure 65. I say, take it out for spin and see how it works. Anything to break the log jam here in Oregon. A Republican can’t get on the ballot here in Oregon without pandering to the right wing of the party. Problem is, once they’re on the ballot they can’t pull enough votes from the state wide center to get elected. Even worse there are some Democratic candidates basically running unopposed. And, in my opinion, this is NOT A GOOD THING.

And if Measure 65 doesn’t work, repeal it. After all, that’s what elections are for.

Cross posted on Women On.

Saturday, October 11, 2008

RED FACES IN NEW YORK

There was a short story in the local paper's National section this morning and this version was on the net.

TROY, N.Y. (AP) - Who is running for president? In an upstate New York county, hundreds of voters have been sent absentee ballots in which they could vote for "Barack Osama ." The absentee ballots sent to voters in Rensselaer County identified the two presidential candidates as "Barack Osama " and "John McCain." In the United States, the best-known person named Osama is Osama bin Laden, leader of the al-Qaida terrorist group. Commissioners for the Rensselaer County Board of Elections say they regret the error but do not acknowledge in a statement exactly what the error is. The botched ballots were first reported by the Times-Union of Albany.

If we had a Whoops award on this Blog this weeks’ would go to Rensselaer County elections officials who mailed out those three hundred or so absentee ballots. It’s been called an innocent mistake. The ballots were supposedly proof read. My little X-Files loving brain is going unh huh.I type for a living and I’m more likely to type an F or a G instead of a B. that S key is a long way away and uses a totally different finger. Faces are suitably red and the ballots will be replaced, but you do find yourself wondering.

Cross posted in Women On.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

NOW WHAT

This goes deeper than a market meltdown. I don’t think we’re going to be hearing the Free Market at any cost mantra for awhile. I’ve always believed that economics has a lot in common with religion. As long as faith is strong, it seems to work. And work a lot longer than you think possible. But once that faith is shaken, look out below.

A good example is personal retirement planning. We’ve been told it’s our responsibility to make sure our retirement is secure. To invest our money wisely. To increase our savings. We’re also encouraged to buy every new widget that comes on the market. That the two goals can be mutually exclusive is like having an elephant in the living room. You can ignore it all you want. It doesn’t go away and the shit just gets deeper.

I have a 401k account. I picked a mix of funds and bonds that hopefully will not totally tank in the near future. I have not dabbled directly in the stock market; I’m mindful of my economics instructors’ advice of “if you can’t afford to lose it, don’t risk it.” And, like a lot of people, I don’t make enough to risk anymore than my 401K contribution. We have some savings and we’re probably better off than a lot of people right now. Probably comes from being a logging family. We never had three good years in a row, but we managed. And we did pretty well most of the time.

The execs from companies like Lehman Brothers justified their hefty bonuses and extremely generous compensation packages because of the risks they were taking. What risks were you taking Kemo Sabe? It was your investor’s money you were risking and few questions were asked as long as the numbers on the ticker continued to climb and compliant boards of directors didn’t ask inquire too closely. But, what goes up can come down. And right now, well the piper is in town it’s time to pay up.

I learned a fancy term when I took my business classes some years ago. Fiduciary responsibility. Geez, twelve syllables in two words. It has to worth at least five bucks.

Basically it means you manage the money entrusted to your care for your client’s benefit not yours. Now we find that the top execs at Lehman Brothers lied to their investors a week before the company entered bankruptcy. Investors were told that everything was OK. Then boom, the company is history, the employees are out the door, and the grilling before Congress begins.

Questions are good. Asking questions a couple of years ago probably would have been better but apparently no one wanted to be accused of economic heresy and the cows are not only out of the barn they’re on their way to the packing plant. How many other execs have lied? How can I make good decisions when the people who are responsible for managing my investments lie?

Maybe it’s no accident that our MBA president has treated the American people the same way these business execs have treated their stock holders.

Cross posted in Women On.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

EQUAL TO WASHINGTON?

Sis forwarded an e-mail with information about John McCain’s time as a POW. I admire the man’s courage under fire. The man was a great fighter pilot. It doesn’t mean he’d make a great president. Actually, I’m not sure that what makes a great fighter pilot, necessarily makes a great president. The e-mail compared McCain to George Washington. I replied that we would have to agree to disagree on this one.

We’ve had three generals that made the transition to political greatness, or near greatness, George Washington, Andrew Jackson, (I do definitely question some of his policies) and Dwight Eisenhower.

Washington was what I’d have to call an Independent, in fact he warned against dividing into parties, Jackson was a Democrat and Eisenhower finally came to office as a Republican. Broad spectrum, that.

George Washington was also the losinginest successful general in the history of the army that he literally created from nothing. Granted he had a little (lot of) help from generals and troops from Prussia, Poland and most importantly, France. You can call ‘em Freedom Fries if you want, but without support from France we might still be carrying British passports. And, France’s support for our revolution probably helped bring on the revolution in France and another twenty years of war in Europe.

There’s an uneasy parallel here. The French economy was already shaky when they took on a war they didn’t have to fight, by supporting the American Revolution. Sigh. Start heading in one direction with an entry and just see where you end up.

Andrew Jackson is most famous for a battle that was fought after the peace treaty was signed. He’s also defied the Supreme Court ruling in support of the Cherokee and is infamous for their expulsion from their lands in the south and the Trail of Tears that lead to the Indian Territory in the west. He was the first president who was neither a Virginian or a New England lawyer. He had a famous temper, fought more than one duel, helped to create what became the Democratic Party and threatened to hang “nullifiers.”  Given the opportunity I think he would have made good on that threat.

Dwight Eisenhower was a Kansas farm boy. His parents were pacifists, but he went to West Point. He came up with a better way to solve a calculus problem and took the reprimand for not paying attention in class. In fact it seems he was about as obedient as he needed to be at as cadet. Since class standing included demerits his class standing doesn’t reflect how he did academically.

 He trained tank troops but WWI was over before he could be sent overseas. His commander in the Canal Zone was a military history junkie who put his exec through what amounted to graduate studies in history and tactics. He worked with George Patton to create the tactics for the new cavalry. Patton predicted that one day he’d be taking orders from Eisenhower. He was right.

Eisenhower commanded the American invasions of North Africa and Italy. He sacked generals who couldn’t get the job done even if they were friends or old class mates. He spearheaded the invasion of Normandy but of more importance he also successfully navigated the personal minefields of the likes of McArthur, Montgomery, Churchill, Patton and “Uncle Joe” (Truman’s label) Stalin.

He and Harry Truman also pretty much took an instant dislike to each other. Eisenhower didn’t much care for career politicians and Truman couldn’t stand career military officers. It was a match made a little lower than heaven.

During his two terms we saw, among other things, Social Security expanded, the beginnings of the interstate highway system, the beginnings of desegregation and the intensification of the cold war. The 101st Airborne was deployed twice by his orders. The first time they went to France. The second time they went to Little Rock.

Trouble is, I can also name at least one general that was a stand out on the battle field and a total disaster as a president. Ulysses S. Grant was the bulldog that led the Union to a final battlefield victory over the Confederacy. Yes, I said battlefield. We’re still working on the actual social victory. The fact that anyone gives a damn about the skin color of the Democratic candidate speaks to that. Unfortunately Grant’s abilities on the battlefield didn’t transfer to the White House. His two terms as president were a byword for corruption and cronyism that was unmatched until the Harding administration. And Harding was the bench mark for how low you could go until………..enter the “current occupant.”

I don’t think John McCain is quite the equal of the first three and I don’t want to find out if he belongs with the last group.

And, talk about irony; political success aside, Grant fought to preserve the union. The husband of the Republican candidate for Veep belongs or has belonged to a party working for Alaskan secession  and she has sought the support of that party in the past.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

LET ME GET THIS STRAIGHT

Too bad there isn't a mood entry for "totally pissed off." 

I haven't been posting too many straight political entries for awhile. I got tired of repeating myself, I figured other folks didn't need to read me repeating myself.  I've been spending more time reading history trying to figure out how we got in this mess. And, as the gardner's (mom) apprentice (me), frankly I've had a head full of perrenials, annuals, bark and weeds this summer. Actually the way things are going gardening and canning could be considered radical acts.

BUT THERE ARE TIMES WHEN I COULD JUST............

Phil Gramm, former senator from Texas, 

1. Worked like a good little beaver to rewrite the banking laws    to breach the firewalls between separate types financial institutions

2.  Tried to help deregulate the power industry leading to the Enron meltdown

3. Left the senate for a cushy job with Switzerlands' biggest bank

4. Was, and maybe still is, John McCain's point man on the economic matters and

5. When all the vultures come home to roost tells us the problems are all in our heads and we're a nation of "whiners."

WTF is wrong with this picture?

And the bail out for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae is attached to a housing bill with block grants to help people facing foreclosure and the current occupant doesn't approve of block grants so he's threatening to veto it. The man is the lamest of ducks but he can still blow up the bridge in front of the out of control train. Who needs Bin Laden to wreck the country when we're doing such a great job of cutting ourselves off at the hips.

Hold the damn election next Monday. Certify the winner on Tuesday or ASAP considering possible electoral college questions and swear the winner in the day after. Phil Gramm, former senator from Texas, 

1. Worked like a good little beaver to rewrite the banking laws    to breach the firewalls between separate types financial institutions

2.  Tried to help deregulate the power industry leading to the Enron meltdown

3. Left the senate for a cushy job with Switzerlands' biggest bank

4. Was, and maybe still is, John McCain's point man on the economic matters and

5. When all the vultures come home to roost tells us the problems are all in our heads and we're a nation of "whiners."

WTF is wrong with this picture?

And the bail out for Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae is attached to a housing bill with block grants to help people facing foreclosure and the current occupant doesn't approve of block grants so he's threatening to veto it. The man is the lamest of ducks but he can still blow up the bridge in front of the out of control train. Who needs Bin Laden to wreck the country when we're doing such a great job of cutting ourselves off at the hips.

Hold the damn election next Monday. Certify the winner on Tuesday or ASAP considering possible electoral college questions and swear the winner in the day after. Under the circumstances, a gala "aren't we just the greatest thing since..... "inagural ceremony and ball would not only be tactless but tasteless in the extreme.

Monday, April 14, 2008

RATHER TASTELESS BUT TRUE?

I stumbled across this on a website linked with lolcats. I was looking for the lolcats actually. Certainly a different take on history.