Saturday, July 01, 2006

Dunsmuir, CA July 2005 Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"I think we are well advised to keep on nodding terms with the people we used to be, whether we find them attractive company or not."

Joan Didion
The Hero of Guantanamo

Heroes don't always get praise and parades. They're often scapegoated, vilified and ignored until they are safely dead. But their sacrifice is worthy of honor. For example, a U.S. Navy lieutenant commander named Charles Swift.

He's a lawyer who was assigned the task of representing a prisoner at Guantanamo. He could have done a perfunctory job, going through the motions to please his military commanders. But he didn't. He took his defendant's claim of injustice through the U.S. court system, right up to the Supreme Court. He defied the polices of the Secretary of Defense and the President. In doing so, he not only damaged his military career, he probably ended it.

But his case decided this week--Hamden v. Rumsfeld--has gone a long way to bringing America back to the rule of law, and back into the international human community.

Charles Swift isn't alone. He said in an interview that he received support from most of his fellow JAG officers. "The one that I remember most, though, is a friend of mine from the Naval Academy. I went back for my 20 year reunion. He’s a marine and he’s an outstanding marine and he’s been in many combat situations, and he took me aside and I thought, this might be the time. And instead, what he said to me was, you know, the rule of law, that’s what I’m out here fighting to preserve. Don’t you dare stop..."

But the Rabid Right is calling him a traitor, and few of those who support decision say anything about Charles Swift. Washington Post defense analyst Bill Arkin calls him "the hero of Guantanamo." His fight for his client is far from over, but his victory so far is a victory for all Americans and for the Republic itself.

The Daily Babble


I got a birthday card from my niece Megan, now in college. On the front is a black and white photo of a boy, who looks a lot like I did at 7 or so, in a drawn color Superman outfit. (I never had one, though my Aunt Toni promised to make me one. Children forget a lot of things, but they never forget promises.)

The card's message: "You're always on the right side of that fine line between cool and dorky."

Phew. Another birthday passed without edging into complete irrelevance. Thanks, Megan.

Friday, June 30, 2006

With the glass dome off, this is the gift my sisters gave me
for my 50th birthday--the essentials of my life then, more
or less, and now. Photo by Bob Doran.Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"A certain kind of reasonableness is its advocate, and a certain kind of morality adds its blessing, but to have soul is the whole venture of life..."

Carl Jung

Happy Birthday

Martha Pinson, Bruce Dobler, Grace Ann Pollock, Lena Horne, Czeslaw Milosz, Billy Mills, and two guys on my Pony League team whose names I don't remember.
Bushite Barbarism Held Back--Maybe

Update: Here are a bunch more links to delve deeper into the legal aspects courtesy Firedoglake.

Though Bushites try to minimize it, the Supreme Court decision on Guantanamo is widely seen as significant far beyond the case at issue. It may be the first roadblock to the Bushite attempt to steamroller the Constitution, as well as the long sought return to sanity from the barbarism that has become Republican policy.

Both proponents and opponents of Bushite policy yesterday, and the Shields and Brooks point/counterpoint team today, admitted on the PBS News Hour that the Supreme Court decision on Hamdan v. Rumsfeld issued a sweeping renunciation of Bush's rationale and practice in violating the rights of accused prisoners in his so-called war on terrorists.

Yesterday's New York Times added :It was also the most significant rebuff to date to President Bush's effort to expand presidential power in the course of waging that struggle. And the reasoning adopted by the majority called into question the justification Mr. Bush has used for other programs that have come under Congressional scrutiny, like the warrantless wiretapping conducted by the National Security Agency.

Today's Washington Post analysis : Now the Supreme Court has struck at the core of his presidency and dismissed the notion that the president alone can determine how to defend the country. In rejecting Bush's military tribunals for terrorism suspects, the high court ruled that even a wartime commander in chief must govern within constitutional confines significantly tighter than this president has believed appropriate.

Bruce Shapiro in the Nation concludes The only surviving World War II veteran on the Supreme Court, Justice John Paul Stevens, appointed three decades ago by a President as Republican as W., delivered the plain and airtight message: President Bush violated every standard of the military code, the US Constitution and international law with its order for military tribunals at Guantánamo. In its implications if not always its direct findings, Hamdan v. Rumsfeld is to Bush what the Pentagon Papers case was to Richard Nixon: a devastating rebuke to a President who thought he had a blank check; a clear reaffirmation of the rule of law even-or especially-in times of national crisis.

On Guantanamo itself, the Washington Post quotes novelist Dan Fesperman, former Baltimore Sun reporter and author of the new novel, "Prisoner of Guantanamo:

:"For the military, the idea is that this is the necessary dumping station for the worst of the worst terrorists, which not even all of them believe anymore. The idea in the larger world is that this is one of the greatest marks of shame in American history. . . . It's going to be spoken of in the same way that Devil's Island is in France."

The Post also quotes Michael Winterbottom, director of "The Road to Guantanamo": "The Bush administration created the entire myth of Guantanamo by saying these [inmates] were almost super-human, or sub-human, in their ability to destroy the world," Winterbottom said over a beer last week. "It justified things for them. It was useful to say. . . . But the fact has turned out to be that these are simply not the worst people in the world. Most of them should have never been there at all."

According to Reuters reporter Patricia Wilson, the Rovians are spinning the Court decision to their favor in the upcoming campaign, claiming that it translates into Bush is tough on terrorists. Playing the fear and terrorism card has worked for the Bushites before. Whether it works for them again is an important test of the ability of American voters to avoid having their buttons pushed falsely and cynically once again, which may turn out to be a test of our Constitutional democracy as well as the ability of the electorate to get beyond simplistic response. Nothing hinges on that but the future.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

Ig 271 from ETA Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"'Do you know what time is?' His voice is so soft, I think I'm making it up. 'Time is our way of keeping everything from happening at once.'

I reply as he taught me, long ago, the year my voice broke. 'You know what time is? Time is just one damn thing after another."

Richard Powers
The Time of Our Singing

Superman Returns! "An Inconvenient Truth"
opens this weekend in my neck of the woods,
along with the new Superman movie. Posted by Picasa

The Climate Crisis

Tipping Towards the Future

I talked to a CEO of one of the ten largest companies in the United States, who supported Bush and Cheney. He told me, "Al, let's be honest. Fifteen minutes after George Bush leaves the presidency, America is going to have a new global-warming policy, and it doesn't matter who's elected."

If you read only one article this summer about the Climate Crisis, you'd do well to read the Rolling Stone interview with Al Gore. That's a quote from it above. Here are some others:

Here's the essence of our problem: Right now, the political environment in the country does not support the range of solutions that have to be introduced. The maximum you can imagine coming out of the current political environment still falls woefully short of the minimum that will really solve the crisis. But that's just another way of saying we have to expand the limits of the possible.

Sometimes, the political system is like the climate system, in that it's nonlinear. It can seem to change at a snail's pace and then suddenly cross a tipping point beyond which it shifts into a shockingly fast gear. All of a sudden, change that everybody thought was impossible becomes matter of fact. In 1941, it was absurd to think the U.S. could build a thousand airplanes a month to fight the Second World War. By 1943 that was a real small number.

Gore outlines a new effort to raise consciousness about the Climate Crisis beyond his phenomenonally successful movie and book, with a new foundation to begins ads etc. in the fall, with heavyweight participants like Steve Jobs. For those partial to Bush snark, there are some choice bits here, too. Even the RS headline, identifying Gore as the person who won the 2000 election. But in general this is the most articulate and on point interview I've read in years, by anyone. It will actually give you hope.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Billions to Billionares? This Time Maybe a Good Thing

Before his excellent chat with Al Gore on the Climate Crisis, Jon Stewart and Melissa Bee of the Daily Show had some fun with the announcement that Warren Buffett is donating $31 billion to the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. It sounds so preposterous to begin with, it hardly needs skilled embellishment to get a laugh: one of the richest humans alive who is not Bill Gates decides to give away a huge fortune, who does he give it to? Bill Gates.

But I watched Bill and Melinda Gates with Warren Buffett on the Charlie Rose show, and I have to say it actually makes a lot of sense. So say what you will about Bill Gates and his empire, or Buffett and his investments, or even Charlie getting so cosy with corporate titans, I have to give these people their props. The Gates Foundation is doing good work, work that no one else is doing, and they're doing it well.

Their work is split between world health and U.S. education. In the poorest areas of the world, they target AIDS and diseases and conditions that kill and maim millions of people, mainly children, that are the result of poverty. Because the victims are almost exclusively poor people in poor places, drug companies have no profit incentive to develop medicines and vaccines. The Gates Foundation works with drug companies, governments and other nonprofits, not to just throw money at problems, but to solve those problems.

Among their domestic educational efforts is the support of public libraries. They must have foreseen the rolling eyes this might inspire: shades of Andrew Carnegie and using ill-gotten gains for some symbolic and self-aggrandizing philanthopy, instead of paying workers a living wage. Aside from the other side of this argument (that millions of workers' sons and daughters started on the road to knowledge and a better life in thousands of Carnegie libraries), it is a brave act to set yourself up for that kind of criticism with such an apparent parallel. But more than in any time since Carnegie's bequests jump-started the idea as well as reality of public libraries in America, these valuable institutions in every community really need the help just to survive.

And Mr. & Mrs. Gates don't just sign checks or hold meetings in their Home of Tomorrow. They go where the aid goes, to work out the best way to deliver it, to see if it is working . Once again, it's easy to make fun of wealthy celebs who get their photos taken with starving babies in their arms, but there is a real tradition of this kind of work--I think of Ingrid Bergman as well as Angelina Jolie--and it does help in many ways. But it sounds like the Gates are doing more than photo ops, and more often. It makes me wonder, who among us would really go back to the poorest parts of Bangladesh repeatedly? How many of us would go even once?

So check out the Foundation's site. Buffett's 31 billions (or however much it turns out to be, since Buffett said a bunch of it is in stocks) will at least be well spent to build a better future, which is more than we can say for the billions Bush and his buddies are burning.

Imaginary Owl by Ohotag Mikkigak at Posted by Picasa

The Climate Crisis

Gore Gets It Right

UPDATE: Here's a summary of who some of the principal Climate Crisis Deniers are, most of them funded by Exxon Mobil, some through as many as five Exxon sponsored organizations. Related article here.

Despite the Bushite disinformation and the perennial Climate Crisis deniers, the AP took a survey of climate scientists and found: The nation's top climate scientists are giving "An Inconvenient Truth," Al Gore's documentary on global warming, five stars for accuracy.

The former vice president's movie — replete with the prospect of a flooded New York City, an inundated Florida, more and nastier hurricanes, worsening droughts, retreating glaciers and disappearing ice sheets — mostly got the science right, said all 19 climate scientists who had seen the movie or read the book and answered questions from The Associated Press.

As for the Climate Crisis Deniers, Gore commented, "They are quite literally afraid to know the truth," Gore said. "Because if you accept the truth of what the scientific community is saying, it gives you a moral imperative to start to rein in the 70 million tons of global warming pollution that human civilization is putting into the atmosphere every day."

From "An Inconvenient Truth: A Global Warning" Posted by Picasa
The Offensive Bushite Counter-Offensive

The Bushites have been mounting quite a desperate counter-offensive on the war on terror and Iraq--not IN the war on terror, no that would be too much like governing and really protecting the country--but on those who question their policies, lies and fantasies, which these days includes two-thirds of the American people.

They're going after the New York Times for publishing information leaked by someone in the Bush government (and likely confirmed by others) revealing a secret and probably illegal program involving snooping into banking records. With no corroboration or even hint of why (because, you know, it's secret right?), they accuse newspapers of endangering the lives of Americans by publishing it.

Actually, they're going after one newspaper--the New York Times, even though several published the story. Why? It's a favorite conservative button to push (and it has been since the 1960s), and they're desperate to get back the angry conservative base.

But even conservative prepster pundit Tucker Carlson couldn't take this one. "How do you know it endangers lives?" he asked a Bushite stooge. "How do you know it doesn't?" the stooge replies, in a McCarthyite manuever we learned to spot in high school debate club.

They're going after the patriotism of anyone who criticizes them, including decorated veterans. It worked with Max Cleland, John McCain and John Kerry, so why not? They've got after James Webb, Democratic candidate for the U.S. Senate in Virginia, awarded the Navy Cross, the Silver Star Medal, two Bronze Star Medals and two Purple Hearts. They've gone after Vietnam veteran Rep. John Murtha, attacking him most recently for something he didn't say.

They don't just say they disagree with these men on Iraq or the war on terror--they call them unpatriotic, and say they hate America. These aren't just attack dogs--they're rabid.

So this, along with the orchestrated "cut and run" rhetoric aimed at Democrats who want a plan for ending the war against Americans in Iraq, and the bizaare inflating of the arrest of some hapless agitators who once fantasized about attacking the Sears Tower in Chicago, though they had no plan, no weapons and made no effort to do anything more than convert people to their interpretation of the Bible. Sense a pattern here?

So is it working-- this attempt to reclaim the sceptor of fear, the faded glory of holy warriors, talking tough and making themselves and their pals even more comfortably rich?

Some polls show a modest bump in Bush's numbers, some show a modest decline. But here's how T. Goddard's Political Wire summarizes a new Greenberg Quinlan Rosner (D) poll looks at "swing voters:"

"It is almost impossible to overestimate the anger of swing voters." An amazingly high 73% say the country is on the wrong track and 66% disapprove of President Bush's job performance. In named trial heats, swing voters prefer Democratic candidates for Congress 45% to 28% over the Republicans.

The battle for the Senate, "influenced disproportionately by Republican travails in Ohio and Pennsylvania," looks even worse for Republicans (53% to 31%).

"Swing voters embrace an agenda that invests more money in new clean energy, affordable health care for all and strengthening education with these investments paid for by eliminating recently passed tax cuts for corporations and people making over $200,000 a year."


A USA Today/Gallup poll finds President Bush's approval rating at 37%, dipping slighly from two weeks ago. However, the percentage of Americans who say the president has "a clear plan for handling the situation in Iraq" has dropped to 31%, a new low.
Maximum Wage

It would be more impressive to stop the tax giveaway to the maximum wage crowd, but that may take numbers they don't have. But the U.S. Senate has rules, and Democratic leader Harry Reid knows them all. So even with a minority he may be able to do it: as long as the Republicans block a minimum wage increase, Reid and Senate Democrats are going to block the scheduled congressional pay raise.

"They can play all the games the want," Reid said derisively of the Republicans who control the chamber. "They can deal with gay marriage, estate tax, flag burning, all these issues and avoid issues like the prices of gasoline, sending your kid to college. But we're going to do everything to stop the congressional pay raise."

Monday, June 26, 2006

Another view of Mt. Shasta from Posted by Picasa

The Dreaming Up Daily Quote

"Confronted by the uncouth specter of old age, disease, and death, we are thrown back upon the present, on this moment, here, right now, for that is all there is....All that is or was or will ever be is right here in this moment! Now!”

Peter Matthiessen

The Climate Crisis

Rain of Terror

It's raining in Washington, a lot. And in Philadelphia, and elsewhere on the eastern seaboard. Bill Blakemore of ABC News writes: The massive downpours this morning shorting out government buildings with flooded basements, seizing up legislative communications, snarling traffic access to white columned buildings, fit exactly the pattern predicted decades ago as a consequence of global warming.

It's happening on a day when the Wall Street Journal misinforms the public on the Climate Crisis (also here), and the Supreme Court announces it will take a case brought by several states on whether the federal government is required to regulate carbon emissions. Though the decision is a year away, it ups the ante.

It's a little harder to keep your head in the sand when it's getting soaked, but the Bushites keep trying. When the rains come they run and hide their head, they might as well be dead. They're ignoring the clear and present danger that is terrorizing the planet.

Blakemore concludes: Meteorologists predict more heavy rain this week along the mid-Atlantic seaboard. Climatologists predict much the same for the coming decades.
It's Your Money...or It Was

"It's your money" was the title of one recurring news segment on a Pittsburgh station, or maybe even on the network, it doesn't much matter, there was a little fashion for them then: mini-exposes of how the government was wasting tax money, "your money," get it?

I had two problems with these segments: first, the waste and corruption they were claiming was the government's was most often shared with private sector criminals, and sometimes was entirely due to scams by private companies. Like the "Medicare fraud" which turned out to be private companies and individual criminals defrauding Medicare. And my second objection is that the money stolen from people by private corporations, through fraud, waste and most advertising, is just as much "your money"--the consumer's money--as is their taxes. For it's consumers that pay, often two and three times, for corporate corruption (first in payment for products and services they don't get or aren't as advertised; second to pay for investigation and prosecution, third in price hikes when the corporation is caught, etc. Plus the money for lobbyists to bribe government to do what enriches them and defrauds and impoverishes you--well, guess where that money comes from? From every gallon of gas, kilowatt of power, health insurance payment, six pack of Wal-Mart underwear you buy. )

But now--where are those "It's Your Money" reports when we need them? Because now we really do have government owned and operated corruption costing us billions, and paying off with castastrophe.

Frank Rich summarized some of this in his Sunday column. He quotes a congressional report that found that some $30 billion of taxpayer dollars has been squandered on various boondoggles paying favored corporations in Iraq for work they didn 't accomplish. Last week there was another report that upwards of $1 billion of Homeland Security funds were squandered; a few months ago, a report that upwards of a billon of Katrina relief funds were wasted. UPDATE: Oops, it's $2 billion.

Here's Rich:

Washington's promises to rebuild Iraq were worth no more than its promises to rebuild New Orleans. The government that has stranded a multitude of Americans in flimsy "housing" on the gulf, where they remain prey for any new natural attacks the hurricane season will bring, is of a philosophical and operational piece with the government that has let down the Iraqi people. Even after we've thrown away some $2 billion of a budgeted $4 billion on improving electricity, many Iraqis have only a few hours of power a day, less than they did under Saddam.

Of course, it's not all the fault of Bush appointees and their government spending policies. They have the help of former Bush appointees in squandering your money:

The Department of Homeland Security, in keeping with the Bush administration's original opposition to it, isn't really a government agency at all so much as an empty shell, a networking boot camp for future private contractors dreaming of big paydays. Thanks to an investigation by The Times's Eric Lipton, we know that some two-thirds of the top department executives, including Tom Ridge and his principal deputies, have cashed in on their often brief service by becoming executives, consultants or lobbyists for companies that have received billions of dollars in government contracts. Even John Ashcroft, the first former attorney general in American history known to immediately register as a lobbyist, is selling his Homeland Security connections to interested bidders. "

There are some specifics on Ashcroft's activities here.

This isn't just a matter of loose spending with loose change. The Homeland Security money that isn't being spent on securing ports, preparing first responders, etc. keeps our country and our people vulnerable to terrorist attack and natural disaster. The Katrina money squandered leaves millions of people suffering and vulnerable. The Iraq money does the same. Plus there s so much of it piling up as debt, that the efforts we need to make to deal with other real problems such as the Climate Crisis, health care, etc. may not be there. We are pouring our future down the drain of Bush-Cheney incompetence and corruption.

Happy Birthday

Janice Timko (June 24), Beverly K (June 28?)

The journey out is the journey in... Posted by Picasa
When the World Is Running Down...

Faced with the Climate Crisis, what would Picard do? An Inconvenient Truth leads back to the classic Next Generation episode, "The Inner Light," at Soul of Star Trek.