Saturday, January 22, 2011

A battle lost: Countdown to Plutocracy

In case you hadn't yet heard, last night's broadcast was Keith Olbermann's last Countdown. It seems, once again, that a strong and passionate liberal voice is muffled (I won't say "silenced", because I have a feeling he'll be back very soon, somewhere, somehow). What's clear, at this point, is that the Comcast takeover has begun in earnest. And that Olbermann won't be the only newly-unemployed MSNBC journalist, although he will be among the wealthier members of that subset. Here's Greg Sargant at the WaPo:

So Keith Olbermann is out. As best as I can tell, none of the news accounts about his departure have gotten to the bottom of what happened here. But Olbermann himself offered enough clues in his final broadcast for us to reasonably speculate that he abruptly got the ax, perhaps even as late as last night.

A "knowledgeable official" at MSNBC told Howard Kurtz that the separation was "mutual." But it's hard to see how that squares with this, from Olbermann's last words on Countdown last night:

"I think the same fantasy has popped into the head of everybody in my business who has ever been told what I have been told, that this is going to be the last edition of your show. You go directly to the scene from the movie 'Network,' complete with the pajamas, and the raincoat, and you go off on an existential, otherworldly journey of profundity and vision...

"When I resigned from ESPN 13 and a half years ago, I was literally given 30 seconds to say goodbye at the very end of my last edition of "Sports Center." As God is my witness, in the commercial break just before the emotional moment, the producer got into my earpiece and he said, `uh, can you cut it down to 15 seconds, so we can get in this tennis result from Stuttgart? So I'm grateful that I have a little more time to sign off here."

Between this and the shell-shocked look Olbermann had last night, it seems clear that he may have been abruptly informed that he was history, perhaps even during last night's show. That would also square with the experience of Josh Marshall, who was actually on Olbermann last night and had no sense that anything was amiss.

I am an unabashed Olbermann fan and have been for years. Yes, he's passionate and fiery, but while I'm well aware that plenty of folks prefer a calmer take on politics and current events, I'd argue that Olbermann's tone was exactly what was called for when Countdown hit the air, considering the fresh hell that flowed forth on a seemingly daily basis during those dark Bush II years. Olbermann is an honest man who ran a fact-based operation--albeit one that was sometimes a bit heavy on the hyperbole--but unlike the vast majority of television personalities (and pretty much all conservative public persons), he was not afraid to admit a mistake and sincerely apologize for it. He was fair, and he listened.

I loved his literature-infused take on life in these United States; I loved his wordiness and his long, acrobatic compound sentences; I loved (and related to) his genuine anger; I loved his kind and very soft heart, evident to anyone with a soul.

Keith Olbermann clearly pissed off all the right people.


Tuesday, January 11, 2011

"All the perfumes petrodollars of Arabia will not sweeten this little hand..."

Memo to ex-governor Palin and her ghostwriters and puppetmasters:

History and literature--not that you've ever demonstrated any understanding of, or respect for, either of those things--would suggest that you may as well save your energies, because the scrubbing never works.

Never. Ever.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

For those who suffered the unimaginable yesterday

From this day forward, may they know only the best and most beautiful of things of which humans beings are capable.

May they know amazing grace.

And may they know peace.

Saturday, January 08, 2011

DOJ demands records of Wikileaks volunteers' Twitter accounts

In a disturbing and potentially game-changing development on the Wikileaks front, the United States Department of Justice has served a subpoena on the wildly popular microblogging website Twitter. Specifically, they want all manner of personal information about various Twitter users connected to the online whistleblower organization, Wikileaks, which group of notable activists, writers, and even government figures includes a member of Iceland's parliament.

On Friday, Glenn Greenwald reported (emphasis mine):

Last night, Birgitta Jónsdóttir -- a former WikiLeaks volunteer and current member of the Icelandic Parliament -- announced (on Twitter) that she had been notified by Twitter that the DOJ had served a Subpoena demanding information "about all my tweets and more since November 1st 2009." Several news outlets, including The Guardian, wrote about Jónsdóttir's announcement.

What hasn't been reported is that the Subpoena served on Twitter -- which is actually an Order from a federal court that the DOJ requested -- seeks the same information for numerous other individuals currently or formerly associated with WikiLeaks, including Jacob Appelbaum, Rop Gonggrijp, and Julian Assange. It also seeks the same information for Bradley Manning and for WikiLeaks' Twitter account.

The information demanded by the DOJ is sweeping in scope. It includes all mailing addresses and billing information known for the user, all connection records and session times, all IP addresses used to access Twitter, all known email accounts, as well as the "means and source of payment," including banking records and credit cards. It seeks all of that information for the period beginning November 1, 2009, through the present. A copy of the Order served on Twitter, obtained exclusively by Salon, is here.

The Order was signed by a federal Magistrate Judge in the Eastern District of Virginia, Theresa Buchanan, and served on Twitter by the DOJ division for that district. It states that there is "reasonable ground to believe that the records or other information sought are relevant and material to an ongoing criminal investigation," the language required by the relevant statute. It was issued on December 14 and ordered sealed -- i.e., kept secret from the targets of the Order. It gave Twitter three days to respond and barred the company from notifying anyone, including the users, of the existence of the Order. On January 5, the same judge directed that the Order be unsealed at Twitter's request in order to inform the users and give them 10 days to object; had Twitter not so requested, it would have been compelled to turn over this information without the knowledge of its users. A copy of the unsealing order is here.

Greenwald is in close contact with Jónsdóttir, a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee (of Iceland's Parliament) and the NATO parliamentary assembly--if you follow Glenn on Twitter, you can also follow their correspondence, it's all out in the open, ahem. She informed him that she intends to meet with other Iceland leaders and plans to protest the subpoena.

Icelandic Interior Minister Ögmundur Jónasson, in the Iceland Review Online, called the matter "very odd and grave", and while he is waiting to speak with Jónsdóttir before going into more detail, he said:

“Of course it is a very serious matter, if a demand has been put forward that she submit personal information to US authrities. She is an Icelandic member of Althingi and furthermore a member of the Foreign Relations committee of Althingi.”

Jónasson continued: “The information from Wikileaks and others have only hurt people who work behind the scenes. I think that if we manage to make government transparent and give all of us some insight into what is happening in countries involved in warfare it can only be for the good.”

Well, yes. Many, many of us share that very sentiment: If we manage to make government transparent and give all of us some insight into what is happening in countries involved in warfare it can only be for the good.

Yet saying this--and meaning it, and living by it--will earn you all sorts of opprobium. It seems our country is more comfortable with a presidential candidate who repeatedly promises that his leadership will be all about unparalleled transparency but who, unbeknown to us, actually has his fingers crossed behind his back while doing so. (When they take the oath of office, and they swear to uphold and defend the United States Constitution, do you suppose they cross their fingers ever-so-slightly then, too?)

Finally, I'd like to call your attention to one of the comments at the Salon article, by reader Kitty Antonik Wakfer, who points to an excellent way for citizens to protest abuses like this via peaceful, effective means:

Withdraw voluntary association with harm-doers and their enablers/supporters

So there is actually a subpoena - and one that was signed by federal Magistrate Judge Theresa Buchanan in the Eastern District of Virginia!

Judge Buchanan has been very cooperative since at least early 2002 with the government's "war on terror" by sealing affidavits submitted in support of terrorism-related search warrants. An attempt to challenge her actions met with a US 4th Circuit Court of Appeals decision that "will encourage judges to seal more search-warrant materials and offer fewer reasons for doing so."

Judge Buchanan is described in an online account of the trial of Steve Wooford, a local Virginia anti-war activist who was convicted and sentenced by her in March 2003 to 6 months in prison for throwing blood on the Pentagon building's door and walls. Stated in this article to be a relative of conservative pundit Pat Buchanan, she sounds like just the type that the Department of Justice [sic] will continue to make much use of.

Only image I find of her online so far Maybe others have found something more identifiable so that voluntary association with her can be withdrawn by those who do not approve of her actions.

But the real key is the enforcers of her subpoena since she would never get out in the field and threaten or actually initiate force on Twitter personnel herself in order to compel them to turn over records. So I urge Twitter staff/mngt to photo/video the enforcers who come to their offices and do the threatening of and/or initiation of actual physical force. Let everyone see who they are and supply names so that the same negative Social Preferencing towards them can take place.

This selective (discriminating) association to exclude those who cause harm - and it is the enforcers who do the harm - is a potentially *very* powerful method of non-violent action, referred to as ostracism by many down through the ages. It is included in Gene Sharp's 2nd volume (of 3), "The Politics of Nonviolent Action", Chapter 4, "The Methods of Social Noncooperation".

Make it undesirable to be a government enforcer or to "support them", which has become mostly support of restrictions on voluntary mutually beneficial exchanges - in this case support of WikiLeaks. When the large numbers of enforcers begin to be uncomfortable with being Socially Preferenced against - avoided, shunned, ostracized - many will cease being government enforcers and the most of the rest will likely stick to arresting physical harm-doers. Additionally, those considering government enforcement "careers" will not see that position as so desirable. And that is the very point!

Thursday, January 06, 2011

So many Darrell Issa skeletons; so little time...

"Mr. Obama could also use a little bit more self-awareness. He should consider how powerful—and inappropriate—a model he sets by his own frequent coarse and uncivil language." -- Über-thug Karl Rove--surely Darrell Issa's idol these days--criticizing the president for using harsh language in describing various Republican obstructionists.


It seems the Republican party's newest Head Hatchet Man, one Darrell Issa, is no stranger to thuggery. Originally, I was going to describe, in detail, all these mind-boggling...ah, let's call them episodes in Issa's past and not-so-distant past. But after a bit of research, I quickly realized that sort of raconteurship would turn my blog post into something resembling a doctoral thesis. So let me just throw a few of them on the table, with links, and let readers come to their own conclusions about the man who wants to impeach President Obama while also repealing healthcare reform, "shrinking government", quashing every single good thing--every move in the right (as in, somewhat left) direction that the Dems were miraculously able to get done despite the obstructionism of Issa and his GOP cohorts--and generally set the bar even higher when it comes to being a Grade-A Classic ReThug.

I'd heard about the car-theft thing only recently. The arson, the weapons charges, the Duke Cunningham stuff, and so on and so on, well, to be honest, dear reader, I find myself a little in awe of someone so clearly bereft of even a shred of human conscience, so utterly devoid of self-awareness, and so packed-to-the-eyeballs with hypocrisy it's a wonder he can view himself in the vanity mirror when he does his morning muscle-flexings.

From (appropriately) Crooks and Liars:

In 2003, the former car thief turned car alarm magnate Issa led the effort to recall California Governor Gray Davis. (Davis was undone by the energy crisis which crippled the Golden State thanks in large part to market manipulation by Enron.) But part two of the Issa plan - to capture the Governor's office himself - abruptly ran aground when Arnold Schwarzenegger decided to get in the race.

On August 7, 2003, Issa shocked supporters and announced he would not continue his candidacy, comically claiming:

"It had nothing to do with Schwarzenegger's decision."

Issa at times wept uncontrollably as he made his premature withdrawal. His teary laments of "God Almighty" may have had something to do with the $1 million he invested to unseat Davis. This video shows Issa's pathetic performance as he concluded his gubernatorial ambitions had been terminated. The water works start around the 7:30 mark above.)

Okay, so Issa, along with his brother, engaged in felony auto theft and fraud--not once, but apparently three times--then bragged about forming an auto alarm company because, as he joked, "My brother was a car thief"; then, he bankrolled the California recall effort so he could run for the governorship himself and then withdrew in tears when Arnold Schwarzenegger stepped up and, er, terminated his aspirations. What else?

From Perrspectives' Top 10 Darrell Issa Hall of Shame Moments (go read the whole thing, seriously):

5. Issa Drives the Firing of U.S. Attorney Carol Lam

As it turns out, Congressman Issa was also a key player in another major Bush administration scandal, the political purge of U.S. attorneys.

Carol Lam, who successfully prosecuted disgraced San Diego Republican Congressman Randy "Duke" Cunningham, was one of the 8 U.S. prosecutors forced out by Alberto Gonzales' Justice Department. But it was Issa who helped create the façade that supposedly lax immigration enforcement by Lam's office was behind her dismissal.

It was Issa, after all, who released an anonymously written 41 page Border Patrol report which claimed "that Lam was giving less attention to human smugglers than she should." As the Voice of San Diego reported in March 2007:

Six days after the Associated Press story broke, Issa's office sent a letter to Lam, in which the congressman called the memo "an embarrassment to your office."

Monica Goodling, a Justice Department spokeswoman, sent the letter to Kyle Sampson, Gonzales' chief of staff who resigned in the attorney firing scandal's wake, and two other high-ranking officials.

"FYI," she wrote, "the assault continues."

Lam was eventually sacked, as TPM Muckraker concluded, "despite the fact that no one from the Justice Department ever confronted Carol Lam over her performance on immigration prosecutions."

And from San Jose's Mercury News:
Two years after the San Jose charges, Issa came under suspicion again
when the Ohio factory housing his fledgling auto-alarm business went
up in flames.

Issa had wrested control of the small, struggling electronics company
from two brothers in Cleveland.

A few months later, the business was destroyed in a Labor Day weekend

Arson investigators hired by the state concluded that ``this was not
an accidental fire.''

Suspicion focused on Issa, who had recently more than quadrupled the
building insurance from about $100,000 to $460,000, was inside the
building several times over the weekend and had taken a key computer
from the business a few days earlier.

Arson suspicion

The president of the business at the time, Joe Adkins, told
investigators that he thought that Issa had set the blaze.

Adkins was one of the people from whom Issa had seized control of the
company, and Issa has described him as being disgruntled.

Wednesday, Adkins stood by his statement in a telephone interview.

``Let's put it this way: There was an awful lot of very far-reaching
coincidences,'' he said.

At the time, Adkins said, one of Issa's brothers also aroused

As they were cleaning up the building, Adkins said, some employees
noticed that the brother's hair was burned off one arm.

About those weapons charges:

Issa was arrested twice for weapons charges, once in Ohio and once in Michigan. While Issa was in Ohio, he was given the job of firing a high level executive, Jack Frantz. Frantz recalls that Issa came into his office carrying a box. Issa opened the box and showed Frantz the gun. Frantz knew he was being fired and felt that was Issa's method of intimidating him. Frantz relayed the story to the Los Angeles Times and in response, Issa told the reporter, "No shots were ever fired." He further stated that he doesn't even remember whether he had a gun that day. The bookkeeper backed up Frantz's story, telling the LA Times that day was frightening. In the Michigan case, Issa received probation and paid a fine. Please see:

So please tell me, someone, anyone: how does such a manifestly sociopathic thug rise to power in the United States Congress?

I mean, sure, there are plenty of crooks and liars scurrying about those halls, but wow, this kind of over-the-top, baldfaced criminal behavior from a man around whose neck hangs a past so blatantly checkered, Michelle Malkin might well accuse him of wearing a terrorist scarf? It strikes me as something that even the Bush family would shun as far too grubby and gangsta for their tastes--Bar would never want to besmirch her beautiful mind contemplating such behavior going on within her husband and sons' party. No, better to contract it out to the underlings and go boating or something.

I think I just answered my own question there.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Dogs are beyond awesome

Readers know how much I adore cats--all cats, all shapes and sizes and species--but in light of the recent addition to the family, one Ruby Lucille Tornello the Magnificent, allow me to show some love to my dear canine friends too. Watch the above Dogs are Awesome video (via Dependable Renegade) and be amazed!

Here she is, by the way, our own little Jack Russell Terrorist, posing with me (in a rare apron-wearing moment) on Christmas Day 2010:

Monday, January 03, 2011

Monday Marley: Burnin' and Lootin'

Long ago, my eldest son--then just a wee thing with a very grown-up taste when it came to music--had been playing deejay, going through our CDs, and he asked me if he could see Jimi live one day soon.

"Ah, actually no, baby," I said. "He died a long time ago. Before Mama even came to the States."

Okay, well, can we go to see Miles Davis?

"Er, ah, him too, my love. I'm sorry."

How about Bob Marley? Frank Zappa?

I shook my head again. I probably said something Mama-like and encouraging, along the lines of At least we have their music forever, to love and learn from. I don't recall exactly, though I do remember weeping a bit, privately (I hope), as I am wont to do when my children remind me how very fragile we are, to quote yet another musician.

Genius is immortal; human beings are not. We're not even especially tough or adaptive--not when we shove our heads in the seductive sand of convenience and denial and refuse to learn. A surefire recipe for extinction, that is.

Listen, grieve, learn, and look ahead. We've got work to do.

This morning I woke up in a curfew;
O God, I was a prisoner, too - yeah!
Could not recognize the
faces standing over me;
They were all dressed in
uniforms of brutality. Eh!

How many rivers do we have to cross,
Before we can talk to the boss? Eh!
All that we got, it seems we have lost;
We must have really paid the cost.

(That's why we gonna be)
Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight;
(Say we gonna burn and loot)
Burnin' and a-lootin' tonight;
(One more thing)
Burnin' all collusion tonight;
(Oh, yeah, yeah)
Burnin' all illusion tonight.

Oh, stop them!

Give me the food and let me grow;
Let the Roots Man take a blow.
All them drugs gonna make you slow now;
It's not the music of the ghetto. Eh!