Saturday, December 16, 2006

Raising Adults: updated and free (briefly)

[UPDATE: Raising Adults is no longer free, but's it's darned cheap at Amazon for the Kindle or iPad and at Barnes & Noble for the Nook.] 

I'm just about finished with an thorough update of Raising Adults and everything that's complete is available as a free download until January 15, 2007.

Raising Adults was first published in 1999 and the updated edition is on its way to the new YS Underground where it will be available for download in mid-January—along with my digital movies (and a whole bunch of other cool stuff).

So . . . help yourself!

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Thursday, November 09, 2006

the congress is changing | does it matter why?

On Wednesday morning Ted Swartz wrote...

Ok, Jim---the change has been made. It's still early in VA, but it appears Allen is out; isn't that what this election has been about---getting "them" out. I do wonder if the reasons go deep enough, but does it matter?

I think it does matter how deep the reasons go.

I don't think this election was about getting them out. I think it was about opening the government back up – getting us back in.

All the new Congress has to do is insist on including members of the minority in committee meetings and it will do better than the ones that came before. Think of it . . . over the last six years Republicans routinely excluded Democrats – duly elected by the people of the United States – from committee meetings. I would join the chorus of those screaming bloody murder if Democrats committed that kind of abuse of power.

I expect a whole lot more in the way of good faith from the new Congress. A whole lot more.

Wednesday, Garrison Keillor ended his column with this:
You meet congressmen in private and they're perfectly thoughtful and well-spoken people, nothing like the raging idiots they impersonate in campaign ads, and you think, maybe Congress needs more privacy. Send them off on unchaperoned trips to see the world firsthand. More closed-door caucuses where they can say what they think without worrying that one stray phrase may kill them.

Or maybe Congress simply needed more Democrats. We are a civil bunch, owing to our contentious upbringings. With a smart, well-spoken woman for speaker instead of that lumbering mumbling galoot who covered for the Current Occupant, perhaps the sauce will thicken and life will get more interesting. Maybe they'll do something good. It's possible.
— Garrison Keillor, Living on Hope,, 11.08.06

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

political capital | part two

The day after the 2004 election a reporter asked President Bush, "Do you feel more free, sir?" Mr Bush replied: "Let me put it to you this way: I earned capital in the campaign, political capital, and now I intend to spend it. It is my style."

Something about that line bothered me.

At first I thought it was just that his tone struck me as arrogant. But I think the problem runs deeper. I think what troubled me most was his intent to spend his capital. Not that anyone around the trailer park comes to me for economic insight but I don't think capital is meant to be spent; I think capital is to be invested to generate income and other useful outcomes. Individuals, companies, nations and cultures that live off their capital eventually wake up broke.

I think that's what this President did. I never thought the 2004 elections were as significant an infusion of capital as Mr Bush believed they were. But whatever the case, he employed bullying and fear to spend himself and us into the hole in Iraq, in foreign policy, in the dissolution of the constitutional balance of powers and - literally - in the US budget.

So President Bush is left with too few allies in the Congress, too few allies in international politics, too little progress on the things he said mattered. "I earned capital in the campaign, political capital," he said, "and now I intend to spend it. It is my style."

Indeed, it is his style.

For the sake of argument let's say the new Congress possesses political capital. If that's the case, I think we need to insist that they invest it wisely in constitutionally mandated oversite, in making peace, in crossing political lines to draft, conference and pass sound legislation for the good of the nation and the world. Doing that will increase the income we need to live on and enhance the capital we rely on to build the future.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

we know what to do

My friend Al called last week to say, "OK, no more blogging for you until after the election. You're taking this too personally. God help us if the Democrats don't take control of Congress."

I laughed and said, "God help us either way, Al. One way or another, we have a big mess to clean to clean up."

And so we do.

Sunday, November 05, 2006

political capital | part one

In Turnabout and the New Congress I wrote:
There has to be a Demcratic majority before anything changes substantively. Which means getting out the vote come hell or high water to put people in the House and Senate who will initiate oversite hearings in earnest. I can imagine the Current Occupant standing before a stacked house on November 8 saying something like, "The American people have retained a Republican majority in the Congress; I have some political capital now and I intend to spend it." In which case, God help us all - and I really mean that.

Today the editors of the New York Times write:
This election is indeed about George W. Bush - and the Congressional majority’s insistence on protecting him from the consequences of his mistakes and misdeeds. Mr. Bush lost the popular vote in 2000 and proceeded to govern as if he had an enormous mandate. After he actually beat his opponent in 2004, he announced he now had real political capital and intended to spend it. We have seen the results. It is frightening to contemplate the new excesses he could concoct if he woke up next Wednesday and found that his party had maintained its hold on the House and Senate.

Talking with friends at the National Youth Workers Convention the last few days I was surprised when some of them seemed taken aback by descriptions of negligence and willfull failure in this Congress.

Those misdeeds are a matter of public record. Please read The Times editorial (concise) or scan my posts in this space over the last couple of months (rambling).

And if you agree with these calls for change in the US Congress, meet me at the polls.

And please, no champagne for anyone until the ballots are certified. In fact this may be a year when a strong cup of coffee will be the better beverage; there's a lot of work to do.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

John Kerry's mea culpa

After yesterday's post about people who can't tell jokes (President Bush, Senator Kerry) my friend Bobbie directed me to Andrew Foster Altschu's Huffington Post piece: Great Apology, Senator Kerry - Now Do It Again... and Again.

Mr Altschu commends the Senator for his apology then writes:

Now here's the thing: You should keep apologizing. You did it on Imus - now do it on Air America. And Larry King. And Keith Olberman. And Leno. And You Tube. Anywhere. The media will give this another two or three days of attention if you (or the right-wingers) are keeping it alive - so go out there and apologize to everyone who will listen. Tell them how sorry you are that people misunderstood your attempt to point out what a feckless, incompetent, uneducated, dishonest crook this President is. Go out and remind them, again, that none of these warmongers ever put on a uniform, that the President himself went AWOL (in Alabama, no less!) but still feels no remorse about sending 3,000 Americans to their death in a war that he lied to get us into. Go out and tell anyone who will listen that you made a mistake, a mistake that may have hurt some feelings, but that unlike the mistakes of Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, et. al. it hasn't killed any Americans or made our country less safe or destroyed another country or dramatically increased terrorism in the Middle East. Tell them sure, you wish you hadn't said it, and then ask whether Bush wishes he hadn't gone into Iraq, wishes he hadn't declared "Mission Accomplished," wishes he'd kept enough troops in Tora Bora, wishes he hadn't taken his eye off Bin Laden, wishes he hadn't been asleep at the wheel for the past five years, wishes he'd fired Rumsfeld before so many American lives were lost. Make it a challenge: I can admit when I'm wrong, Mr. President - can you?

Believe it or not, you've got the upper hand, Senator. There are six days to go, and every moment the focus is on Iraq the Republicans lose another seat in Congress. So don't stop. Keep apologizing. Keep talking about it. Use the media attention to keep saying the things that need to be said. If Republicans want to keep bashing you for a couple more days and giving you a platform from which to remind the country of this administration's mistakes, crimes, and betrayals, and how the Republican Congress has rubber-stamped it every step of the way, you know what your answer should be: Bring It On.

Yes. This is about accountability. If you want a really stiff belt of that controlled substance, send the kiddies to bed and read Keith Olbermann's special comment last night on this whole sordid mess.

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

what have we learned: some people can't tell a joke

This week we've learned that no one who ran for President of the United States in 2004 can tell a joke.

First Mr Bush botched a despicable lie in the form of a joke. Though the joke lies in shards on the campaign stump, the lie remains.

Then Mr Kerry of Massachusetts butchered an ad hominem quip at the President's expense which allowed a momentary loss of focus on two very important issues:

1. This President is stuck in Iraq and us with him and almost everyone who was looking saw it coming (though more than a few of us weren't looking, so...)

2. People with a demonstrated inability to tell jokes should refrain from doing attempting to do so. I'd be willing to bet people close to the President and Senator could have told them this decades ago. Individuals who persist in trying to be funny long after it's clear they are not may be stubborn and intemperate in other ways as well; this is just a theory.

Mr Clinton could (and can) tell a joke. Mr Gore appears to have recaptured a latent capacity to make funny. Mr Lieberman, in my opinion, can tell a joke the way most sound engineers can play musical instruments - they understand the physics but no one downloads their singles.

Senator McCain tells an OK joke from time to time. Not a headliner but a pleasant opening act. Senator Obama can definitely tell a joke. He may prove to be as good on his feet as the best of them.

Meanwhile, I call on Mr Bush and Mr Kerry to cease and desist. Mr Bush's funniest moments have had nothing to do with joke-telling bless his heart. And Mr Kerry is much clearer (though certainly no funnier) when he remains serious, as when in 1971 he asked Congress, "How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?"

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

pants on fire? stop, drop + roll

On October 11, I said I wished I had the opportunity to tell the President I believe he is a liar.

The context was that day's Rose Garden press conference in which Mr Bush repeatedly mischaracterized those who oppose his mad adventures in government and military conquest.

I think it's unpresidential to lie about the loyal opposition and I think the Current Occupant has a long history of behaving unpresidentially – both directly and by proxy. I believe a Leader of Substance could and would have put a stop to that behavior long ago. Failing that, I believe Mr Bush can and should put a stop to it now.

Last weekend Mr Bush said (I saw it on television):

"The Democrats in Washington follow a simple philosophy: Just say no.

When it comes to listening in on the terrorists, what's the Democratic answer? Just say no.

When it comes to detaining terrorists, what's the Democrat answer?"

And crowd chimed in: "Just say no!"

"So when the Democrats ask for your vote on Nov. 7, what are you going to say?"

"Just say no!" the audience replied less forcefully, thrown off by the President's syntax.

Beyond the misdemeanor of blowing the punch line, what the President said was simply, plainly false - what the adult supervision likes to characterize as a series of carefully considered lies.

Mr Bush's pants are on fire. If he won't stop, drop + roll, we will have to throw a blanket over him and smother the flames.

We can't fix everything he's broken in a single move but, remarkably I think, we can restore the balance of powers in US government by the single act of voting-in a Congress that will dedicate itself to holding the Executive accountable for his behavior in office while behaving in a superlative manner themselves.

The people who oppose this President's aberrant behavior want him to straighten up and fly right. I hope the number of voters who insist that he do so reaches the critical mass of 51% in every state on November 7.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

send a Democrat to Washington Nov 7

Please help send a Democrat to Washington next week.

If you don't like how it turns out you can bring him or her home next time.

This time we need Members of Congress who understand their mandate includes government oversight – just like in the Constitution!

Monday, October 23, 2006

turnabout and the new Congress

"We haven't had any oversight hearings in six years, except for cheerleading sessions," said Rep. Pete Stark of California, who is in line to chair the House health subcommittee should Democrats become a majority.

"Over the years," writes Associated Press writer Laurie Kellman, "majority Republicans have developed an all-purpose reply to Democrats' gripes: When they gain control, they can run Congress as they please."

Two things worth noting from where I sit West of the 101 in California:

1. There has to be a Demcratic majority before anything changes substantively. Which means getting out the vote come hell or high water to put people in the House and Senate who will initiate oversite hearings in earnest. I can imagine the Current Occupant standing before a stacked house on November 8 saying something like, "The American people have retained a Republican majority in the Congress; I have some political capital now and I intend to spend it." In which case, God help us all -- and I really mean that.

So, vote first and no champagne until the ballots are certified.

2. Turnabout is not fair play. This Congress and those immediately preceding it have been models of what not to wear in the halls of government. Should we in fact deliver a Democratic majority to Capitol Hill only to have them behave as poorly as the Republicans have behaved we will sooner than later face a different version of the same awful mess we're in.

This is not about that. This is about fixing what's broken, not leaving it broken in a different way.

This may be an opportune time to read or review Al Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them wherein he reminds us of the liberal conscience that has over the years attracted skeptical folk like me. Mr Franken doesn't have to run for the Senate if he keeps delivering funny, reasonable on our political lives.

Just a thought on the way to the polls two weeks from now . . .

Friday, October 20, 2006

David Kuo blows the whistle on the White House

In his compelling Time Magazine piece, Why a Christian in the White House Felt Betrayed, former Deputy Director of the White House Office of Faith-Based Initiatives, David Kuo writes:
Then the questions began. "Since the President brought up money, where, exactly is that money?" asked one pastor. "We've talked to the Cabinet Secretaries, and they say there isn't any new money." They peppered him with questions for several minutes. Finally he smiled at them and said, "Tell you what, I'm going to get those guys in a room and bash some heads together and get to the bottom of this. I'll be back in touch with you." He left confidently.

At the meeting's end, several of the pastors said they wanted to pray for my healing. They placed their hands on my shoulder and called on God to hear their prayers on my behalf. I listened and loved it and said a prayer of my own: that I would have the courage to tell them what was really going on at the White House.

That was more than three years ago. Their prayers have worked on my body. I am still here and very much alive. Now I am finding the courage to speak out about God and politics and their dangerous dance. George W. Bush, the man, is a person of profound faith and deep compassion for those who suffer. But President George W. Bush is a politician and is ultimately no different from any other politician, content to use religion for electoral gain more than for good works. Millions of Evangelicals may share Bush's faith, but they would protect themselves--and their interests--better if they looked at him through the same coldly political lens with which he views them.

MSNBC's Countdown got a prerelease copy of Kuo's book by walking into a bookstore and asking to buy one . . . Who knew? On October 13 Countdown producer Jonathan Larsen wrote:
. . . the Bush administration often promoted the faith-based agenda by claiming that existing government regulations were too restrictive on religious organizations seeking to serve the public.

Substantiating that claim proved difficult, Kuo says. “Finding these examples became a huge priority.… If President Bush was making the world a better place for faith-based groups, we had to show it was really a bad place to begin with. But, in fact, it wasn’t that bad at all.”
In fact, when Bush asks Kuo how much money was being spent on “compassion” social programs, Kuo claims he discovered the amount was $20 million a year less than during the Clinton Administration.

How rich.

God knows these people are not the first to have hocked their souls for the promise of political power. But they're the ones we're talking about now – and they are certainly no better – or even all that different – from progressives, liberals, moderates and conservatives who walked this path before.

Saying this particular set come across as more sanctimonious than others like them may only be saying they come across as more sanctimonious to me. No news there. We are what we are. But if we're even a little bit right about the goodness of God, it's barely begun to dawn on anyone what we will be when we come face to face with our maker.

That's then. Now we have an ugly mess to clean up. We might begin with Andrew Sullivan's advice:
Memo to faithful [insert any theological persuasion you like]: you get entangled with Caesar and you'll regret it. Conflate politics with religion and you do mortal damage to both.

The operative word is entangledthat's what got evangelicals in trouble with this Administration. Engagement on the other hand means everything in politics (and, come to think of it, even more in the life of faith).

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Military Commissions Act of 2006 | Two Centuries of American Democracy Undone with the Stroke of a Pen

Tonight it's official: Mr Bush signed into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006 passed by the 109th Congress — and with the stroke a his pen gave the terrorists a significant victory. The effect of this law increases presidential power to operate in secret and without checks and balances by the Congress or the courts in ways that have been steadfastly rejected by Americans through 217 years, 108 Congresses and 42 presidents. A few notes on the text, and a word after . . .

The President now has the authority personally and through tribunals appointed by him or the Secretary of Defense to hold and try unlawful enemy combatants.
(1) UNLAWFUL ENEMY COMBATANT- (A) The term `unlawful enemy combatant' means--
`(i) a person who has engaged in hostilities or who has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or
`(ii) a person who, before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.
– ec. 948a. Definitions

Though elsewhere designated as individuals who are not US citizens, this definition is broad enough to include anyone on the planet.

`(d) Inapplicability of Certain Provisions- (1) The following provisions of this title shall not apply to trial by military commission under this chapter:
`(A) Section 810 (article 10 of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), relating to speedy trial, including any rule of courts-martial relating to speedy trial.
`(B) Sections 831(a), (b), and (d) (articles 31(a), (b), and (d) of the Uniform Code of Military Justice), relating to compulsory self-incrimination.
`(g) Geneva Conventions Not Establishing Source of Rights- No alien unlawful enemy combatant subject to trial by military commission under this chapter may invoke the Geneva Conventions as a source of rights.
–`Sec. 948b. Military commissions generally

This law explicitly takes exception to the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the international conventions signed by the US at Geneva on August 12, 1949. In particular, this law suspends the legal requirement for a speedy trial and the rules regarding torture as a means of obtaining self-incriminating statements. The military is hereby permitted to hold people indefinitely and use nonlethal force to extract confessions.
(c) Determination of Unlawful Enemy Combatant Status Dispositive- A finding, whether before, on, or after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense that a person is an unlawful enemy combatant is dispositive for purposes of jurisdiction for trial by military commission under this chapter.
`(d) Punishments- A military commission under this chapter may, under such limitations as the Secretary of Defense may prescribe, adjudge any punishment not forbidden by this chapter, including the penalty of death when authorized under this chapter or the law of war.
– `Sec. 948d. Jurisdiction of military commissions

Under this law, if a tribunal rules that someone is an unlawful enemy combatant, that's that. No challenge. No review. No oversight. No repercussions.
`Military commissions under this chapter may be convened by the Secretary of Defense or by any officer or official of the United States designated by the Secretary for that purpose.
–`Sec. 948h. Who may convene military commissions
`(a) In General- Any commissioned officer of the armed forces on active duty is eligible to serve on a military commission under this chapter.
`(b) Detail of Members- When convening a military commission under this chapter, the convening authority shall detail as members of the commission such members of the armed forces eligible under subsection (a), as in the opinion of the convening authority, are best qualified for the duty by reason of age, education, training, experience, length of service, and judicial temperament. No member of an armed force is eligible to serve as a member of a military commission when such member is the accuser or a witness for the prosecution or has acted as an investigator or counsel in the same case.
`(c) Excuse of Members- Before a military commission under this chapter is assembled for the trial of a case, the convening authority may excuse a member from participating in the case.
– `Sec. 948i. Who may serve on military commissions

The Secretary of Defense can under this law designate anyone in the government to convene a military commission. The one who convenes a military commission may under this law excuse any member of the commission for any reason from participating in a case. Another word for excuse might be exclude.
`(c) Statements Obtained Before Enactment of Detainee Treatment Act of 2005- A statement obtained before December 30, 2005 (the date of the enactment of the Defense Treatment Act of 2005) in which the degree of coercion is disputed may be admitted only if the military judge finds that--
`(1) the totality of the circumstances renders the statement reliable and possessing sufficient probative value; and
`(2) the interests of justice would best be served by admission of the statement into evidence.
`(d) Statements Obtained After Enactment of Detainee Treatment Act of 2005- A statement obtained on or after December 30, 2005 (the date of the enactment of the Defense Treatment Act of 2005) in which the degree of coercion is disputed may be admitted only if the military judge finds that--
`(1) the totality of the circumstances renders the statement reliable and possessing sufficient probative value;
`(2) the interests of justice would best be served by admission of the statement into evidence; and
`(3) the interrogation methods used to obtain the statement do not amount to cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment prohibited by section 1003 of the Detainee Treatment Act of 2005.
– `Sec. 948r. Compulsory self-incrimination prohibited; treatment of statements obtained by torture and other statements

In general, the introduction into evidence of self-incriminating statements obtained by torture is discouraged — however such evidence is not prohibited.
`(E)(i) Except as provided in clause (ii), hearsay evidence not otherwise admissible under the rules of evidence applicable in trial by general courts-martial may be admitted in a trial by military commission if the proponent of the evidence makes known to the adverse party, sufficiently in advance to provide the adverse party with a fair opportunity to meet the evidence, the intention of the proponent to offer the evidence, and the particulars of the evidence (including information on the general circumstances under which the evidence was obtained). The disclosure of evidence under the preceding sentence is subject to the requirements and limitations applicable to the disclosure of classified information in section 949j(c) of this title.
– `Sec. 949a. Rules

Hearsay evidence that would ordinarily be excluded under the law is, under this law, permitted.
`(2) The military judge may close to the public all or a portion of the proceedings under paragraph (1) only upon making a specific finding that such closure is necessary to--
`(A) protect information the disclosure of which could reasonably be expected to cause damage to the national security, including intelligence or law enforcement sources, methods, or activities; or
`(B) ensure the physical safety of individuals.
– `Sec. 949d. Sessions

The military judge may at his or her discretion make secret the proceedings of a military commission.
`(1) NATIONAL SECURITY PRIVILEGE- (A) Classified information shall be protected and is privileged from disclosure if disclosure would be detrimental to the national security. The rule in the preceding sentence applies to all stages of the proceedings of military commissions under this chapter.
`(B) The privilege referred to in subparagraph (A) may be claimed by the head of the executive or military department or government agency concerned based on a finding by the head of that department or agency that--
`(i) the information is properly classified; and
`(ii) disclosure of the information would be detrimental to the national security.
`(C) A person who may claim the privilege referred to in subparagraph (A) may authorize a representative, witness, or trial counsel to claim the privilege and make the finding described in subparagraph (B) on behalf of such person. The authority of the representative, witness, or trial counsel to do so is presumed in the absence of evidence to the contrary.
– (f) Protection of Classified Information
`(B) PROTECTION OF SOURCES, METHODS, OR ACTIVITIES- The military judge, upon motion of trial counsel, shall permit trial counsel to introduce otherwise admissible evidence before the military commission, while protecting from disclosure the sources, methods, or activities by which the United States acquired the evidence if the military judge finds that (i) the sources, methods, or activities by which the United States acquired the evidence are classified, and (ii) the evidence is reliable. The military judge may require trial counsel to present to the military commission and the defense, to the extent practicable and consistent with national security, an unclassified summary of the sources, methods, or activities by which the United States acquired the evidence.
`(C) ASSERTION OF NATIONAL SECURITY PRIVILEGE AT TRIAL- During the examination of any witness, trial counsel may object to any question, line of inquiry, or motion to admit evidence that would require the disclosure of classified information. Following such an objection, the military judge shall take suitable action to safeguard such classified information. Such action may include the review of trial counsel's claim of privilege by the military judge in camera and on an ex parte basis, and the delay of proceedings to permit trial counsel to consult with the department or agency concerned as to whether the national security privilege should be asserted.
`(3) CONSIDERATION OF PRIVILEGE AND RELATED MATERIALS- A claim of privilege under this subsection, and any materials submitted in support thereof, shall, upon request of the Government, be considered by the military judge in camera and shall not be disclosed to the accused.
`(4) ADDITIONAL REGULATIONS- The Secretary of Defense may prescribe additional regulations, consistent with this subsection, for the use and protection of classified information during proceedings of military commissions under this chapter. A report on any regulations so prescribed, or modified, shall be submitted to the Committees on Armed Services of the Senate and the House of Representatives not later than 60 days before the date on which such regulations or modifications, as the case may be, go into effect.

The source, method of acquisition and substance of evidence against the accused may be declared privileged as a matter of national security in which case the accused may be prohibited from responding to evidence presented as fact in the case. This might be called the "If we told you, we'd have to kill you" clause.

On 60 days notice, the Secretary of Defense may change the rules regarding privileged national security information by notifying the House and Senate Armed Services Committees in writing.
`The punishment which a military commission under this chapter may direct for an offense may not exceed such limits as the President or Secretary of Defense may prescribe for that offense.
– `Sec. 949t. Maximum limits

The President or Secretary of Defense establish the limits of punishment for offenses under this law.
(a) In General- Under such regulations as the Secretary of Defense may prescribe, a sentence of confinement adjudged by a military commission under this chapter may be carried into execution by confinement--
`(1) in any place of confinement under the control of any of the armed forces; or
`(2) in any penal or correctional institution under the control of the United States or its allies, or which the United States may be allowed to use.
– `Sec. 949u. Execution of confinement

`(c) Action by Convening Authority- (1) The authority under this subsection to modify the findings and sentence of a military commission under this chapter is a matter of the sole discretion and prerogative of the convening authority.
– `Sec. 950b. Review by the convening authority

The convening authority – the President, Secretary of Defense or a designee – is empowered under this law to override the findings and outcomes of military commissions at his or her sole discretion. This gives the convening authority the leverage to cut deals with those convicted by military commissions.
`(a) Finality- The appellate review of records of trial provided by this chapter, and the proceedings, findings, and sentences of military commissions as approved, reviewed, or affirmed as required by this chapter, are final and conclusive. Orders publishing the proceedings of military commissions under this chapter are binding upon all departments, courts, agencies, and officers of the United States, except as otherwise provided by the President.
`(b) Provisions of Chapter Sole Basis for Review of Military Commission Procedures and Actions- Except as otherwise provided in this chapter and notwithstanding any other provision of law (including section 2241 of title 28 or any other habeas corpus provision), no court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever, including any action pending on or filed after the date of the enactment of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, relating to the prosecution, trial, or judgment of a military commission under this chapter, including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions under this chapter.
– `Sec. 950j. Finality or proceedings, findings, and sentences

The President is in this regard more or less declared King just 217 years after the US Constitution launched the grand experiment we still – albeit somewhat cynically – call American Democracy. Not that his power is absolute but that it is unchallenged and unchecked when it comes to the dispensation of justice in anything he can construe as the war on terror. In that singular change we have become what we declared unlawful and unacceptable in 1776, fought against until 1783 and carefully designed our Constitution to prevent in 1789. Our oppressors and enemies in that conflict followed us into the spirit of that new social covenant. The US Constititution changed the game.

Now this President and Congress have changed it back and 74 million Baby Boomers failed to stop them. This is what The Big Chill looks like.

I suspect our passivity about this when it was right in front of us may prove to be my generation's most enduring public failure (I certainly hope it doesn't get worse than this but more on that later). I fear this failure will take a very long time to correct. I recommend we get started November 7, 2006 by sending a cohort to the 110th Congress who will begin the process of restoring the Constitutional separation of powers and mending the breach between the US and our allies – indeed to mend the breach between what we dreamed and what we are becoming.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

pants on fire

i'm listening to the president's press conference going on as I write.

I wish I had the opportunity to say to his face, "Mr Bush, I believe you are a liar. Prove me wrong."

I've read the Bible; I know what it says about liars . . .

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

we can do better

Heidi wrote:
I had a hmmmmmm this morning. Like many I have been bothered by the lack of democratic muster. I thought maybe it was because they are afraid that if they win the house and the senate this year, that in two years they might have to share some of the blame for how screwed up the country will be before presidential elections?? But if they are a no show at this election the GOP will have to shoulder all of that on their own?

I've found myself staring at the other side of that coin. Was the flurry of congressional insanity a couple of weeks ago a cynical acknowledgement that:

1) substantial portions of the new laws will be rejected by the judicial branch anyway but that in turn

2) positions the old guard to brand Democrats as soft on terrorism in the roll up to 2008 (assuming a significant redistribution of House and Senate seats in the new year).

Is this paranoid?

I find appealing Thomas Friedman's wish that both the House and Senate might go to the Democrats by a one-vote margin so as to ensure everyone has to put in an honest day's work at governance.

We don't need a coup; we need a restoration. We have done better than what we've done the last dozen years and we can do better again.

Monday, October 09, 2006

i can't believe . . .

From J.P.

Homebound today from the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention in Austin Texas. More on that later . . .

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

the old and the angry

My old friend Sid asked what happened to the good-humored guy (meaning me) he enjoyed hanging out with in the 90s.

My answer is, that guy is searching for something to be good-humored about.

I'm not totally lacking in joy but it is measured against the pain of watching somewhat helplessly as my country reboots - forgetting many, perhaps most, of the core values that made it more than a continental placeholder.

The beauty of the internet in general and the blog in particular is nobody (even well-meaning friends who wish I would make them laugh like I used to) can shut me up. They can tune me out, of course, but here I am, writing as if someone were reading.

I'll take a swing at making my friends laugh again but right now I'm angry about the hijacking of America and there's just not anything funny about that.

I've been watching somewhat helplessly, but not completely. With any luck my grumbling will drive someone to the polls for the first time. I'll be there; casting my useless vote against someone I regard as a party hack in an overwhelmingly Republican congressional district (against him as much as for the earnest, inexperienced Democrat on the other side of the ticket). Because, who knows? Maybe my vote will align with a bunch of the neighbors who feel like I do about the need for at least one chamber of Congress to resist and reverse this Administration's insatiable lust to appear right when they are so clearly wrong about so much.

I believe I'll be back. Maybe soon. Anger and the vote are a potent medicinal cocktail.

The power of righteous vexation is what keeps so many old Democrats hanging on in nursing homes long past the time they should have kicked off. Ancient crones from FDR's time are still walking the halls, kept alive by anger at what has been done to our country. Old conservationists, feminists, grizzled veterans of the civil rights era fight off melanoma, emphysema, Montezuma, thanks to the miracle drug of anger. Slackers and cynics abound, not to mention nihilists in golf pants and utter idiots. Time to clean some clocks. As Frost might have written, "The woods are lovely, dark and thick. But I have many butts to kick and some to poke and just one stick."
— Garrison Keillor, Miracle Drug of Anger,, 10.04.06

There's still time to register . . .

Sunday, October 01, 2006

America reboots: three in a series . . .

Reboot (continuity)
From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Reboot, in series fiction, means to discard all previous continuity in the series and start anew. Effectively, all previously-known history is declared by the writer to be null and void and the series starts over from the beginning. It is analogous to the process of rebooting a computer, clearing out all working memory and reloading the operating system from scratch; neglecting offline storage, none of the previous session's activities have any bearing on the product of the current session, except in the memory of the operator (writer).

Friday, September 29, 2006

Bailey Colorado Terror

My dear friend and writing partner Rich Van Pelt is speaking at the Bailey Colorado Community Worship Service tonight. Last night he asked what I would say if I were in his shoes. These are the reflections I sent him.

No one should ever have to think about such things. Everyone does.

• This is awful and totally without reason. no one in this community had this coming. we don't know much about the person who did this but we know he really and truly did evil here -- no excuses.

• Feel what you're feeling. there's not a right way to feel in reaction to your personal experience this week. But there may be a wrong way: if you stuff it; if you deny it; if you pretend that it affects you more or less or other than it actually is affecting you, that's not healthy, that's not fair to you and it's not fair to your friends and family and neighbors.

• On the other side of that is assuming everyone is having the same reaction to this experience that you are. Please be honest about your thoughts and feelings and generous about the thoughts and feelings other people express -- including the sure knowledge that people will do and say things they'll think twice about later. That's ok: getting your bearings in this kind of emotional storm sometimes includes taking some steps in a direction that won't lead you home. Please don't be afraid to backtrack a few steps and look for the path that will get you back where you belong.

• If I were the flight attendant on an airplane, one of the things i would tell you is what to do in the event of a cabin depressurization. You may already know what i would say: I would tell you that a mask will fall from the panel above you and that you should place that mask firmly over your nose and mouth and -- crazy as it sounds -- do your best to breathe normally.

Then I would tell you to help the people with you secure their masks.

• So what is that mask that falls from the overhead panel at times like this? For starters, I'm convinced it's God's mercy in this most unlikely and unacceptable circumstance. I'm convinced God enters dark valleys like the one you're in right now, not to teach you a lesson but to comfort you by his presence and prepare you to comfort other people by your presence.

• I think you are oxygen to each other -- that you'll get through this together -- that five years from now it won't be outsiders you'll remember bringing help, it will be your classmates and your neighbors in this community. So, get your own mask in place and turn as soon as you can to help the people near you who are in distress.

• Telling each other the story of what you experienced physically and emotionally and spiritually will help you heal. It will, whether you think that's true or not. People who go through the kind of trauma you've experienced who honestly and thoughtfully tell their stories to each other bounce back way faster than those who choose to, or have to go it alone. Please be patient listeners for each other; please be open with your own story to help others be open with theirs.

I'm not talking about strangers and media people here; I'm talking about locals. The job the media are here to do may not help you with the work you need to do in the next few days. I'm not saying they're bad or badly intentioned; I'm just saying their job and yours may not be the same right now. And it will seem like work. This kind of emotional experience involves a lot of heavy lifting. So, if you're tired, sleepy, emotionally spent, there's a good reason for that.

• If you experience flashbacks, vivid memories, intrusive thoughts and nightmares -- those are very common responses to this level of trauma. If you experience emotional numbness or hyper-arousal, sleep disturbances, depression, anxiety, headaches, stomach complaints, dizziness, chest pain, irritability, outbursts of anger or feelings of intense guilt -- don't freak out; all those are normal in the first weeks after the kind of experience you've had.

If you're still experiencing these things when Halloween gets here a month from now, please tell someone trustworthy so you can get some more help. There are lots of professional people here to help you this week and some skilled non-professional helpers too. Some of them will be gone in month, but your school administrators and counselors and teachers and your youth workers and your family doctors will be able to help you get what you need for as long as you need help.

• We've all seen something we never wanted to see this week. We've seen something terrible that we never should have seen. This kind of thing is not supposed to happen, period. But it did, as such thing occasionally do -- and I'm really sad that it happened to you. Human beings are capable of so much that's good; so much that I believe reflects the goodness of our creator. Human beings are also capable of horrible evil that reflect our desperate brokenness. You're seeing ugliness you should never have to look at. I pray you will see goodness again very soon -- in fact, I pray that you will soon live goodness and spread it around like flower seeds. But first, you have to get through the days right in front of you, one day at a time.

• Do what you can to reflect the good and reject the evil. Do what you can to be there for each other -- you may be doing very well in a month but your friend or your teacher or parent may be in trouble. So do what you can to pay attention and be there to help someone else get help if she needs it.

Rich and I wrote The Youth Worker's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis.

We are working on The Parent's Guide to Helping Teenagers in Crisis.

Next week (October 5-6, 2006) we are scheduled to teach eight hours on the subject at the Youth Specialties National Youth Workers Convention in Austin, a again next month in Anaheim, Cincinatti and Charlotte.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

on teaching and learning . . .

Bill Evans is, I imagine, a master teacher after 17 years of teaching English to eigth graders at Manhattan's Trevor Day School.

Not that longevity is good for much other than getting old. But look what Mr Evan wrote in the New York Times:

. . . What I’m trying to say is, there’s something extremely tentative and fluid about the classroom situation. It is never, ever a sure thing. A teacher does his or her best to stack the odds in favor of success, and a consistently high level of success is definitely attainable, but a classroom is not a machine. Learning is essentially a private, almost secret, inner event, and schools are extremely public and social arenas that attempt to facilitate that event’s occurrence. Ideally, the friction between these two realities creates sparks. But learning is stubborn. It happens on its own schedule. It is extremely difficult to understand what one doesn’t understand, to see what one simply cannot see, and that’s the soil that learning sprouts out of, at least initially. But not to get hung up on horticultural metaphors — fortunately, learning is also explosive. Those sparks can do the trick, and do; I’m here to attest to it.

If teaching has taught me anything, it’s that learning happens. I’ve seen it repeatedly. I’ve grown to trust the process, and the longer I teach, the more comfortable I’ve become with the fact that I, as teacher, don’t seem to be in charge of this process at all. I am much more a witness, and when I’m really good, a facilitator. . . .

I can only add a phrase I've come to rely on (it's a skeleton next to Bill Evan's fully formed human — still, it helps me remember which end is up when I'm designing content):

People don't learn what they're supposed to learn. People learn what they're prepared to learn.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip

Oh my gosh. Studio 60 is good enough to help me forget for an hour that I have to take back the acknowledgement I gave to Senators McCain, Graham and Warner for standing up to Mr Bush's assault on habeas corpus and the American Way. But they seem to have buckled and I'm deeply disappointed.

But I'm still grateful to Secretary Powell – who apparently won't be making the same mistake twice – and today I add my appreciation to General Batiste, Colonel Hammes and Major General Eaton for speaking the uncomfortable truth about the conduct of the war in Iraq.

This is one reason we need to have Democrats in the majority in at least one chamber of Congress: open hearings.

Friday, September 22, 2006

all is not lost

I know I'll get hit for suggesting "equivalencies" here, though I am always clear in stating that there is no equivalency between today's radical and extreme Muslims and today's ordinary Christians. But it must also be said that Christians, from the fourth to the eighteenth century, can match the Muslims one-for-one when it comes to having spread the faith with the sword. Read the history of the Christianization of Europe and you have to go hunting for that minority of the faithful who spread the faith without the sword, merely by witness and works.

We live today not in the time of Christian Crusades and Inquisitions, but in a time when the pope is needed as a bridge-builder, a link-maker. Having quoted claims seven centuries old that only "evil and inhuman" things were new in the program of the Prophet and in the name of Islam, it will be harder for the pope to have dialogue with the Muslims who do good and human things. Some on the Muslim and American right seem to be craving a war of civilizations, a war about which we know only one thing: Both sides (or the many sides) would lose.

Rather than point to the "evil and inhuman" nature of Islam's, Judaism's, Christianity's, Hinduism's, Buddhism's, and other holy wars, the pope will serve better if he can still find dialogue partners in search of the good and human. All is not lost. Yet.

— Martin Marty | Sightings | the Martin Marty Center at the University of Chicago Divinity School | 09.18.06

Thursday, September 21, 2006

why it's important to have a smart president

George Friedman, without ever saying so, makes it clear why it's important to have intelligent, experienced, carefully informed people in the White House.

Dr Friedman is the founder, chief intelligence officer, and chairman of a private intelligence and foreign affairs analysis company called Stratfor. He is the author of America's Secret War and The Future of War.

Before he entered the private business sector a decade ago, Dr Friedman taught political science for nearly 20 years during which he also briefed senior commanders in all the US armed services, the Office of Net Assessments, the U.S. Army War College, National Defense University and the RAND Corporation on security and national defense. In 1994 he founded the Center for Geopolitical Studies at Louisiana State University to conduct integrated economic, political and military modeling and forecasting. the Center was the only non-Department of Defense/non-governmental organization granted access to Joint Theater Level Simulation (JTLS) by the Joint Warfighting Center.

I write all that by way of introduction to Friedman's remarkable (and remarkably clear) analysis of how the US came to be where we are in Iraq — Iraq: The Policy Dilemma.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006


"Listen here, if you don't vote, you don't matter! And then you're just as ignorant as them in the city say you are!"
— Willie Stark, All the King's Men, Columbia Pictures

Monday, September 18, 2006

just so we're clear

On September 15 Mr Bush was asked to comment on former Secretary of State Colin Powell's letter to Senator McCain:

QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. If a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State feels this way, don't you think that Americans and the rest of the world are beginning to wonder whether you're following a flawed strategy?

THE PRESIDENT: If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic. I simply can't accept that. It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective, Terry.

Just so we're clear, Mr Bush, I don't think most people question the compassion and decency of the American people. It's your compassion and decency that's in question; it's your moral basis that's up for review. America is not so much on trial as you are.

At this stage of the game, I wonder if there's much you can do about that.

Friday, September 15, 2006

rose garden

Steve said what I was thinking, better than I was thinking it. So . . . I'll let him.

Friday, September 15, 2006
Dumbing up...

We were in the airport this morning, flying to Baltimore, to play a gig on a boat. As we sat waiting to board, I caught the president in the rose garden, taking questions from the press. I copied an important part here.
QUESTION: Thank you, Mr. President. Mr. President, former Secretary of State Colin Powell says the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism. If a former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and former Secretary of State feels this way, don't you think that Americans and the rest of the world are beginning to wonder whether you're following a flawed strategy?

THE PRESIDENT: If there's any comparison between the compassion and decency of the American people and the terrorist tactics of extremists, it's flawed logic. I simply can't accept that. It's unacceptable to think that there's any kind of comparison between the behavior of the United States of America and the action of Islamic extremists who kill innocent women and children to achieve an objective, Terry.
I think that he calls something "unacceptable" when he just can't comprehend the pot calling the kettle black. The definition of hypocrisy is this: The practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess; falseness. Maybe it isn't hypocrisy if he still somehow believes Islamic extremists are the only people who kill innocent women and children. I can hardly comprehend that. See the transcript.

posted by Flibbityflu at 11:24 PM

Sunday, September 10, 2006

to give as good as we got

I'm sorry to keep doing this but really, isn't it time to pony up and join Salon Premium so you can read Garrison Keillor for yourself every Wednesday morning?

Since we're caught halfway between last Wednesday and next, here's an excerpt to tide you over . . .

Last week I sat and listened to a roomful of parents talk about their battles with public schools in behalf of their children who suffer from dyslexia, or apraxia, or ADD, or some other disability -- sagas of ferocious parental love vs. stonewall bureaucracy in the quest for basic needful things -- and how some of them had uprooted their families and moved to Minnesota so their children could attend better schools. You couldn't tell if those parents were Republicans or Democrats. They simply were prepared to move mountains so their kids could have a chance. So are we all.

And that's the mission of politics: to give our kids as good a chance as we had. They say that liberals have run out of new ideas -- it's like saying that Christians have run out of new ideas. Maybe the old doctrine of grace is good enough.

I don't get much hope from Democrats these days, a timid and skittish bunch, slow to learn, unable to sing the hymns and express the steady optimism that is at the heart of the heart of the country. I get no hope at all from Republicans, whose policies seem predicated on the Second Coming occurring in the very near future. If Jesus does not descend through the clouds to take them directly to paradise, and do it now, they are going to have to answer to the rest of us.
— Garrison Keillor, Our Magnificent Isolation,, 09.06.06

Thursday, September 07, 2006

19 days

Congress is scheduled to work for 19 days between now and the November 2006 elections.

Scenario One: Bluff and Bluster and Playing to the Base
Everyone concentrates on trying to scare the hell of out of people who might be persuaded to vote their way in hopes of tipping enough votes out of the middle to get elected or reelected.

Scenario Two: The Handwriting on the Wall
The Current Occupant rallies the troops to pass dangerous anti-democracy measures in the twilight of it's majority and prays the new Democratic majority in Congress won't be large enough to make the Bush Administration look worse in it's final two years than it already appears.

Scenario Three: Stop the Madness
Dozens of senators and hundreds of representatives come to their senses and govern with dignity and respect in an admittedly belated attempt to fulfill the oath of office. They apologize for their misbehavior and promise, if reelected, to continue their reformed course.

Here is a significant statement from the editors of the Washington Post about the dangers of Scenario Two.

This might be a good time to email our senators and representatives.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

the bastards

Senate Rejects Limits on Cluster Bombs

Taken one at a time Republican senators may be swell fellows, but put them all together in a room and they lack conscience.

This is why we have to wrest control of the US Senate from them in November . . . or have more blood on our hands.

Monday, September 04, 2006

On Labor Day | Updated September 3, 2012

These are the 2,200 words Franklin D. Roosevelt spoke to the Democratic National Convention on June 27, 1936.

If you'd rather listen to it, it's here at the University of Virginia Miller Center for Public Affairs.

Mr. Roosevelt, running for a second term as president, noted to the delegates in Philadelphia that, "there is a mysterious cycle in human events." It's hard to argue against that notion -- though the cycle seems in some ways less mysterious today. One thing is certainly different in 2012: President Obama cannot echo President Roosevelt in thanking, "those of other parties, especially those in the Congress of the United States who on so many occasions have put partisanship aside." What a shame.
Senator Robinson, Members of the Democratic Convention, my friends:

Here, and in every community throughout the land, we are met at a time of great moment to the future of the Nation. It is an occasion to be dedicated to the simple and sincere expression of an attitude toward problems, the determination of which will profoundly affect America.

I come not only as a leader of a party, not only as a candidate for high office, but as one upon whom many critical hours have imposed and still impose a grave responsibility.

For the sympathy, help and confidence with which Americans have sustained me in my task I am grateful. For their loyalty I salute the members of our great party, in and out of political life in every part of the Union. I salute those of other parties, especially those in the Congress of the United States who on so many occasions have put partisanship aside. I thank the Governors of the several States, their Legislatures, their State and local officials who participated unselfishly and regardless of party in our efforts to achieve recovery and destroy abuses. Above all I thank the millions of Americans who have borne disaster bravely and have dared to smile through the storm.

America will not forget these recent years, will not forget that the rescue was not a mere party task. It was the concern of all of us. In our strength we rose together, rallied our energies together, applied the old rules of common sense, and together survived.

In those days we feared fear. That was why we fought fear. And today, my friends, we have won against the most dangerous of our foes. We have conquered fear.

But I cannot, with candor, tell you that all is well with the world. Clouds of suspicion, tides of ill-will and intolerance gather darkly in many places. In our own land we enjoy indeed a fullness of life greater than that of most Nations. But the rush of modern civilization itself has raised for us new difficulties, new problems which must be solved if we are to preserve to the United States the political and economic freedom for which Washington and Jefferson planned and fought.

Philadelphia is a good city in which to write American history. This is fitting ground on which to reaffirm the faith of our fathers; to pledge ourselves to restore to the people a wider freedom; to give to 1936 as the founders gave to 1776-an American way of life.

That very word freedom, in itself and of necessity, suggests freedom from some restraining power. In 1776 we sought freedom from the tyranny of a political autocracy-from the eighteenth century royalists who held special privileges from the crown. It was to perpetuate their privilege that they governed without the consent of the governed; that they denied the right of free assembly and free speech; that they restricted the worship of God; that they put the average man's property and the average man's life in pawn to the mercenaries of dynastic power; that they regimented the people.

And so it was to win freedom from the tyranny of political autocracy that the American Revolution was fought. That victory gave the business of governing into the hands of the average man, who won the right with his neighbors to make and order his own destiny through his own Government. Political tyranny was wiped out at Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.

Since that struggle, however, man's inventive genius released new forces in our land which reordered the lives of our people.. The age of machinery, of railroads; of steam and electricity; the telegraph and the radio; mass production, mass distribution-all of these combined to bring forward a new civilization and with it a new problem for those who sought to remain free.

For out of this modern civilization economic royalists carved new dynasties. New kingdoms were built upon concentration of control over material things. Through new uses of corporations, banks and securities, new machinery of industry and agriculture, of labor and capital-all undreamed of by the fathers-the whole structure of modern life was impressed into this royal service.

There was no place among this royalty for our many thousands of small business men and merchants who sought to make a worthy use of the American system of initiative and profit. They were no more free than the worker or the farmer. Even honest and progressive-minded men of wealth, aware of their obligation to their generation, could never know just where they fitted into this dynastic scheme of things.

It was natural and perhaps human that the privileged princes of these new economic dynasties, thirsting for power, reached out for control over Government itself. They created a new despotism and wrapped it in the robes of legal sanction. In its service new mercenaries sought to regiment the people, their labor, and their property. And as a result the average man once more confronts the problem that faced the Minute Man.

The hours men and women worked, the wages they received, the conditions of their labor-these had passed beyond the control of the people, and were imposed by this new industrial dictatorship. The savings of the average family, the capital of the small business man, the investments set aside for old age-other people's money-these were tools which the new economic royalty used to dig itself in.

Those who tilled the soil no longer reaped the rewards which were their right. The small measure of their gains was decreed by men in distant cities.

Throughout the Nation, opportunity was limited by monopoly. Individual initiative was crushed in the cogs of a great machine. The field open for free business was more and more restricted. Private enterprise, indeed, became too private. It became privileged enterprise, not free enterprise.

An old English judge once said: "Necessitous men are not free men." Liberty requires opportunity to make a living-a living decent according to the standard of the time, a living which gives man not only enough to live by, but something to live for.

For too many of us the political equality we once had won was meaningless in the face of economic inequality. A small group had concentrated into their own hands an almost complete control over other people's property, other people's money, other people's labor-other people's lives. For too many of us life was no longer free; liberty no longer real; men could no longer follow the pursuit of happiness.

Against economic tyranny such as this, the American citizen could appeal only to the organized power of Government. The collapse of 1929 showed up the despotism for what it was. The election of 1932 was the people's mandate to end it. Under that mandate it is being ended.

The royalists of the economic order have conceded that political freedom was the business of the Government, but they have maintained that economic slavery was nobody's business. They granted that the Government could protect the citizen in his right to vote, but they denied that the Government could do anything to protect the citizen in his right to work and his right to live.

Today we stand committed to the proposition that freedom is no half-and-half affair. If the average citizen is guaranteed equal opportunity in the polling place, he must have equal opportunity in the market place.

These economic royalists complain that we seek to overthrow the institutions of America. What they really complain of is that we seek to take away their power. Our allegiance to American institutions requires the overthrow of this kind of power. In vain they seek to hide behind the Flag and the Constitution. In their blindness they forget what the Flag and the Constitution stand for. Now, as always, they stand for democracy, not tyranny; for freedom, not subjection; and against a dictatorship by mob rule and the over-privileged alike.

The brave and clear platform adopted by this Convention, to which I heartily subscribe, sets forth that Government in a modern civilization has certain inescapable obligations to its citizens, among which are protection of the family and the home, the establishment of a democracy of opportunity, and aid to those overtaken by disaster.

But the resolute enemy within our gates is ever ready to beat down our words unless in greater courage we will fight for them.

For more than three years we have fought for them. This Convention, in every word and deed, has pledged that that fight will go on.

The defeats and victories of these years have given to us as a people a new understanding of our Government and of ourselves. Never since the early days of the New England town meeting have the affairs of Government been so widely discussed and so clearly appreciated. It has been brought home to us that the only effective guide for the safety of this most worldly of worlds, the greatest guide of all, is moral principle.

We do not see faith, hope and charity as unattainable ideals, but we use them as stout supports of a Nation fighting the fight for freedom in a modern civilization.

Faith- in the soundness of democracy in the midst of dictatorships.

Hope-renewed because we know so well the progress we have made.

Charity- in the true spirit of that grand old word. For charity literally translated from the original means love, the love that understands, that does not merely share the wealth of the giver, but in true sympathy and wisdom helps men to help themselves.

We seek not merely to make Government a mechanical implement, but to give it the vibrant personal character that is the very embodiment of human charity.

We are poor indeed if this Nation cannot afford to lift from every recess of American life the dread fear of the unemployed that they are not needed in the world. We cannot afford to accumulate a deficit in the books of human fortitude.

In the place of the palace of privilege we seek to build a temple out of faith and hope and charity.

It is a sobering thing, my friends, to be a servant of this great cause. We try in our daily work to remember that the cause belongs not to us, but to the people. The standard is not in the hands of you and me alone. It is carried by America. We seek daily to profit from experience, to learn to do better as our task proceeds.

Governments can err, Presidents do make mistakes, but the immortal Dante tells us that divine justice weighs the sins of the cold-blooded and the sins of the warm-hearted in different scales.

Better the occasional faults of a Government that lives in a spirit of charity than the consistent omissions of a Government frozen in the ice of its own indifference.

There is a mysterious cycle in human events. To some generations much is given. Of other generations much is expected. This generation of Americans has a rendezvous with destiny.

In this world of ours in other lands, there are some people, who, in times past, have lived and fought for freedom, and seem to have grown too weary to carry on the fight. They have sold their heritage of freedom for the illusion of a living. They have yielded their democracy.

I believe in my heart that only our success can stir their ancient hope. They begin to know that here in America we are waging a great and successful war. It is not alone a war against want and destitution and economic demoralization. It is more than that; it is a war for the survival of democracy. We are fighting to save a great and precious form of government for ourselves and for the world.

I accept the commission you have tendered me. I join with you. I am enlisted for the duration of the war.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Mr Keillor has the floor

The Chair recognizes Mr Keillor of Minnesota:
This week we mark the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the Current Occupant's line "You're doing a heckuva job," which already is in common usage, a joke, a euphemism for utter ineptitude. It's sure to wind up in Bartlett's Quotations, a summation of his occupancy. Annual interest on the national debt now exceeds all government welfare programs combined. We'll be in Iraq for years to come. Hard choices need to be made, and given the situation we're in, I think we must bite the bullet and say no more healthcare for card-carrying Republicans. It just doesn't make sense to invest in longevity for people who don't believe in the future. Let them try faith-based medicine, let them pray for their arteries to be reamed and their hips to be restored, and leave science to the rest of us.

Cutting out healthcare for one-third of the population -- the folks with Bush- Cheney bumper stickers, who still believe the man is doing a heckuva job -- will save enough money to pay off the national debt, not a bad legacy for Republicans. As Scrooge said, let them die and reduce the surplus population. In return, we can offer them a reduction in the estate tax. All in favor, blow your nose.

Thursday, August 31, 2006


Listening to Mr. Rumsfeld this week I find myself wondering if he watched V for Vendetta and said, "Yeh, that's who I want to be — that guy on the big video screen."
Dissent and disagreement with government is the life’s blood of human freedom; and not merely because it is the first roadblock against the kind of tyranny the men Mr. Rumsfeld likes to think of as “his” troops still fight, this very evening, in Iraq.
It is also essential. Because just every once in awhile it is right and the power to which it speaks, is wrong.
— Keith Olbermann, Countdown editorial, 08.30.06

Keith Olbermann's editorial on August 20, 2006 was remarkable. So I'm remarking on it . . .

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

less crazy by a long shot

What if we woke up one morning and found a tiny corner of the world less crazy . . .

Check out

When you get to the Goods, make sure you look at the price info.

[thanks to Dan at InsideWork for this link]

Friday, August 18, 2006


Here's a news lead I would like to hear tonight:

"We have nothing to add to speculations about the death of JonBenet Ramsey nine-and-a-half years ago. However . . .

Today in Washington . . .

Today in Beirut . . .

Today in Baghdad . . .

Today in Jerusalem . . .

Today in . . ."

Is this really asking too much of television news organizations?

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

here's what i'm talking about

Garrison Keillor went to a ballgame the other day:

Seeing men compete at the height of their ability is pure inspiration these days, politics having turned so cheesy. What you thought of as civics turns out to be a basic service industry, like bartending but without the jokes. Politics today is about money. Abramoff was the rule, not the exception. The cultural issues, the Christian values, they are pure camouflage, and so is national security. Congress is mostly about serving its clients, who are not you or me, and now this gang of misfits, nitwits and yahoos is hoping that the arrest by British police of a band of terrorists might enable Rep. Blimp and Sen. Foghorn to play the security card once more. There is no limit to their brazenness. They would swipe your wallet and then return it for the reward. Lord, have mercy.

We have never (in my years anyway) seen this level of open cynicism in the White House – Congress, maybe, but not the White House. Not even in the Nixon Adminstration who at least had a sense of shame when they broke the law and the decency to try to hide their crimes. But these guys . . . When I see what they do in public, I cringe to think what's going on out of sight.

"There is no limit to their brazenness," Keillor writes, and this is why America's voters must clean house this November. Because someone must limit the brazenness of Mr. Cheney, Mr. Bush and their surly lot.

over the top

OK, perhaps that Mr. Cheney, You Are a Liar post was a little over the top.

I don't think Mr. Cheney is really the Anti-American.

I just think his reprehensible behavior in office is Anti-American.

He strikes me like one of those guys who makes a big deal about not taking God's name in vain even as he's looting the church treasury.

Not the kind of thing one looks for in a minister. Or a vice president.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Mr. Cheney, You Are A Liar.

Paul O'Neill was purged because he would not buckle under.

Richard Clarke was purged for telling the truth.

No one purged Mr. Lieberman. Mr. Lieberman lost an election on principle.

I consider you a dishonor to your office, sir; a dissembler; a rogue; a scoundrel; the anti-American.

I cannot wait to see you in our rearview mirror as America speeds away from your unwholesome influence.

Sooner would be so much better than later.

Monday, August 14, 2006

i am not (entirely) a slug

The very smart and witty J.P. St.Pierre who hardly seems French at all, gently chided me for the . . . let's say spottiness . . . of my posts.

He's not wrong about that. But it's not like i'm sitting around watching television half the night.

I'm posting like crazy at InsideWork – well, three or four times a week anyway.

I have a new Squidoo Lens.

Rich Van Pelt and I are working on the treatment for a parents' edition of our Crisis Book.

So . . . there.

Drop in and see what you see. If you hate it, please don't tell anyone.

more soon (ish). . .

Friday, July 28, 2006

6 for 06? how about you broke it; you bought it

An Open Letter to Democratic Leaders

Friday, July 28, 2006

Dear Mr. Reid, Ms. Pelosi, Dr. Dean, Mr. Emanuel (cc: Mr. Lakoff)

It is 9:02 a.m. and I'm doing a slow burn. Last night and again this morning I googled six for 06 and you wanna know how many results i got on the first page? That would be zero.

Why? Because no one cares. Or more precisely because you said something people care a great deal about in a way no one cares about. In your first 24 hours out of the gate you left Google still thinking six for 06 has something to do with the month of June.

Did you come up with this in a vestry meeting? Is this insipid campaign calculated to avoid upsetting the older parishioners? Well guess what: you are the older parishioners. You preside over something that might be characterized by copping a line from Bono: "Religion is what's left after the Spirit has left the building."

six for 06 . . . I hope you didn't pay good money for that.

If you want to gain control of Congress, here's the idea to beat:

You Broke It; You Bought It

You broke Iraq. You failed in due diligence. You rushed to judgement. You caved in -- I can't believe I'm saying this about the Congress of the United States -- you caved in to peer pressure and bullying. You allowed yourselves to be taken in by people who are either fools or liars or both. And look what happened! Look what's happening! The future will judge you harshly. Now get out the way and let's get busy fixing this awful mess.

While we're at it, let's hear some mea culpa from Democrats who were and are complicit in this outrage. If you want us to trust you, admit your error. Francis Fukuyama is lighting the way on this; walk in that light.

You broke the economy. You can't hide behind market corrections at the beginning of the new decade and you can't hide in the rubble of 9/11. You hate working Americans. Prove that you don't. You have kissed the golden hams of speculators. Prove that you haven't!

Someone has to stanch the hemorrhaging of America's middle class and working poor. Get out the way; we're coming in to clean up your economic mess -- again.

You broke the treasury. Your tax cut emptied the US Treasury into the the accounts of the wealthiest citizens. The sacking of America continues and you do not care. There is no money for the remarkable succession of rainy days we have experienced and are forecast to experience into the middle distance. Your mothers would be ashamed of you. We certainly are. Step aside; we're coming to restore order to the House (and the Senate).

You broke health care. On your watch, the delivery of American health care has gone from mediocre to become a national embarrassment. It will take us a decade to unravel this because you tangled it so completely and because those who profit from the confusion will fight us every day until they figure out they're either going to have to join us or go find other work.

You broke the separation of powers. You have given this administration too much, too often. They are running roughshod over the Constitution of the United States and it is your fault. As a consequence you also broke American foreign policy. The Bush Doctrine is an abrogation of two-and-a-half centuries of mainly good faith dealings with our global neighbors (I don't mean to overstate this; we have been on the dirty side on many occasions -- some of our current problems owing to that fact -- but we did those things in secret because we knew they were shameful). Now you have ratified the Bush Administrations claims to act with impunity. No one has to tell a reasonable person what the postmortem on that is going to look like).

You broke the balance of our government. We are coming to restore the equilibrium.

You broke national security. You signed off on cronyism and deadly incompetence. You allowed the Administration to dismantle highly professional federal agencies, driving legions of our most qualified civil servants out of government and replacing them with rank amateurs. FEMA is the poster-child for America's crippled capacity to respond to crisis. Is there any evidence we are better off today than before the Department of Homeland Security swallowed up 22 reasonably high-functioning professional agencies?

You allowed the Administration to dismiss the wisdom of Pentagon and State Department professionals. You buried their expert testimony in committee. With rare exception, you failed to air true assessments of US military capability in public for the benefit of lawmakers and the public you serve.

Prior to 9/11 you routinely dismissed the findings of commissions you appointed to study national security. Post 9/11, you routinely dismiss the findings of commissions you appointed to study national security. You haven't done your job. You're finished. Get out of the way.

You broke Congress. You used the rules to rewrite the rules and crush open and honest governance. If you were a business operating this way in the state of New York you would find yourselves settling with Attorney General Spitzer for billions rather than have the extent of your misdeeds exposed in a court of law. But you are not a business; you are elected representatives of the people of the United States of America. But not for long. Make way: Mr. Smith is coming back to Washington.

Mr. Reid, Ms. Pelosi, Dr. Dean, Mr. Emanuel; you can see where this is going. Six for 06 is all but meaningless in the face of what we have to say about the direction the Republican Administration and Congress are taking America.

Your colleagues on the other side of the aisle broke faith with the American people. They broke it; they bought it. It is up to you call them to account for that in public and in private every day between now and November 7.

For what it's worth, gentlemen and madame, I think it's time for you to push or pull or get out the way.