Saturday, April 25, 2009

Calling it Principle

Porter Goss was director of the CIA from 2004 to 2006, and is generally thought to be the worst director the CIA has ever had. He brought with him to the CIA five lickspittles from his personal staff in Congress who caused nothing but turmoil. As his third in command he selected, over the objections of professional CIA folks, the fabulous Dusty Foggo. Dusty needs no introduction to readers in San Diego.

Goss was typical of the kind of incompetent that got jobs in the Bush Administration. He was famous, as a Congressman and director, for his partisanship. He refused to support the independent 9/11 Commission, but famously said, "Somebody sends me a blue dress and some DNA, I'll have an investigation."

The very same Porter Goss offers an op-ed in today's Washington Post which begins, "... I feel our government has crossed the red line between properly protecting our national security and trying to gain partisan political advantage. We can't have a secret intelligence service if we keep giving away all the secrets." We are left to guess that he's talking about the release of the torture memos.

But he's positive "giving away all the secrets" was for partisan political advantage, because he thinks everybody lives in the same place he does. He's so certain that he repeats it at the end of his essay: "Trading security for partisan political popularity will ensure that our secrets are not secret and that our intelligence is destined to fail us."

Now let's be clear about what happened. We tortured people. We, the United States of America, tortured people. We, who at the end of World War II executed Japanese soldiers for waterboarding people, waterboarded people. Crimes were committed. There's nothing secret about it. Everybody knows it. We can be ambivalent about what should happen to the people who committed these crimes, but unless we make it absolutely clear that this is not what Americans do, it will happen again.

Goss gleefully points out (or is it a threat?) that the failures of character that led us to this place were not restricted to the Republican side of the aisle. Important Democrats knew what was going on and said nothing. These will have their reputations irreversibly tarnished, too. But Goss's little blackmail just points out the weakness of his partisanship argument.

Speaking of character, if you're familiar with Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen's novel about character, you would appreciate the PBS program, "Lost in Austen," in which a woman from the 21st Century, Amanda Price, time travels to Austen's day and fouls up everything in the novel. She had a line that reminded me of Goss's essay today.

Addressing Mr. Darcy, Miss Price says, "You don't really do guilt, do you? You do whatever the hell you want, and afterward you call it 'principle'."

Comic Relief

We have a gruesome landscape before us. Pakistan is looking precarious; Chrysler, at least, doesn't have nuclear weapons. The Republicans are defending torture because "it works".

But Gail Collins cuts through all this to find the essence of meaningfulness: state slogans.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

More National Humiliation

Dick Cheney has added his august voice to the Faux chorus, criticizing Obama for shaking hands with Hugo Chavez. But it's even worse than he thought.

From Talking Points Memo:
Fresh off our earlier national humiliation, we just received a note from TPM Reader SR. And SR points out that in the second image of our Obama at the Summit of the Americas slideshow we see President Obama shaking hands with the dog of the President of Mexico. He even seems a bit to be bowing to the dog.
Here it is:

How will we ever recover our nation's dignity after this?

Good for a Laugh

Andrew Tobias says this Scottish "advert" has been out there for ages, but today was the first I saw it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

About Torture

I've been planning to do a post for a week now about torture, and the Obama Administration's decision not to prosecute the people who betrayed us by authorizing and conducting torture.

I was going to write that I supported the President's decision, just as I had supported President Ford's decision to pardon Richard Nixon. Nixon deserved to go to jail, but real life is rarely as clear cut as that. There were more important purposes to be served by taking him out of political discussion altogether. The country needed to get beyond Nixon as quickly as possible, and any trial would drag out for years.

I saw the non-prosecution of torture in the same way. Both major candidates for President denounced torture. It was an ugly episode in American history, brought on by morally corrupt people. But since the body politic was agreed on this issue, I couldn't see the benefit to the country of punishing the perpetrators. I could see where such punishment could do more institutional damage (to the Central Intelligence Agency, for example) than good.

Until today.

Today Gen. Michael V. Hayden, former director of the CIA, appeared on the bogus news network to say President Obama had described "... the box within which Americans will not go beyond (sic). To me, that’s very useful for our enemies, even if, as a policy matter, this president at this time had decided not to use one, any, or all of those techniques.” [My emphasis.]

Senator John Ensign, a member of the Torture Party, went further on CNN's "State of the Union":

The harm is that if we ever return to those policies, one is they can train against them now. Do we really think that having advanced interrogation techniques is something we don’t want to use if we find Osama bin Laden?
Let's be clear: when Senator Ensign is saying "advanced interrogation techniques," he means torture; he just doesn't have the courage to say the word.

These men think torture is not a policy for "this president at this time," but may be something we "want to use if we find Osama bin Laden."

What do we have to do to make sure we never become a torturing country again?

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Faux Accidently Tells the Truth

Faux News' Megyn Kelly:
You know Brent, it's been interesting because Fox News covered these Tea Parties, and we were one of the only organizations to give it any publicity or p.r. prior to the fact that it happened, and it was so under-covered by virtually every news organization.
Megyn thinks that's evidence of a bias on the part of real news organizations.

Almost 40 years ago I was a cub reporter for The Record, a newspaper in northern New Jersey. And even I, dumb Jimmy Olson that I was, knew that legitimate news organizations don't do p.r. for political causes.

Time to Get Serious

It's time to stop laughing at Faux News and start taking a serious look at them. Watch this Faux "reporter's" dispatch from one of those "tea bag" protests yesterday (all videos here are thanks to Daily Kos):

That was not one of the wackos in the crowd; it was the Faux "reporter" promoting the idea that Obama's policies are fascist.

The NY Times reported yesterday:
In Austin, Tex., Gov. Rick Perry energized a crowd of about 1,000 by accusing the Obama administration of restricting states’ rights and vaguely suggesting that Texas might want to secede from the union.

Secession. Secession! Wow. The party of Lincoln, ladies and gentlemen. It looks like Perry is making a play for leadership of the Timothy McVeigh wing of the Republican Party, which seems to be all that's left. And how does Faux respond? With admiration!

Faux News, which said it was "covering" the tax protests, but not promoting them, was lying, of course. Besides the over-the-top coverage of the puny rallies, consider Neil Cavuto's on-air inflation of the number of people at the Sacramento rally:

Don't like facts? Make up your own!

The ironic thing is that making up your own facts is a lesson learned from the real fascists.

It's time for the real press (those that are left) to take Faux on. They're not competitors in the news business, they're propagandists for people with a lot of money and some very wacky ideas. And their advertisers need to be held accountable.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Are You the Last Person in the World to See This?

I've heard of things going viral on the internet, but this one seems to have set some sort of record.

I first heard of it yesterday from correspondent Troutay, on her own blog, Up a Stream. When I took a look at it, about 3 million had already seen it since it was posted on April 11. Then, ABC News, which apparently reads Up a Stream, too, showed it last night. Today friend Kris sent the link; she got it from her husband, Ted.

When I looked at it this morning, it had had 5 million hits. As I'm writing this it has 7.275 million hits.

If you don't know what I'm talking about, be prepared to feel at least a little inspired, even if you're the most cynical person in the world.

Unfortunately, embedding has been disabled on it, so you'll have exercise your mouse and click here.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Now That's News: A Conservative Sobers Up

This is scary: A conservative commentator has a moment of lucidity. Daniel Larison in The American Conservative:

Alex Massie gets at the heart of what has been bothering me about so much of this Republican yapping about Obama’s so-called “apology tour” and the idea that Obama has been demeaning and denigrating the United States during his first trip abroad as President. It’s not just that these claims are false, which they clearly are, but that they have absolutely no connection to reality: there were no apologies, and there was no denigration. One might think that this would satisfy his Republican critics, but that is not the case.

Reading some of the complaints, such as Krauthammer’s, one might think the critics were five years old. They seem to think that the hard work of rebuilding America’s reputation in the world, a reputation that the very same critics and their confreres spent years dousing in gasoline and setting on fire, yields instant gratification, as if repairing frayed relations and coordinating international policies could have overnight results. The same people who grew weepy at the thought of History vindicating Bush decades or centuries hence are prepared to declare his successor a failure after less than three months. The people who contributed directly to pushing the good name of our country into the muck are now crying that Obama has not yet, in his first set of meetings, successfully cleaned up their mess. They and their arguments deserve little more than scorn.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Glenn Beck, Boy Idiot

Take a gander at this one:

Is there anyone with an IQ above 50 that doesn't realize an FBI hostage negotiator just might be a good thing to have in a hostage situation? That a live pirate might, just might be a more valuable asset for intelligence purposes than a dead pirate?

The guy has no brain and he has no shame. Who sponsors Faux News, anyway?

Tuesday, April 07, 2009


I don't know if concern about the Conficker computer virus has abated since April 1, when it was supposed to bring the PC world to an end. I've been concerned about it, and shouldn't be, because we're an all-Mac shop here.

But if you use a stand-alone PC, and want to see if your computer has been infected, it's easy to find out. Just go here for the Conficker Eye Chart. At the top of the page are six icons, in two rows of three. If you can see all six icons, your computer is clean.

A tip of the hat to Andrew Tobias.

Monday, April 06, 2009

A Vacant Lot

Nothing much to report.

We had some snow last night, and a lot of wind. The wind continues, but the snow melted away before sunset. It blew so hard it knocked down several sections of the fence that surrounds the vacant lot across the street, giving me an opportunity to be an urban archaeologist and naturalist.

I don't have much to show for the opportunity, though. A beer bottle:

That's a Birk Brothers Brewing Co. bottle. The company existed from 1885-1961. The back of the bottle says, "This bottle is never sold." It's a wonder they were in business so long!

But they were a real Chicago brewery, alright. A 1922 article in the NY Times reports:


E.T. Birk of Chicago is Freed by a Jury of Charge of Transgressing Voltead Act.

A precedent was established in the Federal Court here today when a jury before Judge Wilkerson acquitted Edward J. Birk, president of Birk Brothers' Brewery, who was accused of aiding in the manufacture and sale of beer of illegal alcoholic content.

The acquittal came after a four-day trial. When the case started F.J. Birk, Vice President of the brewery; F.J. Wetzel, shipping clerk, and Leonard Dressler, brewmaster, also were on trial. The cases against these defendants were dismissed because the Government found that its witnesses had vanished. [my emphasis]

This was the first case tried here before a jury in which officials of a brewery were accused of violating the law....

The jury reached a verdict after three and a half hours' deliberation. When the verdict was read Birk walked up to the jury box and announced in a loud voice: "Gentlemen of the jury, I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart." He then turned to the Judge and said, "And I want to thank you, too, Judge Wilkerson."

While a controversy was pending over taxes claimed by the Internal Revenue Department a squad of prohibition agents sent from Washington in the Spring of 1921 raided loop saloons and seized twenty-five barrels of Birk Brothers beer.

The brewery was closed by the Government and remained closed until April of this year, when at a hearing of forfeiture proceedings instituted by the Government, it was turned back by Judge Carpenter to its owners.
Can't you just hear the theme song from The Untouchables in the background?

History in my front yard.

Watching me take pictures of the bottle in situ were a pair of mourning doves.

Wikipedia says up to 70 million mourning doves are shot annually in the United States, for sport and for food, but since they have up to six broods annually, they're in no danger of disappearing. It also says they are called mourning doves for their call, but that makes no sense to me. I've always believed they were mourning doves because they look like they're dressed in mourning, and I believe it still.

So believe me, or believe Wikipedia.

Like I said, nothing much to report.

Friday, April 03, 2009

Another Step on the Long March to Irrelevancy

We suffer a lot in Chicago. We suffer from generally lousy weather. We suffer from corrupt government at every level. This year we're suffering from an incredible season of potholes that just sit there, day after day, week after week, while the mayor pursues his dream of the 2016 Olympics. And, as the Chicago Sun-Times pointed out yesterday, we suffer from an insufferable bishop.
Cardinal Francis George called the University of Notre Dame's decision to invite President Obama to speak at its commencement an "extreme embarrassment" to Catholics.

"It is clear that Notre Dame didn't understand what it means to be Catholic when they issued this invitation," said George, who made his remarks at a conference Sunday hosted by the archdiocese's Respect Life office in Rosemont.

In a video of George's speech posted Wednesday on, George calls Notre Dame "the flagship Catholic university," and said that it has "brought extreme embarrassment to many, many people who are Catholic."
Aren't you glad you don't have him for your "spiritual leader"?

While you're talking about your extreme embarassment, Cardinal, maybe you'll want to mention ... oh, what's the point? But everybody knows what I'm talking about, right?

Which reminds me of a joke told on All Things Considered last night (by a Catholic priest!):
You know the one about the ecumenical group who all get food poisoning at a conference, die and go to heaven? God greets them all and says, "Welcome! Now all you Episcopalians, go into Waiting Room 5, but don't look into Room 1. Baptists into Room 4, but avoid Room 1. Methodists into Room 3 but stay away from Room 1. Presbyterians into Room 2, but steer clear of Room 1." And one of the Presbyterians says, "What's in Room 1?" And God says, "Oh, the Catholics. They think they're the only ones up here."
Okay, it's an old joke, but apparently somebody finally told it to the Catholics! I would have added rooms for the Jews, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, and Atheists, but that would make it a joke about Christians.

The priest told an even better joke, which you can read if you go to the site. I won't tell it here, though, because I plan to tell it at a Seder next week.

Now isn't that nice? I started this post spitting nails, and now I'm chuckling. Cardinal George, I forgive you.

Watching Faux, So You Don't Have To

I know the readers of Sempringham are much too classy to watch Faux News, so you may not know who Glenn Beck is. Count yourself among the blessed.

Stephen Colbert gives you a fair idea of what he's about, here:

The Colbert ReportMon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
The 10.31 Project
Colbert Report Full EpisodesPolitical HumorNASA Name Contest

Just another in the long, long line of right-wing hysterics.