Thursday, April 30, 2009

Pandemic or Media Distraction?

While the mainstream media remains squarely focused on what the World Health Organization considers a growing threat of universal outbreak of swine flu, even in Mexico, the nucleus of the disease, confirmed cases number somewhere around one-tenth of one percent. Still, there is no reprieve in sight for America's weary TV news junkies who, for the past few days, have seen little else. Fear, it seems, is this country's number one cash crop.

If the world is to face another pandemic, arguably on the calibre of the one back in 1918, what better time than now when extremist groups in Afghanistan and Pakistan become increasingly more virulent. At a time, too, when al Qaeda is said to have crossed to border into Afghanistan, and is reportedly using the terrain that separates Pakistan from Afghanistan "as a safe haven to hide, train terrorists... and send fighters to support the insurgency in Afghanistan," according to the National Counterterrorism Center. The question of who has been funneling funds into the ISI, and through Islamabad, with the help of Musharraf, has been partially addressed by the National Security Archive.

But, when the Joint Chief of Staff chairman, Adm. Michael Mullen, averages one trip per week to Pakistan, and acknowledges his growing state of alarm by what he and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton call the "existential threat" of Taliban gains there, how does what Adm. Mullen considers the increasing danger of extremists taking control of a heavily endowed nuclear country manage to escape the airwaves?

Afghanistan, too, is reportedly plagued by the kind of insurgency that is currently overwhelming Pakistan, and President Obama has expressed concern about the possibility of instability in the region resulting in another so-called terrorist incident in the U.S..

Military strikes continue in Pakistan under Obama as they did under Bush, but while Bush started it, Obama now owns it. Correction: we, taxpayers, now own it. The war on terror has cost us dearly and, so far, the only ones who appear to have benefitted from it are the oil companies, the banks, and the military contractors. Nothing new here.

What is scary is the thought that, unlike back in 1918, we now have technology that enables us to communicate with each other over thousands of miles in less than an instant, and we're using that technology not to inform, and raise consciousness about the ongoing existential threat posed by our own militarism, but instead a mutant virus that has been around for more than a generation.

Even if it's just about the ratings, the media bears responsibility for having successfully managed to deflect attention away from an imminent all out war in Pakistan which will, more than likely, cost many more lives than the pandemic of ignorance and fear which is spreading now.

Wednesday, April 29, 2009


"Society often forgives the criminal. It never forgives the dreamer."

Oscar Wilde

If you live long enough...

If you live long enough, you get to see everything go on sale.

The Russian Prince

(for Bob Dylan)

He was born when the lights went out
where investors in gold sold politicians for Christ
where sweet music pours hypnotic as braille and the truth inside is twisted
decimals above despair
he was born where fierce tabloids launch from capes of pure destiny.
kneeling at wailing walls
he was born when the lights went out.
0 minstrel boy in royal blue
voices of technologic poets explode
starry night dense with sound
as there is no going but goes on.
infallible crosses of kiev carve small circles for
your eyes and
butchers of white russia cannot betray you.
lone one wings clipped by strange women
alone at last in your home of poetry.


he struggles for light above smoke-
riddled mountains winding
in and out of nightmares
he summons oracular white russia to his side
she comes with mute stench of babi yar
her hair braided and black
warning of slaughter of wise children.
he wakes sideways pouring his heart out
pitching his tent in doorways of thunder. he lifts his bow
aims where switch- blades line trees and
nomads grind silver into dust.
white russia in her long black veil
opens like a vowel.
the prince on fire brings fruit and proverbs
she buries her head in his hand he hides in the long white shadow the sun makes on the mountain.

III. The Minstrel’s Song

deliver me from
traffic of birth and death
from those who are always right.
deliver me from another man’s justice
from the truth if it is holy – and those who prosper on others pain.
deliver me from those who make slaves of
their sisters and sell their brothers into bondage
from those who bow down to shadows on caves.
deliver me from doors that lock from perjured piety
from judges and juries from all those who trans-
form vision into pain.
I will do battle with self-appointed angels
until I pass through that wall of fire and
deliver those who cast their cracked syllables
to the wind abandon their chains for wings.
I will stand dumb before the gate like moses and watch the sea part from memory.
deliver me from those crippled with grief
who cling, like lepers, to their skin of sorrow and let me pass
electric through the light.


black magi on macdougal street abandons
his mantra to a hooded beggar
unorthodox stars gather to celebrate
rainbows shoot like halos overhead.
there is no home for the invisible
who learn the price of freedom purging
themselves on punitive verbs of beginning.
he sings in a marketplace with sudden explosion of Christ
Christ hanging from huge gold chains around
necks of latino boys crucifixes
and prayer beads crushed in mouths of small orphans.
it is for the exile to discover his shape inside
doorways vast and vacant
it is for women to turn to stone
it is for the priest who winds his watch against dust
tried and torn apart by virgins
history of inquisitions and serenades
where russia wide-hipped angular
russia with blade in hand russia white-lined and furious hides.
the prince carves northstar on a wall turns back his shadow dancing after him down forbidding streets.


hollow cheeks of his ancestors alarm at first
rapid pulse
blue light from eyes he keeps hidden where
lovers cling magnetic with impulse
messengers arrive with cardboard signs.
he leaps from the landing
into gutter knowing someone waits around the corner.
he is always looking at the light the sun makes as
it sinks into the ground.
his head cocked like a rifle ready to fire
he watches struggle of thieves and angels stabbed by
newspaper boys while antigone waits in the wings to escape with the corpse.
foreigner among knives and broken glass he witnesses another wedding borne away on the back of a hearse.
his suitcase stuffed with forgetting
his back bent out of shape like
the little mining town where he was born.
a sinister monk posing for reporters
he begs for space but
darkness is all and all is
darkness and he is drawn, again, to
the damp thighs of his birth, brutally new.

© Copyright, 10/6/03, Jayne Lyn Stahl.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Party defectors

We really need to do something about these party defectors like Lieberman and Specter---change their diapers?

Fleeting Expletives

Now that the Supreme Court upheld the government's ban on the use of four letter words on TV, and radio, here's a question for them: when will they ban torture?

Yes, of course, "cruel and unusual punishment" is already prohibited under the Eighth Amendment, yet we've seen how water boarding has been used, in much the same way as on the air obscenity, to circumvent that ban.

And here's a question for our friend Justice Scalia who complains about "foul mouthed glitteratae from Hollywood." What about the fleeting expletives used by the executive branch? Is not a lie an expletive?

Now if this word was only a fleeting expletive---war! But, thanks to those who'd like to regulate diction, fear has become a cash industry, and obscenity front page news.

In the end, what offends our sense of public decency more--a four letter word for procreation, or falsehoods about the reasons for taking us to war, the number of civilians lost, and the real cost, in human life and suffering, brought about on the many to profit the few.

The justices did leave the door open,for lower courts, to further discussion of any property damage that may ensue from this ruling. In light of its recent interpretation of the Second Amendment to include the right to own guns, including assault rifles, future generations can only find Judge Scalia's comments, and this recent ruling on "fleeting expletives," lamentable.

Monday, April 27, 2009


Being deluded has its advantages. It sure beats being depressed.

Saturday, April 25, 2009

For David Darwin Stahl

My father, David Darwin Stahl, was born on January 31, 1918, and left us on April 25, 1989. Today marks the twentieth anniversary of his passing.

My father was many things, but above all, he was a poet. It was his father, Sam Stahl's idea to name him Darwin David Stahl, a name which my father quickly threw off like a pair of wet socks.

And, while he had the mind of a physicist, he had the heart of a poet. He understood, in the deepest possible sense, the need for solitude for it was his need for solitude. He understood the hunger for silence for it was his hunger for silence. His understanding of life, and human nature, surpassed that of anyone I have ever known, and no one I know loved to talk about current events more than he did.

A cross between Jesse James and Ludwig Wittgenstein, he was ever the nonconformist, free-thinker. It was hard for life not to disappoint. His was an ongoing struggle with myopia. As a visionary, it was impossible for him to take refuge in the senses.

Most of all, he taught me tolerance, and how to do the right thing no matter what the cost.

Life, for my father, was a grand poker game and, as he told me once, "if you can't afford to lose, you don't belong in the game." It was the rush he'd get from not knowing the outcome, and from pushing the limits he lived for--not comfort, or pleasure. For one who had more than a passing acquaintance with pain, he was skillful at rising above it.

It is in his memory that I dedicate this quote from "Duino Elegies," by Rainer Maria Rilke, with which I know he would agree:

"Murderers are easily seen through. But this: to accept death, even before life, so gently, the whole of death, and not to be angry, is past description."


Ever wonder what the great poets, philosophers, thinkers, and statesmen might have to say if we could interrupt their slumber, and ask them what they'd be doing were they to find themselves living anywhere on the planet today?

Here's a go at it:

James Joyce: "I'd be making independent films."

William Blake: "I'd learn how to play electric guitar, and write songs like Bob Dylan."

Walt Whitman: "I'd start my own Huffington Post, and blog constantly."

Arthur Rimbaud: "I'd be a pirate."

Fyodor Dostoyevsky: "I'd work for the LAPD."

Franz Kafka "I'd work for the State Department."

Marcel Proust: "I'd hide under a rock."

Bonaparte Napoleon: "I'd keep Proust company."

Friedrich Nietzsche: "I'd use condoms."

Benito Mussolini "I'd work for Amtrak."

John F. Kennedy: "I'd be a retired college English professor, and finishing my seventh novel."

Karl Marx: "I'd join Proust and Mussolini under that rock."

Garcia Lorca: "I'd probably be in a Cuban jail."

Allen Ginsberg: "I'd be in Obama's underwear singing no more nukes."

Peter the Great: "I'd be in Dick Cheney's pants."

Sigmund Freud: "I'd be searching for the Clinton cigar."

Mata Hari: "I'd be working Wall Street."

William Butler Yeats: "I'd still be getting rejection letters from The New Yorker."

Tragedy comes...

Some live for pleasure
some live for pain
some live for
that rotting stuff
that lives inside
their brain.
Some punt
others aim
tragedy comes
when it all starts
to look
the same.

by Jayne Lyn Stahl


Friday, April 24, 2009

from Michael Winship

Where Have You Gone, Ferdinand Pecora?

By Michael Winship

For policy wonks near and far, the celebrity of the hour isn't Susan Boyle, the Scottish church marm who belted out "I Dreamed a Dream" with the voice of an airy angel, or ex-Somali pirate hostage Richard Phillips, or Carrie Prejean, the Miss USA contestant from California who's against gay marriage because the Bible tells her so. No, it's Ferdinand Pecora.

Who he, you may ask, and guess that maybe he once played infield for the Dodgers or sang Faust at the Metropolitan Opera. But back in the '30s, during the depths of the Great Depression, Ferdinand Pecora emerged as an unlikely hero, leading a sensational Senate investigation of what caused the '29 market crash.

Over the last few weeks, public pressure fueled by rage and pain has built for a similar probe of the causes of our current economic collapse, an inquiry that will search for real answers going beyond the hearings that have been held so far - more heat and wasted fire than illumination. People want to know what really happened, and how we can keep it from happening again.

Congress is finally getting the message. Last week, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told a crowd at San Francisco's Commonwealth Club, "I want to initiate... the equivalent of what happened in the '30s. They had something that was called the Pecora Commission," and this week the Senate passed two amendments to anti-fraud legislation, one calling for an independent investigation, similar to the 9/11 Commission; the other for an internal select committee - like the Senate's Watergate hearings in 1973.

All of this has arisen not only from the public's anger but renewed interest in what happened when Ferdinand Pecora took the job as chief counsel to the Senate Banking Committee in 1933. He was a savvy immigrant from Sicily, the son of a cobbler, a former Manhattan assistant district attorney with a memory for facts, figures, dates and names that proved the undoing of a Wall Street banking world gone berserk with greed.

Under threat of subpoena and under oath, one tycoon after another - including J.P. Morgan, Jr., of the House of Morgan and Charles "Sunshine Charley" Mitchell, chairman of First National City Bank (now Citigroup) - was hauled before the committee and grilled relentlessly by Pecora.

In June 1933, he even made the cover of Time magazine. "Wealth on trial" reads the headline inside, where the investigator was described in ethnic stereotypes of the day as "the kinky-haired, olive-skinned, jut-jawed lawyer from Manhattan." To their shock, the pompous financiers, unaccustomed to having their actions or integrity questioned by anyone, much less some pipsqueak, foreign-born legalist who made 255 dollars a month, were no match for his cross-examination skills.

They found themselves confessing to a litany of financial sins,including discount stock offerings to VIP "preferred" customers (among them banker cronies, Charles Lindbergh and General "Black Jack" Pershing, as well as Washington insiders, including former President Coolidge and a Supreme Court justice), repackaging bad loans and selling them as bonds to the unsuspecting, and non-payment of income tax.

The Pecora hearings resulted in 12,000 pages of transcripts that are still a primary source for historians of the Great Crash, and important New Deal legislation that for the first time regulated the high-handed, free-wheeling banking industry and protected the public from its excesses - including the Securities Act of 1933, the Securities Exchange Act of 1934 (which established the Securities and Exchange Commission - Pecora was one of its first commissioners) and the Glass-Steagall
Banking Act of 1933, which erected a firewall between commercial and investment banking - a wall torn down during the Clinton administration, leading to much of our trouble today.

A biography of Ferdinand Pecora is being written by Michael Perino, a professor of securities regulation at St. John's University. He's was interviewed on this week's edition of Bill Moyers Journal, along with Simon Johnson, the former chief economist at the International Monetary Fund who now teaches at MIT's Sloan School of Management.

Reading the transcripts of the Pecora hearings, Perino told my colleague Bill Moyers, "You can't help but hear the echoes of what's going on today."

Simon Johnson noted that right now, "these financial issues are complex
and just like Mr. Pecora did, you need to find some way to crystallize
it." He suggested that for a 21st century version of the Pecora hearings
to succeed the focus should be on "predatory practices," especially the
marketing of home mortgages and credit cards. Perino adds that another
important area of inquiry would be "the role that credit agencies played
in this entire process, particularly in the creation of... derivative

As plans for a real, Pecora-style investigation emerge, three things
seem clear. A general counsel and staff must be engaged who possess a
bulldog tenacity and legal skills similar to Pecora's. "You have to have
a strong general counsel," Johnson said, "who asks the tough questions
and who doesn't let you off the hook. You've got to push it through."

Some have suggested Elizabeth Warren, Harvard Law professor and current
head of the Congressional Oversight Panel overseeing the Troubled Assets
Relief Program - TARP. As Johnson notes, "She comes with expertise...
the right combination of qualifications," but perhaps lacks the
prosecutorial ability necessary. Patrick Fitzgerald, the Federal
prosecutor in the Scooter Libby and Rod Blagojevich cases has been
mentioned. Another possibility: New York State's ambitious Attorney
General Andrew Cuomo, who has been an outspoken critic of Wall Street
and Washington during the current crisis. Just this week he sent a
letter to the Senate and House banking committees detailing allegations
that Bush Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson and Fed Chair Ben Bernanke
forced Bank of America's merger with Merrill Lynch.

Second, an independent commission with subpoena power is the way to go;
not yet another congressional investigation led by Senators and
Representatives who have received political contributions from the very
companies they'll be hauling in for questioning. As the non-partisan
Center for Responsive Politics has reported, for the last 20 years, the
financial services industry has been the largest campaign contributor in
every federal election cycle. In the last two years alone, individual
and political action committee donations from Wall Street totaled $463.5

This creates, Simon Johnson said, "a potential conflict of interest. I
think that's why setting up an independent, bipartisan commission with
various... technical experts, people with a deep background in
finance... makes sense.

"... Really drilling down is going to show you perhaps some things that
were criminal, I'm not saying very many, but a lot of things that when
you shine this light on them - a very, very bright light - they look
inappropriate, unethical, or at least [are] things we're not comfortable
with going forward."

Finally, unlike his opposition to an independent commission
investigating allegations of torture, President Obama needs to get
involved immediately and publicly back an independent Pecora-style
commission's work. According to Michael Perino, "Roosevelt was a big
booster for the [Pecora] hearings. He met secretly with Pecora on a
number of occasions," as well as the committee chairmen.

Obama, on the other hand, may have spent too much time around University
of Chicago free market economists when he taught constitutional law
there. He seems more inclined to salve the egos of financial titans than
to challenge them, and he's clearly smitten with his chief economics
adviser Larry Summers, who struck it rich on Wall Street, and with the
likes of Robert Rubin, who appears to have spawned half the people Obama
has put in charge of the banking crisis. Summers and Rubin were both,
ahem, witnesses at the execution when Glass-Steagall was pushed out the

Nonetheless, President Obama "is the key to the whole situation," Simon
Johnson said; he has to insist on "a lot of openness." Michael Perino
noted, "There's got to be strong political support behind these hearings
or they're likely to devolve into an academic exercise that doesn't
accomplish very much."

It may already be too late. Simon Johnson says the banking industry is
pretty confident they're already won. "They got the bailout, they got
the money they needed to stay in business. They got a vast line of
credit from the taxpayer," he said. "... Their position is, 'Look, if
you want a recovery, if you want to get your economy back, you gotta be
nice to us.' I'm afraid that the government has blinked....
"They were too big to fail... Now they're way too big to fail. Next
time... they may be too big to rescue."

Ferdinand Pecora, a nation turns its lonely eyes to you.

Courtesy of Bill Moyers Journal, and Public Affairs Television

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program
Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.
Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Which hunt?

The senator from Arizona, and 2008 presidential candidate, appeared on the morning talk shows today to denounce President Obama's plans to go ahead and investigate those who attempted to legitimize torture.

In a two minute segment, on CBS News, Mr. McCain spoke of any possible proceedings against either the lawyers, or principals, involved in "Torture-gate," and he used the word "witchhunt" nearly ten times. When asked, McCain would probably spell it---- "which hunt."

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Born Again

If you were born right the first time, you wouldn't need to be born again.

Bybee and the BYU Connection

The radical right, born again litter of the Republican Party which has held dominion since before the Reagan revolution, as we see now has also taken a wrecking crew to the Constitution, and the first thing to go was the separation between church and state.

Thanks to our new president's decision to comply with the Freedom of Information Act, we now also know the almost inconceivable details of an August 1, 2002 memo written by then assistant attorney general for the Office of Legal Counsel at the Department of Justice, and current federal judge for the Ninth Circuit, Jay Bybee.

The 2002 memo, addressed to then attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, from Mr. Bybee, his assistant in the Justice Department, details ten "techniques" to be used on detainee Zubaydah in an effort to accomplish the unthinkable--circumvent anti-torture statutes in the U.S., as well as international law.

Among the interrogation methods Bybee featured on his to-do list was waterboarding. And, after taking a quick peek at the federal judge's own personal history, one might almost be tempted to conclude that Bybee may have thought of waterboarding as a different kind of baptism.

President George W. Bush nominated Jay Bybee in May, 2002 to the U.S. Court of Appeals and he appointed Bybee also to a pivotal post in the Justice Department. But, where it gets curiouser is when one considers Mr. Bybee's background, and juxtaposes it with other Bush appointees. Interestingly, Jay Bybee was graduated from Brigham Young University, the largest religious university in the country, where he was vice president of College Republicans.

A few years later, also on George W. Bush's watch, then attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, appointed Dr. Kyle Sampson to serve as chief of staff at the Department of Justice. Well, Mr. Sampson also earned his undergraduate degree from BYU.

Timothy Flanigan, deputy attorney general, also had a BA from Brigham Young University.

Michael O'Neill, chief counsel of the Senate Judiciary Committee, also under George W. Bush, was a Brigham Young alumni.

Orrin Hatch--- you guessed it, BYU

Thomas B. Griffith, U.S. Court of Appeals for D.C. Circuit, who was confirmed in June, 2005, had previously served as General Counsel at Brigham Young University.

And, who did Alberto Gonzales inherit from John Ashcroft as his right hand? Former government lawyer, Monica Goodling, herself appointed by George W. Bush to be the White House liaison to Justice. It was Ms. Goodling who in May, 2007 confessed to a House committee that she had "taken inappropriate political consideration into account" while hiring at the Justice Department. wonders what this "inappropriate political consideration" may have involved, and what collegial pedigrees were required for employment at Justice? Remember, too, that Monica Goodling was a card carrying member of the neo-conservative radical right who got her law degree from Regent University, the school founded by Pat Robertson that calls itself "America's preeminent Christian university."

Someday, when the history of the George W. Bush administration is written, many will marvel at just how many career Christians served as his henchmen, and the irony that the now infamous 2002 memo that tries to justify waterboarding was written by a member of this their country club, one that claims to extoll the right to life while, at the same time, trying to figure out how to practice cruel and unusual punishment which is not to be confused with torture.

Some, in the Bush administration, would like to see Jay Bybee serve as a human shield for Mr. Cheney, and others in their administration who committed acts which, even by medieval standards, would be considered execrable.

Arguably, the only thing more perverse is their effort to deconstruct secularism, the Bill of Rights, and turn the Justice Department into a nightmare worthy only of Marquis de Sade.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Prosecution Complex

One of the reasons President Obama is reluctant to pursue a criminal investigation, through an independent prosecutor, into the egregious misconduct of his predecessor's regime is that he'll be in quite a pickle when the extradition requests start coming in from Spain and Britain.

Remember, the heads-up to waterboard, and other violations of international law, all happened on the taxpayer's dime, and if you think the budget deficit is big now, wait until you see what it looks like after their defense attorney bills.

Those who want Bybee to step down are right, but the one who drew up the legal blueprint was not the mastermind, or the one who gave the command to enforce "enhanced alternative" interrogation techniques. That would be Messrs. Bush and Cheney. We should be looking at criminal prosecution; it's too late for impeachment.

After a certain age...

After a certain age getting laid is an act of providence.


Newt Gingrich today slammed President Obama for the president's now famous handshake with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Gingrich is apparently disturbed that Obama is warming up to "our enemies."

But, he took it to a whole new level when he disparaging compared Obama with Jimmy Carter. Well, I've got breaking news for Newt: we still haven't recovered from all of the damage done by Ronald Reagan, and Jimmy Carter is ready for sainthood by comparison.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Armed Diplomacy

While President Obama held his Sunday news conference, and touted the virtues of talk over combat, saying that diplomacy "strengthens our hand," the bombs rained over the Waziristan region of Pakistan killing at least three people, and injuring several others.

One source, in Pakistan, says that missiles were fired into houses, early this morning, leaving at least eight civilians dead. In the past three years, military attacks like these have reportedly killed 600 people. And, in recent weeks, too, there have been alarming reports of civilian casualties in Afghanistan.

The American president's photo op with Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez, and the exchanging of gifts, was heartening, but what is disconcerting is the juxtaposition of that image with ones of ongoing air raids on Pakistan and Afghanistan, as well as recent combat fatalities in Iraq.

The Obama foreign policy doctrine appears to see statesmanship as a mode of preemption, yet how can any reasonable person sit down to table with one's adversaries, as Mr. Obama suggests and, simultaneously, bomb the daylights out of their country. What, for example, would President Obama, or his secretary of state, say when sitting down with Ahmadinejad: "We just blew up half of Tehran--want to talk about this?"

Moreover, what input does Pakistan's flavor of the month, President Asif Ali Zardari, have about American military intervention in the internal affairs of his country? You'll recall, of course, that Saddam Hussein was once a friend of Washington's. Will what happened in Iraq be a paradigm for what is about to happen in Pakistan, and the politics of deconstruction for the profits of reconstruction prevail?

More importantly, what does it mean when the head of the free world says he wants to talk and, at the same time, he insists on bringing a loaded shotgun with him to the table? Armed diplomacy is more than an oxymoron, it shows contempt for the whole process.

As for exit strategies in Iraq, Afghanistan, or anywhere else in the region, one is reminded of what the King says in "Alice in Wonderland"-- "Begin at the beginning and go on till you come to the end: then stop."

Saturday, April 18, 2009

The only rights...

The only rights some people care about are the last rites.

Friday, April 17, 2009

"The Shipping News"

By Michael Winship

If you're looking for signs of the Apocalypse - and who isn't? - here's a good one. There's an uptick in ark building.

You heard me. According to The Wall Street Journal, that Bible of the Financially Bilious, Hong Kong's billionaire Kwok brothers are in the final stages of constructing the world's first full-size replica of Noah's Ark - 450 feet long, 75feet wide and 45 feet high. "Just the answer," the Journal reports, "for the rising waters threatening the global economy."

Unlike Noah's aquatic zoo, the Kwok version will remain land bound, and its 67 pairs of animals are made of fiberglass, thus eliminating potential headaches arising from husbandry, hygiene and other housekeeping issues at sea. It also comes equipped with a restaurant and posh, rooftop resort hotel - just the thing to please the discerning
plutocrat, for whom a luxury suite is probably the closest they'll ever get to The Rapture.

The Bible says Noah's Ark was made of gopher wood, whatever that is (no one knows for certain, it seems); the Hong Kong replica is concrete reinforced with glass fiber, and is being built to actual size, the Journal says, "in part to distinguish itself from one in the Netherlands that actually floats and boasts real farm animals but is just one fifth the size of the biblical original."

The two vessels are "just the latest additions to a veritable ark armada built around the world by the devout and the merely driven." The Dutch ark's builder plans to sail his to London, the United States and Australia. Of course, as things currently stand, chances are the boat will be boarded by Somali pirates and held for ransom, so its chicks and ducks and geese better scurry now while the scurrying's good.

Actually, the odds of such an attack happening reportedly are less than one percent per voyage. But the recent assaults on American shipping attempting to deliver food aid to Kenya - some of which is destined for Somalia - and the successful rescue of Captain Richard Phillips last Sunday (killing three pirates in the process) finally have focused this country's attention on the problem. Bands of Somali pirates are holding at least 19 ships and more than 250 merchant mariners for millions of
dollars in ransom.

"These pirates are criminals, they are armed gangs of the sea, and those plotting attacks must be stopped and those carrying them out must be brought to justice," Secretary of State Clinton told reporters Wednesday.

True enough, but it's worth taking a moment to recognize the conditions from which this new breed of pirate arose and to realize that, as Madison University analyst J. Peter Pham told Reuters, "It will require more than just the application of force to uproot piracy from the soil of Somalia."

It's not just because the sea is so great and our boats are so small, comparatively speaking. Some estimate up to a million square miles of ocean are vulnerable and even hundreds of patrolling warships probably wouldn't be enough to do the job. (Right now, according to an official with the US Central Command, there is just a handful of US and non-US ships on pirate patrol in the Gulf of Aden and Indian Ocean.) Nor is it simply because since 1991 Somalia has been in a state of total anarchy. There's more to it.

The seeds of the current piracy were planted around the time of that collapse when a group of vigilante fishermen calling themselves the Volunteer Coast Guard of Somalia started heading out to sea in speedboats, intercepting and levying a "tax" on foreign, mostly Western, ships, some of which were smuggling goods in and out of the country, others of which were busily overfishing coastal waters, depriving nine
million starving Somalians of food.

What's more, Ahmediou Ould-Abdallah, the United Nations envoy to Somalia, told Jonathan Hari of the British newspaper The Independent that European ships, taking advantage of the onshore chaos, dumped barrels of nuclear waste offshore. "There is also lead," he claimed, "and heavy metals such as cadmium and mercury - you name it." Hari reports that after the Christmas 2005 tsunami, hundreds of leaking barrels washed up on shore and more than 300 died from radiation
sickness. "Much of it can be traced back to European hospitals and factories, who seem to be passing it on to the Italian mafia to'dispose' of cheaply," he wrote back on January 5th. "When I asked Mr. Ould-Abdallah what European governments were doing about it, he said with a sigh, 'Nothing. There has been no clean-up, no compensation and no prevention.'"

In the April issue of Vanity Fair, journalist William Langewiesche has a
fascinating account of last spring's Somali hijacking of the French cruise ship Le Ponant, which finally ended with the crew's safe return, the payment of a $2.15 million ransom and a French military assault that resulted in the arrest of six alleged pirates.

"One of the ironies at play is that the maritime industry being victimized is itself a standard-bearer for the advantages that exist in a world beyond law and regulation," he writes, referring to a global shipping trade that has dodged the rules through the raw manipulation of flags of convenience and the law of the sea. They are, Langewiesche says, "...The very same people who for years have made a mockery of the nation-state idea. They know that whatever pirate tolls they pay will
always pale in comparison with the taxes that would be imposed if global
law and order ever actually prevailed."

No wonder media commentators speak -- without irony -- of the pirates' "business model." Icelandic fishermen turned to banking and high finance and we know how well that turned out. Somali fisherman turned to piracy. This global economic calamity has everyone hammering together arks, and despite this week's rescue at sea, so far, it seems, the pirates -- Somali or otherwise -- are the ones still afloat.

Courtesy of Bill Moyers Journal, and Public Affairs Television

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program
Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.
Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at

Liability Insurance for Interrogators Revisited

The below piece first appeared on The Huffington Post on January 12, 2009. I think it deserves a second look in light of Thursday's disclosure by Attorney General Eric Holder that there will be no prosecution for CIA interrogators who were following orders. Implicit in the notion of "insurance" is the possibility for future acts that might warrant prosecution.

Notably, Spain's recent indictment of the so-called Bush Six may well be followed by British criminal charges.

Despite what the new administration says, if the U.S. does little more than promise never to torture again and, by default, sanctions not only these egregious practices, but the chronic lies to cover them up, there is no way we can ever be expected to regain a dignified place in the international community:


If leading Democratic senators have their way, agents and officials with the Central Intelligence Agency will be immunized against prosecution for any criminal activity arising from taking commands, and/or employing "alternative methods" of interrogation, under George W. Bush, and under future presidents
Senator Dianne Feinstein, newly appointed head of the Senate Intelligence Committee, (sic), told the Associated Press that the CIA was just following orders from the National Security Council, and the executive branch, hence they should not be held legally liable for their actions. We need Intelligence to tell us not to hold Intelligence responsible for how they get intelligence?

What's more, on Sunday morning President-elect Obama told ABC News that it is "unlikely" there will be criminal charges filed against national security officials who were involved in harsh interrogation practices, or wiretapping. This will be in keeping with what Obama insists will be his administration's policy of "looking forward as opposed to backwards," a kind of Zeno's Paradox.

Obama also now thinks that the prospect of shutting down among the most notorious, despised, and universally condemned detention centers, Gitmo, within the first 100 days of his tenure, will be "a challenge." An even greater challenge in the coming months and years will be explaining to the American people how effective the holding center for "unlawful enemy combatants," in Cuba, has really been in keeping us, and the rest of the world, safe unless, of course, you don't include what's going on now in Gaza as part of what is often called the war on terror. Yet an even greater challenge for the next administration may be to figure out who the real terrorists are.

Since the days of George H.W. Bush, one thing has become crystal clear -- no ideology can hope to survive without windshield wipers.

When asked if he has any plans for the equivalent of a 9/11 Commission to look into any criminal activity, or violation of constitutional integrity, by the Bush administration, the President-elect indicated that he wants the focus to be on keeping America safe instead, and not have intelligence agents be distracted by "lawyering." Who can argue that there's too much lawyering, in America, as it is, yet not enough adherence to laws, at least not enough law enforcement when it comes to our lawmakers and elected officials.

Few would question Obama's assertion that closing Gitmo within a few months isn't plausible. Senator Feinstein has called for closing the detention center in Cuba in a year. Does the President-elect think that a year is a reasonable timeframe? Does he have a concrete plan in place for closing not just Gitmo, but other detainee holding centers in Afghanistan and Iraq that are holding thousands, not hundreds? We think so, and are ready for him to implement it.

Notably, Obama wasn't the only one making the Sunday morning T.V. talk circuit. President Bush was, too, and the outgoing president joined the vice president in defending waterboarding holding to the party line that the information obtained through this, and other traditionally illegal means, helped to save American lives. The president added: "Look, I understand why people can get carried away on this issue, but generally they don't know the facts."

The candidate who has been dubbed "no drama Obama" has gone on record saying he considers waterboarding torture, and that there will be zero tolerance for torture in an Obama administration. Yet, on the same day, and in a separate interview, his predecessor, and the 43rd president, George W. Bush expressed confidence that 44"understands the nature of the world and understands the need to protect America." We find the fact that Bush would say this about Obama, or anyone else elected to be our next head of state, frankly scary.

Well, we don't profess to have all "the facts," but about a year ago, the CIA said it would assume the full cost of providing "legal liability insurance" for employees of the agency, and indicated that an estimated two-thirds of its work force would be eligible for legal cover from prosecution.

So, a government that granted immunity to telecoms who violated consumer privacy laws by eavesdropping on the personal conversations of millions of their customers now wants to provide insurance that will immunize their agents from having to face future criminal charges if they find themselves breaking constitutional prohibitions against cruel and unusual punishment, and/or international law.

Senator Feinstein has said that the White House is responsible for giving the directives as to what kinds of interrogation methods should be used just as the approval for ordering the egregious gunning down of innocent Iraqi civilians in Haditha, and elsewhere, came from the top, so those who followed commands should be held harmless. If this is true, do we let the shooter walk because his sergeant gave him the command to fire the gun?

"We're going to continue our looking into the situation and I think it is up to the administration and the director" as to which course to pursue when it comes to holding accountable those who broke the law, then made it law. It's time for our elected officials to start taking responsibility for their actions, and if they're unwilling to do so, then it's time for a new administration to start holding them responsible.
Now that we know who shouldn't be prosecuted, maybe the good senator from California can tell us who should be?

This presidential campaign has proven irrefutably that the major discernible difference between a Democrat and a Republican is that a Democrat shoots himself in the foot whereas a Republican shoots you in the foot. And, should you have any question about that, just ask Dick Cheney.
But, who can argue with President-elect Obama when he says that "we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards," and that he wants to "get things right in the future" instead of focusing on "what we got wrong in the past."

No one would be presumptuous enough to advise the next commander-in-chief what he should do to get things right in the future, but a good place to start, especially given the military build-up in Afghanistan, might be to take a look at why the agency entrusted with carrying out detainee interrogations is now assuming the full cost of providing legal cover, and has increased the number of those eligible to nearly two thirds of its staff.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

First Loves

Poetry is my first love, not my last.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Great Legs

Who needs a legacy when you have great legs.

A Stress Test for Imbeciles

So now that the big wigs in the Obama administration have fine tuned a plan to test nineteen of the nation's largest banks for solvency, I have a modest proposal: why not devise a stress test for other kinds of incompetency. For instance, when was the last time your HMO decided to order a colonoscopy when they could cut corners, so to speak, by only performing a sigmoidoscopy?

And, when you're shopping for something to help out with that damn migraine, why is it that there are only two registers open out of eight--that means that you are 75% more likely to have a migraine hangover.

When last you were at the bank, did you notice how often you have to help the tellers count the change?

Where were you during this last presidential election? I was teaching a community college English class, and when I asked students to bring in newspaper articles that represent divurgent viewpoints on the issues, one student had the temerity to announce: "This is an English class, not Political Science!"

Among the many reasons the American economy finds itself in the dire straits it is in today is, of course, the residual collateral carnage from so-called free market fundamentalism, but two words come to mind, too "Pace yourself!"

Pace yourself has become America's new mantra replacing "two cars in every garage." From the gas station attendant to the guy at the car wash to the dentist to the plumber to the supermarket checker everything has slowed down to accommodate comfort levels.

There are two kinds of people in this country those who pace themselves, and those who need pace makers.

America is no longer comfortable fighting its own wars. We now hire independent contractors to fight alongside us. We hire people, whose names are all "Sam," thousands of miles away to provide technical help when our Internet access goes south. We wanted transparency, and we got it. Is there anything more transparent than those who swindled us of our retirement accounts, and stock options, and yet most of them still sit on the rosters of our Fortune 500 companies.

And, who does the new administration decide to appoint to regulate Wall Street and the financial markets, but the kingpen of Wall Street, the Federal Reserve, and the financial markets.

Now, more than six years since the invasion of Baghdad, where does our defense secretary, and commander-in-chief want to commit 17,000 troops next? Afghanistan, of course, and on the border of Pakistan, too, with the underlying assumption being that nothing has changed over the past six years.

Our recent foreign policy blunders reads like a who's who of incompetents.

There's a pledge to eliminate "black sites," and extraordinary rendition while, at the same time, an effort to withheld valuable evidence of what actually transpires not just at these sites, but at a majority of detention centers we run worldwide.

We've paced ourselves into gargantuan national debt, and an unemployment rate that hasn't been seen in quarter of a century.

I've declined to offer any suggestions to our new President in an effort to acknowledge that he already has enough on his plate, but I will say one thing: it looks like we need a stress test for imbeciles more than anything else.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Myrtle the Turtle and Friends

As a small child, I wasn't allowed many pets. There was the proverbial parakeet, of course, but my mother recoiled when UPS delivered the mail order monkey I ordered, for a quarter, from a newspaper ad.

I was allowed to have turtles. So began the procession of turtles, five in all, that all met the same curious fate--they disappeared under the living room couch. Each turtle was appropriately named "Myrtle the Turtle 1," "Myrtle the Turtle 2," "Myrtle the Turtle 3," etc.

When Myrtle the Turtle 5 took it upon himself to book a cruise below the living room sofa, I decided to find out exactly what happens to these poor reptiles after disappear.

Being a tiny creature myself, and only about 5, it was easy for me to slip under the couch, and reach for Myrtle the Turtle 5 who resisted me so virulently that I damn near cried. Of course, I don't remember much, but I do recall the sidelong glance of devout disapproval from Myrtle's eyes when I went to grab her, and bring her back to civilization, to no avail. Despite my best efforts, Myrtle met the identical fate of her predecessors.

Indeed, the closest thing to a turtle I'd seen since is a form of male menopause, that is until the other day, in one of my English classes, when I asked a student a question about a passage we were reading from Bertolt Brecht's "Stories of Mr. Keuner." I couldn't help but observe how the student reminded me of Myrtle the Turtle's look when I tried to retrieve her from under the couch. I hadn't met the same kind of resistance in years.

It occurs to me that resistance is the lowest common denominator. In Myrtle's case, there was something about the attention of a child that was most disturbing, or maybe it was the risk of discovery. But, what was it that the student resisted? What is it that makes most of us want to crawl under a couch rather than face the unknown?

Knowledge can be suffocating, but there is nothing liberating about blindness.

Monday, April 13, 2009


The Washington Post also reported today that Obama will now allow some telecommunication companies to operate in Cuba. Cool---that means they can tap phones there, too.

courtesy of Oscar...


"Society forgives the criminal. It never forgives the dreamer."

Sunday, April 12, 2009


Hey, dude, can we call those Blackwater fellas pirates, too?

Whatever you thought...

"Whatever you thought was normal is not coming back."

James K. Galbraith

To hear James K. Galbraith's opening remarks at the University of Chicago, please see the below link:

Saturday, April 11, 2009

With God On Our Side?

There was an ugly admission yesterday by the U.S. that forces in the Khost Province killed "four combatants," and that one of those killed was a woman.

And on Good Friday, too, the Defense Department confessed that the four Afghans slain were not soldiers, but "a mother and three of her children." Also wounded in the attack was a baby, who was later to succumb to his injuries.

As more details emerge, it appears that the house under siege was that of an officer in the Afghan National Army. It was his family that was slaughtered. Furthermore, U.S. officials now say that the family does not appear to have been involved with any military action.

Mistakes do happen in any combat operation, of course, but these killings represent a dangerous new pattern which is now emerging in which civilians, in Afghanistan, are being targeted because they are erroneously considered combatants. A week ago, two farmers were gunned down by U.S. forces for being out after curfew.

This blurring of boundaries between civilian and militant, good and evil, right and wrong is spilling over onto our city streets as we see, daily, an escalation in random, and senseless, gun violence. That human life has become just another commodity to be traded in exchange for some ever elusive ideology is unconscionable, whatever that ideology may be.

International outrage is already growing as the rest of the world does not confuse our war crimes with acts of valor. There must be an investigation into what has just happened in Khost Province just as there was in Haditha, Iraq. How many more shoes must be flung at American presidents before we get the picture that those countries we claim to be rescuing from evil have had it with the evil we inflict.

We ask that the Obama administration step forward, call for an inquiry into these killings, and demand accountability from those who were involved. Anything less is unacceptable. We have still yet to see anything even closely resembling accountability result from the massacre of 24 unarmed civilians at Haditha.

Given that the administration announced, on Friday, that it intends to follow former president George W. Bush's lead in denying Afghan prisoners the right to challenge their detention in Afghanistan military prisons in U.S courts, one would hope that President Obama will distinguish himself from his predecessor by ensuring that anyone in uniform who takes a civilian life has to answer for it.

In the end, those who claim to be fighting terror and instead inflict terror on others cannot reasonably claim to be acting with God on their side. We can no longer confuse the almighty with the almighty buck, and expect the rest of the world to buy into it. The introduction of independent contractors, like Blackwater, who fight side by side with our soldiers, has led to the kind of miitary deregulation that can only result in moral bankruptcy, and the kind of piracy that holds world peace as hostage.

The Crowning with Thorns

He leaves much to be desired
at table
never finishes a sentence.
crowds come to drive nails through
the designated holes in his hands.
- a modern cross,
like a disaposable lighter, is propped against an altar -
someone takes bets.
the crowd cheers as he mounts the cross
a crown quickly position'd on his skull
he takes each thorn swallows it.
he holds crown in his right hand
it changes to a mirror.
he spits thorns into the crowd
the cross dissolves
the crowd disappears
he folds the altar
into his pocket
and is gone.

By Jayne Lyn Stahl

Beatitude: 33, Silver Anniversary Issue, San Francisco, 1988

Friday, April 10, 2009

"Easter 1916"

By William Butler Yeats

I have met them at close of day
Coming with vivid faces
From counter or desk among grey
Eighteenth-century houses.
I have passed with a nod of the head
Or polite meaningless words,
Or have lingered awhile and said
Polite meaningless words,
And thought before I had done
Of a mocking tale or a gibe
To please a companion
Around the fire at the club,
Being certain that they and I
But lived where motley is worn:
All changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

That woman’s days were spent
In ignorant good-will,
Her nights in argument
Until her voice grew shrill.
What voice more sweet than hers
When, young and beautiful,
She rode to harriers?
This man had kept a school
And rode our winged horse;
This other his helper and friend
Was coming into his force;
He might have won fame in the end,
So sensitive his nature seemed,
So daring and sweet his thought.
This other man I had dreamed
A drunken, vainglorious lout.
He had done most bitter wrong
To some who are near my heart,
Yet I number him in the song;
He, too, has resigned his part
In the casual comedy;
He, too, has been changed in his turn,
Transformed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.

Hearts with one purpose alone
Through summer and winter seem
Enchanted to a stone
To trouble the living stream.
The horse that comes from the road.
The rider, the birds that range
From cloud to tumbling cloud,
Minute by minute they change;
A shadow of cloud on the stream
Changes minute by minute;
horse-hoof slides on the brim,
And a horse plashes within it;
The long-legged moor-hens dive,
And hens to moor-cocks call;
Minute by minute they live:
The stone’s in the midst of all.

Too long a sacrifice
Can make a stone of the heart.
O when may it suffice?
That is Heaven’s part, our part
To murmur name upon name,
As a mother names her child
When sleep at last has come
On limbs that had run wild.
What is it but nightfall?
No, no, not night but death;
Was it needless death after all?
For England may keep faith
For all that is done and said.
We know their dream; enough
To know they dreamed and are dead;
And what if excess of love
Bewildered them till they died?
I write it out in a verse --
MacDonagh and MacBride
And Connolly and Pearse
Now and in time to be,
Wherever green is worn,
Are changed, changed utterly:
A terrible beauty is born.



For my epitaph: "I could come again!"

Thursday, April 09, 2009


"American Military University

Endless Career Opportunities"

(boasts its Web site)

Special War Money?

Just when we thought it was safe to kvell about Obama, he goes and decides to ask Congress for $83.4 billion in what he calls special war money for operations in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and points as yet to be determined.

$83.4 billion buys a lot of Alka Seltzer!

Out of the Black Site Business

What better way to celebrate the second night of Passover, and the eve of Good Friday, than with Leon Panetta, director of the Central Intelligence Agency's, news that his agency is "no longer" in the black site business, and that all remaining clandestine detention centers will be shut down. The order to close the secret sites comes from the top, President Barack Obama.

Hats off to Obama, too, for his latest speech on nuclear non-proliferation and, especially, for emphasizing that a world without nuclear weapons isn't going to happen anytime soon. Isn't it refreshing to have someone in the White House who doesn't like to lie.

Too bad North Korea leader Kim Jong had other plans for the weekend than to listen to Mr. Obama's press conference, but his rocket test surely didn't come as a surprise to anyone. While a former president, George W. Bush, was busy chasing Saddam Hussein, and introducing Al Qaeda to Iraq, Kim Jong had just enough time to explore those weapons of mass destruction we never did find in Baghdad.

Importantly, too, the Obama administration is making a stunning departure from that of their predecessors in agreeing to join the United Nations, and hold talks with Iran on their nuclear enrichment program. This, combined with Sy Hersh's revelations about Obama's openness to dialogue with Syria, and a sea change from militarism to diplomacy, shows that anyone who thinks foreign policy, for the next four years, will be a rerun of the Bush years is flat out wrong.

Of course, the obvious exception to the Obama administration's emphasis on diplomacy is the egregious escalation of troops in Afghanistan, and the threat of a military cauldron in Pakistan, as well, especially given Pakistan's role in arming the Taliban.

So, when he considers Afghanistan, we are confident that Obama will consider the wise words of another former President, John F. Kennedy, who said: "an error doesn't have to become a mistake unless we refuse to correct it."

It's good to know that this country is no longer in the business of building secret holding cells where detainees are waterboarded and otherwise tortured, but the time has come for the U.S. to get out of the war business altogether, and look to prosper from peace.

By Michael Winship

"Let the Railsplitter Awake!"

By Michael Winship

A number of years ago, when I was writing a public television series for the Smithsonian Institution, I watched a woman in one of the museum's conservation labs, restoring what appeared to be an old top hat.

What's its story, I asked her? Oh, she replied nonchalantly, this is the hat Lincoln wore to Ford's Theater the night he was assassinated.

Actor Sam Waterston, aka District Attorney Jack McCoy on "Law & Order," had an even more visceral experience when he was preparing to play Abraham Lincoln and went to the Library of Congress to research the part.

"This guy took me down and down and down into the bowels of the library, down a long hall... all the way to what felt like the back of the building," Waterston told my colleague Bill Moyers on a special edition of Bill Moyers Journal. There he met a curator who said, "Hold out your hands. These are the contents of Lincoln's pockets on the night he was shot."

Two pairs of glasses, a watch fob, a pocketknife, a handkerchief, monogrammed, "A. Lincoln" by his wife, Mary Todd. A wallet, inside of which were newspaper clippings and a Confederate five-dollar bill - a souvenir, perhaps, of the visit Lincoln had made to the conquered city of Richmond, Virginia, just a few days earlier.

"It was a galvanizing and very thrilling thing," Waterston said. Proximity to such telling totems of America's story, as sacred in their own way as the remains of a saint in a cathedral reliquary, make Lincoln human - as have Waterston's various portrayals of the our greatest President on stage and television.

So, too, the words of writers who have made Lincoln an enduring literary subject from his own lifetime right up to today, written about, it's said, more than any other historic personage with the exception of Jesus Christ.

Lincoln was assassinated 144 years ago on Good Friday, and so Waterston is appearing on Bill Moyers Journal this week (premiering on PBS on Friday, April 10 at 9 pm ET - check local listings ) to read excerpts reflecting the ways in which Lincoln's image has evolved and has been interpreted by great American writers - from Nathaniel Hawthorne and Walt Whitman to Delmore Schwartz and Allen Ginsberg.

Featured with Waterston is historian Harold Holzer, who has written, co-written or edited 22 books about Lincoln, including "The Lincoln Anthology," published by the Library of America, from which Waterston's readings were chosen. "Lincoln did nothing less than revolutionize the American political vocabulary," Holzer said. "But no political leader, no political writer, not even Lincoln, can define his own place in the landscape of memory. That judgment belongs to those who portray the man in life, massage his biography into metaphor, and refine its meaning over what Lincoln called 'all distances of time and space.'"

Lincoln himself said, "Writing - the art of communicating thoughts to the mind, through the eye - is the great invention of the world... Great, very great in enabling us to converse with the dead, the absent, and the unborn, at all distances of time and of space." Some of the authors represented actually met him - Hawthorne, for example, a Democrat who nonetheless was won over by Lincoln's "native sense" despite a "physiognomy as coarse a one as you would meet anywhere in the length and breadth of the States."

"I liked this sallow, queer, sagacious visage," he wrote, "... and, for my small share in the matter, would as lief have Uncle Abe for a ruler as any man whom it would have been practicable to put in his place."

Whitman, Whittier and Melville worshipped him in death; African-American leader Frederick Douglass met and admired him, but kept a slight, although respectful distance, one generated by centuries of enslavement and doubt. "Viewed from the genuine abolition ground, Mr. Lincoln seemed tardy, cold, dull and indifferent," he declared 11 years after Lincoln's passing. "Only by measuring him by the sentiment of his country, a sentiment he was bound as a statesman to consult, he was swift, zealous, radical and determined."

Forty-six years later, in 1922, civil rights activist W.E.B. Dubois said, "Abraham Lincoln was perhaps the greatest figure of the nineteenth century... the most human and loveable. And I love him not because he was perfect but because he was not and yet, triumphed. The world is full of illegitimate children. The world is full of folk whose taste was educated in the gutter. The world is full of people born hating and despising their fellows. To these I love to say: See this man. He was one of you and yet he became Abraham Lincoln."

Twentieth century poet Allen Ginsberg saw Lincoln through a "radical lens," Holzer said. "A rallying cry for, not an impediment to, revolutionary change... an urgently needed inspiration."

"Let the Railsplitter Awake!" Ginsberg cried, in his "Homage to Neruda:"

"Let Abraham come back, let his old yeast
rise in green and gold earth of Illinois,
and lift the axe in his city
against the new slave makers
against their slave whips
against the venom of the print houses
against all the bloodsoaked
merchandise they wanna sell."

And so it goes, right up through Barack Obama's evocation of Lincoln's memory in speeches and at his own inauguration. "Lincoln is an inspiration to Barack Obama," Harold Holzer told Bill Moyers. "[He] brings us nearer to the completion of the unfinished work that Lincoln spoke about at Gettysburg. His election is a validation of that dream, even if it took 150 years to get to this point...

"Two little girls, Sasha and Malia Obama, who are the descendents, through their mother's side, of enslaved people, might this very evening be playing in the Lincoln bedroom, which was Lincoln's office, and the room where he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. That is the apex of the arc of history since the Civil War."

courtesy of Bill Moyers Journal, and Public Affairs Television.

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program

Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.

Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at .

Wednesday, April 08, 2009


Stop the war, I want to get off!

Any numbers people out there?

Okay, I'm not a numbers person, so can anybody tell me how many "surprise" visits to Iraq have been made by commanders-in-chief, or other elected officials, and is anything different about the one President Obama just made?

The media has indeed become the massage.


All that Twitters isn't gold

Tuesday, April 07, 2009

Lower Manhattan

I had a dream

I left

my teeth in

lower Manhattan

and didn’t realize it until

I reached

the upper east side.

from Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Changing the Rules of the Blame Game

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

A cartoon in the Sunday comics shows that mustachioed fellow with monocle and top hat from the Monopoly game - "Rich Uncle Pennybags," he used to be called - standing along the roadside, destitute, holding a sign: "Will blame poor people for food."

Time to move the blame to where it really belongs. That means no more coddling banks with bailout billions marked "secret." no more allowing their executives lavish bonuses and new corporate jets as if they've won the megalottery and not sent the economy down the tubes. And no more apostles of Wall Street calling the shots.

Which brings us to Larry Summers. Over the weekend, the White House released financial disclosure reports revealing that Summers, director of the National Economic Council, received $5.2 million last year working for a $30 billion hedge fund. He made another $2.7 million in lecture fees, including cash from such recent beneficiaries of taxpayer generosity as Citigroup, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. The now defunct financial services giant Lehman Brothers handsomely purchased his pearls of wisdom, too.

Reading stories about Summers and Wall Street you realize the man was intoxicated by the exotic witches' brew of derivatives and other financial legerdemain that got us into such a fine mess in the first place. Yet here he is, serving as gatekeeper of the information and analysis going to President Obama on the current collapse.

We have to wonder, when the President asks, "Larry, who did this to us?" is he going to name names of old friends and benefactors? Knowing he most likely will be looking for his old desk back once he leaves the White House, is he going to be tough on the very system of lucrative largesse that he helped create in his earlier incarnation as a de-regulating Treasury Secretary? ("Larry?" "Yes, Mr. President?" "Who the hell recommended repealing the Glass-Steagall Act back in the 90s and opened the floodgates to all this greed?" "Uh, excuse me, Mr. President, I think Bob Rubin's calling me.")

That imaginary conversation came to mind last week as we watched President Obama's joint press conference with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown. When a reporter asked Obama who is to blame for the financial crisis, our usually eloquent and knowledgeable President responded with a rambling and ineffectual answer. With Larry Summers guarding his inbox, it's hardly surprising he's not getting the whole story.

If only someone with nothing to lose would remind the President of that old story - perhaps apocryphal but containing a powerful truth - of the Great Wall of China. Four thousand miles long and 25 feet tall. Intended to be too high to climb over, too thick to break through, and too long to go around. Yet in its first century of the wall's existence, China was successfully breached three times by invaders who didn't have to break through, climb over, or go around. They simply were waved through the gates by obliging watchmen. The Chinese knew their wall very well. It was the gatekeepers they didn't know.

Shifting the blame for the financial crisis to where it belongs also means no more playacting in round after round of congressional hearings devoted more to posturing and false contrition than to truth. We need real hearings, conducted by experienced and fiercely independent counsel asking the tough questions, or an official commission with subpoena power that can generate evidence leading, if warranted, to trials and convictions - and this time Rich Uncle Pennybags shouldn't have safely tucked away in his vest pocket a "Get Out of Jail Free" card.

So far, the only one in the clink is Bernie Madoff and he was "a piker" compared to the bankers who peddled toxic assets like unverified "liars' loan" mortgages as Triple-A quality goods. So says Bill Black, and he should know. During the savings and loan scandal in the 1980s, Black, who teaches economics and law at the University of Missouri, Kansas City, was the federal regulator who accused then-House Speaker Jim Wright and five US Senators, including John Glenn and John McCain, of doing favors for the S&L's in exchange for campaign contributions and other perks. They got off with a wrist slap but Black and others successfully led investigations that resulted in convictions and re-regulation of the savings and loan industry.

Bill Black wrote a book about his experiences with a title that fits today as well as it did when he published it four years ago - "The Best Way to Rob a Bank Is to Own One." On last Friday night's edition of Bill Moyers Journal, he said the current economic and financial meltdown is driven by fraud and banks that got away with it, in part, because of government deregulation under prior Republican and Democratic administrations.

"Now we know what happens when you destroy regulation," Black said. "You get the biggest financial calamity for anybody under the age of 80."

What's more, the government ignored warnings and existing legislation to stop it before the current crisis got worse. "They didn't even begin to investigate the major lenders until the market had actually collapsed, which is completely contrary to what we did successfully in the savings and loan crisis," Black said. "Even while the institutions were reporting they were the most profitable savings and loans in America, we knew they were frauds. And we were moving to close them down."

There was advance warning of the current collapse. Black says that the FBI blew the whistle; in September 2004, "there was an epidemic of mortgage fraud, that if it was allowed to continue it would produce a crisis at least as large as the Savings and Loan debacle."

But after 9/11, "The Justice Department transfers 500 white-collar specialists in the FBI to national terrorism. Well, we can all understand that. But then, the Bush administration refused to replace the missing 500 agents." So today, despite a crisis a hundred times worse than the Savings and Loan scandal, "there are one-fifth as many FBI agents" assigned to bank fraud.

Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner "is covering up," Black said. "Just like Paulson did before him. Geithner is publicly saying that it's going to take $2 trillion - a trillion is a thousand billion - $2 trillion taxpayer dollars to deal with this problem. But they're allowing all the banks to report that they're not only solvent, but fully capitalized. Both statements can't be true. It can't be that they need $2 trillion, because they have massive losses, and that they're fine...

"They're scared to death of a collapse. They're afraid that if they admit the truth, that many of the large banks are insolvent, they think Americans are a bunch of cowards, and that we'll run screaming to the exits... And it's foolishness, all right?

"Now, it may be worse than that. You can impute more cynical motives. But I think they are sincerely just panicked about, 'We just can't let the big banks fail.' That's wrong."

Black asked, "Why would we keep CEO's and CFO's and other senior officers that caused the problems? That's nuts... We're hiding the losses instead of trying to find out the real losses? Stop that... Because you need good information to make good decisions... Follow what works instead of what's failed. Start appointing people who have records of success instead of records of failure... There are lots of things we can do. Even today, as late as it is. Even though we've had a terrible start to the [Obama] administration. They could change, and they could change within weeks."

He called for a 21st century version of the Pecora Commission, referring to hearings that sought the causes of the Great Depression, held during the 1930's by the US Senate Committee on Banking and Currency.

Ferdinand Pecora was the committee's chief counsel and interrogator, a Sicilian émigré who was a progressive devotee of trust busting Teddy Roosevelt and a former Manhattan assistant district attorney who successfully helped shut down more than a hundred Wall Street "bucket shops" selling bogus securities and commodity futures. He was relentless in his cross-examination of financial executives, including J.P. Morgan himself.

Pecora's investigation uncovered a variety of Wall Street calumnies - among them Morgan's "preferred list" of government and political insiders, including former President Coolidge and a Supreme Court justice, who were offered big discounts on stock deals. The hearings led to passage of the Securities Act of 1933 and the Securities Exchange Act of 1934.

In the preface to his 1939 memoir, "Wall Street under Oath," Ferdinand Pecora told the story of his investigation and described an attitude amongst the Rich Uncle Pennybags of the financial world that will sound familiar to Bill Black and those who seek out the guilty today.

"That its leaders are eminently fitted to guide our nation, and that they would make a much better job of it than any other body of men, Wall Street does not for a moment doubt," Pecora wrote. "Indeed, if you now hearken to the Oracles of The Street, you will hear now and then that the money-changers have been much maligned.

You will be told that a whole group of high-minded men, innocent of social or economic wrongdoing, were expelled from the temple because of the excesses of a few. You will be assured that they had nothing to do with the misfortunes that overtook the country in 1929-1933; that they were simply scapegoats, sacrificed on the altar of unreasoning public opinion to satisfy the wrath of a howling mob...."

According to, at his March 27 White House meeting with the nation's top bankers, President Obama heard similar arguments and interrupted, saying, "Be careful how you make those statements, gentlemen. The public isn't buying that.... My administration is the only thing between you and the pitchforks."
Stand aside, Mr. President, and let us prod with our pitchforks to get at the facts.

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS. Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at

Monday, April 06, 2009

North Korea

Somebody ought to tell Kim Jong-Il that's a rocket not a blow dryer!

In a spirited debate

I sit in
a spirited
while you
swear the
sun won’t come up

by jayne lyn stahl


Sunday, April 05, 2009

Hat's Off

Hats off to President Obama for his speech today on nuclear non-proliferation, and aiming for a nuke-free world. And, especially, for emphasizing that a world without nuclear weapons isn't going to happen anytime soon. Isn't it refreshing to have someone in the White House who doesn't like to lie.

Too bad North Korea leader Kim Jong had other plans for the weekend than to listen to Mr. Obama's speech, but this latest rocket test surely didn't come as a surprise to anyone. While a former president, George W. Bush, was busy chasing Saddam Hussein, and introducing Al Qaeda to Iraq, Kim Jong had just enough time to explore those weapons of mass destruction we never did find in Baghdad.


Vertigo is not curable, but it is reversible.


Monogamy is God's best-kept secret.

Allen Ginsberg: "Gone Gone Gone"

Today marks twelve years since Allen passed, and to paraphrase William Blake's epitaph:

"Allen Ginsberg born June 3, 1926, and died many times since."

Below is a poem written by A.G. on November 10, 1996 which appears in his last collection "Death & Fame Last Poems 1993-1997"

Gone Gone Gone

"The wan moon is sinking under the white wave and time is sinking with me. O!"
- Robert Burns

yes it's gone gone gone
gone gone away
yes it's gone gone gone
gone gone away
yes it's gone gone gone
gone gone away
yes it's gone gone gone
gone gone away
gone gone gone
won't be back today
gone gone gone
just like yesterday
gone gone gone
isn't any more
gone to the other shore
gone gone gone
it wasn't here to stay
yes it's gone gone gone
all gone out to play
yes it's gone gone gone
until another day
no one here to pray
gone gone gone
yak your life away
no promise to betray
gone gone gone
somebody else will pay
the national debt no way
gone gone gone
your furniture layaway
plans gone astray
gone gone gone
made hay
gone gone gone
Sunk in Baiae's Bay
yes it's gone gone gone
wallet and all you say
gone gone gone
as you can waive your pay
yes it's gone gone gone
gone last Saturday
yes it's gone gone gone
tomorrow's another day
gone gone gone
bald & old & gay
gone gone gone
turned old and gray
yes it's gone gone gone
whitebeard & cold
yes it's gone gone gone
cashmere scarf & gold
yes it's gone gone gone
warp & woof & wold
yes it's gone gone gone
gone far far away
to the home of the brave
down into the grave
yes it's gone gone gone
moon beneath the wave
yes it's gone gone gone
so I end this song
yes this song is gone
gone to kick the gong
yes it's gone gone gone
No more right & wrong
yes it's gone gone gone
gone gone away.

By Allen Ginsberg

November 10, 1996

War -- that racket

From July, 1937, and Major General Smedley D. Butler:

sound familiar?

Saturday, April 04, 2009

North Korea just launched a rocket

Why does this stuff always have to happen on a Friday night!

Bailing Out the Neo-Cons

We're now witnessing the neo-carnage that has resulted from neo-cons Newt Gingrich, and his "Contract on America," and Ronald Reagan's buyout by Barry Goldwater conservative Republicans.

It would be wise not to forget the Goldwater factor which, since the presidential race in 1964 in which the former Arizona senator suffered seismic defeat to LBJ, has been among the greatest disparities not merely in ideology, but in socioeconomic disenfranchisement.

Forty-five years ago, when Goldwater lost handily to LBJ, a president whose social programs were not unlike those of our current president, Goldwater supporters then rallied behind Ronald Reagan in his presidential bid in 1981.

Though Reagan was a liberal Democrat, in his youth, he took the Goldwater bait because he needed not just the numbers, but the demographics, to get reelected. While it may have appeared that Ronald Reagan went to the same country club as Goldwater, Reagan was not a Goldwater Republican. He was just doing what he had to do to keep his power base.

And, ultimately, it was Reagan who kept the neo-conservative movement in America alive and kicking such that a Texan oil baron, George H.W. Bush, was able to become president, in 1989, and the neo-conservatives were able to accomplish a bloodless coup of Congress in 1994.

Ironically, it was his appointment of Dan Quayle and pandering to the radical right, more than the faltering economy, that lost Bush the presidency, and surprise, surprise, who did he son, heir-apparent to the throne, claim as his mentor---Barry Goldwater.

Importantly, too, while Goldwater himself sought to distance himself from the radical right, the Frankenstein he created, and call himself a social "libertarian," the neo-con monster was already out of the bag.

You'll recall, too that Barry Goldwater was a staunch supporter of Richard Nixon in his bid for the White House against John F. Kennedy in 1960.

As a vocal opponent of civil rights legislation, he was a strong opponent of the policies of Lyndon B. Johnson, and his "Great Society." Goldwater was a hawk, and favored a strong build-up in Vietnam.

A devout, and virulent, anti-Communist, Goldwalter once said that he would be willing to use nuclear weapons to combat communist insurgency in Vietnam.

But, what does the Goldwater factor have to do with Barack Obama? Well, let's not forget that Obama's nemesis, in the 2008 presidential race, was Arizona senator John McCain who succeeded Barry Goldwater in the Arizona senate. As a big supporter of the surge in Iraq, it's not hard to see how McCain's militarism descends from his predecessor.

And, more to the point as 2012 quickly approaches, the platform on which Sarah Palin ran, as well as other up and coming Republicans, is one that would make Barry Goldwater lick his proverbial chops.

So, while searching for the center, President Obama might take heed of what was George H.W. Bush's Waterloo, an attempt to please Goldwater conservatives. Much of the carnage, and misdirected anger, we're witnessing now, both here and abroad, arises from the recognition that the American dream has been driven to the brink of bankruptcy not just by the bankers, but by those who would have us believe that they are doing the Lord's work.

Priority number one for our new president: distance yourself from the Goldwater Republicans.

Friday, April 03, 2009

What would JFK say to Obama?

In a speech he gave at the Waldorf Astoria nearly 48 years ago to the day, on April 27, 1961, President John Fitzgerald Kennedy said: "A wise man once said, an error doesn't become a mistake until you refuse to correct it."

One can't help but think that, if given the chance, he would advise President Barack Obama to remember this when considering foreign policy.

More from Michael Winship

Miss Universe's Excellent Adventure

By Michael Winship

"A crown is merely a hat that lets the rain in." That was Frederick the Great of Prussia's take on the pain of being royalty. Just ask Queen Elizabeth II and Michelle Obama. When they briefly touched one another at Buckingham Palace Thursday, a moment of contact that was more gentle pat than hug, you would have thought the First Lady had challenged Her Royal Highness to pistols at 20 paces. What a breach
of protocol!

What a world. Luckily, Buckingham Palace jumped into the breach to announce, "It was a mutual and spontaneous display of affection and appreciation," and besides, the Royal Press Office said, it was at an informal reception - thus convincing the media on both sides of the Atlantic to unclutch their smelling salts.

But if you needed further proof that the Earth is off its axis, spinning toward the sun, there came the news that another crowned head, Miss Universe, had paid a visit to Guantanamo Bay. Yes, courtesy of the USO, Venezuela's Dyanna Mendoza hit the beach for her personal remake of "Baywatch," visiting the no doubt startled troops there and touring the Gitmo facilities.

Because there apparently is a higher power with a sardonic sense of humor - thank you! - Ms. Mendoza kept an Internet diary in which she told the world about boat rides and a trip to a beach covered with bits of colored glass.

"It was a loooot of fun!" she wrote. "We ... met the Military dogs, and they did a very nice demonstration of their skills... We visited the Detainees camps and we saw the jails, where they shower, how they recreate themselves with movies, classes of art, book... I didn't want to leave, it was such a relaxing place, so calm and beautiful."

OK, Miss Universe, no doubt a more permanent stay could be arranged,your innocence notwithstanding. But you just might have to give up the swimwear competition two-piece for something in an orange jumpsuit.

I wish I was making this up. So does the Miss Universe organization, owned by General Electric's NBC Universal and Miss Congeniality himself, Donald Trump. They quickly took down Mendoza's blog entry and replaced it with an official statement supporting our armed forces.

Smooth move, considering the news that keeps breaking about how the detainees at Guantanamo were treated by the Bush-Cheney team.

Mark Danner and The New York Review of Books recently obtained a confidential report from the International Committee of the Red Cross describing the treatment of many detainees as torture. In detail, the report describes how Abu Zubaida, whom President Bush proclaimed was al Qaeda's chief of operations, was waterboarded and often confined to a coffin-like black box (Of the 92 video tapes the CIA recently admitted they destroyed, all but two were of Zubaida's detention and

He told the Red Cross, "I was taken out of my cell and one of the interrogators wrapped a towel around my neck; they then used it to swing me around and smash me repeatedly against the hard walls of the room." And for what? The front page of last Sunday's Washington Post reports that in all probability Zubaida was not the high powered operative US intelligence thought he was and that, quote, "Not a single significant plot was foiled as a result of Abu Zubaida's tortured confessions."

In the words of the Post's Dan Froomkin, "The most charitable interpretation at this point of the decision to torture is that it was a well-intentioned overreaction of people under enormous stress whose only interest was in protecting the people of the United States. But there's always been one big problem with that theory: While torture works on TV, knowledgeable intelligence professionals and trained interrogators know that in the real world, it's actually ineffective and even counterproductive . The only thing it's really good as it getting false confessions."

Some speculate that the real motivation is retribution; the irrational lust to get even that drives us to intentional cruelty.

The Obama administration is declassifying memos and other documents on the detention and interrogation policies adopted after 9/11. Executive orders from the President suspended military commissions at Guantanamo and ordered the prison there closed within a year. On Monday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton confirmed to reporters that the Obama White House has dropped the phrase "war on terror."

But despite that semantic sleight-of-hand, the war goes on, and 241 men remain in the cells of Guantanamo, their stories already becoming forgotten in a world where Miss Universe searches the sandy beach for pieces of pretty glass, awestruck by military dogs and the beautiful sea.

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program
Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS. Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at

Courtesy of Bill Moyers Journal, and Public Affairs Television

the honor system

Honor is a prerequisite for the honor system.

Thursday, April 02, 2009

More to it than meets the I-Pod

If you've been following cable news, over the past few days, you're not likely to have missed the Obamas at Buckingham Palace, and constant footage of Michelle Obama's arm around the Queen's waist, an act seen as so egregious it can only be eclipsed by that of George W. Bush rubbing German Prime Minister Angela Merkel's back.

If you've been watching the circus inside the palace, and the bloodshed outside only to be upstaged by the Chicago Democratic Convention of 1968, you know that the gift du jour the Obamas brought with them for the Queen was an I-Pod and, of course, you also know that she already has one.

England has apparently become our equal not merely when it comes to user-friendly technology, but in terms of its draconian use of law enforcement to stifle dissent, and the suspension of civil liberties. Who'd have thought Trafalgar Square would someday resemble Tiananmen Square. A member of Parliament was detained during a demonstration, and treated to a lock down equal to everyone else who could be seen having their way with bank windows. Looks like we exported democracy to Great Britain, anyway.

Speaking of which, the constant media reminders that President Obama is "the most powerful man in the world" kind of makes one wonder whether the founding fathers would agree that we left the monarchy behind, or if the modern unitary executive isn't some kinder, gentler version.

While the Obamas were busy doing Europe, incredibly enough, back home, renowned attorneys for Binyam Mohamed, a Gitmo detainee, face the real, and wrenching, possibility of being sentenced to six months in jail for merely writing a letter to Obama in which they describe how their client was tortured by interrogators.

As The Guardian reports, the Defense Department is still up to its old tricks of eavesdropping on phone calls, and e-mails between lawyers and detainees, at the naval base in cuba, and are doing all they can to suppress any proof of malfeasance. All the lawyers asked was that Obama release evidence of their client's physical, and psychological, abuse into the public arena.

The Pentagon's "privilege team" took the liberty of redacting everything but the subject line in the letter. The chief lawyer, Stafford Smith, wrote: "You, as commander in chief, are being denied access to material that would help prove that crimes have been committed by US personnel. This decision is being made by the very people who you command."

So, while broadcast news brings you streaming images of the President's long black limousine, and Mrs. Obama's latest outfit, ad nauseum, as well as constant reminders of Jackie, Jack, and Camelot, consider this:

We are no closer to trimming the Pentagon budget so that $10 billion a month doesn't go to warfare. While we may be spending less on Iraq, you can bet that the remainder will go to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and/or Iran, and Syria.

We are no closer to ensuring that every man, woman, and child in America has some kind of catastrophic health coverage.

And, while President Obama had a jovial photo op with his Russian counterpart, the Chinese premier vowed that China would be the first to mass produce electric cars.

In the streets of London, Dublin, Paris, and even, yes, even in Los Angeles, people are mad as hell at all the bank rubs coming from the chief executives of the G 20.

Nobody feels any safer in the board rooms of Tokyo, Toronto, Hong Kong, and New York, and no one believes that greed can be bailed out. No rational person actually believes that the USA Patriot Act has anything to do with patriotism.

But, how about this? How about an ex-Patriate Act? They have the right idea in Spain. Instead of presenting Buckingham Palace with an I-Pod, how about presenting them with accountability before they present us with the summons for the "enhanced alternative" interrogation methods performed by U.S. interrogators on British subjects.

Given that this administration is no more willing to eradicate extraordinary rendition than its predecessor, how about rendering all those named as war criminals in the Spanish indictment starting with Mr. Cheney, Mr. Gonzales, and Mr. Rumsfeld?

That's right; never happen. We'd sooner find the Hague on Mars than Mr. Gonzales behind bars. These days, accountability is something that we strive for like monogamy.

This will be an important summit if the President is willing to listen, and process when Europe calls for a global regulator, they're not just talking about the financial markets. The banks have been gorging themselves on the entrails of earnings, and lifelong dreams, of ordinary working people just as the lords of the manor feasted on the labor of serfs.

It is time for Mr. Obama to prove that "change" isn't the longest four letter word in the English language.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Leahy backs down...

Reportedly, Senator Patrick Leahy who pledged to go after the Bush regime outlaws, and demand accountability for what can only be called, euphemistically, their constitutional revisionism has backed down.

An aide who works closely with the Vermont senator says that concerns about the economy must now take center stage.

As expected, a hyperactive defense department and a same-old, same-old approach to foreign policy will hide behind the Treasury's skirt.

Quote of the Day

comes courtesy of Reuters, and is a Taliban spokesman's response to Obama's latest plan to reach out to the "moderate" Taliban:

"They have to go and find the moderate Taliban, their leader and speak to them. This is a lunatic idea," Mujahid said by telephone from an unknown location."

Question of the day: if the Taliban is organized enough to have a "spokesman," why wasn't the holy trinity of Bush, Rumsfeld, and Cheney able to defeat them?