Happy 2nd of February. For those who give a crap, out in Western Pennsylvania, the official weather rodent Punxsatawney Phil failed to see his shadow and predicted an early spring; of course, he is correct on these calls less than half the time, making him less effective than a coin flip. Or a typical member of the American media.
Steady as she goes here at Stately Dog Manor. I do not seem to be making much progress on the athletic goals; I will blame the polar vortex (we actually had a number of insanely cold episodes this January, including for the annual protest near the White House commemorating the 17th anniversary of GTMO's opening and ongoing operation this year.) As has become an annual tradition, Andy visited with us for his stateside sojourn, and we are beginning to think that, aside from the "Groundhog Day" aspect to not only his visit but to GTMO and the USA's now eternal war on everyone, there is now also a "Same Time Next Year" aspect to our approach to the whole damned thing. Things were a little more upbeat this year because of the Democratic win in the House, but guardedly optimistic at best nonetheless.
Anyway, we are hopeful we will see Andy before next January when, we fear, we will be noting the 18th awful anniversary, even as our nation expands its inhumanity at our Southern border and everywhere else. I should note that I am, at least, making some progress on one of my literary projects (I will let you guess at which one), but I am hopeful that perhaps even by the end of February, I will have something to report.
In the meantime, the absurd "partial government shutdown" ended exactly when I predicted it would, i.e., the very moment that rich people were inconvenienced. This occurred when enough air traffic controllers were finally tired of not being paid, causing flight reductions in the Northeast, particularly at New York's Laguardia airport. Within hours, the shutdown was over (including law passed by both houses of Congress and signed by the Orange Ogre).
Meanwhile, our republic continues on the road to perdition, as climate change is worse than forecast (while large parts of the USA continue to deny it even exists as it is happening in front of them) and for good measure, the USA has just withdrawn from an important anti-nuclear treaty, rather than try to secure compliance, because we are in the throes of psychotics like Donald Trump and John Bolton, but, but... Hillary's emails.
I will end by noting that I continue to visit a gentleman held in our "hospitality" in a privately run immigration detention facility in New Jersey, and will continue to do so until he is out of there one way or another. Someone always has it worse in this country (although he is being housed and fed, albeit... in jail). Best we can do is try to be kind to others. A lumine. As Henry James put it, 'Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.'
In the (OMG) over 17 years of this blog, I am not sure I've posted new year's resolutions, but when SNL's Jane Curtin resolves to 'make sure the Republican Party dies," I am happy to make an exception!
I was going to try to take a moment of solipsism and post some athletic goals (as of today, I weighed in at a not svelte 187.4... or was it .6? lbs.. The goal by the end of the year is to set (at least!!!) one or more records in this category of lightweight rowing. , while advancing my 54 (so far) marathons including 17 consecutive at the NYC Marathon. Maybe I'll run a Boston qualifying time along the way (or not). Anyway, assuming this goes (I'll try to provide weigh ins and updates at the start of each month just, you know, to keep it interesting), I would love to write a book about it. Maybe we'll call it "How I lost 31 lbs and set a world record in rowing" or something. Rowing (as a lightweight crew member, no less) was my college sport while at Columbia, albeit just for freshman year. I wasn't particularly adept at it, but... still...
I would also like to see how it goes with three other book concepts for 2019. We'll start, I hope, with some kind of anthology or other format of my GTMO related interviews. As alarmingly little happened on the GTMO front in 2018 (one prisoner was released per an earlier plea deal, but no one else was, although there was litigation brought over the Trump Administration's policy of not releasing anyone ever), including on behalf of Candace's client Razak Ali of Algeria, but by and large, not much. Alas, 2018 was the first year since 2005 in which I did not post any Guantanamo related interviews. Perhaps 2019 will be different? We will see.
I have spent a lot of time in 2018 (and in 2017) helping out my good friend Donald J. Putin (n/k/a Individual One J. Putin) with his Twitter project; he and I would like to co-write a project called "Donald J. Putin On American Exceptionalism." I think you can guess where that will be going.
And the fourth one will be based on my literal cottage industry (the only customer being residents of Stately Dog Manor and guests!!!), of my roof garden and stuff I cook from it, "100 meals cooked with ingredients grown on my Brooklyn roof garden."
All this while, you know, maintaining the responsible sounding day job, my other responsible jobs as husband and father (including cat dad) and trying not to go insane in a nation that has already gone insane. Just want to say that I'll be counting on Jane Curtin to carry out her resolution!!! Happy 2019 everyone!
Happy Festivus, everyone. As I always do, I express my hope that your own Festivus pole has been taken out of the garage, and that you are adequately warmed up for your feats of strength and have duly annotated your list of grievances for airing.
I am not even going to start sharing my own this year. They are likely similar to your own list of grievances, and presumably start and largely end with the abuser of a certain Twitter account. Honestly.
I have mostly said my piece in earlier posts this year (and given the paucity of posts as I have devoted efforts to helping my friend Donald J. Putin (n/k/a Individual One Putin) on twitter and to trying to assist asylum seekers (who are often held in immigration detention facilities) as well as recent immigrants and, you know, try to hold down my responsible-sounding day job and my duties as husband, father, etc., keep up that marathon streak, assuming my ankle ever recovers so I can climb on to the roof and my urban garden, etc., etc.
That said, we are coming to a lot of "nearing the end" points: the efficacy of American capitalism, the American empire, American democracy, the American dream, the American experiment... do you see a theme? We were, of course, never remotely as good as the internal propaganda inflicted on us suggested that we were, but, you know, we were certainly prosperous and people from everywhere legitimately wanted to come here. Now, of course, the people coming here come from the periphery of our own empire, which has long ceased paying for itself, where they are fleeing death squads meant to prop up local strong men trying to stay in our favor (by helping to maintain the USA-favorable terms by which American business deals with them), at the very moment, of course, that we are trying to keep them out in the parochial interest of that twitter abuser (and his racist supporters). Not that an insane low-wage swing labor force benefits the people here, other than, you know, to perform labor that they won't (usually for reasons of endlessly low wages and awful working conditions) but, you know... COME ON!
Nothing too specific. Media continues to pretend that everything is just fine and will go on exactly as it did before. Even as tens of millions of Americans have been flushed down the toilet of the last recession, losing their homes and jobs and pretty much everything, while Big Finance took over their houses and rented them back to them (at a slight premium), or is holding them vacant on spec. My point is simply that nothing is normal, nothing is good, and it is ending in front of us. Yes, I hope to wake up one morning and hear that President Pelosi has just been sworn in, but I am not holding my breath. See above re: the end of American democracy and the American experiment.
Being the only country on Earth that refuses to provide mandatory paid child-birth leave (completely unfair: Swaziland, Lesotho and Papua new Guinea also don't provide paid maternity leave) honestly, should tell you EVERYTHING, even as more and more states try to ban abortion at the very moment they maximize the cruelty on women (and children). I could go on with other "American exceptionalism," such as being the only country to insist that its citizens owe it tax for income generated anywhere in the world (Eritrea taxes ex-pats too, but at a whopping 2%). Just an "amuse bouche" of ways American exceptionalism FUCKS AMERICANS.
Best country that ever existed, best country that ever existed. Keep saying that or Tinkerbell will die.
OK; obviously, as a citizen of this country who just does not see how the hell to get out of it,and who recognizes that, in my particular circumstances as an American Jew, as a historical matter if nothing else, I am still probably better off here than almost anywhere else in the world, I will just have to continue to fight on to try to improve the place. [I should note that we had gone through over 240 years as a republic until President You Know Who unleashed his racist minions to give America its first bona fide pogrom, directed btw, at HIAS, an organization I happen to volunteer for.] And I can only urge the rest of you to try to do the same: fight on.
The idea of America is worth the trouble (even if the reality... might be something else).
Happy Festivus. This will take quite a feat of strength to hold it together. But together, maybe we can get it done.
First of all, birthday greetings to the Loquacious Pup! She is a little older than this blog, but not as much as you think. She is growing up into quite the young lady.
Last evening, through the group under whose auspices I visit other men held in our nation's hospitable immigration detention facilities, I had the opportunity of transporting a gentleman from an unnamed African country from immigration detention in New Jersey to a transitional housing arrangement in Manhattan. Unsurprisingly, after nearly 8 months in the custody of an ICE contractor, a day or so after winning his asylum case before an immigration judge, he was unceremoniously ushered out a side door of the private jail in a warehouse district near Newark Airport. I was told to have a coat for him, as it was unlikely he had one (and dead certain he wouldn't be provided one). And he was in shirt sleeves in the 30-something degree chill.
And so, we'll call him "R," got his first taste of freedom since his arrival at JFK last April by crossing a dark street, and putting on the coat and hat I provided him and getting in my car. I drove him for his first freedom meal, appropriately enough at a McDonald's (people who regularly visited him told me that he had lost around 6 sizes since his detention). Mostly, he expressed his awe at seeing things live that he had seen on t.v., or otherwise, at the thought that he was suddenly a free man again. (His release had been delayed a day by "paperwork," so he had good reason for suspicion.)
Like most people in immigration custody, he entered legally on a proper visa, but, in his case, was detained at a port of entry on suspicion of desiring to stay here. He requested asylum, and after over 7 months in detention, thanks presumably to excellent pro bono lawyering, obtained it. Most, of course, aren't so lucky. But for that time, this man who had done nothing but escape an African country where he reasonably feared persecution, was the prisoner of our nation for most of this year.
And so, after his quarter pounder and 10-piece McNuggets and fries and a medium Coke, and a brief traffic tie up on the NJ turnpike, we approached the Holland tunnel, where I could point out the N.Y.S. skyline and the Statue of Liberty, which, as I noted in my usual sardonic attempt at wit, he was seeing from behind, which really seemed appropriate given what he had just gone through. I offered to divert to Times Square, but he said he just wanted to get to his next stop, a facility run by a religious order that hosts a lot of refugees and asylum seekers. And so, with the gods of parking karma cooperating with a space across the street, I helped him shlep his bags upstairs (the bags he brought from Africa on what he assumed would be a visit here not involving a long jail stay), and he let his new circumstance sink in. We unsuccessfully tried his wife on the whatsapp application, but left the phone number of where he was staying.
Apparently, others had already donated stuff for him that was waiting, as were several notes from people who would provide him the services necessary to transition to American life as a legally recognized refugee. He noted that it would be very unlikely that he would get much sleep last night, a sentiment I seconded (and btw, I found it very difficult to sleep after this experience either).
The majority of people seeking asylum in the U.S. are, of course, denied it, though not necessarily because they are not entitled to it. It's just a long, painful process, often involving long times in detention. And having an attorney, and a good attorney, makes a huge difference.
In any event, there are still people who believe in this country and what it has to offer. They could teach the rest of us a thing or two.
Well, we are on the eve of election day here in the USA. Will a system rigged in the 18th century for the purpose of preserving slavery do its magic again, and permit unaccountable white supremacists (who managed recently to pull off the first recorded pogrom in American history) to hold control of all levers of government? Just for fun, while the Times and WaPo gangs continue their stenographic duties to warn us of the perils of the migrant caravan of
hardened terrorists carrying smallpox and Klingon bat'leths women and children fleeing violence, because, you know, Trump talks about it, they are distinctly giving much lower key coverage to oh, the arrival of Russian "parliamentarians" experts" to "monitor" the mid-terms here... nothing at all suspicious there.
Meanwhile, my streak continues (in a shade over 6 hours, consistent with my finishes lately and no complaints given the state of my ankle), leaving me in a 21-way tie for 185th on the list of longest active streaks in the New York City Marathon at 17. As far as I can tell, the number of people eligible to keep their streaks going at 17 or more was... 185... out of 185. Apparently, I ain't gettin' off of this train anytime soon. As usual, out on the course (in Williamsburgh, also as usual), I encountered Super Dave Obelkevich, holder of the longest active streak (and longest streak period) at an unbelievable 43 years. Well, it's always good to have things to aspire to.
Go vote tomorrow. And make sure everyone you know does the same. Unless they're going to vote Republican, in which case, please try to prevent them from voting (you know, what Republicans do to Democrats in order to win elections). Lawfully, of course.
That is all.
And so as I come to that day, two score and sixteen years after the Cuban missile crisis on which somehow I was born, a day 15 years after Hillary Clinton was born, and so were other people like Pat Sajak (you see, Hillary was defeated by another game show host in 2016), apparently Seth McFarlane and other people I never heard of.
Still going. Somehow, like me, this blog hangs on, out of the same kind of stubbornness that, God willing, will get me through my 17th consecutive NYC Marathon (and 54th overall at that distance) in 9 days time, and otherwise gets me through life as an upper middle class resident of New York City. Most people have it harder, which is why people who have it even easier than me but still crap on others piss me off. You know who you are.
Strange times. Attempted simultaneous assassinations of two former American Presidents, along with a former vice-president, a former first lady/sec state/senator, a former attorney general, and at least three sitting members of Congress along with two civilians critical of the current regime in power... and mostly, barely a yawn, with the media literally giving credence to right-wing maniacs who, without evidence, shrilly scream "false flag" as if liberals would be clunky enough to try to blow up Robert Fucking DeNiro or to send John Brennan his bomb at the wrong t.v. network.
Anyway, we are really at a remarkable national low, and the fucking GOP will still likely hold the Senate, and do not count me shocked if somehow holds the House too, even as all "norms" have been flushed to pack the courts with right wing hacks, who can make sure that the rich can steal whatever they haven't already stolen from the rest of us. .
Anyway... another year shot to hell.The last year seems like... I don't know... 10? 20? Immense time distortions with an Orange Shithead in the White House... and probably will be for at least another two plus years, which will seem like another... 20? 30? I don't know. I try to lead an expemplary life, volunteering and shit, and you know, trying to do a good person and shit. What else can you do? Try to live the best micro you can. Because for the foreseeable future, the macro seems to be fucked. Although... hope dies last.
Since it was more or less the start of Yom Kippur, the highest of the Jewish High Holidays, and right after a number of family events very close to each other in time, I overlooked the 17th anniversary of the first post on this here blog (way back when, one week after September 11th, when the bucolic air of this part of Brooklyn was still heavy with whatever toxic shit was airborne as a result of the burning "pile" in lower Manhattan, around a mile from here as the crow flies.) Seventeen years on, all members of the household here at Stately Dog Manor appear to be alive and well and in good health, even if this here blog is not as frequently updated (or read) as it might have once been. We lost TD Dad along the way, and a number of others, because, let's face it: 1/6 of a century is a pretty long time, actually.
And what have we learned (other than, dog people should marry dog people and cat people should marry cat people)?
"Don't get me started." It was Mrs. TD who said, on September 11th itself, "well, now lots of people who don't deserve it are going to die." And that was where we started. For months after the event, (which, btw, resulted in, aside from the deaths of a New York City firefighter who was a legal client of mine and a college acquaintance and quite a few close friends and relatives of people I knew, the loss of my own job), during my lengthy commute to Westchester County to my post 9-11 temp job, I tortured myself by reading the New York Times "Portraits of Grief" series, snap obituaries of over 2,000 of the people killed on September 11th, most of whom would not ordinarily get obituaries in the New York Times under any other circumstances.
And we can stop right there, because the last sentence tells me everything I have learned in the last seventeen years. WTF, you say? To be fair, it is a long sentence-- indeed, probably a run-on sentence, of the kind with which this blog is replete. So let me rewind. WTF?
Well, among the elements I mean to incorporate include man's inhumanity to man, which has certainly shown itself a very potent force on so many levels, starting with 9-11 itself and of course, moving on with "the post 9-11 world," mostly driven by the United States itself and its open-ended-never-ending-no-limits "War on Terror," which involved major shooting wars in Afghanistan (still going), Iraq, apparently large parts of Africa, and God knows where, including "black sites," "extraordinary renditions," Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, torture, the total security state featuring universal surveillance of everything and everyone on Earth, our proxy wars in Libya, Syria, Yemen, our efforts to destabilize Brazil, Venezuela and pretty much every country on Earth that doesn't have nuclear weapons. With a fuck of a lot of dead and wounded (including quite a few Americans along the way). And mind you, this is just what the United States has been up to. Other players have also been misbehaving, and right now, something like 60 million people are refugees, obviously the largest number ever (even accounting for World Wars). Just in time for the United States to announce that it will accept the lowest number of refugees... ever.
Of course, all of this happens at the same moment (because, in part, the events are related) to the impacts of climate change, as dramatic shifts in climate and weather pattern lead to insane storms (such as the one currently being "enjoyed" by the Carolinas). The response of the United States to all of this was to elect a curiously-orange-colored circus clown who promised to put his fingers in his ears and say "NYA NYA NYA NYA" loud enough so that Americans stupid enough to vote for him (not quite a majority, but still way too high a number) could enjoy his ravings as he merrily isolated the United States by pulling out of the Paris Climate accord, the Iran nuclear deal, the Trans-Pacific partnership, and, at the urging of his mortgage holders and blackmailers in Moscow, maybe one of these days, NATO and NAFTA.
No, this post isn't about him. It's about the conditions that gave us him. Which takes us back to the emotional games that the New York Times was playing with me and everyone else by presenting snapshots of hundreds and hundreds of people who went to work, or got on a plane that morning and never made it home. BTW, I should note that there is approximately one mass shooting in the United States every day, and American gun deaths exceed 33,000 per year of people who also don't make it home-- but with rare exceptions (such as when victims are journalists or "notable" people), they don't get obituaries in the pages of tne New York Times.
I am not suggesting that life is not full of tragedy; there is a case to be made that it is full of little else. Indeed, despite the United States being the richest society that has ever existed, that wealth is actually in comparatively few hands, and for the most part, something like 4 out of 5 Americans live from paycheck to paycheck, which may be how it is, but is by now means "how it has to be."
So what am I trying to say, other than that the shlubs living paycheck to paycheck ain't making the pages of the Times unless they commit a heinous crime, or die in an event that the powerful want to use to fuck with the populace on an emotional scale like, say, September 11th? Oh yeah... that. And yes, although the entire media (overall, a schlock "entertainment business" that is also responsible for providing us with our "news") I actually kind of do mean to pick on my hometown's "paper of record," because fucking Judith Miler and Michael Gordon and their oh so important role in peddling the Saddam-has-WMDs-bullshit that led to the Iraq war which in turn pretty much probably finished off the future.And I mean very probably the future of humanity as we know it, not just the United States. Sorry to be a downer.
Because, as awful a cliche as it is, the United States was actually the indispensable country, the last, best hope, because, despite our bullshit (such as refusing to acknowledge that we even are an empire, despite our military presence in well over 100 other countries on every continent making us by far the largest empire that ever existed), we actually practiced general tolerance within our borders, actually tried to promote human rights and international order. Seriously: we did these things, albeit a while ago. As I said. 1/6 of a century is a really long time (btw, my friend Candace's client Razak Ali of Algeria has been gratuitously held in an American prison in Guantanamo for just about the last 17 years himself, despite never being charged with a crime, and he never will be charged. Candace has represented him-- and her client al-Ghizzawi, who now thankfully is at home in Libya-- diligently (and dare I say, heroically) over the years, but our legal system has, all too often, not proven up to do anything except the will of the powerful.)
Most of which moral authority Dubya flushed at GTMO, Abu Ghraib and the assorted black sites, my Columbia '83 classmate Barack Obama pretty much ratified by refusing to even investigate the war crimes of his predecessor, and the Orange Clown is mopping up whatever moral authority hasn't already been trashed by his two predecessors (as well, as of course adding "being a dick" to the face of all American policies foreign and domestic). I believe we start with the human soul and move outward. And that is not a pretty picture. Because after that, we get to the insane income and wealth disparities, that just keep getting worse (as a result of deliberate taxation, monetary and regulatory policies), and of course, environmental issues such as the aforementioned climate change, along with attendant storms, loss of arable land, species devastation, population disruption, ocean devastation, etc. I haven't even mentioned anti-biotic resistance, which I think is going to be really important soon, even as we continue to shoot up piggies and cows with said anti-biotics so that we can supply McDonalds cheaply from factory farms, even as that only hastens the day of anti-biotic resistance.
Boy, am I a freaking downer. And yet. And yet. Fast forward (or something) to 2016, when said entertainment-business-masquerading-as-news took it upon itself to tell us who "our leaders" would be. You see, it was our media that decided that a dozen or so Republican clowns would share a stage with the Orange Clown, but he would get to be in the middle and he would get all the interesting questions. And they decided to cover his outrageous statements, and not call him on the fact that virtually every word out of his mouth was a slander or a lie. And then the media decided to cancel the California primary so that Hillary Clinton could defeat Bernie Sanders, because Wall Street and Hollywood could just not live with a self-avowed "socialist". And then, of course, all we heard about until November were "Hillary's emails" and not the fact that a man who had never served in the military or held public office and owed hundreds of millions of dollars to Russian and Chinese banks and had decades of suspicious contacts with organized crime figures, etc.... got a complete pass because, you know, Hillary's emails. And here we are.
Because, you know, "he was good for ratings." Although not so good for political ad buying, a major profit center. But as I said, this post isn't about him.
So what is it about? Candace always reminds me that the late, great Studs Turkel wrote a book called Hope Dies Last. Much as things look, well, crappy, there is hope. And the hope has to be at a micro-level. Because, quite frankly, what we know of the "macro" is in the hands of said media (even though things like this blog allegedly "democratized" media, that is a load of bullshit, as money came in and bought up this media a long time ago, and made sure that cranks like me are on the fringes of everything where they want us... but I digress). For example, the Loquacious Pup is at college now, but, among her studies, devotes considerable time to "good works" of various kinds, such as work at a food pantry over the summer (among whose clients are recent immigrants). I am trying to do good works myself, particularly for those most under the heel of the Orange Clown's jackboots, those trapped in our immigration system. And I help "my good friend" Donald J. Putin with his twitter thing..And, you know, being nice, wherever possible.
And that's what we can do. I will leave the post in the hands of a New York native far more eloquent than me, Henry James: Henry James — 'Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind.'
Step right up and enjoy the September 11th festivities; has it been only 17 years? I'll start with this wonderful "meta-" piece by Brother Dmitry, who asks, among other things, "what is truth?", a peculiarly relevant question concerning the events of September 11th where, for example, we are asked to believe that three skyscrapers were brought down by the crash of two airliners, among numerous other "curiosities" (my favorite still being the recovery of an intact highjacker's passport on the ground after a crash supposedly so hot that it melted an aircraft's black box and steel beams supporting a building of 110 stories causing it to implode). Many such "curiosities" made their way into my hypothetical rant of Zaccarias Moussaoui (who? you don't remember "the 20th highjacker"?)
Interestingly, it is the Jewish Holiday of Rosh Hashanah now, the celebration of the new year, which also marked the first post on this blog 17 years ago (which was a week after Sept. 11th); the cycle of time, the circular nature of our year, coupled with the fact that we age and die and do not get an infinite number of them, always seem to loom over us. Although we have created the myth of "Homeland Security" (not to mention a massive and obscenely expensive bureaucracy called the Department of that), none of us are, or will ever be, "safe" from this fact. We can, of course, make ourselves less safe, as we have been doing consistently since, creating the sort of metaphysical angst that leads to an actual decline in life expectancy at least in some demographics. So much for the myth of progress... on to other myths!
I don't mean to open a debate about what numerous people who were not there that day, unlike me insist actually happened (it is undisputed that large structures were destroyed, aircraft crashed and nearly 3,000 people dead), so much as the certainty in events led to a certainty in assigning blame for it and supposedly in how to thwart future similar events that have led to our longest running war (yes, 17 years on, we are still officially at war in Afghanistan, if for no other purpose, to justify holding (currently) 40 men at Guantanamo Bay, including Candace's client, an Algerian named Saeed Bakhouche, who had the misfortune of staying in the wrong guesthouse and nothing else). And to justify a surveillance state that would have made George Orwell gag. And to justify Cold War levels of military spending (including maintaining garrisons in well over 100, maybe over 150 foreign countries). And so many other aspects of modern life. BTW... for a brilliant meta-take, this from Foreign Polcy, titled simply (and accurately), Al Qaeda Won.
An entire generation has now grown up in the "post-9-11 world," taking completely for granted "the new normal" that seems so dissonant to many of us whose formative years were earlier. This generation includes the Loquacious Pup, who was not quite two years old as of 9-11. It is difficult to tell them that there was a time when you did not have to take your shoes off at airports (or risk cancer from the full-body scanner), or that there was a time when you would not expect all of your internet or telephone communications to be monitored, or have military aircraft fly over football half-time shows (or indeed, have faux patriotism be such a big thing).
Of course, the irony of it all is that it was the pre-9-11 generation who decided to vote for an orange colored Neanderthal to bring us through the logical culmination of where the post-9-11 world was taking us. As George W. Bush determined that international institutions were not going to tell the United States what it was going to do, and got us into the aforementioned war in Afghanistan, and a much bigger one in Iraq, so it seems that a big enough plurality of Americans believed a Russian-sponsored career criminal who promised to "make America great again" and to "put America first." Or at least they hated Hillary Clinton (and Barack Obama) enough not to give a crap about the consequences of same.
Anyway, here we go again.
The Judge who wrote the decision permanently condemning Candace's client is now up for the Supreme Court himself (neither Candace nor I am pleased about that). The Orange Poseur has tossed around the term "fake news" to refer to any news coverage that he believes is insufficiently favorable to himself, but he is on to something nonetheless: how rigorously to treat and assess information to accept into our consciousness is, of course, based on the degree the information supports (or does not support) the story that we have been programmed to believe is "reality." What has happened in the last 30, 40, 50 years or so is that we no longer need to have top-notch, cutting age American workers; machines now do most of the heavy lifting in our economy, our society and in our individual lives (detecting the effects of Alzheimers disease might be harder as the use of GPS devices, for example, prevents people from "forgetting directions," once a sure-fire sign that something was wrong). And so, what is left for our aging population is to "manage it". Technical work could be handled by foreign imports, or mostly by the machines themselves, and actual work... well, there's less of it relative to the population as reflected in labor force participation.
Let me cut to the chase: as a people, we are stupider, and more easily fed bullshit which we more easily digest. Donald Trump is an obvious manifestation of that, to be sure. But then, so is the fact that 17 years on we still treat September 11th as if it were a religious holiday, rather than a still not understood national tragedy that was promptly used to bring on still greater tragedies (which have not finished playing out, even as war on terror still seems to seek out new venues to trot out new excuses to bring American drones, troops and violence). Not to mention violence brought by others in places American action (in the name of "fighting terrorism") has already destabilized. But as I said, a stupider population will be willing to put up with it (especially as fewer and fewer of its actual members will bear the heavy lifting of being the tip of the spear, as it were).
As individuals, all I can suggest is to try to maximize your acts of gratuitous kindness. If enough of us do this, perhaps the overall ethos of nastiness will change, and the powerful might start responding to things differently. I have no particular expectation that this will not be a long and painful thing to develop, but it's all I got. September 11th is as good a time as any to think about this, and bring about the world we would like to have, rather than the one we apparently have.
While the nation amuses itself in today's version of the Neo-P.T. Barnum Circus known as the Trump Administration, specifically trying to guess which "senior official" wrote "the Op Ed" in the NY Times, the latest machinations of Bob Woodward's coming book (i.e. "Trump is a mentally disturbed moron"), it seems that there is a second stolen Supreme Court nomination at issue, that of one Brett Kavanaugh.
I had the privilege, once, of watching Candace argue before a panel on which Judge Kavanaugh was the presiding judge. Prior to that, she moved for his recusal, on the basis of his refusal to disclose the extent he worked on issues concerning Guantanamo detention policies while an official at the Bush White House.
Candace recently wrote a
letter to the Senate Judiciary Committee raising the same concerns.
Your mileage may vary.
Perhaps you, unlike me, are enjoying the circus?
I am pleased to say that Familia TD spent a pleasant (if frenetic) week outside of the jurisdiction of the Trump Administration in the (quite literally) great White North... nay, even further north, where I ran in the 35th Reykjavik Marathon (the plus/minus six hour finishing time consistent with what I've come to expect as a heavier than I'd like to be man in my mid-50's). Mrs. TD and the soon-returning-to-college Loquacious Pup and I all enjoyed some fabulously clean, brisk air and amazingly good food amidst one of the world's most fascinating landscapes (including volcanos and geothermal emanations that often result in... spas!!!)
During the marathon race portion of the adventure, I encountered a pair of runners (in the half portion of the event) dressed in togas, as a god and goddess to be determined. The goddess appears to also be a proprietor of a fascinating web-site.
But after a somewhat stressful time with a low-end rental car that I found difficult to drive (and impossible on all but paved roads, of which Iceland has many, but still many more unpaved roads) at least we got a week of relief from the national circus of a press corps forever waiting with baited breath on the ravings of a huckster and circus ringmaster who, if he is not an outright traitor in service of Russia, maybe even scarier, because then he can only be explained as pathologically stupid (as well as amoral). Hey TD... why can't he be ALL OF THOSE? Well, the evidence certainly supports it.
Alrighty then. I will continue the little I can to provide comfort to those afflicted with our deliberately cruel immigration system, especially those held in detention by it, and to do good deeds in general. And I will check in on my vegetables after a long hiatus (which I understand included rain here in the New York area while we were gone).
I was about to try to get into some news items, and actually stressed myself out as I was typing them... nope. We'll leave it there. Bad enough to be greeted to this country by an endless line just to get through passport control, because. you know, why should our government provide services to anyone except billionaires?
Enjoy the rest of your summer, and don't feed the trolls (especially the orange clown).
Regular readers (thank you, whomever you are... Lord knows I don't post enough to warrant your continued interest, so thanks again! Although feel free to check out my "good friend" Donald J. Putin, who posts dozens of times a day) are aware that among my illustrious college classmates at Columbia University's final all-male class in 1983 were lawyer and failed judicial candidate Miguel Estrada, master of the universe Daniel Loeb, and an obscure fellow named Barack H. Obama, who went on to become the 44th President of the United States. Barack, like me, was a political science major concentrating in international politics, and who did not enter in the class of '83 (he transferred from Occidental College, I entered with the class of '84 and graduated in three years). You say tomato...
Today is Barack's 57th birthday (now a holiday in Illinois!). It's one of those things; since we have stumbled onto the "side B" or the forgotten time-line, it becomes hard to remember that Barack was still President maybe a little more than year and a half ago (eons in Trump time). It is hard not to come to the conclusion that the current President (may it not be too much longer, please God) can only be construed as Barack's legacy. He (Barack) could have arguably pointed to some serious accomplishments, such as being the first Black man to be elected President, or to the massive expansion of the stock prices of private health insurers, or saving the banking system at the expense of financial integrity or accountability of people who should be in jail and so forth (we won't even talk about the drones or the surveillance state or his inability even to close Guantanamo). And I'd rather not talk about the fact that had he not foolishly chosen Hillary Clinton to be his Secretary of State, she would almost certainly be the President of the United States right now, and "Obamacare" would not have effectively been gutted.
No, because I want to talk about the most obvious living legacy of Presidents: the lifetime judges that we are stuck with for years (and sadly these days, decades). I had suggested somewhat tongue in cheek (BUT ONLY PARTIALLY) that Barack could have chosen Maryanne Trump Barry, sister of the current President and herself a federal appeals judge, instead of Merrick Garland, and force the Republicans to block the sister of their own nominee (if they wanted to). Somewhere along the line, my friend Mr. Crabcakes suggested that a woman of color-- to add to the Sonia Sotomayor legacy-- was the way to go (I suggested, perhaps, a judge in New York named Laura Taylor Swain who would have been perfect in every conceivable way, plus I have appeared before Judge Swain and she is a good judge AND REALLY NICE.) So instead, Barack put up Merrick Garland, a 60-something White man, and Dick Turtle McConnell and Chuck Skeletor Grassley pushed him around, and yada yada yada, Jim Comey (YET ANOTHER OBAMA PERSONNEL MISTAKE) with Vladimir Putin's hacking assistance handed the election to Donald Trump, and yada yada yada, Neil Gorsuch (another proud mistake of my college) and quite possibly Brett Kavanaugh (a long story I could tell you some time) may be haunting us for decades.
At the end of the day, I understand "No Drama" Obama didn't want to push things too far, although "No Record" Obama would have been more accurate. Comparisons to the current criminal buffoon will obviously go favorably for Barack, who is neither a criminal nor a buffoon, but Bro, but for your awful personnel choices (and your decision to let your buddy Jon Corzine walk scot free from the clearest grand larceny in history), Hillary is the President and adding to your legacy, instead of, basically, your kind of not really having one (other than America's first White President coming on the heels of the first Black one).
I'm sure things are just fine for you and Michelle and Sasha and Malia (I certainly hope they are), so I'll just leave you to your birthday, Barack.
So it's July 4th. And You Know Who is President of the United States, and doing what he does. Meanwhile, a whole lot of Republican Senators and members of Congress are celebrating it in Moscow, presumably because securing Russian cooperation in their upcoming elections is more important than pitching to voters.
Meanwhile, something like 14,000 new citizens took their oath of citizenship today. At the same oment that the You -Know-Who Administration plans on launching
Space Force a task force devoted to stripping naturalized citizens of their citizenship (read "from NON-WHITES").
And on this 242nd anniversary of a group of elite White men declaring independence from another group of elite White men, a friend whom I have been visiting for some months at one of our nation's involuntary guest facilities, in this case, in New Jersey, was abruptly deported, even before the ink on a decision denying him asylum had time to dry. A fine July 4th he (and his friends) had.
Meanwhile, Candace has a number of things on her blog, including that her client Razak Ali has started his 17th year of indefinite detention, despite never having been charged with, let alone convicted of, a crime or anything else, and that the GTMO project has hit 6,000 days. There is a court hearing coming up next week in D.C. as to a new motion brought by a number of detainees to challenge their endless detention in the face of a President who is not even pretending to consider whether the men are still detainable... and the same government lawyers who have carried on through Bush, Obama and You-Know-Who carry on some more, this time arguing that they lack the facilities to even broadcast proceedings to the men (at GTMO) effected by them. Sigh.
We won't even talk about the fact that just five days ago, Loquacious Pup and I meandered over to Brooklyn's Cadman Plaza for a rally to protest the separation of immigrant families including thousands of small children, which in turn, was part of numerous similar rallies all over the country.
I don't know. Things are not moving in a good direction. Fuck it. Happy Fourth. Fuck Yeah.
For various reasons, I haven't been blogging much since You Know Who took the oath of office, replacing my college classmate Barack. I've also spent a lot of time with my good friend Donald J. Putin, laughing at You Know Who 280 characters at a time.
In our usual theme, Candace observes things are taking a depressing turn as the Pentagon is seeking funding to turn GTMO into an old folks home and hospice, i.e. removing any pretense that the thing will not hold its occupants for the rest of their natural lives. Certainly, You Know Who promised not to release anyone and to "fill up the place with bad dudes." He has only released one man (as a result of the completion of a commissions sentence) and has otherwise kept that awful promise of not releasing anyone (40 left), but so far at least, he hasn't added anyone to the census.
A big reason for this of course is the drone program, a means for the United States intelligence and military services to target "terrorists" or "insurgents" or "enemies" or whatever they would like to call people that are targeted for death at the hands of killer robots operated by remote control. How many have died in the drone program? Kind of hard to say, but it's fairly safe to say, a lot more than the 800 or so men who cycled through Guantanamo over the years.
It had seemed that just as declaring someone an enemy could justify holding them in a dungeon for life, that it could also justify targeting them for death. A prior litigation brought by the family of Yemeni-American dual national Anwar al-Awlaki was thrown out by the courts before it got anywhere (the court finding that al-Awlaki's family and the ACLUlacked standing to bring it, among other issues).
Fast forward to today, where U.S. District Court Judge Rosemary Collyer, an appointee of George W. Bush, held that a suit by American citizen Bilal Kareem, could proceed, finding that, as an American citizen (wait for it) he is entitled to due process of law before the government targets him for death. Judge Collyer did dismiss the complaint of former Al Jazeera Islamabad bureau chief Ahmad Zaidan, a Syrian/Pakistani dual national, and dismissed President You Know Who as a defendant, though she left, among others, the CIA and DOD as defendants.
It is a significant restriction on governmental power, at least as it has been practiced under the last three presidents, to restrict the government's right to liquidate enemies of the state even when U.S. citizens. This possible chink in the armor of the unitary executive absolute war powers to kill us all at the whim of government officials is pretty, pretty big, all things told.
What to make of the President (sigh) and his decision to abruptly withdraw from the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action better known as the Iran nuclear deal? The obvious reason, and frankly, not to be taken too lightly for a "leader" whose views of the world appear to be shaped solely by comic books and their cable news equivalent on Fox, is that he wanted to just un-do everything Barack Obama did, because, well, Trump is like that. A narrow-minded racist asshole. All true, but...
Of course, there is the simple geo-political reality that there is an Israel/Saudi axis of power developing in the Middle East whose principal interest seems to be checking Iranian power, damn all other interests (such as millions of displaced and injured and hundreds of thousands killed in Yemen, Syria and perhaps points beyond), with the United States supporting that axis, Russia supporting Syria, with Iran also notionally supporting Syria and opposing Saudi Arabia (at least sixteen different powers have apparently bombed Syria since that shit show started.) And of course, Yemen and Syrian refugees are subject to the Trump travel ban (duly blessed by the U.S. Supreme Court). This appears to be the ultimate proxy war situation as the great powers (China is notionally on the side of Syria and Iran, though very quietly, with the European powers such as Britain and France notionally on the American/Israeli/Saudi side with NATO member Turkey seemingly on its own side) maneuver in the Middle East theater (with the slaughter of the locals a secondary concern).
But then there is this out of the box analysis that suggests that the United States scotched the Iran deal for brazen financial reasons. Simply put, the dollar is essentially close to its death throes, and the prospect of between $100 billion and $200 billion in Iranian dollar assets frozen in the United States under longstanding sanctions being suddenly (or even gradually) returned to Iran as the nuclear deal goes on and then dumped into the financial markets at the very moment that a variety of sources were putting upward pressure on oil prices would throw the American economy into chaos.
We're over 25 years past the publication of Francis Fukuyama's "the End of History," which was a little bit premature, because history kept right on, as Karl Marx, who recently celebrated his 200th birthday (or would have if he weren't dead) said "History repeats itself, first as tragedy and then as farce." Or something. And if, ahem, "President Donald Trump" is not the definition of farce, I clearly got nothing.
What the "all of the above" amount to are variations on good old resource wars; even though Yemen and Syria probably have less oil than anyone else in the Middle East except maybe Israel, they are in the way of other places that have oil and gas and might want, you know, pipelines or ports or shipping lanes to get the hell out of their way and let them make money. And of course, Russia, thought to have the world's largest oil and gas reserves, if still largely unexploited, would rather those pipelines not be built. And the USA needs Saudi oil as a stabilizer. And Iran is an all around pain the ass, with a whole lot of oil in its own right. And... You get the idea.
Which is why this whole thing is such a (literally) bloody freaking mess. Where does it end? Somehow, human kindness has to step up, somewhere. I don't know where; it seems the comically stupid and cruel Donald Trump, the competently authoritarian Vladimir Putin, the genocidally brutal Bashar al-Assad, the pathologically tenacious Bibi Netanyahu, the cunningly vicious crown prince Mohammad bin Salman, and the nasty Supreme Leader Ali Khamanei, are not exactly going to be the best examplars for human niceness. So I'm afraid it's going to have to come from the rest of us, in whatever small or not so small ways we can, to try to help our fellow humans.
It's all I got. Because we are perilously close to something much bigger and nastier than the multiple conflicts that have already killed hundreds of thousands and caused the biggest refugee crisis since World War II.
As those of you intrepid (or curious) enough to keep checking back in here are aware, there was an "account suspended" message up for a couple of weeks, while you pondered "Has the talking dog gone the way of oh so many of those other old blogs?" The answer was "maybe," but is now a resounding "hell no." We have resolved our technical issues, and are back, preaching to our
millions thousands hundreds dozens of loyal readers.
Preaching what? Damned if I know. It's once again way too late in spring coming, and my vegetable garden is not installed (although last week afforded ONE DAY during which I could at least clear last year's overgrowth, though it did not afford a SECOND DAY for seed planting or compost installation). Oh, and we're over 15 months into... you know what For those who think that Mr. Mueller,or perhaps the likely Democratic Congressional majorities, will "save us," just color me highly skeptical. Anyway, enough about the macro: what happens to the affairs of state is likely beyond our individual control, sadly.
What IS within our individual control are our own actions. I am trying to devote myself to "immigrant friendly" activities. I am trying to write letters, visit persons in immigration detention (btw, OUTSTANDING NPR piece on that subject for those interested), and trying to help new arrivals with their English. Baby steps: we can't fix the world. We can certainly hope that the courts help us, and take heart when we see such eents such as our old friend Judge John Bates of Washington. D.C. shoving DACA up you know who's you know what, and the Supreme Court will take up Travel Ban 3 in argument (and the pundits feel it will uphold it..sigh...).
Well... enough about what's beyond our control. Try to find some way that you can help. Little things count-- maybe more than big things, because the big money guns are out there trying to take credit for the big things, while the little things desperately need to get done.
What can I tell you... anyway. FWIW... I'm back...