Friday, October 04, 2013

New Information on Miriam Carey and the Fatal White House and Capitol Chase and Confrontation

There appears to be new information regarding Miriam Carey, the 34-year old woman killed in a confrontation with and subsequent chase from the White House to the Capitol yesterday.


1) She had become psychotic during her post-partum depression--a not unusual concomitant of this syndrome;

2) As a consequence, she had been let go from her work as a dental hygienist in the months preceding yesterday's incident--an indication of the deterioration and impairment of her mental state;

3) She had become delusional--delusions are a feature of psychosis, consisting of false beliefs that are often paranoid and grandiose in nature--believing that messages were being sent to her from Washington through her television.

This is such a common feature of psychosis that it is used in training those who conduct evaluations for the condition.

4) Consequently, in a paranoid and grandiose condition, she went to DC to battle the forces produced by these delusions. This would account for her refusing to stop when confronted, and continuing to drive even after the massive response by multiple DC and Capitol law enforcement personnel.

This is a tragedy  It is one that could have been prevented. However, in understanding yesterday's events, it is critically important to understand her mental state, and the decisions that she was making on that basis, as well as the decisions made by others.

Friday, August 30, 2013

Syria 2: The Dangers of an Internal Mindset and Groupthink

It is all too easy for an Administration to become locked into an internal mindset in such situations, even starting from the best intentions.

Here, we have:

1) A vicious regime, for whom the current murderous occurrences are tantalizing close to attribution--but still unproven;

2) A verbal commitment to act upon these occurrences--with the failure to act having potential consequences upon the dangerous actions of another regime;

3) A strong moral stance by the President and key advisers that adds additional pressure for such action.

However, we also have:

1) A group of rebels who have taken significant and rapidly increasingly losses, who would benefit from precisely such a conclusion;

2) A lack of conclusive evidence, and some evidence that appears to contradict regime responsibility for the acts in East Ghoula;

3) Two regimes that would benefit significantly from action based on conclusions that are found to be incorrect;

4) The now oft-seen and often severe unintended consequences of such action.

It is possible to be seen as strong, responsive, and morally consequential without military action at this point. The absence of conclusive evidence *at this point* is precisely the basis on which to found such a response.

The response should be unambiguous and clear: We are willing to act with clear, great, targeted severity in the face of this more conclusive evidence.

To act before such evidence meets a standard of beyond reasonable doubt is to endanger the very concerns of the President and the Administration at this point, as:

1) It causes the President to appear as if he must act before the facts have been determined--not strong, but acting for fear of being perceived as weak, rather than with the patient strength of acting upon conclusive evidence;

2) It creates the higher probability that the Administration will be proven to be wrong on the basis for such action, making the bar for later, more demonstrably proven and necessary actions significantly higher.

The Administration's message should be unequivocal, unambiguous and clear: 

Should the evidence under review prove that the regime is responsible for the attacks in East Ghoula, there will be a military response sufficient to warn the regime of severe consequences of such acts. 
Any other such acts will receive a similar response.  

However, in the absence of this proof, the Administration must continue to determine its acts regarding this regime with the means, measures and severity commensurate to its other acts against its people and the geopolitical and domestic interests of our nation.

Experiment lets man use his mind to control another person’s movements: Political Implications

From today's WaPo:

Experiment lets man use his mind to control another person’s movements
This has already been demonstrated for 8 years in the famed Cheney-Bush experiment.



Thursday, August 29, 2013


President Obama is considering whether to respond with military action to the chemical attacks in the Jobar, Kafr Batna, Hamoryah, Erbin, Douma, Zamalka, and East Ghouta regions in the suburbs of Damascus.

The President has declared that he would act if the Syrian Government crossed a "Red Line", which included the use of chemical weapons. The failure to act would therefore, be presumed to undermine the credibility of statements of US intention to act.

If the Government is, indeed the perpetrator of the acts, then it can also be inferred that the acts themselves may have been based on the belief that the US would not respond, and that they can act with impunity. 

To fail to respond is therefore to open the door to even more unrestrained action, with just barest veil of cover, in the belief that now, there will be no US response.

If the US were to respond militarily, it would need to do so in a way that is calibrated to sufficiently damage and restrain the Syrian government, without giving such advantage to rebel forces that they will burst from sufficient US leverage and management, given the presence of radical Islamist members among them. Such calibration is an inherent gamble.

More centrally, the moral imperative to act militarily and the nature of these acts rests upon the ability to identify their perpetrator. The information thus far provided is inferential, not conclusive.

Assuming that there is no greater certainty in information that has been kept private:

The essential crucible is thus in the tension between the consequences of the failure to act and the consequences in acting without clarity regarding the perpetrator.

Given that the consequences of military action here will be extremely significant, the standard here should not be a preponderance of the evidence, but certainty beyond a reasonable doubt.

On the basis of the evidence provided, we have not yet met that standard. 

The question thus should become: What is the most severe non-military response that we can provide, that is both diplomatically deft with regard to our explanation for withholding military action at this point, and that has sufficient impact to act proportionately, based upon the preponderance on the evidence. 

With such a response, We do not sacrifice the ability to act militarily should we determine a basis with greater certainty--and our current response should take us just to the place before this line.

Friday, August 23, 2013

Zimmerman Buys a Tactical Shotgun


Three weeks after he was caught speeding in Texas, George Zimmerman visited the Florida headquarters of Kel-Tec, the gun manufacturer that made the PF-9 pistol Zimmerman used to kill Trayvon Martin, where he asked about purchasing a tactical shotgun. 

Presumably part of his law school application. 


The small but crucial element to a democracy is that you need actual democrats in power.

Not those who wish to use democratic processes to pave the way to a totalitarian state. .

Egyptians have realized this.

Is the Purpose of AJA to Provide Greater Free Rein To AJE?

Watching AJE last night--days after the cut off of AJE to the States, and the simultaneous beginning of Al Jazeera America (AJA) on Tuesday.

A new voice on AJE, rather than the nuanced, inferential approach of just days before.

An utterly unsubtle AJE World documentary on Israel.

Essentially, a call to bring the nation to an end.

A combination of arguments: Israelis would be more comfortable in Europe, in any case. They are suffering under the pressure and stress of living in Israel--and would be happier if they returned to Europe.

A bald-faced attempt, obvious, to seduce the young to leave.

No mention of Hamas. Of Hezbollah. Indeed, of those who actually view Israel as a nation. 

Sickening, repetitive, not terribly far from the propaganda of seventy years ago, with a slight but rather obvious gloss.

A rather massive leap from the inferences and knowing tones of the days before AJE was cut off in the United States.

This brings one to wonder:

Was one significant purpose of the establishment of a separate American voice for Al Jazeera to allow it free rein for the full-throated anti-Israel propaganda they have now unleashed, but may have felt unable to fully voice until they cut off America from its sight? 

Repellant. Stands as a modern, slickly produced equivalent of "The Eternal Jew".

I suspect that this is the true voice of AJ on Israel--which it now feels, in burst of relief, free to express.

You should know this. 

Thursday, August 22, 2013

Powell to NC Gov. McCrory: ""You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud"

Speaking directly after Governor Pat McCrory had departed from the stage, Colin Powell lambasted the state's new voting laws, stating that "You can say what you like, but there is no voter fraud", and challenging the Governor: "How can it be widespread and undetected?"

As reported by John Murawski and John Frank in the Raleigh News Observer, Powell, the keynote speaker for the event, was unambiguous in his remarks on the intent and effect of the law:  "What it really says to the minority voters is ... 'We really are sort-of punishing you,'

Powell declared: "I want to see policies that encourage every American to vote, not make it more difficult to vote."

Murawski and Frank reported that McCrory stayed for a portion of Powell's speech, but left before Powell's comments on the State's new voting legislation. 

Read more here:

Read more here:

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The Brilliant Negotiation Work of Antionette Huff

Petula Dvorak, in today's WaPo, notes the work of Antoinette Tuff, bookkeeper at Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga, in preventing another young gunman from committing another mass killing.

Anyone interested in how to prevent such a crime-in-progress should hear her successful effort.

Tuff did absolutely brilliant negotiation work.

She continually reassured him, preventing him from impulsive action.

She treated him with the respect that he was obviously hungry for, keeping his likelihood of narcissistic rage, the most frequent precursor of violence, at bay.

She provided him with the very justifications that he hoped to believe, so that he would not act out with hopeless, suicidal rage.

And she made a connection with the assailant, so that he would trust and follow her persistent, comforting yet effective direction.

Unlike many, who, giving in to their own self-righteous fury, would have played directly into the assailant's all-too-present handbook of suicidal rage.

Better than many FBI hostage negotiations, that have ended far more tragically.

Is America Too Boring For Al Jazeera America?

As AJA begins, one of the immediate glaring contrasts between the new network and AJE is in the content of the stories.

AJE provides its ongoing drama of Egyptian political turmoil, the extraordinary tragedy of the dismantling of the Syrian nation,  Robert Mugabe's endless electoral hold on Zimbabwe. Meanwhile, AJA brings out the usual American diet of stories on education, on trading.  They ae trying to supplement this with stories-both directly from AJE and using their own resources--on the use of chemical weapons in Syria and the rolling back of the clock in Cairo with the release of Mubarak, but  as the lack of comparative edge becomes more apparent, a question begins to arise:

Is America too boring for Al Jazeera?

In all seriousness, what is lacking is an intensity of focus, a vital central question to the stories thus far on AJA such as that which animates the stories on AJE.  Some of this deficit may indeed be due to the lack of comparative tumult in the US compared to the nations of focus on AJE.

But some may also be due to news habits that have become so deeply ingrained in the US, that even on the new AJA thus far, they have been unable to cull out, define, and portray the vital center at the core of their stories thus far.

It's very, very, early. But, like AJE, there is a tone to be found here, that will be new, American, and is yet to be defined.

Dislike of Ted Cruz Unites Both Parties

Rich Lowry sees conspiracy in the remarkable degree of dislike for Ted Cruz:

Henry Adams said that politics is the systematic organization of hatreds. For the left, over the past year it has seemed at times to be the systematic organization of hatred of Ted Cruz.

It is possible that what Lowry has instead seen is the simultaneous expression of independent dislike, rather than something more conspiratorial.

After all, after only two months, both Republican and Democratic legislators found themselves having the same reaction:

"Ted Cruz, Republican of Texas, has only been a U.S. Senator for 43 days, but he's already accomplished the amazing feat of uniting both sides of the aisle. Less than six weeks into his term, a remarkable number of both Republicans and Democrats have come forward to say that they think Cruz is kind of a jerk. In a steady stream of reports from his new colleagues, Cruz's rudeness comes in both public and private, and it's not just the words he uses but also how many of them he uses."

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

AJA "Inside Story" Update

AJA's "Inside Story" coming along nicely on Day 2. Smoother, more interactive and alive ala AJE with the round table format, and they took the risk of leaping fully into a high-level discussion on Egypt, with Laurence Korb, Sahar Aziz, the very well-versed UT law professor, and Ashraf Haggazi from  Harvard.  Libby more comfortable and alive. You can begin to see the firm that the AJA version of the AJE standard will be here.  A good sized leap forward on Day 2.

AJ in America: Note

I'll be following the arrival and growth of Al Jazeera America here. It's a fascinating phenomenon--a Qatari funded network attempting, with considerable thought, consideration, and attention; with the successful, nuanced experience of AJE, and at a moment when news forms are in a state of desperate, ambiguous flux, to break into and influence the consciousness of the American public.  At once a radical gamble, but clearly being executed with patience, resources and experience that characterize the network.

We will watch, consider, and comment closely as what is now barely apparent to most in the US attempts to emerge into the moving American mind.

AJA: One Day, Finding Their Way

Al Jazeera America is on the air, and it is a reasonable base from which to find its way.

The major issue they seem to confront from the start is how to capture the intellectual directness, immediacy, intense and high-quality connection to the issue of the moment along with the broad, nuanced intellectual continuity of Al Jazeera English--a persistent high-bar creation of detailed coverage and examination of focal issues, and breadth of intellectual exploration of international ones--in the context of US News:

What are the focal issues and intense questions, such that a continuity of high-bar coverage can be created?

This is also a work-in-progress given the attempts to thread this with what appears to be a belief that they need to bring sufficient comfort and familiarity to US viewers to allow them to transition from known channels.

Some of this work is integrated, well-conceptualized, and effective--the introduction of news anchors and reporters who both expand the traditional, stereotypical American notions of "diversity", and are clearly rooted and based in America.

Some of it, understandably, will need to grow into a more vital, connected version of its current self.

One of the main issues is, in a nation of considerable breadth of issues, and without either replicating the lockstep focus of existing channels is: Where to aim, in order to create a consistent vision?

This is apparent across the initial efforts, but it is entirely understandable. There is a need to find the complement of issues that will constitute the vital and compelling present, as it is lifted from the repetitive voice of current news into a more detailed, intellectual, focal, vital form, as that can exist for an American audience

"Consider This", an effort thoroughly rooted in the AJE tradition of attempting to shake and increase the malleability of current mindsets, like many of the original efforts, seems to lack this clear sense of where to aim from the start.  Day one, yes. But it lacks a certain sharpness of topic and discussion that is characteristic of AJE efforts, that seems likely to carry for a time until and unless it finds itself.

There must be a willingness to risk full engagement with the issue as it stands, and drop the habitual, ingrained American eagerness to please.

"Inside Story", the AJA version of a AJE hallmark, hosted by Libby Casey, is closer to the mark from the start. Casey, trained in the C-SPAN tradition, is far more comfortable staying simply with the facts, and the questions that emerge from them, and allowing the intellectual quality of the guests to fully emerge.

Understandably, AJA is hoping to draw viewers with the familiar faces, and introduce and comfort them in this way to the full channel content.  This does create another close-call dilemma, however.
The star power of the perfectly likable Ali Velshi, for example, is limited, and is both not terribly representative nor nearly as compelling as the far more gripping, intellectually challenging content of, say "Inside Story".

I understand that the plan is one of gradual transitioning from the familiar smiling voice of the for-so-long contrived American news persona, to the more authentic, intellectually complex, genuinely challenging voice of AJE, but the reverse may also occur--the unintended consequence that viewers may come to expect more of the same--news shaped to limit and please--and this may not fully blend with, or allow viewers to create with the channel the persistent image of a new, frank, uncontrived news, authentically unafraid to address focal issues of the day from multiple perspectives, and without the always deadening, flattening regression and repression to the mean--the limitation of fear of being too smart, too central, too on point, the fear of alienating advertisers or donors that has shaped and limited our view of the world, and which AJA has the opportunity to genuinely change.

Now, that being said: A full start from 0 to 120 might leave viewers bewildered.  This is clearly a well-thought out, and considered approach.  Though not without its risks, such as those described above, it is reasonable planning and risk management--the type of long-term thinking which, as I mentioned yesterday, is a remarkable hallmark of the AJ approach.

But--they will need to move it forward, and trust the audience to grab intellect, to make it begin to stick. Audiences are hungry for it. Do not underestimate. Give it to them.

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

AJA Hires Casey

AJA has poached Libby Casey from C-SPAN, a sign of the quality that they intend to recreate from their AJE news anchors in American form--intelligent, steady, calm, no hype, unbiased, with strong interviewing as well as anchoring experience.

Also a good sign that they intend to replicate the intellectual level of AJE, rather than lean "American"--intelligent and informed rather than sensational anchors and guests. 

Al Jazeera English Shifts To Al Jazeera America: News, Quality, and A Remarkable Agenda

If you haven't been watching Al Jazeera English, you should.

Although, if you are in the U.S., for now, you can't.

Al Jazeera English (or AJE, as it is commonly known), is probably best known in the United States for its association with the "War on Terror" during the years of the Bush Administration. For those who know no more of it than this, they may have a vague sense of associations of un-American messages related to those years.

As someone who is finely tuned to the nuances of propaganda--and who had also grown tried of the increasingly intensifying drumbeat of desperation of commercial news here as it wrestles in the ambiguous struggle for survival, the constant sense of selling, dumbing down, falsity, and the shrill desire to grab eyeballs that moment--I first turned on AJE during the events of Arab Spring.

I found it to be the immediate, the most detailed and the most reliable reporter of those events. While they too were growing and changing over and since those days, it was clear that if you wanted ongoing coverage of those events, AJE was filled with on-the-ground coverage.

What increasingly emerged--and what I think has also grown with the increased attention that the network has received since that time--is the remarkably intelligent, serious quality of the network.

It produces news and original programming that is better than anything in English cable news being produced--at a much higher level of intelligence than CNN or PBS. Unlike either of these, for the most part, it does not pander. It does not assume that the news needs to be shaped in order to play to a lack of intellect or understanding. It does not--except in certain circumstances, to be discussed--sell or hype for the sheer sense of attempting to add drama, excitement and therefore extended attention to the news.

News presenters are not "personalities" in the American sense, nor do they have the complete, more icy remove of BBC presenters. Rather, they are dignified, articulate, usually female, presenting largely without inference as to personal position or belief (with one exception).  When they shift into the role of interviewers, they show intellect, knowledge of the subject, a willingness to question closely and on the facts--they shift with a degree of sharpness and usually a great degree of informed intellect on the issue at hand. There is utterly no attempt to "hype" an issue in order to draw greater viewer attention--without the commercial imperative, this simply falls away.

Its original programming is superb.  The program "Witness", an hour-long documentary series, produces some of the most keenly observed, human, perceptive documentary programming that I have seen.  Some of this is produced for Al Jazeera, while some is purchased from other production companies.  In both cases, there is a coherent mission--multiple in fact--one of which is to portray human experience with the complexity and nuance with which it occurs in life.  Whether it is Kari Ann Moe's superb documentary "Bravehearts", on the Breivik Norway shootings; a portrait of a Riga photographer, or countless other weekly efforts, the consistent level of quality is remarkable.

They seek to grasp the thought of the human mind from myriad directions--and keep trying new approaches.

A debate series from Oxford Union is one example. The debate with Richard Dawkins, rather than the pulled-punches half-questions of American programming, always fearful of offending sensibilities, was entirely absent. It was high level, an extremely well-prepared interview who had Dawkins on the run--tremendous programming, and probably the most difficult debate that Dawkins had faced. I don't think that he had expected this.

"Inside Story", one of its tent pole programs, provides multiple subject interviews on a news topic of the day, with experts chosen for authentic expertise, questions asked that do not shrink from centrality or complexity, and guests given space to give complete answers and to fully interact.

Newer efforts attempt to stay directly connected to new approaches. "The Stream", which had a bit of clunky start but now is a vital part of the network, integrates Twitter, Skype, and in-studio guests for extremely lively and informed topics of immediate concern. "Earthrise" attempts to inspire via new approaches to environmental issues.

There is a constant and consistent theme to these and other Al Jazeera programming, and it pulses through the channel as its clear purpose and mission--a remarkably nuanced, patient attempt to cause viewers to re-evaluate their current perspectives, to gently, persistently, like water against the cliffs, erode and change long held patterns of thought.

There is one particular pattern of thought that AJE addresses centrally, as its core mission, across programming: That oppressed people, removed from their land, by an unfair oppressor, should be allowed to return.

Through analogy, through portrayal of individuals, groups of all kinds, AJE constantly brings this message. And, with fair consistency--never too stridently, often by inference, but always present--is its one ideological position--that Israel is oppressing the Palestinians.

It is fair to surmise that the AJE enterprise is a remarkably brilliant, extraordinarily executed concept. Based on the realization that the only way to truly resolve the Israel-Palestinian conflict is not through short-term, repeated efforts at agreement, which are always met by the same unchanged minds representing unchanged populations, but through the long-term, nuanced effort to change minds.

Never pushing too hard, which only raises resistance, provoking once again the long-held beliefs to the surface, but easing in, again and again, through analogy, through representations of the conflict through countless modalities--oppressive polluters vs. oppressed victims, Crimean refugees forced from their land seeking return--AJE appears to be based on the conclusion that the only way to bring sympathy to the Palestinian cause in a transformational form is to adopt the broad, long-term, multi-modal strategy of transforming minds.  And they wrap this message--provided again and again--in news and programming that is otherwise of extremely high quality. How could this message--their sole ideological constant--not also be true?

As such, they are a genuinely remarkable project--unmistakably an anti-Israel network, with an entire 24-hours of news and programming formed, ultimately around that purpose.  This may be the most sophisticated, nuanced propaganda that has ever been produced.

This is not to say that the network, and certainly many who work their as journalists, writers, reporters, do not have other purposes.  Certainly AJE is part and parcel of the Qatari mission to impact culture more generally--as we have seen in art, for example--and to wield influence, including influence that may affect its own fortunes (see, for example, its current series on the French-Algerian connection and the role of ELF Petroleum in French and African politics).  And there is a frustrated, angry passion, which sometimes boils over, but clearly is part of the network mission and culture not to show overtly--that media is dominated by unfair "others".

This leaves AJE as an extraordinarily enterprise. Of the highest quality--as it must be, to reinforce its view and mission. Filled with programming that, lacking the commercial imperative as it exists in the US, deals with the viewer with assumptions that they can be given intelligence, complexity, and nuance. Filled with a persistent human imperative--to pay attention to the position of the oppressed.

And with a particular vision of who the oppressed might be.

Now, as AJE departs from America, and AJA begins--today--a new mission begins.

The decision to block AJE with the start of AJA, while based primarily on cable system carriage issues, is no doubt also intended to cleanly establish the "American" image of the channel. And, indeed, they have gone to great lengths to construct an image that will both feel "American" to viewers, rather than English-International, and at the same time something new. A number of former CNN personalities--Ali Velshi, Soledad O'Brien, among others, with Tony Harris having joined AJE earlier and now working for AJA--and other familiar faces will provide new viewers with a sense of credibility, familiarity, and transition.  Even the presence of commercials--while it always does help to have someone else paying some of the bills--allows Americans who still have uncomfortable associations with Al Jazeera and the GWOT to feel as if they are in a familiar environment.

I believe that, although it will take some time, the channel will be successful--far more than its "Current" predecessor--and, as particular stories begin to break out in which they have special expertise,  bringing new viewers and gradually expanding the audience--an alternative to CNN and MSNBC with which many will be surprised.

Nonetheless, you can see what the mission is, building upon the successes that they have already achieved. And it is a similarly sweeping vision as that of AJE. No less a gamble than to transform America--through the persistent, long-term modality of a news channel. Present each day. Delivering its message to the people. With an appeal to their sense of being oppressed, of not being told the truth, of being dealt with fairly.

And with particular messages that it also wishes--slowly, patiently, with nuance, and in a multiplicity of forms, surrounded by quality, to make more normal, comfortable, acceptable, changed--believed.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

John Roberts, The Evisceration of Section 5, Cognitive Dissonance, And the Rush to the Gates

Dalhia Lithwick passionately, factually, persuasively argues that the declaration of the end of pre-clearance protections under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act as no longer necessary has, with unintentional and tragic hilarity, led within hours to those very districts formerly subject to pre-clearance rushing to the gates to reenact entire gluttonous slates of new Jim Crow laws that make a mockery of Roberts' self-denying, self-satisfied declaration of the End of Racism. 

The overt cynicism of Republican circles here is sickening, if expected.  North Carolina so immediately glutted itself on a raft of voter suppression provisions that it must only have been that the Land O' Marbles was closed during voting that prevented the addition of a further poll test requirement.

I'm more interested in how Roberts deals with the cognitive dissonance here, except with a pristine, mind-narrowing embrace of the inevitable justice that leads from untrammelled state sovereignty.

Containing his pristine certainty in the face of this multi-district, proximally immediate, all-you-can-suppress buffet must make it a special effort to maintain the certainty of his wish to believe in the end of history.
The fact that days--or hours--after the decision, those very states and districts under pre-clearance rushed to storm the gates with the newest forms of Jim Crow--undeniable on both intent and outcome, as the Fourteenth Amendment requires it--must particularly wrap Roberts in a shell of ice blue denial, fighting off just the smallest bare approach of the dissonance of obvious cause-effect consequence. 

What more obvious, powerful, district-by-district demonstration is necessary to affirm that Robert was incorrect in his judgment--a judgment left, as former Justice Stevens notes, to Congress, not the Court--that the days of political racism and voter suppression can now be declared as ended. 

Rather, straight to the present--the protections of the Voting Right Act are what kept this onslaught at bay. 

As Lithwick notes, Ginsburg, in her dissent, put it best: 

"Throwing out the law’s key protection for minority voters 'is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.'

Alito, less troubled by dissonance, is more than content, with the characteristic on-bench grousing discontent of the narrow pedant, to let it rain.

Scalia is beginning to lapse into the soft neurology of age-disinhibited neuronal discontrol of Holocaust comparisons to quite fully care.

And Thomas will see it as yet another step towards his grandfather's ever-and-all encompassing approach towards towards a perfect justice as practiced during his ineffably, pervasively justiciable childhood in Pin Point, Georgia.

So: The Lochner Era of voting rights has again ushered itself onto the stage.

Apres, le deluge.

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

The Weinernado: What To Do When You Are A Narcissistic, Compulsive, Violently Rotating Column of Air

In a town where sexual indiscretions are the equivalent of shark attacks in Amity Island--everyone knows that there are sharks just offshore, but, again and again, somehow cannot prevent themselves from straying back onto the beach and letting their legs dangle below the surface in murky waters--we are now fully immersed the sequel to Weiner 1: The Selfie.

It is bigger, longer and seems unlikely to be uncut by a timeline of apologies and declarations of fidelity.

Rather, Weiner 2 has exploded with a sweeping chaotic storm of indignation and innuendo; shoes being fetishized while others drop loudly to the public stage; sadly ridiculous,  hopefully dubious aliases and alchemical attempts to transform utter dissimulation into demonstrations of forthright, bona fide "I told you there was more" candor; pristinely contrite photo spreads in the prevailing organs of public mythology that are concurrent with the blurred avatars and awkward, unkempt, libidinous bravado, discovered in the far corners of early morning chat rooms, powerfully absorbed by the suctioning vortex of gossip's rising stars and then blasted across the national landscape, raining fragments of "hard deletes", previous "public rehabilitations", and "health care rants" that "were a huge turn on"  across the ground.

Bar the doors and put plywood on the windows:

We are officially in the Weinernado.

We feed on such scandals almost as avidly, and with greater freedom and schadenfreude, as those in political life self-denyingly leap into the narcissistic gratifying waters despite the signs, marked along the shore, fading back into history, that such swims tend to end with brutal evisceration accompanied by opening-weekend  record box-office.

But as we feed, on popcorn, prurient interest and snark, our basic trust in those who are intended to act in our best interests is also, once again. undermined, as we again decide that, regardless of the side of the aisle or the nature of the facade, self-interest and self-deception will ultimately and relentlessly define the political character.

Despite this, over days, years, millennia, the political characters themselves remain touchingly, hopelessly blind, as we watch them with the disbelief of obvious expectation from the shore--"For god's sake, anyone can see the risk--and you think it's time for another swim?"-- until the latest voracious whirlwind reliably sweeps in, twisting them mercilessly, and once again drawing them under. 

In all seriousness.

The blind spots that result in these inescapable, seemingly compulsory political cyclones are clear, and should be posted, prioritized by degree of hubis, on the inner office door of every political aspirant:

You cannot claim to aspire to an office that will require you to adhere, as a fundamental characteristic central to your service, to a public trust, while at the same time demonstrating that in your statements to the public you are fundamentally untrustworthy.

You cannot portray yourself as one who, in the face of the inevitable enticements of office, will strive to act in the public interest, when you repeatedly demonstrate that, faced with the conflict between desire and duty, you will repeatedly, fulsomely, compulsively act in your own interest while telling the public otherwise.

You cannot pretend that your aspirations to service somehow cancel out your deceptions, as that equation tends to shift along the continuum of self-service towards ultimate conclusions that such deceptions do not actually matter--they become, easy, habitual, dominant, part of the fabric of not merely of private, but of public thought and behavior, until absolute deception has corrupted absolutely.

Foremost, you need to know the primary reasons why you actually aspire to high office.  No amount of self-deceiving examples of rectitude, of self-justifying supposed high minded behavior can remove this primary intent on either side of the aisle.  And no amount of self-serving denial that it will somehow be different for you is worth endangering the public trust.

It's best that you know this.

And actually deal with the factors, desires, and behaviors that you so avidly hide from yourself and others.

Before you run for office, and these actual motivations begin to rain down upon your life, and upon the public trust, and you are pulled, like so many before you, into the eternal swirling vortex that you, like they, somehow believed that your singular, impervious self could somehow avoid. 

Tuesday, June 11, 2013

Reuters: Conservative Republican Tells Investigators That It Was He Who Decided to Give Conservative Groups Scrutiny

From Reuters:

WASHINGTON | Sun Jun 9, 2013 5:06pm EDT

(Reuters) - A U.S. Internal Revenue Service manager, who described himself as a conservative Republican, told congressional investigators that he and a local colleague decided to give conservative groups the extra scrutiny that has prompted weeks of political controversy.
In an official interview transcript released on Sunday by Democratic Representative Elijah Cummings, the manager said he and an underling set aside "Tea Party" and "patriot" groups that had applied for tax-exempt status because the organizations appeared to pose a new precedent that could affect future IRS filings.
Cummings, top Democrat on the House of Representatives Oversight and Government Reform Committee conducting the probe, told CNN's "State of the Union" program that the manager's comments provided evidence that politics was not behind IRS actions that have fueled a month-long furor in Washington.
"He is a conservative Republican working for the IRS. I think this interview and these statements go a long way toward showing that the White House was not involved in this," Cummings told CNN's "State of the Union" program.
"Based upon everything I've seen, the case is solved. And if it were me, I would wrap this case up and move on," he added.
Cummings, a Maryland Democrat, said he would release a full transcript of the committee's interviews with IRS officials by the end of this week, if the panel's Republican chairman, Representative Darrell Issa, does not.

Darrell Issa's Amazing Feat

We see a stage. A curtain is open to each side.

ANNOUNCER: "Ladies and gentlemen...the amazing...the astounding...the remarkable...Daredevil Darrell Issa!"

Issa emerges clad in daredevil suit, festooned with stars.

ISSA: "I will now attempt a very serious, a very solemn task, one that calls for the greatest fairness, principle & courage.

I will attempt to drive an automobile directly through a flaming hoop--straight through a wall of fire--all while wearing the incorruptible Blindfold of Justice."

Issa points to a large hoop positioned centrally midstage.

ISSA: "To ensure that I have no undue influence on this remarkable feat, I will first select an unbiased, objective member of the public at random, to light the hoop on fire".

Issa removes a can of lighter fluid from his inner suit pocket. He walks to the hoop, & sprays it liberally with the fluid. He then removes a packet of matches from his pocket, strikes one, & lights the hoop aflame.

ISSA (gravely): "Now...Produce the automobile!"

A red Maserati is driven out onto the stage.

AUDIENCE MEMBER: "Hey! That's my car!"

Issa strides to the car. He opens the driver's side door.

ISSA: "Now...the Blindfold of Justice".

With a flourish, he wraps the blindfold around his head, and positions it around his eyes. It has two large, gaping holes.

ISSA: "And now...straight through the hoop--without a gap or pause!"

Issa slowly drives the vehicle around the side of the hoop, evading the hoop and the flame entirely, stopping on the other side. He emerges.

ISSA: "We have three judges behind the curtain, & while I cannot bring them out, I have read their transcripts, & each has concluded...I have done it! I have passed through the wall of fire to the other side!"

The audience is silent, with the exception of Jason Chaffetz, who applauds with overexcited exaggeration, & Trey Gowdy, who rises & shouts "Justice!" with a vicious glare.

Issa sourly frowns.


Monday, April 22, 2013

Full Transcript of Tsarnaev Bedside Hearing

Full transcript:

Thursday, February 28, 2013

GOP, Seeking New Image, Continues To Obey Mandates of NRA

The WaPo notes that the GOP is again resisting naming an ATF head.  As it has done for 8 years--at the behest of the NRA.

In the absence of a head, the agency, already disempowered, unable to determine whether gun shops are complying with the law more than once every 8 years due to lack of staffing, cannot act in significant ways regarding gun policy.

The NRA is aware of this, which is why they have coerced members of the GOP to resist allowing the head of the agency to be allowed to lead.

This is well known.

And it is why the GOP, in following the mandates of the NRA out of personal electoral interests, have the blood of the victims of the NRAs policies--eviscerated background checks, entirely unchecked sales by "hobbyists" at gun shows and over the internet, refusing to permit research on the public health impact of guns by federal agencies, refusal to ban straw purchases, refusal to allow the NICS background check system to be updated with current data--on their hands.


Image from:

Mark Kelly on Gun Shows: Correct

There is no argument against Kelly's article other than falsehoods.
First, there is a gun show loop hole.

At gun shows, some of the sellers are Federal Licensed Firearms Dealers. They are required by law to check the buyer in the NICS system. While this does not rule out the issue of straw purchases, or the massive holes in the NICS system, or the three-day default rule--they are checked.

At other tables--at the same show, right next door to the ones described above, are tables where the sellers are not Federally Licensed Firearms Dealers. These tables also offer every type of gun for sale that the FLFD's do. But there is no background check required. None. At all.

In fact, the tables often have signs that read "No questions asked". And indeed, none are asked--expect "how much", and perhaps, "would you like a bag for that?"

This is because those dealers fall into the loophole where they have classified themselves as "hobbyists". Such "hobbyists" are often large scale dealers with extensive inventories, often larger than those of the FLFDs.

They purchase guns in states with very weak gun laws--often Mississippi, for example, or Virginia--and then sell these guns at gun shows in states with regulations are more strict.

The Federal Gun Control Act of 1968 listed a number of categories of individuals who, by law, could not purchase guns: Felons, the seriously mentally ill, and so on.

At gun shows, felons, the mentally ill--anyone, in fact, can walk up to one of these tables operated by a so-called "hobbyist"--even if he makes his primary imcome from this "hobby"--and buy whatever gun they want, as many as they want, any ammunition they want, as much as they want.

With no questions asked.

If gun show sales are not uniformly required to have background checks, any felon, anyone with mental illness, or anyone fro one of the other prohibited categories, who could not purchase at a FLFD, will simply go to a gun show, and buy one, or two, or three, or ten--as many as they like--with no questions asked.

The same issue applies to guns sold over the internet by such "hobbyists". Or in so called "transfers" that are not conducted by FLFDs. There are no background checks--none at all--for these sales.

This is why the NRA and its cohorts are being so fervent about the gun show loophole--which supposedly "doesn't matter", so I wonder why they would be so strident about it.

Because as long as the gun show loophole exists, anyone who wants to evade the background check system will be able to do it simply and easily, and defeat any efforts at meaningful and effective gun control, which is the goal of the NRA.

Pic from:  via AP

Scalia on Voting Rights Act Section 5: Not Aging Gracefully

Scalia's pleasure at his role as a gadfly has, with privilege and age, gradually morphed into a role as a speaker of surprisingly ill considered, and poorly support contempt.

What Scalia referred to as a "racial entitlement", Congress, by a vote of 98-0, viewed as necessary to ensure a constitutional privilege: The right to vote, which, as demonstrated by 15,000 pages of evidence, was still being uniquely undercut in covered states.

Scalia's response--a monarchical one, which anyone familiar with the Separation of Powers would shudder to hear. was that Congress was unfit to make law here.

His basis here was what was essentially a psychological analysis--an area of examination for which he is poorly suited:

“I don’t think there is anything to be gained by any senator to vote against continuation of this act. ... They are going to lose votes if they do not reenact the Voting Rights Act. Even the name of it is wonderful: the Voting Rights Act. Who is going to vote against that in the future?”

Such an analysis would require that the Court examine each Congressional passage of legislation for each member's personal, interior reaction to the name of the Legislation--and to judge its constitutionality on that (unfathomable) basis.

What special quality of Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act distinguished it for Justice Scalia such that the reaction of members of Congress to its name. and to its electoral and political consequences for the member, should be held up as disqualifying?

Do members of Congress not consider the electoral and political implications of other legislative acts when they vote on them? If so, has Scalia ruled all of them to be unconstitutional?

The keys here are Scalia's words "racial entitlement" combined with the above analysis. He is stating that, unlike intimidation by the force of industries, lobbying groups, or other constituencies themselves, the concerns of this particular constituency are--somehow--invalid.

The use of Scalia's criteria for Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act would, apart from undermining Congress's legislative power for that of an increasingly crankily grandiose Justice, invalidate most legislation, which is enacted by members of Congress for a variety of personal, electoral and political purposes.

 Scalia pic:

Ryan Lizza on Cantor: Outmaneuvering Boehner and Himself

Re: Ryan Lizza's  New Yorker piece on Eric Cantor

That Boehner failed to see Cantor's win-win calculation here is remarkable for a Speaker of the House. Romney wins, and Cantor is credited for a brilliant move in forstalling a grand bargain until the arrival of better circumstances, paving the way for his later assumption of the coveted chair after Boehner. Obama is elected, and Boehner fails, leaving to discontent, and a split within the party, paving the way for Cantor's earlier assumption. (Robert Caro would remind us that Lyndon Johnson would never have fallen for this). Cantor has the oft-seen Republican ability for selective self-hypnosis: Reciting that people believe that "Republicans do not have their backs", with a rote certainty of the deputy who almost believes, a sufficient substitute for belief, while otherwise serving his wealthier masters. Exceptionally dangerous, as he believes that he is doing both, depending upon when you ask him.

Nota bene: I also loved Ryan's utterly unironic citation of Mussolini. Those trains don't just run on time...they arrive an hour early!

Pic via:

Monday, January 21, 2013

Pomp--and Circumstance

John Boehner, his tan perfected for the occasion from its former mottled resemblance to the shifting colors in the grain of hardwood floor, to the more evenly distributed orange of a perfectly ripened tangelo, just barely covering the all-too-frequently present appearance of pre-speech imbibing just to the point of the controlled, slightest, heavy-tongued slur, strode to the ornate podium.

And so, in the Statuary Hall, the distribution of gifts--custom etched Lenox crystal to the President and Vice President, handsome leather bound mementos for all other attendees of the Congressional lunch--the pomp of the Inaugural ritual in its more intimate, clubbish, and, I imagine in the experience of Obama, necessary form, began.

The extended ceremonial of the day seems, for one who leans towards the introversive end of the scale, whittled, learned away through years of practice, a marathon of the multivariegated forms of political interaction--from gracious, heartfelt thanks, to centuries-old ritual, to dancing the first dance with your wife while Jennifer Hudson sings "Let's Stay Together."

Obama takes to them easily now, without the over-energized haste of his Senatorial days; embracing Sen. Leahy in a grateful hug, the movements of gratitude--the embrace, the face-to-face words of gratitude, the lean in, the grip of the shoulder, the pull away to look once again in the eyes, as he moved through the room, to the next, of so many, who awaited and deserved thanks, and who, so very often, appeared to offer them sincerely, awaited. A small degree of Lincolnesque slowness, of thinking of the steps, of self-awareness (or so we imagine, or infer from the mind of his writings and actions), a certain minute degree of physical exhaustion, and awareness of pacing--characteristic Obama traits.

As was the moment, after he had given his inaugural address, that he turned, told his retinue to wait. The writer, the introspective, the one who is aware that he wants to capture this moment, as the moments will begin to change around him, never to return to this one again, wanted to take it in fully one more time.

Obama might have felt the impulse to do this in 2009. But he would not have. And this certainty--this incremental increase in controlling his own fate, in command, in being less burdened by the height of expectation than moving in the continuum of leadership--is present in this moment.

Obama will always be thinking, rather than acting in a compensatory, justifyingly defensive manner from his gut. He will consider before acting, rather than leaping into the moment.

However, there is a sureness of feel, a sense of the more practiced and directed mind of one who has experienced the nature of those around him, has taken their measure and his; who has learned from some mistakes, and has internalized them both as lessons for action and less restricted caution. And a pleasure. Knowing that the second election would be the true confirmation of one mission of the first African American president--not only to be elected--but to be elected again.

After his swearing in, his daughter Malia turned to him, he smiled and said "I did it."

"You didn't screw it up, Daddy", she said, his daughter feeling her father's most direct concern with a child's centrality and immediacy--what Maraniss has referred to as Obama's care in "avoiding traps".

And, while there will be the countless haters, ideologues, paranoids, and even aside from them, rational political critics who may not concur with his daughter's assessment, there he stood.

The newly sworn-in second term 44th president of the United States.

The Happiest Vice President

Does anyone, has anyone loved the Vice Presidency as much as Joe Biden?

Yes, he's thinking about the Presidency.

But if he was not, if he were only serving the two terms as Obama's Vice President, does anyone believe that he would be a tragic, morose Lyndon Johnson-via-Robert-Caro Vice President, stunted, crippled, depressed, frustrated, feeling as if his life dreams and career were at an end?


Biden is not only seemingly impervious to the less felicitous characterizations that at times swim around them, reflecting them away with a native sunny disposition that, yes, is professional, but is also a genuine, automatic enjoyment, but brings far more to the table than the hoi polloi are often willing to give credit: A remarkable ability to charm with intellect and flexibility, with genuine care and enjoyment, but also with a powerfully sustained thought--each time.

Yes, he emerges in shades, and who knows what ultimate dreams lay behind them; yes he truly enjoys an attractive woman. But he also brings joy to those who he immediately senses need his attention, his care--he has practiced with all types, and he is willing to bring that practice to the task.

He is not condescending. He is not self-aggrandizing. People love Joe.

But while walking that fine line between being the populist and knowing that he is being one, he is more aware than the more simple lines around him that are sometimes drawn.

He is not an introspective, introversive, extremely careful Obama. And he will never be. And that will be an issue, should he become President.

He does have a tendency to roll over himself, carried by the stream of words and feeling, and this has not accrued to his benefit. He is still learning--at this stage of his life--to instill the capacity to catch himself.

But he is happy in his role. He loves the people. He balances a more introspective man, who also loves the people, but is not so fulsome and expansive in demonstration of such.

He is Joe. And he is the happiest Vice President we have seen in some time.

4 years: Less Sober, Less Cautious, More Certain

Osama Bin Laden.

Debt ceiling, versions past and prologue.

Romney, who already seems to have half-faded into a spectral form.

Health care town halls, which now seem ancient, yet still striking in their call to shrill irrationality.

4 years.

I remember seeing the crowds of young people from my balcony, early on the morning of Inauguration Day, so filled with enthusiasm to reach the Mall that they raced towards the gates, like excited troops storming a hill, ready to take their nation back.

Obama's speech that day struck me as unusually sober--it left me with the feeling that he was scaling down expectations, a tone of seriousness, but also that if he could merely leave the nation in as good hands as when he entered, this would be a laudable, sensible target.

This tone--not too high, not too low--has shot through his Presidency, with intelligence and wisdom, with caution and over caution, as Americans became accustomed to a charismatic leader who at his core is not a spontaneous charismatic, but an introspective, at times introverted intellectual, who carries both vision and caution; his well noted pragmatism, a combination that likely was honed as it brought him to this place and position, and one, perhaps, that he has most wisely relied on, knowing that once reaching to extremism, in this nation, at this time, he would not be able to reach back.

And they would call him an extremist in any event.

He knew what they would call him if he actually began to act within the slightest parameters of their delusional fantasies.

So we are here. And crowds gather. We are in the slight remaining overcast of tragedy--one could not help but wonder just what he thought of as he thought of the events in Newtown, so close to his inauguration.

Yet, I am watching a crowd of children singing, and we are here.