Thursday, July 31, 2008

Reason enough to vote for him

Obama tells Congressional Democrats that he would have the Justice Department comb Bush's executive orders to weed out any that "trample on liberty."

You can bet that John McCain won't do that, in the unlikely event that he is elected.

There is so much to be done that one term of an Obama presidency would not be enough to undo the damage the Bush and is cronies have done to the United States. In addition to trashing our reputation--our most important asset--overseas, and to the damage done by executive orders that undermine, if not actually violate, the Constitution and laws of the United States, there are thousands of regulations, many of them obscure, that were designed to turn back the clock on civil rights and liberties, employment rights and many other achievements that we had thought were well protected.

A massive project awaits the Obama administration.

World's Oldest Joke

According to Reuters, the world's oldest joke comes from the Sumerians, a people who used to live in what is now southern Iraq, and dates from about 4000 years ago. I warn you, it's not very funny: "Something which has never occurred since time immemorial; a young woman did not fart in her husband's lap." I guess you had to be there.

True, 4000 years is a long time, but that's not the world's oldest joke. Painstaking research reveals that the oldest joke is:

Abel: I've been seeing spots in front of my eyes.
Cain: Oh? Have you seen a doctor?
Abel: No, just spots.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Hard to believe

Seven years of trade talks broke down over Chinese food? Hard to believe that disputes over moo goo gai pan or hot and sour soup could be that acrimonious, but so the NYT reports.


The House Judiciary Committee voted this morning to cite Karl Rove for contempt. The vote is only a preliminary skirmish in the campaign to bring Rove to justice. Whatever they do to him, it will not be enough to express my contempt for the man.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Truer words were never spoken

"This is not America." That's what a flack for the Pentagon's Office of Military Commissions responded when a reporter noted that in our country, reporters are able to watch witnesses and see evidence.

William Glaberson's perspective on the show trial of Salim Hamdan shows us how distorted the American ideal of a nation under laws has become. Guantanamo is a place where there is a judge and a jury, albeit a military jury, yet the judge has ruled that the 5th Amendment does not apply to the defendant. For those of you who don't have a copy of the Constitution handy, the relevant portions of the Amendment read, "No person... shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law." "No person"--not just citizens, or residents of the US, but every person in the jurisdiction of the United States. That's what you'd think anyway. But not in this administration's Alice-in-Wonderland view of justice.

In an ironic twist, Glaberson reveals that the government has presented an organizational chart of Osama bin Laden's security detail, of which Hamdan was a low-level figure. The head of the detail, one Abellah Tabarek, was also a prisoner at Guantanamo. He was released in 2004, while his subordinate is on trial.

And in a final irony, if Salim Hamdan should, somehow, obtain an acquittal, the government still maintains its right to hold him at Guantanamo, indefinitely. As an observer of the trial from the ACLU noted, "Where else in the world is someone being prosecuted for a crime who is already serving a life sentence and will continue to serve one if he’s acquitted?"

And we wonder why our opponents prosper.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Is this REALLY the message they want to send?

From the McCain campaign store:

McCain Door Mat 2' x 3'
Isn't that too much verisimilitude?

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Most exciting story of the week

Actually, the most exciting story in a long time: Solar power collected in space and beamed to Earth. Sound like fiction? No, the technology is available now. Expensive? Projected cost of .08-.10 per kilowatt hour--competitive today.

When I read this on the Op-Ed page of the NYT, I thought maybe it was a satire or some wild-eyed dreamer, but the author, O. Glenn Smith, is a former manager of the International Space Station project at NASA.

This is one that clearly deserves further consideration.

Comment of the day

Dana Milbank of WAPO on the McCain campaign, on MSNBC:

"Well, it's a low budget campaign. He told them to cut out the fat and they misunderstood him and thought he said facts."

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Good news on the justice front

Radovan Karadzic, one of two principal criminals from the Bosnian War of the 1990's, was arrested by Serbian police and will be shipped (as freight, we hope) to the International War Crimes Tribunal in the Hague. He deserves to be presumed innocent, like any defendant, but I fear that I cannot suspend disbelief that far.

My cynicism also leads me to doubt that Karadzic's capture represents a real change in attitude in Serbia. But on that, I may be wrong; I speak with no real knowledge of the psyche of that country if, indeed, a nation may be said to have a collective psyche. (Is the United States the rogue, criminal country we have been for the past eight years, or something different and better? I know my answer to that one.)

And speaking of the US, the military judge at the show trial of Salim Hamdan, the first of the prisoners at Guantanamo Bay to face a military tribunal, threw out evidence obtained while Hamdan was a prisoner in Afghanistan. The material was gathered by coercive interrogation (i.e., the third degree), or maybe you call it torture. (As described in the NYT, the methods used are probably more police brutality than torture, if such a fine distinction may be made.)

OK, that's all the good news. The same judge also ruled that Guantanamo detainees lack a broad right against self-incrimination. Given what the judge threw out, the prosecution will have to rely on statements that Hamdan allegedly made at Guantanamo where, believe me, he got no Miranda warning. After all, we couldn't expect that the guy might actually be acquitted, right?

Monday, July 21, 2008


John McCain has been bashing Barack Obama for having opposed the "surge" in Iraq. Any progress that he made by playing the foreign policy card was undone over the weekend, and then some. Did you see the video of Obama's reception by the troops in Kuwait? Better than gold--platinum.

Now, I was thinking about McCain's assumption that the surge has worked. There are a lot of weaknesses in McCain's argument--the factors other than the relatively few additional American troops that could account for the decline in violence.

Turns out I may have been wasting my time. Juan Cole, who knows whereof he speaks, argues that there has been little improvement in the situation at all.

Summer Reflections

I know that in a few months we'll be looking back fondly upon summer as we grit our teeth to face a long New England winter, but today I contemplate a solid week of heat, humidity and daily thunder storms (at least according to the meteorologists). Sheesh! Had I wanted this, I would have lived in Florida, Georgia or South Carolina.

I try to maintain perspective by asking myself whether I'd really like to live somewhere where there is no real winter. The answer, so far at least, is 'no.' Of course, with the advance of global warming, I might achieve that without moving.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Not all bad news

Among all the economic and political woe, there's good news tonight! (With apologies to Gabriel Heater.)

Foyle's War is back on PBS.

National priorities

Did you notice how the passing of former White House press secretary Tony Snow evoked more comment than the death of Dr. Michael DeBakey, the man who pretty much invented modern heart surgery? (The New York Times was an exception.)

From all reports, Tony Snow was a warm man, the exceptional conservative with a real sense of humor, not all of it at the expense of his political opponents. But he was a press secretary--basically, a flack. Michael DeBakey extended the lives of thousands of people.

Let's keep our eye on the ball, folks.

So much to do

Frank Rich reminds us of just how the criminals in the Bush administration have undermined our security--perhaps opening us up to another 9/11 attack.

Even if Obama wins, undoing the evil done by Bush & Co.--not just to our moral, economic and security position, but to almost all aspects of our national life--will take a lengthy, intense effort that will last at least until 2012. Indeed, it may not be possible to accomplish the task in two administrations.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Bush tells the truth, for once


A briefing book distributed to reporters at the G-8 summit describes Italian prime minister Silvio Berlusconi as one of the "most controversial leaders in the history of a country known for government corruption and vice."

Noting that Berlusconi took office in 1994 promising to "purge the notoriously lackadaisical Italian government of corruption," the biography goes on, "however, he and his fellow Forza Italia Party leaders soon found themselves accused of the very corruption he had vowed to eradicate."

The White House has apologized for this excursion into candor at the expense of a man who welcomed Mr. Bush to Italy last month by calling him, "a personal friend of mine and also a great friend of Italy." With friends like these, Silvio...

Pet Pander?

What the hell, it's the silly season:

A new poll reveals that pet owners prefer McCain to Obama. The AP suggests that that may be because the Arizona senator has a number of four-legged friends, while the Obama family does not.

Perhaps significantly, McCain's margin among cat caretakers is significantly narrower (41-38 percent--probably within the margin of error) than among those who own dogs (43-34 percent). I always knew that cat people were smarter than dog owners.

On the other hand, Obama leads by a wide margin among those who do not own pets: 48-34 percent.

Sen. Obama has told his daughters that they will get a dog after the campaign is over. The American Kennel Club is conducting a poll on what kind of dog the Obama's should get. However, the AKC has narrowed the field to five breeds, all unsuitable: Bichon Frise, Chinese crested (crested what?), poodle, soft-coated Wheaten terrier (huh?) or miniature Schnauzer.

(In the spirit of full disclosure, as a teenager, I had a miniature poodle, and he was a great dog. For one thing, he didn't know he was a poodle. He thought he was a hound.)

Clearly, the dog for the Obama clan is a Scottie. Black. Maybe name him Fala.

Age(ent) of change?

An AP-Yahoo poll shows that about 20 percent of respondents think "old" when they hear John McCain's name and "change" or "outsider" when they hear Barack Obama's. (It's not clear if that is the same 20 percent.) These responses led all others in the poll.

This is the kind of report that makes me think that Obama should have taken McCain up on his town-hall-meeting idea. Maybe he will, as the list of McCain's gaffe's grows.

We're baaaaacckkk

Hello again to any faithful readers who are still checking in, and to anyone who might happen upon us.

After almost a month off the air, TONE is back. There's lots to comment on; indeed, a surfeit of news seemed to sap TONE's energy and is partly responsible for the absence of recent posts. To anyone who's missed us, thanks for your interest.