This weekend cops in Colorado (and I'm sure elsewhere) resume their 100 day "The Heat is On" campaign to bust drunk drivers.
One police chief outside of Vail has a new plan. He wants to force those stopped to take a blood test. What about our law that says you can choose between breath and blood or choose to refuse (and lose your license) unless there's an accident with serious injuries? He doesn't care. He says his officers will get a search warrant for your blood.
The courts will probably shoot him down. [More...]
As one local lawyer says:
The Colorado legislature... took away the choice to refuse a test in drunken-driving crashes that leave someone badly injured or dead. But legislators didn't impose the same requirement on DUI arrests that don't involve serious crashes.
"There's no constitutional issue here," he said. "But since the legislature has created a structure for certain sanctions to be imposed if you refuse a blood or breath test, it's obvious you have a right to refuse unless there's serious bodily injury or death."
What does the Eagle County DA say?
"Granted," [Mark] Hurlburt said, "expressed consent doesn't specifically spell out that we can get a warrant, but it also doesn't spell out that we can't."
Creepier by the minute. Even his story about knowing the young model via her parents sounds suspicious. This guy needs some serious psychological help.
But Letizia's former boyfriend, Gino Flaminio, 22, told La Repubblica newspaper yesterday that "Noemi's parents have nothing to do with this, the link was just with her". Letizia's father challenged his version of events as "gravely defamatory, because it attributes to Noemi things that have never been done, said or thought," and said he would take legal action.Ah yes, the daughter that he never had, except that he does already have three daughters.
After Berlusconi was photographed last month attending Letizia's 18th birthday party outside Naples, his wife said she intended to divorce him, accusing him of "frequenting minors".
Flaminio claimed yesterday that the prime minister had been passed Letizia's photographs by Emilio Fede, a newsreader on one of his television channels.
Flaminio claimed that Berlusconi tele?phoned Letizia on numerous occasions, complimenting her on her "angelic face", and developing a "father-daughter like relationship" with her, before flying her on a private jet to his Sardinian villa over the New Year period, where she joined "30 to 40" other young female guests who were put up in bungalows.
Good news, Dollhouse is coming back for a second season. Maybe FOX will let Whedon do his thing for once. I heard they loved his new story arc. When will FOX learn that "stand alone" episodes don't usually work very well for Joss or most Sci-Fi shows if they want to build a loyal audience. We'll see. Here's a cool Whedon fan site.
Bad news, the creators of Reaper have left and signed with a new network so the CW is saying it may not last. It's a consistently smart and funny show so if you want to contact the CW to keep it going, click here.
Jenny Wade was a great addition to the cast as Ben's new Demon girlfriend. The Nick C Blog has more on Reaper.
As Americans celebrate Memorial Day tomorrow, I ask that we not just spend the day enjoying bbq, a[...]
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Dr. Timothy Miller of UCLA Medical Center helps to put the life of Sgt. Joe Paulk back together, along with some of our other wounded heroes, on "CBS Sunday Morning," reported by correspondent David Martin (I'm back but trying to catch up on a gang of stuff - no posting for a little while still)...
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...and I hate to so soon follow such a fine report with K.O.'s Special Comment last Thursday highlighting the murderously insane lunacy that put our people in harm's way like this, but I feel I must because, if nothing else, Keith's last six words express my most earnest wish.
Earlier today I printed out the text of President Obama’s May 21 speech on national security and American values. I had previously listened to the speech live and skimmed the text online, but I had not actually sat down and read it. What struck me was an overwhelming sense of the strangeness of the speech. I want to talk for a moment about that strangeness.
As an aide to seeing what I am getting at, imagine that it is the summer of, say, 1998, in some nearby alternate universe. Imagine a President. Not Bill Clinton, not George W. Bush and not anyone else from around here; just some ordinary President: put him or her in a suit, make him or her as politically bland as you please. Traveling to this alternate America, you expect things to be ordinary.
Now out of his or her mouth comes this:
[I]t was my judgment – informed by my national security team – that releasing these photos would inflame anti-American opinion, and allow our enemies to paint U.S. troops with a broad, damning and inaccurate brush, endangering them in theaters of war.
I will deal with Congress and the courts as co-equal branches of government.
We are reforming Military Commissions, and we will pursue a new legal regime to detain terrorists. We are declassifying more information and embracing more oversight of our actions, and narrowing our use of the State Secrets privilege.
As our efforts to close Guantanamo move forward, I know that the politics in Congress will be difficult. These issues are fodder for 30-second commercials and direct mail pieces that are designed to frighten. I get it. But if we continue to make decisions from within a climate of fear, we will make more mistakes.
At this point one supposes that half of this alternate America consists of smoking nuclear craters, or that Russian troops are massing at the Mexican border, or that some kind of weaponized biological agent out of a Michael Crichton novel -- or maybe Captain Trips from Stephen King’s The Stand -- has wiped out 1/3 of the population. One imagines, in any case, that the Americans whom this President is addressing are traumatized.
The President in this imaginary universe, as I read this text, is trying to calm these traumatized people. But he or she sees calming them as a struggle, a task just as daunting as defeating the god-only-knows-what monstrosity that crouches over them like a behemoth.
So much for thought experiment. Returning to the present day, and to the actual occasion of President Obama’s speech: The apparent need for this speech was not created by Captain Trips. It was not a bunch of smoking nuclear craters, it was not Russian troops massing at the border. And, note, it was also not Al Qaeda. I can say that because nary ten months ago President Obama was able to say these words at the Democratic National Convention:
I will build new partnerships to defeat the threats of the 21st century: terrorism and nuclear proliferation; poverty and genocide; climate change and disease. And I will restore our moral standing so that America is once more the last, best hope for all who are called to the cause of freedom, who long for lives of peace, and who yearn for a better future.
One of the more remarkable rhetorical achievements of the Obama candidacy was the way he repeatedly put terrorism in with a group of other world-wide problems such as disease, poverty, and climate change, thus putting terrorism in its proper place: a non-singular, non-unique, and non-traumatizing problem to be dealt with. A problem to be dealt with by adults in an adult fashion, and no more.
No events in the world have dramatically increased the importance of terrorism since then; there have been no attacks on American soil. Yet somehow now-President Obama is forced into using the other-worldly rhetoric we heard on Thursday.
The explanation is simple enough. The monstrosity crouching over the American people in the real world is the Republican party. The rhetoric of the Republican party is the traumatizing force. It is what creates the "climate of fear" that made the President’s speech on Thursday necessary, and made that speech sound like something out of an asteroid-hits-Earth movie -- the part of the movie where the President appears on national television to read the names of people who get to live in sheltered caves.
But then again: it’s not that simple. It’s not that simple as saying "the Republican party did it" because at the moment there is, in effect, no Republican party. What there is, rather, is a disparate group of right-wing power-seekers who are willing to say anything to regain their hold on power. Newt Gingrich, I am quite willing to wager, doesn’t give a rat’s ass about Cheney’s agenda, nor vice versa. John Boehner: neither one.
Yet all of them are on television shrieking bloody murder to the tune of "O Fortuna - Carmina Burana" and worse ("You have people out there today who want to kill Americans, who would like to set off a nuclear weapon in an American city, who would like to set off a truck bomb down the street from where we are right now." – Newt, today) for the sole purpose of restoring, not the Republican party, which may as well not exist, but their own rightful places in the world. Free agent terrorizing buffoons with a national stage. What do they hope to accomplish?
We can see some of what is going on here, I think, by taking a look at the Pew report on "Trends in Political Values and Core Attitudes: 1987-2009":
The proportion of independents now equals its highest level in 70 years. Owing to defections from the Republican Party, independents are more conservative on several key issues than in the past. While they like and approve of Barack Obama, as a group independents are more skittish than they were two years ago about expanding the social safety net and are reluctant backers of greater government involvement in the private sector. Yet at the same time, they continue to more closely parallel the views of Democrats rather than Republicans on the most divisive core beliefs on social values, religion and national security.
There are many more independents than Republicans, right now; but more independents than usual are leaning right in every area other than national security. That is to say, the weirdness gets deeper: if Republicans want to win back some of these independents they are decidedly not going with their best play. They should be going with the economy; they are going with war. This is puzzling, but it seems to me that it admits of an obvious, if troubling, interpretation.
Perhaps the Republican strategy is not to win over these burgeoning independents by enlarging the Republican tent, but rather to scare them into voting R even if they remain too disgusted with the GOP to actually join the party. The Republican party, with a strategy so understood, need take no heed of moderation or of ordinary political practice at all.
The Republican party so understood need not engage in politics in any traditional sense. They may act rather as political saboteurs firing noxious quasi-political lobs from a pup tent on the margins of discourse. There is no reason, in principle, that this could not work. They could win a reasonable share of elections and sometimes a majority. Political party as character assassination guild with a stable membership of only 20% of the population. There is, after all, only one other political party. When there is only one other party there is no need for yours to be rational.
That strikes me as the bet the Rs are making right now. They need not even "win anyone over to their side." That would explain why the Rs are not leading with their strengths; the remnants of the Republican party don’t care about those strengths. "Small government" can go screw for all they care.
In such a "climate of fear" as would be generated by such a perverted "political party" the independents would not necessarily run to the other side, i.e. the Democrats, even if the independents think the Dems have got it closer to right on the very issue about which the character assassination guild is shrieking most loudly, i.e. national security. What the independents would want, after all, is a choice; the minimum requirement for living in a democracy; an a-or-b switch to flip, and that in itself would be enough to keep them from crossing over to the D-side. In the words of the endless litany of independents, "On some things I'm liberal and on some things I'm conservative."
Perhaps this is not convincing. After all, my hypothetical strategy does not really seem like it would help Republicans gain stable seats in congress. So I'll go further with this guess of mine and say: So what? Exactly which of the remaining Republicans are supposed to care? The ones on television lately? As we have seen from Obama's speech, it makes no difference how many seats they have in Congress: Dick Cheney can influence the national conversation from the margins. In the absence of any better ideas, why not do more of that? Being a congressperson probably sucks anyway.
It seems to me that under the surface President Obama’s speech had little or nothing to do with actual terrorists and everything to do with the climate of fear generated by a nothing-to-lose political party that is not a political party at all but a pack of disparate and disproportionately influential scaremongers wanting their rightful place at the roundtable on Meet the Press. A semi-organized bunch (at best) who somehow got President Obama, the most intelligent and well-educated President we’ve had in many, many years, to say weird crap like this . . .
I know some have argued that brutal methods like water-boarding were necessary to keep us safe.
. . . like the Last Sane Man in some kind of cyberpunk novel. (Which he may actually be, provided the cyberpunk novel is Washington: the Senate voted 90-6 to keep Guantanamo open.)
How are the Republicans going to get out of this spot they’re in, a spot that is damaging not to them but to the country? How are they going to regain actual political, as opposed to visceral, relevance? Bobby Jindal? Are you kidding me? This both is and is not our problem. It is not our job to figure it out for them, but it is our job to figure out how to respond to the political landscape as we see it.
What I see right now is a discombobulated jihad of right-wing extremists with nothing to lose but a lot of facetime with a massively over-valued punditocracy. A punditocracy whose very attention keeps the R's disastrous claims looking just sane enough to those independents who have no one else to lean towards in a poll. This vaguely Rovian strategy is not new: what is new is the lack of concern for how much the party dwindles; not caring how disorganized it is. (Michael Steele? What?)
What I suppose all of this amounts to is this: my response to President Obama’s speech on national security is that we need (a) to somehow compel the Republicans to engage in political discourse like adults, or (b) to force the punditocracy to stop behaving like "neutral arbiters" between, on the one hand, a discombobulated jihad of right-wing extremists and, on the other hand, all three branches of government, or (c) give independents who are not in agreement with us about social issues some avenue of political expression so that their non-agreement with Republicans on national security and war can have some weight.
Independents don't have to become Democrats for Democrats to win, but it seems paradoxically that independents have to have a voice for progressives to get anywhere.
Any of (a), (b), or (c) would have the effect of allowing President Obama and the Democrats on the Hill the breathing room to do what we voted for: decisively end the dangerous experiment in terror democracy begun or at least perfected by Obama’s predecessor, Dick Cheney. And all of (a), (b), and (c) amount to giving independents avenues for political thought that don't involve the unhappy choice of either siding with madmen or creating what none of us would want anyway: a one-party country consisting of nothing but the following: Democrats, disorganized independents, and whatever you want to call the current Jihad-O-P.
We need rational people to be able to disagree with us without their thereby agreeing with irrational people. Perhaps that is what would give President Obama the room to enact a Democratic agenda.
Ha'aretz is reporting that a ministerial panel has decided that a bill spearheaded by Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beitenu party to outlaw public commemoration of the Nakba in Israel can move on to the Knesset and cabinet for a vote. If the bill is passed, someone caught commemorating the Nakba could face up to three years in prison. MK Alex Miller, who introduced the bill, explained, "Every democratic country has the right to defenditself, and that's exactly what the Israeli government has chosen to dotoday."
Clearly not everyone in Israel agrees. Hadash Chairman Mohammed Barakeh stated the obvious, "Commemoration of the Nakba, which will continue regardless of thisbill, does not represent a threat to Israel's existence. It is a way tomend past injuries inflicted upon the Palestinian people." And Israeli journalist Noam Sheizaf has a great post on it over on his blog. He sums it up, "the government of Israel has decided to make life easier for those who claim it is an Apartheid state (or just a Fascist one)."
A short list of those whose voices might exit public discourse without tears from me (and two surprises I'd like to stick around).[...]
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Title: It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)Artist: Bob Dylan
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But even the president of the United States sometimes must have to stand naked.
In its own way, this is a perfect song for Memorial Day. Bob Dylan's "It's All Right Ma (I'm Only Bleeding)" is a seminal anti-war song of the 60s, having spawned so many famous quotes, people have probably forgotten the origin: quotes like "He who is not busy being born is busy dying" and "Money doesn't talk, it swears."
The song appeared on his 1965 album "Bringing It All Back Home."
One of the most impressive moments of the AIPAC conference was when they brought out 193 university student council presidents onto the stage. It seemed like a brilliant strategy to me; each of those presidents represented a relationship that AIPAC was building for the future. I'm sure there will be high percentage of those presidents who go on to very influential futures.
The following is a bit of insight into how AIPAC goes about building those relationships. It was sent to us by an intern in a Congressional office in the Houston area. They attended an "official briefing on the U.S.-Israel alliance" that AIPAC held for congressional interns. It was focused on how to become "a leader of campus" and as the author points out "making the students feel special and powerful." The names of the participants have been changed.
I was asked if I wanted to go, and although hesitant, I said yes. I wanted to attend out of curiosity, and through the description, I thought (from the description of the event) that it would be an event where they gave students information on how to hone in their leadership skills.
I walked in at 1:25, and found several people sitting down, all females, at an oval conference table, and to my right, a young girl stood by a table with snacks and name tags. I introduced myself and she gave me a brief questionnaire to fill out, and told me to get myself snacks and drinks.
The questionnaire asked for contact information, such as phone numbers and emails. I believe the first question was something like, ‘How interested are you in the Israeli-American relationship?’ The choice was ‘very, little, not at all’. I circled ‘Very.’ The next question was something like, ‘How interested are you in helping out AIPAC (or was it joining? I can’t remember.)’ I put down my own answer “maybe.” I looked up at the girl and told her, it depends on what AIPAC is doing. She smiled and said, “go right ahead.” The third question was also about AIPAC, but I can’t remember what it is. However, I put down a “maybe” to that one too.
I took a seat at the table, and we all made small talk, as we waited for other interns to show up. I kept text messaging Keith frantically, to see where he was. It was 1:45, and still no sign of him. I found out that of the seven people that were there, one Intern was from Senator Bailey Hutchinson’s office. No surprise there. She’s very pro-Israel. There was an Israeli girl there too, who was interning at the Israeli embassy. Everyone else was working for AIPAC in one way or the other. The girl by the snacks was a student from A&M, and she was the Intern for AIPAC, and would subsequently get up to the podium to make a small speech.
The AIPAC Intern, (I’m so bad with names), said 13 people did RSVP, but that perhaps the weather was keeping them away. After Keith walked in, they decided to go ahead with the program, and not wait any further for the others. No one else showed up during the event.
The AIPAC Intern, talked about how disappointed she was with the Texas A&M college culture, describing “everybody there is closed-minded and conservative.” At one point she said, ‘if you asked them their opinion on something, you would get the same answer from everybody.’ She said other things to the same effect, that there is no diversity of thought at A&M. (The AIPAC workers presented themselves as middle-of-the- road, and pointed out that many of its members left AIPAC accusing it of being too liberal, i.e. not being pro-Israeli enough. This exodus from AIPAC happened during one of the Israeli-Arab wars.)
They stressed over and over again, that AIPAC was an American organization, “to be American is to be pro-Israeli,” and also, to be pro-Israeli is to be pro-American. AIPAC is high off of its “power.” It sounded cheesy, listening to them, but the reality is, that they are very powerful.
The AIPAC intern said that she was disappointed to know there weren’t any pro-Israeli groups on her campus, so she started one. And she said that when she started one, she got her Congressman’s attention, and he congratulated her on the efforts. She said, she was surprised to learn, that if you are with a pro-Israel group, or are pro-Israel, people will listen to you, and most importantly you will have the ears of policymakers, and more importantly the ears of the “powerful” policymakers.
Now I’d like to know who the Congressman for the A&M area is, that he took his time out to congratulate a student for opening up a student group, because that’s not something very extraordinary in itself.
She said that no other student organization can give their students access to such powerful people, and that politicians pay attention to your opinions for real, not just listen and then forget. She said something like, ‘As you embark on your own political journey and political careers, it’s important to keep in mind, that being pro-Israeli can help you tremendously.’
My reaction: uhhhhhhhhh….ok. I looked around at the others, but that comment didn’t faze them, it only seemed strange to me. I looked over at Keith, and tried to read his face, but was unsuccessful.
The AIPAC intern asked us how many of us use email, cell phones and text messaging. Everyone raised their hands. She said, if there were no Israel, then you wouldn’t have these three modern devices to use, because they were invented in Israel, by Israelis. She said that Israel is very important when it comes to technology, and if Israel every ceases to exist, she cannot imagine what the repercussions would be. She said Israel has invented many other modern technology to use, and is in the process of building, but she did not have enough time to go into detail here.
Then an AIPAC lady got up and gave her little speech. I must say, it was good. She started off with having us imagine, to when we were little and our teacher took us out to the playground. Then she asked a question, “How did you know it was time to go back in?” The audience answered, ‘the teacher told us to.’ She said, ‘In Israel, a siren sounds, and the teachers have 13 seconds to take the children back in to safety.’ She stressed how important it was that we tell our congresspersons, to sign the aid package to Israel, and increase the aid. She said that to us, in the audience, 2.5 billion dollars a year is a lot, but that is only 20% of the total defense budget of Israel. And only Israel knows how tough it is to live with daily rocket attacks coming from neighbors bent on destroying them. She also said that the 2.5 billion in aid that Israel receives is 1-2 percent of the total foreign aid the United States gives. Now this is incredulous, she goes on to say that with that money, Israel purchases M16s, along with other things, and hence helps out the American economy.
Keith had a lot of questions about Israel. Like, why was that part of the world and place chosen for Israel to be created? I answered that, and said, that the Jewish people claim a right to what is Israel proper because God in their Bible promises the land to them. There was a small minority living in what is now Israel, that were Jewish, and many of the eastern European Jews, and some western European Jews started to migrate, and once they were a significantly strong number, clashes took place and the British declared that the Jews will have their own country. Then, of course fighting broke out, and the struggle continues to this day. I asked them, if what I said was right, and they said “yes,” and some nodded in agreement.
Keith also asked a very important question. He said why United States has to defend Israel, because that creates tension in that region. And perhaps, if the United States stepped out of the conflict, the Israelis will better be able to solve their problem with their neighbors. AIPAC answered, that some people in Israel believe that, too. But then, the conversation was brought back to how AIPAC does not endorse policy. It does not have policy-making decisions, nor does it dictate policy. It’s just simply put, pro-Israeli. They do not tell Israel or the United States what to do.
They were very openly pushy about Keith wanting to open up a Pro-Israeli student organization at Howard University at Washington D.C. (Keith is here for the summer.) Keith said that the idea wouldn’t catch on, because their focus is on civil rights and it is a predominantly black community. An AIPAC lady jumped in to say that Israel had to deal with its own civil rights issues, when the Ethiopian Jews were rescued from Ethiopia, and that he should open up a pro-Israel group from that angle, and he will by surprised by the interest.
Before closing the event, they stressed again and again, that we (the interns) should encourage our congresspersons to vote on the HR Bill to divest away from Iran, to vote for the aid package to Israel, and to increase the aid.
They were very pushy about the event in DC, all paid trip, in which we would get to meet “powerful” people, and make alliances for our own political careers.
Perhaps, Keith might go, he attends university there. Hutchinson’s intern seemed very interested in opening up a pro-Israel student organization, and attending the event. AIPAC said it would help. The embassy Intern will be attending university at San Marcos, and seemed interested in doing the same. They said that Houston was a city which didn’t have a lot of pro-Israel presence, and that we as student leaders can help in doing that at our campuses. She said that we would be surprised to learn how many Israeli and Jewish Professors are in the Science and Math departments at universities all across the United States. If we went to them and requested that they announce about the organization to the students, then the professors more than often, are happy to inform their students and encourage them to participate in the group.
I was surprised that they didn’t mention the “Israel is the only democracy in the Middle East,” argument, but it was all about making the students feel special and powerful.
Oh, and they also said something like, the fact that you are here, already shows, that you have leadership potential, and that AIPAC can make that journey easy.