Kelly Picks a Fight: Reversals of Fortune

One of the things I learned about governing from watching The West Wing is that you have to trust the people in the room. If you’re not on the inside, then you don’t have all of the information being considered when making any given decision. When you agree with and believe in the intentions and values of the people in said room, that trust comes much easier than, say, when you know the room is filled with crackpots and evildoers.

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Barack Obama is my Jed Bartlet. I know a lot of the decisions made in the room are complex and nuanced beyond the public’s comprehension, and so I put my trust in his intentions and values that I believe to be true, good, measured and even cogent.

Some of the issues, however, seem very clear cut to my eyes, as well as to the eyes of experts to and fro. They are made ever more lucid due to the campaign confabulation promising certain swift remedy. And, yet, we are finding ourselves once again ensnared in the politics versus policy debacle wherein ideas sounded really good on the campaign trail, even solidified and/or pacified the base, but the actual enactment is scurried out of the room to a time and place to be determined at the pleasure of the President.

Reinstituting military tribunals, not releasing the torture photos, continuing indefinite detentions, not prosecuting war crimes, not repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, not repealing the Defense of Marriage Act, approving 42 of 48 mountaintop mining permits… all of these things just seem so blatantly wrong to me.

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To be sure, as long as Dick Cheney is out there slamming Obama, I know he’s doing some things right. And he definitely is, such as ending the practice of torture, signing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, revoking Big Oil land leases, hiring lots of women, gays and minorities. He’s no George W. Bush no matter how the PUMAs and conservative pundits try to spin it.

However, if he continues to drag his feet and even – forgive the term – flip flop on major liberal issues, the crumbs he’s tossing aren’t going to be enough to pacify the voters who swept him into office on the promise of change and a different kind of governance.

And the fallout could be not just a one-term presidency, but a total disengagement of the populace. The 2000 and 2004 elections did much to disenfranchise the already incredibly low percentage of voters. (The U.S. averages about 50% of eligible voters turning out.) Obama did much to turn that on its head, registering record numbers of new voters. If he doesn’t deliver on his promises, I fear those folks will slink back into the shadows, never to reemerge.

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Kelly Picks a Fight: Tell, Tell, Tell!

Someone posted an item on Facebook the other day about President Obama upholding his campaign promise to have a poetry slam in the White House. I commented that it was a little disturbing that he found time to fulfill that one, but needs to wait on repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell. Maybe it’s because James Earl Jones threw down some Othello and Obama just couldn’t wait for it.

DADT’s opposition is reaching a critical mass. This week week we learned of two soldiers being dismissed due to their gaiety — Second Lieutenant Sandy Tsao and Lieutenant Daniel Choi — who both have now written personal letters to our dear dilatory leader. So far, we know Tsao got this hand-written response complete with promise of eventuality from Mr. President:

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Choi, who founded the Knights Out organization, has appeared on The Rachel Maddow Show several times, including his coming out interview. Last week, he closed by making this pointed point: “Well, I’m not a politician myself. I just, like so many thousands of others, gay and lesbian that are in the Army, that are in the armed forces, raised their right hand, they said — you know, we’re in a time of war right now. It’s not about what timing is good or bad. It’s not about what you want to do. It’s about what your responsibility is. We’re saying that we’re standing up to our responsibility and we’re saying we want to serve.”

DADT raises a number of concerns. As Choi and everyone else have pointed out, the policy is one of forced perfidy that runs absolutely counter to the military code of honor. What’s honorable about lying? Not so much, really. Secondly, war is stressful enough without adding unnecessary and manufactured personal stresses on top of that, as evidenced by the record number of military suicides and the tragic killing of five soldiers by their stressed-out comrade earlier this week. You have to wonder how many of those suicides were gay soldiers who couldn’t bear following the unjust order to live a lie. Speaking of… isn’t there something in the code about not following those kinds of orders? All kinds of experts think this thing needs a good repealing. Here’s one talking to Rachel the other night:

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We’ve all heard the stories about how we got a warning in the days before September 11, 2001, but we were short on Arabic translators, so it didn’t get processed until September 12. Dan Choi is an Arabic translator. His service is set to end in the next few weeks. What if that’s the day we get another warning, but Choi isn’t on the job? Would that be enough to show Senator John McCain that, no, the DADT policy does not work. Or do we need to get James Earl Jones to go all Othello on him, too.

Kelly Picks a Fight: Torture’s Double Standard

I don’t know about you, but I really don’t see what’s so vague about the so-called torture memos and why people aren’t in jail yet. The historic precedence has been set for waterboarding prosecutions and Dick Cheney boasts that they waterboarded prisoners. When did one plus one stop equaling jail time?

In 1947, the United States prosecuted and imprisoned Japanese officer Yukio Asano for war crimes subsequent to his waterboarding of a U.S. civilian. Senator Teddy Kennedy has reminded his colleagues in a 2006 debate what happened back then: “Asano was sentenced to 15 years of hard labor. We punished people with 15 years of hard labor when waterboarding was used against Americans in World War II.”

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When American soldiers utilized the practice against Vietnamese captives in 1968, the Washington Post ran a front-page photo and deemed it a “fairly common” practice. After the story broke, an Army investigation ensued, though the use of this suspect technique did not abate. Navy SEALs and Army Special Forces used in in training exercises – that whole SERE thing we keep hearing about – to toughen up our soldiers so that they are ready for what the savages might do.

Fast forward to 1983. President Ronald Reagan… you may have heard of him… had his Department of Justice prosecute Texas sheriff James Parker and three of his deputies for the waterboarding they participated in. The sheriff got 10 years in the pokey, with the deputies serving four each.

Despite their existence, these cases were not cited as precedence by any of the torture memo authors as they sought to give the Bush Administration legal cover for the enhanced interrogation methods already underway. Human rights attorney Scott Horton said, “To take one example, there was a court-martial addressing the practice of waterboarding from 1903, a state court case from the ’20s, a series of prosecutions at the [post-World War II] Tokyo Tribunal (in many of which the death penalty was sought) and another court-martial in 1968. These precedents could have been revealed in just a few minutes of computerized research using the right search engines. It’s hard to imagine that (John) Yoo and (Jay) Bybee didn’t know them. So why are none of these precedents mentioned? Obviously because each of them contradicts the memo’s conclusions and would have to be distinguished away. Professional rules would have required that these precedents be cited, failing to do so reflects incompetent analysis.”

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In fact, the 1987 Convention Against Torture deems it criminal for any “person acting under the color of law” to “inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering (other than pain or suffering incidental to lawful sanctions) upon another person within his custody or physical control.”

It all seems so clear. Again I ask, why aren’t people in jail yet? The Office of Professional Responsibility thinks the Bybee-Yoo crew should perhaps be disbarred for their lapses in judgment, but that’s really about it. Of course, Attorney General Eric Holder is where the buck will stop and he has yet to render his opinion. So there’s still a teeny tiny glimmer of hope.

Rachel Maddow and Newsweek‘s Michael Isikoff broke it all down last night:

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Kelly Picks a Fight: Park This!

I’ve had some bad luck with parking lately in my new East Hollywood neighborhood. We have street cleaning twice a week at 8 a.m. on a street that is already hard to fit into. A week or so after I moved in, I was unfortunate enough to not get a spot on the right side, so I got up at 7:30 on a Friday to move it… four blocks away.

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The street I parked on also had street cleaning that day starting at noon, meaning I would have to move the Jeep again between 10 a.m. and noon. But I forgot because I got all carried away with programming an Internet radio playlist. I kept saying, “don’t forget to move the car” over and over. Next thing I knew it was 1:30. Crap! Know what these rat bastards charge for a ticket like that? The hefty sum of $58.

Fine. Lesson learned. I hadn’t had a parking ticket since 2004, so my average is still pretty good.

Until this week.

Sunday night, I came home from a friend’s and didn’t even bother futilely looking for a space on my street. Instead, I found one about three blocks away. Monday night, I struck out to meet another friend for dinner except the Jeep was not where I left it. Panic. I walked further down the block retracing my memory since I have to park somewhere different every time. No. I knew exactly where it was supposed to be. My mind raced first to it being stolen and the implications therein. Total bummer, but at least my iPod wasn’t inside.

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Then I realized that I may very well have accidentally, stupidly, ridiculously blocked a driveway in my zeal of finding a reasonably well-placed spot. Double crap! I knocked on a few doors and found a guy who thought there had been a car towed that morning. A little Internet search revealed he was correct. Know what these rat bastards charge for a tow like that? The incredibly hefty sum of $280, plus a $53 ticket.

AAAAAAAARRRRRRRRRRRRRRGGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

I was pissed at myself for not paying attention. I was pissed at the City of Los Angeles for being greedy rat bastards. I mean, seriously, why are they charging so much? Two friend of mine recently got parking tickets, too, for $48 and $58. It just seems so outrageous. Didn’t tickets used to be $10 or something? Has inflation grown the market that quickly? It’s not like an expired meter is a safety hazard.

I understand a sizable fee for something like blocking a fire hydrant – something that people do on my street every night of the week without repercussion. And I know blocking a driveway is not a good thing to do, terrifically inconvenient, in fact. I apologized to every one who would open their door and then to no one in particular and psychically to the guy who had to deal with it because I never found him.

The way I figure it, the universe needed him to be delayed that morning and I needed to not go to that dinner… for whatever reason. Perhaps one or both of us were spared from an accident. Or perhaps one or both of us crossed paths with someone we never would’ve met because of the inconvenience. The guys at the impound garage were all really nice, I suppose.

But I digress. My point – if there is one other than a nice venting – is that the city is making bank on this stuff. So, the next time I hear about any budgetary problems or underfunding issues, I might just send in my canceled checks asking where that money went.