Happy New Year…2012!

Happy New Year!

New Year 2012, Sydney, Australia. Click this image for more pictures from Sydney Harbour.

Aren’t those fireworks fantastic?

Here is a video of New Year’s Eve 2012: Celebrations around the world!

Personally I can’t believe that Dick Clark is still alive…technically…and actually hosted the Rocking New Years Eve 2012 in New York’s Time Square.

And since some feel that 2012 will bring about the end of the world…here is a brilliant cartoon from Angel Boligan, El Universal, Mexico City.

Of course, my guess is Dick Clark will still exist in some form or another…along with Dick Cheney, who relies on Darth Vader technology to keep his heart pumping.

Mayan Calendar End of the World

Mr. Fish's Cartoon

Well, my response to this Mayan Prediction…

“I will survive!”

Performed by Gloria Gaynor and the ladies from Priscilla, Queen of the Desert.

I’m sending out a big New Year’s Kiss and Hug to all of you!

X & O

May everyone have a wonderful and safe night…

Indefinite Detention without Trial Open Thread

Today President Barack Obama signed into law the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) which, among other things, gives the President the power to indefinitely detain American citizens without trial. It also enshrines in law the ability of the government to use the military against American citizens.

At the same time, Obama issued a signing statement in which he says he will not use on the indefinite detention authority. As we know from three years experience, the President is a liar. Furthermore, the power will be passed on to future Presidents, and they may be less hesitant to use it. Here is the text of the signing statement (PDF), via the Washington Post. Some exerpts:

The fact that I support this bill as a whole does not mean I agree with everything in it. In particular, I have signed this bill despite having serious reservations with certain provisions that regulate the detention, interrogation, and prosecution of suspected terrorists. Over the last several years, my Administration has developed an effective, sustainable framework for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected terrorists that allows us to maximize both our ability to collect intelligence and to incapacitate dangerous individuals in rapidly developing situations, and the results we have achieved are undeniable. Our success against al-Qa’ida and its affiliates and adherents has derived in significant measure from providing our counterterrorism professionals with the clarity and flexibility they need to adapt to changing circumstances and to utilize whichever authorities best protect the American people, and our accomplishments have respected the values that make our country an example for the world….

Section 1021 affirms the executive branch’s authority to detain persons covered by the 2001 Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) (Public Law 107-40; 50 U.S.C. 1541

This section breaks no new ground and is unnecessary. The authority it describes was included in the 2001 AUMF, as recognized by the Supreme Court and confirmed through lower court decisions since then. Two critical limitations in section 1021 confirm that it solely codifies established authorities. First, under section 1021(d), the bill does not “limit or expand the authority of the President or the scope of the Authorization for Use of Military Force.” Second, under section 1021(e), the bill may not be construed to affect any “existing law or authorities relating to the detention of United States citizens, lawful resident aliens of the United States, or any other persons who are captured or arrested in the United States.” My Administration strongly supported the inclusion of these limitations in order to make clear beyond doubt that the legislation does nothing more than confirm authorities that the Federal courts have recognized as lawful under the 2001 AUMF. Moreover, I want to clarify that my Administration will not authorize the indefinite military detention without trial of American citizens. Indeed, I believe that doing so would break with our most important traditions and values as a Nation. My Administration will interpret section 1021 in a manner that ensures that any detention it authorizes complies with the Constitution, the laws of war, and all other applicable law.

In other words, Obama already had the power to detain American citizens, but because he is a great and magnanimous leader he will not act on the power, so we shouldn’t worry our pretty heads about it. Habeas Corpus is available only if granted by our benign and glorious leader.

Here’s the statement released by the ACLU on the President’s decision to sign the bill into law.

President Obama signed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) into law today. The statute contains a sweeping worldwide indefinite detention provision. While President Obama issued a signing statement saying he had “serious reservations” about the provisions, the statement only applies to how his administration would use the authorities granted by the NDAA, and would not affect how the law is interpreted by subsequent administrations. The White House had threatened to veto an earlier version of the NDAA, but reversed course shortly before Congress voted on the final bill.

“President Obama’s action today is a blight on his legacy because he will forever be known as the president who signed indefinite detention without charge or trial into law,” said Anthony D. Romero, ACLU executive director. “The statute is particularly dangerous because it has no temporal or geographic limitations, and can be used by this and future presidents to militarily detain people captured far from any battlefield. The ACLU will fight worldwide detention authority wherever we can, be it in court, in Congress, or internationally.”


“We are incredibly disappointed that President Obama signed this new law even though his administration had already claimed overly broad detention authority in court,” said Romero. “Any hope that the Obama administration would roll back the constitutional excesses of George Bush in the war on terror was extinguished today.

There’s more at the link.

World War III Alert

Another dangerous portion of this new law imposes sanctions on Iran’s central bank. From the National Journal article cited above:

The bill also sets in motion strong sanctions against Iran’s Central Bank, in an attempt to rein in Tehran’s nuclear program, by impeding Iran’s ability to process payments for the roughly $90 billion in oil and gas it sells each year. The measures, which would penalize any foreign financial institution that does business with the central bank, sparked threats by Iranian officials to cut off access to the Strait of Hormuz, which could block transportation of most oil exports from the Persian Gulf.

The administration retains a national security waiver for the sanctions – and one to waive the petroleum sanctions if it determines there isn’t enough global supply to offset the lost Iranian oil – but has said it opposes being held to a timeline that could fragment to the international coalition working to isolate Iran or potentially spike oil prices.

Please discuss the NDAA, the signing statement, or any other topics that are on your mind.

Speaking of Predictions, Speculation and Resolutions . . .

I confess the rolling rumor that Hillary Clinton is a perfect match as the Democratic VP candidate in 2012 fills me with absolute dread.  It’s not because I don’t think she’s qualified or could do the ribbon-cutting ceremonies with her eyes closed.  It’s because she’s over-qualified and could do the ribbon-cutting ceremonies with her eyes closed.

Hillary Clinton riding shotgun does not appeal to any of my senses or sensibilities.  In fact, it makes me damn angry.  Outraged, if you will.  In 2008, the electorate was beguiled, bewitched and hoodwinked by a presidential campaign that sold Barack Obama as the American Idol President, the man who would hold back the seas, bring world peace and a variety of other nonsense.  The man took the Nobel Peace prize without a single accomplishment then promptly continued George Bush’s wars and policies with great gusto.

In contrast, Hillary Rodham Clinton was portrayed as tiresome, inexperienced former First Lady who’d held white-glove receptions, serving tea like a Geisha girl.  Any accomplishment—her amazing speech in Beijing, her influence in Ireland, her tireless efforts to raise the profile of women and girls throughout the world, her staunch stand on civil rights and her genuine outreach to working class Americans were pooh-poohed and discounted. It was all an act, her critics said.  She was a clone of her husband, Bill Clinton, who was demonized by the so-called regressive/progressives though he was the most popular President since FDR.  Was the man perfect? Hardly.  But he was an effective leader. The Right-Wing noise machine could not bring the Clinton mystique down, even after the Monica Lewinsky debacle.

That would be left to the Democratic leadership.  They turned their back on B. Clinton’s enormous popularity in 2000 [at the expense of Al Gore], and then called Clinton a racist in 2008 for remarks made on the campaign trail.

Barack Obama was the Party’s man and Wall Street’s gift.  A gift from God, Nancy Pelosi said.  The One we’ve been waiting for, Oprah gushed.  He’s almost like a god, Evan Thomas, then editor of Newsweek, exclaimed on the Charlie Rose show.

However, the old maxim of ‘what goes up, must come down’ was still in play.  And the ‘gift from God,’ the President hailed as the world’s savior, landed with a resounding thud once in office.

In Karma-like fashion, Hillary Clinton has flown to amazing heights in her role as Secretary of State—the most admired woman in the world.  She has garnered praise from old enemies, even the Republican hate machine.  Regardless of where you stand on American foreign policy, you’d be hard pressed to ignore her non-stop travel, her enthusiastic reception abroad and her unrelenting support for women’s issues around the globe.  She’s the Energizer Bunny.  Unflappable, seemingly indefatigable.

I feel exhausted just reading her daily schedule.

But now as the 2012 election season gears up, we’re inundated with stories that Obama will switch out Joe Biden for Hillary Clinton—Biden will take State and Hillary will slip right into the number 2 position in DC.

The question is why?  Why would Hillary Clinton step down from the very public and important position as the country’s SOS to accept the very useless position of Vice President?  Hillary is aiming to cut Joe Biden’s throat?  No, don’t think so.  Everything I’ve read has Clinton and Biden on very friendly, mutually respectful terms.  Obama is hankering to throw Joe Biden under the bus?  Again, everything I’ve read indicates that despite his gaffes, Joe Biden has been a loyal Obama helpmate not a hindrance [although throwing people under the bus seems a favorite White House sport].

Hummm.  How about lousy poll numbers?

Robert Reich, whose columns I read and generally agree with wrote an Op-Ed for Nation of Change where he made a personal prediction for 2012:

It’s Obama-Clinton.

Reich went on to state:

Because Obama needs to stir the passions and enthusiasms of a Democratic base that’s been disillusioned with his cave-ins to regressive Republicans. Hillary Clinton on the ticket can do that.

Yes, he does and yes, she could stir things up for many disillusioned [dare I say appalled] Democrats.  But why should she?  Why should Hillary Clinton come running in to clean house and save Obama’s ass?

Reich goes onto say:

Clinton would help deflect attention from the bad economy and put it on foreign policy, where she and Obama have shined.

Oh, please pass the upchuck bag.  Yes, Hillary could cheer the troops and deflect the bad news and . . .

In addition, Reich concludes:

The deal would also make Clinton the obvious Democratic presidential candidate in 2016 — offering the Democrats a shot at twelve (or more) years in the White House . . .

Do you feel manipulated yet?

This is on the heels of Hillary Clinton’s own statement that she has no intention of seeking public office after 2012.  But as we all know women have that cra-a-zy habit of changing their minds.

As do all politicians.

But Reich is not alone in floating this balloon.  His article was quickly followed by former Virginia Governor Doug Wilder saying what a fine idea this was on Neil Cavuto’s show [that would be Fox News] and how Biden’s many public gaffes had made him a liability.

Say it ain’t so, Joe.

In fact, Wilder went so far as to suggest that if something happened to President Obama, Joe Biden stepping in would be too awful to contemplate.

He’s kidding, right?  And again, he picked up the thread that this could be Hillary’s path to the White House in 2016.

On Friday night, I heard the same statement coming from a guest on Al Sharpton’s MSNBC show.  I must say the Reverend seemed somewhat miffed, responding with a variation of: If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. In other words, Barack Obama don’t need no stinking woman to prop him up.

But these swirling stories/rumors have been in circulation for months on end.  The most recent version was whipped up shortly before Christmas by Pat Caddell and Doug Shoen.  Caddell, former pollster for Jimmy Carter and Shoen, former pollster for Bill Clinton, have called for a grassroots write-in campaign for Hillary in New Hampshire.  That would be for President.  The reason?

The crisis of national leadership.

That’s a hard line to argue against. However, the days when I got any satisfaction in saying–We told you so—are long gone.

I’m absolutely cynical about this sudden burst of love and admiration for Hillary Clinton.  I don’t like the VP idea one bit. Sorry.  It’s either the catbird seat or no seat at all.  Hillary Clinton earned the nomination in 2008.  She was undisputedly the best the candidate then and now.

For President, not Den Mother.

Clinton has said she has no desire to run again in any capacity.  Until I hear words to the contrary from her lips, I respect that decision and have resigned myself that Hillary Rodham Clinton will leave the political stage in 2012.

I’d like to be wrong; 2016 is not an Eternity.  I resent being manipulated by a power structure that seemingly has few principles beyond winning at all costs, at everyone’s expense: you, me and a woman who has given far more to public service than the smarmy pundits—her passion, time, competence, knowledge and I suspect, even her health.

Color me suspicious and skeptical. If this is some tacky way to win the ‘female vote’ in a razor-thin election, you can count me out.  If Clinton is offered the VP spot, I hope she refuses.  It would break my heart to vote against her.  But I will not vote for a continuation of Barack Obama’s miserable administration.  Not for the good of the Party [what’s left of it] or the specter of monstrous SCOTUS appointments.

Not even for Hillary.

The New Year is looking to bring a host of challenges and a myriad of predictions.  I hope the recent VP chatter is just that–chatter.  In the weeks and months ahead, I’m planning to focus on impressive legislative candidates for 2012, strong progressives fighting to keep seats or claim new wins for Democratic principles in the House and Senate.  These are individuals who could really make a difference in the lives of average Americans.  It’s a fight worth having.

As for the Presidential race?  I’ve pretty much thrown my hands up.  Unless, of course, you’re willing to speculate on a Democratic primary challenge.

Now that’s something even I could believe in!

Saturday Morning Reads: The Dakini Office Pool

Good Morning!

It’s that time of year again!   It’s time for my annual salute to the late William Safire’s annual “Office Pool”.  I’ve been doing it since December 2008 which is basically about 6 months after I started this blog. Safire’s last column of the year in the NYT always had a list of predictions that challenged you to beat the pundit.  Some of my favorite questions have to do with the results of elections as well as topical things like the number of troops left in places like Afghanistan.

Let’s make our predictions!

1.  The winner of the Republican nod for Presidential candidate in 2012 will go to  _______________ and the next president will be_______________.

2.  The state with the most surprising election outcome will be ___________ where ___________________.

3.   The next dictator to go–one way or another–will be:

4.   The biggest court case this year will be about:

5.   The winner of this year’s super bowl will be:

6.  The next big Congressional stand off will be about ______________ and ___________ will be the one to cave to the opposition’s demands.

7.  The big political surprise of the year will be:

8.  The largest movement of US troops will be to:

9.  Joe Biden’s first gaffe of the campaign will be:

10.  The next major ecological/natural disaster will concern:

Okay, sharpen your pencils and let’s get started!

Here’s some other predictions to give you some inspiration!  Of course the biggest 2012 predictions have to do with the end of the Mayan Calendar.  Here’s some thing  on that.

There are many theories floating around the Internet about how the world will end next year. The most popular being the Mayan prediction from 1,300 years ago. According to the Mayan Long Count Calendar, December 21, 2012 will mark the end of a b’ak’tun, a 144,000-day cycle. The b’ak’tun that will end on December 21 is the 13th cycle, a number that started all the apocalypse predictions. The truth is that the Mayan never predicted any cataclysms. The end of the Long Count calendar was just a measure of time for the ancient Mayan. It was Franciscan missionaries who actually attached the end of the world myth to the end of the 13th b’ak’tun.

There’s also some predictions out there for a Super Vocano eruption.

Another doomsday scenario for 2012 is that a supervolcano will erupt to kill off all life on the planet. Supervolcanoes are capable of spewing out thousands of times more magma and ash than regular volcanoes. A supervolcano eruption could wipe out millions of people and blot out the sun with ash. The largest supervolcano explosion happened 74,000 years ago in Sumatra. The explosion of Mount Toba released 700 cubic miles of magma and a thick layer of ash that covered all of South Asia. There are a dozen supervolcanoes today, most of them lying at the bottom of the sea but researchers agree that chances of a super-eruption happening next year are miniscule. Geologists think there is a super-eruption every 700,000 years or so and there is no sign that a super-eruption is going to happen anytime soon.

Here’s some Wall Street predictions for the US economy. This is from BlackRock’s Bob Doll who is its chief equity strategist.

2012 is likely to feature a slow-growth world that includes a recession in Europe. The United States faces headwinds, but manages to achieve growth of between 2% and 2.5%. China and India slow somewhat, but, along with the United States, make up two-thirds of global GDP growth. The big risk remains that of a financial breakdown in Europe, which would tip the developed world, if not the emerging world, into recession. Inflation should also continue to move lower. Should the muddle-through environment come to pass, we believe earnings and some improvement in confidence would allow equity markets to move higher, with US stocks leading the way.

The Daily Beast has some political pundits with their predictions.  Here’s John Avlon’s best guesses.

Anyone who tells you they know who’s going to win the presidential race isn’t telling the truth. This is going to be close—especially if Mitt Romney is the nominee and scores someone like Marco Rubio or Chris Christie as his VP.  President Obama’s basic job approval and economic numbers make him a historically vulnerable incumbent, with his primary asset being his personal likability. Likable people get fired if they can’t do their job. The one thing I’ll say for certain is that if President Obama is reelected, it will be by a much smaller electoral margin than in 2008—and possibly razor-thin.

So,  what do you think 2012 will bring?

Will Fidel Castro die?  Will Israel bomb Iran?  Will Hillary Clinton announce her retirement from the State Department?  C’mon! Dust off those crystal balls and share!!!

From Matriarch of Mayhem to Pampered Princess

A recent Boston Herald interview with Scott Brown found the freshman senator from Massachusetts bemoaning the ‘fluffy’ treatment that Elizabeth Warren has received from the press.  This is the same Elizabeth Warren [who has jumped to a 14 point advantage in the MA Senate race] accused of socialist political leanings; called the woman who would throw stones; cited as an elitist who would indoctrinate our children, leading them to violent mayhem; and most recently, smeared as a staunch ‘supporter’ of all things TARP and Wall Street.

Needless to say, the war of accusations launched by Karl Rove and his Crossroads GPA advertising has produced tepid to reverse results.  Despite all the slamming, Warren has not only held her own but gained traction, leaping ahead in the polls.

This sobering news has put Scott Brown into a whiney funk.  According to Brown, Elizabeth Warren is ‘very, very liberal.’

Oh noes!  Say it ain’t true–in the bluest state in the Union.  A liberal?  OMG.

But is Brown’s declaration true?  Elizabeth Warren is a former Republican, who after years of analyzing what was happening to the American middle-class by destructive economic policies, jumped ship and parties.  Does supporting the middle-class make one a liberal?  Does criticizing the unfair advantage of the rentier class transform one into a wild-eyed Commie?  Does speaking on behalf of working men and women label one a radical?

Karl Rove would have the Massachusetts electorate believe so. Although not too successfully.

However, it appears that Scott Brown has bought into the advertising blitz.  Not only is Warren ‘very, very liberal’ but:

when she’s stating that she’s created the intellectual foundation for the Occupy Wall Street — and you know all the problems we had with those folks here. And then the fact that she’s gonna leave blood and teeth in the street, and she’s not gonna compromise and only wants to work on big things. Well you know, we have plenty of ideologues down there, and a lot of partisanship down there already.

Oh yes, the American public really needs to be reminded of ideologues [down there] and all the bitter partisan wrangling over the last 3 years. While virtually nothing has been accomplished to put Americans back to work.  Just yak, yak, yak about protecting the mythical job creators from any and all taxation and the enduring pretense that the 2007-2008 financial meltdown was unforeseeable, thereby rendering Wall St. participants and their horrified handmaidens innocent bystanders, terribly sorry but not accountable.

Oh and btw, Mr. Brown, it was blood and teeth left on the ‘floor,’ not the street.  The reference was citing the fight for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, Elizabeth Warren’s brainchild, a reform agency that Republicans [and sadly Democrats] have attempted to smother in its crib.

This would be almost funny if the fallout of tanked pension funds, bankrupt municipalities, massive unemployment, record numbers of Americans sliding into poverty were merely a morality play, the audience shuffling home after the last, cautionary curtain call.

But it is not.

The recent Census Report stats picked up by the AP indicates that nearly 50% of the American public is considered low income.  That alone should horrify and shame everyone.  Nearly 50%!  In this country, the United States of America.  The financial debacle, politely referred to as a ‘recession,’ has wiped out staggering amounts of wealth from and security for millions of American households, while the upper tiers of the population, the infamous 1%, has reaped mega-bucks.  Not through brilliance and hard work but through accounting tricks and outright fraud [pull up any number of William Black’s essays for the particulars—here’s one to get you started].

And what do we hear?   Whines and endless excuses, obfuscation and diversion; outright lies and numbers that never add up. Btw, this does not let Democrats off the hook.  Personally, I find the unemployment numbers nothing short of obscene.  8.6% my ass!

Scott Brown’s other complaint about Warren is:

“She’s going to have every advantage. … I don’t have a machine behind me like she will, and she does clearly,” Brown said.

Really?  What do you call this from Karl Rove’s wondrous elf workshop?

And why should Scott Brown or Karl Rove be surprised at the public’s reaction to blatant lies countered by a clear and direct answer?

This response isn’t a Machine talking.  It’s a real live person talking to other real live people who are fed up with business as usual and are waking, slowly but surely, to the greatest heist in history.  Elizabeth Warren is speaking the language of ordinary men and women.  Yes, she wants to do ‘big things,’ as in looking out for the public’s interest.  And yes, I believe her when she says she’ll leave blood and teeth on the floor. Metaphorically speaking, of course.

Music to my ears and dare I say to many other voters.  In fact, Elizabeth Warren sounds like the real deal.  Better yet, she has a record of standing up, while under intense, obnoxious fire–a record to match the words.

What a concept!  A candidate for our times.