Steve Brodner
June 2009
Pardon My Boehner
Rep. John Boehner is right: the Climate Bill is a “piece of sh*t” (that family values crowd sure has a way with words).  But not for the reasons that Orange John asserts. But because the thing is so weak as to make it ridiculous. Here’s an assessment of the bill by Dennis Kucinich:

“The bill allows two billion tons of carbon dioxide a year, roughly equivalent to 30 percent of all US greenhouse gas emissions. Supporters of the bill point out that coal use will increase by 2020, because electric utilities will continue to use dirty coal, the prime source of pollution. With two billion tons of offsets per year, we’re told electric utilities will reduce carbon emissions at places other than their generating plants. So they really don’t have to actually decrease their emissions, and coal-fired CO2 emissions will increase through 2025. No wonder there are twenty-six active coal plant applications. Increased CO2 emissions will be our gift to the next generation. Apparently, the planet is not melting; with this bill, it’s just getting better for polluters.”

But even something like this nearly didn’t get through the House and now is facing an uphill battle in the Senate.  And Republicans are actually doing the chicken dance thinking they have a great anti-Obama issue for the mid terms!
Let’s get the rogue’s gallery straight here. The bill stinks because the deniers have spooked everyone else.  Democrats and Obama are at the point of being happy with much less than half-a-loaf.  None of them, of course would be the problem if this issue were important to us.  But it isn’t. It’s much easier to whip people up over taxes. It would take an intense project of public education to help people connect all these dots.  This from Paul Krugman yesterday referring to the House debate:
“Indeed, if there was a defining moment in Friday’s debate, it was the declaration by Representative Paul Broun of Georgia that climate change is nothing but a “hoax” that has been “perpetrated out of the scientific community.” I’d call this a crazy conspiracy theory, but doing so would actually be unfair to crazy conspiracy theorists. After all, to believe that global warming is a hoax you have to believe in a vast cabal consisting of thousands of scientists — a cabal so powerful that it has managed to create false records on everything from global temperatures to Arctic sea ice.
Yet Mr. Broun’s declaration was met with applause.
Given this contempt for hard science, I’m almost reluctant to mention the deniers’ dishonesty on matters economic. But in addition to rejecting climate science, the opponents of the climate bill made a point of misrepresenting the results of studies of the bill’s economic impact, which all suggest that the cost will be relatively low.

Still, is it fair to call climate denial a form of treason? Isn’t it politics as usual?

Yes, it is — and that’s why it’s unforgivable.”

As Pogo said, “we have met the enemy and he is us.”

Balmy Days
Last week we were treated to another obituary for print.  This time from Steve Balmer of Microsoft.  Once again, someone with authority put the death watch on the print news business.  5 years. 8 years.  Wait I’ll set my oven timer. Okay enough.  I have been spending the last 6 months (and much of it up late an night) worrying about print.  Of course magazines and newspapers are the source of my livelihood.  They are also the source of my connection to the world. True I am online a great deal.  But nothing organizes, and crystallizes ideas like print. It is the linear nature of it that forces editorial decisions that make material work sequentially.  That is its purpose.  So how is something improved upon by killing it? No, the internet is a vigorous river that is exhilarating to move in.  I love to blog and view and chat in blogs.  I jump around through sites when I need to research anything, from a detail of policy or history or  to find the name of an obscure actor in a B movie (Sonny Tufts?) Both have their purposes and important uses.  And what’s wrong with that?  Can they co-exist?  Does anybody consider that? Are we so binary that we can’t accept what happened to all media when challenged with technology?  They adapt!  I believe print will adapt and thrive.  Because finally mags are beautiful and a pleasure to hold in your hand and read.  And yeah, look at the pictures.  IT will only replace magazines when they can give that same pleasure.  And, as a wise person I know likes to say, “It’s just not happening”. Elle is doing better than expected. The Economist is doing very well, even in a worldwide recession.  The Hearst publications, Esquire, etc, are making money and holding onto their ad pages.  So let’s take a deep breath and remember the predictions of the past.  It never works out EXACTLY that way.  Based on what I saw at the World’s Fair (1964) we are now in flying cars, living in domed cities and are talking on TV telephones.  Well the Quik phone app has been brought out, so this may be here. But it comes as the result of the personal computer and cell phone revolution.  A small detail the predictors, even into the ‘80’s, missed by a mile.
Michael Jackson
As much a monument or icon as a performer, the death today of Michael Jackson is a seismic cultural event. Nobody more important in his generation.  A titanic talent.  Perhaps maybe too much for the vessel. Here's a piece from back in the day.

PS: Mother Jones posted his art collection.  What does this tell you? Here's the link:

Neda, for the Ages
Neda Agha-Soltan’s life is sketched in below, from CNN. Her life as an icon has just begun. And as we grieve for her and the tragedy of Iran, we can be forgiven to nod to the fact that Neda, living at that time and place, has in her short life, illuminated the world.
“The second of three children, Neda lived with her parents in a middle-class neighborhood east of Tehran.
She was a happy, positive person. Though she studied philosophy and religion at the Azad Islamic University, she was more spiritual than religious. She also loved music. She once studied violin but had given it up and was planning to take up piano next. She had just bought a piano, but it had not yet been delivered.
Her demeanor was typically calm, even serene, but she had a quirky, playful sense of humor. A friend recalled that once, when Neda was visiting her friend’s house, she picked up a white Teddy bear, took off her big, purple-studded earrings and put them on the bear. Then she removed a necklace from around the neck of a friend and put it around the bear’s neck, taking delight in the bear’s transformation.
She liked to travel, having visited Turkey three months ago with a tour group. And she believed in human rights, her friend said.”
It's Feeling Khatami
Panetta, Cheney and Manadal al-Jamadi
This week Jane Mayer interviewed CIA Chief Leon Panetta in The New Yorker.  The mainstream press highlighted Panetta’s comment about Cheney’s dire predictions: “I think he smells some blood in the water on the national-security issue,” he told me. “It’s almost, a little bit, gallows politics. When you read behind it, it’s almost as if he’s wishing that this country would be attacked again, in order to make his point. I think that’s dangerous politics.”
Buried on P.57 is the news about 3 prisoners who died in our hands, by our hand.  And in particular, Manadel al-Jamadi, about whom we know nothing.  Except that he was hung blindfolded, by his wrists, his ribs broken. He died that way, November 2, 2003, basically crucified.  In my piece for the article I looked at the stressers on Panetta.  You could also consider  the stressers on the CIA: those between the moral voice of Obama and the pull of Cheney and those he left behind.  And to then consider Manadal al-Jamadi and . . . how many others.
June 14
A friend in Iran has directed me to websites where I found these shots.  It is a sudden and stirring example of bravery and devotion that has brought hundreds of thousands to the streets of Tehran and elsewhere.  Many are holding signs condemning the regime as a dictatorship. And many are paying a high price. This is beginning to take on the feel of the revolution of '79, with Ahmadinejad and his sponsor Khamenei in the role of Shah.  Wishing for a miracle for Iran  . . . and the rest of us.

Barr's Mitzvah
Bob Barr on Troy Davis.  A death penalty supporter, ex-Congressman Barr lives to regret a bill he co-wrote that blocks appeals and gets down to the killing. Under this law courts are refusing to hear witnesses who now recant their testimony.  In this recent Times column he mourns the foolish application of this bill in the rush to execution of Davis, very probably an innocent man.  As a result the state of Georgia can schedule his execution at any time now.

Published: May 31, 2009

THERE is no abuse of government power more egregious than executing an innocent man. But that is exactly what may happen if the United States Supreme Court fails to intervene on behalf of Troy Davis.

Mr. Davis is facing execution for the 1989 murder of an off-duty police officer in Savannah, Ga., even though seven of the nine witnesses have recanted their testimony against him. Many of these witnesses now say they were pressured into testifying falsely against him by police officers who were understandably eager to convict someone for killing a comrade. No court has ever heard the evidence of Mr. Davis’s innocence.

After the United States Court of Appeals for the 11th Circuit barred Mr. Davis from raising his claims of innocence, his attorneys last month petitioned the Supreme Court for an original writ of habeas corpus. This would be an extraordinary procedure — provided for by the Constitution but granted only a handful of times since 1900. However, absent this, Mr. Davis faces an extraordinary and obviously final injustice.

This threat of injustice has come about because the lower courts have misread the Anti-Terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996, a law I helped write when I was in Congress. As a member of the House Judiciary Committee in the 1990s, I wanted to stop the unfounded and abusive delays in capital cases that tend to undermine our criminal justice system.

With the effective death penalty act, Congress limited the number of habeas corpus petitions that a defendant could file, and set a time after which those petitions could no longer be filed. But nothing in the statute should have left the courts with the impression that they were barred from hearing claims of actual innocence like Troy Davis’s.

It would seem in everyone’s interest to find out as best we can what really happened that night 20 years ago in a dim parking lot where Officer Mark MacPhail was shot dead. With no murder weapon, surveillance videotape or DNA evidence left behind, the jury that judged Mr. Davis had to weigh the conflicting testimony of several eyewitnesses to sift out the gunman from the onlookers who had nothing to do with the heinous crime.

A litany of affidavits from prosecution witnesses now tell of an investigation that was focused not on scrutinizing all suspects, but on building a case against Mr. Davis. One witness, for instance, has said she testified against Mr. Davis because she was on parole and was afraid the police would send her back to prison if she did not cooperate.

So far, the federal courts have said it is enough that the state courts reviewed the affidavits of the witnesses who recanted their testimony. This reasoning is misplaced in a capital case. Reading an affidavit is a far cry from seeing a witness testify in open court.

Because Mr. Davis’s claim of innocence has never been heard in a court, the Supreme Court should remand his case to a federal district court and order an evidentiary hearing. (I was among those who signed an amicus brief in support of Mr. Davis.) Only a hearing where witnesses are subject to cross-examination will put this case to rest.

Although the Supreme Court issued a stay of execution last fall, the court declined to review the case itself, and its intervention still has not provided an opportunity for Mr. Davis to have a hearing on new evidence. This has become a matter of no small urgency: Georgia could set an execution date at any time.

I am a firm believer in the death penalty, but I am an equally firm believer in the rights and protections guaranteed by the Constitution. To execute Troy Davis without having a court hear the evidence of his innocence would be unconscionable and unconstitutional.

Nobody Expects . . . The Enlightenment
The last days we and the world have been trying to digest the Obama Cairo Speech. Here's my two and a half cents.
 I think it's been so hard for people to make out what happened because he did so many things they'd never in their lives seen before.  Primarily, I think, it was the sight of the most powerful politician in the world conducting his nation's business with the premise that pure reason is his best argument.  That an appeal to the ability of people involved in tribal, small-bore obsessions to  step back and see the large picture for long enough to actually change their behavior.  At other times this can be foolhardy state-craft.  The bet here is that the world has had enough of the old way and will give a new approach 5 good minutes.  By crafting the speech as well as he did, he put the ray of light and heat on the world of Islamic, Iranian and Israeli resentment and reminded them that their worlds are interconnected.  This would only be possible, perhaps, right now and with this president; a man who understands all these worlds, appearing on the barren landscape of the last 9 years. This could change the game. For Netanyahu, he no longer has a US cover for inertia.  His government could fall if he deals, so he may calculate falling for a cause may be worth it.  Besides who wants Avigdor Leiberman in your face all the time anyway? For Ahmadinejad, who faces a tough election, Obama removed the polarity, and therefore, perhaps, the oxygen for hate.  He may have to go now too.  And Bin Ladin perhaps, compared to Obama, starts to seem less real.  In any case, his show is old and may not get the viewers he used to.  I want to blog about the war in Afghanistan, the use of mercenaries and the murderous (and counterproductive) remote control bombs.  It's time to nail Obama on that and other things.  But for now, there must be an acknowledgement of this miracle.  A president from the age of reason, telling truth to a candid world, in its own language.  I really can't recall a president doing that (JFK comes close but would never mention that we have been about overthrowing governments.  Well natch).
 In this moment I have to say, as a citizen of Planet Earth I am very, very proud of him.

Words Have Consequences (with update)


The tragic assassination of Dr. George Tiller in a Wichita, Kansas church on Sunday has caused much soul-searching and the open discussion about how we speak to each other in this country.  No one has articulated this better than Frank Schaeffer, author of “Crazy for God”. A former member of the Christian Right and now a whistleblower, he writes of recollections of his own father, evangelist Francis Schaeffer as well as the other luminaries of the movement.  Schaeffer Sr., he has written, said that the use of force would be justified against abortion doctors. Frank Schaeffer said in an amazing interview with Rachel Maddow, “there is a direct line between what we said and this murder.”  He mentions the campaign of Bill O’Reilly of Fox News (seen in my little animation gif) and others in labeling the doctor, “Tiller the Baby Killer” among other things.  The reaction of some like Randall Terry tip their hand shockingly. With the NRA stronger than ever, the USA needs to focus on home-grown terror as much as any other kind.

And oh yes.

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