Saturday, August 16, 2008

Blog #49: Convention Time’s a’Coming!

With the Democratic Convention looming large, and Senator Obama’s poll numbers alarmingly near to those of Senator John McCain, the Obama and Clinton camps got together late in the week to announce a pact of peace and harmony in advance of the Denver Democratic Convention. In short, a roll call vote will be taken to ascertain the true delegate vote count of both the Clinton and Obama campaigns. The second night will field speeches from both Senator Clinton and hubby and ex-prez Bill, as well as Senator Obama’s still unnamed Democratic vice presidential candidate, whoever he or she might be. And Hillary Clinton is expected to release her delegates to vote for Obama, and she will actively campaign for a Barack Obama presidency. Both campaigns cited the historic nature of her race, and her extraordinary accomplishments as the first female candidate to remain in the race until the end, and the first to garnish a healthy minority of convention delegates.

In an interesting aside, a former Clinton supporter was gushing at the news of the roll call on a panel on Larry King Live Thursday night, while a former Obama supporter reeked of sarcasm and skepticism. This was indicative of the deep wounds of the campaign in which each camp’s supporters still hold to some degree. However, I’m quite sure the candidates themselves have worked their way through any of this residual animosity, and both are ready to face up to the challenges which face all of us Democrats, the task of electing Barack Obama as the next president of the United States. Matters like possible misuse of caucuses and other campaign strategies dwarf next to the looming possibility of John McCain, coasting in on the tail of Democratic infighting, and somehow waking up on Nov. 5th finding himself elected as the next president of the United States. For many reasons too numerous to go into here, this is an outcome I would personally find deplorable.
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Beware of men like the Republican presidential candidate John McCain who shamelessly use war as a tool for diplomacy, and who equate success in war as nothing short of complete victory. Such men would have you overlook the fact that war is a game whose success is measured in the number of deaths of your enemies. And the generals who we trust to execute our war plans are men whose sole expertise is in the extinction of the soldiers of the army of our opposition. Korea ended at the very parallel where it started, and Vietnam ended in our out and out defeat, although not many Americans will admit to that assessment. But what other conclusion can you draw when you exit the country pell mell, and the former capitol of South Vietnam once called Saigon is now named Ho Chi Minh City. The cessation of hostilities in a conflagration like Iraq would not be a shameful outcome as that honorseeking candidate McCain would have you believe. Anything that brings senseless killings to a halt is one giant step in the right direction. And it is interesting to note that the troops of the military have given at least six times as much to the Obama campaign as to McCain’s.

It is unfortunate that war is perceived by politicians like George W. Bush and Karl Rove as a unifying situation for a deeply divided nation, so much so that they are tempted to pursue a military action in place of diplomacy for domestic political purposes rather than true foreign policy reasons. And for an up to the minute look at the present, there is John McCain’s sharp criticism of Russia’s incursion into its ex-territory of Georgia. Now just a few short weeks ago the McCain camp was quick to point out that Obama was being presumptuous as he addressed that huge crowd in Germany as part of his Iraq and European tour. But McCain’s ferver in condemning the Russian invasion of Georgia is equally, if not more presumptuous than was Obama, coming as it did before a White House response by our still reigning president was forthcoming. And it left some of us to wonder if his criticsm was in part fueled by the fact that his primary adviser’s lobbying firm received $600,000 in fees from the country of Georgia as recently as a few months ago? That’s the trouble with engaging lobbyists as political advisers. Any forthcoming opinions which might reflect the lobbyist’s clients’ interests immediately come under our well deserved suspicion. So much for Obama’s perceived presumptuousness. McCain who thinks of himself as a foreign policy expert, is hopelessly superior in that department.

And while we are still on topic of Russia/Georgia, we wonder if Mssr’s Putin and Medvedev were properly impressed with President Bush’s unmitigated castigation of Russia’s incursion into Georgia. In Washington President Bush condemned as unacceptable what he called Russia’s “bullying and intimidation.” “Takes one to know one,” and “the pot is once again calling the kettle black” both come to mind after our careful analysis of Mr. Bush’s self-righteous tirade. Bush also said Friday that Russia must withdraw its troops from all of Georgian territory and said the United States would stand with Georgia in the conflict. “Georgia’s sovereignty and territorial integrity must be respected,” he said. For some strange reason he made no mention of respecting Iraq’s territorial integrity. "After you," could have been a response from mother Russia.
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Remember recently when Barack Obama warned his followers that the opposition was going to call attention to the fact that his face doesn’t match those of the presidents whose faces are on our currency, and how the McCain camp immediately screamed unfair and accused Obama of playing the “race” card. Well, of course he was playing the race card, he has no choice, it is the hand he’s been dealt. Well, Eugene Robinson, an Op-Ed columnist for the Washington Post, reported Friday that no sooner spoken than the Republican Smear Machine goes into operation with its first missive, a book by one Jerome Corsi called “The Obama Nation.”

Corsi would be known as just another visitor from the outer fringe if he had not been the co-author of "Unfit for Command," the book that slimed John Kerry's exemplary record as a Swift boat commander in Vietnam. The allegations in that book were discredited, but not before they had been amplified by the right-wing echo chamber to the point where they raised questions in some voters' minds – perhaps enough to swing the election.
It was an abominable trick, but quite remarkable. Kerry's opponent, George W. Bush, had avoided Vietnam altogether by taking refuge in the Texas Air National Guard, and who went AWOL from that. Kerry was a decorated war hero, yet somehow his valor and sense of duty were turned into a political negative and used against him. And now Corsi, in what he acknowledges is an attempt "to keep Obama from getting elected," has come out with a book that similarly tries to turn one of Obama's strengths – his compelling life story – into a liability.

Robinson notes that Corsi's new volume of vitriol seeks to smear Obama as a "leftist" and add fuel to the false and discredited rumor that he is secretly a radical Muslim, or at least has "extensive connections to Islam." The liberal Web site Media Matters has already demonstrated that the book is riddled with factual errors – for example, Corsi repeats the charge, thoroughly disproved, that Obama was in church for one of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright's most incendiary sermons. But the point isn't to tell the truth. The point is to repeat the lie and thus give it new life. Corsi's dirty work is more difficult this time around because Obama has already written his life story in the autobiographical "Dreams From My Father." Since he can't reveal anything about Obama's past, Corsi is reduced to reinterpretation – or, at times, invention.

It sounds like the kind of book that should quickly be consigned to the remainder bin, but – unsurprisingly – it is already a bestseller. The Post and other news organizations have noted that this and similar anti-Obama books win the imprimatur of best-seller status by being "pushed by conservative book clubs that buy in bulk to drive up sales." However it remains to be seen if a book slanted to diminish Obama’s chances for the presidency will be read by anyone not already an ardent proponent.
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This week opened on a note of sadness. My Monday morning online newspaper announced the death of one Anthony J. Russo, who at age 71 died in his native Suffolk, Va. on the preceeding Wednesday, police records showed. The cause of death was not immediately made public.

You might well ask, “who the hell was Anthony J. Russo?” Well, he was a real authentic hero, although one of the unsung variety. He was the grunt man on the Pentagon Papers Caper, the man who had physically manned the Xerox machines which copied the thousands of pages of the mammoth report that Daniel Ellsberg had given to newspapers like The New York Times and The Washington Post, so that the American public could have a chance to read the Pentagon’s own top secret assessment into the origins of the Indochina War.

Russo, a Rand Corp. researcher, had visited Vietnam for a study involving interrogating Viet Cong prisoners. He came back radicalized. “I knew what I was told about the war was totally false,” he said. Ellsberg had met Russo in Saigon in 1965 and they were both troubled by what they had seen during their research there.

“In 1968 I came back and Dan was across the hall at Rand," Russo recalled. "He had been a total hawk in Vietnam. But everything about him seemed shattered. It was as if he was trying to grow himself back. He was going through a metamorphosis . . . He was very tortured. There was no way he could justify the war anymore."

Ellsberg mourned Russo’s passing last week in a posting on his anti-war blog, calling him a courageous collaborator. “I knew that he was the one person with the combination of guts and passionate concern about the war who would take the risk of helping me,” Ellsberg wrote. The case that became known as the Pentagon Papers, helped put the Vietnam War on trial. It began when Ellsberg, a top military analyst disillusioned with American policy, decided to release a top-secret Defense Department study of the origins of the U.S. role in Indochina over three decades. Being employees of the Rand Corporation both men had access to the papers, and Ellsberg had initially been active in getting Russo to help him reproduce and distribute copies of the study.

Ellsberg went on to become an anti-war icon. Russo, retired as a researcher for Los Angeles County, subsequently devoting himself to anti-nuclear issues and leading Persian Gulf War protests. The Times reported that Russo divorced twice and had no children. Funeral arrangements were unknown.

Ellsberg had first offered the study to several members of Congress and government officials before deciding to send it to the newspapers. His action was branded by President Richard Nixon as treason. The government initially tried to stop publication of the Pentagon Papers, first in The New York Times and then in The Washington Post, prompting a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision barring prior restraint of free expression. Ellsberg and Russo were subsequently charged with espionage, theft and conspiracy for the leak. As co-defendants they subsequently went on trial in Los Angeles, where the papers had been copied. However, in 1973, a federal judge dismissed the case, ruling that the government was guilty of misconduct, including a break-in at the office of Ellsberg's Beverly Hills psychiatrist denounced as having been orchestrated by White House officials seeking to discredit him. For the sake of history there foll0ws a part of Wikipedia’s page on the Papers.

“The Pentagon Papers true title is United States – Vietnam Relations, 1945–1967: A Study Prepared by the Department of Defense, a 47-volume, 14,000-page, top-secret Department of Defense history of the United States' politico-military involvement in the war in Vietnam, from 1945 to 1967.

“U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert S. McNamara commissioned the study in 1967, and appointed Leslie Gelb (Pentagon international security affairs policy planning-arms control director) as study supervisor. Gelb hired 36 military officers, civilian policy experts, and historians to write the study's monographs. The Pentagon Papers included 4,000 pages of actual documents from the 1945–67 period.

“Daniel Ellsberg gave most of the Pentagon Papers to New York Times reporter Neil Sheehan, with Ellsberg's friend Anthony Russo assisting in their copying. The NYT began publishing excerpts as an article-series on June 13, 1971. Political controversy and lawsuits followed; on June 29, U.S. Senator Mike Gravel (Democrat, Alaska) entered 4,100 pages of the Papers to the record of his Subcommittee on Public Buildings and Grounds. These portions of the Papers were subsequently published by Beacon Press, the publishing arm of the Unitarian Universalist Association of Congregations.

“The importance of recording the Papers to the Congressional Record was that, Article I, Section 6 of the United States Constitution provides that "for any Speech or Debate in either House, [a Senator or Representative] shall not be questioned in any other Place", thus the Senator could not be prosecuted for anything said on the Senate floor, and, by extension, for anything entered to the Congressional Record, allowing the Papers to be publicly read without threat of a treason trial and conviction. Later, Ellsberg said the documents "demonstrated unconstitutional behavior by a succession of presidents, the violation of their oath and the violation of the oath of every one of their subordinates", and that he had leaked the papers in the hopes of getting the nation out of "a wrongful war."

Little Eddy would like to salute Daniel Ellsberg for his extraordinary dedication towards helping the American people learn of the true origins of the Vietnam intervention, and we would like to join with him in his salute to his remarkable fallen co-conspirator, the late Anthony J. Russo. Together the two of them were able to throw the light of truth upon the origins of the Vietnam War, which was paramount to finally turning many of the people of our country against the war. Let us all be grateful to these courageous men who risked their careers and perhaps even their freedom to shed light on the origins of that mistaken fiasco that was Vietnam.

Unfortunately the lessons learned from the run up to the Vietnam War were forgotten in the twenty some odd years before the run up to our next war, the invasion of Iraq. And so our general population went about its business oblivious to the lies and halftruths which were designed to lead up to the American invasion of Iraq. And even though the present debacle in Iraq stands as a symbol as to how little our country seems to have learned from it’s former mistakes, as long as individuals like Ellsberg and Russo are willing to risk their careers to bring the truth to light there is hope for us. And the almost monthly appearance of late of books and magazine articles throwing the spotlight on the Bush administration’s excesses in the run up to the invasion of Iraq and its possible plans to attack Iran, indicates that high officials are still willing to release information exposing our leaders when they become convinced of the futility and dangers of their keeping silent. And so the flame of hope, faint though it may be, still flickers.
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Richard Richtmyer of the Associated Press reports that John Lennon’s killer, Mark David Chapman, was denied parole for the fifth time Aug. 12 by a parole board that said he remains a threat to the public. As a result Chapman will remain in New York’s Attica Correctional facility for gunning down the former Beatle nearly three decades ago on a Manhattan sidewalk. The parole board said that although he has had a clean disciplinary record since 1994, Chapman told board members during the hearing that he had planned and conducted Lennon's killing "with an essentially clear mind." Considering that, the board said, his release "would not be in the best interest of the community." Little Eddy would like to unblushingly second that motion. Chapman, 53, has been in prison for 27 years since pleading guilty to the Lennon murder, which he has said he committed to gain attention. He became eligible for parole in 2000 after serving 20 years of a maximum life sentence. In a one-page decision issued after Chapman's appearance today, parole board members said they denied his parole "due to concern for the public safety and welfare."

Chapman, a former maintenance man from Hawaii, fired five shots outside Lennon's apartment building on Dec. 8, 1980, hitting Lennon four times in front of his wife, Yoko Ono, and others. Ono, who has previously written the parole board arguing against Chapman's release, did not offer any testimony in his latest hearing. "She was very pleased with the parole board's decision," said her lawyer, Peter Shukat. He declined to comment further.

For my money the story floated at the time, that Chapman was a former Beatle fan turned crazed, doesn’t fly. For one thing he kept quoting passages from Catcher in the Rye, a book frequently quoted from by people attempting to create the illusion of being mentally unstable. For some strange reason the people on the military right seem to think that quoting from that book shows derangement on the part of the quotes person. Chapman, who was working in Hawaii at the time as a night watchman, I believe was hired to do the job by the same shadow government which oversaw the assassinations of Malcolm X, John F. Kennedy, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Robert Kennedy. And it was done because November 1980 had seen the election of Ronald Reagan to the presidency, and the shadow government was getting revved up for military interventions in both Nicaragua and El Salvador, and Lennon who had unflinchingly opposed the Vietnam war and who had an incredibly large following was viewed by the shadow government as a threat to their plans. Ed Asner, the actor who played Lou Grant on television, and who was also active in opposing our government’s support of the Contras in Nicaragua, and who had arranged shipments of medical supplies for the Sandanista government, at one point received a letter which he read on the air, a letter in which the writer claimed they had taken care of John Lennon and then proceeded to threaten Asner as being next on their list.

I believe Chapman allowed himself to be caught at the time because he was convinced he would be let off. An attempt to paint a case for his unstable mental condition was made in a made-for -TV documentary shown at the time by public broadcasting. Several years later some entity managed to have Chapman transferred from Attica to a mental health facility in upstate N. Y. Had not the public been outraged and Lennon’s wife Yoko Ono testified against it, Chapman could have been released somewhere down the line simply by the institution classifying him as being no longer a threat. Fortunately the uproar caused the plan to fall through and he was returned to Attica and under the control of the N. Y. penal system in which he was sentenced. Chapman's next appearance before the board is scheduled for August 2010. Whatever Chapman’s original motives were, we would like to wish him a long and fruitless incarceration, preferably with him emerging from captivity feet first.
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Apple finally blew one. After years of turning out killer electronics and producing the environments in which to properly market them, Apple tried to do too much on July 11. It was the day of the second coming of the iPhone, this one works with 3G, and also it was the day of the availability of firmware updating the first generation iPhone and ipod Touch to allow them to take applications, plus the opening of the iPhone application st0re, and finally the opening of, a new function of what used to be .mac, Apple’s subscription cloud storage space. ATT had the major reponsibility for setting up the registration for the iPhone 3G, and many delays were reported in its activati0n process. The brand new Apple Applications store for iPhone also opened on this momentous day and seemed to go fairly well, with many apps being offered for free or under $10. But the transition of .Mac to MobileMe, the fourth major happening of that day, was a disaster. The service was out for days. Some people lost data they had saved to .Mac. And finally an email floated from Steve Jobs to Apple employees admitted that they had been stupid to try to do it on July 11, and, that on reflection there had been no rush in the transition from .Mac to MobileMe. Apple doesn’t make too many mistakes, usually their instincts and executions are letter perfect. We take our hat off to Apple, it is reassuring to note that not everything they do always works with perfection, that on one occasion at least they could be as off the mark as say, that competitor of theirs to the North, can you say Microsoft?

There are two interesting footnotes to this. Best Buy has announced that it will be the first non Apple, non ATT entity to carry the iPhone 3G. And it plans to do this in time for the Christmas buying season. And John Paczkowski who writes the Digital Daily column for All Things Digital, which also houses the Kara Swisher and Walt Mossberg blogs, writes, “As Steve Jobs would say: “BOOM.” Apple (AAPL) has eclipsed Google (GOOG) in market value. Apple’s current market cap: $159.37 billion. Google’s: $157.56 billion. Not that we didn’t see this coming. Indeed, Valleywag predicted it back in November 2007. “Apple knows how to design not just gadgets, but the businesses that go around them,” the blog noted. “And as a result, we wouldn’t be surprised if Apple is worth more than Google within two years. Make that two years or less.” Paczkowski ended by noting, “I wonder if Michael Dell would shut Apple (AAPL) down and give the money back to its shareholders now?”
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Here’s to our poets, and particularly those who attempt to guide their people in their eternal quest for freedom and the pursuit of happiness. Two of our poets of the Vietnam era were Bob Dylan and Phil Ochs, whose songs were like Broadsides, the equivalents of Patrick Henry’s rabble rousing essays during the American Revolution. Their songs rallied people to question the direction of our leaders, a direction which Daniel Elsberg’s later release of the Pentagon Papers served to confirm. Not enough can be said for the poets who would analyze a people and its politicians and leaders. They serve an irreplaceable function in a free society.

Such a man was the Palestinian poet Mahmoud Darwish. The BBC reported that crowds of Palestinians have paid their last respects to the poet Darwish in the West Bank city of Ramallah. Darwish died after open-heart surgery in Houston, Texas, on Saturday at the age of 67. Leading all mourners, the Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas described the poet and author as a hero for all Palestinians. Darwish was one of the most influential cultural figures in recent Arab history, encapsulating the Palestinian longing for independence.

Darwish penned fierce criticism of the divisions among Palestinians, believing, in some ways, what they were doing to themselves was worse than anything others had done to them. He also wrote the famous speech Arafat delivered at the United Nations in 1974: "Today I have come bearing an olive branch and a freedom-fighter's gun. Do not let the olive branch fall from my hand." There is little doubt Darwish’s work, not just on the Palestinian cause, but on love and hope and death, will endure across the Arab world, the BBC’s correspondent said in summing up .
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Well, this empties the tank for this week. To see what next week will bring do come back again next week. Bye now.

The Real Little Eddy

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