Saturday, October 25, 2008

Final Arguments Before the Election?

An open (and final) call for whistleblowers

So far, nobody has offered to bet against my assertion that we will witness a Pardon Tsunami during the weeks after an Obama victory. Almost certainly, President George W. Bush has promised scads of get-out-of-jail-free cards to those who busily ripped off this great nation during the last eight years. A gang of kleptos and political hatchetmen who rightfully fear the resurrection of the U.S. Civil Service -- including all the auditors, FBI and Justice agents, inspectors general and so on -- suddenly unleashed from their neocon leash-holders.

Newly inaugurated President Barack Obama won’t have to start a witch hunt, something that isn’t in his character anyway. He need only allow our public servants to return to doing their jobs, and indictments will flow, like a river that’s been locked far too long behind a glacier.

That is... unless Bush issues the promised pardons.

(Open to question: will he arrange things so that someone will pardon him?)

Now there’s an interesting dynamic, here -- an example of the Prisoner’s Dilemma. How can any of the people expecting executive clemency be sure that W will keep his word? After all, the larger the stack of pardons, the bigger the penalty, in political terms, to be paid by both the GOP and Bush’s remaining public stature (such as it is). If the stack gets high enough, the Republican Party might never recover... and Bush might have to move to Dubai. Hence, some of the promises may just be no more than empty words, meant to keep mid-level people silent till the election. Anyone who is counting on such a promise ought to consider how reliable it may be, after November 4.

There is an alternative, to squeal before the election. It should offer some appealing aspects for your run-of-the-mill neocon klepto or enabler to ponder.

Notably, George Bush isn’t the only one who can offer get-out-of-jail-free cards! Rep. Henry Waxman can grant immunity for testimony given under oath, for example. And President Obama will be able to pardon, too. Above all, there is often forgiveness, public acclaim and hero status for the first fellow who abandons a gang of criminals, because of an attack of conscience.

Also, do not count on a presidential pardon - even if you get one - to be perfect protection. First, Congress might try a gambit I’ve recommended - using sort of an “inverse signing statement” to corner the definition of a pardon so that it only covers acts that are openly avowed and admitted in cooperative sworn testimony. Then there is the matter of civil damages. You might have to flee the country, anyway.

Key point: the truth is going to come out. This is the diametric opposite of the Clinton Era witch hunts, when relentlessly-fixated partisan searches wound up not turning up anything palpable, at all. (Not a single Clintonian was ever even indicted for malfeasance in the performance of official duties.) Instead, this time, Democrats will barely have to lift a finger, while civil servants do it all. And the rats who are slow to leave the sinking ship will be treated as rats, by a disgusted America, forever.

HenchmanConclusion: pay heed you henchmen out there. The next week may be your last chance to join (and help) the winning side of history. Don’t blow it.

Oh. Long ago I offered bets on whether Al Qaeda would try another election-influencing gambit There have been some clumsy web postings and trial balloons. But unless Osama issues a tape (and even then, perhaps), the net response this time may be a wary shrug and a yawn.

Thoughts on the Palin Soap Opera

It’s not so much the amounts ($150,000 spent on the candidate’s clothes, plus permanent stylists following her around). Those who already like her will rationalize that it’s much harder for a female candidate to keep up a fresh appearance and helping her is a legitimate expense (even if it’s 2-3 X what the average American makes in a year.) No, the real killer is where she bought the clothes. Nieman Marcus and Saks.

Oh, I get it. New York elite stuff is fine -- in its place. Insist that the country be ruled by a kakocracy... but it’s another thong when it comes to unimportant things, like a doctor when you’re sick, a lawyer when you’re in trouble, a scientist and engineer to re-invent your cars... or some gay designers to help you look better than Joe Plumber. City slicker expertise is okay, in its place. So long as the smartypants don’t presume to suggest ways to actually guide a great and complicated republic.

Cheryl had an insight about all this, one that lets Sarah Palin off the hook, just a bit. She calls Palin “Eliza Dolittle” and sees her as the small-town country girl who is grabbed up and re-made by a bunch of cynical men, as in “My Fair Lady,” told what to say and to whom and dressed and coached for a part that is way over her head. Hm. Cool perspective!

Though I figure there is also, within Palin, a very canny natural politician. Then there’s the scary bits. Heck, she’s large, I’ll admit that. She can contain multitudes. I just hope we’re never forced to worry and learn a whole lot more about em all.

The most effective (though least mature) argument to use with an “ostrich.”

I’ve tried hard to offer ways you might try to get that decent (or somewhat decent) but obstinate conservative uncle or aunt to wake up and see how thoroughly conservatism has been betrayed by the hijackers of their movement.

But time is short now (thanks bee to merciful God) and most of them already know all that stuff. Right now, the problem is that many somewhat-wakened ostriches are still having trouble wrestling their hand toward actually voting for the Democrat.

Oh sure, you can tell yours that Obama is going to win, anyway. Voting for him would help spank the GOP and make them go back to the drawing board. A landslide could ensure they won’t be obstinate about revising their message for next time, or seeking new blood.


At the opposite end there’s a cluster of reasons that may strike closer to home. So, I am going to dial down the maturity level here and offer a few arguments that go to the gut level, where many people make their political decisions (alas).

Tell em this: if they can manage to vote Obama this time, they will always in the future be able to say “Well, I voted for Obama in 2008. And hence --

“-- nobody can ever again call me racist.”

“-- I get to brag if he succeeds.”

“-- and if he fails, I get to say that I gave you *#*! democrats a chance, and you blew it!”

Especially number one. It could be a potent emotion-level argument. Even if (especially if) they really are _____, down deep. (Funny thing though: once the precedent is set... it tends to alter people’s thinking, from then on. See my short story “The Giving Plague.”)

For a far more mature view of the same general category of take on things... see an important essay on how Obama will transform the world’s perceptions of America. I just read a french language newspaper while in Montreal. (Yes I can read and speak another language, whoopee.) And there was a survey of opinions around the world on the U.S. election. The figures are staggering!

They want us back. They want U.S. back. And they see him as embodying our better nature.

There is no single act that America will ever do, that will more swiftly restore our popularity and leadership in the world.

== Funniest videos yet... and then the best ==

Look, it’s time to declare this what it is. A be-in!

It’s been a long time since the sixties and we’ve been so mired in culture war BS...and we’ll be nervous about this whole deal until weeks after Bho and Bide are safely in DC - ensconced forever far from each other (I hope) with separate Secret Service details.

Still... it would be a damned shame not to take note that this is also the funnest and funniest and most creativity-drenched election ever! Dang, these kids in Generation We are sharp!

I mean, it’s a raucous laugh-in, with Tina Fey on SNL and with Jon Stewart’s unbelievably above-average riff, with Jason Jones in Wasilla... (See it! Especially if you can find a version with Stewart’s deeply angry/hilarious framing remarks.)...

...but it is the burst of private and amateur videos and such that has proved almost overwhelming. (More below). We can thank Bush for this much. People really are feeling alive. More intensely patriotic and hopeful than I have seen in years.

Though, of course, again it does all come down to this.

== Links: ===

--- Obama, getting amusing at tha annual Smith Dinner -- comedy Obama, Part 1 and Part 2.

Fascinating insights from David Brooks, of all people:

Esquire is backing Democrat Barack Obama for president _ its first endorsement in the magazine's 75-year history. The LA Times has not endorsed a president since 1977.. but check it out.

A cute item by Ron Howard, with Andy Griffith & Henry Winkler.

Ever notice that Sarah Palin anagrams to "Sharia plan." So, clearly, she's the one who plans to institute Muslim law in the United States. Other anagrams include: a sharp nail a plain rash. Any chance of a numeralogical match with 666? Pleeeeeze?

Plus sundry links...

McCain’s Turtle Island story

And finally, I am not proud to spread this. But I am desperate. And anyone who sees it KNOWS that there is something wrong. I know there may be mitigating factors and reasons. Still, something is wrong and it oughta creep anybody out:


Unknown said...

To publicize the Pardon Tsunami, you might suggest some markets on Intrade (e.g. "Bush will double total pardons since WWII," or "Bush will get pardoned").

Anonymous said...

Before you watch this:

WASSUP 2008 . . .

You have to watch this old beer advert for context:


Same actors, eight years later!

The ending of Wassup 2008 is . . . sweet.

Anonymous said...

Congress doesn't have to engage in an "inverse signing statement" to modify the definition of a pardon. The law already supports that interpretation.

If Congress subpoenas someone to testify who has already been pardoned, that person does not have a Fifth Amendment right against self-incrimination. As a result, any failure to answer Congress' questions about the pardoned conduct would result in a contempt charge.

David Brin said...

Wow, that is a GREAT point!

So, accepting a Bush pardon is tantamount to accepting a full gut-spill before Congress or a Truth Commission... or else you must still flee the country.

I wonder if Waxman will have the nerve and persistence and support.

In fact, accepting a pardon is an INVITATION to be subpoenaed. Dang, there may not be a tsunami, after all....

Jumper said...

I'm sorry, but I really don't recall. NO, don't remember.

B. Dewhirst said...

“-- and if he fails, I get to say that I gave you *#*! democrats a chance, and you blew it!”

Didn't we already do that in 2006? What, they're going to life-flight 3000 spines to Washington if he wins?

David McCabe said...

Entire 20 Oct 2008 episode of the Daily Show.

Matt DeBlass said...

On that last photo, the caption should read: "The moment John McCain mutated from a likeable moderate senator from Arizona into a giant fire-breathing monster that went on to smash Tokyo."

Rob Perkins said...

Well, the ballot is before me. It remains that no candidate has my endearment. And that I've been spending an awful lot of time agonizing about 2.8 millionth of 11/538ths of a decision. Especially in a state so over the moon about Obama that there really is no question where those 11 electors will go.

It's Obama, though, for me. And, it's because of the campaigns.

Throughout, Obama's rhetoric has been "McCain is aligned with Bush policies" which has a measure of truth, but not really enough to be persuasive.

No, it's because the whole time, I've seen that Obama has been focused on *policies*, decisions of government. Disagreements about direction and a call for repentance from past mistakes.

On McCain's side, though, there had been a tincture of fear at the beginning. A question of whether Obama had what it took to lead. That was a fair question.

But rather than offer merely a viable tincture, they've lately unloaded three cups of scary-dye into the mix. Pouring out stuff that can't possibly be true. Committing clear unrepentant fallacy from the stump.

I'm tired of the politics of fear. I'm tired of fighting with all you people on any issue, including social issues. I'm tired of culture war and name calling. Of politics based on gut feeling and swooning.

Voting for McCain validates the divisive campaign he's waged. It might even imply agreement with the case they've been making that the Democrat in the race "pals around with terrorists."

I refuse to do that, because it disgusts me.

I remain concerned that the Democrats will move to unbalance or maintain imbalance in certain areas of social law. That concerns me deeply, but I am reminded that good people sharing own outlook are Democrats, including the Senate Majority Leader.

"Good luck to you," I'd say to Mr. Obama. He'll likely win and get his chance. And like David said, he'd better not blow it.

Heaven knows the Republicans aren't itching to rescue unity in America, this year.

Anonymous said...

There is a video posted on youtube involving Biden being interviewed by one of those local stations that have devolved into shock television. This lady asks some of the most kooky questions that could come right out of the Sean Hannity pocket of questions too radical to ask even for him. As you watch it imagine if Palin had this kind of grilling. Now that would be entertaining. To watch Biden swat back the questions is simply genius. This almost made up for his "testing Obama" gaff.


matthew said...

Great pictures taken of Saturn's moon Enceladus by the Cassini probe. I've seen some of these before, but the presentation here is very effective.

David Brin said...

Rob, we'll not gloat. You are PRECISELY the kind of person who might rescue conservatism and your vote will be part of an overwhelming rejection NOT of the basic old version of that word, but of the freakazoids who have hijacked it.

We'll be rooting for you, and millions of others like you, as your own civil war ensues and we hope your kind will win the battle to come.

Meanwhile. We're all joined in prayer that Obama is what he seems, and that he'll get a chance to prove it... and that we can hold up our own sides of the bargain.

David McCabe said...

Your URL for the bogus Biden interview was also bogus. Here's a working URL:

Joe Biden interview with inane journalist.

sociotard said...

Dr. Brin, I will take that bet. Hmmm, what to wager? How about "Brin is Awesome."s? If there is a 'pardon tsunami' I will type "Brin is Awesome" fifty times, no use of Ctrl-C, on your blog. And mine (not that I ever use it)

If I win, and there is no pardon tsunami, you will type "Sociotard is Awesome" fifty times, and I will show all my friends.

CLARIFICATION: We need to establish what would constitute a pardon tsunami. I propose that it must meet one of the following conditions:

1) A pardon tsunami requires more pardons in November and December than Clinton had in his last two months

2) Alternatively just more pardons in December than Clinton had in December.

3) More than 5 "stinky" pardons. Now Clinton only had one, but surely you will grant a tsunami would consist of more than 5? (should sentence-reductions count toward this? you tell me)

WHY I'M CONFIDENT: Bush is just not all that pardon-happy. He's given far fewer pardons than his predecessors. Maybe he misses signing execution orders, or maybe he's saving up to make your tsunami less remarkable.

Anyway, look over my wager and tell me what you think.

sociotard said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Rob Perkins said...

What on earth am I supposed to do with that? I'm *for* universal health care, *for* a progressive income tax, *in favor of* a significant and successful social safety net, *leery* of unregulated free market greed, *at peace* with all kinds of wiccan, LBGT, immigrant, and other fringe-type factions, especially my neighbors, *against* deficit spending and easy credit practices, *opposed* to expeditionary wars like the Iraq action, *deeply fascinated* and utterly unafraid of all kinds of science...

Need I go on? About the only conservative viewpoints I actually hold is that I'd like a heavier use of the rational basis standard in court decisions, with great deferral to the legislature on implicit constitutional matters, and a desire to see social change *really studied* before its effects are inflicted on the polity.

...and maybe, just maybe, a more peaceful compromise on the issue of abortion?

Oh, and I'd like the shouting and name-calling in the political commons to cease.

The basic dismay I feel is that there is actually no place for me in American politics!

Conservative indeed. Lay your stereotypes at the door, please; I've lived in Provo, Utah. It did not suit me. And the arguments I made in the last round were not necessarily mine.

sociotard said...

Ugh, I spaced January. Redo the above to

1) more in nov/dec/jan
2) more in dec/jan
3) more in jan
4) more on jan 20
5) more than 5 stinky done those three months

Now I just have to find monthly numbers. The Justice dept only gives them by year, although that does give us the January numbers:

Clinton Pardons
2000: 70 (and 6 commutations)
2001: 218 (and 40 commutations)

Bush (thus far)
2008: 44 (2)

Oh, and if by some miracle McCain wins I propose the bet be null (neither wins), since that would mean Bush wouldn't have to make pardons.

Any other tweaks you think neccessary?

Anonymous said...


I doubt we'll see anything like a "full gut-spill before Congress or a Truth Commission". Jumper was hinting at the obvious response; hiding behind incompetence and a faulty memory. I don't yet know of an effective step to get through that barrier.

Also, you all might have seen it, but there have been two curious comments made in the last few days that have surfaced on the internet.

Tom Brokaw Interviewing Powell:

Brokaw: If were called into the oval office on January 21st by the new president, whoever it may be, and he said to you, "General Powell, I need from you your recommendation on where I begin, what should be my priorities?"

Powell: "I would start with talking to the american people and talking to the world and conveying a new image of American leadership, a new image of America's role in the world. The problems will always be there and there’s going to be a crisis which will come along on the 21st, 22nd of January that we don’t even know about right now. And so I think what the President has to do is start using the power of the oval office and the power of his personality to convince the American people and convince the world that America is solid. America is going to move forward. We are going to fix our economic problems. We are going to meet our overseas obligations. But restoring a sense of purpose, a sense of confidence in the American people and in the international community in America.

Brokaw: What's not on the screen right now that concerns you? That should be more prominent in the minds of the American people, and the people running for President?

Powell: "I think the American people and the gentlemen running for President will have to, early on, focus more on education than we've seen so far..."

This looks like a hint, follow up question, and evasion thereof. There's also this other event, in which Biden spoke at length on the same topic.

"We're gonna find ourselves in real trouble when we get elected. This is gonna be really hard. This is gonna be really, really, really hard. We're gonna have the largest systemic deficit in modern - not modern - in the history of the world. Literally. Literally. We're gonna find ourselves inheriting a debt, yearly debt this year, that may approach three-quarters of a trillion dollars. You hear me? We left this guy with a $232 billion surplus. At a minimum when we take office - God willing - we're gonna have a $450 billion deficit. And the way the economy is tanking the way it is now it may be as high as $750 billion."

"28 states are in serious trouble and they're about to contribute to the economic downward spiral because what are they doing? Cutting services, laying people off as they lose their tax base. So there are going to be a lot of tough decisions Barack's gonna have to make, a lot of tough decisions, including on foreign policy."

"And here's the point I want to make. Mark my words. Mark my words. It will not be six months before the world tests Barack Obama like they did John Kennedy. The world is looking. We're about to elect a brilliant 47-year old senator president of the United States of America. Remember I said it standing here if you don't remember anything else I said. Watch, we're gonna have an international crisis, a generated crisis, to test the mettle of this guy. And he's gonna have to make some really tough - I don't know what the decision's gonna be, but I promise you it will occur. As a student of history and having served with seven presidents, I guarantee you it's gonna happen. I can give you at least four or five scenarios from where it might originate. And he's gonna need help. And the kind of help he's gonna need is, he's gonna need you, not financially to help him, we're gonna need you to use your influence, your influence within the community, to stand with him. Because it's not gonna be apparent initially, it's not gonna be apparent that we're right. Because all these decisions, all these decisions, once they're made if they work, then they weren't viewed as a crisis. If they don't work, it's viewed as you didn't make the right decision, a little bit like how we hesitated so long dealing with Bosnia and dealing with Kosovo, and consequently 200,000 people lost their lives that maybe didn't have to lose lives. It's how we made a mistake in Iraq. We made a mistake in Somalia. So there's gonna be some tough decisions. They may emanate from the Middle East. They may emanate from the sub-continent. They may emanate from Russia's newly-emboldened position because they're floating in a sea of oil."

"Only thing I'm asking you is, you know, gird your loins. We're gonna win with your help, God willing, we're gonna win, but this is not gonna be an easy ride. This president, the next president, is gonna be left with the most significant task. It's like cleaning the Aegean stables, man. This is more than just, this is more than - think about it, literally, think about it - this is more than just a capital crisis, this is more than just markets, this is a systemic problem we have with this economy."

Much later he comments:

"I probably shouldn't have said all this because it dawned on me that the press is here,"

And there is Obama's followup comments:
"Answering questions after a meeting with Biden and national security advisers, Obama insists that Joe Biden intended to say that the next president will be tested by foreign powers, regardless of who is elected.

"Joe sometimes engages in rhetorical flourishes, but i think his core point was that the next administration is going to be tested, regardless of who it is," he said at the Richmond, Va., event.


I really don't know what to make of these comments. Biden made them in unguarded zest, Powell dropped an oblique hint and then avoided returning to it. I don't think Powell slipped something he didn't intend to... so why hint? What's his aim here?

As for Obama's follow up, he's suggesting some kind of test is inevitable for the next President, but it seems like Biden is referring to something more specific. That's how I read it, anyway.

Anonymous said...

The thing that really bothers me about the use of the goofy McCain photo is that it is so utterly out of context. (Disclaimer: I have already voted for Obama, so this isn't partisanship.) If you watch the video, he was doing a silly which-way-around-the-table dance with Bob Schieffer. Once he got himself squared away, he laughed and made a self-deprecating goofy face which got caught by a still photographer at just the right moment. One thing this incident might do, though, is give a lot more insight into the psychology of McCain's tongue juts.

I think the thing that nerks me the most about the whole Palin wardrobe thing is that the people who are defending this are largely the very same ones who, four years ago, were hammering away at Kerry for his $400 haircut and in some cases the same people who ragged on Clinton for his $150 haircut on a runway back in the 90s.

It's interesting to note that Palin is starting to kick against the traces, avoiding her handlers and ignoring their and McCain's advice. She is obviously setting herself up for 2012. While I still laugh at the Caribou Barbie line, I have begun thinking of her as Naomi Scudder. What a pity that more people wouldn't get that. It may come in handy in four years.

Killing Moon said...

Fascinating doodad by the Economist online: an imaginary "global" electoral college.

Some imaginative design touches -- the Red/Blue teeter-totter being my favorite. (Data-haptic version, even better).

Anonymous said...

The problem with pardons for Bush is that so many would be required. Based on his history he will pardon the friends (supporters) and throw the people that actually did the dirty work to the dogs.

I wonder if congress could subpoena Bush after he leaves office?

Gavin Craig

Fake_William_Shatner said...

"Rats will be treated as rats forever..."

If only I believed this. What did we learn from Iran/Contra? Private wars for profit, drug running for weapons, and weapons for political gain will eventually land you a harsh sentence as a Highly paid talk show host! Right Ollie North?

Machiavellian manipulation, spying on the public, and treason will net you a cushy high paid private industry job to continue doing the same thing -- right Poindexter?

Help take over a country in a fascist Putsch, and disappear tens of thousands for the interests of AT&T and copper mining in Chile? Well, Negroponte is still the Zsar of Gophers, and he was busy allowing Financial institutions to bypass the SEC under Patriot Act rules and ignore limits for leveraging. Wow, and he is getting punished by spending billions without oversight for Paulson.

Isn't just about every crook from the Nixon administration working for big bucks in this administration? OK, Rumsfeld got kicked out -- but I think he is still standing at his desk in the Pentagon, we really don't have to deal with those formalities like rules anymore.

The S&L bailout also told an important lesson. Steal MORE. Too big to fail -- means that after you get the check, make sure to add a masseuse onto the company meeting tab.

>> WE keep following the law, and trying to be honest, but the NeoCons are not hampered with such things.

If Obama doesn't go after them explicitly, they will have enough money to continue manipulating elections, and will eventually come back to haunt us. Major contractors in Iraq, who ripped off the taxpayer, are going to be enjoying their profits in Dubai. I think they can depend upon short attention spans, and rename a company or two. The only name I can remember is Eric Prince. From a pauper to a mega millionaire under Bush -- I'm sure he can endure a bad reputation.

Anonymous said...

The most criminal truths that will come out following Bush's exit will have to do with the war, of course. Not the least of these truths will involve its blackmail of the Veterans' Administration to cover up the extent of exactly how many veterans have been wounded and the extent of their injuries.

Anonymous said...

On pardons.

IANAL, but as far as I know the president can only issue pardons for standing criminal convictions, not preemptively for things not adjudged yet as crimes. If this is incorrect please let me know where there is precedent.

Even if I am wrong, on this he can only pardon for criminal liability. He cannot preemptively block equity. The Justice Department of the new administration could bring proceedings against anyone - pardoned or not - to recover money improperly acquired by beneficiaries of the current administration. It probably wouldn't leave klepto billionaires in the poorhouse, but those lower on the totem pole who acted to enable such could be joined and made jointly liable for those actions. If some of them wind up bankrupted, it would be real, real sad now, wouldn't it. I'm real, real sure their billionaire buddies would spend their own money to cover the little guys (sarcasm).

On "testing" the new administration.

I'd much prefer a president whose intellect and abilities are more in line with winning chess than tic-tac-toe.

-- TWZ

Anonymous said...

"Brokaw: What's not on the screen right now that concerns you? That should be more prominent in the minds of the American people, and the people running for President?"



First two paragraphs:

Dear Mr. President-Elect,

It may surprise you to learn that among the issues that will occupy much of your time in the coming years is one you barely mentioned during the campaign: food. Food policy is not something American presidents have had to give much thought to, at least since the Nixon administration — the last time high food prices presented a serious political peril. Since then, federal policies to promote maximum production of the commodity crops (corn, soybeans, wheat and rice) from which most of our supermarket foods are derived have succeeded impressively in keeping prices low and food more or less off the national political agenda. But with a suddenness that has taken us all by surprise, the era of cheap and abundant food appears to be drawing to a close. What this means is that you, like so many other leaders through history, will find yourself confronting the fact — so easy to overlook these past few years — that the health of a nation’s food system is a critical issue of national security. Food is about to demand your attention.

Complicating matters is the fact that the price and abundance of food are not the only problems we face; if they were, you could simply follow Nixon’s example, appoint a latter-day Earl Butz as your secretary of agriculture and instruct him or her to do whatever it takes to boost production. But there are reasons to think that the old approach won’t work this time around; for one thing, it depends on cheap energy that we can no longer count on. For another, expanding production of industrial agriculture today would require you to sacrifice important values on which you did campaign. Which brings me to the deeper reason you will need not simply to address food prices but to make the reform of the entire food system one of the highest priorities of your administration: unless you do, you will not be able to make significant progress on the health care crisis, energy independence or climate change. Unlike food, these are issues you did campaign on — but as you try to address them you will quickly discover that the way we currently grow, process and eat food in America goes to the heart of all three problems and will have to change if we hope to solve them. Let me explain.

Matt DeBlass said...

Yeah, toddr, Pollan is one of the few mainstream-ish voices talking about food security, and food production's place in this whole mess of an economy.

His "Omnivore's Dilemma" outlines a lot of the history of our current corn-heavy food chain, and makes the point that it would be a very easy system to attack indeed (plus there are all sorts of environmental, health and economic problems he sees).

He makes some very good points there, and some good suggestions.

David Brin said...

Arcane designs points out some scary stuff!

I believe we may now be safe from an "October Surprise" simply because the size of Obama's lead makes any McCain-saving hail Mary play look foolish, and the public seems primed to lash out only toward the right, if something happens.
The Pardon Tsunami may happen... but "anonymous" cited a possible reason why these guys may not want the attention.

But the "January or February surprise" now seems to be a rising topic. Oof! So we were supposed to all breathe a sigh of relief after inauguration day?

Powell, seems to think the surprise will happen within a day or two of Obama entering office. There are two ways I can imagine such a temporal coincidence.

1- some power wanting to strike amid the confusion of transition -- which will be more than usual, where Bushite officials stonewall the newcomers. But this makes no sense. The two agencies sure to cooperate with the Obama team are Defense and the CIA. He will already be president in their eyes.

2- some revelation will spill out, as soon as Bushite officials can no longer dam up some piece of massively bad news. This could come from any department or agency. Only, then, how do Powell and Biden know? And if they are receiving leaks, why aren't they using the information to further damage the Republican brand? The fact that they are saying so little is actually a bit frightening.

Of course, it may also be a way of pre-warning others not to try anything. Ah, well. One more reason to be tense.

Demetriosx" NAOMI Scudder? oooog! Heinlein would have re-interpreted static-ridden messages from the future as "Nechemia"... oh, thanks a lot!

Unknown said...


There is precedent for blanket pardons, e.g. Ford's pardon of Nixon:

>> Now, therefore, I, Gerald R. Ford, President of the United States, pursuant to the pardon power conferred upon me by Article II, Section 2, of the Constitution, have granted and by these presents do grant a full, free, and absolute pardon unto Richard Nixon for all offenses against the United States which he, Richard Nixon, has committed or may have committed or taken part in during the period from July (January) 20, 1969, through August 9, 1974.

sociotard said...

So . . . no bet then? As you wish.

Anonymous said...

Thanks atomicsmith. I hadn't known that the Nixon pardon was that sweeping. The constitution says fairly broadly "he shall have Power to Grant Reprieves and Pardons for Offences against the United States". So it's likely SCOTUS would let stand a preemptive pardon. Still I think the a civil suit to recover monies from improper enrichment would pass muster, and I don't think even a preemptive pardon could disable that option. It will be interesting to see whether the wording of such pardons tries to do so.

Meanwhile, there may be more pressing problems looming. The bbc is reporting US incursions into Syria:

Surprise. It's still October.

-- TWZ

Mike G. said...

W.'s pardon is simple.

W. pardons everyone, including Cheney, before January 19th. At 8am on January 19th, he resigns, Cheney is sworn in, and Cheney pardons W, then shows up at Obama's inauguration the next day and claps politely.

I'm not saying it's going to happen. Just that it would work...

B. Dewhirst said...

I think it much more likely that Bush et al. will pardon a few high-level officials (those who know of his culpability directly) so that they're not incentivised to testify. He'll then rely on blackmail and guilt to keep lower level functionaries in line. The whole administration has relied on personal loyalty.

Given Bush's interest in preserving face, I'd think he wouldn't pull the Cheney stunt described above.

I don't see any reason to believe Obama will go after them, either. (Consider how loudly Democrats have laughed off suggestions from their more principled fringe that they hold impeachment hearings... they are "off the table.")

Anonymous said...

Do I detect a touch of caustic nausea?

Good post, keep it up

sociotard said...

Re: Pollan

Evidently Obama read that article:

I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollen about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it's creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they're contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs. That's just one sector of the economy. You think about the same thing is true on transportation. The same thing is true on how we construct our buildings. The same is true across the board.

David Brin said...

Yeow. Obama better watch it or he'll sound... er... scientific.

Here's the absolute ultimate Ostritch bait:

Big C said...

For anyone interested, here is a link to the full transcript of the interview Obama did with Time's Joe Klein that contains the quote Sociotard mentioned. Also, here is some constructive criticism from The New Republic on a key point Obama missed in his answer regarding farm subsidies he supports.

Obama's not perfect, but he seems at least willing to hear counterarguments and differing opinions so he can make an informed judgment. That alone is reason enough for me to support him over the willful ignorance and denial of reality of the Republican party.

Cliff said...

There is an alternative, to squeal before the election. It should offer some appealing aspects for your run-of-the-mill neocon klepto or enabler to ponder.

I'm not holding my breath here.

Key point: the truth is going to come out. This is the diametric opposite of the Clinton Era witch hunts, when relentlessly-fixated partisan searches wound up not turning up anything palpable, at all. (Not a single Clintonian was ever even indicted for malfeasance in the performance of official duties.) Instead, this time, Democrats will barely have to lift a finger, while civil servants do it all. And the rats who are slow to leave the sinking ship will be treated as rats, by a disgusted America, forever.

I'm not buying this, either.

David Brin said...

Look at the breaking news.

Did I say we'd face a wave of McVeighs?

David Brin said...


Note how he emphasizes words like "compete" and "small business"

Tony Fisk said...

McVeights? Do you mean this, or this

(or both?)

David Brin said...

One of you (thanks AB!) wrote in separately with this. (Disclaimer... the more mature side of me does not approve of the immature side posting this. But ever since hearing "Naomi Scudder" I have felt a need...

Numerology is an easy science!

Sarah Palin Vice President USA

if we add the _roman_ digits, we get:

Palin = L + I = 51
Vice = V + I + C = 106
President = I + D = 501
USA = V = 5

adding together, we get 663.

Now, why we should add 3?

- she was the third children from her parents
- she finished third in Miss Alaska
- she has three terms as administrative experience (2 in Wasilia + 1 in

So, it's clear that _3_ is Palin's lucky number.

Adding 663 + 3, we get 666!

Of course, after November 4 when she punts back to being the presumptive heir of the GOP for 2012 ... and encomium that (shudder) Limbaugh and others are already giving her... then we'll need another version.

David Brin said...

Arizona is now a battleground state.

Reminder, in case you haven't seen it:

Matt DeBlass said...

So Obama is reading Pollan's articles, at least. If I had a chance to talk to him I'd recommend he read his books as well, Pollan gives a good argument for revamping - or rather restoring to the traditional, pre-Nixon state - the way the government supports and regulates that ag industry.
Senator, if you're reading this blog, read "The Omnivore's Dilemma," it ties in well with a lot of your economic and environmental ideas. We need to bring back government cheese.

Dr. Brin, I see your "Ronald Reagan endorsement" and raise you one Teddy Roosevelt

Anonymous said...


Regards Palin '12. As a student of the arcana of VP lore I do not believe that an unsuccesful VP candidate has ever gone on to the presidency, with the signal exception of FDR (1920 VP candidate).

But heck it is a free country, she can run if she is so inclined.

Regards the election more immediately at hand, a quote from 1860:

"The fact is I think the Democratic party want a little purifyng and nothing will do it so effectually as a defeat. The only thing is, I don't like to see a Republican beat the party."

Swap the terms Democrat and Republican in the above and you have a fair summation of the current election. U.S. Grant, the speaker, was an ineffective president, but an honest man. The two facts may be related.


Fake_William_Shatner said...

b. dewhirst said...
I think it much more likely that Bush et al. will pardon a few high-level officials (those who know of his culpability directly) so that they're not incentivised to testify. He'll then rely on blackmail and guilt to keep lower level functionaries in line. The whole administration has relied on personal loyalty

>>> You win the Fake William Shatner honorary BS Buster award! You'd get extra points if you said; "Mutually assured destruction" instead of "loyalty" above -- but I'm pretty sure that is what you meant to say. They operate exactly like the mob -- in fact, they are more profitable and cause more damage. Like a herd of bulls in a china shop.

The NeoCons are counting on chaos, and the general gutlessness of Democrats to cover their tracks. It has worked before -- but I suspect, and pray, that Obama is a Tiger in a Kitten's costume. I think he full well knows what he is dealing with, and he may be their worst nightmare. This man will only show his "uppity" side when he has a chance for a clean kill -- metaphorically speaking. Obama's calm control is one reason I cannot tell if he is on our side or theirs -- heaven help the wrong side. But, if he were totally honest, he would have been treated like a kook and dismissed -- as anyone speaking truth to power is treated by our media.

>> I had to post because I was listening to a lady on Tom Hartmann's show. She wrote "The Biggest Company Ever" -- something like that, too little time to go back and get the right name. Basically, they were talking about an Omnibus bill in 2000, that allowed the Banks, ENRON and Oil companies to play fast and lose. The unregulated commodities and future exchanges created became much larger than the regulated ones. The bulk of the increase in gas prices is due to restricting supply, and this has been done by bidding up futures contracts on the unregulated exchanges. In fact, a lot of the former ENRON employees are working at a company called ICE. Wonder who the holding company for that is related to? McCain got a big pay-out from Big Oil when he supported drilling, and again when he accepted "Bush in Drag" Palin to his ticket. The savings of using trains and mass transit over roads and cars is huge. Any wonder why we are so inefficient even today? Oil Companies are in charge.

>> Full Court corruption and tricks until election. Thank god the lady who claimed she was attacked by an Obama supporter was found out before too many news cycles. Matt Drudge pulled a Tawanna Brawley on that one. Next up was the alleged skin-head attack on black school kids. If a full blown race-riot can be initiated, that MIGHT scare enough fearful whites into voting for McCain. It does not seem like the Republican party is shying away from this. Does anyone think that the McCain/Palin ticket will rediscover integrity once it gains power? If we don't get martial law before January, then it is almost guaranteed after a few years of the continued march to fascism that this ticket represents.

>> OK, we all know that BushCo is corrupt. But these bits of info come together when we find that the Banks getting the bail-outs -- typically, only the really large ones. are being encouraged to by other banks, rather than provide liquidity. We got to this place, with Paulson and Negroponte working both ends to get financial institutions to increase leverage. Which isn't hard to persuade a bank or financial institution to do. Then, some large group of players runs a bunch of Naked Putts that bet the stock will go lower. They don't need to clear for 5 days, and companies like Bear Sterns, with over-leverage, which have less than 5% assets controlling their wealthy, cannot come up with enough money to cover the losses -- they go under like a house of cards. Iceland has accused groups in England of doing the same thing.

So here we go; another controlled demolition. Now, we have innocent old Greenspan, pretending to be a simple country mouse, and being shocked -- shocked I say, that gambling would go on with unregulated rich folks playing with money. The number of agencies that had to "stand down" and not take out the fuel-laden financial instruments as they careened into the centers of US trade were numerous. The WTO seemed to have sent everyone searching the wrong countries. 5 Financial corporations were given special security orders to bypass the SEC and simulate over-leveraged institutions simultaneously. But heck, let's not get into conspiracy theories, I'm sure someone gets a Billion dollars in pocket change every day being foolish. I'm sure there aren't going to be massive consolidations and all the "to smart to be regulated" and responsible financial minds are going to solve all the worlds problems. Just load the cannons with T-Bills. Everyone is acting shocked that the $850 Billion bailout is failing in a spectacular manner. You don't think it was to fuel buyouts do you? Naw. The Fed had no idea that their fire hose was full of Kerosene -- who put that in there?

I'd like to fill a sawed-off shot gun with a roll of dimes and tell them to "keep the change." As long as we are catapulting money.

Oh, and to solve the problem, Bush -- surprised by it all, like he was on 9/11 -- but he still happened to come up with hundreds of pages of Patriot Act, is now going to Europe to discuss the creation of One World Central Bank -- because, they weren't like planning this to begin with, and they've heard from all their constituents and the people who were such simple country mouses that they were shocked by the corruption and market failures and they all screamed "we need bigger institutions that are too big to fail, to oversee all the agencies that failed to oversee everything."

A strong dollar, tells me that this is less out of control than it first appeared. If you stole a lot of dollars -- you want them worth something. The Tsunami we will see, is a buy-up "to help recapitalize" a lot of foreign financial companies. Hyperinflation may hit by summer.

When and IF, Obama wins the Presidency, it may be irrelevant. The People and an FDR like administration, can do wonders -- but these NeoCon leaders have studied the past, so they could repeat it an take advantage. There may be one huge financial powerhouse, and Big Oil and Big Pharma, and privatized and fully capitalized Mercenary forces. The more you look back at the Financial and Oil legislation, the more you see the conscience planning behind laying the groundwork for a financial collapse and a gas shortage (that disappears before the election, only to come back right after -- just watch).

There are a lot of great things happening in science and our culture -- but I really fear that the Bush administration is working -- right up to the last minute, for a big end game. The philosophical underpinnings of all their biggest supporters, supports the concept of a monied elite, that runs everything and the mass of the populace is rendered as expendable serfs, with no upward mobility nor ability to be a nuisance to those in power. I don't see this administration wavering from that goal one bit. It really worries me that I don't see more panic, nor any move to reduce the power that the succeeding President may have.

Acacia H. said...

Here's some thoughts.

First, I think there is little doubt that the Republican party has managed to fix the elections. However, they have not yet managed to do so in all of the states at this point... only what were traditionally swing states. Ohio. Florida. And now Pennsylvania.

This is why Obama's 50-state strategy is so impressive, and is a massive monkeywrench in the works for stealing elections. There is no electronic platform in place to steal the election in North Carolina or Virginia (yet). Thus, Obama could very well win the election without the swing states. I suspect that the Powers That Be may realize that the jig is up, and that if they try to steal this election, not only might they fail... but if they succeed they will be revealed to everyone.

If that happens? Massive riots that will likely turn into revolution. Do you honestly think that tens of millions of Americans are going to idly sit back and shrug collectively at losing their last best chance at an election? Especially as the very first person to die in an assassination (should the Democrats lose) would be Obama. He wouldn't have Secret Service protection at that point and there would be plenty of people who hate the fact he dared to come this far.

With Obama as a martyr... the populace would rise up. You'd see the "gun nuts" leading the charge even though they voted Republican, because they know the very first thing that would happen under martial law is that they would lose their guns. Even under the Republicans.

The military won't back a McCain dictatorship. Blackwater isn't yet strong enough to seize control of the cities. So you have a situation where the people in charge of the NeoCons will decide "better to sit back four years, let the Democrats make things even worse, and then step in and take the next election."

If Obama gets in, I doubt we'll see the truly big fish caught. However, Democrats have suffered under the inept rule of the neocons for eight years and gnashed their teeth at each new ethics violation and crime that the neocons blithely get away with. They'll be out for blood, even if Obama isn't, and will start massive investigations to catch as much of the lower-level as possible.

In the midst of this, I suspect we might have one other thing happen: a comprehensive voter identification package that overrides state policies. It may even have a central database. This would allow people to vote if they move because they're in the system. The primary thing that would allow fraud is identity theft, and that thankfully isn't on a huge scale (though it's big enough as it is) and won't be used to steal elections.

With the visible voter suppression efforts going on, I honestly doubt people would squack at the central government taking control of voter registration.

Rob H.

B. Dewhirst said...

On the contrary... I'm rather expecting (manufactured) riots if Obama wins... with wild accusations of cheating.

After all, that is (part of) how Bush got in in the first place...

gmknobl said...

I'll take you up. I don't think we will. We will see some, maybe even many, but no more than a handful, okay several handfuls of pardons. I figure 20 or so real high-level crook types, including members of his admin or close friends that may have current problems (Stevens anyone?) but that's it.

What do I base this on? Gut feeling that Shrub is too lazy to do that many (not that Cheney won't write things for him) and my strange view of his idiocy-laden religious beliefs - or lack thereof.

So, 20 to 30. You can say I'm wrong if he goes over 50.

But let's just remind everyone of this: and maybe someone will take up the hammer and nail the turkey NEXT thanksgiving.

B. Dewhirst said...

What exactly prevents Bush from pardoning himself, and claiming (hypocritically) it is to prevent a witch hunt against the endangered species the yellow-bellied white conservative male under an Obama administration?

Should he do that, that'd be a tsunami of one, I'd think.

Acacia H. said...

Here's a question for you, Dr. Brin: is the Republican party on its way to annihilation? Considering that Republican Leadership sees Sarah Palin as the embodiment of where they want to go in the future, I have to think that the Republicans have learned the wrong lessons from this election.

It seems like the Republican party is casting off the segments of itself that could actually be of use and instead retreating into religious thinking and an abandonment of the Goldwater Republican ideals. And while this will allow them to retain some level of power, with the growth of American education across the country and the incursions of educated people (and Democrats) into traditionally-Republican regions, I can't help but think that the Republicans are going to become a minority party that continues to compress in on itself until finally it collapses due to infighting.

Of course, Palin also is your Scudder, and one of your greater fears for the future of this country... but assuming Obama gets in, I suspect he's going to work toward dismantling the election-stealing structures the Republican party has created in the past couple of decades.

Rob H.