Monthly Archives: October 2009

And how was your day? As for me—Ecclesiastes 1 says it all: the things that you’re liable to read in the Bible….

Ecclesiastes 1

1The words of the Preacher, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.

2Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity.

3What profit hath a man of all his labour which he taketh under the sun?

4One generation passeth away, and another generation cometh: but the earth abideth for ever.

5The sun also ariseth, and the sun goeth down, and hasteth to his place where he arose.

6The wind goeth toward the south, and turneth about unto the north; it whirleth about continually, and the wind returneth again according to his circuits.

7All the rivers run into the sea; yet the sea is not full; unto the place from whence the rivers come, thither they return again.

8All things are full of labour; man cannot utter it: the eye is not satisfied with seeing, nor the ear filled with hearing.

9The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun.

10Is there any thing whereof it may be said, See, this is new? it hath been already of old time, which was before us.

11There is no remembrance of former things; neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after.

12I the Preacher was king over Israel in Jerusalem.

13And I gave my heart to seek and search out by wisdom concerning all things that are done under heaven: this sore travail hath God given to the sons of man to be exercised therewith.

14I have seen all the works that are done under the sun; and, behold, all is vanity and vexation of spirit.

15That which is crooked cannot be made straight: and that which is wanting cannot be numbered.

16I communed with mine own heart, saying, Lo, I am come to great estate, and have gotten more wisdom than all they that have been before me in Jerusalem: yea, my heart had great experience of wisdom and knowledge.

17And I gave my heart to know wisdom, and to know madness and folly: I perceived that this also is vexation of spirit.

18For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

Irony of Ironies: Music used as effective torture device

I confess a certain satisfaction at seeing this headline: I have known my whole life that, just as music can be used for healing and educational enhancement, there is little that can be more imaginably ironic than the use of music as mind-bending torture, but the association between music and the extortion of confessions goes back thousands of years, into Roman and even earlier Indo-European history.  “To sing like a canary” or even “to sing” is a prison metaphor for a cooperative “snitch” (captured in several dozen movies including classics with Edward B. Robinson), while “make him sing” is an analogy for coerced confession and acting involuntarily as an informer.  I recall being alone in a large class of Criminal Procedure students at the University of Chicago Law School who argued vociferously that playing background music unsolicited—whether loudly or continually or that conveyed a certain message—could be (and was in cases we read in class) effectively torture.  Of course I actually remember being one voice alone against my entire class on many occasions in Law School, and else where, which is probably why my favorite movie is V-for-Vendetta and I was wearing my old relic-of-a-childhood-in England, a Guy Fawkes’ mask, long before that movie, and very shortly after 9-11……

Of course, I simply cannot understand why the Republicans in Congress are so anxious about the closing of Guantanamo Bay.  President Obama and his Attorney General Holder have both advocated and promised that this administration will institute prisons of exactly the same nature and for exactly the same purpose (indefinite detention of “terrorism” suspects without trial) inside the Continental United States.  He only plans to improve the Guantanamo experience by making it available to all of us: exactly as you’d expect, he plans to use torture and indefinite detention without discrimination by race, creed, or colour against all Americans….and that is absolutely consistent with his general respect for and commitment to the Constitution…..(i.e., nil).  “Remember, remember….”

Musicians crank up the volume on Guantanamo debate

AP, Oct 21, 2009 11:00 pm PDT

A coalition of mega-bands and singers outraged that music — including theirs — was cranked up to help break uncooperative detainees atGuantanamo Bay is joining retired military officers and liberal activists to rally support for President Barack Obama‘s push to shutter the Navy-run prison for terrorist suspects in Cuba.

Pearl Jam, R.E.M., and Trent Reznor of Nine Inch Nails are among the musicians who have joined the National Campaign to Close Guantanamo, which launched Tuesday.

On behalf of the campaign, the National Security Archive in Washington is filing a Freedom of Information Act request seeking classified records that detail the use of loud music as an interrogation device.

“At Guantanamo, the U.S. government turned a jukebox into an instrument of torture,” said Thomas Blanton, executive director of the archive, an independent, nongovernmental research institute.

Based on documents that already have been made public and interviews with former detainees, the archive says the playlist featured cuts from AC/DC, Britney Spears, the Bee GeesMarilyn Manson and many other groups. TheMeow mix cat food jingle, the Barney theme song and an assortment of Sesame Street tunes also were pumped into detainee cells.

A November 2008 report by the Senate Armed Services Committee into the treatment of detainees in U.S. custody makes several references to the use of loud music as an interrogation tool.

In one case interrogators played music to “stress” Mohamedou Ould Slahi, a citizen of Mauritania who has been at Guantanamo for more than seven years, because he believed music is forbidden, the report says.

Over a 10-day period in July 2003, Slahi was questioned by an interrogator called “Mr. X” while being “exposed to variable lighting patterns” and repeated playing of a song called “Let the Bodies Hit the Floor” by the bandDrowning Pool, according to the committee’s report.

Maj. Diana Haynie, a spokeswoman for Joint Task Force Guantanamo, said loud music has not been used with detainees since the fall of 2003.

Jayne Huckerby, research director at New York University’s Center for Human Rights and Global Justice, said high-decibel music was also used against detainees at clandestine prisons run by the CIA.

As part of an earlier FOIA request for information about these “black sites,” Huckerby received a top secret CIA document dated December 2005 in which the agency explains that the use of loud music or white noise is needed “to mask sound and prevent communication among detainees.”

If decibel levels are kept at 79 or lower — roughly equivalent to a garbage disposal — detainee hearing won’t be damaged, the agency said.

Huckerby says that music was not used as a “benign security tool,” but as a way “to humiliate, terrify, punish, disorient and deprive detainees of sleep, in violation of international law.”

CIA spokesman George Little said the CIA used music only for security, “not for punitive purposes — and at levels far below a live rock band.”

Founders launched National Campaign to Close Guantanamo with ads on cable television urging Congress to reject the “failed Bush-Cheney policies.”

Obama pledged to close the jail by January, but logistical snags and Republican opposition on Capitol Hill have made fulfilling that promise less likely. Former Vice President Dick Cheney, who warns that closing the prison would endanger national security, has fueled the resistance.

A group opposing the closure of the prison, Keep America Safe, said in a statement Tuesday that those held at Guantanamo are dedicated to killing Americans.

___

On the Net:

Close Gitmo Now: http://closegitmonow.org/

Keep America Safe: http://www.keepamericasafe.com/

IS THE FED MONETIZING DEBT? Does the Pope wear a funny hat?

What do they mean “is the Fed Monetizing Debt?”   There would be no “money” in circulation today AT ALL if the Federal Reserve weren’t monetizing debt!  (No disparagement of the Crown of St. Peter intended….)

http://theburningplatform.com/groups/quinns-daily-dose-of-reality/discussions/is-the-fed-monetizing-debt

IS THE FED MONETIZING DEBT?

These charts are so symetrical. The Fed has purchased $297 billion of Treasuries and $945 billion of Mortgage bonds since March. They have done this to artificially reduce interest rates to benefit mega banks and risk taking borrowers. They have done this on the backs of Senior Citizens who now get .30% on their MM funds. You may ask yourself where did the Fed get the $1.242 Trillion to buy these bonds. When you have a printing press it’s easy. They created the $1.242 Trillion out of thin air. And you were wondering why the value of the dollar continues to fall. These two charts are a picture of the biggest Ponzi scheme in history. Ben Bernanke makes Bernie Madoff look like a two bit small time criminal.

[FedTreasuryPurchases.jpg]

[FedMBSPurchases.jpg]

“Free cheese is only found in mousetraps.” — Russian proverb

ElderAbuseHelp.Org: Judges: Operational Details Unveiled

ElderAbuseHelp.Org: Judges: Operational Details Unveiled.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Judges: Operational Details Unveiled

by Janet Phelan as published in the *Bernardino County Sentinel

Several years ago, all of the county’s probate and conservatorship cases [SAN BERNARDINO, CALIFORNIA] were moved to Redlands Courthouse and most of these cases were subsequently heard by Judge Welch.

Recent documents obtained by the Sentinel point to suspicious financial activity by Welch, who at one point in time was the presiding judge of San Bernardino County. Welch was featured in an article in the Sentinel on June 12th of this year in a lengthy exposé regarding questionable business practices by Melodie Z. Scott, a professional fiduciary and conservator for the elderly. Scott is President of C.A.R.E., Inc., located at 25 E. State Street in Redlands, right around the corner from the courthouse.

The activities by Scott cited by the Sentinel as questionable involved giving conservatee property to her own family members, overcharges on her clients’ accounts, missing monies from clients’ accounts, selling conservatee property at bargain basement rates only to have the property jump in value and sell the next year, withholding medical care from conservatees resulting in death and allegations of possible undue influence on judges.

The documents uncovered relating to Judge Welch reveal that he has mortgaged his primary residence, located in the 300 block of La Colina in Redlands several times in recent years, encumbering it with loans which could not possibly be paid back on a judge’s salary in the brief turn-around time indicated by the reconveyances (repayment of loans). The document numbers and the size of the loans follow:

In 1998, Welch and his wife, Ginny, took out a loan for $217,200 on their La Colina residence, which was fully paid back in March of 2003. The reconveyance document number attached to this transaction is 2003-0173087.

In February of 2003, James and Ginny Welch took out another loan on their residence, this time for $234,000. This was fully paid back by June 10, 2004, as listed in document number 2004-0410928.

Another loan was taken out by the Welches on May 17, 2004, as listed in document #2004-0353533. This loan was for $358,965.71.

Messages were left with Welch’s secretary, inquiring as to where the money was going and how he was paying these loans back. The possibility that Welch was taking out loans and investing the money, then paying back the loans with the proceeds was considered and discarded. For the last seven years, Welch has reported to the Fair Political Practices Commission on his form 700 financial disclosure statements that he has no investments.

A query was also left with Judge Welch’s secretary as to three property transactions recorded in neighboring Riverside County, attributed to a “James Michael Welch, Trustee.”

Judge Welch has declined to comment. Presiding judge Jim McGuire issued a terse letter on August 12th, 2009, in response to an inquiry from the Sentinel about the Welch loans and Riverside County transactions. McGuire stated:“Please be advised that I have received and reviewed your letter of August 11, 2009. Please be further advised that I am an administrative presiding judge and, therefore, my review jurisdiction is limited. Nothing contained in your letter is of a nature over which I would have review jurisdiction. Any request for review or investigation by me is, therefore, denied.”

There has been no confirmation or denial from the court as to whether Welch’s exodus from his probate assignment in Redlands had any bearing on the recent media scrutiny given his actions as a judge or his apparent bias towards cases involving Melodie Scott, who recently launched a legal protest concerning the denial of her fiduciary license by the California Professional Fiduciary Bureau.

This practice of judges taking out large loans appears to be widespread and crosses county boundaries. Information gathered on Commissioner John McCoy and Judge Sharon Waters (both of Riverside County) has recently been turned over to a Riverside County district attorney investigator, Jeff Chebahtah. While Chebahtah has acknowledged receipt of the information on the Waters and McCoy loans, he has at press time refused to assign a complaint/case file number. The practice of accepting evidence and refusing to assign a tracking number has been previously explored by this reporter in an article entitled: “How the California Justice System covers up crimes against the elderly: A method to themadness” and appears to be deployed when either the matter is too trivial for the district attorney to take seriously or when there is a political agenda to keep the report out of the system and thus not to investigate at all.

Parenthetically, both McCoy and Waters were recently and consecutively removed from an active case in Riverside Superior Court, following a protest lodged that the loans smacked of pay-offs or bribes.

In San Bernardino County, Judge Steve Mapes ascended to the bench in 2007 and currently sits on Barstow court, following his tenure as an deputy district attorney in San Bernardino. Mapes has also been involved in the loan program, apparently going back to 1998, when he took out a loan on his home on Patricia Drive for over $155, 000. He subsequently took out further loans on his property, including loans for $100,000 in 2001 and 2002, another loan for $307,500, also in 2001, one for $88,500 in 2002 and a loan in 2004 which was in excess of the value of the house, recorded at the tax assessor’s office as $427,528. This loan was taken out for a resounding $493,000.

More recently, in 2006, he again borrowed money against his property. Since 2001, Judge Steven Mapes has received seven different reconveyances on his loans.

*Page 1 of this week’s Sentinel features a story on several members of the California judiciary who are taking out numerous large property loans and paying them back in record time. There are unanswered questions as to the reason for these loans: where is the money going and –most importantly– who is paying these loans off? This is the first in a series of articles examining the finances of the California judiciary and other public officials.

Related Stories by Janet Phelan : How Conservatorships/Guardianships Are Used as Tools of Theft and Corruption

Judicial Sanctions violate the Constitution, as does Judicial Immunity for Violation of Fundamental Rights

On Tuesday, October 13, 2009, Judge Clay D. Land imposed Rule 11 Sanctions in the amount of $20,000.00 on Dr. Orly Taitz.

To put it all in perspective, keep in mind that sanctions are very common in modern litigation. Sanctions in amounts comparable to those imposed on Orly are routinely imposed for failure to cooperate in discovery, for delaying the dates of trial or depositions, and “fee-shift” on the British model (”Looser pays attorneys’ fees”) has gotten more and more “popular” as means of “locking the courthouse door” to all but a few who can, basically “take their lumps as they come.”   Kathy Ann Garcia-Lawson, a close friend of mine in Florida, was sanctioned $15,000.00 a couple of years ago in the Palm Beach County 15th Judicial Circuit for “Dragging her Feet” in divorce proceedings.  Ridiculous impositions such as this amount to little more than Judicially order expropriation designed to close the courthouse doors on all but the richest litigants.

I would say that in essence, it was something of an honor for Orly to have been sanctioned in this manner and I frankly hope that she realizes that the government does not bother to injure harmless people who pose no threat to the established order.

What’s unusual about Land’s sanctions entered against Orly is that they are purely punitive rather than compensatory (no “fee shifting” involved here), and that the conduct for which Orly is being punished is purely “content-related” rather than having to do with actual violations of well-known or established court rules. Judge Land’s biggest points are that Orly’s suits on behalf of officers seeking to question their chain of command were completely frivolous from the beginning (basically because Officers should serve unquestioningly, despite their oath to uphold the Constitution), Orly’s suits were completely political from the beginning, filed to advance her own “political agenda.”

In this context, it is obvious that Judge Land’s purpose is political. That political aspect of Judge Land’s order almost smells of “bribery” at the end of his 43 page order when JUDGE LAND OFFERS THE ENTIRE $20,000.00 SANCTION AGAINST ORLY, IF COLLECTED, TO THE NATIONAL INFANTRY FOUNDATION, A PRIVATE ORGANIZATION OF ARMY VETERANS. If this is not an example of a Judge trying to make political hay off a potentially controversial ruling, I have no idea what is. Judge Land’s expression of purpose is an overture to the Army, in essence, to say, “Support me and do not question your President—every time an attorney loses YOUR right to Freedom of Speech and the right to Petition in MY Court, there will be a compensatory contribution to the memory and honor of those who served without questioning, so SHUT UP!” That’s how I read it, anyhow.

Orly now needs to prepare for appeal, which will involve, for example, filing for a stay of execution of judgment against her. She is apprehensive that Judge Land will just sanction her an addition $10,000 or more for every subsequent filing. I can only say: this raging bull is out of his pen—let him do as much damage as he can, because the imbalance in his red-eyes and flaming nostrils will become more apparent to everyone, the worse he does. In other words, I think the wilder Judge Land’s behavior at this stage, the better are Orly’s chances on appeal, although the imposition of sanctions is typically reviewed only for “abuse of discretion” and “a judge’s lawful discretion” includes just about everything except murder with malice aforethought IN the Courtroom.

The Gospel of Matthew tells us, “Blessed are they who suffer persecution for the sake of Righteousness” and later that the people of God are “sheep sent out among wolves.” Psalm 69 reminds us how long is the history of unjust persecution the innocent, and of the particularly vindictive punishment inflicted on those who try to avoid or even fight the ways of evil. So do Isaiah 59 and dozens of other passages of Holy Scripture.
Orly is an innocent but righteous victim here, but we need to realize that the flaws are systemic, and are attributable in part to doctrines such as “judicial immunity”, whereby an “Unjust Judge” can punish a repetitive filer by violating her First Amendment Right to Petition rather than finally awarding her justice (cf. Luke 18: 1-8).

Many unjust judges have used Rule 11 with increasing frequency to lock the courthouse doors to all injured parties. Conservatives are certainly at fault for supporting “Tort Reform” and lacking sympathy for the injured and abused in society. “Tort Reform” is one of the engines behind the increasing use of sanctions to throw parties and their attorneys’ out of the system.

Liberals are at still greater fault, I think, for scorning the idealism of the Founding Fathers, for despising individual autonomy and initiative, and generally for creating interest-based “safe zones” where privileged minorities can wreak havoc on the rest of society, and thereby subvert true democracy.

The Constitution was our hope (and the hope of the whole world) in ages past. If it is to be our hope in years to come, we desperately need to curtail judicial immunity where constitutional rights, especially the right to petition, are involved, so that judges can feel at least some of the sting which they can now inflict on others, at no cost to themselves.

In my own experience, I was sanctioned $150,000.00 by Judge Walter S. Smith of Waco for the dastardly crime of “spearheading a movement to have the Texas Family Code declared unconstitutional.” What was curious about the sanctions imposed on me is that I was neither a party nor a witness in the lawsuit wherein I was sanctioned. If a truckdriver veers off course and takes out a house, when his 18 wheeler crashes into it, he will be fired, license suspended, and may well do some jail time, especially if people were injured inside the house. When a Judge veers off course and imposes sanctions on a person who was neither a party nor a witness nor ever summoned or subpoenaed in a case, that party has no right of appeal (unless he intervenes) and no easy way of collateral attack. Judges have too much power. Judges can violate the Constitution continually and suffer no adverse consequences.

And so, Judges occupy a uniquely powerful position in society, and all Freedom-Loving Americans should work for judicial reform and stripping away the—not merely unconstitutional but anticonstitutional privileges–not only of judges, but of the conformist lawyers under whose protection judges aggrandize ever greater power to themselves, at the expense of the people.

Orly Taitz is the antithesis of a conformist lawyer, and it is for that reason that she is being sanctioned, why she is now being made a prey—precisely because she has turned away from evil, as in Isaiah 59: 14-15:

So justice is driven back,
and righteousness stands at a distance;
truth has stumbled in the streets,
honesty cannot enter.

Truth is nowhere to be found,
and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey.

In Cohens v. Virginia, decided by the U.S. Supreme Court in 1821, Chief Justice Marshall wrote that for a court to refuse to exercise its jurisdiction was “treason” to the constitution.

Judge Land has built his entire assault against Orly’s integrity based on the doctrine of abstention—that he has jurisdiction which he should ignore. The 5th Circuit Mindes case from 1971 specifically found constitutional questions regarding the military and the application of its rules were subject to Judicial challenge, yet Judge Land ignores the substance of the very precedent he cites. (Note: the 11th Circuit in Atlanta branched off from the 5th Circuit in New Orleans in 1981, but all earlier 5th Circuit precedent remained as the foundation of 11th Circuit Law, and the 11th and 5th Circuits, crossing Dixie, still share a great deal of, mostly rather repressive, jurisprudence in common).

Judge Land issued a 43 page order condemning Orly, for among other things, utilizing the Courts for political purposes, and yet he proposes to use the $20,000.00 he expects to obtain from Orly for what can only be called a political contribution to advance certain political positions and philosophical assertions within the army.

Judge Land is clearly utilizing his power under Rule 11 to attempt to sanction Orly for legitimate exercise of her First Amendment Right to Petition, and that of her clients. Post-judgment motions and an appeal will be filed.  Anyone who knows Orly’s determination knows that.

I have been concerned about the question of Judicial Immunity, and the perverting effect this has on judicial decisionmaking and power, for many years.  I believe and submit that the 1996 Amendments to 42 U.S.C. Sections 1983 and 1988 set the standard of review of judicial conduct as “clearly in excess of jurisdiction.”  This means that, under Federal Civil Rights substantive law (Sections 1983 & 1988 are normally considered merely formal or procedural, but the 1996 amendments were substantive, and 1988(a) is clearly substantive), a Judge can be held liable, at least for costs of litigation and attorneys fees, where his conduct was “clearly in excess of jurisdiction.”  The Senate Report at 1996 USCCAN 4216-7 clearly confirms that this standard is applicable to Federal as well as State Court Judges.

What do these case decisions mean? « Livinglies?s Weblog

What do these case decisions mean? « Livinglies?s Weblog

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Maybe next year, if the dollar goes into tripled-digit hyperinflation (e.g. like Zimbabwe today, Argentina in the 1980s, Germany in the 1920s, they’ll make Obama the first man in history to receive two Nobel Prizes in consecutive years by giving him the Nobel Prize in Economics….

It does seem strangely bizarre that Obama’s own supporters on the Democratic left (such as Salon.com’s editor in chief Joan Walsh) are struggling to defend Obama’s receipt of the Nobel Peace Prize while apologizing “even as we acknowledge disappointment with Obama on State Secrets, Torture, Iraq, and Afghanistan” (you know, minor issues relating to world peace like those which constitute, well….just about everything he’s touched in the past nine months, see http://www.salon.com/opinion/walsh// for October 10, 2009), the rest of the Country is reeling from the sensation that this is all just a really bad joke, including my favorite commentator on civil rights and civil liberties, the author of How would a Patriot Act?.  The key quote from the article below is, in my opinion:

[Obama has] worked tirelessly to protect his country not only from accountability — but also transparency — for the last eight years of war crimes, almost certainly violating America’s treaty obligations in the process.  And he is currently presiding over an expansion of the legal black hole at Bagram while aggressively demanding the right to abduct people from around the world, ship them there, and then imprison them indefinitely with no rights of any kind.

All put together it makes me want to cry for my beloved but hopelessly insecure homeland, the United States of America, home of the zombie-like sleepwalkers and cowards who are letting this all happen (i.e., what seems like at least 75% of the population and maybe more)!  But seriously, what Obama is doing on the foreign front to protect the Bush legacy is nowhere nearly as sinister and corrupt as what he’s doing at home—pushing his domestic socialist agenda in cooperation with the corporate-financial giants, i.e. the international Banks, such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and Chase just to name the top-three leading culprits, whose disregard for the fundamental elements of common law contract and property law is rapidly turning this country into a nation of homeless vagabonds….one foreclosure at a time, 70 foreclosures per morning and afternoon per session per county court, all across the United States, from sea to shining sea!

Glenn Greenwald

FRIDAY OCT. 9, 2009 07:10 EDT

(updated below – Update II)

When I saw this morning’s top New York Times headline — “Barack Obama Wins Nobel Peace Prize” — I had the same immediate reaction which I’m certain many others had:  this was some kind of bizarre Onion gag that got accidentally transposed onto the wrong website, that it was just some sort of strange joke someone was playing.  Upon further reflection, that isn’t all that far from the reaction I still have.  And I say that despite my belief that — as critical as I’ve been of the Obama presidency regarding civil liberties and Terrorism — foreign affairs is actually one area where he’s shown genuine potential for some constructive “change” and has, on occasion, merited real praise for taking steps in the general “peace” direction which this Prize is meant to honor.

Obama has changed the tone America uses to speak to the world generally and the Muslim world specifically.  His speech in Cairo, his first-week interview on al-Arabiya, and the extraordinarily conciliatory holiday video he sent to Iran are all substantial illustrations of that.  His willingness to sit down and negotiate with Iran — rather than threaten and berate them — has already produced tangible results.  He has at least preliminarily broken from Bush’s full-scale subservience to Israel and has applied steadfast pressure on the Israelis to cease settlement activities, even though it’s subjected him to the sorts of domestic political risks and vicious smears that have made prior Presidents afraid to do so.  His decision to use his first full day in office to issue Executive Orders to close Guantanamo, ostensibly ban torture, and bar CIA black sites was an important symbol offered to the world (even though it’s been followed by actions that make those commitments little more than empty symbols).  He refused to reflexively support the right-wing, civil-liberty-crushing coup leaders in Honduras merely because they were “pro-American” and “anti-Chavez,” thus siding with the vast bulk of Latin America’s governments — a move George Bush, or John McCain, never would have made.  And as a result of all of that, the U.S. — in a worldwide survey released just this week — rose from seventh to first on the list of “most admired countries.”

All that said, these changes are completely preliminary, which is to be expected given that he’s only been in office nine months.  For that reason, while Obama’s popularity has surged in Western Europe, the changes in the Muslim world in terms of how the U.S. is perceived have been small to nonexistent.  As Der Spiegel put it in the wake of a worldwide survey in July:  “while Europe’s ardor for Obama appears fervent, he has actually made little progress in the regions where the US faces its biggest foreign policy problems.”  People who live in regions that have long been devastated by American weaponry don’t have the luxury of being dazzled by pretty words and speeches.  They apparently — and rationally — won’t believe that America will actually change from a war-making nation into a peace-making one until there are tangible signs that this is happening.  It’s because that has so plainly not yet occurred that the Nobel Committee has made a mockery out of their own award.

But far more important than the lack of actual accomplishments are some of the policies over which Obama has presided that are the very opposite of peace.  Already this year, he not only escalated the American war in Afghanistan, but has ordered air raids that have produced things like this:

That was from a May airstrike in which over 100 Afghan civilians were killed by American jets — one of many similar incidents this year, including one only a week ago that killed 9 Afghan civilians.  How can someone responsible for that, and who has only escalated that war, possibly be awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in the very same year that he did that?  Does that picture above look like the work of a Nobel Peace laureate?  Does this, from the May airstrike?

Beyond Afghanistan, Obama continues to preside over another war — in Iraq:  remember that? — where no meaningful withdrawal has occurred.  He uttered not a peep of opposition to the Israeli massacre of Gazan civilians at the beginning of this year (using American weapons), one which a U.N. investigator just found constituted war crimes and possibly crimes against humanity.  The changed tone to Iran notwithstanding, his administration frequently emphasizes that it is preserving the option to bomb that country, too — which could be a third war against a Muslim country fought simultaneously under his watch.  He’s worked tirelessly to protect his country not only from accountability — but also transparency — for the last eight years of war crimes, almost certainly violating America’s treaty obligations in the process.  And he is currently presiding over an expansion of the legal black hole at Bagram while aggressively demanding the right to abduct people from around the world, ship them there, and then imprison them indefinitely with no rights of any kind.

It’s certainly true that Obama inherited, not started, these conflicts.  And it’s possible that he could bring about their end, along with an overall change in how America interacts with the world in terms of actions, not just words.  If he does that, he would deserve immense credit — perhaps even a Nobel Peace Prize.  But he hasn’t done any of that.  And it’s at least as possible that he’ll do the opposite:  that he’ll continue to escalate the 8-year occupation of Afghanistan, preside over more conflict in Iraq, end up in a dangerous confrontation with Iran, and continue to preserve many of the core Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies that created such a stain on America’s image and character around the world.

Through no fault of his own, Obama presides over a massive war-making state that spends on its military close to what the rest of the world spends combined.  The U.S. accounts for almost 70% of worldwide arms sales.  We’re currently occupying and waging wars in two separate Muslim countries and making clear we reserve the “right” to attack a third.  Someone who made meaningful changes to those realities would truly be a man of peace.  It’s unreasonable to expect that Obama would magically transform all of this in nine months, and he certainly hasn’t.  Instead, he presides over it and is continuing much of it.  One can reasonably debate how much blame he merits for all of that, but there are simply no meaningful “peace” accomplishment in his record — at least not yet — and there’s plenty of the opposite.  That’s what makes this Prize so painfully and self-evidently ludicrous.

UPDATE:  Remember how, during the Bush years, the GOP would disgustingly try to equate liberals with Terrorists by pointing out that they happened to have the same view on a particular matter (The Left opposes the war in Iraq, just like Al Qaeda and Hezbollah do! or bin Laden’s criticisms of Bush sound just like Michael Moore’s! ).  It looks like the Democratic Party haslearned and adopted that tactic perfectly (“‘The Republican Party has thrown in its lot with the terrorists – the Taliban and Hamas this morning – in criticizing the President for receiving the Nobel Peace prize,’ DNC communications director Brad Woodhouse told POLITICO”; Republicans are “put[ting] politics above patriotism,” he added).

Apparently, according to the DNC, if you criticize this Prize, then you’re an unpatriotic America-hater — just like the Terrorists, because they’re also criticizing the award.  Karl Rove should be proud.  Maybe the DNC should also send out Joe Lieberman’s 2005 warning that “in matters of war we undermine Presidential credibility at our nation’s peril.”  Hamas also thinks that Israeli settlements should be frozen — a position Obama shares.  So, by the DNC’s Rovian reasoning, doesn’t this mean that Obama “has thrown in his lot with the terrorists”?

UPDATE II:  On Democracy Now, Naomi Klein calls Obama’s award “disappointing, cheapening of the Nobel Prize,” and adds:  “I think it’s quite insulting. I don’t know what kind of political game they’re playing, but I don’t think that the committee has ever been as political as this or as delusional as this, frankly.”  On Daily Kos, Michael Moore writes ironically:  “Congratulations President Obama on the Nobel Peace Prize — Now Please Earn it!”  Mairead Maguire, the 1976 Nobel Peace Prize Winner, says she’s “very disappointed” with this award, noting:  “President Obama has yet to prove that he will move seriously on the Middle East, that he will end the war in Afghanistan and many other issues.”   And my Salon colleague, Alex Koppelman, adds several thoughts about the efforts by the DNC and some Democratic groups to explicitly equate opposition to the Prize with “casting one’s lot with terrorists.”