Stockholm Syndrome & Global Positioning Systems

My son bugged unremittingly until I replaced my old cell phone with one that offered GPS services.  He was sure that happenstance was  the only reason I ever arrived anywhere.

Before my next road trip, the phone was programmed with my location and destination and lay cushioned on the passenger seat like an electronic umbilicus.  Next to it were my daughter’s handwritten directions which I would hide  before pulling into my son’s driveway.  He doesn’t understand the comfort of a paper I can  read myself or shake under his nose the day the signals die.  (See:  American Pie)

I’m the Mom because I’ve been jolted out of smugness more than he has.  He’s wise in many ways but sometimes his imagination fails for lack of experience.  Computers have always been part of his life. He can’t envision a day, for instance,  when traffic jams disrupt orbiting signals.  (NY Times, Colliding Satellites). To tell the truth, neither can I; but I’ve been jolted enough to know that denying the possibility of something  is generally  shortsighted:  “There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, [t]han are dreamt of in your philosophy.” *

As I turned left toward the freeway,  the GPS voice was irritatingly indifferent to outcomes – possessed of cadences that would sail through a nuclear strike  so long as batteries and towers escaped the melting.

During the first half hour of the trip, I was pleased to ignore her– to wrest control.  When I passed the second turn in favor of the third, she had no quippy comeback.  The car was silent except for the burring of my own anticipation.  How much stress was built into the system?

Like a Terminator, relentless in its dedication to mission,  the GPS re-configured herself;  aligned herself to new data and surroundings. “Recalculating route,” she said.

I glanced in the rearview mirror and made a Frodo-vow to leave her in my pocket except under the direst of circumstances.

After three hours into a two hour trip, the four lane highway had tapered to a stream trickling between vacant motels and closed gas stations.  I hadn’t seen  a familiar landmark for miles and the winter sun was dimming.  At a crossroads in a small town,  I turned the phone back on, finger poised  to enter my new orientation.  Without missing a beat,  her uninflected tones assured me she was  again, “Recalculating the route.”

In the silence, I felt her omnipresence. She would always know where I was.  I would never be lost again.  “[She]wouldn’t stop, [she] would never leave [me]. [She]…was the only thing that measured up. In an insane world, [she] was the sanest choice.”  (Terminator 2).**

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Obama Picks: Holder & Geithner

Attorney General Nominee  Eric Holder, Separation of Powers and  The Citizen’s Advocate. The United States Constitution establishes three independent branches of  government which balance and check each other’s power.  The Executive Branch (The President and his appointees) is charged with executing  and enforcing laws enacted  by Congress or   adjudicated  by  the  U.S. Supreme Court.

The U.S. Attorney General (AG) is  “The People’s Attorney,”   a watchdog  charged with ensuring that  the Executive Branch functions  consistent with Federal law  and within the framework of  The U.S. Constitution.  In the past, when the  AG   abdicated this obligation, Writs of Mandamus or the  Administrative Procedures Act (APA) have been used to force the AG to  (1) investigate the Executive’s actions or inactions or, alternatively,  (2)  to appoint an independent investigator.  In  recent years,  as the “Imperial/Unitarian Presidency” grew, these tools  of citizen redress have  been more frequently denied by  courts and Administrative  Law Judges.  There’s an underlying assumption that it’s better to countenance questionable Executive actions than it is to risk overstepping  the Separation of Powers.

As demonstrated by  Bush’s   Presidency,   an independent AG and Justice Department are   essential reins on  a run-away Executive.  The AG is often The People’s last recourse for achieving  administrative and judicial intervention.  In that light,  citizens should welcome Senator  Arlen Specter’s questioning (R-Pa.)  of  Attorney General-nominee Eric Holder about his  involvement in the Marc Rich pardon scandal.  Was Holder so dependent on President Clinton’s good graces that he abdicated  due diligence and independence for personal ambition?  In our current situation (an extraordinarily popular President-Elect and  a Democratic-controlled Congress)  it is especially important that the People’s watchdogs are  motivated by law and ethics not by personal aggrandizement.  According to Holder,  “The duty of the AG is to defend statutes…  unless there are compelling reasons [not to].”

In today’s  hearing, Senator  Orrin Hatch asked Holder (who has expressed opposition to  rendition, torture and warrantless wiretapping)  if  Holder would pursue  prosecutions of officials who approved extraordinary rendition and warrantless wiretapping of U.S. citizens.  In reply,  Holder stated,  “No one’s above the law  We will follow the evidence, the facts, the law and  let that take us where it  should.   We don’t want to criminalize policy differences…between the outgoing administration and the incoming Obama administration.  I want to know more about what lead to these decisions.”

In a loose citation of Youngstown Sheet & Tube Co. v. Sawyer, 343 U.S. 579 (1952) Holder further stated, “[The President’s power is] weakest … where Congress has indicated something contrary to what  the President wants to do.”  In other words,  where Congress has expressed its will in legislation,  the President is obliged to act within the parameters established.  (Of course, Congress cannot usurp powers granted the Executive by The Constitution.)

It seems clear Holder understands his Constitutional obligations to uphold the law and to prosecute its corruption.  We should listen carefully to  Senator Specter’s questions and to  designee-Holder’s answers.  They may be the only additional clues we get to the stamina of  designee-Holder’s  ethics and independence.

Timothy Geithner, Citigroup & the global economic crisis. See  “Note 4”  below.  The Alternet-Politico article provides a good overview of Geithner’s involvement in the creation of our current global economic crisis and should be read in its entirety.

Several experts on finance,  mortgage-backed securities, hedge funds, bankruptcy, SEC regulations and lack of enforcement, arcane investment tools and the  TARP  have testified before Congress concerning our global economic crisis.  (See CSPAN archives.) Their grasp of the  factors affecting  an economic recovery was comprehensive.

As  the former president of the New York Federal Reserve Bank, Timothy Geithner reduced  regulations and consequent oversight of Citigroup, et al.

Is he   the best person to develop the architecture of  our economic recovery?  Has he demonstrated a capacity for  predicting the effect of government interventions/pullbacks on financial  markets?   What  unique expertise does he possess beyond having overseen the building and crashing of an economic  house of cards?  What was the nature of his relationship with Citigroup and Robert Rubin? (Rubin is a past-Treasury Secretary, Geithner’s former boss and  was a  “special consultant” to Citigroup during its implosion.  He is also one of  President-elect Obama’s economic advisors.)


1.    Administrative Procedures Act:

2.    U.S. Supreme Court and Writs of Mandamus which I’m including because it’s a tool too few of us know about:   (Per Justice Ginsberg in 2004,  No. 03-475″…an applicant seeking a §1361 mandamus writ must show that “the [federal] defendant owes him a clear, nondiscretionary duty.” Heckler v. Ringer, 466 U.S. 602, 616 (1984) (emphasis added). No §1361 writ may issue, in other words, when federal law grants discretion to the federal officer, rather than imposing a duty on him. When federal law imposes an obligation, however, suit under §1361 is not precluded simply because facts must be developed to ascertain whether a federal command has been dishonored. Congress enacted §1361 to “mak[e] it more convenient for aggrieved persons to file actions in the nature of mandamus,” Stafford v. Briggs, 444 U.S. 527, 535 (1980), not to address the rare instance in which a federal defendant, upon whom the law unequivocally places an obligation, concedes his failure to measure up to that obligation.

3.   Bloomberg has a good overview of  the concerns raised by Holder’s nomination:

4.   Alternet & Politico have this overview of Citigroup, Timothy Geithner, Robert Rubin  & the global economic  meltdown: