Were you expecting great things from the man President Obama charged with getting at the truth of Michael Brown’s death by cop? As I wrote a couple of weeks back, don’t hold your breath. Some more reasons why:
As the U.S. attorney for the District of Columbia from 1993 to 1997, Holder was in charge of policing the local police. When police violence spiraled out of control, he did little to protect Washington residents from rampaging lawmen.
The number of killings by Washington police doubled from 1988 to 1995, the year 16 civilians died from officer gunfire. Police shot and killed people at a higher rate than any other major city police department, as a Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington Post investigation revealed. The Post reported that “Holder said he did not detect a pattern of problematic police shootings and could not recall the specifics of cases he personally reviewed.” Holder declared: “I can’t honestly say I saw anything that was excessive…”
As a people we are vicious, vengeful, ignorant, callous and most of all cowardly. What else could account for the Dickensian criminal “justice” system we permit to exist? Excerpted from We Meant Well:
…Debtors’ prisons in the U.S. were declared unconstitutional, but states have re-implemented them anyway. A person locked up can’t earn money to pay the debt. And most significantly, it ends up costing many jurisdictions more money to punish someone for not paying than they would have “spent” just forgetting the debt. So why do states do this? To be fair, many states do not, and some that do often try and work out some sort of payment plan first. OK, good enough.
Now this may all be for the best. On the streets, nobody is overly concerned about providing food, medical care and shelter to poor people; outside they’re lazy, don’t want to work, nip at the public tit and all. Why, it would be socialism to help them after all. However, inside the prison system they all get food, medical and dental care, all tucked in a warm bed. Our society is apparently more ready to care for a criminal than for a citizen down on his luck.
The reality in America is that far too many people go to jail as punishment for not paying the fees and court costs incurred finding them already guilty of something else. One is left with a tough conclusion: we are more and more a crude, course society on path towards some sort of feudalism, where the rich (if ever brought to court at all) pay their money and walk out, while poor people are punished for no valid reason. We as a society want to set examples, clear the streets of our lowers, punish those who aren’t able to pay the government for giving them their day in court. That’s who we are now. And you better pay your bills…
… in the Land of the Free and the Home of the Brave? Sure it can. At least We Meant Well seems to think so. Anybody able to confirm this? If so, comment away.
All insurance claims, including date, service, meds, units, all meta data, who you saw and why automatically goes to the government. This has been going on since 2003.
Assume it all automatically goes into the MSA (M=N) database and to every law enforcement fusion (z=s) center. Assume it is linked to your drivers license file.
Let me assure you that a “national ID” has nothing to do with a card, chip, barcode, magnetic strip, etc. It is all about the data on file and how it is linked together. The card, chip, barcode, RFID, whatever, is merely how the data is expressed.
According to a former naval officer in our armed forces who is also a former U. S. president, President Carter, the United States is no longer a functioning democracy.
According to Chalmers Johnson, a former Asian expert and CIA consultant turned public intellectual, we can be either a democracy or an empire, but not both.
Former U. S. Army colonel and now public intellectual Andrew Bacevitch explains why we can have either a functioning democracy or a large standing army and worldwide bases (that is, an empire), but not both.
Another public intellectual, Tony Judt, has written that we can have either a democracy or high income and wealth inequality, but not both.
Then there is humble me, up in NW Connecticut. What do I care?
But … I am getting worried about black helicopters landing on our little plot of land, probably bringing down the bluebird and wren houses we’ve set up out there. Hey, I am an American. Now, I know we Americans have enemies abroad, but I found out that I am being monitored by the national government, here in my quiet corner, according to information released by the renegade government operative Edward Snowden.
Also, last week I learned that there are 78 “fusion centers” across my country, operated by “state and local authorities,” a group including “dozens of officials from police and fire departments, federal agencies, and [this is especially intriguing] private companies.” (New York Times.) The centers have been funded by “hundreds of millions of dollars” from the Department of Homeland Security and “other federal agencies” as well as state governments…
This “wide net” — which seems mostly to have captured information from public social media such as Facebook — was notably employed to track the doings of the dreaded Occupy movement, which began to use the ultimate tool to undermine our nation’s security: peaceful public assembly for protest (initially, in this case, against the financial system as being undemocratic). At least Occupy didn’t target shopping.
But then came this tidbit, some Orwellian and wryly amusing thoughts (New York Times again) from a flunky at Homeland Security. Saying that the fusion centers play an important role in helping law enforcement and emergency responders understand how to protect people [which “people” would that be?] during “large public events,” she continued that the centers are required [yeah, right] to protect privacy and civil liberties. More: Agencies receiving Homeland Security grants must [or else what?] follow guidelines similar to those adopted by that department, which forbid (oh, dear me!) the collection of information “solely for the purpose of monitoring activities protected by the U.S. Constitution, such as the First Amendment-protected freedoms of religion, speech, press, and peaceful assembly and protest.” Cue up the Star Spangled Banner.
However, the Times article goes on to catalog a number of instances that directly contradict that functionary’s reassuring rhetoric. Two of many examples of activities hoovered up by the centers: “yoga, faith & spirituality classes,” and the potential threats outlined in a report prepared by the International Council of Shopping Centers [!!], as implemented by the D.C. Metropolitan Police Department.
This latter item, like many of the others, was focused on the Occupy movement, in particular “its attitudes towards [sic] retail,” as well as a group of people who declared, on a website, that they would “intentionally forgo the [Black Friday] shopping frenzy.” Well, that last ugly bit of subversion does get America where it hurts, although I do wonder what James Madison would have to say about that threat?
I read, too, that the CIA has its own “venture capital arm,” called In-Q-Tel, which has invested in at least one private intelligence-gathering firm, called Palantir Technologies. Palantir is hired by all sorts of corporations and “other entities” to create and search “innovative” databases culled from disparate, “counterintuitive” areas of the lives of Americans. The Palantir executives are reportedly losing sleep over the possibility that “the government” may use Palantir capabilities to track its own citizens. Not to worry, guys; whatever put that notion into your noodles? ( For all the money we pour into the CIA and the NSA, I do wonder why they feel the need to reach outside for this effort. Maybe we taxpayers should privatize the CIA and the NSA to Palantir and the Private Army Formerly Known As Blackwater.)
I see these initiatives — and I would bet that there are others of which We the People do not know — as illustrating a central “tension” (aka contradiction) in present-day America: the constant reference to the principles on which the nation was founded, contrasted with the never-slaked thirst for that corrosive social obsession: Control. Control and fear — themes pervasive throughout the World’s Sole Remaining Superpower (per Condoleeza). Have these drives taken us to the point beyond which the overriding fear is of ... ourselves?
Thank God Almighty, the 1% is free at last! The Kochsucking majority on the Supreme Court just ruled that money speaks louder than words — your words anyway:
(CNN) — The Supreme Court on Wednesday struck down current limits on the total amount individual donors can make to political campaigns…
The 5-4 ruling could have an immediate impact on November's congressional midterm elections, and add another layer of high-stakes spending in the crowded political arena.
Scalia Thomas & Roberts LLC, the legal branch of the Republican Party, thus returns us to the original intent of the Founding Fathers. Constitutional precedent for today’s ruling is to be found in the three fifths compromise, which took imaginary votes away from slaves and awarded them to their masters.
From Andrew Sullivan:
…As for the case for allowing fundamentalists to discriminate against anyone associated with what they regard as sin, I’m much more sympathetic. I favor maximal liberty in these cases. The idea that you should respond to a hurtful refusal to bake a wedding cake by suing the bakers is a real stretch to me. Yes, they may simply be homophobic, rather than attached to a coherent religious worldview. But so what? There are plenty of non-homophobic bakers in Arizona. If we decide that our only response to discrimination is a lawsuit, we gays are ratcheting up a culture war we would do better to leave alone. We run the risk of becoming just as intolerant as the anti-gay bigots, if we seek to coerce people into tolerance. If we value our freedom as gay people in living our lives the way we wish, we should defend that same freedom to sincere religious believers and also, yes, to bigots and haters. You do not conquer intolerance with intolerance. As a gay Christian, I’m particularly horrified by the attempt to force anyone to do anything they really feel violates their conscience, sense of self, or even just comfort.
So I’m with Big Gay Al, and always have been. Let bigots be bigots. Let gays be gays. And when those values conflict, lets do all we can not to force the issue. We’re living in a time of drastic change with respect to homosexuality. It is perfectly understandable that many traditional-minded people, especially in the older age brackets, are disconcerted, upset and confused. So give them some space; instead of suing them, talk to them. Try seeing things from their point of view. Appeal to their better nature as Christians. And start defusing by your tolerance the paranoia and hysteria Roger Ailes lives off…
My day began with my wife informing me she was not quite 300 dollars overdrawn at the bank. By an odd coincidence, I was in a position to make up that shortfall for her. And since we were low on cat food and the grocery and the bank are in the same shopping center, I opted to drive down and deposit cash rather than to do an online transfer. I'm old enough to remember when depositing cash was the fastest way to do that sort of thing.
Well, the nice lady at the bank informed me that I had to show ID to deposit cash into an account for which I am not a signatory. That was irksome, but not as troubling as the fun fact she laid on me next: As of March 1, no one but the authorized user of a given account can make a cash deposit into that account. This, I was told, is a new federal regulation to combat money laundering. In the interests of politeness, I refrained from pointing out that perhaps our federal regulators should be directing their efforts toward the banks themselves, rather than the customers of those banks.
However, I was rude enough to point out that in performing a very straightforward transaction, the base assumption was that I am committing a crime, until proof to the contrary is provided. Nor is this the only day-to-day transaction that is so treated. If I wish to purchase certain (nominally) over-the-counter cold remedies, I have to provide ID — because the base assumption is that these products are mainly purchased to make meth. I have to provide ID to buy a compressed air cleaner for my computer — because the base assumption is that I am purchasing it to get high. Apparently, in our business-friendly America, we can no longer conceive of legitimate uses for a lot of the products being sold to us. (While we're at it, if I buy that compressed air cleaner at the right electronics chain, I will be asked on my way out to furnish proof that I did not shoplift it.)
Even more troubling is the thought I had getting into my car: Apparently our government now views its own currency mainly in terms of how it can be used to break the law. Tell me I'm overreacting...
“There was a time when a black man couldn’t kiss a white woman on TV. That day has passed,” wrote Robert Farago on his TruthAboutGuns blog about the NFL's decision to ban the ad from Georgia gunmaker Daniel Defense. “Yet a firearms company can’t advertise its products on network TV. It’s high time that ballistic barrier was broken.”
Farago’s twisted sense of history was hardly alone in pro-gun circles. “What a bunch of hypocrites! The 2nd Amendment is ultimately what allows the NFL to even exist,” wrote TreeManTwo on the website of Guns & Ammo magazine, which broke the story last Friday that the NFL rejected the ad for violating its advertising policy. “It does have to do with us being able to keep and protect our rights to do things like play football!”
…but it makes up for that by being useless:
[FISA court judge John] Bates’ heavily redacted opinion suggests that the collection of the internet and email metadata from Americans in bulk provided only minimal relevant information to FBI for generating terrorism investigation leads, the entire purpose of the program. Bates questioned, as a “threshold concern”, the government’s willingness to represent its activities to the Fisa court it cites as the principal check on its surveillance powers.
Former University of California, Davis policeman John Pike, who stirred public outrage by pepper-spraying peaceful student protesters during a 2011 sit-in against tuition hikes, has been awarded just over $38,000 in worker's compensation from the university for what Pike called psychiatric damage.
The ex-officer said he suffered mental distress after receiving more than 17,000 angry or threatening emails, 10,000 text messages and hundreds of letters when the video of the pepper-spraying went viral…
The San Francisco Chronicle reported that Pike had earned more than $110,000 from his job in 2010, citing a database of state worker salaries from the last year for which figures are available.
From Jennifer Senior’s interview of Justice Anthony Scalia in New York Magazine:
Flogging. And what I would say now is, yes, if a state enacted a law permitting flogging, it is immensely stupid, but it is not unconstitutional. A lot of stuff that’s stupid is not unconstitutional. I gave a talk once where I said they ought to pass out to all federal judges a stamp, and the stamp says — Whack! [Pounds his fist.] — STUPID BUT — CONSTITUTIONAL. Whack! [Pounds again.] STUPID BUT — CONSTITUTIONAL! Whack! — STUPID BUT CONSTITUTIONAL … [Laughs.] And then somebody sent me one.
From the Constitution of the United States, Article [IX]:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Flagellation or flogging is the act of methodically beating or whipping (Latin flagellum, “whip”) the human body. Specialised implements for it include rods, switches, the cat o’ nine tails and the sjambok.
Jim Wright at Stonekettle explores the true legacy of 9/11 in the excerpt below. As a nation, we have responded to the tragedy like a man stricken with lung cancer who chooses to self-medicate with two packs of Marlboros, taken daily.
…Since 911, an entire generation has been born and grown to self-awareness. Those young Americans have never known their nation at peace.
They have never known a nation that is not divided … They have never had a single day where they weren’t told to hate their neighbors and to report them if they don’t seem patriotic enough … They have never lived a single day in a nation that wasn’t bent to the terrible business of revenge.
They have never known a nation that didn’t roil in fear and cringe in terror every single day … They have never flown on an airplane without having been treated like a criminal … They have never checked out a book from the library without having been subject to secret scrutiny.
They never sent an unmonitored email or made an unmonitored phone call … They have never lived in a house that isn’t subject to unwarranted search … They have never had the right to redress or legal challenge when their name is placed on secret lists — and in point of fact, they don’t even have the right to know if their name is on that list at all.
They have never lived in a nation where they have the right to confront their accuser and demand proof of more than just suspicion … They have never lived without the threat, however unlikely, of being disappeared … They have never lived in a nation that didn’t regard the torture of human beings as an acceptable option.
This new generation has lived under the shadow of those falling towers every single minute of every single day since the moment they were born.
The terrorists didn’t do that to them.
First take a look at the video below, full-screen if you can. Have you seen it before? Probably not. And yet there was a time, some 20 years ago, when a similar video, of the beating of Rodney King, transfixed the entire nation. The only substantial difference between the King tape and the one below is that the Los Angeles police didn’t have Tasers. They had to torture their captive the old-fashioned way, with clubs and fists and boots. Those were primitive days…
It used to be that to torture a prisoner with electricity was a cumbersome process, requiring an electrical connection or a generator. Building on the principle of the cattle prod, however, science soon brought us the miracle of the portable taser, so that today any torturer in blue can deal out agonizing pain or death whenever and wherever the occasion presents itself. (“Death,” you say? Isn’t that going a little far? Not at all. Just this summer, just in Connecticut, police have Tasered two men to death. That brings our total to 13 since 2005.)
Here’s what happened to the Long Beach victim in the video, a 46-year-old man named Porfirio Santos-Lopez:
He underwent surgery at Long Beach Memorial Hospital for injuries sustained in the confrontation. “They broke two bones in his right arm. They collapsed his lung on the left side. He has two cuts on his right leg, a cut on his left, a cut on his head,” Santos-Lopez’ wife, Lee Ann Hernandez, said.
None of the officers involved in the incident have been placed on leave. No charges have been filed against Santos-Lopez.
Another difference between the torture of King and the torture of Lopez is the presence of a crowd in the latter case. The Long Beach police knew they were on camera. Cell phones were everywhere. People were shouting at the cowards to stop their torture. The cowards were indifferent. They knew, this being America, that they would never be punished. We just love our boys in blue all to pieces, as long as they confine their torture to the torturable classes. You’re never going to see John Yoo or Bernie Madoff on the ground, jerking and screaming.
My nephew Will is an editor at The Post-Star in Glens Falls, N.Y. His father, like me, was also a newspaperman and also covered the March on Washington. But Bill had a better seat than I did, as you’ll see:
My father, Bill, worked as a reporter for urban newspapers from the time he was a teenager up until we moved up to Saranac Lake in 1971. In August of 1963, he was on an assignment I asked him to write about, so he did:
Fifty years ago, I attended the March on Washington. Through the years that experience has grown in personal importance. At the time, I was a young reporter for The Trentonian, a morning newspaper in Trenton, New Jersey, which at the time was perhaps half black.
Memories of that experience are still strong, and I have a picture of Martin Luther King giving his ‘I Have a Dream’ speech hanging at the foot of my bed. Miraculously, one of the few clippings I have from that time on The Trentonian is my story of the March on Washington. It’s browning now and fragile, but still legible. The headline reads, ‘1,000 Area Demonstrators Join March in Washington.’
I did not mention King’s speech until the end of my story, which included the usage common during that time. For instance, I refer to King as ‘the Negro leader with charisma,’ as if I was writing for a white audience to whom King was not well known at the time. It surprised me today to read my story because I failed to focus on King’s famous speech until the end of my long piece.
Luckily, by chance, I was able to sit near him on the platform constructed on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial when he spoke of ‘this sweltering summer of negroes’ discontent’ and of ‘a revolt which will shake the foundations of this nation,’ which included what he termed ‘an island of poverty in this vast ocean of material prosperity.’ How much and yet how little has changed in the past half century.
The last paragraph reads, ‘As he finished, the 4 o’clock sun cast the shadow of the Washington Monument across the Lincoln Memorial, and King spoke of his dreams for Negro equality. At that moment, it seemed the whole throng of Negroes was dreaming with him.’
How naive it sounds today.
Wednesday night, my wife and I watched a documentary, “The March,” on public TV. It showed the months of work that went into the event, and the long day of speakers and performers. As the film wound down, it showed excerpts of King’s speech. We had been commenting on the documentary, but the timbre of King’s voice has a way of holding you still, so you can hardly breathe.
For a moment, we were dreaming with him.
…to find that spying is going on in here:
The employees even had a code name for the practice — “Love-int” — meaning the gathering of intelligence on their partners.
Dianne Feinstein, a senator who chairs the Senate intelligence committee, said the NSA told her committee about a set of “isolated cases” that have occurred about once a year for the last 10 years. The spying was not within the US, and was carried out when one of the lovers was abroad.
Just came across this post from October of 2002:
This is the logo for the proposed Office of Homeland Security. No doubt it will be hissed and booed to death shortly, which will be too bad. Unlike most logos, this one says it all. (Come to think of it, though, the text loses something in translation. Heimat Sicherheit sounds more natural.)
And sure enough, it was hissed and booed to death in favor of:
Here, via Naked Capitalism, is a Marine colonel on how to build a police state right under our cop-loving and soldier-sniffing eyes:
My best friend, who’s a SWAT officer in Nashua, who came to Iraq with me to train the Iraqi police, sent me an email with a picture of him in the media on the streets of Watertown, MA wearing the exact same combat gear that we had in Iraq, only it was a different color. And the way we do things in the military, it’s called task organization: You take a command, and then you attach units to it in order to accomplish the mission. What’s happening is that Homeland Security is pre-staging gear, equipment, consistent: What they’re trying to do is use standardized vehicles, standardized equipment. I saw a picture in the Boston Globe during the Marathon Bombing where there was a state police officer — Actually, there were two officers. They both had identical helmets, flak jackets, weapons, everything I wore in Iraq, only it was all blue. The officer on one side had a big patch on his back that said “MASSACHUSETTS STATE POLICE.” Another officer next to him, his patch said “BOSTON POLICE.”
And so what we’re doing here, and let’s not kid about it, we’re building a domestic army and we’re shrinking the military because the government is afraid of its own citizens. The last time more than ten terrorists were in the same place at one time was September 11, and all these vehicles in the world wouldn’t have prevented it, nor would it have helped anybody. So, I don’t know where we’re going to use this many vehicles and this many troops; Concord is just one little cog in the wheel. We’re building an Army over here and I can’t believe that people aren’t seeing it. Is everybody blind?
…this is what President Obama does to helpless men 88 times a day. No doubt he does it for what he considers to be the greater good: protecting the rest of his agenda from the “national security” cowards who predominate in Congress and the electorate. In some cosmic weighing of the scales, he may be right. Or not.
Still, this is what President Obama does to helpless men 88 times a day. Every day.
All I know about this nauseating video is that it comes from KLAS-TV in Las Vegas. The worst is not the weeping, baffled young victim nor the pig of a marshal. Not even the toddler crying for her mommy. The worst in this whole filthy mess is the family court judge who turns her back on the outrage in front of her to play, unconcerned, with the little girl’s teddy bear. Proof, once again, that scum rises to the top.
If you’re reading Bad Attitudes, you already know this. But it can’t be said too often. A major point — perhaps the major point — of our criminal “justice” system is to keep the niggers in their place. It’s criminal, all right, our justice. Since the founding of the nation, the “law” in law and order has been systematically perverted to preserve that old natural “order” so beloved by Chief Justice Roger Taney and spelled out by him in Dred Scott v. Sandford .
I know personally people like doctors, lawyers, elected officials, teachers, architects, and accountants (in addition to the waiters, musicians, bartenders, comedians, and people of leisure) for whom not being high is an extreme rarity. In the broadest sense, I am acquainted with hundreds of users – and probably more people who I don't realize are users.
This bothers me not at all, since I give zero shits about whether people smoke weed. What does strike me as odd, though, is that for all the (predominantly white) people I know who use regularly, I know very few people who get arrested for anything drug related. Perhaps that is because, despite surveys showing that nearly identical percentages of black and white Americans use marijuana, new data shows that blacks are 400% more likely to get arrested for marijuana-related offenses. You're shocked, I know.
Notice that this does not say blacks are four times as likely to use marijuana, or be in possession of it, or sell it, or anything of the sort. They are four times more likely to be arrested and charged. The reason, I submit, is that the entire point of the War on Drugs is to put black males in prison. This isn't a bug; it's a feature…
Sure, the dumbass white kids from the suburbs can spend all of mom and dad's money on blow and bad acid and expensive weed for four years in college, but if there's weed to be found in the crappy black neighborhood they'll move heaven and Earth to find it. Ethan might be selling his mom's Vicodin out of their 4000 square-foot home in Barrington, but the crime is Curtis selling dimebags behind the convenience store.
At least a portion of our national screaming match about guns has turned to actions that can be unilaterally taken by the Executive Branch. Robert Reich offers some of them here. There is one suggestion I have yet to see offered.
Call up the militia.
Guess who is the commander-in-chief of the militia referenced in the part of the Second Amendment that no one seems to know about? That’d be the President of the United States, according to Article II. So the commander-in-chief should activate the militia. Clearly, “security of a free State” is at stake if ordinary citizens are not safe to go to schools, shopping malls, movie theaters, public appearances of their elected representative, and Unitarian churches. (To name but a few of the sites of mass shootings in the last few years.)
So, President Obama should call up the militia. Anyone who owns a gun is ordered to report with their weapons for militia training and assignment. They would be evaluated as to their fitness for duty — including a mental health screening — as well as the condition of their arms and their proficiency in handling them. They would be furnished with proof that they reported for and completed this training. Thereafter, any gun owner who cannot furnish such proof would be subject to penalties, and still be required to report for militia duty.
It’s simple. It’s in the Constitution. And, of course, it is 100% unworkable.
For starters, I think we know the people screaming loudest about the Second Amendment would never submit to this sort of “tyranny.” (For rather a lot of them, the definition of “tyranny” is having to do anything a black person says.) It would cost a lot of money and time, both for organization and enforcement. Military resources would almost certainly have to be diverted to the task. And last, but certainly not least, “the militia” was redefined in 1903 to mean The National Guard.
Which brings us to the fun part. Just who do you think would waste no time at all in loudly and repeatedly bringing up that last fact? I’m gonna go with “Gun Owners” on that one. Maybe even Wayne LaPierre his own self. But even if they don’t point to that particular law, one way or another it’s a safe bet that they will themselves make the point that they are not subject to being a militia in the sense that the Founders not only intended, but specified.
And once we’ve established that the first clause of the Second Amendment is outdated and inapplicable, maybe — just maybe — we can have a sensible conversation about the amendment in its entirety. (Yeah, I know. But I said “maybe” twice, so cut me some slack...)
Sure, it’s kind of a convoluted way to make a point. But our Republican friends do that sort of thing all the time — how many votes has the House held to repeal Obamacare? (Also, too, Clinton Impeachment. Heck, the war in Iraq.) Government-as-performance-art can work for our side too, once in a while...
I was greeted today with the news that Robert Bork has passed away. Robert Reich offered this generous assessment on his Facebook page:
We all can get angry with people who don’t share our views and values, attributing to them the worst motives. But permit me a personal note. Robert Bork died today. He was a conservative, lionized by the right, condemned by the left, rejected by the Senate for the Supreme Court. But I knew him as a man of great honor, extraordinary wit, and deep commitment.... And although we disagreed on many issues, he was always willing to listen carefully and debate forcefully. I admired his intellect and his courage. He cared deeply about America.
I cannot quibble with Professor Reich’s firsthand knowledge of Judge Bork’s temperament. No doubt he was a nice enough guy to those who knew him personally. But that’s one of my complaints — most of these guys are nice to those around them. It’s the people who aren’t around them to whom they are unpleasant. As Dave Barry so astutely pointed out, “A person who is nice to you but not nice to the waiter is not a nice person.” From where I’m sitting, Robert Bork was not nice to the waiter.
During his confirmation hearing, I was working as a messenger. Since I was in the car all day I tuned my radio to NPR, which carried the hearings live. Bork was articulate and had a very pleasant speaking voice. He sure didn’t sound like a nut. But there was something troubling about him that actually took me several days to identify. It came down to two assertions that he made. 1) There was no right to privacy in the Constitution because it wasn’t explicitly spelled out. 2) The Fourteenth Amendment only applied to African Americans because clearly that was what its drafters intended.
Maybe you spotted the problem already. In one instance there had to be explicit provision, in the other there didn’t. But there was consistency in the two positions nonetheless: Bork’s assertions in each instance curtailed the rights of individuals.
It was a wonderful education, listening to those hearings. Robert Bork taught me to listen — really listen — to what his side is saying. And to really think about the words themselves. Plus once I figured out how they put their arguments together, I could punch holes in them much more quickly. For that I am grateful.
And for the fact that he was not confirmed, I am even more grateful.
So RIP, I guess, Robert Bork. I do not know what lies on the other side, but I hope when you got there you learned something as useful as what you taught me.
…words I never thought I’d write. But doomed though the junior senator from Kentucky’s amendment may be, the gesture is admirable.
From The Hill:
Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is holding up a vote on the Defense Authorization Act until he gets a vote on his amendment affirming the Sixth Amendment of the Constitution and the indefinite detention of Americans…
Paul’s amendment would give American citizens being held by the military rights to a fair trial with a jury of peers and the right to confront the witnesses against him or her.
Following up on Pennsylvania’s shame when the legislature and governor decreed that in order to vote citizens needed two government issued forms of picture IDs, now finally the courts have thrown the whole thing out.
Registered voters now may sign the voter roll book and vote just like last year. The shame, though, continues because the GOP-controlled administration decided to send a full color mailer to every voter in the state saying two government-issued picture IDs were needed to vote. Conveniently they sent the mistaken mailer before the courts threw out the controlling law. No corrective mailers have been sent.
In addition, several counties in this cradle of democracy have failed to change their online voter directions to reflect the court’s rulings. It is fair to say that thousands of Keystone State voters will believe they can’t vote because of the Republican efforts to suppress the vote. This is all part of the continuing effort by the GOP to deny large groups of voters their Constitutional rights.
Incidentally there has never been a prosecuted case of voter ID misrepresentation in Pennsylvania, though Florida has seen a wholesale voter fraud attempt this year funded by, you guessed it, the Republicans.
From the Washington Post:
A federal judge won’t block Florida’s plan to cut the required early voting days from 14 down to eight.
Judge Timothy Corrigan ruled that there was not enough proof that the change burdened the ability of African-Americans to vote. Nor did opponents prove that the law was discriminatory in intent or effect, he wrote.
In addition to cutting the number of mandatory early voting days, the new Florida law eliminates early voting on the Sunday before Election Day, a day when high percentages of minority voters headed to the polls in 2008. (That surge might be in part due to black church activism, known as “Souls to the Polls.”) The new law mandates two Saturdays and one Sunday for early voting, but not the Sunday before Election Day.
You will be astonished to learn that Judge Corrigan was appointed by George W. Bush, who was an American president for eight years despite what the Republican Party would like you to think.
From an article by Judge Corrigan, on a possibly unrelated matter:
Finally, how many of us have faithfully followed the admonition that we “never reject from any consideration personal to ourselves, the cause of the defenseless or oppressed, or delay anyone’s cause for lucre or malice”?
Frank Rich explores the history of the GOP’s devolution from birth control crusaders to vaginal probers. You will be astonished to learn that politics and not primitive religious doctrine was behind the shift. A taste:
…The GOP started backing away from its traditional beneficence on women’s issues at the tail end of the Nixon presidency. Nixon had a progressive GOP take for his time: He supported the Equal Rights Amendment, appointed an impressive number of talented women, and in 1972 signed the Equal Employment Opportunity Act to strengthen the policing of workplace discrimination. But, in a telling shift a few months earlier, he also vetoed a bipartisan bill enabling child care for the millions of mothers then rapidly joining the workforce. As Melich observes, it would have been consistent with GOP frugality if Nixon had rejected the bill solely because of its cost. But his veto was accompanied by a jarring statement that child care would threaten American families by encouraging women to work. The inspiration for this unexpected reactionary broadside came not from fundamentalist clergy but from cynical, secular political strategists eager to exploit the growing backlash against the sixties feminist movement, much as the “southern strategy” was exploiting the backlash against the sixties civil-rights movement.
This tactic preceded Roe v. Wade, which was decided in 1973. The new GOP was hostile to female liberation, period, not just female sexual freedom. The pitch was articulated by Newt Gingrich in his first successful congressional race in Georgia in 1978. His opponent, a state senator named Virginia Shapard, crusaded for the Equal Rights Amendment and bankrolled her own campaign. That uppity profile gave the Gingrich forces an advertising message: “Newt will take his family to Washington and keep them together; Virginia will go to Washington and leave her husband and children in the care of a nanny.” Newt won by nine percentage points. One of his campaign officials tied his victory to the strategy of “appealing to the prejudice against working women, against their not being home…”
Corey Robin points out that government, constitutionally barred from censoring free speech, has happily outsourced the job to the private sector — most recently in Arizona. Interesting piece. Read the whole thing here.
Second, in a way, I should have foreseen this fusion because, as I argued in my first book Fear: The History of a Political Idea, it has historically fallen to employers rather than the state to police the political opinions and practices of citizens. Focused as we are on the state, we often miss the fact that some of the most intense programs of political indoctrination have not been conducted by the government but have instead been outsourced to the private sector. While less than 200 men and women went to jail for their political beliefs during the McCarthy years, as many as two out of every five American workers were monitored for their political beliefs.
Ohio state legislator Nina Turner has decided to dramatize the War On Women: Contraceptive Theater of Operations by attempting to place an equivalent burden on men:
...the Democrat has become the latest in a series of female state legislators to give her male colleagues a taste of their own medicine by introducing a bill that limits men’s ability to get a Viagra prescription without meeting certain government conditions.
Not bad. But I suggest we think in different terms. This is a calculated burden on a settled issue of the rights of American citizens. I modestly propose we burden another settled right, to dramatize that fact. Therefore, no one should be allowed to purchase a firearm in this country without being required to watch a 30-minute montage of coroner’s photos of children who have been killed by firearms in this country. The montage’s soundtrack should include “Tears in Heaven” by Eric Clapton and “My Heart Will Go On” by Celine Dion. Remaining music should be left up to the states, in acknowledgment of the Tenth Amendment.
Undoubtedly we will hear that this violates the Second Amendment. But since it doesn’t actually prevent anyone from acquiring the means to slaughter additional children, that argument should be easily countered.
Foster Friess, one of the leading bidders in the current E-Bay auction of the 2012 election, is being rightly excoriated for saying this:
“This contraceptive thing, my gosh it’s such [sic] inexpensive. Back in my days, they used Bayer Aspirin for contraception. The gals put it between their knees and it wasn’t that costly,” he said.
There are men in this world still who think contraception is solely the woman’s problem. Clearly, Mr. Friess is among them. That would be fine, maybe, if they would at least get out of the way and leave it to the women to solve. Right?
Apparently not. For we also have this:
Reps. Carolyn Maloney (D-NY) and Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC) walked out of the hearing in protest of [Issa’s] decision, citing frustration over the fact that the first panel of witnesses consisted only of male religious leaders against the rule. Holmes Norton said she will not return, calling Issa’s chairmanship an “autocratic regime.”
So what we have is what we always have, in the Republican worldview: It’s your problem, whatever it is - until you try to do something about it. Then and only then will they take an interest - and only to tell you that you can’t solve it at all.
And they call this process “freedom.”
Jamie Dimon has put a down payment on his own police force:
JPMorgan Chase recently donated an unprecedented $4.6 million to the New York City Police Foundation.
The gift was the largest in the history of the foundation and will enable the New York City Police Department to strengthen security in the Big Apple. The money will pay for 1,000 new patrol car laptops, as well as security monitoring software in the NYPD’s main data center...
“These officers put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe,” Dimon said. “We’re incredibly proud to help them build this program and let them know how much we value their hard work.”
I thought us li’l old taxpayers were supposed to pay for those things. So that the police would, you know, protect all of us.
Silly me. That would be socialism...
Here’s Rick Raznikov’s answer:
“Freedom” was not attacked on September 11, 2001. It was two towers in New York and, apparently, the Pentagon. It had nothing whatever to do with freedom.
On the other hand, America’s freedom has been under attack ever since, mostly by the U.S. government.
One does not defend freedom by wiping out amendments to the Bill of Rights, kidnapping citizens and holding them without trial, torturing thousands and holding them in prisons without habeas corpus, and conducting warrantless wiretapping and unrestricted electronic surveillance of an entire citizenry. That is how one attacks freedom.
A San Francisco-based advocacy group known as Male Genital Mutilation Bill has collected enough signatures on its petition to ban circumcision that the proposal will appear on the city's November electoral ballot…
The rate of complications resulting from circumcision is lower than ear piercing, between 0.2% and 0.6%, with some bleeding as the most frequent complication…
Claims about psychological harm caused by neonatal circumcision are based mainly on anecdotes and Freudian psychoanalysis. If circumcision had the traumatic effects some opponents maintain it has, roughly two out of every three American males would be in trouble.
That last sentence settles it for me. Two out of three American males in fact are in psychological trouble, and possibly a good many more. Concern for the general welfare argues that we should leave future foreskins alone.
…is now the law of the land as far as I can see. Is there any other way to interpret this?
Washington (CNN) — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected a condemned Georgia inmate’s request that his execution be delayed as he attempts to prove his “actual innocence…”
[Troy] Davis was granted a stay of execution by the U.S. Supreme Court two hours before he was to be put to death in 2008, and the court in 2009 ordered the federal District Court to take another look at the case.
That court, after holding a hearing to review evidence, ruled in August that Davis “failed to show actual innocence” in the case. The District Court suggested that, for procedural reasons, Davis should take his appeal of its ruling directly to the Supreme Court…
Witnesses said Davis, then 19, and two others were harassing a homeless man in a Burger King parking lot when off-duty officer Mark MacPhail came to the man’s assistance. They testified that Davis shot MacPhail twice and fled.
Since Davis’ conviction in 1991, seven of the nine witnesses against him have recanted their testimony. No physical evidence was presented linking Davis to the killing of the policeman.
Prominent figures ranging from the pope to the musical group Indigo Girls have asked Georgia to grant Davis a new trial. Other supporters include celebrities Susan Sarandon and Harry Belafonte; world leaders such as former President Carter and former Archbishop Desmond Tutu; and former and current U.S. lawmakers Bob Barr, Carol Moseley Braun and John Lewis.
The looming imposition of Sharia law on God’s country is bad enough, but at least a handful of courageous politicians are fighting to save America from the horrors of stoning, amputations and 11-year-old brides.
Who, though, will be brave enough and wise enough to save us from the Moslem plot called Ramadan? Representative Peter King (IRA – NY) doesn’t even have Ramadan on his committee’s agenda, possibly under the impression that it’s a hotel chain.
But Ramadan is something far more sinister than the harmless face it shows the world. The terrorists would like you to think that it’s just a sort of Moslem Lent, only more ascetic: no food or drink at all between sunrise and sunset for a whole month.
Sounds more like Weight Watchers than an Al Qaeda plot. But in Michigan this alien practice is already wreaking havoc among America’s unborn, the very cohort upon which we depend to furnish the congressmen of tomorrow.
The mechanism is ingenious, but simple. Women undernourished during pregnancy tend to deliver underweight babies, more of them girls than boys, with an increased risk of mental disabilities. This creates, as our enemies understand, a demographic time bomb. Before long we will be a nation of dummies. Oh, wait…
For details click on this and download the full study. Here’s a taste to get you started:
We use the Islamic holy month of Ramadan as a natural experiment in fasting and fetal health. In Michigan births 1989–2006, we find prenatal exposure to Ramadan among Arab mothers results in lower birthweight. Exposure to Ramadan in the first month of gestation is also associated with a sizable reduction in the number of male births. In Census data for Uganda and Iraq we find strong associations between in utero exposure to Ramadan and the likelihood of being disabled as an adult. Effects are particularly large for mental (or learning) disabilities.
In 1960 I wrote a mystery which went unpublished because I was too young and stupid to make a handful of changes the editor wanted.
By now I barely remember the plot, except that the murder somehow hinged on an abortion doctor’s efforts to avoid prison — abortion being illegal although common in most states.
The idea came to me from my stepfather, who then lived in Virginia’s horse country. A gynecologist friend of his was correctly suspected of performing abortions, and the more respectable physicians of Rappahannock County called an unofficial meeting of the local power structure to decide how to deal with this outrage.
In the middle of this, the abortionist himself showed up and took the floor. “I thought I might be able to help you fellows out,” he said, and began to list the wives and daughters of the gentry assembled on whom he had performed abortions. He had barely begun when the sense of the meeting was discovered to be that the state police and the Commonwealth’s Attorney should immediately turn their attention to other matters.
For years my manuscript lay quietly in various attics, and in 1973 Roe v. Wade gave it the final coup de grâce. The book’s motive for murder would now seem a quaint anachronism, like speakeasies or the Hays Office.
But time, in the United States, has a way of running backwards—
Though Personhood USA has a reach into every state — and has collected almost 1 million signatures supporting personhood legislation throughout the country — the umbrella organization and its affiliates are currently throwing the most effort at Mississippi, North Dakota, Iowa, Montana and Nebraska.
On Valentine’s Day, Personhood began a matching program and challenged supporters to help raise $50,000 to make $100,000 to push anti-abortion rights legislation in North Dakota, Montana, Iowa and Mississippi. Today is the last day of the challenge.
Mississippi is the biggest target, as it has a personhood amendment on the ballot that will get a vote in November. If passed, the constitutional amendment would effectively make abortion illegal.
—and now has caught up with my poor little manuscript. Unfortunately, though, I can’t find the damned thing.
Read this whole interview. These searches aren’t limited to journalists, independent or otherwise. The government can and does inspect pretty much anybody’s hard drive and flash card for any reason it wants or for no good reason at all.
Independent journalist Brandon Jourdan recently returned from Haiti after being on assignment documenting the rebuilding of schools in the earthquake-devastated country. However, when he returned to the United States, he was immediately detained after deboarding the plane by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agents. He was questioned about his travels and had all of his documents, computer, phone and camera flash drives searched and copied. This is the seventh time Jourdan says he has been subjected to lengthy searches in five years, and has been told by officials that he is “on a list.”
Jourdan joins us in our studio. Catherine Crump, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union, says that Jourdan is not the only one facing such treatment by the Obama administration. Crump says many journalists and lawyers who often work abroad have also experienced similar interrogations — and the ACLU believes the First and Fourth Amendments must be honored within U.S. airports…
“And ‘These are orders from Washington.’ And they copied my hard drive. They copied my laptop. They copied every single one of my compact flash cards that I use for my camera, which is absurd to me, because I was documenting people building schools and a country devastated by an earthquake…
And now, for a change of pace, some good news. Bill Clinton’s misbegotten child, DADT, is dead. Everybody has heard this by now, but whole generations of younger Americans can’t understand just how good this news really is. One who can is author Perry Deane Young, an army veteran and a war correspondent in Vietnam. Let him tell you how it was in the bad old days:
Like many thousands before and since, I lied when I came to this line in the Army’s health questionnaire: “Do you now or have you ever had …. homosexual tendencies?” I had been actively, if secretively, homosexual since early puberty, but I also knew the brutal consequences of being open about those “tendencies.”
There came a moment of terror for me in February of 1967 when I stood at the alphabetical end of hundreds of soldiers posing for our graduation picture at the Fort Gordon Military Police School. Lost among that anonymous sea of olive drab, I was stunned to hear my name called out by one of the officers standing down front.
Words cannot begin to describe the fear and dread going through my mind as I slowly made my way to the front. Like all homosexuals at that time, I lived in constant fear of being “found out.” I honestly felt my hopes and dreams for the future would come crashing down. In fact, I felt I would never have a future except as some silly societal category of lesser human being…
My fears turned out to be unfounded. An officer handed me my diploma and I slowly made my way back into the stands, amid the whispers of what’s he done, why’s he so special?
To this day, I have no idea why I was singled out. All I know is that in that moment, I realized that I could not live with that sort of terror. Some day, somehow, I would have to deal with it. I could not live a lie. A wise old survivor of the death camps in Nazi Germany said it best: “Freedom is not having to lie about who you are.”
How can anybody believe that being homosexual is some sort of moral choice? Nobody in his or her right mind would choose to live the way homosexuals were forced to live in the 1950s and 1960s. Even now, the taint of being homosexual is so strong the suicide rate among gay teenage is several times that of heterosexuals. The suicide of the young Rutgers student last year dramatically illustrates how far we have yet to go.
During my time as a correspondent in Vietnam, I simply got up one morning unafraid to be myself. And, yes, there were some wonderful loving moments I cherish from my days among the military in Vietnam. In his book, Dispatches, Michael Herr mentions two Marines “making love” one night during the battle in Hue. And in my own memoir, Two of the Missing, I describe having sex with a Marine in Danang, a Navy Lieutenant in Saigon and an Army captain in Phu Bai.
Simply put, there have been homosexuals and homosexual activity among service men and women for as long as there have been service men and women. John Horne Burns’ The Galleria was a barely fictionalized account of gay American soldiers in World War II Italy.
The Marine Corps commandant is simply over-reacting to outdated images of homosexuality and masculinity in his recent statements against repeal of Don’t Ask Don’t Tell. He does a disservice to homosexuals and to the Marines. He helps perpetuate the myth that homosexuals are weak and can’t be trusted to control themselves in a professional manner — and he also seems to think the Marines are redneck rubes who can’t handle being around somebody different.
The truth is the commandant is not nearly as aware of societal changes or as sophisticated as the troops he commands. He is concerned about image, and nothing more. The current Marines grew up in an environment of sexual and racial tolerance where being gay is simply not an issue. They also know that the old stereotypes of homosexuals as sissies, pansies, fairies are no more valid than the old stereotypes that denigrated people of color in our country.
The Marine commandant is wrong about homosexuals and wrong about the kind of men and women who serve in the U.S. military. Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joints Chiefs of Staff, gave an eloquent summary of both counts in his testimony before a senate committee on Feb. 2, 2010:
Mr. Chairman, speaking for myself and myself only, it is my personal belief that allowing gays and lesbians to serve openly would be the right thing to do. No matter how I look at this issue, I cannot escape being troubled by the fact that we have in place a policy which forces young men and women to lie about who they are in order to defend their fellow citizens. For me personally, it comes down to integrity—theirs as individuals and ours as an institution. I also believe that the great young men and women of our military can and would accommodate such a change. I never underestimate their ability to adapt.
As a gay man swiftly slouching toward the age of 70, I am dismayed by the attitudes that still cause gay men and women to kill themselves. But, I am heartened by changes in the laws that will make it possible for young gay Americans to grow up with the same freedoms everybody else enjoys. It reflects a healthier time for homosexuals and for America.
CBS News takes the pulse of the nation, and finds it all fluttery:
In response to continued security threats, the Transportation and Security Administration recently began introducing full body scanners with more enhanced technology than past devices into airports nationwide. If a passenger refuses to pass through the new scanners, TSA agents are now allowed to conduct a very detailed, very personal, body search on that person.
Although some civil rights groups allege that they represent an unconstitutional invasion of privacy, Americans overwhelmingly agree that airports should use the digital x-ray machines to electronically screen passengers in airport security lines, according to the new poll. Eighty-one percent think airports should use these new machines — including a majority of both men and women, Americans of all age groups, and Democrats, Republicans, and independents alike. Fifteen percent said airports should not use them.
This just in from Santa Fe (h/t to Everett). We are all doomed.
SANTA FE — Students in Santa Fe have to wear ID badges to class, complete with a built-in tracking device.
The Smart Badge program started this school year, and is getting mixed reviews from parents and students. Patrick Mann is a senior and said he feels like he’s in prison. “Normally, the only people you would track are say prisoners or somebody that’s done something very wrong,” Mann said.
All students at Santa Fe Junior High and Santa Fe High School have to wear the radio frequency IDs. The sensors are in the ceiling on campus, but Mann said they keep tabs of you off campus too…
Every political system involving some sort of centralized power has so far led to attempts by the central power to gain control. Since the cannon set kings and princes above mere lords, centralization has been the trend.
That trend continues in our increasingly centralized power structure.
A federal appeals court on Wednesday ruled that former prisoners of the C.I.A. could not sue over their alleged torture in overseas prisons because such a lawsuit might expose secret government information.
The sharply divided ruling was a major victory for the Obama administration’s efforts to advance a sweeping view of executive secrecy powers. It strengthens the White House’s hand as it has pushed an array of assertive counterterrorism policies, while raising an opportunity for the Supreme Court to rule for the first time in decades on the scope of the president’s power to restrict litigation that could reveal state secrets.
The case reveals — or reiterates — the continuing stance of the executive branch of the current form of government. Regardless of party or ideology, every President has tried to accumulate power. As our economic system concentrates wealth, the political system designed by the founders tends to concentrate power.
On the plus side, our system concentrates power more slowly than, say, a monarchy or a dictatorship, whether of the elite or the proletariat. But late-stage empires, regardless of ideology, have already concentrated wealth so heavily that politics cannot fail to be deflected by the private interests of a very few. Suppose we in the US decided to free ourselves of the oil industry, or hedge funds; how would we accomplish that?
One thing we’ve hopefully learned is that electing a chief executive on the promise of change isn’t guaranteed to produce any.
While the alleged abuses occurred during the Bush administration, the ruling added a chapter to the Obama administration’s aggressive national security policies.
Its counterterrorism programs have in some ways departed from the expectations of change fostered by President Obama’s campaign rhetoric, which was often sharply critical of former President George W. Bush’s approach.
The crowning touch on the 6-5 ruling that state secrets trump human rights, that the state can decide which legal cases are allowed to proceed, is the court’s admission that the plaintiffs had a legitimate case.
There were signs in the court’s ruling that the majority felt conflicted. In a highly unusual move, the court ordered the government to pay the plaintiffs’ legal costs, even though they lost the case and had not requested such payment.
This is so 20th century. Get with it, people. Just implant chips in everybody’s head. Sure, they’ll whine a little at first, but they’re Americans. They’ll get used to it.
(CNN) — Law enforcement officers may secretly place a GPS device on a person’s car without seeking a warrant from a judge, according to a recent federal appeals court ruling in California.
Drug Enforcement Administration agents in Oregon in 2007 surreptitiously attached a GPS to the silver Jeep owned by Juan Pineda-Moreno, whom they suspected of growing marijuana, according to court papers.
When Pineda-Moreno was arrested and charged, one piece of evidence was the GPS data, including the longitude and latitude of where the Jeep was driven, and how long it stayed. Prosecutors asserted the Jeep had been driven several times to remote rural locations where agents discovered marijuana being grown, court documents show.
CNN’s 360 Degrees gives the third one to a logician from Arizona, State Senator Russell Pearce:
PEARCE: It’s wrong. It’s unconstitutional.
PAUL BEGALA: The 14th Amendment...
ANDERSON COOPER: Paul, go ahead.
PEARCE: Wait. Wait. You ask me why I wanted to change it. Let me tell you why. Let me tell you why.
BEGALA: The 14th Amendment is the Constitution. The 14th Amendment can’t be unconstitutional, Senator. It is the Constitution.
[Ed. note: To be fair, though, the language is pretty ambiguous: “All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.”]
From the Portland Press Herald:
Late Friday afternoon, as Maine’s Republican State Convention fanned out from the Portland Expo to county caucuses at nearby King Middle School, GOP loyalists from Knox County found themselves directed to Classroom 110 — the domain of eighth-grade social studies teacher Paul Clifford…
When he went home for the weekend on Friday, one of Clifford’s most prized teaching tools — a collage-type poster depicting the history of the U.S. labor movement — was affixed to his classroom door. Clifford uses it each year to teach his students how to incorporate collages into their annual project on Norman Rockwell’s historic “Four Freedoms” illustrations…
Details are sketchy — as they often can be when political passion gives way to apparent criminal activity. But this much we know: When Clifford returned to school Monday morning, his cherished labor poster was gone.
In its place, taped to the same door, was a red-white-and-blue bumper sticker that read, “Working People Vote Republican…”
[Republican callers] also objected to the contents of a closed cardboard box they found near Clifford’s desk. Upon opening it for a look-see, they found copies of the U.S. Constitution printed and donated to the school by (gasp) the American Civil Liberties Union.
In a world that has elevated hypocrisy to an art-form, an unprepossessing, virtual unknown emerged this week as the solid frontrunner for the 2010 Superheroes of Hypocrisy Title. By day, George Rekers is a 61-year-old father of three; a Baptist minister; co-founder, with James Dobson, of the Family Research Council – the lobbying arm of US Christianity; a professor of psychology at the University of South Carolina; a sex therapist specializing in teenage gender identity “issues”; an officer of the National Association for Research & Therapy of Homosexuality (NARTH); and a prolific author with a bad back. That’s enough to keep two men busy. But, lo and behold, when Daddy gets his ticket punched and slips out of his mild-mannered “Professor George” persona he’s a wild man worth every inch of that Superheroes title.
Professor George’s “closet” is bigger than a walk-in and needs to be, because that’s where he likes to spend his quality time with rent boys younger than his own kids. Not for Professor George, the quick grope in a public restroom or sexting with Congressional aides — no, Professor George is a stylish man of means who knows how to do things right. Professor George took his rent boy on a ten-day tour of Europe, a sublime getaway for man and boy, that might have been a totally fabulous performance except that the good Prof didn’t quite “stick the landing.” George Rekers (gotta love that name) was “caught on camera” coming down the stretch on his triumphal return to Miami International Airport with his rent boy — er, travel assistant — still in tow.
Rekers is an old hand at his chosen lifestyle, though, and immediately flew into damage control mode … which makes for entertaining reading because Rekers is no ordinary closet-case; this Extreme Gay Makeover has constructed his entire life around secretly embracing and publicly denying his gender identity. Every waking minute of Rekers day is spent on some aspect of homosexuality. He has two websites dedicated to counseling teenagers who are troubled by gender identity issues — one is called “Professor George” (gimme a break) and the other is called TeenSexToday.com that promises that readers who submit questions can “count on me to be logical, ethical, and scientific in my answers.” Right. This is Rekers’ favorite subject and favorite age group — color me cynical but this is just a front for a cyber-peeping Tom.
Rekers was recently paid a handsome $87,000 to serve as an “expert” witness in a case to determine whether the state of Florida’s ban on gay adoptions was legal (the judge ultimately ruled against the state). Reker’s testified that gay couples should not be permitted to adopt for the usual fact-free homophobic pseudoscience reasons. For whatever reason, while he had the microphone, Rekers also decided to throw Native Americans under the “no adoptions” bus. At the end of that trial, Judge Cindy Lederman singled out Rekers’ testimony for Dishonorable Mention thus:
“Dr. Rekers’ testimony was far from a neutral and unbiased recitation of the relevant scientific evidence. Dr. Rekers’ beliefs are motivated by his strong ideological and theological convictions that are not consistent with the science. Based on his testimony and demeanor at trial, the court can not consider his testimony to be credible nor worthy of forming the basis of public policy.”
The usual suspects have dealt quite expertly with the more salacious details of Rekers’ “Roman holiday” which leave little room for doubt about the true nature of Rekers’ tryst — in other words, I, happily, do not need to go into detail over what did and did not occur. For me, and other Hypocrisy Epicures, the juiciest tidbits lie in how the cornered hypocrite chooses to extricate him/herself from a world of trouble.
At 61, Professor George has set himself up pretty well, none of his lucrative gigs — ministry, expert witnessing, screed publishing, teen sex therapy etc. require any “heavy lifting.” The only thing that could put a dent in his little homo cottage industry would be exposure as a cynical, hypocritical charlatan making money giving advice to others from a thoroughly self-delusional background. That could mess up everything …
So it is that the good professor has decided to go the absolute denial route — and, as he thinks of even better excuses, he piles them on as he goes. He started, of course, with the lame story that his hunk-y “rent boy” was selected for his baggage handling skills. Professor George isn’t getting any younger and his doctor warned him to do no heavy lifting. Since the Prof was interested in “renting a boy” to lug his bags all over Europe, rentboy.com was the logical place to look, right? Now, I defy anyone reading this article to spend just a few minutes trolling through the rentboy.com site and come back and tell me (with a straight face) that you never would have guessed that those boys were gay male prostitutes. Our “expert witness” claims that he was fooled, indeed he claims it wasn’t until halfway through the trip that he guessed that his travel assistant was a male prostitute.
How unreasonable is it to expect that a man who has dedicated his life to counseling teenagers on gender identity and offering therapy to “cure” unhappy gays, would immediately recognize rentboy.com for exactly what it is?
After the media responded with a collective snort of derision, Reker amended his position on his Facebook page (which is predictably MIA, at the moment) in this way:
“If you talk with my travel assistant you will find I spent a great deal of time sharing scientific information on the desirability of abandoning homosexual intercourse, and I shared the gospel of Jesus Christ with him in great detail.”
“My hero is Jesus Christ who loves even the culturally despised people, including sexual sinners and prostitutes. Like Jesus Christ, I deliberately spend time with sinners with the loving goal to try to help them.”
From having Jesus as his hero, Rekers made the leap to litigant declaring that he would be suing the Miami reporters who wrote the original Rekers story for defamation. Which just goes to show that Rekers is living in his own nasty little world where being gay is grist for the “defamation” mill. The juridical trend, these days, is that calling someone “gay” is not defamatory. Such rulings have been made in many states; although I wouldn’t recommend testing it, yet, in states like Texas, Arizona or Arkansas.
As usual in such cases, former associates “vote with their feet” lest they get some of this doody on them. The CEO of Family Research Council was quick to point out that he never heard of Rekers and that when he did a little digging he found that it had been decades since Reker played an active role in FRC.
NARTH, for its part, weighed in with this:
“While NARTH is focused on the science of homosexual attraction, personal controversies often deepen the existing cultural divide on this issue. Such is the case in the recent news stories concerning one of our members, Dr. George Rekers.”
“NARTH takes seriously the accusations that have been made, and we are currently attempting to understand the details behind these press reports. We are always saddened when this type of controversy impacts the lives of individuals, and we urge all parties to allow a respectful and thorough investigation to take place.”
“NARTH continues to support scientific research, and to value client autonomy, client self-determination and client diversity.”
In closing, I’ll say that I honestly feel bad for George Rekers. Not because he appears to be gay – I’m gay and surrounded and supported by a mixed gay and straight community of gifted and loving friends; and, despite Professor George’s dire warning about gays’ parenting abilities, I raised a son who is brilliant, successful, heterosexual and who has presented me with an equally marvelous granddaughter. My life is rich and full and ultimately very satisfying. The reason that I feel bad for George Reker is because I seriously doubt that the life that he has built to “fix” his gender identity crisis and live a lie is cold comfort to him today.
What moved GOP Governor Jan Brewer to sign the Soviet-style show-me-your-papers law is the exploding number of legal Hispanics, US citizens all, who are daring to vote — and daring to vote Democratic by more than two-to-one. Unless this demographic locomotive is halted, Arizona Republicans know their party will soon be electoral toast. Or, if you like, tortillas…
Brewer, then Secretary of State, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer’s command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected…
The weapon she used to slice the Arizona voter rolls was a 2004 law, known as “Prop 200,” which required proof of citizenship to register. It is important to see the Republicans’ latest legislative horror show, sanctioning cops to stop residents and prove citizenship, as just one more step in the party’s desperate plan to impede Mexican-Americans from marching to the ballot box.
[By the way, no one elected Brewer. Weirdly, Barack Obama placed her in office last year when, for reasons known only to the Devil and Rahm Emanuel, the President appointed Arizona’s Democratic Governor Janet Napolitano to his cabinet, which automatically moved Republican Brewer into the Governor’s office.]
Well, frumps, I’ve been at this for a year now, and I must admit that writing the Frump Gazette has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my long and varied life. It has forced me to focus on the world around me in new and different ways; it has opened my eyes, ears and heart to things that slid right on by during my hustle and bustle years of working and parenting.
Best of all, I have met some truly remarkable people that I might not have otherwise met. Despite being drawn to troubling subjects, the intelligent, thought-provoking commentary and good humor of my readers have continually reassured me that all is far from lost. I have met with some modest blogging success and have expanded my audience with spots on Alternet’s “Speakeasy,” Salon.com’s Open Salon and Jerome Doolittle’s Bad Attitudes.
For a while now, I have planned to take an “anniversary” week off so that my granddaughter can teach me how to play, again. But before I do that, I would like to leave you with something to chew on that has the potential to put an end to the freewheeling forum that has become known as the Blogosphere as well as any other venue where dissent and activism currently flourish.
On March 4, 2010, Sen. John McCain introduced new legislation that he has written called the “Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010.” The bill is co-sponsored by Sen. Joe Leiberman making it “bipartisan” — after a fashion…
Assessing McCain’s bill in an article for Salon.com, Glenn Greenwald noted that:
“It’s probably the single most extremist, tyrannical and dangerous bill introduced in the Senate in the last several decades, far beyond the horrific, habeas-abolishing Military Commissions Act. It literally empowers the President to imprison anyone he wants in his sole discretion by simply decreeing them a Terrorist suspect — including American citizens arrested on U.S. soil. The bill requires that all such individuals be placed in military custody, and explicitly says that they ‘may be detained without criminal charges and without trial for the duration of hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners,’ which everyone expects to last decades, at least. It’s basically a bill designed to formally authorize what the Bush administration did to American citizen Jose Padilla — arrest him on U.S. soil and imprison him for years in military custody with no charges.”
For those of you who may not be familiar with Glenn Greenwald, he is a constitutional expert, a lawyer, a columnist, a blogger, and author. He worked as a constitutional and civil rights litigator prior to becoming a contributor to Salon.com, where he focuses on political and legal topics. He has also contributed to other major newspapers and political news magazines, including The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times, The American Conservative, The National Interest, and In These Times.
His commentaries “on surveillance issues and separation of powers” have been cited in The New York Times, in The Washington Post, in United States Senate floor debates, and in House “official … reports on executive power abuses.”
In short, when Glenn Greenwald is alarmed, we should all be paying attention.
If you would like to read the bill for yourself, you’ll find it here. It’s a short read (12 pages); Republicans seem to have become great fans of brevity in their legislative endeavors lately.
Basically, the bill would establish a policy for the detention, interrogation and trial of suspected enemy belligerents who are suspected of hostilities against the United States. Such detainees would be held in military custody, interrogated for their intelligence value by High Value Intelligence Teams and pointedly would not be provided with a Miranda warning.
Here’s a relevant bit taken directly from the bill:
“The bill asks the President to determine criteria for designating an individual as a “high-value detainee” if he/she: (1) poses a threat of an attack on civilians or civilian facilities within the U.S. or U.S. facilities abroad; (2) poses a threat to U.S. military personnel or U.S. military facilities; (3) potential intelligence value; (4) is a member of al Qaeda or a terrorist group affiliated with al Qaeda or (5) such other matters as the President considers appropriate. The President must submit the regulations and guidance to the appropriate committees of Congress no later than 60 days after enactment.”
“To the extent possible, the High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team must make a preliminary determination whether the detainee is an unprivileged enemy belligerent within 48 hours of taking detainee into custody.”
“The High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team must submit its determination to the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General after consultation with the Director of National Intelligence, the Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency. The Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General make a final determination and report the determination to the President and the appropriate committees of Congress. In the case of any disagreement between the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General, the President will make the determination.”
Things that “go bump in the night” about these passages:
* We are no longer referring to these “targets” as “aliens;” American citizens like you and I (and José Padilla) could now be (officially) pulled off the street and detained indefinitely
* The bill calls for the President to decide what behavior will label a person a “high-value detainee.” The bill then makes suggestions about possible criteria but ends with “or (5) such other matters as the President considers appropriate.” I have to wonder what a President Cheney or a President Palin might consider appropriate criteria for “detainment.” Perhaps anyone who might have called for the indictment of Bush/Cheney, on war crimes, would suddenly become a “high value detainee”?
* Once the criteria have been set, the Kangaroo Court is in session and the Orwellian-sounding High-Value Detainee Interrogation Team have “48 hours” to deliver a verdict. So — based on 48 hours of extra-judicial deliberation by a group who make their living being part of an “interrogation team” you, or someone you know, could be “disappeared” for quite a long time. Period.
* That “interrogation team” verdict is handed over to the Secretary of Defense and the Attorney General who make the Final Determination and hand it over to the President (who DOES NOT have a say in that determination unless DoD and DoJ bring in a split decision).
Furthermore, per the bill, such detainees can be held until the end of terrorist hostilities against the US and its Coalition allies – which, as we all know, could be a very, very long time. And wouldn’t this act be a great tool for anyone with a feverish imagination and an “enemies list”? In our overheated national security environment it shouldn’t be too awfully hard to make, say – any regular subway commuter into a terrorist suspect.
Let Me Count the Ways…
This is not one of those hair-splitting constitutional debates that go on in some rarefied legal ether. This bill is a down and dirty assault on the Constitution that has so much glaringly wrong with it that any American high-schooler could shoot it full of holes in five minutes. Here are some of its major constitutional transgressions:
Fourth Amendment 4 — Search and Seizure:
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
Fifth Amendment 5 — Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings:
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger.
Sixth Amendment — Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses:
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defense.
Eighth Amendment — Cruel and Unusual Punishment:
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.
Fourteenth Amendment — Citizenship Rights:
All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside. No State shall make or enforce any law, which shall abridge the privileges or immunities of citizens of the United States; nor shall any State deprive any person of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor deny to any person within its jurisdiction the equal protection of the laws.
Keeping in mind that this bill was written by a United States Senator, who is sworn to uphold the Constitution, and co-sponsored by ten others (see list of co-sponsors below) – it is little wonder that the American public is thoroughly disgusted with Congress’s performance of late (approval rating is consistently around 20%). If this bill had been introduced on April 1st, I would have known what to make of it. As it stands, I have to assume that Sen. McCain’s loss of the Presidential election, the imminent repeal of Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and, now, the very real threat to even holding on to his Senate seat, has completely unhinged the man.
Here is the promised list of Co-Sponsors of the Enemy Belligerent, Interrogation, Detention, and Prosecution Act of 2010:
Sen. Scott Brown [R, MA]
Sen. Saxby Chambliss [R, GA]
Sen. James Inhofe [R, OK]
Sen. George LeMieux [R, FL]
Sen. Joseph Lieberman [I, CT]
Sen. Jefferson Sessions [R, AL]
Sen. John Thune [R, SD]
Sen. David Vitter [R, LA]
Sen. Roger Wicker [R, MS]
These are, of course, many of the usual subjects; but I find it especially chilling to find Sen. Jeff Sessions, Ranking Member of the Senate Judiciary Committee, on that list.
Now, it’s only fair to let McCain speak for himself and, to that end, here’s a link to his official letter introducing his bill to the President. Unfortunately, McCain’s rambling, finger-pointing screed doesn’t go very far in elucidating good motives for establishing a police state.
There are a number of political ways to look at this development — it could be simply a Republican effort to introduce legislation that provides an opportunity for the administration to appear wimpy by shooting it down. Who’s paying attention? Sen. McCain is just being a stand-up, ex-military patriot trying to make Americans safer but the radical Obama administration shots down anything that smacks of traditional values — right?
McCain, whose Senate seat seems to be imperiled in November, may believe that his bill will appeal to a gun-toting, xenophobic, kick-ass contingent of Arizona voters (centrism sure doesn’t seem to be working).
It could be that he believes the McClatchy-Ipsos poll, from January 2010, that found that 51 percent of Americans agree with this statement: ”it is necessary to give up some civil liberties in order to make the country safe from terrorism.”
It could be part of the GOP’s general accretion of scary material that keeps Americans wary and the defense dollars flowing until the Republican Party rises from the ashes and saves us from ourselves, once again.
Or it could just be what we’re coming to — a corporatist, militarist global concern that needs to sweep stodgy American values out of its way. The precedent for using US military inside the US occurred in 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Since then, U.S. Northern Command (USNORTHCOM) has run exercises called “Vigilant Shield” to prepare, prevent and respond to any number of national crises that would call for the use of the military inside the United States. Vigilant Shield 2008 builds a scenario of a domestic disaster in the US (terrorist attack or natural disaster). It posits the domestic use of the US military including a special role for the US Air Force.
In case anyone out there is comforted that President Obama would never sign that bill, don’t be sure. Here’s a clip from Rachel Maddow last spring that puts the lie to that false security:
I’m sure that Sen. McCain, like Liz Cheney, is just obsessed with Keeping America Safe … so why do I feel so very afraid?
Our unending state of stress-out is al-Qaeda’s greatest victory against the United States. As the AP reports today, al-Qaeda got one big message from the Underwear Bomber’s failure: “the group that carried out the Sept. 11 attacks and has prided itself on its ideological purism seems to be eyeing a more pragmatic and arguably more dangerous shift in tactics. The emerging message appears to be: Big successes are great, but sometimes simply trying can be just as good.”
Yeah, it seems like the simple cave dwellers have figured out big, complex, allegedly bad-ass America: we’re just a bunch of sticky fat kids crying because our ice cream fell off the cone. That wedgie-bait, Adam Gadahn (née “Pearlman”), an American in al-Qaeda, taunted, “Even apparently unsuccessful attacks on Western mass transportation systems can bring major cities to a halt, cost the enemy billions and send his corporations into bankruptcy.” He may be a traitorous asshole who can’t grow a decent beard, but that doesn’t mean he’s wrong. Ask anyone who was at Newark Airport in January, where security imprisoned thousands of innocent people for six hours because some idiot took a shortcut…
Indeed, the right has so successfully torqued the country into what our enemies believe it is, it’s almost as if the GOP is a subversive arm of al-Qaeda. They have nearly bankrupted us, thus making any great social advances impossible; they have turned mild dissent into sedition; and they have turned the Constitution into a loophole-ridden contract, filled with more fine print than a subprime mortgage. They did most of that shit when they were in power. Now, out of power, the right is seeking, as it did in the Clinton years, but even more insidiously, to undermine the very functioning of government…
I’ve always had a preference for Ian and Sylvia’s version of this song and I regularly look for their version on Youtube, but until I discovered the version below, I never knew that Paul Robeson sang it. I think I’m going to change my preference even though the Ian and Sylvia version has a quiet beauty that I still find spellbinding.
Coming from Paul Robeson, even though he was not Canadian, I still understand how poignant this song must have been for him, and for all of us who know some of what the United States Government did to him solely for his beliefs. In many ways, Robeson himself was an exile in his own country, for example as stated in his Wikipedia entry
To this day, Paul Robeson’s FBI file is one of the largest of any entertainer ever investigated by the United States Intelligence Community, requiring its own internal index and unique status of health file.
If you’re not familiar with who Paul Robeson was and what he stood for and what the US Government did to him for his beliefs, please go read the rest of his Wikipedia entry linked to above. And then listen to the his remarkable voice singing this wonderful but sad folk song.
Incidentally, I noticed that the song is called Le Canadien Errant on this version but is almost universally referred to elsewhere as Un Canadien Errant. I cannot say whether this has any significance but it is unusual to see the song referred to in that manner. (and sung in English with some verse changes) Perhaps it means nothing and perhaps it has a hidden meaning. Maybe one of our French speaking readers or writers here could offer me a clue as I always look for hidden meanings in small deviations from what is considered normal and I find the name change puzzling and can’t help but wonder if it has a hidden meaning, perhaps signaling that Robeson considered himself an exile in his own country.
Thank God I’ve found another repressed minority to belong to (I was already a male WASP, although the P has dwindled to showing up at an occasional funeral).
Even in a city like Atlanta, some people feel religious pressure. Ed Buckner, president of American Atheists, said the Atlanta Freethought Association has members who “never saw any need [to gather with others] until they came to Atlanta – and people behind you in line in the grocery store say ‘Do you know Jesus?’
It seems to me that the only possible answer to that question would be “None of your damned business,” although as a Freethoughter I’m of course open to other suggestions.
I have a fat and constantly growing file of FBI stupidity, inefficiency, incompetence, bribery, theft, entrapment, perjury, burglary, and murder. But this — this — still surprised. To think of such a thing requires a mind of vileness beyond the imagination of decent people. To carry it out is unspeakable.
…But Boyd, a 41-year-old mother of five and U.S.-born convert to Islam, reserved her sharpest comments for what she called a cruel trap that law enforcement authorities set up to get her out of her house Monday while agents scoured it for documents after the arrest of her husband, two sons and four other men.
Boyd, whose family lives in the Johnston County community of Willow Spring, described a harrowing experience Monday afternoon when she answered the door to find a man she thought was a family friend wearing a shirt that appeared to be bloodied. He told her that Daniel and their three sons, Dylan, Noah and Zakariya, were in a serious car crash. He asked her to get into a Highway Patrol cruiser that would take her to Duke Hospital, where they were being treated.
Boyd summoned her daughter and pregnant daughter-in-law. They wrapped their heads in scarves, grabbed their Qurans and flew out the door. For Boyd, it was a particularly painful experience. Her 16-year-old son, Luqman, died in a car crash near their home in 2007.
When they arrived at Duke Hospital, the cruiser took them to a construction site at the rear of the facility. A man dressed as a doctor came out and asked whether she was the wife. When she said yes, he extended his hand. She told him she does not shake men’s hands. He then grabbed her wrist and handcuffed her.
“I’m not a doctor. I’m an agent and your family is not in the hospital,” he told her. “You’re being detained, and you need to cooperate with us.”
Boyd estimates she was then surrounded by 30 agents who frisked her and asked whether she had weapons or weapons of mass destruction…
U.S. District Attorney George E. B. Holding declined to respond to Boyd’s version. “I am sticking to the four corners of the indictment. We try our cases in court and won’t go back and forth before then,” he said Tuesday.
Holding, you will be unsurprised to learn, is a piece of legal litter left over from the George W. Bush administration. He is a fat rich kid who owes his job to that unspeakable embarrassment from North Carolina, the late Senator Jesse Helms.
One of Obama’s most puzzling failures has been leaving so many George Holdings in their U.S. Attorney jobs, bad aftertastes from the most disgraceful period in the history of the Justice Department. When you move into a new house, it’s a good idea to clear out the old owner's garbage.
Nephew Will Doolittle’s column in today’s Glens Falls Post-Star:
The point of social institutions, especially legal institutions, is to impose uniformity and objectivity on social interactions that would otherwise be personal and unpredictable.
When Mario Cuomo was governor of New York, and debating the death penalty, which he opposed, he would propose a scenario where a member of his own family was killed during a robbery, making the criminal eligible for a first-degree murder charge.
Would he want that murderer executed? Would he want to kill him with his own hands?
Yes, Cuomo would say, but, for the good of all, the legal system would not allow him a personal revenge.
Victims are prohibited from punishing their victimizers, except through the offices of the state. That’s how order is maintained.
When I have criticized Bush-era officials for engaging in torture, the most consistent response from readers has been, “What if your child were in danger?”
Let’s say my child were kidnapped and, by some fantastic set of circumstances, one of the kidnappers was sitting in my kitchen and I believed that, by torturing him, I could save my child — would I do it?
I probably would, which is no justification for legalizing torture.
It is our capacity for violence that makes laws forbidding it necessary, unless, of course, you think torture is fine.
If torture is fine, then, as Jesse Ventura asked recently, why didn’t we torture Timothy McVeigh to find out who helped him in the Oklahoma City attack? Why not torture murderers for the names of their accomplices? Why not torture prisoners of war for information about our enemies?
If, as Dick Cheney asserts, the end of squeezing information out of suspected al-Qaida terrorists justified the means of torturing them, then, surely, torture is worth doing in other circumstances where American lives are threatened.
We should have tortured prisoners we captured during the Vietnam War, for example, to find out what they knew about our enemy’s plans.
We should have tortured Squeaky Fromme after she tried to shoot Gerald Ford, to find out if any other members of the Manson family were planning to attack the president (one of them was).
We should torture teens caught plotting Columbine-style attacks to make sure no co-conspirators are left at large.
The question is not whether torture works. Let’s say it does. The question is whether the costs of employing torture outweigh the benefits of any information you glean. I think they do.
The Sotomayor panel found that calling administrators “douchebags” and encouraging students to “piss off” the principal was “the sort of language that may properly be prohibited in schools.” It also found that because that language created ”a risk of substantial disruption within the school environment,” it could properly be the subject of discipline even though it occurred off campus.
Scott Horton over at Harper’s No Comment Blog is rightly agonizing over the fact that we have a torture enabler and what some have seriously referred to as a monster sitting on the Federal Bench. This “subject” ( I use the term here to properly refer to this individual as a prosecutor or police offer would do when an accused is referred to in court) sits on a federal bench judging others who are guilty of much lesser crimes. After all, torturers and torture enablers were routinely hanged by Allied Courts at Nuremburg and in the Pacific Theater after World War II. American court officials routinely participated in these proceedings.
Some may think all of this is quite complicated, but I find it simple since the solution to resolving the problem is quite simple. I am of the opinion that simple problems can be resolved with simple solutions.
Therefore I propose a remedy to the Bybee problem, a problem that every decent lawyer knows is a black eye on the Federal Judiciary and will remain so for years to come if not remedied. I am therefore making an extremely modest proposal which I propose should be taken seriously, despite my labeling this post as partly snark.
The US needs an official representative from our esteemed judiciary to view the proceedings in Spain to ensure that they are carried out in a fair manner. I am sure the Spanish courts would be happy to oblige us if we were to choose the proper emissary. If I were the presiding judge or court official who could carry out the task of assigning the court official to engage in this duty, I would immediately assign this task to a new judge. Since Judge Bybee would have intimate knowledge of what the proceedings were about, he should be sent immediately to Spain to fulfill his judicial duties.
Of course, this might involve the devil and the deep blue sea, rocks and hard places, frying pans and fires and dozens of other things and places that go together like crude oil mixes with water. However, those are individual problems that at least one individual will have to deal with.
However this proposal is not without precedent. Robert Houghwout Jackson was sent to participate in the Nuremberg trials. Why should Judge Bybee not likewise be assigned a task in another country along the same lines? Younger judges should be given the traveling assignments in my opinion and Judge Bybee fills the bill for this assignment perfectly.
I am of the opinion that Judge Jay S. Bybee should be given this assignment forthwith, with Hillary Clinton at the State Department making proper accommodations for his stay, preferably in a five star hotel, for as long as those fine accommodations last. And if free accommodations are given by the Spaniards to one of our own, the Federal Budget would be that much better off. Allowing such an emissary diplomatic immunity is beyond the scope of this modest assignment of course, so that should definitely not be given as it is definitely not needed due to our emissary’s somewhat limited assigned duties. A few select CIA agents might be assigned the task of ensuring the judge’s security.
This assignment should be a mandatory assignment. Refusal to do one’s duty as a judge would of course mean impeachment.
Or Judge Bybee could spare himself and everyone else great embarrassment for years to come by doing the right thing. And he and all right thinking Americans know exactly what that is.
Mr. Obama, are you listening? Some of your former supporters are getting the opinion that you are going to end up letting the Europeans take care of American problems. If we don’t deal with letting the rule of law determine what happens to the torturers and their enablers, then we can expect the pattern and the behavior to repeat itself.
I hope to be dead by then and I don’t and won’t have any children to worry about what they may have to endure when the cycle repeats. Others are not so lucky.
…along comes Jeff Stein at CQ Politics:
Rep. Jane Harman, the California Democrat with a longtime involvement in intelligence issues, was overheard on an NSA wiretap telling a suspected Israeli agent that she would lobby the Justice Department to reduce espionage-related charges against two officials of the American Israeli Public Affairs Committee, the most powerful pro-Israel organization in Washington…In this sorry story of corruption and carreerism and high crimes, the most shameful player of all is The New York Times. We don’t expect much of Bush appointees and multimillionaire Blue Dog Democrats like Harman, after all. But like beaten curs that crawl back toward their masters, tails wagging, we still hope for the best from America’s best newspaper. Can there be any doubt that breaking the wiretap story on the eve of the 2004 election would have delivered us from evil for four more years?
And that, contrary to reports that the Harman investigation was dropped for “lack of evidence,” it was Alberto R. Gonzales, President Bush’s top counsel and then attorney general, who intervened to stop the Harman probe.
Why? Because, according to three top former national security officials, Gonzales wanted Harman to be able to help defend the administration’s warrantless wiretapping program, which was about break in The New York Times and engulf the White House…
Harman, he told Goss, had helped persuade the newspaper to hold the wiretap story before, on the eve of the 2004 elections. And although it was too late to stop the Times from publishing now, she could be counted on again to help defend the program.
…and the Honorable Jay S. Bybee is perhaps up around the gills somewhere, behind such moral vacuums as George Tenet, Richard Cheney and, at the very tippy-top where the hook ought to go but won’t, George W. Bush.
Following his spell as a torture enabler at the Justice Department the Honorable Bybee was appointed to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals with the enthusiastic support of Senator Harry Reid and Senator Charles Schumer. I think we should all know more about the Honorable Bybee, and I will supply it later. Meanwhile, from The New York Times:
WASHINGTON — The first use of waterboarding and other rough treatment against a prisoner from Al Qaeda was ordered by senior Central Intelligence Agency officials despite the belief of interrogators that the prisoner had already told them all he knew, according to former intelligence officials and a footnote in a newly released legal memorandum…
Abu Zubaydah had provided much valuable information under less severe treatment, and the harsher handling produced no breakthroughs, according to one former intelligence official with direct knowledge of the case. Instead, watching his torment caused great distress to his captors, the official said…
The legal basis for this treatment is uncertain, but lawyers at C.I.A. headquarters were in constant touch with interrogators, as well as with Mr. Bybee’s subordinate in the Office of Legal Counsel, John C. Yoo, who was drafting memos on the legal limits of interrogation…
I would work on a campaign for Elizabeth Holtzman for any office she ran for throughout her natural life. And as far beyond that as I trusted the methods by which she was kept among us. This woman understands both the legal — she was a DA in Brooklyn — and the political — she represented her New York district in the House.
What we need to do is conceptually simple. We need to launch investigations to get at the central unanswered questions of Bush’s abuse of power, commence criminal proceedings and undertake institutional, statutory and constitutional reforms. Perhaps all these things don’t need to be done at once, but over time — not too much time — they must take place. Otherwise, we establish a doctrine of presidential impunity, which has no place in a country that cherishes the rule of law or considers itself a democracy. Bush’s claim that the president enjoys virtually unlimited power as commander in chief at a time of war — which Vice President Dick Cheney defiantly reasserted just last month — brought us perilously close to military dictatorship.
As the former district attorney in Brooklyn, New York, I know the price society pays for a doctrine of impunity. Failure to prosecute trivializes and encourages the crimes. The same holds true of political abuses — failure to hold violators accountable condones the abuse and entrenches its acceptability, creating a climate in which it is likely to be repeated. The doctrine of impunity suggests, too, that there is a dual system of justice — one for the powerful and one for ordinary Americans. Because the concept of equal justice under the law is the foundation of democracy, impunity for high-level officials who abuse power and commit crimes erodes our democracy.
She points out that although Bush ignored his legal duty, “under the Geneva Conventions and the Convention Against Torture, our government is obliged to bring to justice those who have violated the conventions.”
A 9/11 kind of commission or committees of Congress must commence an investigation to get at the truth of the presidential deceptions related to the war. Whether President Bush knowingly deceived us needs to be fully explored and exposed; if he did, he will at the very least have to carry that burden of disgrace permanently. Precisely because other presidents lied about warmaking — think of Lyndon Johnson and the Gulf of Tonkin resolution and Richard Nixon and the secret bombing of Cambodia — we know that future presidents will be tempted to do the same. Investigating and exposing the role of President Bush and his team in the deceptions causing the Iraq War may discourage future presidents from taking the same path.
Similarly, investigations need to be conducted into the torture and mistreatment of detainees held by the US government. The numerous investigations ordered by Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld in the wake of the Abu Ghraib disclosures obfuscated the question of responsibility at the highest level. They conveniently did not probe the role of the president; vice president; Justice Department officials, including the attorney general; or other cabinet secretaries. They also did not look at the actions of the Central Intelligence Agency.
And here’s the crux of the situation.
If the investigations show that President Bush deliberately deceived the country about the Iraq War, then a determination should be made as to whether the lies are prosecutable under federal law. If so, a criminal proceeding on these grounds should be commenced.
I am currently reading Naomi Klein’s book, The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism, detailing the way America has “converted” other countries to “freedom and democracy” using the often deadly ideology of Milton Friedman and how it uses the same doctrine when natural catastrophes occur to “remake a devastated or destroyed village to save it.”
This is one of the policies of Milton Friedman’s economic theories as put into practice and I had not realized until now that the term coined during the Vietnam War, “We destroyed the village to save it” was actually a literal interpretation of what Friedman proposed as a method to change a country’s economic system. New Orleans is a domestic example of the policy, which is losing a whole class of people who have lived there for many generations who will be replaced by wealthier and more Republican sorts.
Klein also traces the original CIA experiments in the late 1940s on torture and makes a very valuable and original argument that the same basic doctrinal belief system is used by those who justify electric shock therapy as torture, waterboarding and other forms of torture we have witnessed at Guantanamo Bay and other dark prison sites, to justify the policies of dramatically shocking (i.e. Shock and Awe) a nation into submission to institute economic policy changes urged by Milton Friedman. Murder, bloodshed and violence are the inevitable results of these policies.
However, until I finish the book, I will refrain from commenting any further thoughts on it, but this one book has created so far, a mental catharsis as dramatic as that engendered when I first read Eric Hoffer’s True Believer.
So to get some background on Naomi Klein, I went back and searched the archives of The Real News Network for anything that Naomi Klein had commented on and found the following video, which is part of a series of videos by Naomi Klein on the Real News Network. I urge you to listen to her comments about Obama and listen to the rest of the series of Naomi Klein videos if you find this one interesting. Please donate to The Real News Network either by direct donation, or by buying some of your books there, as the preceding link allows you to do.
I believe that I was wrong in my comments on Obama’s selection of Rick Warren to deliver his invocation at his inauguration, despite the black community’s church going members who don’t approve of gay marriage, who are an important constituency for Obama. But I do believe we on the left have been too complacent about Obama’s cabinet selections and we must turn on the heat by calling, writing, petitioning and eventually, perhaps later this year when Obama’s stance on Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan become clearer, by street marching to make Obama aware that the left will not sit idly by while he becomes another traitor to his class, as Bill Clinton did (unlike Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who was a traitor to the rich class he belonged to, which was a positive for the poor and middle class). Obama and Clinton came from humble backgrounds and if they cater to their rich constituency, they are indeed traitors to their former class, who are most Americans who make modest or insufficient incomes.
Without further ado, here is Naomi Klein from August of this year. I wish I had taken this video seriously when it appeared, but I either missed it or was not paying attention. It’s past the time for us liberals giving a free ride to Obama. We must turn on the heat. I’m sorry I didn’t recognize this early on. The only thing I would suggest that we do is not to play into the hands of the right wingers, who will going after Obama for nefarious reasons, which is not what I am recommending.
Remarkably, this is from a former federal judge and the current attorney general of the United States. Something very similar could have been said, and no doubt was, by the legal enablers working for Hitler, Stalin, and the Spanish Inquisition.
“There is absolutely no evidence anybody who rendered a legal opinion either with respect to surveillance or with respect to interrogation policy did so for any reason other than to protect the security of the country and in the belief that he or she was doing something lawful,” Mukasey said.
Try it yourself the next time you’re picked up for speeding. Explain to the the cop that your lawyer told you the speed limit was 95 and let me know how it works out.
Once free market capitalism was let loose in the United States without all the protections put in place during the Franklin Delano Roosevelt administration to keep things in check, our financial system quite naturally repeated the same disastrous mistakes that led to 1929. The result we are seeing today was probably inevitable once the Republicans and Democrats gutted most of the Roosevelt programs designed to protect the public. Two examples are the repeal of the Glass-Steagall Act and, most recently, the repeal of the Utility Company Holdings Protection Act.
Even trickle-down economics was an attempt to mock the Roosevelt era theory that the way to build a strong national foundational pyramid was to build the strongest support at the base by supporting working men and women. The Republicans turned this on its head and said the strongest blocks on the pyramid were those at the top and money should be trickled down from the uppermost blocks of the pyramid. Then the bottom supporting blocks of the pyramid would magically become strong enough to hold the whole structure up and support it.
The policies of Alan Greenspan, an Ayn Rand True Believer if there ever was one, have been thoroughly discredited since the mortgage crisis, and still the Bush Administration wants to install the Treasury Secretary as our “Money Czar,” with unfettered control of the nation’s economy. That kind of power vested in one person seems to have come straight out of one of Ayn Rand’s books. It is probably the most insane policy that one could think of.
I’d suggest that a bipartisan committee be installed to manage the nation’s finances, particularly in regards to a mortgage bailout. My reasons are many and I offer the ones I find most compelling below:
1. A bipartisan committee will help insure that relief is not given to select favored friends in one party or the other. It is not a perfect solution, and so the members of this committee will need to be chosen with extreme care.
2. Letting one person have complete and unfettered control over all of a nation’s finances is a recipe for a disaster. All one has to do is to look at all the ruined economies caused by one man or one party. Stalin’s Russia (mass starvation), Hitler’s reign of terror (a world engulfed in murder on a previously unimaginable scale); Pinochet’s Chile, Mao’s Cultural Revolution.
I could go on and on into current history and even name names here in the U.S., but I think that point has been made. Henry Paulson may be a nice man and nonpartisan in everything he does, but he does have a bias towards Wall Street, which is exactly what we don’t need right now. Balanced planning is the only way to treat everyone fairly.
3. The taxpayers deserve better than a one-sided plan that mainly benefits Wall Street. We can’t let that happen.
I haven't even begun to touch upon the many problems that a money czar might cause, as there is not enough room for such a discussion on a blog post, nor do I have the ability at this time to fully concentrate on this one problem, nor do I have the hundreds of hours it would take to give this subject the coverage it deserves. The New York Times has a good op-ed on this subject in today’s paper, and whether your political persuasion is of the right or the left, there are good discussions on this subject and much skepticism from both parties regarding the bailout as currently proposed. I urge everyone to get to know about as much about this subject as possible, since the debt about to be created will not only fall on all of us, but it will fall on the generation after us and possibly beyond.
…and so I won’t even try. These are excerpts from Women Against Sarah Palin, the wonderful website to which my sister Pat alerted me, and about which I blogged earlier this week.
Sarah Palin is the classic example of a woman being used by those in power to remove power from women.
I want to love a mother, governor and VP candidate, but Palin horrifies me, she seems to epitomize the American inability to be introspective, to polarize and see everything in terms of black and white, good or evil, right or wrong. This intolerance and inability to get out of a narrow perspective and see the divine spark in all is at the core of the danger America is creating for itself, and feeds the dissension in America. She has a sharp, but not a deep mind fast with the comebacks, but more interested in bullying an argument than in understanding the truth.
Even in this very red state of Alabama, we know the difference between a show horse, a hobby horse, and a work horse. You do not represent working class women, farm wives or single mothers — ALL of whom turned to Hillary Clinton with great hopes. You charged women for their own rape kits when you were mayor in Wasilla. You use housekeepers and nannies to care for your kids. You don’t want sex education in schools, but you let your daughter get pregnant! You do not now, nor will you ever speak for us!
I can hardly begin to express the depth of my anger at hearing Ms. Palin denigrate the many community organizers I worked with and proudly call my friends. Community Organizers make the world a better place, doing God’s work day in and day out, night after night. To hear that convention audience laugh in response to her snide remarks really pissed me off. I didn’t realize just how steamed I was until a dear friend (another longtime community activist) sent me an e-mail with this message: Jesus was a Community Organizer. Pontius Pilate was a Governor.
Sarah Palin represents the slap of the dinosaur’s tail — a deadly, horned swipe of a breed going extinct; quite likely, in her throes of excited thrashing, to kill off many individuals, many careers, many dearly held gains, won since 1963, for which many of us fought with our brains, our convictions, our blood, our time, our eloquence, and our money…
Are we ready to stand idly by while an old, ill man, watches Sarah’s shapely behind, while fingering his wedding ring? Are we ready to give up our time to choose, our right to decide and let this mockery of a modern woman, this poorly educated bigot tramples our civil rights? Are we ready to die if our life is endangered by an unhealthy pregnancy? Are we willing to let Sarah Palin, Karl Rove, Dick Cheney and the other megalomaniacs at the helm of the Republican party decide the course of our lives, our daughters’ and granddaughters’ lives?
Even the power she gained as the mayor of a town of a mere 5000, immediately corrupted her; her wide swipes through the administration she inherited were so disruptive to that small government entity that an immediate remedy was set in place — an administrator had to be hired to do the job of running the town while she was mayor. And still, the surplus she inherited turned into a deficit — IMAGINE the damage she could orchestrate on a national level.
The Alaskan legislature took to wearing buttons that said, “Where’s Sarah?” because she spent so little time in Juneau. Once again, the GOP is deceiving the American people in a most callous and calculating way — just because they put a skirt on this time doesn’t change a damned thing!
Women in particular should project hope and love and caring for others, and Ms. Palin does none of this, choosing instead to be mean-spirited and accusatory in every single speech and action. I can only hope that with time, people will recognize this and realize that we need someone quite different from her to take us down the road to respect and REAL morality.
But she is not the problem — our problem is the white old men that insist on running this country with their need to control, their archaic laws and ideas. Their lives are based on fear and ridiculous needs to dominate our pocketbook, our bodies and to shoot before thinking and talking. They also have a great need to distort the truth — in other words LYING. This young woman from Alaska is being fooled with — she is their decoy — but she might be elected and then she could be a heartbeat away from being in charge of our lives.
The American people have become distracted. Palin, participating in this election as a trojan horse, has come with phrases that involve animals and lipsticks, bridges to nowhere, and eBay, leading americans in to an abyss of distractions pulling away from the very sobering facts that who she represents and the policies she supports are a complete replica of the current Bush administration, on paper, and without personality mud-slings, the Palin/MCCain ticket represent four more years of the same policies the world has come to hate.
Here we have the ideal ticket for anyone who supports women’s rights — Obama and Biden — versus two people who think women are brainless fools. The fact that Palin wears a skirt doesn’t mean she has respect for women. On the contrary. It just means that she uses her sex to stop any questions about her competence by accusing the questioner of sex-discrimination. Frankly, I didn’t buy that argument when Hillary made it and I’m certainly not buying it from Palin.
This classic bait and switch move has the electorate once again focusing on the culture wars instead of the real ones, on pseudo-feminism instead of tolerance and equality.
Her extreme beliefs regarding abstinence-only education did not work even for her own daughter! and yet she wants to force it on our daughters! We will not have it. We can do better, there are stronger, more thoughtful and fair minded women in this country who are fit to run it.
Is Ms.Palin really the best the Republican party has to offer in terms of a female? I guess there are slim pickings for a woman who will support an antiquated and sexist Republican agenda.
The cruel irony of Senator Clinton blooding herself on that glass ceiling only to have a puppet escorted through on the arm of a warrior…
These people are two loose cannons on a rolling deck and I genuinely fear for the future of our great country. If John McCain is unable to see his term through, Sarah Palin is next in line as leader of the Free World.
“To the families of special-needs children all across this country, I have a message: For years, you sought to make America a more welcoming place for your sons and daughters. I pledge to you that if we are elected, you will have a friend and advocate in the White House.” Really? Because the parents of children with disabilities in Alaska don’t have much of a friend or advocate right now. Even in years of great surplus, she actually cut state funding for special education services and Medicaid — the program that children and adults with disabilities rely on for health care.
Ms. Palin is also well documented as a local bully who tries to fire anyone who disagrees with her. After eight years of an unqualified President who has done everything in his power to position America as a global bully, this characteristic is the last quality we need in the White House for four more years.
Sarah Palin sees the hand of God in a $30 billion Alaskan national gas pipeline. “I think God’s will has to be done in unifying people and companies to get that gas line built, so pray for that,” she has stated.
Ms. Palin and I clearly worship very different gods. I see the hand of God not in the wallets of the oil companies, but in the pristine Alaska coastline, its majestic polar bears, whales, and glaciers — all of which Big Oil will despoil. Perhaps Ms. Palin has made the mistake that afflicts a frightening number of our citizens: confusing God with money.
Sarah Vowell, in today’s New York Times:
During a gubernatorial debate in 2006, Governor Palin claimed that if her daughter, then 16, were impregnated as the result of being raped, Ms. Palin would hope that the girl would “choose life,” which is a polite way of saying she would expect a tenth-grader to give birth to her rapist’s baby.
Here’s a not-so-polite fact about the United States: According to Amnesty International, a woman is raped here every six minutes.…
This year, Senator McCain himself didn’t bother to stand up to the right wing of his party to insist that the rape and incest exception be written into the Republican Party platform.
One of the blogs that I most enjoy for its scholarly content is the blog at Harper’s Magazine entitled Harper’s No Comment, which is written by Scott Horton. Mr. Horton has been covering the US attorneys scandal and once was a personal friend of Michael Mukasey, although judging from what has been written on the blog, that relationship seems to have been utterly destroyed by Mukasey’s behavior while serving as the Attorney General for the Bush White House.
In his most recent blog post, a portion of which appears below, he drops a tantalizing tidbit of information which I haven’t seen elsewhere in the blogosphere until now. This is not a new topic, at least peripherally, but it’s a topic I’ve that I haven’t seen discussed elsewhere until now. If anyone has more information about what Karl Rove might be doing meeting with Ukranian mafioso, or in the off chance he might have been involved with people involved in this, your comments would be welcome. Perhaps it has something to do with this which has been whispered about, at least in regard to the Ukranian mafia, since at least 2004.
In her recent book, Dark Side, Jane Mayer interviews senior political appointees, all card-carrying Republican conservatives with long records of faithful service to the Republican Party, who describe the atmosphere of fear and intimidation which the White House had carefully cultivated in the nation’s erstwhile temple of justice. The message was clear: the Justice Department existed to do the White House’s political bidding. Any suggestion of independence or fidelity to the law would be rudely crushed. Many were convinced their phones were being tapped illegally. Some even feared that they might be targeted for a hit or “accidentally” run over by a truck (the favored tactic of the Ukrainian mafiosi with whom Karl Rove was seen hobnobbing at Yalta only a few weeks ago). Any hint of caution about the White House’s agenda would be enough to destroy a career. This is the environment in which the Justice Department launched roughly six criminal probes into Democratic political figures for every one targeting a Republican. It was a Justice Department hijacked and converted into a partisan political attack machine.
I’ve seen the strange graphic above, or one similar to it, on a number of websites that I visit. At first I wasn’t quite sure what it was. But by clicking on the link above, I was able to visit the site and discover what the strange message represented. If you’re curious, click on the graphic above and read through the site, or go to Glenn Greenwald’s site for a thorough description. And I urge you to donate today, even if it's only $5.00, $10.00 or $25.00 We must stop the actions of our government that are leading us off a cliff and into the abyss. I don’t know if this effort will be successful, but at least we can say we tried if we later find our selves continuing down a path that can only lead to disaster.
It just gets sadder and sadder. Here is the highest legal official in the land, God help us:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) — Congress should explicitly declare war against al Qaeda to make clear the United States can detain suspected members as long as the conflict lasts, U.S. Attorney General Michael Mukasey said on Monday…
Hey, kids, I know! Let’s declare war on the Mafia! The president can lock all of ’em up but one and that way the war would never end and we’d never have to let ’em out and there wouldn’t be any more loan sharking except wait a minute, then we’d have to declare war on Visa too so forget about the Mafia and how about we declare war on the ACLU instead? I mean, you know, now that wars don’t have to be with a, like, country anymore.
Cool, dude! Then we could lock up the UN and the DNC and the Harvard Faculty Club and People for the American Way and the Carter Center and the United Auto Workers and all those Friends of Bill, and, and…
Oh, hell, it’s all just too depressing. This guy is a former federal judge and the attorney general of the United States. How pathetic is that?
Edmund Burke: “For us to love our country, our country ought to be lovely.”
So when Mrs. Villegas went into labor on the night of July 5, she was handcuffed and accompanied by a deputy as she was taken by ambulance to Nashville General Hospital at Meharry. Cuffs chaining her foot to the hospital bed were opened when she reached the final stages of labor, Mrs. Villegas said…
The phone in her room was turned off, and she was not permitted to speak with her husband when he came to retrieve their newborn son from the hospital on July 7 as she returned to jail, she said.
As Mrs. Villegas left the hospital, a nurse offered her a breast pump but a sheriff’s deputy said she could not take it into the jail, Mrs. Villegas said…
“There is a perception that she was treated different from other inmates, and it just is not true,” Ms. Weikal said. “Unfortunately the business of corrections is that families are separated. It’s not pretty, it’s not understandable to a lot of people.”
She said that it was standard procedure to bar medical equipment like a breast pump from the jail.
From McClatchy Newspapers:
WASHINGTON — U.S. border agents are copying and seizing the contents of laptops, cell phones and digital cameras from U.S. and foreign travelers entering the United States, witnesses told a Senate subcommittee Wednesday.
The extent of this practice is unknown despite requests to the Department of Homeland Security from the Senate Subcommittee on the Constitution and several nonprofit agencies.
The department also declined to send a representative to the hearing. Subcommittee Chairman Russ Feingold, D-Wis., said Homeland Security had told him that its “preferred” witness was unavailable Wednesday…
(Ed. note: Wednesday was his day in the reading room.)
Chris Dodd is mad as hell and he isn’t going to take it anymore. In a speech yesterday, the senator from Connecticut started out attacking Bush’s plan to issue a get-out-of-jail card to the telecom companies who helped Bush to spy illegally on us all.
But he went on to attack Bush’s contempt for the entire rule of law, which exceeds even that of Richard Nixon. Here are excerpts, but do read or listen to the whole magnificent screed here.
So, why are we here? Because, Mr. President – it is alleged that giant telecom corporations worked with our government to compile Americans’ private, domestic communications records into a database of enormous scale and scope.
Secretly and without a warrant, those corporations are alleged to have spied on their own customers – American customers.
Here’s only one of the most egregious examples. According to the Electronic Frontier Foundation:
Clear, first-hand whistleblower documentary evidence [states]…that for year on end every e-mail, every text message, and every phone call carried over the massive fiber-optic links of 16 separate companies routed through AT&T’s Internet hub in San Francisco — hundreds of millions of private, domestic communications — have been…copied in their entirety by AT&T and knowingly diverted wholesale by means of multiple “splitters” into a secret room controlled exclusively by the NSA…
A prisoner at Guantanamo — to take one example out of hundreds — was deprived of sleep over 55 days, a month and three weeks. Some nights, he was doused with water or blasted with air conditioning. And after week after week of this delirious, shivering wakefulness, on the verge of death from hypothermia, doctors strapped him to a chair — doctors, healers who took the Hippocratic Oath to “do no harm”— pumped him full of three bags of medical saline, brought him back from death — and sent him back to his interrogators…
The New York Times reports that the White House and the Democrats have agreed on a rewrite of the wiretapping rules. It’s not entirely clear why anyone cares to take the trouble. Everyone knows the administration has been ignoring the existing rules; why would a rewrite make a difference?
Perhaps the most important concession that Democratic leaders claimed in the proposal was a reaffirmation that the intelligence protocols are the “exclusive” means for the executive branch to conduct wiretapping operations in terrorism and espionage cases. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had insisted on that element, and Democratic staff members asserted that the language would prevent Mr. Bush, or any future president, from circumventing the law. The proposal asserts that “that the law is the exclusive authority and not the whim of the president of the United States,“ Ms. Pelosi said.
In general, rewriting the law to emphasize to those who knowingly violated it in the past that the law must be obeyed is an ineffective means of making the point.
The Democrats are letting the telecoms off the hook for activities the companies knew were illegal; the precedents were clear. In exchange for this immunity the Democratic, I hesitate to say leadership in this context, can depart grasping the idea that this reaffirmation will constrain a President when the first affirmation did not. It seems to be a textbook case of doing the same thing and expecting a different result.
Or alternatively, perhaps the Democrats have no problem with warrantless wiretapping and torture and illegal wars as long as it’s the Democrats in power at the time. All power corrupts, said John Emerich Edward Dahlberg, and he was right.
If you worked long hard hours and years to reach the upper atmosphere of Congressional leadership for your party, it’d be hard to think in terms of the American empire ending. It’d be hard to realize that there is an American empire to begin with; as Chomsky says, you can’t reach a position of power in the US government without believing that the country is unique in history in acting purely from altruistic motives.
That’s abroad, of course; domestically, it’s devil take the hindmost. In the current case, as so often in recent years, the hindmost is the American public. This is somehow more grating now that we have Democrats controlling Congress. In 2006 we took the reins from the Republicans, too corrupt, incompetent, and downright evil to live with any more, and handed them to the Democrats, who promised, as all parties do in such circumstances, to restore dignity and truth to the institution and to assert the rule of law.
Hah! In fact, they’ve repeatedly capitulated. As Glenn Greenwald has pointed out, the only real accomplishment the Democrats had to show for taking control of Congress was refusing to cave on telecom immunity. Now they’re caving on that too.
I just bought a couple Cindy Sheehan for Congress buttons.
Headline from McClatchy Newspapers:
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — Mullahs and communists, and it seemed everything in between, came out in Pakistan Friday in a massive rally against President Pervez Musharraf, seeking to force the government to restore the judges fired by the U.S.-backed president.
In a huge challenge to Musharraf, and also to the newly elected government, tens of thousands of ordinary Pakistanis confounded all expectations by coming out in noisy, excited support of an independent judiciary…
“Musharraf’s bluster, backed by the American administration, that caused this situation to continue in a stalemate,” said Aitzaz Ahsan, the charismatic leader of the lawyers’ movement, in an interview on top of his campaign truck, as it crawled through the streets of Rawalpindi. “I think that stalemate has now been broken.”
Chávez Goes Over the Line, and Realizes It reads the headline in today’s Times. Substitute Bush for Chávez and the sentence loses all meaning. For Heaven’s sake, Hugo, try to be a little more presidential and a little less democratic.
President Hugo Chávez of Venezuela started this month as the most prominent political supporter of Colombia’s largest rebel group and a fierce defender of his own overhaul of his nation’s intelligence services. But in the space of a few hours over the weekend, he confounded his critics by switching course on both contentious policies.
In doing so, Mr. Chávez displayed a willingness for self-reinvention that has served him well in times of crisis throughout his long political career. Time and again, he has gambled by pushing brash positions and policies, then shifted to a more moderate course when the consequences seemed too dire…
The law would have forced judges in Venezuela to support the intelligence services and required citizens to cooperate with community-monitoring groups, provoking widespread fears that the government wanted to follow Cuba in creating a societywide network of informants whose main purpose was to nip antigovernment activities in the bud.
I’ve seen bits and piece of this before, but Christopher Ketcham has gathered them all under one roof in Radar magazine. Here are a few teasers from his long article; do read the whole thing.
It’s scary stuff, and the Department of Homeland Security is a scary outfit. Joe Lieberman’s brainchild, this product of multiple bureaucratic miscegenation has become the gold standard for incompetence, carelessness, callous indifference, and paranoia posing as prudence.
Under law, during a national emergency, FEMA and its parent organization, the Department of Homeland Security, would be empowered to seize private and public property, all forms of transport, and all food supplies. The agency could dispatch military commanders to run state and local governments, and it could order the arrest of citizens without a warrant, holding them without trial for as long as the acting government deems necessary…
In the late 1980s, the Austin American-Statesman and other publications reported the existence of 10 detention camp sites on military facilities nationwide, where hundreds of thousands of people could be held in the event of domestic political upheaval. More such facilities were commissioned in 2006, when Kellogg Brown & Root—then a subsidiary of Halliburton—was handed a $385 million contract to establish “temporary detention and processing capabilities” for the Department of Homeland Security…
According to the Washington Post, the Terrorist Identities list has quadrupled in size between 2003 and 2007 to include about 435,000 names. The FBI’s Terrorist Screening Center border crossing list, which listed 755,000 persons as of fall 2007, grows by 200,000 names a year…
If previous FEMA and FBI lists are any indication, the Main Core database includes dissidents and activists of various stripes, political and tax protesters, lawyers and professors, publishers and journalists, gun owners, illegal aliens, foreign nationals, and a great many other harmless, average people…
If Main Core does exist, says Philip Giraldi, a former CIA counterterrorism officer and an outspoken critic of the agency, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is its likely home. “If a master list is being compiled, it would have to be in a place where there are no legal issues”—the CIA and FBI would be restricted by oversight and accountability laws—”so I suspect it is at DHS, which as far as I know operates with no such restraints.” Giraldi notes that DHS already maintains a central list of suspected terrorists and has been freely adding people who pose no reasonable threat to domestic security…
Nothing new, but the Washington Post has assembled in one spot the ludicrous bungles which are the crown jewels of Bush’s domestic “war on terror.” For pathetic results like this we have let our constitution be gutted and our civil rights be trashed.
In the excerpt below, notice the practiced ease with which the FBI suggests to its befuddled suspect a scheme that would position the Bureau as terror’s number one enemy — something for Congress to think about, come budget time. Actually a terrorist with the brains of a zucchini would be smart enough put the hopelessly incompetent FBI at the top of his list of places not to bomb.
Batiste confided, somewhat fantastically, that he wanted to blow up the Sears Tower in Chicago, which would then fall into a nearby prison, freeing Muslim prisoners who would become the core of his Moorish army. With them, he would establish his own country.
The FBI informant, under bureau guidance, refocused Batiste on what he said was bin Laden's plot — to bomb FBI offices in several U.S. cities.
…to figure this Bush program out. So the Headless Nail has done it for you:
The Bush administration is quietly but firmly trying to set in place the capability to monitor, intercept, and analyze all visits to federal government web sites. It's called the Einstein program, which no doubt has the old civil libertarian and FBI target spinning in his grave.
Once such a system is pounded into place, it becomes, like me, a headless nail in the bureaucratic machinery. Both of us are almost impossible to pull out. So here's what you have to look forward to:
If you visit any government web site, the government could monitor your visit, know all of the pages you have seen, and capture and analyze any information you send or receive — all in real time. It would be like having your very own Big Brother, looking over your shoulder at your very own screen.
And taking notes as you surf.
This program, known as “Trusted Internet Connection” would require that all federal agencies access the web through portals approved and controlled by the Department of Homeland Security.
At each portal, DHS would install an “intrusion detection system” — Einstein. Details about Einstein are sketchy, but it will capture at least all traffic flow, source and destination IP information, and data sent or received.
In all probability this electronic gatekeeper would allow Homeland Security to spy on government employees too, which will be handy for tracking down whistleblowers.
The ostensible reason for the program is, of course, protecting us against terrorist hackers. DHS officials won’t say much about how they will use this capability, so you’ll just have to trust them when they say that the “program is not intended to collect information that will be retrieved by name.” [italics added]
But then neither did the DHS intend to force airline passengers to remove nipple rings with pliers. Nevertheless that is exactly what its agents did to a woman in Lubbock last month. By the time even the best of intentions reaches the bottom rungs of a huge bureaucracy, the result can defy logic and common sense. To say nothing of common decency.
Although the Administration wants this program in place by June (unlikely for technical reasons), DHS has not provided the legally-required Privacy Impact Assessment for the project. So we don’t know what personal information will be collected, how it will be used, or what (if any) safeguards against spying on citizens will be required.
All government web sites are required to post privacy policies, and in my experience government webmasters take this responsibility seriously. Under the Bush plan, these protections would become meaningless, as DHS would position Einstein between the citizen and the government site.
Note that the Einstein program does not require the cooperation of any private partners (such as phone companies or ISPs) and is not subject to any routine judicial supervision — helpful if you want to avoid any embarrassing leaks or disclosures about how it is actually being used.
In summary, the Bush Administration proposes to acquire a powerful new domestic electronic spy network, and citizens are supposed to trust the good intentions of Bush's DHS and Justice officials that these powers will not be misused. Domestic political opponents, whistleblowers, and ordinary citizens who don’t want the government spying on their web visits will be forgiven for their skepticism.
The sad thing about the attacks on Senator Obama for things said by his wife and by his pastor is that attention was paid to them by anyone except Jon Stewart. It was as if the Senator were being pilloried for consorting with persons who claimed that grass is green and — the horror, the horror! — that water runs downhill.
Reverend Wright and Michelle Obama may, for all I know, harbor private beliefs as evil as those which lurk in the minds of Richard Cheney, Osama bin Laden or, back in the day, Vlad the Impaler.
If so, however, the fact has not been reported. What has been reported proves only that both the Obama pastor and the Obama wife are guilty of truth-telling in the first degree. For example, anyone who believes that American foreign policy bore no causal relation to the 9/11 attacks is simply a fool.
And as to Michelle Obama’s deplorably recent feelings of pride in her country, I will refer you, as Judy in Canada has referred me, to this efficient evisceration of the whole issue by Rick Salutin of The Globe and Mail. I’ll add only this from Edmund Burke: ‘For us to love our country, our country ought to be lovely.”
The problem of patriotism really comes down to one question: Are patriots permitted to be critical of their nation, or must they be proud and unquestioning at all times? Once that’s answered, the puzzles dissolve.
Take Barack Obama’s wife, Michelle, who said: “For the first time in my adult life, I am proud of my country because it feels like hope is finally making a comeback..” That’s Position 1. Candidate John McCain’s wife, Cindy, took Position 2: “I have and always will be proud of my country.”
It’s odd that no reporters put Cindy McCain on the spot, named dubious things the U.S. has done, like its genocidal assault on aboriginals, and asked: Are you proud of that? Michelle Obama is the one they keep saying has dug her and her husband a big anti-American hole, one she still hasn’t got past.
But under Position 1 — criticism allowed — her words imply she is a true patriot, and one with a generous spirit. She didn’t wait for solutions to what presumably blocked her pride in the past: like failure to deal with the ongoing problems of race in the U.S. She was ready to be proud on the fairly flimsy basis of reactions to her husband’s campaign. She’s not just a patriot, she’s an optimistic one.
Under Position 1, the patriot test is: Does she continue to want to be proud of her nation, while demanding it live up to standards. By that test, she is a patriot with no hole to climb out of, and so probably is her pastor, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, who has taken a lot more stick than she has.
What did he say that anyone could object to on patriotic grounds — that the chickens are coming home to roost in events like 9/11? That’s just foreign policy analysis, stated metaphorically. You can disagree, but it isn’t unpatriotic. Or: “The government ... wants us to sing God Bless America. No, no, no, God damn America ... for killing innocent people. God damn America for treating our citizens as less than human.” That is utterly in the Judeo-Christian tradition.
According to the Hebrew prophets, God consigned his beloved chosen people to exile for allowing social injustice, allying with evil nations — i.e., shabby foreign policy — and religious infidelity. (The black church in the U.S. has always had a preferential option for the Old Testament parts of the Bible.)
Another way to put Position 1 is: You cannot say, Blessed is the nation, unless you can also say, Cursed is the nation — they go together under love of nation. As political philosopher Hannah Arendt wrote: “There can be no patriotism without permanent opposition and criticism.”
She said that in 1963, under fire from other Jews for her book Eichmann in Jerusalem. She was a lifelong Zionist but critical of the direction Zionism had taken. In fact, Jews often split into the two positions over loyalty to Israel. It’s odd how that, too, has now been woven into U.S. politics. Candidates for president are required to show unquestioning allegiance to Israel as much, or more, as to the U.S. The same is becoming true in Canada.
Of course, we also have unique Canadian versions of unthinking patriotism. When the “loyal” opposition criticized the handover of detainees by our forces in Afghanistan despite possible torture, Stephen Harper and his instruments replied: Why do they criticize what our troops do? Why do they care more about the Taliban than our brave Canadian soldiers? Got that — it’s unpatriotic to ask if our country did anything to be ashamed of?
Hannah Arendt also wrote about Judah Magnes, a Zionist pioneer and founder of the Hebrew University. “Being a Jew and a Zionist, he was simply ashamed of what Jews and Zionists were doing.” The sense of shame is what can save the honour of the group and the nation. It is what Position 1 patriots provide. If there are no patriots capable of shame for what is done in the nation’s name, so there is only praise and pride everywhere, then patriotism easily slides into stupidity and worse.
Day by day Bush and Cheney drag our nation’s honor — and our own — further down into their sewer:
OTTAWA (Reuters) — Canada’s foreign ministry has put the United States and Israel on a watch list of countries where prisoners risk being tortured and also classifies some U.S. interrogation techniques as torture, according to a document obtained by Reuters on Thursday…
The document — part of a training course on torture awareness given to diplomats — mentions the U.S. jail at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba where a Canadian man is being held…
“The United States does not permit, tolerate, or condone torture under any circumstances,” said a spokeswoman for the U.S. embassy in Ottawa.
As a former spokesman for the U.S. Embassy in Laos, I offer this spokeswoman my sympathy and this advice: quit while you still know you’re lying; I did, and it didn’t hurt at all.
Another rough beast slouches towards Washington to be born. Rendition, it seems, is turning into a two-way street.
The complete essay from which this comes is by Anthony Piel, former counsel of the World Health Organization. It is from The Lakeville Journal. (If asked to log in, feel free to use remnant as userid, with the password jeromehd.)
A Kent resident friend who is a reader of The Lakeville Journal has put forward the following interesting and unexpected question: Does the United States have the right to kidnap U.S. or foreign citizens abroad with a view to “rendering” them to the United States for trial in U.S. courts? …
Although perhaps desirable, bounty hunting was not yet in vogue for corporate fraud or tax evasion, as the SEC, FTC and IRS had not yet been invented. Nor had the terms “homeland security,” “unlawful enemy combatant” or “extraordinary rendition” yet been coined. Those are a more recent U.S. invention. The question is, is this kind of “cowboy” style justice still the law of the land?
All right, enough of this Yuletide stuff. Let’s get back to the anti-Santa, George W. Bush. Thanks to Avedon Carol at The Sideshow for this link to Andrew Sullivan in the Sunday Times. Sullivan, as you probably know, is about as liberal as I am conservative. Does this lend a certain gravitas to his attacks on Bush? I report; you decide.
What are the odds that a legal effective interrogation of a key Al-Qaeda operative would have led many highly respected professionals in the US intelligence community to risk their careers by leaking top-secret details to the press?
What are the odds that the CIA would have sought to destroy tapes that could prove it had legally prevented serious and dangerous attacks against innocent civilians? What are the odds that a president who had never authorised waterboarding would be unable to say whether such waterboarding was torture?
What are the odds that, under congressional grilling, the new attorney-general would also refuse to say whether he believed waterboarding was illegal, if there was any doubt that the president had authorised it? The odds are beyond minimal.
Any reasonable person examining all the evidence we have — without any bias — would conclude that the overwhelming likelihood is that the president of the United States authorised illegal torture of a prisoner and that the evidence of the crime was subsequently illegally destroyed.
While I’ve got you on the line, isn’t it about time that some really skillful Photoshopper or caricaturist came up with the image of Bush waterboarding a suspect? Ideas or leads welcome.
A Sharon friend, who is also a folk singer, recently forwarded me a perfectly astounding quotation from Edward R. Murrow that was broadcast over the BBC in February, 1946, as Murrow left Britain after years of covering World War II from there. Said Murrow: “I believe that I have learned the most important thing that has happened in Britain during the last six years.”
No, Murrow wasn’t speaking of routine courage, or the Blitz, or the Battle of Britain, or El Alamein, or Normandy — important as those facts and events were. He was speaking of the continued British respect for democracy and human rights, in spite of the war. Murrow cited two particular examples, excerpted here:
“Do you remember that while London was being bombed in the daylight the House devoted two days to discussing conditions under which enemy aliens were detained on the Isle of Man? Though Britain fell, there were to be no concentration camps here.”
“Do you remember that two days after Italy declared war an Italian citizen, convicted of murder in the lower courts, appealed successfully to the highest court in the land, and the original verdict was set aside? There was still law in the land, regardless of race, nationality or hatred. Representative government, equality before the law survived.”
Future generations who bother to read the historical record will see that in Britain, during the greatest war of all time, there was no retreat from basic human rights and principles. Isn’t it telling that today our U.S. Supreme Court should have to be even considering whether “detainees” in the so-call “war” on terrorism have the right to fair trial, to habeas corpus, to counsel, or even the right not to be tortured in violation of national and international law?
Surely, this is not our “finest hour.” Compared with our British friends in wartime, how far have we fallen? How far have we yet to fall?
From an interview with author Naomi Wolf, who has an interesting theory on what USAttorneygate was really about:
Americans have this very wrong idea about what a closed society looks like. Many despots make it a point to try to hold the elections, but they're corrupted elections. Corrupted elections take place all over the world in closed societies. Ninety-nine percent of Austrians voted yes for the annexation by Germany, because the SA were standing outside the voting booths, intimidating the voters and people counting the vote. So you can mess with the process.
One current warning sign is the emails that the White House is not yielding about the attorney general scandal. The emails are likely to show that there were plans afoot to purge all of the attorneys at once, like overnight. And then to let the country deal with the shock.
Now that's something that Goebbels did in 1933 in April, overnight. He fired everyone, focusing on lawyers and judges who were not a supporter of the regime.
For both sides, read Elana Schor’s piece in The Guardian.
"It is disturbing, the votes she has taken", the policy director for People for the American Way, Tanya Clay House, said. "I don't know if she's quite reached the status of Lieberman yet, but she's well on her way…"
For Bob Mulholland, a campaign adviser to California Democrats who has known Feinstein since her time as San Francisco mayor, the backlash against Feinstein amounts to a betrayal rather than a defence of the party's core principles. Mulholland blasted the bloggers and activists supporting the censure resolution as "fringe" and "pre-nursing home."
…Thanks, Dianne! Thanks, Chuck! You guys are just GREAT!
Speaking of which, the Rude Pundit says:
Apparently, Mukasey personally assured Schumer that he'd enforce any laws passed by Congress. And it speaks volumes about our America that Schumer would feel that it's a valid point in Mukasey's favor. One might think that enforcing the law is pretty much the basic function of the job of Attorney General. But as debased as the Justice Department has become, all of a sudden it's a noble quality in someone. These fuckers have lowered the bar so far down that moles tower above it.
So Mukasey's gonna get the go-ahead, and, as with Alberto Gonzales, John Roberts, and others, personal and public assurances made by them will amount to so much bullshit clogging the hearing rooms. Between Harry Reid pulling back his party's senators from filibustering Mukasey to the coming cave on war funding, Democrats are making the big mistake of not taking down the bullies and thugs who are destroying this village. We thought we were electing the Seven Samurai or at least the Three Amigos. Instead, we got a handful of Barney Fifes.
The Guardian has a promising new website, Guardian America. In it Sidney Blumenthal offers a piece on how Rudy Giuliani’s old pal, Michael Mukasey, has publicly revealed that he intends to be not the nation’s lawyer but just another of Bush’s sock puppets.
The Senate Democrats could have spared us this further indignity but a controlling majority of them are too cowardly to do so. Principal among these cowards is the revolting Charles Schumer of New York. You may have seen him once or twice on TV, where he plays a liberal.
Those with long memories may remember Schumer’s shameful role in the Waco massacre, in which the Republicans played the good guys and Democrats played the cop-sniffing bullies. Chief cheerleader for those parties principally responsible — the incompetent Janet Reno and the gutless Bill Clinton — was then-Congressman Schumer.
This appalling and totally gratuitous slaughter led directly to the tragedy of Oklahoma City, where Timothy McVeigh blew up the Murrah Building on the anniversary of the Waco murders in a demented attempt to avenge the victims.
Back to Blumenthal:
Mukasey is not a free agent. He had been strictly briefed and in his testimony was following orders. He has avoided calling waterboarding torture because that is consistent with the administration's position and past practice. Mukasey's refusal to disavow waterboarding reveals his acceptance of his assignment to a secondary role as attorney general, an inferior agent, not a constitutional officer, to certain political appointees in the White House.
Those who are responsible for waterboarding have defined and dictated Mukasey's evasions. His acquiescence demonstrates that no one in his position could take a contrary view to that of David Addington, Vice President Cheney's former counsel and now chief of staff, who directed and coauthored the infamous memos by former deputy assistant director of the Office of Legal Counsel John Yoo justifying torture, and charged the current acting director of OLC, Stephen Bradbury, to issue new memos rationalising it.
Addington is the reigning legal authority within the administration, presiding over the attorney general no matter who would fill the job. Addington rules by decree and tantrum, intolerant of any alternative opinion, which he suppresses with intimidation and threat. Gonzales, as White House counsel and then attorney general, was the marionette of Karl Rove and Addington. Rove is gone, but Addington remains.
Does anyone know the actual source of the observation that the US is the only society to have gone from barbarism to decadence without passing through civilization along the way? Wikiquote says Wilde or Shaw or Clemenceau…
‘All the way through that flight I was on the verge of screaming,’ al-Rawi said. ‘At last we landed, I thought, thank God it’s over. But it wasn’t — it was just a refuelling stop in Cairo. There were hours still to go … My back was so painful, the handcuffs were so tight. All the time they kept me on my back. Once, I managed to wriggle a tiny bit, just shifted my weight to one side. Then I felt someone hit my hand. Even this was forbidden.’
He was thrown into the CIA’s ‘Dark Prison,’ deprived of all light 24 hours a day in temperatures so low that ice formed on his food and water. He was taken to Guantanamo in March 2003 and released after being cleared of any involvement in terrorism by a tribunal.
Turns out he had been a source for MI5, and had freely given information under the strictest assurances of confidance, which were — surprise — violated. Bad move, apparently.
The report confirmed that al-Rawi, 39, was only held after MI5 sent the CIA a telegram, stating he was an ‘Islamic extremist’ who had a timer for an improvised bomb in his luggage. In reality, before al-Rawi left London, police confirmed the device was a battery charger from Argos.
The committee accepted MI5’s claim, given in secret testimony, that it had not wanted the Americans to arrest him, in November 2002, concluding the incident had damaged US-UK relations.
Yeah, that’s how I remember November, 2002. A chill in US-UK relations.
California has well over 35 million people. And who’s more connected than we are?
I just went to Senator Diane Feinstein’s web site and entered a comment from a constitutent. The site says “The total number of e-mails sent to Senator Feinstein through this web page”, before the one I sent, was 114,864.
Where the hell is everybody? Californians: Senator Feinstein is on the Judiciary Committee, chaired by Senator Patrick “Go Fuck Yourself” Leahy, currently attempting to extract information from Sara Taylor, Harriet Meirs, and the White House over the US attorney firings. Got anything to say to her?
Here’s what I said.
I believe the Senate should hold Ms. Sara Taylor, Ms. Harriet Meirs, and the President in contempt of Congress absent full testimony in the matter of the firing of the US attorneys.
My understanding is that Ms. Taylor and Ms. Meirs no longer work for the White House, and are therefore not under its direction. If the President is claiming that his executive privilege allows him to prevent former aides from testifying about possible illegal actions, I don’t believe such a claim would hold up even in today’s Supreme Court.
If the Congress does not act to restrain this President, he will cause even more harm to the country.
But the greatest harm, an irreparable one, would occur if the Congress fails to enact legal punishment for this administration’s illegal actions.
This President and, most especially, this Vice President have acted as if they are above the law. Congress must show them that they are not, most vigorously, or future Presidents will be completely unaccountable, and the Republic will fade away, like Rome’s did.
It’s not enough to pass resolutions that call President Bush a bad guy. He’s a war criminal; he should be in the dock in The Hague along with his Vice President. In addition, he’s a domestic criminal: he’s violated our civil rights with abandon, and he’s made us less secure, breaking all kinds of laws in the process, and ignoring many more through signing statements.
There are so many reasons to impeach both the President and the Vice President that it appears to me to be the Constitutional responsibility of this Congress to proceed along that path.
Buck brought up the question of whether corporations are inherently evil, and a fascinating discussion ensued. As of this writing, most commenters took a neutral view, comparing, for example, corporations to guns, a comparison I considered particularly apt.
To me, associations of folks who get together to accomplish something they couldn’t do alone are great. I’m for democratic associations of people who can decide among themselves what ought to be done, and how to do it. That seems to me both libertarian and socialist. The ease and frequency with which we formed associations was one of the things that impressed Tocqueville the most about the young United States.
Whether corporations are evil or not depends on definitions. I contend that the corporate structure is inherently destructive to the social fabric, in that it implements and reinforces privilege and inequality. That doesn’t mean all corporations are evil; in fact I’m shopping a book proposal partly focused on a corporation I worked for that was a joy for employees and a boon to neighbors, and generated an immensely loyal customer base. Must have been a family-run thing, you think? No, 85,000 employees on at least four continents. Truth be told, it was the only great job I had in the software industry; and every subsequent experience was a disappointment, so it could be argued that the job made me unhappy. But it also proved that it was possible to succeed, and make lots of money, honestly and directly. The only company I was ever proud to work for…
In theory, capitalism rewards initiative and ideas. In my experience in the software business, theory was rarely in evidence. Mostly, the ideas came from engineers, while the vast majority of the rewards went to the officers and the sales force, who were therefore generally hoping for short-term gains, after which they were out the door. Anecdotal data indicates that equivalent patterns have been spotted in other industries.
Current corporate structure, as Chomsky often says, is inherently fascist. Top-down control structures conflict with democratic societies. What we need is something more like the factory management Republican Spain used. If memory serves (Martha??), the coalition of the willing against the Anarchists (the legitimately elected government) drew in Catholics, Fascists, and Communists. What they had in common was their interest in control, and their fear of the appeal of the alternative. The Anarchists were more interested in freedom and distribution of the proceeds; and as a result their worker-run factories produced about a third more per worker. That even put the fear of God into the Communists.
Of course individuals and small groups who incorporate or set up partnerships are not included in this fascist-structure critique. As Mrs. Batard says, that’s a tax-and-liability thing. She’s right that it doesn’t constitute evil in itself, certainly not according to the rules of the capitalist game. But what ethical or moral structure would call such behavior positive or constructive? Capitalism encourages amoral decision-making, which frequently provokes immoral action.
In the end, I’m against all control structures. The worst offenders right now are clearly corporations, who are eternal and unaccountable. They also control the old media. But the new media, viz. us, is killing ’em.
I agree with Chomsky, surprise, about government: the eventual goal is to get rid of it, but right now it’s the best weapon we’ve got against the old top-down control structures, which have morphed from monarchies into CEOships. We’d better use what’s at hand.
The battle to control corporations is the defining issue of the next generation or two; it seems to me it’s now or never. Hopefully I’m wrong, and we have more time than that. But the data on shrinking ice caps, and the escaping methane in the Siberian tundra, and the warmest winter on record are not good signs.
Who’s puttin’ the hurt on Alberto? Well, a lot of Americans can identify: it’s his boss.
The Attorney General long ago lost the trust of all liberals. He’s now lost the honest conservatives; and even some of the remainder are being forced by political circumstance to distance themselves from the blatant effort by the White House and the Attorney General to politicize the choice of federal prosecutors.
No doubt this was an integral part of the plans of both halves of the Bush camp. Cheney needed the lack of oversight, indeed the ability to ignore the law, to pursue his chickenhawking warmongering profiteering. Rove needed his past, present, and future dirty tricks absolved if he was to have any realistic chance of keeping a majority pieced together by such dishonest means.
Cheney’s strategy is apparently encapsulated pretty well in the unitary executive theory, also known as Respect My Authoritie. He needs the AG to provide legal cover for his twin thefts of the public treasure and our civil rights.
This particular AG, however, may not be long in office. His chief of staff has resigned over the firings of eight federal prosecutors in what appears to be a blatant attempt to get Republicans off the hook for illegalities; for instance, the prosecutor who convicted Duke Cunningham and was investigating Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Ca) was one of the eight.
So what do you think? Will Attorney General Gonzales:
The problems with Rove’s strategy are belatedly becoming obvious to those who used to fawn over him, though of course we understood all along.
For one thing, if you cheat at every opportunity, you leave in your wake lots of people who hate you and are looking to bring you down. Even if they coöperate with you it’s only temporary. Karl’s apparently lived a lot of his life that way, and has perhaps grown used to it.
It’s possible that Karl thinks, or thought, that he was leading a parade headed toward his goal of a permanent Republican majority. Personally I considered that laughable from the first, because there’s no way a majority of Americans will ever agree with what the Republicans are really about. Sure, they have most of the money, they can buy slicker ads, and they hire the most viciously dishonest PR teams. As a result, they can muddy the waters sufficiently to get within striking, or rather cheating, distance. But they’ll never get a majority on their side honestly.
Realistically, no rational person with any awareness of the US population would claim that most people support a pardon for Libby, or are for staying in Iraq “until the job is done”, or letting rich folks avoid estate taxes. On the other hand, a strong majority favors universal health care, easier access to better education, more money spent on public transportation, and so on.
In other words, we don’t seem to live in a democracy. But the silent majority (I recently saw a bumper sticker that read “I never thought I’d miss Nixon”) may be about to rear up and assert itself. Exploited, even wounded, it may be, but angry as well, at least for now.
Rove may find that instead of leading a parade to his chosen destination, he’s caught between a wall of unspinnable facts and a snowball of wronged opponents.
Now that the concept of Habeas Corpus in America is lost to the Ages and Executive Power has been created equal in power and scope to that wielded by one of the most hated men in History, I offer here — rescued from the dustbin of history— a short portion of Emma Goldman’s address to the jury delivered by her at her trial after her arrest for violating the now villified Espionage Act (shortly prior to the equally infamous Palmer Raids).
Unless you sit on a “military tribunal”, you may never have the opportunity to hear these words or ones like them spoken in a courtroom in America again. Essential truths are nevertheless timeless and irrefutable.
…I wish to say that I am a social student. It is my mission in life to ascertain the cause of our social evils and of our social difficulties. As a student of social wrongs it is my aim to diagnose a wrong. To simply condemn the man who has committed an act of political violence, in order to save my skin, would be as unpardonable as it would be on the part of the physician, who is called to diagnose a case, to condemn the patient because the patient has tuberculosis, cancer, or some other disease. The honest, earnest, sincere physician does not only prescribe medicine, he tries to find out the cause of the disease. And if the patient is at all capable as to means, the doctor will say to him, “Get out of this putrid air, get out of the factory, get out of the place where your lungs are being infected.” He will not merely give him medicine. He will tell him the cause of the disease. And that is precisely my position in regard to acts of violence. That is what I have said on every platform. I have attempted to explain the cause and the reason for acts of political violence.
It is organized violence on top which creates individual violence at the bottom. It is the accumulated indignation against organized wrong, organized crime, organized injustice which drives the political offender to his act. To condemn him means to be blind to the causes which make him. I can no more do it, nor have I the right to, than the physician who were to condemn the patient for his disease. You and I and all of us who remain indifferent to the crimes of poverty, of war, of human degradation, are equally responsible for the act committed by the political offender. May I therefore be permitted to say, in the words of a great teacher: “He who is without sin among you, let him cast the first stone.”
We say that if America has entered the war to make the world safe for democracy, she must first make democracy safe in America. How else is the world to take America seriously, when democracy at home is daily being outraged, free speech suppressed, peaceable assemblies broken up by overbearing and brutal gangsters in uniform; when free press is curtailed and every independent opinion gagged. Verily, poor as we are in democracy, how can we give of it to the world? We further say that a democracy conceived in the military servitude of the masses, in their economic enslavement, and nurtured in their tears and blood, is not democracy at all. It is despotism — the cumulative result of a chain of abuses which, according to that dangerous document, the Declaration of Independence, the people have the right to overthrow.