Thursday, June 29, 2006

Quote of the Week (hey, I've been busy...)

"Love is the only force capable of transforming an enemy into a friend," Martin Luther King

(money doesn't hurt either)

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

An Open Letter to Newsweek Magazine

Dear Friends at Newsweek,

This is by way of follow-up on Jonathan Alter's article, of last December, "Snoopgate," which dealt with the president's micromanagement of editors, and publishers, of at least one major newspaper in this country.

I write to ask what you as editors, and publishers, intend to do about the latest financial data mining debacle fallout, and this administration's undeclared war on The New York Times. You neend't hear from me what the responsibility of publishers of magazines, and papers, is with regard to maintaining a healthy, autonomous press, but you will hear it from history if you don't act, and act swiftly.

Alas, the article Mr. Alter wrote last December, "Snoopgate," may now be called "Swipegate" as the politics of preemption have now come to include the press; the snipers now occupy the Oval Office, hence the question is even more intense: when may we, as readers and citizens, expect to have the pleasure of seeing righteous indignation, and action, instead of passive resignation to this executive branch blitzkrieg?

When the integrity, indeed the very survival, of a major newspaper is challenged, all in the publishing industry must shake from the aftershock, and freedom of expression, great and small, is compromised. There can be no national security without truth, and no news coverage without unobstructed, and tamper-proof reporting. As your readers, we will expect, and demand, nothing less than your commitment to those journalistic ethics, and pledge to put your shoulder to the wheel, and oppose this assault, and battery, on a free press. Your silence may be viewed as acquiescence.

It's your turn up at the plate. Let's hope you, and your publishing colleagues, hit a home run, so your pages may continue to be filled with crucial information, which is much-needed, in these desperate times.

Monday, June 26, 2006

Quote of the Day

"Everyone has the responsibility to make sure the government plays by the rules," George Christian, executive director of Library Connection

Oftentimes, the real heroes are the ones left behind cleaning up, and not the ones making the mess whose efforts, more often than not, go widely unacknowledged, as well as underappreciated. Hearty, and heartfelt congratulations on victory in making the Justice Department back off from demanding that a librarian turn over records under an NSL. Kudos to Mr. Christian, Library Connection, along with Chris Finan, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, Anthony Romero, the American Civil Liberties Union, and Larry Siems, PEN American Center for their ongoing, courageous efforts to protect our right to reader privacy, as well as resist oppression of thought. These groups are on the cutting edge, and front lines of the battle to protect and preserve our First Amendment rights for which they deserve a generous serving of gratitude.


"The disclosure of this program is disgraceful...and makes it harder to win this war on terror." President George W. Bush announced today in reference to a story which first broke, in last week's New York Times, about the Treasury Department's surreptitious practice of data mining millions of banking records, including those of ordinary citizens such as you and me. (AP)

On The Times Web site yesterday. the paper's Executive Editor Bill Keller posted a letter which belongs in every political science textbook of every major university both here and abroad in which he reminded this president, his Treasury Department, as well as the head of the House Committee on Homeland Security that he, and his reporters, were merely doing their "job" and, if anything, were being conservative in what they divulged, even to the chagrin of one former president, John Fitzgerald Kennedy, who suggested that, had newspapers disclosed more information about the Bay of Pigs beforehand, the entire affair might have been avoided. (NYT)

That the executive editor of a major American newspaper, or any newspaper, should feel compelled, and obliged, to defend his paper's decision to to publish "all the news that's fit to print" is the true disgrace here, a flagrant insult to the Bill of Rights, and the survivors of all those who have given their lives to protect, and defend, a way of life which is currently under attack, not from Al Qaeda, but from those who want to criminalize desecrating the American flag while they sodomize the Constitution.

The only thing that makes it harder to win "this war on terror" is an administration that continues to act like a rat in a maze, trapped in a series of secret, illegal, and conspicuously failed manuevers to distract us all, with its counterfeit missions, while reaching their hands, firmly, into our pockets, and lining their wallets with our retirement accounts, and our children's future. The world is a far more dangerous place today thanks to the politics of greed, and deception, practiced in the name of a concocted war, with no clear beginning, and an even more ambiguous end, that is wreaking havoc with our economy, and the moral climate of this great land.

Sunday, June 25, 2006

who's probing the King, and why not?

In yet another hallowed hall of Congress, the chair of another committee, the House Homeland Security (read: insecurity) Committee, Congressman Peter King, (from New York, of all places), called upon the White House today to "seek criminal charges against newspapers" that divulged the Swift story, thus revealing the Treasury Department's secret 5 year campaign data mining of millions of financial records, by way of a Geneva firm, under the pretext of hunting down the ever-elusive Osama bin What's-His-Name. Once again, The New York Times is taking the hit, what used to be called "slander," for what used to be considered outstanding investigative reporting.

Sadly, this administration and its malcontents have egregious difficulty understanding that there is a difference between journalist ethics, and leaking, or what used to be called "snitching." When a newspaper is threatened with criminal prosecution for merely doing its job, in a responsible, unbiased way, by disclosing a covert, and illegal, practice by its government against its people, the voice of outrage must bellow down the halls of Congress, as well as the streets of this nation's capitol. What Mr. King, and any others who support his effort to bring this newspaper to its knees, fails to recognize is that one of the protections guaranteed us, by the First Amendment, is that of a free press.

While distinctions between doing one's job as a reporter and "leaking" appear to be lost on the chair of the House Homeland Security Committee, as well as this administration, the penchant for hyperbole, purple prose, and drama queen antics apparently aren't. Representative King is preparing to write the attorney general, and prevail upon him to "begin an investigation and prosecution of The New York Times -- the reporters, the editors and the publisher." (AP) Somebody needs to tell Mr. King that the McCarthy era has been done, so he'll just have to come up with another script.

On a more serious note, we sensed that this laudable newspaper was ripe for attack when they ventured into the front lines of protecting, and defending our First Amendment rights several months ago, in December, when they were the first to report the domestic spying program, so this comes as no surprise. That said, the level of transparency with respect to this administration and its machiavellian bent never ceases to amaze even those least ingenuous among us. The underlying question may well be not why is King going after The New York Times, but what took him so long?

While King insists that the NYT is "more concerned about a left-wing elitist agenda than it is about the security of the American people," I think nothing puts the nation's security at graver risk than those whose purpose it is to stifle the free flow of information and, indeed, this newspaper is conservative in exposing the actions, and designs, of an administration which are radical and reprehensible. What's more, that newspapers, in this country, have yet to attempt to fully investigate international monetary transfers, as well as the big guns whose pockets are being lined by contracts to rebuild a country that they destroyed is further evidence that the Committee for Homeland (In)Security, as well as this administration's campaign to silence the press, over the past 6 years, has been working.

Somebody needs to tell the good congressman that we already have one king, and we don't need another. This 1950's style hysteria may work well in the context of a Hollywood blockbuster, but it must not be allowed to play out on Capitol Hill. What's more, if Mr. King, and his cohorts, want to parade around town in Joe McCarthy outfits, that's okay on Halloween, but they better watch out on Election Day!

So, this is how it works...

So, this is how it works, we break the law, then we make it law. Reportedly, Senator Arlen Specter who, in the past, appeared to be the "specter of sanity" now thinks the best way to protect our civil liberties, and constitutional rights is by changing the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court Act to enable warrantless eavesdropping.

According to the AP today, Specter acknowledged that he and Vice President Dick Cheney "have exchanged letters" about amending the 30 plus year law to incorporate a provision which enables warrantless, unauthorized, spying, and legitimizes this intrusive, and illicit practice. Can it be that the chair of the Senate Judiciary Committee who so nobly stood up, during confirmation hearings for Michael Hayden, insisting that he will demand accountability, from the CIA, about any First Amendment infractions, the Senator from Pennsylvania, has now surfaced as yet another White House lapdog? And, more importantly, who's watching the farm when the attorney-general, and the head of a committee designed to reinforce checks and balances, the CPU of congressional oversight, has been corrupted?

While, on the one hand, Specter insists that the president "does not have a blank check," (AP), he is openly working, with Congress, on legislation that will effectively shred the Fourth Amendment's insistence upon "probable cause" granting permission to the NSA to monitor ordinary American citizens by writing warrantless surveillance into the 1978 FISA law. While they're at it, why not change the law to read: Foreign and Domestic Intelligence Surveillance Law, and tell it like it is.

All teachers of American history, political science, and lovers of justice, present and future, please note: this is now how it works in this country: first we break the law, then when we're caught, we make it law.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

death penalty abolished in the Philippines

President Gloria Macapagal Arroyo of the Philippines signed a bill into law today which now makes the taking of human life, by the state, a crime in that country. Instead of death sentences, Arroyo said she intends to devote national resources to prevening the most egregious acts of violence. The death penalty had been banned there back in 1983, then reinstated ten years later. The lives of 1200 inmates, scheduled for execution, will reportedly be spared, 11 of whom are alleged to be members of Al Qaeda. (AP)

One can only hope the rest of the world, including the U.S. where 5 inmates, in Tennessee, are scheduled to be put to death next week, will follow her example, and acknowledge that capital punishment is no way to manage crime.

Friday, June 23, 2006

Quote for the Day...

"There is no such thing as public opinion. There is only published opinion," Winston Churchill


A huge financial data mining program, conducted by the Treasury Department, in collaboration with a cooperative in Belgium, known only as "Swift," has been secretly gathering financial records, over the past 5 years, using "broad administrative subpoenas," as revealed in today's New York Times as "the biggest and most far-reaching of several secret efforts to trace terrorist financing."

Using the same argument as the National Security Agency has with regard to electronic, and cellular, data collection, Treasury officials insist that they are targeting "international," not domestic, bank records, especially those who are believed to have connections with Al Qaeda. It would seem, to the naked eye, that having dinner with Saudi royalty only hours before 9/11 might just constitute having ties.

It's about time that someone looked into the bank accounts, and financial records, of those who may gain from their affiliations with terrorists, and terrorist groups, not just since 2001, but even going back to the first Persian Gulf War. One can only hope that the bank data of Mr. Cheney, Halliburton, Jack Abramoff, as well as Bush pere et fils, as well as all the contracts, and contractors, are also being investigated!

Thursday, June 22, 2006

The King of Euphemism

To paraphrase the inimitable words of a past president, Ronald Reagan, there they go again...

The king of euphemism who himself admits that he currently occupies the White House (his word not mine) and who, by the way, has yet to master the correct pronunciation of "nuclear," has, once again, found his way to the letter "t" when condemning North Korea's planned exploratory launch of a long range missile.

"It should make people nervous when non-transparent regimes who have announced they have nuclear warheads, fire missiles. This is not the way you conduct business in the world." Mr. Bush said yesterday (AP) And, indeed, the Bush administration, along with the vice president, his UN henchman Commandante Bolton, Donald Rumsfeld, all the heirs to transparency, have succeeded in teaching the whole world a thing or two about how business is conducted as we can readily see by our glowing accomplishments in Iraq, and the rest of the Middle East. Yes, Abu Ghraib, Haditha, Guantanamo, and other yet to be outed debacles, provide abundant proof of how well we show those pesky terrorists a thing or two about torture, as well as win the day both here and abroad. But, one must ask, is transparency a good thing when one's mission is, at best, less than honorable?

Keep in mind that, while we were out on this last great crusade against the infidels who we armed, and trained so well when they were mere pups in Afghanistan, North Korea was busy sharpening its claws. We now find the kings of preemption at a loss for how to play their hand, forced to think long and hard about what to do if, and when, North Korean leader Kim Jong II decides to play the ace he's had up his sleeve for nearly a decade, since the last missile launch over Northern Japan. According to the Associated Press, among the options, on the table, are plans to shoot any upstart missile down while in flight over the Pacific. Alas, this appears to be the only option on the table as Bolton, and his homeboys, have all but ruled out diplomacy. In this era of protracted preemption, diplomacy, don't you know, has no teeth.

Yet, despite North Korea's request, on Wednesday, to take a meeting about whether or not to launch its latest toy, this administration has made it abundantly, and transparently, plain that there is no way any bible thumping, Halliburton-owning American is going to sit down and talk with Kim Jong II, or any of his cronies, because, as U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, John Bolton, so eloquently puts it "You don't normally engage in conversations by threatening to launch intercontinental ballistic missiles." (AP) And who, in their right mind, could disagree with the ambassador? But, it must also follow logically that one cannot expect productive discourse, or any discourse, to result from blowing up a country's capitol, and fileting its leadership.

Bottom line: somebody brought us to the brink of the third world war, and it's not Kim Jong. While the guy may look like he sleeps with I-Pods, so far he's produced nothing more than a lot of hot air, a propensity which, by the way, he shares with the president who thinks any suggestion his machinations imperil the earth more than anything Iran, or North Korea, could hope to do, is simply "absurd." What Mr. Bush, and his colleagues, don't seem to consider ludicrous is using the bombing of the World Trade Center as a pretext for ransacking, and bankrupting a formerly autonomous nation when, truth be told, it was all about oil, and reconstruction contracts. There were no mushroom clouds like the ones we saw over Hiroshima, or anything that directly led to the long-range missile we launched, and continue to launch, day in and day out, in Iraq, in the dubious name of a war on terror. Inescapably, simple, and common, (mostly common), greed is what propelled us, and"coalition forces," into this counterfeit battlefield.

I don't know about you, but it makes me nervous as hell when so-called transparent regimes ravage, rape, humiliate, torture, and plunder in the name of democracy, as well as deface one who was crucified by the same brand of barbarians that now run amok, all over the globe, in the name of democracy.

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

clearly a typo...

When several newspapers yesterday reported the vice president saying the insurgency, in Iraq, is in its last throes, clearly, what Mr. Cheney meant to say was "last throws." We hope to see the correction in the newspaper soon.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Some thoughts on the upcoming midterm election...

"Some cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go."

Oscar Wilde

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Happy Father's Day!

Happy Father's Day, guys!
The world would be a much smaller place without you...

Saturday, June 17, 2006

Quote of the Week (month?...)

"They talk about wanting a break with the past. Look at the Murrow film. I don't want to break with that past."

Dan Rather
commenting on his former employer, CBS

(courtesy of The New York Times)

"Knock, knock, knocking on heaven's door..."

Well, not exactly, but maybe yours or mine, and not knocking, but breaking the door down.

As you may have heard, late this week, the Supreme Court gave the green light to law enforcement to barge into your home, seize whatever they wish without knocking, or otherwise announcing themselves, as long as they have a warrant. Well, at least police need a warrant while legally breaking and entering given that federal agents haven't used warrants, or FISA, during their 4 plus year campaign of NSA electronic, and cellular, snooping.

Score yet another victory for the neanderthals who brought us the now infamous USA Patriot Act, yes, that's right, the folks who have been busy deconstructing the Fourth Amendment, and attempting to manufacture other even bigger wars with other even bigger oil-bearing countries.

And yet another victory for this president whose recent appointments to the Supreme Court pushed this ruling through despite protestations of Justice Stephen Breyer who wrote that "It weakens, perhaps destroys, much of the practical value of the Constitution's knock-and-announce protection." (AP) But, hey, who needs constitutional protections anyway? One thing not mentioned, in this Supreme Court decision, is the so-called "sneak and peek" provision of the USA Patriot Act which suggests that law enforcement can enter, without your knowledge, go through your things, and notify, or not notify, you later (delayed notification.)

For such a devoutly preemptive bunch, they sure aren't proactive when it comes to interpreting the Constitution. Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, a moderate, joined with the conservatives in favor of the ruling, suggesting that if a citizen's rights are violated when officers enter their home without consent, they may file a civil rights lawsuit afterwards. (AP) Arguably, the outcome may well have been different had Justice O'Connor still been on the bench.

Sadly, in a 5 to 4 ruling, on Thursday, the Supreme Court afffirmed the right of law enforcement to disrespect the sanctity of one's home, barge in, search, seize, sneak, and peek, tell, or not tell, as the spirit moves them. With all due respect to justices of the Supreme Court, isn't that why we have a Bill of Rights, in the first place, to protect the civil rights of citizens, and not just after they've been violated?

Friday, June 16, 2006

An Exercise in Transparency...

More than 1,000 pages of reported findings about the systematic, and systematically sanctioned, abuse of Iraqi detainees were released by the Pentagon today, according to the Associated Press, as a result of a victory, by the ACLU, in their Freedom of Information Act suit. Included among the many "incidents" recounted, in this official Pentagon report, was forcing prisoners to subsist on bread and water only, for more than 2 weeks, as well as forcing them to strip, and depriving them of sleep.

While some of these allegations have made their way to members of the press, and Congress, before, this is the first public airing of these documents in which several paragraphs have been blacked out, including specific names of people, and places. Also excised, and excluded, are members of the press who are being kept out of Guantanamo Bay, as a news blackout is underway following the report of 3 suicides there last week.

While the ACLU claims that today's findings represent a "whitewash," and that only a minute percentage of the allegations, against the military special forces, are being investigated, Lt. Col. Ballesteros, a spokesman for the Pentagon, disagrees, telling a reporter for the Associated Press that the military has taken "significant steps" to get to the truth, and hold those responsible accountable, all part and parcel of their "effort to be transparent and show that we investigate all allegations thoroughly, and we take them seriously." Transparent is a term we've heard a lot of lately not unlike the word "asymmetrical," and the irony of how both words are used is something not lost on any reasonable person.

Released today, one of the major reports, by Army Brig. General, Richard Formica, concludes, from his findings, that conditions in Iraqi prisons "did not comport with the spirit of the principles set forth in the Geneva Conventions," (AP) hence, by implication, the conditions were less than humane by international standards. Now, step back and look at what the good general said. One can think of nothing more stunning than a statement by top brass of the Army that what he witnessed, in detention centers in Iraq, did not comply with those standards that have governed our military for generations. About the only thing more stunning, arguably, would be if Formica were to call his superiors war criminals. Is that what it will take before Congress wakes up, and stops funding this obscenity that tries to pass itself off as a war on terror?

Clearly, the Pentagon has succeeded in their efforts to "be transparent," as Lt. Colonel Ballesteros suggests. They're transparent as hell! Citizens of the international community can see right through what's going on in prisons throughout Iraq, Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and Lord knows where else despite best efforts, by this administration, to shut members of the press corps out. The phrase "extraordinary rendition" is one that is familiar to far too many people on this planet right now, and Spain, Italy, and Germany have all accused the US of trying to use them as conduits to outsource torture.

These are dark times indeed, but even in the darkest times, a small ray of light manages to seep out. One can only hope that, as Americans, we, and members of Congress, will see through the transparency of war crimes in the name of national security, as well as act to secure our integrity, as a nation, and not just our borders.

Quote of the Day

"All life is an experiment."

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thursday, June 15, 2006


Ten days from tomorrow, on June 26th, the Senate is scheduled to vote on a proposed amendment to the Constitution that will criminalize desecration of the American flag. While the word "desecration" may indeed prove to be as subjective as the word "patriot," especially as applied in a relatively recent piece of legislation called the USA Patriot Act, there is little doubt that efforts to impose sanctions on anyone who appears to defile, rather than deify, that piece of cloth will intensify with a rage, and fury seldom seen in this country. History has shown us that those who hide behind flags, and nationalism, have posed the gravest danger not merely to their own countries, but to the world.

Isn't it time somebody introduced an amendment penalizing desecration of the Constitution, especially the First and Fourth Amendments which have been ravaged in the name of a holy crusade against "terror?" If we want to preserve the integrity of the flag as a symbol of a uniquely American brand of democracy, we can only do so by protecting, and honoring, the Bill of Rights, due process, a free press, diversity, and the ability to openly disagree with the actions, and policies, of our government. To do otherwise is tantamount to desecrating, and profaning what the framers of the Constitution had in mind which was not passive worship of an abstract symbol of freedom, but a living blueprint, and guarantee, of our our individual, and collective, rights.

A proposal to pass an amendment that honors a material object at a time when the values, and ethics, that have, for generations, distinguished this country increasingly come under attack only shows just how far from our roots, as a nation, we have really come.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

A Charmed Life

One of the first things I remember learning in grade school is that some people live a charmed life while others take the blame for what they do. Whenever I made a ruckus, or told a joke making the other kids laugh, I always saw the inside of the Assistant Principal's office while others could steal a bible from a pulpit right from beneath a priest's nose, and get away with it. Karl Rove is of the latter breed.

The Washington Post reports today that Special Counsel Patrick Fitzgerald has told Karl Rove he's off the hook in the CIA leak case which cost the career of his counterpart, I. Scooter Libby. Mr. Rove's attorney, a gent by the name of Luskin, suggests that this will put an end to "baseless speculation about Mr. Rove's conduct." (WaPo). Too bad counsel for the White House, and Mr. Cheney, couldn't find a way to put an end to all the "baseless speculation" about Weapons of Mass Destruction that led to a war against a quixotic and delusional dictator, Saddam Hussein, who had as much to do with the World Trade Center bombing as battle fatigue has to do with genocide before we entered a war that cost close to 2500 American lives, and nearly that of ten times as many Iraqis.

We have no doubt that Mr. Rove did everything, in his power, to cooperate with the investigation, and that he's "delighted" by Mr. Fitzgerald's decision to back off. That said, doubt remains as to whether or not the former White House aide participated in a campaign of perjury, obstruction of justice, and cover-up, not to mention endangering the life of a then covert CIA agent, Valerie Plame, to as grave a degree as his colleague Mr. Libby. No doubt, the folks at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue will sleep better, over the coming weeks, knowing that the hunt for the truth about the real source of the leak has been called off.

Yes, there's always that one kid, who usually sits in the back of the classroom, who makes all the trouble, and the others, like you and me, who take the rap for it. But, where there is a criminal justice system, one can't help but wonder why one prosecutor, and court, should be allowed to decide the fate of the culprits who have made a career of compromising the laws, and constitution, they swore to protect and defend? Make no mistake, vindication of Karl Rove goes way beyond affecting midterm elections. While this administration, and the majority in Congress, may breathe a sigh of relief on learning that he is off the hook today and, by extension, his president, there is an even bigger election two years away, and they may rest assured that the winds of change are rapidly reaching hurricane strength.

Over the past few months, the Department of Justice has been making noises about holding hearings to find out who leaked the clandestine NSA domestic spying program, and reporters, as well as management, of The New York Times may be called to testify. Why doesn't the House or Senate investigate an egregious attempt, on the part of this pair of yes men, to discredit a former ambassador by leaking information about a covert operation which might well endanger the life of an undercover CIA agent, thereby setting a dangerous precedent, and sending a message, to future leaders, that the ends justify the means. Moreover, why doesn't the Senate call their bosses, singularly and collectively, for a hearing, and hold them in contempt of Congress?

Does divulging information that exposes a secret, and illegal, operation (warrantless spying on American citizens), a practice that used to be called "investigative reporting" when we still had a free press, constitute a more serious threat to national security than leaking identity of a renegade ambassador's wife, who dared to register his dissent, as a veiled threat to anyone brave enough to suggest that this government is lying to its Congress, and its electorate? Or, is it simply that some of us lead a charmed life and, once again, it's clear that position, not possession, is nine-tenths of the law.

Monday, June 12, 2006

who needs a warrant...

In the courtroom today, on the first day of proceedings of the ACLU's suit, the first of its kind, against the government for its now outed practice of warrantless domestic spying, the administration defended the program arguing that it falls within the parameters of presidential power, which appear to be expanding at a greater rate than global warming, but that proving it would "require revealing state secrets," as reported by the AP.

On learning of this defense, one can't help but wonder who really won the Cold War, after all, when a phrase like "state secrets" could just as easily spill out of the mouth of somebody like Stalin, Khrushchev, or any card-carrying member of the KGB. Is Totalitarianism now the breakfast of champions? Behind the transparent facade of the term "classified," what this administration appears to be saying is who needs a warrant when you have a Bush!

Sunday, June 11, 2006

asymmetric logic...

You may have read about the 3 detainees, at Guantanamo Bay, who hung themselves yesterday, and the perverse military term a rear admiral of the Navy, Harry Harris, told the Associated Press, namely that theirs was "not an act of desperation but an act of asymmetric warfare against us." This is skewered logic, a dangerously warped perspective, and statement.

Among many questions is this: if suicide is an asymmetric act, what is a symmetric act of warfare--training, arming, and planting combatants, like bin Laden and Al Qaeda, in places like Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, and Iraq, then turning around and calling them "insurgents," "enemy combatants," detaining them, without rights, due process, or recourse, confiscating their sovereignty, and their protections, under international law, when they refuse to relinquish their autonomy? When an act of violence against oneself is designated "asymmetric," the implication is that symmetry inheres in taking the life of another. One might well expect this kind of dubious reasoning back in the days of the great Crusades, but not in the era of the world wide web.

Kudos to the president; it's about time he promised a full investigation into something; too bad it has to be the suicides of 3 men who have been held, without charge, and without hope, for 4 years. Congratulations, too, on vowing to ensure that the bodies will be "treated humanely and with cultural sensitivity," as White House Press Secretary Tony Snow has suggested. (AP). Ironic, isn't it, that an administration that prides itself on being pro-life favors extending "cultural sensitivity" to the dead over the living. Why is it that, according to the military, the remains of these detainees will be treated with the "utmost respect," and not the detainees themselves, and what kind of statement does this send to future generations of enlisted men and women about arbitrary search, seizure, and confinement, as well as ongoing, and wanton, violation of international law, and treaties.

In the words of poet William Blake, nearly two centuries ago:

"Tiger, tiger, burning bright
In the forests of the night
What immortal hand or eye
Could frame thy fearful symmetry?"

What "fearful symmetry" was concocted by the phrase "asymmetric warfare;" what monstrous negation of human despondency in this post-mortem, a poor excuse for a post-modern euphemism.

"An Inconvenient Truth"

Okay, I swore I wasn't going to join the crowd, and write about Al Gore's latest tour de force, but it brought back memories of my own youth, especially the time, in junior high, when I had trouble differentiating between a continent and a country. As Gore points out, if global warming persists, and accelerates, as it is predicted to do over the coming decades, the difficulty in distinguishing between the two, alas, will be a shared experience as continents shrink to the size of large states.

While, for me, geology was a big yawn, in high school, the charts, and photos of Antarctica jolted me like a bolt of electricity, unexpected, and urgently as did the thought of the planned World Trade Center memorial, and lower Manhattan, under water. Images of Florida reduced, proportionately, to the size of a prune, and San Francisco looking like Indonesia during the tsunami challenge us to understand that vision is a concrete thing, and not the stuff of mystics. After all, the philosopher's stone, in alchemy, is matter, something that Mr. Gore not only fully comprehends, but conveys masterfully.

Still, more important than the science, and the graphics of how carbon dioxide has exacerbated anomalous warming of the earth, over the past 65,000 years, is this: how refreshing it is to listen to a politician use a phrase like "moral imperative," talk about ethics, and really mean it, not in the context of an election campaign, or as a means of self-aggrandizement, but solely as a vehicle of education, and letting the truth out, like a genie out of a broken bottle, a truth that has been twisted, warped, and eviscerated for as long as the corporate empire that is currently ruling this country has had its toxic hands on it.

So it is then that if there is a lesson to be learned from "An Inconvenient Truth," it is that there is no separating the intellectual, spiritual, and moral environment from the physical environment, and that when we force our mindset, and our will, on nature, she will revolt like any renegade middle school girl, thus divesting us of the space, and the place, we have come to call home.

Oh what a different world we'd have today if Gore, and not Bush, had been our president for the past 6 years. Above all else, "An Inconvenient Truth" shows that it's not too late to make progressive, effective, and constructive change in this country in terms of our political, moral, and natural environment, a change that will be positive for us, and the planet, too.

Friday, June 09, 2006

In what little time...

On Wednesday night, I had the honor, and pleasure, of attending The Nation Magazine's 140th anniversary party in the crystal ballroom of the Beverly Hills Hotel. The event was to celebrate The Nation, as well as acknowledge the contributions of Robert Scheer, journalist maudit, provocateur, and the Los Angeles Times columnist whose firing attracted national attention and will, to my mind, forever cast a long, dark shadow on that paper.

What an extraordinary mix of activists, actors, writers, lovers of writing, and elected officials including John Dean (former counsel for Richard M. Nixon), Warren Beatty, Gore Vidal, Mike Farrell, Arianna Huffington, Jerry Stahl, Tom Hayden, former Oakland mayor Jerry Brown, Stanley K. Sheinbaum, Larry Flynt, yes, Larry Flynt (who appeared to even remember me from my early days, in the late 1980's, when I moved to Century City, and worked for him), and yes, yes, yes, it was a spirited, magical evening, and one that renewed by affirmation, as well as a sense of solidarity engendered by all this energy sharing the same finite space.

Having spent a few evenings in the Polo Lounge, over the years, I was struck by how majestic, and constant, the Beverly Hills Hotel remains in spite of the metamorphosis of the larger metropolis in which it resides. I think of the term, "classic beauty," and think this is, after all, what is meant by that phrase.

In an age of me-first, where vindictiveness is second only to godliness, with ongoing news of battle, death, and dying, whether it be that of Al-Zarqawi, or civilians in Haditha, it is healthy, and heartening, to spend even one small, and seemingly infinite, moment, thinking about what little time we have on this planet, how best to play the hand destiny has dealt and, most of all, how to leave this world in better shape than we found it.

Tuesday, June 06, 2006


While the radical right flavor of the month, a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage, appears to be heading south in the Senate, the fact that the "family values" scam foisted upon us, more than a decade ago, by Newt Gingrich, and his "Contract for America" has a longer shelf life than the average garden variety cockroach is nothing less than a flawed camouflage for the licentousness of the likes of Jack Abramoff, I. Scooter Libby and, dare I say it, Karl Rove.

In a post-Katrina world, with global warming, more hurricanes and earthquakes on the horizon, this is a time when the government should be thinking more about bolstering resources for the Federal Emergency Management Agency instead of deflecting attention away from our ongoing national unpreparedness by cooking up a Federal Marriage Amendment. We need to protect the environment not marriage. As the divorce rate indicates, not even an amendment to the Constitution can do that!

If this administration, and this president, showed half as much concern for the First Amendment as they pretend to for the sanctity of the family, we would never witness a grand jury subpoena being served, or a member of the press being led away in handcuffs, again.

Primary Day...

Only three words come to mind today, and they refer to the elections of 2008:

Think Mark Warner!

Like many, I knew only that Warner is a former governor of Virginia, and shrugged when pundits suggested him as a Democratic contender for the president, but having caught much of a commencement address he gave, on C-Span, I can tell you this, Mark Warner is sharp as they come, (Harvard law, mind you), has high octane, ethics, a sense of humor, and the kind of rarefied intelligence tempered with charm and perspective I haven't seen since John F. Kennedy. To my mind, the Democratic Party now has two more viable, and electable options in '08, aside from Hillary: Mark Warner and Russ Feingold.

Keep your eyes open, and remember, nobody thought an unknown peanut farmer, from Georgia, Jimmy Carter, had a chance either!

Monday, June 05, 2006

Sins of Omission

Among the many questions that remain after reading today's report, from the Agence France Presse, that the Pentagon is planning to omit a major principle of the Geneva Conventions that expressly prohibits "humiliating and degrading treatment," apart from the obvious, has the upper echelon of the military learned nothing from the animalism now known simply as "Abu Ghraib," comes this: when do the parallel lines of sins of omission and sins of commission merge?

In the new field "how to" instruction manual soon to be provided to the Army, what may be euphemistically called "interrogation techniques" will be covered, and according to a senior official in the Defense Department rewritten to ensure maximum efficacy while "providing safeguards to ensure detainees are treated humanely." (AFP News). Clearly, from what we've seen of how this war has been (mis)handled, the term "humane" is a relative one, and can one rogue nation (ours) take it upon themselves to redefine, and deconstruct centuries of international law unambiguously in the name of defeating an ambiguous, and protean enemy?

When the State Department finds itself pitted against an executive branch that is in bed with the Pentagon, and the new director of the Central Intelligence Agency also happens to be a prominent former member of the military, one can't help but wonder how the planets may be expected to align to prevent such overt, and undeniable, crimes against humanity as Abu Ghraib, and Haditha from recurring.

That a nation, any nation, can spit in the face of the Magna Carta by defaming all notions of due process, by holding detainees without charge at Guantanamo Bay, and now plan to implement new policies which fly in the face of international law requires us, as a nation, to ask ourselves if the sin of omission is really any different than commission. When one country opts to go off into the sunset, and rewrite the rules upon which all countries have agreed to operate for generations, whether it comes to tactics by which information is gleaned, or nuclear nonproliferation agreements, it is encumbent upon all to take the appropriate measures if civilization, as we know it, is to survive. It was, after all, the intent behind the formation of the League of Nations, and the United Nations, to develop a sense of community. That this country now poses the gravest risk to world harmony is an egregious irony, and one that would not be lost on Woodrow Wilson, any more than it would be on John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, or Franklin Delano Roosevelt.

While the Pentagon has habituated itself to the unorthodox, and unofficial practice of outsourcing torture, "extraordinary rendition," to omit a major tenet of an international covenant drawn up at Geneva from a prospective Army manual is tantamount to institutionalizing the kind of nationalism the world strove to protect itself against with World War II. If we learned nothing else from the trials at Nuremberg we, as a planet, have learned this: sooner or later, the act of omitting and that of committing will be seen as one and the same.