Wednesday, August 30, 2006

A Wrongful Conviction

The word "conviction" is defined by Webster's in three ways: 1) the act or process of convicting of a crime, especially in a court of law, 2) the act of convincing a person of error of compelling the admission of truth, or the state of being convinced of error or compelled to admit the truth, and 3) a strong persuasion or belief. Taking the last first, Earl Washington was convicted of the 1982 rape and murder of a Virginia woman, Rebecca Williams, for which he spent 17 years in prison, and came within about a week of receiving the death penalty based on what we now know was a forced, and fabricated, confession. This week, as the Washington Post reports, based on DNA evidence, Virginia prosecutors brought charges against Kenneth Maurice Tinsley for the 1982 murder of Ms. Williams. Washington was convicted of a rape and murder he didn't commit largely because the jury was persuaded, or duped, by his false confession.

This week, we also witnessed another high profile confession fall apart, and must now ask, what place does persuasion, or belief have in a criminal justice system that provides for capital punishment? When DNA evidence is available to us, and we have science at our fingertips, doesn't the whole notion of "reasonable doubt" change such that it must now include indisputable scientific evidence that a convict is, in fact, culpable of the crime for which he, or she, has been charged?

While then Governor Wilder commuted Mr. Washington's sentence to life in prison, and not execution, it wasn't until 2003 that he was pardoned, but he was never officially vindicated.. No one has stood up and said: "We incarcerated, and nearly executed, the wrong man, an innocent man." One wonders where all the righteous indignation over not guilty verdict of O.J. Simpson is, and why it has been conspicuously absent where the wrongful conviction of innocent men is concerned? Is there no compulsion to admit that an error has been made, or are confessions of prosecutorial, or judicial, mistakes only viable when politically expedient? As Monday's Washington Post piece rightly states, "There is no place for arrogance in the criminal justice system." Further, there is no place for "conviction" that is predicated on a belief system, and not proof.

The release of accused Jonbenet Ramsey killer, John Mark Karr, shows how science, and DNA, can be used to invalidate, and challenge, those who are wrongly accused of committing a crime. The question inow becomes when we have scientific, irrefutable methods at our disposal to verify, and authenticate, culpability, how can we settle for anything less? Moreover, any conviction that is based on anything other than hard and fast DNA be viewed as anything but anecdotal, especially when the stakes are so high that the death sentence is on the table? Further, any inmate sentenced to die who has not been proven, through hard and fast scientific evidence, as having committed the crime for which he paid the ultimate price was murdered by the state, plain and simple.

Can a society that possesses the tools to produce evidence, beyond any doubt, reasonable or otherwise, who the agent of a crime is, accept anything less than proof positive that a man sitting on death row belongs there before even contemplating whether to administer death. Maybe it's time to put the death penalty on hold until we can establish that it is conceptually viable in an age when convictions are based more on belief than knowledge while there is the possibility of absolute certainty with respect to evidence.

Arguably, the very framework, and presuppositions, upon which capital punishment were fashioned, in this country, have been forever challenged by a simple, but irrefutable fact out of the state of Virginia this week; an innocent man was wrongly convicted, sentenced, and nearly put to death for a crime he did not commit. Setting aside the obvious moral concerns, for a minute, wouldn't it be appropriate to factor belief, and persuasion, out of the criminal justice process, and allow DNA, and concrete, indisputable forensic data to prevail? Had forensics, and DNA, been paramount instead of dubious, often transparent confessions, Earl Washington, and many more innocents like him, would not have lost 17 years of their lives, and their dignity. Without a doubt, justice is the biggest casualty when we turn those we convict into victims of a system that was originally intended to uncover the truth not cover mistakes made by arrogant, ambitious lawyers and judges. It's time to examine what role, if any, "belief" has in a context in which it is possible to know whether or not a crime was committed, and by whom.

Monday, August 28, 2006

You've Got to Love a Country...

The heat has just been turned up a notch on the battle raging in the state of South Dakota to institute the most stringent, and draconian, ban on abortion nationwide. \n \nLast November, the South Dakota legislature approved a referendum to prohibit abortion in all cases except when the life of the mother is at stake. The bill, HB 1215, would criminalize doctors who perform abortions even in instances of rape and incest. The chief sponsor of the legislation, state Representative Roger W. Hunt, promises to track down, and prosecute, health care providers, and institutions, who are noncompliant, in his fervent fight to "defend the unborn." (WaPo)

Now that we find ourselves only a bit less than one year away from the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, what better time to focus attention on those hypocrites who claim to be so concerned about protecting human life, and who were manifestly unperturbed by the nonstop footage of thousands of stranded, drowning, and dying citizens of New Orleans. Those who scream the loudest about turning back the clock on legalized abortion are, more often than not, conspicuously silent when the cries of hungry children are heard. Those who want to deprive our daughters of their right to choose are more likely to vote against relief for poor welfare mothers, food stamps, and nationalized health insurance.

You've got to love a country that chooses to defend the rights of the unborn over the rights of the living. One can only hope that voters in South Dakota, and elsewhere should this madness spread, will recognize that choice has now become synonymous with sanity, and will vote accordingly when they go to the polls in November.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Yes, yes, there is a doctor in the house...

"I must be first." "I must be supreme." "Our nation must rule the world." (Preach it) And I am sad to say that the nation in which we live is the supreme culprit. And I'm going to continue to say it to America, because I love this country too much to see the drift that it has taken.

God didn't call America to do what she's doing in the world now. (Preach it, preach it) God didn't call America to engage in a senseless, unjust war as the war in Vietnam. And we are criminals in> that war. We’ve committed more war crimes almost than any nation in the world, and I'm going to continue to say it. And we won't stop it because of our pride and our arrogance as a nation

But God has a way of even putting nations in their place. (Amen) The God that I worship has a way of saying, "Don't play with me." (Yes) He has a way of saying, as the God of the Old Testament used to say to the Hebrews, "Don’t play with me, Israel. Don't play with me, Babylon. (Yes) Be still and know that I'm God. And if you don't stop your reckless course, I'll rise up and break the backbone of your power." (Yes) And that can happen to America. (Yes) Every now and then I go back and read Gibbons' Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. And when I come and look at America, I say to myself, the parallels are frightening.

Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr., "The Drum Major Instinct" sermon,
Atlanta, February 4, 1968

Thursday, August 24, 2006

in a pizza parlor in Connecticut

Newfangled independent candidate for Senate, and incumbent from Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman, spoke today about the importance of taking a strong stand against terror. (see comment below) The only question that remains, from his statement, is: is the "brutal enemy" we're allegedly fighting the only one who doesn't "distinguish based on party affiliation," or is the good senator's flip flop between a Democratic and Republican stance on issues really his own inability to be true to the differences that have historically separated these two parties?

"We are at war with a brutal enemy," Lieberman said while visiting a pizza parlor. "How the heck can we be in a battle in which we are fighting as Democrats and Republicans against each other when these terrorists certainly don't distinguish based on party affiliation? They want to kill any and all of us."

Pluto bounced...

In Prague today, a group of renowned astronomers convened to declare that Pluto no longer qualifies as a planet. After a week of intense scrutiny, and analysis, the International Astronomical Union stripped Pluto of its planetary status, a position it held for more than 70 years.

By taking this historical act of dissembling established order of the universe, the notable union of astronomers suggests that there are certain criteria, and standards, "celestial objects" (CNN) must meet before they can be admitted into the elite planetary club. One wonders why there are standards heavenly objects must meet, and not presidents? If we can bounce Pluto, why not Bush?

It might be worth exploring the idea of an international leadership union applying the cognate concept that world leaders, too, must meet certain universally accepted, and acceptable, standards, or face excommunication. While theoretically the arbiter, and standard-bearer of relations between countries, the United Nations has been neutered by the meglomaniacal interests of superpowers it once sought to hold in check. An union of international leaders might be a vehicle for ensuring cooperation, as well as ejecting those who imperil others with their own ideological dysentery.

In today's cynical climate, one is hard pressed to find even one leader who would pass the litmus test with regard to human rights and civil rights. If a group of astronomers can come up with standards to determine which objects in the heavens deserve to receive hierarchical entitlement, and decide to bounce a planet that doesn't fit, surely a group of politicos can develop a way to rate, and eradicate, those whose hubris, and sense of entitlement, negate any potential benefit their actions may have.

An effective world union with the power to expel those leaders who compromise the survival of the planet, and eliminate those pesky rogue leaders who have traditionally proved to be such a pain in the rump for the rest of the planet might not be a bad idea, then folks who defy nonproliferation treaties, and Geneva Accords, would lose their stripes, and suffer the same fate as Pluto.

The concept of impeachment, as we know it, would become an archaism in light of an international approach to abuse of power, and nationalism, the subliminal cause of most of the world's conflicts, would go the way of the dinosaur. If such a global leadership union were to exist now that posited humane treatment,,due process, and freedom of expression as among their criteria for remaining in power, just think of how many world leaders would get bounced starting with Bush, moving on to Putin, Blair, Kim Jong II, and Mahmouid Ahmadinejah. Now think of how many would remain.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Chez Denny's

You may have heard the president's press conference yesterday in which he said that as long as he is at the helm, there will be no withdrawal from Iraq. arguing that he's concerned about a civil war if we send the troops home. At last, there is something upon which this president and I agree. I, too, am concerned about the real prospect of civil war, only in this country.

The great divide between the haves and the have nots has swelled since Mr. Bush took office to Katrina proportions, and the result may well prove to be at least as catastrophic. The economic policies of this administration have widened the gap between rich and poor, with the rich getting fatter, and the poor leaner. And, if economic disenfranchisement is allowed to continue, we may yet see a civil war, in the form of class struggle, in these United States, as well as our own homegrown insurgency.

So, while Bush, Cheney, and the oil baron cartel are out conducting their "bogey man" campaign on terror, you and I are left to foot the bill, and the future can only go to the highest bidder. I can speak from personal experience as I'm spending my summer vacation looking for decent, and affordable, housing in Los Angeles, only to find that Don Quixote would have much better luck. The insane cost of living, in our largest cities, has rendered mobility, both literally and figuratively, a pastime only of the elite, and affluent. Those who have to work for a living had better find a place, and stay put, or find themselves in the horrific position of competing for run down, ranshackled spaces at Rodeo Drive prices. Courtesy of the Bush years, first time home buyers are priced out of the market, and are forced into renting apartments. Thanks to the pumping iron war mongering of the past 5 years, the price of crude oil has impacted the cost of everything from produce to prescription drugs. We can no longer afford to send our kids to college. We can no longer afford to save for a retirement which grows less and less certain by the minute.

So, this is how I'm spending my summer vacation, thinking about the civil war, in this country, which is all but inevitable if these economic policies are enabled, and accelerated, by a tuned-out populace. I sit under a combined "Best Western" and "Denny's" sign, in the San Fernando Valley, as lavish green light bathes a swimming pool. I munch on packaged ham as the mother of all pick-up trucks, with the word "Halliburton" inscribed on its belly, pulls out of the driveway buoyed eagerly by an American flag, and head for the lobby to find some paper when the driver, a guy named Joe, about 40 who weighs about 250 pounds, quietly fondles the flag on his lapel, and solemnly recites the names of his Halliburton brothers for whom he waits to join him at the hotel. His inflection is careful, and deliberate, as if he were reading off the names of war dead. Outside, in the hotel parking lot, there is a Lincoln town car snoozing in the handicapped zone next to a vintage Mustang circa 1988. The Halliburton truck shoots by, and is quickly followed by one marked "Jews for Jesus" which looks like it might have been a Pizza Hut delivery truck in its past life. One can only wonder whose side Jesus would be on, and whether He would buy any of the spam these guys are trying to pass off as righteousness.

Our government's declaration of war on "terror" was really a declaration of war on the American Dream, and nothing more than a transparent camouflage for an assault on the middle class. This was no mere assault, mind you, but assault with a deadly weapon, the weapon being nothing less than sabotage of the electoral process. That said, make no mistake, no government has ever dichotomized, and alienated, its people by divesting them of their civil liberties, economic opportunity, their piece of the pie, and survived. Never before, since we left the old country, has America seen a ruling class so intent on pursuing the politics of privilege, and ensuring, one way or another, a return to an economic caste system which our founding fathers thought they were leaving behind when they sailed off on the Mayflower. Moreover, one is hard pressed to recall a more egregious climate of religious intolerance, on our shores, since the days of Salem Bay.

That said, make no mistake, no government has ever dichotomized, and alienated, its people by divesting them of their civil liberties, economic opportunity, their piece of the pie, and survived. So,I return to my room, turn on the TV, watch a Lexus commercial as the Denny's menu falls to the floor. I think about the Lincoln town car sound asleep in the parking lot, its driver in his Calvin khakis, and the Ford Explorer next to it wearing an American flag like a proud tattoo. I think about the concept of equal opportunity, which rapidly approaches extinction, thanks to the antediluvian mindset of those who hold the purse strings. I think about what Marcuse, and others, have said about how a revolution, or class struggle, could never happen in this country because, quite simply, unless it was a made-for-TV movie first. I think about Mexico, and how the Mexican people bravely challenge their stolen election, and how we, land of the free, home of the brave, sit quietly by, on cruise control, while the upper 1% of our country run off with ours.

Yes, one can only hope that those most cynical among us aren't right, and "Class War," the DVD, isn't coming soon to a living room near you. In Paddy Chayefsky's words, I hope we decide "we're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it anymore," that even if the American Dream is in tatters on Iraqi battlefields, in a cave in Pakistan, or in a demolished trailer home outside New Orleans, we will show up on Election Day, and let the whole world know we run best at higher octane despite the ambitions of those who profit from obscene rise in crude oil, and that, while we may eat at Denny's, the doors of the Ritz remain open to all of us.

Sunday, August 20, 2006

An Open Letter to the President

Dear President Bush:

The court recently declared your domestic warrantless wiretapping program to be illegal and unconstitutional. All rational, and patriotic, Americans agree with the federal court's decision which is an affirmation of our First Amendment rights.

If, as you have indicated, you think that the FISA law, which is more than 3 decades old, is outdated, then why not amend, or change the law to conform with the challenges of recent conflicts. If, on the other hand, an administration chooses to ignore the law, or surreptitiously circumvent it, what kind of message does that send to our youngsters, as well as posterity?

I believe that we can fight terrorism with protecting our rights and freedoms, and that's why I agree with Senator Feingold: we need to bring this program back within the law, as well as expand not merely implementation of legal infrastructure, but moral backbone and vision needed to return us to the days when we didn't think the enemy was the guy next door.

Most sincerely,
Jayne Lyn Stahl

In response to...

In response to the argument that all wars are barbaric, and the only difference between the heinousness of this war, and others, is how quickly the news spreads...

Agreed, to some extent, but I do think that the technological revolution, creation of video games, and concept of "virtual death," as well as the dope smoking napalm bombers of Vietnam war era certainly contributed to the desensitization of officers, and infantrymen alike.

Those who say there's nothing new about the powerful trying to cover their tracks are right, but what has changed is the extent to which the "enemy" has been objectivized such that it no longer matters if he, or she has a name, gender, or national identity. This grab-all attitude towards warfare now comes under the sorry heading of a "war on terror." When we declare war on an intangible, it follows that mortality, too, becomes intangible. And, should you have a question about whether mortality has an odor, taste, and smell, just ask any parent who has lost a child to the battlefield.

In the previous World Wars, there was a clearly defined target. In this one, the target is amorphous, protean and, for the most part, along with the war itself, used as a camouflage for an abortive coup. Nobody wants to talk about what happened back in 2000, as a Republican party coup, when the popular vote was overturned, and a president was appointed by the Supreme Court, but this is what it was, plain and simple, and future history books will record it as such

"Consider the Mindset"

Had enough of Jon Benet Ramsey's killer's most irregular confession to an egregious, and sensational crime? Well then, consider this: Marines Lt. Colonel Jeffrey A. Chessari saw nothing irregular, or out of the ordinary, in the murder, last November, of 24 Iraqi men, women, and children in the village of Haditha. To the lieutenant, this wholesale act of slaughter can be seen only as "a large combat action that had been staged by the enemy." (WaPo)

It boggles the mind to think that any key commander, whether it be in the marines, the army, or the air force, can be so audaciously complacent, and nonplussed, about any operation, under his auspices, that involves the gunning down of civilian "enemy." That there is no sense of responsibility, or desire to pursue at least the prospect of culpability, for what is clearly a shameful act that falls outside of the Geneva Conventions, as well as any civilized notion of battle, makes the notion that any country to whom we claim to export democracy, and/or respect for law and order, patently and grossly absurd. Such open, and provincial, acceptance of "collateral damage" constitutes blatant conceptual butchery, and far surpasses anything that can be accomplished by a mere bullet. While testifying, in Iraq, in preparation for a larger military trial in the Haditha matter, it appears that the good lieutenant didn't even bat an eyelash. According to the statement made, under oath, last spring, Chessari said that he did not think what happened in Haditha was in way, shape, or form out of the ordinary nor that it warranted an investigation on his part. Instead, he suggested that the killing of these 24 civilians in late November, in Iraq, was nothing more than a routine combat action. (WaPo)

It will be interesting to see who will walk away from the inquiry into Haditha with a slap on the wrist, what the Lt. Colonel's peers think, and the penalty, if any, this commander, and his subordinates, will face for what can only be seen as criminal acts. Moreover, what price will society at large pay for training, arming, and rewarding the kind of mindset that unilaterally, and universally, abnegates responsibility both as a critically-thinking commanding officer, and as a moral human being. What example can our military hope to set for an evolving Iraqi military?

Arguably, the larger question is what kind of skewered logic finds value in a preemptive military action that comes about from leadership that demonstrates no knowledge whatsoever of what the word "proactive" means. Is that what the enemy is to be used for, to cover our collective ass? Or, better still, has the truth itself become our biggest enemy?

More importantly, why is it that the press, in this country, as well as those born again neo-con artists aren't asking the hard questions about over the top, behavior routinely practiced, ignored, and/or sanctioned by commissioned officers in our armed forces? If we don't ask these questions, you can rest assured history will ask them for us as, indeed, with regard to Haditha, Abu Ghraib, and other travesties, we have met the enemy, and it is not terror, it is passive acceptance, blind compliance, and noxious insensitivity to the collective, and unequivocal, value of human life.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

This Just In...

A federal judge, in Detroit, today became the first to declare this administration's NSA surveillance program unconstitutional on the grounds that it violates First Amendment rights to free speech and privacy. According to the Associated Press, Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ordered an "immediate halt to the program."

A spokesperson for the American Civil Liberties Union all but assures this administration will appeal the ruling. And, when the court's decision reaches the Vice President's desk, one can bet that Mr. Cheney will add Judge Anna Diggs Taylor to the long, and growing list of "al Qaeda-types."

"If not for fake news..."

Whoever called it a "free press" was wrong; it's very costly. In fact, getting information, in this country, gets more and more expensive every day, not just for those who buy the newspaper, but for those who report the news.

A few days ago, in San Francisco, a federal judge ruled that two reporters for the San Francisco Chronicle, Lance Williams and Mark Fainaru-Wadu, must satisfy a subpoena, and tell who provided them with secret testimony in the high profile Barry Bonds steroid case. Both reporters said they will go to jail before revealing their sources. When journalists face jail time for little more than fulfilling a prerequisite of Journalism 101, honoring confidentiality of material provided to them, the notion of tamper-free, and authentic information is in jeopardy. While, in recent years, we have heard much talk about the separation between church and state, no one is saying a word about a necessary separation between the press and the state. When those who bring us information about what our government is doing are called upon to account to representatives of that government for the news they report, or its sources, the credibility and accuracy of that information is forever compromised..

While we need separation between the press and the state, we also need separation between the press and big business, in this country. As the Washington Post reported, on August 15th, the Federal Communications Commission recently sent letters to 77 T.V. broadcasters nationwide requesting that they properly label "video news releases," or "fake news" promotional pieces for big companies like General Motors, Panasonic, and the American Dental Association. Evidently, these "video news releases" are introduced into broadcasts without any disclosure of the fact that they were subsidized by the companies whose services they promote. The FCC's action was prompted by a study by the Center for Media and Democracy, last spring, which found that news stations no longer differentiate between so-called video news releases, and verifiable news. This is a dangerous policy. And, the underlying question, of course, is: what is a verifiable news report, who's verifying it, and why is it that American journalists are being coerced, in an unprecedented way, to divulge their sources while high profile corporations, like GM, have been getting away with feedng their goods, and services, via prime time airwaves to consumers without disclosing that they are paying for these reports?

More importantly, for those of us who are fond of a phrase that reverberates from 9/11, it's time to connect the dots. What about the Lincoln Group? What about the public relations campaign conducted by the Bush administration to make the invasion of Iraq more sexy,. and more palatable to the American people? Where does big business and big government merge, and is this "the American way?"

While the Washington Post also asserts that "none of the releases in the (Center for Media and Democracy) study were paid for by the federal government," clearly there are many instances in which reports, in our nation's leading newspapers, that made the argument for "weapons of mass destruction" in Iraq in the days leading up to the toppling of Baghdad, were, at the very least, sculpted by the White House press corps. Additionally, we hear of more and more photographs taken in the war zone being doctored, and can only speculate about how many words, and phrases, have been nuanced by this administration in an effort to put a happy face on a horrific conflict.

When, out of fear, reporters for leading newspapers are leaving the real investigative work to those like Sy Hersh who write, in The New Yorker, about U.S. collusion with Israel in the months before Hezbollah captured two Israeli hostages, a sad day has dawned on American journalism. When CNN takes material from Sy Hersh, in The New Yorker, and not The New York Times, or The Washington Post, that suggests the arming of Israeli, and support of the bombing of Beirut may, in fact, be a dress rehearsal for a prospective air strike on Tehran, one must inevitably ask, would Richard Nixon have been forced to resign if Watergate were to happen today? Would the information of wrongdoing that surfaced thanks to the efforts of Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein be open for public viewing in 2006, as it was in the 1970s, or would Mr. Woodward and Mr. Bernstein be silenced by the prospect of doing jail time if they weren't prepared to reveal the identity of Deep Throat?

More to the point, what does it say about these times that a president of the United States would probably have been able to commit a burglary of his opposing party's headquarters, at the Watergate, and get away with it today only because of a press that has been neutralized by fear of the consequences that would come about by merely doing their job. Who needs censorship when we have self-censorship. When news is being withheld, or neutralized, at best, how can we expect anything but cynicism from those who read our daily papers? Maybe the reason many aren't buying newspapers isn't that they can get information for free on the Internet, but because they don't believe what they read, and how can they?

What a milestone we've reached when a governmental agency like the FCC sends out a mass mailing to ask that broadcasters say "and now a word from our sponsors" when presenting news reports designed for marketing purposes. When broadcasters no longer have the good sense to distinguish, on their own, between paid promotional material, and real news, how can we, the consumer, tell the real blonde from the fake? What a milestone this is, too, when the pressure for disclosure falls on the shoulders of those who bring us what little information we have about what our government is up to, without whom we, as consumers and as an electorate, would remain in the dark.

We agree that it's necessary to "properly label" video releases. It may not be a bad idea, too, to apply the label "caution: contents under pressure" to print, and broadcast, news as, increasingly, it appears that if not for fake news, there'd be no news at all.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Quote of the Day

"We know the road to freedom has always been stalked by death," Angela Davis

Monday, August 14, 2006

"Demeaning Democracy," by Senator Ted Kennedy

Please enjoy the below piece by the Senator from Massachusetts which appeared in the op-ed page of a prominent Connecticut newspaper, The Hartford Courant:

"Demeaning Democracy
Cheney Paints Lamont Victory As Helping Terrorists"

August 13, 2006

By Edward M. Kennedy

Vice presidents are notorious for serving as an administration's chief attack dog, and time and again Dick Cheney has been unleashed to accuse anyone who is opposed to the Bush administration of aiding the terrorists. But this time he has gone too far.The comments he made on the result of the Connecticut Democratic primary -- that it might encourage "the al-Qaida types" who want to "break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task" -- are an attack not just on Democrats, but on democracy itself. What happened in Connecticut is in fact a model for democracies everywhere. The people of the state heard a vigorous debate between two competing visions of how to protect this country. Young citizens became deeply involved, and turnout was high. The primary reminded us of the miracle of our democracy, in which the nation is ruled by its people - not by any entrenched set of leaders. There are few better messages we could send the world in these troubled times.Cheney's comments about the election were ugly and frightening. They show once again that he and his party will stop at nothing to wrap Republicans in the flag and to insinuate that anyone who votes against them is giving aid and comfort to the terrorists. It's obvious that this administration lacks basic respect for our fundamental freedoms.Cheney and his crowd are all for free and open elections - as long as they turn out their way. They are all for free speech - provided it supports the administration. They are all for the rule of law - as long as the law does not prevent them from doing whatever they want to do. When elections, speeches or laws are inconvenient, he does not hesitate to declare that they are helping the terrorists. I can think of no graver offense against our democracy.Ned Lamont's victory in Connecticut scares Cheney for one simple reason: It demonstrates that a free and independent people can and do hold public officials accountable for their words and deeds.If the terrorists are indeed paying any attention to the Connecticut primary results, they must be worried.The people of Connecticut spoke out loud and clear in favor of change. Ned Lamont will stand strong for the people of Connecticut, and put tough and smart foreign policies ahead of the politics of fear and more "stay the course" failures. Republicans will stop at nothing to make sure that the November elections are not a referendum on their misguided policy in Iraq or on the way they have run our country for the past six years. Unfortunately, this time the facts are getting in their way.The American people are ready to change an administration that let Osama bin Laden escape. They are ready to change a Congress that let precious years go by without demanding the implementation of the recommendations of the bipartisan 9/11 Commission to keep us safe.They are ready to change a policy on Iraq that has drained our resources, weakened our security, stretched our troops and recruited new terrorists.The November election will teach Dick Cheney and others of his ilk that they cannot use fear to cling to power. As Will Rogers said, "It's no disgrace not to be able to run a country nowadays, but it is a disgrace to keep on trying when you know you can't."

Sunday, August 13, 2006

"Some Thoughts on the Bombings in London" from July, 2005

(the below piece of mine was published last July 7th in the online magazine

One day after it was announced that London was chosen to be the site of the 2012 Olympic games, there were multiple bombings, and multiple deaths, on subways and buses there. A group calling itself "the Secret Organization of Al Qaeda in Europe" has claimed responsibility for this debacle. Increasingly, sadly, it appears that Al Qaeda of Iraq, and now Al Qaeda of Europe, are brought to you by Halliburton, and the CIA who trained Bin Laden and his boys when they were rogue rats back in Afghanistan. They've since been equipped, educated, and promoted, to be real live, hot wired terrorists. Worse still, one fears that the trail of infamy leads back to the Oval Office, and that even Tony Blair, prime minister, has blood on his hands. War makes strange bedfellows; capitalism even stranger. Halliburton growing fatter by the minute, China eating up our oil supplies, Bill Gates courting Beijing. The reign of terror surpassed only perhaps by the acid rain of history.

Just yesterday, we watched Judith Miller being led off to prison like a good little sacrificial lamb (not unlike Martha Stewart) while Karl Rove, Bob Novak, and the big boys of Enron get to keep manufacturing lies, and war toys. Cheney's Halliburton just got a $5 billion contract for military operations in Iraq. A beautiful old lady, on the BBC, who was punched, and had pieces ripped from her during the London subway bombing was socked by plain old corporate greed, the same corporate greed that sodomized the Statue of Liberty, and continues to rape the U.S. Constitution. Tony Blair, while shaken, had the presence of mind (unlike his American counterfart) to say that these dreadful events while devastating will not be used as an excuse to divest Great Britain of those freedoms they have come to hold near and dear. Good for him! How sorry for this planet that we have an empire with a loose cannon as commander-in-chief who has navigated this nation, and the world, into a nightmare that makes the apocalypse look like cotton candy.

Perhaps those who revel in Creationism shall yet have their way, and the Apocalypse will come sooner rather than later. Possibly, we are witnessing the coalescing of various elements that make for cosmic catastrophe, but then catastrophe preceded the dinosaurs and comets. Maybe these terrible days of innocence bombed, and burned, will show us how important it is for us all to work together as a world, as a planet, and not as a collection of half-wit nationalists bent on buffing up their own bottom line at great peril, carnage, and at the expense of what generations have seen, and continue to see, as civilization.

"the al-Qaida type"

Nobody ever accused this vice president of being liberal, but he's sure liberal with his language. On Wednesday, he chose to put his own personal spin on Ned Lamont's victory, over incumbent Joe Lieberman. According to the Associated Press, Dick Cheney claimed that a win by the Democratic challenger will only serve to embolden and inspire " the al-Qaida types" who want to "break the will of the American people in terms of our ability to stay in the fight and complete the task."

One obvious question for Mr. Cheney is--what is an "al Qaida type, and what does he, or she, look like? Do they have any distinguishing characteristics? a birth mark on the forehead, perhaps, as with that biblical chap Cain? A double chin? Are they Arabs? Israelis? Asians? exclusively, or predominately? Also, might we expect to find an "al Qaida-type" lounging in a pair of Blonics, or in Calvin Klein boxer shorts? And, where, in a five star hotel in Beverly Hills, or maybe in what remains of a five star hotel in Beirut or Baghdad? Maybe even in a college dormitory in Berkeley, or, better still, might we expect to see one shopping for lingerie in Target, or Victoria's Secrets?

Oh, and while we're at it, why not ask the esteemed vice president what a "dissenter" looks like, and if, at some point, they, too, might misconstrued as an "al-Qaida type?" More importantly, when Mr. Cheney suggests that the "will of the American people" might be broken by those who question his vision, and that of the commander-in-chief, as to how best to prevent future terror attacks on our soil, is the default position one that suggests being contrarian compromises our national security? To the contrary, the inability to go against official governmental policy is antithetical to everything the framers of the Bill of Rights intended. Further, it must be asked,which "fight," in particular, is the vice president so consumed with, and which "task" is he so concerned with completing? Can it be the task of rebuilding Iraq for which his Halliburton, and other fortune 500 American contractors, are destined to make billions?

Very impressive phrase, "al Qaida type." It seems Mr. Cheney missed his calling; he should have been a casting director.

Saturday, August 12, 2006

Go Figure...

Don't you just love how the folks who brought us "the axis of evil," and "fear and trembling unto nausea," would just love to capitalize on the foiled terror plot, out of England, on Thursday, as a war on terror redux with made for cable footage of bin Laden, as well as other sinister "homegrown" threats to national security. Go figure, and what better time to arrange for the leak of this latest plot to blow up airlines less than 3 months before November's big race.

Already newfangled independent candidate Joe Lieberman stepped up to the plate, losing no time, he scrambled to put a happy face on the fortuitous nonevent with his suggestion supporting his opponent, Ned Lamont, would increase the odds of a terrorist strike exponentially. (WaPo). Needless to say, Lieberman's Republican cohorts, in Connecticut, agreed.
What better fodder for a precarious midterm election for the neo con artists than to resurrect the nightmare of 9/11, as well as the ominous specter of liquid, or chemical sabotage. And, indeed, what better time for the Democrats, and all those who oppose the failed operation in Iraq, to insist it was our own escalation of violence that emboldened, and inspired, the latest handiwork of Al Qaeda.

Moreover, what a cynical abuse of the electoral process, as well as the concept of representation, to prey on the vulnerabilities of a citizenry that is already overwhelmed, if bombarded with images of global viscera, and hostility. Still, as a rationale for an international agenda that amounts to little more than the exercise of testasterone over reason, we've now expanded the concept of multicultural terror to include domestic terrorists--coming soon to a Kent State near you?

The foreign policy misadventures of the Bush junior\'s administration are unparalleled since Napoleon\'s Waterloo, and some would say make even his papa blush.. Our old Roman friend Petronius, too, might well be impressed by the gross incompetence trying to masquerade as misguided leadership at every rung of the capital ladder. Beware a country that cries the loudest for national security. As history has shown us, repeatedly, all too often it is one that poses the gravest danger to world peace.

If nothing else, the past 5 years have shown us that the politics of preemption have brought us to where we are today in a real world, bloody battle, based on imaginary weapons, with an amorphous, and protean "enemy" that only increases, is better armed, and better equipped, than it was a few decades ago, in Afghanistan, where, as "freedom fighters," they were little more than rank amateurs.

Arguably, Hezbollah has gained supporters in Lebanon, Al Qaeda in Iraq, largely thanks to a military ethos that now threatens, once again, to reinvent itself, promising yet more misery to come unless warmongering, by any party, is seen for what it is, an act of terror against us all.

Friday, August 11, 2006

"You say you want a resolution..."

For those left who care about sanity, nowadays, the storm clouds parted, and the sun shone through, with news that the United States and France have reached an agreement on a cease fire between Israel and Lebanon at the United Nations this afternoon.

One would hope that both sides wouldn't wait for the ink to dry on the resolution before stopping their ground and air campaigns. Still, this may be the first time that the Americans and French have agreed on anything with the possible exception of french fries.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

In Defense of Joe -- taking the high road

The senator from Connecticut, Joseph Lieberman, has taken quite a beating today from members of his own party and some, including myself, have suggested his behavior is duplicitous, and opportunistic, even dangerously so. To tar, feather, and filet a man for being a sore loser, ultimately, amounts to little more than doing the Republicans work for them.

While pundits universally call for his blood, and excommunication from his party, some perspective is needed. While one may personally disagree with his stance on certain issues, such as the war in Iraq and "homeland security," Senator Lieberman has had a distinguished career of service. He was elected to the United States Senate nearly 20 years ago, is now a third term incumbent from his state, and has been the majority leader of the Connecticut state senate for six years. Joe Lieberman deserves respect for having served the people of his state, as well as his country. We do a grave disservice to anyone who has made a lifelong commitment to public service by diminishing, and insulting them, as well as send the wrong message to future generations who may consider this path.

During these tumultuous, and difficult, times, it is even more essential to harbor an atmosphere that promotes unity, not divisiveness, and not let the politics of spin win. It would be cruel and unusual punishment to embark on the kind of vindictive rhetoric that results in the destruction of a man, and his career, thus it is imperative for progressives, and all Democrats, to respect the senator from Connecticut. Likewise, it is equally imperative that a member of the United States Senate, or any elected official, acknowledge, and respect, the will of the people he represents. Or, to paraphrase the words of Johnny Cochran: "If the glove don't fit, it's time to quit." The best thing Senator Lieberman can do for his party, his state, and his country is to step aside, do so graciously, not gratuitously, and support Ned Lamont's candidacy.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Lamont Not Lament

About the only news that could be bigger than Ned Lamont's surprise upset over Connecticut incumbent, Joe Lieberman, in the Senate primary last night would be the revelation that someone figured out a way to clone Fidel Castro. Still, while many covering the blog belt aren't amazed by this win for progressive Democrats, others are skeptical not just about whether or not Lieberman will run as an Independent, but just what, if any, overall impact this come from behind win will have in the presidential race of 2008.

Without a doubt, it's reassuring to see Hillary Clinton, John Kerry, and John Edwards all vying for first shot at photo op with the new contender for U.S. Senate, but it would be even more comforting if we heard the four, or five, most likely to run for president, in two years, line up behind the antiwar platform that turned a virtual unknown into a virtuouso player.

Moreover, among the big surprises of last night is not that Joe Lieberman didn't go gently into that night, vowing to run as an Independent, but that his decision to switch party affiliations was not challenged even by members of the Independent party. Is there not a platform, and does Lieberman reflect Independent party line, or can one merely switch back and forth from Democrat to Republican to Independent depending on political expediency and opportunity?

What is less obvious, and what the Democrats need to consider if victory in the most important midterm election, less than three months away, and the presidential election, two years away, is how to come up with a platform that doesn't readilly succumb to the politics of bait and switch, and actually has a distinctive, and discernible world view. How can anyone take a presidential, or any other election seriously when a prominent senator, with more than 30 years of experience under his belt, can morph so comfortably into the skin of another party without anyone even raising so much as an agnostic eyebrow.

When differences in party platforms break down such that a race becomes one of personality over principle, something is rotten in the body politic, and if we want leaders, not poseurs, we can't afford to overlook that. When candidacy is about opportunism and not opportunity, and ideas are pushed back stage, there is no way to avoid another Supreme Court appointment to the Oval Office. By now, it must be hugely apparent if representational government is to survive beyond the next two years, it's time to sharpen not merely pencils, but talking points, or we're guaranteed to see more lament, and less Lamont, come November.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

A Necessary Distinction

There needs to be a distinction made between actions by Hezbollah, and those of the Lebanese people. Attacks on Lebanon, by any country, under the pretext of diffusing, and eliminating, Hezbollah fail to take into account that the Lebanese people are multicultural, and multi-ethnic. Picture what we, in this country, would do if two Americans were seized by a Canadian paramilitary group. Would the world community consider it appropriate to decimate the city of Toronto because one radical faction captured two soldiers from Sausalito? This is, in essence, what the Israelis are doing.

Whether one agrees that this radical Muslim faction, in Lebanon, poses a threat to the survival of Israel or not, one must accept that to bomb Beirut in the hopes of eradicating Hezbollah is like bombing Iraq in the hopes of destroying Al Qaeda.

When nations start lining up their ducks, everyone must duck. When occupation becomes a preoccupation, a world war is all but inevitable.

Sunday, August 06, 2006

When Might makes Right

On July 31st, in a speech given in Jerusalem and published in Ha'aretz, Prime Minister Ehud Olmert tried to justify Israel's bombing of Kfar Kana, and the loss of dozens of children's lives in Lebanon, saying that those who make the 2500 plus rockets that are savagely tearing into major cities throughout Israel are using that small village, outside Beirut, as their base of operations. One would like to believe that Olmert's assertion is the truth, but so far it is just that--an assertion.

Further, Israel's prime minister goes so far as to call Hezbollah, "agents of the devil," which cannot help but remind one of our President and his "axis of evil." Olmert claims that the children of Kana would be sleeping quietly in their beds today were it not for Hezbollah. Once again, the argument that the carnage, and destruction, is defensive is made. Yet again, we are reminded of the six million Jews wiped out during the Holocaust. I can see my Uncle Joe, a gentle, sensitive man who wore a row of numbers on left arm from a camp in Poland, a small man with a huge heart who looked like he'd be hard pressed to kill a bee. This timid soul recounted. while I sat on his knee a child of nine, and asked how he got those numbers, about the camps, the Warsaw ghetto, how his wife, and children all perished, and how he had to shoot his way out. I can only wonder now what my Uncle Joe would have to say about Olmert's use of an inconceivable sacrifice as a rationale for wreaking havoc, and attempting to wipe out another sovereign state. One can only be haunted by a memory that doesn't belong to one--that of a fragile, humble human being who was forced to fire his way to freedom in order to escape an inescapable act of barbarism. I now ask, on Joe's behalf, can one ever justify barbarism, under any flag, or for any reason?

I know my uncle would feel as strongly about survival of the state of Israel, and the Jewish people,as I do, but I also know that he\'d be as nauseated, and repulsed, by the image of a sanguine, tranquil corpse of a year old infant being carried out of the wreckage of Kana, cradled in her father\'s arms. That breath can be taken away from us so unceremoniously, and with such moving dignity so that even infancy buckles, and bends as if to make a mockery of war itself. \n\n \n"You are already familiar with the murderous taste of this terror. And you will taste it more," the Israeli prime minister warns his people. To think of Tel Aviv, or Haifa being demolished is horrific to me, but the thought of Beirut being destroyed is no less terrible nor can the taste of blood ever be confused with that of wine \n\n \nIn the final analysis, there is no justification for the taking of innocent life, and there can be no circumstance in which genocide can be seen as righteous. There are no holy men left after holy war. Regardless of whether it\'s Hezbollah. or Israel, when might becomes indistinguishable from right, the result can only be chaos, and we must all come taste the kind of terror that belongs in hell, and hell only. \n",1]

I know my uncle would feel as strongly about survival of the state of Israel, and the Jewish people,as I do, but I also know that he'd be as nauseated, and repulsed, by the image of a sanguine, tranquil corpse of a year old infant being carried out of the wreckage of Kana, cradled in her father's arms. That breath can be taken away from us so unceremoniously, and with such moving dignity so that even infancy buckles, and bends as if to make a mockery of war itself.

"You are already familiar with the murderous taste of this terror. And you will taste it more," the Israeli prime minister warns his people. To think of Tel Aviv, or Haifa being demolished is horrific to me, but the thought of Beirut being destroyed is no less terrible nor can the taste of blood ever be confused with that of wine

In the final analysis, there is no justification for the taking of innocent life, and there can be no circumstance in which genocide can be seen as righteous. There are no holy men left after holy war. Regardless of whether it's Hezbollah. or Israel, when might becomes indistinguishable from right, the result can only be chaos, and we must all come taste the kind of terror that belongs in hell, and hell only.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

"Dereliction of Duty"

The Hebrew edition of Israel's daily newspaper, Ha'aretz, has reported today of a huge demonstration, in downtown Tel Aviv, that included more than 5,000 Israelis protesting the occupation of Lebanon, and demanding an immediate cease fire. Present at today's protest in Israel's capital city was none other than Yael Dayan, current vice-mayor of Tel Aviv, and daughter of former Defense Secretary, the late Moshe Dayan. The image of 5,000 Israelis marching down the streets of Tel Aviv to speak out against the occupation, and bombing, of Lebanon should be plastered on the front page of every newspaper both here and abroad. The question is: will it be and, if not, why not?

While Human Rights Watch reports, alternately, on acts committed both by Hezbollah, and Israeli forces that constitute war crimes, targeting of innocent civilian life whether it be by Hezbollah rockets, or Israeli ground forces, the mainstream media, in this country, is conspicuously silent with regard to reporting human rights violations, and a growing climate of dissent for Israel's hawkish policies among that nation's citizens. Is the failure to monitor, and report the truth, from all vantage points, in the U.S., not dereliction of duty? And, is it also, in a profound sense, collusion between those who bring us information, and those who make foreign policy?

Moreover, is yellow journalism, and the push for the highest Nielson ratings, not a greater threat to the survival of American culture, and life as we know it, than bird flu, and mad cow disease? It's time the press, in America, stop doing a lap dance for the Bush administration, and start bringing us the news, as it happens, when it happens, without being a propaganda delivering vehicle for a rabid defense department. Clearly, thanks to neutering of the news, over the past six years, an informed electorate may not merely be the first, but possibly even the last, casualty of war.

In Response to a Response

First, let me apologize for my absence from le blog; I have been preoccupied with making a much-needed, and personal, transition. Also, you may now find posts of mine, happily, featured on Huffington Post, as well as OpEd News.

Recently, it was with delight, and honor, that I happened to come upon a response to my blog post, "Is Psychosis Contagious?," from "Gay in Florida," (see below), a most intelligent, and astute comment which aptly compares the psychopathic, and pseudo-religious, warfare in the Middle East to the conflict between Catholics and Protestants in Ireland. While I don't share "Gay's" conclusion that folks in Ireland have their act together just yet, they've come a long way, baby, from that nexus of road rage known as the Middle East.

Moreover, I quite agree with Gay's suggestion that my post underemphasized the "religious" aspect of the conflict; that may be because I think both Muslims and Jews have strayed so far from the tenets, and core principles of their faith that to suggest their strife has anything to do with a credo, or belief system, of any kind, is ludicrous. That said, while it may likewise be argued that Capitalism and Communism, too, are merely paper ideologies, no one can deny, or dismiss the existence of the Cold War. It doesn't take a Marxist to see that the root cause of war has little or nothing to do with political theory, and almost invariably is about economics, and basic human greed.

But, most importantly, "Gay's" conclusion that no lasting peace is possible without religious tolerance is a profound, and profoundly accurate one with which I concur. We "daughters of the American revolution," and descendants of those who came over on the first swift boat out of Britain often forget that the reason our forbears fled their mother country, overcame and displaced Native Americans to occupy the original 13 colonies was to escape the kind of religious intolerance we practice as routinely, these days, as flossing our teeth.

Best of all, it's good to see something other than Jeb Bush coming out of Florida!