Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Crisis of Opportunity

Obviously, somebody needs to tell Senator Kerry when to go off script. After urging students at a college in California today to make the most of their educational opportunities, the Senator said "If you don't, you'll get stuck in Iraq" which he later described as a "botched joke." (AP) There is a botched joke in here somewhere; it's not in Kerry's statement, but in the absence of swift, and effective Democratic party leadership to turn the spotlight on an issue that deserves to be in the Republicans lap; namely, the issue of opportunity, or the lack thereof. .

While, clearly, this was not Mr. Bush, or Mr. Rove's, intention, what better time to add the issue of an ongoing campaign to limit the chances for our young people to advance themselves to the Democrats talking points. What better time to bring to the table the fact that there is a crisis of opportunity in this country, and that many of the youngsters who join the armed forces do so right out of high school, not only because it validates them, but because it provides them with income, and a direction. Thanks to the unspoken, and unadvertised, Bush domestic doctrine of privilege, more often than not, the military gives many youngsters their only prospect for achievement, social acceptance, advancement, and upward mobility. So, indeed, in the words of President Bush: "Bring it on;" as one can think of no better time than now to turn a crisis of opportunity into a window of opportunity.

Try as he might to massage, and twist Kerry's remark such that it would appear Mr. Bush's previous presidential rival said our service men and women are of inferior intellect, there is no getting away from the fact, yes, no getting away from the issue of oportunity, or the lack of it, belongs squarely, and irrevocably, in the laps of those who occupy the seats of government in this country now, and for the past 6 years. Just as there is disparity of income, among the most egregious disparities in modern times, there is disparity of opportunity. We have seen the cost of a college education skyrocket, affirmative action rolled back, and it has become flat out tougher for a working person's child to get a college degree in America since George W. Bush took office. period. With every passing year, it is not a question of intelligence that determines who goes, or does not, go to war, but a question of income. Why this isn't on the list of Democratic talking points is inconceivable.

Why Mr. Kerry would allow a dispassionate neo-conservative to grab the ball, and run with it is unfathomable. Why it is that the Democrats have yet to come up with a Karl Rove of their own to stand up, and point out the gross inequality that tries to pass itself off as "patriotism" is incomprehensible to anyone with even a modicum of sense. The egregious inequity of the reality that there are more young men of color in our nation's prisons than in our nation's universities. Why it is that no one is standing up, and throwing it back at the president that, were he to be born to John and Martha Dogood of Ames, Iowa, he'd never have gotten away without doing his duty in Vietnam. Moreover, now is the perfect time to point out to this empire of the privileged that they're exporting those with fewer options to fight, and die in the front lines of their prefab wars. Most of all, someone needs to tell John Kerry those who can make the most of their educational opportunities are those who are gifted with opportunity, a gift that this White House has shown to be seldom earned, or deserved.

It becomes likewise increasingly apparent, with every passing year, that we have a government that believes the value of human life is more before birth than after birth., and one that praises those who do battle over those who debate, and dialogue. So, we see our youngsters, fresh from high school, without a clue as to what they will do, or where they will go, turn to the military in much the same way their grandfathers did as a means to escape a life of poverty or, worse still, crime, and gangs. Military service thus becomes the refuge of the economically disenfranchised, and service in Iraq has less to do with studying, and doing homework than socioeconomic status, and the state of one's finances.

Yes, thanks to this president, and his failed policies, we not only have a crisis of leadership, but a crisis of opportunity. Yet again, there is a desperate effort, on the part of this administration, to blame the Democrats for dropping the ball as they've recently done with North Korea, and Al Qaeda; only this time with a flagrant, and transparent attempt to twist an ambiguous,if dumb, extemporaneous remark into a way to deflect attention away from the core issues of this election. If Karl Rove wants to change the subject, there must be a reason for it, and the reason is, obviously, the Republicans are losing, and losing bad. If the Democrats want to win back Congress, they need to take the samurai's sword out of Kerry's hands, and put it squarely where it belongs, in the clenches of this president and his party of privilege; there must be focus, focus, focus. Only by disarming the opposition, and addressing disenfranchisement in the most direct, and immediate way can they hope to win not merely the vote, but the hearts and minds of the American people.


Memo to the Prez, Veep, and the Donald (Rumsfeld):

The only time staying power, or "staying the course," counts is when one is horizontal....

"honey, did you see the First Amendment? I could have sworn I saw it here this morning...."

and this from the Associated Press...

Activist Arrested for Halloween Stunt

By JERRY HARKAVY, Associated Press Writer


SOUTH PORTLAND, Maine - The lawyer who divulged President Bush's drunken-driving arrest days before the 2000 election was arrested Tuesday after he was spotted on a highway overpass wearing an Osama bin Laden Halloween costume and holding a toy gun.
Tom Connolly, 49, was charged with criminal threatening, a misdemeanor, and was released after posting $500 bail. He said he intends to plead not guilty.

"There was a First Amendment this morning when I woke up. I don't know how it evaporated with the dawn," Connolly, an unsuccessful Democratic candidate for governor in 1998, told reporters after his release.
Police said the costume included plastic dynamite, grenades, and a replica of an AK-47 assault rifle.
"The whole thing is just incredibly bizarre," said Police Chief Ed Googins. "It just crossed the line."
The chief said there was no way to tell from a distance if the gun was real or fake.
Connolly also was carrying a sign that said "I love TABOR," a reference to the Taxpayer Bill of Rights on the Maine ballot, but at least one person who saw it thought it said "I love the Taliban," Googins said.

The Portland attorney is known for wearing costumes to make political statements, often donning a George W. Bush mask and dancing for passing motorists.
His wife has described him as "marvelously eccentric."
In 2000, Connolly acknowledged that he tipped off reporters about Bush's 24-year-old misdemeanor drunken driving charge at Kennebunkport. Republicans said the release of the information before the election was a Democratic dirty trick.

Busted: Augusto Pinochet

While the party has been over for a 90 year old, fragile, former dictator, General Augusto Pinochet, for some time, he is finally paying his dues. Pinochet was arrested yesterday, and placed on house arrest in Santiago, Chile where he was charged with torture for human rights abuses at Villa Grimaldi, the notorious secret detention cell in which current Chilean President Michelle Bachelet and her mother were once held. The indictment for torture is precedent-setting for the former dictator. Additionally, he was indicted for one homicide, 35 kidnappings, as well as 24 counts of torture, in all, dating back to his reign of terror of 1973-1990. (AP) He will serve his sentence not in the Villa where he detained, and disappeared many who opposed, but instead in his suburban Santiago mansion.

Notably,the general has been indicted 4 times before, 3 times on human rights charges, and once on tax evasion, but this is the only time the Chilean government has demanded he stand trial, and be held to account for allegations that he tortured those in his detention. Judge Alejandro Solis refused to drop charges against the ailing Pinochet, as had been the case in the past, asserting that the general "is not mentally alienated" and able to stand trial. (Seattle Times)

Speaking of being "mentally alienated," you may already know about Villa Grimaldi, a detention camp which was not unlike Guantanamo Bay. Viva Grimaldo was a large parcel of land with many buildings which has been demolished. The first detainees arrived there in the mid-1970's, and it soon became synonymous with internal repression, as well as one of the more infamous ways in which General Pinochet worked to stifle dissent, and eliminate his opposition. In fact, a prominent member of the Socialist Party, Ariel Mancilla, after being sent to the Villa, and tortured, was never to be heard from again.

One can only hope that Pinochet's arrest will be a wake-up call for those in Bush administration whose absurdist efforts to whitewash, and give the heads-up to interrogations that include simulated drowning, a technique traditionally considered torture, will inevitably backfire. More importantly, should a new Congress emerge after next week's election, the world will be holding its breath for us, as a nation, to call to task any, and all those, in our own government, responsible for crimes against humanity. And, while Tony Snow may consider himself adept at turning a phrase, (or corrupting one), even Houdini couldn't talk his way out of the charges the Bush regime will face, down the road, from the international community, if we don't change course, and do so quickly.

Oh, and as for General Pinochet: while he may have been cocky 30 years ago, sooner or later, the chickens come home to roost.

"Everyone Knows Rush Limbaugh's just faking" by Linwood Barclay

The below article was published in "The Toronto Star," and was written by Linwood Barclay...

"Everyone knows Rush Limbaugh's just faking"

Oct.27, 2006. 01:00AM


Now, I know this may offend those who suffer from this particularcondition, and these individuals might not like it much when I suggestthat a certain person with this diagnosis is exaggerating his symptoms,but I have to say, I think Rush Limbaugh is just pretending to be adick.While the right-wing radio host does exhibit most, if not all, of thecommon characteristics of this behaviour, it's so rare for all of themto coalesce at a single moment that one can only conclude Limbaugh'smost recent performances are nothing short of fraudulent.I'm no expert diagnostician, but nobody could be this big a one.Limbaugh must be acting.Consider what Rush Limbaugh said this week about Michael J. Fox.

The Canadian-born actor did an ad for a U.S. politician who supportsstem cell research, a controversial field that many believe could leadto a cure for Parkinson's disease. Fox suffers from Parkinson's, and anyone who has seen him in television interviews in the last few yearsis aware of his symptoms. Awkward, involuntary movements, occasional speech difficulty, tremors.Those symptoms are much in evidence in the ad.Said Limbaugh on his radio show: "He is exaggerating the effects of the disease. He's moving all around and shaking and it's clearly an act."Limbaugh also suggested Fox probably went off his medication beforefilming the ad. It's difficult to imagine that anyone could say anything so amazinglyuninformed, so incredibly moronic, and actually believe it. That's why I'm so convinced Limbaugh was acting.

At this point, it's probably useful to review the most common symptomsexhibited by a person with EDS (extreme dick syndrome) for those not upto speed on them:
1. Exhibits a level of arrogance rooted in a feeling of superiority,
2. Is capable of achieving levels of hypocrisy (railing against drugaddicts when you are one, for example) previously thought unattainable.3. Blow-hardedness.4. Is indifferent to the woes and misfortunes of the disadvantaged.5. Lies his ass off.6. Goes to the "6 items or less" checkout with a dozen things.7. Never lets ignorance of a subject keep him from shooting his mouthoff about it.8. Believes facts are overrated.9. Chews with his mouth open.10. Always finds some little thing the waitress did wrong to justify not leaving a tip.

Anyone who has four or more of these symptoms is very likely sufferingfrom EDS. Sadly, at the moment there\'s no known cure for this condition. Researchers are still debating whether you\'re born with it,or it's a lifestyle choice. The real problem is, people with thiscondition don't make for a very sympathetic cause.

But in Limbaugh's case, it's probably a moot point, since he's justputting on a show.My guess, in fact, is that Rush Limbaugh is a liberal plant. ADemocratic plant. The Democrats, who appear to be on the verge ofwinning back both houses of Congress, don't want to leave anything tochance. What better way to turn things their way than for a prominentspokesperson for the right wing (nudge nudge, wink wink) to saysomething so astonishingly and despicably vile that it will makefair-minded Republicans vote Democrat, or at the very least, stay home.I know these statements of mine are going to enrage genuine sufferersof EDS everywhere. "How dare he say that!" they'll say. "We know we're rude and insensitive and total jerks 24/7, and he's got a lot of nerve suggesting otherwise."I will say this, however. If it can be determined by an independent panel of experts that Rush Limbaugh is, in fact, a dick, I will apologize, unreservedly.

Monday, October 30, 2006

What Color Is Your Aura?

Ever wonder what color your aura is? Those in the know seem to think that a major defeat in next week's election could "dim Karl Rove's aura" (WaPo). This can't help but make me wonder whether Rove has an aura, and what color it might be which also gets me thinking about Halloween, and what to wear to a Halloween party.

As I sit running through various and sundry outfits that might work---Mata Hari, Isadora Duncan, Algier Hiss, I can't help but fantasize about what some, in the Bush administration, might go trick or treating in. Dick Cheney, for instance, might trick or treat dressed like Marilyn Monroe, and

Condoleezza Rice -- Joan of Arc

Karl Rove -- Mary Magdalene

Donald Rumsfeld -- as an Emperor Penguin

George W. Bush --- Napoleon

Lynne Rumsfeld -- Marie Antoinette ?

Oh, and as for me...
I think I'll go as a Diebold voting machine, and make sure I remain tamper-proof in this election unlike the last time, back in 2004, when Diebold chief executives pledged their "commitment to helping Ohio deliver its electoral votes" to President Bush. (Common Dreams)

Yes, in an era when interest in virginity has been born again, if I go as Diebold, I can make damned sure nobody screws with me. After all, why would anyone in their right mind dare "To think Diebold is somehow tainted because they have a couple of folks on their board who support the president"as Jason Mauk, GOP spokesman said 2 years ago after the last debacle. (Common Dreams)

So, it just feels right, to me, to dress as Diebold on Halloween tomorrow cause voting machines, and elections have auras, too, and this one must be brighter than we've seen in a long, long time.

Sunday, October 29, 2006

"a little silly"

If folks in Congress, of both parties, as well as the news media can spend 2 consecutive weeks talking of little else besides salacious instant messages sent by Rep. Mark Foley to a teenage page, they can figure out a way to squeeze in news of the illegal practice of extraordinary rendition, dubious interrogation techniques, secret terror cells, as well as this vice president's insolent dismissal of allegations that he finds waterboarding, a method of torture that dates back to the Inquisition, acceptable. Why not put extraordinary rendition back on the front page instead of all this gratuitous tripe about the Virginia Senate race?

Do we care more about obscenity of thought, word, and image than obscenity in action? Maybe, instead of an election, a week from Tuesday, we should have a slumber party because most Americans seem to care more about Lynne Cheney's lesbian novel of 20 years ago than her husband's implied heads-up for a practice that has been universally condemned as torture for more than a generation. You'll recall, back in 1901, the method some have referred to as the "water cure" earned Major Edwin Glenn 10 years of hard labor after he was convicted of having given an Insurgent, in the Philippines, a "dunk in the water." How Mr. Cheney can consider as a "no brainer" an interrogation technique, waterboarding, for which U.S. military commissions prosecuted, and convicted, several Japanese as war criminals in World War II is, in a word, incredible. Clearly, history was not this vice president's major.

In his much-quoted interview with conservative talk show host Scott Hennen of WDAY in Fargo, N.D., the vice president agreed that "a dunk in the water is a no-brainer if it can save lives." (Washington Post) Yet, not too long ago, a president was impeached for fine tuning the definition of sex when he lied to a grand jury about his affair with a White House intern. Oh, so it's okay to tweak the definition of torture, but not of sex. Or, maybe the issue is lying to a grand jury; lying to the press, the American people, and Congress doesn't count. It seems Mr. Cheney has worked with this president for so long that everything has now become "a no brainer" to him.

President Clinton, you'll recall, said he didn't consider "oral sex" sex in much the same way this vice president thinks that "a slam dunk" has nothing to do with waterboarding. We can only hope that the vice president will be given the chance to testify about this before a grand jury, after the election, when the Democrats take Congress. As the kind of skewered logic that condones torture by linguistic sleight of hand is impeachable, in the best sense of the word. And when the White House press secretary contends that a "dunk in the water" was not meant as anything more than that, clearly the same form of sophistry is applied; only this kind of sophistry is far more pernicious than anything that any previous president intended.This administration is making the same argument when it comes to torture, as evidenced by Mr. Cheney's remarks,aboard Air Force Two, last night when he insisted that he "didn't say anything about waterboarding," and "didn't even use that word."

To add insult to injury, the vice president also agreed with WDAY talk show host that discussions about interrogation techniques are, in his words, "a little silly" while, simultaneously, praising information obtained from detainees as a result of these techniques. (WaPo). Has the vice president paid a visit to Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraid, or other bordellos of butchery in Iraq, and Afghanistan lately? Indeed, this "end justifies the means" logic is fit for Mephistopheles, but not those who fancy themselves leaders of the free world.

Just think, for a minute, about where western civilization would be now if those who met in Geneva, more than 50 years ago, to pen the Geneva Conventions agreed that it is "a little silly" to talk about interrogation techniques. Or, maybe the vice president thinks that the travesties of bin Laden, and Al Qaeda surpass those of other monsters of history, and exceed the horrors of that other world war half a century ago? What's more, to consider national, and international dialogue about methods used to obtain information from prisoners of war "silly," and irrelevant is to insult those who met in Geneva, the integrity of international law, the spirit of global cooperation, as well as the intelligence of the American people.

A week or so ago, general, and Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace, suggested that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld takes his orders from "a higher source." For this, one can rest assured, future generations may remember the good general as Peter Pan. That said, in his recent memoirs, former German German Chancellor, Gerhard Schroder, writes of his meetings with the president that "Again and again in our private talks it became clear how God-fearing this President was and how he ruled by what he saw as a Higher Power...The problem begins when political discussions seem to result from a conversation with God." (Times of London)

It would appear, when Bush and Rumsfeld are on a conference call with that "Higher Power," Mr. Cheney must be in the woods working on his target practice. To his credit, the vice president isn't among those, in his administration, suggesting his actions are divinely inspired, and claiming they have the New Testament stamp of approval. One can think of little that is more "silly" than a wartime president's claim to be divinely inspired to torture, maim, rape, occupy, and plunder a sovereign nation with impunity, and without oversight; only "silly" isn't the right word, "criminal" is more like it.

Friday, October 27, 2006

A Slam Dunk for the Vice President...

When White House Press Secretary Tony Snow was asked today to define what a dunk in the water is, he responded, " It's a dunk in the water." This statement comes on the heels of a controversy that began, on Tuesday, when the vice president was asked during an interview if "a dunk in water is a no brainer if it can save lives." The vice president replied: "Well, it's a no brainer for me, but for a while there I was criticized as being the vice president for torture."

Whew, "for a while there" Mr. Cheney probably thought he'd get off the hook for making a statement that appeared to most human rights groups, and most human beings, too, for that matter, to be condoning torture, as well as an interrogation technique, "waterboarding," that is widely regardly as cruel and inhumane.

You can bet that the vice president is taking a huge sigh of relief today in light of the White House's embarrassing attempt at damage control when claiming that his remarks had nothing to do with waterboarding; would you believe scuba diving? Hiring Tony Snow was, arguably, the smartest move this administration has made as he has turned a town riddled with right-wing bible-thumping hypocrites into theatre of the absurd.

But, the rest of us are taking an even greater sign of relief that we have only 2 more years to deal with the level of sophistry, and Machiavellian machinations of Karl Rove, Bush, Cheney, and Co. While, as Tony Snow calls it, "a dunk in the water is a dunk in the water," it's yet another slam dunk for an administration that ranks up there as the first to acknowledge its own policies for what they are "no brainers."

A Final Word on Justice Scalia...

Excerpts from a piece by:
Published: February 16, 1987

(Note: Stuart Taylor has written columns for The National Journal, a socially conservative publication, as well as Newsweek. You may wish to keep the irony of this in mind when reading excerpts from the following article.)

from Taylor's "Scalia Proposes Major Overhaul of U.S. Courts," NYT, 2/16/87...

"Associate Justice Antonin Scalia of the Supreme Court said today that the Federal judiciary was being transformed from an 'elite' into a vast bureaucracy by a flood of routine cases, and called for a major overhaul."He urged relegating large categories of cases like routine Social Security disability claims and Freedom of Information Act suits to specialized tribunals, to reverse what he termed the ''continuing deterioration'' in the prestige of the Federal district and appellate courts and the quality of the lawyers interested in serving on them 'A Natural Aristocracy'

"The time is well past due'"for action if '"a system of elite Federal courts'" is to be retained, Justice Scalia told a luncheon audience at the American Bar Association convention here. He said the framers of the Constitution saw the Federal judiciary as a "'natural aristocracy, in their words, of ability rather than wealth.'"

In his first major speech since he joined the Supreme Court in September, the 50-year-old Justice asserted it was inevitable that Federal district and appellate courts will stop attracting "the cream of the profession" unless action is taken to limit their caseloads and their need to decide routine personal injury and employment disputes and other cases they consider 'trivial.'"Justice Scalia said...he aspired to become a Federal judge because Federal courts were 'forums for the big case. An elite group of practitioners' argued before judges viewed as 'great minds' who enjoyed prestige unequaled by judges in other nations, he said. 'A Judge, Not a Processor."

Since 1960, he said, the Federal courts have been transformed by an explosion of Federal rights on which lawsuits could be brought,'"ome created by Congress, some by the courts.'"He said that since 1960 the number of Federal civil suits filed each year has more than quadrupled, from 58,000 to more than 250,000, and the number of appeals has multiplied ninefold, from 3,900 to 35,000. "

Oh, and here's another excerpt, this time from an interview Amy Goodman did with Stuart Taylor, Jr. on Oct. 27, 2004, right before the presidential election, that's bound to give you goosebumps as it did me...

"AMY GOODMAN: I'm Amy Goodman, as we continue with Stuart Taylor. He has written the piece called "The A List" with The National Journal. You go through the list of possible Kerry picks, possible Bush picks for the Supreme Court. One of the issues that's been raised is that when it comes to someone like Antonin Scalia, a fiercely conservative Justice, that the democrats joined with the republicans in supporting them, John Kerry was included in that when he was appointed to the Supreme Court in confirmation. What's your response to that, Stuart Taylor?

STUART TAYLOR, JR.: My response is that that happened for reasons that seem a long time ago and it's not likely to happen again. Part of it could happen again. One thing that Justice Scalia had going for him was that Chief Justice Rehnquist, then Justice Rehnquist, was running interference. The two were nominated simultaneously when Chief Justice Warren Burger stepped down. The president nominated Rehnquist, who was then a Justice to step up to Chief Justice, and Scalia, a lower court judge, to fill the Rehnquist vacancy. The liberal opponents focused their attacks on Rehnquist because of the visibility of the Chief Justice position and because of his very conservative record during his years on the court as -- and other issues, and Scalia was something of a beneficiary of that. I think that liberals sort of used up their energy, and what they thought was the public's patience in their attacks on Rehnquist, also the fact that Scalia was the first Italian Justice got him some credit and he's a very gregarious and charming man, that got him some credit. And I think it was probably not quite as apparent then as it is now how conservative he would prove to be, although he was pretty clearly pretty conservative. The one parallel that I could see this time is if there is a nominee for Chief Justice from within the court who draws substantial opposition from the other party, then whoever is sort of second in line to fill that nominee's seat might benefit to the same -- in sort of in the same way that Scalia did, but I think the confirmation battles have become much more bitter. The polarization on the court and in the country has become more extreme, and now democrats in the last four years have set a precedent for Senate filibusters of controversial nominees, which basically means that you no long need just 50 votes to get confirmed -- or 51, I should say -- you need 60 to break a filibuster, and that could make it difficult for any controversial nominee to get through.

AMY GOODMAN: Finally, Stuart Taylor, the issue of what happened in 2000, the issue of the race being thrown -- the race for president being thrown to the Supreme Court. Do you see any scenario where that could happen again?

STUART TAYLOR, JR.: It could happen for sure, and it could happen in a number of different states. Basically, the 2000 litigation set another kind of precedent, which is the idea that maybe some court will decide who won the presidential election rather than the usual process. That had never happened before, and even if the Supreme Court had decided Bush versus Gore the other way, I think that that precedent would have the same effect. So, both parties are geared up with thousands of lawyers all over the country, already bringing lawsuits about all sorts of things, voter registration procedures, provisional voting procedures. And basically, if the national electoral vote turns out to be close, and there are some states that are close enough so that if you swing one or two of them or three of them away from where it seems to be heading through lawsuits, there will be lawsuits and it's -- there are a huge number of variables, but sort of a -- I see a very substantial possibility, maybe not a probability, that once again we won't know who the president's going to be until sometime after election day."

Importantly, members of both parties in Congress supported Antonin Scalia's appointment to the Supreme Court!

Thursday, October 26, 2006

The Scales and Scalia

In a speech in Phoenix on Tuesday, Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. said we have "a negligent press in this country," indicting everyone from "pollutors to politicians," but especially the news media for enabling the worst environmental president, and letting him off the hook. Moreover, Mr. Kennedy suggested that we have a press that acts as a vehicle for the delivery of entertainment rather than one that informs, and investigates. Amen. "We know more about Tom and Katie than about global warming," as Kennedy rightly said. (Fishbowl NY) Undoubtedly, we've been seduced by opinion, and abandoned by fact.

But, Kennedy isn't the only one castigating the news media lately. On Saturday, in a discussion about the role of the judiciary at the behest of the National Italian American Foundation, Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia blasted the news media, as well as the reading public, suggesting that they are complicit distorting representations of federal judges and courts. Scalia further observed that "The press is never going to report judicial opinions accurately. They're just going to report, who is the plaintiff? Was that a nice little old lady? And who is the defendant? Was this, you know, some scuzzy guy? And who won? Was it the good guy that won or the bad guy?" (Editor and Publisher). With words like "scuzzy" and "nice," this statement sounds more like it could be coming from the mouths of Mr. Bush, or Mr. Rumsfeld than a member of the Supreme Court. Clearly, if "scalia" is Italian for scales, these are not the scales of justice, but the ones generally worn by reptiles.

Intriguing, isn't it, how two men from opposite sides of the political spectrum come to the same conclusion about the press, if for different reasons. The first, Mr. Kennedy, arguing for more information, more knowledge whereas, in contrast, the Judge suggests that selling papers means writing for a bunch of simpletons. Think about this: we have a man sitting, for life, on the highest court in the land who thinks that we might not be capable of understanding the complexities of the Court, or its rulings. Is this altogether different from what judges in 18th Century England thought?

What's more, in his speech to the National Italian American Foundation, on Saturday, Scalia also demystified the notion of an independent judiciary: "You talk about independence as though it is unquestionably, and unqualifiedly a good thing," he tells the group. Yes, yes, the Supreme Court like Congress belongs under the king's thumb, and not just King George, mind you, but future American monarchs, as well.Moreover, Judge Scalia contends that people understand, or misunderstand, the highest court in the land as a result of a news media that "typically oversimplifies and sensationalizes." (E & P) He also thinks that the Internet has an adverse effect on the way in which judges and their opinions are viewed, or maybe shared? Implicitly, the question isn't representation or misrepresentation, but judicial privacy. It is just possible that Scalia is asserting judicial privilege; namely, that the Court's judgments belong to the realm of esoterica, not unlike documents this administration labels "classified?" If so, will future generations regard finding out about a ruling in a case, such as Roe v. Wade, as "leaking?"

Perhaps it's not so much that the press is pandering, after all, but that the people aren't at a level where they're capable of understanding more than whether the plaintiff was "a nice little old lady;" is this what the Judge is suggesting, really, beneath it all? If so, this is an important assertion coming from a government that regards itself as a democracy. Or, is he claiming, along with Robert Kennedy, that the press is delinquent in fulfilling its obligation to foster an informed electorate?

And, when a federal judge orders a New York Times investigative journalist, Nicholas Kristof, to identify 3 confidential sources,as well as turn over information without which his piece about anthrax mailings that killed more nearly half a dozen people might not have been written, that is a challenge to all information-gathering needed to provide the public with anything more than an entertainment delivery vehicle. How in the hell can we expect the press not to think twice before engaging in controversy, as well as muzzle themselves, or self-censor, when the outcome is legalized humiliation?

How can we expect journalists to provide us with anything more than a dog and pony show when cynicism has spread as far as the Supreme Court, hen the courts are strong arming them to compromise their ethics, and rat out those who gave them privileged information? When the notion of a free press is neutralized by the suggestion that the news media provides us with fiction, and only those who make policy can provide us with the key to the Holy Grail? Do we stifle dissent when we impugn, and neuter those who bring us our information?

Over the past 5 plus years, we have seen more grand jury subpoenas of members of the press than ever in our nation's history, including the McCarthy era, mostly frivolous subpoenas. We have seen journalists hand-cuffed and taken to jail, or placed on house arrest. We have seen responsible network broadcasting turned into a parody of "Good Morning America." Is this any justification for pandering to the lowest common denominator, or presenting news-lite? Hell no.... but self-censorship, my friends, is the most insidious form because it never sees the light of day.

Yes, Mr. Kennedy is right to suggest that we, in this country, have been seduced by opinion and abandoned by fact, a trend that can only widen, and worsen, if other judges, like Scalia, take the bench, and impugn not only the integrity of the news media, but the ability of the American people to understand both judges, and judicial findings. The Bush administration's policy of classifying, and making privileged information can only expand when Supreme Court judges roll over to executive control. Would it be audacious to suggest that Scalia, a strong proponent of looking to the "original Constitution" as a guide revisit that great document which provides for checks and balances, as well as an independent Court? More to the point, the Judge himself oversimplifies when he suggests that the news media doesn't report accurately, as well that the independence of the Court is not always a good thing.

Notably, while both Scalia, on the right, and Kennedy, on the left, agree about major defects in the press, the former reflects the kind of elitism that takes us back to the monarchy while the latter suggests that an informed electorate is our best defense. And, while nobody is talking about the Supreme Court anymore, it's time to get started because whoever we elect as president, in 2008, will have the opportunity to appoint more Scalias, and Scalia-clones,after which the Constitution will be found along with Gideon's Bible in your local Motel 6.

It is inconceivable that anyone sitting on the highest court of a country founded by progressives would suggest that the news media can "never" report anything accurately; this kind of thinking poses a clear and present danger to a free press. At best, such a worldview leads to mediocrity; at worst, dictatorship. We have already witnessed what a class, and classified, view has to offer us; one that promotes privacy, and privilege while, at the same time, depriving us of our right to confidentiality.

If nothing else, the past decade has shown us that mediocrity has many takers. Excellence, on the other hand, is yet to be spoken for.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

President Flip Flop Rides Again

It looks like President Flip Flop has had his Quaker Oats this morning. Forget the adamant proclamations, over the past few days, that he will "stay the course" in Iraq, the Associated Press now reports that plans are in the works to beef up the number of troops, currently at 144,000, in the occupied land, as well as set a somewhat amorphous "timeline" for the Shiite-led government to take control. The announcement was made, at "a rare news conference," given by General Casey, only hours ago. (AP) Casey says that the additional U.S. forces, from inside and outside Iraq, will be used to "improve basic services for the population." Oh, yes, and we all know just how much the presence of American, and "coalition" forces has "improved" services in Baghdad, as well as throughout Iraq, since Saddam was ousted, and the country occupied. The news comes less than 24 hours after Tony Snow announced that the president has decided not to change, mind you, but to "adjust" its current strategy with regard to ending the war.

Reportedly, while the news conference gave "no specifics" (AP) about the timeline U.S. officials just announced, there was news that there is now a general timeframe for the Iraqis to take over their country's military operation. Specifics, and logistics, were also notably absent with respect to how the Shiite-led government is to achieve their objectives in time for the American and coalition forces to go home. That said, Casey insists that the Iraqi military will be "completely capable" of taking control of the country in less than 2 years, but that "some level of support" from American forces will be needed for at least another 18 months after that. (AP)

Hmmmmm.... you think this decision may have something to do with the fact that, while Ford Motor Company posted a whopping $5.8 billion third quarter loss in sales, major defense contractors like United Technologies boast of a muscular, indeed bionic third quarter profit? Another wartime president, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, once said: "I don't want to see a single war millionaire created in the United States as a result of this world disaster." Oh, FDR would not be a happy camper now were he to find out about how many billionaires the so-called "War on Terror" has produced, to date, many of whom we never hear about. While we know about the Ken Lays, and Jeffrey Skillings, we don't hear about Halliburton CEO, David Lesar, who was paid $26.6 million last year alone despite the ongoing scandals about his company's contracts in Iraq. Moreover, Lesar earned nearly $50 million since 9/11.

The mainstream media is conspicuously quiet, too, about the facts and figures behind who is making the most money out of this president's "War on Terror." According to a major study by the groups United for a Fair Economy, and the Institute for Policy Studies, the highest paid defense executive is United Technologies' Chief Executive Officer George David, who earned nearly $88 million last year. DHB Industries, hugely lucrative bulletproof vest maker, founder and chief executive, David H. Brooks, received $70 million in salary alone last year. Also, in 2005, defense contractor chief executive officer pay was 44 times that of a military general with 20 years of experience, and 308 times that of an army private. Missing in action, too, are reports that, since 9/11, the top 34 defense contractors in Iraq are earning twice what they earned during the pre-9/11 period of 1998-2001. What's more, over the past 5 years, the top 34 defense CEOs, in the study sample group, pocketed $984 million, enough to support more than a million Iraqis for an entire year.

Some may think that the sudden change of heart, by the commander-in-chief, is evidence of a newfound propensity for flip flopping about "staying the course" in Iraq, and anywhere else on the globe that he can exploit for monetary gain in the name of exporting democracy. Others, however, view it differently, and think the sudden decision to come up with a "timeline," however ambigious, is mostly about "luring the Sunni establishment away from the violence and into the political process." (AP) Still, in light of the $984 million dollars pocketed by CEOs of defense contracting firms, there can be little doubt that any talk of "timelines" for withdrawal is nothing more than a transparent smokescreen, and attempt to pull the wool over Iraqi and American eyes only 2 weeks before an important midterm election in which, if an investigation into this war is justifiably ordered, we may well see more CEO defense contractors who, like Skilling and Lay, get caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar.

So, before he sits down to another game of Monopoly, or gets back in the saddle and goes home to his ranch in Texas, in 2008, you can bet your bottom beeper that this president will see to it that his pals Dick, and Donald don't have to worry about social security either. You can also bet, judging by the obscene profits of defense contractors in Iraq, and their grossly overpaid chief executives, if General Casey's estimates of how long our troops must remain, in Iraq, to finish up the job are conservative, as they most likely are, the likes of Halliburton and United Technologies will figure out a way to hang around Baghdad for as long as possible, and well into the second term of any new president.

Monday, October 23, 2006

the only thing harder...

I think the only thing harder than being Osama bin Laden right now is being Joe Lieberman.

Forget the Sharks; What About the Swamps?

This afternoon, on the way to the post office, as I passed a motorcycle cop who looked like Darth Vader as he stradled his bike, I couldn't help but think about the campaign trail back east, and a debate in Albany today in which Hillary Clinton declared that things were getting "swampy" in light of her Republican challenger's comment that the Senator was "unattractive when she was younger and had a lot of work done on herself."

Yes, that's right, John Spence, Hillary's challenger for the New York Senate seat, was busy telling a reporter for the New York Daily News that the former First Lady was so unappealing in her youth that: "Whew. I don't know why Bill married her." (AP) And this on a day when Ford Motor Company posted a stunning 3rd quarter loss of $5.8 billion in sales, a sign that yet more layoffs loom on the horizon; and this on a day when former Enron CEO , Jeffrey Skilling, was sentenced to 24 years in prison on charges of fraud, conspiracy, insider trading and, as presiding Judge Lake puts it, imposing "a life sentence of poverty" on hundreds, if not thousands of his former employees. One would think the Republicans would strive for higher order thinking, and discourse, these days, especially in light of the Foley debacle, but my, my, my, what a strange bunch of fish we have who swim with sharks, and never feel a thing.

Yes, folks, in a race where most candidates can't wipe their ass without getting a thumbs up first, who would be inclined to endorse the kind of nonsense that results in one major newspaper regurgitating, as a headline, a somewhat nauseating pun, "Getting Ugly." Forget endorse, who would be inclined to vote for it? Oh, and Mrs. Clinton is right to observe that "when you don't have anything positive to say about the issues" we are in "pretty swampy territory." (AP) I, for one, would be most curious to hear what the good Senator has to say that's "positive" about any of the issues currently on her plate in the Senate. What can she say that's "positive" about Congress passing, by a wide margin, the Military Commissions Act of 2006? What can she say that's "positive" about the president slipping the second installment of the"USA Patriot Act," as well as more "anti-terror," and anti-privacy legislation through?. Indeed, one would like to know whether her stand on Iraqi withdrawal has changed as conditions deteriorate in that country, and how she would respond to being called "McCain lite" instead of "ugly?" These are, I think, more reasonable questions than whether or not she's had "work done."

What may be even more scary is her advisor, Howard Wolfson's defense of her in which he denies these allegations, no, not the ones that her foreign policy position is indistinguishable from that of most members of the opposing party, but the allegations that she has had plastic surgery, as well as his comment that her opponent, John Spencer, is "unfit for the U.S. Senate" for having made disparaging remarks about her looks. (AP) Given the latest polling numbers which show that 20% or less of the American people approve of the job Congress is doing, it might be time for both the Republicans and the Democrats to schedule an appointment for a face lift.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Quote of the Day

From Albert Einstein...

"Weakness of attitude becomes weakness of character."

a word on the difference...

There is little I detest more than having to spell things out, but due to confusion on the part of some who read my previous blog, "Thus Spake Zarabushtra," I'm compelled to explain what I meant....

Yes, Martha, there is a difference between "strategy" and "tactic," and I get that. What some folks missed was my statement that this administration has a "habit of warping distinctions" between things, and blurring lines of demarcation between concepts like strategy and tactics, enemy combatant and prisoner of war, oh, and yes, while we're at it, good and evil.
Moreover, think about this: can one profess to have as a strategy to bring peace to the world, and as a tactic bombing the hell out of Baghdad. Can one have as a strategy exporting democracy, and as a tactic electronic surveillance of their citizens at home, elimination of civil liberties, and the holding of AP photographers, as well as "terrorists" in Guantanamo Bay, without charge, in Iraq?

Something I learned very early on....when I was about 20, my father, who was among the smartest, and wisest people I've ever known, told me: "why don't you dress like everyone else, and try to fit in; you can always be who you are on the inside," and I said "because you become the uniform." Indeed, the tactic becomes the strategy---the dropping of bombs, and shooting of innocent Iraqi civilians becomes the big picture for defeat, an inevitable defeat, because anybody, for a single godawful minute, who seriously believes that Bush & Co. are fighting for the forces of good, and against evil belongs in the front lines of this war, and not on the sidelines, getting fat off their old man's oil profits.

Oh, and one more thing, smile when you say "stupid;" you may be looking in the mirror!

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Thus Spake Zarabushtra

Wouldn't it be nice if the news came with an expiration date, especially where the president's speeches, or should I say "proclamations," are concerned? Yes, proclamations is a better word for this commander-in-chief's utterances as he is no more open to debate than Napoleon was. Moreover, he is no more willing to talk truth, or negotiate with the American people than he is with the leaders of North Korea and Iran.

Indeed, Mr. Bush seems to demonstrate an amazing ability to conveniently forget that he was elected, as well as that elected officials give news conferences, and not public declarations. Moreover, his habit of warping distinctions between terms like "prisoner of war" and "enemy combatant," "strategy" and "tactic" defies not only logic, but common sense. So, for an administration whose claim to fame was pre-emptive, or offensive foreign policy to be on the defensive, and on the front page of the news almost as much as on the front lines of combat, is clearly not what they had in mind when they cooked up, along with Tony Blair, a pretext for invading, and occupying a sovereign state. And, indeed, if Abraham Lincoln is best remembered for the Emancipation Proclamation, future generations may best remember The Downing Street Memo when they think of the 43rd President of the United States.

And, talk about defying logic, how is it that, less than 24 hours ago in a "brief interview" with the Associated Press, Mr. Bush insisted he will not change "strategy" in Iraq, and about 4 hours later at a local CVS drug store, he said he would consider "if a change in tactics is necessary to combat the escalating violence." Is this doublespeak, or if White House Press Secretary Tony Snow gives his blessing to this distinction, does it hold up? How is it that one can change "tactics" without changing strategy?Assuming, for a moment, that this is possible, would it be asking too much of this administration to insist that it be more specific as to what it means to change tactics, as well as what its current strategy in Iraq is? On October 17th, Senator Barbara Boxer wrote a letter to James Baker, chair of the Iraq Study Group, urging that they release the study group's recommendations for a change of course in Iraq, but this president has demanded that results of this independent assessment be put on hold until after the midterm election.

Is it possible that this president just might be rethinking his Iraq policy, or is he just thinking about it? Or, can it be that the label "flip flop" which Dick Cheney slapped on candidate John Kerry, in the 2004 election, has come back to haunt Mr. Bush. Will our great-grandchildren think of him, ironically, as President Flip Flop when it comes to Iraq? We should be so lucky. For, after all, to vacillate requires critical thinking, a propensity this commander-in-chief has yet to demonstrate. Remember, nobody could ever accuse Macbeth, or George W. Bush of flip-flopping; Hamlet maybe, but not George Bush.

Yet, just this morning in a hugely publicized meeting with top generals in the White House, the president seemed to be practicing what he considered the fine art of his former opponent in 2004, John Kerry, with respect to reviewing "Iraq strategy...amid increasing election-season pressure to make dramatic changes to address deteriorating conditions" in that country. (AP) While the White House claims that today's meeting is routine, they've created enough spin to make a spider dizzy. This morning, Condoleezza Rice, the president's next door neighbor in the state of denial, has said only "I wouldn't read into this somehow that there is a full-scale push for a major re-evaluation," (AP) and right she is. The only thing this administration is engaged in is a "full-scale push" for re-evaluating whatever tactics it needs to best bring about a Republican victory at the polls in November.

Yes, as I sit here writing this, our president sits at a conference table in the Roosevelt Room to discuss a possible change in battle plan with Donald Rumsfeld, and Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General, Peter Pace, the same Peter Pace who, less than 48 hours ago in Miami, defended Rummy's leadership by saying "He leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country." Yet, it appears from the general's statement that, while our illustrious military has yet to find any weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they've stumbled upon some primo pot. Moreover, one can only wonder how it is that the "good Lord," after visiting with Mr. Rumsfeld, hasn't paid a visit to Abu Ghraib, or the detention camp at Guantanamo Bay, over the past half dozen years, and if he has why hasn't He come up with other plan for the secretary of defense's public service?

The good news, I guess, is that at least the Joint Chiefs of Staff didn't say the president himself "leads in a way that the good Lord" tells him to; the president, mind you, clearly takes his orders from a higher sauce. Consider the irony, too, that this wartime meeting of generals is taking place in the Roosevelt Room; FDR would, no doubt, be rolling over in his grave were he to be there, or at the CVS pharmacy yesterday where the president stopped off not to pick up his refill of Viagra, but to proclaim that "Millions of seniors are benefiting" from his Medicare plan, as well as that his "compassionate approach to health care is working for America's seniorsm" (AP) many more of whom are going to bed hungry every night to get refills of their prescriptions.

Yes, these are strange times indeed when the Joint Chiefs of Staff says our secretary of defense takes commands from the Lord while, in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a lawyer is sentenced to jail for contempt of court when uttering the word "Lord" during a trial. What would our friend Franklin Delano Roosevelt have to say about that? Or Thomas Jefferson? Or Benjamin Franklin? Where is their much-touted separation of church and state? In the same circular file as Iran-Contra memos of Oliver North? Bush pere? Or, in the one Richard Nixon used to deposit memos about planning Watergate we have yet to see, and never will. What would all those who signed the Declaration of Independence have to say about a military on a mission not unlike that of Joan of Arc, or the Great Crusades?

Aren't we glad the president is meeting with the higher arcanum of generals, this morning, so that we can get another news release telling us that he has, yet again, decided to "stay the course," and as he proclaimed in his weekly radio address: "The last few weeks have been rough for our troops in Iraq, and for the Iraqi people...The fighting is difficult, but we have seen difficult fights before. In World War II and the Cold War, earlier generations of Americans sacrificed so that we can live in freedom." Was the Cold War fought by soldiers, and on a battlefield? If so, where? Wasn't the Cold War a conceptual battle, a showdown between opposing ideologies like the so-called "War on Terror?" Is there a difference between flesh and blood combat, and a clash of ideology? Can we afford, as a civilization, to blur the line between the two? Can we accept leadership, whether it be for two years or two minutes, that confuses hand to hand combat with a clash of ideas?

More to the point, how dare a commander-in-chief refer to "a loss of life" (AP) as if "life" were a commodity. Somebody needs to tell this president that we have lost hundreds of thousands of human lives (plural) in this battle, and that life is not a collective noun. Do you think that Winston Churchill or Franklin Delano Roosevelt ever, even for a moment, thought about combat mortality as an abstraction? For a president to approach changing military tactics, and/or strategies, in much the same way as one would talk about changing manicurists is madder, and more precarious, than any assertion of deus ex machina, however ludicrous, his Joint Chiefs of Staff can make. Proclamations aside, taking liberties with language aside, we must remember that election was not intended to be a quick fix, or a panacea, but a blueprint for change. We can no longer afford to ask for change; we must demand it.

from Senator Barbara Boxer ...

This morning, I received the following from California Senator Barbara Boxer which you may find at the link she provides below. It is heartening to see that members of Congress are calling for the release of a report, and at least attempting to stand up to a regime that has openly, and actively defied them for more than a half dozen years. We, as citizens, must support Senator Boxer, and other members of Congress who demand release of this report, as well as any, and all, information that evidences the failure of Iraq, misdeeds, or any high crimes and misdemeanors no matter where that trail leads us...

October 17, 2006

The Honorable James A. Baker III
Iraq Study Group
1200 17th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036

Dear Secretary Baker:

As co-chair of the Iraq Study Group, you have taken on thetremendous challenge of developing recommendations for a new course of action in Iraq. I am deeply appreciative of your willingness to serve our country once again.

Over the past several weeks, you have repeatedly said that theIraq Study Group would not provide an independent assessment on the situation in Iraq until after the November midterm elections. Given the critical need to change course on Iraq, I urge the study group to release its recommendations as soon as possible without any consideration to the political calendar.Indeed, imagine if you had a son or daughter in Iraq right now and knew that a change of course would have to wait due to politics while your child is a target in a hellish situation. Last year, the Senate voted 79-19 in favor of an amendment stating that 2006 "should be a period of significant transition" in Iraq. Instead, this year has seen the rapid escalation of death, suffering, and sectarian violence thatcould easily devolve into a full scale civil war.

It is clear that the Administration's continued insistence to "stay the course" with its failed policies is not a viable solution. Judging by recent interviews you have given in the press, it appears that the Iraq Study Group has made some initial judgments that would be a departure from the Administration's failed policies. If this is indeed the case, I urge you, in the strongest
Administration can see that the status quo is unacceptable.

Thank you for your consideration.


Barbara Boxer
United States Senator

cc: The Honorable Lee Hamilton,
Co Chair

please go to: http://www.boxer.senate.gov To respond to this message, please click on the following link:http://boxer.senate.gov/contact/email/feedback.cfm . This link will take you to a webpage where you can respond

Friday, October 20, 2006

Can it be Dyslexia?

Why is it that "uniformed" always looks like "uninformed" to me?

from the "Joint..."

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Peter Pace (aka "Peter Pan") suggests that Rummy is hearing voices...

MIAMI (AFP) - The top US general defended the leadership of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying it is inspired by God."He leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country,"said Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Didn't we read something somewhere about not taking the name of the Lord in vain? While they may not have found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, it looks like they found some dynamite dope!

hearing voices?

Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Marine General Peter Pace (aka "Peter Pan") suggests that Rummy is hearing voices...

MIAMI (AFP) - The top US general defended the leadership of Defense
Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, saying it is inspired by God.

"He leads in a way that the good Lord tells him is best for our country,"
said Marine General Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Didn't we read something somewhere about not taking the name of the Lord in vain?
Indeed, it looks like, while these guys never found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, they found some dynamite dope!

no such thing...

There is no such thing as being an ex-New Yorker, only a dead one...

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Why Is Karl Rove Smiling?

It was hard to miss the ear to ear grin on the face of Karl Rove, chief advisor to the president, in the Washington Post earlier this week as he paused for a photo-op with Mr. Bush. Why was he smiling? Can it be because unlike his friend, Scooter Libby, the vice president's top aide, Rove is off the hook in the Plame leak case on charges that he committed perjury, lied to investigators, and could well have been the one to expose the undercover CIA agent's identity which, by the way, is a felony? Apparently not. Republican party operatives say that Rove's current euphoria derives from his conviction that his party will only lose a maxium of 8 to 10 seats in November's midterm election, and will maintain control of both the House and Senate.

With a whomping 74% of the American people saying they're dissatisfied with Congress, according to a CNN poll, if Rove's party holds the reins for another 2 to 6 years, who knows, that number could soon grow to 100%.. Still, what can we expect from Congress? Can we expect them to stand up to a president run afoul of our Constitution, and international law? Can we expect them to begin a probe as to the legality of a war that is draining us morally, spiritually, squandering human life without purpose? What's more, can there ever be a purpose, or justification, for squandering human life? What do we expect from Congress? Do we expect them to vote down legislation that legitimizes abrogation of due process, habeas corpus, and the Magna Carta, as well as radically redefining once internationally-recognizable terms and concepts like torture? Can we expect them to stand up to a president who has the same ethos, and principles as any other neighborhood bully? Were it possible to bring back those who farmed under Russia's Peter the Great, those who were held at the infamous concentration camp at Babi Yar, or even those rolling around in the blood and entrails of ethnic cleansing under Milosevic, they might laugh at us, and think how hopelessly naive we are to think scruples, honor, and unflagging belief in those precepts upon which our nation was founded are anything more than theoretical goals, and they may be right. But, there's a grace period for naivete after which one is no longer naive, but criminally negligent, and, alas, our grace period is almost up.

Don't tell Karl Rove that as he might also be smiling because he knows, over the next few weeks, odds are good that North Korea will test another nuclear weapon putting "national security" squarely back on the table, making it a meat and potatoes issue on the plates of the American people while, at the same time, spoonfeeding us the pablum that any nation, or person, who deals with agents of terror, like Iran and Al Qaeda, must face "a grave consequence," as the president said yesterday on ABC news. Karl Rove's grin may best be summed up in those three magical words uttered by our president with respect to the outcome of potential North Korean aggression, "a grave consequence,"which suggest three other portentous words we've heard lots during recent months: "the October surprise." Looks like North Korea, and not Iran, might be the surprise that tips the scales in favor of the preemptive warriors, and great crusaders of the radical right. While many have been hoping for regime change in Washington,D.C., Rove, Bush, Cheney & Co. have been busily at work on "a grave consequence," paving the way for regime change in North Korea, for starters, and ensuring control over America's domestic and foreign policies for decades to come.

Arguably, the only way a grassroots, homegrown struggle for social justice, and a renaissance in representational government can occur is if the Democrats spoil the party for Rove, and Bush, take North Korea back from the Republicans, turn it around such that North Korea can only be viewed as proof of yet another failed foreign policy for the Bush administration, an exercise in bad judgment, as well as a noxious habit of making greed the default priority allowing Kim Jong to grow, and flex his nuclear biceps while we were out bombing Baghdad. So it may be that North Korea has cooked up our October surprise, and is working along with this administration to spoon feed us the pap that only American jihadists can protect us from attack.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

not to change the subject, but...

Last Thursday night, I went to a book signing, and talk by former assistant and senior advisor to Bill Clinton, columnist for The Guardian of London, staff writer for "The New Yorker," and "The Washington Post," Sidney Blumenthal, who is currently a Senior Fellow at New York University of Law and Security. The party was graciously hosted by Teddi Winograd, mother of Marcy Winograd, president of the Progressive Democrats of America Los Angeles chapter, and recent candidate for Congress in the 36th District.

The soiree was to celebrate publication of Mr. Blumenthal's latest book, "How Bush Rules: Chronicles of a Radical Regime," as well as to give members of the audience, many of whom were grass roots of PDA, a chance to discuss some of the crucial issues the book raises, such as the radical nature of what Blumenthal calls the Bush "regime," in terms of the role the president plays, as well as the precedent he sets for governing. As the author rightly observes, everything is turned upside down; the Bushies have become the extremists, revolutionaries, and, indeed, their country's Bolsheviks. Moreover, those of us, back in the late 60's who were speaking up for civil rights now find ourselves working to protect and defend the Bill of Rights, an enterprise formerly considered conservative.

But, among the most stunning arguments Blumenthal makes is that there is nothing random, or haphazard, about this administration's efforts to endow the executive branch with powers previously reserved for kings and deities, but instead it was Bush and Cheney's intention to deliberately transform the concept of the presidency, and governing in America, such that the president becomes the precedent.

What a compelling discussion the author generated with such probity, and elegance. More memorable still was the enthusiasm generated by a candid irreverence which one seldom expects to find especially from one who confesses to be among those insiders currently embedded in Washington, D.C. The dialogue got red hot when the subject of Iran came up with several sweaty, squirming hands lifted in the air, and members of the audience virtually jumping off their seats to ask the man who was among the closest to Bill Clinton of anyone whether or not he thought an invasion of Iran was imminent. I watched as Mr. Blumenthal took a deep breath, paused, then noted that, while there may be plans for regime change in Iran, as Seymour Hersh and Scott Ritter claim, he didn't think it would happen before the 2008 election because, as he put it, "our troops have another engagement." And indeed they do! And those of us who want to see regime change in Washington had better not forget that.

Blumenthal was right to field the Iran question, and change the subject. It's irresponsible on the part of anyone who wants to see a changing of the guards, on election day, to raise the specter of invasion, and occupation of Iran when we're in the middle of a full-fledged war in neighboring Iraq, a war which has reportedly claimed the lives of more than 650,000 Iraqi civilians, as well as 3,000 American service men and women. Any effort to deflect attention away from a conflict which becomes increasingly more noxious, and injurious to the country we plundered in the name of exporting democracy will do serious damage not merely to the prospects of voting the ruling class out in the midterm election, but in the presidential election that follows.

While no rational person would deny substantial, and credible evidence that we're putting the infrastructure in place for another "preemptive strike," this time on Iran, to play the Iran card this close to one of the most important midterm elections this country has yet to see, and take the focus away from the omnipresent failure of a war in progress can only prove deadly to the Democrats in that it may well backfire, and result in voter apathy when it comes to the number one item on the foreign policy menu, namely a timetable for bringing our troops back from Iraq safely. What's more, our friends Joe and Alice, in Middle America, who are sitting anxiously on their sofa watching "Jeopardy" and waiting for their nephew's coffin to arrive on the next flight from Baghdad, don't give a rotting fig about Iran now. They're worried about whether their 23 year old son, Jimmy, will make it back in one piece. Any party that wants to bring peace to the planet can't afford to forget that. We must not forget that without a base, there can be no platform.

Clearly, whenever you hear Republicans, and/or key allies of the Bush administration concede that it's time to consider troop withdrawal that can only mean one thing; there are plans, in place, to move those troops somewhere else. To a Republican, more often than not, especially a neo-conservative Republican, troop withdrawal means troop redeployment. After all, those who have held the reins of government, for the past decade, have proven better than any who came before them that we are, as President Eisenhower once said, a "military industrial complex." But, even those who currently "occupy" the Oval Office aren't ready for the high stakes poker game invading Iran would entail. You can't do Monte Carlo on a Vegas budget. And, unless Alan Greenspan was stashing billions of dollars of defense money under his black belt, we don't have the cash for two major debacles, not simultaneously anyway, so it is that any move to wage war with Iran before the next presidential election, or until we pull out of Iraq, is very unlikely.

Mr. Blumenthal, in closing, suggested that those who surround this president need more than Nyquil to get to sleep these days. Don't let the apparent edginess of Karl Rove and Dick Cheney fool you. Make no mistake, Bush & Co. are more concerned about how they can maintain control after they've been voted out; that is, if they're voted out in 2008. And, Sidney Blumenthal is right to make the subject of his talks expansion of presidential powers, contempt of checks and balances, executive hubris, and not raise the bogey man of an attack on Iran; however menacing that may be, it's beside the point now. When they go to the polls in three weeks, people like Joe and Alice will be thinking about flesh and blood issues, and not nightmare scenarios, and unless there is solid proof of a clear and present danger, it's best to focus on the body bags, from Iraq, the Defense Department has been doing such a wonderful job of keeping out of the news for the past 3 years. Unless we want six more years, we'd better out Herod Herod, find the escape route, and change the subject fast.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Outsourcing the Death Penalty

On Tuesday morning, at the White House, your president will sign into law the Military Commissions Act of 2006 (S-3930) which passed the Senate by nearly a 2 to 1 margin. The so-called "torture bill" does not preclude "alternative interrogation techniques" that include sleep deprivation, and waterboarding, as well as gives the executive branch the right to decide what constitutes torture. Moreover, this new legislation empowers the executive branch with the ability to hold detainees indefinitely without charge, and without remedy from the courts, thereby defying habeas corpus.

It is epecially important to consider the new powers granted to the commander-in-chief, and the military, in light of revelations that an American citizen of Iraqi descent, 53 year old Mohammed Munaf, who was tried by an Iraqi court, and convicted of aiding and abetting the kidnapping, in 2005, of 3 Romanian journalists, has been sentenced to die along with five Iraqi co-defendants. (NYT)

As first reported by the New York Times, Mr. Munaf, who became an American citizen in 2000, went to Iraq in March, 2005, to work with the Romanian journalists in the capacity of translator and guide. And, when the Iraqis kidnapped the journalists, Munaf was also held for nearly two months. When the reporters were freed, in late May, Mr. Munaf was detained on the grounds that he was complicit in the kidnapping. According to government sources, Mr. Munaf is alleged to have confessed to cooking up the plot to kidnap the 3 journalists in Iraq, and pretending to be a victim. However, his attorney, Jonathan Hafetz, insists that the confession was made under duress, an allegation which especially resonates in light of the Military Commissions Act which is about to be signed into law.

The Iraqi-born American citizen is currently being held by the American government, and his lawyers filed papers, last week, to prevent his transfer to the Iraq "arguing that his death sentence undermined one of the United States government's principal arguments for transferring him, namely that he would be in no danger of physical abuse in Iraqi custody." (NYT) Indeed, it would be gross incompetence were his counsel not to insist on challenging his coerced confession, as well as demanding answers as to why Munaf, an American citizen, is being held, tried, convicted, and sentenced by a foreign country, regardless of whether it happens to be his native land.

Moreover, there appears to be some controversy surrounding Munaf's current whereabouts. Some members of the government claim he is at Camp Cropper near the Baghdad airport, but the Justice Department says he is being held by "multinational forces." In a similar case, a federal judge rejected the Justice Department's assertion that an American was being held by a "multinational force," and yet another court called department claims that prisoners are not being held by the U.S. military "legalistic fiction." But, the Justice Department seems to think that Mr. Munaf's fears of facing torture, and beatings, should he be turned over to the government he fled a half dozen years ago are "speculative and based on news reports." The implication, then, is that an American captive who has been sentenced to death by an Iraqi court, which was strongarmed by our own military, has been watching too many horror movies!

Apart from the obvious, troubling questions about who is now holding Mohammed Munaf, and where, there are even more disturbing concerns. First, is an American citizen entitled to be held, and tried, according to American law, and not Iraqi, in his home country, and with a jury of his peers? Also, if he is, in fact, guilty of the offense for which he was convicted, is being an accomplice to kidnapping, especially one in which the hostages survive, a capital offense? If so, is it not up to the American government to hold, try, and execute him? More importantly, how is it that officials with the United States military are empowered such that they get to intervene, and demand an Iraqi judge convict, and sentence to death an American citizen? Who pulls the strings, and who makes the ruling--a judge in an Iraqi court, or the Justice Department? Do we not make a mockery of Iraqi jurisprudence when American military brass is allowed to manipulate the outcome and sentences of those who come before Iraqi courts?

In light of the the signing by the president tomorrow of the Military Commissions Act, and other staggering legislation that expands the executive branch, and military powers, in this country, it must be asked how it is that the United States government not only gets to outsource torture, but now the death penalty, with impunity, and without challenge from Congress, or the Supreme Court.

Friday, October 13, 2006

how's this for a cover-up?

Now that Congress is busy looking into what the Speaker of the House, and others connected with Mark Foley, knew and when they found out about his Internet cruising, why don't they look into today's revelation, by the International Herald Tribune and the Associated Press, that American servicemen shot a 50 year old British journalist, Terry Lloyd, in the back of the head in March of 2003, the early days of the Iraq war. Moreover, why don't esteemed members of Congress, and the attorney-general, investigate how it is that the first 15 minutes of video shot by U.S. servicemen from a neighboring tank, which would prove where those shots originated, reportedly have been erased?

What an outrage to learn of the execution-style shooting of Mr. Lloyd, a reporter for an independent British television station, who,unlike his American and British colleagues, was not embedded when he reported from Iraq. One can only wonder what he had stumbled upon, and what he would have reported were he allowed to do so. Further, one can only think of last week's cold-blooded assasination, in Moscow, of renowned investigative journalist, Anna Politkovskaya, who was shot dead in her apartment building, contract-style, and rumored to have been working on Russia's policy of torture with regard to Chechen detainees. What was Terry Lloyd working on, and was he silenced?

An inquest into the British journalist's death at the hands of U..S forces notes that Lloyd was driving with other ITN reporters and cameramen from Kuwait towards Iraq when he "was shot in the back by Iraqi troops who overtook his car, then died after U.S. fire hit a civilian minivan being used as an ambulance and struck him in the head." (AP) Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker, who wrote the inquest report, intends to ask the attorney general to investigate this matter, and bring those responsible to justice, but what happens when "those responsible" turn out to be heads of our own government? One wonders who will render justice when, as is the case with the Putin regime, those at the helm of our government are busy redefining what justice is.

"Terry Lloyd died following a gunshot wound to the head. The evidence this bullet was fired by the Americans is overwhelming...There is no doubt it was an unlawful act of fire," Deputy Coroner Walker says. As reported. Lloyd was shot "in the back of the head as he lay in the back of a makeshift ambulance, " (International Herald Tribune) A spokesperson for the Pentagon response to the alleged contract style killing, by our troops, is simply that: "The Department of Defense has never deliberately targeted noncombatants, including journalists." (AP) Does being shot in the back of the head while resting in an ambulance, no less, suggest a lack of deliberation to you? And, as an ITN cameraman, and colleague of Lloyd's, Daniel Demoustier, the only one to survive the rampant gunfire, says the inquest didn't clarify whether the bullet that killed Lloyd came from an American tank, or helicopter. Why would that matter? How can a bullet from a helicopter, or any vehicle not within closer range, hit somebody in the back of the head, expecially when he's in an ambulance? Moreover, if the forensics were strong enough to suggest that the shooting was an accident, why did the coroner rule that Lloyd's killing was "unlawful?"

Importantly, if the murder of this British journalist was not deliberate, as the Defense Department asserts, then why is it that the opening 15 minutes of footage of the incident taken by U.S. servicemen, and presented in court, were ostensibly deleted? And, if the killing was an accident, why wouldn't U.S. authorities allow American servicemen to testify at the inquest? Moreover, why is it that several submitted statements were ruled inadmissible? (AP) We must also ask why it is, too, that a leading European newspaper writes that "prosecution of U.S. service members seemed unlikely." (International Herald Tribune) Who is responsible for granting immunity to our troops, and can it be the same fellows who recently granted immunity to themselves by redacting the War Crimes Act with the Military Commission Act of 2006? While the widow of the slain journalist, Lynn Lloyd, is willing to give American servicemen the benefit of the doubt, one can't help but marvel at her description of a government that has "allowed their soldiers to behave like trigger-happy cowboys in an area in which there were civilians traveling." (International Herald Tribune) That, folks, would be our government; those "trigger-happy cowboys" have, as commander-in-chief, our president, George W. Bush.

After a week-long inquest into Mr. Lloyd's murder, the Pentagon concludes that "its forces had followed proper rules of engagement." (AP) Indeed, it would seem that the Defense Department is now rewriting those "rules" to bend so far as to allow execution-style shootings. If, as recently reported, members of our armed forces are finding it more difficult to tell who the enemy is in Iraq maybe it's because our government has blurred the line of demarkation between good and evil such that it is brazenly obvious that the enemy is not "terror," but justice.

I'm sure we all want to know a bit more about what Mr. Lloyd was working on before he was silenced by a bullet to the back of his skull, and why it is that our government was, at best, ambiguous about whether the shots came from American servicemen, or Iraqis, a helicopter, or a tank. Given that evidence of intent on the part of our military was disallowed at the formal inquest into the killing, the only plausible explanation is that our government tried to cover-up the murder of a British journalist at the onset of the war in Iraq.

What does it say about our country when the head of the premiere global journalist organization, Aidan White of International Federation of Journalists, observes that "If this was murder, as the court suggests, and the United States is responsible, it certainly is a war crime." And, what does it say about the universal outcry against the execution-style slaying of a prominent Russian journalist, and calls for investigations, when the London-based National Union of Journalists calls the killing of 50 year old British television journalist, Terry Lloyd, by our own forces, "nothing short of a war crime."

Granted, some cover-ups are sexier than others, and some cover-ups have more teeth. Clearly, news of a foreign reporter's murder by members of our own military doesn't grab headlines, or entice the media, and talking heads of the blogosphere at large, to indulge in nonstop, and nauseatingly repetitive coverage as did the lascivious instant messages sent by a middle-aged elected official to a congressional page. But, those of us who stood in silent vigil, earlier this week, whether in New York, or Amsterdam, in remembrance of a slain Russian journalist, those of us who have called for an investigation of who, in the Kremlin, was behind the hit need to stop, look, and think about this: the European press, and human rights groups, are condemning our government in much the same way we condemn Putin, and his assault on free speech, and a free press. History will soon forget Mark Foley and his foibles. Our silence, on the other hand, can only be viewed as acquiescence.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Quote of the Day...

“Homogenization is good for milk, but bad for ideas”

-- Patric M. Verrone, President WGA, west

courtesy of Jonathan Rintels, Center for Creative Voices in Media

Insulting Ignorance

Out of Sweden today comes the announcement that Orhan Pamuk, the Turkish writer who recently stood trial for "insulting Turkishness," has been awarded this year's prestigious Nobel Prize for Literature. Pamuk was charged, last year, for telling a Swiss newspaper, in the winter of 2005, that his country was in denial about the massacre of Armenians during World War I, as well as recent guerrilla warfare in southeastern Turkey. Importantly, Pamuk's award is as much a victory for free speech as it is in recognition of the accomplishments of an important novelist.

Apart from a cool $1.4 million, Mr Pamuk receives the satisfaction, along with the rest of the world, of knowing that governments that try to stifle dissent, and freedom of expression can't prevail over the universal movement toward greater, and more open expression which is embodied by technological advances like the Internet. As you know, Harold Pinter, another prominent, outspoken critic of his government's participation in the war in Iraq, was the recipient of last year's Nobel Prize for Literature, so it is that this prize, like its sister the Nobel Peace Prize, is as much about exposing, and engaging oppression as about aesthetics.

The author of "Snow," and "My Name is Red" became the subject of a campaign by PEN American Center, and other champions of free speech, to whom he, and the rest of the world, are hugely indebted. For, if nothing else, granting this award to a novelist who was charged with "insulting Turkishness" is an insult to ignorance. One can hope that the forces of darkness, and secrecy will heed the international call for openness, and light.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

now that we know how to go in reverse...

After being startled today, like everybody else, by eerily-familiar live footage of yet another airplane crashing into a Manhattan skyscraper, I couldn't help but think of some comments made, a week ago, by President Bush on the campaign trail in California when he argued that Democrats are weak on national security. "If you listen closely to some of the leaders of the Democratic Party," the president said, "it sounds like--it sounds like-- they think the best way to protect the American people is, wait until we're attacked again." (AP) Amen, Mr. President, but will somebody explain how is it that the party that brought us "national security" and intelligence czars wasn't able to prevent an airplane from crashing, once again, into a building in Manhattan? Where have our tax dollars gone since 9/11? Wasn't the rationale behind the "war on terror," the USA Patriot Act, and the NSA domestic surveillance program about preventing this sort of thing?

Oh, and the president isn't the only one raising questions about the Democrats ability to keep us safe. If you listened to 2008 presidential hopeful, John McCain, at a news conference yesterday, you would have heard him accuse former President Bill Clinton, the husband of his prospective nemesis, of not taking the necessary steps, in the 1990's, to prevent North Korea from going nuclear. Apart from hearing the familiar, and tired, refrain about who will keep us safe that you've heard from Bush, and Cheney, you'd swear you were listening a re-run of Fox Sunday's Chris Wallace interview of Bill Clinton.

With virtuouso chutzpah, Senator Mc Cain, like Fox anchor Chris Wallace, stepped up to the plate to "remind" Mrs.. Clinton "and other Democrats critical of the Bush administration's policies, that the framework agreement her husband's administration negotiated was a failure." (AP) Yes, yes, that may be Senator, but at least her husband's administration tried to negotiate with the Koreans which puts him one step ahead of the current team. As Senator Kennedy reminds us the president was AWOL when the North Korean ambassador came to the United States, and the ambassador was sent to New Mexico to meet with Bill Richardson "because he didn't have anyone else to talk to." (AP) It's hard to play one-handed poker.

Moreover, does Mr. McCain need to be reminded that it was on President Clinton's watch, back in 1994, that U.S. negotiators convinced North Korea to suspend its nuclear program, and allow U.N. inspections. Clearly, the Bush administration has been too busy flexing its preemptive muscle as if in a furtive effort to ward off erectile dysfunction, under the thinly guised pretext of spreading democracy, and thus unavailable to such trifling, and insignificant, measures as diplomatic talks to stop nuclear proliferation. What's more, thanks to the efforts of the administration Senator McCain so staunchly defends, we have more nuclear players now than we did when Mr. Clinton was commander-in-chief, and efforts to contain proliferation have come to a decisive halt.

Sooner or later, one suspected Senator McCain would show his hand, and indeed he has emerged as the state-of-the-art cheerleader for Bush that he's been all along. Still, it's very scary when a prospective presidential candidate distorts and twists history in ways we don't expect them to, at least not until they're elected. Under Clinton, McCain says, "The Koreans received millions and millions in energy assistance. They've diverted millions of dollars of food assistance to their military." Oh, and how many "millions of dollars" of food, welfare, and medical assistance have we "diverted" to our military which, after all, has only succeeded in expanding the Halliburton bottom line.

And, while he's at the business of pointing fingers,as a prominent member of the Senate's Armed Services Committee, McCain should move that finger a bit closer to home, say, in the direction of the current Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld who, you may recall was CEO of Searle Pharmaceuticals from 1977-1985, and on the board of the ABB Group, the company that built the atomic reactor in North Korea. Mr. Rumsfeld was also head of a few notable pharmaceutical companies, G.D. Searle, Gilead Sciences, and worked with Bechtel, in Iraq, in the 1980's on a pipeline project. (Rath Foundation) Indeed, our illustrious Secretary of Defense reportedly even visited Baghdad, back in 1983, and discussed "topics of mutual interest" with the leader he recently worked diligently to depose, Saddam Hussein.

So, while some in Congress, and on Fox News, appear to be intent upon airing the previous administration's dirty laundry, it might not be a bad idea for them to pay a visit to the local dry cleaners first. Backing in to a tight space only works when one knows how to back out.. Now that we figured out how to go in reverse, it's time to learn how to go forward..

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Update on Bella Maryonovsky

The below comes courtesy of friends at "Raw Story." For background information, please see my post "Operation Return to Sender" which appears here, and on The Huffington Post.

"Update on Bella Maryonovsky:

She is still being held, over a month now, no charges. She is at Monroe, which is not an immigration detention facility. It is a criminal facility. She has still gotten only 1 of her 4 heart medications and is not doing well. The family spent the weekend near the facility in order to be able to visit her. Per my last update, she finally got a hearing for Oct, 16. So we wait. That said, there is another new twist in this.

It appears that ICE is thinking of moving her to Atlanta, GA (along with some other women), before her hearing. I don't know why, so I cannot explain this madness. But if they move her out of state, then she will have to get a new attorney and the family will either have to move near the area or visit her only once a month. And if they move her to Atlanta, there is no word on when she will be given another hearing.

So the goal now is to stop the move by putting pressure on local elected officials and members of Congress, as well as ICE and the MSM to cover this. She tells us that there are women in there who are being deported who have kids. One woman in particular, who as a legal resident was busted with pot when she was younger. It was roughly twenty years ago, but she was scooped up in this and is being deported to Costa Rica, while her kids have been put into foster homes. Perhaps this is a new version of the Handmaiden's tale, I simply don't know. But to take the children, as though they had a right, and deport a legal resident, seems a bit like selective adoption. I may just be tired, but I cannot make sense of this.

Please, I beg you, please fight for these detainees who are American residents, some spending their entire life in this country, who are being picked up without charge, detained without charge, denied medical treatment, tormented, and having their children stolen from them. And for all of this supposed deportation, where the hell are the records of people being actually deported? I mean are we just saying we are going to deport them, but are actually stuffing them in detention facilities?

We must fight for these people, for Bella, or all of them. If we do not, who will fight for us, should it ever come to our own future nightmare?"

Monday, October 09, 2006

from AlterNet...

American Prison Camps Are on the Way
By Marjorie Cohn, AlterNet Posted on October 9, 2006,

The Military Commissions Act of 2006 governing the treatment of detainees is the culmination of relentless fear-mongering by the Bush administration since the September 11 terrorist attacks.Because the bill was adopted with lightning speed, barely anyone noticed that it empowers Bush to declare not just aliens, but also U.S. citizens, "unlawful enemy combatants."Bush & Co. has portrayed the bill as a tough way to deal with aliens to protect us against terrorism.

Frightened they might lose their majority in Congress in the November elections, the Republicans rammed the bill through Congress with little substantive debate.Anyone who donates money to a charity that turns up on Bush's list of "terrorist" organizations, or who speaks out against the government's policies could be declared an "unlawful enemy combatant" and imprisoned indefinitely. That includes American citizens.

The bill also strips habeas corpus rights from detained aliens who have been declared enemy combatants. Congress has the constitutional power to suspend habeas corpus only in times of rebellion or invasion. The habeas-stripping provision in the new bill is unconstitutional and the Supreme Court will likely say so when the issue comes before it.Although more insidious, this law follows in the footsteps of other unnecessarily repressive legislation. In times of war and national crisis, the government has targeted immigrants and dissidents.

In 1798, the Federalist-led Congress, capitalizing on the fear of war, passed the four Alien and Sedition Acts to stifle dissent against the Federalist Party's political agenda. The Naturalization Act extended the time necessary for immigrants to reside in the U.S. because most immigrants sympathized with the Republicans.The Alien Enemies Act provided for the arrest, detention and deportation of male citizens of any foreign nation at war with the United States. Many of the 25,000 French citizens living in the U.S. could have been expelled had France and America gone to war, but this law was never used.

The Alien Friends Act authorized the deportation of any non-citizen suspected of endangering the security of the U.S. government; the law lasted only two years and no one was deported under it.The Sedition Act provided criminal penalties for any person who wrote, printed, published, or spoke anything "false, scandalous and malicious" with the intent to hold the government in "contempt or disrepute."

The Federalists argued it was necessary to suppress criticism of the government in time of war. The Republicans objected that the Sedition Act violated the First Amendment, which had become part of the Constitution seven years earlier. Employed exclusively against Republicans, the Sedition Act was used to target congressmen and newspaper editors who criticized President John Adams.Subsequent examples of laws passed and actions taken as a result of fear-mongering during periods of xenophobia are the Espionage Act of 1917, the Sedition Act of 1918, the Red Scare following World War I, the forcible internment of people of Japanese descent during World War II, and the Alien Registration Act of 1940 (the Smith Act).

During the McCarthy period of the 1950s, in an effort to eradicate the perceived threat of communism, the government engaged in widespread illegal surveillance to threaten and silence anyone who had an unorthodox political viewpoint. Many people were jailed, blacklisted and lost their jobs. Thousands of lives were shattered as the FBI engaged in "red-baiting." One month after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, United States Attorney General John Ashcroft rushed the U.S.A. Patriot Act through a timid Congress.

The Patriot Act created a crime of domestic terrorism aimed at political activists who protest government policies, and set forth an ideological test for entry into the United States.In 1944, the Supreme Court upheld the legality of the internment of Japanese and Japanese-American citizens in Korematsu v. United States. Justice Robert Jackson warned in his dissent that the ruling would "lie about like a loaded weapon ready for the hand of any authority that can bring forward a plausible claim of an urgent need."That day has come with the Military Commissions Act of 2006. It provides the basis for the President to round-up both aliens and U.S. citizens he determines have given material support to terrorists. Kellogg Brown & Root, a subsidiary of Cheney's Halliburton, is constructing a huge facility at an undisclosed location to hold tens of thousands of undesirables.

In his 1928 dissent in Olmstead v. United States, Justice Louis Brandeis cautioned, "The greatest dangers to liberty lurk in insidious encroachment by men of zeal, well meaning but without understanding." Seventy-three years later, former White House spokesman Ari Fleischer, speaking for a zealous President, warned Americans "they need to watch what they say, watch what they do."We can expect Bush to continue to exploit 9/11 to strip us of more of our liberties. Our constitutional right to dissent is in serious jeopardy. Benjamin Franklin's prescient warning should give us pause: "They who would give up an essential liberty for temporary security, deserve neither liberty or security."

Marjorie Cohn, a professor at Thomas Jefferson School of Law, is president-elect of the National Lawyers Guild, and the U.S. representative to the executive committee of the American Association of Jurists. Her new book, "Cowboy Republic: Six Ways the Bush Gang Has Defied the Law," will be published in 2007 by PoliPointPress.