Wednesday, November 29, 2006

In Cahoots with the Cahooters

Have we become so jaded that the word "unconstitutional" barely rouses us from our Christmas shopping? It was announced yesterday that, in Los Angeles, a federal judge used the word "unconstitutional," and condemned the president's 2001 executive order claim that he has the right to label certain groups as "specially designated global terrorists." The decision comes from the same judge who challenged portions of the U.S.A Patriot Act in 2004. While U.S. District Judge Audrey Collins' ruled on November 21st that the 2001 order was "unconstitutional and vague," and may well encroach upon First Amendment rights, the ruling was only made public yesterday. (AP)

While the court decision allows for penalizing those who "service" so-called terrorist groups, it represents a substantial challenge to the Tagger-in-Chief who, through his use of amorphous labels, looks to divest anyone it deems a threat, for any reason, of their constitutional rights. Still, the irony of categorizing any individual, or group, as a "specially designated global terrorist" can't be lost on anyone in light of a new report from the European Parliament of the widespread practice of clandestine CIA kidnappings, exporting, and detention of terror suspects.

The inquiry concludes that nearly 1,250 CIA-operated flights flew throughout Europe, and that the many European nations that insisted they knew nothing of the U.S. practice of extraordinary rendition were flat out lying. Claudio Fava, who was in charge of the special investigation, insists that: "Many governments cooperated passively or actively. (with the CIA). They knew." (International Herald Tribune). Poland and Romania are listed as the most active partners with the CIA in the practice of transferring those who are detained in countries that prohibit torture to those willing participate in those interrogation methods proscribed by Geneva.

The Council of Europe, a prominent European human rights group, previously found, in their investigation into extraordinary rendition, that there the CIA created a European network that was nurtured by "intentional or grossly negligent collusion." (IHT) You'll recall, in the fall, the president confirmed the Washington Post's report that the CIA has a covert detention program abroad, and said that more than a dozen held in secret cells in Europe would be transferred to Guantanamo Bay. Clearly, with more than 1200 flights, one would expect to unearth more than 14 detainees in these clandestine detention centers. Where are the others? When will they be transferred? How can any government, wherever they happen to find themselves on the globe, not be complicit in the practice of torture simply by turning the other cheek.

Logic would lead one to assume there would have to be some cooperation on the part of many European nations in order to enable more than 1,000 CIA-orchestrated flights transferring "specially designated global terrorists" to countries that have mechanisms in place to do our dirty work for us. That said, it changes the equation now that we know that many countries, in Europe, have been in cahoots with the cahooters, passively or actively, aiding and abetting the CIA in their efforts to outsource torture despite repeated denials that they knew anything about these secret abductions, and detentions.

It would be an egregious understatement to say that this news, from the European parliament, is disheartening. This president's executive order, and its phrase "specially designated global terrorist" takes on new meaning in light of this report which proves that we've not only exported Big Macs across the pond, but have forced that continent to look the other way with respect to human rights abuses instigated, and carried out, by our government.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

"And Now a Word from Big Brother..."

Yesterday, when I opened my AT & T phone bill which was, as usual, ridiculously high given that I use my cell mostly, to my surprise came the following notice:

"Mandated Messages from the California Public Utilities Commission Rules for Monitoring Calls:

California laws strictly protect your right to privacy:

Your telephone calls may not be intercepted, monitored, or recorded unless you agree to it. Your call can only be monitored and/or recorded if:

. Everyone on the call agrees; or
. You hear a beep or warning every 15 seconds; or
. Law enforcement or national defense agencies get special permission."

Remember, last January, when the telecommunications monopoly was involved in a much-publicized class action lawsuit, filed by the Electronic Frontier Foundation, in which it was alleged, in San Francisco federal court, that they have opened their facilities up to the National Security Agency, and that they "assist the government in its secret surveillance of millions of ordinary Americans."

EFF asserted that this covert practice of cooperating with federal so-called "anti-terror" agencies flagrantly violates free speech. An AT & T spokesman, at the time, said that they "don't comment on matters of national security." (CNET)But a Los Angeles Times article, last December 26th, article references an anonymous source's claim that the NSA has a "direct hookup" into an AT&T database that stores information about all domestic phone calls, including how long they lasted.

The Bush administration cites the "state secrets privilege," as delineated in a 1953 case, 1953 case, which allows the government to overturn any litigation that might result in the disclosure of military secrets. If the Bush administration does intervene, EFF could have a formidable hurdle to overcome: the so-called "state secrets" doctrine.

Further, on November 17th, a federal district judge rejected the Bush administration's request to put the EFF lawsuit on perennial hold. U.S. District Judge Vaughn Walker said the lawsuit could continue despite the fact that the appeals process, and arguments by the Justice Department that further the court proceedings themselves are a danger to national security.

Clearly, the "mandated message" I got with my monthly phone bill is an effort at making full disclosure, but if you continue raping someone, it doesn't matter how many times you say you're sorry.

What can be more disturbing than to think that even one dime of our phone bill goes to pay the fees of the behemoth law firms that defend monopolies, like AT & T, in their indefensible invasions of privacy. What's more, I don't know about you, but I plan to start counting between beeps.


Now that Rudy Giuliani...

Now that Rudy Giuliani has all but thrown his hat into the ring for the 2008 presidential race, where is Mario Cuomo when we need him most? Mr. Cuomo was a governor who made you proud to be a New Yorker, as well as a lifelong progressive who makes you proud to be an American. His is a voice, on the cutting edge, that is needed now more than ever to awaken those abandoned by hope, and eclipsed by poverty.

While you may see him in the movie "The U.S. Versus Mario Cuomo," which is great, we say only this: run, Mario, run....

Here are two memorable Cuomo quotes:

"We must get the American public to look past the glitter, beyond the showmanship, to the reality, the hard substance of things. And we'll do it not so much with speeches that will bring people to their feet as with speeches that bring people to their senses,"


"You campaign in poetry. You govern in prose."

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Quote of the Day

"God tells us to help the poor. He does not tell us to first give them a character test."

courtesy of Phil Ratliff
Oklahoma City

The Buck Stops Where?

A few weeks back, before the midterm elections, you may recall watching the president during one of his press conferences coming as close to a bona fide mea culpa, with respect to Iraq and the backlash by members of his own party, pointing to his chest while saying "the buck stops here."

Well, one can only hope that Mr. Bush feels this way after hearing today's report that former U.S. Army Brigadier General Janis Karpinski, in an interview with the Spanish newspaper, El Pais, says that ousted Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld approved, at Abu Ghraib, the use of techniques, on detainees, that are in flagrant violation of the Geneva Conventions.The general, who ran the Abu Ghraib operation until early 2004, said that she personally saw a memo hand-signed by Rumsfeld containing the words, "Make sure this is accomplished." Ostensibly, "this" refers to authorizing civilian contractors to employ such techniques as "sleep deprivation, standing for long periods of time, playing music at full volume" all in defiance of what Geneva proscribes as physical and mental forms of coercion.

She added, further, that Rumsfeld violated international covenants on fair and humane treatment of prisoners by not requiring that all prisoners register: "We received a message from the Pentagon, from the Defense Secretary, ordering us to hold the prisoner without registering him. I now know this happened on various occasions." (Reuters)

Now why, do you suppose, would it be advantageous for so-called "enemy combatants" not to be registered? In some countries, the prisoner would then be considered "disappeared" as happened to many in Pinochet's day, and happens throughout Central America today. Also, the detainee can't challenge his detention if there is no record that he's being detained; his family, and loved ones, can't seek remedy in the court, by way of due process and habeas corpus, if there is no record that he's even being held. Moreover, should the unthinkable happen, and the inmate die in American military custody, no one can be held criminally liable for the murder of someone who was never acknowledged to be in custody.

General Karpinski also announced, last week, that she is prepared to testify against the outgoing secretary of defense in the event that the Center for Constitutional Rights war crimes suit against him, as well as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales proceeds. She will also participate in a full-fledged investigation, by Congress, into these allegations, should we be fortunate enough, in this country, to see such an event occur in our lifetimes.

While we have seen high profile dog and pony select criminal prosecutions of members of our armed forces for travesties at Abu Ghraib, and elsewhere in Iraq, this is the first time a major figure in the armed forces has come forward to suggest that it's time to hold those higher, and highest, in command accountable. If the Karpinski allegations turn out to be accurate, we must insist that the president honor the statement he made at that pre-election press conference. If the buck stops with him, as commander-in-chief of the military, he must step down.


In the Under-belly of the Beast....

Just when we thought it was safe to put another election behind us, yet again, comes news out of Florida of a lawsuit by Democrat Christine Jennings who lost to Republican Vern Buchanan by less than 370 votes. Jennings is challenging the results of an election that awards a House seat to replace that held by Katherine Harris who, you'll recall, achieved national notoriety while serving as Florida secretary of state, and was responsible for presiding over state results in the closely contested 2000 presidential race, an election that was decided by the Supreme Court. Shortly thereafter, Harris was defeated in the Senate, and is now a two-term member of the House.

Six years later, she finds herself at one remove in another dispute over election results one in which Chrisine Jennings, a Democrat, is disputing the awarding of victory on the basis of nearly 20,000 electronic ballots that reflect votes in other races, but not in the congressional races. Jennings has asked a local judge to either declare her the winner of the congressional race in her district, or to have the election results overturned based on her contention that "undervotes," ballots that have been cast but show no selection in a given race, favor her victory We may never definitively know what those ballots recorded, the Orlando Sentinel suggests that it has strong evidence that the so-called "undervotes" would swing the election heavily in Jennings' favor. (Slate)

Statewide, were they to be counted, undervotes would result in victories not just for the House race in the 13th District, but in the state's gubernatorial race, according to the Orlando Sentinel. While incumbent Crist easily triumphed, in Sarasota County, in his gubernatorial bid, when more than 17,500 undervotes are factored in, Davis' Democratic challenger leads him by almost 7 percentage points.

More importantly, the question of electoral legitimacy transcends party lines, and speaks to the issue of representational government itself, as well as whether any political group, in ascendancy, has the right to overpower another. In Cook County, Illinois, friends of Green Party candidate for state representative, Kathy Cummings, argue that the practice of designating voters "not registered at address shown" was used to keep"two village trustees, one former village trustee, one township trustee, two Oak Park attorneys and three women activists" off the ballot for top Illinois offices in the midterm elections. (Wednesday Journal) They claim that it was Democratic Party Treasurer/Lawyer Mike Kasper who disputed the validity of signatures on a petition to preclude Kathy Cummings from becoming an official Green Party candidate. This is ironic in light of that the Democrats contention of Republican tampering with election results in both the 2000 and 2004 presidential races.

It is also ironic that the House may have to decide the results of the Florida congressional race, and either support Jennings, or affirm Republican disputed designee, Buchanan just as the Supreme Court validated, or fabricated, the presidency of George W. Bush.
- Hide quoted text -

We now find ourselves in the under-belly of the electoral beast. While watching contenders for a congressional seat challenge voter ballots is, in itself, nothing new, the larger issue of authenticating election results is in its infancy, and the allegations of one Green Party candidate, in Illinois, as well as a looming court battle over a congressional race in Florida are harbingers of bigger, and better fights yet to come, in 2008, unless, and until the issue of undervotes, and the veracity of electronic ballots is faced squarely in the coming months.

Friday, November 24, 2006


Something quietly came to pass, this week, in the city of Fresno, just outside of San Francisco, which will, hopefully, focus public attention on, as well as remedy, the cruel and inhuman treatment this nation's homeless receive at the hands of city officials. The American Civil Liberties Union and The Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights won their suit against Fresno on behalf of six homeless people who asserted that police and sanitation workers treated their personal possessions as if they were garbage, and bulldozed the encampments where they had lived for 3 years. (AP)

The presiding judge, U.S. District Judge Oliver W. Wanger , denounced the city's practice of violating the civil rights of the homeless as "dishonest and demeaning," and ordered city workers, on Wednesday, to cease and desist from its practice of arbitrarily confiscating, and destroying property of the homeless without warning. This is the first stop of what is expected to be a major civil rights lawsuit, and one to watch as the numbers of those on our streets, and at food banks rise almost as fast as the federal deficit.

One of the attorneys representing plaintiffs in this case, one of whom is a 48 year old grandmother made homeless by her landlord's excessive rent increase, said that wherever the homeless seek shelter whether it be in parks, tents, or makeshift dwellings, they live in constant terror that many of those things most critical to their survival, such as medication, will be seized and destroyed without notice. In announcing his decision, on the eve of Thanksgiving, the judge said: "Persons cannot be punished because of their status. They cannot be denied their constitutional rights because of their appearance, because they are impoverished, because they are squatters, because they are, in effect, voiceless." (AP)

An image that continues to haunt, on the start of a long holiday weekend, is one of Charlene Clay, a 48 year old grandmother, who lost not only her medication, and sleeping paraphernalia, but the photo of her dead granddaughter when a city sanitation crew tore down the hillside encampment she calls home. While there are some who might wish to scream "shame on Fresno," and think that the practice of random destruction of personal property, de-humanization of the homeless is one peculiar to that city, one has only to remember the vitriol recently expressed by Minutemen who camped out, in San Diego, demanding the elimination of a homeless camp of migrant workers from an otherwise "respectable" neighborhood. While you may be thinking that the demonstration by the Minutemen was really more about illegal immigration than homelessness, make no mistake. They were also expressing misplaced anger towards that which is foreign, unknown, a kind of cultural agoraphobia which renders diversity undesirable.

We, in this country, don't seem to have a problem with those who live on the other side of the tracks as long as they remain on the other side of the tracks. We have only to take a closer look at San Francisco, which is among the most expensive cities and, at the same time, the one with the highest number of homeless per capita of any major city in the U.S. (Wikipedia), the largest percentage of whom have been homeless since the 1980's, whose median age is 50, to see how it has, for the past few years, been carting off record numbers of indigents for deposit in psychiatric wards of public hospitals, and/or buying them one-way tickets back home. Clearly, every major American metropolis that banks on tourism, like San Francisco, has, with impunity, been working overtime to sweep the streets of those disenfranchised, and most impoverished among them.

Moreover, in the Bush era of so-called "compassionate conservatism," even if we factor homelessness out of the equation, there is so much hunger and poverty left that occurs behind closed doors, it's wrenching. While the rich are richer than they've ever been, which everybody knows, the poor are poorer than they ever been, and there's no way to sweep that under the rug. The group that is euphemistically called, "the working poor," find even simple necessities like toothpaste and vitamins to be luxury items, frequently have no access to medical care, and more often, find themselves camping out in the backseat of their cars. The days when working hard equaled prosperity are long gone, and instead replaced with lords of the manor, and the downtrodden working the soil. Yes, we've changed since the Feudal days, we now import workers, from third world countries, and put them to work in our nation's sweatshops in defiance of labor laws, an indefensible practice that, for the most part, continues in our big cities, without criminal penalty. Instead, we criminalize illegal immigration, as well as those who collect welfare fraudulently, both execrable practices, but nowhere near as pernicious as making millions off the indentured servitude of others.

While the preliminary injunction issued by a judge in Fresno, this week, is heartening, it is only the starting point for what needs to be greater national focus on the dehumanization, and dispassionate treatment of those who are marginalized, as well as terrorized by those authorities who express contempt for the fundamental premise of our nation's founders that each of us, great or small, whether we live in a Bel Air mansion, or sleep in the parking lot of Sears, are protected by the same constitution, and entitled to "Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness."

Moreover, it is imperative that the Democratic party, or any party that consider itself "progressive," address the rancor, and national shame of homeless encampments, as well as socioeconomic disenfranchisement so that a court decision in a small town in Northern California, will set the precedent for fair, and dignified, treatment of our nation's poor everywhere.

Thursday, November 23, 2006


I know it's a bit early for resolutions, but here's one anyway; next year, let's give thanks instead of sending t'anks!

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Lest Anyone Lament...

Lest anyone lament the absence of a unique, and distinctive Democratic Party platform: we have a platform, we don't have the right shoes!

"Waking Up the Coast" / "El Despertar de la Costa"

Ten days ago today, the body of Misael Tamayo Hernandez, an editor for the newspaper, "El Despertar de la Costa," was found in the Venus Motel on a highway outside the resort city of Zihautanejo, Mexico. Partially clad, Hernandez was discovered under a thin sheet, his hands tied behind his back, the apparent victim of a heart attack. (AP) There were three puncture marks, on Mr. Hernandez, leading to widespread speculation of foul play, that the prominent editor, widely respected for "waking up" his community with respect to government corruption, and organized crime, had been murdered.

Only hours earlier, "El Despertar de la Costa" published a story on the city's practice of giving illegal breaks on water services to individuals and local businesses. Unfortunately for him, Tamayo Hernandez now joins the growing ranks of journalists, in Mexico, who have been assaulted, and/or killed in that country, in the past few years, as a result of exposing drug trafficking, gangs, and corruption.

Even more disconcerting is news that, since January, 2006, some 75 journalists have been killed worldwide making this the deadliest year, on record, for those in the news reporting business, according to the World Association of Journalists. Over the past decade alone, more than 500 journalists have been slain; most of whom are, and will most likely remain, cold cases.
For more than two decades, PEN American Center has been commemorating the incarceration, and/or murder of writers; PEN has named November 15th "The Day of the Imprisoned Writer" and report that, since November, 2005, some 36 journalists around the world have been assasinated, most as a consequence of their investigative work.

In Mexico alone, the slaying ofTamayo Hernandez marks the third time a journalist has been killed, in that country, this year.. Rosendo Pardo Ozuna , prominent critic of the Juan Sabines Guerrero government, was slain in March, and Enrique Perea Quintanilla, a well-respected crime writer who had also written on corruption in state government, turned up dead in early August.

No one will forget, most recently, the high profile, and wrenching report, out of Russia ,of the hunting down, and shooting of renowned journalist, and writer, Anna Politkovskaya, gunned down in the elevator of her Moscow apartment building on October 7th, a slaying that is widely thought to have resulted from her reporting of the Putin government's human rights abuses in Chechnya. Less than two weeks after Politkovskaya was gunned down, Anatoly Voronin, the business manager of Russia's premiere news agency, Itar-tass, was also murdered.

Still, over the past 48 hours,there have been a barrage of reports about Fox, and their aborted efforts to broadcast an inteview with O.J. Simpson. But, how quickly the mainstream media, and blogosphere, dropped any coverage, or inquiry into any connection between the death of a widely respected Moscow reporter, and her steadfast efforts, in the face of frequent threats, to expose torture on the part of her government. One would think chasing down facts, and getting to the bottom of who killed Anna P., Tamayo Hernandez, and the more than 30 journalists whose murder can be directly linked to their reporting would be a worthy enterprise for members of the press corps in this country, and internationally, but alas no such efforts appear to be underway. Ironically, the unprecedented assault on the press may itself be among the most under-reported, and under-covered stories of the year.

So it is then that, in the interest of equal time, with heartfelt respect for those who have made this great sacrifice to expose systemic corruption, as well as injustice, and in hopes that those most ambitious among us might be inspired to continue their work, as well as search for answers as to why they were targeted, I list the names of each and every writer who made the ultimate sacrifice this year: Guatam Das, Bangladesh; Roberto Ramos, Philippines; Gebran Tueni, Lebanon; Prahlad Goala, India; Vagif Kochetkov, Russia; Graciano Aquino, Philippines; Subramanlyam Sugirdharajan, Sri Lanka; Wu Xianghu, China; Muhsin Khudhai, Iraq; Rosendo Pardo Ozuna, Mexico, Orlando Tapios Mendoza, Philippines; Ilias Aktas , Turkey; Herliyanto, Indonesia; Vadim Gudik, Ukraine; Aran Narayan Dekate, India; Hayatullah Khan, Pakistan; Sampath Lakmal De Silva, Sri Lanka; Alaa Hassan, Iraq; Bapuwa Mwamba, Democratic Republic of Congo; Xiao Guopeng, China; Ajuricaba Monassa De Paula, Brazil; Yevgeny Gerasimenko, Russia; Riyad Atto, Iraq; Abdul Wahab Abdul Razeq Ahmad Al Qaisie, Iraq; Gregoiry De Bourg, Kazakhstan; Sinnathamby Sivamaharajah, Sri Lanka; Enrique Perea Quintanilla, Mexico; Jesus Flores Rojas, Venezuela; Guillermo Cabrera Medina, Colombia; Mohamed Taha, Sudan; Bellal Hossain Dafadar, Bangladesh; Magbool Hussein Siyal, Pakistan; Anna Politkovskaya, Russia; Jose Bonilla Romero, Colombia; Anatoly Voronin, Russia; Abdelmajid Ismael Khalil, Iraq; and Mohammad Ismail, Pakistan.

May they rest in peace, and may their murders help to awaken the coast, as well as the border between truth and fiction.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Murdoch Buckles...

While it is not in the least bit surprising that Rupert Murdoch, News Corp. chair, gave in to public pressure, and threats of boycott from several Fox affiliates, it is shocking. More importantly, what may get lost in the shuffle here is that one person, and one corporation, News Corp., has the power to pull the plug on a T.V. special, as well as the planned Harper Collins publication of the Simpson book "If I did it;" Murdoch's News Corp owns both the Fox network and Harper Collins.

While only those who like to watch people being loaded into ambulances will miss the scheduled OJ interview, what the rest of us can't afford to ignore is that consolidation, or the ownership of several companies under the umbrella of one corporate giant, has taken hold in this country, and the dramatic results. On the other hand, even the most devout proponent of the First Amendment would have trouble with the fact that major bucks were to be made from speculation by the man found responsible in the civil case, about how his former wife, and the mother of his two children, as well as Ron Goldman, were murdered.

Now if only we could believe good Mr. Murdoch when he says that he and News Corp. management "agree with American public that this an ill-considered project." Clearly, the only thing "ill-considered" was whether he could keep his sponsors, his afffiliates, and get high enough ratings to make the project lucrative enough.

Few, if any, will lament the loss of the OJ book and special, but make no mistake, unprecedented media and newspaper consolidation poses the gravest threat to freedom of expression, and the First Amendment, that this country has seen since its inception.

Sunday, November 19, 2006

quick question

To paraphrase a subtitle on CNN yesterday: "Three detainees were released from Guantanamo Bay today as the government deemed that they were no longer enemy combatants."

The question is how is it that someone loses their "enemy combatant" status, and how will this affect the viability of military tribunals in light of recent passage of the Military Commissions Act? Developments in the Jose Padilla case may prove illuminating with regard to what increasingly appears to be an arbitrary designation that defies logic, as well as human rights.

Christmas shopping?

In light of the release of recent statistics that show just how great an impact China has on consumer products here in the U.S., and the growing dependence on China to cover the federal debt, if we don't do something fast to turn this around, when we do our Christmas shopping in the coming years instead of asking "Mastercard or Visa?," we may hear "Mandarin or Szechuan?"

Saturday, November 18, 2006

The Next Best Thing to Winning the Lottery...

The next best thing to winning the lottery is being employed by the Lincoln Group, the public relations firm in Washington, D.C. which is set to receive yet another two year $20 million contract from the Pentagon to "put together a unit of 12-18 communicators to support military PR efforts in Iraq and throughout the Middle East, as well as influence the morale and support for the war in the United States," per Media Transparency.

While Bush and Co. are busy probing North Korea and Iran's pressure points, those wunderkinder of spin grow richer and richer. Talk about job security; employees of the company most often associated with fabricating much of what we believe to be going on in Baghdad are in no danger of standing on unemployment lines anytime soon; the rest of us may be, but not the Lincoln Group. They, no doubt, have already set their sights on greener pastures as evidenced by the big smile on the president's face, in Korea, as he beamed at the camera from the Hanoi Hilton.

Despite the daily plummeting of support for the war in Iraq, business for Lincoln is so good that they have recently moved to larger offices on Pennsylvania Avenue, coincidentally on the same street as the White House . The company currently employs 40 in the U.S. and 200 abroad, most of whom are situated in Iraq, at the moment anyway, numbers that can only grow in proportion to the politics of pre-emptive expansionism.

Oh, and the Lincoln Group isn't the only "strategic communications and public relations firm providing insight and influence in challenging and hostile environments," per their Web site. Over the past few years, some $400 million in contracts have been turned over by the Pentagon to "media consultants" to put a happy face on an internationally maligned occupation, and "effectively communicate Iraqi government and Coalition goals with strategic audiences" in the words of Alvin Snyder, a former executive of the United States Information Agency. Moreover, some in the news business, in this country, suggest that the efforts by the Lincoln Group have spread, like the measles, and have even contaminated our own mainstream media. As, indeed, in this age of instant messaging, there is no way to contain a disinformation virus.

You may recall that LG was in the spotlight, last fall, when the Los Angeles Times revealed that the U.S. military was also "secretly paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories written by American troops in an effort to burnish the image of the mission in Iraq." Ostensibly, the role of the Lincoln Group was essentially that of liaison between the military and Iraqi newspapers; "company staff and subcontractors wrote and translated stories, then paid local editors varying amounts to run them, pretending to be freelance reporters, for example, or advertising executives." (Media Transparency)

Back in 2004, when Iraqex, precursor to the Lincoln Group, was originally given $5 million by the military to provide communications services to Iraq, the New York Times reported, a year later, the fact that Iraqex was awarded a contract was "something of a mystery" given that the two founders "had no background in public relations or the media." (Media Transparency)

More importantly, the most recent $20 million contract was awarded in defiance of findings by the Defense Department, late last spring, that paying Iraqi journalists for pro-American propaganda could damage our credibility. Ironically, the Defense Department urged ending the practice of paying Iraqi nationals to tweak their news accounts, in Baghdad, and 6 months later the Pentagon handed over another $20 million to the group whose name has come to be synonymous with spinning news out of Iraq. Keep in mind, too, that the American military created the Baghdad Press Club, two years ago, in order to pay Iraqi reporters to write positive accounts of the developments in that country as a result of the U.S. occupation.

Clearly, among the many implications of awarding yet another Pentagon contract to the Lincoln Group, this fall, is that they are being funded, as their Web site advertises, to continue their work around the world in Pakistan, Afghanistan, and any other locations that some might consider "inhospitable," but that they prefer to call "challenging." No doubt, Pakistan and Iran might be considered "challenging," and lucrative terrain for more empire building. Moreover, it seems that the Lincoln Group, as well as other spin contractors, are replacing the CIAas usurpers-at-large in how they exploit the "information age" to manipulate, and meddle in the affairs of once sovereign nations.

The underlying, and vexing question about the award of another contract to the Lincoln Group is will they confine their propagandizing to Iraq, or move on to the more fertile terrain of Iran and North Korea? When the Defense Department itself reports that the military's tampering with articles by so-called "independent news organizations" in Iraq and, arguably, in our own country, raising questions about the viability of a "free press" in occupied Baghdad, it is ludicrous that the Pentagon would then turn around less than 6 months later, and award the godmother of spin another $20 million contract which will enable them to expand their propaganda efforts into Teheran, and Hanoi.

So, if you happen to be in the neighborhood and want to stop by, you may now find the Lincoln Group in the same quarters that were once home to Jack Abramoff's famous restaurant, Signatures. Jack, as you know, has moved elsewhere.

Friday, November 17, 2006

and yet another....

"Reality leaves a lot to the imagination."

John Lennon

Quote of the Day

"My first reaction is history has a long march to it, and societies change, and relationships can constantly be altered." President George W. Bush, 11/17/06, during a visit to Vietnam.

Translation: history has a good beat; you can dance to it.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

All In The Family?

Just in time for the digitally remastered version of the 1975 Lena Wertmuller classic "Swept Away," starring Giancarlo Giannini, an Italian to die for, in a rare appearance on You Tube, Mufti of Egypt Sheik Ali Gum'a, speaks openly about how the Quran allows wife beating in Muslim countries. In the You Tube segue, taken from the May 26th broadcast of Al-Risali TV out of Saudi Arabia, the Sheik contends that, while Allah "permitted wife beating" as a way to preserve the family, attitudes towards the controversial practice depend largely on "the cultural status of women."

While noting that different societies may be permitted to have different worldviews, Ali Gum'a says that, bottom line, Allah gives thumbs up to those husbands who find it expedient to beat their wives, suggesting, too, that wife-beating may be a way to "preserve the stability of the family." This is very disturbing to women of our culture or, for that matter, to women of any culture who don't like bring hit. Even more distressing is the kind of linguistic latitude the Egyptian leader affords himself when distinguishing between "aggression towards women," which he insists is proscribed by Islam, and wife battery, which he says is permissible. One can only marvel at this nuanced moral relativism given the staunch absolutism of Islam.

Importantly,Ali Gum'a is not suggesting that Islam recommends, or exhorts one to practice, domestic violence on women, only that it is permissible under Islamic law. Similarly, one may point to the biblical maxim, "Spare the rod, spoil the child" to argue that Christianity sanctions physical abuse of children. It would seem that the Sheik, too, is saying that it might be beneficial for the health of the patriarch if the father took rod to mother.

What is intriguing , as well as disconcerting, is his idea that "in some cultures women are not averse to beating," but instead see the use of physical force as an affirmation of "masculinity," as well as as a kind of control they desire. Which brings us back to Lena Wertmuller, and "Swept Away" a movie in which an assertive, powerful woman finds herself drawn to machismo. Is it something in his aftershave that makes the Wertmuller character long to be overpowered, or is it merely a surplus of estrogen? What would Islam have to say about hitting on a first date? Can one strike a concubine, or is the sanctuary of matrimony a prerequisite? And, if it were possible to travel through time, back to the days of Petronius, would one find Julius Caesar beating Cleopatra, or would he have to marry her first?

There are those who would argue that it's unthinkable for Wertmuller's Giannini to strike his woman in an effort to assert his familial control. Ostensibly, political correctness, in these matters, dates back to the Puritans not the Romans. To understand the Romans, we must remember that "paterfamilias" is not merely a free male citizen, but the head of a Roman family, the father. The difference, of course, is that the Roman gods didn't sanction wife beating, and their heirs, the Catholics, likewise disavow physical abuse in the name of providing for a stable family. When comparing how notions of family morph from Cairo to Rome, consider, too, the irony in that the term "la famiglia" is often synonymous with the mob.

One of the big problems we, in the west, have when talking about Islam is that we confuse it with Islamofascism, at least some folks in Washington, D.C. do. In point of fact, it would be outrageous to assert that Mussolini could find permission to smack Madame Mussolini in the New Testament, but that doesn't mean he didn't slap her. What disturbs most is that a religious credo, regardless of whose credo it is, would say that spousal abuse is ever accceptable. But, more contemptible still is an egregious disinterest in learning about other cultures, as well as fundamental differences in world views. Tolerance isn't born in a test tube. Western leaders make a career out of ignorance of anything eastern, and this is a dangerous policy. We have a president who brags about never reading newspapers; can you just see him reading the Quran? Is this what I'm suggesting; if that's what it takes to solve the problem of clashing ideologies, and to gain greater understanding, yes.

While it's wrenching to think that Allah approves, under any circumstances the striking of a wife by her husband, textbook Christianity prohibits the practice, but that doesn't prevent basic human cruelty from finding its way into our homes. Like it or not, as crime statistics show, what we find in our holy books, more often than not, has little, if anything, to do with what we practice. Our foreign policy, over the past five years, is living proof that when God said "Vengeance is mine" he wasn't talking to President Bush. Maybe the world needs a break from organized religion, or maybe we need to think in larger terms about how to preserve the "stability" not only of the nuclear, but of the human family.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

If This Doesn't Make Your Blood Boil...

Leave it to the folks at Fox to take reality T.V. to a whole new level, and right in time for the holidays, too. The network plans to air an interview with O.J. Simpson in which he plugs, "If I did It, Here's How It Happened," a book which his publisher calls "his confession." The interview, with Simpson, is scheduled for broadcast only days after Thanksgiving, November 27th, and November 29th, and one day before the release of his book. A Fox spokesperson said that O.J. has approved an "unrestricted" primetime talk with book publisher Judith Regan, a curious term causing one to wonder if other interviews they've broadcast are restricted (AP)

If you're wondering how Simpson gets to talk now; he can stand on top of the Empire State Building with a bullhorn, and scream "I killed Nicole Brown and Ron Goldman," and he can't be prosecuted under double jeopardy; one can't be tried for the same crime twice. While he can't be criminally indicted again for those brutal murders, he doesn't deserve another 15 minutes of infamy, instead he deserves to be as anonymous, repulsive, and inconsequential as dead mouse. Just saying his name, let alone printing ,or broadcasting it, gives him more attention than he deserves. I no longer remember the name of the man who murdered John Lennon; I refuse to. Part of the price one pays for living in civilized society is that one must make an effort not to make a cottage industry of those who commit the most dastardly, and heinous crimes. O.J.'s face belongs in Madame Tussaud's wax museum, and not on the flat screen T.V. in my livingroom.

If it doesn't make your blood boil, too, to learn that Simpson not only got away with murder, but he's defaulted on a $33.5 million judgment in the civil case, you must have ice water running through your veins. Worse still, he may end up keeping profits from the book sales, and subsequent movie deals, despite the best efforts of the victims' families to prevent that from happening. Laurie Levenson, attorney and professor of law at Loyola University, who followed the case closely said "Clever lawyering can get you a long way," and indeed it got Simpson to the golf course in Florida.

As one who believed O.J. was innocent, and staunchly (if stubbornly) defended him, right up until the DNA came back, as well as one who is equally nauseated by wrongful convictions, I must say that any television network, or book publisher, that would stoop to promote, or participate in promoting, something as vile as a murderer who laughs in the face of the criminal justice system deserves to rot in the same cubicle in hell where one might expect to find Mr. Simpson teeing off. The good news about damnation, that is, if it exists, is that it's permanent. The bad news is that damnation appears to be as elusive as salvation.

O.J. Simpson walked not only because he had the best defense team money could buy, but because we have a judicial system that puts the burden of proof on the prosecution, as well as insisting on proving that someone is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. How anyone could reasonably doubt DNA evidence, no matter how it was handled, speaks to what a crappy job the prosecutors did. It wasn't that his defense team succeeded; the prosecution failed.

At the time, I argued that it's better to have one guilty man walk, based on reasonable doubt, if it means that one innocent man won't do jail time, or worse be put to death. Unfortunately, I have come to see that my thinking about our justice system was as naive as my original belief in Simpson's innocence. One guilty man walking doesn't ensure that one innnocent man won't be wrongfully convicted. Unfortunately, many more innocents are in our nation's prisons, or sentenced to die for crimes they didn't commit than guilty walk. Fox's statement, by airing the O.J. interview, is that the Simpson crime somehow transcends good and evil, guilt or innocence; it's all about ratings, and feeding the corporate bottom line, after all, isn't it. Something is seriously wrong with a society when greed has usurped human dignity, and someone like O.J. Simpson gets to thumb his nose at the courts, our criminal justice system, and profit from doing that.

Oh, and lest you think that we, the viewing audience, are somehow immune from the toxicity that presents itself as entertainment, It's time to take a long, hard look at the demographics of those of us Fox hopes to engage, as well as who will be waiting in line to buy "If I Did It" when it goes on sale on November 30th. They are your neighbors, your relatives, your colleagues, friends, and maybe even those who teach your children. They are your priests, and rabbis. Not only is O.J. Simpson blessed, but we are all blessed, that he can speak, write, and tell all, thanks to double jeopardy, and because his speech is protected by the First Amendment. This is something parents, and teachers must make it a point to explain to youngsters who will be puzzled by how deranged a country is that rewards celebrity, even when celebrity kills.

First Amendment, and double jeopardy,aside, the decent thing each and every one of us can do is to not to feed the monster of corporate greed, not tune in to the interview, not buy the book, encourage those near and dear to do the same, and remember only the days when O.J. stood for orange juice.

"A Nation Deceived: A Work in Progress"

On the eve of Election Day, and one best characterized by the phrase "pinch me," I was invited to attend the staged reading of Craig Barnes' play "A Nation Deceived" at the Pacific Resident Theatre, in Venice, where I got to chat, for a few minutes, with actor, and activist Ed Asner, as well as playwright, Craig Barnes. When I asked Ed, a 7 time Emmy winning actor, who has an inspired history of advocacy for progressive social change, why he decided to play Old Man in this performance, he said the play "is a beautiful indictment-a great amassing of a lot of information in the so-called liberal press."

Long renowned as a vocal, and muscular opponent of U.S. policy in Central America, and Iraq, a great civil libertarian, a crusader to free Mumia Abu-Jamal, as well as one who supports, and contributes to Fresh Start, a program to feed the homeless in Walnut Creek; Ed is no stranger to the struggle for truth and justice.. When asked if he thinks we can expect major change if Pelosi takes over as Speaker of the House, and if he thinks the theatre is empowered to act as a catalyst for much-needed congressional investigations into wrongdoing in Iraq, Ed responded "I don't think it's a play that's going to make Nancy Pelosi come around. The play may motivate people to make bodies of others that will then motivate certain committee chairmen of Congress; only through committee chair can we discover malfeasance and hopefully those committee chairs will energize Pelosi to conduct further investigations and possibly impeachment."

On the couch in the lobby where we sat, Craig nursed a tepid cup of coffee; "My goal is to remind people of the elegance of a society in which the law is above the king," he tells me. Barnes not only wrote "A Nation Deceived," which premiered in Santa Fe in late September, but directed it, and he plays Dick Cheney's lawyer, Samuel Pounder. A trial lawyer, an accomplished environmental law specialist, author, playwright and essayist, he was involved, for more than 13 years, in negotiations with the Soviet Union on issues of war and peace, the environment, and ethnic cleansing. Barnes even ran for Congress, back in 1970, as a Democratic candidate from Colorado.

His play, a self-described "draft," is a work in progress not unlike the concept of democracy itself. It is theatre with a clear-cut objective, which is for the viewer, or reader to share the play with others, as well as participate in re-creating it. One can think of few nights better than this, the night before an historic midterm election, to let one's imagination run wild, and entertain thoughts of what it might be like if Congress were to be in the hands of those folks who ask the hard questions, and are relentless in their pursuit of accountability. What better time, too, to think about what it might be like if the people were, once again, to own the government.

The theme of "A Nation Deceived," the story of a trial that takes place in the Court of Common Opinion, in which the defendants are President Bush, Vice President Cheney, and Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld, who are tried as felons, and represented by their respective attorneys, Ranger, Pounder, and Chance is that government belongs to the people who "never rest." The prosecutor, Old Man, a feisty, larger than life country lawyer, played passionately by Ed Asner, represents the will of the people in challenging the big gun Washington defense team. While the entire play takes place in court. it is, as Barnes writes, "one step in a program to spread the arguments and information concerning the buildup to the war, its defenses, its contradictions, and its claimed necessity to the country at large."

The trial is based on tangible, documented evidence which is part of the public record, and especially resonates in light of the recent announcement, by Agence France Presse , that the Center for Constitutional Rights, along with other "civic groups," has initiated a criminal complaint in Germany, this week, against U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, Attorney General Alberto Gonzales, and others, on charges of "war crimes in the context of a war on terror." CCR is requesting that the German Federal Prosecutor do essentially as Old Man has, begin an inquiry, and ultimately criminally prosecute heads of state for conduct unbecoming rules of engagement during wartime.

While there are major differences between a theatrical piece and the real life criminal complaint against Donald Rumsfeld, the resemblance is stunning in that, if nothing else, it shows that life and theatre often inhabit parallel universes ..The world of "A Nation Deceived" has, as its nexus, the discovery of the "Black Gold Exhibit," a national security document, AKA "the Oil Exhibit," a list of 30 countries, excluding the U.S., lined up to benefit from Iraqi oil in the months before 9/11, thus "the motive" for the American invasion of Iraq.. Old Man argues: "If something was not done to remove Saddam Hussein from power every one of those 30 countries was in line ahead of the U.S. for the huge resources of Iraqi oil."Ironically, but aptly, it is Bush's attorney, Ranger, who, in a fit of conscience, hands the Oil Exhibit, a key piece of evidence for the prosecution, over to Old Man who asks: "What did this war accomplish for democracy? Nothing. What did it accomplish for Halliburton? Well, it erased the 30 countries on the Black Gold list, that's what. And these three defendants (Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld) are now in charge of who gets that oil. No failure in Iraq for them. That is a completely successful result, if your purpose, all along, was only oil."

That the tenets and tenacity of these charges, and prosecution, are commonplace to the viewing audience today attests to the potency of the Internet with respect to instant news. That said, anyone who came to this performance expecting traditional theatre was in for a surprise. This piece is about as much like other courtroom dramas as Brigitte Bardot is like Edi Amin; it is not speculative, but exploratory in its insistence upon raising crucial, and compelling questions not only about the chicanery, and incompetence behind the buildup to war, but the culture of intellectual lassitude that went along for the ride.

Moreover, among the play's conclusions is the prospect of yet another imminent pre-emptive strike, in Iran, based on the manufacture of selectively deceptive intelligence. So it is, then, that "A Nation Deceived" demands of us that we ask not only who lied, and why, but how we allowed ourselves to be duped; there is an odor not just of "mendacity" here, but of complicity.Importantly, Barnes' attitude toward his work is not proprietary; he welcomes collaboration from the audience, and fellow performers. Sometimes, one feels as if he views history itself as his collaborator; sometimes, we agree, if it can be argued that history, too, takes place inside an imaginary courtroom.

When I asked Craig why he chose to write plays, he told me "Telling stories is more important as a catalyst for change than trying lawsuits." That said, "A Nation Deceived" is, in point of fact, about a lawyer, for the people, who acts as prosecutor against the key deciders in any wartime scenario, the president, vice president, and secretary of defense. The difference is that the courtroom, in question, is "The Court of Common Opinion," not a federal court, and that all proceeds from the these performances go towards spreading the discourse, and developing the Web site,, where one may also find the play.

Moreover, one of the principal virtues of "A Nation Deceived" is that it is protean, not something static and fixed; a project rather than a finished product. And, as such, it is more than a referendum on the legality of the Iraq war, but is an innovative, interactive approach to theatre. What's more, as should come as no surprise, the dialogue was authentic; the acting dynamic with stellar performances by Ed Asner, Craig Barnes, and Leith Burke. "A Nation Deceived" may be seen as a dramatic investigation of prewar intelligence, an exploration of probative arguments, as well as an indictment of a judicial system that stacks government heavyweights against Everyman.

But, in the final analysis, the play is a clever and conceptually compelling way to obviate the charge, however reasonable, that it is little more than an exercise in political didacticism. Instead, we, in the audience, get to look through a window at a system that is broken, yet still manages to offer up the specter of social justice in lieu of religious redemption. On the long drive back to Ventura from Venice, I found myself thinking about what Ed Asner meant when he said that playing Old Man is one of his "geschrei (screams)," and how many more geschrei it may take before "a nation deceived" becomes a nation relieved.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

What Part of the Word Outrage...

don't they understand?

Lawyers for the Bush administration argued today that hundreds still held at Guantanamo Bay, in Cuba, have "no constitutional right to challenge their detention before U.S . federal judges;" moreover, they called for dismissal of hundreds of lawsuits. (Reuters) What curious timing on the part of the Justice Department in light of the filing Tuesday, in German court, of criminal charges against ousted Defense Secretary Donald Rumseld alleging that he was complicit in war crimes, and "sanctioned torture."

The administration claims it has a mandate to hold prisoners at Gitmo, and in secret detention cells around the world, based on the passage of Congress, last month, of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, which all but suspends habeas corpus, and due proccess. As you recall, administration counsel worked overtime, this fall, to devise legislation to offset the damage done to a hyperactive executive branch by a recent Supreme Court ruling challenging the president's right to set up a system of military tribunals after the September 11 attacks. The appeals court is expected to decide on the legality of trying to deprive hundreds of those held access to federal courts later this year, and yet another trip to the Supreme Court appears certain.

Justice Department lawyers claim that habeas corpus is not a constitutional right "for an enemy alien outside the United States," specious reasoning given that Guantanamo Bay is a naval base, and protectorate of the United States. Further, does the government have the right, under this newfangled legislation, to suspend Fourth Amendment rights to American citizens labelled "enemy combatants," held in Cuba, Iraq, and other undisclosed locations? Now that we have an historic changing of the guard, and the minority, in Congress, has become the majority, one wonders if our newly elected representatives will bother to read future insults to civilization like the so-called "USA Patriot Act" which most of them profess never having read. One wonders, too, if in his remaining two years, Mr. Bush, or Mr. Gonzales, will be able to apply their linguistic, and legal sophistry to the passage of more antediluvian, and medieval acts such as the one that passed in October. Oh, and by the way, the Military Commissions Act of 2006 also grants retroactive immunity from prosecution for war crimes.

Still, attorneys for Bush and Co. contend that detainees receive military review to determine if the term "unlawful enemy combatant," coined by Donald Rumsfeld, can justifiably be applied to them. But, who could have come up with the phrase "Combatant Status Review Tribunal?" It's right out of the Battle of Grunwald.

The stage is now set for our government to slap other American citizens like Jose Padilla with the label "enemy combatant," subject them to cruel and inhuman punishment, hold them indefinitely without charge, without access to counsel, and all but shred their any presumption of innocence. What constitutional remedies they have may be lost just as they were for Padilla when the 4th Circuit Court ruled in favor of the Bush administration.

Moreover, to add insult to outrage, the Bush administration now wants hundreds of lawsuits by detainees who want judicial recourse from detention to be thrown out based on the presumption that the Military Commissions Act of 2006 gave the government the right to pursue them, with impunity, as they would hunted animals, all in the name of a war on terror. One can only hope that when the German Federal Prosecutor prepares to read the criminal complaint on behalf of a dozen victims--11 Iraqis detained at Abu Ghraib, one held at Guantanamo Bay, that attorneys with the Center for Constitutional Rights will prevail, and that those who have held jurisprudence hostage, for the past five years or more, can no longer consider themselves immune from prosecution as war criminals.

If, and when, this administration's attempt to divest hundreds of Guantanamo prisoners of their constitutional rights makes it to the Supreme Court, they will be well-served if reminded of something Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia once said: "The very core of liberty secured by our Anglo-Saxon system of separated powers has been freedom from indefinite imprisonment at the will of the Executive." And, one might add, with the collusion of Congress.

Saturday, November 11, 2006

Campaign Against Houston Janitors

Bet you weren't surprised, the day after Election Day, when you went to the pump to find the price of gas was higher than it was on Tuesday, and higher still on Thursday. Bet you weren't surprised either when reading that Chevron Oil posted a $14 billion profit last year.

But, for the past several days, there is a story that's been missing in action from the mainstream media: the strike, by Houston janitors for higher wages, as well as medical benefits. Yes, Chevron Corporation that boasts record annual earnings, the company that also controls most of Houston's office space, is working overtime to squeeze every last penny out of those who clean its corporate offices in the largest city of the state most often associated with oil barons, indeed the home state of Oil Baron in Chief, and president, Bush.

What are those who clean Chevron's Texas corporate offices demanding? They want higher wages, yes, they want to earn $8.50 an hour, and they want to be eligible for health care benefits. Lynda Tran, a spokesperson for Service Employees International Union, the union that represents the janitors, says that "There's a worker who tells me every night she has to clean 63 toilets, on top of scrubbing floors and wiping down windows and wiping down tables and the desks and that sort of thing...working their fingers to the bone. And they get paid $20 a night." Moreover, t he strike heated up when a union strike organizer was allegedly punched by a manager. (Worker Independent News) But, even more startling is the firing of 14 workers for speaking out against exploitation of the most egregious kind.

Yes, that's right, the cleaning person at Chevron headquarters responsible for cleaning toilets, scrubbing floors, earns a whopping $20 a night for her labor which is probably less than what David J. O'Reilly, Chevron Chair and CEO, gives to a valet as a tip. And, if she dares to walk out, she's risks losing her job.

We have come a long way, baby, and virtually overnight. But, we have not come far enough if we can accept that one of the world's wealthiest corporations, Chevron, can get away with cheating American workers and their families. Ronald Reagan dealt a blow to the air traffic controllers, and to the concept of unions, when he coerced the end to their strike. When Congress next convenes, it is already on their agenda to discuss raising the minimum wage. It might not be a bad idea, too, to consider some kind of legislation to protect workers from job loss for striking, and/or speaking up for their rights.

The Democratic leadership, which purports to have the best interests of the American worker in mind, must now work to reverse the pro-management, anti-union trend which has broken the backs of the American worker, as well as slowly, but surely eroding the civil rights, and equal opportunities, of those who need those protections the most. It is not a question of stronger unions, by any means, but stronger legislation to protect those workers from harassment, and job loss who find it necessary to take the most desperate measure of walking out from unjustifiable termination.

Whether our elected representatives, in Congress, opt to tackle the contemptible practice of robbing from the poor to feed the rich, as best exemplified by the janitor strike against Chevron headquarters, those of us who care about the plight of those janitors in Houston, as well as others who work for oil giant, Chevron, may feel free to express their concerns, as I have, to Mr. O'Reilly at Chevron Corporation, 6001 Bollinger Canyon Road, San Ramon, California 94583.

Friday, November 10, 2006

From March, 1995: "The November Revolution: A Look Back"

The below piece was written nearly 12 years ago on the heels of the neo-con takeover of Congress...

As we creep up on the close of a century, a time of re-evaluation is in order. Last November, the greatest country on earth witnessed a changing of the guard. No ordinary shift for an extraordinary nation---indeed, a reaction, not unlike a nuclear explosion, that will be felt for many years to come.

If given the chance, in its first hundred days, the Republican majority in Congress will turn the clock back to a time when the privileged enjoyed their privileges unabashedly, and the impoverished, lacking government subsidy, roamed city streets begging for food. If given the chance, the Republican majority in Congress will take us back to the time when women resorted to back alleys for relief from unwanted pregnancies. This insurgency will do more, in its infancy, to destroy any efforts at human decency as well as all strides in social equity made in the past hundred years.

In response to the question "whose revolution is this," one has only to look at the so-called Civil Rights initiative being proposed by two Berkeley professors. This initiative does nothing less than advocate the abolition of affirmative action. It stipulates that employment selection be made based on merit only; without regard to one's race, religion, or gender. It is a proposal created by white males, for white males, springing from a bottomless pit of fear which is the basis for why many who voted in November, voted Republican.

Clearly, in the best of all possible worlds, employers would hire solely on merit. But, in the best of all possible worlds, men wouldn't earn approximately 32% more than women, based on the archaic presumption that the male is the breadwinner. Likewise, in the best of all possible worlds, black and Hispanic unemployment would not be nearly double that of whites. The question, thus, is inescapable—from where does this dread of loss of power derive? Evidently, current statistics don't support such angst.

In November, California, a harbinger of national trends, passed Proposition 187 making life, already difficult, a living hell for anyone who is not a legal immigrant. Approved by a wide margin, it deprives illegal immigrants of health care, and public school programs; and a GOP plan is currently in the works targeting legal immigrants, as well.

The issue is not whether this proposition is right or wrong, but why it met with overwhelming voter approbation; just as with the Civil Rights initiative in northern California, the question is why this egregious climate of apprehension.

An impressive amount of time, energy, and money is being spent to keep power exactly where it is and has been for the past 200 years—squarely in the hands of a tiny percentage of the population.

While a vocal minority of white males are afraid of losing their tenuous grip, the white majority is horrified by the idea that even one tax dollar winds up in the pocket of an illegal immigrant. This is a grave paradox given the fact that America is a nation of immigrants, and our forefathers were about as illegal as an illegal immigrant can be. Indeed, it may be said that the only people who have any legitimate claim to this country are the so-called Indians, a misnomer Native Americans have, until only recently, been forced to endure.

One finds oneself in the awkward position of taking a look back at the future when considering Newt Gingrich's "Contract With America," a contract which supports the politics of exclusion rather than inclusion, and threatens the arts, aid to dependent families as well as a woman's right to choose. By extension, Gingrich's "Contract" all but eliminates the Fourth Amendment. Here, again, it is not the legislation that is ominous, but the thought behind the legislation.

Not insignificantly, the word "reform," which once suggested positive change, has come to be synonymous with rescinds. When the conservative majority talks about reform, it is a euphemism for elimination. Further, if their "reforms" are realized, there won't be an American earning less than $200,000 a year who won't feel the pinch.

An even greater menace than the tangible changes in programs being proposed is the central world view; a world view that reinforces sameness out of dread of difference, conformity, out of fear of social ostracism, and a survival of the fittest mentality. More precarious still is the underlying assumption that one's fitness is predicated more on one's net worth than on one's value as a human being.

America voted in November and, in December, in Massachusetts, a mirror was held up for all who bothered to look to see how demented we, as a nation, have become. A gunman, entering pre-term clinics, randomly targeted clinic workers—the taking of life in the name of the unborn. What monstrous irony to assert the validity of any act of terrorism in an abortive effort to preclude what one considers terrible acts.

If we must go back in order to go forward, then the election may have taken us just far back enough that we can see, from over our shoulder, that the century being presented to us, by proponents of the right, is nowhere near where we should be at this point in Western Civilization.

by: Jayne Lyn Stahl
March 23, 1995
Newton, Massachusetts

(Delighted to say that Congressman Barney Frank was among the first people to read the above piece. Thanks to Barney for his wonderful work on behalf of free speech, and for his lifelong support of progressive change.)

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Farewell to a Friend

Today America, and the world, lost Ed Bradley, a fine human being, an investigative reporter with an uncanny, and unerring sense of purpose, and insight who was gifted not merely in seeing, but in asking the right questions. His was a life, and voice, that won't soon be forgotten. There was only one Ed Bradley; he was a prince among men.

I did not know Ed, but, like you, and the millions of other viewers with whom he shared a living room, every Sunday night, on the news show "Sixty Minutes," I came to see him as a friend. And, this, finally, was his greatest gift, that he could find a way to connect, to stimulate, and to ignite a spark just bright enough to inspire each, and every one, of us to find our own peculiar truth.

and now a word from our sponsors...

The below comes from one of the folks who brought you your Declaration of Independence who, could he hear the results of Tuesday's election, would himself join us in dancing down Pennsylvania Avenue....

"A little patience, and we shall see the reign of witches pass over, their spells dissolve, and the people, recovering their true sight, restore their government to its true principles. It is true that in the meantime we are suffering deeply in spirit, and incurring the horrors of a war and long oppressions of enormous public debt. . . If the game runs sometimes against us at home we must have patience till luck turns, and then we shall have an opportunity of winning back the principles we have lost, for this is a game where principles are at stake."

>> -- Thomas Jefferson, 1798, after the passage of the Sedition Act.

wave "bye bye" to the reign of witches, and know that the end of the reign of warlocks, too, is close at hand.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

What Happened in California?

While we celebrate the news that Nancy Pelosi is now the first woman Speaker of the House in history and she, of course, hails from San Francisco, we must also consider that California, the most populous state in the union, gave a decisive thumbs-up to Republican governor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, last night. Schwarzenegger won by a more than 2 to 1 margin proving to be the only Republican governor in the country who can say that. For the first time in years, New York now has a Democrat as governor, and an historic number of Dems have won the national gubernatorial race.

Oh, and lest one think that Ah-nold's victory is an anomaly, consider how the state propositions went. What can only be seen as Republican initiatives, Proposition 83, "Jessica's Law," which increases penalties for "violent and habitual sex offenders," as well as proscribing residence near school and parks, a neo-con dream come true, passed by a more than 2 to 1 margin, Proposition 87, alternative energy bill, which would hold large oil companies fiscally accountable for asthma, and other environmental woes failed despite high profile celebrity endorsements from Al Gore, Warren Beatty, and others, Proposition 85, parental notification failed but was uncomfortably close, a bill to provide more funds to education also failed; lobbyists for big tobacco won out, and Proposition 86, to raise cigarette tax, failed. There was some good news---Proposition 84, which provides for parental notification, failed, and California has greater environmental protection now that Proposition 90 was defeated; also, Jerry Brown, a vocal opponent of the death penalty won the race for attorney-general.

Still, one must ask how it is that, when Democrats swept the Northeast defeating even Rick Santorum, in Pennsylvania, making policy change de rigeur for an administration that has proven itself to be obdurate, and unflinching, that California has, with a few exceptions, approved those propositions near and dear to the oil guzzlers, and conservatives? Can it be that Californians were concerned that Democratic gubernatorial candidate, Phil Angelides, was not only soft, but soft on immigration? Is that the subtext of the California vote? As the governor has amply demonstrated his enthusiasm for using the National Guard to patrol the border between California and Mexico, despite the Feinstein victory in the Senate race, and the ascent of Nancy Pelosi to Speaker of the House, one can't help but think that we, in California, are still in Ronald Reagan country while the rest of the world is watching Bill Maher.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

And Yet A Reminder:...

Now that the American people have spoken, and Congress, once again, will reflect the ideas, and aspirations of everyone, in this country, who is to the left of Atila the Hun, it's time for the champagne bottles to go back in the frig, and the shirtsleeves, stuffed or otherwise, to roll up. While this election is a strong indictment of this administration's war policy, those among us who expect instant miracles, with regard to withdrawal from Iraq, now that Congress has changed hands will be hugely disappointed.

Indeed, you may recall that there was only one member of Congress who voted against the war in Iraq, in the first place, and that was Barbara Lee. But, be that as it may, even if we were to pull our troops out of Baghdad, and environs, Monday morning, we need to campaign as vigilantly against human rights abuses, extraordinary rendition, secret cells, and torture which the neo-conservative jihad is leaving as their noxious legacy. Importantly, vitriole and bombast are what got us into this illegal war, and the poison surely won't be the cure this time around, either.

Moreover, the president's gleeful redundancy that we must "stay the course," in Iraq, takes on an eerie quality, and a new meaning, now that the Democrats are at the helm, and especially in light of news that one of the first American female casualties of the war in Iraq died by her own hand. With recent revelations about the truth of how she died, torture, and how it is defined by this administration, is back on the menu.

As "Editor and Publisher" reported, 27 year old Alyssa Peterson, from Flagstaff, Arizona, was an Army specialist and member of the 101st Airborne. Ms. Peterson enlisted in the military back in July, 2001, and shot herself with own rifle on September 15, 2003, after making it known, to colleagues, that she was unable to comply with interrogation procedures used at the Tal-Afar base in northern Iraq.

Her concerns take on special poignancy in light of revelations in last week's Washington Post of Bush administration arguments that terrorism suspects not be allowed to give descriptive details of "alternative interrogation methods" used by their their captors as part of their defense in federal court citing "national security" as a rationale for keeping these techniques secret.

But, what more do we know about the 27 year old Flagstaff woman? Ms. Peterson had a psychology degree from Northern Arizona University, was fluent in Arabic, and was a devout Mormon. She had received extensive training, from the military, in methods of interrogation. Her suicide was officially described, back in 2003, as having resulted from "non-hostile weapons charge," and local newspapers, at the time, described the Army's account that it was an accidental shooting either from her own weapon, from another service member, or from an Iraqi.

Notably, it was only when a Flagstaff public radio, and newspaper, reporter, Kevin Elston, decided to himself investigate the circumstances surrounding Peterson's death, obtaining official documents, previously withheld by the military, under the Freedom of Information Act, that startling details came to light. Elston recounts that "she refused to participate after only two nights working in the unit known as the cage." Further, the Army spokespersons, for her unit, declined to describe the interrogation methods Peterson witnessed, insisting that "all records of those techniques have now been destroyed."

Given her refusal to be a party to the practices used by her commanding officers to obtain information from prisoners, she was then transferred, and assigned to monitor Iraqi guards. She was also required to enter a suicide prevention training program, an irony not lost on Peterson, in what little is known of her suicide note, observes that it was her suicide prevention training that prepared her to effectively kill herself. Further, the suicide note found on her body, at the time of her death, will also only be made available under an FOIA suit, and Elston has recently filed another lawsuit to obtain its release.

While the entire contents of Peterson's note are not public and, arguably, no one may ever know exactly why this 27 year old Army specialist decided to kill herself with her own service rifle, the Army did conduct an investigation in which several of her associates, and friends, were questioned. As Elston says, it became clear, from the testimonies, that "she objected to the interrogation techniques, without describing what those techniques were." What's more, her father, a Flagstaff postal worker, insists that she also tried "to change assignments with someone who did not want to go to Iraq."

As the military won't release details of specific procedures, one can only wonder what methods could be so terrible as to drive a young Army enlistee to take her own life, and become among the first women casualties of the war in Iraq. Moreover, will the "alternative interrogation methods" the young Army specialist may well have witnessed ever see the light of day in federal court, or will that also be classified as "sensitive compartmented information" as our government now designates anything it deems top secret. In late October, Vice President Dick Cheney called talk about controversial interrogation techniques, such as water boarding, "a little silly." One wonders, too, what the father of this young servicewoman would have to say about that. Victory, in an election, is always sweet; yet it must also serve as a reminder that it's time for the chickens to come home to roost in this country, with respect to high crimes and misdemeanors in Iraq, and for those, in this government, who call for secrecy with respect to interrogation techniques, and torture, to face the light of day.

Hopefully, when it next convenes, the new majority in the House and Senate will roll up their sleeves, get to work on this egregious breach of the Geneva Conventions, and constitutional law, as well as let those who gave us recent legislation, like the Military Commissions Act, that effectively eliminates habeas corpus, and the so-called USA Patriot Act, which violates our First Amendment rights, know that they won't have Congress to kick around anymore.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Bonfire of Inanities

On this the day before the most important midterm election in more than a decade, it seems that the only one not snubbing the president is Barney, his Scottish Terrier. But this, the season of our discontent, unlike any before it, must make room for an unprecedented demand for public apologia, evisceration, and inanity. Indeed, it seems that the only time we have any interest in substance, in this country, is when we're abusing it.

Just when we thought we'd heard enough about Speaker of the House, Dennis Hastert, and his alleged cover-up of Florida Rep. Mark Foley's instant messages to a 16 year old congressional page, along comes Brokeback Mountain, evangelical-style, and "disgraced" Colorado minister, Ted Haggard, who denies using methadrine while confessing, to his scandal-starved congregation, that his sensuality got the better of him, and is forced to resign. "We're living this in real time," said Rob Brendle, associate pastor of Haggard's New Life Church, as indeed the Salem Bay trials were in real time, too. (NYT) Consider, too, how one ecclesiastical hypocrite has been forced to his knees for a public spanking, and mea culpa, when, by conservative estimates, hundreds of his Catholic brothers will go unnoticed, and unpunished.
Nobody can say Rep.Mark Foley doesn't lead a charmed life, Jack Abramoff would bribe a boat of Arab hijackers to be that lucky.

Haggard succeeded better than anyone else to take Foley, and Hastert out of the spotlight, but what does this say about this campaign from hell, literally?
While the pundits rant incessantly about how this year might register as a 6.5 on the Richter scale of negative campaigning, there is more that is inane than negative both in the campaign ads, and in the personal attacks on candidates.. If we learned anything from Foley's fall from grace, it is that a cyberspace instant fantasy world between a teenage page and a member of Congress titillates John Q. Public, and sells more newspapers than a real life threat from Kim Jong in North Korea. But, this is nothing new.

What modern technology, the Internet, the digital camera, and the big screen T.V. can take credit for is having the nascent art of the confessional to new levels. If it were possible for Joan of Arc to be interviewed by CNN's Wolf Blitzer, she might not have burned at the stake, after all, but joined the cast of Donald Trump's reality show instead. Yes, we have taken the notion of theater of the absurd to new heights. Consider, for a moment, the apology made by a previous presidential candidate, John Kerry, for an inane joke in light of the fact that the sitting president sees no reason to apologize for the loss of more than 2,800 American service men and women's lives. While Kerry may have denounced what he terms a "campaign of fear and smear" against him, (NYT) if truth be told, there'd be nobody home in the White House, for the past 6 years, without "fear and smear."

In an attempt to force the Senator to his knees, Republicans ran a Web ad, that rivals the Swift Boat debacle, demanding an apology from Kerry, while showing U.S. soldiers in Iraq holding a banner that reads "Halp Us Jon Carry—We R Stuck Hear in Irak." Don't the words "mea culpa" mean anything to anybody anymore? Aren't we glad we now have a one size fits all crucifix.

Moreover, the "Halp Us Jon Carry" ad pales in comparison with the Tennessee advertising blitz in which congressional candidate, Harold Ford, is being fed the bait by a contender for Playmate of the Month. Forget about being racist, I think the ad is an insult to Hugh Hefner and the Playboy Club, and I'm waiting for Mr. Hefner to stand up, and demand an apology from Ford's Republican challenger, Robert Corker.

While we agree with Margaret Carlson that the Tennessee congressional race may be the "basest" campaign of all, let's not forget the inanity of the Senate race in Richmond, Virginia, and Senator George Allen's accusations against his Democratic counterpart, Jim Webb, that he demeans women in his fiction. What's more, one must ask what Allen's positions are on Roe v. Wade, and whether he thinks overturning that constitutional amendment would constitute demeaning women. But, then, that would be something that happens in "real time," and nobody cares about real time, anymore.

You may recall, too, that Jim Webb is a decorated Vietnam veteran who later served as Ronald Reagan's Secretary of the Navy.. Clearly, this is why Senator Allen has tried so vigorously to use the oldest trick in the book, scandal, to deflect attention away from the fact that, by a ratio of nearly 2 to 1, those in Congress who most favored sending troops to Iraq, and "staying the course," are those who were missing in action in previous wars.

Dating back to the days when we tried folks for being witches at Salem Bay to the Commie witch hunts of Joe McCarthy, we Americans have a long, and distinguished history of indulging in practices which must seem to the rest of the world to be inane and, arguably, criminally inane. Even if we didn't invent irrelevancy, we sure as hell mastered it.

Make no mistake, while no one can dispute that, with this election, we've reached a new, and vastly improved, threshold of inanity, there are some pretty potent issues out there, none of which may be said to have taken steroids, and these are the issues to focus on in this election year, as well as in 2008. There is more hunger, more homelessness, more bloodshed, and yet a greater possibility for more violence, including a nuclear holocaust, today than ever before, and there is only one known antidote which is to vote, and to vote early, before voting itself becomes an act of civil disobedience.

We live in an age when even the truth must be fitted for a bullet proof vest, or senior members of our government are likely to take puck shots at it. It's time to show those wunderkinden of spin, the Roves and the Snows, that the media is not the massage; go to the polls tomorrow, and cast your vote for regime change in Washington, while it's still there for the casting.

for regime change...

Had enough of bloodshed in Iraq as a result of irrelevant war, corruption, greed, secrecy, evangelical hypocrisy, congressional stalemates; want to see justice served, along with truth, for the next 2 years? Go to the polls tomorrow; encourage your friends, family, and associates to go to the polls tomorrow, and vote for Democrats!

Sunday, November 05, 2006

Full Moon Over Baghdad

Am glad to see I'm not the only one having a bad day. Saddam Hussein was just convicted, and sentenced to hang for the execution of 148 men and boys, back in 1982, who were alleged to have been involved in an assassination attempt against him. Oh, and yes, this is just the tip of the iceberg.

While we, a culture of narcissists, sit and ponder whether the timing of the verdict was arranged to coincide with the midterm elections, press secretary for the Occupier in Chief, suggests that those who think that must be "smoking rope." Well, Saddam's days of smoking rope may just be over; he may soon be hanging from one. That is, of course, unless the verdict and sentence meet their end under the appeals process. Still, even if the appellate court in Iraq, such as it is, overrules this verdict and sentence, he faces a second trial in which he is charged with killing as many as 100,000 Kurds twenty years ago. One way or another, Bush is determined to make this guy pay.

We agree that the whole judicial process which tried and sentenced the former dictator of Iraq is " mockery of justice," (Washington Post) but so is giving the death sentence to someone who gave the death sentence to others. After all, what is a "crime against humanity?" Is killing Saddam the "Christian" thing to do? Moreover, is this not why the trial had to take place in Iraq and not in the U.S., so our hands could remain clean, but clean in whose eyes?

Is giving death to a ruler for his crimes against humanity itself not a crime against humanity? What's more, what does one do about the leaders of scores of Shiite death squads who are killing at least as many Sunnis, each day, as Saddam was just sentenced for having executed, some of whose leaders are "working as the head of political blocs" in Iraqi government today? (WaPo) So it is then that capital crimes require capital punishment. It would be naive, of course, but one can only hope that the same rule of law applies regardless of who's standing trial, their nation of origin, as well as their stature.

Once again, the U.S. can declare victory as purveyors of freedom, and justice, and saviors from torture, and cruel and inhuman punishment inflicted on the Iraqi people by that barbarian Saddam Hussein. Yet again, our government can claim that we've helped that country to establish a judicial infrastructure such that it can try and punish its own renegade leaders. Indeed, we can make such claims, but not with a straight face, not in light of our government's efforts to keep detainees from testifying about our own interrogation techniques in federal court, not in light of Abu Ghraib, and the shooting of innocent Iraqi civilians, not insofar as we have outsourced the death penalty in the name of exporting democracy.

But, death by hanging? That's so medieval. Surely Dick Cheney, and his buddies at Halliburton, can come up with a new, and improved way for state sanctioned murder, like lethal injection, if for no other reason than to prove, beyond a reasonable doubt, that, if nothing else, we've exported modernity to Iraq. I'm sure if there's a buck to be made, Cheney and his boys will be on the next flight. After all, the least we can do is modernize how the Iraqis execute people. Is it not a crime against humanity to hang a man? any man? Or, are some murders more justified than others? And whose sophistry is this? Anyone in the religious right who says that it's okay to let the Shiites do our killing for us will answer to that "higher power" if, and when, He ever decides to call collect.

Oh, and if we, in this country, can pull ourselves away from the mirror long enough, we may just see this sham of a trial, apart from being a "mockery of justice," will show the world that death by Shiite is no better than death by Saddam is no better than death by Marine, and that a death squad is a death squad just as a "dunk in the water is a dunk in the water."

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Live from "Mile High Coffee:" Bush Unplugged

Maybe what it takes to be even half-way successful in politics now, more than ever, is not only proficiency with the fine art of spin, and aptitude for damage control, but one has to be a bullshit fetishist, as well. Witness the weekly address given at Mile High Coffee, a suburban cafe in Denver, where the president spoke about how peachy the economy is "our growing economy ...has left more money in the hands of families and workers and small business owners." But, what can one expect from a government so far in denial that, less than 10 days ago, the vice president himself had the unmitigated chutzpah to declare our mission in Iraq a success.

Yes, at "Mile High" today, Mr. Bush engaged in his administration's signature mixed messages when pointing out that employers are cooperating with an economy that has "lost momentum" and, at the same time, arguing that economic growth will be compromised by a Democratic victory at the polls on Election Day. (AP) He spoke of making his infamous "tax relief" plan permanent; you know the plan, the one that provides the biggest tax breaks to those who earn $200,000 a year plus, and leaves the rest of us with nickels and dimes. I f one didn't know better, one might ask what has Mr. Bush been smoking, but that would mean implying that the president, in addition to being an "economist," is an evangelist, too.

Leaving the ranch for a moment, and heading to Ca-LEE-forn--ya, one finds Republican rising star, Arnold Schwarzenegger, spouting the same mantra, and leading his Democratic opponent by 16 percentage points statewide. In fact, the Governeggor is so far ahead that he's no longer trying to sway voters, in that state, to cast their ballots for him, but is instead focusing on ballot initiatives. An excellent way to resolve the same sex marriage issue, since this president is so fond of the notion of permanence, as evidenced by his insistence upon making the USA Patriot Act permanent, as well as his tax cuts, given that the governor of the most populous state in the union and the president of the 3rd most populous nation in the world share the same delusion about robust economic growth, why not consider theirs the wedding of the season?

Joking aside, the most amazing factor in this surreal equation is that the president's approval rating with respect to the economy is a staggering 40%, according to a recent Associated Press poll, despite the fact that Ford has plans to slash one-third of its workforce, newspapers are cutting jobs left and right, housing sales are at a dangerously low level, furniture and retail sales are in the tank, but this president continues to sing that old, but haunting refrain "Happy days are here again," and think he can pass this manure on, so folks will go to the polls on Tuesday and invite him and his economic clones like Ah-nold back for another round at demolition derby.

Democratic Party Chair Howard Dean's response to the president's address was that the rich are getting richer on the backs of the rest of us. But, how it is that the masterminds of economic manipulation, and deception have managed to hold the reins for a decade or more, and do so with such efficacy is beyond a mere mortal's powers of comprehension.

Consider this, from the president who doesn't know how to paint, but rule by numbers....
en route today to celebrate his wife's birthday, when asked about Laura's age, the president replied: "I'm not going to tell you her age. But, we were both born in the same year, and I turned 60 this year." Mr. Bush, and his party, must be doing something right--the fact that nearly half of the American people respond positively to the way he handles the economy is even scarier than the state of the economy itself.

The only thing more frightening is the thought that, try as we might, we still don't believe that, even after a Democratic landslide on Tuesday, we get to shake the distortionists and spin masters completely for at least another generation. There are little Bushes, and Bush-lites, popping up across the nation, like our friend Ah-nold, and virtually guaranteeing the age of the neo-con will see its way to syndication.

Friday, November 03, 2006

At Stake: Choice in South Dakota

Earlier this year, the city fathers (and mothers) in South Dakota unanimously passed a bill that would ban abortion with the only exception being those few cases where the mother's life is in danger. Additionally, if passed the law will criminalize not merely the procedure itself, but those health care providers who perform abortions.

Amidst the scramble to keep up with charges from this camp or that, stay on top of election results in key races, as well as speculate about which candidate will have to pass the endurance test for humiliation next, it appears the mainstream media, and blogosphere, has lost sight of what may be the most important vote of all, a battle of wills now taking place in Sioux Falls, South Dakota where people will go to the polls, on Tuesday, to decide whether or not to make the most draconian, and prohibitive anti-abortion legislation ever proposed law in that state. If the ban passes, Planned Parenthood, and others, have already promised a lawsuit which would, no doubt, go to the Supreme Court, and give the Court a long-awaited opportunity to challenge Roe v. Wade.

But what's different about this debate about abortion is not the objective, but that both sides are using the same argument, namely, that their position "protects women's health." One prominent campaign Web site, "Support Women's Health," posts ads in which women describe how having an abortion ruined their physical, and mental health. By way of contrast, The South Dakota Campaign for Healthy Families, which opposes the ban, also claims that prohibiting abortion in cases of incest, and rape would also jeopardize women's health. (AP)

"Abortion hurts women," a slogan one repeatedly sees in the South Dakota abolitionist campaign, followed by a litany of medical, and psychological horror stories from women who underwent the procedure which signals a national trend in which groups like Operation Outcry present women who had abortions, and now "confess" that it hasn't helped, but hurt them. My experience, personally and with thousands of other women, is that abortion under any circumstances doesn't typically leave you a better woman," says Georgette Forney, the Pennsylvania leader of the group called "Silent No More." (AP)

And, undoubtedly, Forney is right; "abortion under any circumstances" may not leave one a better person, but will coercing a woman to follow through with a pregnancy that resulted from rape, or incest leave her "a better woman?" Moreover, will handcuffing, and taking the nurse and doctor who performed her procedure make us a better society?

The good news out of South Dakota yesterday is that, according to an independent poll reported by the Associated Press, 52% of those surveyed oppose the ban while only 42% are in favor of the law, the most stringent of its kind, which would all but prohibit abortion in that state. The bad news is that 36% of those surveyed believe the ban doesn't apply in the case of rape and incest. So, while they're on opposing sides of the argument, both the pro-choice and anti-abortion camps in South Dakota are doing a disservice to their constituency when they use medical spin to their advantage, and not as a tool to educate voters, and the nation at large, about the real risk here, which is not a woman's health, but a human right to self-determination.

With their vote on this restrictive law, South Dakota may well be handing the Supreme Court a lightning rod, and it's time those of us who want to protect, and preserve affirmative action, and choice, to now turn our attention away from the Playmate of the Month ad in the Tennessee campaign, and focus instead on what is happening in this small midwest town. While Sioux Falls may seem light years away from Washington, D.C., as goes Rome so goes Pompeii

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Bottom Line...

Time to lay off Senator Kerry. Let he, or she who hasn't made an off-the-cuff remark they didn't regret cast the first stone...

John Kerry is not a campaign issue.

Freedom of Assembly? Not for Mike Stark

The below article appears in yesterday's Richmond Times-Dispatch, out of Virginia, and is a stunning account of the mob ethos currently taking hold of many in Virginia Senator Allen's campaign, as well as in the Republican party.

Letter from Mike Stark

Richmond Times-Dispatch

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

The following is a letter to NBC29 from Mike Stark, the man who was tackled for a comment he made at Senator Allen's campaign stop in Charlottesville on Tuesday.

My name is Mike Stark. I am a law student at the University of Virginia, a marine, and a citizen journalist. Earlier today at a public event, I was attempting to ask Senator Allen a question about his sealed divorce record and his arrest in the 1970s, both of which are in the public domain. His people assaulted me, put me in a headlock, and wrestled me to the ground. Video footage is available here, from an NBC affiliate.

I demand that Senator Allen fire the staffers who beat up a constituent attempting to use his constitutional right to petition his government. I also want to know why Senator Allen would want his staffers to assault someone asking questions about matters of public record in the heat of a political campaign. Why are his divorce records sealed? Why was he arrested in the 1970s? And why did his campaign batter me when I asked him about these questions.

George Allen defends his support of the Iraq war by saying that our troops are defending the ideals America stands for. Indeed, he says our troops are defending our very freedom. What kind of country is it when a Senator's constituent is assaulted for asking difficult and uncomfortable questions? What freedoms do we have left? Maybe we need to bring the troops home so that they can fight for freedom at George Allen's campaign events. Demanding accountability should not be an offense worthy of assault.

I will be pressing charges against George Allen and his surrogates later today. George Allen, at any time, could have stopped the fray. All he had to do was say, "This is not how my campaign is run. Take your hands off that man." He could have ignored my questions. Instead he and his thugs chose violence. I spent four years in the Marine Corps. I'll be damned if I'll let my country be taken from me by thugs that are afraid of taking responsibility for themselves.
It just isn't the America I know and love. Somebody needs to take a stand against those that would bully and intimidate their fellow citizens. That stand begins right here, right now.

W. Michael Stark

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