Saturday, September 30, 2006

Good news from Reuters by way of Yahoo News...

U.S. terrorism trials face court challenges

By James Vicini Sat Sep 30, 9:26 AM ET

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - New military trial rules for terrorism suspects that
President George W. Bush' President George W. Bush endorsed and Congress approved will draw vigorous court challenges and could be struck down for violating rights guaranteed under the U.S. Constitution, critics and legal experts said.
The legal battle will likely be ultimately decided by the
U.S. Supreme Court U.S. Supreme Court, which could be troubled the rules unconstitutionally restrict the suspects' rights, they said.
They cited the bill's provisions that strip foreign suspects of the right to challenge their detentions in U.S. courts, the broad definition of enemy combatants and what they described as unfair rules for military trials, including some use of hearsay and coerced evidence.

"I have no doubt that this is headed for the Supreme Court. Once again, the administration has overreached, and that makes it more likely that the court will strike it down," Stanford University law professor Jenny Martinez said.
"It allows the use of coerced evidence, which our laws have rejected since the founding of this country. It also denies noncitizens, including those in the U.S., access to court for fundamental human rights violations like torture," she said.
Justice Department spokesman Brian Roehrkasse defended the legislation as "plainly constitutional" and denied it foreclosed all judicial review.

"The military commissions established under the act provide the accused with the fundamental rights that will ensure fair and effective trials that fully satisfy all applicable standards under the Geneva Convention and our Constitution," he said.
The Supreme Court, by a 5-3 vote on June 29, struck down as illegal Bush's original system of military trials established after the September 11 attacks for prisoners at the
U.S. Navy'U.S. Navy base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
The ruling said the administration could either rely on the traditional U.S. court-martial system or seek congressional approval of rules to prosecute and interrogate the prisoners. The issue has become a major political battle before the November 7 elections in which control of Congress is at stake.

Democrats and even some Republican lawmakers said taking away the prisoners' right to have habeas corpus hearings in federal court was unconstitutional and would be struck down by the Supreme Court. The experts agreed.
"I believe that the court will conclude that the habeas- stripping provision is unconstitutional," said Eugene R. Fidell, a Washington attorney and military law expert who is president of the National Institute of Military Justice.
The bill expands the definition of "enemy combatants" to those who provide weapons, money and other support to terrorist groups. It defines conspiracy as a war crime, although four Supreme Court members in the majority in June said it was not a war crime.
"Just because Congress puts a stamp of approval on something, it does not necessarily mean it will pass constitutional muster before the Supreme Court," said Scott Silliman, a Duke University law professor and executive director at its Center on Law Ethics and National Security. He predicted the legality of the new rules would be a close issue for the courts. At the Supreme Court, it could come down to Justice
Anthony Kennedy Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote with four liberals and four conservatives.

Michael Ratner, president of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights, which represents hundreds of Guantanamo prisoners, vowed to challenge the removal of the habeas corpus rights.
Ratner said such an opportunity could arise when the administration moves to dismiss pending Guantanamo cases in order to apply the new rules. Defense lawyers could then respond by challenging the rules' constitutionality. can only hope that the Supreme Court that awarded the presidency to Mr. Bush in 2000, the same court that this president has tried to load with likeminded conservatives will indeed restore much-needed oversight to a runaway executive branch and provide, in the best sense of the phrase, poetic justice...

The Smoking Shorts....

The Democrats may have found the way to win back the Senate from those whose campaign for "family values" has just hit a major speed bump. As you know, Florida Republican Rep. Mark Foley resigned from Congress yesterday after the discovery of some e-mails he wrote to a former teenage male page. One much publicized Foley missive to the 16 year old former congressional page asks: "You in your boxers, too? Well, strip down and get naked." This isn't the first instance of congressional impropriety. In 1983, two members of the House were censured for their dalliances with teenage pages. (AP) But, as the president likes to remind us, that was before 9/11, and with FCC, as well as governmental emphasis on "indecency fines," this could well be the biggest boon for a Democratic takeover of Congress we've ever seen, that is, if the Dems take a lesson from Bill Clinton, and start speaking up.

There is more than a little irony in the fact that the suggestive e-mail was sent from the 52 year old congressman who represents Palm Beach County, also presides over the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus, and has been actively engaged in efforts to eradicate Internet child pornography. Further, it was Rep. Foley who asserted that "We track library books better than we do sexual predators," a statement which, no doubt, has come back to haunt him today.

This is not about the congressman's sexuality, or his attempts to seduce young boys; this is about his duplicity, and the hypocrisy of the party he represents. Efforts to sensationalize whatever small glimmer of lust one can uncover (no pun intended) in the electronic conveyances are tangential. Our main concern must be not merely an attempt to compromise the innocence, and virtue of an underaged congressional page, but the ongoing politics of deception practiced by those who tell us that they want to "edit" out certain salacious words from a T.V. sitcom while, at the same time, bolstering reelection campaigns of those who send "horny" instant messages to our teenagers. Just as President Clinton is said to have been impeached not because of an inappropriate sex act in the Oval Office, Rep. Mark Foley must step down not because he wrote a few quasi-erotic missives to a former 16 year old page, but because he egregiously misrepresented, and lied to his electorate about his core values.

That said, in an age when many are quick to use the word "devil," few are willing to play the role of devil's advocate, so allow me. Hanging poor Foley's boxers out to dry, in public, is Puritanism in its finest hour, and while I'm no fan of instant messaging, especially when it involves sexual harassment of any kind, I don't think instant crucifixion is the way to go either. To my knowledge, Mr. Foley has not put one finger on the boy; his advances were solely in cyberspace. Have we devolved so far into born again moralism that we can no longer distinguish between acts, and intentions? If so, then are we to impugn former president Jimmy Carter who confessed to have lusted in his heart? Is it one thing to lust in one's heart, and another to flirt with a teenager on the Internet? Of course. But, is there a difference between writing a seductive e-mail, or even making a phone call, and sexual assault? I think there is.

Yes, yes, Rep. Foley's resignation from Congress is more than appropriate, and his resignation from the Missing and Exploited Children's Caucus must follow, but if the radical right-wing thinks that by eliminating one chickenhawk they will "ex-foliate," and rid their party of the moral hypocrisy, and duplicity that came with Dan Quayle, Newt Gingrich, and the November revolution of 1994, they'd better think again.

What's more, those Democrats, like Nancy Pelosi, who call for an investigation into when the Republican leadership in the House first found out about Foley's transgressions are merely emulating their Republican counterparts by trying to lose themselves in committees, paperwork, and bureaucracy all the while ignoring the very real, and ripe, possibility that, for first time in more than a decade, the Democratic Party may well have found their smoking gun in a pair of boxer shorts, no less. Now the only question is whether or not they have high enough octane, and savvy, to rise to the occasion, and not engage in discourse over who knew what when, but turn Mr. Foley's boxers into the Swift Boat that defeats these Republican neo-con men in the upcoming midterm election, as well as in 2008.

Friday, September 29, 2006

"This is how a nation loses its moral compass..."

Rep. Jerrold Nadler (D-N.Y.) said of Congress' passage, this week, of legislation which deprives so-called "enemy combatants" of habeas corpus:

"This is how a nation loses its moral compass, its identity, its values and, eventually, its freedom. . . . We rebelled against King George III for less restrictions on liberty than this."

Washington Post, September 27, 2006

Thursday, September 28, 2006

drama queens have their place...

Drama queens have their place, but not on Fox News, or so says Fox News chief Roger Ailes. What's ailing Ailes? The news chief tells the Associated Press that he was offended by what he calls former President Bill Clinton's "wild overreaction" to anchor Chris Wallace's cross-examination on Sunday. Can it be that Mr. Clinton wasn't prepared to take the witness stand? Moreover, it seems that Mr. Ailes cannot himself resist the temptation to engage in a bit of hyperbole when he refers to Clinton's tirade as "an assault on all journalists."

I suppose Ailes didn't consider it an assault on journalism, and a free press when two-thirds of their programming was devoted to Madame Monica, and the Fox hunt for articles of impeachment. Talk about "wild overreactions," to suggest that contempt for bias is hatred for journalists is the sort of thing one might expect from the publisher of the National Enquirer, but not the head of a major American television news network.

And, yes, what's ailing Ailes is that the former president responded with such vitriole to the "mild-mannered, and respectful" probing of anchor Chris Wallace. (AP) Indeed, Chris Wallace was about as retiscent as a seventh grade biology student sticking needles in an aesthesized frog. But, what happens when the anesthesia wears off? S urely the former president knew that when one enters a lion's den, one can expect to get a little mauled, particularly when that particular lion has a long history of mauling anything that doesn't reflect its own Republican and conservative worldview. Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, and other progressive media watchdog groups, have long chastised Fox for its one-sided, and myopic reporting. What we saw on Sunday is what happens when a victim strikes back, and the victim ain't Fox News!

There is no small irony in the Fox news chief accusing a president who was violated by the neo-con news media of assaulting "all journalists." The press, in this country, was among the first casualties of the war on terror. The media has been plundered and raped by new FCC regulations which impose gargantuan, and obscene "indecency" fines on networks, and broadcasters, thereby censoring what we say and see on TV, and in the movies.

There is no small irony in the head of the penultimate conservative news network calling a former president who they previously scapegoated a hater of journalists in that, over the past five years, we've seen more harassment of the press than even Joe McCarthy could have imagined. So it is that a president, long famous for his drama queen antics, has now met his match in the head of Fox news who epitomizes purple prose in describing the victimization of his esteemed anchor.

After all, can we expect less than rage from a president who was tried, and convicted by the right wing media, and who has dared to speak up, finally, because he has nothing left to lose, but what's left of his dignity, and suggest that while the radical right are at the business of pointing fingers,they should point one in the right direction at the current president; and this constitutes an "assault on journalists?" After all, Fox knows a bit about assault; they've been attacking the truth for years.

Yes, yes, drama queens have their place, but it's not running network news shows.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Selective Deception

Rep. Peter Hoekstra, chair of the House Intelligence Committee, issued a caveat today that the Bush administration must be "very cautious and very restrained about the kind of information we want to give to al-Qaida." (AP) By only partially releasing a previously classified National Intelligence Estimate report, by the nation's 16 intelligence agencies, that alleges an escalating terror threat, indeed one that has ncreased in direct proportion to this government's "preemptive" military actions, the president, and his "defense ministers," are censoring, and manipulating, what information reaches the American people, and Congress.

White House press secretary Tony Snow, and others who defend partial declassification, insist that if the entire contents of the report were to be made public, "the independence of people doing intelligence analysis" would be compromised. (AP) Excuse me, but why this sudden concern about protecting the lives and "independence" of intelligence analysts from an administration that has been complicit in the outing of CIA operative Valerie Plame? Is it this government's job to assess, and select which investigators, and investigations are to be concealed, which revealed, and whose lives are worth protecting?

Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld's politics of selective deception, which is egregiously demonstrated by the politically timed, and executed declassification of an "abridged" version of the findings of more than a dozen national intelligence agencies corrolates, and fits nicely with their ongoing pattern of seduction by secrecy. Keep in mind that we are being shortchanged by agencies that are sponsored by our taxpayer dollars. Maybe if Congress, and the citizens of this county stood up, and demanded to see the complete contents of those intelligence reports that got us into the war in Iraq, in the first place, we wouldn't be talking about the need to release these findings today.

Over the past 24 hours, much has been said about Iraq having become the "cause celebre" for terrorists. Clearly, Iraq has become not merely a "cause celebre,"and a training ground, but a fraternity house for jihadists. Over the past several hours, too, we've heard our president call "naive" those who believe that our campaign to topple Saddam in Iraq has only resulted in proliferation of Islamic fundamentalist holy warriors, as well as expansion of terror threat. From our president also comes the following rationalization: "My judgment is, if we weren't in Iraq, they'd find some other excuse, because they have ambitions." (AP) Yes, yes, Mr. Bush is right, the global jihadists have "ambitions" just like we do. Funny thing about the desire for world domination, it's often accompanied by ambition. Now why doesn't the president open up the entire NIE report so that we can all see, and gauge the threat, as well as the ambitions of those, on both sides of the equation, who engage in ongoing military action that compromises the security, and sanity of the human race.

Monday, September 25, 2006

now Lucifer...

First, Hugo Chavez calls Bush the devil, and now Jerry Falwell calls Bill Clinton "Lucifer." Will you guys just leave the poor diablo alone; he's got enough on his plate as it is...

Over the coming years...

Just came from a visit to the dry cleaners in my new neighborhood. No sooner did I reach the counter than I saw a huge makeshift sign which read: "We will clean your American flag for free;" for free, I thought....hmmmm..... French playwright Jean Anouilh once said, "What you get free costs too much."

On my way out, I approached the proprietor, and asked "Why are you not charging for this service?" He looked at me sternly, and said only; "It's our patriotic duty to keep the flag clean." .""And so it is," I replied; trying to keep a clean flag may cost more and more over the coming years.

Mount Justice

Some blogosphere folks, and other pundits, today are doing a demolition job on Bill Clinton by suggesting that he "lost it" during his Fox interview with Chris Wallace yesterday. To the contrary, a close observation of the interview will show that, while he was animated, the former president was right on the mark with respect to being asked to take the hit for not containing the nascent threat of Al Qaeda, and Osama bin Laden.

Mr. Clinton was right on the money to suggest that the spotlight should not be on him but on the current administration. As suggested by an 18th century British poet, William Blake, "The voice of righteous indignation is the voice of God." Amen. We must learn to distinguish between justifiable, and misguided anger, a distinction which has, alas, been obscured by the right-wing warlords who have laid claim to this country since Newt Gingrich, and his Contract on America.

If Chris Wallace, of Fox, felt as if "a mountain" was coming down on him, maybe it was...Mount Justice!

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Cojones and "conservative hit jobs!"

In what has been described as a "combative interview" on "Fox News Sunday," former president, Bill Clinton who, you may recall, was impeached for having oral sex in the Oval Office, was cross-examined by anchor Chris Wallace about why he didn't launch a preemptive strike against Osama bin Laden. (AP) The former president recounted how he went after bin Laden to the fullest extent possible, trying to "kill him," as well as how the same folks who condemned his actions then are stepping up to the plate to attempt a "conservative hit job" now.
One can only say "amen, Mr. Cllinton." What a troubling statement about our national priorities, and ethos, that we impeach a president for a sexual contretemps while a sitting president gets to turn the military into an assembly line of bungled misadventures while hiding behind a flagrant misreading of the Second Amendment, all but shredding the First and Fourth Amendments, and has turned foreign policy into a simple, and deadly acronym, "CYA -- cover your ass."

Anyone who thinks Bill Clinton doesn't have the cojones to speak up needs corrective lenses. Happily, the former president defended himself against Chris Wallace's assertions that he was incompetent with regard to stopping Al Qaeda. Hello, anybody home? Which American leader has demonstrated competency with respect to diffusing Al Qaeda? Wallace's suggestions are equally ironic, and absurd, in light of the fact that Bill Clinton was the first president, on record, to talk about the danger posed by paramilitary groups, as well as to attempt to make inroads towards preventing their proliferation. About the only thing the Bush administration has been adept at exposing is how occupation of a conceptually neutral, if nefarious, state like Iraq can pose a clear and present danger to world peace for now, and possibly centuries to come.

Instead of putting a former president on the defensive with regard to the "handling" of bin Laden, how about holding the current president accountable for his mishandling of the hunt for the world's greatest terrorist, as well as for his exceptional deployment of weapons of "mass distraction." Make no mistake, Iran is at least as irrelevant to the "war on terror" as Iraq. This administration's jihad for global domination, whether it can be described as diabolical or otherwise, is at least as transparent as a Fox reporter's efforts to pin the blame for global insurgency, and insurrection, on a previous president.

Saturday, September 23, 2006

The November Surprise---bin Laden on a Silver Platter?

This morning, the AP reported that French President Jacques Chirac acknowledged the intelligence suggesting bin Laden is dead is "not yet confirmed." What is puzzling is a widely practiced CIA, and administration policy of bypassing FISA by data mining U.S. citizens, all the while vowing ignorance with respect to bin Laden's whereabouts.

Whether he is dead or alive, the FBI's most wanted, Osama bin Laden, has a high profile niece who lives in this country, and has for years. Why is it that so-called "intelligence agencies" have been unable to wrangle his cell phone number, email address, and/or post office box from her? Better still, why is it that Dick Armitage, his friends at the NSA,and those who like to fool us into thinking they're in the "homeland security" business haven't thought of contacting those relatives of bin Laden's, back in Saudi Arabia, who were partying with the Bush clan, and jetted out, only hours before 9/11? Does domestic, and foreign surveillance, stop short of tapping the phones of those Saudi oil barons?

hmmmmm.... can it be that this administration is saving the discovery of bin Laden for a week before the November election to sabotage the clear and present danger (one hopes, anyway) of a Democratic landslide, and the placing of their great crusades on hold? is W. holding out for the November surprise -- bin Laden's head on a silver platter? What was that movie, from about 20 years ago, about the South American world leader who was dead for years, but kept afloat by spin? Maybe bin Laden has been gone for years, but kept in a state of suspended animation for precisely the best strategic moment for him to surface?As has been suggested, "No one ever went broke underestimating the intelligence of the American people."

If nothing else, the past 6 years have shown us that we are no safer as a result of the "intelligence" gathering efforts of our government and, indeed, the world is an infinitely more terrifying place as a result of the politics of preemption, and selective prosecution.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

The Myth of Third World Purity

What a grand spectacle the world was treated to this week, in the General Assembly, with the high drama, and hyperbole of world leaders including some from so-called third world countries like Venezuela and Iran. As has been widely reported, Mr. Chavez compared President Bush to "the devil," and insisted he could still smell sulphur. While the analogy may have been apt, the context was clearly inappropriate, and it was infinitely less appropriate that U.N. delegates laughed, and applauded.

It's time to demystify those who have been the targets, justifably or otherwise, of American hostility and aggression. While there are many, like myself, who respect Mr. Chavez, and largely agree with much of what he stands for, there are some who will accept any kind of behavior, and write it off, based on the fact that the individual, or country, has been defamed, occupied, or violated by another. To make allowances for someone, under any circumstances, is arguably among the biggest insults one can bestow upon him. Further, regrettably, history has shown that those who have been victimized themselves when given the chance will victimize others.

What galls even more is how hopelessly naive, and reductive, those of us are who suggest that being the victim of American imperialism somehow exempts one from being corrupt and imperialistic. Those who demonize Israel, and the U.S. do exactly as this president does by setting up their own "axis of evil;" substituting a different set of names for bad guys.

Somehow we, in this country, have this curious dialectic with respect to how we view third world countries like Iran, Venezuela, Korea, and Cuba. Either we cling to a bizarre, and antediluvian image of a land of "primitives" that rations food, proscribes free speech, condones torture, is volatile, as well as incapable of dialogue or higher order thinking or, conversely, we revert to the "noble savage" mythos in which underdeveloped, or geographically challenged nations are seen as victims of relentless occupation.

Consider this: at the United Nations today, the president of Iran, who is repeatedly likened to that other madman we recently deposed Saddam Hussein, gave a speech in which he denied that Iran wants a nuclear bomb. Ahmadinejad said, in effect, "bomb, who needs a bomb?" I don't know about you, but I'd sure sleep a whole lot better tonight if the so-called "leaders of the free world," Bush and Blair, felt the same way. Sounding more like a statesman than his nemesis, the Iranian president went so far as to call America "a great nation." It seems that Agmadinejad has found a viable alternative to the nuclear option: kill 'em with kindness.

But, what happens to the dynamic when one, or both, plugs are pulled on stereotypes we have? Indeed, what happens when the descriptions we formerly reserved for rogue, or renegade nations can no longer be distinguished from those of our own government? Essentially, the question then becomes how can we tell the good guys from the "bad?" How can we tell who's posturing from who's preaching? When we, in this country, are being prepped for war with a country whose leader tells us he's perfectly willing to move away from any notion of developing a bomb, and our own government has turned back the clock on nuclear nonproliferation by at least 30 years, who are we to believe poses the graver threat? When the world is turned upside down, moral complexity becomes nuanced such that essential differences between things vanish into thin air.

When we put a sword in someone's hand, can we expect them to act radically different if they happen to wake up south of the equator than if they happen to wake up north? I think not. The political cosmology is such that not being a superpower with a proven track record of occupying, and toppling the governments of other states does not make one any more ideologically sound, or less capable of committing the same high crimes and misdemeanors they themselves were forced to endure.

Finally, those of us ingenuous enough to think that one who is the victim of imperialism will not themselves, under the right set of cirumstances, become imperialists have allowed their preoccupation with nationalism, third world or otherwise, to obscure their understanding of human nature. Power is an equal opportunity corrupter.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

To recognize...

To recognize, and respect, difference is to promote vision over division.

What's in a Name? -- a Contagion of Hubris

Forget the raging Southern California wildfires, forget e-coli poisoning from bad spinach that has contaminated more than a hundred people nationwide, I think a rabid outbreak of hubris, which is currently circling the globe, poses a far graver threat to the survival of the planet.

This malodor of arrogance can be detected not merely in our nation's capitol, but in the U.N. General Assembly this week, as well, coming from the mouth of Iranian President Ahmadinejad who calls his country's nuclear program "transparent, and peaceful;" talk about oxymorons; to call a nuclear program "peaceful" is like calling a pit bull docile. (AP) One thing is "transparent;" while the leader of the "free world" boasts of not reading newspapers, clearly his Iranian counterpart does.

Yes, friends, the unmistakeable smell of mendacity, the aroma of hubris is visible, too, in the words of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez who, this morning, called Bush "the devil," and lashed out at U.S. "imperialism." I would like to ask Mr. Chavez, if I could, if there is another brand of "imperialism" he would prefer to American imperialism, or if he is is he indicting the concept of imperialism at large; one would hope the latter would apply. Mr. Chavez hit the nail on the head when he suggested that Bush " came here talking as if he were the owner of the world," (AP) I daresay one would be hard-pressed to find a better characterization of our president.

That said, the best example yet of this contagion of hubris comes from the Pentagon in its egregious effort to justify detaining an Associated Press photographer, Bilial Hussein, in Iraq, "indefinitely without charges" for his alleged "improper ties to insurgents." (AP) Unspecified "journalist groups" are calling for charges to be brought, or that the photographer be immediately released.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Pentagon spokesman, Bryan Whitman, claims that Mr. Hussein has strong connections to "insurgent" groups in Iraq, and is participating in activities one would not "expect a journalist to be doing." (AP) So, the press now has to look to the Pentagon for its job description. And what does Bilal Hussein's attorney want? Just that his client have his day in court, be formally charged, and have access to the evidence against him; in short, due process, a process which is due south thanks to the ongoing efforts of this administration to subvert the Constitution and international law.

As to the assertion by Mr. Whitman, the Pentagon's spokesperson, that Hussein has been known to consort with, and have "improper ties to insurgents," (AP), using that same argument, why not pick up, and detain, all members of this administration who are known to have consorted with, and had ties to Osama bin Laden's kinsfolk only hours before 9/11.

Maybe it's just that this poor photographer happens to be unlucky enough to share a name with a deposed dictator that leaves him vulnerable to incrimination. But, if so, why is it that the same transparency didn\'t result in rounding up, and incarcerating family members of one who is considered responsible for the most heinous crime against America ever.

Monday, September 18, 2006

from poet Paul Valery...

"The trouble with our times is that the future is not what it used to be."

If the Dems...

As reported today, most Americans see the GOP as being out of touch with the problems facing the vast majority of us. Sadly, the Democrats, too, appear to be as out out touch as their counterparts. No one is making noise about the greatest casualty of this administration, the American worker.

If the Democrats, and those of us who want progressive social change want to win the midterm election in less than 2 months, as well as the presidential election in less than 2 years, then we'd better stop talking about torture and terror, and start focusing on Ford's recent announcement that it plans to cut 1/3 of its workforce, as well as a cost of living that has skyrocketed such that life in America is no longer affordable for the the vast majority of us. The Democrats play right into the opposition party's hands when they allow issues that don't immediately address the needs of those they hope to represent to deflect attention away from the growing disparity in income, as well as the ongoing erosion of the middle class.

Make no mistake, economic disenfranchisement is at least as important as voter disenfranchisement, and the party that has historically come to the rescue of the poor, and hungry will find itself exiled to the trunk of an abandoned Prius unless it gets into first gear, and addresses the anxiety of the masses, in this country, who suffer angst from ongoing financial uncertainty. While Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, and Rice make engaging targets, they do an equally compelling job of deflecting attention away from their neo-Con agenda which is election-proof. It is a platform that perpetuates wealth, and abandons equal opportunity that must be vigilantly opposed, and exposed; anything less is surrender. Moreover, any party that hopes to defeat the neanderthal right can only do so by acknowledging those they wrong.

The key to victory, in November, is no different now than it was when Bill Clinton ran against Bush Senior. Yet again, "It's the economy, stupid," and anything that distracts us from the core issues of the American worker will quell any chance for substantive, and lasting, social change now, and in years to come.

After nearly a decade of the "terror men," this is no time for the hollow men; it has never been more important for the Democrats to keep their eye squarely on the ball, and listen to the pain and outrage of those it has traditionally served.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Impeach Condi?

Anyone want to dance with Condoleezza Rice? Most likely not Colin Powell. Ignoring the lead of her predecessor, former Secretary of State Powell, Ms. Rice yesterday decided to stand by her man, the president, and Mr. Cheney, by backing this administration's continuing efforts to deconstruct Geneva in their dubious campaign against an invisible, and ostensibly invincible, adversary.

As you're already aware, the alternative bill proposed by John McCain at the meeting of the Armed Services Committee yesterday passed by a margin of nearly 2 to 1 which spells trouble for a White House determined to nuance what has been considered accepted practice internationally for treatment of prisoners detained during wartime for generations.

The one character who is always to be counted on for commentary, like the fool in "King Lear," White House Press Secretary Tony Snow hit the nail squarely on the head when he suggested that critics of this administration's attempt to circumnavigate international law by way of new legislation merely "misconstrue" their government's "intent" which is to "define the Geneva Conventions" ban on cruel and inhumane treatment, and not to undermine it." (WaPo) How dare any government that has been in power for 6 years tamper with accepted definitions of torture for decades? What unmitigated gaul, not to mention pernicious revisionism, to admit to tweaking Geneva so that it serves the unitary meglomaniacal mission of this presidency.

Yes, yes, Tony Snow is right---this administration's aim is not to endorse torture, but to neutralize it to such a degree, by linguistic sleight of hand, that it is no longer torture, but torture light. This is unacceptable, even to the most primitive, and sophistic minds. It is unacceptable to "redefine" torture such that it becomes conceptually palatable just as we've come to accept that counterfeit phrase "collateral damage" as a way to avoid the blood and guts behind wartime civilian death. Indeed, the White House press secretary (the president's fool?) hits a bull's eye when he asserts that this Commander-in-Chief attempts not merely to redefine torture, but prisoner of war status, as well as undermine the core principle of due process, namely that every prisoner held captive be entitled to know the reason for his detention, as well as the evidence that put him there.

Consider, too, for a moment the audacity inherent in Snow's suggestion that Colin Powell, himself a former Secretary of State, and a military man, is "confused" (WaPo) because he backs Senator McCain's alternate bill repudiating this government's ongoing attempts to reinvent the language by which we wage war, and take prisoners. Good for those senators, on both sides of the aisle, who endorsed McCain's bill which calls for full adherence to the Geneva Conventions, and giving detainees access to evidence against them. Good for those who stood up, in the Senate yesterday, to Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney's best efforts to award carte blanche to the CIA, and immunity from future prosecution, for what can only be considered war crimes. While the legislation proposed by John McCain is far from perfect, it's provides an effective starting point.

Shame on Condeleeza Rice, as well as any future secretary of state who is willing to go along for a ride down the slippery, and dangerous slope with a government that works overtime to rewrite the laws faster than they can break them.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Democracy Israeli Style

.While we were busy putting the finishing touches on summer, Saturday, and remembering the first major terror attack on American soil, nearly 30,000 Israelis took to the streets of Tel Aviv to demand accountability from Prime Minister Ehud Olmert for his mishandling of the war in Lebanon. As Reuters reports, the demonstration, in Israel, was "the largest public show of dissatisfaction" with the prime minister since his ascent to power.

Notably, many of the protestors were members of the Israeli reserve; speakers at the rally represented both sides of that country's political spectrum. From the right came outcries against how poorly equipped soldiers were to face battle, as well as contempt for the government's response to bombardment by Hezbollah rockets. From a former member of the leftist Meretz party came a warning to Prime Minister Olmert: "If you don't return home on your own initiative, Israeli democracy will send you home."

One can only applaud a battle-scarred, and much maligned nation, as well as marvel at how it is the teacher must now become the pupil. A country that mastered Occupation 101 through mimesis now sets the paradigm for how to nuance hubris and runaway power. Inexorably, one must ask why it is that members of the American military don't take their commanders to task. Why aren't our reservists, and infantrymen taking to the streets of Washington, D.C. to demand investigation, or war inquiry, into our failed leadership, and a pandemic of arrogance that has afflicted both Israel and America, and gutted foreign policy over the past several years.

How is it that we have become moral lemmings willing to accept the politics of preemption over statesmanship, and diplomacy. And why is it that the left and right, in our country, can't come together to challenge executive authoritanism and the dismantling of a representative government? How is it that we, the people, have come to accept a most pernicious level of toxicity that tries to pass itself off as national security while, at the same time, compromises the integrity of international harmony for generations to come.

So it is that America, the unilateral exporter of democracy for over a century, must now take a backseat to countries like Israel, and Mexico, who challenge authority. So it is that the teacher must now learn from the student, and if democracy is to survive and prevail on our soil, then we must do as our Israeli counterparts, and tell those in command of our military that if our troops don't return on their "own initiative," American democracy will bring them home.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Paying Tribute

The best way to pay tribute to nearly 3,000 people who lost their lives, five years ago today, when the World Trade Center collapsed is to go to the polls this November, as well as in 2008, and vote out those with the mindset of the vice president who Sunday acknowledged that the ouster of Saddam Hussein, and the war in Iraq, are irrelevant to the war on terror. The best way to pay homage to the memory of those who died that September 11th is to demand answers as to why capture of Saddam Hussein was relevant while capture of bin Laden gets music on hold.

The best way to honor the memory of all those whose sacrifice, at Ground Zero, will continue to disturb as long as the word "disturb" resonates is to demand accountability, across party lines, from those who forget that lives continue to be lost so others may profit.

An administration that proves to be relentless in its quest to roll back privacy, civil liberties, due process, checks and balances, and shred the First Amendment is hardly what one should expect, or allow, to rise from the eternal flame that was 9/11.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

What Better Way...

What better way to commemorate the 5 year anniversary of the cowardly act that transformed a healthy, if neurotic, democracy into a totalitarian nightmare than with another cowardly act. As the Associated Press reports today, in Provo Utah, Brigham Young University has placed on academic leave a physicist, and university professor, who dared to challenge the accepted account of how the Twin Towers fell.

Steven Jones, who has been a faculty member at BYU since 1985, suggests that it was an explosion, and not aircraft, that demolished the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001. Further, in his book, "9/11 and American Empire: Intellectuals Speak Out," published two weeks ago, Dr. Jones asserts that the incendiary chemical, thermite, was present at the Twin Towers site, after the event, which, to his mind, is evidence that the structure was brought down by explosives, and not Al Qaeda hijackers. Clearly, this account runs counter to the 9/11 Commission, as well as accepted notions of what is considered the cause of the death of more than 3,000 people. While, undoubtedly, the professor's position is controversial, is it acceptable for the administration of any university to repudiate the process by which alternative explanations for current events come about?

Whether one agrees with Dr. Jones, or his ideas about the veracity of his government, the underlying question is how can a faculty member who has taught at a university for more than two decades be subjected to intellectual harassment with impunity? Why aren't other faculty members, or students, coming to his defense? Moreover, is it really about the articles the professor wrote, his book, or the fact that he is co-chair of the group "Scholars for 9/11 Truth?" If participation in socially, or politically, unorthodox,or iconoclastic groups, is grounds for even temporary suspension from one's teaching responsibilities, how can we expect the integrity of scholarship itself not to be compromised?

Consider for a moment the flagrant irony in the fact that an administration which claims to be fighting "Islamic fascism" has engendered a climate in which the university, traditionally the safest place to practice irreverence, and engage in dissenting discourse would have such dire consequences, all in the name of securing our national ethos. In order to remain safe from attack from without, must we attack from within?. Wasn't academic freedom the first casualty of European fascism?

Consider, too, the complacency of the media, and the press, with respect to covering, or not covering, this crucial story out of Provo today. This is not the first instance in which a faculty member has been penalized for expressing contrarian views. Remember Ward Churchill, the University of Colorado professor, who wrote a most unpopular essay about 9/11 that ended up costing him the chair of his department, as well as several cancelled speaking engagements? What the hell is going on in this country, and why is no one speaking out? We are living in dangerous times indeed when we teach our freshmen English students about how to develop an effective argument, then expel their faculty members for their attempts to do so. It is important to note, as a rule of thumb, that an effective argument is not necessarily one with which one agrees, but one that provides evidence, and proof of its position.

Dr. Jones was placed on administrative leave for the mere crime of argumentation, something that is reprehensible. I daresay, if given the opportunity, Brigham Young would place another prominent physicist, Galileo, on administrative leave for declaring that the earth revolves around the sun? No, not for a minute am I suggesting that one may compare the findings of Steven Jones with those of Galileo. It just seems to me truly tragic that, nearly 5 years to the day, a scientist operating under the umbrella of an established university now also faces excommunication for the simple act of making inquiry.

What a sad statement about how little things have really changed, over the past several hundred years, when one who chooses to use tools of his trade to argue for a different view of what happened on 9/11 is met with the same brand of fearful contempt one would expect to find in the Middle Ages, but hardly in the age of the World Wide Web.

All those who care about free speech, and the First Amendment, must write to the president of Brigham Young, write to the editors of our local newspapers, as well as members of Congress, and speak out against this assault on academic freedom, and the spirit of inquiry without which learning is by rote, and without reason.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

From Newsday.... Karl Rove and Exorcists...

From Newsday
September 7, 2006

"Karl Rove says he's not the Exorcist.

Rove, the Bush political shaman Democrats love to demonize, enlisted a trio of clergymen to exorcise Hillary Rodham Clinton's left-wing spirit when he moved into her West Wing office in 2001, according to> an unflattering new biography.

"I talked to Karl; he said it's not true and, beyond that, he will> have no comment," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said.

Clinton smiled and shook her head in disbelief Wednesday when asked> about the tale, which appears in "The Architect: Karl Rove and the Master Plan for Absolute Power," by James Moore and Wayne Slater. "I'm speechless," she finally said, heading toward a Senate elevator. Later, Clinton spokesman Philippe Reines quipped, "If the story is true … they sure did exorcise any lingering competence right out of the building.

Deal Hudson, a former Fordham University professor whom Rove enlisted to woo Catholic voters, told the authors that he witnessed the exorcism, which he described as "an actual liturgical ceremony."

He did not return a message asking for comment. "

What next? Can we expect to see Karl Rove channeling Machiavelli, or hanging Marie Antoinette out to dry in the West Wing?

The Gift of Opportunity: George W. Bush and The Politics of Word Play

Nobody can say this president isn't gifted; he's gifted with opportunity, the opportunity to nominate two justices to the Supreme Court, and tilt it to the far right, the opening provided by 9/11 to deconstruct civil liberties, the prospect of classifying and declassifying information related to secret terror cells abroad based on political expediency, the capacity to introduce legislation, in the name of "the USA Patriot Act," that may forever change the First and Fourth Amendments, and now the chance to rewrite a manual that provides protocol to those inducted into the Army. Moreover, not only is this president gifted with opportunity, but he is also a gifted with the ability to seize opportunity.

While Mr. Cheney has, more often than not, been considered the "brains," and Mr. Bush the brawn, it's curious how a president who fumbles with the word "nuclear" can wax poetic when it comes to phrases like "Islamic Fascists." I know what you're thinking, that's Tony Snow's phrase, but remember this, the politics of word play predate Tony Snow. After all, the phrase "unlawful enemy combatant" dates back to the onset of the so-called war on terror. Yes, it was Donald Rumsfeld who coined that phrase, but it was this president who was gifted with the opportunity to employ it as a means to thwart the rights, and protections, traditionally afforded to Prisoners of War by the Geneva Conventions, a fact not lost on former Secretary of State Colin Powell who, you may recall, was the first, and only, member of this admininistration to call his president on violating Geneva.

While we can only agree with Amnesty International USA's director, Larry Cox, that it's a step in the right direction for the Pentagon, and the Bush administration, to acknowledge that the "Geneva Conventions apply," (AP) we're not convinced that this administration has any greater interest, or intention, of honoring those conventions unless forced to do so by the Supreme Court after failure on appeal. Our government's revisionist approach to the Magna Carta tradition of due process, a tradition that has lasted several hundred years, as well as its ongoing defiance of international law through the use of transparent linguistic chicanery has distracted maybe, but not duped anyone.

Yes, this president has been gifted, too, with the ability to provide a new army manual to our armed forces which now provides a laundry list of specific practices that are verboten, and yet remains sufficiently oblique to allow for psychological, and physical humiliations. Moreover, by inaugurating a policy by which the concept of torture itself is tweaked such that only certain practices are proscribed, without examining, and addressing, the fundamental notion of torture, this government is applying a tax loophole mentality when it comes to the treatment of those we detain both here and abroad. If only the Gross National Product were expanding as rapidly as our use of the word "terrorist," we'd be in no danger of a recession for generations to come.

Other modern Republican presidents come to mind who history will regard as gifted in certain ways. Richard Nixon may well be viewed, by future generations, as having had a flair for foreign policy. Though he could never have taught Economics 101, Ronald Reagan was a gifted Commander-in-Chief (Khaddafi---Khaddafi, who?) Maybe posterity will acknowledge the irony of this monosyllabic presidency and its phenomenal abililty to distract, and disarm by timing, as well as the politics of word play. How is it that a savvy country like America could be seduced into fighting a war with Iraq after a terrorist attack pulled off by a bunch of guys from anywhere but Iraq? Arguably, despite his reputation to the contrary, this president is a master of bait and switch, and will have a fine career selling large screen TVs at the Good Guys should he decide against a library, and the lecture circuit. After all, it would be ludicrous for a president who brags about not reading newspapers to build a library in his name.

But enough dumping on the president. One can only hope that Messrs. Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld understand the maxim "you can fool some of the people some of the time" better than they do the Bill of Rights, but make no mistake, while it may be silent, the world community is listening, watching, and biding its time to call the egregious mistreatment of prisoners documented at Abu Ghraib, and other less than secret cells like Guantanamo Bay, for what they are high crimes and misdemeanors.

It is never a leader that poses a threat to a way of life, but a platform. Presidents come and go; at least, the''re supposed to. This is no longer about the president, it's about the precedent. Mr. Bush has been gifted with the greatest opportunity of all, the ability to make changes, enact laws, defeat laws, use signing statements, revise military rules of engagement, dissemble due process, checks and balances, as well as the First Amendment and, most importantly, know that he's put in place an infrastructure that will long survive his tenure. This is something those of who care about progressive social change, and cherish our constitutional rights and liberties, must work fervently to prevent.

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Quote of the Day

"All people are born alike--except Republicans and Democrats."

Groucho Marx

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

FDR on "the growth of private power"

Now that we're only two months away from a crucial midterm election, what better time to remember the prescient words of a former president:

"The liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of private power to the point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That in its essence is fascism ~ ownership of government by an individual, by a group or any controlling private power."

President Franklin Delano Roosevelt

Monday, September 04, 2006

Some Thoughts on Putting "Labor" Back in Labor Day

A friend, in San Francisco, e-mails me today and tells me that money is taking over the Bay Area. From where I sit, it looks like money is taking over America; greed has evolved to such a degree that it has become not merely an art form, but a wild fungus that spreads from the roots to every nerve, every layer of modern society. From Los Angeles, it looks like the lords of the manor have stolen the piggy bank, and that only spiritual gridlock remains. On this Labor Day, nobody talks about labor; instead, everybody talks about sales. Everybody talks about war, but no one about the war on labor in the name of national security.

Despite its ongoing, and steadfast efforts at appearing vacuous, Southern California is a microcosm of the future, a mecca for the kind of corporate corruption that can only perpetuate poverty under the pretext of equal opportunity. The face of Los Angeles now is a harbinger of America in, say, 2025. The tyranny of traffic masks the illusion of mobility. The Bentleys, and Prada handbags, conceal the simple basic truth of sweatshops, and thousands of immigrants who work for far less than minimum wage, and live in substandard housing, in the hope that their children might yet share a piece of the apple pie which is continually being denied them. Labor Day now belongs to them as much as to you and me. Their song "si, si, si puede..." is no different from the one sung by my grandfather Sam on his way to Ellis Island from Minsk.

In today's big cities, hunger is multicultural, housing limited, and the specter of freedom, not religion, is the opiate of the people. And so, there are those who sweat, from morning until midnight, in our nation's sweatshops, and those who profit from their sweat. There are those who send their sons and daughters to the front lines of Baghdad, and those whose bank portfolios grow from the spilling of blood. There are those who promote world struggle in order to hold onto class privilege, and the kind of class system our ancestors left the mother country to escape.

When thinking of today's lords of the manor, those oil barons who make huge profits on the escalating cost of energy, those who steal from their employees' pension plan in order to secure their luxurious lifestyle, a line from a T.S. Eliot poem comes to mind: "We are the hollow men" as indeed we have a contagion of hollow men.On this Labor Day, one cannot help but wonder what Karl Marx would say were he to find himself on Main Street today; would his "Communist Manifesto" change, as well as his image of the proletariat? Would he see toxicity as merely an environmental issue, or instead as a record on a broken phonograph, a needle stuck in a groove playing the same empty tune over and over again like a little boy saluting a dead soldier in a stale parade.

More importantly, one wonders if it would even matter what Karl Marx would think as we quickly strip history, and the past, of all its working parts like a stolen Buick. America has become the beltway to all elements that have brought down civilizations from the beginning of time like a rack of unfulfilled dreams where hope hangs like a spineless steer. Hope now has become a lost prayer in the mouth of a homeless child, a cheap fraud inflicted on a welfare mother, a kind of antidepressant taken in order to survive. As, increasingly, survival comes at a higher and higher price, especially for those who can least afford it.

So, here I sit thinking about how someone ran off with the American Dream, and is now holding it for ransom. I think about how the truth has become yet another prisoner of war and, most of all, how instead of turning on each other over differences, we must affirm our common anguish, rise up, and take back what rightfully belongs to us, something we seem to have lost somewhere along the way to democracy.

(for Gerry Nicosia)

Sunday, September 03, 2006


Talk about ironies, more than 2 dozen Ku Klux Klan members chose this Labor Day weekend to declare their aversion to minority groups including blacks, Jews, Latinos, and gays at the spot, in the Civil War battlefield, where President Abraham Lincoln delivered his historical Gettysburg Address. Interestingly, nearly 5 times as many police officers as Klansmen showed up to keep the peace, a phrase that repeats on one like bad salami.

Moreover, a prominent member, if I may be allowed an oxymoron, of the World Knights of the Ku Klux Klan called for American troops to pull out of Iraq, and be redeployed at Mexican borders to prevent illegal immigration. The demonstration was granted a permit, a few months ago, by the Gettysburg park service in an effort to protect the group's First Amendment rights, thus there is double irony---first, that a demonstration of this nature would be held at a venue where the president who was responsible for the Emancipation Proclamation gave a momentous address and, secondly, because these KKK members are being protected by free speech, and freedom of assembly, two constitutional rights that would be, no doubt, among the first they would eliminate if given the chance to do so.

Somebody needs to tell these guys that it's just a matter of a decade or two before the face of the KKK may change such that they may well find themselves as the minority being targeted.