Saturday, December 29, 2007

Another Oscar worth having...

Oscar Wilde:

"To love oneself is the beginning of a lifelong romance."

Friday, December 28, 2007

Moral Downsizing

This morning's announcement, by Pakistani officials, that former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto died from a skull fracture when falling against the wall of her sports utility vehicle, during yesterday's rally, and not from bullets from a gun that was aimed directly at her, or schrapnal from a suicide bomb, is yet another example of what a fine role model we, in the U.S., are for the rest of the world in how to cover up an assassination.

It might not come as a shock if one were to find out that a surviving member of the Warren Commission flew to Islamabad to coach them on how to pull off yet another coup d'etat, and keep the monied interests in place, while trying to appear transparent. That said, even the greatest ingenue would be hard pressed to believe that anything but gunfire killed Mrs. Bhutto, with bullets provided courtesy of the U.S. government.

And, as if to add insult to injury, comes the report that it was a phone call from Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice who, two months ago, persuaded Bhutto to fulfill her destiny, and return from London to her homeland. According to an article in today's Washington Post, the State Department had a plan for the January elections in Pakistan which was to have Bhutto join forces with Musharraf as prime minister to his presidency, thereby providing "a democratic facade" to Musharraf's government.

The issue isn't whether by playing puppet master, and meddling in the domestic affairs of sovereign states, the U.S. cost Benazir Bhutto her life. Even if Mrs. Bhutto had magically survived this attack as the last one, and went on to join forces with Musharraf, as planned, after next month's election, what right does any state have to control the internal operations of another. Isn't this what Woodrow Wilson warned against when he formed the League of Nations back in 1918---keeping the Germans, or any other rogue state from running amok, and consuming other nations? President Wilson would be stunned if he were to suddenly awake, in the year 2007, to find America has become the country about which he warned so vigorously.

Since the Nixon years, we have gone from moral ambiguity to moral lethargy, and are now in moral quicksand. Those who brought us the "Contract for America," the Dan Quayles, Oliver Norths, Newt Gingriches, whose family values have translated into congressional page scandals, the rapes of Blackwater, have ruptured the body politic in the name of Rapture, and ransacked the American dream like an abandoned house of worship. When reality is reduced to good and evil, black and white, we no longer have to worry about little things like moral ambiguity.

This assassination, like others before it, has shown us how quickly hypocrisy reproduces. It's never only a gun, or a bomb, that claims the life of one whose presence has changed the course of history. It's the calculated illusion that making substantive change is ever only an individual thing, or that the spectator to tragedy is not himself a part of the social , and moral pathology from which it evolved.

But, what right does a citizen of a country that makes stealth agreements to fly suspects to secret holding cells over international airspace have to talk about moral high ground? Moral high ground easily gives way to a seizmic avalance of rationalizations like those that led our latest attorney general to say he needs to do research on whether or not waterboarding constitutes torture. While he's at it, Mr. Mukasay might also wish to look into whether or not the destruction of videotapes, which were ordered preserved as part of an investigation, constitutes obstruction of justice.

In the end, what happened in Pakistan yesterday was no more just about Pakistan than the assassination of Martin Luther King was about the civil rights movement. Advances in technology affirm that the planet is one vast community. The brutal killing of a leader 9,000 miles away is now as close as if it were right next door. We need a new contract for America, one that restores dignity to working men and women, that provides opportunity for the disenfranchised; one that ensures that telecommunication giants and sitting presidents are no more immune from criminal prosecution than ordinary citizens, and that no executive ever again gets to subordinate other branches of government, as we have seen over the past several years, in defiance of the Constitution.

When any world power gets to detain people, whether they be their own citizens or not, indefinitely without charge, and without access to evidence against them, then try them before kangaroo military courts, they insult the integrity not just of their nation, but of civilization as a whole, and they may claim the moral high ground only if they suffer from positional vertigo.

In the past thirty years, the concept of downsizing has taken off. Ronald Reagan ushered in the era of economic downsizing from which we're still reeling, and with George W. Bush comes moral downsizing for which there can be only one remedy, the same remedy Woodrow Wilson sought---collective action on the part of all nations to combat abuse of power, the proliferation of lies, and an end to war profiteering in the name of democratization.

The best way to honor Benazir Bhutto's life, and the lives of all those world leaders who have been assassinated, is to reclaim the moral high ground by getting at the truth, no matter where it leads, and not hiding behind the "facade of democracy."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Who's Packing in Washington?

The cold-blooded, ruthless assassination of former Pakistani prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, today will long outlive any of us. It is wrenching to think no sooner did the prime minister request that the windows of her bulletproof vehicle be opened, so she could bid farewell to the crowds, than bullets were fired into her face and neck. Generations from now, Bhutto's murder will be seen as the single most important assassination in modern world history, and one that will forever change its course.

Even more horrifying than the murder itself is the thought of an assassin lying in wait for just the right moment to strike. By not providing the former prime minister with the security she required, especially in light of the last suicide bombing, General Musharraf is, at best, guilty of criminal negligence. Just as President Bush may be viewed as being responsible for the events of 9/11 inasmuch as members of his administration ignored credible, and mounting, evidence that a bombing was imminent in the months beforehand.

Not only was this one murder which was wholly preventable, it speaks to the extraordinary lengths to which the Bush regime has gone to avoid recognizing the time bomb that is contemporary Pakistan. In their blood lust for oil, this administration's inactions will, in future, be viewed as nothing less than collaboration with the General's assault on his constitution, imposition of martial law, and now slaughter of a chief rival.

Whether one thought of Bhutto as a Western shill, or a populist folk hero, her barbaric murder can only send shockwaves up and down the spine of even the most Machiavellian as it was an egregiously politically expedient move, especially in light of Pakistani elections which are less than two weeks away.

Not coincidentally, President Musharraf's other nemesis Nawaz Sharif's return to Islamabad was quickly interrupted, in September, by money laundering charges, and Sharif was shipped off to Saudi Arabia. Musharraf has figured out the most effective way to end a state of emergency: kill off one's opponents, or drive them back into exile.

One thing is crystal clear, the Party, and leaders, who framed the foreign policy that brought Pakistan to the brink of chaos today will be the one sent packing in January, 2009 if, and when, the truth about where the billions of dollars in American aid ended up.

While, as President Kennedy once rightly observed, it is impossible to stand in the way of someone who is willing to pay the ultimate price to kill, those who provide him with bullets are essentially inseparable from the killer, and equally responsible.

Ultimately, it is you and I, the American taxpayer, who have Mrs. Bhutto's blood on our hands as we have been financing that thug in Pakistan whose handiwork is all over this assassination. Among the many insidious legacies of this gnomic White House will be the instability, and carnage that will result from a foreign policy that reeks of greed, irreverence for human life. and gaping irrelevancy.

It's time to give marching orders to the same thugs who have held Washington, D.C. in a state of emergency since 9/11, send Pervez Musharraf packing, and Mr. Bush with him.

Not only does Congress need to investigate the mysterious disappearance of 5 million White House emails, as well as the wanton, and criminal destruction of interrogation videotapes, back in 2005, in defiance of a court order, but now, more than ever, there needs to be a thorough, independent examination into where $11 billion of our money went, and who, here in the States, is also profiting from this Pakistani thug who boasts of being in bed with the Taliban, and whose fingerprints are all over this morning's shocking, but not surprising, assassination. Anything less than a thorough investigation will be viewed, by posterity, as complicity in Bhutto's murder.

After this tragic event, the question now becomes not who's packing in Pakistan, but who will soon be packing in Washington.D.C.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

bombing the North Pole

"I was glad to get your letter about trying to stop the Russians from bombing the North Pole and risking the life of Santa Claus...You must not worry about Santa Claus. I talked with him yesterday, and he is fine.”

By then president John F. Kennedy who, in his inimitable way, responded to a note sent to him by a child concerned about the arms race, and its potential impact on Christmases to come. (NYT)

We would be one step closer to disarmament, and world peace, now were JFK to walk among us.

Not quite an endorsement, but...

Christ died for our sins not Hillary Clinton!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Potentially Dangerous"

Back in 1950, J. Edgar Hoover, FBI director for nearly half a century, had a plan for the "permanent detention" of 12,000 Americans at military bases, and domestic prisons, according to a document declassified on Friday and reported by The New York Times. His goal was to have then President Truman suspend habeas corpus, and arrest any person deemed "potentially dangerous."

So, you might find yourself unfortunate enough to be on J. Edgar's list only because you're thought to have the potential for being dangerous. One wonders what Mr. Hoover's definition of the word "dangerous" was, and how that might be instructive in light of today's political climate. Can it be said that danger, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder?

It was also Hoover's idea to construct a behemoth, all-encompassing arrest warrant, not unlike the ubiquitous National Security Agency spy program, which could be issued to facilitate the massive arrests stemming from years of investigations by the bureau. Evidently, "Hoover's list" took some time to prepare.

Should the plan to incarcerate more than ten thousand Americans have panned out, it would not have been the first time a debacle of this nature had occurred on native soil. In 1920, Hoover organized the Palmer Raids, in which thousands of people were rounded up, and labelled pinkos and radicals, providing precedent, if not impetus, for the Korean War game plan.

The Palmer Raids were the precursor to the Great Purge of Josef Stalin which has, interestingly, also come to be known as the "Great Terror." War sure comes in handy, not just for those fat, juicy war contracts, making the rich even richer, but for classifying those who don't get with the program as "potentially" risky, hence worthy of taxpayer expense to sweep them up, hole them up somewhere, divest them of their First Amendment rights, and disenfranchise them.

Hoover sent his proposal to Truman in July, 1950, in the first two weeks after combat began in Korea, and two months later, the president approved a measure which allowed for detaining "dangerous radicals." It is unknown what Truman's response to Hoover's plan was inasmuch as the plan itself was never implemented, even when the Chinese entered the Korean War, and the president felt compelled to declare a state of emergency. Wouldn't you just love to be a fly on that wall? No, not the Berlin wall, but the wall separating President Truman and J. Edgar Hoover!

It would be fascinating if a future document were to be discovered showing a debate between the president and director of what was the signature intelligence agency of the day. There could be no controversy when it came to Hoover's unilateral vision of those who posed the most egregious risk to national security, as well as his goal of protecting the country "against treason, espionage, and sabotage." By his own admission, 97% of those he deemed "potentially dangerous" were U.S. citizens, so his call to suspend habeas corpus was as unconstitutional then as it is now. Hoover's plan granted the right to a hearing, but the nuance of evidence was nowhere to be found.

We may not know much, but we can make an educated guess that J. Edgar would be a big fan of military tribunals, and having to enter a guilty plea before seeing counsel, as well as granting immunity to commanders-in-chief from war crime charges. Overall, one can imagine that Mr. Hoover would be a huge proponent of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and would tip the scales in favor of expanded surveillance powers for the N.S.A. . In fact, he'd probably have pedicures with Vladimir Putin, then go back to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, and blitz the server containing millions of "deleted" White House emails, some of which may even prove that the president conferred with counsel before ordering the destruction of "enhanced interrogation" videotapes. Not only does presidente 43 allow for indefinite detention of prisoners without redress, or access to counsel, but he rubber stamps methods of interrogation which wouldn't even pass J. Edgar Hoover's smell test.

One can only hope that Congress doesn't roll over for President Bush again, in this investigation, as it did a year ago September, when it allowed the president to suspend habeas corpus for anyone classified as an "unlawful enemy combatant," a phrase coined by former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. Ostensibly, Mr. Rumsfeld never read the Constitution any more than his colleagues, in Congress, as the Constitution clearly states that habeas corpus may only be suspended when public safety is jeopardized by "rebellion or invasion."

The Supreme Court recently reaffirmed the habeas corpus right of U.S. citizens, but is only now hearing arguments about whether non-citizens, at Guantanamo Bay, should be entitled to the same rights as were granted by the Magna Carta some five hundred years ago, but who's counting? So, here we are, fifty years later, in the midst of a "war on terror," and only now coming to learn that the intelligence arm of our own government was about to perpetrate a "Great Terror" on 12,000 of its own citizens.

What is the purpose of the past if not to be instructive? We must never again allow canibalist abstractions like "potentially dangerous," and war on terror, to infect us with the kind of arrogance, and self-righteousness which, in trying to pass itself off as patriotism, is little more than thinly disguised abuse of power.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Forced Detox for Fox

It's time to give Fox the same treatment as Paris Hilton got, and suspend their license for broadcasting "under the influence." Given his supernatural luck, this week, Rupert Murdoch has, no doubt, been mixing it up, and partying hearty, but this is no excuse for waging a media war of "lies to end all lies."

Admittedly, these are the days when egg nog, spiked punch, and bubbly take the blame for the inevitable faux pas, but faux news is in a class by itself, so given this week's FCC ruling in favor of more media monopolies, it's time to send Fox to detox--maybe even jam their phone lines like the Republicans did to Democratic Headquarters,in New Hampshire, back in 2002. Why not start raining emails to our friends at the FCC, and demand gargantuan indecency fines for Fox TV! After all, isn't lying obscene, especially when one does so under the rubric of fact?

Last night, Fox News reported that 65% of Californians plan to vote for Gov. Schwarzenegger's so-called "universal health care" bill which forces families who can barely afford to fill their tanks, or pay their car insurance premiums, to now take on health care costs, as well.

Look for a pink signature Mercedes under your tree this year before you'll see free "universal" health insurance for Californians, or any Americans, based on legislation under review. What Fox didn't report is that the reason 65% of those polled support the measure is because media outlets like Fox are so adept at their misinformation campaigns, they make this summer's wildfires look like a family picnic.

Who knows what's behind Schwarzenneger's latest starring role as Macy's Santa? Maybe Ah-nold is warming up for a 2012 veep run with Hillary or Romney, or both Hillary and Romney the way things are going. Why would we let a little thing like the Constitution stop him from running? After all, it hasn't stopped us from suspending habeas corpus, has it?

Cripes, and we're still almost a year away from the election. Think about how much time this gives Fox, and other spin vendors, to manufacture even more weapons of mass delusion.

The Fox is out of the hen house, and the wolves of winter lie in wait.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Quote of the Day

(regarding Senate confirmation hearings for deputy attorney general reporting to Attorney General Michael Artful Dodger Mukasey..)

"I hope that Mark Filip reassures us that he understands that the duty of the deputy attorney general is to uphold the Constitution and the rule of law — not work to circumvent it,"

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Open Minds"

There was an email in my inbox, this morning, from Senator Dianne Feinstein thanking me for writing to her about administration efforts at legislation that would give what both the Senator and the President call "liability relief" for those telecoms, after 9/11, that cooperated with the National Security Agency's request, and participated in clandestine surveillance of their customers' telephone conversations, without a warrant, in violation of FISA, as well as privacy laws. The way this government has attempted to rewrite not merely the Cnstitution, history, but the English language is a continuous source of amazement to me. Liability relief, indeed!

Why didn't anyone think of liability relief for Richard Nixon when he authorized the break-in of Democratic headquarters at Watergate? From now on, when they take the oath of office, we ought to require that all future presidents have liability insurance in place so that they don't waste taxpayer money, tie up both houses of Congress with interminable investigations, and may be held harmless from charges of war crimes, destruction of White House emails in violation of the Presidential Records Act, as well as any other misdeeds, and misconduct.

Indeed, why not require future presidents to carry immunity from prosecution insurance the way Governor Schwarzenneger is working to require all Californians to carry health insurance. Moreover, why restrict immunity from criminal prosecution to those who carry out the surveillance, and not those who give the commands to surveil?

In her letter, Senator Feinstein also asserts that it was the Executive branch who demanded that electronic communication service providers turn over records, and that requests for N.S.A. assistance were generated by the President himself. She insists that these demands for information are legal. What's more, the Senator says that she herself voted for the FISA bill, in October, which included the provision to grant immunity to companies that cooperate with governmental requests for information.

Yesterday, the Senate Intelligence Committee, upon which Ms. Feinstein serves, not surprisingly, voted to approve the controversial FISA overhaul measure with the retroactive immunity clause in there, by an impressive margin of 76-10. (Reuters) We'd all like to know the names of all those on the committee, besides Feinstein, who voted in favor of this legislation. esp. those who are up for reelection.

The good news is that, thanks to the efforts of Senator Reid, a final vote by the full Senate has been delayed until after the congressional recess. Unlike the Intelligence Committee, both the House and the Senate Judiciary Committee looked less favorably on legislation that would grant so-called liability relief to those who violate ordinary citizens' privacy rights. In fact, the House bill doesn't mention immunity at all.

But, what many in Congress neglect to consider in their discussion of FISA reform, and immunity to telecoms who cooperate with NSA, is is that this legislation is designed not merely to ward off prosecution from past surveillance, but to open the door to "wider spying" in future, as well as "a wide range of secret surveillance operations in fighting terrorism and crime." (WaPo) Yes, America, while the Senate debates whether Big Brother has the right to eavesdrop on your cell phone conversations, Big Brother continues to do so, and with the collusion of an alarming number of your elected representatives. And, from the looks of things, we can count on yet another preemptive strike against privacy by N.S.A.

Notably, much of the campaign to monitor our personal communications in the name of a so-called war on terror has been kept conspicuously private by an administration which has enhanced the ability to classify information, as well as deter declassification. Clearly, too, the destruction of evidentiary videotapes is another means by which the Executive branch controls the flow of information, especially when there is concern that there might be leakage to the press.

As first reported in this morning's Washington Post, the National Security Agency tried unsuccessfully to gain access to domestic calls through a Denver telecom, Qwest, access that would have allowed them "neighborhood-by-neighborhood surveillance of phone traffic without a court order." Qwest refused to cooperate with the N.S.A. request. If many in Congress get their way, when the temporary FISA reform bill, scheduled to sunset on February 1st, is finalized, it will contain a provision that prohibits legal action against communication companies who intercept your emails, phone conversations if they claim that they were directed to do so by the government.

Both the House and Senate must reach agreement on whether or not to include immunity in the new FISA reform bill before it can pass. We who pay their salaries, as well as those presidential candidates, of both parties, who hunger for our votes, must make our position known on violating privacy laws, and obtaining our personal information without a warrant. President Bush has already made his position known; he says that he will veto any measure that doesn't provide for immunity to telecoms.

As important as privacy is, there is an even larger question. How can any legislative branch make laws then grant immunity from breaking laws on the grounds of national security? After all, what is "national security" if not law enforcement? Clearly, the concept of "liability relief" means writing an escape clause into the law. But, who gets to escape prosecution--the telecommunication companies who act as hit men, or the Executive branch who gives the command?

Another representative, from New York, Senator Charles Schumer, suggests that those who oppose retroactive immunity "really don't want to punish the phone companies as much as hold the government accountable;" We agree. He's also right when he says that "it's very hard to do that." (WaPo) It may be easier to climb Mt. Everest in an ice storm than to hold the Bush White House accountable for anything.

In her missive, Senator Feinstein insists that she is "keeping an open mind to whether some other legislative approach besides immunity would be best." There is much to be said for keeping an open mind, but there are times when an "open mind" simply isn't enough. To legislate immunity, past, present, or future, for those who obediently acquiesce to the will of those who obey the rule of law selectively is nothing less than complicity in high crimes and misdemeanors.

A more workable "legislative approach," and one that would get an enthusiastic thumbs-up from the framers, might be for the House to begin reviewing articles of impeachment when they reconvene after the holidays. It's never too late for love, or impeachment. Failing this, then any FISA reform that Congress passes which grants "liability relief" to private companies must agree instead to prosecute the Executive branch, or governmental agency, that issues the orders.

Question of the Day

In a statement on state run television, in Cuba, the other day, Fidel Castro hinted that he may be willing to step down, and hand the reins of government over to a member of the younger generation. Quick to jump on the story, the mainstream media, in the U.S., announced what they called Castro's "retirement."

But, there is one vexing question. How is it that the Cuban leader who, for nearly half a century, has been portrayed as a dictator is now said to be approaching "retirement?" Do dictators get to retire? Retirement is a dignified term for being put out to pasture. It seems the American press is as acclimated to euphemism as those who have framed our foreign policy in recent years.

Or, is it just possible that after seven years of the Bush administration even Fidel Castro is starting to look good?

The way things are going, there are those who would have given Mussolini a gold watch, too.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Remember Christmas...

The other evening, when taking a break from political coverage on C-Span, my mind wandered back to early childhood when, in the days before Christmas, my father would tuck me in. Invariably, I would ask what he got me for Christmas, and if I could see the presents.

For a seven year old, a dream deferred means having to wait 12 hours. "They're under the tree," he'd tell me. "Can I see them now?" I'd ask feverishly. "Wait until morning; they'll be there in the morning;" he patiently tried to explain that, more often than not, good things are worth the wait. I marvelled at his powers of persuasion which prevailed, and first thing in the morning, I'd race down, hungrily strip the gift wrap, and delight in the surprises. Though, for the life of me, I'm not able to recall the contents of any.

As fate would have it, in yesterday's mail came a letter from one of my father's oldest friends containing a eulogy delivered, nearly twenty years ago, at my father's funeral, by another dear friend of his, a retired officer in the military. Seldom do we have the pleasure of seeing those we love through the eyes of another.

Arguably, there are no coincidences in life. While a copy of the eulogy is with my special papers, and has been for years, for some reason, maybe having to do with Christmas, I was meant to read it again, now.

My father was an unpublished writer who told my mother, who he met at a dance, that he was a poet. A poet, indeed, and with a sense of style! He had taken all his pay as a master sergeant, in the army, and bought himself a Jaguar and, while he may have had holes in his socks, he made a point of driving the most magnificent cars.

The day my father came to meet my grandmother for the first time, Grandma Rose pulled my mother aside and asked what kind of work he does. My mother's response was unambiguous: "He's a poet!" Grandma shrieked "A poet! They don't make any money!" My mother, the youngest of seven children, and the daughter of immigrants, grew up, in poverty, on the lower east side. Back then, especially in her neighborhood, dreams were optional with the vehicle.

The depression, as well as demands of feeding a family, beat the poetry out of my father, but nothing could touch his soul, or his infallible sense of humor, so while I have no gift wrap, or tree, I am posting this eulogy as my present to him:

"I have the special privilege and honor of speaking with you about my friend--David Stahl.

David was many things to many people over more than 70 years: son, brother, husband, father, uncle, nephew, cousin, acquaintance and friend.

I have known David only 5 years, a very short time compared to most relationships, but long enough to know and value his friendship. Long enough to trust his judgment. Long enough to know I could depend on him. Long enough to feel the warmth and comfort of his concern.

Being with David was so enlightening. We shared many activities: walking, dining, movies, tennis, conversation, and all of them were good times.

And from these shared experiences, you appreciate the uniqueness of David Stahl; an erudite, sharp and wordly mind, cheerful but subtle humor, a multi-faceted person whose work experiences knew no boundaries. A man of great self-confidence...was there anything David couldn't do?

The only thing I can think of was that David could not swim. And now we know why he went into the army where he claims to have existed on bananas because the food was so bad.

Yes, David Stahl had the strength of his convictions, and you knew how David felt on an issue. And once his analytical mind explored the alternatives, he took decisive action and stayed the course. David was tough when he had to be. A man of quiet solid strengths...a man of principle.

Ralph Waldo Emerson once said --"who so would be a man must be a non-conformist." Was that not David? A bit of a non-conformist, on one hand, and the man it takes to be one on the other.

And equal to these strengths was David's warmth, softness, and modesty. While David may have been somewhat reserved in his display of affection, he was a sensitive and caring person, a gentleman, a friend who shared with me his concerns and love for his wife and daughters.

A person's character is the core and mainstem of one's life. If what he has been to me for 5 short years is an indication of the total person we know as David Stahl, then I am most fortunate to have enjoyed his friendship. And, while I would have treasured a lengthier relationship, it would not have made it any better--longer, yes, but not better.

I shall miss you, David... I am so thankful to have walked with you David Stahl."

And I am thankful for this moving tribute to one who succumbed to mortality, and anonymity, too soon.

In what was to be my father's first letter in more than 30 years, he wrote: "Silence is the refuge of emotion." Until now, in deference to his respect for silence, and my own, I have not written much about him as he might cringe were he to know that I am writing, and posting this. My father thought of himself as "an ordinary man," but it is in the ordinary that we find that which is timeless. It is in the ordinary, too, that we find that which is heroic. And, for now, there is one less unsung hero.

For the life of me, I still can't recall any of the surprises left under that tree. That may be because what there is of my father in me is his greatest gift of all.

David Darwin Stahl -- (born: Darwin David Stahl)
January 31, 1918 - April 25, 1989

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Quote of the Day

"If voting changed anything, they would make it illegal."

Emma Goldman

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Case of Mistaken Identities

Make no mistake, big fan of Bobby Kennedy here, but in his most recent Huffington post,"Hillary Haters and the Roosevelts" in which he endorses Hillary Clinton, Kennedy appears to suggest that the intense dislike with which the populace greeted the Roosevelts was soon to change after FDR took the oath of office. Arguably, this may be the only similarity one may find between the Clintons and the Roosevelts.

Indeed, inspired leadership requires conviction, not necessarily on the part of the voters, but of those who want to win their votes. Moreover, while intriguing, any analogy made between the Clintons and the Roosevelts falls flat when taking a closer look. Principally, a few compelling questions emerge:

1) Is Bobby implying that Hillary is like FDR, or Eleanor? Clearly, it's not FDR, but if it is Eleanor, then it must be remembered that Mrs. Roosevelt never ran for office nor would she.

2) There's the proverbial "two for the price of one" argument, namely, that by electing Hillary we'll get another 4 to 8 years of Bill. The underlying presumption here is that Bill and Hillary agree on most important issues which requires a huge leap of faith. I suspect, like most couples, the Clintons disagree on a few notable issues like war, and the distribution of wealth.

3) the coup de grace assertion that Mme. Clinton would like to work for the little guy, divest corporations of power and share the wealth is belied by the fact that she boasts of standing up to the HMOs, and pharmaceutical companies, on the one hand, and puts her other hand in their pocket.

What's more, when Hillary said, in last night's debate, that she wants to make health care "affordable for Americans," she demonstrates that she still doesn't get that, for many of us who are uninsured, having to pay anything for a doctor's visit is too much inasmuch as most who are uninsured often have to choose between filling their refrigerators or their prescriptions.

Last but not least, with FDR, one sensed heartfelt desire for economic justice, as well as an unflagging drive to create jobs. One doesn't get that sense with Mrs. Clinton. Indeed, when talking about most issues, Hillary is about as passionate as your garden variety oncologist.
When discussing the fact that wealth is in the hands of the upper one percentile, and how she's going to change that, we need to hear passion instead of what what sounds like campaign rhetoric. You will recall that when President Kennedy spoke about segregation, and civil rights, it rang true, and never sounded like a scripted pitch for the presidency. We expect nothing less from any candidate.

If "Hillary Haters and the Roosevelt's" argument is that running for office isn't a popularity contest, I couldn't agree more. Indeed, this country could do a whole lot worse than having Hillary Clinton as its commander-in-chief. We could have a president who thinks AIDS patients should be quarantined, one who wants to build big fences around the border, reverse legislation banning handguns in our nation's capital, or turn a woman's right to choose over to the states to decide instead. But, we need to hear Hillary speak to these issues, as well as to any so-called pre-emptive military strike against Iran. Governing by inference hasn't worked for the past seven years, and it's guaranteed not to work for seven more.

As Shakespeare once said, "Some are born great, some achieve greatness, and some have greatness thrust upon them." One would hope that, if she should find greatness thrust upon her, and that she is the fortunate recipient of keys to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, Mrs. Clinton would show the same unabated appetite for human rights, economic justice, and statesmanship as Franklin Roosevelt showed, as well as the humility, and unpretentiousness of his spouse.

Yes, inspired leadership requires conviction on the part of the leaders, too. And, whether one is electable or not isn't a mere matter of strategy, but credibililty. Why replace one president we don't believe with another. Those who speak truth to power speak from the heart. Everything else is just party talk.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Priorities 101

In his decision today to veto legislation, yet again, that would increase a program that provides health insurance to children, the President has made his priorities clear: fund the Pentagon at twenty times the rate of the State Department, and veto expanded health coverage for children.

Mr. Bush's gesture reflects not only his ideology, but the mindset of the Party which pledges to protect the so-called "right to life" while spitting in the eye of the living.

Is it any wonder that we've come closer to understanding neanderthals better during this administration than at any other time in history?

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Missing In Action

Rev. Jesse Jackson marched on Wall Street yesterday at noon. How many of the candidates for the presidency, who happen to be posing as Democrats, showed up? Can it be that they were all busy courting the rich and famous, in California, instead of demanding that the Street help those who, in record numbers, are losing their homes across the country?

Where were the three leading contenders--Clinton, Obama, and Edwards? Clearly, they were too busy raising cash to raise consciousness about the startling assertion by Rev. Jesse Jackson that "Two million homes nationwide will be at risk of foreclosure by 2008." Or, maybe, they'd prefer to leave worrying about how to solve the home mortgage crisis to the powers that be. After all, we see what a terrific job the current administration is doing about distributing wealth equally. And, from their absence in Manhattan today, one wonders if the 1% will feel a thing when there is regime change in Washington.

Yes, Clinton and Obama were too busy holding populist lunches and concerts, not unlike their Republican counterparts, to notice that the ranks of the impoverished, homeless, and hungry are swelling daily as the resources of food banks diminish, and welfare moms are forced to turn over more and more to the state. Oprah showed up for Obama the same way Sinatra showed up for Ronald Reagan; it was then, as it is now, about the almighty dollar.

Some fix we're in when one who walked with Martin Luther King in the Civil Rights Movement, forty odd years ago, isn't accompanied by each and every person who aspires for "change," equal opportunity, and economic equity. Caveat emptor: politics as usual in Washington, D.C.

As always, the band plays for the deep pockets, and those with holes in their socks get music on hold. Oh, "it's the war, stupid," yes, but it's the war on poverty that will be uppermost on people's minds come election day, 2008, and we look to the same leaders now that we did forty years ago, none of whom are running for president of the United States.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Don't Start Without Me

While we may never know the contents of President Bush's personal letter, last week, to North Korean leader, Kim Jong-il,"reportedly, it had something to do with disarmament and odds are that the words "don't start without me" were nowhere to be found.

Apart from its remarkable propensity for converting the State Department into its very own Federal Express, the White House has moved closer to handing a veiled ultimatum, to Pyongyang, to "disable its key nuclear complex," as well as "disclose all its nuclear activities," by the end of this month, as part of a deal aimed at disarmament (Reuters).

The deal is not noteworthy, in itself, any more than is the irony that a military which has been hell-bent on building bigger and better weapons, for the past forty years, is now making noises about the need to "disarm." What is notable is all the finger-pointing not only towards North Korea, and Iran, but towards Pakistan, whose government is thriving thanks to billions of dollars of support from the Bush administration.

That said, this administration doesn't seem to be the least bit concerned about its partnership with India, and support of India's nuclear ambitions. Instead, Washington looks to Pakistan as a catalyst for nonproliferation in Iran and North Korea despite the fact that the atom bomb was sired in Pakistan.

Increasingly, however, the president's principal concern has not been defending his country, but his credibility, not merely around the world, where it has frequently been questioned, but here at home. Whether it be from what defense secretary, Robert Gates, calls the "awkward" release of a National Intelligence Estimate that disputes the White House claim that Iran is enriching uranium, and developing weapons of mass destruction, the renunciation of torture as an interrogation technique, or that it has had anything to do with leaking the identity of an undercover CIA agent, every day brings another revelation that incriminating evidence is being destroyed to protect and preserve---no, not national security, but the president's rear end.

Clearly, too, in his missive to Kim Jong, the president didn't mention conclusive evidence from his own cache of intelligence agencies that Iran is not building a nuclear weapon, and that he refuses to rule out a pre-emptive strike against Tehran. Indeed, the White House talks about squeezing Iran as if it were a stubborn pimple rather than a sovereign state.

Some, in Congress, have the temerity to suggest that the president fibs when he says that he didn't know about the intelligence until the report was released, and that he was briefed well in advance of his now infamous "World War III" speech. Some of our elected officials are audacious enough to acknowledge that the commander-in-chief was aware that weapons of mass destruction are no more to be found in Tehran than Baghdad, and was only hoping that we wouldn't find out.

Just as he was hoping, too, that we'd never learn about the disappearance of ten million White House emails, including internal ones,which have disappeared in violation of the Presidential Records Act; emails that may have exposed his own handiwork in the illegal outing of CIA operative, Valerie Plame, and which may also document what the exact commands were with respect to suspect interrogation methods, as well as the decimation of videos that corroborate assertions of CIA torture of detainees. After all, it doesn't take a million emails to out an undercover agent, not even for this president, now, does it?

It seems that 2005 was a banner year for the destruction of incriminating evidence as that was the year that millions of White House emails were deleted, and it was also the year that a command was given to destroy interrogation tapes of two detainees made back in 2002. What may be lost in the news that the CIA deliberately destroyed tapes, two years ago, under the spurious claim that it was only protecting its operatives from being identified by Al Qaeda, is the admission of CIA director, Michael Hayden, that the White House itself authorized the tactics used to interrogate these two detainees.

And, talk about credibility gaps, how is anyone to believe that an executive branch which, at best, cooperated with jeopardizing the cover of one of its covert agents, is now concerned about protecting the identity of other agents from Al Qaeda, no less? How about from the Justice Department! More importantly, we are asked to believe that the CIA has a mind of its own, and took it upon itself to "destroy hundreds of hours of videotape" (NYT) against the wishes of both the president and the attorney-general.

We are asked to accept that the decision was one made by the CIA itself, and without the knowledge, or cooperation, of the executive branch. What an insult to the intelligence of the American people. Can we also be expected to buy the story that the executive branch had no knowledge of, and no hand in, the destruction of millions of White House emails, some of which, no doubt, had to do with this administration's definition of "enhanced alternative" interrogation methods?

The egregious, and endless, redactions, and erasures made by this chief executive are not only in violation of the Presidential Records Act, they speak to the credibility of the commander-in-chief, and are an effront to Congress, the Constitution, and international law. Oh, and, how convenient that the person, in "clandestine service," who allegedly orchestrated the chorus of ruined videos has retired, and is unavailable for comment.

Now that Justice is pursuing this, can we expect Michael Hayden to follow Rumsfeld, and others who have stepped down so that those in the highest echelons of power can save face? If so, it may be time to put an expiration date on saving face.

The perfect person to ask about videogate, and a flagrant attempt to obstruct justice, is Secretary of Defense Robert Gates given his tenure as head of the CIA, as well as his nearly three decades working as an intelligence agent. One might begin by asking Mr. Gates how he can suggest that it's Iran that seeks to "foment instability" when his own government is conducting covert operations against itself.

Whatever pretentions he may have had, at the outset, of being independent, and his own man, have quickly been dispelled by the defense secretary's mimicry of Mr. Bush's absurd statement that even though Iran has been found to be nuke-free, it can always "restart" its enrichment program. Using that same logic, every inmate should get a life sentence--after all, they can always commit another crime. We shall soon find out how independent Michael Mukasey, the new attorney-general, is, too.

Oh, and as for Gates' assertion that Iran is supplying weapons to terrorists in Iraq and Afghanistan, he might also be asked to explain who has been funneling funds to Musharraf, for more than a decade, which Musharraf himself boasts about using to train, and arm, the Taliban.

The president may write as many love letters to as many world leaders about the need to disarm, and quit their nuclear enrichment programs, as he wants, but any serious 12 step program in disarmament must recognize that the number one threat to world stablility is not North Korea, not Iran, not Iraq, not Russia, but the United States.

A world that has become a coalition of the killing must now become a coalition of the willing.

Given the current level of volatility, not just on Wall Street and on Main Street, but in Washington, D.C., it's time for the world to work as a united entity, and take a long, hard look at enforcing existing nonproliferation treaties to ensure that no one nation gets to decide who has to comply with international law, and who doesn't, nor demand disarmament without being ready, willing and able to make a credible start in containing its own nuclear, and military, ambitions.

Fomentors and the folks who love them...

Quote of the day comes courtesy of WaPo:

"The (national intelligence) estimate clearly has come at an awkward time. It has annoyed a number of our friends. It has confused our allies around the world in terms of what we're trying to accomplish," Defense Secretary Robert Gates

Mr. Gates is right. It would have been far better for U.S. interests if the estimate came after we finished doing to Tehran what we did to Baghdad.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


I never lost my virginity. I had to pay someone to steal it from me.

(from a work in progress)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Just Another Regular on Late Night T.V.

After watching most of the latest Republican debate, last week, one thing becomes obvious---who needs a platform to stand on when you have a Bible? From evolution to protecting the life of an unborn, it's patently obvious that all the contenders, for the Republican Party nomination, have a black belt in Bible studies. Too bad we're not looking to elect Moses to the highest elected office in the land, or it might work.

What's more, they all seem to have ideas about how to build the tallest, most durable fence. Not a word was said about statesmanship or diplomacy, but then their Democratic rivals dwell more on war than peace, too.

It seems, to me, that the word "illegal" reared its ugly head more in this debate than any other I've ever seen---Republican or Democrat, and was used exclusively with respect to immigration. Not one candidate, not Mike Huckabee, Rudy Guiliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, not even Ron Paul, talked about illegal electronic surveillance of ordinary Americans, or withholding of witness testimony from detainees, or the outing of a covert CIA agent.

Hell, if these guys are so concerned about "illegals," why don't they impeach Bush and Cheney, neither of whom got to where they are legally. The answer may well be that we've had cruise control government, in this country, for nearly a decade. Reportedly, even super-delegates are uncommitted, and waiting for guidance from on high when it comes to picking the next president. So, maybe we should toss a coin, eh?

While the Democratic contenders make different noises, one walks away from the Republican debating team with the knowledge that, if these guys get in, Roe v. Wade will be overturned, more money will go to defense, the gap between rich and poor will be greater, the national guard will be deployed, more often, to secure the borders, the I.C.E. man will cometh with greater frequency, we'll see more censorship not just of government documents, but of movies, books, and TV shows, and God will be just another regular on Jay Leno.

Be scared; be very, very scared. In this country, we have a long, and distinguished history of deluding ourselves that miracles can happen. Well, miracles don't happen. I haven't seen another Jack Kennedy running for president lately, have you?
And, whether you like Edwards, or Obama, it's time for the Hillary-bashers, including myself, to back down and realize that it's not the candidate, but the platform we need to focus on, as well as the consequences of eight more years of neo-con jihadists to what's left of our civil liberties, and the prospect for world peace.

Unless we want to our worst fears for reality, we'd better rally, and rally strong, behind whichever Democrat gets the nomination and, hopefully, has the strongest odds of winning the election. There will be no place to run, and no place to hide if we lose this one.

After watching most of the latest Republican debate, last week, one thing becomes obvious---who needs a platform when you have a Bible to stand on? From evolution to protecting the life of an unborn, it's patently obvious that the one thing all the contenders have in common is their black belt in Bible studies. Too bad we're not looking to elect Moses to the highest elected office in the land, or it might work.

It seemed, to me, that the word "illegal" reared its ugly head more in this debate than any other I've ever seen---Republican or Democrat, and was used exclusively with respect to immigration. Not one candidate, not Mike Huckabee, Rudy Guiliani, Mitt Romney, John McCain, not even Ron Paul, talked about illegal electronic surveillance of ordinary Americans, or withholding of witness testimony from detainees, or the outing of a covert CIA agent.

Hell, if these guys are so concerned about "illegals," why don't they impeach Bush and Cheney, neither of whom got to where they are legally.

Be scared; be very, very scared. In this country, we have a long, and distinguished history of deluding ourselves that miracles can happen. Well, miracles don't happen. I haven't seen another Jack Kennedy running for president lately, have you?

And, whether you like Edwards, or Obama, it's time for the Hillary-bashers, including myself, to back down and realize that it's not the candidate, but the platform we need to focus on, as well as the consequences of eight more years of neo-con jihadists to what's left of our civil liberties, and the prospect for world peace.

Unless we want to make our worst fears a reality, we'd better rally, and rally strong, behind whichever Democrat has the strongest odds of winning the election. There will be no place to run, and no place to hide if we lose this one.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Just Ask

Is the surge working? Some members of Congress might think so, but just ask one of the mothers of the nearly 4,000 American service members who have died as a result of our occupation of Iraq.

Better still, ask a single mother, in one of the poorest inner city families, whose child support has been funneled into the coffers of the state in which she lives to compensate for her welfare payments (NYT) Think of how much she would have benefited if only a fraction of the billions spent in Iraq went to cover the states' aid to dependent families program.

Oh, and while we're at it, why not ask one of the relatives of the thousands of Iraqi men, women, and children who have been slain to bring "democracy" to that country. While we, in this country, can sit comfortably back, and celebrate the assertion that casualties are down, one casualty in this illegal war is one casualty too many.

If we, as a nation, are so concerned about importing representative government to foreign lands, why did we look the other way when President Pervez Musharraf, of Pakistan, informed this administration, in advance, that he was declaring martial law, and suspending the constitution? If we're so concerned about making the world safe from terrorists, where did the $11 billion we gave Musharraf go, and can it be into the pockets of those who have been trying to undermine "democracy" in Afghanistan?

If this administration is so concerned about democracy, then why don't we invade Beijing whose human rights abuses are egregious, or North Korea whose leader poses the most direct, and ongoing threat to world peace, and stability of any? And, what about Khaddafi? He's been neutralized as Musharraf appears to have been. Nobody buys silence better than those American presidents who preach democracy, but whose practices are surpassed only by mob bosses.

Civilizations measure the cost of war not merely in terms of collateral, and reconstruction, but in terms of human cost. The cost to our karma, for our assault on the Persian Gulf, is immeasurable and equal to the loss of a parent for a small child on the outskirts of Baghdad. That loss is our loss, too.

Were it possible to ask a former president, Thomas Jefferson, what he thinks of this White House, and its rhetoric, he'd probably say "Don't bother me, I'm sleeping." Oh, and as for George Washington, he'd be on his way back to London by now.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007


Now for a digression from political fare, it is a delight to have discovered Russell Baker's "Growing Up," his memoir which I highly recommend. "Growing Up" is literature in the best possible sense of the word. There is no pretention to fact, only the sensual adoration of the living, breathing word, and watching that word transform into a continuum of self and other that exists only to recreate itself.

Underlying his love for language, Baker acknowledges that, in the final analysis, it's all fiction. What is that great line from Jean Cocteau? "Les choses que je conte sont les mesonges vrais;" the tales that I tell are truthful lies."

Am currently discussing the convergence of fact and fiction in Baker's memoir as part of a freshman college English class I'm teaching. The students are asked to consider if it's ever possible to be completely "factual" about oneself, or anything in one's life, except of course for the date of one's birth. Being alive is about constantly reinventing oneself, and celebrating the ability to be among the only upright animals with the capacity to do so.

"Only the imagination is real," William Carlos Williams once wrote; "Je est un autre," "I is another," said Jean-Arthur Rimbaud. We objectify ourselves, and it is only through the process of that objectivization that we discover what resides within us. "Give a man a mask, and he will tell you the truth," says Antonin Artaud.

"Tell me who you are, and I will tell you how much you escape;" oh, and, I said that.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007


HAPPY BIRTHDAY, Jimi Hendrix!!!!

Monday, November 26, 2007

The Katrina of Public Health

Some alarming, awe-inspiring, news today out of Washington, D.C., and no, it's not Trent Lott's resignation. The results of a study, the first of its kind, of HIV cases in the nation's capital are out, and they show that AIDS has reached "epidemic" proportions in D.C. (WaPo)

In the five year test period in question, ending in 2006, while African-Americans comprise roughly 60% of the city's population, they account for more than 80% of the more than 3,000 HIV cases that have been identified. 90% of women residents who tested positive for the disease are African-American. And, nearly 40% of reported cases were among heterosexuals showing, in the words of a District administrator, that "HIV is everybody's disease" in D.C.

The presence of an epidemic of this magnitude so close to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue can't help but make one wonder if federal policy, or non-policy is at the nucleus of this health catastrophe. Yet, where is the public outrage that a campaign of misinformation, disinformation, or information/education blocade should claim the same demographic casualties as that of Hurricane Katrina.

D.C.'s AIDS rate is the highest of any city in the U.S., and twice that of New York. Ostensibly, many of the 50 million uninsured Americans who live in our nation's capital are unable to get tested, or treated because they have no access to health care, but there are other numbers with respect to the African-American community that are almost as startling.

While blacks comprise only 12% of the population, nearly half of those on death row are African-American. Incarceration rates for blacks and latinos, in this country, are more than six times greater than for whites. One third of whites 25 or older have a college degree while only about 17% of blacks have graduated from college.

Many fault District health officials for not disseminating enough information, and creating a climate which is user-friendly for AIDS awareness, but the seeds of this campaign of devout ignorance may be found in the earliest days of this administration's tenure. As president-elect, George W. Bush told The New York Times "the jury is still out" on evolution. His attitude towards condom distribution, sex education, and HIV prevention shows that, for George Bush, the jury is out on science, too.

Moreover, on this administration's watch, more than $100 million in grants have been allocated for abstinence-only education programs. The president pressured the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to eliminate, from its Web site, anything that might promote the efficacy of using condoms to prevent STDs, and AIDS.

Roughly 90% of the $15 billion set aside for fighting HIV globally has been made available to domestic groups for use in their ongoing worldwide campaign to promote abstinence, and to discourage the use of condoms in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Is it any wonder then that the spread of HIV/AIDS of this magnitude among the largest minority population of any American city should strike this close to home for a president who, as his response to Hurricane Katrina has plainly demonstrated, is one of devout indifference.

In a city the size of D.C. that has nearly 20,000 of its residents infected by this deadly disease, somebody's got to pony up to how it came to pass that such a vast number, many of whom are over 40, manage to find themselves stricken with HIV or AIDS. And, while many prefer to blame District health officials for lagging public awareness of the AIDS crisis in Washington, there is no doubt that this administration's stalwart fundamentalist anti-science, anti-environment, and anti-reality ethos are principally responsible.

When there is such a large number of those who test positive who are minority, and an equally high percentage of incarcerated people of color, a good place to start might be inaugurating a program of condom distribution in D.C. prisons, if only to protect the larger population. By not making safe sex available to the inmate population, the Bush administration is, in effect, affirming their policy of “selective survival,” which was witnessed in the footage of those who had the wherewithal to escape Hurricane Katrina by taking to the highway making it out of New Orleans while the rest were left to perish.

But, those who have built their legacy on the politics of denial are condemned to the legacy they’ve created for themselves.

The platform of "compassionate conservatism" on which this president ran is no more to be found in these statistics than in the waving hands of those drowning as a result of a monstrous hurricane in New Orleans. Once again, it becomes crystal clear that survival, too, is a matter of privilege.

The jury is no longer out on this White House, and its contagion of ideology which has claimed the lives of thousands on the battlefield, and many more at home.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

"Gimme Shelter?"

There is no place like home, or so they say. Just ask Luis Posada Carriles, and more than a thousand people from 85 countries, many of whom have been accused of torture, rape, and genocide, and are now taking refuge in the United States to avoid prosecution, according to the Department of Homeland Security. (McClatchy)

Recently declassified documents, obtained by the National Security Archive, show that Posada Carilles, a Cuban exile and former CIA operative, was a key figure in the bombing of a Cuban commercial airline flight in October, 1976. Yet, Posada, called the Osama bin Laden of the Western Hemisphere," spent only 6 months in an immigration detention center, is now a free man in Miami, Florida while American citizen, Richard Reid, the "shoe bomber," is currently serving a life sentence after being convicted of attempting to blow up a commercial airliner, in flight, with a plastic explosive in his shoe.

Mind you,this is not to suggest, for a moment, that Reid doesn't deserve life in prison, but only to ask this simple question: are all terrorists created equally, or are some terrorists more equal than others? Is torture a form of terrorism and, if so, how can we justify granting sanctuary to those who have been indicted in their own countries on charges of war crimes?

While a recent refugee to South Florida, Posada, joins the likes of two Salvoradoran generals who have been living in Florida for nearly twenty years; former Salvodoran minister of defense, Jose Guillermo Garcia, and Carlos Eugenio Vides Casanova, past director of the Salvadoran National Guard. Both officers were the target of a lawsuit in federal court in West Palm Beach by an administrator of a free clinic in Washington who as a young doctor, a quarter of a century ago, cared for the poor in his native El Salvador during that country's civil war. Juan Ramogoza Arca asserts that he was seized by the Salvadoran military and, for nearly a month, subjected to such egregious, and insidious practices as electric shocks, sodomy, waterboarding, as well as being covered by a hood containing calcium oxide. You will recall that the accused generals were part of a military supported, and financed, by the United States government.

What vexes Romagoza and two other plaintiffs who are seeking damages against the generals is that both torturers and their victims have found safe haven from justice in Florida, Bush country. What enrages Senator Richard Durbin is that the U.S. has now become the dumping ground of choice for those who have committed the most heinous crimes, principally because we lack the laws necessary to prosecute them.

Ostensibly, the Neo-Con platform of law and order has failed to deliver the kind of legislation that would hold anyone who emigrates to this country, as a means of fleeing justice from their own, accountable for murder, war crimes, and human trafficking. Ironically, it is a Democratic congressman who seeks to correct this flagrant oversight on the part of the Bush regime which has, for the past half dozen years, engaged in the quixotic pseudo-quest to hunt down "terrorists," and those who pose a threat to "national security" while providing shelter for those accused of rape, as well as others, like Luis Posada Carriles, who have done nothing less than bring down a Cuban passenger flight.

Arguably, the larger question is--why is it that Jose Padilla, an American citizen, was detained and subjected to dubious "enhanced alternative" interrogation techniques for years, held for years without being charged, then convicted of plotting to kill terrorists overseas and supporting terrorists while Luis Posada Carriles who has been implicated in "top secret CIA and FBI intelligence reports" (NSA) as being the key figure in orchestrating the bombing of a civilian airliner, thirty years ago, which claimed the lives of all all its passengers and crew, is not being held, or prosecuted? This is merely further proof of this administration's policy of selective prosecution.

Notably, former attorney general, Alberto Gonzales, declined the opportunity to label Posada a "terrorist," and give him all the advantages that comes with such designation, i.e., indefinite incarceration without charge, no access to evidence against one, and access to attorney only after one has confessed. Likewise, last spring, immigration fraud charges against Posada were dismissed. My, my....can it be that Luis Posada Carriles, a man who was involved in the downing of a commercial Cuban airliner long before the USA Patriot Act was a glimmer in John Ashcroft's eyes, is being treated to star treatment because he once worked for the CIA? Posada Carriles, who has been in this country for two and a half years, has only spent six months in detention despite having been called among "the most prolific purveyors of political violence in recent history."

Is it a mere coincidence that Posada, and the Salvadoran generals accused of war crimes and atrocities, are now living the good life in Florida, a state under the umbrella of another Bush? And, more importantly, why is the Bush administration not only allowing Posada to go free, but granting him safe haven, and what does this tell us about bin Laden and his possible ongoing relationship with the CIA.

Make no mistake, the so-called war on terror is not about ideology, but expediency. If massve amounts of oil were to be found in Karachi, or nearby, President Musharraf would be hiding from American troops fearing that they would do to him they did to Saddam Hussein.

When speaking to the Federalist Society, on Friday, Republican presidential candidate, and former New York governor during 9/11, Rudy Giuliani, like George H.W. Bush before him, sought to court the conservatives of his party by promising to appoint more right-wing judges who will affirm the right to bear arms, and turn back the clock on Roe v. Wade. Giuliani said "It's this country that's going to save civilization from Islamic terrorism." That's good to know because, for the past several years, a president of his party has made the same claim while giving shelter to those who will someday be seen as the forefathers of terrorism.

Friday, November 16, 2007

Chivalry is Alive and Well and Living in Las Vegas

Both Democratic presidential contenders Barack Obama and John Edwards were treated to boos and jeers, last night, when attempting to corner the first woman candidate for president, Hillary Clinton, on the issue of health care, and special interests, but it was Clinton herself who said "if you can't take the heat, stay out of the kitchen." Too bad someone didn't tell that to the president before his now infamous meeting with then Prime Minister Tony Blair, on Downing Street, where the two commanders-in-chef cooked the books with respect to fraudulent evidence that took us to war in Iraq. Hillary Clinton also added that she's comfortable in the kitchen;that's what concerns me; that's what John Edwards and Dennis Kucinich worry about, too.

While I'm being facetious when I say that the audience was being chivalrous in its defense of Hillary, make no mistake----the spectators' omnipotent, and egregious disapproval for Clinton's challengers' attempts at hardball effectively muted the substance of their charges. Ironically, too, those who watched last night's debate, whether they were in Vegas or in New Orleans, and those who will choose the next Democratic Party nominee, are the ones who needed most to hear what John Edwards had to say about the politics of privilege, big business, and obdurate devotion to corporate profit.

Those who most need to hear what both Edwards and Kucinich have to say about class struggle in America, about unions, about NAFTA, about economic disenfranchisement were coming to the defense of the one candidate who has yet to take a decisive stand against outsourcing jobs, and who has conspicuously aligned herself with the other boys when it comes to defending Roe v. Wade on the basis of a "right to privacy," rather than on the basis of a woman's right to choose. Oh, yes, and man or woman, choice is the issue now as it will be for generations.

While Barack Obama has routinely paid lip service to indigence and hunger in America, only John Edwards has taken on that subject squarely, and only Edwards and Kucinich dare to expose America's dirty little secret of poverty, privilege, and those who gain most by preserving the status quo. There's talk of changes to tax laws, but the underlying issue, that it is those who are most disadvantaged among us who will be first on the front lines of war, is swept under the rug by both frontrunners of this campaign.

Edwards and Kucinich are the only candidates taking strident aim at extraordinary rendition, torture, electronic surveillance, and the USA Patriot Act; this is flat out unacceptable. What does Edwards get for his persistent attack on the lords of the manor, and his dogged insistence upon openness in government? He gets accused of being a pit bull. Why? Can it be because Edwards is the only one with the courage to come out and say what we all dread to hear, that the process is corrupt, and rigged.

The days of the iron hand in the velvet glove are over. The gloves are off, and whether they're ready or not, all candidates for elected office must be prepared to get down and dirty, as well as come clean about where their allegiances lie. We can no more afford eight more years of sacrificing our sons and daughters on the altars of oil profits than we can eight more years of attempts to cover up who gets sacrificed, and why.

Moreover, when the subject of "illegal immigration" comes up, no candidate, not even Governor Bill Richardson, mentions the existence of sweatshops where undocumented immigrants work for well below minimum wage, and live in crowded, rat infested housing in states where migrant farm workers continue to suffer.

That we are this close to Iowa, and less than a year away from one of the most important presidential elections this country has ever faced, and not one clear, unambiguous, endorseable Democratic candidate has emerged is almost as scary as the all but inevitable air strikes against Iran, and behind the scenes efforts to displace another American-backed dictator, this time in Pakistan rather than Iraq.

And, while she talks of bringing Ahmadinejad "to the table" to talk, front runner Hillary Clinton voted in favor of the Senate resolution that named the Iranian Revolutionary National Guard a "terrorist" group. Likewise, while she insists that "national security" ought to be any president's primary concern, the leading Democratic contender fails to publicly connect the dots, and show how violation of the Consitution, and the First and Fourth Amendments, poses a graver risk to our national security than bin Laden, or Al Qaeda ever could.

Like it or not, the process of voting, in America, has become a lot like ordering from a Chinese restaurant: one from Column A, one from Column B. If things keep going at this rate, instead of using ballots, in 2050, people will be voting with take-out menus.

Whether it be a Republican, or Democratic Party debate, one thing is clear: the days of chivalry and civility are over. A political party must not only come up with a candidate, but a platform, and whether the nominee is a smooth talker, or is custom made for a photo-op, those who go to the polls must wipe the sleep out of their eyes, and vote with their heads not their prayer beads.

Any platform that tips backwards in an effort to remain centrist is one that is doomed to fail. Any candidate who is unwilling to risk it all, and put everything on the line to be a vehicle for the delivery of truth, not illusions, is one who ought to be running for ringmaster not president of the United States.

Giving t'anks...

Let's hope that, next year at around this time, we will be giving thanks instead of tanks...

Monday, November 12, 2007

You Can Leave Your Hat On

Last week, the president placed a call to Pakistan's president, General Pervez Musharraf. Let's hope it was a collect call as our tax dollars have already totalled close to $11 billion since 9/11. much of that money going to better arm those we claim to be fighting. President Bush reportedly told President Musharraf "You can't be the president and the head of the military at the same time." Well, that's not entirely what he meant, of course; he meant that one can't be army chief and head of a country, but when one usurps his position as commander-in-chief, what difference does it make if he's wearing a uniform or not?

Moreover, if Mr. Bush feels that strongly about what he perceives to be a conflict of interest, why doesn't he step down as commander-in-chief, leave Iraq to Iraqis, and Iran to Iranians instead of pursuing a foreign policy that amounts to selective destruction. (AP)

The voluptuaries of power always say that power is about seduction, and seduction requires knowing what to hide. Arguably, few have mastered the fine art of obfuscation better than our 43rd president. But, even more than concern about conmingling military power with executive power, Mr. Bush's "frank discussion" with the Pakistani leader makes crystal clear his wishes: "The United States wants you to have the elections as scheduled and take your uniform off." In a phone call that lasted only 20 minutes, the president asked Musharraf to take his uniform off at least twice.

Not that I'm a big fan of the Pakistani leader, but how dare a president of any country tell a leader of another sovereign state how to dress! If, as it's said, clothes make the man, does it follow that uniforms make the dictator? If we were to put Musharraf in an Armani suit, would it make the current Stalin-lite arrests of thousands of dissidents, many of whom are practicing attorneys, suspension of his country's constitution, and declaration of a state of emergency, or martial law, any more acceptable?

All this talk of taking off uniforms is agitprop, and amounts to nothing more than a distraction from the fact that we're supporting a government which is holding its own people hostage while, at the same time, claiming to be our ally in a so-called war on terror. Just as robbing a bank doesn't have to involve holding a gun to a teller's head, one can embezzle money, hijacking a country doesn't come with a dress code. While this is a bloodless coup, it is the second one, in less than a decade, and while Musharraf agreed to hold elections, as scheduled, in January, he will not set a timeline for the suspension of martial law.

This pattern of doublespeak isn't altogether new, now is it? The campaign for "law and order," which is at the nucleus of Pakistan's current state of emergency, is nothing more than a subterfuge for suspension of civil liberties in order to guarantee eelection. The law and order theme is a familiar one, too. We have seen what a campaign for "law and order" has done for this country; we have more rancor and official lawlessness now than at any other time in our history, as exemplified by practices that amount to torture applied to those we detain under the pretext of ridding the world of terrorists, and the routine subversion of our privacy rights in an effort to criminalize communication among ordinary Americans. Military courts, in Pakistan, may now try those civilians who disagree with its policies on charges "ranging from treason to inciting public unrest." How long before we do the same thing here?

It's absurd that anyone can believe General Musharraf when he says there will be "absolutely fair and transparent elections" in his country which is now under martial law. Clearly, the Bush administration misses Saddam so much, they've created another Saddam to take his place. How curious, too, that we've just signed a nuclear enrichment deal with India in light of the fact that India and Pakistan are mortal foes.

It's also curious to see the word "transparent" used by Musharraf; the same word has been applied by our president to his government, but where in hell is the transparency to be found from an administration that blocks the testimony, before Congress, of a Marine Corps lawyer who insists that his prosecution of a terrorist was derailed because of the egregious interrogation tactics that were employed? Some in the Pentagon may forget that confessions acquired by torture are inadmissible in court.

Where is transparency in government to be found when Pentagon general counsel, William Haynes II, forbids a subordinate to testify before Congress? (WaPo) When key sections of military reports are redacted? When the White House can withhold millions of emails on the pretext of executive privilege? When the president coerces two of his aides to defy congressional subpoenas, and refuse to testify before a House committee investigating the spurious firing of nine attorneys-general?

How can this president call on a dictator, thousands of miles away, and insist that he follow democratic rule while, at the same time, two prominent members of Congress, Rep. John Conyers and Rep.Jerrold Nadler, have had to write to incoming Attorney General Mukasay, before his official swearing in, no less, to request the release of three Justice Department "secret" legal opinions justifying the use of "painful physical and psychological tactics" on those we detain, and interrogate. These congressmen are right when they suggest that the withholding of legal opinions, from Congress, is almost as troubling as the procedure itself.

And, what of recent revelations by Rep. Henry Waxman that, despite his protestations to the contrary, there is now strong evidence that convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff had "hundreds of lobbying contqacts with White House officials" which flies in the face of the president's claim that he doesn't know Abramoff. Is this what this president has in mind by "transparency" in government? If so, it is clearly the same kind of transparency asserted by General Musharraf.

One has only to look at Bush's choice for Deputy Secretary of State, John Negroponte, to see what a farce "compassionate conservatism" is.. Yes, this is the same Negroponte who describes Pakistan as a key ally in the war on terror, and Musharraf as invaluable to our efforts, and told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that "No country has done more in terms of inflicting damage and punishment on the Taliban and Al Qaeda since 9/ll." Yes, very impressive, as is the fact that Musharraf released 25 pro-Taliban fighters right after he suspended his country's constitution (NYT), after his own admission, years ago, "There is no doubt Afghan militants are supported from Pakistan soil."

Not only do recently declassified documents obtained by the National Security Archive reveal that the Taliban "was directly funded, armed, and advised by Islamabad itself," but much of the $11 billion we sent to the Pakistani general, after his coup, ended up in the hands of the Taliban and other "terrorist" groups, the same groups that Musharraf claims to be defending his country against by declaring martial law.

Yes, this is the same John Negroponte who as U.S. ambassador to Honduras, nearly a quarter of century ago, helped to boost military aid to that country tenfold to realize his objective of making Honduras a fortress against the revolutionary Sandinistas in neighboring Nicaragua, and who ignored the claims of his predecessor, Jack Binns, of numerous human rights abuses by the Honduran military Negroponte stubbornly denied having knowledge of any Honduran military wrongdoing, and even back then demonstrated a penchant for a "see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil" mentality.

According to one former Honduran congressman, Mr. Negroponte's attitude was "one of tolerance and silence. They needed Honduras to loan its territory more than they were concerned about innocent people being killed." (Wiki) How reassuring to see that our deputy secretary of state hasn't changed a bit; his response to the crisis in Pakistan is not unlike his response to what happened in Honduras; ethics are sacrificed at the altar of political, and economic expediency.

But, the larger question is - hasn't Washington had enough of this reptilian hubris? Isn't it time for glasnost? All this presidential preoccupation with the leader of Pakistan removing his uniform doesn't, in any sense, obscure the need for him to take off his mask, quit hiding behind executive privilege and, more imortantly, quit thinking he can run his government from underground.

Nobody gets to break the law, then make it law, not even in this country. As the song goes, "Even the president of the United States sometimes has to stand naked."

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Norman Mailer's Lesson for Me

The below comes courtesy of New York Times reporter David Cay Johnston...

"Norman Mailer's Lesson for Me

In The Executioner's Song, Norman Mailer wrote six pages about me, calling me the finest of crime reporters and praising as the best one posed, a question I asked Larry Schiller to put to Gary Gilmore.

But Mailer got many of the facts, the kind journalists worry so much about, wrong. In one scene he has me riding in a taxi with Schiller. Actually, we were in a rented Oldsmobile and I was driving. In the Playboy adaptation he has me going to the Oregon trailer of Gilmore's mother. I never did, but I used to hang that except (from the Sept. 1980 issue) on the back of my bedroom door:

"When Dave Johnston fails you have a woman not ready to talk."

For all the specific detail errors for which a news reporter would be properly excoriated (and the book is laced with them), Mailer told truths far better than any of the many reporters, myself included, who covered the story.

By: David Cay Johnston

Wednesday, November 07, 2007


President George W. Bush tells Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf today:
"You can't be president and the head of the military at the same time."

Monday, November 05, 2007

Channeling John ...

"She's not a girl who misses much
Do do do do do do- oh yeah!
She's well acquainted with the touch of the velvet hand
Like a lizard on a window pane
The man in the crowd with the multicoloured mirrors
On his hobnail boots
Lying with his eyes while his hands are busy
Working overtime
A soap impression of his wife which he ate
And donated to the National Trust
I need a fix 'cause I'm going down
Down to the bits that I left uptown
I need a fix cause I'm going down
Mother Superior jumped the gun
Mother Superior jumped the gun
Mother Superior jumped the gun
Mother Superior jumped the gun
Happiness is a warm gun
Happiness is a warm gun, momma
When I hold you in my arms
And I feel my finger on your trigger
I know nobody can do me no harm
Because happiness is a warm gun, momma
Happiness is a warm gun-Yes it is.
Happiness is a warm, yes it is...Gun!
Well don't ya know that happiness is a warm gun, momma?"

"Happiness is a Warm Gun" by John Lennon

I remember the day John Lennon was gunned down in front of the Dakota, all those years ago, and if he could speak today, he'd say connect the dots from the South Bronx to Baghdad, violence begets violence; hate begets hate; groups like the NRA are the symptom, not the disease. The disease is power, greed, and vengeance.

Nothing has changed in the 27 years , next month, since Lennon was slain that wicked cold day in New York, and he'd be the first to say so. No one, in either political party, will stand up to the gun lobby, and tell it like it is. Guns are more rampant, drive-by shootings have replaced bowling in our inner cities and there is more random street crime than ever

Whether it be in the field of battle, or the neighborhood schoolyard, the lust for violence must end; we need warm hearts not guns.

Oh, yes, and this, too, from John Lennon...

"All we are saying is give peace a chance."

Saturday, November 03, 2007

Clarification on my NRA Piece

Since Atlantic Free Press ran my piece, "Another Poster Child for the NRA," nearly one month ago, I have been besieged with hate emails. Most of these are a result of the fact that someone evidently tagged a sentence on to the piece, as well as a disgusting graphic. Gun control has never been one of my issues, and it's not going to become one now. I merely wrote a piece expressing outrage at the proliferation of violence, and the abuse of handguns, assault rifles, and other firearms overall in society, as well as in that one isolated incident in a small town in Wisconsin.

So, by way of clarification, and for the absolute last time:

Please note: I never described members of the NRA, nor would I describe members of any group, as 'gun toting sickos.' I never used the word 'sicko' until now, nor am I responsible for the image that went with the original article. I have nothing but respect for law enforcement, hence my disappointment that there are some, even among police and clergy, who are corrupt, and do dastardly things. I was merely suggesting that anyone who wants peace, regardless of their uniform, join with others who wish to contain the ABUSE of firearms, and assault weapons.

There is so much that begs to be changed, in this society, why waste your valuable time and energy harassing a writer whose greatest crime is her naivete where human nature, and the viscera of the American gun culture, are concerned. You may keep your guns, with my pleasure, I can think of no better solution to the problem of overpopulation.

Friday, November 02, 2007

No Wiggle Room.

There's no wiggle room when it comes to methods of interrogation, such as waterboarding, that raise palpable, and unavoidable questions about whether this government will find it in its power to nuance torture such that it becomes what this president has called "enhanced alternate" methods by which to extract information with coercion, and in violation of Geneva and international law. The days of letting glorified yes men, and evaders-in-chief slip through the cracks with a wink and a nod are over. Even if we deny accountability, and culpability, the rest of the world will hold us responsible, if not in our lifetimes than for generations to come.

Kudos to the senator from Massachusetts, Senator Kennedy, for actively, and eloquently opposing Michael Mukasey's nomination for Attorney General. That Senators Feinstein and Schumer have said they will vote in support of Mukasey is a frightening statement about the kind of America our grandchildren will have to look forward to whether Democrats or Republicans win election, and hold office. No one who supports an ethos that consists of "the ends justifies the means," and the exercise of force over dialogue, deserves to sit in the Oval Office.

If a former First Lady, Nancy Reagan, could get as much mileage as she did out of the phrase "Just Say No to Drugs," it's time for those who represent all Americans, in Congress, to stand up, once and for all, and "Just Say No to Torture." As Voltaire once said, "Common sense is not so common." Stop the madness; stop it now.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Silencers are for Guns not People

Earlier this month, I wrote a piece called “Another Poster Child for the NRA” in response to a horrific and disturbing account of a young police officer, in a small town in Wisconsin, who apparently went insane, out of jealousy, and killed his girlfriend, and several friends. As one who has the utmost respect for law enforcement, what I found so shocking was that it was a member of the force who committed this crime.

It was never my intention to rant against the National Rifle Association, or law enforcement, but instead call for a closer look at a national ethos which enables, and legitimizes, the use of weapons, and deadly force in lieu of dedicated problem solving.

No sooner did my piece appear than I was besieged with hate mail, most of which came from National Rifle Association members, some from law enforcement, and the military, all of whom mistakenly seemed to think that I was targeting them with my comments. To the contrary, it is the intellectual climate, rife with fear and prejudice, one that provides safe haven, and immunity, for paid assassins while locking up protestors who belong to Code Pink. This newfangled militarism makes one nostalgic for the culture of narcissism..

So, by way of rejoinder: for openers, no one in their right mind would blame any one person, or group, for the outrageous escalation in violence in American society, much of it involving hand guns, in recent years. About a decade ago, then President Bill Clinton said “Every single day there are 13 children who die from guns.” How many more children are dying from guns today? Yet, there hasn’t been any gun control legislation since 1994, and those who defend their right to bear arms are ostensibly unnerved by the prospect that their friends, the hunters-in-chief, are leaving town.

Why this egregious absence of legislation attempting to stem the proliferation of assault rifles, hand guns, and illegal firearms in the past several years? A virile, righteous, and omnipresent gun lobby has successfully managed to silence their opposition, as has a vice president who, while he may not have the best aim, is himself a devout hunter, and a foreign policy which caters to the hunter ethos. Silencers aren’t only being used for firearms; they’re now handy ways to stifle dissent, too.

Indeed, the gun lobby has never been in better shape in Washington than it has been under the tutelage of President George W. Bush, so not a peep has been heard from those whose custom it is to speak out against guns, and the rash of violence in our nation’s public schools; schools like Columbine, Virginia Tech, in our nation’s inner cities, cities like Compton, East Los Angeles, in our nation’s workplaces. We’ve not heard a peep from the usual suspects who would be active in speaking up for more stringent laws to keep weapons of mass destruction out of the hands of our youngsters.

Increasingly, in a world in which the American flag has become synonymous with another four letter word “duck,” and yet another “bomb,” this is not time to mince words. These folks who equate what they think of as their constitutional empowerment have, for the past several years, had a free ride, but now that a changing of the guard is in sight, they cling to their illusions of entitlement like a leper clings to what little skin he has left. And, to parody the Dylan Thomas poem, it’s as if every gun-toting Tom, Dick, and Harry decided not to go “gentle into that night,” but to “rage, rage, against the dying of the might.”

The gun lobby has managed to exercise that might religiously, and faithfully, to quiet their opposition, over the past half dozen years, because they have been the vocal majority, but that may be about to change, and they may well lose their leverage once the hunters, and Bible-thumpers, leave town. And, faced with the prospect of another Clinton in the White House, and the real prospect of yet again having to defend their right to bear arms, those who extol the virtues of the Second Amendment while ignoring the First and Fourth Amendments may be scared, scared of losing their leverage, scared they may be slipping. Violent crime isn’t slipping, though.

We’re experiencing what may be called a renaissance in violent crime, and can anyone not ask how it is that a youngster in high school can amass an arsenal in his bedroom which would rival any one might expect to find in a bunker in Baghdad, and how it is that moms and dads are giving Johnny his first gun for Christmas, as well as access to the kind of cache that could decimate an entire schoolyard? Why does it take a shooting at Columbine, or Virginia Tech to wake people up?

No one is suggesting, for a moment, that even if guns were to be eliminated from the face of the earth, random, and heinous crime would disappear with them. Where there’s a will to do grave bodily harm, there’s always a way.

It isn’t use of a weapon, per se, but the abuse of weapons, in general, and the lack of oversight that requires our attention. It’s not an issue with an occasional bad apple, in law enforcement, that requires our attention, but a culture in which intellectual lassitude is a way of life. Anyone possessing even a modicum of reason, whether they be a member of the NRA, or the AARP, can see there’s a need for all of us to sit down and talk about the proliferation and abuse of legal and illegal firearms, and how to keep guns out of the hands of those who can least handle them, even if they’ve been deputized to do so.

If it’s true, as we hear, that "guns don’t kill people;" rest assured that ignorance does. Awareness, and education, are essential steps in the direction of finding a solution, not sweeping, under the rug, all those who dare to speak up in violation of a code of silence that is as outmoded as it is deadly.

From the beginning of time, the forces of darkness have somehow managed to overpower, and silence, the forces of light. This explains the phenomenon of extinction. And, if things continue at this rate, we, too, will be staring down the barrel of an existential shotgun. One can only hope that it isn’t loaded.

Friday, October 26, 2007

The best way to check executive power...

Executive power should be checked at the door along with hats, scarves, and other mufflers.

Any world leader who makes so much noise that he can't hear the will of the people belongs in the coatroom not the Oval Office.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Rhetorical Point Men

The president's weekly radio address this week had to do phishing---no, not the kind that results in a lot of spam in your mailbox, but the kind that got major Internet Service Providers and telecommunication companies to redact their own policy; the kind that got Congress to approve the legislation, last year, that grants the executive branch, and any other players, immunity from prosecution under the War Crimes Act of 1994.

Yes, this is the kind of fishing this president knows best, as well as the kind , that preoccupied his second in command, Mr. Cheney, and propelled him to assert that the world "cannot stand by as a terror-supporting state fulfills its grandest ambitions." (AP)

And, pray tell, which "terror-supporting state" is the vice president referencing? The one in Tehran, or the one that has supported Musharraf in Pakistan for the past decade? Josef Stalin would be proud of George W. Bush, albeit a bit saddened that he will no longer be remembered as the only Great Purger. Bush and Co. have done with language what Stalin did to his dissidents, no, not only torture, downright mutiliation. One has only to witness phrases like "axis of evil," "enhanced alternative interrogation techniques," "unlawful enemy combatants," and "war on terror" to know that this is one administration not seeking to protect the right to life of the English language.

Moreover, the Senate, last month, has opened the door to war with Iran by approving a resolution to label Iran's Islamic Iranian Revolutionary Guard a "terrorist organization." How convenient to use words like "knowledge," "terror," and "evil" as a means to abort information and justice. But, it gets even better.

At his news conference last week, the president nearly waxed poetic when he said "I've told people that if you're interested in avoiding World War III, it seems like you ought to be interested in preventing them (Iran) from having the knowledge necessary to make a nuclear weapon." Now then, don't you especially like the ubiquitous "them," the one size fits all variety which can just as easily accommodate Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Al Qaeda, Pakistan, China, and Russia? Don't you just love this concept of foreign policy in syndication; it's like watching re-runs of re-runs of re-runs with that sinking been there, done that, weak in the knee feeling you get when you know something's happening, but you don't know what it is, like the song goes.

Dame Dana Perino, White House spokesperson, who is almost as adept at damage control as her boss is at damage, was quick to point out that 43 isn't making "war plans," after all, but just a "rhetorical point." There's room on his dance card, a top military commander has said, for more misadventures like the one that has already cost us the lives of more than 3800 service members, as well as the lives of countless more Iraqis, "collateral damage," than anyone is ready, or willing, to admit.