Sunday, September 30, 2007


Don't you just love the way the White House calls virtually every dissident move by the Democrats, since the midterm election, "political theatre?" Well, talk about dramatic irony, key administration officials, the President, and First Lady even, are now calling upon China to intevene on behalf of Myanmar protestors, and Buddhist monks who have been getting slaughtered for speaking out against the military junta in the former Burma.

Somebody's short term memory is shot; after all, it was the Chinese who, in 1989, fired randomly into a crowd of protestors at Tiananmen Square kiling dozens. Now that China is officially a player, an anonymous administration honcho told The Washington Post that China has to keep their "clients" in check just like the other big bad empires.

Well, it looks like we can disabuse ourselves of the notion that Bush & Co's foreign policy is more a matter of ideology than political expediency while watching his Don Corleone approach to diplomacy. Who was it that said the only difference between organized crime and government is that organized crime pays better? (Well, they maybe didn't factor in the mega-bucks that military contractors rake in).

Those of us looking for fall foliage may have to wait until after January, 2009. But, think what you will, nobody can ever accuse this regime of not inventing anything--they're masters of duplomacy.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

Our So-Called Rights

Somebody needs to tell Rush Limbaugh that the question isn't what's a "phony soldier," but what's a phony right? Does the First Amendment apply to members of our armed forces who, ironically enough, are daily risking, and losing, their lives to defend it? Do they have the right to question the moral validity, and/or efficacy of a war without having to succumb to verbal evisceration by a glib, radically right pundit? Does the provision that protects free speech apply also to college students, like the one in Florida, who get tasered for asking unorthodox questions, and daring to imply that an election was rigged, or that a sitting president deserves impeachment?

And, what about those we've captured, and detained, without charge, or access to counsel at Guantanamo Bay, and at secret prisons around the world? What "rights," if any, do they have? Yesterday, the Defense Department announced that fourteen "high value" detainees at Gitmo have been offered "the right to request lawyers," a first step in challenging their "unlawful enemy combatant" designation before the Combatant Status Review Tribunal which might itself be described as a rigged process. (WaPo)

But, be that as it may, remember that those enemy combatants who were afforded the "right" to counsel at Guantanamo, in the past, were reportedly only allowed to see a lawyer if they confessed, or admitted guilt, first. Is it any different with these fourteen terror suspects? Did they, too, have to acknowledge crimes, and/or complicity, in order to be allowed to request representation? One wonders what, besides the obvious methods of torture that have leaked out, is taking place during these interrogations that now makes these men eligible for clearing their names?

Since their capture, the fourteen detainees, as well as more than three hundred others held at the naval base at Cuba, have had access only to their captors, and an occasional visit from members of the International Red Cross which visits have been labelled classified. They are only now being allowed the right to what amounts to military personal shoppers, those who will help them through the administrative hurdles necessary to obtain due process, something that both the Constitution, and international law, has, for more than 500 years, guaranteed them, but it appears that this process is more an administrative technicality than an opportunity for genuine adjudication.

The fact that the president of the American Bar Association, whose help in representing the alleged "terrorists" has been requested by the government, has said that he doesn't want the ABA to "lend support and credibility to such an inadequate review scheme" (WaPo) is something that should not be lost on anyone who labors under the delusion that we still have rights that would be recognizable, if only adroitly, by our founding fathers.

What can be more oxymoronic than the statement by an "anonymous" official that "the goal here is to have trials open and public to the greatest extent consistent with protecting classified information." But, clearly somebody's been reading too much Kafka, or maybe not enough, or maybe Zeno's Paradox is in syndication------"open and public trials" that still protect "classified information?"

In the words of a Center for Constitutional Rights attorney who has been trying, in vain, to contact one of the detainees now allowed the "right" to request representation, for over a year, the Defense Department is trying to "put some gloss," and create the aura of legitimacy, but this is mostly lip service, and a flawed facade in light of kangaroo military tribunals, and the Pentagon's insistence that counsel get "necessary security clearance," as well as submit to a complete background check. (WaPo)

Not to put too fine a point on it, but one can't help but wonder if some in this administration, including the current commander-in-chief , were coerced to submit to a background check, if they would still be running our military. The illusory right to counsel might implode on impact were details of what was said, and what transpired, during "classified" interrogations of these detainees to mysteriously surface. How much did they have to give up, or "confess" to in order to obtain the "right" to be represented. More importantly, how far have we deviated from accepted precepts of international law that it is now considered a victory to "allow" not representation, per se, but a request for representation.

This is not an argument in favor of one like Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is among this group of "high value" terror suspects. Indeed, no one can defend the indefensible. That said, the indefensible is still entitled to a defense; at least, it was under the judicial system this country has had in place for the past 200 plus years before the onset of the current constitutional revisionists who have consistently shown that justice goes to the highest bidder.

But, the larger question is why should anybody care about a bunch of illegal aliens being held without charge, indefinitely, and being subjected to "alternate interrogation techniques," by our government, which are so controversial that they are deemed classified, or secret. Along with the Bush jihad on terror comes the so-called Patriot Act which neutralizes the Fourth Amendment, as the Padilla case demonstrates, such that citizens and noncitizens alike get harassed equally, leaving us all vulnerable to being dubbed "terrorists," and held without charge indefinitely.

When those we capture and hold as our nation's enemy are compelled to complete a "Legal Representation Request" form in order to seek redress from a designation that has never been satisfactorily explained, the entire infrastructure of our criminal justice system is at stake. And, when a district judge in Portland, Ann Aiken, joins the ranks of other judges, throughout the country, in suggesting that the Patriot Act contains provisions that are unconstitutional, and that the latest revision to FISA law now enables the executive branch to "conduct surveillance and searches of Americans without satisfying the probable cause requirement of the Fourth Amendment," (AP) take heed-----you are no safer in your home, from illegal search and seizure, than any of those currently held at Guantanamo Bay, or in any secret CIA prison around the world.

What's more, those searching your person, car, and home are no more obliged to tell you why they're searching you, charge you, or provide legal proof that they have reasonable justification to secretly enter your home, and go through your things as was done to Portland attorney Brandon Mayfield who sued the federal government after being wrongfully accused of having been involved in the Madrid train bombings.

Justice has to count for something, or the study of jurisprudence is nothing more than the random collection of artifacts in the name of irrelevancy. And, as the ruling of a U.S. district judge in Oregon asserts: "For over 200 years, this Nation has adhered to the rule of law -- with unparalleled success. A shift to a Nation based on extra-constitutional authority is prohibited, as well as ill-advised." Yes, and a shift to a nation that expunges key sections of military reports which allege abuse of Iraqi citizens, and prisoners, as well as one that requires the completion of forms in order to request a right that has been guaranteed for generations is one that is unacceptable, and must be denounced by all who pledge allegiance to liberty and justice for all.

In the next fourteen months before Election Day, it is up to us to insist that each and every presidential candidate clearly state their position on what they will do about extraordinary rendition, secret CIA terror cells, "alternative interrogation techniques," what is, and is not, classifiable by government, and how they will restore the Bill of Rights, and the integrity of the our Constitution.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

Who needs Health-Net when we have Hillary-Net?

In an appearance on the Today Show, Hillary Clinton has, once again, clearly demonstrated who's paying her cab fare-- the HMOs and big pharmaceutical companies. How can anyone expect reform from an administration, on either side of the aisle, that consistently obscures the line of demarcation between national health insurance, and mandated medical coverage.

It's appalling to hear the leading Democratic presidential nominee talk about health insurance in much the same way as her Republican counterpart, Mitt Romney, who introduced a similar bogus "universal health care" measure to his constitutents in Massachusetts which has resulted in dire consequences for those who can least afford to pay monthly insurance premiums.

Mandating car insurance is one thing. One can live without a car; nearly two-thirds of the world does. Mandating health insurance is something else again. One can measure the integrity of a government by its response to those in need. Chronic, and contagious illness threatens the health of the community. Any state that is prepared to spend billions to go to war for oil, and military contracts, and allows its citizens to go to bed hungry, homeless, and without health coverage is one that will live on in infamy. Stop the big fraud of "universal health coverage," and expose it for what it is------lining the pockets of the big HMOs and pharmaceutical companies at the expense of the working man and woman in this country.

The larger issue isn't whether health care providers are regulated or not, but whether or not those who can least afford to pay to see a doctor will be required to do so under this proposed plan. The pain at the pump will pale in comparison to the pain felt by anyone who dares to find themselves at the mercy of HMOs, in a medical emergency, under any program that requires those least able to afford coverage to pay for their own health care.

Friday, September 21, 2007

the greatest gift...

The greatest gift we can give is to leave something for those who come after us...

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Move Over O.J.

O.J. blinked in court today when the charges against him were read. Somebody decided that should be front page news. America inhaled just long enough to eclipse the report yesterday that Congress is looking into allegations that a top official in the State Department, Inspector General Howard J. Krongard, used his "partisan political ties" to not only block investigations, but to completely ignore so-called "security lapses" at the U.S Embassy in Baghdad. Moreover, Krongard allegedly actively censored reports of fraud at the Embassy. (AP)

But, in the final analysis, who cares about "partisan political ties?" Given how quickly we put the U.S. attorney firings scandal to bed, not many. Given the dignified exit of a corrupt attorney-general, it wouldn't seem like anyone, with a pulse in America, gives a flying fajita about how toxic partisanship, in high places, can be.

Reassuring, isn't it, that our military isn't the only branch of government that has been found to routinely black out, or excise key details in reports of detainee abuse, or collateral damage in Iraq and Afghanistan. Equally reassuring when one considers how key parts of e-mails released by the White House, and pertaining to the U.S. attorney scandal, were also censored. But, why should anyone care about corruption in the State Department, the home mortgage debacle, the defeat of the habeas corpus restoration bill today in the Senate when the image of O.J. being handicuffed provides such allure, and such ratings.

Why, too, should anyone care about the "moderate" conservative the president has recommended to be our next attorney-general, retired federal judge Michael Mukasey? Does it matter that, immediately after 9/11, while chief judge of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York, Mukasey was a strong proponent of the dubious tactics the Bush regime employed to hold hundreds of "unlawful enemy combatants" in defiance of Geneva and the Fourth Amendment?

What extraordinary timing, too, now that this unitary executive has made clear his morbid desire to finalize proposed revisions to the FISA law, set to sunset in a couple of months, that allow for warrantless surveillance of U.S. citizens, the president will, once again, find an attorney general who justified the use of "material witness warrants" as a way to detain "terrorism suspects" without formal charges. (WaPo) While some will argue that Mukasay is a moderate conservate, but that is like being slightly pregnant, no? If he is confirmed, In time, we will see that, apart from the occasional token attempt at dissent, the good judge is really not all that different from Gonzales.

Really, in the end, who cares about electronic surveillance, warrants, habeas corpus, State Department corruption, when we can have a healthy serving of scandal mixed in with our meat and potatoes. Who cares about stealing elections, or tasering twenty-year old students who ask too many questions at press conferences of former presidential candidates in Florida? Who cares if the new Baghdad embassy is being built as a result of "illegal labor trafficking?" (AP) Who cares if the earth burns up as a result of unregulated carbon monoxide emissions from our cars, and trucks roaming California freeways with huge balls of black smog thanks to Nafta? Who cares if we sign nuclear enrichment programs with countries like India while, at the same time, threatening to demolish Tehran for its nuclear enrichment programs? Who cares about non-proliferation with all this spell-binding footage, and audiotape of O.J. Simpson's surreal attempt to steal his own memorabiilia from a Las Vegas hotel.

To paraphrase Henny Youngman: "Take my democracy, please."

Sunday, September 16, 2007


The only virtue of the apocalypse is that we get to start all over again.....

Thursday, September 13, 2007

This Rosh Hashonah

I think the world will be a safer, saner place if all leaders, and all people, from every nation, can agree to:

1) Respect the sovereignty of other countries regardless of whether or not they agree with their ideology.

2) Make space for difference, and allow for autonomy. Palestine deserves its own state as does Israel. No one state is more worthy, or more deserving.

3) Recognize that an act of violence is never righteous whatever the cause, or intended goal. Whether it's Israeli missiles destroying parts of Beirut, killing and maiming innocent men, women, and children, or whether it's the rockets of Hezbollah. Human rights, and the dignity of each and every human being, must take precedence over what is erroneously called "national security." Warfare is a retreat from civilization, and not a sanctuary for it. There can be no security when the lives of a country's citizens are daily put at risk in the name of making the world safe for this cause or that.

4) Diplomacy can only be achieved through compromise, not contempt. Without diplomacy, there can be no lasting peace.

Whether we be Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, agnostic, or atheist, we all share a common thread--the need for space, vision, and a reason to live. When we shed the blood of others, regardless of the reason, we shed the blood of our ancestors, our sisters and brothers, and those yet to come. There can be no respect for the sanctity of human life in an atmosphere of combat, and terror.

So, to my friends in Israel I say: if you want peace, accept Palestine, and treat your Arab brothers and sisters as members of your family, not as your enemies, but as future friends.

To Muslims in America, and around the world, I say: do not deny the Holocaust, nor the onslaught of punishment the Jews have endured including, of course, that most celebrated of Jews, Jesus Christ, who was crucified, and lives on as a testament to the horrors to which all Jews have been subjected.

To Christians, I say: those temptations we need to overcome most are not temptations of the flesh, but the perennial urge to scapegoat, and target those who are most vulnerable, and accessible to mob rage. The higher order thinking of the New Testament----forgiveness, compassion, the "judge not lest ye be judged" mentality is needed now more than ever. Those who call for the annihilation, execution, or murder of others, whether it be on the battlefield, or in a state penitentiary, profane in His name.

As a world, we have advanced far beyond the capacity of anyone living even as recently as a century ago could have imagined. We can fly to Mars; we can communicate instantly with people thousands of miles away, still, we have thousands, in Africa, who die of starvation; still we fight for territory that can easily, and justly, be shared.

At its root, nationalism is the perversion of individualism and, more often than not, individualism is narcissism disguised. Intolerance is a mushroom cloud from which no one will escape.

While global warming poses a huge threat, a more immediate danger to the survival of the planet comes from the proliferation of nuclear weapons, and their imminent use. Only respect for autonomy. and self-determination, as well as the ability to appreciate, not condemn, that which is different will prevent a war from which no one will be left to plant a flag.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

"The Israel Lobby"

"You declare, my friend, that you do not hate the Jews, you are merely 'anti-Zionist.' And I say, let the truth ring forth from the high mountain tops, let it echo through the valleys of God's green earth: When people criticize Zionism, they mean Jews - this is God's own truth."

from "Letter to an Anti-Zionist Friend," Saturday Review, August 1967

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

To Friends in New York on 9/11

Know that the memories of this horrific day hang just as heavily here in California, and around the world, as within blocks of the World Trade Center. Wherever innocent blood is shed in the name of ideology, there can be no end to pain and dread.

But, now more than ever, we need to show the world, and prove to ourselves, that we're a nation of fighters who have only just begun to fight--not against "terrorists," but against all those who try to hide behind slogans, and lies, as against any whose occupation is to fill our minds and hearts with fear and loathing while, at the same time, waving American flags.

The crimes of one diminish the humanity of all.

Sunday, September 09, 2007


The only "surge" that's working is one that has resulted in obscene oil company profits, as well as a big bulge in the coffers of military contractors like Halliburton. The kind of denial that comes from the mouths of generals, and other Bush-dupes, is one that even Houdini couldn't pull off.

As his testimony to Congress approaches, consider for a moment how closely Petraeus comes to sounding like "betray us."

(btw, I wrote this piece Sunday afternoon before the full page Move.On ad came out, in today's New York Times, calling the general "betray-us." great minds think alike, and sink alike, too; I might add.)

Friday, September 07, 2007

In Pursuit of Power

Just when he thought it was safe to come out of his cave, the National Security Agency, previously busy eavesdropping on thousands of Internet, and cell phone, conversations of ordinary Americans for the past five years, announced that it is finally able to trace the cell phone from which bin Laden's video appears to have been made. (AP) Well, not really. In fact, about the only thing the NSA has been able to trace is its own ineptitude which presents itself magnificently in the high drama Houdini escape of Al Qaeda's finest.

Funny thing, we may not remember when Osama last appeared live, but he does, right before the mid-term election in 2004, and right around the time Congress finalized the USA Patriot Act which, you'll recall, was intended to keep U.S. safe from bin Ladens, and other radioactive madmen. Fat chance. As a federal judge in New York decided yesterday, about all the Patriot Act accomplished was to guarantee the continuity of this administration's gang rape of the First and Fourth Amendments.

How appropriate that the president's enemy twin, who has managed to elude capture for about as long as we've been occupying Iraq, should invite American heathen to "embrace Islam." What a dynamic duo, these two Apocalypso dancers; what an unlikely team, an American president and the leader of Al Qaeda, both of whom "embrace" kamikaze rapture, and an ideology designed to inflate when the futility of militarism becomes obvious. Indeed, why doesn't the president invite Osama to join the Christian brothers in the 82nd Airborne? Different ideologies; same appetites.

And, who better to keep track of Mr. Bush's approval ratings than Mr. bin Laden? Except, of course, for Mr. Cheney. Who better than Osama to devise an exit strategy for Iraq? Arguably, the gravest threat this video poses is to show that, while we in the states have been feasting on the Larry Craig headlines, Osama has been reading Noam Chomsky. Wouldn't we be in better shape if John Ashcroft, Karl Rove, and Dick Cheney had read Chomsky first!

While Al Qaeda's leader may have been in freeze frame for nearly four minutes, (AP) no technical problems have been detected when, on Wednesday, the National Security Archives, an independent think-tank in Washington, D.C., announced its suit against the White House seeking to recover "more than 5 million" e-mails from executive branch computers which were deleted between the spring of 2003 and the fall of 2005, right around the time of the midterm elections; right around the time bin Laden last appeared; right around the time Iraq was invaded, and Katrina evaded. (NSA)

National Security Archive director, Tom Blanton, pulls no punches when he asserts that "The Bush White House broke the law and erased our history by deleting those e-mail messages." But, can one sue, or press criminal charges, against a sitting president, or an elected official? Would not such an action require their removal, voluntary or otherwise, from office? Isn't that among the many reasons Alberto Gonzales had to step down, as we now know, so that the Justice Department can look into its options vis a vis prosecuting him on charges of perjury, and obstruction of justice.

What happens when the executive branch attempts to neutralize the judiciary? What happens when there are no longer any boundaries between the attorney-general and the president; when checks and balances become victims of planned obsolescence? When the Bill of Rights is sent to recovery, and the Constitution is seen as if it were a 12 step program instead of a blueprint for democracy.

U.S. District Judge Victor Marrero's response, in New York, yesterday was to demand that a court approve any governmental request for Internet records without first informing customers. There must be more federal judges like Marrero who come forward, and stop this administration's unfettered attempt at warrantless surveillance of ordinary American citizens in the name of a war on terror which any idiot can see could clearly be won if this president, and his homeboys, did a little target practice.

What a scary world when America's most wanted fugitive spends more time talking about global warming, and failed foreign policy than our own chief executive. Moreover, bin Laden, a man who comes from among the world's richest countries, and families, entreats us to "liberate" ourselves "from the deception, shackles, and attrition of the capitalist system.," (AP) and does so in a way that would make Marx blush with envy. While his nemesis, on the other hand, still thinks Marx is something one gets in school.

Don't you wish "To Tell the Truth" was still on the air, so we could ask: will the real lunatic please stand up! Why is the obvious always the toughest thing to see, how it is that we are all victims of those who, in pursuit of power, strive to dehumanize in the name of ideology.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

There is only one thing

worse than a lapsed Catholic, and that's a lapsed Republican!


Time flies, and we walk.