Sunday, February 25, 2007

Caveat Oscar

At a time when there is a war in progress, when the vice president suggests that those who question the legitimacy, and/or strategy, of that war are aiding Al Qaeda, including the speaker of the House aren't we glad that we have "Little Miss Sunshine," celebrity red carpets, as well as grandiose ceremonies to distract us from the fact that:

Earlier this week, Cheney remarked that when Nancy Pelosi challenges not merely the presidential troop escalation, but our very presence in Iraq, she is aiding Al Qaeda. And, when trying to reach the president to complain, Pelosi was instead re-routed to the White House chief of staff. Yes, that's right, the president of the United States declined to accept a telephone call from the newly-elected speaker of the House.

At a time when there is a war in progress, and bloodshed...

a Washington, D.C. federal appeals court affirmed the constitutionality of an earlier ruling denying more than 60 Guantanamo Bay detainees the right to a court hearing.

And, Canada's highest court "unanimously struck down" proposed legislation in that country which would have allowed them to hold terror suspects without charge, for an unlimited amount of time, and instead opted to uphold human rights, and due process.

While, just yesterday, the Army announced that it plans, once again, to re-try First Lieutenant Ehren Watada on charges of conduct unbecoming, and refusing to return to service in Iraq despite declaration of a mistrial earlier this month; charges that could carry up to six years in prison.

At a time when the results of nearly a year long military investigation into administrative procedures at Walter Reed Medical Center have uncovered the kind of neglect, and improper medical treatment of those who return from this war

Any even halfway rational person needs to ask, and this president wants another $100 billion for this poor excuse of a war on terror?

Far be it for me to say that Oscar should be put on hold, or turned over to voicemail as was the speaker of the House only that, while on our way to those Oscar parties, we might want to think about those, half a world a way, who await our footsteps, missiles, and fleet with fear, and dread. as well as those who are daily losing wives, husbands, sisters, and brothers, so we may spread "democracy."

Caveat Oscar: just think that the word "decadence" has decay built into it, and what is it if not decadence to purchase a $4 million necklace, or a $40,000 gown to wear for one evening a year.

We might also want to think about those in Darfur who would benefit from even a tiny piece of that $100 billion for food, shelter, instead of what the Horn of Africa now receives for so-called "counter-terrorism" efforts.

We might also consider what even a quarter of that proposed $100 billion would do for those less than a dozen miles away on Los Angeles' Skid Row, as well as those homeless, and uninsured families around America . In order to survive not merely as a democracy, but as a just, and equitable society, we must put out the red carpet for them, too.

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

The Jury is Out...

in the perjury, and obstruction of justice trial of former vice presidential aide, Scooter Libby and the closing arguments amounted not merely to barbs, but barbed wire.

"Think about the madness of this prosecution," one of Libby's attorneys said just last week. And, another added that "it's not easy going before a grand jury." Yes, indeed, it isn't, just ask former President Bill Clinton who was impeached for what Jeffress calls "honest mistakes." If, as Shakespeare said, there is "honor among thieves," there's plenty of honor to be found in our nation's capital thanks to the rascals who have occupied it for the past half dozen years.

The Bush years have been banner years in terms of the number of those filing for personal bankruptcy, and will also be remembered for moral bankruptcy. The Military Commissions Act, the dismantling of habeas corpus, and the USA Patriot Act make a mockery of the system of jurisprudence several generations of Americans fought, lived, and died to preserve and protect.

Think about the madness is right! That the former aide to the vice president is the only one facing charges is the real crime here as is the fact that information has been criminalized by the steadfast, and relentless calls upon members of the press to testify. It isn't as if someone has been trying to run off with our doggie bag here; it's the First Amendment we're talking about.

Libby is only the first who should be convicted of perjury...lying isn't news, in this country, anymore; telling the truth is. Clearly, in order for the concept of justice to survive it, too, must start cutting back on fat. What's more, the president shouldn't be cutting his teeth on the constitution, he should abide by it.

Monday, February 19, 2007

contrary to popular opinion...

missiles are misguided condoms.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Setting the Record Straight

Last week, Florida congressman, Connie Mack, wrote a letter to former Massachusetts Rep. Joseph Kennedy, in which he assailed a television commercial featuring the nephew of the former president onboard an oil tanker in Boston. Kennedy founded the program Citizen's Energy, nearly twenty years ago, to provide home heating oil to the poor, and elderly. In the T.V. commercial, Mr. Kennedy says that "millions of gallons" of vastly discounted heating oil are en route to impoverished residents of his state thanks to "our good friends in Venezuela."

Well, it appears that our good friend in Florida, Republican Rep. Mack, is a devout, and vigorous opponent of Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez who he calls a "sworn enemy of the United States." Moreover, a quick visit to the congressman's Web site shows just how strongly Mack believes that Venezuela is engaged in rapid military expansionism, and poses a clear and present danger to our national security. Indeed, his Chavez banter has a "been there, done that" feel about it, and is reminiscent of the diatribes launched against the U.S.S.R. at the height of the cold war. And, Mack even goes so far as to call the ad "part of a propaganda message from Hugo Chavez." But, "once we've followed the Mack Doctrine and refused oil from every country that fails to meet our disciplined moral standards," Kennedy tells him, "I'm sure you'll enjoy your walks to Washington because there certainly won't be fuel to fly you there." (AP)

One must consider that the need for home heating oil isn't nearly as great in a state like Florida as it is in Massachusetts, Rhode Island, Pennsylvania, Maine, New York, and Vermont, some of the states which benefited greatly, last winter, when Chavez' owned Citgo delivered 5 million gallons of heating oil at a discount of 40% to low income families in the city of Philadelphia alone (Time). One wonders if we would witness this Mack attack if he were to represent Maine, or New Hampshire, instead of Florida. Indeed, where was the viscera of Connie Mack in February, 2006 when thousands of east coast families benefited from the Chavez oil giveway? And, as Mr. Kennedy notes, why isn't he taking pock shots at Saudi Arabia Pennsylvania. Rep. Chaka Fattah didn't have a problem with the Venezuelan president's offer to help nearly 30,000 of his constituents who might otherwise have to endure a cold winter. Funny, isn't it, how ideology often takes a backseat to economic necessity, as well as the desire to win elections.

But, by far, the most egregious accusation Mack makes, in chastising Kennedy, is that his actions insult the legacy of his uncle, President Kennedy who, Mack says, was aware of the dangers posed by communism. His attack on the former president's nephew is not merely a low blow, and one designed to appeal to emotion rather than reason; it is, in essence, an inspired stroke of ignorance which shows how little the Republican congressman understands, and/or remembers John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

To set the record straight: just a few days before he was assassinated, some forty-three years ago, President Kennedy was planning to discuss normalizing relations with Cuba, as well as lifting the trade embargo, according to a "declassified tape" and White House documents. As National Security Archives researcher Peter Kornbluh asserted, back in 2003, "the whole history of US-Cuban relations might have been a lot different if Kennedy had not been assassinated," and Hugo Chavez' good friend, Fidel Castro, viewed Kennedy's murder as a "setback" to restoring diplomatic relations between the two countries . (Guardian) Indeed, there was one president who tried to utilize the state department before resorting to the military to win adversaries over to his point of view; at least, this was his plan before he was murdered, a plan that has been defeated by the right wing "Cuban Lobby" ever since. We have watched, in the four decades since the Kennedy assassination, the era of statesmanship disfigured, and diplomacy transformed more into a formality than a legitimate effort.

Nothing undermines what may be perceived as JFK's legacy more than this one-dimensional, reductivist view of his response to the threat of an ideological opponent, communism. Contrary to Mack's innuendo, the former president was far-sighted, not myopic, and saw national interests as variegated, and multidimensional, a concept lost on those who confuse free market economics with democratic principles. Importantly, the former president understood that the Cuban trade embargo, and hostilities toward Havana, undermined American economic interests as much as it did Cuba's. Kennedy understood that making friends with those who wish to do us harm would, in the long run, serve us better than trying to wipe them off the face of the earth. Traditionally, hate breeds better converts than amity. Our current leadership suffers from the kind of fragmentation that fosters ongoing hostility, and misunderstanding.

While the CIA, at the time, was doing what it does best, thinking of ways to eliminate Fidel Castro, aides who worked closely with JFK came to believe that "Havana could be weaned away from Moscow," (Guardian) using diplomacy, and talk, not bombs. Contrary to Mack's assertion that Joseph Kennedy's commercial was a betrayal of his uncle's concerns about communism, the former president was more of a foreign policy pragmatist than an ideologue, and one who would rather work to transform foes into friends. While we will never know how President Kennedy would respond to Hugo Chavez, one thing we do know: he was one who looked for common ground, and not one who looked to provoke global battles to promote the interests of behemoth U.S. corporations, military contractors, and the upper one percentile of the population.

We don't need to be experts on Venezuela, or its president, to recognize that comments made about a television commercial that supports vastly reducing the cost of home heating for those, in this country, who can least afford it were designed to deflect attention away from the greatest contribution the Repubicans have made, over the past twenty years, which has been to "disappear" the middle class.

Likewise, we don't need to consider Hugo Chavez' domestic agenda, over the past two decades, and his efforts to reduce poverty, unemployment, build roads, provide health care, and housing for the homeless, as well as obstruct privatization of those programs that adv ance the needs of the affluent, such as the oil sector and national social security, in an effort to address the social, and economic inequity in his country while we, in the U.S., have socialized ignorance instead of socialized medicine.

And, we don't even need to think about the fact that if George W. Bush's approval ratings were even close to Mr. Chavez', the Republicans would be assured a landslide in 2008. Given that as many jobs have been lost in the automotive sector, over the past few months, as our current president wants to send over to fight in a fruitless, and futile battle in Iraq, all we need to ask ourselves is this: if we had a president now who focused on a domestic agenda rather than foreign policy, who wanted to sit down and talk with those whose worldv ews were different, a nd might even threaten us; if we had a president who put the profits of Exxon-Mobil and Chevron second to providing heat for the indigent, housing for the homeless, and college for the disadvantaged, would we be facing world war, and nuclear annihilation as we are now? I think not.

The good congressman from Florida owes Joseph Kennedy a public apology. His uncle, and our former president, John F. Kennedy, would be very proud of him.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Putting a Noose around the News

If it seems to you you're getting the same news no matter which channel you watch, you're right, and you can thank newspaper consolidation for that. There are only three or four major newspapers left in this country, The New York Times, The Washington Post, among them; there is only one Reuters, one Associated Press, and now the FCC is investigating claims by Rep. Maurice Hinchey, a New York congressman, that CBS television is "seeking to consolidate newsrooms," (United Press International) thereby introducing the concept of central command to television newsrooms.

CBS and the Writer's Guild are currently in the process of revamping their 50 year contract in some of the nation's biggest cities, which would involve mergers in such high octane markets as New York, Washington, and Los Angeles. These discussions center around staff layoffs, as well as divesting news producers of negotiating power. Clearly, the goal is to create corporate media empires which micromanage at the expense of diversity of opnion, and dissent.

Yet another remnant of the American Dream has been sacrificed at the altar of the almighty buck in an effort to reduce our collective field of perception to the size of an escargot. What's more, declaring preemptive war on news producers bolsters CBS, and others who are working towards newsroom consolidation, and a network central control, thereby emulating the empire-in-chief currently running this charade we call democracy. When there is micromanagement from the top down, decisions made by one or two people carry over to several stations, and there isn't any room for contrarianism. A climate that doesn't allow for difference, and the expression of contrary viewpoints, can expect only Slim Fast, not substance, in return.

Here in Los Angeles, we're used to reruns of the weather. On most major holidays, we're even treated to repeats of human interest stories, but to think that we, the American consumer and electorate, are being force fed pre-packaged, and often recycled tripe, much of which is inaccurate in the first place, should be more than enough to make our blood boil. Worse still, newsroom consolidation isn't so much about conceptual unilateralism as it is about ensuring swift, and steady profit at the expense of diversity of thought.

The good congressman from New York is concerned that newsroom consolidation will lead to the ultimate demise of independent news stations much as newspaper consolidation has. How does this affect each and every one of us? Imagine a world with only one Internet Service Provider, or being able to only access those Web sites that can afford to pay gargantuan fees if, and when, the world wide web becomes IRS territory. The only ones to benefit from consolidation are the behemoth corporations who tell us which underarm deoderant to wear, which cat food to buy, and which cars to drive. When newsrooms become profit delivery vehicles, as well as promoters of uniformity of thought, we're in even greater danger of losing ourselves in the totalitarian void that has cost us much of our civil liberties these past few years.

The FCC which has been hugely preoccupied with "public decency" ratings, over the past 6 years, must now be prevailed upon, as Rep. Hinchey told UPI , to "ensure that corporate interests stay out of newsrooms so that the American public can be on the receiving end of journalism...Any further consolidation of newsrooms and attacks on journalists would be contrary to the best interests of the public." Moreover, assaults on the First Amendment are "contrary to the best interests of the public;" it's high time Congress, and we, the viewing public, said so!

Sunday, February 11, 2007


Yesterday, as I was pulling into the driveway of my apartment building, a baby bird went rushing off in terror. I wasn't driving any faster than usual and, as always, I made it a point to look first to be sure there weren't any children, pets, or other cars in sight, but what I didn't see was the most darling, and vivacious little creature who raced away as if from a monster. The thought that any action of mine could terrify this bird tormented me.

As I lifted a bag of groceries from the back seat, I started to think about instinct, a shared instinct that all living things have for their own survival. I thought about what terrible power we humans possess, if only because we think of survival in human terms. We think of survival as a conscious act, and not as the flight of some desperate bird.

How many times have we passed dead squirrels, or cats in the road? How many rabbits, and deer have been sacrificed merely for the pleasure of the hunter? What a narcissistic race, the human race; how twisted and perverse we have become that tiny birds run from our horsepower, that the oceans reek from our sewage. We have imposed ourselves upon nature with such venom, and pathology that global warming is but one conspicuous payback for how we have raped, and plundered the elements. We have been fighting a preemptive war on the environment for generations, and have the audacity to call that progress.

But, to think that this tiny little creature would have such a developed sense of intrinsic danger while we, who like to think of ourselves as higher up on the evolutionary food chain, continually concoct new, and improved ways to delude ourselves of the simple, basic fact of our own survival is an omnipresent source of wonder.

We pollute the air we breathe, the water we drink, food we eat, all bear witness to how out of touch we are with the connection between our actions, and our own inevitable extinction. Is sophistication, and intellection, a good thing if it engenders such an egregious gulf between who we are, and what we must do in order to survive? It is all terribly simple for that bird...see trouble, run. And, it is only arrogance that makes us think that human life is somehow more valuable, and that the airplanes we build are more evolved than the eloquent flights of robins.

That anything a human being could do would make a bird run for fear of her life fills me with horror. The survival of the planet depends upon respect for that little creature, as well as all living things.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

No Jihad Left Behind

There are jihads, and there are jihads, but this one takes the cake.

A week ago Friday, after participating in a panel discussion about "Facing Violence," which also featured former Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, at a downtown San Francisco hotel, best-selling author, Holocaust survivor, and Nobel Laureate Elie Wiesel was dragged from the elevator, on the sixth floor, by a Holocaust denying stalker who identified himself only as "Eric Hunt" in a post to the Web site Ziopedia in which he took responsibility for this appaling act. Fortunately, the 78 year old author was unharmed, but questions remain as to why release of the assault, on February 1st, was put on hold until February 8th. There are also unresolved issue about who hides behind the nom de plume, Eric Hunt, the assailant, who, to date, has yet to be found despite the conclusion by SFPD that this is a hate crime.

This is not the first time Mr. Wiesel has faced violence. He survived Auschwitz and now. when he returns to teach at Boston University, he can say he has survived San Francisco, too; well, not quite. After all, we're talking about the Bay Area, the apotheosis of blue state, liberal, progressive, free speech movement; the home of Nancy Pelosi, Barbara Lee, Jerry Brown, Ron Dellums. What madness that such a vile act should occur in what many consider the bastion of all that is new left in this country.

Clearly, it's unfair, and ludicrous, to imply that this attack has anything to do with San Francisco as a city. For all we know, this Hunt fellow is from Orange County, or the Bronx. We know nothing about him other than what appears in his absurdist comments on an anti-Zionist Web site. What we do know is that he was stalking Elie Wiesel for weeks and, under the pretext of wanting to inteview him, tried to force Wiesel into an empty room while screaming "Why don't you want people to know the truth?" Which truth did Mr. Hunt have in mind? As his post later asserts, he wanted Elie Wiesel to admit that the Holocaust was a "myth," a fabrication like weapons of mass destruction, just another work of fiction; no such luck. The author's loud shrieks caused this two-bit coward to flee with his proverbial tail between his legs.

I wondered what kind of Web site would welcome the comments of someone like Eric Hunt, so I decided to pay a little visit to Ziopedia and found that it is a Web site based in Sydney, Australia with the disclaimer that given their "highly critical attitude towards Zionism in general, and Israel in particular, it doesn't come as a surprise" that they are being called "wildly anti-Semitic." Curiously, they also describe themselves as "antiwar" and "progressive." A quick perusal of a list of recent titles of articles posted on their site reveals the following: "In the olden days, an anti-Semite was someone who hated Jews; these days, it's someone the Jews hate," "Judaism is Nobody's Friend," "Poll: 40% of U.S. voters believe Israel Lobby is key factor in going to war in Iraq," as well as an editorial which suggests that those who buy Starbucks coffee are supporting Israel. Obviously, our friends at Ziopedia make some huge leaps in assuming that 1) Judaism and Zionism are the same, 2) every Israeli is a Zionist, and/or Jew, and 3) their position is a "progressive" one. And, here I thought, all along, that it was American left that was reactionary when it came to their position on the bogey man "Israel Lobby," but at which point does the far left and the far right intersect?

As one who believes in socialized medicine, state-subsidized housing, caps on the acquisition of vast amounts of wealth and private property, a liveable wage, as well as other things that are considered to far to the left, I have to ask whether or not anyone can call himself "antiwar" and socially progressive while, at the same time, dragging an elderly man from a hotel elevator, like a piece of meat, with SS-like brutality? Is this emblematic of a "peace" movement that's here to stay? Is it okay to treat a Jew like this, and then condemn U.S. treatment of detainees at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay?

Those who denounce Zionism, and blame the Jews for the war in Iraq, have their own little jihadist movement going which, after last Friday, can no longer be denied. When a man who survived the camps is disgraced by this kind of brute force, and arrogance, it must be a wake up call that we, on the left, need to ask if talk about AIPAC, and the "Israel Lobby," justifiably or otherwise, may be seen as a contributing factor. And, if so, what can we do to prevent an assault like this from happening on someone else? The fact that he screamed may have been the only thing that prevented the Nobel Prize winner from suffering a heinous beating. We need to ask if ideological brutality is more acceptable in the hands of a sophomoric philistine who thinks he's getting at the "truth" about the Holocaust than it is in the hands of a president who believes he takes direction from a "higher authority?"

One would think, after six years of George Bush, we would have had enough of ideologues, but this sociopathic gesture in the name of correcting history proves only that there are too many holy wars, of all stripes, for one planet at any one period of time. There are too many who are willing to embrace a jihad, but few willing to clean up after one.

No one can deny that our thoughts have consequences, not just our actions. In this case, one man's ideas about what he believes to be the fabrication of Jewish genocide resulted in an unprovoked attack on a man who has already been assaulted more than anyone deserves to be. The spineless bastard who did this should be an instant pariah among all those who believe that truth, peace, and justice are not antiquated notions, as well as those who fought the good fight for civil rights, and free speech in this country, and continue to fight. Does one have to be left to be right and, after all is said and done, is this what is left of the left ---leftovers from the days of the Weimar Republic?

We'd like to think that what happened in a San Francisco hotel, last Friday, was the act of a zealot, and a very disturbed one, but history shows that most acts of barbarism come at the hands of disturbed zealots, so we have to own this Hunt bastard. He belongs to all of us. He is our son, our brother, our neighbor, our student, our friend as, whether our worldviews are left, right, or center, whether we are in Sydney, London, or San Francisco, one thing remains constant: there are those who hunt, and those who are hunted,. And, when those who hunt infiltrate the ranks of those who condemn violence and acts of aggression, it's time to take a long, hard look at how it is that this monster came to be, so we can stop him from replicating fast.

Someone needs to tell...

the Surger-in-Chief that we need support hose not support troops!

Friday, February 09, 2007

what do Anna Nicole and Zsa Zsa have in common?

Zsa Zsa's husband, aka the Prince, who now confesses to have had a ten year long affair with Anna Nicole; how convenient, right in time for probate!

All I can say is, Claus von Bulow had better have a rock solid alibis...--

Wednesday, February 07, 2007

First Lt. Ehren Watada and The Uniform Military Code

The Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) 809.ART.90 (20), makes it clear that military personnel need to obey the "lawful command of his superior officer," 891.ART.91 (2), the "lawful order of a warrant officer", 892.ART.92 (1) the "lawful general order", 892.ART.92 (2) "lawful order."

In each case, military personnel have an obligation and a duty to only obey Lawful orders and indeed have an obligation to disobey Unlawful orders, including orders by the president that do not comply with the UCMJ.

The moral and legal obligation is to the U.S. Constitution and not to those who would issue unlawful orders, especially if those orders are in direct violation of the Constitution and the UCMJ

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Conduct Unbecoming

In Ft. Lewis, Washington this week, a 28 year old commissioned Army officer , First Lt. Ehren Watada, faces court martial before a panel of his peers for refusing to return to Iraq, as well as two counts of conduct unbecoming an officer for publicly condemning the war. If convicted of both charges, he faces up to four years in jail, as well as dishonorable discharge from the Army.

While making public disparaging remarks about a war in progress is deemed to be an actionable offense, Watada argues that "under military law those in the military are allowed to refuse, in fact, have a right to refuse unlawful orders." It is his belief that the U.S. is in Iraq under false pretexts, and illegally; he thinks it is his duty to refuse those orders. It is important to keep in mind that Ehren Watada is not a conscientious objector, not someone opposed to combat; he has said he would be willing to fight in Afghanistan. He is not against war, per se, he is speaking out against this administration's military adventurism, and its activist campaign to deceive the American people, manufacture evidence, and shun diplomacy.

Watada is not the first to say "hell, no, we won't go." Many enlisted service members have faced discipinary action for abandoning their units, and/or saying they won't go to Iraq; "Watada is the first to do so publicly." (NYT) And, we will need more Watadas in the months to come if, as pro-Iraq neoconservative, Richard Perle suggests, the president intends to attack Iran before his term runs out. We will need more Ehren Watadas especially in light of Senator Chuck Hagel's recent disclosures that the president attempted to get a resolution through Congress, back in the fall, of 2002, which would have allowed him to pick a fight anywhere in the Middle East. It's not too late. There's still plenty of time to occupy and plunder Tehran in which case abandonment, by a commissioned officer, may become the only honorable thing to do.

Judging by muscle-flexing in his State of the Union address, the fighter jets are waiting in the wings. In fact, the Bush Doctrine can best be summed up by the phrase" fill in the blanks." It is making the same noises now about Iran it once made about Iraq, and doing no more to back up those allegations than with Iraq; i.e. suggesting that Iran is arming Iraqi insurgents without concrete evidence, insisting that Iran is lying about its nuclear ambitions.

As the Los Angeles Times recently noted "no Iranian agents have been found" in Iraq despite state department spin to the contrary. Clearly, the Commander-in-Chef is at it again, cooking up yet another recipe for armed, unilateral, preemptive (read: unprovoked) military action. Bush's taunts of the Iranian president are hauntingly reminiscent of his censure of Saddam Hussein. Only, instead of Baghdad, we merely substitute Tehran, and the result looks, ominously, like more of the same. And, while the prosecutor in the Watada case calls Watada's statements "disgraceful," (Reuters) what could be more disgraceful than fabricating a rationale to attack, and topple a sovereign country? Excuse me, but is it any less a lie if say so in private? This double standard for the military is outmoded, and based on a code of ethics that no longer exists.

For the most part, the mainstream media are standing by, almost voyeuristically, and downplaying the domestic troubles currently facing the Iranian president, his failure to deal with unemployment as promised, and talk of impeaching him. We do need an enemy with whom to go to war, after all. By helping to transform Ahmadinejad into a wartime president, Bush is helping to keep him in power, and we know all about the power of wartime presidents.

So, this is the context in which the court martial of one young, and very brave First Lieutenant must be taken, and this is the only context. Ehren Watada is setting a much-needed precedent, and that is --just say no to an illegal war, one based on lies and deception. Watada is not saying that war should be outlawed, only that his government, and those in command should tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth to those they expect to make the ultimate sacrifice in their name. As another Republican president, Ronald Reagan, once said, "Trust, but verify." Had Congress, the media, and the American people taken President Reagan's advice, we would never have been in Iraq in the fist place, and Ehren Watada would never be standing trial for "abandoning his unit." Indeed, the abandonment that is criminal here is that of this government's abandoning the trust of those it governs.

Watada's public outrage against being a pawn in the Machiavellian game of a superpower run amok is something that future generations will see in much the same way as we remember courageous acts of civil disobedience by men like Patrick Henry. In his refusal to play alng with the kind of ethos that says it's okay to swear, and plunder in private, as long as one sings, and smiles in public, he is refusing to participate in a lie. One can only hope that, if the gestures of this president towards Iran prove to be authentic, there will be others, like First Lt. Watada who will publicly refuse to accommodate hypocrisy and deceit.

Given that Lt. Col. John Head, the judge in the Watada court martial, has ruled that his defense attorney's witness list is "irrelevant" (Reuters), insists that the legality of the war, or lack thereof, is not something worthy of discussion in a military court, and believes that military service requires accepting limits to free speech, a plea bargain, or agreeing to a lighter sentence may be the only way out. Should this honorable, and courageous young man be convicted, this president, and his military, will, for generations, bear the guilty verdict of history.

Senator Bernie Sanders: Town Meeting on Media Ownership---Bernie Sanders

The below comes courtesy of Senator Sanders' office:

Are you concerned about the quality of media in America and the reality that fewer and fewer large media conglomerates own and control what we see, hear, and read? Please join us on Tuesday, February 20th at 7:00 PM for an exciting discussion on this important topic with FCC Commissioner Jonathan Adelstein, one of the leading media experts in America.


Tuesday, February 20th, 7:00 PM
McCarthy Arts Center, St. Michael’s College1 Winooski Park, Colchester, VT

More information: Visit or call 1-800-339-9834

For those that can not attend the event, please visit our website at within a few days of the Town Meeting for a video recording of this exciting discussion.

and another...

Happy Birthday, Mike Farrell
the world is a better place with you in it!

Sunday, February 04, 2007

"The U.S. versus John Lennon"

If the reaction of the audience tells you anything about the quality of a film, and I think it does, then "The U.S. Versus John Lennon" is, by far, among the best documentaries to come along in a long time.

On Superbowl Sunday, in a small movie theatre in Ojai, a town eighty miles northwest of Los Angeles, on rural main street America that was among the last on its block to stubbornly display Old Glory, as well as the requisite "Bush / Cheney" bumper stickers for years after 9/ll, the disgust with the Iraq war, and the misadventures of the Bush years filled the auditorium; it was palpable; it was electrifying.

"Declare Peace," John Lennon's words, some forty years ago, right after the U.S. invasion of Vietnam, still resonate. His and Yoko's bed-in as poignant, and relevant now as it was then. You'd think we'd have learned by now, wouldn't you? You'd think, as Lennon was later to say at a press conference, "Time wounds all heals." But, there are some wounds even time can't heal like the gaping one left by the echo of bullets that rang out on a curiously sunny, and spineless December day, twenty six years ago, in front of an apartment building in Manhattan, a horror even the neighborhood rats have yet to process.

Time may not heal, but art will, and if you don't believe that, and if you've yet to see "The U.S. versus John Lennon," a riveting documentary, do yourself a favor and go see it. Especially for those of us who think comparisons between Iraq and Vietnam are exaggerated, or thought so at one time. The rhetoric, the distortion, the recipe for disaster has deja vu written all over it. If you haven't yet, go see it, take your children, or grandchildren, if only to be amazed at how prescient and way ahead of his time Lennon was; if only to confirm that no, it wasn't the dope, he really said and wrote some astonishing things, if only to hear Jerry Rubin, Angela Davis, Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman, Paul Krassner, Gore Vidal, Walter Chronkite, and others; if only to be convinced that we're out of spin cycle, and heading back to soak.

"I'm an artist, not a politician," declared John Lennon, and vision is seldom bullet-proof. Those who choose peace, and unity do so at their own peril as is abundantly clear when listening to retired FBI agents, under Nixon, talk about their ongoing surveillance of Lennon, how his phone was being tapped, all sadly reminiscent of what is going on in America today. "Patriotism is the great refuge of scoundrels," Gore Vidal says, and Richard Nixon didn't have a patent on being a scoundrel.

The exploits of the FBI, in the 1970's, pale by comparison with the current high tech. gadgetry and data mining campaigns of our modern day CIA and NSA. Indeed, it is even more true now than ever before: when you see a flag, duck!

As Yoko simply, and eloquently, tells us, in the end, "They tried to kill John, but they didn't. He's still with us today." He's still with us as we want to howl: "Declare Peace" to another administration bent on destruction. Now, all we need to do is hear those words again, and again, in the hopes that sometime soon, they will sink in.


Friday, February 02, 2007

Happy Birthday!

James Joyce

born Feb. 2, 1882

who will be remembered wherever red wine runs through the veins of language.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Shoot First, Ask Later

The CIA is certainly getting its fifteen minutes of fame lately what with the Scooter Libby trial, and trying to figure out who first leaked the identity of Valerie Plame, a "covert" CIA operative. And now, just yesterday, comes word that a German court has issued arrest warrants to more than a dozen CIA agents who are believed to be involved in the kidnapping, and beating of a German citizen of Lebanese descent, Khaled el-Masri. While the Libby trial and leak-gate are crucially important not just for the future of a journalist's right to ensure confidentiality to sources, or for citizens to believe that they haven't been victims of a marketing campaign on the part of their government, the trial must not be allowed to deflect attention away from the astonishing fact that Germany wants to arrest these agents.

While he is a Muslim, and Lebanese by descent, Mr. Masri is a German citizen, and his claims that he was "drugged, beaten, then flown by the CIA to a detention center in Afghanistan where he was held for five months before the U.S. government flew him to Albania and left him there" (International Herald Tribune) have ostensibly attracted enough attention to enable Munich prosecutors to attempt to secure these warrants. Though the extradition of these agents, from the U.S., is far from certain, the fact that the German government has taken the covert, extraordinary rendition of Khaled el-Masri to the lengths it has attests to the extent to which the European community, in general, and German Chancellor Angela Merkel, in particular, deplore the Bush Doctrine of military preemption, its ongoing violation of Geneva, and international law. Arguably, these arrests are also in response to the report presented to the European Parliament, in January, that show that many member nations of the European Union cooperated with the CIA, and enabled them to use their air space to transport terror suspects to secret detention cells in countries where torture is permissible.

To borrow a term the CIA often employs, the attempt to hold these agents accountable to German law may be seen as blowbock, or retaliation for covert and illicit CIA overseas operations that have been hidden from the American public, a government that has compromised its citizens' privacy more than any country to date appears to be more accomplished at hiding its tracks than any other in recent memory.

What a cruel irony that we claim to be exporting democracy and human rights when the European Union, and the U.N., are speaking out against our egregious transgressions, as well as monitoring the practices of our intelligence operatives while we, in the U.S., don't seem to be paying a whole lot of attention to it. This is even more troubling in light of revelations, shortly after 9/11, that under a "secret finding" of Bush's anti-terror legislation, the CIA now has the power to hunt down, and kill any American citizen deemed to be an "enemy combatant," or member of Al Qaeda, anywhere in the world. (CBS News)

Back in December, 2002, an anonymous U.S. government official suggested that, while capturing Al Qaeda would be "preferable" to killing them, murder would be okay, too. Importantly, American citizens are not exempt from being hunted, and murdered. There has already been one reported American victim of this newfound power invested in the CIA. In Yemen, in 2002, a car filled with what were believed to be Al Qaeda members was riddled with bullets, taking the life of a Yemeni who was an American citizen, Kamal Derwish, who was in the car. It was never determined if Derwish was, in fact, an Al Qaeda member. A legal analyst, at the time, said, in effect, that empowering the CIA with the capacity to take the lives of anyone it deems to be an enemy of the U.S. is legal "because the President and his lawyers say so--it's not much more complicated than that." (CBS) Yet, more than four years after this startling report aired which revealed that it is now feasible for a wartime president to order the murder of alleged enemies, without regard to due process, whether or not they happen to be U.S. citizens, on or off American soil, we haven't heard a peep about this from Congress.

What is the administration's argument for ordering the killing of an American citizen anywhere in the world? It says that when someone becomes an "enemy combatant," a term of its own devising, and takes up weapons on the side of our adversaries, "his constitutional rights are nullified and he can be killed outright." This is nothing new. Previous presidents have given the green light to kill Americans who take up arms on the side of the enemy in Latin America, but this is the first time questions have arisen as to whether or not it might be legal to take the life of an American citizen on our own soil. Lots of gray area exists in this war of abstractions where abstractions have become the weapon of mass distraction.

When questioned about their new authority following 9/11, not surprisingly, the CIA declined to comment.

Let's stop a moment, catch our breath, and think. What kind of government is it when intelligence is in bed with the military, and the military is in the president's pocket? It is incumbent upon Congress and the Supreme Court to ask this question, and to mitigate against this kind of abuse of power, and authoritarianism that may not be unprecedented in world history, but which has yet to surface in these United States.

Something is seriously awry when a prominent Western European nation actively attempts to arrest members of the CIA on charges of kidnapping, and torturing a citizen of their country during one of our now infamous clandestine operations. Something is terribly wrong when, by a simple turn of phrase, a person can be stripped of their constitutional rights, hunted down like a wild animal, and shot, or locked up in secret terror cells throughout the world , and methodically damaged in custody, routinely robbed of due process, or an adequate defense.

Now that the European Parliament has completed an investigation into practices of our CIA, and vowed never to allow extraordinary rendition to recur on their continent, it's time that the Democrats in Congress, as well as the justices on the Supreme Court stand up to this president, and an administration which has not only attempted to bully the globe, but has scrupulously managed to pull the wool over our eyes for the past six years.

terminal irrelevancies and the humiliation of S.F. Mayor Gavin Newsom

In this age of public humiliation, airing one's dirty laundry is an excellent way to detract attention away from minor, unimportant issues like arrest warrants being issued for 13 CIA agents in Germany yesterday, or the vice president's direct role in "outing" Valerie Plame, or global warming, or...

Now the Europeans have even more reason to laugh at the absurd American ethos that steals from the poor to give to the rich, rewards those who work the least, and focuses on where one parks one's private parts rather than one's scruples.

It is we, the "Enquirer" buying public, who owe the San Francisco mayor a huge apology, as well as former president Bill Clinton, for socially transmitted terminal irrelevancies.

Forces of Nature

Last night, at her home in Austin, columnist and best-selling author, Molly Ivins, succumbed to her eight year battle with cancer at 62. If anyone could disarm death with humor and fire, I thought, Molly could. If anyone was unstoppable, it was Molly, she wouldn't brake not even for terminal illness. I'd like to say I knew Molly, but I didn't. Yet, she wrote with the style, and intimacy that made everyone who read her feel as if she were a close friend.

Right after learning of her death, I started to write something for my blog and, mid-way through, decided to stop and think instead about what Molly's friend, Austin political cartoonist, Ben Sargent, said: "She was just like a force of nature." I went to sleep with that image firmly planted in my mind, the image of a force greater even than destiny, or will, an energy field that celebrates itself through the electric dance of defiance. I was content to think, and say, only that.

Until I awoke this morning, and scanned the Web, only to find a post on a blog titled "We Are All Molly" for which I can only say no, no, we are not all Molly! We do not all have the gravitas, the spine, inimitable wit, and panache that registers 7.5 on the Richter scale of satire. We can't all write "You Got To Dance With Them That Brung You." Most of us wouldn't dare to say half the things Molly did, when she said them, knowing just how close she was to the nexus of power, and what the consequences could be.

We can't all say that we're among the first of our gender to rise to the top in the newspaper business, to venture into largely male-dominated political commentary field, and to be the first woman to cover police activities for The Minneapolis Tribune. Some of us have to look up the phrase "glass ceiling" on Google; Molly Ivins didn't. She knew what glass ceilling meant, first-hand. Most importantly, she didn't play the "sex card," and I'm not going to, either. Though she could more than hold her own with any of them, Molly didn't want to be in the playpen with the big boys; she wanted it to be her game, by her rules, and she won.

Indeed, we are not all Molly. We didn't all graduate from the Columbia University journalism school back in the days when there were maybe a handful of women in her class. We weren't all hired to be political writers by one of the three top newspapers, The New York Times, for several years during the 1970's. We couldn't all write a book called "BUSHWHACKED," and expect to have the president pay homage to us in the press when we pass. Even a president who shows no greater love for the press than he does for truth, openness, and justice paid tribute to one whose motto was "raise more hell." Not even a fraction of those who call ourselves writers possess even an ounce of her uncanny sense of timing, determination, and passion.

Molly was one of two or three women columnists that people know, and read, in this country. which, in and of itself, makes her a force of nature. And, few of us possess the grace, heart and courage, in the last weeks of an eight year struggle with cancer, to think about inspiring those we leave behind to take to the streets with pots and pans to speak out against the two-bit euphemism this president calls a "surge." "We are the people who run this country. We are the deciders. And every single day, every single one of us needs to step outside and take some action to help stop this war. We need people in the streets, banging pots and pans and demanding, 'Stop it, now!'" Molly wrote in her column last month.

More people succumb to fear than cancer and, though cancer may have taken Molly, she never gave in to fear. She spoke from her heart, with the kind of passion, and fire that move those for whom the words truth and justice still resonate to express only awe. While she didn't make an issue of it, Molly worked hard to earn our respect, and she deserves nothing less. Better than anyone else I can think of, she showed how taking oneself seriously is the refuge of fools, yet she was, in the best sense of the word, one of the most serious, and significant political commentators of her times.

There is only one Molly; she paid a high price to be who she was, and even the devil would surrender his seat to her. So, while we may not all bel Molly Ivins, we can all aspire to her moxie, and dogged determination to do what is right and, in doing so, best honor her memory.