Monday, April 30, 2007

Giving a whole new meaning to the phrase "Washington Insider"

Attorneys for Deborah Jeane Palfrey, the so-called "D.C. Madam," accused of running a high stakes prostitution ring for more than a dozen years, in the nation's capital, insist that her escorts "performed fantasies, not sex." (Bloomberg News) But, how does one "perform" fantasies? What is an "adult fantasy service," and can this be likened to what Jimmy Carter once called lusting in one's heart? Is lusting on the World Wide Web like lusting in one's heart, or performing fantasy? Does sex involve the laying on of hands, and isn't that when we're out of the fantasy domain? Just who does Ms. Palfrey think she's kidding when she says that her escorts performed "fantasy?"

The D.C. Madam, who will have her day in court in Washington today, now threatens to unleash her little black book to prove that her ladies didn't break any laws as if any of her clientele will appear in court. Can you just see Karl Rove standing in federal court, one hand on the Bible, proclaiming, "but your honor, I did not have sex with that woman;" talk about poetic justice!

Not that I'm suggesting, even for a minute, that Republicans, and conservative ones, at that, are the only ones whose names will surface, but Democrats never claimed to be the party of "family values" whose "Contract for America," and byzantine agenda, consistently confuses the right to life with the right to live. ABC News has already obtained Palfrey's high octane client list and Newt Gingrich's name may indeed be on it, but one thing you can count on, the fallout if, and when, the names start pouring out will amount to nothing short of a political Chernobyl.

There has already been one major resignation, that of Randall Tobias, an aide for Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, who also heads the U.S. Agency for International Development, and was responsible for implementing the President's initiatives overseas including US Aid, an agency that works with nearly 100 countries worldwide requiring that they make efforts to stop prostitution, as well as combat the spread of AIDS by promoting abstinence as the best prophylactic. How interesting that Mr. Tobias is the first upper echelon administration casualty of this scandal. What a heaping pot of hard boiled hypocrisy that Tobias, the former head of Eli Lilly and leader of an agency promulgating abstinence, would use Palfrey's service "to have gals come over to the condo to give me a massage," as he reportedly conceded. (Bloomberg News)

If, as we're told, the medium is the massage those like Rep. Mark Foley,who was considered by many a great crusader against child abuse, and sexual exploitation of children, are forced to resign after embarrassing, and personal disclosures such as the sending of sexually explicit instant messages to teenage pages, one has to wonder not so much at human frailty, but at the holier-than-thou attitude that seems to be pervasive among these born again hypocrites. How can anyone head a team that professes to advocate for safe sex, and promote abstinence (or celibacy) while, at the same time, making use of a prostitution service?

The Washington Madam, like the Hollywood Madam before her, is engaging in the world's oldest profession. What's more, making use of the services of "escorts" is nothing new. You can be sure that Jesse James had his share of fantasy helpers in his heyday back in Cook County, Missouri, but Jesse James never claimed to be a minister; his father did. There is nothing unique or outrageous about the serv ice Ms. Palfrey is providing nor is there anything unique or outrageous about her customers. What is egregious here is the transparent, and absurd arguments made by her counsel which insult the intelligence not merely of federal court, but of the average person, and which one might expect more from a snake oil salesman than one who passed the Washington bar. Equally disturbing is that those who speak out for family values, purity, censorship, and against the exploitation of children more often than not appear to be the first to get caught with their hands in the proverbial cookie jar.

One can only hope that if, and when this notorious prostitution ring owner is forced to hand over her records, the federal judge hearing her case will "perform justice," and not make her the scapegoat, creating the illusion that all will be well after the witch is divested of her assets, as well as made to do time, but hold her high powered customers responsible for a breach of ethics and, no doubt, a waste of taxpayer dollars.

Friday, April 27, 2007

Leadership that misleads is...

in contempt of Congress and all those it was elected to represent.

The American people are sick and tired of placebo politics, and we want a real time solution to the quagmire that is Iraq.

To say that troops will begin to leave Iraq by October 1st is, once again, misleading when Congress simultaneously authorizes the expenditure of another $124 billion in funding to amp up this war.

It's time for elected officials, from assemblymen to senators, to speak truth to power. We've already lost more than 3200 American lives, and those of countless Iraqis.

When, as expected, President Bush vetoes last week's legislation authorizing the removal of American forces from Iraq next spring, Congress must, in turn, introduce a new bill to de-authorize further funding, and start bringing our troops home not in six months, but right now.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Star Power

Yesterday, as Dana Perino, White House spokesperson, said "the House of Representatives voted for failure in Iraq, and the President will veto its bill." (WaPo) The legislation to which she refers mandates the withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq beginning in October unless certain "benchmarks" are met that demonstrate that the presence of American troops, over the past four years, has succeeded in quelling sectarian strife. In addition to providing a first ever timetable for removal, the bill also provides for an additional $95 billion for combat operations. Only from a country that juxtaposes a 30 second spot for Jenny Craig with one for Burger King would that kind of conceptual incongruity be plausible. And, a few hours ago, as expected, the Senate also approved the bill.

While nobody contends that having our soldiers pack up, and come home means an end to our presence in that war-battered country, merely an end to our military presence, and while some might argue that this is more a symbolic gesture than a strategic one, few can dispute the clear and cogent signal this sends to the American people that, yes, however partisan and divided, there are folks in Congress who are listening to us. But, how frustrating to think that those like Kucinich and Feingold who have, for some time now, called for cutting off war funds altogether must stand by and watch a "too little, too late" measure pass. So it is then that this lame duck president has managed to triumph in the very pit of defeat. And, rest assured, this isn't the only "v", as "victory," this president may yet get to claim as his phoenix arising from the ashes of an itinerant war, one built on lies, false premises, and moribund greed.

While he may not have star power like another prominent Republican, the governor of California, this president may yet get to prove that he has veto power. Make no mistake, this is not your grandma's veto, this is not some flaccid, viagra-sucking veto, this is a virile, meat-eating veto. This is the kind of veto that puts hair on one's chest, maybe even on Hillary's because if this President refuses to just say no to war, and give up his manic warrior ways, whoever occupies the Oval Office come 2010 may well find themselves sitting in the same dark, and dirty foxhole he has left behind. Indeed, who better than this President to show the wisdom of that age-old adage "there are no atheists in foxholes." Keep this in mind, next Tuesday, when watching a beaming Bush grin ear to ear during the inevitable photo-op in which he'll show his virile veto, as well as shoot down what may only be seen as minimalist, and modest efforts to rein in his unitary hyperactive divide and conquer global antics. But, let's not confuse star power with staying power.

It isn't bin Laden and Al Qaeda the world needs to worry about as much as this administration's militaristic incontinence. Rest assured, long after names like George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Karl Rove are relegated to the tattered, and moldy books of history we, as a civilization, will still be paying for the misdeeds and misadventures of the past six years.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

a timely quote

on the announcement, by John McCain, of his decision to run for president:

"But in the end the age was handed
the sort of shit that it demanded."

Ernest Hemingway

Sunday, April 22, 2007

If Nothing Else...

recent history shows that memory lapses are contagious.

why "pre-emptive" doesn't mean "proactive"

For an administration that prides itself on foreign policy that is anticipatory, or pre-emptive, it sure is reactive, not proactive, where domestic matters are concerned. And, by the way, there's a difference, a big one, between being reactive and being responsive.

Now that it finds itself in yet another quagmire, this White House may have to part ways with another Rummy-style loyalist. Excuse me, but am I the only one wondering if "loyalists" are mostly something one expects from monarchies, and not elected governments?

George W. Bush may well be second only to Josef Stalin with respect to great purges, but remember, too, that, as far as we know, Stalin was in the driver's side. This steady stream of resignations from Bush appointees is alarming, and reminds one of a phrase more to be expected during foreplay, "let me know when I'm getting close."

What is needed now is not foreplay, but floor play. We need to see more diatribes on the Senate, and House floors like those of Senators Leahy and Specter. We also need to know why it is that no one asked the tough questions of the attorney general before his appointment? Why is nepotism acceptable in the White House, but not in the World Bank? And, most importantly, can a civilization in which nuclear obliteration is a clear and present danger accept anything less than leadership that is proactive, as well as responsive.

The politics of pre-emption have led only to an era of protracted conflict. It's time for Congress, and the American people to demand not merely clarification of terms, but a changing of the guard.

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Boy Who Cried Wolfowitz

It looks like Paul Wolfowitz, leader of the World Bank, and his mentor, George W. Bush, got a stay of execution from the board, or is that "bored," of directors, who put off deciding whether or not to give Wolfie the proverbial ax until next week, a postponement Houdini would die for. Wolfowitz who, some might argue, makes Attila the Hun look like a socialist, fate lies in the balance not for alleged attempts by his aides to abort family planning, and wreak havoc on envrironmental policies, but for garden variety nepotism; giving a hefty raise, and promotion to his "companion" (International Herald Tribune) a.k.a. mistress.

So, it isn't the fact that, as many assert, he was among the principals who masterminded the muscular empire-building blueprint that led to the toppling of Saddam Hussein, Baghdad, and may well ultimately lead to the decimation of Tehran, it comes down to the simple, inescapable, and ludicrous matter of not being able to keep it in his pants, and not knowing what to do with it when he takes it out.

How tired are we of these embarrassingly puerile, and inconsequential attacks on leaders which, more often than not, do little more than deflect attention away for the true high crimes and misdemeanors for which they deserve censure? No one is suggesting, even for a minute, that Wolfie shouldn't step down, but the spotlight needs to be adjusted, and the focus squarely placed on meaningful, substantive activities like, for instance, the efforts by his aides to meddle with the bank's policies on contraception and family planning, as well as protecting the environment. Whether he orchestrated the transfer, and pay increase of his girlfriend or not pales in comparison with some of the other allegations made against the man. What, do we have a pack of Puritans running the World Bank, too? If you're going to demand that he step down, do so for the right reasons.

Aren't we also tired of hearing all the mea culpas from defrocked celebrities? First, it was Mel Gibson, then Michael Richards, then Imus, now Alec Baldwin and his abusive voicemail message; puh-leeze...we have deranged youngsters who buy handguns on the Internet, then pump 100 plus rounds of ammunition into their classmates, we have villages being blown to smithereens in Iraq, we have war ships ready to move into Tehran, we have a president who signs nuclear cooperation treaties with India, then threatens nuclear annihilation in Iran, we have an attorney general who admits to being involved in firing eight U.S.attorneys andsays he never read their performance reviews, who wants to hear about an irate message left by a celebrity on his eleven year old's answering machine, for chrissake?

How ready are we for both Big Al and Wolfie to resign, but whether or not Wolfowitz deserves to have the blitzkrieg knocked out of him by the World Bank, and Big Al steps down, it's time to face the music. Anyone who tells you that the course we're on is going to be significantly altered by either man's resignation is flat out lying to you. We have a president who has already had the opportunity to appoint one too many Supreme Court justices to the bench and, if we let him have his way and his stay, may yet have the chance to appoint, and annoint another. And, as a result of last week's ruling, a woman's right to choose is now officially on life supports. Moreover, thanks to some newfangled terror legislation, habeas corpus has become as vestigial as an appendix, and been disappeared by the same government that brings you "enemy combatants" in lieu of prisoners of war, Abu Ghraib, and NSA electronic surveillance in defiance of FISA law. Surely, that has to mean more than Don Imus' rants, or those of Mel Gibson.

Mr. Gonzales was right; his stepping down really won't solve anything. Donald Rumsfeld's resignation didn't bring us any closer to solving the quagmire that is Iraq nor, for that matter, did it prove to be Viagra for this administration's flaccid approval ratings. Sadly, it is doubtful anything will change by Wolfowitz' departure, either. One thing is certain: until we, as a civilization, start talking about the things that matter, nothing else will.

Good News!

If you want good news nowadays, you've got to make it.

Friday, April 20, 2007

They Got The Wrong Guy

No, it's not Alberto Gonzales, not Karl Rove, but a widely respected, and highly principled community leader, in a small town in western Michigan, the Reverend Edward Pinkney who was recently tried, and convicted of election "irregularities," or voter fraud, and who now finds himself under house arrest, facing up to twenty years in prison when he is sentenced on May 14th.

Pinkney, an African-American preacher, was acquitted in his first trial, but forced to stand trial again, last month, as those who prosecuted him contend that he got off because there were too many blacks on the jury; two. They prevailed, and Rev. Pinkney stood trial a second time, only this time all the jurors were white, and he was convicted.

The alleged voting improprieties pertain to the recall election of Benton Harbor's powerful commissioner, Glen Yarbrough, a name that is synonymous with large scale corporate development, and construction of 500 acres of a marina residential golf course, and complex. Rev. Pinkney, on the other hand, is renowned for his efforts on behalf of the environment, improved education, and access to affordable health care.

The charges for which this preacher, and community leader, who has been active in trying to improve living conditions, employment, housing, and education in his hometown of Benton Harbor, a city of fewer than 15,000 residents, which is more than 90% black and largely impoverished, has been convicted are strictly little league iwhen compared with this administration's attempts at polling place purge, and the systematic disenfranchisement of thousands of minority, indigent, and largely Democratic, voters as disclosed by former Justice Department lawyers. As you know, several of those fired U.S. attorneys were terminated for refusing to participate in voter fraud cases, like that of Rev. Pinkney's, in key Republican strongholds, Michigan being among them.

Further, departmental records indicate that, over the past six years, Bush, Cheney and Co. have aggressively tried to keep people from voting in "key battleground states in ways that favor Republican political candidates." (Baltimore Sun) Indeed, administration efforts to claim "widespread election fraud" despite strong evidence that little, if any, national voter fraud existed, according to its own federal panel (New York Times) speaks to its urgent need to establish an infrastructure, i.e. federal voter identification laws whereby those who are indigent, socio-economically and racially segregated, those who traditionally have voted for liberal Democrats, may be kept from voting.

While an administration spokesperson insists that every effort has been made to protect and preserve voter integrity, as guaranteed by the 1965 Voter Authorization Bill, reauthorized last fall, the president's first attorney-general, John Ashcroft, with his "Ballot Access and Voter Integrity initiative," in 2001, paved the way for the Civil Rights Division to pursue more virile prosecution of alleged voter fraud cases. And, no surprise, the focus of the division's energies were those states where Republicans led by only a narrow margin: Florida, Ohio, and Michigan among them.

So, taken in context then, it should come as no surprise that an all-white jury found a prominent African-American minister, one beloved by his community, guilty of such "irregularities" as "handling" an absentee ballot, for which he may be sentenced to five years in prison, and allegedly paying people $5,00 to vote in a 2005 election.(BANCO) In fact, Rev . Pinkney supporters contend that all he did was ask a local woman to recruit people to hand out leaflets in return for five bucks, which is perfectly legal. Interestingly, that same year, 2005, a young man claimed that Mr. Yarborough himself paid him $10.00 to accuse Pinkney of giving him $5.00 to vote. Somebody wants to see Rev. Pinkney behind bars, and it's not likely to be those disenfranchised, unemployed, undereducated, and uninsured in this small midwest community who he so honorably has served.

Among the most fascinating elements of this case is how an administration who denied voter fraud in 2000, and then again in 2004, has now redacted the original report of a federal panel which was commissioned to do research into election improprieties to argue that voter fraud is rampant. I guess when you lose an election bigtime, as the Republicans did in the midterm election, it's okay to cry foul even when those one contracts, and pays, to investigate fraud insist that there was no fraud.

Clearly, with a growing demographic that is largely Democratic, what better way to quell dissent, and ensure supremacy than to enact legislation requiring voter identification. Make no mistake, this legislation targets poor minorities, many of whom vote for those who offer them a bigger slice of a pie that increasingly belongs only to big business, and big bucks. And, were it up to the Bush administration, we'd not only have guest workers, but guest voters, too. Consider the irony, and egregious injustice of holding a man under house arrest, as well as the absurdity of having him face as many as twenty years in prison on such charges as improperly touching an absentee ballot.

This is an effront to every thinking man and woman, as well as irrefutable evidence that there is not merely a monied class, but a ruling class in America. Is this why our esteemed forefathers boarded the Mayflower to escape religious intolerance, economic exclusion , class rigidity, and divine right of kings to have their elections stolen by people who want to enact voter ID laws in order to fix the vote, preserve their job security, and silence the growing discontent of the impoverished, and minorities?

When the Bush administration, in the past, has flagrantly disqualifed new voting registrants whose I.D. didn't match what was in the computer database, thereby resulting in turning away "tens of thousands" of eligible voters, (BANCO) how can any rational person opt to sentence Rev. Pinkney to spend even one night in prison for anything he was convicted for having done? They got the wrong guy. If anyone should face sentencing for voter fraud, it's Karl Rove and his boss. But, in this land of the free, home of the brave, we're not going to see Rove, Gonzales, Bush, Cheney, or any other empire rogue rat, stand trial for election "irregularities."

Instead, on May 14th, in Benton Harbor, Michigan, a judge will have the awesome duty of considering whether or not to sentence a courageous community leader to four consecutive five year terms, a black man convicted by an all-white jury, for little more than working to ensure inclusion in a process that has become increasingly exclusive, the right to vote, in America, which, if some have their way, will soon be a matter of privilege. One can only hope that the judge will make the only sane decision.

Forcing Rev. Pinkney to serve even five minutes behind bars would not merely be an insult to those who founded this great nation, it would be an unparalleled act of cowardice, and proof that class, not character, race not reason has won the day.

Monday, April 16, 2007

FISA Revisited

Remember all the hooplah, and righteous indignation, on the part of Congress, when the National Security Agency electronic surveillance program story first broke, several months ago, and word got out that Bush & Co. have been illegally monitoring e-mails, and conducting warrantless eavesdropping in defiance of Foreign Instelligence Surveillance Act law of 1978? As you recall, several prominent elected officials, at that time, insisted that the practice stop and itself have oversight, unless, o f course, efforts were made to revise FISA to accommodate the bogeyman war on terror; (bogey, short for bogus)

Well, over the weekend, The Washington Post reported that, as part of his legacy, the president has now decided to make changes to the existing FISA laws, changes that would allow for greater surveillance of non-citizens as well as expanded "interception" of international communications. Under the current law, a person has to be associated with a specific "terrorism" suspect, or group to come before FISA court, and be deemed eligible for for authorization to monitor their overseas calls, and e-mails. But, as part of its policy of planned obscolescence of the Constitution, the administration now to expand its snooping authority to any noncitizen it deems worthy of surveillance, using a broad brush to define that worthiness. Additionally, the new bill allows the current, and future administration, the power to store information that has only a tenuous connection to their investigation, as well as any data they come across "unintentionally," as long as it is considered it to have what they deem "significant foreign intelligence."

Importantly, the proposed legislation does not deal with the pattern of abuse in the NSA scandal, late last year, which revealed that the government has been intercepting domestic communications, and demanding telephone and Internet records, whenever it believed that there contact between someone within our borders and someone overseas posed a threat to our elusive national security..

And, lest anyone could include inconsistency as among this administration's failings,and using the M ilitary Commissions Act as a pernicious paradigm, this proposed bill also seeks to grant immuniity, not from war crimes, but from prosecution, for those telecommunications carriers, and Internet service providers, who cooperate with the government in turning over confidential telephone, and e-mail records, should you or I decide to take them to court for doing so. Whats more,, this immunity would be retroactive for those companies that compromised your privacy by surrendering your personal information to the government dating back as far as the wee hours after 9/11. (WaPo)

When you consider that FISA has remained intact for nearly 30 years, and that, should this president have his way with this legislation as he did with the USA Patriot Act, it, too, will remain in place for decades, it's chilling to think about its longterm effect on freedom of expression. Think about how future generations will grow up with the constant thought that Big Brother may be reading their e-mails, letters, and/or listening in on their phone calls, and not only is Ma Bell going along for the ride, but their taxes may well go to keep this national (in)security infrastructure in place. Who will write the history books, and how credible will those history books be, when the government gets to breathe down the necks of those who, in some way, try to communicate about their authentic experience of events?

It's time, yes, and way overdue, that each and every one of us who got out to vote for change, in the mid-term e lections, contact members of Congress and tell them that this is not what we had in mind by a changing of the guard. It's time we let them know that the 2006 electiion wasn't just about the war in Iraq, it was about the war on our civil liberties, too. And, those intelligence committee meetings that dealt with NSA spying, and government overreaching into our affairs, can be seen as little more than theatre of the absurd if this is how they plan to counter the excessive, and egregious legislation being enacted, and proposed, in the name of preventing another terror attack. We need to let them know that we want our Bill of Rights back; if they can have their secrecy, we can have our privacy.

Oh yes, and those Democrats, in the Senate , who said that if the president thought that FISA needed to be reformed, in light of 9/11, then he should reform it, surely this isn't what they had in mind by that reform. And, if it is, then we need to give them a piece of our mind before the Senate Intelligence Committee convenes tomorrow , and for as long as it takes until everyone we elected to represent us understands that 2008 is just around the corner, and we're not going to accept these ongoingi, and outrageous efforts to put the First Amendment on the endangered species list.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Putting Imus to bed....

One could say that the Imus story has all the earmarks of the best Greek tragedy, but we know what Imus might have to say about Greeks . So, instead, consider this: if all the drug dealers were to be rounded up, and jailed, that would not eliminate junkies, or keep heroin and crack cocaine off the streets.

As long as there is a desire for heroin, there will be someone to supply it. As long as there is racism, and hatred, in our society, we will continue to witness the ignorant slurs for which Imus is being stripped like Job of his mainstream media status, and left to wander off in the satellite desert. Rest assured that, if the Pentagon were to be torn down, and a militaristic climate allowed to fester, world peace would not come about.

Consider, too, negotiations between Imus and the Rutgers women, and all the media hype. If we citizens have enough clout to bring Imus to the table, why can't we exert the same kind of pressure on President Bush to go to Iran for a chat. If the president were to go to Tehran, along with the British prime minister, to dialogue with Ahmadinejad the way Imus went to New Jersey to engage in talks with the Rutgers women's basketball team, the odds of a confrontation with that country would decrease exponentially.

But, you can bet that we'll see Mr. Bush on a space shuttle to Mars long before we'll see him shoulder to shoulder with his friends in the "axis of evil;" this is, no doubt, what he thinks is meant by the phrase "shuttle diplomacy."

Even if he were to sit down at table with Iran, Syria, and his growing opposition in Iraq, those talks would never approach the kind of ratings CNN's Imus coverage got. How ironic given that the prospect of massive, and mutual nuclear annihilation poses a far more egregious, and imminent threat to the planet than Don Imus ever could.

Thursday, April 12, 2007

The Pharmakon

The ancient Greeks had ideas for what they thought would cure disease, famine, and drought. They picked one citizen, often at random, and paraded him through the streets in the misguided belief that through his sacrifice they would cure the ills of society. That unwilling victim came to be known as a "pharmakon" which, in Greek, means both poison and remedy, and is the origin of our modern day pharmacy.

As French historian, and social philosopher, Rene Girard has suggested, it was thought that by making an example of this one individual, it would rain again, there would be abundant food, and plagues would vanish. I'm reminded of the pharmakon when observing the rabid crusade against Imus who, in my opinion, deserves less attention, and has less credibility than your average garden variety slug, but instead finds himself in the spotlight and will, no doubt, profit handily from his bigotry thanks to all the notoriety.

While there is nothing random about the spectacle that is Imus and his disgraceful words, parading him around the public square, and sacrificing him at the altar of big advertising dollars won't alter the fact, not even for a minute, that someone with his outspoken, racist, and neanderthal mindset made it as far as MSNBC in the first place nor will it make us, as a society, any less corrupt or bigoted. The monster currently playing on the front page of a newspaper near you has an audience, and a large one at that. They will simply take their advertising, and consumer dollars to the bigot on the radio, or cable station next door, and we, as a civilization, will not have learned a single thing unless we face up to the fact that the cure is seldom to be found in the poison.

There was nothing arbitrary about Imus' racial slur, or those who have been victimized by it just as there is nothing random about those who buy products from those who sponsor stations that broadcast this smut. Imus deserves the condemnation he got, but his dismissal means only more bucks, and an inevitable move to satellite where he may join the likes of Howard Stern.

The Imus mea culpa will only count if it comes from each and every one who shares, or feeds his mindset. Social justice is a process, not a product, and one that has been derailed not only by racism, but by greed, and lust for fame

Sunday, April 08, 2007

Famous Last Words

"The CIA does not conduct or condone torture," or so they, U.S. intelligence officials, say but try telling that to an Iranian diplomat, Jalaf Sharafi, who was abducted, in Baghdad, in February, and just released last week. Only hours after statements made by the 15 British sailors captured by Tehran alleging that they were blindfolded, and subjected to physical, as well as psychological abuse by their Iranian captors, come allegations by an Iranian official held in Baghdad that he was tortured by his CIA captors.

Mr. Sharafi, on Saturday, told Iranian state television that, while he was captured by the Iraqi military, his abductors were "driving U.S. coalition vehicles," (AP) and that he was interrogated by the CIA about his country's relationship with Iraq. After he told his captors that "Iran merely has official relations with the Iraqi government and officials, they intensified tortures," and tortured him "through different methods days and nights" over a two month period. The diplomat's body still shows signs of torture. What's more, proof that Sharafi's arrest, and subsequent questioning were covert operations, and not above board exists insofar as he was dumped at the back of the Baghdad airport as if he were little more than a mob informant.

This capture, and abuse of an Iranian government official is startling, because he is a diplomat, but is nothing new in these days of extraordinary rendition. What is different is that the CIA has now openly inserted itself into the process by which captives are subjected to ongoing abuse. Sharafi's contention that he was abducted by an Iraqi group that is controlled by the CIA now introduces a different factor into the equation. As a consequence of the Bush administration's so-called war on terror, and laws that have been passed that compromise the integrity of due process, habeas corpus, and redefine torture itself, those in American intelligence who feel compelled to raid, seize, and harass Iranians, or anyone else they deem to be "enemy combatants," may now do so with impunity.

While a U.S. embassy spokesman, in Iraq, repeatedly insists that the U.S. had no part in the abduction, or detention of the Iranian diplomat, bear in mind that legislation passed by Congress, last year, the Military Commissions Act, allows for what it calls "alternative interrogation techniques," some of which may well have been used by those holding Sharafi. And, as the Washington Post reported several months ago, even the president acknowledges the presence of secret cells, as well as the practice of outsourcing torture, which has euphemistically come to be known as "extraordinary rendition."

One of the inherent expediencies of the Military Commissions Act is that our government no longer has to enlist the aid of countries where torture is routine, and can now carry out practices, in defiance of Geneva Conventions, that were once synonymous only with regimes of Augusto Pinochet and Edi Amin. Thanks to the Military Commissions Act, torture is now in the eye of the beholder, subjective, and no longer defined by international law. Indeed, it is as if this administration has fashioned its own private language with newfangled phrases like "enemy combatant." What's more, while the U.S. denies any complicity with the Iraqis in capturing Mr. Sharafi, keep in mind that the U.S. military denied any role in the killing of Saddam Hussein, too.
An event preceding Sharafi's capture, and which received little notice by the American media, may have precipitated the taking of fifteen sailors by Iran earlier this month. On an official visit to Baghdad in mid-January, two high ranking Iranian security officers came dangerously close to sharing the same fate as their colleague when American helicopters raided an Iranian security office, in Kurdistan, and took five junior Iranian officers hostage. (Independent U.K.) The U.S. accuses the five men of working in Iranian intelligence and, to this day, is still holding them. This under-publicized, and bungled raid by our government may well have been the catalyst for the seizing, by Iran, of the fifteen British marines. But, the underlying, and galling question is: who is holding the American press, and media hostage, and why is the January raid, and ongoing detention of five Iranian officials receiving little, if any, attention? Have the press and media, in this country, been coopted by the same propaganda machine that brought us into the Persian Gulf in the first place?

While the U.S. mission flagrantly failed in its efforts to seize, and detain Mohammed Jafari of the Iranian National Security Council, and General Minojahar Frouzanda, chief of intelligence of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, it did succeed in capturing five Iranian officials from whom nothing has been heard since. What is the official party line on that one? American officials claim that the five currently held are believed to be "closely tied to activities targeting Iraq and coalition forces." But, by way of contrast, a senior Iraqi official asserts that the goal of the Americans was to capture Iranian officials whose only plan was to work towards a climate of cooperation, and "bilateral security."

That a raid on an Iranian security office, in Iraq, was carried out by our own forces, and not by Iraqi puppets, is further proof of just how far over the line the foreign policy of this administration has gone; the concept of preemption no longer applies to those states our commander-in-chief and his advisors have deemed the "enemy," but those who have nothing more than the mere potential for being enemies.

At some point, these five Iranian officials currently detained, in Iraq, since January, will also be released . One wonders if, like Mr. Sharafi, they, too, will attest to "alternative interrogation techniques," and acts of torture. And, if so, then the rubric, "The CIA does not conduct or condone torture," can only be seen as famous last words as, sooner or later, evidence to the contrary can no longer be denied.

It is no secret that the CIA has a long, and distinguished career of meddling in the internal affairs of foreign countries but, in the past, few of their victims have survived to tell about what they have done. Thanks to the "terrorists," and our current president's hubris, we now have an infrastructure in place, as well as a sympathetic Congress, to look into the bold transgressions of those who'd like us to think they have right, and might on their side. So, it is now time that American intelligence investigate itself to get to the truth, and bring those responsible for giving the command to torture, as well as those who carry out that heinous command, to justice. There can be no glass ceiling for acountability, and those investigations into criminal misconduct must not be allowed to surrender to calls for executive privilege. There is but one way that history can interpret our apathy, and silence, as complicity in these crimes.

Friday, April 06, 2007

A Matter of Convenience

In an interview with Rush Limbaugh yesterday conveniently timed to coincide with a major holiday weekend, the vice president re-asserted his position that Al Qaeda's al-Zarqawi, and the terror group were operating in Iraq before an American service member set foot on Iraqi soil. (AP) Fascinating, isn't it, how potentially explosive news is always timed for release when the smallest number of people are paying attention.

Yet, Mr. Cheney's tired contention of a link between a deposed, and very dead dictator and the thugs involved with an unprecedented act of terror on American soil is an insult to every man and woman in uniform, as well as those taxpayers who pay his inflated, and superfluous salary. What's more, his argument directly contradicts a Pentagon report, declassified only yesterday, which conclusively confirms that there was no collaboration between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda before the 2003 invasion. You'll recall, too, that the 9/11 Commission report, back in 2004, also concluded that there was no connection between Saddam and bin Laden's group at the time of the U.S. invasion. The fact of the matter is, as the report suggests, that while the despised dictator we hunted down and murdered may have been on a first name basis with some key Al Qaeda figures, there was no Al Qaeda factor to speak of, in Iraq, before we invaded and toppled that regime.

Well, pay attention, pay attention to the fact that not only is your government lying to you, it is lying to itself. Pay attention to the fact that i nvestigations, and interrogations of Saddam and his former aides have compelled this administration's own military to challenge assertions made by second in command to the commander-in-chief. Pay attention to the fact that the attorney-general's top aide took the Fifth Amendment, refusing to testify on grounds that her testimony might "incriminate" her. Who will administer justice when the Department of Justice itself has been corrupted? How can a vice president of the United States make assertions that egregiously counter findings of his own military?

When, despite evidence to the contrary, Dick Cheney continues to stubbornly insist that Al Qaeda was alive, well and operating in Baghdad before the U.S. invasion, four years ago, clearly any rational person can only deduce one thing, that he and Mr. Limbaugh must be sharing the same meds.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

from forty years ago, but it could have been yesterday...

"I do not want--as I believe most Americans do not want--to sell out American interests, to simply withdraw, to raise the white flag of surrender. That would be unacceptable to us as a country and as a people. But I am concerned--as I believe most Americans are concerned--that the course we are following at the present time is deeply wrong. I am concerned--as I believe most Americans are concerned--that we are acting as if no other nations existed, against the judgment and desires of neutrals and our historic allies alike. I am concerned--as I believe most Americans are concerned--that our present course will not bring victory; will not bring peace; will not stop the bloodshed; and will not advance the interests of the United States or the cause of peace in the world. I am concerned that, at the end of it all, there will only be more Americans killed; more of our treasure spilled out; and because of the bitterness and hatred on every side of this war, more hundreds of thousands of [civilians] slaughtered; so they may say, as Tacitus said of Rome: "They made a desert, and called it peace." . . .

You are the people, as President Kennedy said, who have "the least ties to the present and the greatest ties to the future." I urge you to learn the harsh facts that lurk behind the mask of official illusion with which we have concealed our true circumstances, even from ourselves. Our country is in danger: not just from foreign enemies; but above all, from our misguided policies--and what they can do to the nation that Thomas Jefferson once told us was the last, best hope of man. There is a contest on, not for the rule of America, but for the heart of America. . . . I ask you to go forth and work for new policies--work to change our direction--and thus restore our place at the point of moral leadership, in our country, in our hearts, and all around the world."

from speeches given, back in the mid-1960's, by Senator, and presidential candidate, Robert F. Kennedy in reference to another pernicious battle, the Vietnam War; courtesy of Robert F. Kennedy, Jr., and The Huffington Post.

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

For Immediate Release

Benefit for the A.C.L.U. of Southern California Legal Programs

Staged reading of “The Battle for Ulysses,” by Jayne Lyn Stahl, the story of the censorship struggle to publish James Joyce’s “Ulysses.”

Wednesday, April 18th at 8 p.m.

at: The Odyssey Theatre
2055 So. Sepulveda Blvd.
West Los Angeles, CA

Cast members include: Dan Lauria, Marty Maguire, Meeghan Holaway, Joseph Falasca, Lisa Pelikan, John Wesley, and others. Directed by: Pavel Cerny.

Ticket Prices: $35 (general admission) / $50 (VIP seating)

Tickets on sale now!!! daily from 1 p.m. (except Mondays); call The Odyssey box office: (310) 477-2055 x 2.

Co-sponsored by: Stanley K. Sheinbaum, Ed Asner, Danny Goldberg, Linda and Arthur L. Carter, and Media Alliance.

All proceeds, after expenses, go to the A.C.L.U. of Southern California Legal Programs.

Monday, April 02, 2007

"Inexcusable Behavior"

Despite the best efforts of Tony Blair to keep the president from shooting off his mouth, the inevitable diatribes ensued at a news conference this weekend, at Camp David, in which Mr. Bush suggested that the behavior of those who "summarily plucked out of the water" fifteen British sailors and marines was "inexcusable." (WaPo)

Both the U.S. and Great Britain insist that the sailors were kosher insofar as they were in Iraqi, and not Iranian waters., but as we've come to see, every major confrontation has had its catalyst . There are catalysts and there are catalysts, and this, the taking of innocent "hostages," as the president likes to call them, makes for the perfect pretext to do unto Iran what we haven't quite finished doing to Iraq, and maybe just in time for Easter, too.

Some rationales for taking a country to war are manufactured, some are exaggerated; all too often evidence is tampered with, and/or planted; sometimes there is no evidence, at all. Sometimes, too, the lives of spouses of those who have the courage to insist that there is no evidence are placed in jeopardy, as was the case with Ambassador Joseph Wilson.

Far be it for me to suggest that these marines, sailors, and so-called "hostages" are a bunch of extras sent by central casting to provoke the kind of ire needed for a conflagration in Tehran, but had it not been for the release of a notorious classified memo, which divulged conversations between Mr. Blair and Mr. Bush on possible catalysts for confrontation with Baghdad immediately preceding the invasion, and occupation of Iraq, perhaps one wouldn't be so cynical as to ask when we will see the Downing Street Memo for this one.