Saturday, December 29, 2007

Another Oscar worth having...

Oscar Wilde:

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

Friday, December 28, 2007

Moral Downsizing

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Who's Packing in Washington?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

bombing the North Pole

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

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

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

Not quite an endorsement, but...

Christ died for our sins not Hillary Clinton!

Saturday, December 22, 2007

"Potentially Dangerous"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, December 21, 2007

Forced Detox for Fox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Quote of the Day

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

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

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"Open Minds"

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Question of the Day

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 16, 2007

I Remember Christmas...

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Quote of the Day

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

Emma Goldman

Friday, December 14, 2007

A Case of Mistaken Identities

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Priorities 101

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Missing In Action

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Don't Start Without Me

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Fomentors and the folks who love them...

Quote of the day comes courtesy of WaPo:

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

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

Tuesday, December 04, 2007


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

(from a work in progress)

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Just Another Regular on Late Night T.V.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Just Ask

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

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

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

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

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

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

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