Wednesday, January 30, 2008

An Open Letter to John Edwards

Dear John,

The news that you have decided to drop your candidacy for president turned an otherwise sunny day into a dark one for me, but we must all respect your decision. How unfortunate, for our country, that an honest campaign has degenerated into a horse race, and that focus has been placed on that which has allure, novelty, and is, in the end, of little consequence instead of on issues that will reverberate for generations to come, such as future appointments to the Supreme Court.

In your insistence on articulating specifics, and not succumbing to the generality fatigue of campaign rhetoric, you have infused day-to-day politics with a dynamism, intelligence, and integrity that will not soon be forgotten, and shown inspired leadership.

I, for one, hope that, like Senator Kennedy, you will continue to speak up for those causes that mean the most to this country, and make your voice heard. We need to stay focused on economic justice, voter nullification, and socioeconomic disenfranchisement. We cannot afford to drop the ball on corporate greed, and the insidiousness of special interest lobbies. We need empowerment by wisdom, not weapon, and leadership that isn't afraid to admit that they've made a mistake.

Your presence will continue to be felt by all those who admire courage, sincerity, and who think the working man and woman of this great country deserve a fair shake.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

State of the Bully Address...

Stay tuned as the president mounts his bully pulpit tomorrow in time for his last State of the Union Address, and keep in mind that, behind the scenes, he is strong arming Congress to include immunity, from future litigation, for telecoms that handed over their customers' personal phone records to the NSA.

In his eleventh hour, 43 is working hard to ensure that any legislation passed on his watch is not merely waterproof, but tamper-proof, as well, and he will open the flood gates of hell rather than allow for any margin of error. Implicit in these incipient histrionic trailers of legacy is malpractice insurance for the executive branch.

George W. Bush who has brazenly, and unabashedly, threatened any global health facility that endorses the use of condoms as a means of protection against the spread of HIV/AIDS is now bullying Congress to pass a measure that provides a ubiquitous corporate condom to protect future Fortune 500s.

Make no mistake, the so-called "Protect America Act" was not designed to protect this country, but instead those corporate cronies whose ongoing sodomy of the First Amendment President Bush enthusiastically endorses.

Any White House that threatens to use the veto this much clearly mistakes it for Viagra.

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Happy Birthday...

Paul Newman, state of the art actor, philanthropist, and gentleman fighter for those causes that most advance humankind.

Forty years ago, when embracing presidential candidate George McGovern, Mr. Newman came in as #19 on Richard Nixon's enemies list which he reportedly considers among his greatest accomplishments.

Those who value freedom of expression, and human rights, know that the planet is much saner thanks to his efforts.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Newman, and many, many more.

Friday, January 25, 2008

Gitmo in Iraq?

At a time when there is widespread agreement, even among the president's men, to shut down the pernicious detention camp at the southeast end of Cuba at Guantanamo Bay, an accord is in the works by Bush & Co. to do in Iraq what the Platt Amendment did in Cuba a century ago at the close of the Spanish-American War.

It is, you'll recall, largely thanks to the Platt Amendment that the U.S. was given entitlement to send troops to Cuba, meddle in that country's internal affairs, and establish a permanent U.S. protectorate, and naval base, at Gitmo.

Reportedly, the U.S. is exploring the prospect of an agreement with the Iraqi government for "establishment of a legal basis for U.S. military operations in Iraq," (Bloomberg News) and the very real possibility that, a hundred years from now, we may witness yet another Gitmo, only this time within shooting range of Baghdad. And, it is also reported that this plan will have built in protection for any service members who face misconduct charges for their treatment of prisoners down the road. So, as a bonus legacy, the president is setting in motion an Abu Ghraib clone, and one that also bears the Good Housekeeping stamp of approval.

These preliminary discussions of a longterm relationship between the U.S. and Iraq focus on making the connection between the countries president-proof, and permanent, not unlike our presence in Cuba. Just last week, in a campaign ad, Hillary Clinton alluded to the president's objective of ensuring indefinite occupation of that country.

If Mrs. Clinton secures the nomination, and wins the election, in November, she must be reminded of her vehement campaign objections to this plan. She must not be allowed the same wiggle room she got with respect to her position on health care. Moreover, all presidential candidates must be reminded that any such agreement must be submitted to Congress for its approval as, while Congress voted to authorize funding for the war, it never approved a resolution to go to war in the first place. It is egregious, and unacceptable, for our tax dollars to be held hostage by this president and his perennial war games.

While Secretary of Defense Robert Gates is skeptical that an accord between Washington and Baghdad will lead to permanent military bases, the odds are good that any agreement that allows for the right to hold prisoners in Iraq will result in the presence of at least one base, such as the one established in southern Cuba, in 1898, that granted the U.S. permission for an indefinite foothold in the region.

But, even more ominously, this proposed agreement, as Bloomberg reports, provides for the guarantee of protection from future prosecution, on war crimes charges, for U.S. troops, as well as executives, thus promising to legitimize not only the dubious relationship between the two countries, but the quick spread, and contagion, of immunity. In this important respect, this prospective accord may be seen as a sibling of the Military Commissions Act.

If, as insiders in the administration contend, their underlying purpose is to "protect Iraq from external and internal threats to its security" by establishing yet another U.S. protectorate, the Iraqis must ask themselves who it is, principally, they require protection from, who poses the gravest threat to their security and, indeed, as another presidential campaign asked -- are they better off today than they were seven years ago before the U.S. invaded and occupied their country?

If the voice of the people of Iraq in response to this question may be heard, uncensored and unadulterated by their puppet leaders and the mainstream American media, then they may never have to worry about a naval base, like Gitmo, in Baghdad, and neither will we.

Sunday, January 20, 2008

An Open Letter...

to Senator Barack Obama's campaign office in California...

Many thanks for the reminder to register to vote. I'd completely forgotten with my recent move from Southern to Northern California in July.

Please let the Senator know that I'm heartened by his recent speeches, and willingness to share his vision for national unity, as well as speak on the issues that are meaningful to us all. This is a wounded country, and we need leaders with vision not just strategy.

It would be wonderful if Senator Obama could hook up with John Edwards--that would be an unbeatable combination. One can think of no time in our history when politicians need to leave their egos in the backseat, and let their concern for the course of our country be their driving force. It is in this spirit that those who wish to defeat the purveyors of war and injustice must work together, and on the same ticket, to ensure victory.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Just Say "No" to Immunity

What better time than today to honor the life of Martin Luther King, and by remembering something he once said: "Never forget that everything Hitler did in Germany was legal." Yes, and think about this: everything President George W. Bush is doing today will someday be legal if members of Congress don't act, and act quickly, to ensure that doesn't happen.

Dr. King's words especially resonate in light of the fact that the Senate will take up the contentious issue of how to reform the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act when they reconvene this week.

When an insidious measure which allows for warrantless eavesdropping on citizens' phonecalls and emails, legislation ironically called the Protect America Act was scheduled to sunset, this fall, the Senate Intelligence Committee passed a measure which would require court review whenever an American citizen is targeted for surveillance anywhere in the world. The amended measure passed the Senate Intelligence Committee by a wide margin.

Importantly, though, the issue of immunity from prosecution for telecommunication behemoths, like AT & T, who broke privacy laws by turning over consumer information to the government was not addressed by the Senate Judiciary Committtee. And, before any new FISA measure passes the Senate, we call upon Senate Majority Leader Reid to stand up to President Bush, and refuse to allow immunity to be written into any amendment to the Protect America Act.

More and more, lately, we hear of government officials insisting upon immunity before they appear before congressional committees investigating wrongdoing. Just last week, Jose Rodriguez, Jr., was scheduled to testify before the House Intelligence Committee, and agreed to do so only on condition that he be granted immunity.

Mr. Rodriguez, former head of the CIA "clandestine service" unit, is alleged to have given the command to destroy hundreds of hours of videotape which might prove that this government, and his bosses, engage in interrogation practices that amount to torture.

You'll recall, too, that the president and vice president have invoked immunity from war crimes charges by passing the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and now the Justice Department wants retroactive immunity from prosecution granted to telecommunication companies who agreed to break privacy laws, and eavesdrop on millions of consumers personal phone conversations, and emails.

To allow any communication carrier to systematically monitor the conversations of ordinary citizens without a warrant with immunity, and impunity is an insult to the Bill of Rights and national security. Clearly, the framers didn't have selective prosecution in mind when they drafted the Declaration of Independence. Any administration for whom fact is a four letter word must be held accountable, and cannot be allowed to rewrite the law such that their crimes may no longer be prosecuted.

Only a bunch of hardcore mobsters would demand immunity before they testify. Is this what public service has become, just another euphemism for organized crime?

When senators return to work on Tuesday, they need to be reminded of something else Dr. King also said, "He who passively accepts evil is as much involved in it as he who perpetrates it." And, by extension, he who thinks he can redefine evil such that it can pass itself off as good may delude his peers, but he will never fool history.

Quote of the Day

"Women who seek to be equal to men lack ambition."

Timothy Leary

You heard it here ...

It's not often I go on record with predictions, but I predict that the Republican presidential ticket, in 2008, will be:

John McCain -- (President)

Rudy Giuliani -- (Vice President)

(if not, Giuliani in second place, then Joe Lieberman, and, of course, I've been predicting McCain would be the nominee for months!)

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Question of the Day

from Ed Naha:

"I wonder who O.J. will endorse?"

Saturday, January 12, 2008

John Edwards: Too soon for Political Obituary

So, maybe the media has timed out on John Edwards. Maybe the pay for view press has decided to shrink the contest for the Democratic presidential nomination to two candidates, but this would be premature evacuation.

Every contender with the stomach for it has the right to remain in the race for as long as he or she wants without the benefit of primetime postmortems. Isn't it bad enough that we try, and convict, those who are only suspected of committing a crime on our TV newscasts? Is this any way to run a democracy? Yes, into the ground.

If we, in this country, weren't so insistent upon novelty, and looked instead to competency, John Edwards would be, by far, the clear leader as the nominee of the Democratic Party. Yet, in keeping with their time-honored tradition, the Democrats will instead show their uncanny ability to foul it up all just when a victory is most needed, and instead of delivering an end to a war which has lasted longer than Vietnam, we will, yet again, deliver a nominee who is guaranteed to pull an LBJ and keep fanning the flames of battle in the name of bringing the boys home. The lies are the same; the only thing that changed is the calendar.

While it's true that any Democrat nominated must secure as many crossover Republican votes as possible, if we think of government as a large ship, what happens when all the weight is in the center? As long as any candidate places his, or her tonnage solely in the middle, the ship of state must sink. That was John Kerry's problem; not willing to go out on a limb, sticking with the tried and true---is this what it means to be experienced? But, even more daunting for him, Kerry wasn't a fighter. If Kerry were a fighter, he'd have fought for every last vote to be counted in Ohio, and we would not have had a second term of George W. Bush who didn't even deserve a first term.

Still, it would be ingenuous to think, even for a minute, that only the experienced stick with the tried and true. No one who is unprepared, or unwilling, to take a risk belongs in the Oval Office, in the first place. George Washington took risks, John Adams, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, John F. Kennedy---even Richard Nixon took risks; not all risks are created equal, after all.

Make no mistake, whether one likes Hillary Clinton is beside the point just as whether one likes Barack Obama is also beside the point, the only candidate who has stated emphatically that he will withdraw all troops from Iraq is John Edwards. The only candidate not beating the war drums with respect to Iran or Pakistan is John Edwards. Moreover, the only Democratic contender not luxuriating in generalities and abstractions is John Edwards.

And, ultimately, the candidate, besides Dennis Kucinich, who poses the greatest risk to the corporate lobbies, and big business in Washington, is John Edwards. Edwards is a fighter which is what we need if the Democrats are to regain the White House in 2008. Edwards is a fighter which is what we need if we are to wrestle with economic inequality, and restore equity and a middle class. He will fight for the working man and woman at the expense of the corporate elite. With Edwards, we will see more of our children in college than on the front lines of battle.

Yes, and go figure, John Edwards just happens to be the guy the corporate-owned media is squeezing out of the race as they try to figure out how to siphon off his votes while racheting up John McCain. Well, guess what, winning one or two primaries doesn't make a presidential candidate any more than losing one or two breaks one.

For remembering this, one needs to thank former President Clinton who, throughout his wife's campaign, has often reminded us how he lost the first five primaries, and still won the presidency to go on to become one of the most accomplished presidents in recent history until Gingrich and Co. got their teeth into him. No doubt, Romney and Huckabee are sharpening their fangs, and salivating at the thought of a Clinton redux. What makes anyone naive enough to think Hillary has a chance when she comes up against the same evangelical lobby that brought down Bill Clinton, and George H.W. Bush before him?

Well, then, as the mainstream media would have us believe---that leaves Barack Obama. Senator Obama needs to learn a lot more from John Edwards about articulating a clear, and straightforward position on domestic and foreign policy before anyone can take him seriously enough to vote for him behind closed doors.

We've already had seven years of abstractions like "war on terror," and "axis of evil." If Obama doesn't step forward in real time, and with plain talk, tell us his position, in vivid detail, on all the contentious issues like gun control, and health insurance, you can bet your bottom dollar his Republican counterpart will. Further, were Obama to get the nomination, by the time the Republican spin masters got through with him, he'd make Noam Chomsky look like Mike Huckabee.

As for Hillary Clinton, I think this country has had enough of political dynasties, with the possible exception of the Kennedys, and apart from an important thumbs up from Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. ,the Kennedy clan has been conspicuously silent.

Ultimately, Edwards and Obama have one thing in common: they both need to broaden their base. Edwards has to appeal to those who drive a Lexus, as well as the middle class; Obama has to appeal to everyone over 40.

But, more importantly, it's time for the pundits, and the press, to hold off on the eulogies, divvying up any candidate's estate, or declaring anyone down for the count until many more voices are heard, and votes counted.

"but ideas live on..."

from President John Fitzgerald Kennedy:

"A man may die, nations may rise and fall, but ideas live on."

and, this, too...

"If a free society cannot help the many who are poor, it cannot save the few who are rich."

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Coming Soon: A 12 Step Program for Bloggers

My name is Jayne Lyn Stahl
and I'm a blogaholic.

The omnipotent "they" often say that the first step in recovery is acknowledging that there is a problem. When, seven plus years ago, I quit smoking, it occurred to me I could transfer my hand to mouth addiction to the keyboard, so I went out, and bought my first SONY laptop. As for any other rapacious residual cravings, there wasn't a gentleman in my life, at the time, who was ready, willing, and able to sacrifice at the altar of my constant urgings.

As for the laptop, it was love at first sight. The Vaio was a perfect fit in the corner of the desk, inconspicuous as a corn flake on a beige rug, and awe-inspiring as the sun shining through a chorus of clouds. This innocuous piece of scrap metal contained a parallel universe for me, and one which would transport me away from the rapid pulse high of nicotine and to a portable planet.

From the first, when I most missed that early morning cigarette, which I enjoyed for more than thirty years (smoking as much as three packs of cigarettes a day, at one point), I sat glued to the magical, often dusty, screen, hoping that even the muse would learn to conform to Microsoft Word formatting.

A few years later, when a friend mentioned blogging, I thought about it a bit, and then said "What, write for free? Would James Joyce do that? William Butler Yeats? How about Arthur Rimbaud, or Hemingway? Would Ernest Hemingway write for free?" Walt Whitman would; in fact, Whitman would probably have, on average, three to five posts a day on every opinion site on the Internet. He'd be, arguably, more of a netslave than me. Oscar Wilde, too, I suspect, though Oscar was, after all, more down to earth --that was his fall; read "De Profundis," if you haven't already.

But, apart from Whitman and, maybe, Allen Ginsberg, what serious writer would work for free, I wondered. Well, as a largely ignored, and hugely underpublished poet, the immediate gratification, knowledge that hundreds read me, ego stroke out of seeing my face on a Web page all comes to be seen as a kind of payment, even if it's not cash. And, more importantly, one likes to think that what one has to say may even turn a head or two besides, of course, one's own.

Who'd have thought that I'd become addicted, several years later, not merely to the keyboard, but to writing not for one blog, but for every conceivable Web site that would have me.

The conundrum: I haven't been able to focus on serious writing and, more to the point, I sit and watch as a mountain of unpaid bills collect on my kitchen table where, each day, I awake with the honorable intention of paying them, and instead rush off to the desk, and dusk, to do what I'm doing now. What is infinitely more vexing is the fact that virtually every blog for whom I write is making tons of money in advertising revenue, all except, of course, my own.

Since childhood, my new year's resolution has been never to make new year resolutions, but this year is an exception. My resolution, this year, is to devise a 12 step program for me, and other fellow blogaholics who want to either return to serious writing, get paid for soapbox writing, or both.

Stay tuned, am in the process of formulating one, so you'll see a 12 step program posted here soon enough. But, in the meantime, think about this: Karl Marx didn't live long enough to see the technological revolution, and the professional blogosphere, which rewards publishers, not writers, with advertising revenue, or he'd agree that exploitation of labor is a collaborative effort.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Campaign 2008: Will Torture Be on the Menu?

If nothing else, the outcome of last night's New Hampshire primary, and Huckabee's loss, shows that the God brokers may have an uphill battle making the world safe for Armageddon. But, given that we've seen the stock market crash twice in the past century, will we see the God market crash, too?

Now that Comeback McCain has emerged as a force to be reckoned with, again, and a "Christian" one at that, will this former prisoner of war ensure that the Eighth Amendment injunction against "cruel and unusual punishment" be observed, and what of his Democratic counterparts? More importantly, will torture, or physical abuse, of those in captivity, whether it be in a secret holding cell in Afghanistan or in state prisons in Georgia, be exposed, prohibited, and legally actionable?

Essentially, the question is, will the presidential candidates, of both parties, be made to account not only for their position on waterboarding, specifically, but on torture, in general, as well as capital punishment, extraordinary rendition, and domestic prisoner abuse?

When, earlier this week, the Supreme Court heard arguments about whether execution by lethal injection is constitutional, Justice Antonin Scalia observed that "There is no painless requirement in the Constitution." Indeed, there is no requirement for execution in the Constitution at all. The Fifth Amendment refers to a "capital, or otherwise infamous crime," but not capital punishment.

Importantly, the Supreme Court case has been brought by inmates who aren't asking to be spared execution, only to be spared pain. Justice Scalia's chief concern is for a "national cessation of executions that could last for years." We wouldn't want that to happen, he adds, even at the risk of acknowledging that there is constitutional acceptance of pain, and the kind that the framers couldn't imagine in their wildest dreams: a three drug cocktail that renders the victim unconscious, paralyzes him, and then kills him. In Kentucky, it is illegal to euthanize an animal in this manner.

You'll recall that, in 1972, most death penalty cases were thrown out, only to be restored four years later. But, the issue of torture, cruel and unusual punishment, is greater than the death penalty, and includes kill orders given by military officers in Iraq, and elsewhere, that cross the line from justifiable wartime self-defense into legally prosecutable homicide.

Witness the case of Marine Staff Sgt, Frank Wuterich who faces arraignment on charges of voluntary manslaughter for the massacre, two years ago, of more than 20 innocent Iraqi civilians in Haditha. Wuterich is charged with taking nine lives "in the heat of sudden passion." (WaPo) Charges against his Marine subordinates have been dropped with the exception of two enlisted men, and another Marine officer.

While it is heartening to see that there is an attempt at justice, on the part of this administration, in the Haditha matter, keep in mind that Sgt. Wuterich took orders from someone, too, ,and the person who gave the thumbs-up to fire on two dozen innocent civilians must be held to account for the Marine staff sergeant's actions in much the same way that charges are brought to bear on Wuterich instead of his subordinates.

Consider, too, that the process of arraignment itself in which a person appears before a court, is apprised of pending charges, the right to counsel, and the right to trial by jury, already places the staff sergeant several paces ahead of any of the folks we currently hold in Guantanamo Bay, and elsewhere.

Not coincidentally, it was then sitting Secretary of Defense, Donald Rumsfeld, who coined the phrase "unlawful enemy combatant," and who, arguably, should be facing arraignment on charges of war crimes or, at the very least, called upon to testify as to who gave the command to preemptively slaughter dozens of innocent Iraqi civilians.

After all, if the House Intelligence Committee can subpoena the former chief of the "clandestine service" of the Central Intelligence Agency, Jose Rodriguez, Jr., to talk about how hours of interrogation videotapes disappeared, why can't a court in California subpoena another retiree, Donald Rumsfeld, to testify about who knew about the massacre at Haditha, and when, as well as who gave the order to try and cover it up?

Of course, we all know that state-sanctioned killing on the battlefield is quite different from state-sanctioned killing in an execution chamber, say, in Texas, the most prolific death penalty state in the nation. Similarly, we all know that the widely published horrific photos of humiliation, taunting, physical, and psychological abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib show only how we treat wartime enemies, right? Not so.

On Tuesday, a class action lawsuit was filed by seven inmates at Valdosta State Prison, in Georgia, that names twenty-four prison guards who allegedly engaged in "routine beatings and torture of restrained inmates" that resulted in the deaths of two prisoners. (AP) Further, according to the pending lawsuit, correction officers attempted to cover up their "cruel and unusual" punishments by beating up those who filed complaints against them. That a court of law, anywhere in the United States, should demand an "immediate end" to beatings in a state prison is an outrage of seismic proportions.

Clearly, the lines may have been blurred between who we detain as "enemy combatants" and those we hold in our nation's jails, when Congress passed the USA Patriot Act, which blurred the lines between law enforcement and "homeland security."

Given that virtually all of the presidential candidates profess to be religious to one degree or another, and conveniently blur the line between church and state for their own political gain, by doing so, they have also agreed to factor God into the already overcrowded marketplace, thus they must also acknowledge having converted the Almighty into a merchant of war, as well.

In the end, perhaps Justice Scalia is right. Maybe it's time to write "painless" into the Constitution. Surely, if the Supreme Court can consider, and hear arguments about what constitutes "cruel and inhuman punishment," so can those running for President of the United States. Indeed, it might also be time to take up the increasingly important issue of what constitutes torture, and the need for a constitutional injunction against inflicting pain, whether physical or psychological, as well as capital punishment.

At the very least, there needs to be discourse about an amendment to the Constitution that will reverse the ravages of the Military Commissions Act of 2006, and ensure that no executive branch can ever again legally claim immunity from war crime charges.

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Timed Release

Remember all the media buzz before the USA Patriot Act went before Congress where it was overwhelmingly passed? That's because there was none. In fact, the mainstream media slept through the Patriot Act just as it is napping through HR 1955. Remember, too, that less than a handful of elected representatives reportedly read the Patriot Act before signing it into legislation?

Remember how many of us, back in 2004, thought the war was the major campaign issue? Well, guess what, the Patriot Act, and subsequent legislation inhibiting the First Amendment, and stifling dissent, will be what our grandchildren's grandchildren will talk about in American History 101 long after we're gone, and they will ask---how did they let this happen to our country? How did we, and are we going to allow it to happen again?

Over the past decade, it seems like the mainstream media has treated the flow of information the way the pharmaceutical companies do most over-the-counter medications, that is with timed release. Our civil liberties will soon join the endangered species list. The federal policies of the past seven years have imperiled our intellectual environment as much as our natural environment, and the time speak up is long overdue.

H.R. 1955, aka the "Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act," has already passed the House, overwhelmingly, and is in clear and present danger of passing the Senate, too. I urge you to watch the video link below, pay special attention to definition of the word "force," forward this on, and stop the proposed criminalization of dissent, and independent thought, before it becomes law.

Here's the link:

- Brasscheck

Sunday, January 06, 2008

"the rightful course..."

"Impeachment (of the president and vice president) is unlikely, of course. But we must still urge Congress to act. Impeachment, quite simply, is the procedure written into the Constitution to deal with presidents who violate the Constitution and the laws of the land. It is also a way to signal to the American people and the world that some of us feel strongly enough about the present drift of our country to support the impeachment of the false prophets who have led us astray. This, I believe, is the rightful course for an American patriot."

Senator George McGovern

Washington Post editorial -- 1/6/08

Wednesday, January 02, 2008

Calling Scotland Yard

Okay, so the whole world seems to be on the same page when it comes to investigating the assassination, last week, of former Pakistani prime minister Benadir Bhutto, but will there be the same demand for an independent inquiry into who gave the command to destroy hundreds of hours of videotapes, back in 2005, which may prove that we do, in fact, torture people?

Attorney General Michael Mukasay today agreed that there needs to be an investigation, but is putting it in the hands of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. Yes, that's right, Mukasay wants the Federal Bureau of Investigation to investigate the Central Intelligence Agency.

It's reassuring that the attorney general has come a long way, baby, and far enough to acknowledge that there is "a basis for initiating a criminal investigation" into what laws were broken in giving the command to destroy tapes. (Reuters) It is equally comforting that the CIA has agreed to cooperate fully with the investigation, but one wonders just how cooperative the attorney general will be with respect to prosecuting those responsible once the chips fall where they may.

Mukasay has fingered the FBI to turn the investigation over to yet another federal prosecutor, John Durham. One can only hope he will have better luck than his predecessor, Patrick Fitzgerald, had in getting past the fall guys Scooter Libby, and Karl Rove, to reveal exactly whose handiwork was behind both the outing of a covert CIA operative, and is also behind the destruction of incriminating videotapes.

On January 16, Congress is scheduled to meet with designated fall guy, retired head of the CIA's "clandestine service," Jose Rodriguez, Jr. Mr. Rodriguez was subpoenaed to testify and, after some lawyering, agreed to do so under the condition that he be immune from prosecution. There is little doubt that when he is through talking, feathers will be flying in the Oval Office.

But, the question is, what will the attorney general do when the FBI points to the CIA, and congressional investigations point to the executive branch? Or, better still, what will Mukasey do if both the FBI and Congress point to the executive branch? If nothing else, the firing of nine U.S. attorneys shows what happens to those who refuse to play ball with this administration.

Haven't we been through enough congressional investigations, over the past few years, to know that, in the end, we'll get more stonewalling, artful dodging, and retreat from responsibility. The odds of getting an impartial investigation into who orchestrated the disappeared interrogation tapes are about as good as getting the Pakistani government to come clean about who killed Mrs. Bhutto.

In light of how closely Mr. Bush and Mr. Blair worked together to frame our current foreign policy, it seems poetic justice to look to Scotland Yard, not the FBI, to find out who is behind this egregious obstruction of justice.

A Message from Mike Farrell

The below article comes courtesy of actor Mike Farrell, President of Death Penalty Focus:

"Fyodor Dostoyevsky once said, 'The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons.' Try it, I dare you.

Working to abolish the death penalty over the past 30 years has created deep frustration. Don't get me wrong: we're winning. State killing is on the ropes today. The frustration I'm talking about now comes from continued exposure to the sickening, demeaning human corruption suffusing our so-called criminal justice system. It's so awful I've begun telling audiences to think of capital punishment as the lid on the garbage can. Once it's gone, Americans will be forced to look into the rotten, stinking, maggot-infested stew that is our prison system today.

Though it should come as no surprise, the United States incarcerates more of its citizens than any nation in the world, a fact that should make us hide our heads in shame. The once hopeful notion of rehabilitation has long since been discarded in favor of punishment and revenge, despite the occasional posturing of a governor like Arnord Schwarzenegger who, in a fit of political legerdemain worthy of George Orwell, resuscitated the word but not the practice in what he now calls California's Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation.

Children tried as adults are housed with adults, suffering every indignity nightmares can conjure up. We're one of the few nations that sentences kids to life in prison without the possibility of parole, with over two thousand of them serving a sentence that eliminates their future. And California has ten percent of these kids, almost three times the number in all other countries combined.

The mentally ill behind bars, per a Human Rights Watch investigation, outnumber those in our mental institutions. Non-violent drug offenders, who any rational society would treat as a public health concern, fill prisons to overflowing, causing gaseous politicians, eager to show how tough they are, to bleat for more money for more prisons.

Ill and infirm inmates languish in misery and die in despair. California's prison health-care system is such a wretched failure the feds are threatening to take it over. Violent, dehumanizing, crowded, corrupt, with ill-educated guards earning more than our children's teachers, our prison-industrial complex gets more of your tax dollars than our universities, a threat to everyone's future.

Again, per Dostoyevsky, 'A society should be judged not by how it treats its outstanding citizens but by how it treats its criminals.'

We must do better. Eliminating the death penalty is the first step on a long road."


Some words on the upcoming Iowa caucus...

Those entrusted with our votes, and confidence, need to look to the people, and not the Lord, for guidance.

Tuesday, January 01, 2008

New Year's Eve Arrests at Huckabee Headquarters

With only days to go before the Iowa caucuses, one Republican candidate is showing his stripes, Mike Huckabee. Yes, this former Baptist minister, and Arkansas governor, boy next door, Huckleberry Finn, who looks like a cross between Ronald Reagan and Jimmy Stewart, as innocuous as a barfly, waited in his campaign bus across the street while three demonstrators, all in their 50's, were arrested for "criminal trespass" at his Iowa headquarters.
According to a press release from the Catholic Peace Ministry, the protesters bore signs reading "Who Would Jesus Bomb?" called for an end to the war in Iraq, any other planned military adventure, as well as read from the Bible to bolster their argument for peace while they were carted off.

As they were transported to Polk County Jail, where they were charged, and later released, cheers rippled through the crowd of onlookers. Those apprehended by Des Moines finest were members of a group called SODaPOP (Seasons of Discontent: A Presidential Campaign) who, a few months ago, reportedly delivered a letter to Mr. Huckabee in which they requested his pledge to withdraw all troops from Iraq within three months of his presidency, as well as halt any plans for military action against Iran. Addditionally, they called for tax dollars currently being spent on combat to instead bolster the "infrastructure of the United States."

The three SODaPOP members gathered in the Huckabee campaign office, in Des Moines, merely to await a response to their letter to the presidential candidate, two months ago, which went unanswered. If it all ounds surreal, or like something out of Saturday Night Live, guaranteed you won't feel that way in November, 2008, if Huckabee wins the election. And, while that's not likely to happen, the fact that his campaign has made it as far as it has is something that would scare the hell out of anyone who considers themselves rational, let alone progressive.
What a sad day it is, in America, when a presidential candidate has a tiny group of middle-aged protestors arrested, and charged, with criminally trespassing on his property.

One wonders, too, if, upon election, Mr. Huckabee would consider the White House his "property," too. While the First Amendment guarantees "freedom of assembly," one hardly thinks that the framers conceived of things like You Tube, campaign headquarters, or the Grey Panthers, either, for that matter.

More than thirty members of the press witnessed the protest which was only the first stop scheduled as SODaPOP has reportedly made the same demands of eight other candidates. Curiously, the candidate who has surged to the head of the polls with his rugged Ronnie Reagan, boy next door, good looks increasingly proves himself to be a formidable shill for neo-Conservative revivalists.

One whose motto is "Faith, Family, and Freedom," as well as boasts that: "My faith is my life--it defines me. My faith doesn't influence my decisions, it drives them" sat patiently waiting, in his campaign bus, across the street, as the three SODaPOP boomers were handcuffed, and driven out of his Iowa headquarters. One can think of no better way to illustrate what a quintessential farce the former minister's call to protect the "sanctity of life" is. Yes, friends, just when we thought we'd seen the last of "compassionate conservatism," along comes Mike Huckabee.

The pundits, political commentators, and all those who like to lump things in a neat little box that answers only to gravity score a huge victory when referring to platforms like "conservative," or "neo-conservative," without deviating from jargon to take a candid look at what those terms mean. With Huckabee, specifically, conservative means a declared intention to overturn Roe v. Wade, a new constitutional amendment stating that marriage can only be between a man and a woman, blurring the lines between church and state, more jihads at the taxpayers expense, and jihads against the First and Fourth Amendments, too, building a fence with "interlocking surveillance cameras," as well as preventing immigrant amnesty.

With Huckabee, too, "illegal" immigrant families will be broken apart by agents of the Immigration and Custom Enforcement Agency, and mothers deported while children stand helplessly by. And, with former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee, dissenters will be rounded up, or tasered, even those who read from scriptures, for daring to demand accountability from a future president.

This is what Mike Huckabee means when he talks about "Faith, Family, and Freedom;" make no mistake, it runs counter to everything this country represents, and has represented for more than two centuries.John Edwards is right to suggest that if we go to the polls in November, 2008, and vote for a Republican, we will be voting for George W. Bush on steroids. According to the last exit poll, in Iowa, taken 5 hours ago, Mike Huckabee is ahead of the pack of other Republicans. While the war in Iraq, as well as the military industrial complex created by the current regime, loom as the signature issue of the 2008 presidential race, national security, in the long run, depends upon an informed, and mindful, electorate.

Conservatives are backing Huckabee who is, without question, the most conservative of the group. And, if we are ever to see regime change, in Washington, then there has to be an information blitz, and a campaign to make voters aware of every position Huckabee, and other gentleman snakes, take on important issues.When the focus of the Democratic Party becomes more on raising cash than on raising consciousness, and picking each other apart like a pack of hungry tomcats on some fallen birds, we can only witness yet another conservative presidential victory.

Those who argue that the contender who is better prepared to tackle a future terror attack is the candidate to back are right, but the threat, this time, will not be about bin Laden, or Al Qaeda, any more than it was back in 2001, but will come instead from those we elect to lead us who sabotage the Bill of Rights, break the law, and pervert our trust for their own monetary gain.

Oscar Wilde once said "Only the superficial don't judge by appearances." If the actions of his Iowa staff, as well as what may, at best, be seen as his passive acquiescence to these unnecessary and absurd arrests are any indication of a Huckabee presidency, then his campaign must end in Iowa.