Monday, March 31, 2008


Man created God cause he needed an alibi.

Saturday, March 29, 2008


While the Supreme Court gets to ponder whether or not to allow the D.C. handgun ban to stand, think about this: you're not legally required to register your rifle, shotgun, or handgun in the state of Indiana, but if you own a bookstore in that state, you're now required to register books that contain "sexually explicit materials," according to a new law.

A measure passed Indiana's legislature, on March 13th, which makes it a misdemeanor for a bookseller to fail to register with the state when he, or she carries titles which are considered offensive, or deleterious to juveniles.

Under this law, a bookseller must not only pay a usurious $250 registration fee, but also provide a detailed description of his inventory which may include not only novels, but school texts dealing with health, and sexuality issues. And, if allowed to remain on the books, one may even expect history , and science, books, too, to eventually come under state scrutiny.

Indiana's new law seems like the logical extension of a wider national trend, since 9/11, which came about as a result of the so-called USA Patriot Act, in which the Federal Bureau of Investigation now has the capacity to present National Security Letters to bookstores, a demand that they hand over personal data, and records of their customers. This, in no way, means that your friendly neighborhood Barnes & Noble is handing over your personal information to the government. It only means that, thanks to the Patriot Act, the state now has the power to request that information.

This insidious proposed practice, of requiring a bookseller to register with the government, can only lead to self-censorship, i.e. to avoid the registration fee and hassle by simply not carrying any "suggestive" works. Given that selling books is not among the most lucrative professions, in America, how many booksellers will want to pay a $250 registration fee just so they can have a specific title on the shelf, and that's the point behind HB 1042.

Notably, this is first law of its kind on the books anywhere in America, thus setting a dangerous precedent for freedom of expression, and one that should be of concern not merely to fans of the First Amendment, civil liberties groups, or constitutional lawyers, but to anyone who wants the government to stay out of our bedrooms, and our classrooms, too. This kind of prohibilition, and legal restriction, can only carry over to the media, to films, DVDs, and recordings.

This news is fully consistent with escalating Federal Communications Commission trend of slapping "public indecency" penalties on major networks like ABC which faces a $1.43 million penalty for having rapidly exposed a woman's bare back as she got into a shower in an episode of NYPD aired five years ago. Where are federal indecency laws when it comes to sanitizing the images, and/or not showing troops, and Iraqi civilians, injured or killed in Iraq? Is it not war, in and of itself, an obscenity?

But, while Congress acted to regulate the maximum amount the FCC can charge a station for violation with their dubious decency standards to $325,000, where is the oversight of those who declare what is indecent? Indeed, where is the oversight of those who are providing oversight?

More importantly, which presidential candidate, if any, will dare to address this administration's overreaching when it comes to blocking out whole sections of military reports, destroying millions of White House e-mails, censoring newspaper accounts of the war in Iraq, both with respect to the number of casualties and with the coverage of caskets coming home and, now, with this precedent-setting state requirement that a bookseller register a "sexually explicit" book with the state or face criminal charges? We are hopeful that, given his expertise in constitutional law, Senator Obama will recognize this explicit threat to free speech. As for Senator McCain, well...

You may recall that, back in 1998, media mogul Rupert Murdoch hosted a fundraiser for John McCain who was then chairman of the committee that oversees the FCC. At that time, Murdoch called McCain "an outspoken leader for the telecommunications industry." We may infer from this comment that now, a decade later, if elected, the Arizona senator will not only support immunity from prosecution for telecoms, but pursue the neo-conservative agenda, as exemplified by the FCC, to impose gargantuan "indecency" fines for little more than exposing a naked back.

HB 1042, which was signed, two weeks ago, by Indiana Governor Mitch Daniels, does not go into effect until July, and groups like the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression are organizing to compel the governor to veto it. As Chris Finan, ABFFE president, says "It is un-American to force booksellers to register with the government based on the kinds of books they carry," and it is yet another symptom of just how demented it is to mandate registering books, and not firearms. When was the last time we heard about anyone dying from reading "Lady Chatterley's Lover?"

This measure must be stopped, dead in its tracks, before it spreads like a computer virus to the rest of the country. .

Thursday, March 27, 2008


It doesn't happen often, but every now and then dreams haunt me like the one I had last night in which a kingfish somehow managed to escape from his tank, and started to dance around my bedroom. All he was wearing were some silver scales, and an expensive Italian bowtie. He was the shiniest fish I've ever seen.

As he tried to regale me with his dance moves I sat, on the edge of my bed, frozen in awe. He just kept winking at me while all his comrade fish, the Cosa Nostra of mackerel, stuck in the tank, glared at him with envy.

Minutes later, someone walks into the room, and tells me he's a doctor. He finds me lost in wonder. "Watch out for those kingfish," he says, "if you get too close, they''ll bite you. If they bite, you won't survive."

Wednesday, March 26, 2008


On a 30 second clip, on CNN, last night, John McCain managed to fit in an endorsement from another first lady, Nancy Reagan, and hint at his economic plan which he promises to disclose early next month.

Any question about how he plans to win over the Independent, Conservative, and Libertarian vote should have been quickly dispelled by merely listening to him insist that it is not the role of the government to "bail out" banks, lending institutions, or homeowners who got in over their heads, a position which must be music to the ears of anyone, like Grover Norquist, who wants to shrink government to the size where it will fit in the average toilet.

McCain delivered these remarks in Orange County, not far from the Reagan Library, of course, a staunch Republican stronghold for generations and, in many respects, one might say he was channeling the former president's economic theories. Oh, and lest we forget, Orange County is another Republican president's stomping grounds---Richard Nixon.

But, without a doubt, the Kodak moment came when the senator from Arizona, asked about what he thinks of Hillary Clinton's proposal to create a $30 billion housing crisis fund to help local governments save homeowners from foreclosure, looked squarely at the camera, and inquired "where" the $30 billion is going to come from. Where, indeed, surely not from the huge corporate tax cuts with which he plans to "turn around" the economy; surely not from the egregious, and inevitable, reductions to social programs which will result from what may come to be known simply as McCainomics--roughly translated, as reported by the Center for American Progress, the transference of "tax burden from investment income onto earned income."

His underlying hypothesis, also strongly reminiscent of Ronald Reagan, that tax relief to big corporations will trickle down to the lower, and middle classes, exposes John McCain for what he really is when it comes to economic theory---Senator Flip Flop. And, what's more, why would trickle down work any more now than it did twenty years ago?

As you recall, it was McCain, right around 9/11, who criticized Bush's tax cuts by acknowledging that they help the most affluent Americans at the expense of the poorest. Well, watch Johnny shift gears. Clearly, the senator now realizes that, in order to get that much-needed conservative vote, he'd better promise to keep the capital squarely where it belongs in the hands of the oil companies, military contractors, and chief executives of America's fortune 500 companies; yes, squarely in the hands of the upper one percentile of the population. For, as he rightly suggests, wealth is a relative concept---especially for those with money. Oh, but hunger isn't, just ask anyone whose ever had to choose between filling their refrigerator or filling their gas tank.

Ironic, isn't it, how a guy whose entire claim to fame is his expertise with respect to national security could ask where the money to bolster the financial infrastructure of this country would come from. How could he not know that the estimated monetary cost of the war in Iraq is now said to be $3 trillion, or approximately $12 billion a month. Or, is he in denial about the cost of the war, too, like the Pentagon?

What is it called when a survival of the fittest ethos is used as a justification for an economic program that dates back to the days when the lords openly ruled the manors? While he's at it, maybe the good senator can also explain why he thinks that the government bail out Bear Stearns, and not the consumer? And, may we expect to always see the senator read from his teleprompter cliff notes whenever the subject of the economy comes up at press conferences?

The larger question, of course, is, should John McCain become our 44th president, and commander-in-chief of the military, how will he be able to sleep nights knowing he signed off on trillions more for defense spending while, at the same time, allowing for indigent veterans, who suffer from nearly as many suicides as war fatalites, substandard medical care, and many others who are homeless altogether.

Save us from so-called compassionate conservatives, and others whose sink or swim mentality have gotten us where we are today to the brink of environmental, socioeconomic, and nuclear disaster.

Sunday, March 23, 2008


Renewal is a
loaded word in
parts of
town where
children sleep under
a man crawls off
his cross and
into the crowd
he swears he sees us in
his dream off in
the distance a dog barks.
only danger
keeps us
some days and
the feeling
we will
yet again
where wonder
and deliverance

by: Jayne Lyn Stahl

Saturday, March 22, 2008

courtesy of Socrates...

"Wisdom begins in wonder."

Friday, March 21, 2008

Our Man in Baghdad -- John McCain

Now that we got rid of our first man in Baghdad, Saddam Hussein, for good, why not make room for another? John McCain made an unannounced appearance in the Iraqi capital last Sunday with no word of when troops will be making their disappearance.

Instead, the likely Republican presidential nominee continues to make noises about the umbilical link between his own political ambitions, and what he sees as military victory in Iraq. Yes, folks, John McCain's default position is, and will continue to be, commander-in-chief.

The Arizona senator insists that the purpose of his visit was to counter media depictions of violence, throughout the country, with what he sees as the "full picture" of the progress he thinks has been made in Iraq since the addition of more than 30,000 troops about a year ago. McCain is so certain of the success, and direction, of the war which has now lasted half a decade, he says he's willing to stake his political life on it, and lives of thousands more over the next century which is how long, theoretically, he's prepared to make it last

Details of his trip were classified "for security reasons," and phone calls to McCain aides went largely unanswered, but what we do know is that there is concern that the so-called militants, who oppose the occupation, will try to sabotage the November election because, as the Arizona senator says, "of the intercepts we have of their communications." (AP) Yes, he knows the "militants" pay attention to what's going on in the U.S., because we're tapping their phones. So, we have a Kodak moment---the guy who may well be our next president now publicly admits that he has information obtained from wiretapping. Yes, and the same guy who's taking humbrage at breach of his privacy when someone in the State Department got hold of his passport application.

Curiously, for an administration so intent on collecting data by any means necessary, police in Baghdad are not authorized to speak to the media. Can it be that the Republican nominee wants to keep the "full picture" of what's going on in Baghdad from coming out? The same police who have been prevented from speaking up disclose, anonymously, that there is ongoing violence, but there appears to be a news blackout of the news blackout on the part of the mainstream media.

Obviously, if McCain prevails in November, the Iraq war, as well as his hyper-militarism, won't be the only thing to survive the Bush administration, a campaign of secrecy will continue, too.If Barack Obama gets the Democratic presidential nomination, we will have a stark contrast between a senator who opposed the invasion, and occupation, of Iraq, in the first place, and one who has been a fierce proponent of the five year old war from the outset.

While this polarity has yet to escape the attention of pundits, and journalists, alike, the trio is not being grilled about the perils of pursuing military expansionism in the face of economic disaster. Arguably, the lowest common denominator among all three candidates, McCain, Obama, and Clinton is foreign policy and, so far, none has connected a weakened economy with threats to our national security.

Instead, we've been treated to a contest as to who would answer the red phone first were it to ring at 3 A.M. with each of the candidates boasting of being the one first in line protect this country from those who threaten us. Not one suggests that the biggest dangers, and what we should be losing sleep over, come from what's happening in our own backyard. Senator Clinton suggests she will take aggressive and decisive action as commander-in-chief; McCain implies that he will be first and foremost at the helm of the military, and Obama says he will use "judgment" as his first line of defense.

But, apart from the obvious question, don't any of these candidates have voicemail, one must ask: how is it that answering the phone in the middle of the night will help Mr. and Mrs. Middle America when the bank comes to foreclose on their home?

Leadership that refuses to acknowledge that financial turbulence compromises our national security is leadership that has failed America.

What's more, despite any illusions to the contrary, when it comes to Iraq, and deploying the military option, Clinton and McCain are largely on the same page, and so much so that there could even be a McClinton ticket.But, what happens, or doesn't happen, in Iraq, over the several months won't make or break our democracy.

Moreover, what happens, or doesn't happen, in Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Cuba, Venezuela, Palestine, and North Korea won't make or break our democracy either. The gravest threat to our national security we currently face comes from misplaced priorities, misdirected anger, economic inequity, and national debt which compromises global security, as well as the continued diversion of funds away from programs, and infrastructure, that will strengthen this country, and into the coffers of those who have most profited from munitions sales in every war dating back to World War I.

While Obama has alluded to this, it is time for the Democrats to start driving this issue home instead of their foolish attempts to compete with McCain on his military home turf. The battle lines that count now, in this country, and that will continue to count for our lifetimes are the ones between rich and poor, and the only candidate who deserves our vote is the one who promises to show leadership on the front lines of economic reparation.

Regrettably, none of the Democratic candidates for president, who remain in the race, has turned McCain's monologue about national security, and fitness to serve as commander-in-chief, into a dialogue about which Party, historically, has best served the needs of the working man and woman of this country. And, as we know, that is the Party of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and John Fitzgerald Kennedy.

While George H.W. Bush had the good sense to know when to walk away from the table, the last major foreign policy president we had was Ronald Reagan, and we're still suffering from the aftershocks of Reaganomics. Yet, when McCain handed his Democratic rivals their strongest opening yet by admitting that the economy isn't his strong suit, neither adversary stepped up to the plate by saying that what this country needs most now is a president who thinks that by sinking $3 trillion dollars of our resources into war, we are destroying our economy, and squandering our strongest asset, the American people.

Senator McCain insists that his trip to Baghdad, earlier this week, was not a photo-op. No doubt, he is right. We've had our Hillary moment, in this campaign year, so why not a John McCain moment, too? Why not superimpose a picture of John McCain onto the photo of Michael Dukakis perched on top of a tank.

After all, it was 20 years ago that Dukakis ran against papa Bush who cooked up the first crisis in the Persian Gulf, and McCain's visit coincides with the twentieth anniversary of a chemical weapons attack in northern Iraq, so juxtaposing the two images is not out of the question. Indeed, any difference between the platform Dukakis tried to ride on, and failed, and the one the senator from Arizona is running on now is only marginal, and we can only hope McCain's efforts meet with the same fate.

Since he feels so strongly about the efficacy of the surge, maybe it's time for the senator from Arizona to suit up, and spend the next hundred years in Baghdad himself. Oh, and he can take George Bush, both of them, with him, too.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

"Why We Must"

(Based on a photograph taken at the selection camp at Auschwitz)

How terribly modern
her dress
that cashmere
coat half-open
boarding school smile
a casual scarf
around her neck
eyes averting
pin striped guard
whose back is toPoland.
It is 1944
her husband may find
himself among the rows of
men who form a line
four deep and are prodded like
cattle in Mengele's Auschwitz.
She is wearing pumps
perhaps her toes itch as
she tries to step calmly
forward defying urgency.
she is valiant in
her stiletto boots
maybe on her way home from
work when they grab her
and to think hours later
she is stripped of
everything, like the others,
and made to crawl to
her end. standing naked,
we are all alike
still there is no convincing
she is anything but vital.
Only a sea gull
can find her now where
she is just another wave in
a terrible sea
maybe she sees me staring at
her photo in a magazine sixty years later
seeing myself saved only by
the cruel hand of destiny.
What foul order in
that procession
which leads to Birkenau as if to
a bearded cemetery where
a shrinking Jew saves himself from
smiling Sturmbannfuhrers by
playing his accordion
their uniforms neatly pressed
they are amused
these monsters who gorge
themselves on irony and
the girl wrenched from
her mother'sgrip to be taken to
the chamber. How dreadful for naked feet to
witness, and recall,
those who must kneel on demand
make meals of
vomit while others point with
their canes as if gesturing at
a pack ofangry lice or
spiders crawling unctuously
down spines of
cloudless days.
What agony this sky
a lover's kiss
outside the gate
but it is not for the sister who
holds her spleen while
her brother bleeds beside her that
we ask why we must
nor for baby faced butchers
it is not so we may see the hangman's face or
the face of those we hang nor for those who deny,
we must not forget, but
those whose middle name is horror
who in the hollow assault of
shade scratch outrage on
the walls of Auschwitz.
It is for the children
who know now what they knew then
why we must never
allow this to
happen again.

By: Jayne Lyn Stahl


Sunday, March 16, 2008

for Sylvia

On Palm Sunday, my thoughts turn to those who, for some inexplicable reason, have decided to resign from life--some young, some older, as well as others for whom destiny is a new deck of cards there for the shuffling. I think about those who find a way to keep their heads above the water, help others to make it through and, most importantly, manage to dance through it all. My father's only sister, my Aunt Sylvia, is such a person.

Born more than ninety years ago, Sylvia survived the flu outbreak of 1918, the stock market crash, the great depression, and more than seventy years of marriage to a wonderful man named Ellie. She survived the loss of two children, and there can be nothing worse, but she has not only taken refuge in laughter, but can play a mean hand of poker.

A few months ago, when her local newspaper, in Florida, ran a column called "I Remember," in which people over 80 shared their recollections of what life was like back when, Sylvia was unable to submit her own memories because her hands are ravaged with arthritis, so it's an honor to post them here:

"I remember going on the subway to meet Ellie when we were going out. It was 1 A.M., and I was alone, and had no fear of being attacked.

I remember before refrigerators, my mother calling out 'The Ice Man is here!'

I remember my father giving me 35 cents to go to New York. I took the train (5 cents each way), and for 25 cents, I bought 3 pairs of panties, and had lunch in Horn and Hardie in Macy's.

I remember pushcarts in New York selling sweet potatoes hot, and chestnuts."

Whoa, things sure have changed. For openers, when someone yells "The Ice Man is here," chances are they're referring to Immigration and Customs guys, and afraid of deportation. The average lunch costs about what a carton of cigarettes did ten years ago, and anybody on the subway at 1 A.M. is probably packing.

But, one thing hasn't changed, there are those who have the gumption to stare adversity right in the eye, and not blink; those who value laughter more than gold, truth more than diplomacy, who don't wave the white flag of defeat every time something seemingly insurmountable is placed in their path. Sylvia is surely one of these and, she promises, there will be more to follow.

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Large, Sunny Crucifix for Rent

There's a large sunny crucifix to rent in Albany, formerly occupied by a Democratic governor who has been forced to make a quick exit, and less than a month after he published a scathing indictment, in The Washington Post, of the Bush administration's collaboration in predatory lending practices.

The wolves of Wall Street won't be among the only ones to celebrate the public humiliation, and the high price he's had to pay in the name of sin which has surpassed any endurance test in this country of the Puritans, by the Puritans, and for the Puritans. No, this is not about high priced hookers, this is squarely about power.

It's not often that I get to agree with Alan Dershowitz, but he called it right Tuesday when he spoke to CNN about the Spitzer matter. The governor of New York is clearly being targeted, as Dershowitz suggests, and the 5,000 wiretaps placed on his telephone line weren't about catching him with a call girl. What's worse, this may only be target practice of a Party unaccustomed to defeat, and one that is predisposed to winning by any cost necessary. Indeed, they may just be warming up for Election 2008.

For answers as to by whom, and why, the Spitzer crucifixion went down, we may also need to look to the fall of another Democratic governor, Don Siegelman, of Alabama, who now sits in a federal prison camp in Louisiana,where he will remain for seven years,after having been convicted of accepting a bribe.

Some former attorney generals have spoken out about the egregiousness of the Siegelman matter, and many, both Democrats and Republicans alike, are calling for an investigation into what Grant Woods, former attorney general of Arizona, contends was an overt effort to bring down the former popular Democratic governor "because they couldn't beat him fair and square." Of course, Spitzer not being as popular, it hasn't taken nearly as long to accomplish his downfall.
And. then, there's always the inexplicable magic of tabloid journalism which, more and more, seems to have devolved into tabloid politics. Oh, and by the way, if this were about politicians and prostitution, we would have seen Heidi Fleiss' little black book by now.

Forget about Fleiss, what about the "Washington Madam" who, less than a year ago, threatened to divulge the phone records of her long list of capitol clients? Why isn't anybody going after those guys? Maybe because they're not trying to expose who's been bumping up the bottom line of banks, and credit card companies, which have been draining consumers, and making out like bandits, and second only to oil companies and war contractors.

Make no mistake, any similarities between Elliot Spitzer's current circumstances and those of Don Siegelman are more than coincidental. A prominent Republican attorney, from Alabama, has already acknowledged to having participated in a five year campaign by the Republican Party to ruin Siegelman. She calls this campaign "opposition research."

This kind of dirt digging is surely not exceptional, but it's not too often that we get to see this much transparency with respect to the federal government's implicit intervention in Republican Party politics and politicking.

The country that invented instant coffee has now invented instant pariahs.

Ah, well, it wouldn't be too far off the mark to suggest that some research is more tantalizing than others. Imagining a governor taking his pants off for a four thousand dollar an hour call girl --well, that may even deflect attention away from the idea that "opposition research" dates back to the Mayflower, not just the Mayflower Hotel. But, what we've yet to figure out is why Republicans are so much better at it than Democrats.

A wise man once said "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Clearly, we won't find the object of his defense showing off her goods on My Space, yet too many are using his name as a shield, and a battle cry. The words honor and dignity are, like the dollar, increasingly losing value thanks to the efforts not just of those who fall from grace, but of those who push them.

Sunday, March 09, 2008

Playing Footsie

While President Bush has been busy staking out his legacy, and distinguishing himself as “the torture president,” a phrase coined by counsel for Human Rights Watch, both Democratic presidential candidates were playing footsie under the table instead of putting extraordinary rendition, and prisoner abuse squarely on the table where it belongs. Recent hints from the Clinton camp suggest more than idle flirtation, but a faux covert effort at coalition.

The question isn’t so much whether a pairing of the two would pose a threat to the Republican ticket, but whether or not it could lead to a McCain mutiny. So far, Senator McCain has all but bent over backwards to show his support of the president, even going so far as to reverse his former positions on waterboarding, and tax cuts.

But, yesterday, with his veto of legislation that would have precluded the Central Intelligence Agency from engaging in “enhanced alternative interrogation” methods, the president flexed his revisionist muscles suggesting that even the bionic man would be hard-pressed to emulate his ardor for payback. Bush’s veto flies in the face not merely of the Geneva Conventions, but of the new Army Field Manual which, in 2006, specifically prohibited waterboarding, but why should our intelligence agents be barred from practices that are denied to our military?

True to his 2000 election “compassionate conservative” stance, Mr. Bush has decided that sensory deprivation, and strapping someone down to simulate drowning, should be retained as “specialized interrogation” options for the CIA. which the president considers among the many “tools” needed “to stop the terrorists.” (AP) But what tools are needed to stop the likes of Bush, Cheney, Mukasay, and McCain?

Had enough yet? Or, are you ready for a second helping? How much more of this insanity can you stand? Can it be that apathy is nondenominational?

Like the president, both Hillary and Barack are busy, both are auditioning for instant remakes of “Jaws,” and “Jaws lite,” vying for first place with the proverbial photo op, showing teeth, and raising blood pressure, doing everything but talk about the core issues like what their position is on nuclear proliferation, what they intend to do about Iran, what specific economic policies they have to bring relief to the vast majority of us who are hurting as a result of the Republican regime’s self-inflicted recession, whether or not withdrawing troops means pulling contractors from Baghdad, too, and what noises they are prepared to make with respect to Afghanistan, North Korea, the Middle East.

Moreover, while the Obama camp has been actively combating rumors of his Muslim roots, which the Clinton camp has been just as busy disowning, neither candidate affirms the First Amendment separation between church and state.

We need to hear, too, now more than ever, how they feel about the insidious, and morally bankrupt, practice of using American aircraft to transport detainees, in our custody, to secret holding cells overseas where there is no oversight with respect to what the president memorably terms “specialized” interrogation techniques.

What’s more, when Colombia invaded Ecuador, last week, why is it that they did so with both Hillary and Barack’s endorsement? How is it that both candidates who claim to abjure the invasion of Iraq gave unceremonious blessings in support of Colombia’s acts of pre-emption in the name of self-defense, as well as Bush’s stigmatizing of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez? Can we expect the Bush doctrine to carry on regardless of which party occupies 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue come January, 2009?

Why is it, too, that we hear no more about genocide, or the nightmare that is Darfur or Kenya than we do about state-sanctioned torture, from either Democratic candidate?
And, why so little attention being paid to the fact that fully one third of global AIDS funding, by this president, comes with an abstinence-only requirement? The president’s “emergency plan,” which expires this year, allows for another $30 billion. Notably, of the $18 billion already spent on this program, $6 billion delivers a virtual death sentence in its efforts to preserve Bush’s absurd, and unrealistic, abstinence-only mandate. Importantly, we hear nothing on this issue from Obama or Clinton, but instead only who supported allocating funds for Iraq, in 2002, and who didn’t.

Oh, yes, and what about Republican presidential nominee-designate, John McCain, whose signature flip-flopping on the issue of waterboarding goes to show that Dolly the sheep isn’t the only celebrity cloning in our lifetime. Indeed, whatever moderate posturing we saw from the Arizona senator, over the past eight years, will be swiftly erased by his egregious kowtowing to the most conservative elements of his party.

With his innuendos of a possible Clinton-Obama match-up, how well-suited Bill Clinton appears to be for the role of the Fool in any of Shakespeare’s tragedies; we now look to Bill for truth, not Hillary. Talk about dramatic irony!

And, when he announced yesterday that a combo ticket would be “almost unstoppable,” one couldn’t help but think that the only things more unstoppable are the insipid campaign promises, and politics of evasion with respect to foreign policy, and the economic quicksand in which we presently find ourselves.

Unless all contenders for president, regardless of party affiliation, step up to the plate, and start talking turkey about torture, they may well be accused of contributing to the delinquency of a nation.

We need to know now where each candidate stands with respect to waterboarding, and other “specialized” tactics, as well as how our detainee ethics impact upon our national security in the largest possible sense.

It’s time to quit playing footsie with the public trust, and get to work

Friday, March 07, 2008

Denial: South of K Street

With his acknowledgment today that "our economy has slowed," it's clear President Bush has found his way out of denial. Now maybe he can find his way out of Washington, too.

A Delegate Balance

The events of the past week got me thinking about a comment to my piece, "Why were they fired," which appeared on The Huffington Post earlier this week. The comment agreed that "all the President's men" should be held accountable for their infractions, and subversions, against the Constitution, and democratic process; but how? when Congress appears to have reached a stalemate.

While the meter is running, and the president's term is quickly approaching the finish line, accountability doesn't come with an expiration date. And, with the certain nomination of Senator John McCain to fill his cowboy boots, it's even more important now to consider that George W. Bush isn't just McCain's paradigm for so-called "national security," but he also provides a template for abuse of power.

While I don't profess to have the answer to the commenter's question, it isn't too late to appoint a special prosecutor to hold the Department of Justice liable for obstruction of justice in their failure to enforce subpoenas against Miers and Bolten, as well as to consider holding Attorney General Michael Mukasey in contempt of Congress and, as importantly, to hold the president and vice-president responsible for making a mockery of their oath of office to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States.

This is not just about attorney-generals, sui generis, it is about the attorney-general, in particular, insofar as Mukasey is deliberately following on the coat-tails of his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, as well as willfully collaborating with the executive branch to impede a congressional investigation. Were the attorney general to be a private citizen, would he not be liable for indictment on charges of obstruction of justice?

More importantly, while the current gang, on Pennsylvania Avenue will be mostly packed, and on their way back to Dodge in January, if the recent elections in Russia and Cuba are any indication of a global trend, if the people and their elected representatives don't speak up now, we may yet have another eight years of Bush redux in the form of President John McCain.

There are those, in this election, who say there is little difference between the positions of Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, but consider that Hillary is the candidate who gets a big thumbs-up from both the president and Rush Limbaugh. Consider, too, that apart from the posturing with respect to being strong on national security, as demonstrated by her red phone ad, Hillary, Bush, and McCain share one common denominator: the desire to prolong the war on terror, and refuse to back down on their wrongheaded assumptions that Saddam Hussein, or the sovereign state of Iraq, had anything to do with the events of 9/11.

Think about the doublespeak inherent in the claim that she will use diplomacy over the military option and, at the same time, call Obama "naive" for suggesting that it might just be possible to get somewhere the old-fashioned way, with round table diplomacy. So, in the coming weeks, when you hear pundits say that there really is no difference between Barack and Hillary, think about the judgment thing, and think about this, too.

There is a difference between the Democrats and Republicans, regardless of who gets the nomination. For, among other things, the next president will not only decide which battlefield to vacate, and which one to occupy, but who to appoint to the Supreme Court. Consider, too, that we're still suffering from the policies of another Republican president, Ronald Reagan, whose strong suit, like McCain's, wasn't economics.

We have yet to see anything "trickle down" from the economic policies espoused by the great Republican ideologues of the past fifty years, and the only part of our economy that has benefited from their notion of a strong defense are the war contractors like Blackwater and Halliburton. In the month of February alone, this country has lost 63,000 jobs, its greatest loss in half a decade.

We must move past the antiquated notion of divine right of delegates, away from an electoral hierarchy in the form of super delegates, and toward economic equity that is reflected not merely in true representation of the will of the people by popular vote, but in hyper focus not on the horse race that is presidential nomination, but on the underlying issues.

It will take a delicate balance to foist the media scrutiny away from the photo op and toward the flawed, rapidly depreciating democratic process. Similarly, dissembling the apparatus of privilege won't happen overnight, but in the meantime, delegates, pledged and super, must recognize and openly acknowledge the link between obscene corporate wealth and the unnecessary, criminal, cost to human life in Iraq, and elsewhere, as well as how corporate profiteering can only result in the unfair balance of power in this country, and globally.

What's more, few need to be reminded that not since Richard Nixon have we seen such wanton, reckless abuse of power, and disregard for checks and balances. We need leadership that is not merely willing to talk, but to listen, too.

While it is not readily apparent if either of the Democratic candidates will be ready, on day one, to meet the challenges of an increasingly ominous world, it is clear that it is no more the domain of super delegates than the Supreme Court to decide who is best equipped.

Yet again, we have a presidential candidate who is at risk of getting slammed by back room brokering, and he is the one who now appears closest to winning the popular vote. He is also, importantly, the candidate who best addresses the need to heal the damage arising from the politics of pre-emption, reaffirm bonds with the the international community, and best contain nuclear proliferation through diplomacy.

Moreover, the "domino theory" of Communism appears to apply more to the past half dozen or so presidential elections. We seem to have descended further and further into the abyss of campaign irrelevancy and untruth, as well as abnegating whatever notion the framers may have had about representational democracy. Frankly, I think Thomas Jefferson would be asking for his money back by now.

If it is the will of the people that that the nomination go to Obama, then it will be up to the delegates to balance that will against the wrath of the world should the power brokers attempt to wrench it away from him.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Who can believe

Who can


the sun

came up

and he


to sleep


Monday, March 03, 2008

A postscript...

A comment to my piece, "Why were they fired," which was also posted on The Huffington Post, agreed with my assertion that "all the President's men" should be held accountable for their infractions, and subversions against the Constitution, and democratic process; but how? the commentor asked when Congress appears to have reached a stalemate.

While I don't profess to have the answer, one possible solution might be to appoint a special prosecutor to hold the Department of Justice liable for obstruction of justice in their failure to enforce subpoenas against Miers and Bolten, as well as to consider holding Attorney General Michael Mukasey in contempt of Congress.

It's clear that not only is Mukasey following in the yes-man footsteps of his predecessor, Alberto Gonzales, but he is willfully, and knowingly, collaborating with the executive branch to impede a congressional investigation. Were the attorney general to be a private citizen, would this not be called obstruction of justice?

Ultimately, the accountability question has an expiration date inasmuch as the current gang will be on their way back to Dodge in January, but if the recent elections in Russia and Cuba are any indication of a global trend, then it looks like we may well be talking about holding President McCain accountable for abuse of power four years from now.

And, more importantly, in light of today's major primaries, if Rush Limbaugh's endorsement means anything, along with that of President Bush, then a Hillary White House may indeed spell business as usual, and the kind of status quo that would make Thomas Jefferson roll over in his grave.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

September 12, 1960...

What is this country coming to when the designated Republican Party presidential nominee, John McCain, has declared us to be "a Christian nation," and the candidacy of another is challenged on the basis of his religious faith.

The following is a speech delivered, on September 12, 1960, by then Senator John F. Kennedy to the Greater Houston Ministerial Association, and is a timely response to "religious issues" being raised today in the campaign of another Senator, Barack Obama:

"Reverend Meza, Reverend Reck, I'm grateful for your generous invitation to speak my views.

While the so-called religious issue is necessarily and properly the chief topic here tonight, I want to emphasize from the outset that we have far more critical issues to face in the 1960 election; the spread of Communist influence, until it now festers 90 miles off the coast of Florida--the humiliating treatment of our President and Vice President by those who no longer respect our power--the hungry children I saw in West Virginia, the old people who cannot pay their doctor bills, the families forced to give up their farms--an America with too many slums, with too few schools, and too late to the moon and outer space.

These are the real issues which should decide this campaign. And they are not religious issues--for war and hunger and ignorance and despair know no religious barriers.

But because I am a Catholic, and no Catholic has ever been elected President, the real issues in this campaign have been obscured--perhaps deliberately, in some quarters less responsible than this. So it is apparently necessary for me to state once again--not what kind of church I believe in, for that should be important only to me--but what kind of America I believe in.

I believe in an America where the separation of church and state is absolute--where no Catholic prelate would tell the President (should he be Catholic) how to act, and no Protestant minister would tell his parishoners for whom to vote--where no church or church school is granted any public funds or political preference--and where no man is denied public office merely because his religion differs from the President who might appoint him or the people who might elect him.

I believe in an America that is officially neither Catholic, Protestant nor Jewish--where no public official either requests or accepts instructions on public policy from the Pope, the National Council of Churches or any other ecclesiastical source--where no religious body seeks to impose its will directly or indirectly upon the general populace or the public acts of its officials--and where religious liberty is so indivisible that an act against one church is treated as an act against all.

For while this year it may be a Catholic against whom the finger of suspicion is pointed, in other years it has been, and may someday be again, a Jew--or a Quaker--or a Unitarian--or a Baptist. It was Virginia's harassment of Baptist preachers, for example, that helped lead to Jefferson's statute of religious freedom. Today I may be the victim- -but tomorrow it may be you--until the whole fabric of our harmonious society is ripped at a time of great national peril.

Finally, I believe in an America where religious intolerance will someday end--where all men and all churches are treated as equal--where every man has the same right to attend or not attend the church of his choice--where there is no Catholic vote, no anti-Catholic vote, no bloc voting of any kind--and where Catholics, Protestants and Jews, at both the lay and pastoral level, will refrain from those attitudes of disdain and division which have so often marred their works in the past, and promote instead the American ideal of brotherhood.

That is the kind of America in which I believe. And it represents the kind of Presidency in which I believe--a great office that must neither be humbled by making it the instrument of any one religious group nor tarnished by arbitrarily withholding its occupancy from the members of any one religious group. I believe in a President whose religious views are his own private affair, neither imposed by him upon the nation or imposed by the nation upon him as a condition to holding that office.

I would not look with favor upon a President working to subvert the first amendment's guarantees of religious liberty. Nor would our system of checks and balances permit him to do so--and neither do I look with favor upon those who would work to subvert Article VI of the Constitution by requiring a religious test--even by indirection--for it. If they disagree with that safeguard they should be out openly working to repeal it.

I want a Chief Executive whose public acts are responsible to all groups and obligated to none--who can attend any ceremony, service or dinner his office may appropriately require of him--and whose fulfillment of his Presidential oath is not limited or conditioned by any religious oath, ritual or obligation.

This is the kind of America I believe in--and this is the kind I fought for in the South Pacific, and the kind my brother died for in Europe. No one suggested then that we may have a "divided loyalty," that we did "not believe in liberty," or that we belonged to a disloyal group that threatened the "freedoms for which our forefathers died."

And in fact this is the kind of America for which our forefathers died--when they fled here to escape religious test oaths that denied office to members of less favored churches--when they fought for the Constitution, the Bill of Rights, and the Virginia Statute of Religious Freedom--and when they fought at the shrine I visited today, the Alamo. For side by side with Bowie and Crockett died McCafferty and Bailey and Carey--but no one knows whether they were Catholic or not. For there was no religious test at the Alamo.

I ask you tonight to follow in that tradition--to judge me on the basis of my record of 14 years in Congress--on my declared stands against an Ambassador to the Vatican, against unconstitutional aid to parochial schools, and against any boycott of the public schools (which I have attended myself)--instead of judging me on the basis of these pamphlets and publications we all have seen that carefully select quotations out of context from the statements of Catholic church leaders, usually in other countries, frequently in other centuries, and always omitting, of course, the statement of the American Bishops in 1948 which strongly endorsed church-state separation, and which more nearly reflects the views of almost every American Catholic.

I do not consider these other quotations binding upon my public acts--why should you? But let me say, with respect to other countries, that I am wholly opposed to the state being used by any religious group, Catholic or Protestant, to compel, prohibit, or persecute the free exercise of any other religion. And I hope that you and I condemn with equal fervor those nations which deny their Presidency to Protestants and those which deny it to Catholics. And rather than cite the misdeeds of those who differ, I would cite the record of the Catholic Church in such nations as Ireland and France--and the independence of such statesmen as Adenauer and De Gaulle.

But let me stress again that these are my views--for contrary to common newspaper usage, I am not the Catholic candidate for President. I am the Democratic Party's candidate for President who happens also to be a Catholic. I do not speak for my church on public matters--and the church does not speak for me.

Whatever issue may come before me as President--on birth control, divorce, censorship, gambling or any other subject--I will make my decision in accordance with these views, in accordance with what my conscience tells me to be the national interest, and without regard to outside religious pressures or dictates. And no power or threat of punishment could cause me to decide otherwise.

But if the time should ever come--and I do not concede any conflict to be even remotely possible--when my office would require me to either violate my conscience or violate the national interest, then I would resign the office; and I hope any conscientious public servant would do the same.

But I do not intend to apologize for these views to my critics of either Catholic or Protestant faith--nor do I intend to disavow either my views or my church in order to win this election.
If I should lose on the real issues, I shall return to my seat in the Senate, satisfied that I had tried my best and was fairly judged. But if this election is decided on the basis that 40 million Americans lost their chance of being President on the day they were baptized, then it is the whole nation that will be the loser, in the eyes of Catholics and non-Catholics around the world, in the eyes of history, and in the eyes of our own people.

But if, on the other hand, I should win the election, then I shall devote every effort of mind and spirit to fulfilling the oath of the Presidency--practically identical, I might add, to the oath I have taken for 14 years in the Congress. For without reservation, I can "solemnly swear that I will faithfully execute the office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution . . . so help me God."

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Why were they fired...

who wants to cover it up, and is it any coincidence this is happening before a major election?

"Our investigation into the firing of United States Attorneys revealed an Administration and a Justice Department that seemed to put politics first, and today's decision to shelve the contempt process, in violation of a federal statute, shows that the White House will go to any lengths to keep its role in the US Attorney firings hidden. In the face of such extraordinary actions, we have no choice but to proceed with a lawsuit to enforce the Committee's subpoenas," said Rep. John Conyers regarding Attorney General Mukasay's stalwart refusal to enforce Miers and Bolton subpoenas.

Everybody is getting caught up in the contempt citations, but few are talking about the core issues of racism, and voter suffrage, which need closer examination by Justice, and both political parties.

The attempt at political obstructionism by way of voter fraud charges simply cannot be allowed to go unchallenged. Racism does not only apply to the demographics on death row, and the make-up of our penal institutions.The appearance (or disappearance) of former White House chief of staff, Josh Bolten, and former presidential counsel, Harriet Miers, ostensibly involves fear on the part of the executive branch that either one, or both, the former aides will divulge details about why the nine U.S. attorneys were fired.

The attorney general appears to think that executive branch employees do not have to answer to a congressional subpoena once the President has uttered the shiboleth "executive privilege." But, Mukasey needs to clarify what he thinks the parameters of "executive privilege" are. During his confirmation hearings, the attorney-general gave the impression that Justice was capable of acting independently from the White House. That claim has yet to be substantiated, and appears dubious in light of Friday's decision in this matter.

There are lots of ways to sabotage an election--breaking into the Democratic headquarters, as happened on Nixon's watch, is only one. Litigating against, incarcerating, or otherwise marginalizing members of a community, especially those who would fall under one's opponent's demographic, under spurious "voter fraud" claims is yet another.

We've seen the important work, most recently, of Rev. Glasgow, in Alabama, as well as others, throughout the country, to ensure that voting rights be respected despite the best efforts of some partisans to disenfranchise those most likely to vote for Democrats. For a government that likes transparency, what could be more transparent than which demographic, politically, socially, and racially, was intended to be targeted by "voter fraud" allegations, and lawsuits which these U.S. attorneys honorably refused to pursue.

George W. Bush has indulged in more white collar crime than any president in recent memory, and has no more right to get off the hook, or get away with destroying millions of White House e-mails, than Richard M. Nixon did. That Numero 43 should be allowed to serve out his second term, with impunity, will be a stain on American history that even the finest K Street dry cleaners would be unable to remove inasmuch as he's not only added hubris to his job description, but unparalleled, and unscripted, use of executive privilege.

One way or another, with or without Justice, all the President's men must be held to account for contempt not merely of Congress, but of the democratic process.