Sunday, May 31, 2009

Remembering Walt

Some things never change: a walk through Central Park on Walt Whitman's birthday; ice cream dripping from the mouth of a five year old; two lovers caught in a sudden embrace; thunder on the side of a mountain, and this, your shadow, on the silver sidewalk.

Happy Birthday, Walt Whitman!

Saturday, May 30, 2009

from Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Everyone Should See Torturing Democracy

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

In all the recent debate over torture, many of our Beltway pundits and politicians have twisted themselves into verbal contortions to avoid using the word at all.
During his speech to the conservative American Enterprise Institute last week - immediately on the heels of President Obama's address at the National Archives - former Vice President Dick Cheney used the euphemism "enhanced interrogation" a full dozen times.
Smothering the reality of torture in euphemism of course has a political value, enabling its defenders to diminish the horror and possible illegality. It also gives partisans the opening they need to divert our attention by turning the future of the prison at Guantanamo Bay into a "wedge issue," as noted on the front page of Sunday's New York Times.
According to the Times, "Armed with polling data that show a narrow majority of support for keeping the prison open and deep fear about the detainees, Republicans in Congress started laying plans even before the inauguration to make the debate over Guantanamo Bay a question of local community safety instead of one about national character and principles. "
No political party would dare make torture a cornerstone of its rejuvenation if people really understood what it is. And lest we forget, we're not just talking about waterboarding, itself a trivializing euphemism for drowning.
If we want to know what torture is, and what it does to human beings, we have to look at it squarely, without flinching. That's just what a powerful and important film, seen by far too few Americans, does. Torturing Democracy was written and produced by one of America's outstanding documentary reporters, Sherry Jones. (Excerpts from the film are being shown on the current edition of Bill Moyers Journal on PBS - check local listings, or go to the program's website at, where you can be linked to the entire, 90-minute documentary.)
A longtime colleague, Sherry Jones and the film were honored this week with the prestigious RFK Journalism Award from the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights. Torturing Democracy was cited for its "meticulous reporting," and described as "the definitive broadcast account of a deeply troubling chapter in recent American history."
Unfortunately, as events demonstrate, the story is not yet history; the early chapters aren't even closed. Torture still is being defended as a matter of national security, although by law it is a war crime, with those who authorized and executed it liable for prosecution as war criminals. The war on terror sparked impatience with the rule of law - and fostered the belief within our government that the commander-in-chief had the right to ignore it.
Torturing Democracy begins at 9/11 and recounts how the Bush White House and the Pentagon decided to make coercive detention and abusive interrogation the official U.S. policy on the war on terror. In sometimes graphic detail, the documentary describes the experiences of several of the men who held in custody, including Shafiq Rasul, Moazzam Begg and Bisher al-Rawi, all of whom eventually were released. Charges never were filed against them and no reason was ever given for their years in custody.
The documentary traces how tactics meant to train American troops to survive enemy interrogations - the famous SERE program ("Survival, Evasion, Resistance and Escape") - became the basis for many of the methods employed by the CIA and by interrogators at Guantanamo and in Iraq, including waterboarding (which inflicts on its victims the terror of imminent death), sleep and sensory deprivation, shackling, caging, painful stress positions and sexual humiliation.
"We have re-created our enemy's methodologies in Guantanamo," Malcolm Nance, former head of the Navy's SERE training program, says in Torturing Democracy. "It will hurt us for decades to come. Decades. Our people will all be subjected to these tactics, because we have authorized them for the world now. How it got to Guantanamo is a crime and somebody needs to figure out who did it, how they did it, who authorized them to do it... Because our servicemen will suffer for years."
In addition to its depiction of brutality, Torturing Democracy also credits the brave few who stood up to those in power and said, "No." In Washington, there were officials of conviction horrified by unfolding events, including Alberto Mora, the Navy's top civilian lawyer, Major General Thomas Romig, who served as Judge Advocate General of the US Army from 2001 to 2005 and Lieutenant Colonel Stuart Couch, a former senior prosecutor with the Office of Military Commissions.
Much has happened since the film's initial telecast on some public television stations last fall. Once classified memos from the Bush administration have been released that reveal more details of the harsh techniques used against detainees whose guilt or innocence is still to be decided.
President Obama has announced he will close Guantanamo by next January, with the specifics to come later in the summer. That was enough to set off hysteria among Democrats and Republicans alike who don't want the remaining 240 detainees on American soil - even in a super maximum security prison, the kind already holding hundreds of terrorist suspects. The president also triggered criticism from constitutional and civil liberties lawyers when he suggested that some detainees may be held indefinitely, without due process.
But in an interview with Radio Free Europe this week, General David Petraeus, the man in charge of the military's Central Command, praised the Guantanamo closing, saying it "sends an important message to the world" and will help advance America's strategy in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In another revealing and disturbing development, the former chief of staff to former Secretary of State Colin Powell, Lawrence Wilkerson, has suggested what is possibly as scandalous a deception as the false case Bush and Cheney made for invading Iraq. Colonel Wilkerson writes that in their zeal to prove a link between al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein during the months leading up to the Iraq war, one suspect held in Egypt, Ibn al-Shaykh al-Libi, was water tortured until he falsely told the interrogators what they wanted to hear.
That phony confession that Wilkerson says was wrung from a broken man who simply wanted the torture to stop was then used as evidence in Colin Powell's infamous address to the United Nations shortly before the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Colin Powell says everything in his speech was vetted by the CIA and that Wilkerson's allegation is only speculation. We'll never know the full story - al-Libi died three weeks ago in a Libyan prison. A suicide.
Or so they say.
No wonder so many Americans clamor for a truth commission that will get the facts and put them on the record, just as Torturing Democracy has done. Then we can judge for ourselves.
As the editors of the magazine The Christian Century wrote this week, "Convening a truth commission on torture would be embarrassing to the U.S. in the short term, but in the long run it would demonstrate the strength of American democracy and confirm the nation's adherence to the rule of law....Understandably, [the President] wants to turn the page on torture. But Americans should not turn the page until they know what is written on it."

Courtesy of Bill Moyers Journal and Public Affairs Televison
Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS. Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Kindergarten Cops and North Korea

Another country heard from: North Korea.

Kim Jong-Il's latest shenanigans should come as no surprise to anyone---he's the world's most underpaid sociopath.

The N. Korean leader thinks he's joining a poker game, not a nuclear club, and Hillary Clinton talks about him as if he were a bad boy in need of ritalin instead of a world player with a ticking time bomb in his hands.

It's time for the secretary of state to stop sounding like a kindergarten teacher, and come up with a strategy to combat a threat exponentially greater than anything the Taliban poses

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

"The Declaration of Independence" Before and After

George W. Bush, and his legal team, didn't invent redaction. Below is an excerpt from Thomas Jefferson's autobiography. As you know, Mr. Jefferson wrote "The Declaration of Independence."

In his autobiography, we see the original version of the document, and the document as we now know it after having been edited by what were the equivalent of our members of Congress, signatories of the document.

The excerpt below deals specifically with Jefferson's thoughts about slavery which were deleted from the official document:

[He has waged cruel war against human nature itself, violating its most sacred rights of life and liberty in the persons of a distant people who never offended him, captivatng and carrying them into slavery in another hemisphere, or to incur miserable death in their transportation thither. This piratical warfare, the opprobrium of INFIDEL powers, is the warfare of the CHRISTIAN king of Great Britain. Determined to keep open a market where MEN should be bought and sold, he has prostituted his negative for suppressing every legislative attempt to prohibit or to restrain this execrable commerce. And that this assemblage of horrors might want no fact of distinguished die, he is now exciting those very people to rise in arms among us, and to purchase that liberty of which he has deprived them, by murdering the people for whom he also obtruded them: thus paying off former crimes committed against the LIBERTIES of one people, with crimes which he urges them to commit against the LIVES of another.]

misogynsts vs. misanthropes

What is the difference between a misogynst and a misanthrope? A misanthrope lasts longer.

N. Korea's president...

What is Kim Jong-Il's problem? He's not getting enough Pyongyang!


Sotomayor nomination--brilliant!

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Laptop collage de feu

laptop digital photos of me---May, 2009

"Tell me who you are, and I will tell you how much you escape."(from my poem "After cleaning ashes off the dresser, I sit down to read Artaud)

They say it's your birthday...

Happy Birthday, Bob Dylan---another year younger.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

An Insult to Service

There is nothing new about this story, and it isn't one that is easy to read. For a country that is hooked on novelty, it is even harder to get down. But, on a holiday designed to pay tribute to those who serve this country in times of war, we owe it to those who return from battle to take a hard look at how best we may serve them.

As of this month, according to the Veterans Administration's own Web site, about one-third of the adult homeless population has been in the armed forces. Current population estimates are that, on any given night, as many as 154,000 veterans, of both genders, are homeless, and possibly twice as many experience homelessness during the year.

97% of homeless veterans are male; the vast majority of whom are single. Homeless vets tend to be older, and far more educated than their civilian counterparts. 45% are said to suffer from some form of "mental illness," and more than half are African-American or Hispanic.

Of those veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan, as reported by Aaron Glantz more than a year ago, those who return from battle with some kind of physical, or psychological disability, often fall prey to the Department of Veterans Affairs which victimizes them further by delaying their claims often for months, and sometimes for years.

Somewhere around 300,000 returning wounded soldiers have filed for disability benefits, and have waited for as long as two years to find out if they've been approved. Denial of these benefits have led to homelessness.

Those whose claims have been thrown out, and who appeal, often have to wait an average of five years for a response.

In the first half of 2008 alone, more than 1,100 vets died before hearing if their claims were approved. And, since the onset of the Iraq War seven years ago, the number of veterans filing for disability has nearly doubled.

Those who return from war with what the VA simply calls "mental illness," but what we now know to be Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome, must first prove that their illness is service-related in order to have their treatment covered by the VA.

Any suggestion that the Office of Veterans Affairs use the IRS as a pardigm for how to handle claims was dismissed as unworkable by VA upper managment.

Then, there are those who don't return at all. The Army's suicide rate has reached record levels in the past year alone. The number of suicides in the military has increased more than 60% since the war in Iraq started, and it now surpasses that of the general population. Many attribute the growing problem to a seven year war with as many as three tours of duty, but in a volunteer army, loss of faith in leadership, or disillusionment with the reasons for combat, as well as the absence of an exit strategy, may also be seen as compelling factors.

But, what of those who survive the battlefield only to die by their own hand? Alarmngly, soldiers, age 20-24, who served during the "war on terror," now have the highest suicide rate of all vets. The suicide rate among Iraq war veterans is egregiously high, and growing. And, importantly, suicide is a reflection of hopelessness, as well as a sense of displacement.

When you consider that suicidal ideation is considered a symptom of PTSD, the Office of Veterans Affairs adds insult to injury by setting up road hazards for those who file PTSD disability claims by making them prove that their mental health issues are directly attributable to their service in uniform. This is an outrage, and it is almost as much of an outrage as it is that any member of our armed forces should be released to face the cold pavement of an inner city street.

It's not enough for the VA to acknowledge the problem of homeless vets by simply regurgitating the statistics. The VA, and the Obama administration, must work to address the underlying displacement, and disenfranchisement, as well as work to undo the pervasive angst of returning from a battlefield where one expected to be treated like saviors by people who, in simple point of fact, can't wait for us to go home.

Expanding benefits under the GI Bill, a measure which was rejected roundly by the Bush administration, would be a good start in honoring our returning veterans, but taking the $80 million Defense Secretary Gates was willing to spend on a brand new supermax prison, and using it instead to build low income, federally subsidized, housing for homeless veterans would be a far better way to show what our government thinks of those who have served them honorably. Anything less is an insult to their service.


Smell of burning flesh
downstairs where
the sea unfolds
like a simple fan in warm rush of wind you map me like
a pioneer in new territory.
take me to your
lips like
I am your bride
you groom me like
a swift
palomino or
a spider down
a crooked
spine. I am
wet with you.
How to measure
no morning
no future
no sailor
hoarse from
that husky
feet meet
the sheets
a couple of

By Jayne Lyn Stahl

from Riding with Destinyall rights reserved.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Taking a Stand

Good to see President Obama is taking a stand on closing the detention center. Apart from his insistence that maximum security prisons are equipped to handle detainees, he's leaning in the direction of handling so-called terrorists as criminals, and dealing with it as a criminal rather than national security issue.

What does this mean in the long run? Well, think due process, think habeas corpus, think Eighth Amendment, and remember, thankfully, Mr. Obama's background in constitutional law.

This is an excellent step. Obama is right to suggest that Gitmo, and the kangaroo court system, is a mess. The first step is changing the way in which we view acts of terror to conform with the criminal justice system as, first and foremost, the heinous attacks on the World Trade Center were criminal acts that require criminal prosecution.

One can tear down a prison, but unless the mindset that created it changes, it will only return with a vengeance.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Quote of the Day

from Will Durst:

"The bad news is gas prices are going up. The good news is, nobody has money to go anywhere."

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

What if?

What if Senator Bob Graham, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, are both telling the truth when they say they were lied to by the CIA, and Dick Cheney?

Graham reportedly now claims that he was never briefed on the NSA's warrantless surveillance program just as Pelosi repeatedly says she was lied to about the use of so-called enhanced alternative interrogation techniques.

Increasingly, claiming "the CIA misled me" is no longer a partisan affair. Maybe it's no longer enough for a "truth commission" to examine only the head honchos of the Bush administration. Maybe intelligence needs to provide intelligence on intelligence. Kafkaesque? Except for one thing.

Nothing in Kafka allows for the crazed cruelty we've recently witnessed in the name of eliminating terror.


The Senate today denied funding to close Gitmo saying they need "a plan" before appropriating taxpayer dollars. One might ask good Senate Democrats, who declined this measure, where is the "plan" for Afghanistan, and Iraq? Yet, the House recently approved another $97 billion in supplemental spending.

Another question for Congress as they try to derail a quickly escalating budget freefall: what is it going to cost to close Dick Cheney's mouth?

Monday, May 18, 2009


Doesn't it make perfect sense that the congressman going after Nancy Pelosi with the most gusto would also happen to be named "Boehner!"

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Speech of a Lifetime

President Obama gave a speech, this afternoon, at Notre Dame that ranks up there with all of the greatest speeches in history, and was as good, or better, than any that John F. Kennedy ever gave.

Speaking in simple truths, these were the words not just of a man of knowledge, not just of a great thinker, but of a truly wise man.

While we may not agree with his stand on every position, while we may be inclined to view nuance as flip-flopping, while we may think that he is moving in a direction that makes us less than secure in what we think we know, of one thing we may be certain: we did a good thing electing Barack Hussein Obama president of the United States.

Today, everyone whether left, conservative, centrist, pro-choice, or pro-governmental intervention into reproductive rights, and even if for just one moment, can celebrate being American again.

Turning the Page

Newt Gingrich said it's time to find out what Nancy Pelosi knew, and when she knew it. The question is what does Newt Gingrich know, and when did he learn it? For the past dozen years, we've witnessed the fallout from his "Contract on America." He's had his 15 minutes of fame. Gingrich needs to crawl back into the cave he and his fellow neo-cons have been hiding in.

It will take at least a generation to change what Bush/Cheney did and, more importantly, students of American History 101 won't look kindly on the impeachment of one president for lying to a grand jury about extramarital sex while letting another president, who committed war crimes and broke the law, to retire with dignity, and at taxpayers expense.

This business of Tim Kaine, chair of the Democratic Party, stepping forward, on "Meet the Press," to say that under Obama "We're not going to torture" anymore is meaningless party talk when you have a Military Commissions Act which grants immunity from prosecution for war crimes, and a CIA that now provides liability insurance for their interrogators. Protecting them from what? If we never plan to waterboard, or use techniques that are tantamount to torture, then why provide interrogators with protection from future prosecution? Does this sound like an infrastructure that is torture-proof?

That the spread of venereal greed started with Ronald Reagan is one thing, but that, in the post-Nixon years, people stood by and watched the enactment of interrogation practices which have, for centuries, been associated with torture is unconscionable. The neutralizing of the Constitution, and subversion of democracy under Richard M. Nixon, was perfected under George W. Bush. There is no room for nuance here; not to pursue an independent inquiry, and prosecute, will later be viewed as criminal acquiescence and moral dementia.

from William Blake

"Christ's crucifix shall be made an excuse for executing criminals."

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Dead Man on Powell Street

It was 86 in the shade today in San Francisco, and on my way home from Banana Republic, near Union Square, I walked down Powell Street. If you've been to San Francisco, then you'll remember Powell as the street that has the cable car tracks running in the middle.

Union Square is packed virtually all the time, but it was especially crowded today mostly with tourists, people from all over the world. The couple next to me were carrying Macy's shopping bags, and speaking excitedly in French. An Asian teenager lit up a cigarette in the Walgreen's doorway, and gave me a hollow look. Almost instinctually, I moved away from him, and closer to the sidewalk where, beside the curb, lay this twenty-something, fully clad, slightly bearded guy who, at first glance, appeared to be sleeping.

A shrill scream from the middle-aged blonde right behind me startled me: "He's dead!" I moved closer to the gutter, and looked down at him. His eyes were firmly shut as was his mouth. He wasn't wearing a coat, and didn't have any personal belongings on him. He looked to be sound asleep except that he didn't appear to be breathing, and looked stiff. He looked like he might have been homeless, or maybe like he died elsewhere and was deposited on the street like an empty sack.

A young girl stood next to me, her hand over her mouth, all that could escape from me was "oh my God."

There was something urgent in her stare as if she expected me to say, or do something, as if somehow I had it in my power to prove that what she saw wasn't really there.

A police car whizzed by working its way around the cable cars, and barely brushed up against the fellow who appeared to have met his maker on Powell Street. More than anything, I will remember how, despite their initial horror, not one person reached down to see if he was, in fact, deceased, or used their omnipresent cell phone to call for help.

Humanity, like a magnet, appears to have become desensitized. We are at a loss for outrage. There is something perpetually inconvenient about another person's suffering, I thought, and tried to collect myself. He may not have had any possessions, or a place to call home, but he died with his dignity, and his shoes on.

Like everyone else, I found myself pushing through the crowd, with my shopping bags, propelled only by thinking how badly I want to get home, and how elusive home really is.

Nothing sticks?

Dog shit
side of
Who said
nothing sticks?

By Jayne Lyn Stahl

(From "Riding With Destiny")

Friday, May 15, 2009

From Michael Winship

What's So Funny about Washington?

By Michael Winship

A joke is a sometime thing, as wide as a church door or as delicate as a rose. The right or wrong word, too many or too few, their placement or emphasis can determine whether it's a total dud or fall down funny; the difference, as Mark Twain said, between the lightning bug and lightning.

Too much explanation or thought can whip a joke to death, so it was with trepidation that I went down to Washington last week with some fellow members of the Writers Guild of America, East, the union of which I'm president. I moderated a panel discussion of writers from The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Colbert Report and Late Show with David Letterman, among others, to discuss news and late night comedy. The driving impulse for all of this was the White House Correspondents' Dinner last weekend, "The Nerd Prom," as it's become known, when inside-the-Beltway journalists and their chummy government sources cement their unholy alliance over rillettes and risotto. Over the last few years it has become an Oscar-like event, with Hollywood migrating east to hobnob with the stars of politics and commentary, distracting each other into a trivial frenzy. And you wonder why we can't get
universal health care passed. Toward the end of our strike last year, the Guild presented a successful event on Capitol Hill, a mock debate in which a team of Daily Show writers representing the Guild went up against a Colbert team posing as
the studios and networks. Former White House Press Secretary Dee Dee Myers moderated. Hilarity and mirth ensued.

This time we thought we'd hitch a ride on the hoopla around the Correspondents' Dinner and succeeded. A crowd of several hundred showed up at the Newseum on Pennsylvania Avenue. The Huffington Post streamed live video and C-SPAN, which hadn't covered anything as funny since the last hearings on horticulture and organic food safety standards,videotaped the whole thing.

Not that you saw all of it. Parts of an hour of stand-up comedy by Guild writers apparently were deemed a little too raunchy for the followers of Brian Lamb and so when telecast, C-SPAN cut right to the chase - our panel discussion.

People have been making jokes about the news and having an impact on it since the Greek playwright Aristophanes cracked wise about Socrates. Now, the late night shows are affecting traditional journalism and mainstream coverage of events, and influencing public opinion, more than ever, whether it's John McCain dissing Letterman and appearing on Katie Couric's newscast instead, President Obama on Jay Leno, or Tina Fey imitating Sarah Palin to devastating effect on Saturday Night Live.

In March, a Rasmussen poll reported that nearly one third of Americans under 40 say they get more of their news from Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert and other late night comedy shows than they do from traditional sources of news. The poll also found that 39% of the public says the late night shows are making Americans more informed; 21% said they're having the opposite effect.

Recently, in The Nation magazine, media critic Eric Alterman noted that the late night programs had been responsible for three of the most important and cathartic media moments of the last decade: Jon Stewart's evisceration of confrontational talk shows posing as political dialogue when he appeared on the CNN show Crossfire in October 2004 (which many believe hastened the program's demise); Stephen Colbert's controversial speech at the correspondent's dinner three years ago (in which he attacked the White House press corps' cuddly relationship with President Bush); and Jon Stewart's recent assault on CNBC's Jim Cramer and the
misleading, uncritical coverage presented by financial television news in the months leading up to the crash.

Alterman wrote, "It's a sad - almost terrifying - comment on the state of the American media that we have come to rely on these two funnymen to tell us the truth about our country in the same way we relied on Murrow in the '50s and Walter Cronkite in the '60s." But as we began the panel, buzzing in my head were the sage and terrible words of the late, great New Yorker magazine essayist, E. B. White: "Analyzing humor is like dissecting a frog," he wrote. "Few people are interested and the frog dies of it."

Nonetheless, we plunged ahead. So, I asked, is late night comedy telling us a truth that news can't? Are audiences turning to you for news because you ask questions and make points the mainstream media can't or won't?

"No," said my friend Tim Carvell from The Daily Show. "On some level,I'd like to think so, but I don't think that's the case. We're dessert at the end of the news menu. I actually think people who say they're getting their news from us say that as a way of protesting what they see in the news. But I feel the media isn't a monolith; there's good media and bad. We're just off to the side of it, sitting at the back of the class making comments."

Opus Moreschi, who writes for The Colbert Report, agreed. "I think if anyone's getting the news from either of our shows then that's unfortunate. Because we're not there to provide news, we're there to provide entertainment, obviously.
But it may be that people who see something on our show and want to learn more find their own news sources and make up their minds. That to me is a pleasant side effect of having comedy that informs. But if all they've got is our punchline, they may
walk away thinking Denny Hastert is apparently a crossdresser and that's not accurate information... Wait, sorry, I'm being told that he is." J.R. Havlan, a comic who writes for The Daily Show added, "I feel like comedy shows and satire, what they do is not inform so much as help people learn how to watch and decipher the news. It's not about watching us to learn what's going on but learning to see what's going on and take it with a grain of salt - that not everything they see is the truth."

And so it went. There's lots more - war stories, background on how the shows are put together, interesting questions from the audience. You can go to the C-SPAN Web site to view the whole thing.

But in the end, for all the analysis and commentary that have been written about the late night shows, the bottom line remains: it's all about the funny.

By the way, we didn't actually attend the White House Correspondents' Dinner the next night, but did go to one of the after-parties at the Corcoran Galley of Art, mobbed with more than 600 guests and roaring with music at an ear-splitting pitch. We met a berobed Arabian prince who had two of the most formidable body guards
I'd ever seen, big and impassive, like the statues on Easter Island.

Then we were straight-armed aside by an even larger phalanx of black-suited security men. Who's coming through, we wondered - a cabinet member, Joe Biden, the President?

No, it was Eva Longoria, the diminutive but self-important star of Desperate Housewives.

Now that's funny.

Courtesy of Bill Moyers Journal, and Public Affairs Television
Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program
Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.
Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Walt Whitman's Fly

For John Logan

"Get the gasworks into a poem,
and you've got the smoke and smokestacks,
the mottled red and yellow tenements,
and grimy kids who curse with the pungency
of the odor of gas. You've got America, boy."

David Ignatow

Get the gasworks into a poem
and you've got Walt Whitman.
Walt --
with the sun at your left side
and death at your right you in
the middle like a daguerrotype
I remember you
your baggy buchaneer pants
hiding saucy pirates
with real-live locomotives and steam underneath
the beat-up breath of tenements.
What a smokestack you were!
your fly that became a rose in my
hand your hips haughty & the starjuice I
catch from your eyes the flaring nostrils
the quaker chin the illuminations in every line
I approach you with this poem in my hand &
a warm welcome.
I know you had a gray beard how could it be any different?
as I sit here dreaming of some manly cloud typing up
state requisitions
for the Maintenance Office maintenant! punching the
clock no body electric
your time shining on my eyelids one of the roughs.
your flashing armpits are like traffic lights and the
deep crimson thrill
that comes over me when I ride the subway convinced
of a new religion
& you in the corner (no caboose) with your hand on
your right hip trans-
parent -- like some lonely poe-ship you created
with decks of sailors holding other hands. I imagine your
armpits to be a japanese rain-forest your smell that
prayer the saneness of your death.
my death.
I look for you over my shoulder
I look for your cheekbones behind el gray
I know you hid the gasworks somewhere
the secret of your sad orb over the rooftops
curious dream of factories your modern man behind tele-
visions 'yessuh
you got the world by the rear---'
and hindisght which was foresight
I look back on you because you look'd forward to me
& there is no stone untouch'd, Walt Whitman,
can I hold you to your promise?
will I find you on the CP Rail
on a long white train through Canada
behind those camerado Rockies?
Can I sneak up behind you on th'astral plane?
will you always be behind me like the Great Spirit
on the Staten Island Ferry?
I itch for you, you crazy sun-
I unbutton your shirt & find leaves
Yes! growing on your chest
I wear my spanish cowboy hat 'the Shadow' &
dance like a red bandana the wind my voice
wrestles prophetic with every telephone pole I can
find like a bloody angel or viola or joan of arc
medea sans jason or any jacobean forget-me-not.
cheek to cheek, Walt Whitman, I have to build
your bridge
will you settle for my hands?

By Jayne Lyn Stahl
published 1973 -- "Audit," all rights reserved

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Mr. President, Denial is in Egypt

With today's news that President Obama has decided against compliance with an ACLU Freedom of Information Act suit which requires that he release dozens of prisoner abuse photos, one can't help but think about the responsibilities of being commander-in-chief of the military.

As commander-in-chief, Obama has a responsibility to protect our troops, and bring them home from Iraq, as well as keep them out of harm's way in Afghanistan and Pakistan. His contention that exposing the pervasiveness of cruelty, and sadism, will adversely affect morale is a valid one.

But, it would be ingenuous to the point of absurdity to believe, even for a minute, that it is his desire to protect the troops that leads the president to work to conceal this evidence. Indeed, as is the case with the "state secrets" argument, and the administration's position on disclosing the contents of hundreds of thousands of White House e-mails that have mysteriously shown up, after Mr. Bush left office, clearly the current executive branch is trying to protect the executive branch in much the same way as his predecessor.

Arguably, most importantly, we don't have a general in the White House, and the president must take his commander-in-chief hat off, and accept that he also has a responsibility to tell the truth.

Since news of Abu Ghraib first broke along with those horrific photographs, we've heard the same song and dance about a few "bad apples" performing acts of sadism on detainees. We were also led to believe that those heinous acts were limited to a few prisons, and a handful of our troops.

Well, we now know that both suppositions were false.

Perhaps the president hesitates to release these newest abuse photos as they might prove that acts were committed which were more heinous than those previously disclosed, and that these abuses were, in fact, widespread, systemic, and approved, if not initiated, by commanding officers.

In the final analysis, we need health care reform. We need banking reform. We need to rethink derivatives. But, more than all of these combined, we need truth, and accountability. We need to show future generations, and the rest of the world, that we don't have to outsource justice. We will deal, at home, with whatever crimes against humanity were committed by those waving an American flag.

Anything less would be a grave disservice to every man and woman in uniform, not just in the United States, but around the world.

The mantle was passed to this president from Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy that government by denial is little more than a vehicle for delivery. Doing the right thing has never been easy, but anything less makes a mockery of those values upon which this great nation was founded.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

from Michael Winship

Courtesy of Bill Moyers Journal, and Public Affairs Television;

Murtha: If I'm Corrupt, It's Because I CareBy Michael Winship

Headline in the May 2 New York Times: "Murtha's Nephew Named Lobbyist for Marines." Headline just three days later in the May 5 Washington Post: "Murtha's Nephew Got Defense Contracts."

Guess what? Two different nephews. They're brothers, though,each blessed with the same, beneficent and no doubt beloved uncle -Pennsylvania Congressman John P. Murtha, Democratic chairman of the House Appropriations defense subcommittee - friend of the military-industrial complex; a man who's generous to family and
constituents, always ready to lend an ear - or, rather, earmark.

His nephew Colonel Brian Murtha, a Marine helicopter pilot, has been transferred to the Marines' legislative liaison office - which deals with Congress and Murtha's subcommittee -- and has even moved into the same Virginia condo building as his Uncle Jack. "It does not appear to violate any rules or ethics guidelines," the Times reported, "though it may well raise some eyebrows among legislative liaisons competing for resources on behalf of the other military services."

The other nephew - Robert C. Murtha, Jr. - a former Marine, runs a company in Glen Burnie, Maryland, called Murtech Inc. According to The Washington Post, "Last year, Murtech received $4 million in Pentagon work, all of it without competition, for a variety of warehousing and engineering services."

Murtha, Jr., denied that his uncle had anything to do with his business success, but on Monday, the Post revealed documents that "show Robert Murtha mentioning his influential family connection as leverage in his business dealings and holding unusual power in his dealings with the military." In the e-mail's obtained by the Post, Murtha tells associates that part of the federal money must be spent in Uncle Jack's hometown, Johnstown, Pennsylvania.

Post reporters Carol D. Leonnig and Alice Crites described Murtech's HQ
as a "bland building... blinds drawn tight and few signs of life. On several days of visits, a handful of cars sit in the parking lot, and no trucks arrive at the 10 loading bays at the back of the building." And a former employee of the company told the Post, "I was always thinking, 'Why is the government paying this company?' If it's fair to have this kind of no-bid work, I'll start a company and do it for half as much. Because this company didn't do anything." Robert, Jr., and Brian are the sons of Jack Murtha's brother Robert Murtha, Sr., known as "Kit," who, as the Post notes, "built a longtime lobbying practice around clients seeking defense funds through the Appropriations Committee and became one of the top members of KSA, a lobbying firm whose contract clients often received multimillion-dollar earmarks directed through the committee chairman." Kit Murtha retired three years ago.

So, just as the Quakers came to the Keystone State to do good and then did well, many amongst the Murthas of Pennsylvania have prospered. But thanks to Congressman Murtha, the defense industry and his home district in western Pa. have fared even better.

Rep. Jack Murtha is himself a former Marine and Eagle Scout, a decorated veteran (the first Vietnam vet to serve in Congress, elected in 1974). He has long been a champion of the military, especially the enlisted men and women, and has spoken angrily about the lack of proper treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder among those who have fought in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. It was Murtha who in November 2005 announced, "The U.S. cannot accomplish anything further in Iraq
militarily. It is time to bring them home."

But it's also Murtha who was named one of the 20 most corrupt members of Congress by the non-partisan Citizens for Responsibility and Ethics in Washington (CREW). Last year, Esquire Magazine named him one of the ten worst members of Congress because of his opposition to ethics reform limiting the use of earmarks, funds for those favorite slices of pork slipped into appropriations bills. (Murtha called the ethics reform bill "total crap.")

Since Murtha joined the appropriations committee, the group Taxpayers for Common Sense estimates that he has sent more than $2 billion worth of pork back home, more than any other congressman ($192.5 million in the 2008 budget alone).

"If I'm corrupt, it's because I take care of my district," he told the
Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, a sentiment that may go down in political history with that familiar saying from the 19th century, "An honest politician is one who when he's bought, stays bought."

Murtha's largesse has funded, among other projects, the National Drug Intelligence Center, in beautiful downtown Johnstown, which critics say duplicates intelligence gathering in Washington and along the Texas-Mexico border; and Pennsylvania State University's Electro-Optics Center, a defense research facility, which has received $250 million in federal funding, "a significant portion" of which,
according to an earlier Washington Post investigation, is channeled "to companies that were among Murtha's campaign supporters."

But my personal favorite is the John Murtha Johnstown-Cambria County Airport, affectionately known around his district as "Fort Murtha." Over the last ten years, the 650-acre mountaintop airport has received $200 million in federal cash and yet, on weekdays, only six commercial flights take off from or land there, all of them headed to or from, surprise, Dulles International Airport outside of Washington, DC.
Just recently, this "airport for nobody" became one of the first to receive stimulus money -- $800,000 to widen runways.

About thirty million dollars of the taxpayers' money have been spent to beef the place up so it also can handle jumbo military aircraft and serve as a warehouse for military supplies in case a national emergency cuts off Pittsburgh International Airport, two hours away. There's a Marine helicopter base there, a National Guard training center, even an $8.6 million, high tech radar system, but it's never been used because the Pennsylvania National Guard is in charge and they haven't got the manpower to operate it.

Supporters defend the airport not only as useful for the military but as a lure for businesses considering relocation in the area. In fact, without the money he's brought in, Murtha said, the city of Johnstown - its once busy steel industry long dead - "would have been like Detroit is today. We would have been a ghost town."

But as a recent editorial in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined, "Sure, plenty of people in Johnstown are grateful. But Mr. Murtha's insistence that this is how the process must work misses the reality that his constituents deserve to have their tax dollars spent on projects that have proven their value through competitive bidding and impartial evaluation. A view that the ends justify the means leaves too many questions: Are the projects necessary? Is the method of selection fair?
Are political contributors the real winners?"

Which brings us to the other shoe scheduled to drop in the coming weeks and months. In November, the FBI raided the offices of the PMA Group, a lobbying firm founded twenty years ago by former Murtha aide Paul Magliocchetti that brought in earmarked defense contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars. They searched Magliocchetti's home, too, and last month, PMA went out of business.

Reportedly, the investigation is focusing initially on whether PMA used various individuals as straw men -- conduits for illegal campaign contributions -- and if free meals and other gifts from the high-rolling Magliocchetti were bribes linked to votes from members of Murtha's subcommittee.

From 1998, PMA clients gave more than $7.8 million in campaign contributions to subcommittee members, including $2.4 million to Jack Murtha. Oddly enough, The Wall Street Journal's John Fund has pointed out, those contributions often were made in March, around the time earmark requests are made.

"Many on Capitol Hill," The New York Times reported March 30th,
"recalling the scandal that mushroomed around the lobbyist Jack Abramoff, are wondering who will be ensnared in the investigation as prosecutors pore over the financial records and computer files of one of K Street's most influential lobbyists."

As accusations of bribery and fraud mount and the FBI probe continues, Jack Murtha and his colleagues better batten down the hatches and prepare for a whole new Johnstown Flood.

Michael Winship is senior writer of the weekly public affairs program
Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.
Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at

An Open Letter to President Obama

Dear President Obama:

First and foremost, please allow me to say how delighted I am to be able to address you as "President Obama." You have a stalwart admirer in me.

That said, one can readily glean from your speeches, and some of your more controversial administration picks, that you're not looking for blind loyalty, or fealty, so please allow me to address a huge concern of mine, and others who share my vision for disarmament, a world without nuclear weapons, or cluster bombs.

If, as it's said, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, we're halfway there. For a leader, and an administration, that claims it wishes only to look forward, and not politicize decisions made by a previous administration, it's fair to ask why this concept of looking ahead, not back, applies only to prosecuting those whose misadventures, and illicit activities, got us to where we are today.

Yes, you may say that you inherited the war in Iraq, and I'm no math major, but it seems to me that leaving 50,000 troops in that country is no way to withdraw. When even Iraq's government wants us to leave, how can your administration justify staying? We need Big Brothers in America, not the Middle East.

Moreover, no one needs to tell you about the quagmire that is Afghanistan. You're absolutely right to say that we were fighting the wrong war. We should have been on the border of Afghanistan and Pakistan in the first place, but that was six years ago. Has nothing changed?

Mr. President, you are now commander-in-chief not George W. Bush. You may say, with some justification, that you were handed the economic collapse, as well as a war, but by requesting another $97 billion for combat in Iraq, and Afghanistan, you'd have a hard time convincing any reasonable person that your objective is peace.

On the campaign stump, you argued that your predecessor spent $10 billion a month on Iraq, and that we could do better things with that money. You've already proposed cutbacks in some lower case social programs, but the point is---how is this $97 billion any different from the foreign policy of your predecessor?

And, as senator from Illinois you voted against the Military Commissions Act of 2006, yet you're endorsing military tribunals, and immunity from prosecution for those who have spearheaded so-called alternative interrogation methods--torture. You have it within your means to issue an executive order to overturn the MCA, and those of us who want accountability urge you to do so.

You're quite right---we need to continue the preemptive fight, but we must wage a preemptive war on war because the planet now has it in its power to destroy itself many times over, and many of the major players on the battlefield, as you know, possess nuclear weapons including Pakistan, and India, Israel, Russia, and the biggest nuclear stockpiler of all----the United States of America.

Yet again, we hear of a request for more funds to fight a war, in Afghanistan this time, where there is no clear exit strategy. If, as you said at the D.C. Hilton this weekend, you and Congress serve at "the pleasure of the American people," then you must bring our troops home. That is the people's desire, and that must be our elected leaders' objective.

You, sir, have the potential to be one of this country's greatest presidents. All you need do is stand by your convictions, and stand behind your pledge to restore trust in government.

Private Jokes

If there is a divinity, we are his private joke.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Keeping Kosher

Dick Cheney now says he's keeping kosher: he's laying off pigs.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

John Lennon Exhibit Takes on The Lobby

These days, the lobby people want to talk about more than any other is the "Israel lobby." You don't hear a peep from anyone about the gun lobby. But, on Tuesday, an exhibit will open in New York, at the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame museum, that celebrates the life of John Lennon, a great musician, and a lifelong spokesman for peace, who was gunned down outside his apartment building, the Dakota, in December, 1980.

If you go to this exhibit, you will see, on display, a brown paper bag that the coroner handed to Lennon's widow, Yoko Ono, with what he had on him at the time, and right beside the display you will see a Petition imploring President Barack Obama to work with Congress to enact stricter gun control, and an end to the insane proliferation of assault weapons on our streets.

As the cover of one of Yoko Ono's albums reads: "More than 932,000 people have been killed by guns in the USA since John Lennon was shot and killed on December 8, 1980," a number that has climbed exponentially, and continues to escalate daily.

If you happen to be a youngster of color, you are many hundreds of times more likely to be a victim of gun violence than of graduating from high school.

And, if you follow the news at all, you see that, whether you're a marketing professor at a major university, the head of a major bank, an investor with Bernie Madoff, or a Kaiser employee who just lost his job, a parolee in Oakland who gets pulled over by four Oakland police officers, or a newspaper reporter, Chauncey Bailey, threatening to expose corruption, you're more likely to be a victim of firearms now than at any other time in our history, except maybe during our inception when, as the Second Amendment states, a citizen militia had the right to arm itself in its own defense. Increasingly, we are using arms to destroy ourselves, and each other.

We know that this President would like to have another term in office. We also know that antagonizing the gun lobby, as well as the estimated four million members of the NRA, and over 50% of American households that own guns is no way to get reelected, but the plain and simple truth is that more Americans will die as a result of the gun lobby than anything the "Israel Lobby" can do to them, yet one doesn't hear a word about this even from the most progressive elements of the Democratic Party.

Congress clearly cowers in fear of any mention of the NRA, or gun control, so it is up to the executive branch to stop the madness of gun violence now by banning the sale, and possession, of assault weapons once and for all.

President Obama faces many challenges, but pandering to the banks, Wall Street, and citing a Second Amendment right to bear arms isn't going to earn him high grades, especially from the mothers of those inner city youngsters who, even as I write, are falling prey to gun violence. As a community organizer in Chicago, Obama walked those streets, and he knows who are victimized by the Bush laissez-faire deregulation of gun laws. He knows that those who bear the brunt of the steady, and out of control proliferation of assault weapons are also the ones who suffer twice the unemployment rate of their white counterparts.

Undoubtedly, Mr. Obama has the opportunity, and the potential, to be among the greatest presidents this country has ever had. He needs to rise to the occasion, take a stand on this important issue, and not be intimidated by those who think they have a constitutional right to potentially harm themselves, or someone else. President Obama needs to reinstate the Federal Assault Weapons Ban, passed by President Clinton, that was allowed to sunset, in 2004, under President George W. Bush.

If you plan to visit the exhibit that opens on Tuesday, be sure to look for the Petition, and sign it.. What better way to pay tribute to a man whose entire life was devoted to peace than to push for regulating firearms.

Think about this: if John Lennon had been shot, and had survived, he might be writing this instead of me.


"New Details Emerge on Van Gogh's ear

Recession Drives Man to Rob His Own Bank

Cheney Backs Limbaugh over Powell

Dead Man Turns Up after Nine Years

In Toledo, Downturn Empties Offices.

Accused of Sexual Abuse, But Back in the Classroom

Mexicans Blame Industrial Hog Farms.

Ex-bankers Jailed in $482 Million Scam.

Congress Plans Incentives for Healthy Habits."

(headlines from LA Times, NY Times, and Washington Post--5/10/09)


Not sure if Dick Cheney is "still in GOP," looks more like hog heaven to me.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

from Paris Journal

(Some poems and notes from my Paris journal kept during a trip to France in the summer of 1989, and accidentally discovered today, on my bookshelf, when trying to find a book of selected poems by Garcia Lorca):


hot red hot
boulevard saint
hot red hot
cafe deux
maggots where,
for 22 francs,
I get a Perrier.
hard to believe
only a hundred
odd years ago
Rimbaud and
Verlaine sat at
these marble tables
maybe vermouth
maybe talking
hot red hot
man at table
next to
me in
monte carlo blazer
with his havana
with the insipid air of
a disenfranchised cherub
probably burned out on
dissipation or
between rendez-vous
with underaged
who wander the
wide eyed boulevard
where even saints lie.
affluence is a disease
worthy only of the
I sit counting
centimes in
where arabs in
blue caps sell "le monde."
deux maggots
no place for
poets now
bureaucrats in
their Sunday best
where even saints


If $1 = 6.15 francs then
$10 = 62 francs
$20 = 123 francs
$40 = 246 francs

"prix fixe" a phrase that came to haunt me my whole trip when I wrote, too, that:

One is either in Paris or one is "autre," a word I encountered when researching Edgar Allan Poe;
"autre," other ---other than, a word that haunts as les belles dames sans merci sip their wine and smoke their gauloises while Quasimodo in drag chokes on her sausage. Province is clearly what its name
indicates -- the grotesque smothered by the proper, an age of propriety hungover and trying to pass itself off as invention. This is indeed an age of propriety and conformity. Those who exist on the outside are doomed to regret it, perhaps as never before. Donovan plays on the radio in counterpoint to the spotless, impeccable, flawless Malmaison "bad house."
The streets are wide and empty. I eat passion sorbet, but would prefer passion, but
passion is not on the menu. Do I dare to eat a peach? Do I dare to walk down place des anglais, apres noir, with a hunger, a hunger that only lions, or angels, can understand.

What is the exchange rate for desire?

At the Malmaison

At the Malmaison,
am having truly a feast
watching people
walk hungrily down
Blvd. Victor Hugo.
100 francs for
tough veal and
french fries--
Americans are not
the only masters of
the rip-off --
it appears
to be
There are only
women at this
women dining
alone --
possibly guests of
the hotel.
God only knows
how many calories
this stupid veal chop
The waiter looks like
William F. Buckley this is
definitely a place to
Alex called me again
at the hotel.
I was tempted to tell him
vegetables don't
interest me, but this is not
quite true. The carrot was
quite refreshing only the
man behind it was
absolument not!
A butcher would
struggle trying to cut
this veal. My father always
said to strictly avoid veal in
second rate hotels.
The woman at the table
next to mine who, by the way,
looks like Balzac in drag, just
asked the waiter
"Vous etes compris, n'est-ce pas?"
He looked confused
"Le service est compris, non?"
"Oui, madame," he said with a look of
quiet resignation. She must be
American, I shuddered.
"Vous etes compris" essentially means
"you are included," or you are part of
the price --- prix fixe.
How terribly American to
avoid gratuities.

Nice, August, 1989


"Liberte, egalitie, et fraternite
la grand illusione?"

billboard on the Seine


The only thing worse than a lapsed Catholic is a lapsed Republican.

Friday, May 08, 2009


President Obama has the opportunity, and the potential, to be among the greatest presidents this country has ever seen. He needs to rise to the occasion, and not get pulled down by the special interests that put him there.

On a dare...

"Will you do it on a dare?" he asked inviting me to join him at the top of the ledge about five feet high. I was only eight years old, but I understood what that meant.

"You're going to have to say you dare me," I told him.

"Okay, I dare you."

I took a small ladder, and climbed to the top of the ledge where he stood looking back at me victoriously.

"Now, jump," he said. "Jump!"

I held my breath, and looked at the pavement below. It looked hard and thorny as if
somebody dropped a few nails, and a couple of pounds of cement. There was nothing to buffer my fall.

At the time, my mother often criticized me for not going through a tomboy phase. I was the kid who held onto the rail anxiously while walking down a flight of stairs. And, although I often liked to hang out on window ledges which terrified my father, I wasn't the kind of girl who would do anything dangerous. At least, not outwardly.

But, there was something, even back then, about the power of words, about the concept of daring, about giving one's word, about not letting fear stand in the way of experience. Had my young friend asked, urged, even implored me, my feet would never have budged, but because he dared me nothing, not even gravity, would stand in my way.

How often we forget those magical realizations from our childhood. The fascination with what is new, untried. Back then, we surrounded ourselves only with wonder. Fear was not in our lexicon, and pain was something we would learn to overcome time, and time again.

Get out your shovels

Nobody can expect to find the truth without a shovel.


Credit is legalized heroin.

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Only one..

I have only one religion: carry-on

Wednesday, May 06, 2009


He who owns the banks owns the brothels, too.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

$50 Million for What?

When congressional Democrats convened, on Monday, to authorize another $94.2 billion for war in Iraq, and Afghanistan, they rejected the president's request for $50 million to close the detention center at Guantanamo Bay. In what may be the first of many signs that the honeymoon between Congress and the executive branch is officially over, this move also portends trouble ahead for Mr. Obama's Supreme Court nomination. Republicans are already starting to grunt, and groan, on that score.

Democrats who claim to be in favor of closing Guantanamo, like Senator Dianne Feinstein who now heads the Senate Intelligence Committee, say they want to hold off until there is "a plan" in place. Republican congressional members balk of emptying out Gitmo, and letting the detainees move into a neighborhood near you. Indeed, from the way they speak, one wonders if some congressional Republicans recognize a difference between terrorists and sex offenders.

But, there is a plan in place; nobody bothered to read the fine print, or pay attention to the secretary of defense. Robert Gates, who was supposed to be an interim appointment to the Obama cabinet, suggests that the $50 million will come in handy if the U.S. wants to begin construction on another facility in which to house the detainees. Housing starts are up; why not prison starts? Mr. Gates called the funds "a hedge." hmmmm.... a hedge fund for terrorists?

One can't help but think of the Vanguard Group, a company that runs federal detention centers and one in which a former vice president, Dick Cheney, has a large stake, and their $224 million federal prison project.

Yet, $50 million is a drop in the bucket compared with the $2 billion proposed to fight an inflated pandemic and, of course, a fraction of the $94.2 billion on the table for Iraq, and Afghanistan. Nobody, in Congress, has factored in how many billions will be needed for the inevitable expansion of the war effort into Pakistan.

There are some who might argue that Mr. Gates is thinking: when life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. We've got something like 500 detainees left at Gitmo and, while some may be extradited, or remanded to criminal detention, there are others who will need to be in a maximum security environment like the current holding center at Gitmo, so why not build another detention center---one that can be federally operated, and domestically run, not unlike the federal detention centers already in operation. What needs congresssional scrutiny here is not the absence of a plan, but another stab at enhancing the proverbial bottom line which, after all, is at the heart of the envisoned "hedge."

Maybe the Secretary of Defense is suggesting that the new administration also dabble in the prison-industrial complex, a pastime that has made many rich, and one which recently earned indictments, in a South Texas court, for both Dick Cheney and former attorney general, Alberto Gonzales.

For a country that has recently earned the dubious distinction of being the number one incarcerator in the world, with fully one in every 31 American adults, or 7.3 million Americans, in prison, any administration that considers righteous prosecution for wrongdoing is in the wrong business when proposing hedges for dubious potential offenders while allowing proven offenders to walk scot free.

Newton lied?

A couple of students at the college where I teach set up a booth with a sign reading: "Newton lied!" These kids are probably part of the Creationist gang.

One of them approached me with a flier, and asked "do you believe in gravity?" Imagine---as if it's not enough to question evolution. They're questioning gravity now, too.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Remembering Gregory Corso

With Pete Seeger's 90th, I'm thinking about Gregory Corso, and Allen Ginsberg, both of whom barely made it to 70.

Gregory crashed with me when I was a teenage undergrad at SUNY/Buffalo. He told me, back in 1971, "Janie, baby, if anybody ever calls you crazy, it's a compliment."

Wherever you are now, Gregory, I'm sure of one thing---you're still giving 'em hell.

Sunday, May 03, 2009


Am thinking about inventing a ziplock condom. It would be marketed as: "Hold That Thought."

Writers Guild Theatre today...

Philip Proctor and Ray Bradbury will celebrate Norman Corwin's birthday today at 2:30 at the Writers Guild Theatre in Los Angeles. Be there, or be square!

Pete Seeger

Happy Birthday, Pete Seeger---90 years young today!

Musical legends David Amram, Bruce Springsteen and others will be paying tribute to Pete tribute tonight at Madison Square Garden.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

A wannabe quote from...

Dick Cheney:

"We don't have internal conflict. We outsource it."

Quote of the Day

"A lie goes halfway around the world before the truth gets its pants on."

Mark Twain

Friday, May 01, 2009

From Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Mortgaging the White House

By Bill Moyers and Michael Winship

Finally, here we are at the end of this week of a hundred days. As everyone in the western world probably knows by now, this benchmark for assessing presidencies goes back to Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who arrived at the White House in the depths of the Great Depression.

In his first hundred days, FDR came out swinging. He shut down the banks, threw the money lenders from the temple, cranked out so much legislation so fast he would shout to his secretary, Grace Tully, "Grace, take a law!" Will Rogers said Congress didn't pass bills anymore; it just waved as they went by.

President Obama's been busy, but contrary to many of the pundits, he's no FDR. Our new president got his political education in the world of Chicago ward politics, and seems to have adopted a strategy from the machine of that city's longtime boss, the late Richard J. Daley, father of the current mayor there. "Don't make no waves," one of Daley's henchmen advised, "don't back no losers."

Your opinion of Obama's first 100 days depends of course on your own vantage point. But we'd argue that as part of his bending over backwards to support the banks and avoid the losers, he has blundered mightily in his choice of economic advisers.
Last week, at a hearing of the Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) monitoring the Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP), Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner tried to correct AFL-CIO General Counsel Damon Silvers. "I've practiced law and you've been a banker," Silvers said. Never, Geithner replied, "I've only been in public service."
We beg to differ. Read Jo Becker and Gretchen Morgenson's front-page profile of Secretary Geithner in Monday's New York Times, and you'll see how Robert Rubin protégé Geithner, during the five years he was running the New York Federal Reserve, fell under the spell of the big barons of banking to whom he would one day help shovel overly generous sums of money at taxpayer expense.

During "an era of unbridled and ultimately disastrous risk-taking by the financial industry," the Times reported. "... He forged unusually close relationships with executives of Wall Street's giant financial institutions.

"His actions, as a regulator and later a bailout king, often aligned with the industry's interests and desires, according to interviews with financiers, regulators and analysts and a review of Federal Reserve records."

Wined and dined at the Four Seasons, and in corporate dining rooms and fine homes by the very men whose greed and judgment helped bring on the Great Collapse, Geithner became so much a favorite of the Club that former Citigroup chairman Sandy Weill talked with him about becoming the bank's CEO.

According to Becker and Morgenson, "Even as banks complain that the government has attached too many intrusive strings to its financial assistance, a range of critics - lawmakers, economists and even former Federal Reserve colleagues - say that the bailout Mr. Geithner has played such a central role in fashioning is overly generous to the financial industry at taxpayer expense."

The two reporters write that Geithner "repeatedly missed or overlooked signs" that the financial system was self-destructing. "When he did spot trouble, analysts say, his responses were too measured, or too late."

In choosing a man to manage the bailout of the banks who's so cozy with its players, and then installing as his White House economic adviser Larry Summers, who in the Clinton administration took a laissez-faire attitude toward the financial industry which would later enrich him, the president bought into the old fantasy that what's best for Wall Street is best for America.

With these two as his financial gatekeepers, President Obama's now in the position of Louis XVI being advised by Marie Antoinette to have another piece of cake until that rumble in the streets has passed on by.

In fact, other Wall Street insiders - many of them big contributors to the Obama presidential campaign, and progressive in their concern for the public interest - privately are expressing serious concerns that Geithner, Summers and their associates are leading the President and America's taxpayers down a path toward further economic disaster.

This week, as Senate Majority Whip Richard Durbin of Illinois unsuccessfully fought for a congressional amendment he said would have helped 1.7 million Americans save their homes from foreclosure, the senator told a radio station back home that, "The banks - hard to believe in a time when we're facing a banking crisis that many of the banks created - are still the most powerful lobby on Capitol Hill. And they frankly own the place."

He could say the same of the White House.

Bill Moyers is managing editor and Michael Winship is senior writer of
the weekly public affairs program Bill Moyers Journal, which airs Friday night on PBS.
Check local airtimes or comment at The Moyers Blog at