Friday, September 29, 2006

No I will Not Shut The Fuck Up

This is the best article I've seen about why we on the left have to get very angry, stop being polite and compromising with the fascists and wrest the party away from the appeasers.

Shame on You

On today’s “Wall of Shame” I draw your attention to those Democratic senators who have proven themselves unworthy to represent the people because of their craven boot-licking support of the President’s bill permitting torture and indefinite detention of American citizens without charge or trial:
Spineless Democrats Voting Yes:Tom Carper (Del.)Tim Johnson (S.D.)Mary Landrieu (La.)Frank Lautenberg (N.J.)Bob Menendez (N.J)Bill Nelson (Fla.)Ben Nelson (Neb.)Pryor (Ark.)Jay Rockefeller (W. Va.)Ken Salazar (Co.)Debbie Stabenow (Mich.)
Spineless Connecticut for Liebermans Voting Yes:Joe Lieberman (Conn.)

Thanks to the Daily Kos for the names of the traitors.

Some of my best friends are Iraqis

I know people like to think that their representatives in Washington know something about the things they legislate on. Unfortunately, most of them are completely clueless, one might say willfully ignorant. Trent Lott on the war in Iraq: "It's hard for Americans, all of us, including me, to understand what's wrong with these people," he said. "Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion? Why do they hate the Israeli's and despise their right to exist? Why do they hate each other? Why do Sunnis kill Shiites? How do they tell the difference? They all look the same to me."

Do they all look like macaccas to him?

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Liberty, and Justice for All?

By abdicating their principals to save their political asses the following Democrats have proven that they are unfit to hold office: Ohio Senate candidate Sherrod Brown (normally one of the most reliably liberal members of the House), Tennessee Senate contender Harold Ford, as well as imperiled House incumbents Leonard Boswell (Iowa) and Melissa Bean (Illinois). The foregoing defected from the party and voted for the Bush terror bill. It astonishes me that these individuals can show their faces to their constituents. What is the difference between them and their Republican opponents? Why not ask the Democrats of those states to stay home on Election Day. This is the most important Civil Liberties legislation of this century and the four politicians above cast their vote for this odious bill to further their clearly unprincipled political futures.

Salon had a good piece on the Democrat’s spineless response to Bush’s bullying: “Leahy was clearly frustrated by the white-flag mood among some Senate Democrats. As he said in an interview, "In my own caucus, people say, 'We can't oppose this, look what happened to Max Cleland.'" (A Vietnam veteran confined to a wheelchair because of war wounds, Cleland, a Georgia senator, was defeated by GOP attacks ads in 2002 because he had supported a Democratic filibuster delaying the establishment of the Department of Homeland Security). Leahy recounted that his weak-kneed Democratic colleagues also argue, "'We have to go along with it because we'll never be able to explain it back home.'" That prompted the Vermont senator to add, "Maybe one way to explain it is to say, 'I stood up for you and your rights.'"
Here is a taste of what is in this bill that the Democrat’s can’t seem to muster the will to stop. Current Pentagon regulations describe an enemy combatant as anyone who "engages in acts" against the United States. The new legislation would broaden that to also include anyone who "has purposely and materially supported hostilities" against America. And elsewhere in the bill an enemy combatant is defined as anyone so designated by a new Defense Department entity, the Combatant Status Review Tribunal. None of these terms are defined. People prosecuted under this statute have no mechanism to challenge their prosecution. This is a problem, no?
As I have noted here before, rushing this bill through the Senate underscores the dangers of negotiating with the Bush administration fanatics after they have taken a hard and unreasonable position. When dealing with the devil, everyone gets burned. Let’s be clear my fellow Americans: There is a bill pending before the United States Senate which allows the administration to hold people in prison, indefinitely, without judicial review, or even charges being levied against them. During this period of indefinite detention the CIA is allowed to torture these people to extract information and then use that information as evidence in a secret military tribunal. Why is no one in the media freaking out about this? Have we become so neutered by our televisions and consumer culture that out freedoms no longer matter?

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I'm a Monkey

Not much time to post today my friends. Dave and I are going to the Stones Concert at Giant Stadium tonight and I was in training at work all day. Off the top of my head I'd like to acknowledge the Patriots prescience regarding the Bill Clinton appearance on Fox. As I reported several days ago I thought that out erstwhile president's appearance was a clarion call to the Democrats to start fighting and apparently I was right; all the major news outlets are carrying Hillary's statement to the media yesterday: “I’m certain that if my husband and his national security team had been shown a classified report entitled ‘Bin Laden Determined to Attack Inside the United States,’ he would have taken it more seriously than history suggests it was taken by our current president and his national security team,” she said during an appearance on Capitol Hill. Let's get em folks, they're on the ropes!

Or not. Apparently the House passed the "compromise" bill doing away with habeaus corpus. The vote was 253 to 168 which makes me wonder which Democrats voted for this treasonous bill. Considering that the Dems only need 16 seats to take control of the House, the bill passed with some Democrats support. I am unable to tell how many because, of course, representative's individual votes on an issue are nowhere to be found on the House web site. Maybe someone can find out and post the names of the traitors here. You can't always get what you want, I suppose.

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Today's Issues

As I suspected yesterday, Clinton’s aggressive posture during Fox News Sunday was a shot across the bow and a clear signal to the rest of the party that the spineless Democrats need to come out swinging in the weeks prior to the election. Hilary stated as much yesterday, “"I just think that my husband did a great job in demonstrating that Democrats are not going to take this," she told Newsday on Monday.

An excellent place for the Dems to start flexing their muscle would be with the “compromise” bill on detainee detention proposed by the right wing republican Senators John McCain, John Warner and Lindsey Graham. It appears that on closer examination the compromise bill differs little from the one proposed by the White House insofar as its definition of an unlawful combatant. From The Daily Kos: “
“The definition applies to foreigners living inside or outside the United States and does not rule out the possibility of designating a U.S. citizen as an unlawful combatant. It is broader than that in last week's version of the bill, which resulted from lengthy, closed-door negotiations between senior administration officials and dissident Republican senators. That version incorporated a definition backed by the Senate dissidents: those "engaged in hostilities against the United States." Under a separate provision, those held by the CIA or the U.S. military as an unlawful enemy combatant would be barred from challenging their detention or the conditions of their treatment in U.S. courts unless they were first tried, convicted and appealed their conviction.”
I don’t really know what else to say about this bill. If you are an elected representative and you vote for this you should be indicted for treason. If you a re a Democrat you should be thrown out of the party all together.

For those that argue along the lines of “I don’t do anything illegal so I’m not going to worry about this stuff” I call your attention to an article on today’s metro section of the Times, reproduced here in part:

“Federal District Court in Manhattan has made public an affidavit from a plaintiff whose identity cannot be revealed. In the affidavit, he says he has to lie to those close to him to preserve the secrecy of a national security investigation that he believes is morally questionable.
The affidavit, which has been heavily censored, provides vivid details of an upside-down life. The plaintiff, identified only as John Doe, is a businessman who filed a lawsuit in 2004 challenging the constitutionality of federal demands for Internet and telephone records. He describes himself as the former president of an Internet access and consulting business.
Some time ago (the government will not allow him to say when), he received a so-called national security letter from the F.B.I., asking him to provide information about one of his clients in connection with “international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities.” The letter also said he was prohibited from talking with anyone about the investigation.
“Since that time,” the John Doe affidavit says, “I have been subject to a gag order that has prevented me from disclosing, among many other things, that I initiated this lawsuit.”
Mr. Doe said he resisted the government’s demand because he did not want to violate the privacy of his clients. In April 2004, represented by the American Civil Liberties Union, he filed a lawsuit against the attorney general, John Ashcroft, and Robert S. Mueller, the director of the F.B.I. The government gained the right to demand customer information without a court order under a 1986 law, which was expanded by the U.S.A. Patriot Act of 2001 and amended further in March of this year.

In his affidavit, he described a world in which he has been “compelled to systematically deceive” his friends, his family and his girlfriend in order to preserve the secrecy of the investigation.
“The gag put me in a very compromising position, as I did not want to be dishonest in my communications,” yet at the same time, he said, he did not want to violate the order. He added: “I do not like the feeling of being conscripted to be a secret informer for the government, especially because I have doubts about the legitimacy of the underlying investigation.”

Scary stuff. Remember my friends, if you let the government pass repressive laws that take away our liberties in the name of fighting terrorism, history teaches us that it is only a matter of time before those laws are used against the people. As Americans we have become very complacent and docile; fat on our bounty and trusting of our government. This government does not have your interests at heart. The right-wing Christo-fascists in this Country have a very clear and outspoken desire to replace our secular institutions, which were formed in the crucible of enlightenment thinking, with a Christian literalist government who thinks that Jesus is about to soar in on a cloud and take care of things. A whopping 47% of Americans believe that Jesus will return in the next 100 years. Doesn’t that just scare the shit out of you? Why should the government care about secular institutions when Jesus is coming back to create his kingdom on earth?

Monday, September 25, 2006

Clinton 1, Fox 0

Bit of fall in the air this morning, no? The change of the seasons is one reason I continue to live in New York. I trust everyone had a pleasant week-end. The Patriot is going to try to tone down his inflammatory rhetoric lest he goad himself into even higher blood pressure in the remaining weeks before the election. However, Democrats take note! Bill Clinton taught a wonderful lesson over the week-end on how to handle the “reporters” over at Fox news. After being lied to by Fox and told he was going to be asked questions solely about his global initiative, Chris Wallace fired away at Clinton, accusing him of empowering Al Queda by withdrawing troops from Somalia in 1993. This little bit of revisionist history is part of a larger Republican strategy to subtly shift the blame for the increase in terrorost risk to the former administration in anticipation of the mid-term elections. Bush has been assisted in this effort by Fox and ABC/Disney who chose to air the one-sided 911 fictional dramatazation despite universal condemnation of its portrayal of the events leading to the attack.

Clinton, who is fast becoming my favorite ex-president, was having none of it. It was, of course, the Republicans in the Senate who most forcefully were calling for immediate withdrawal from Somalia after the Blackhawk down incident and Clinton, at great political risk, kept the troops there for six more months and engineered a smooth transition to the United Nations. Republican Senate leaders threatened to cut off all funding for any troops in the region. I have literally prayed for a Democratic Congress with the backbone to stand up and make the same threat with regard to Iraq, but to no avail.

Let’s see what Colin Powell had to say about Somalia back in 1993: “Because things get difficult, you don't cut and run.” (Sound familiar?) “You work the problem and try to find a correct solution' ... So let us finish the work we set out to do. Let us demonstrate to the world, as generations of Americans have done before us, that when Americans take on a challenge, they do the job right." Clinton stayed put.

The administration’s blatant attempt at revisionist history is disturbing but within character. Fox’s reporting it as fact borders on slander. Clinton, that old gleam in his eye was in full finger wagging mode and it was beautiful to see. Fox’s usual modus operandi is to invite a weak liberal guest and trash him with glee and impugnity. They miscalculated with Clinton and the story is on every media outlet in America today. Democrats, take notice. Attacking the right-wing “newspeak” bullshit with force makes you look strong and in control so climb out from under your desks and attack.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Happy New Year

To readers who celebrate, all the best. The following is for the goys (including me) from

"The Jewish New Year (Rosh Hashanah) takes place in the month of Tishri (September and October on the Gregorian calendar) and commemorates the anniversary of Creation. It is on this day that G-d opens the Book of Life and observes his creatures, deciding their fate for the coming year.

It is a time of restricted rejoicing because, even though it celebrates HaShem's kingship, the celebrations are muted in acknowledgement of the great judgement taking place.

As is customary in Jewish festivals, observance begins on nightfall the day before Rosh Hashanah. Celebrants prepare by bathing, receiving haircuts, donning special clothes and giving treats to children. Certain types of work are forbidden, though there are some exceptions. Food preparation and the carrying, transferring or increasing of the fire are all permitted. Women of the household light commemorative candles before sunset of the first night and a half-hour before sunset on the second night of Rosh Hashanah, reciting blessings over them. Though G-d opens the Book of Life on Rosh Hashanah the judgement is not final. The book is 'sealed' on Yom Kippur, ten days later. The time between these two festivals is known as Shabbat Shuva (The Shabbat of Returning). This is a period for self-reflection in which to justify your existence to G-d. Rosh Hashanah is the only Jewish celebration that lasts for two days, signifying the importance of this date in the calendar."

I will be doing some self-reflection tonight at the bar. Have a nice week-end folks.

The Devil

The Democrats, seemingly willingly impotent in the face of Bush’s assault on basic human rights are falling all over themselves to defend our own little dictator against his left-wing Venezuelan counterpart. I am especially surprised at Charlie Rangel’s comment which said, in effect, that only Americans should be able to criticize this president. A few blocks away in another part of Harlem, Chavez announced that he is expanding the Venezuelan government’s plan to provide free home heating oil to poor Americans. Maybe Rangel should spend less time waving the flag and a little more time looking after the poor in his district.

At the same time the Democrats are rallying around Bush, the Times reports that the President began a blistering new political offensive on Thursday, asserting that if Democrats won control of Congress from Republicans it would mean higher taxes, less money in the pockets of working families and damage to the economy. The Dems appear to be less willing to roll over on this issue than in the past. In the words of Representative Rahm Emanuel, Democrat of Illinois, who is leading the Democratic effort to take back the House, “This is from a guy who ran up three trillion in debt and has submitted a deficit every year for the last five years. If I were him, I wouldn’t be throwing stones in a glass house.” We’ll see if this rare exhibition of Democratic backbone lasts until the election.

And about Chavez, doesn’t anyone think he made some very valid points in his UN speech? Granted his histrionics at the podium were a bit over the top but his speech was the lead story on all major news outlets and I’m sure his performance played well at home where it matters. The US continues to ignore its southern neighbors at its own peril. While the administration fixates on illusory terrorists hiding under every rock, genuine grass-roots leftist governments are rising in Latin America. Chavez won six tightly observed elections and he has the support of his people precisely because he is helping lift the people in his country out of poverty. Chavez is also taking full advantage of the United States distraction over the Iraq war by building alliances with disillusioned countries all over the world, including in Africa and the Middle East. This is the long-term danger of trying to marginalize someone with Chavez’s obvious popularity. He is no Castro and Venezuela is no Cuba. It has oil and natural resources and isn’t going to let itself be pushed aside by the United States. In contrast to Chavez, Bush’s speech at the UN reminded me of the speeches given by Soviet premiers; long on rhetoric but short on the truth.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Habeas Corpus

The New York Times conducted a poll that showed that only 25% of Americans have any faith in the way Congress has been doing its job. This is bad news for all incumbents, but worse news for Republicans. I have no doubt that if the people had a “none of the above” lever in the voting machine that’s the one they would be pulling on, frantically.

It’s rare that I agree with both David Brooks and Bob Herbert on the same day, but today was an exception. Herbert’s column was a screed against the extraordinary rendition techniques embraced by the Bush administration which led to a blameless Canadian citizen being taken by the CIA to Syria to be tortured. It is noteworthy that his removal from the United States occurred without a hearing of any sort to weight the evidence that he might be associated with “terrorists”, whoever they may be these days. If the Bush administration has its way the number of Maher Arar’s is likely to increase in the coming months and years. The bill pending before Congress has as its principal feature a provision to strip away the right to Habeas Corpus for individuals who are snatched off the streets by roving bands of CIA agents. Habeas corpus is the name of a legal instrument by means of which detainees can seek release from allegedly unlawful imprisonment. A writ of habeas corpus is a court order addressed to a prison official (or other custodian) ordering that a detainee be brought to the court so it can be determined whether or not that person is imprisoned lawfully and whether or not he or she should be released from custody. The writ of habeas corpus in common law countries is an important instrument for the safeguarding of individual freedom against arbitrary state action. (Thank you Wikipedia.)

The drafters of our Constitution thought the concept so important that they wrote it directly into the Constitution "The Privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it." (Article One, section nine). Habeas Corpus rights have been suspended exactly twice in our nation’s history. The first time was in 1861 during the Civil War. While one might think that a Civil War would be sufficient to meet the “Cases of rebellion or Invasion” requirement in Article 1, the Supreme Court thought otherwise. Supreme Court Chief Justice Roger B. Taney) in Ex Parte Merryman, 17 F. Cas. 144 (C.C.D. Md. 1861) declared Lincoln’s action to be unconstitutional. Lincoln ignored the decision. (This isn’t really surprising considering Taney’s pro-slavery jurisprudence. Taney was the author of the Dred Scott decision in 1857 which declared any restrictions imposed by Congress on the spread of slavery into the territories, such as those found in the Missouri Compromise, to be unconstitutional. This decision, one can argue, was an accellerant thrown onto the fire of the abolition movement which hastened the onset of the war.) Nevertheless, Lincoln set a dangerous precedent by ignoring a Court decision by a branch of government with whom he disagreed. A war-time president facing an invasion of Washington DC by citizens of the United States can perhaps be forgiven for his decision to, in effect, suspend part of the Constitution until he alone thought it safe. Remember this was Honest Abe here. Neither George Bush nor his lackeys in the war on terror have such a compelling case for imminent danger, nor have they exhibited the sort of trustworthyness that would permit giving them the benefir of the doubt. (For those interested, in the early 1870s, President Grant alsosuspended habeas corpus in nine counties in South Carolina, as part of federal civil rights action against the Ku Klux Klan under the 1870 Force Act and 1871 Ku Klux Klan Act.)
The Bush administration already effectively suspended the writ in 2001 after the terrorist attacks. The November 13, 2001 Presidential Military Order gives the President of the United States the power to detain certain non-citizens suspected of connection to terrorists or terrorism as enemy combatants. As such, that person can be held indefinitely, without charges being filed against him or her, without a court hearing, and without entitlement to a legal consultant. (Again, thanks Wikipedia).
Bush’s authority to strip away the rights of any individual because he deemed them an enemy combatent was addressed by the Supreme Court in the Hamden v. Rumsfeld case. The case specifically considered whether the United States Congress has the authority to pass legislation preventing the Supreme Court from hearing the case of an accused combatant before his military commission takes place and whether the special military commissions that had been set up violated federal law. On June 29, 2006, the Supreme Court issued a 5-3 (Roberts abstaining because he argued for the government in the lower Court) decision holding that it had jurisdiction, that the federal government did not have authority to set up these particular special military commissions, and that the special military commissions were illegal under both the Uniform Code of Military Justice and the Geneva Convention.

Having failed under Hamden, the administration is seeking to rewrite legislation which would pass Constitutional muster and satisfy the Court’s ruling. This is a true tragedy and really highlights the fact that you really should be required to have a law degree to be President. In a country which supposedly abides by the rule of law, there has been preciousl little understanding of it on Pennsylvania Avenue these last few years.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Another Slate Link

Here is an excellent article on the Pope and free speech.

The Dope and the Pope

FYI, today is international “Talk Like A Pirate Day”. This holiday encourages everyone to get in touch with their inner pirate by wearing pirate dress, speaking pirate speech, walking around with a parrot on you shoulder and drinking alcohol. Yarrrgh.

Speaking of pirates, the Department of Justice and the Bush administration have floated what they refer to as a “compromise” bill pertaining to the redefinition of the Geneva Convention to include allowing torture in CIA secret prisons. Although the details of the bill haven’t been made public, whenever the Bush administration starts talking about compromise, watch your wallet. The initial Bill was so contemptuous of judicial review that any replacement bill proffered by the administration should be closely and skeptically examined. Even if this bill is marginally better, I can confidentially state even without seeing it that it will still include an end-run around the Courts and will leave the definition of what constitutes torture subject to Bush’s discretion. Lest we forger, no one has legally challenged Bush’s signing statement and one can guarantee that one won’t be appended to this bill. Remember, Bush announced the other day that if he doesn’t get his bill through Congress the CIA will stop interrogating people all together. I am less than sanguine about the potential for a milder bill.

If the Democrats had any cohesion they would get together and call the President on his fear-mongering. There isn’t any urgency to pass this bill, or the other bill on wiretapping that is also up for a vote this week. The only urgency here is on the part of the White House who knows that when they lose Congress in November they won’t have a chance of getting another bill through. One important feature of the current bill regarding the Geneva Convention, at least from the administration’s perspective, is that it immunizes individual actors from criminal prosecution. This is important because of the administrations clear violation of the Convention, and the possibility that a newly energized Democratic Congress will bring charges against administration officials for violating the treaty. Far from a necessary power the President needs to fight the war on terror, this legislation is really a giant CYA for members of the Bush administration who are looking at the possibility of jail for their past human rights violations.

On other fronts, it has been interesting to watch the media drop the ball on the Pope/Islam story. Rather than concentrating on defusing tensions by trying to explain the context of Benedict’s remarks, the mainstream media has discovered a heretofore unknown solidarity with Islamic terrorists at the same time it exhibits a pent up anti-Catholicism. The Pope’s speech was a lot longer and a lot more detailed than the incessant repetition of the two most inflammatory lines by the media would have one believe. On the News Hour last night Gwen Ifill practically accused George Weigel, a senior fellow at the Ethics and Public Policy Center and quasi-official Vatican spokesperson of racism because he averred that the reaction to the speech “underscores the truth of what the pope was trying to put on the table, namely, that there are, unfortunately -- but in a widespread way -- currents in the Islamic world which attempt to justify violence in the name of God.” And that “[t]his is not the way rational, serious, civilized people conduct serious arguments. That's not a contribution to any sort of serious inter-religious dialogue”.

It appears as if a number of Christian clerics at least have an understanding of what is really happening. “We are faced with a media-driven phenomenon bordering on the absurd,” Cardinal Jean-Marie Lustiger, the former archbishop of Paris, told Le Monde. “If the game consists in unleashing the crowd’s vindictiveness on words that it has not understood, then the conditions for dialogue with Islam are no longer met.” Exactly so.

Monday, September 18, 2006

FISA on the Wire

Here is an excellent article form Slate on the wiretap bills crawling through Congress like e-coli through a bag of spinach.

The Pope Smokes Dope

Those peace-loving Islamist’s are at it again:
“We will break up the cross, spill the liquor and impose head tax, then the only thing acceptable is a conversion (to Islam) or (killed by) the sword." -The Mujahedeen Shura Council, an umbrella organization of Sunni Arab extremist groups posted on their web site. Reaction in the Moslem world over a speech that really had little to nothing to do with Islam has been completely over the top, not to mention a gift to the Bush administration who has been laboring with great resolve to get Congress to legalize torture and thus sink into the gutter along side the rest of the world’s religious extremists.

Although one can argue that the Pope should have vetted his speech through his ministers to remove language likely to be misconstrued, my personal belief is that once we start self-censoring our speech to avoid offending the religious nut jobs we have already lost the battle. Someone should come out say what we’re all thinking: burning papal effigies and threatening to kill Christians who don’t convert to Islam only makes you look like the violent extremists you claim have no place in Islam. Your position is inconsistent. The moderate mullahs should come out and demand that the people stop the wanton destruction of property and cease issuing threats directed at the Pope or anyone else.

Sunday, September 17, 2006

A Sunday Sermon

Can't we all just get along? Apparently not. The one thing George Bush and I agree on is that there is a war raging for the ideological conscience of the world. However, while Bush frames the struggle as democracy versus "Islamo-facism" whatever that is, I see the war as a reprise of a war already fought in the Enlightenment; a war of reason against superstition and fable. The current row between Pope Benedict and the religious fundamentalists in the Islamic world is a perfect example of how the battles of this war are being waged. The Pope’s words were clearly taken out of context. He apologized, which in my opinion he shouldn’t have done, and now the political leaders in the Islamic world are whipping their people into a frenzy by claiming that the apology wasn’t good enough and that the Pope has committed a grevious sin against Islam. People are starting to speak of this controversy as akin to the cartoons of Mohammed posted by the Danish press last year. Since the political leaders of Jihad aren’t really interested in whether the Pope has been sufficiently contrite for speaking what is essentially the truth about Islam, no apology issued from the Vatican is likely to be thought of as adequate. The Pope is about to learn something that we on the American left are all too familiar with; you cannot reason with crazy people. People who run their lives according to mysterious teachings handed down in sacred books are not prone to listen to reason. The Pope must find this lesson particularly ironic considering his own sermon of several days ago in which he chastised the west for relying too much on reason and not enough on faith.

Perhaps ontologically there isn’t much difference between the religious myths of Christianity and Islam, but Catholics aren’t rioting in the streets, burning mosques and killing mullahs. Islamic leaders need to realize that until they can bring their fanatical followers under some semblance of control, the Western leaders will be issuing more pronouncements along those of 14th century Byzantine Emperor Manuel II Paleologus, which I repeat here: "Show me just what Mohammed brought that was new, and there you will find things only evil and inhuman, such as his command to spread by the sword the faith he preached."

The Islamists argue that the violent teaching in the Koran have no place in Islam today but of course this is complete nonsense. The reaction to the Pope’s statement by the Islamic masses has largely consisted of burning Churches, rioting in the streets and killing nuns as opposed to starting a dialogue on differences in matters of faith. This, to me is not a religion of peace and non-violence. But then again, I suppose it is a matter of degree. One could make the argument that invading a soverign nation without provocation for the purpose of imposing your political ideology is also emblematic of a sort of religious-centered violence which only appears as rational because you believe God is on your side. If the leaders of this country truly believe that God is calling the shots and that he prefers the United States to other countries, then how can anyone expect the Islamists to believe that this isn't a crusade by the West to, in essence, take back the holy land?

Friday, September 15, 2006

Organic Spinach

This just in…forget the war and the taking away of your privacy rights and all of that other bullshit. What we really have to fear in America before the election isn’t George Bush and the Republicans, its ORGANIC SPINACH.

Power Run Amok

The Patriot would love to take a day off from chronicling the systematic attempt by this administration to dismantle our civil liberties, but as he was told be a boozy friend last night, “People lose interest if you don’t post every day”. So here goes:

The New York Times did a great job of crystallizing the second anti-freedom bill worming its way around Congress this week. Seemingly unsatisfied with its dismantling of our own Constitution, the administration is sharpening its long knives in preparation for the ritual gutting of a few choice sections of the Geneva Conventions, namely, the pesky provision that prohibits “outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment.” The President says that he finds this language “too vague”, and I find his legal analysis wanting. The President is uncharacteristically opposed by his military lawyers as well as the usual array of civil libertarians and peaceniks. His military lawyers fear that United States soldiers could be subjected to the same treatment if captured as the torture we are currently inflicting on untold numbers of prisoners held at secret CIA bases around the world. As the Times noted in its editorial, “The idea that the nation’s chief executive is pressing so hard to undermine basic standards of justice is shocking.” Not all that shocking to those of us who were warning about this slippery slope when the President was given carte blanche in his “war on terror” shortly after 911. Of course, one can take the position that a certain amount of secrecy and latitude should be permitted the chief executive in these matters since the enemy is unlikely to be a regular army and any American servicemen unlucky enough to be captured in Iraq would probably end up meeting the grisly fate of Danny Pearl irrespective of any Geneva convention. One could argue this position. However, the administration, as usual, is not looking to confine its legislation to the jihadists captured on the fields of battle. Rather, the “White House bill also includes anyone who gives “material support” to a terrorist group or anyone affiliated with a terrorist group. Legal experts fear this definition could cover people who, for example, contribute to charities without knowing they support terrorist groups, or that are not identified as terrorist fronts until later. It could be used to arrest a legal resident of the United States and put him before a military commission.” (Again from the Times). This President is obsessed with spying on Americans and for the life of my I don’t understand why. All most of us do is eat, shop and watch television anyway.

I guess the most disturbing effect of both this White House sponsored Bill and the Arlen Specter Bill discussed yesterday is the denigration of the separation of powers these Bills represent. By shoving this totalitarian nightmare of a Bill in Congress’s face the President is essentially usurping the legislative function of Congress and paralyzing the body into inaction. Why is the White House sponsoring legislation? Why is Congress seriously considering it? Well, Congressmen and Senators are tripping all over themselves to not look soft on terror for the fall elections and the Bush administration has, once again successfully set the terms of the debate on the issue by the use of fear and intimidation. Believe me, the alternative Bill being floated by Senators Warner, McCain and Lindsey Graham (all Republicans, btw) while keeping the Geneva convention intact draws the definition of “unlawful enemy combatant” so broadly that it could cover almost anyone that the particular administration decides is a threat, leading to his removal from the judicial system and subject to a military trial.

A well placed kick in the ass of the spineless Democrats is also warranted. Despite the threat to civil liberties, not to mention the erosion of commonly accepted standards of decency that this Bill represents, the Democrats, as usual, caved into administration demands. Many military lawyers appeared before the House Armed Services Committee and testified that they strongly opposed the rules of evidence and other due-process clauses in the White House’s bill. The committee passed it anyway with only eight of the 28 Democratic members voting “no.” Is it any wonder the foxes rule the hen house? I am starting to come full circle on my regret for voting for Nader in 2000. What is the purpose of an opposition party if they fail to oppose?

Finally, stripping the federal courts of the power to review the detentions of Guantánamo Bay, which the Bush Bill proposes is another assault on the judiciary, the third co-equal branch of government. The entire piece of legislation is specifically designed to circumvent earlier Court rulings by getting Congress to declare legal what the Supreme Court did not. This is an abuse of power of the most egregious sort. Unfortunately, the Congress has been bought and paid for and the legislators crave power more than they are interested in preserving our way of life. Folks, what we are witnessing here is nothing less than the potential end of the American experiment. Our civil liberties are what make this country different from the rest of the world. Unfortunately, as we become paranoid and aggressive on a diplomatic level at the same time we espouse the free flow of goods and ideas on an economic level, we come across as inconsistent and deranged to our quickly diminishing circle of allies.

It kills me to think that 230 years of progress can be destroyed in six years by 19 morons from Saudi Arabia and one jack-ass from Texas. Unbelievable.

Anyway y’all have a nice week-end. Feel free to flame, disagree and/or support anything I say. And write your legislators to tell them how much they suck.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

Fun FISA Facts

This hasn’t been the greatest week for our civil liberties. The Arlen Specter bill made it out of committee and a full vote is expected on the floor of the senate as early as next week. Specter’s bill, portrayed by the media as a compromise between the White House and so called “moderate” Republicans on the issue of secret surveillance on American citizens is actually a Trojan horse bill whose effect will be to strengthen the President’s ability to spy on United States citizens without the approval of a court and without a valid warrant. The committee approved S.2453, the "National Security Surveillance Act." By a vote of 10-8. The bill was authored by Vice-President Dick Cheney and Committee Chairman Specter. It gives the president the option of complying - or not - with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and the protections of the Fourth Amendment.
From the New York Times:

“The intensity of feeling aroused by the Specter-White House version (of the bill) was illustrated in the reaction of the American Civil Liberties Union. “Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee acted as a rubber stamp for the administration’s abuse of power,” said Caroline Fredrickson, head of the A.C.L.U.’s Washington legislative office, in urging defeat by the full Senate.
Under the agreement reached by the president and Mr. Specter, the bill includes language implicitly recognizing the president’s “constitutional authority” to collect foreign intelligence beyond the provisions of the 1978 law that created the F.I.S.A. court.”

And from the ACLU’s press release:
“The bill would also: vastly increase the government’s statutory power to examine all international phone conversations and emails, making warrantless surveillance of Americans’ conversations the rule rather then the exception and expand the ability to conduct warrantless physical searches of Americans’ homes.
Senator Mike DeWine’s (R-OH) "Terrorist Surveillance Program Act of 2006" (S. 2455) was approved by a vote of 10 to 8. This bill would weaken the probable cause requirement for spying on people in the US - sweeping in innocent Americans - allow extended warrantless surveillance, limit judicial review and punish whistleblowers.”
The Democrats, their usual craven boot licking in full effect, sponsored a slightly less offensive bill that while requiring the president to follow the procedures set forth by Congress for wiretapping Americans, it streamlines (i.e. makes easier) the procedures by which one may seek a FISA warrant.

Maybe I’m old fashioned but to me the FISA courts very existence is an affront to a free society. If the DOJ wants to perform surveillance on an American citizen then let them make an in camera application to a regular judge; not a secret cabal of people whose identities are unknown and loyalties to the principals of liberty suspect. Though the this Court’s rulings may result in criminal charges, convictions and prison sentences for US citizens, their activities are permanently sealed from review by those accused of crimes and from any substantive civilian review. During the 20-years of its existence, the FISC received over 10,000 applications for covert surveillance and physical searches. To date, not a single application has been denied. Way to go Senator Feinstein! Teach those Republicans that they have to obey the law by facilitating their access to our secret Court!

The upshot of all this is that the democrats are ultimately to blame for creating the FISA court in the first place. The sponsor of the enabling legislation was, drum roll please, none other then Edward Kennedy, the esteemed senior Senator from Massachusetts. One would think that the Democrats learned their lesson that compromising your values in the face of immoral opposition is a slippery slope to hell, but there are a lot of short memories in Washington. The FISC concept was a compromise between legislators who wanted the FBI and National Security Agency (NSA), the only two agencies affected by the FISA statute, to follow the standard procedure for obtaining a court order required in criminal investigations and legislators. The federal agencies believed that they should be completely unfettered in conducting their foreign intelligence surveillance work inside US borders. The “compromise” was the creation of a secret Court which answers to no one, including the Congress that created it. It is also noted that the FISA legislation was introduced at a time when the White House and both houses of congress were controlled by Democrats. But that’s not all...

Bill Clinton greatly expanded the Court’s power when he signed Executive Order 12949 mid-way through his first term. His order granted the Court legal authority to authorize Department of Justice to approve so-called "black-bag" operations within the United States, to approve requests to conduct physical as well as electronic searches without obtaining a warrant, without notifying the subject, and without providing an inventory of items seized. Interestingly enough, the targets need not be under suspicion of committing a crime, but may be investigated when probable cause results solely from their associations or status: for example, belonging to, or aiding and abetting organizations deemed to pose a threat to U.S. national security. (This seems to include just about everyone except members of the Republican Party these days) Furthermore, despite a lowered standard for applying the Fourth Amendment against unreasonable search and seizure than is necessary in other U.S. courts, under the 1995 expansion, evidence gathered by the FISA court may now be used in criminal trials. Previously, evidence was collected and stockpiled solely for intelligence purposes.

Perhaps the next time the Republicans accuse the Democrats of being soft on terrorism the Democrats can point to the FISA Court as proof positive that they are just as susceptible to irrational fear mongering as their apocalyptic fundamentalist-freak friends across the aisle.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Smoke Screens

In another whack at our Civil Liberties, a Federal Court in San Francisco, rejected an appeal from a blogger who has refused to turn over a videotape he shot of a protest last summer. A conservative three-Judge panel of The Ninth Circuit, (the August Motions Panel) reaffirmed a contempt charge against free-lance journalist Josh Wolf, seemingly contradicting its image as one of the more “liberal” courts, at least considering the high numbers of decisions reversed by the Supreme Court. The decision was unpublished and the judges deemed the issue in the case too easy to merit oral argument.(More on this soon).

Josh’s trouble with the government began last summer when he was videotaping some of the more aggressive protests at a protest in San Francisco timed to coincide with the Group of Eight economic summit in Scotland. Purportedly he took some video which would reveal the identity of some of the protestors, one of whom is suspected of placing a smoke-bomb or other device underneath a car.

Josh’s lawyers unsuccessfully argued that the blog was a form of journalism and therefore protected under the First Amendment. I read the reply brief which is published on Josh’s blog. Not a bad piece of work: “[A]a fair reading of Supreme Court precedent requires a finding that there is a “substantial connection” between the information sought and the criminal conduct under investigation before a witness may be held in contempt for refusing to answer question (sic) that implicate First Amendment rights. Bursey v. United States (9th. Cir. 1972) 466 F.2d 1059, 1091, overruled on other grounds, In re Grand Jury Proceedings (9th Cir. 1988) 863 F.2d 667, 669-670.” Josh’s counsel pointed out, quite reasonably in my opinion, that in order for the lower Court to determine whether the substantial connection exists they have to actually watch the video, which they didn’t. Clearly, holding Wolf in contempt without even making a deminimus attempt to determine whether any nexus existed between the video and the government’s investigation was an abuse of discretion by the lower Court.

The sole federal offence under investigation by the government involved allegations that unknown persons damaged, or attempted to damage, “by means of fire or an explosive,” a police vehicle owned by an entity receiving federal funds under 28 U.S.C. §844(f)(1). In other words this is a case of vandalism involving a police car. Except for the fact that it took place at a rally to protest globalization. Oh, and the vehicle sustained no apparent damage. Anyone see some selective prosecution here? To be fair, the initial investigation was apparently launched because of the aggravated assault on a San Francisco police officer, but the grand jury proceedings solely related to the “damage” to the car. The FBI assisted the investigation under the Joint Terrorism Task Force, which is now apparently assigned to investigate political protests.

In their amicus brief, the ACLU noted that every television and online journalist with a video camera who covers a public protest will end up with hours of footage of the crowd including individuals alone and in groups. If the protest turns hairy, these photographers may also have footage of crimes like vandalism, or worse. The government predictably argued that in such a case all video footage of the entire event – not just that related to the crimes – immediately becomes the government’s property so that it can catalogue the attendees and develop a record of who attends public demonstrations. Clearly this position violates a number of constitutional rights, and had the Ninth Circuit written on it I don’t think you would have liked the outcome.

Josh is taking the defeat in stride. Unlike the do-nothings in Congress, this guy showed some back-bone. “Nothing the government can do,” he said, “will coerce me into submitting to their demands. I intend to appeal this through every measure possible.” If only the Democrats would show the same resolve against the Bush Administration. Please visit and drop the man a note of support or contribute to his legal fund. He deserves it.

Monday, September 11, 2006


I thought it interesting that Bush came to town to celebrate the fifth anniversary of 9-11 on 9-10, at night, when he wouldn’t have to face crowds of angry New Yorkers asking uncomfortable questions about Iraq. All the local politicians were there except Hillary and Schumer. So much for a non-partisan approach to the holiday.

I went over to the WTC site today at lunch to have a look at what was going on. I try to get over there every anniversary of the event to mourn, to remember, and to see what sort of off-center folks an event like the 911 anniversary brings out. This year there were an especially large number of evangelical “Christian” groups aggressively handing out their tracts. I asked one of them if God had taken a vacation five years ago. He had no answer. Perhaps he was fighting for the other monotheist team that day. I was also surprised to see at least 30% of the people down there at about 1:15pm had on t-shirts calling for a further investigation into the attacks. Far from being ignored or sidelined (besides by the mainstream media), I saw a number of them having in-depth engaged conversations with firemen and police officers about the inconsistencies in the official story about what happened. Strange this isn’t getting more coverage.

I stopped into St. Peters, across the street from the WTC and stayed for the end of the mass. I suppose that behavior is inconsistent with the comments above, but I have a history with St. Peters and being raised a Catholic, old habits die hard. I also find Catholics to be, on the whole, more sensible about issues like peace and inequity. Anyone remember Dorothy Day?

Have a nice day everyone.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

911 Five Years On

So tomorrow marks five years since the day that changed all of our lives. Here is my story, one day early since I don't know that I'll feel like writing about it tomorrow:

On the morning of September 11, 2001 I and a number of other newly hired attorneys were due to have our picture taken with then Mayor Rudy Giuliani on the steps of City Hall. We were all supposed to meet on the second floor of the Law Department and then proceed to City Hall as a group. I was running late that morning and didn’t get to 100 Church Street until shortly after 8:30am. The first plane must have struck the tower when I was in the elevator because I don’t recall hearing any explosion. When I arrived on the second floor, I was somewhat surprised that no one else was there yet. Apparently the folks who were on the floor at the time the first plane hit had immediately gone downstairs to see what was happening. I grabbed a co-worker and went back to the lobby of my building. As I was pushing through the front door of the building the second plane hit the tower. There was a tremendous explosion and flash of light reflected in the windows of the building across the street which promptly shattered due to the explosion. A piece of the plane’s engine (I could see the flywheel clearly) tore through a section of roof of the next building north of 100 church and landed with a tremendous thud about 20 yards from where I was standing. It was still there, smoking, when I ran up Church Street later on that morning.

Immediately after the second plane hit I bolted back into the lobby which was already full of FBI agents who were screaming at everyone to evacuate the building because it was about to collapse. I remember thinking at the time that this fact was kind of curious since only about 20 minutes had passed since the first plane struck the tower. To my knowledge the only tenants of 100 Church Street at the time were the Bank of New York, the City Law Department and a private law firm. At this point I still didn’t know what had happened; my first thought was that someone had blown up the Federal building next door. It was only when I exited the lobby into the street that I saw the towers burning for the first time.

Instead of leaving the area immediately as many of my colleagues did, I bummed a cigarette from a co-worker and stood in front of my building watching the tragedy unfold. I saw many, many people jumping to their deaths from the holes where the planes went into the tower. Fortunately, the Federal building blocked any view of them landing. The streets were full of paper blowing from the Trade Center offices like it was a perverse ticker-tape parade.

There were a lot of people on Church Street and the rumor mill was grinding out information every second; there was a third plane, the Met Life Building had also been hit, etc. At some point before the first Tower collapsed a fighter jet appeared in the sky which started a panic because people thought it was another hijacked plane. When the first Tower collapsed I was standing on the corner of Church Street and Chambers Street. I remember very clearly thinking and telling a number of friends and family that additional explosives must have been placed in the Tower because I saw puffs of smoke emanating from several stories below the fire just prior to the building collapse. I also thought I heard an explosion but I can’t be sure if this is a real memory or not. I watched the implosion and then ran for my life up Church Street with thousands of my fellow New Yorkers to try to avoid the cloud of ash.

I was much further away when the second tower collapsed; on Canal Street actually and I could only see the top of the building as it disappeared.

We were shut out of the building for eight months as it was inside the frozen zone. We returned in April of 2002. Meanwhile life changed for me and for everyone else in the world. Anyway that’s the outline of my story. Hopefully many of you were a lot further away and only had to watch it on TV because, frankly I have had a difficult time processing all of that destruction. The fact that our government has seen fit to expend all of the world’s positive feelings toward the United States by waging war on the entire world saddens me beyond all description. Peace.

Friday, September 08, 2006

News Flash!

Guess what? The CIA released a report today which concludes that Sadaam Hussein had no ties with Al Qaeda. This conclusion is not particularly earth-shattering to those of us on the left who never believed any nexus existed between the erstwhile Iraqi president and the Saudi Arabian terrorists ostensibly responsible for the 911 attacks. In fact, the absence of a link between Hussein and Bin Laden should surprise no one but a right-wing Ostrich who has had his head up his ass for the last four years. The report discloses for the first time, an October 2005 CIA assessment that prior to the war Saddam's government "did not have a relationship, harbor, or turn a blind eye toward Zarqawi and his associates”. A Washington Post poll taken in 2002 revealed that 67% of American’s thought Hussein had something to do with 911. They could perhaps be excused for thinking so in light of the fact that the 911 attacks had everyone thinking that there was a terrorist under every rock, but three years later the figure is still hovering at an unbelievable 45%. Who are these people? Did they all vote for Bush? Do they read and are they capable of critical thinking? These people scare me. Even Bush is sort of distancing himself from linking the two. It would be so convenient for the government if Saddam had something to do with 911 but it just ain’t so. As far as I can see the major flaw with the 911 conspiracy theories is that if the crazies helped plan and execute the attacks to drum up support for an Iraqi war they probably should have made a few of the hijackers Iraqi.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

False Flag

Lately I’ve started to become interested in some of those 911 conspiracy theories rattling around the internet. The web site is an especially interesting repository of paranoia. Like Fox News, I report, you decide:

March 13, 1962: Lyman Lemnitzer, chairman of the joint chiefs presents a proposal for a so-called “false flag” operation to Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara. The proposal includes a plan to create a fictitious terrorist attack in and around Guantanamo Bay such that the action would appear to have been done by Cuban forces, thus giving justification for the Unites States to invade Cuba. I have read the un-classified report (available at loosechange's web site) and some of the suggestions for the types of attack are pretty off the wall. They include lobbing mortar shells and napalm into Guantanamo from the outside and blowing up an American ship in Guantanamo Harbor. This operation the report describes as a “Remember the Maine” incident. The military also considered “developing a communist Cuban terrorist campaign in the Miami area, in other Florida cities, even in Washington”. (Emphasis added). As part of this manufactured campaign the government considered setting off a number of bombs in American cities. The use of airplanes was also considered, including destroying an airliner and blaming the Cuban government. Read the report, it will freak you out.

December 1984: NASA flies and deliberate crashes a Boeing 720 by remote control while conducting fuel research.

September 2000: A report by “Project for New American Century” a conservative neo-con think tank authored in part by Dick Cheney and Paul Wolfiwitz entitled “Rebuilding America’a Defenses notes that “the process of transformation, even if it brings revolutionary change, is likely to be a long one, absent some catastrophic and catalyzing event - like a new Pearl Harbor.” (Page 50-51)

Octobor 2000: The Pentagon conducts two days of tests simulating what would happen if a Boeing 757 crashed into the Pentagon. (Project MASCAL). Participating in these exercises was Charles Burlingame, an ex-Navy f4 pilot who worked at the Pentagon. He retired from the service shortly thereafter and took a job with American Airlines where he enjoyed working as a commercial pilot until the Boeing 757 he was commanding on September 11, 2001, crashed into the Pentagon.

September 10, 2001: San Francisco Mayor Willie Brown receives a phone call warning him not to fly the next morning. Pacifica Radio later reveals that this phone call came directly from National Security Advisor Condoleeza Rice
There is more along these lines. The strange movements of American Airlines and United Airlines stock the day before 911, the fact that most of the fighter jets assigned to protect the United States were called away on training missions. Kind of makes you wonder, doesn’t it?

Democracy on the March in Iraq

See, they're becomming just like us. Secret courts, torture and executions, redefining the term "terrorist" to include domestic criminals, etc. They are learning their lesson well. from the AP wire:

September 07,2006 | BAGHDAD, Iraq -- Iraq has executed 27 "terrorists" convicted by Iraqi courts of killings and rapes in several provinces, the government said Thursday. They were executed in Baghdad on Wednesday, the government's media office said in a brief statement. It did not provide further details.

A senior justice official said all 27 were Iraqis, and two had been convicted of terrorism-related charges. The other 25, including one woman, were convicted of murder and kidnappings.

The sentences were carried out by hanging, the official said, requesting that his name not be used because he was not authorized to speak to the media about the executions.

Shared Sacrifice

Apparently the death of wild-life provoker and self-promoter Steve Irwin has led to an outpouring of grief across the world with many devastated fans leaving flowers and other mementos at the gates of his zoo in Australia. According to an article on the media experts are surprised by the attention paid to Irwin’s demise “especially given the glut of long-anticipated celebrity news, such as Katie Couric's debut anchoring the "CBS Evening News," Rosie O'Donnell's arrival on "The View" and the first photographs of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' daughter, Suri.” Does this sort of thing make anyone else want to vomit their breakfast? As of yesterday 2,658 young men and women have been killed in the administration’s disastrous invasion and occupation of Iraq. While the actions of these soldiers haven’t been as entertaining as feeding angry crocodiles they are trying to make the best of a horrible situation and there isn’t exactly a parade of American citizens with bouquets of flowers marching up to lay them at the feet of the tomb of the unknowns. In fact, the bodies of dead Americans soldiers are brought home secretly, in wooden crates, at night, lest the American public be disturbed from their orgy of eating, following the inane lives of celebrities and buying a whole lot of crap they don’t really need. Where is the shared sacrifice which war demands of a population? No where around these parts. Bush is employing the rhetoric of WWII without asking the population to do anything in support of this war which, according to Bush, is the most important struggle since the Allied powers took on the Nazi’s. Yeah, right. I think if I see one more “I support the Troops” ribbon on a car at the Staten Island Mall I’m going to shove it up the driver’s ass. How, exactly are you “Supporting the Troops”? By taking mass transit? By helping to break our dependence on foreign energy? By volunteering your middle-class sons and daughters to go to the Persian Gulf in lieu of heading off to their liberal arts college in New England? Let’s not kid ourselves. This war, like most wars in this country’s history is being fought by the working class. The idea that we should start drafting middle class children to get blown up in the middle-east is anathema to Republican politicians whose principal concern is stopping gay marriage before Jesus comes back. (Which according to their calculations should be within the next few years).

Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Activist Judges

Well, I think its safe to assume after two weeks of waiting breathlessly by the phone that the New York Times won't be publishing my letter to the editor. I composed it in response to conservative law professor Ann Althouse's op ed piece* which excoriated Judge Taylor's decision to invalidate the Bush Administration's evesdropping program. Here it is:

A useful gauge of the health of the conservative movement in America is the extent to which it blames activist judges for the failure of its agenda. Clearly, the conservatives have seen better days. What is especially curious about Ann Althous’s op-ed piece is the fact that she breaks out the tired old saw when the only thing Judge Taylor’s decision does is to interpret and ultimately uphold the FISA “secret court” statute which was duly passed by a Republican controlled Congress. The term “activist Judge” as I understand it implies that the Judge does more than interpret the law, rather the Judge creates a legal structure out of whole cloth to support his or her ideological predilections. A recent example of judicial activism can be found in the Bush v. Gore case where a conservative Supreme Court exhibited a shameful abdication of judicial restraint by throwing the election for George Bush while dressing up its poorly reasoned decision in flowery rhetoric which is now disavows. Could Judge Taylor have spent a little more time developing her Fourth Amendment analysis? That straw man really isn't the issue here. Was her decision to strike down the administrations eavesdropping program an act of judicial activism? No way. While reading Ms. Althous’s article I was reminded of the definition of an activist judge that I was taught in law school; an activist judge is simply defined as a judge with whom you happen to disagree.

*Sorry there's no link to the op-ed but you need to be a NYT gold select member or something like that to read it.

The Workers, Divided

As early as the 1950s sociologists were beginning to recognize that feelings of alienation and anomie at the work place were not restricted to assembly-line and factory workers but were also being experienced by the burgeoning white-collar workforce. C Wright Mills in his seminal work White Collar argues that office workers in American have undergone a form of proletarianisation. In essence, white collar workers sell "pieces of their personality" by adopting certain personality characteristics that do not reflect their true personalities. Consequently, society is filled with these workers and the attendant hypocrisy, deceit and insincerity that comes with their alienation. Since white collar workers manipulate others to earn a living, they experience alienation. Although I haven’t seen any date to suggest it, I believe that this sense of alienation exists irrespective of the type of white collar work being performed.

The current climate of layoffs and uncertain job security has exacerbated these feelings of alienation and almost turned them into overt paranoia. The corporate culture of the 21st century is very different from that of the mid to latter half of the last century (and vastly different from the century before). Robert Goldman from Louis & Clark University has an excellent web-site where he does a content analysis of the way advertising has portrayed work over the last several decades. Especially interesting is his commentary on the way work communities are portrayed in beer advertisements. In the not too distant past, friendship relationships formed at the work-place often carried over to the bowling alley and the golf course. In the present era of corporate downsizing and deindustrialization, one wonders how much occupational community has survived. While not discussed by Goldman, one can theorize that this lack of occupational community goes a long way toward explaining why the white collar proletariat is seemingly disinterested in organizing itself into labor unions when they would clearly benefit from doing so. The current trends of deindustrialization, rapid job shifting, “relentless corporate downsizing” and polarization of wealth have led to a climate of fear at the workplace and the realization that the guy in the next cubicle might be in competition for your job so perhaps its best to keep your distance. Goldman opines that large corporations exacerbated this lack of worker cohesion through so-called “slice of death” advertising which first appeared in the late 1980’s. This type of ad depicted the corporate world as cold and unforgiving and gave the impression that the fastest way to the corner office was to accurately pick the speediest over-night package carrier and the fastest way to the unemployment line was to make a wrong decision. Curiously, these ads have almost disappeared because, Goldman theorizes, in this era of hyper-competitiveness and global movement of labor, being good at your job is no longer correlated with job retention.

What does all this mean for the modern corporate employee? A climate of fear and paranoia is guaranteed to benefit the employer when it comes to lowering salaries and slashing benefits. Employees are deluded into thinking that their co-worker is more of a threat to their job than is the CEO and Board of Directors. The result: a weakened and compliant labor force that is very difficult to organize. Your thoughts?

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Big Oil Slick

With the fall elections only a month away and the crazies facing the possibility of losing both the House and Senate, the administration received an early Christmas present from their buddies over at Chevron. A spokesman for the giant oil company claims that it successfully extracted oil from a test well in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. CNN dutifully framed the discovery as “an achievement that could be the biggest breakthrough in domestic oil supplies since the opening of the Alaskan pipeline.” Are we still looking to break our addiction to oil before the election? Someone better hurry off to an OA meeting because I think we're about to have a relapse. By the way, prior to becoming a Sith Lord, Condaleeza Rice spent a decade on the Board of the Chevron Corporation, and apparently was so well thought of that she earned the honor of having one of its supertankers named "Condoleezza". (See picture; btw, the double-hulled, Bahamian-registered oil tanker carrying the moniker of Bush's national security adviser was eventually renamed the Altair Voyager in 2001 after the media had the temerity to question its appropriateness). I’m sure there is no connection between the timing of this discovery and the dear Madam Secretary. Surely the announcement of this discovery wasn’t timed to counter all of those “Voters are very angry with the incumbants” headlines that have been popping up in the papers the last few days.

Rice’s presence on the board isn’t the only connection between the administration and the lucky oil giant. After reviewing roughly 1,500 documents obtained from the Energy Department related to Vice President Cheney's energy task force back in May of 2002, the Natural Resources Defense Council uncovered evidence showing the Bush administration implemented several energy policies requested by Chevron Corporation in its unofficial "advisory" capacity to the President's energy committee. The company provided several recommendations, ranging from easing federal permitting rules for energy projects to relaxing standards fuel supply requirements, which ultimately were included in the president's national energy plan. In a February 5, 2002, letter to President George Bush and copied to Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham, Chevron CEO David J. O'Reilly recommended four short-term actions the administration should take to "eliminate federal barriers to increased energy supplies."

Another Chevron Corporation giant in the Bush administration is Vice President Dick Cheney former Chairman and CEO of everyone’s favorite corporate bogeyman Halliburton Corporation, the world’s largest oil field services company with multi-billion dollar contracts with oil corporations including Chevron. Halliburton's global network of investments includes projects in politically volatile areas including the Caspian Sea region. Dick Cheney was instrumental in negotiating the construction of a Caspian Sea pipeline for Chevron.

Wall Street Oil analysts also took the opportunity presented by the discovery to wag their collective fingers at the consumers who dared to question the oil compamies record profits at a time when people were struggling to fill their gas tanks; Fadel Gheit, an oil analyst for Oppenheimer made the argument that it is only with oil at its current historically high prices that exploration depth really became economically practical.

"This is the silver lining of higher oil prices," he said. "If we didn't have higher oil prices, they wouldn't have dared to risk this much capital here." Yes, every grey cloud of smog has silver lining the pockets of the oil executives.

Anyway, it looks like more lies and deception from your friends in Washington and Texas. My prediction is that in the next couple of days Bush will start talking about this “discovery” at press conferences and questions about the timing of the announcement will be ignored by the mainstream media even as the discovery of an enormous amount of unknown oil is revealed as a fake. We’ll see…

Monday, September 04, 2006

Labor Day

Why is Labor Day in the United States celebrated on the first Monday in September as opposed to the first day in May, the day internationally acknowledged as the worker's holiday? If you suspected it had something to do with anti-communism you would be correct.

The original idea for Labor Day originated with an organization known as the Knights of Labor, an early precurser of the AFL-CIO. The first Labor Day parade was held on September 5, 1882 in New York City. Several years later the first Monday in September was chosen as the national holiday because in the aftermath of the Chicago Haymarket riots in 1886 President Grover Cleveland didn't want a May holiday to become day of commeration.

Despite periodic encouragement by labor to move the holiday to early May, the government has always resisted, fearing the solidarity with internationalist socialism that might result from aligning the workers of the United States with those of the rest of the world. The government has clearly acheived its objective since there is nary a mention of labor right on labor day. In the United States the day is customarily filled with the American activities of shopping and eating processed meat.

Meanwhile, as the quality manufacturing jobs are sent overseas and replaced with low-wage service industry employment, membership in labor unions is at an all time low. American's have become so individualized and self-absorbed that they are completely unable or unwilling to see how much they are being exploited by their government and their corporations. If any era cried out for a return of a strong labor movement it is this one. Unfortunately right now the traditional staid labor movement as represented by the AFL/CIO has forgotten how to speak for the American worker and the largely unanswered attacks by the current administration on overtime and wages is ignored.

As a result of traditional labor's abdication of the responsibility of defending the American worker, the workers themselves have started to rise up and demand higher wages and better working conditoins. This past May day, millions of workers took to the streets in cities across the United States in spontaneous protests that were largely ignored by the main-stream media. In recognition of this organic movement by labor,and in fear of being left behind, the AFL/CIO has started to change its tune. The following is from their labor day message 2006:

"Ironically, "May Day" was founded by U.S. workers-and taken away from them as a day to celebrate by a federal government fearful of the wave of large demonstrations for the eight-hour day and massive strikes for justice on the railroads, in the mines and factories that had begun in 1877.

Such an action may seem quaint now. But the symbolism of May Day-working people challenging corporate power-still causes fear among the top elite.

Just ask George W. Bush and the Republican extremists in Congress.

In 2003, Bush proclaimed May 1 as "Loyalty Day" when U.S. citizens should express allegiance to our nation and its founding ideals, we resolve to ensure that the blessings of liberty endure and extend for generations to come.

That same year, Congress, designated May 1 of each year as "Loyalty Day."

I propose that after digesting our hot-dogs and hitting the "back-to-school" sales we get together and make sure the next "Loyalty Day" celebration clearly demonstrates to the Bush administration just how happy we are with the way he has treated the American worker.

In the words of the IWW, "Workers of the world unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains." "An injury to one is an injury to all".

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin'
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it's your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people's blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You've thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain't worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I'm young
You might say I'm unlearned
But there's one thing I know
Though I'm younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death'll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I'll watch while you're lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I'll stand o'er your grave
'Til I'm sure that you're dead