Wednesday, November 29, 2006

More on the Detainee Bill

From the lack of comments and general disinterest expressed by friends and colleagues over the detainee bill, I thought that I was perhaps making a bit too much of it. Clearly my observation that Americans are embracing fascism at the cost of civil liberties hasn’t gone completely unnoticed. From an article in Slate today which compares the Bush hijacking of the constitution to the Nazi’s enabling act:

“In an interview on MSNBC the day the bill was signed, Jonathan Turley, constitutional law professor at George Washington University, declared the date one of the most infamous in the history of the republic, (my emphasis) and amazed at the "national yawn" greeting this "huge sea change for our democracy." Where was the public consternation about this reversal of our founding principles? That interested me more than the brazen coup of the administration—which Carl Schmitt might argue was a categorical imperative. Why had the decent people of the country mounted no serious protest even against something as on-its-face objectionable as the bill's sanction of torture?

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, in a recent speech to an American audience, summarized (in a different context) the formula by which social evil gains mass acceptance: vilification of an enemy (file under fear-mongering) and habituation to incremental barbarities. Evidence of America's proficiency at this dual process is no more distant than the era of Southern apartheid, even if our own state-sponsored racism was a psycho-sociopolitical genocidal purgatory as opposed to a final solution. While we may prefer to believe that the Good German institutions capitulated to Hitler under the black boot of the SS, current scholarship confirms that Nazification, like segregation in America, was largely voluntary, even in the free press. “

And this:

“We have become such "good Americans" that we no longer have the moral imagination to picture what it might be like to be in a bureaucratic category that voids our human rights, be it "enemy combatant" or "illegal immigrant." Thus, in the week before the election, hardly a ripple answered the latest decree from the Bush administration: Detainees held in CIA prisons were forbidden from telling their lawyers what methods of interrogation were used on them, presumably so they wouldn't give away any of the top-secret torture methods that we don't use. Cautiously, I look back on that as the crystallizing moment of Bushworld: tautological as a Gilbert and Sullivan libretto, absurd as a Marx Brothers movie, and scary as a Kafka novel.”

Monday, November 27, 2006

Happy Holidays

I can’t decide which is a more apt analogy for Bush’s behavior lately regarding Iraq; Nero playing the violin while Rome burned to the ground, or Hitler in his last days in the bunker. I suppose either one will do. Seven thousand Iraqi civilians died in the month of November as a result of sectarian violence which was, in turn, a direct result of the United States toppling the Iraqi government for no good reason other than the neo-cons decided that Iraq was a good place to try out their philosophy of democracy at the point of a gun. Mix a little aggressive foreign policy with a dumb as shit president and a caste of advisers riddled with ideologues and you get a disaster. Iraq is a disaster. Afghanistan is becoming a disaster. America is becoming a totalitarian state steeped in the government’s dissemination of paranoia. Meanwhile, shoppers lined up in the wee hours of Thanksgiving morning, credit cards in hand, ready to willingly sell themselves into usurious slavery by happily going into debt to buy video games and flat panel televisions. Bob Herbert had a biting op-ed piece in today’s Times that bears a look. Since it is a Times Select Piece, I republish it below, uncut.

Bob Herbert
Americans are shopping as Iraq burns.
The competing television news images on the morning after Thanksgiving were of the unspeakable carnage in Sadr City — where more than 200 Iraqi civilians were killed by a series of coordinated car bombs — and the long lines of cars filled with holiday shopping zealots that jammed the highway approaches to American malls that had opened for business at midnight.

A Wal-Mart in Union, N.J., was besieged by customers even before it opened its doors at 5 a.m. on Friday. “All I can tell you,” said a Wal-Mart employee, “is that they were fired up and ready to spend money.”

There is something terribly wrong with this juxtaposition of gleeful Americans with fistfuls of dollars storming the department store barricades and the slaughter by the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, including old people, children and babies. The war was started by the U.S., but most Americans feel absolutely no sense of personal responsibility for it.

Representative Charles Rangel recently proposed that the draft be reinstated, suggesting that politicians would be more reluctant to take the country to war if they understood that their constituents might be called up to fight. What struck me was not the uniform opposition to the congressman’s proposal — it has long been clear that there is zero sentiment in favor of a draft in the U.S. — but the fact that it never provoked even the briefest discussion of the responsibilities and obligations of ordinary Americans in a time of war.
With no obvious personal stake in the war in Iraq, most Americans are indifferent to its consequences. In an interview last week, Alex Racheotes, a 19-year-old history major at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, said: “I definitely don’t know anyone who would want to fight in Iraq. But beyond that, I get the feeling that most people at school don’t even think about the war. They’re more concerned with what grade they got on yesterday’s test.”
His thoughts were echoed by other students, including John Cafarelli, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, who was asked if he had any friends who would be willing to join the Army. “No, definitely not,” he said. “None of my friends even really care about what’s going on in Iraq.”
This indifference is widespread. It enables most Americans to go about their daily lives completely unconcerned about the atrocities resulting from a war being waged in their name. While shoppers here are scrambling to put the perfect touch to their holidays with the purchase of a giant flat-screen TV or a PlayStation 3, the news out of Baghdad is of a society in the midst of a meltdown.
According to the United Nations, more than 7,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in September and October. Nearly 5,000 of those killings occurred in Baghdad, a staggering figure.
In a demoralizing reprise of life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, the U.N. reported that in Iraq: “The situation of women has continued to deteriorate. Increasing numbers of women were recorded to be either victims of religious extremists or ‘honor killings.’ Some non-Muslim women are forced to wear a headscarf and to be accompanied by spouses or male relatives.”
Journalists in Iraq are being “assassinated with utmost impunity,” the U.N. report said, with 18 murdered in the last two months.
Iraq burns. We shop. The Americans dying in Iraq are barely mentioned in the press anymore. They warrant maybe one sentence in a long roundup article out of Baghdad, or a passing reference — no longer than a few seconds — in a television news account of the latest political ditherings.
Since the vast majority of Americans do not want anything to do with the military or the war, the burden of fighting has fallen on a small cadre of volunteers who are being sent into the war zone again and again. Nearly 3,000 have been killed, and many thousands more have been maimed.
The war has now lasted as long as the American involvement in World War II. But there is no sense of collective sacrifice in this war, no shared burden of responsibility. The soldiers in Iraq are fighting, suffering and dying in a war in which there are no clear objectives and no end in sight, and which a majority of Americans do not support.
They are dying anonymously and pointlessly, while the rest of us are free to buckle ourselves into the family vehicle and head off to the malls and shop.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Bird Carcass

I’ve been fighting with some vegan’s over on Craig’s List today. One woman called me a fascist because I sit at the table on Thanksgiving in front of a “bird carcass.” The following is my attempt to re-focus the debate:

Factory farming, while inflicting terrible and inhumane suffering on the animals, is also a symbol of a very sick society which values corporate profits over both people’s and animal’s well being. I am not interested in getting into an argument over whether one type of living creature has more intrinsic value than another; I have my own opinion on that but it isn’t relevant to the point I’m trying to make.

What confuses a lot of us socially conscious vegetarians, who don’t buy their food from a factory, is why you vegan folk focus almost exclusively on the plight of the animals rather than on the larger social issues, which impact all species. For example, vegan’s wouldn’t care to be seen in a leather belt since leather is the byproduct of the exploitative factory farming system, yet the amount of petroleum that goes into manufacturing a pair of non-leather shoes (well, manufacturers produce thousands of pairs), not to mention the pollution created by the manufacturing process, is not inconsiderable in and of itself. Every choice has consequences. I have seen a lot of vegan recipes which contain processed sugar and margarine. How is this treading any more lightly on the earth than buying locally produced honey or milk?

The other thing I can’t fathom is how some (not all) vegans I know think that subsistence hunting and fishing is somehow morally suspect, even in areas where farming and/or access to fresh produce is limited. Every native culture I have come into contact with that is based on hunting has profound respect for the animal and uses the entire thing; not a scrap is wasted. Do you suggest that these cultures petition for a Whole Foods of Trader Joe’s in their corner of Saskatchewan?

Monday, November 20, 2006

Two Tacos Short of a Combo Platter

I can’t resist one more political comment. Hot off the presses from the reddest of the red states:

In the 30,000-person town of Pahrump, Nevada, the town council voted last week, 3-2, to approve an ordinance that makes it illegal to display a foreign flag -- unless an American flag is flown above it. Scofflaws face a $50 fine and 30 hours of community service.

Pahrump resident Michael Miraglia proposed the ban because, he said, he got upset when he saw immigrant activists marching through U.S. cities last spring, waving Mexican flags. Mr. Miraglia told USA Today that he was especially miffed that "we had Mexican restaurants closed that day."

Apparently the good citizens of Nevada are so, well, stupid, that they are willing to trade their first amendment right of expression for easy access to a burrito combo platter. How much do you want to bet that Mr. Miraglia is a member of the Minuteman militia?

Screw these intolerant rubes. It’s not as if there is a shortage of American Flags in this country lately, or, for that matter a shortage of mentally stunted, intolerant, jingoistic flag wavers who clearly have no clue about what the flag is supposed to represent.

New Directions

The Patriot is going to go on a bit of a hiatus this Thanksgiving week. I have also been thinking of taking the blog in a new direction now that the elections are over. Frankly, I’m sick of writing about Republicans and Democrats when the truly important issues have nothing to do with which quasi-fascist party is governing in Washington. I think it more prudent to attack the root causes of injustice and suffering, the system itself, rather than to waste energy picking apart the minor philosophical differences between two political parties. Both parties are looking out for the same moneyed interests at the expense of the poor and working class, although the Democrat’s rhetoric is more appealing right now.

The cult of consumption is unsustainable. Let’s face it folks, American’s are pigs. We drive our big cars and watch our big televisions and gobble up way more than our share of the world’s resources. At the same time we champion the idea of free trade and perpetuate the fiction that a billion people in China can attain an American standard of living, despite the fact that the consequence of the rest of the world sharing on our supersize culture would be the total destruction of the environment. Where does it end? At what point will the profiteers put the interests of the common good above the interest of the corporate shareholder? How can this nation of self-identified “Christians” continue to live in a way that pollutes the earth and perpetuates poverty, simply for the sake of greater creature comforts?

These are some of the things I’ll be looking into after Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Ask and You Shall Receive

you should link to this on your blog:

A Good War Is Hard to Find: The Art of Violence in America (Paperback)
by David Griffith

Book Description
In the wake of Abu Ghraib, Americans have struggled to understand what
happened in the notorious prison and why. In this elegant series of essays,
inflected with a radical Catholic philosophy, David Griffith contends that
society's shift from language to image has changed the way people think
about violence and cruelty, and that a disconnect exists between images and
reality. Griffith meditates on images and literature, finding potent insight
into what went wrong at the prison in the works of Susan Sontag, Anthony
Burgess, and especially Flannery O’Connor, who often explored the gulf
between proclamations of faith and the capacity for evil. Accompanying the
essays are illustrated facts about torture, lists of torture methods and
their long-term effects, and graphics such as the schematics of the "pain
pathways" in the human body. Together, the images and essays endow the human
being with the complexity images alone deny.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

The New Enabling Act

The following, originally posted at was written before the detainee bill passed in October. The piece is far better than anything I could put together. Take special note of the language in the bill cited by the author which strips the Courts of the power to review the constitutionality of the act.

John Steinberg
I cannot view the current debate about the Bush Administration’s latest attempt to remove all checks on its power without thinking about how my German and Austrian grandparents must have watched with disbelief as Europe sank into the madness of fascism. I think about how unprecedented those changes were, and how difficult it must have been to believe that things could really become as bad as they did. My grandparents had once been as comfortably integrated into their communities as I am in mine. In the end their assimilation mattered not at all; they fled, leaving behind family, friends, property and possessions. Unlike millions of others, they were fortunate to escape with their lives.

At the time, perhaps, it was difficult to recognize the exact moment when the die was cast – when the malignancy gained sufficient momentum to make what followed inevitable. But in hindsight, the Enabling Act, passed by the German legislature in 1933, might well have been the point of no return.

Hitler was elected Chancellor (a point conveniently forgotten by many) in January 1933 on a platform of anti-communist propaganda. In February, the Reichstag, the equivalent of our Capitol, was destroyed by arsonists, who may or may not have been affiliated with the Nazis. Appropriately cowed by these and other intimidations, the German parliament passed the Enabling Act that March.

The Enabling Act, officially known as the “Law to Remedy the Distress of the People and Realm,” was short and simple. Its operative provisions were as follows:

Article 1-- In addition to the procedure prescribed by the constitution, laws of the Reich may also be enacted by the government of the Reich….

Article 2 -- Laws enacted by the government of the Reich may deviate from the constitution as long as they do not affect the institutions of the Reichstag and the Reichsrat. The rights of the President remain undisturbed.

Article 3 -- Laws enacted by the Reich government shall be issued by the Chancellor and announced in the Reich Gazette….
That, seasoned with only a soupçon of legalistic detail, was it. What it meant was that the executive was empowered by the legislature to decide what the law was. He was empowered to ignore the constitution. Neither the courts nor the legislature would have means to check executive power.

When the world saw the logical conclusion of that social experiment, it promised, “never again.”

Never again.

That promise has usually been understood to refer to the Holocaust. To that extent, the tragedies of Darfur and Bosnia and Rwanda stand as silent refutation, differing in scale but not culpability. But there was another implicit promise of lessons learned: Never again would the people of a powerful Western democracy descend into the madness of unrestrained dictatorship.

That second promise was largely implicit, because it seemed superfluous. After the obscenity of WWII, the idea that it could be broken by the United States or its allies was unthinkable. And that promise, at least, was largely kept.

Until now.

Forget, for the moment, that the proposed “compromise” torture legislation effectively abrogates the Geneva Conventions. Forget that it effectively licenses torture in the name of every American. Focus instead on the fact that it “vests in the administration the singularly most tyrannical power that exists – namely, the power unilaterally to decree someone guilty of a crime and to condemn the accused to eternal imprisonment without having even to charge him with a crime, let alone defend the validity of those accusations.” Focus on this language from the proposed law:

…(N)o court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider any claim or cause of action whatsoever, … including challenges to the lawfulness of procedures of military commissions under this chapter.

…No court, justice, or judge shall have jurisdiction to hear or consider an application for a writ of habeas corpus filed by or on behalf of an alien detained by the United States who has been determined by the United States to have been properly detained as an enemy combatant or is awaiting such determination.
The language of the new Enabling Act is a bit more baroque than that used seventy years ago. And, to be sure, it is not as far-reaching as that of its predecessor. But make no mistake: Just as the 1933 Enabling Act created the context for dictatorship, so does this one. The German legislature told the executive that it had the power to make law and ignore the constitution. If Congress passes this bill, the American legislature will second the motion.

It is just one bill, you may object; it only applies to terrorists, you may say; we are not Nazi Germany, you may insist. And yet. The forthcoming FISA bill extends Enabling Act thinking to additional unreviewable executive powers. The slippery slope has been well-oiled. The Niemöller poem stands waiting.

It is probably unrealistic to expect bright lines to be obvious at the moment they are crossed. But they don’t get much brighter than this: Congressional leaders have agreed to suspend habeus corpus, grant the President of the United States the power to torture, and allow the executive branch to operate beyond judicial review. The Administration will be free to dispense with the pretense that Abu Ghraib was a rogue operation of unsupervised underlings. Like a black hole, an Administration exercising unprecedented power accretes still more, with the blessings of those who cede it. We are on our way back to the nightmare that Nietzsche foresaw (but did not advocate) in which all is permitted.

President Bush, in yet another dog whistle callout to his faithful, has claimed that the disaster of Iraq will eventually be seen as “just a comma,” a reference to a sermon urging that followers not “put a period where God puts a comma.” The first Enabling Act was one such comma. There can be little doubt as to the kind of sentence Bush wants to write.

Sliding Down the Slope Towards Totalitarianism

The Bush administration is seeking to expand the powers granted to it by Congress, including the spineless Democrats who refused to filibuster the detainee bill. Immigrants arrested in the United States may be held indefinitely on “suspicion of terrorism” and may not challenge their imprisonment in civilian courts, the Bush administration said Monday, opening a new legal front in the fight over the rights of detainees.

In court documents filed with the 4th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, Va., the Justice Department said a new anti-terrorism law being used to hold detainees in Guantanamo Bay also applies to foreigners captured and held in the United States. So this could be, well, anyone the Bush administration defines as a terrorist since under the Patriot Act and the Detainee the President has assumed the right to make this decision independently of any Court.

Ali Saleh Kahlah Al-Marri, a citizen of Qatar, was arrested in 2001 while studying in the United States. He has been labeled an "enemy combatant” which under the recently passed detainee bill strips foreigners of the right to challenge their detention in federal courts.

Al-Marri is the first detainee arrested inside the United States to be subjected to the new law which radically expands the power of the executive branch and essentially does away with the fourth, fifth and sixth amendments to the Constitution. Back in the pre-fascist America days aliens usually had the right to contest their imprisonment, such as when they were arrested on immigration violations or for other crimes.

"It's pretty stunning that any alien living in the United States can be denied this right," said Jonathan Hafetz, an attorney for Al-Marri. "It means any non-citizen, and there are millions of them, can be whisked off at night and be put in detention."

It took exactly one month for the government to expand their interpretation of the law to include people like Al-Marri. How long before they expand it to include you?

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Of Camels and Rich Men

Note: The following post has been edited from its original form.

Verily I say to you it is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of the needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 19:24. One scholarly interpretation of the passage follows:

The Aramaic word gamla means camel, a large rope and a beam. The meaning of the word is determined by its context. If the word riding or burden occurs then gamla means a camel, but when the eye of a needle is mentioned gamla more correctly means a rope. There is no connection anywhere in Aramaic speech or literature between camel and needle, but there is a definite connection between rope and needle."

So, it is easier to thread a needle with a rope then for a rich man to enter heaven. I’ve been mulling over this passage from Matthew since I got back from Buffalo the other day. I was having a discussion with a relative about the priest’s homily in Church last Sunday. The Gospel reading was Mark 12:38-44, where Jesus notes that the poor woman who contributed two pennies to the poor-her entire net worth-was closer to God then the rich who gave only of their surplus wealth. The homily, as I understand it, focused on the fact that the rich will have a harder time with God than the poor. My relative was upset at what he perceived as an anti-wealth bias in the homily.

America being an alleged meritocracy, its hard for most poeple to get their minds around the idea that the super-rich aren’t *entitled* to their vast wealth, and that the fact that they have it necessarily means in a capitalist society that someone else doesn’t. Does a corporate executive work objectively harder than the ditch-digger or an auto mechanic? Does one profession have intrinsic value because it requires an advanced education and the other lesser value because it is grounded in manual labor? The executive would claim superiority because what he does ostentiably provides employment for hundreds of others, but his or her responsibility is ultimately to the shareholder and if firing a large number of people increases the stock price then the action is justified in their view. This doesn't strike me as very fair. It certainly isn’t in line with Catholic teachings on the equitable distribution of wealth.

It is also interesting to note who the most vocal opponents of anti-poverty measures like universal healthcare and an increase in the minimum wage are usually those same corporate executives. I suppose its too much to ask that society bend at the knee before the poor; even Jesus realized that the poor would always be with us. But one wonders what Jesus would have made of wealthy parishes full of expensively groomed women wearing fur coats and parking lots full of $50,000 cars.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Psalm 146

Sorry folks, i was in Buffalo at a funeral for the past few days. Until I get caught up with work, I leave you with the following, for those of you thinking that salvation is going to come from the Democrats who were elected last week:

"I put no trust in princes, in mere mortals powerless to save.
When they breathe their last, they return to the earth;
that day all their planning comes to nothing."

And for many of the zeros in Washington, planning comes to nothing appreciably before they return to the earth.

Here is a meditation on the upcoming Thanksgiving holiday from an article in the latest Z Magazine called “Thanksgiving: A National Day of Mourning for Indians.”

"The first official “Day of Thanksgiving” was proclaimed in 1637 by Governor Winthrop. He did so to celebrate the safe return of people from the Massachusetts Bay Colony who had gone to Mystic, Connecticut to participate in the massacre of over 700 Pequot women, children, and men.

About the only true thing in the whole mythology is that these pitiful European strangers would not have survived their first several years in “New England” were it not for the aid of Wampanoag people. What Native people got in return for this help was genocide, theft of their lands, and never-ending repression. They were treated either as quaint relics from the past or virtually invisible."

The preceding two quotes were taken from a blog I recently discovered called

Friday, November 10, 2006

Dorothy Day

I inexplicably missed Dorothy Day’s 109th birthday which was this past November 8. For those of you who don’t know, Day was an American journalist turned social activist, anarchist, and devout member of the Catholic Church. She became known for her social justice campaigns in defense of the poor, forsaken, hungry and homeless. Alongside Peter Maurin, she founded the Catholic Worker Movement in 1933, espousing nonviolence, and hospitality for the impoverished and downtrodden.

Tom Cornell, a longtime friend of Dorothy Day, and the editor of the Catholic Worker newspaper for many years penned the following in memory of Dorothy:

“Nonviolence has another side, the obverse of the coin. Gandhi called it “the constructive program.” We call it the practice of the corporal works of mercy and the building up of community, “cells of good living,” as Catholic Worker groups do in greater and greater numbers around this country and in Europe and Australia.

Nonviolence is a revolution, the revolution of the heart, a campaign that proceeds one by one, cell by cell. It must be revolutionary because the order we suffer now, the social, political, economic order, (“this lousy, rotten system,” as Dorothy once called it), violates the human person. It is more accurately not an order but dis-order. It kills and maims by withholding the means to life from the poor, it thrives on lies -- turn your radio or TV on and listen -- lies upon lies, the withholding of truth and the dissemination of sheer deception, and the violation of conscience.

The human conscience shrinks in horror from killing our own. A prime task of the military is to desensitize this voice of conscience. They have made a science of it. This system cries to heaven for revolution. The Twentieth Century saw enough of violent revolution for us to conclude that the only genuine revolution is the one Dorothy Day called for, a nonviolent revolution, a revolution of the heart. That is her gift to us.”

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Nothing but Blue Skies...

Sorry, but here's a reminder of what happens when your party lurches to the center. From Salon's War Room:

"Not to get all Adam Nagourney on anybody, but here's a sobering reminder for anyone who might be thinking that Democratic control of the House and Senate will be the blossoming of all things bright and beautiful: In 1991 -- when Democrats held a much larger majority in the Senate than they will now -- Clarence Thomas was confirmed as an associate justice of the U.S. Supreme Court.

Eleven Democrats crossed over to vote for Thomas in '91. Ten of them are gone, and the 11th -- Alabama's Richard Shelby -- has long since become a Republican. Could another Clarence Thomas make it through the Democratically controlled Senate in 2007? Well, there will probably never be another nominee quite like Clarence Thomas -- we'd like to think that pubic hairs on Coke cans are what the lawyers call sui generis -- but it's worth noting that 22 Democrats voted to confirm John Roberts as chief justice last September. "

And they may have another opportunity to vote on a Supreme Court nominee within the next two years, God forbid. I think the base needs to keep the leftward pressure on lest the craven political animal lurking inside the soul of every politician, no matter the party, be released.

Animal Enterprise Terror!

The administration pushed very hard to ensure that the detention bill and the Patriot Act applied equally to citizens and non-citizens alike. Civil Liberty activists, myself included, expressed concern that by redefining ordinary criminal acts as “terrorism” the government would have almost limitless power to arrest prosecute and convict Americans without any of the protections afforded by the Constitution.
It appears that our worst fears are coming to pass. The Animal Enterprise Terrorism Act (H.R. 4239) would label a wide range of activism as “terrorism” if it “damages” an animal enterprise, or any business connected to an animal enterprise. The goal of the legislation is to, “To provide the Department of Justice the necessary authority to apprehend, prosecute, and convict individuals committing animal enterprise terror.” Animal enterprise terror?

The AETA has passed the Senate unanimously and is currently pending in the House. Industry groups are trying to steamroll it through Congress as soon as lawmakers return from recess November 13. Rather than just affecting a small number of PETA people, The AETA has the potential to impact all kinds of activists, including environmentalists, and social justice advocates. Animal activists may be the first target of the administration but they won’t be the last.

This bill, like most others seeking to give the government unfettered discretion to decide who is a terrorist is overly broad and vaguely drafted. It includes penalties for “non-violent physical obstruction” and actions that do not harm people or property such as civil disobedience and whistle blowing. The ACLU is concerned about the vagueness of the bill. They note on their web-site that:

“Alarmingly, the bill would also make the expanded crime a predicate for Title III federal criminal wiretapping. This provision could be used for widespread domestic surveillance of animal rights organizations. A court will be far more likely to find probable cause for a vague crime of causing economic damage or disruption to an animal enterprise than for a crime that requires some evidence that the organization plans to engage in activity causing illegal “physical disruption.”

The effect of labeling nonviolent actions as “terrorism” and prosecuting them as federal crimes isn’t new to this administration; the suppression of free speech is a natural outflow of subjecting peaceful protesters to federal prosecution and will have its intended chilling effect. What is really egregious about this bill is that it conflates national security with agribusiness profits. Corporate Profits shouldn’t be a National Security Priority and the government shouldn’t be defining people who chain themselves to trees or release bunny rabbits from laboratories as terrorists. What’s next for god sake, Librarians? Oh, right, the Patriot Act already took care of the librarians.

An Argument for Impeachment

Nancy Pelosi is continuing to reach out to the Bush administration and has asserted that Democrats will not seek revenge against the administration by attempting to start impeachment hearings. Nor, it appears, is she willing to deviate substantially from the administration’s current failed policy in Iraq. "We're not about wanting to get even," Nancy Pelosi told CNN's "The Situation Room." "What we want to do is help the American people get ahead." CNN reports Pelosi saying that Congress will not cut funding for the Iraq war to send a message to the administration.

"Our troops are in harm's way, she said. "They have been sent there, whether you agree with the policy or not -- and I certainly did not agree with the resolution to go to war."

How about sending a message to the American people that the Democrats acknowledge that they were elected precisely because the country was sick of the war in Iraq? Taking impeachment off the table is mystifying to me when impeachable offenses have clearly been committed. Journalist David Lindorff puts it much more eloquently than I can in an article in Counterpunch. The reasons for impeachment are legion and transcend partisan politics:

"...there are crimes and constitutional violations that even Republicans should agree call for his impeachment (and in some cases Cheney's). Among these are:

* Lying the country into a deadly, costly and interminable war in Iraq. It is clear now that Bush knew the uranium ore story, the aluminum tubes story, the Saddam links to Al Qaeda story and the germ weapons story, were all lies. It is clear that Bush had plans to invade Iraq from before he even assumed office in 2001, that 9/11 was just a pretext to do it, and that his claims to the American people and to Congress that he wanted a "diplomatic solution" to Iraq's alleged WMD threat was a lie and a fraud. He must be impeached for this bloody travesty.

* The signing statements, in which Bush claims that as commander in chief he does not need to accept or enforce laws passed by the Congress. This is such an egregious abuse of power and undermining of the Constitution that if it is allowed to continue, with future presidents continuing the practice and citing Bush as precedent, Congress will cease to have any real constitutional function.

* The NSA warrantless spying. Democrats need to take a leadership role and demand to know what this program is all about. Clearly it's not about spying on suspected terrorists, as Bush claims, because the secret Foreign Surveillance Intelligence Court judges would have no problem approving warrants for that. It has to be something so outrageous that Bush is afraid to present it to those famously accommodating judges. The case needs to be made that this is a flat-out felony and a breach of the Fourth Amendment, and that it has already been so ruled by a federal judge.

* The outing of CIA undercover agent Valerie Plame and the selective release of the Iraq National Intelligence Estimate in an effort to damage a critic--Plame's husband, former ambassador Joseph Wilson. This was exactly the kind of abuse of government power that led to an impeachment article being voted in the House Judiciary Committee against President Richard Nixon. Moreover, Democrats need to make the case that this attack on Wilson was motivated by a darker goal: the need to discredit someone who was exposing one of the Bush administration's gravest crimes--namely faking evidence of an active Iraqi nuclear weapons program.

* Obstruction and lying to the Congress and the 9-11 Commission. The president, in what is an abuse of power and possibly even an act of treason, refused to provide testimony and evidence demanded by the Senate Intelligence Committee and by the 9-11 Commission, and himself refused to testify under oath or with any record being made of his answers, and had members of his administration lie to both bodies. This willful obstruction has put the nation in jeopardy, since without knowing what went wrong or even what went on before and on 9-11, there is no way to prevent another such attack. This is a clear impeachable crime.

* The Loss of New Orleans. Bush's disastrous inaction as Katrina headed for New Orleans, and his even worse inaction after the disaster was apparent, is a classic violation of the presidential oath to "take care" that the laws are faithfully administered. The president had a duty to initiate drastic emergency action that only he could authorize, and instead he campaigned, played golf and guitar, and entertained Sen. John McCain, while over a thousand Americans were allowed to die and a major US city drowned. That is a clear impeachable offense. (Election Postmortem, Counterpunch, November 8, 2006)

If I were a Democrat in Congress, my principal concern would be addressing the Constitutional crisis created by the President as he consolidates power in the executive branch and side-steps the Congress. Congressional hearings would expose this administration’s illegal acts to the nation and would force the nation to confront Bush’s imperial presidency. It is perhaps too early to tell whether Nancy Pelosi and Harry Reid have the strength to hold the administration accountable for its evisceration of the Constitution, but the signs are not encouraging.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

The Blue Pill or the Red Pill?

So the Democrats had a good night, although all of my local picks went down in flames. Staten Island is like a bit of Georgia right here in old New York. It’s a strong Republican bastion in an otherwise reasonable part of the country. I confess that I am pleased that the crooks and scalawags were run out of the Congress, but less pleased that they have been replaced by a bunch of moderate to conservative democrats. This Congress had better take a strong position against the President’s policies or pay the price in 2008. Bush’s consolidation of power in the Chief executive makes the Presidential election more important than the mid-terms. The dems should be laying the groundwork from day one for that victory.

The White House response to the drubbing the Republicans received in the House was to reassert the President’s agenda and to feign a desire for partisanship. Pelosi, in typical Democratic fashion is willing to reach across the isle and work with a man who has derided her party as a bunch of terrorist lovers and traitors. Bush put in the obligatory congratulatory call to Pelosi and Reid and his deputy press secretary commented that there was "a strong spirit of goodwill in the conversations," adding that Bush and the new leadership "will start strategizing about how they will get things done in the next Congress." However, Snow reiterated that Bush would still try to ram through his privatization of Social Security and push for more tax cuts. Snow, who worked conservative talk radio for three hours yesterday afternoon, said Democrats now "have to decide whether they're going to be part of the solution, or are going to try to shut down the government for two years and point fingers at the President." Hmmm. I think I'll take choice number two; Point fingers! Point fingers!

While Pelosi and the other Dems are looking to make nice with Bush, I say now is the time to move for hearings on the run-up to the Iraq war and start broaching the issue of impeachment. This White House has made it very clear over the last six years that any member of the opposition who deviates from the Bush master plan on taxes and terror would be met with accusations of being unpatriotic and weak. I see no reason not to go after Bush for his crimes, which a re numerous. The people’s confidence in this government is already shaken to the core and someone should be held accountable. 2000 dead in Iraq for no reason; an increased and revitalized global jihadist movement and the obliteration of the Constitution. How can one compromise with such people?

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Vote Early and Often III

I meant to get these last endorsements for some Staten Island races up yesterday but Blogger has been so beset with technical problems lately that I suspect they are run by the Republican Party.

So how about that election? I voted this morning and the flow of people into the polling place was steady at 6:30a.m. No problems to report with the machines. Apparently the turn-out in Connecticut is higher then for the presidential election two years ago. My (shrinking) gut tells me this is good for Lamont, as well as the other Congressional Democrats in the race, but it is going to be a long day.

Without further delay, in local elections on Staten Island, the Patriot supports:

Steve Harrison (D) for Congress. Steve is running against the dirty Republican Vito Fossella. Remember reading about Fossella in the Times? He was the one who printed up campaign literature showing Harrison’s face next to Osama Bin Laden. That pretty much tells you all you need to know about the kind of person he is. Steve has and continues to be a leader and activist, addressing numerous challenges in his local community. Steve Harrison opposes the war in Iraq and calls for the withdrawal of forces as soon as it is consistent with the safety of our troops. Steve is a medical malpractice lawyer and a very nice guy.

For State Senate I endorse Matt Titone (D), a former Legal Services attorney and only openly gay candidate running for State Senate. He is running to take the place of John J. Marchi who retired this year and was connected enough after 50 years in politics to get a Staten Island Ferry named after him. Throughout his career, Matthew consistently provided pro bono services to those who couldn't afford legal representation. His efforts aided Project Hospitality in creating a full-time professionally staffed legal service department. Matthew serves on the Board of Directors of Community Health Action of Staten Island (f/k/a the Staten Island AIDS Task Force), and has also served on the Board of Trustees for Legal Services of New York providing oversight on the Legal Aid Society, amongst others.

“Matt Titone will continue to fight for the people of Staten Island. He will tackle Staten Island's TRAFFIC, TRANSPORTATION and OVER-DEVELOPMENT crises, fighting for our fair share of EDUCATION FUNDING, improving HEALTH CARE services on Staten Island, and fighting for meaningful TAX RELIEF for our seniors, veterans and middle income families.” O

For Civil Court Judge Richmond County: Kim Dollard (D). In her own words, “I have worked in the Court System for 12 years as Law Clerk to Judge Thomas Aliotta. Six of the 12 years were spent in Civil Court. I can offer the people of Staten Island my extensive legal and courtroom experience. I also bring my life experience as a wife, mother, volunteer and former claims representative in the Social Security Administration for twelve years. I have demonstrated my ability to accept new challenges, not having attended law school until age 40.” I know Kim professionally, having appeared before Judge Ailiotta many times and I have conferenced numerous cases with her. She is fair minded and intelligent and will make an excellent Civil Court Judge for Staten Island.

Now go vote.

Monday, November 06, 2006

New Beginnings

Although tomorrow is an important day, it isn’t any longer then any other day and it will be over soon enough, leaving a lot of idle time. I realized these last few weeks while recuperating from my gastroenteritis that health is something that too many of us take for granted. I for one haven’t been treating the old body too kindly these last few years and its time to do something about it. My short-term goal will be to break the 200lb mark on the scale in time for the New Year (roughly 14 lbs). My long-term goal will be to finish a sub 4 hour marathon some time in 2007, thereby beating my time in the Marine Corps Marathon which I completed in October of 1997 at 4:06, ten years ago. (I would have broken 4 hours at that race but had to wait on an unfortunately line for the porto-san somewhere near the Capital building). I have been averaging between 16 and 20 miles per week so I think a marathon is possible if I am very careful about injuries and get the weight off before I start hitting the really long runs. Easier on the knees that way.

I’m also going back to a vegetarian diet. It is ecologically irresponsible to continue to eat meat considering the increasing world population and the amount of grain and water it takes to produce even a single pound of beef. Also, factory farming is thoroughly inhumane and filthy. I’ve been reading a book about how dangerous our food supply is becoming and it is scaring the bejesus out of me. It Was Probably Something You Ate by Nicols Fox looks at the prevalence of food-born bacterial illness in this country and what is causing the marked spike in reported cases of food poisoning by salmonella bacteria, e-coli and a host of other nasty organisms. Illness from food borne pathogens is quite common, striking millions of people and, this part freaked me out, killing thousands annually. About 9,000 per year to be exact. Far more people sustain lasting health problems like crippling arthritis and permanently damaged digestive systems. “Far more serious than a slight discomfort in the abdomen, food-based pathogens can have long-term physical consequences, leaving victims with lifelong impairment of the digestive system and damage to the lungs, ears, kidneys, brain, and heart.” Somewhat unsurprisingly, the most common source of contamination is from meat, eggs and chickens (although bagged salad is also a regular suspect). One scientist who performed a study of supermarket chicken discovered that a full 25% of the dirty birds were contaminated with salmonella. Leave that on the counter and set some other food down on it and you’re screwed.

I was a vegetarian for 10 years and flirted with the diet again this past summer. Didn’t miss the meat too much so I think I’ll give it another go.

Vote Green Tomorrow

Tomorrow is Election Day. Recent polls show the Republican ‘s getting out the vote strategy to be tightening the race. Add that to the Diebold machines and the lack of security in the voting machines and, well, you know where this is going. You already saw it in 2000 in Florida and 2004 in Ohio. For the l;ast several months the lefty bloggers have been analyzing any positive trend in the polls as if they were atomic scientists trying to prove string theory, but to no avail I suspect. It is impossible to win a rigged game, as any tourist whose ever been taken in a game of three card monte will attest to. The current crop of democrats have tacked so far to the right that voting for them is almost like voting for a Republican as the term was understood in the 1970s. I’m not sure what Webb is doing in the democratic party, for example.

If the Republicans win this election then the evangelicals will have achieved their goal of completely taking over the government and we’ll all be praying under the Ten Commandments in the Courthouse before the end of the decade.

So, the moment you’ve all been waiting for, The Patriot’s endorsements for select New York Statewide races :

By voting for Malachy McCourt, the Green Party candidate for governor, you will help the party regain official ballot status in New York and insure that there are progressive candidates on the ballot for the next four years who do not take corporate money.

Howie Hawkins is the Green Party candidate for US Senate. Hawkins, former Marine, long-time anti-nuclear activist and working teamster, opposes the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Clinton stands by her vote to invade. Enough said.

Attorney General:
Rachel Treichler, attorney general candidate, is committed to protecting the rights of all New Yorkers by protecting civil liberties, ensuring fair elections, and stopping greedy developers from demolishing our communities.

Comptroller candidate Julia Willebrand will make sure that the $140 billion in state pension funds is invested in companies that protect the environment, will deal honestly with consumers, and give working people a fair shake.

When all is said and done, if you oppose the war in Iraq there is only one way to vote this on Tuesday - Vote Green. More information on the candidates can be found on the Green Party’s New York website. The link is over on the left side of this page. Vote for peace, vote for democracy, vote for the earth,vote Green on Row F.

Friday, November 03, 2006

My Recent E-Mail to John Kerry:

Dear John,
First of all I’d like to thank you for your service to our country; not the Viet Nam part, although that was a worthy endeavor, but when you volunteered two years ago to be a punching bag for that Republican dude from Crawford who was running against you for president. I must say you really took it like a man; curling up into a ball and protecting your face was smart fighting, even if it left your friends a little confused about whose side you were actually fighting on. Thank heavens you were wearing that spandex outfit to set you apart from the Connecticut cowboy; you remember, it was the same outfit you were wearing when you went wind-surfing off Martha’s Vinyard in the heat of the campaign. Maybe the reason you got the shit kicked out of you so often on the campaign trail had something to do with those wrap-around sunglasses blocking your vision. But I digress.

The real reason for my little note, John, is to ask that you STOP SENDING ME E-MAILS. I will admit that I appreciated the "thank-you" e-mail you sent after you lost the election, but I pretty much considered our relationship to be over after that bad night in Ohio back in 2004. I know letting go is hard John, but my feelings of betrayal and disappointment aren’t going to heal overnight and seeing your name in my inbox every other day or so makes me want to do something crazy. We both made mistakes, John. Mine was not saying yes to Howard Dean when he asked me for another chance after Iowa, yours was not growing a set of balls until two years after your opponent effectively cut them off in the general election.

Let’s leave the past in the past, John, and get on with our lives. I for one will look for a relationship with a Democrat who knows how to treat a voter, you, for one, have to STOP SENDING ME ANY MORE FREAKING E-MAILS. Thanks.

The Golden Rule

So now minister Haggert admits buying meth and getting a massage from a gay hooker. How is he going to wiggle out of this one? I’m waiting for Dobson and the White House to pitch him out of the boat; it really is too close to the election for them to give him the benefit of the doubt. It really makes me angry to think of how much suffering has been inflicted upon young gay Christians who have been had to listen to guys like Haggard tell them how sinful and immoral their lifestyle is and that there is no place at God's table for them. Clearly Haggard and his ilk are twisted by their own self-hatred. I find it hard to dredge up any charitable thoughts for him or his family; when you base a religion on intolerance and inflexibility you reap what you sow.

Focus on the Family?

Yet another closeted gay republican sex scandal hit the news today, this one involving one of Bush’s regular evangelical advisors who stands accused of snorting a bit of crystal meth prior to engaging in a game of hide-the-salami with a gay male prostitute. The Reverend Ted Haggard, head of the ultra right-wing National Association of Evangelicals resigned from his leadership position with the Church after accusations by a male prostitute that the pastor paid him for sex over three years. Haggard, whose organization comprises some 45,000 churches with some 30 million members, participates in a weekly conference call with White House staffers and other religious leaders. If Bush is receiving advice from this guy it’s no wonder his administration policies are so screwed up.

CNN is reporting that a church official who has temporarily assumed Haggard's post while he goes off and presumably receives treatment for alcoholism or something said late Thursday that there has been "some admission of guilt," but not to all of the allegations. He did not give any more details.

I wonder which part is true, the pole smoking or the drug use? Certainly Mr. Haggard is entitled to have sex with whoever he wants, although his position as shill for Colorado's proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage kind of complicates the matter. Evangelical power-brokers rushed to Haggart’s defense including the odious James Dobson who, as usual, blamed the liberal news media for stirring up trouble.

The revelation of Haggart’s hypocrisy on the gay marriage issue is especially joy-provoking considering that he has been at the forefront of the movement to turn America into a theocratic state based on the Bible and the ten commandments. Haggard was fond of saying that "[Evangelicals] feel comfortable in a guaranteed right to heaven." That is, assuming they actually practice the morality that they incessantly lecture others about.

The fact that a person with ideas so far outside the mainstream about the place of religion in a secular society has ready access to the White House is frightening enough, the fact that Bush sets policy according to the whim of this drug addict wack-job is down right criminal.

Thursday, November 02, 2006

From the Gipper

The quote is from Andrew Sullivan's blog:

"You and I are told we must choose between a left or right, but I suggest there is no such thing as a left or right. There is only an up or down. Up to man's age-old dream - the maximum of individual freedom consistent with order - or down to the ant heap of totalitarianism. Regardless of their sincerity, their humanitarian motives, those who would sacrifice freedom for security have embarked on this downward path," Ronald Reagan, stumping for Barry Goldwater in 1964.

How far they've fallen from the party of Goldwater, (I can't believe I'm saying this) although one might argue that fascism is the natural progression of an ideology based on unfetered capitalism and firm defense of status quo values.

Vote Early and Often II

Now that the elections are almost upon us, the Times has kindly provided some ammunition to we cynics in the form of an op-ed piece by Brian Mann, a reporter for North Country Public radio. (Since the Times requires a subscription before you can read the article, I’m just going to have to quote large chunks of it here.) Have you been wondering why Bush and Rove seem so secure in their belief that the Congress isn’t going to change hands on Tuesday? For one thing the Republicans have put major effort in the last ten years to redraw the districts to favor conservative incumbents. They are also relying on the small town voters to retain the senate. Every state gets two senators, regardless of the population. The population of the western and rural southern states are the ones the Republicans have been focusing on so right now the situation exists where even though the Republicans have a majority in the senate, their Senators actually represent less people then their Democratic collegues:
“Today the Republican Party holds an 11-seat Senate majority, but Republican senators represent 4.5 million fewer people than their Democratic colleagues, who tend to come from urban states like California, Illinois and New York. In the 2004 elections, Democratic candidates for the Senate captured nearly 10 percent more votes than Republicans nationwide, thanks to landslide support among urbanites. Yet the Republicans still managed to gain four seats, due to victories in rural states like South Dakota and South Carolina. A similarly skewed outcome is possible this year. Democrats are widely expected to gain seats in Ohio and Pennsylvania. If they do, Democratic senators will represent some 10 to 20 million more Americans nationwide than Republican senators. But if rural voters in Missouri, Tennessee and Virginia swing conservative, the Republicans will cling to the narrow majority Mr. Rove has promised.”
Now that doesn’t sound very fair to me, but it is Constitutional. (History lesson: Voters have elected their senators in the privacy of the voting booth since 1913. The framers of the Constitution, however, did not intend senators to be elected in this way, and included in Article I, section 3, "The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each state, chosen by the legislature thereof for six Years; and each Senator shall have one Vote." Connecticut's approval gave the Seventeenth Amendment the required three-fourths majority, and it was added to the Constitution in 1913. The following year marked the first time all senatorial elections were held by popular vote.)
What disturbs me about this disproportionate representation is that it clearly subverts the intent of the Constitution and allows a minority to impose its tyrannical ideas on the rest of the country through legislation which does not reflect the will of the people. Rove is so confident because he knows all he has to do is target a few races in rural states and get these states to send two senators from the same party to Washington. Simple math.
In the House, “Republican leaders, including Speaker Dennis Hastert and his former deputy, Tom DeLay, have worked to create a similar small-town bias. They redrew district lines to systematically fracture the voting power of urban and suburban neighborhoods in half a dozen states, including Florida, Ohio and Texas.. In 2003, The Washington Post published an analysis of this scheme by a Texas political operative, Joby Fortson: ‘This has a real national impact that should assure that Republicans keep the House no matter the national mood,’ Mr. Fortson wrote.”
So while Democrats are running around measuring drapes for their Capitol Hill offices, Rove and the Republican fascist slime balls are unpeturbed. Although Iraq and Foley have had an effect on the small town voter, it might not be enough. “ If Democrats succeed in increasing their rural vote, they could decisively sweep Republicans from power. But as the Center for Rural Strategies has pointed out, most of these races will be decided by razor-thin margins. And the Republicans are working feverishly to mollify and re-energize their rural base with talk about same-sex marriage, abortion, gun rights, public Christianity, terrorism and immigration — all issues that play brilliantly in small towns. The Republican National Committee has cranked up its sophisticated get-out-the-vote machine, combining phone and mail prompts, pastor-and-pulpit networks, conservative talk radio and door-to-door canvassing.
On Election Day, millions of urban Democrats will go to the polls expecting victory and dramatic change in Washington. But beware: Mr. Rove’s sunny forecast isn’t just spin. He and his party are counting on small towns to send a very different message, and to give the Republicans two more years to get it right. “

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Please Shut the Hell Up

John Kerry is a moron. One week before mid-terms he’s going to college campuses and playing the funnyman knowing full well that the Republican slime machine is following him around looking for an opening to portray the spineless Democrats as soft on terror. The fact that two years after it really matters he decides to grow a set of balls and fight back against this latest Swift-boating attempt is all the more reason to loath the bastard. He already cost the Democrats one election and if he doesn’t shut the hell up he’s going to energize the Republican base and cost them another.

Of course the media is doing its part to help the Republicans make a mountain out of this very small mole-hill. Why is the main stream media reporting on Kerry’s comments like it is an important story? It is pure republican spin, as ephemeral as cotton candy but it is on the front page of every major daily and web site. Its bad enough that the media barons take millions of dollars for air time from candidates who blatantly lie about their opponents positions, but now they are hurling the mud themselves by giving credence to this Swift Boat nonsense.

His comment was right on the money, even though he disowned it. If the kiddies don’t master their lessons in college they might find themselves toting an M-16 through an Iraqi desert in a few years. As Kerry and the rest of the elitist politicians well know, only the poor working class kids end up having to fight in this country’s wars nowadays. A draft, which would distribute the burden of fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq equally among all of the social classes, isn’t being considered despite the fact that the military is stretched to the breaking point. Of course the minute a draft is announced any lingering support for the war would evaporate like dew under an August sun.

This is, and always has been a war for profits. Why should the working class offer up its sons and daughters so Halliburton and its paid for lackeys in Washington can line their pockets with blood money?