Saturday, September 30, 2006

I Cried Because I Had No Habeas Corpus, Until I Met A Man Who Had No Skin

While lies, corruption, incompetence, and hypocrisy continue to erode our lives here at home, Tom Englehardt offers us a glimpse into the pit of Hell.

Well. One of many, I guess.

The Republic Expires

Patrick Leahy's speech to the Senate prior to the vote on the Military Commissions Act of 2006 is worth reading (scroll down some). Here's a sample:
"We need to pursue the war on terror with strength and intelligence, but we need to uphold American ideals. The President says he wants clarity as to the meaning of the Geneva Conventions and the War Crimes Act. Of course, he did not want clarity when his administration was using its twisted interpretation of the law to authorize torture and cruel and inhumane treatment of detainees. He did not want clarity when spying on Americans without warrants. And he certainly did not want clarity while keeping those rationales and programs secret from Congress. The administration does not seem to want clarity when it refuses even to tell Congress what its understanding of the law is following the withdrawal of a memo that said the President could authorize and immunize torture. That memo was withdrawn because it could not withstand the light of day.
It seems the only clarity this administration wants is a clear green light from Congress to do whatever it wants. That is not clarity. That is immunity from crime. I cannot vote for that. That is what the current legislation would give to the President on interrogation techniques and on military commissions. Justice O'Connor reminded the nation before her retirement that even war is not a ``blank check'' when it comes to the rights of Americans. The Senate should not be a rubberstamp for policies that undercut America's values. "
I'll be in mourning for the next few days.

image

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Whole Lott of Stereotypin' Goin' On, Updated

So the House passed the latest reversal of the Magna Carta without a sweat, aiming their usual transparently false accusations of "coddling" at those who saw the Act for what it is--an attack on American ideals, the Constitution, and a big fuck-you to the rest of the world just guaranteed to do bin Laden's propaganda work for him.

Now the Senate takes up the momentous work of finishing the job. Just now I heard Trent Lott on NPR's Morning Edition (not yet up on the website) deriding concerns about interrogation techniques. In a racist monologue I'd thought he'd learned better to indulge by now, he went on about the use of dogs: why would anyone be afraid of dogs? How ridiculous! And now a quote:
"Haven't they (the prisoners) ever delivered laundry? Weren't they ever barked at by a dog?"
Why, no, Senator, I believe you must have them confused with the Chinese.

God help us all.

UPDATE: Thanks to the good Senator and the help of 12 faithful Democrats, an early Christmas gift of the nation's heart and gonads was handed over to Little King George, enabling him to define the "Geneva Convention," and "torture," and "unlawful enemy combatants" (which may or may not include American citizens depending on how pissed he gets at them), and "material support to terrorists," as he sees fit, as well as to pick and choose which prisoners, if any, may be allowed to demand reasons for their incarceration.

Evidently Lott 'o' Laughs was on a regular racist roll Thursday morning, judging by this conversation he had with reporters after the morning circle-jerk:
President Bush barely mentioned the war in Iraq when he met with Republican senators behind closed doors in the Capitol Thursday morning and was not asked about the course of the war, Sen. Trent Lott, R-Mississippi, said.

"No, none of that," Lott told reporters after the session when asked if the Iraq war was discussed. "You're the only ones who obsess on that. We don't and the real people out in the real world don't for the most part."

Lott went on to say he has difficulty understanding the motivations behind the violence 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 Israelis 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."
Putting aside for now the welcome news that Lott and Bush and the Republican Stormfront are not obssessing about the bloody timebomb they've set in place in the mid-East, this little nugget speaks for itself---of the insular, ignorant, hateful mind that voiced such regret at the loss of the good old days of Massa Strom's assault on the Presidency.

Why do they kill people of other religions because of religion? That's a tough one, Senator. Not something that good, God-fearing Christians like you would understand, eh? Because you're used to being persecuted for your faith, not the other way around:
"A lot of people in Washington have been trying to nail me for a long time. When you're from Mississippi and you're a conservative and you're a Christian, there are a lot of people that don't like that."
Yes, it's always the Christians that get it in this foul world, isn't it? That is, unless you count Leo Frank.

Or the Moriscos.

Or der Juden.

And as for the Shia and Sunnis, "how do they tell the difference?" You mean like, how did the Serbs know who was Albanian? You're right. They DO all look the same:

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Maybe if we'd insisted on maintaining a democracy in 2000, and if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over all these years, either.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Stop The Torture Bill

The best summing up of what's at stake in the Military Commissions Bill of 2006, for those caught up in it as well as for the soul and spirit of the United States, comes from a professor of law at the University of Toledo, Benjamin Davis, who biopsies the thing at the Pitt Law School site, The Jurist. Not only does he point out the specific roads to hell down which the law takes us, he explains the overarching affect it will ultimately have:
The compromise drafters appear to be decoupling these military commissions from international law, from domestic courts-martial, from other types of traditional military commissions, from any other law. These alien unlawful enemy combatants, these human beings, are in fact being decoupled from "all the laws but one," in the words of President Lincoln. The power of this effort should not be
underestimated because as the lone superpower, the act does no less than push out to the world a state practice that would bring us back to pre-Geneva Convention standards for these people, worthy of only "special process".

From this view, these individuals have committed such heinous crimes that their process and punishment should be in a carefully controlled hermetically sealed environment that should not contaminate any other procedures that might impact more "deserving" characters...

In the 18 sections below I examine the provisions that struck me that - taken as a whole - give us the outline (if we wish to look) of this "special process". We must remember that this special process is being created using all the ordinary words we have seen before. That is in one sense the genius of this effort. By carefully pulling together points strewn in many places including Hamdan v. Rumsfeld, words that are familiar are able to create a unfamiliar "special process".

200px-AbuGhraibScandalGraner55For this special process, this group of human beings is segregated from the rest of mankind. They are segregated and by that segregation they are declared a different type of human being. Based on the responses of Republicans and Democrats, the American Congress, the President and by extension all the American people are willing to have these people declared as different. Moreover, the United States Government is willing to have these rules applied to aliens and in that sense is making a statement to all countries who might seek to invoke diplomatic protection for these non-Americans. Those countries must now consider ("are you with us or against us?") whether their countrymen are truly a different type of human being such that they will acquiesce in the American determination of segregation.

This, I would suggest, is the essence of the decision that is going to be made this week by this Congress on this legislation. Is America going to declare certain human beings beyond "all the laws but one" depriving them of common levels of human dignity? This type of separation resonates in American history at many points - in the Constitution in its treatment of slaves, in the reservations for Native Americans, in the exclusion of Asians, in the status of women...

It points a question mark at the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the rest of the International Bill of Rights. We are asked to think that this might only be for the current "difficulties" but the legislation does not have any sunset provision. A permanent track is created and any Congressperson or Senator who might seek to amend it in the future is likely to be immediately excoriated for being "soft on terror". Much power is centered in the President and the unitary executive in the implementation of the process with extremely limited judicial review.

This is what bothers me greatly. For on every occasion I can remember where this kind of special process occurs there is a person who stands up in front of the all powerful in that process and asserts his human dignity. A person like David Wainapel, the late husband of a late friend who challenged a Nazi camp commander in the center of his concentration camp. David Wainapel was considered by that special process as a non-human, but David asserted his humanity. I suspect that these alien unlawful enemy combatants and their lawyers will assert their humanity in front of this special process and the question will be whether we are capable of seeing that humanity (which is to see the evil of which we are each capable for those of them who are guilty) and whether we deny what we are capable of by denying their humanity. And by that denial, I fear we produce an abomination in our lust to end the presence of these persons. In a sense, their victory will have been complete in having us put such effort in creating such a special process for them. We give them their status by our treatment of them - the strangest aspect of all this.

Something deep in the American soul was stirred by the 9/11 events. Something that reminds me personally of what one sees in the eyes of lynch mobs in the old pictures. Except, now those standing are not exclusively white but are a rainbow coalition to ban certain aliens from the benefits of human dignity. There is a coldness to the hate. There is a precision to the process of destroying these persons. There is a determination and an exquisite intelligence with which this is done - through processes that are oh so democratic.

Those pushing this special process have so much power to sway us. All politicians are afraid if they stand against this that millions of dollars will come raining down on them from "the other side" (Republican or Democrat) for being "soft on terror". Persons of great stature have bought into this compromise (McCain et al) giving psychic cover for those to vote for this language. The rest of the world could make an outcry but one feels that the efforts so far are perfunctory - half-hearted - maybe because the rest of the world wants this special process to develop that they can apply to their special group.

It might be possible for some lone Senator or some lone Congressperson to stand up and say "This is too much for mankind. We have fought too long to not create these kinds of special processes." We await that champion of human dignity in all its frailness. My fear is that there is no one.
Mine, too.

Call Arlen Specter
and demand this act and its so-called compromise be stopped in its tracks.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Republicans ARE the Torture Party

Every American with a voice on the net should have this on the front page:



Your're either with it, or against it.

Thanks to digby for the link. Go here to get yours.

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Take Me Home, Internet Roads

Matrix%20System%20Failure-720593So in West Virgina, broadband access has fallen behind the rest of the country:
Because of the state's sparse population and rugged terrain, most high-speed Internet providers have not expanded their service to large portions of the state...

Although West Virginia lags behind the rest of the nation, the lack of broadband deployment is not confined to the Mountain State, said Michael J. Copps, commissioner with the Federal Communications Commission.

"The problem is that we do not have a strategy to get the broadband job done," he said. "We don't have a way to bring together the people in this room."

The United States does not compare well with other developed nations in terms of broadband accessibility, Copps said. The U.S. is ranked 16th in one survey and 21st in another.

"As far as I can tell, we're the only country on the face of God's green earth that doesn't have a broadband strategy," he said.

Some of the countries that rank higher in those surveys, such as Canada, have more territory and less population density than the U.S., he said.
(Copps, you may recall, was the troublemaker who launched himself on a whistlestop tour of the country back in 2003 to conduct the hearings Colin Powell's kid wouldn't, in order to sound the alarm on the impending trust-fest that would have been unleashed had the FCC granted permission for a single entity to own more than 35% of a media market).

And how does a place like Canada accomplish what we, with all our chest-pounding about the free market, can't seem to? Maybe this?

Imagine a world where internet access is thought of as a public good, a service so indispensible that it is considered, and administrated, on a par with telephone service? Imagine a world where internet is considered a public utility, where your access is protected and enabled by a network of government and non-profit agencies, or if provided by private business, is regulated and overseen by a public watchdog to ensure against monopolies, price-gouging, and unacceptable service quality!

But, no. Here in the land of the Big Grab, even the idea of a local municipality being able to provide such a crucial service is considered an outrageous trespass on the freedom of giant corporations to establish and maintain their hegemonies, so much so that even liberal politicans cave the moment Verizon starts flashing its cash.

No. Instead, we have what is not jokingly referred to as "faith in the free market and private enterprise". In America every faceless commercial monolith is regarded as the creation of a plucky little guy who worked 3 jobs to build a dream, a Horace Greeley, a mythical self-made man, an entreprenuer to whom we, as Americans, owe all we are and all we ever will be. Let us not to the monopolization of true empires admit impediment! Because one day it could be me!

And besides, it's common knowledge that if we just let that wild maverick out there dream his dream, and work his magic, we'll all be flying around in hovercraft and experiencing giant holographic adventures in our own homes someday, and the price of everything, freed at last from the hobbling regulation of government, will plummet. Like cable television! Remember cable? How many cable providers do you have access to now? What do you pay for it, compared to pre-deregulation days?

How did all that free market jive work out for you?

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

The Cassandra-fied Left

Running over the same old ground...
Have we found...the same old fears?



The message is still important. But each time I hear it it seems to have transmuted into more of a funereal wail and less of a call to arms. Face it. cassandraThe only people who are listening are we who made up our minds years ago, and the only reason we keep buying books like these is that we're so hungry to hear the truth---from anyone, from anywhere---that we've become complicit in the idea that these alternatives to the Official Party Line will somehow turn the tide, scales will fall from the eyes of the public, and the evildoers will be cast from office.

Instead, our money will continue to underwrite and support the criminality of the Bush government, and coddle and protect them even after they leave office.

No wonder human beings want to believe in a hell.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

In America, Hindsight is 20-120

Today, from Reuters:
Saddam on trial for genocide

...Saddam, 69, his cousin Majeed, known as "Chemical Ali", and five former commanders face charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity for their role in the 1988 Anfal campaign (or Spoils of War) against the Kurds.

Prosecutors said hundreds of villages were razed in a campaign they say left 182,000 ethnic Kurds dead or missing...

On Monday, following a three-week recess, a U.S.-based doctor demanded compensation from foreign companies she said supplied him with chemicals he is accused of using to gas Kurdish rebels.
From The National Security Archive:
The U.S. restored formal relations with Iraq in November 1984, but the U.S. had begun, several years earlier, to provide it with intelligence and military support (in secret and contrary to this country's official neutrality) in accordance with policy directives from President Ronald Reagan...

The U.S., which followed developments in the Iran-Iraq war with extraordinary intensity, had intelligence confirming Iran's accusations, and describing Iraq's "almost daily" use of chemical weapons, concurrent with its policy review and decision to support Iraq in the war [Document 24]. The intelligence indicated that Iraq used chemical weapons against Iranian forces, and, according to a November 1983 memo, against "Kurdish insurgents" as well [Document 25].

What was the Reagan administration's response? A State Department account indicates that the administration had decided to limit its "efforts against the Iraqi CW program to close monitoring because of our strict neutrality in the Gulf war, the sensitivity of sources, and the low probability of achieving desired results." But the department noted in late November 1983 that "with the essential assistance of foreign firms, Iraq ha[d] become able to deploy and use CW and probably has built up large reserves of CW for further use. Given its desperation to end the war, Iraq may again use lethal or incapacitating CW, particularly if Iran threatens to break through Iraqi lines in a large-scale attack" [Document 25]. The State Department argued that the U.S. needed to respond in some way to maintain the credibility of its official opposition to chemical warfare, and recommended that the National Security Council discuss the issue.

Following further high-level policy review, Ronald Reagan issued National Security Decision Directive (NSDD) 114, dated November 26, 1983, concerned specifically with U.S. policy toward the Iran-Iraq war. The directive reflects the administration's priorities: it calls for heightened regional military cooperation to defend oil facilities, and measures to improve U.S. military capabilities in the Persian Gulf, and directs the secretaries of state and defense and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to take appropriate measures to respond to tensions in the area. It states, "Because of the real and psychological impact of a curtailment in the flow of oil from the Persian Gulf on the international economic system, we must assure our readiness to deal promptly with actions aimed at disrupting that traffic." It does not mention chemical weapons [Document 26].

Soon thereafter, Donald Rumsfeld (who had served in various positions in the Nixon and Ford administrations, including as President Ford's defense secretary, and at this time headed the multinational pharmaceutical company G.D. Searle & Co.) was dispatched to the Middle East as a presidential envoy.
Whereupon, famous video of handshake, blahblahblah. Then:
Rumsfeld returned to Baghdad in late March 1984. By this time, the U.S. had publicly condemned Iraq's chemical weapons use, stating, "The United States has concluded that the available evidence substantiates Iran's charges that Iraq used chemical weapons" [Document 47]. Briefings for Rumsfeld's meetings noted that atmospherics in Iraq had deteriorated since his December visit because of Iraqi military reverses and because "bilateral relations were sharply set back by our March 5 condemnation of Iraq for CW use, despite our repeated warnings that this issue would emerge sooner or later" [Document 48]. Rumsfeld was to discuss with Iraqi officials the Reagan administration's hope that it could obtain Export-Import Bank credits for Iraq, the Aqaba pipeline, and its vigorous efforts to cut off arms exports to Iran. According to an affidavit prepared by one of Rumsfeld's companions during his Mideast travels, former NSC staff member Howard Teicher, Rumsfeld also conveyed to Iraq an offer from Israel to provide assistance, which was rejected [Document 61].

Although official U.S. policy still barred the export of U.S. military equipment to Iraq, some was evidently provided on a "don't ask - don't tell" basis. In April 1984, the Baghdad interests section asked to be kept apprised of Bell Helicopter Textron's negotiations to sell helicopters to Iraq, which were not to be "in any way configured for military use" [Document 55]. The purchaser was the Iraq...(when a congressional aide asked in March 1983 whether heavy trucks recently sold to Iraq were intended for military purposes, a State Department official replied "we presumed that this was Iraq's intention, and had not asked.") [Document 44]

During the spring of 1984 the U.S. reconsidered policy for the sale of dual-use equipment to Iraq's nuclear program, and its "preliminary results favor[ed] expanding such trade to include Iraqi nuclear entities" [Document 57].
When Iraq began making public acknowledgements of chemical weapons use in February 1984, the U.S. followed up with in March with an offhand protest in a statement focussed mainly on Iranian perfidy. But it didn't stop us from wheeling, dealing, and realpoliticking:
When asked whether the U.S.'s conclusion that Iraq had used chemical weapons would have "any effect on U.S. recent initiatives to expand commercial relationships with Iraq across a broad range, and also a willingness to open diplomatic relations," the department's spokesperson said "No. I'm not aware of any change in our position. We're interested in being involved in a closer dialogue with Iraq" [Document 52].

Iran had submitted a draft resolution asking the U.N. to condemn Iraq's chemical weapons use. The U.S. delegate to the U.N. was instructed to lobby friendly delegations in order to obtain a general motion of "no decision" on the resolution. If this was not achievable, the U.S. delegate was to abstain on the issue. Iraq's ambassador met with the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Jeane Kirkpatrick, and asked for "restraint" in responding to the issue - as did the representatives of both France and Britain.
On March 30, 1984, the UN Security Council finally issued a statement condemning use of chemical weapons without mentioning Iraq, and containing elements suggested by the Iraqi Interests Section Head...
On April 5, 1984, Ronald Reagan issued another presidential directive (NSDD 139), emphasizing the U.S. objective of ensuring access to military facilities in the Gulf region, and instructing the director of central intelligence and the secretary of defense to upgrade U.S. intelligence gathering capabilities. It codified U.S. determination to develop plans "to avert an Iraqi collapse."
The National Security Archive's conclusion:
The current Bush administration discusses Iraq in starkly moralistic terms to further its goal of persuading a skeptical world that a preemptive and premeditated attack on Iraq could and should be supported as a "just war." The documents included in this briefing book reflect the realpolitik that determined this country's policies during the years when Iraq was actually employing chemical weapons. Actual rather than rhetorical opposition to such use was evidently not perceived to serve U.S. interests; instead, the Reagan administration did not deviate from its determination that Iraq was to serve as the instrument to prevent an Iranian victory. Chemical warfare was viewed as a potentially embarrassing public relations problem that complicated efforts to provide assistance. The Iraqi government's repressive internal policies, though well known to the U.S. government at the time, did not figure at all in the presidential directives that established U.S. policy toward the Iran-Iraq war. The U.S. was concerned with its ability to project military force in the Middle East, and to keep the oil flowing.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Daydreams

The Washington Post reports this a.m. on a new British film whose main merit so far appears to be portraying an assassination of George Bush:
The film, "Death of a President," has been alternatively derided as a tasteless publicity grab and defended as a serious look at a plausible event that could have dramatic ramifications for the world.

"It's a disturbing film," said Peter Dale, head of More4, the television channel that will telecast the film in England in October. It is scheduled to debut this month -- on the eve of the fifth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks -- at the Toronto Film Festival...
Thereafter much blahblahblah about whether such film-making is tasteless exploitation or serious geopolitical examination (you figure it out), and then at the end there's this:
Rod Liddle, a newspaper and magazine columnist who also makes documentaries for Channel 4, said he thought the Bush film gave voice to a common sentiment in Britain.

"You will never, ever be able to overestimate the degree to which the British people loathe George Bush," Liddle said. "It will be a free round of drinks in every pub for the person who plays the assassin."
Having been to Britain a couple times since Bush took office I can assure you this is not an exaggeration.

Here in the States, the Bush-lovers are already lining up with their meme-ophones to register their left-bashing horror, but while we may not toast the assassin, there are plenty who will gaze on wistfully and dream of the "what if?" Personally, I don't think death is a suitable end for this lot. I'd like to see the floors open up and swallow the entire administration and its enablers whole, sow the ground at Kennebunkport with salt, and rid the poor earth of their abominable memory (not to mention policies-from-hell) once and for all. Seriously. Is there any thinking person out there who really believes that we would be worse off for never having been cursed with the endless salt-into-wounds incompetencies and deliberate evils of the Bush dynasty and its apparatchiks? Seriously.

But that's just me.

Like Comparing Planets to Presidents, or, Pluto Is Just Another Word For "Doofus"

Dave Rossie of The Ithaca Journal, inspired by the Pluto shenanigans, takes a look Bush's latest rating drop in a scientific light:
SAN FRANCISCO — George Bush, beloved by some as just plain folks, but scorned by elitists who consider him too shallow and unstatesmanlike, was unceremoniously reduced in rank Wednesday by the National Association of Presidential Scholars.

After years of debate concerning Bush's qualifications for the job, including some doubt about whether he was actually elected in 2000, the NAPS, in what many members hailed as “a triumph of realism over sentiment,” voted to demote Bush from president to “dwarf president.”

Wednesday's outcome completed a stunning five-year turnaround during which the 43rd president went from being hailed as the new Churchill, with a 90 percent approval rating, to the subject of debate among his own party members as to whether he is stupid or simply distracted. His approval ratings, meanwhile, have descended into the middle 30s and his dwindling support concentrated mainly among evangelicals who accept his contention that he is God's messenger boy.

Under new guidelines established by NAPS, a politician must meet three criteria in order to be classified as a full-blown president.

He or she must understand and observe the general premise set forth in the Constitution that the government of the United States is divided into three separate but equal branches: executive, legislative and judicial.

He or she must refrain from lying to the press and public at least 10 percent of the time he or she holds office. Lying to get into office will still be permitted.

He or she must be able to read a compound sentence without butchering it.
Well, in Bush's defense, how many Americans could meet those qualifications anyway? As for The Evil One himself:
“As of now,” Dr. Cuttenrhun said, “Vice President Cheney will remain a black hole.”