Friday, May 21, 2004
A History Lesson
Excerpt from a speech given by David Cole, Professor of Law, Georgetown University, author of Enemy Aliens and Terrorism and the Constitution: Sacrificing Civil Liberties in the Name of National Security (13 November 2003):
I am going to talk about PATRIOT I and PATRIOT II, but I want to put it in a little broader context as well. And I want to go back for just a second to a prior period of time in the United States where we similarly faced a threat of terrorism, and that is [the year] 1919. The Communists had taken over in Soviet Union and the Eastern Bloc countries, there was mass unemployment in the United States. Sixteen hundred strikes in that year alone across the country involved four million workers; several of them turned violent.
This was punctuated by a series of terrorist bombings -- first, mail bombs delivered to people like Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, to the Attorney General, to several senators and mayors, and then a suicide bomber, who blew himself up, and blew the front off of the private residence of Attorney General Palmer in Washington, D.C.
We responded. The government responded to that series of terrorist attacks in a way that, I think, is illustrative with respect to the way we?ve responded to the 9/11 attack. They did not go out and capture the terrorists. In fact, the terrorists were never found and brought to justice. Instead what they did was use immigration law to target foreign nationals, and to sweep up thousands in coordinated raids around the country, known to this day as the Palmer Raids. And they were charged not with terrorism, but with technical immigration violations, and with guilt by association.
And writing about that after the fact, Louis Post said -- he as the acting secretary of labor at the time -- he, actually, was an incredibly brave man who stepped in and overturned over 1,500 of the deportation orders on various grounds, and was called up on impeachment charges for having done so. Writing about that period, he said, ?The dominion caused by the bombings turned in the direction of a deportation crusade with all the spontaneity of water seeking out the course of least resistance.? With all the spontaneity of water seeking out the course of least resistance.
And to me, we have similarly, since September 11th, sought out the course of least resistance. We have talked about the need to recalibrate the balance between liberty and security. And I think that?s a legitimate set of questions to ask. But for the most part, we have not been asked to give up our liberties in the name of a promise of greater security. Rather, what the government has said is we will give up their liberties -- they being foreign nationals, and especially Arab and Muslim foreign nationals -- for your security.
That?s easy for a politician to strike the balance because, of course, foreign nationals don?t vote. And when the government has done that, for the most part, we have stood silently by. When, by contrast, the government has asked us, the citizenry, to sacrifice our liberties in the name of national security, we have been much less willing to do so. So we have adopted, essentially, a double standard here. We?re willing to give up others? rights, but not our own.
I want to just lay out the case for this double standard. And it really begins with the detention campaign, the preventive detention campaign undertaken by John Ashcroft after September 11th. Some of you may remember it. He made a speech to the Conference of Mayors in New York in October of 2001, looked around the room, saw that Lloyd Bentsen was nowhere to be seen, and then compared himself favorably to Robert Kennedy. And he said, just like Robert Kennedy, who had arrested a mobster for spitting on the sidewalk, ?So too I, John Ashcroft, will use every law in my power, including immigration law, to lock up suspected terrorists, keep them off the street, and prevent the next terrorist attack from occurring.?
What do we know about that preventive detention, anti-terrorism campaign? Since September 11th the government has locked up over 5,000 foreign nationals in anti-terrorism initiatives -- over 5,000. Of those 5,000 how many have been charged as being a member of al-Qaida? Zero. How many have been charged with being involved in September 11th? Zero. The only person charged with al-Qaida and September 11th is Zacharias Moussaoui, and he was, of course, picked up before September 11th and before the preventive detention campaign began.
How many of those people have been charged with any terrorist crime? Three. And of those three, two were acquitted of the terrorist charges. One person was convicted of conspiring to provide material support to some unspecified terrorist act in the unspecified future. That?s it for 5,000 people detained.
These are dangerous days
To say what you feel is to dig your own grave
Sometimes I Really Hate Computers
Tools of Satan, they are.
I'm still restoring files to this iBook. Slow process. Overnight, the transfer hung and I had to go back and check the Applications folder to which I was copying, because some folders were transferred OK and some weren't. So I had to inspect each folder and so on. Ugh. At least I didn't lose any data but I'm telling you, it's a slow, excruciating process to get back where one was. I have done NOTHING productive this week but deal with this.
I read my limericks last night at Author's Cafe. I didn't know this but it's where the legendary Nick Ligidakis landed. He's a Greek ex-soccer player who is a magnificent cook. The guy is famous for opening restaurants, that close after a few years. His menus were always enormous (literally dozens of items to choose from) and served enormous portions. He's doing more writing now, I think he got tired of the restaurant biz. His cafe's offerings are more modest...
Anyway the crowd was a bit disappointing. For about 10 minutes, there were a dozen people. About half liked my limericks a lot, half didn't get it. I'll be doing them again at Willow House near downtown Phoenix. I think they have an open mic night. I am hoping that crowd is more with it.
Back to restoring the computer's files...
Thursday, May 20, 2004
Ugh. Bad Day.
I'm still wrestling with the iBook. Progress but not quite done yet. Data is backed up so at least I won't lose anything. But I am too exasperated and annoyed to be funny or snarky.
Reminder: if you are in the Phoenix area, I'll be doing my limericks tonight at Author's Cafe, 1st St. and Goldwater, Scottsdale. Probably won't go on until after 8:30pm so it is OK to show up late.
Wednesday, May 19, 2004
William "Cleopatra" Kristol
If you want to hear a man deep in denial, listen to William Kristol interviewed on Fresh Air by Terry Gross.
He really does not get it. Grasping at straws. This is a desperate, desperate man. I wonder if he'll shoot himself when he finally is forced to admit to himself how wrong he's been.
Here's my "Busy Busy Busy"-esque version of the interview:
- Terry reads recent headlines about hawks' doubts about the war. "There is not a monolithic conservative opinion on the war. I am not having 2nd thoughts. It is still winnable."
- "We underestimated the Ba'athists. The Bush administration did not adjust their plans to fit reality."
- "The war ended too quickly. It should have gone on longer so we could have killed more Saddam loyalists. It's Turkey's fault. We tried to do this on the cheap and that was a fundamental error that allowed the insurgency to build."
- "Rumsfeld's plans and theories do not fit the reality of Iraq. Rumsfeld wanted to go from 10 divisions to 8. Terrible error of judgement and Rumsfeld still is in denial [I guess you have company then, Bill - ed.] It's Clinton's fault."
- "A draft is not necessary but I support it. We should add two or three more divisions to the Army."
- "The torture at Abu Ghraib was a few bad apples. Let's not 'obsess' about it too much. It doesn't go any higher. Doesn't, doesn't, doesn't!"
- "Bush needs to take control of the war. Spend 10 hours a day studying up if necessary and do what needs to be done."
- "It's no big deal that the President of the IGC was recently killed. Yes, the security situation in Iraq is bad. Hey, shit happens. It didn't have to be this way."
- "We should move elections up to September. [I'm sure that timing has nothing to do with our election, since Bill Kristol is such a principled, honest conservative.-ed.]"
- "We need to keep substantial troops there, indefinitely - three years or longer if necessary."
- "I'm not worried about the financial cost of the war. It's chump change."
- "I supported the tax cuts, but I would support tax hikes if it were spent on the war or national security."
- Kristol, speaking of Powell's presentation at the UN, says, "We voted to go to war..." Actually, Congress voted to authorize Bush to declare war if Saddam would not disarm. This is one of the few instances where Kristol cuts through the bullshit and speaks the truth, by demolishing this little fiction that Congress didn't shirk it's responsibility and didn't authorize the President to declare war.
- "The Powell presentation was a big mistake."
- "The Bush administration didn't say it was an imminent threat. When they said imminent, they meant, 'why wait any longer? We know Saddam is a bad guy. And he might lob a nuke at us.' The American people were not misled. There was no conscious desire to mislead."
- "I'm not really sure whether or not Iraq has created more terrorists or not. Who can know?"
- "We got rid of Saddam. We showed the world we're willing to get rid of dictators. I still believe we can make positive changes in the Middle East by doing this."
- "I was just one of many advocates for war. I never could have foreseen they would be this incompetent in executing it. I still think it's winnable."
- "Failure would be, we get out and the place goes to hell. No matter what happens there, they are better off than if they were still under Saddam."
- "More troops, quicker elections, Bush needs to take charge. [Why the fuck hasn't he been in charge up until now??? - ed.] We just need to dig the hole better."
- "I don't care how badly it's going, at least Saddam is not in charge. The Bush administration has really been stupid and pig-headed about this. It's still winnable and we're going to win it."
- "I know this sounds crazy, but the problem is not that America has been too aggressive. We must transform the Middle East. It's not going to be easy or clean."[Hey, Bill - do you know that we have a petroleum-based world economy? Do you think the price of oil is too low? What do you think is going to happen to oil prices and the world economy if we go around upsetting apple carts all over the Middle East? 'Not easy or clean'? You sound like Adam Yoshida.]
- "We must change other regimes too. I hope it can be done peacefully but I'm not opposed to doing this all over again."
- "We need a bigger military. I'm not concerned that we had to move troops from S. Korea to Iraq. America needs to be the world's policeman."
- "Yes, I know Bush has fucked up badly. Jon Stewart trapped me last week. I trust Bush to drive us out of the ditch he drove us into. He's been incompetent in executing the war but I don't care because he's not that Frenchman Kerry. Four more years!"
Tuesday, May 18, 2004
Berlusconi Backs Out
Looks like Italian PM Silvio Berlusconi is heading for the doors.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi, meeting President George W. Bush today, plans to discuss the future of the U.S.-led operation in Iraq as support for the presence of Italian troops dwindles.
``Berlusconi would like to have a ticket home -- with honor and good feeling -- but he wants Italian soldiers out of there,'' said Franco Pavoncello, a professor of political science at John Cabot University in Rome. ``Berlusconi's going to be asking Bush some very tough questions, such as what is the exit strategy.''
Italians are shrewd, and Berlusconi is the shrewdest of them all. I wonder what kind of Texas two-step Bush is going to try to give him. Bush doesn't have the slightest idea how to get out other than to retreat to our bases and try to hang on to the oil.
Berlusconi is an Americophile who has semi-famously said of America, "I am on whatever side America is on, even before I know what it is." He was kidding when he said that... kidding on the square.
If even Berlusconi is abandoning Bush...
(Since I'm Italian, I'm not going to be very happy when I hear the inevitable freeper/Faux News spin that the Italians are rewarding the terrorists by pulling out...)
Atrocities In Iraq
OK if you haven't seen this yet, it really must be read to be believed.
For nearly 12 years, Staff Sgt. Jimmy Massey was a hard-core, some say gung-ho, Marine. For three years he trained fellow Marines in one of the most grueling indoctrination rituals in military life - Marine boot camp.
The Iraq war changed Massey. The brutality, the sheer carnage of the U.S. invasion, touched his conscience and transformed him forever. He was honorably discharged with full severance last Dec. 31 and is now back in his hometown, Waynsville, N.C.
Q: What experiences turned you against the war and made you leave the Marines?
A: I was in charge of a platoon that consists of machine gunners and missile men. Our job was to go into certain areas of the towns and secure the roadways. There was this one particular incident - and there's many more - the one that really pushed me over the edge. It involved a car with Iraqi civilians. From all the intelligence reports we were getting, the cars were loaded down with suicide bombs or material. That's the rhetoric we received from intelligence. They came upon our checkpoint. We fired some warning shots. They didn't slow down. So we lit them up.
Q: Lit up? You mean you fired machine guns?
A: Right. Every car that we lit up we were expecting ammunition to go off. But we never heard any. Well, this particular vehicle we didn't destroy completely, and one gentleman looked up at me and said: "Why did you kill my brother? We didn't do anything wrong." That hit me like a ton of bricks.
Q: He spoke English?
A: Oh, yeah.
Q: Baghdad was being bombed. The civilians were trying to get out, right?
A: Yes. They received pamphlets, propaganda we dropped on them. It said, "Just throw up your hands, lay down weapons." That's what they were doing, but we were still lighting them up. They weren't in uniform. We never found any weapons.
Go read the rest. If the truth gets out before November, this Iraqi misadventure will be the downfall of the Bush regime. It's tragic, sad and maddening.
Blah Blah Blah
Sorry, nothing much to say today. Not even any lame limericks. The iBook's hard drive needed serious maintenance so Disk Warrior is working its magic and it's hard to get much 'real' work done without that drive available to me.
Atrios is on fire today. Go over there and catch up with the latest outrageous bullshit perpetrated by the credibility-challenged Bush regime. What ever will we bloggers write about once these asshats are bounced from the White House?
Thanks to all of you who show up here. In the near future I'm going to pay up for this here Blogger thing and stop being a free-loader. Then I can get the RSS feed going. I'll also be doing some begging, of which this site has been blissfully free. As you may have guessed, I am a bit underemployed these days so I'm hoping y'all will show me some love.
By the way, this blog was originally intended as an extension of a site I halfway created, "Liberal Media Conspiracy", intended as a Landover-esque spoof on the notion of a SCLM. Someday I might even finish what I started with it... It turned out to be easier to get this blog going than finish what I started *sigh*
Come back soon now, ya hear?
Monday, May 17, 2004
Here's the first review I've read of Michael Moore's new film.
As he sees it, 9/11 was a tragedy for America, a career move for Bush. The attacks allowed the President to push through Congress restrictive laws that would have been defeated in any climate but the "war on terror" chill. Fahrenheit 9/11 shows some tragicomic effects of the Patriot Act: a man quizzed by the FBI for casually mentioning at his health club that he thought Bush was an "asshole"; a benign peace group in Fresno, Cal., infiltrated by an undercover police agent.
Two Bush quotes in the film indicate the Administration?s quandary in selling repression to the American people. One: "A dictatorship would be a heck of a lot easier, no doubt about it." The other: "They're not happy they'e occupied. I wouldn't be happy if I were occupied either." Moore's argument is that the U.S. is currently being occupied by a hostile, un-American force: the quintet of Bush, Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft and Paul Wolfowitz.
...so will government agents be keeping track of who attends or rents the movie? Just asking...
Bush-Cheney '04 Terror Alert May Rise
Poll numbers for the credibility-challenged Bush regime are slipping towards the 30s.
Should that happen, I'll be moving the terror alert level you see above, up one notch to, "Operation October Surprise" since there's a good chance they'll need to move up whatever surprise they've got up their sleeves.
I'm sure you folks have noticed this, but both Bush presidencies relied on wars and crises to move up their poll numbers.
Last week (10-14 May) was a stellar week for Fresh Air:
- Monday - Historian James T. Patterson on 'Brown v. Board of Education' and civil rights attorney Jack Greenberg
- Tuesday - Security Analyst Peter Singer on the use of private military contractors in Iraq.
- Wednesday - Ambassador Joseph Wilson
- Thursday - Bill Moyers
- Friday - Graham Chapman, John Cleese, Michael Palin, and Eric Idle
Go listen!!! (select 'archived shows' at the left)
(As far as I can determine, "Life of Brian" is NOT playing in any theaters where I live!!!! What's up with that???)
The Plans They Are A-Changing
We warred for democracy
Now plans are changing, you see
It's hard to extend Bush's reign
When so many soldiers are slain
So now we'll settle for theocracy.
Iraqi Governing Council Pres. Killed In Blast
In South Korea, meanwhile, a foreign ministry official said Monday the United States is planning to shift some of its troops from South Korea to Iraq.
"The United States has informed us that it needs to take some of the U.S. troops in South Korea and send them to Iraq because of the worsening situation there," said Kim Sook.
So, now we're robbing Peter to pay Paul... shifting troops from other security commitments to deal with the worsening situation in Iraq.
Let's pray there isn't a serious crisis in, oh, the Korean Peninsula or the Taiwan Straits. Our military is tied down in Iraq for the foreseeable future.
Is it a quagmire yet?
Sunday, May 16, 2004
America: Not A Christian Nation
From the Treaty of Tripoli, 1797:
As the Government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian religion; as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquillity, of Musselmen; and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries.
There you have it, from the Founding Fathers themselves.
Billy Graham weighed in, in a May 1997 interview with David Frost:
We're not a Christian Country. We've never been a Christian Country. We're a secular Country, by our constitution. In which Christians live and which many Christians have a voice. But we're not a Christian Country.
We Told You So
John Tierney of the NYTimes assesses the sad state of those who pimped for war.
...many hawks across the political spectrum are having public second thoughts. The National Review has dismissed the Wilsonian ideal of implanting democracy in Iraq, and has recommended settling for an orderly society with a non-dictatorial government. David Brooks, a New York Times columnist, wrote that America entered Iraq with a "childish fantasy" and is now "a shellshocked hegemon." Journalists like Robert Novak, Max Boot and Thomas Friedman have encouraged Mr. Rumsfeld to resign.
So, those of us opposed to the war will turn out to have been right. But don't hold your breath for the apologies we're due for questioning our patriotism, our wisdom, our courage, our support for the troops, or our resolve in fighting terror.