Thursday, February 02, 2006

England reaches the 100 troops killed in Iraq milestone

I wrote this at my usual time, but it would not post. Mike thinks Blogger went down because the same thing happened to him. He just called to say he was able to get his post up, so I'll try again. But if you came here at my usual time and thought I was slacking off, I wasn't. The problem was with the Blogger program.

This evening seems rather warm, or is just me? I've got the ceiling fan on and am wondering, "This is winter?" With global warming, I guess it is.

Capitol Police Apologize, Drop Charges Over Sheehan Arrest (Democracy Now!):
One day after Cindy Sheehan was arrested for wearing an anti-war T-shirt to President Bush's State of The Union address, Capitol police have dropped her charges and apologized. Sheehan, whose son Casey died in combat in Iraq in April 2004, was removed from the House gallery Tuesday night after unveiling a T-shirt that read: "2,245 dead and how many more?" -- a reference to the number of US service members killed in Iraq. In a statement, Capitol Police Chief Terrance Gainer said Sheehan should not have been arrested. President Bush began his speech shortly after she was removed.

Does the apology help? After the embarrassment, the time wasted and the way she was rougly jerked around, the Capitol Police think "I'm sorry" cuts it? It doesn't.

Report: US Far Behind In Reconstructing Iraq Health Clinics (Democracy Now!):
In Iraq, USA Today is reporting the US has failed to open any health clinics in the country -- despite initially promising to open 180 clinics by last December. Iraq’s deputy health minister said the US has completed construction on only four clinics.

Look, we're back to things that don't cut it. In this country, a number of people continue to delude themselves. "They've got water thanks to us!" No, we've destroyed the water. "They've got electricity thanks to us!" No, we took out the power plants and they're still not up and running unless you think two or so hours of electricity a day is sufficient. Now we learn, if we pay attention, that we promised 180 clinics and chose the deadline of December which would be almost three years after we invaded. Despite nearly three years, we didn't even bother to meet our own deadline. Four clinics isn't 180 clinics. In Falluja, we destroyed the health care facilities. There's no excuse for us not to rebuild what we destroyed. But see if the Bully Boy looks like he loses any sleep over it.

If you missed it, England's reached their own milestone (one hundred dead). Whether it's one, two or whatever, it's too many to die in an illegal war that we were lied into. If you missed it, in this country, Bully Boy's going to fund war, war, war forever but he's cutting back on programs that help people (C.I. has a blistering commentary on that).

Not tonight, but starting next week, I'll be back to Thursday nights off. I'll be doing a group on Thursdays. It was going to have to be Tuesday or Thursday because Cedric can't blog on Wednesdays and we sort of have a deal that I grab Wednesdays and he'll grab a day for me. So, announcement, starting next week, no Thursday posts. I'm brief tonight because I want to get my taxes done. I do them myself because if you pay someone and they make a mistake, you're still the one in trouble with the IRS so I always figure may as well do it yourself. (Thanks to my brother who started me down that road years ago and is still available for any and all tax advice.) Be sure to check out Mikey Likes It! to get Mike's thoughts. Also, Democracy Now! is broadcasting from Qatar. I hope you're keeping up with that because Amy Goodman and company have done a wonderful job (and on an indymedia budget!).

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

"Whatever standard is applied, only review by a court can ensure that the administration does not spy on ordinary citizens, lawyers . . ."

What a week it's been and we're only on hump day. Monday, the Dems in the Senate refused to filibuster. Tuesday some of the cowards voted "no" and looked like eager puppies expecting praise. We learned of the death of Coretta Scott King Tuesday. Alito got sworn in Tuesday. Bully Boy told the usual lies Tuesday night . . . And it's only Wednesday.

Body of Coretta Scott King To Return To Atlanta Today (Democracy Now!):
And the body of Coretta Scott King is expected to return from Mexico today to her family's home in Atlanta. Scott-King -- the widow of Martin Luther King Junior -- died Monday at the age of 78. She had been in Mexico seeking treatment for ovarian cancer. In Georgia, flags at state buildings were flown at half-staff Tuesday while hundreds of people gathered at her husband's tomb to pay tribute. A funeral service is expected later this week.

I enjoyed reading the thoughts of others who were touched by the passing.

"mrs. king" (Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude):
i'd planned to take care of several things today but i just ended up sitting on the sofa and at some point, it was pointed out to me that it was nighfall and that i was sitting in the dark.shortly after that, the phone rang. it had rung all day apparently. i was really out of it. but it was
betty and my reaction is nothing compared to her's. coretta scott king was probably betty's greatest hero outside of her own family. by the way, big thank you to betty for blogging here on friday. she did an excellent job.
she was planning to post and had 2 different views on it. 1 was coretta scott king carried on so she should blog. the other was that she wasn't in the mood to be funny. i asked her what she really wanted to do and she said she really felt like crawling under the covers as soon as she got her kids to bed. i think that's what she should do.
[. . .]
'partners in marriage' is the jargon we like to bandy about now days. but the fact is coretta scott king was a partner in mlk's work. she was involved in the fight for equality before she met mlk and she continued to fight after he passed. they both believed in equality and they both fought for it. she continued the work and . . .

what do you say?
classy woman, strong fighter, trail blazer and inspiration. rest peacefully mrs. king.

Rebecca always lays it out. My visitor didn't e-mail so I'll assume he's gone (he's not missed) but he can't take Rebecca's directness. Many of us love her for that strength.

"Coretta Scott King, Halliburton, Bully Boy & gatekeeping" (Mikey Likes It!):
This was very sad news today. People would start to talk about it on campus and just stop. One of my professors said that was because she did carry on MLK's legacy and kept it alive so it's like losing her and also losing a part of him. She was a really strong and brave woman and I think anyone with any sense at all feels the loss today.

I think Mike's professor got to the heart of the matter. She did carry on the legacy and she and Dr. King are so entwined in history and in our minds that the loss is a heavy one. (Whether the New York Times gets that or not.)

Cindy Sheehan Arrested For Wearing Anti-War T-Shirt At Bush’s Address (Democracy Now!):
Moments before President Bush spoke, anti-war activist Cindy Sheehan was arrested and removed from the House gallery. Sheehan, whose son Casey died in combat in Iraq, was accosted by police after taking her seat and unveiling a T-shirt with an anti-war message. Referring to the number of US soldiers killed in Iraq, the shirt read: "2,242 and how many more?" California Democratic Congressmember Lynn Woolsey, who invited Sheehan to the event, said: "It stunned me because I didn't know in America you could be arrested for wearing a T-shirt with a slogan on it. That's especially so in the Capitol and in the House of Representatives, which is the people's House.''

Cindy Sheehan is ejected and arrested for the apparent felony of wearing a t-shirt with possible intent to free speech & message in the second degree. Meanwhile, the war criminal delivers a speech and gets applause. It's not even suprising anymore. It's no different from jailing peace activists while letting someone convicted of the death of an Iraqi walk.

Please make a point to visit Mikey Likes It! to get Mike's take on today's events. Also make a point to read C.I.'s "The Bush Commission Part I."

Instead of a peace quote tonight, we're going to have a reality check.

"CCR's Responses to State of the Union Defenses of the NSA Surveillance Program" (Center for Constitutional Rights):
The administration has offered a number of arguments in defense of its warrantless NSA surveillance program, which CCR is challenging in a pending lawsuit in federal court, Center for Constitutional Rights v. Bush. We expect that the President will offer many of the following arguments to the country in his State of the Union address, and we offer the following responses:

Getting wiretap orders through the FISA Court in national security cases is too slow a process; the NSA Program allows the government to put wiretaps in place more quickly

FISA allows the government to put surveillance in place first, and go to Court for retroactive approval afterwards. The government has up to 72 hours to go to the Court in such emergency situations. The existing process places no limits whatsoever on the speed with which the government can put a wiretap in place.
The administration has claimed that the government needs to take time to carefully review the factual basis for such wiretaps before even using the emergency procedures, lest the Court reject the application after the fact. This concern is disingenuous, because the FISA Court almost never denies wiretap orders-the Court didn't turn down a single wiretap request in the first 23 years of its existence. From 1995 to 2004, the government made 10,617 applications and had only four rejected.

The "probable cause" standard that must be met to issue a FISA wiretap order is too burdensome; the government should be able to proceed under a lesser "reasonable suspicion" standard

FISA does not require probable cause that a surveillance target has participated in a crime; it only requires probable cause that a target is an agent of a foreign political or terrorist organization. Again, this diminished form of "probable cause" has never been a hard standard for the government to meet: from 1995 to 2004, the government made 10,617 applications to the FISA Court and had only four rejected.
More significantly, in June, 2002, Republican Senator Michael DeWine of Ohio introduced a bill (S.2659) that would "modify the standard of proof for issuance of [FISA] orders ... from probable cause to reasonable suspicion." The Justice Department said in a position statement that "the Administration at this time is not prepared to support" the DeWine amendment. The Justice Department refused to support the amendment because it had no evidence that FISA was hindering its efforts to get the warrants it needed, and because it feared that such wiretaps might violate the Fourth Amendment and thus jeopardize any prosecutions based on such tainted evidence.
Whatever standard is applied, only review by a court can ensure that the administration does not spy on ordinary citizens, lawyers, or political opponents of its policies.

The President has said that if details of the Program become public or are passed into law by Congress, "The enemy will think 'Here's what they do-adjust.'"

Terrorists already know the government is trying to listen in on their communications-the hijackers took elaborate precautions against surveillance even before 9/11, when the nation was not yet on permanent alert.
It makes no difference to al Qaeda whether they are being wiretapped with a warrant or without a warrant. That's only important to the people for whom oversight and accountability of government officials matter-the American public.

Congress implicitly authorized this surveillance when it passed the authorization to use force in Afghanistan (the "AUMF")

Congress made slight adjustments to the wiretapping statutes in December 2001 (extending the period for retroactive approval of wiretaps from 24 to 72 hours), just a few weeks after passing the AUMF. Congress would not have needed to do so if it intended to authorize wholesale surveillance with the AUMF.
In his December 19, 2005 Press Briefing, Attorney General Gonzales said the administration thought about asking Congress for approval of changes to the FISA statute to make the NSA program legal, but they did not ask Congress for permission because they thought Congress would not grant it. It is disingenuous for the administration to say on the one hand that Congress implicitly approved the NSA Program while also saying that they thought Congress would not have approved of it explicitly.

The President has said "not one lawmaker asked me to stop" the surveillance program. Why did Congress acquiesce?

It didn't. Only a few Congressional leaders and select committee members were briefed, and, more importantly, they were briefed alone, without their counsel or legislative staffers present. These conditions guaranteed that they would feel constrained from opposing the program. At the same time, by informing legislators in even this threadbare fashion, the administration made it much less likely that those legislators would feel free to criticize the program once its details became public.

We would have caught the hijackers if this program has been in place before 9/11

The NSA knew that 9/11 hijackers Khalid al-Midhair and Nawaf al-Hamzi were in the United States (in San Diego) prior to the attacks because of a legal wiretap it had on an al Qaeda safe house in Yemen. But-as then-NSA head General Hayden admitted-the NSA never bothered to provide the information to law enforcement agencies because it didn't appreciate its significance.
Law enforcement failed to catch the San Diego hijackers because of a failure to communicate and share information between intelligence agencies, not because the wiretapping laws were too strict.

FISA stood in the way of getting a warrant to search "Twentieth Hijacker" Zacharias Moussaoui's laptop before he was arrested (and well before 9/11)

In the first months after 9/11, the administration claimed that FBI agent Colleen Rowley wanted a FISA warrant to search Zacharias Moussaoui's computer, but she could not obtain one because FBI had no evidence to link him to a "recognized terrorist organization."
This was simply not what the law required at the time Rowley sought the warrant: in testimony in a Sept. 24, 2002 Senate Intelligence Committee hearing, FBI officials admitted that they had gotten bad legal advice. They thought they needed to link Moussaoui to a to a designated terrorist organization, but that was wrong under the law then in place: FISA allowed a warrant to issue if Moussaoui was an agent of any group making preparations for terrorism, regardless of whether it was formally designated as a terrorist organization by the State Department.

If al Qaeda is calling you, the government should be able to listen to the call

If the government had any evidence at all to back up such a claim, it could put a wiretap in place and seek FISA Court approval after the fact under the law. What the government is really claiming is the power to put a wiretap in place where there is no evidence at all that a person on the line is a member of al Qaeda.

The program is legal.

This program is unquestionably illegal-Congress has made all electronic surveillance outside the Wiretap Act and FISA a felony.
Many people within the administration felt this program was illegal. It has been widely reported that Deputy Attorney General James Comey refused to sign off on reauthorization of the Program in March 2004, when John Ashcroft was in the hospital, and White House officials were forced to visit Ashcroft in his hospital bed to seek reapproval.

The President has inherent power to conduct warrantless surveillance to gather foreign intelligence.

The federal appellate court cases the administration cites for this principle are all cases decided under the standards applicable before Congress created FISA (United States v. Clay; United States v. Brown; United States v. Butenko; United States v. Buck; and United States v. Truong). So are the historical precedents: Lincoln's telegraph wiretaps during the civil war, or FDR's wiretaps during World War II.
FISA was intended to be comprehensive, covering all electronic surveillance of foreign powers and their agents, and FISA makes all surveillance outside its terms a felony, including the NSA program.

Tuesday, January 31, 2006

"She was as actively involved and concerned when we met as she is now"

Before we get started with anything else, let me respond to an e-mail. Someone seems to think that I should be bothered by Rebecca's "dear katrina." I'm not bothered by it in the least.

I think Rebecca has a strong argument and I think she wrote it very well. There are serious points, there are laughs, it's a beautiful post.

It doesn't surprise me, not just because Rebecca is gifted with a very unique voice and is always true to it. It also doesn't surprise me because I've known Rebecca for years. That's not something that's hidden. Rebecca, C.I. and I are three best friends who've been best friends forever. But someone who writes "This is my first time visiting your site" seems to think that I'll appreciate his "worries" about Rebecca's post. I don't. I don't care what he thinks.

Rebecca wrote a brilliant post. He said she should be "embarrassed for it." The kid who says "the emperor has no clothes on" has nothing to be embarrassed about. Now the emperor . . .

No one needs to be told "It is off limits to criticize Tim Kaine." Furthermore, they don't need to be told that instead of criticizing a politician, they should write about these four topics (which, by the way, Katrina vanden Heuvel herself hadn't written on that week).

It probably was an "embarrassing" post for someone, but that person isn't Rebecca. Rebecca was true to herself. Her post sounds like her. The same can't be said for the scolding of the left bloggers.

"Nobody owns The Nation"? Nobody owns this community. If anyone did, it would be C.I. who built it up. It certainly wouldn't be someone who has never done a thing for this community. But C.I. refuses ownership. C.I. gives it right back to the members (and gives credit to them as well). So for this community, the scolding went over like a ton of bricks. Maybe it played out differently elsewhere but no one in this community needed to hear the scolding.

There's also a point Rebecca makes that makes the scolding even more worrisome. The issue of abortion isn't touched on in the scolding. But Kaine's one more "I will keep it legal but due to my religious beliefs I am opposed to abortion" types. It's one more step in the process of the DNC stepping away from support for abortion. The scolding didn't touch on that.

Rebecca's was hilarious. The part where she responds to Kaine being a "proponent" of racial justice is classic Rebecca:

but we're supposed to take comfort, according to you, in the fact that he's 'a proponent of racial justice.' a proponet! what a brave stand. if this were the 50s. i don't think that even rates a mention today, quite frankly. that, to me, is akin to writing 'and he believes in oxygen and breathing!' i kind of expect that any elected leader in the democratic party, would support racial justice at this late date.

If someone needs to be embarrassed, it's not Rebecca or, as the e-mailer suggests, C.I. for posting Rebecca's post in full. But if some visitor thinks he's going to come between three of us, go ahead and give it your best shot. This friendship has lasted through everything that anyone could throw at it. We're not going anywhere and our friendship has been tested by better than you, many times over. This is a lifetime friendship.

The e-mailer says that if I will just "admit that Rebecca is wrong" he will be back and "frequently" visit my site. I don't care what he does. I won't lose any sleep if he never visits again. Other people are more recent friends, but I wouldn't turn on Betty or Cedric or anyone to gain "a reader" or to gain many.

You miss an obvious point, e-mailer, we didn't go begging for readers at our sites. If someone from outside disagrees, "Oh well . . ." We speak our truth. Do we disagree? Certainly, read one of the roundtables at The Third Estate Sunday Review sometime. But we are all in this together. No outsider can turn us against one another.

Coretta Scott King, 79, Dies (Democracy Now!):
In Georgia, Coretta Scott King - the widow of Martin Luther King Junior - has died at the age of 79. She had spent her life fighting for civil rights and preserving her late husband's legacy. In April of 1968 she led a march through Memphis just days after Martin Luther King Jr. had been assassinated. Later that year she led the Poor People's March in Washington, D.C. She continued working for equality, peace and economic justice for the remainder of her life, both in the United States and abroad.

Almost a year ago, Brenda noted Coretta Scott King's grace. I think that captures her gift beautifully. Everything she did, she brought grace to it. Both in the sense of doing it with considerable taste and in a spiritual sense. This is the woman who had to face a nation when her husband was assassinated. She inspired then and she continued to inspire. MLK was obviously a strong personality, as any leader has to be, but Coretta Scott King proved she was a strong woman and she personified the legacy.

I could never live up to the standard that she set, but I can take inspiration from it. She truly inspired a nation. There are many fallen leaders who have to wait years for history to revist their legacy. Coretta Scott King's strength and grace prevented that from happening to MLK and don't kid that quite a few would have preferred he be forgotten. I can remember the arguments against a national holiday (Dick Cheney, in fact, was opposed to a national holiday in honor of Dr. King).

She obviously believed in his work and believed in keeping it alive. (Dr. King said she was committed to the struggle before he met her.) History didn't have to rescue Dr. King because Coretta Scott King kept the dream (and the fight) alive. The world is a much better place because she was in it and that's probably the best thing we can say about anyone.

Halliburton Stock Reaches New High (Democracy Now!):
In other business news, the stock value of Halliburton reached a new all-time high on Monday following the report that Halliburton had its most successful year in its 86 year history.

We're back to Dick Cheney again. If Dr. King fought for doing the right thing, Cheney has fought for getting the right price. There's a difference and I'm sure, that in some way or form, it will come back to Cheney in kind.

The Palace Revolt Against Bush (Democracy Now!):
Newsweek has revealed that there have been deep divisions within President Bush's own Justice Department over the legality of the administration's tactics since 9/11. In a major piece titled The Palace Revolt, Newsweek reports a group of conservative attorneys stood up to the hard-liners led by Vice President Cheney over whether the president can assume near unlimited powers in the so-called war on terror. According to Newsweek, these attorneys fought to bring government spying and interrogation methods within the law. Some were so concerned over the legality of the administration's eavesdropping program that they lined up private attorneys in case the program even drew the scrutiny of Congress or prosecutors.

Back to Cheney and joined by the Bully Boy. The bad news keeps coming on this day. That's how it feels anyway. We lose Coretta Scott King, we get Alito on the Court. Haliburton profits and Bully Boy lies. Truth and justice always have to struggle against greed and deceit.

Please visit Mikey Likes It! to get Mike's take on today's events.

MLK Quote on Coretta Scott King:
I must admit -- I wish I could say -- to satisfy my masculine ego, that I led her down this path; but I must say we went down together, because she was as actively involved and concerned when we met as she is now."

Monday, January 30, 2006

"Time expended on maintaining false fronts is theft of the soul"

"Silence in the community?" That's an e-mail I just read. Well, C.I. won't write (remember The Common Ills isn't a blog, it's a resource/review) for awhile because of the difference in time zone. I am on the east coast. I'm not silent, I am late blogging. I've been on the phone with Mike and Rebecca.

Veteran Who Spoke Out About War's Psychological Affects Commits Suicide (Democracy Now!):
In Ohio, a 35-year-old veteran of the Iraq war was buried on Saturday - a week after he committed suicide. Army Reservist Douglas Barber was a member of the Iraq Veterans Against the War and had publicly spoken out about the psychological toll war takes on veterans. A month before he died he appeared on Doug Basham's radio show. Barber reportedly spent two years fighting the military to get counseling and for the VA to recognize his disability. Just days before he shot himself, Douglas Barber wrote QUOTE, "We cannot stand the memories and [we] decide death is better. We kill ourselves because we are haunted by seeing children killed and families wiped out." Meanwhile a new report from UPI is estimating 19,000 veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars have been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress since 2002. Overall 40,000 veterans from the two wars have exhibited some signs of mental health disorders.

I'm tired of some on the left screeching "Support the troops! Support the troops!" like some doped up parrot. Barber came home and spoke his truth but because it didn't fit into a nice, tidy line, he didn't get support. I don't just mean the issue of mental health care. I've noted that at The Third Estate Sunday Review. (Disclosure, some of my patients are veterans from the Iraq war.) Barber needed help and the system Bully Boy's constructed failed him. However, that's not all that failed him.

In our society, we're still not creating the space for those who have served and now oppose the war to speak out. They can go to groups run by other vets and those are wonderful resources, healing ones. But in terms of the general public, those spaces do not exist. There are many people trying to create those spaces, vets and non-vets, but they aren't getting the groups aren't getting the attention they need (and deserve). I'm writing in circles and deleting so I'll just leave it at that and try to pick up on it at another time.

Peace Activist Teresa Grady Sentenced to 4 Months in Prison (Democracy Now!):
In a update to a story we have been following - peace activist Teresa Grady was sentenced Friday for four months in prisons for spilling her own human blood at a military recruiting station in upstate New York to protest the Iraq war. Grady and her three co-defendants, known as the St. Patricks Four, received prison sentences totaling 20 months. They were all sentenced during the same week that a military jury in Colorado decided not to jail an Army interrogator even though he was found guilty of negligent homicide in the torturing and killing of an Iraqi detainee.

Here's another area where no public space exists. Democracy Now! is doing their part (on this and on the previous topic). Some others are as well, but that's not true of alternative media. There seems to be a reluctance to speak. It's as though some playbook's been handed out that says, "You can say you're opposed to the war but you better follow that up with, 'I support the troops!' and then let the matter die." I think too much time is spent worrying about how others may perceive you and not enough time is spent exploring.

We can't even explore. Last week, a guy writes an op-ed and he's slammed all over the place with the psuedo-left and the so-called left (as well as a few of the genuine left) lining up. What did he write? He started out with "I don't support the troops." Did anyone read beyond that? Did anyone try to understand what his column was about?

I don't know. I know I'm tired tonight and just want to go to bed. But a blanket statement of "I support the troops!" seems to me to be a blank check. "I support Abu Ghraib!" "I support the slaughter in Falluja!" "I support kidnapping the wives of suspect like we're something out of The Godfather!" (Actually, I think many in the mob, as portrayed in movies, usually had too much integerity to target someone's family.) What is it we're supporting? The column that got trashed could have been a wonderful starting point to a deeper conversation about what our values are and what our values aren't.

The space doesn't exist for that either, apparently. That's too bad. That seems to indicate that despite the opposition to the war, there's no end in sight.

War crimes are being committed. The orders are coming from the top. But a signal is emerging and it's "Keep your mouth shut and you won't do much time or any." I don't support the murder of the Iraqi and I don't support the man convicted of murdering the Iraqi walking. It's not "a few bad apples." It's a system that's rotten at the top. But when those at the bottom do things, such as killing, it's less than honest to look the other way or act like it's okay that they walk.

Visit Mike's site for his thoughts at Mikey Likes It!. On the Senate news? "Editorial: Will the Dems Stand Up or Stab Us in the Back? " says it all and with that in mind . . .

Peace Quote:
Time expended on maintaing false fronts is theft of the soul.