Pony Party: Sunday music retrospective

Jimi Hendrix

Are you Experienced?

When I lived in the Haight with some people, we did have a record player.  We had two albums and one single (Green Tambourine, which I hate to this day).  One of those albums was Are you Experienced?  I limit myself to 5 cuts.  Some people will disagree with me since I chose not to include Hey Joe, Love or Confusion or Fire.  My mileage often varies from that of others.

The Wind Cries Mary

Foxy Lady

Purple Haze

Please do not recommend a Pony Party when you see one.  There will be another along in a few hours.

Now Accepting Psalms, Books, Sermons, etc.

Religion, anyone can do it.  Even us. 

My esteemed felines and canine will form the judging body of the New Liberal Vatican located in my living room.  All submissions will be printed up on recyclable paper and strewn lovingly about the floor. Any submission endorsed by the pets will be included in the final work.  If you see a puff of smoke rising from my chimney, please call the fire department because I don’t have a chimney.

The New Liberal Vatican does not seek to replace the old tired Vatican just yet.  Instead we will seek tax-free goodness for all members and a nifty water bottle with a logo of some sort.

FAQ below the fold


Q. Will I be considered a saint after simply writing a few words? 
A. Sainthood is silly.

Q. May I transcribe something my pet told me?
A. Of course!

Q. How can I help spread the word of the New Liberal Vatican?
A. Travel junkets will be arranged for dedicated followers by NWA.

Q. I have proof that whoever does exist via an ink stain or rust stain of some sort where do I send the photo?
A. Directly to Fox News.

Q. Why does brain freeze suck so much?
A. Because it’s the only thing spoiled white Americans can find in common to agree about.

Q. What should I do with my old tired Bible?
A. Shredded paper makes good mulch.

Q. If I dream about whoever does that mean that whoever spoke to me directly?
A. No, it means you need to get out more.

Q. Will whoever be my co-pilot just like Jesus?
A. No, we don’t need co-pilots.

Hitchens: Macbeth on the Oregon Strand.

(FP’ed 3:17 AM EDT, Monday, October 8, 2007
– promoted by exmearden

Christopher Hitchens discovers from the LA times that his war-mongering influenced a now dead soldier to take up arms in Iraq:

Somewhere along the way, he changed his mind. His family says there was no epiphany. Writings by author and columnist Christopher Hitchens on the moral case for war deeply influenced him … “


I don’t exaggerate by much when I say that I froze. I certainly felt a very deep pang of cold dismay. I had just returned from a visit to Iraq with my own son (who is 23, as was young Mr. Daily) and had found myself in a deeply pessimistic frame of mind about the war. Was it possible that I had helped persuade someone I had never met to place himself in the path of an I.E.D.? Over-dramatizing myself a bit in the angst of the moment, I found I was thinking of William Butler Yeats, who was chilled to discover that the Irish rebels of 1916 had gone to their deaths quoting his play Cathleen ni Houlihan. He tried to cope with the disturbing idea in his poem “Man and the Echo”:

Did that play of mine send out
Certain men the English shot? …
Could my spoken words have checked
That whereby a house lay wrecked?

Abruptly dismissing any comparison between myself and one of the greatest poets of the 20th century…

Hitchens compares himself to Yeats.

Hitchens bereft:

Yet what, and how, should we feel? People are not on their oath when speaking of the dead, but I have now talked to a good number of those who knew Mark Daily or were related to him, and it’s clear that the country lost an exceptional young citizen, whom I shall always wish I had had the chance to meet.

Hitchens channeling Rumsfeld: Whose fault is it?

In his brilliant book What Is History?, Professor E. H. Carr asked about ultimate causation. Take the case of a man who drinks a bit too much, gets behind the wheel of a car with defective brakes, drives it round a blind corner, and hits another man, who is crossing the road to buy cigarettes. Who is the one responsible? The man who had one drink too many, the lax inspector of brakes, the local authorities who didn’t straighten out a dangerous bend, or the smoker who chose to dash across the road to satisfy his bad habit? So, was Mark Daily killed by the Ba’thist and bin Ladenist riffraff who place bombs where they will do the most harm? Or by the Rumsfeld doctrine, which sent American soldiers to Iraq in insufficient numbers and with inadequate equipment? Or by the Bush administration, which thought Iraq would be easily pacified? Or by the previous Bush administration, which left Saddam Hussein in power in 1991 and fatally postponed the time of reckoning?

C’mon Hitch, you forgot to mention yourself even once in that matrix of contingencies.  Or did you?  No.  You said just “one drink too many.”  I don’t blame you for your drinking. 

I blame your pre-war dirty secret:

A dirty secret is involved here. From the US point of view, the present regime in Iraq is nearly ideal. It consists of a strong Sunni Muslim but approximately secular military regime. All it needs is a new head: Saddamism without Saddam. Mesopotamia means “between two rivers,” and we are, like Macbeth himself, “in blood stepped in so far that should I wade no more, returning were as tedious as go o’er.” The United States had at least a hand in the coup that brought Saddam to power. It encouraged him in his attack on Iran and in the filthy war that followed. At the very time of his worst conduct in Kurdistan, Washington was his best friend. When he plotted to straighten the Kuwaiti frontier in his favor, he was given the greenest of lights. This is a record of continuing shame. However–and one cannot underscore this enough–these, too, were all interventions in the affairs of Iraq. And if there can be interventions one way, in favor of the regime, there is at least a potential argument that an intervention to cancel such debts would be justifiable.

Flashback: One record of continuing shame potentially justifies another.  Flashforward to Macbeth in Oregon, where Hitchens describes the scattering of Mark Daily to the winds.

Quoth Hitchens on the ash-strewn strand:

Your son, my lord, has paid a soldier’s debt;
He only lived but till he was a man;
The which no sooner had his prowess confirm’d
In the unshrinking station where he fought,
But like a man he died.

Your cause of sorrow
Must not be measured by his worth, for then
It hath no end.

Sorrow measured by worth hath no end.

I became a trifle choked up after that, but everybody else also managed to speak, often reading poems of their own composition, and as the day ebbed in a blaze of glory over the ocean, I thought, Well, here we are to perform the last honors for a warrior and hero, and there are no hysterical ululations, no shrieks for revenge, no insults hurled at the enemy, no firing into the air or bogus hysterics. Instead, an honest, brave, modest family is doing its private best. I hope no fanatical fool could ever mistake this for weakness. It is, instead, a very particular kind of strength. If America can spontaneously produce young men like Mark, and occasions like this one, it has a real homeland security instead of a bureaucratic one. To borrow some words of George Orwell’s when he first saw revolutionary Barcelona, “I recognized it immediately as a state of affairs worth fighting for.”

But for the Orwellian Hitch, the sorrow ends: Because they were noble and he was noble, the whole state of affairs is noble. 

I, Christopher Hitchens, am noble.

The End Of The Beginning?

Inspired by buhdydharma’s The Big Picture Vol. 2

Originally posted at TalkLeft, Dec 10, 2006:
The End Of The Beginning?

levitra senza ricetta Sicilia In the nineteen sixties and seventies the western world was in the throes of a cultural and psychological revolution of awareness that at times threatened to bring down the governments and destroy the societies of some of the most powerful countries on earth, and terrified many who were unable to step outside of the structure and limitations of the worldviews they had constructed for themselves in the course of their lives.

enter site Questioning cultural norms and prejudices and searching for alternatives that better respected and valued human beings and their relationship with the larger society and with the natural world as the basis and reason for societies actions and existence rather than society and the state and the status quo as the determining factors of how people should interact with each other, were the drivers behind this revolution.

http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=buy-cialis-in-canada The insecurity of many in the face of insistent and deep questioning that in a religious context would have been labeled blasphemy and heresy caused knee-jerk fear reactions that in many arenas turned into violent confrontations, particularly but not only race riots and countless smaller horrors of the racial Civil Rights Movement, and in the struggle for equality under law and social systems of  more than half the population in the Gay and the Women's Liberation Movements, and what was often termed a Sexual Revolution, all of which had been percolating and growing for many years and all of which naturally contributed to making up the more encompassing psychological or awareness heightening Cultural Revolution of the times.

http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=dove-acquistare-il-levitra-contrassegno Noted philosopher Alan Watts in the early nineteen fifties sixties in “The Book: On the Taboo Against Knowing Who You Are” described our situation, our human condition, this way:

It is said that humanity has evolved one-sidedly, growing in technical power without any comparable growth in moral integrity, or, as some would prefer to say, without comparable progress in education and rational thinking. Yet the problem is more basic. The root of the matter is the way in which we feel and conceive ourselves as human beings, our sensation of being alive, of individual existence and identity. We suffer from a hallucination, from a false and distorted sensation of our own existence as living organisms- Most of us have the sensation that “I myself” is a separate center of feeling and action, living inside and bounded by the physical body–a center which “confronts an “external” world of people and things, making contact through the senses with a universe both alien and strange. Everyday figures of speech reflect this illusion. “I came into this world.” “You must face reality.” “The conquest of nature.”

This feeling of being lonely and very temporary visitors in the universe is in flat contradiction to everything known about man (and all other living organisms) in the sciences. We do not “come into” this world; we come out of it, as leaves from a tree. As the ocean “waves,” the universe “peoples.” Every individual is an expression of the whole realm of nature, a unique action of the total universe. This fact is rarely, if ever, experienced by most individuals. Even those who know it to be true in theory do not sense or feel it, but continue to be aware of themselves as isolated “egos” inside bags of skin.

The first result of this illusion is that our attitude to the world “outside” us is largely hostile. We are forever “conquering” nature, space, mountains, deserts, bacteria, and insects instead of learning to cooperate with them in a harmonious order. In America the great symbols of this conquest are the bulldozer and the rocket–the instrument that batters the hills into flat tracts for little boxes made of ticky-tacky and the great phallic projectile that blasts the sky. (Nonetheless, we have fine architects who know how to fit houses into hills without ruining the landscape, and astronomers who know that the earth is already way out in space, and that our first need for exploring other worlds is sensitive electronic instruments which, like our eyes, will bring the most distant objects into our own brains.)

The hostile attitude of conquering nature ignores the basic interdependence of all things and events–that the world beyond the skin is actually an extension of our own bodies–and will end in destroying the very environment from which we emerge and upon which our whole life depends.

follow url It was during these years of the social turmoil pressure cooker that forced reevaluation of so many previous considered immutable social strictures and standards that the modern Environmental Movement was conceived and born of a spreading awareness of something we already knew in our bones, in fact in every cell of our bodies, and even in our very DNA that the world and the universe we inhabit is a single interconnected organism that we do not come into at birth, but rather spring from and are intimately connected to and part of, as intimately as darkness and light are connected aspects comprising days, or as north and south poles make up a magnet that cannot exist without either.

Watts continued with:

It might seem, then, that our need is for some genius to invent a new religion, a philosophy of life and a view of the world, that is plausible and generally acceptable for the late twentieth century, and through which every individual can feel that the world as a whole and his own life in particular have meaning. This, as history has shown repeatedly, is not enough. Religions are divisive and quarrelsome. They are a form of one-upmanship because they depend upon separating the “saved” from the “damned,” the true believers from the heretics, the in-group from the out-group. Even religious liberals play the game of “we-re-more-tolerant-than-you.”

Furthermore, as systems of doctrine, symbolism, and behavior, religions harden into institutions that must command loyalty, be defended and kept “pure,–and-because all belief is fervent hope, and thus a cover-up for doubt and uncertainty-religions must make converts.

The more people who agree with us, the less nagging insecurity about our position. In the end one is committed to being a Christian or a Buddhist come what may in the form of new knowledge. New and indigestible ideas have to be wangled into the religious tradition, however inconsistent with its original doctrines, so that the believer can still take his stand and assert, “I am first and foremost a follower of Christ/Mohammed/Buddha, or whomever.”

Irrevocable commitment to any religion is not only intellectual suicide; it is positive unfaith because it closes the mind to any new vision of the world. Faith is, above all, open-ness –an act of trust in the unknown.

http://maientertainmentlaw.com/?search=levitra-cheap We as human beings are the natural world, as much as is the biosphere that we are a fundamental part of rather than simply living in, and whatever we do to it we do to ourselves.

Christianity, the major religion in the western world, says “As ye sow, so shall ye reap”.

Karma can be reduced to “You get what you give”.

propecia tablets prescriptions The Beatles said “And in the end the love you take is equal to the love you make”. It is the last lyric on the last album they recorded.

Watts also suggested that:

“We do not need a new religion or a new bible. We need a new experience–a new feeling of what it is to be ‘I’.”

vardenafil senza ricetta Sicilia All of our countries and political systems, and all of our differences and conflicts, including our wars are, in this context, social constructs within the larger world, and do not and cannot exist in isolation from it. It is the base medium in which all else grows and lives. Or dies. It is our back yard, and if we poison it we poison ourselves.

order cialis on line Billmon in September of [2006] posted a story about:

British scientist James Lovelock and his warning that catastrophic global climate change is both imminent and unstoppable:

Within the next decade or two, Lovelock forecasts, Gaia will hike her thermostat by at least 10 degrees. Earth, he predicts, will be hotter than at any time since the Eocene Age 55 million years ago, when crocodiles swam in the Arctic Ocean.

“There's no realization of how quickly and irreversibly the planet is changing,” Lovelock says. “Maybe 200 million people will migrate close to the Arctic and survive this. Even if we took extraordinary steps, it would take the world 1,000 years to recover.”

It would be easy to view this as just another kooky end-of-the-world theory, if it weren't for the history of some of Lovelock's other kooky theories — like the time in the late '70s when he hypothesized that chlorofluorocarbons wafted high into the stratosphere would eat great big holes in the ozone layer, exposing first the polar regions and then the rest of the earth's surface to increasingly harmful ultraviolet radiation. What a nut.

As far as I can tell, Lovelock's latest crackpot (or should I say “crockpot”?) idea is still the minority opinion among climatologists, most of whom seem to believe we have perhaps 70-100 years before the seriously disastrous greenhouse effects kick in — although Jim Hansen, the NASA scientist, has suggested that unless major cuts in Co2 emissions are made within the next decade, the process will become every bit as irreversible as Lovelock claims it already is.

If we break it, if we disrupt its integrity, we die. We die. It is as simple as that.

http://cinziamazzamakeup.com/?x=vardenafil-20-mg-prezzo It now appears that we are on the verge of breaking it, if we have not already done so. It is my hope that we haven't yet, but also my opinion that we are dangerously close to doing so. So close in fact that there is no more time to waste. The next year or two may very well be the turning point, if we have not already passed it.

Many say that security of the nation is most important because without it nothing else can happen.

Our environment, our entire world, is immeasurably larger, and the problems we face are immeasurably larger than national security in the context of the arguments about it over the past few years.

Nations cannot and will not exist if the planet is killed.

Our backs are to the wall this time. We are painted into the proverbial corner. There is no escaping it. There is only life, or death, for all of us. We have only ourselves to fault, and only ourselves to rely on. No invisible being is going to come down from the sky and save us from ourselves.

Are we at the beginning of the end? Or are we at the end of the beginning?

If we want it to be the latter, what do we want that `latter' to be?

Where do we go from here?

Dark Matter

I see so much fine reporting–and writing–here that I don’t feel competent to try any of that type of stuff.  So, I’ll just post some art and entertainment for everyone–once in a while–and read all I can.  They say you should write about what you know, so a little cosmology for those who are interested (and pretty pictures for the rest of us).

Hubble Deep Field

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

The Hubble took a picture of the same spot for 10 consecutive days so astronomers could create this image.  This picture is of the newly born galaxies as they were about 12 billion years ago. 
(This really doesn’t have anything to do with dark matter–but I like the picture)

Scientists first postulated some form of Dark Matter to explain the odd fact that stars far away from the center of a galaxy move at speeds about the same as the stars nearer the center–which means that there is a source of gravity that we can’t see.  After many years of looking for evidence most astronomers think that the extra mass is from an, as yet, undiscovered particle which doesn’t interact with ordinary matter (us), or light.

Hot gas clouds colliding, striping away the dark matter

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This picture shows how two clouds of hot gas (red) have collided.  The dark matter associated with these clouds is–for some reason not yet know–being separated from the gas.  They found the position of the dark matter (blue) by calculating how much the mass of the cluster distorts light emitted by more distant galaxies.

Evolution of the Distribution of Visible Matter and Dark Matter

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Dark matter is normally associated with ordinary matter.  It’s found in galaxies and groups of galaxies
(and Black Holes?).

Ring of Dark Matter

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

Astronomers have found this ring of dark matter without apparent visible matter associated with it.  This ring of dark matter extends about 5 million light years across.  Gravitationally magnified faint galaxies far in the distance behind a massive cluster of galaxies (mostly faint blue) reveal its presence.

Gravitational Lensing

Photo Sharing and Video Hosting at Photobucket

This shows the lensing effect of the gravity of a cluster of galaxies causing the light from distant galaxies to bend.  The amount of bending shows that dark matter must be present in the cluster.

Well, that’s all for this Sunday.  I hope all of you had a good weekend–and you enjoy this. 
Keep up the good work! 

Want to understand what’s wrong with the Republican Party?

Then read this.  Seriously.

That is why the Republican party is in shambles. The majority of us have decided that the movers and shakers in the GOP and the blogospheric right are certified lunatics who, in a decent and sane society, we would have in controlled environments in rocking chairs under shade trees for most of the day, wheeled in at night for tapioca pudding and some karaoke.

Dred Scott, Originalism and A Living Constitution

Originally published at Talk Left in October 2006. Warning, will likely put you to sleep.

Scott Lemieux pens a very interesting article on the Dred Scott decision and its merits  and meaning in today's law and politics. It is worth reading in its entirety but  I want to focus on a few points made by Lemieux:

. . . George W. Bush — demonstrating the forthright advocacy of conservative jurisprudence for which Republicans are famous — went out of his way to assure the public during one of the 2004 presidential debates that he would not, in fact, appoint Supreme Court justices who would interfere with the ability of Congress to ban slavery in Puerto Rico. Bush's strange remarks were widely interpereted as a dog-whistle signal to his anti-abortion-rights base, some of whose intellectuals (most notably Justice Scalia in his dissents in Planned Parenthood v. Casey and Stenberg v, Carhart) have compared Roe v. Wade to Dred Scott. Jeffrey Rosen turned this comparison against Scalia in his merciless evisceration of the justice's support for the Court's egregious Bush v. Gore decision. And on it goes. But should this much weight really be put on Dredd Scott?

. . . The most common attack on Dred Scott, however, does not concern the finer points of interpretive theory. Rather, it's a critique borne out of a romanticized view of legislatures as being better able to resolve difficult social questions than courts. . . .

It may have been the most common attack but it was not the best one. Abraham Lincoln, most notably in his Cooper Union address, presented, to me at least, the most devastating arguments against the legal correctness of the Dred Scott decision. I'll discuss that and a few other things on the other side.

Lemieux writes:

As [Mark] Graber makes clear, however, “living constitution” aspirationalists cannot provide an unambiguous answer to the questions presented by Dred Scott any more than originalists can. If asked to achieve a resolution to the case based on the legal materials available in 1857, I would join the dissenters, on the grounds that when given a case where the Constitution is ambiguous, a judge should choose the outcome that isn't grossly immoral. The problem, of course, is that this is also what Taney thought he was doing. Dred Scott was a contested issue precisely because many Americans thought slavery was at least acceptable, and an overwhelming majority of Americans, North and South, agreed that African Americans were not members of the American political community. (Indeed, as Graber points out, Benjamin Curtis — the other dissenter in the case — was a white supremacist at least as virulent as Taney.) “Aspirational” jurisprudence is only as good as the aspirations of the judge involved, and given the realities of Jacksonian constitutionalism, the outcome of the Dred Scott case was virtually inevitable.

Dred Scott is invoked by almost everyone trying to sell a grand theory of constitutional interpretation. As Graber points out, this is curious: everyone agrees that Dred Scott was legally (as well as morally) indefensible, but disagrees about exactly what was wrong with it. Originalists like Robert Bork attack Chief Justice Taney's opinion for its reading of property rights into the due process clause of the 5th Amendment. As Graber points out, however, the idea that taking someone's property without a legitimate public purpose is illegal has much deeper roots in American law than some originalists admit. Indeed, in his dissent Justice John McLean agreed that citizens had substantive property rights protected by the Constitution: His dissent was instead based on the morally immense but legally narrow grounds that Dred Scott did not count as property, since “a slave is not property beyond the operation of the local law which makes him such.” (Even more embarrassing for originalists like Scalia who fulminate about the use of international law in American Supreme Court opinions, the dissenters' arguments that slaves were not property relied heavily on decisions made by courts outside the United States. European courts had ruled that because slavery violated natural right, slaves immediately became free when they left jurisdictions where the institution was established by positive law.)

Taney did say things — especially concerning the history of American citizenship — that were not true, but the erroneous arguments were not necessary to reach his central conclusions, and the dissenters also engaged in historical overreaching. Which is to say that both sides of the dispute had to exaggerate in order to claim certainty on a constitutional question that the framers of the Constitution deliberately left ambiguous. A failure to apply “originalism” is not a plausible accounting of Dred Scott's problems.

I disagree with most of this, including Lemieux's acceptance of the division on Dred Scott as being one of originalists and proponents of a “living Constitution.” It seems undeniable to me that Dred Scott was a results oriented decision. And in that respect, Lemieux's statement that “[a]spirational” jurisprudence is only as good as the aspirations of the judge involved” is obviously correct. However, that does the “theory of a living Constitution” short shrift. The theory (or at least my theory) of a Living Constitution does not rest on “aspirational jurisprudence”, but rather on common law judicial principles and the Constitution itself. Let me explain.

I reject the idea that proponents of a Living Constitution are not originalists, in the sense that the idea of a Living Constitution is to promote original Constitutional purpose to current circumstances.

My view is that a Living Constitution seeks to understand the original purpose of the Constitution, and its specific provisions, and discern how best to serve that purpose in the case then presented. I believe that the proper function of Constitutional interpretation does not entail reading the Constitution as one reads a statute – it requires more than a formalized reading of the text and search for specific findings of the original understanding of the specific text in question and the applicability to the case at hand. It requires a unifying approach, one that seeks to read the Constitution as a whole, harmonizing the component parts of the Constitution, the empowering provisions, the limiting provisions, the individual rights created and preserved. It requires understanding the purpose of the creation of a third coequal branch, the judicial branch, with the attendant common law judicial powers and restraints.

The first great Chief Justice, John Marshall, did yeoman work in establishing this role and approach for the Supreme Court. I argue that Marshall's jurisprudence established that Constitutional interpretation requires both respect for the original purpose and application of Common Law principles to discern the proper application of original purpose to the specific case presented.

The phrase “Living Constitution” is often used to disparage this approach. But I think, properly understood, the phrase is very appropriate – the purpose of the Constitution lives and grows – and the original PURPOSES are essential to that growth – by understanding the WHY the Framers wrote what they wrote and serving the original PURPOSE by transposing that purpose upon the specific case.

But Dred Scott is wrong on even the most basic levels. And Abraham Lincoln argued the case well in his Coope r Union speech, relying on the understood meaning of the Territorial Clause prior to 1855:

What is the frame of government under which we live?

The answer must be: “The Constitution of the United States.” That Constitution consists of the original, framed in 1787, (and under which the present government first went into operation,) and twelve subsequently framed amendments, the first ten of which were framed in 1789.

Who were our fathers that framed the Constitution? I suppose the “thirty-nine” who signed the original instrument may be fairly called our fathers who framed that part of the present Government. It is almost exactly true to say they framed it, and it is altogether true to say they fairly represented the opinion and sentiment of the whole nation at that time. Their names, being familiar to nearly all, and accessible to quite all, need not now be repeated.

I take these “thirty-nine,” for the present, as being “our fathers who framed the Government under which we live.”

What is the question which, according to the text, those fathers understood “just as well, and even better than we do now?”

It is this: Does the proper division of local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, forbid our Federal Government to control as to slavery in our Federal Territories?

Upon this, Senator Douglas holds the affirmative, and Republicans the negative. This affirmation and denial form an issue; and this issue – this question – is precisely what the text declares our fathers understood “better than we.”

Let us now inquire whether the “thirty-nine,” or any of them, ever acted upon this question; and if they did, how they acted upon it – how they expressed that better understanding?

In 1784, three years before the Constitution – the United States then owning the Northwestern Territory, and no other, the Congress of the Confederation had before them the question of prohibiting slavery in that Territory; and four of the “thirty-nine” who afterward framed the Constitution, were in that Congress, and voted on that question. Of these, Roger Sherman, Thomas Mifflin, and Hugh Williamson voted for the prohibition, thus showing that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything else, properly forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory. The other of the four – James M'Henry – voted against the prohibition, showing that, for some cause, he thought it improper to vote for it.

In 1787, still before the Constitution, but while the Convention was in session framing it, and while the Northwestern Territory still was the only territory owned by the United States, the same question of prohibiting slavery in the territory again came before the Congress of the Confederation; and two more of the “thirty-nine” who afterward signed the Constitution, were in that Congress, and voted on the question. They were William Blount and William Few; and they both voted for the prohibition – thus showing that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything else, properly forbids the Federal Government to control as to slavery in Federal territory. This time the prohibition became a law, being part of what is now well known as the Ordinance of '87.

The question of federal control of slavery in the territories, seems not to have been directly before the Convention which framed the original Constitution; and hence it is not recorded that the “thirty-nine,” or any of them, while engaged on that instrument, expressed any opinion on that precise question.

In 1789, by the first Congress which sat under the Constitution, an act was passed to enforce the Ordinance of '87, including the prohibition of slavery in the Northwestern Territory. The bill for this act was reported by one of the “thirty-nine,” Thomas Fitzsimmons, then a member of the House of Representatives from Pennsylvania. It went through all its stages without a word of opposition, and finally passed both branches without yeas and nays, which is equivalent to a unanimous passage. In this Congress there were sixteen of the thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution. They were John Langdon, Nicholas Gilman, Wm. S. Johnson, Roger Sherman, Robert Morris, Thos. Fitzsimmons, William Few, Abraham Baldwin, Rufus King, William Paterson, George Clymer, Richard Bassett, George Read, Pierce Butler, Daniel Carroll, James Madison.

This shows that, in their understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything in the Constitution, properly forbade Congress to prohibit slavery in the federal territory; else both their fidelity to correct principle, and their oath to support the Constitution, would have constrained them to oppose the prohibition.

Again, George Washington, another of the “thirty-nine,” was then President of the United States, and, as such approved and signed the bill; thus completing its validity as a law, and thus showing that, in his understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything in the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government, to control as to slavery in federal territory.

No great while after the adoption of the original Constitution, North Carolina ceded to the Federal Government the country now constituting the State of Tennessee; and a few years later Georgia ceded that which now constitutes the States of Mississippi and Alabama. In both deeds of cession it was made a condition by the ceding States that the Federal Government should not prohibit slavery in the ceded territory. Besides this, slavery was then actually in the ceded country. Under these circumstances, Congress, on taking charge of these countries, did not absolutely prohibit slavery within them. But they did interfere with it – take control of it – even there, to a certain extent. In 1798, Congress organized the Territory of Mississippi. In the act of organization, they prohibited the bringing of slaves into the Territory, from any place without the United States, by fine, and giving freedom to slaves so bought. This act passed both branches of Congress without yeas and nays. In that Congress were three of the “thirty-nine” who framed the original Constitution. They were John Langdon, George Read and Abraham Baldwin. They all, probably, voted for it. Certainly they would have placed their opposition to it upon record, if, in their understanding, any line dividing local from federal authority, or anything in the Constitution, properly forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in federal territory.

In 1803, the Federal Government purchased the Louisiana country. Our former territorial acquisitions came from certain of our own States; but this Louisiana country was acquired from a foreign nation. In 1804, Congress gave a territorial organization to that part of it which now constitutes the State of Louisiana. New Orleans, lying within that part, was an old and comparatively large city. There were other considerable towns and settlements, and slavery was extensively and thoroughly intermingled with the people. Congress did not, in the Territorial Act, prohibit slavery; but they did interfere with it – take control of it – in a more marked and extensive way than they did in the case of Mississippi. The substance of the provision therein made, in relation to slaves, was:

First. That no slave should be imported into the territory from foreign parts.

Second. That no slave should be carried into it who had been imported into the United States since the first day of May, 1798.

Third. That no slave should be carried into it, except by the owner, and for his own use as a settler; the penalty in all the cases being a fine upon the violator of the law, and freedom to the slave.

This act also was passed without yeas and nays. In the Congress which passed it, there were two of the “thirty-nine.” They were Abraham Baldwin and Jonathan Dayton. As stated in the case of Mississippi, it is probable they both voted for it. They would not have allowed it to pass without recording their opposition to it, if, in their understanding, it violated either the line properly dividing local from federal authority, or any provision of the Constitution.

In 1819-20, came and passed the Missouri question. Many votes were taken, by yeas and nays, in both branches of Congress, upon the various phases of the general question. Two of the “thirty-nine” – Rufus King and Charles Pinckney – were members of that Congress. Mr. King steadily voted for slavery prohibition and against all compromises, while Mr. Pinckney as steadily voted against slavery prohibition and against all compromises. By this, Mr. King showed that, in his understanding, no line dividing local from federal authority, nor anything in the Constitution, was violated by Congress prohibiting slavery in federal territory; while Mr. Pinckney, by his votes, showed that, in his understanding, there was some sufficient reason for opposing such prohibition in that case.

The cases I have mentioned are the only acts of the “thirty-nine,” or of any of them, upon the direct issue, which I have been able to discover.

To enumerate the persons who thus acted, as being four in 1784, two in 1787, seventeen in 1789, three in 1798, two in 1804, and two in 1819-20 – there would be thirty of them. But this would be counting John Langdon, Roger Sherman, William Few, Rufus King, and George Read each twice, and Abraham Baldwin, three times. The true number of those of the “thirty-nine” whom I have shown to have acted upon the question, which, by the text, they understood better than we, is twenty-three, leaving sixteen not shown to have acted upon it in any way.

Here, then, we have twenty-three out of our thirty-nine fathers “who framed the government under which we live,” who have, upon their official responsibility and their corporal oaths, acted upon the very question which the text affirms they “understood just as well, and even better than we do now;” and twenty-one of them – a clear majority of the whole “thirty-nine” – so acting upon it as to make them guilty of gross political impropriety and willful perjury, if, in their understanding, any proper division between local and federal authority, or anything in the Constitution they had made themselves, and sworn to support, forbade the Federal Government to control as to slavery in the federal territories. Thus the twenty-one acted; and, as actions speak louder than words, so actions, under such responsibility, speak still louder.

.  .  . [S]ixteen of the “thirty-nine,” so far as I have discovered, have left no record of their understanding upon the direct question of federal control of slavery in the federal territories. But there is much reason to believe that their understanding upon that question would not have appeared different from that of their twenty-three compeers, had it been manifested at all.

. . . The sum of the whole is, that of our thirty-nine fathers who framed the original Constitution, twenty-one – a clear majority of the whole – certainly understood that no proper division of local from federal authority, nor any part of the Constitution, forbade the Federal Government to control slavery in the federal territories; while all the rest probably had the same understanding. Such, unquestionably, was the understanding of our fathers who framed the original Constitution; and the text affirms that they understood the question “better than we.”

How is the argument of the original understanding of the Constitution vis a vis the federal government prohibiting slavery in the Territories (the question of whether rights could be conferred upon Negroes is a separate issue) rebutted? Taney wrote:

The act of Congress, upon which the plaintiff relies, declares that slavery and involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime, shall be forever prohibited in all that part of the territory ceded by France, under the name of Louisiana, which lies north of thirty-six degrees thirty minutes north latitude and not included within the limits of Missouri. And the difficulty which meets us at the threshold of this part of the inquiry is whether Congress was authorized to pass this law under any of the powers granted to it by the Constitution; for, if the authority is not given by that instrument, it is the duty of this Court to declare it void and inoperative and incapable of conferring freedom upon anyone who is held as a slave under the laws of any one of the states.

The counsel for the plaintiff has laid much stress upon that article in the Constitution which confers on Congress the power “to dispose of and make all needful rules and regulations respecting the territory or other property belonging to the United States”; but, in the judgment of the Court, that provision has no bearing on the present controversy, and the power there given, whatever it may be, is confined, and was intended to be confined, to the territory which at that time belonged to, or was claimed by, the United States and was within their boundaries as settled by the treaty with Great Britain and can have no influence upon a territory afterward acquired from a foreign government[!!.] It was a special provision for a known and particular territory, and to meet a present emergency, and nothing more… [!!]

. . . Upon these considerations it is the opinion of the Court that the act of Congress which prohibited a citizen from holding and owning property of this kind in the territory of the United States north of the line therein mentioned is not warranted by the Constitution and is therefore void; and that neither Dred Scott himself, nor any of his family, were made free by being carried into this territory; even if they had been carried there by the owner with the intention of becoming a permanent resident.

This is, in a word, drivel. There is no support for it in the text of the Constitution, nor in the understanding of the Territorial Clause, as Lincoln demonstrated. In short, it is made out of whole cloth by Taney to support his result and nothing more.  Consider the Insular Cases, which decided that the Constitution does not apply in full to territories unless “incorporated.” And that remains the law today.

One need not engage in mental contortions to find Dred Scott an outrageously bad decision, irrespective of the moral questions.

However, Lemieux argues that:

Originalists like Robert Bork attack Chief Justice Taney's opinion for its reading of property rights into the due process clause of the 5th Amendment. As Graber points out, however, the idea that taking someone's property without a legitimate public purpose is illegal has much deeper roots in American law than some originalists admit. Indeed, in his dissent Justice John McLean agreed that citizens had substantive property rights protected by the Constitution: His dissent was instead based on the morally immense but legally narrow grounds that Dred Scott did not count as property, since “a slave is not property beyond the operation of the local law which makes him such.”

My response is so what? No one was taking property by prohibiting slavery in certain territories. Was there a Constitutional right to carry your slaves to territories? That is a property right? Based on  what? The right to travel? The full faith and credit clause? The import of such a view was obvious to Lincoln:

That whether the holding a negro in actual slavery in a free State makes him free, as against the holder, the United States courts will not decide, but will leave to be decided by the courts of any slave state the negro may be forced into by the master. This point is made, not to be pressed immediately; but, if acquiesced in for a while, and apparently indorsed by the people at an election, then to sustain the logical conclusion that what Dred Scott's master might lawfully do with Dred Scott, in the free State of Illinois, every other master may lawfully do with any other one, or one thousand slaves, in Illinois, or in any other free State.

While it is true that the incorporation of the Bill of Rights and its application to the States was not yet formalized, Taney's opinion made clear that slaves could be carried into free states and remain slaves despite the illegality of slavery in that State. He relied principally on Article IV, Section 2 of the Constitution:

No Person held to Service or Labour in one State, under the Laws thereof, escaping into another, shall, in Consequence of any Law or Regulation therein, be discharged from such Service or Labour, But shall be delivered up on Claim of the Party to whom such Service or Labour may be due.

“Escaping into another.”  It is obvious what this means. NOT carried into another by his master. The phrasing is precise and clear. And Taney chose to ignore this. He chose to read it as the presence of a slave in a free state did not free the slave. The clause simply does not say this. It implicitly says the opposite.

Long story (ok very long story) short, Dred Scott was obviously wrongly decided; the case was not ambiguous. I disagree with Lemieux's characterization. And it is a wholly unnecessary one in my view, because Lemieux's central point holds without this concession:

Grand theories of constitutional interpretation can only provide widely accepted solutions to questions that are no longer significantly contested. Constitutions inevitably allow reasonable people to disagree about questions where there isn't a consensus. . . . There is no escape from politics, and no constitutional escape route from core disagreements in society. And divining lessons from discredited, century-and-a-half-old Supreme Court decisions in an effort to solve our own hotly contested constitutional controversies is an inherently futile enterprise.

Of course this is true. And it is precisely why the question of Roe and choice remains hotly contested and precisely why the Senate has every right to know how all Supreme Court nominees will vote on the Roe question. The idea that the question is improper to ask of a nominee is ridiculous.

But this conclusion does not require giving the Dred Scott decision more due than it deserves. It was wrong on every level. In its time. 

Torture, Terrorism, Death Squads when we stopped being the good guys

(one need not agree with everything in it to recognize that this is an important essay – promoted by Turkana)

A few days ago this essay was posted on docudharma it concerns state sponsored terrorism and torture enabled by the DoJ, CIA and of course our President. My response to the essay has evolved into a diary about the roots of our violent, regime changing, torturing, death squad, secret prisons and extraordinary rendition school of foreign relations.  Follow me below the fold for a glimpse of our shameful past, present and future and when we stopped being the good guys to the rest of the world.

. We were a terrorist state long before the DoJ wrong doing, Gonzales, Abu Ghraib or Blackwater. For nearly 50 years it has been our modus operandi dealing with the rest of the world. It is silent, deadly and ingrained not just in our own military and the CIA, but in the militaries and security forces we have trained for at least 22 other nations. . . Terrorism? How do we, our own government define terrorism? How about the UN, or The Geneva Convention. What everyone agrees on is terrorism is any act directed at noncombatants, be it direct violence, kidnapping, assassination or life threatening activities politically motivated to effect regime change, or the persecution of a particular group. Some countries like our own exempt themselves from any responsibility for their own terrorist activities. 

. . But other global bodies disagree with the exemption and hold all countries to at least a minimum standard of human behavior. Crimes against peace, A crime against peace, in international law, refers to the act of military invasion as a war crime, specifically referring to starting or waging war against the integrity, independence, or sovereignty of a territory or state, or else a military violation of relevant international treaties, agreements or legally binding assurances. Crimes against humanity, In international law a crime against humanity is an act of persecution or any large scale atrocities against a body of people, and is the highest level of criminal offense. Included but not limited to, murder, enslavement, torture, rape, disappearing people and any act causing great suffering. There is no statute of limitations on these crimes and we will revisit international law along the way. . . Remember the definitions? The Cuban Embargo is an act of terrorism, the embargo was codified into law in 1992 with ironically the Cuban Democracy Act. In 1990 Cuba was the model for heath care, one to be envied. Now with the embargo Cuba's health care system and the Cuban people suffer from malnutrition, water quality, a severe shortage medicine and medical equipment, and medical information. Their cancer wards are hell on earth. This embargo has gone on for 45 year, the Pope, the European Union and UN have asked for the embargo to be lifted for humanitarian reasons.  . . So was the UN sanctioned (at our urging) 12 year embargo on Iraq, an embargo we were happy to follow. The embargo cost nearly 2 million innocent lives and set the stage for the misery that is Iraq today. The illegal war, oil grab, terrorist act has only served to finish what was left of the rotting infrastructure. In 2000 the UN Human Rights body called for the lifting of the embargo because it was against the Geneva Conventions the US objected and it went on for another 2 years. . . Where did all this bad behavior come from? Easy, the School of the Americas was run by the US military, 1946 to 2001. SOA was first located in the Panama Canal Zone, where they trained mostly Spanish speaking military and security forces. Because of treaty obligations SOA left in 1984  . . They are responsible for planting the seeds of the current torture scandal. Their Spanish speaking graduates are also responsible for the greatest war  crimes of the last 50 years in South and Central America. Six Salvadoran Jesuit priests, their housekeeper, and her teenage daughter were murdered at the University of Central America (UCA). Of the 27 soldiers cited for that massacre by a 1993 United Nations Truth Commission, 19 were SOA graduates. SOA is all about torture and death squads, executions and extortion. Former graduates, Manuel Noriega, Hugo Banzer the dictator of Boliva, Col. Cid Diaz associated with the 1983 Las Hojas massacre, Leopoldo Galtieri, President of Argentina and responsible for the death squads, Roberto Eduardo Viola also of Argentina and responsible for the Dirty War, El Salvador death squad leader Roberto D'Aubuisson. This is by no means the end of a very scary list of bad bad men. At least 60,000 individuals from 22 Central and South American nations were trained at SOA.  . . Project X refers to a group of training manuals wrtten by the Army for SOA. Under Project X operatives from Indonesian countries were also trained and were made available to other “friendly” nations. Project X was commissioned by the US intelligence community and based at the US Army Intelligence Center and School. In the mid 70's the training information was disseminated to other branches of the US military. Of the 7 manuals in question, 2 were prepared by the CIA. 

The two manuals declassified in January 1997 deal exclusively with interrogation. These CIA materials are even more obviously unprincipled than the army manuals, in that they each have an entire chapter devoted to “coercive techniques.” These manuals recommend arresting suspects early in the morning by surprise, blindfolding them, and stripping them naked. Suspects should be held incommunicado and should be deprived of any kind of normal routine in eating and sleeping. Interrogation rooms should be windowless, soundproof, dark and without toilets. The manuals do advise that torture techniques can backfire and that the threat of pain is often more effective than pain itself. However, they then go on to describe coercive techniques to be used “to induce psychological regression in the subject by bringing a superior outside force to bear on his will to resist.” (“Human Resource Exploitation,” p. K-1) These techniques include prolonged constraint, prolonged exertion, extremes of heat, cold, or moisture, deprivation of food or sleep, disrupting routines, solitary confinement, threats of pain, deprivation of sensory stimuli, hypnosis, and use of drugs or placebos.  SNIP  The second manual, entitled “KUBARK Counterintelligence Interrogation–July 1963,” is clearly the source of much of the 1983 manual; some passages are lifted verbatim. The KUBARK manual was written for use by U.S. agents against communist, notably Soviet, subversion, not for use in training foreign military services. KUBARK has a similar section on coercive techniques, and includes some even more abhorrent references than the 1983 manual, such as two references to the use of electric shock.  The KUBARK manual may or may not have been used directly by U.S. agents operating in Latin America; it apparently was intended for U.S. agents operating worldwide. The KUBARK manual is included here not because in its precise form it was used in Latin America in recent years. Rather, it is included because it shows the provenance of the 1983 CIA manual which was, like many of the seven army manuals, based on sixties era material.

  The subsequent investigation in 1991-1992 determined there were a total of 2 dozen passages short passages contained material that either was not or could be interpreted not to be consistent with U.S. policy. CIA and US Military, both authors and beneficiaries of these manuals. Altho SOA was disbanded and replaced by Western Hemisphere Institute for Security Cooperation, it is business as usual. . .  For 45 years this has been part of the America seen by the rest of the world. I would like to think JFK didn't know about it, or Bill Clinton or Jimmy Carter. In 1963, under President John F. Kennedy's Alliance for Progress, the training center was renamed the School of the Americas. Along with the name change, the School changed to a Cold War focus primarily to fight Communism and the use of anti-insurgency tactics. SOA's Special Warfare school is named for JFK.  . . Jimmy Carter knew at least some of it. He tried to base our policies toward Central America on human rights, forbid Project X manuals to be used to train. The Carter Center continues to fight against torture every where. It simply didn't matter because, all the millions Carter poured into El Salvador paid to butcher El Salvadorian poor. Then there is the assertion the CIA was involved in Operation Condor in South America that cost thousands of lives.The Taliban and bin Laden were the creation of the CIA who in 1979 recruited the most vicious and radical fundamentalist fanatics from Saudi Arabia and other Arab and Muslim countries and utilized the enormous budget allocated by the US Administration to train, arm and finance them. Brzezinski, who was Jimmy Carter's National Security Advisor during that time, admitted that the intention was to unleash the mojahedin on the Russians who were supporting the government in Afghanistan. This furthered the Americans' Cold War agenda but resulted in the destruction of Afghanistan.  . . LBJ knew and used SOA. Perhaps the only innocent President was Truman. Opened as Latin American Training Center-Ground Division in 1946, (renamed US Army Caribbean School in 1950) it was envisioned as a mechanism to teach nation building skills, improve infrastructure and provide way for people to be fed. He used the Rio Treaty to extend the Monroe Doctrine. It was the Rio Treaty that brought us, along with NATO in to the Falklands War. As Harry said “The responsibility of the great states is to serve and not dominate the peoples of the world.” Within a few years that vision had changed. . . Clinton knew, The Arch Bishops of the US and Guatemala, begged him to close SOA. He didn't,  however he did sign the treaty for the World Court, to leave participants open to war crimes prosecution. Unfortunately it needed Senate approval which never happened. Remember the International Laws I mentioned earlier? The World Court got the 60 nation approval in 2002 and the International Criminal Court became a reality. And he did authorize an investigation in 1993, into the troubling details of what SOA was teaching. . . Every Republican President knew too, in fact it was Reagan who lifted the ban on Project X training material. Immediately after his election Reagan renounced Carter's  strong emphasis on human rights and the new manuals (the 7 in question) were written. Shortly after the beginning of Reagan's first term the Salvadorian death squads went on a rampage, butchering thousands. There was no criticism from Reagan because the was drawing the line against Communism. . .

The Reagan administration also warmed up to the Guatemalan army as it launched extermination campaigns against suspected leftist strongholds among that country's Indian population. Most controversial of all, the CIA began organizing the Nicaraguan contra rebel army to overthrow the leftist Sandinista government. The contras, too, gained a quick reputation for human rights atrocities during raids into northern Nicaragua. . . Simultaneously, to improve the professionalism of the Central American armies and to appease congressional concerns about human rights, the Reagan administration began to send more and more of the region's soldiers through the School of the Americas at the Panama Canal Zone and later at Fort Benning, Ga. It was during this period in the early 1980s that the manuals containing “objectionable material” — in the Pentagon phrase — were published. 

. . Then we have Iran Contra. Arms deals, drug trafficking. Perhaps the first really public splash of government double dealing and out of control covert operations, the first time a Bush needed to be impeached along with the President he rode in on. It was also a reality check on how destructive and stupid our foreign policy is. . . Reagan was SOA's wet dream and President George HW Bush didn't disappoint either. He was after all the former head of the CIA. Bush Sr. was the Vice President and the funding for the Contras originated from his office. Not that he remembered, or Reagan either for that matter. But once elected Bush quickly pardoned his buddies, so he could use them again. . .

Even a brief look at the CIA’s history demonstrates the agency consistently behaves in ways many of us might consider un-American and anti-democratic. For example, the agency routinely lies to the public, supports injustice, disregards fairness, and suppresses equality and civil liberties. And we’re not talking about minor transgressions. The CIA supports terrorism around the world while claiming to denounce it. The CIA was spawned from the National Security Act of 1947. Since its inception, the agency,has: • Smuggled narcotics from the U. S. to Cuba (via members of Operation Mongoose). • Directed the overthrow of democratically elected Chilean socialist President Salvadore Allende and the military overthrow of that democratically elected government in 1973. • Through the Phoenix Project, directed the assassination of various bureaucrats in Vietnam and supported the random arrest and torture of “suspected” leftists. • Supported dictator Augusto Pinochet and his mass bloodbaths in Chile. • Supported and trained Shah of Iran’s secret police, notorious for torture and murder. • Supported human rights atrocities in East Timor. • Violated U. S. law and its own charter by spying on and harassing Americans. • Slipped drugs to unsuspecting American citizens. • Bolstered and funded human rights violating dictator Anatasio Somoza in Nicaragua and supported and trained the torturing and murderous Contras; and much more

. .

The Bush administration appealed to Senate Democrats July 27 to move ahead with the confirmation of two top-level diplomatic nominees whose appointments have been delayed because of their role in defending right-wing dictatorships and death squads in Central America. . . Negroponte and Reich are two of the three Bush administration appointees with direct operational roles in the Central American counterinsurgency campaigns of the 1980s. The third is Elliott Abrams, named as director of the office for democracy, human rights and international operations at the National Security Council, a White House position which is not subject to Senate confirmation. Abrams was convicted of lying to Congress about the Iran-Contra affair, but was later pardoned by Bush’s father in 1992. . . Bush’s pick for U.N. ambassador, John Negroponte, was the U.S. ambassador to Honduras from 1981-85 when a U.S.-trained death squad known as Battalion 316 tortured and murdered scores of activists and possibly a U.S. priest. Negroponte helped arm the Nicaraguan contras, former Somoza National Guardsmen who operated out of Honduras while attempting to overthrow the Sandinistas.  . . Negroponte was US ambassador to Honduras during the years when the right-wing Nicaraguan Contra forces were based in southern Honduras, just across the border from Nicaragua, supplied and armed illegally by the Reagan administration. Abrams was assistant secretary of state for western hemisphere affairs during that period and worked closely with Oliver North in organizing the illegal arms supplies to the Contras. Reich headed the Office of Public Diplomacy, a State Department agency which illegally funded pro-Contra propaganda both in the US and internationally.

. . SOA had been investigated in 1991 and little came of it. The Bush administration ordered the retrieval and destruction of the manuals, and the U.S. Army Southern Command advised Latin American governments that the handbooks did not represent official U.S. policy. However, the whole episode was treated as an isolated incident and Bush was more interested in damage control. The individuals responsible for writing and teaching the lesson plans and manuals were not disciplined. SOA and other U.S. military instructors were not retrained. And military training programs were not rethought.  A new investigation by the Inspector General began in September 1996 after the Pentagon admitted that torture, execution, false imprisonment, extortion and other techniques were included in training manuals used at the SOA and by mobile training units in Latin America until 1991.  On June 20th, 2007 Congress voted to cut funding for SOA/WHINSEC, it failed in the House by 12 votes. 42 Democrats voted to keep the school open.  The National Security Archive released declassified information about SOA and the training manuals after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke in 2004. Then Sec of Defense Dick Cheney read the results of the original investigation and the manuals in 1992, he knew it was illegal and President Bush new it was illegal.  The CIA knew it was illegal, virtually every one in the Senate in 2005 knows too. In fact the CIA was already doing interrogations at Abu Ghraib and the human rights violations were text book CIA from the two manuals used at SOA. The CIA also runs Guantánamo Bay. Rumsfeld and Ashcroft stripped Abu Ghraib prisoners of their rights under the Geneva Convention. It's interesting how laws can be overridden by simply ignoring them. They had already decided Gitmo prisoners weren't protected under the Geneva Convention. The “interrogation” techniques, torture worked so well in Gitmo, Rumsfeld couldn't wait to use them in Iraq. Of course they didn't explicitly approve torture, they didn't have to, with the barriers down and the CIA running Abu Ghraib.This was not an abberation or the work of a few bad apples, it was systematic abuse, torture. . .  The Schlesinger Report stops short of asserting the White House, Justice Department or CIA (which interrogated detainees in Afghanistan, Guantanamo and Iraq) shared this responsibility with the Pentagon's civilian and military leadership. It is now in the  hands of the Senate to further investigate and finally find responsibility. . . From an interview with Col. Janis Karpenski on Democracy Now October of 2005. 

Karpinski, the highest-ranking officer demoted in connection with the torture scandal, speaks out about what happened at the Abu Ghraib prison. She discusses: How the military hid “ghost detainees” from the International Red Cross in violation of international law; Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller calling for the Gitmoization of Abu Ghraib and for prisoners to be “treated like dogs”;  Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld's secret memos on interrogation policies that hung on the prison’s walls;  The military’s use of private (and possibly Israeli) interrogators; Her dealings with the International Red Cross; Why she feels, as a female general, she has been scapegoated for a scandal that has left the military and political leadership unscathed; and Calls for Donald Rumsfeld, Lt. Gen. Ricardo Sanchez, Alberto Gonzalez and Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller to be held accountable for what happened. 

. . Interestingly, in November of 2006 human rights advocate Wolfgang Kaleck brought charges at the German Federal Attorney General against Ricardo Sanchez and a number of other high officials for their involvement in human rights violations in Abu Ghraib in Iraq and Guantanamo Bay. Kaleck acts as an advocate for more than 30 human rights organizations as well as 11 former prisoners at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo. Additionally charged Rumsfeld, Gonzales and Tenet, the other defendants in the case are Undersecretary of Defense for Intelligence Stephen Cambone; former assistant attorney general Jay Bybee; former deputy assisant attorney general John Yoo; General Counsel for the Department of Defense William James Haynes II; and David S. Addington, Vice President Dick Cheney's chief of staff. Senior military officers named in the filing are General Ricardo Sanchez, the former top Army official in Iraq; Gen. Geoffrey Miller, the former commander of Guantanamo; senior Iraq commander, Major General Walter Wojdakowski; and Col. Thomas Pappas, the one-time head of military intelligence at Abu Ghraib. The Bush Administration has rejected adherence to the International Criminal Court on the grounds it could be used to unjustly prosecute U.S. officials. Unfortunately Bush has exposed hundreds of Americans to possible prosecution for War Crimes. The War Crimes Act of 1996 passed in Congress without a dessenting vote, makes it a Federal Crime to commit a grave breach of the Geneva Conventions, specifically torture. Bush now wants Congress to pass new laws to protect them from possible War Crimes charges. Congress passing laws doesn't affect the ICC and with the founding of the International Criminal Court they can all be prosecuted, not radifying the ICC and all the laws passed in this country will not save them. Germany has rejected Kaleck’s suit and he is moving it to Spain This isn't going away. As Kaleck points out, if the ICC isn't used for the intended purpose why have it? The list of possible litigants with charges against this administration is not insignificant and include the UN and the people of Iraq.  . . I can understand why Bush doesn't get it, he has been doing the very same things every President since Truman has done to one extent or another. If past Presidents didn't push the envelope far enough, he simply uses signing statements and coercion of Congress to get what he wants. I haven't even touched on arms deals used to play both ends against the middle and foment unrest. This madness has been part of our real foreign policy for nearly 50 years. Can you imagine after that length of time the deep well of hatred harbored against us and everything this country stands for by much of the world? 

excellent anti-war music video: very worth checking out

Serj Tankian, otherwise lead singer of the fantastic System of a Down (no strangers to anti-war videos themselves), released a video last month for his solo single “Empty Walls” that really deserves watching if you haven’t seen it already.  The whole thing is good, but the ending especially is a zinger:

Don’t waste your time
on coffins today

The video was released on September 11, but has recently picked up enough steam to score rotation on MTV, which is how I first saw it (albeit late at night, when MTV’s not showing one of its million non-music shows).

If you’re not familiar with System of a Down, they’ve been refreshingly outspoken activists for years, and not just on the war issue.  All the band members are descended from survivors of the Armenian genocide, so their connection to issues of social justice and human rights is not only ideological but personal. 

Given the generally negative attitude that people have towards my generation’s dearth of protest music, you might be surprised to learn that SOAD’s albums debut at the top of the rock charts (Mesmerize debuted at #1 in 12 countries), and the five-time Grammy nominated group scored their biggest success with their baldest anti-war statement to date, “B.Y.O.B.”:

You depend on our protection,
Yet you feed us lies from the tablecloth.

As if that weren’t enough, Tankian cofounded (with Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine) a nonprofit activism group called Axis of Justice.  Here’s their straightforward mission statement:

We aim to build a bridge between fans of music around the world and local political organizations to effectively organize around issues of peace, human rights, and economic justice.

At any rate, I hope you enjoy.  SOAD’s idiosyncratic style is one of the reasons they’ve had less mainstream success (which is fine by me: I love their music), so I understand if they’re not to everyone’s taste.  But at least know that there are bands plugging away the message to thousands upon thousands of devoted followers, and it’s being heard.

Largest US burger meat processor out of business after E.coli recall

Another addition of Sign of the Times…

ELIZABETH, N.J. (AP) — Topps Meat Co. LLC, the meat company responsible for the second-largest beef recall in U.S. history, said Friday it will close its plant in Elizabeth, N.J., and go out of business, effective immediately.

Topps on Sept. 25 began a recall of its frozen hamburger meat that was expanded to comprise 21.7 million pounds of the meat, which may be contaminated with E. coli after federal inspectors discovered inadequate safety measures at its plant.

“In one week we have gone from the largest U.S. manufacturer of frozen hamburgers to a company that cannot overcome the economic reality of a recall this large,” he said.

Here is the USDA recall page.

Countdown ’til some clueless Gooper argues that meddling big government agencies are bad for the economy. 

In 3…2…1….

Topps Meat Company, LLC, a privately held company, is apparently not the same firm as Topps Company, Inc., a public company (NASDAQ NM: Topp) that makes sports trading cards.

Four at Four

This is an OPEN THREAD. Here are four stories in the news at 4 o’clock to get you started. Toss the lucky man into the Nile and he will come up with a fish in his mouth.

  1. This Sunday, here are three different views of life for the people in occupied Iraq.

    • For Iraqi Christians, James Palmer of the Washington Post reports they either ‘Live In Fear Or Flee‘. “Extreme Islamic militants increasingly are targeting Christians in Iraq, especially in the capital. As a result, Iraq’s Christian community — long the minority in a largely Muslim country — continues to dwindle.”

      The last Iraqi census was conducted in 1987 and counted 1 million Christians. “National aid groups estimate that between 300,000 and 600,000 Christians remain among an estimated 25 million people” in Iraq. Many Iraqi Christians have been given three choices: 1) convert to Islam, 2) pay “protection” money, or 3) leave.

    • For Iraqis who work for Americans, Sabrina Tavernise reports ‘In Life of Lies, Iraqis Conceal Work for U.S.‘ “For the tens of thousands of Iraqis who work for the United States in Iraq, daily life is an elaborate balancing act of small, memorized untruths. Desperate for work of any kind when jobs are extremely hard to come by in Iraq, they do what they must, even though affiliation with the Americans makes them targets.”

      The Iraqis who work for the Americans construct elaborate, complex lies to cover their work, where they go and what they do. They live in constant peril of having their cover blown by casual conversation or even their own children. Often their complex stories turn and pose problems for them. Other Iraqis, believing the workers’ cover stories, often ask them to do things, fix things, make things only their alibi could do… further putting them at risk.

    • Finally, for an Iraqi family trying to leave Iraq, opportunities to immigrate prove elusive. As an Iraqi, anonymous fro security reasons, writing for the Los Angeles Times explains in ‘After leaving Iraq, a bitter return home‘.

      I never knew how badly I wanted to leave Iraq until I was forced to come back… Even though we both were making good money in Iraq, we flew to the UAE in December to take the tests required to work there as pharmacists…

      Life was different there — no explosions, no blackouts. We would go out in the evenings, doing whatever we liked without fear of militias or religious extremists… Even our baby girl, who was too young to understand what was happening, had more fun… For us, a small family, it was a piece of heaven…

      After two months, my application for a work visa still had not come through. I had to leave the UAE because my visitor’s visa was about to expire, but I was confident my work visa would come through…

      My wife says it is our bad luck to be Iraqis. ‘This bad luck is stuck to us forever,’ she said after the visa was rejected. I think she is right.

The rest of today’s Four at Four is lurking below the fold.

  1. An update on what comes next from Burmese activists and a report on a secret junta crematorium in Burma.

  2. Three stories relating to Blackwater in the “Guns of Greed” section.

  3. The arrest of American Indian Movement leader Russell Means yesterday.

Plus a bonus story about the fate that awaits Pacific Northwest salmon from global warming. So dive in, there’s a lot more below the fold…

  1. According to The Telegraph, Burma’s monks are planning the next stage of protests. “Burma’s underground opposition intends to launch a campaign of civil disobedience to maintain the pressure for change on the military junta.” The underground opposition is intending to launch a campaign of civil disobedience.

    In his first public comments, the fugitive monk who led the so-called Saffron Revolution insisted that the resistance would continue but appealed for greater international pressure on the regime.

    “International assistance is needed urgently,” he said, speaking by a smuggled satellite phone from his hiding place in Burma to supporters in New York. “We welcome the world’s reaction but we would like the international community to be more active and effective as the junta is trying to keep power by the most violent means. Please continue all your efforts to help us.

    “Both sides know that this is like the lull between battles in a war.” Exiled Buddhist leaders say 2,400 monks and nuns have been arrested. Myanmar state media claim 2,093 attrested, but Burmese activists say up to 10,000 have been detained. “Even lighting a candle as a protest takes courage in a society where raids on homes occur every night and monasteries are emptied of their monks.”

    Reuters reports Mynamar junta takes soldiers off Yangon Rangoon streets. “The Myanmar junta reduced security in Yangon Rangoon sharply on Sunday, apparently confident it would face no further mass protests against military rule, but the streets remained unusually quiet and arrests continued.

    “The last barricades were removed from the centre of the former capital around the Shwedagon and Sule pagodas which were the starting and finishing points of protests soldiers crushed by firing into crowds and arresting monks and other demonstrators… People on the streets were too scared to talk”.

    The Times reports of secret cremations hiding Burma killings. “The Burmese army has burnt an undetermined number of bodies at a crematorium sealed off by armed guards northeast of Rangoon over the past seven days, ensuring that the exact death toll in the recent pro-democracy protests will never be known.” [Murdoch Alert]

  2. Three entries in today’s “Guns of Greed”: one report, one op-ed, and one meta.

    • Reporting for the Los Angeles Times, Paul Richter writes the U.S. State Department ignored repeated warnings about Blackwater. “The State Department, which is facing growing criticism of its policy on private security contractors, overlooked repeated warnings from U.S. diplomats in the field that guards were endangering Iraqi civilians and undermining U.S. efforts to win support from the population, according to current and former U.S. officials.” One former U.S. official said the immunity for private security contractors was “a bomb that could go off at any time”.

      “The complaints and concerns received little high-level attention, for several reasons, said diplomats who served in Iraq. In the crisis atmosphere of Iraq, the security problems seemed less urgent than other issues. In addition, even staff members who were uneasy with the arrangement were ambivalent because they wanted aggressive protection when they felt personally endangered.”

    • Peter W. Singer writes an op-ed, an open memo to Secs. Gates and Rice, in the Washington Post titled ‘Sure, He’s Got Guns for Hire. But They’re Just Not Worth It.‘ He makes eight points about military outsourcing:

      1. Lets policymakers dodge tough, politically costly decisions, which makes for bad operational choices.
      2. Encourages a “bigger is better” approach to operations, contrary to the best lessons of U.S. military strategy.
      3. Inflames popular opinion about the U.S. mission.
      4. Produces a series of abuses that undermine efforts to win Iraqi hearts and minds.
      5. Hurts American efforts in the “war of ideas,” in Iraq and beyond.
      6. Undermines efforts to build up Iraqi civilian institutions, the very things we need to get our troops out.
      7. Creates huge vulnerabilities that undermine the overall mission.
      8. Forces policymakers to jettison promising counterinsurgency strategies before they even have a chance to succeed.

      In his conclusion, Singer observes “The blunt truth is that while contractors are carrying out valuable roles, their overall effect has been to undermine the Iraq mission and the wider fight against terrorism. Worst of all, we have outsourced the most important core function of our government: to fight and win the nation’s wars.” His entire piece is worth your time to read.

    • Lastly, Editor & Publisher get the low down on how a ‘NYT’ Reporter Reveals How He Got ‘Blackwater’ Scoop.

      It was, in reality, good old fashioned police reporting, say its authors.

      James Glanz, who penned the acclaimed report in last Wednesday’s paper along with Alissa J. Rubin, said the duo did nothing more than their fellow reporters in midtown Manhattan might have done with a city shooting – reach officials, find witnesses, and keep asking questions.

      “It was a regular old cop story,” Glanz, an eight year Times veteran told E&P via cell phone. “If you forget about official sources and look at it like a shooting at 34th and Broadway, you have the story.”

      Go figure. Covering a crime is best done by covering it like a crime.

  3. The Denver Post reports AIM leader arrested in parade protest. “Police arrested American Indian Movement leader Russell Means and 83 protesters at Saturday’s Columbus Day parade for blocking the route. But there were no major incidents or violent behavior, police said.” There were over 500 demonstrators.

    According to Reuters, “American Indian groups and their supporters have disrupted the city’s annual Columbus Day parade every year for nearly two decades, leading to clashes with Colorado’s Italian-American community over the century-old celebration, the longest-running such commemoration in the United States.” Means said in an interview before his arrest, “By all accounts, Christopher Columbus was personally responsible for thousands of deaths of the original inhabitants of this hemisphere.”

  4. Mark Hume of the Globe and Mail reports that Salmon need help to survive climate change. “Salmon in British Columbia will need human help to adapt to changes being brought on by global warming, but some streams may simply become uninhabitable to the cold-water fish, a government advisory body declared… ¶ The reports suggest some watersheds at the southern range of salmon habitat in British Columbia may lose the ability to support the fish. Scientific studies several years ago identified the Adams River – one of B.C.’s most important sockeye streams, with runs of millions of salmon in some years – as a watershed that could lose its stocks if temperatures increase just a few degrees.” If global warming is bad news for salmon in British Columbia, then I suspect it is worse news for the U.S. salmon runs.

So, what else is happening?

I am not pinche _ loafano

Oh my goodness!

I got home a little while ago from a morning at church and then a barbecue at my cousin’s house with the whole family here in Chicago. She lives close by. I started reading the blogs, like I do most days – Docudharma, Daily Kos, and then pff.

Today I clicked on a diary titled “Who is pinche – loafano?” at pff and I saw my Docudharma username has been included in a poll. The poll asks the question, “Who is pinche _ loafano? And lo and behold I am leading in the poll with two votes. OK ,that’s not many, but still!

here’s the link : http://politicalfles…

My goodness. I’m figuring the author of the diary at pff, pinche _ loafano, saw my name in Jay Elias’s diary here yesterday. Jay was responding to p _ l’s diary falsely claiming that Jay had left Docudharma.  He must have used my name in the poll cause it’s sort of unusual.

It’s an amalgam of several different family names all strewn together. It’s kind of long but I like it.

Anyway I am certainly not pinche- loafano.

Thank You.


Load more