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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Wednesday, May 28, 2003 - 09:59 pm:   

I have been fending off the feeling since December, 2001, that it is time for me to revisit the human rights literature I first read in the mid-1980s when I needed help understanding some of the issues I was writing about then in my five-book political-sf Marq'ssan Cycle. This morning a friend sent me a link to an article posted at, titled "US plans death camp," dated 26 May, 2003. <,4057,6494000%255e401,00.html> "The US has floated plans to turn Guantanamo Bay into a death camp, with its own death row and execution chamber," the article begins. "Prisoners would be tried, convicted and executed without leaving its boundaries, without a jury and without right of appeal."

The US government does not scruple to admit that the prisoners there are tortured & held without charge. The conditions of this extra-legal prison camp are notorious for causing its inmates to attempt suicide with outrageous frequency. More recently, human rights groups publicly revealed (with Pentagon corroboration) that at least three of this prison camp's inmates are children. According to the corporate media, the US public is inclined to assume that all of the inmates of this extra-legal prison are certified terrorists. In fact, many of the inmates were bystanders swept up for no better reason than that they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Many have been released without charge (or apology or compensation, often just dumped in the middle of nowhere without so much as a dime in their pocket), but many more of the unfortunate bystanders are still being held. (A few weeks ago I saw a newspaper article reporting that there's been a good deal of interdepartmental squabbling between officers who want to see the unfortunate bystanders released & officials who insist that these people who are so manifestly not "terrorists" continue to be held without cause.)

I often use the fact that most of the inmates of the prison camp are non-US nationals to explain to myself why the US public might imagine that a prison camp that violates international law & human rights conventions somehow makes them "safer." I know, intellectually, that citizens of countries ruled by fear have historically supported atrocious injustices against individuals belonging to whichever minorities their regimes have chosen to scapegoat, & that they tend to believe all the lies & slanders that mobilize hatred of those scapegoated. & yet the notion that anyone would feel safer because their government is violent & repressive strikes me as so irrational & so prone to exposing greater & greater numbers of people to arbitrary detentions, torture, & murder, that I cannot emotionally understand it. I ask myself: how can anyone not see that if one person is arbitrarily detained without charge or trial or legal representation at the Justice Department or Pentagon's sole discretion & pleasure, then *every*one is thereby made vulnerable to the same treatment, since without due process anyone could be subject to such abuse?

The specifics of the political situation in Argentina during the Dirty War (in the mid-1970s) differ from the current situation in that it involved domestic rather than foreign-directed strife. & yet I find when I take Jacobo Timerman's _Prisoner without a Name, Cell without a Number_ off the shelf & leaf through it more than enough congruencies to make me deeply uneasy & outright pessimistic. Fear, of course, ruled Argentina during the Dirty Wars. Middle class people pretended not to see their colleagues dragged away by the military, pretended, as the people in our public sphere now pretend, that it is normal & even righteous to harass & threaten & diss people who speak truth. Most of them did not fear the military (as I no doubt would have), but rather the people the military told them were their enemies, as well as the vague threats of insecurity that the military taught them to feel.

About a week ago in Rockford, Illinois, the _New York Times_ journalist, Chris Hedges, who was invited to speak at Rockford College's commencement, was heckled, harassed, & actually had his microphone unplugged by outraged members of the audience. One newspaper article denounced the invited speaker for having "disrupted" the commencement. Why would a newspaper headline attribute "disruption" to the program, rather than to those in the audience who disrupted the program? Why was Hedges, who spoke with informed honesty, a target for hatred & intolerance? Incidents like this have become increasingly common in the US. & they inevitably remind me of similar incidents I have read about occurring in mid-1970s Argentina.

Timerman's "crime"-- besides being a Jew in a deeply antisemitic society-- was to publish a newspaper that attacked extremist leaders at both ends of Argentina's political spectrum & to support political moderates. Timerman says, of his paper, "The Argentine rulers wanted to be viewed like Dorian Gray, but _La Opinion_ was the mirror hidden above, which appeared daily on the streets, presenting Dorian Gray's true face." Timerman describes how the military laid their plans for taking over the government & observes "the military needed something that proved to be of much greater importance: for the situation to deteriorate sufficiently so that the populace-- press, political parties, Church, civil institutions-- would regard military repression as inevitable. They needed allies who could be converted into accomplices. They needed the presence of such fear-- about one's personal security, the economic crisis, the unknown-- that it would provide them the margins of time and planning and the needed passivity, to develop what they regarded as the only solution to leftist terrorism: extermination." Of course it wasn't only "leftist terrorists" that were among the 10-20,000 people "disappeared." "Entire families disappeared. The bodies were covered with cement and thrown to the bottom of the river. . . . A mother recognized her fifteen-year-old son, an Argentine, who appeared on the Uruguayan coast. But that was an accident-- the corpses usually vanished forever."

Although we have now seen arbitrary detentions (some of them on a massive scale) without regard for due process, in which persons detained vanish into the system without legal representation or hope of a trial, we haven't yet reached the stage of seeing corpses vanish & whole families killed. But we know that that stage of authoritarian rule has been reached repeatedly in country after country throughout the twentieth century. What makes a population accept such injustice & state terrorism? Irrational, misdirected fear, of course. Hatred of scapegoated groups. Deep economic uncertainty. Admiration of raw, brutal power & a disregard for international law & human rights. Broad public support for muting or censoring entirely all dissent & an indifference to or lack of faith in democratic processes that involve more than sham elections. But above all: the willingness to dispense with a fair judicial system determined to enforce due process in the case of every individual detained. A glance at this list will tell you that the US possesses every one of the preconditions I've mentioned. Think of what Timerman says about the military's final need: "for the situation to deteriorate sufficiently so that the populace. . . . would regard military repression as inevitable."

Will we reach that final stage? I hope not. But considering how thoroughly we've been demoralized & how another attack like that of Sept 11 could easily suffice to tip us over the edge, I think that only a strong, determined effort can prevent that from happening.

Timerman figures the instatement of political repression as a series of steps. "What there was, from the start, was the great silence, which appears in every civilized country that passively accepts the inevitability of violence, and then the fear that suddenly befalls it. That silence which can transform any nation into an accomplice.

"That silence which existed in Germany, when even many well-intentioned individuals assumed that everything would return to normal once Hitler finished with the Communists and Jews. Or when the Russians assmed that everything would return to normal once Stalin eliminated the Trotskyites.

"Initially, this was the conviction in Argentina. Then came fear. And after the fear, indifference. `Nothing happens to someone who stays out of politics.'

"Such silence begins in the channels of communication. Certain political leaders, institutions, and priests attempt to denounce what is happening, but are unable to establish contact with the population."

"Unable to establish contact with the population." Does that sound at all familiar?

"The silence begins with a strong odor. People sniff the suicides, but it eludes them. Then silence finds another ally: solitude. People fear suicides as they fear madmen. And the person who wants to fight senses his solitude and is frightened."

(Dissidents were characterized as "suicides" in Argentina, as willfully embracing their own disappearances by the military.)

"Whereupon the silence reverts to patriotism. Fear finds its great moral revelation in patriotism, with its indubitable capacity for justification, its climate of glory and sacrifice. Only abroad, where there is neither Night nor Fog, are revelations formualted. That, however, is the Anti-Argentina Campaign.

"It's best, therefore, to be a patriot and not remain solitary.

"To stay out of politics and stay alive."

Remember: we're not there yet. Silence, obviously, is the greatest threat of all, in partnership with solitude.

Oh precious, precious WisCon.
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Thursday, May 29, 2003 - 01:21 pm:   

Today I found James Carroll writing about "The Bad Weather Over America," as he calls it, in his May 27, 2003 column for the Boston Globe. <

"WHEN WILL the bad weather end?" he begins, & then talks about the distance between "what is and what ought to be." "The distance between what is and what ought to be is so vast there that only an act of communal self-blinding can keep Americans ignorant of it." The overwhelming tone of his column is one of sadness, rather than anger, panic, or consternation. & indeed, he speaks of "anxious sadness" as the national mood:

"At home, an anxious sadness underlies the civic life. Careers feel terribly uncertain. Leisure is a forgotten luxury, which is not all bad because blank spaces in the datebook spark insecurities
most of all. Intimate relationships are burdened by what is not discussed, and the confessional to which many people might once have carried such secrets is now dangerous. The Catholic crisis, cutting an entire community loose from moorings of authority and meaning, directly affects only a part of the national population, yet it, too, seems very American."

Carroll concludes that "The bad weather will not end until we face this cold truth and change it." This must begin, he says, with an unmasking of the "Bush-led charade" of the War on Terrorism, a charade, he notes, that "the citizens of the United States have willfully participated in."

Just so.

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 12:54 pm:   

Mystery novelist Sara Paretsky has recently written about a judicial gag order imposed for the purpose of "shrouding in silence" the Secret Service's arrest of a man in a Santa Fe college library because he made "negative comments" about George W. Bush in an online chat room. After lengthy interrogation, the man was released. (See Sara Paretsky, "For Those Who Wish to Dissent: Speech, Silence and Patriotism," published in the _Chicago Tribune_ Sept.21, 2003, reprinted on But a judge saw fit to do the utmost to prevent the incident from receiving the kind of public scrutiny that is essential for preserving a society from police-state culture. Paretsky mentions another case in which a library patron (this time in New Jersey) was "hauled off for questioning, held without being allowed to call his home or a lawyer, and then released without being charged." She adds, "We also don't know why the FBI arrived at a California student's home hours after she talked on the phone about bomb icons in a video game she was playing."

Paretsky speaks frankly about her fears: "These days, the chill-silencing winds of my childhood are starting to blow at gale force again. I am a frightened citizen right now, more scared than I've been since the first few weeks after Sept. 11, 2001. The situation in post-war Iraq seems to be creating, not eliminating, new sources of terror, while the nation's worst blackout on Aug. 14 shows how vulnerable we are. And Ashcroft's response is to say that any questions about his policies, any questions about governmental lies, secrets or silences, is tantamount to treason."

Paretsky's essay compares what she can imagine as a fiction-writer & what she sees as reality in the US today:

"Silence and speech are the hallmarks of my work: who can speak, what can they say, who will listen to them? In "Blacklist," V.I. gets penned into a smaller and smaller space by an array of business and political leaders who call on the power of the Patriot Act to silence her. She finally figures out a strategy to wriggle out of danger. But in the real world today, I don't know how someone would evade the police and political forces V.I. faces--I don't know how I would."

The conventions of hard-boiled detective literature, in other words, allow more imaginative room for maneuver than does an ordinary citizen's current sense of constitutional protections.

Some judges, I know, are deeply concerned about the Bush Administration's development of a police-state apparatus that refuses to be subject to the rule of law but rather sees the law merely as a tool to be used when convenient and ignored when not. Attorney General Ashcroft, though, is doing his best to intimidate judges who don't see the law as the Justice Department's particular possession to use or not as it wishes. Walter Cronkite, who speaks out strongly on this issue (although he tends to speak about the US's foreign policy with what I find to be a rather timid voice these days), characterizes Ashcroft as "The Torquemada of American law." (Walter Cronkite, "US Battles Terror With a Touch of the Spanish Inquisition," published on Friday, September 19, 2003 by the Minneapolis Star Tribune, reprinted on Cronkite writes: "It was in the spirit of the Inquisition that the Justice Department announced recently that it would begin gathering data on judges who give sentences lighter than called for by legislative guidelines." Cronkite explains his reference to Torqemada, suggesting an interesting (fundamentalist religious) parallel: "Tomas de Torquemada, you might recall, was the 15th-century Dominican friar who became the grand inquisitor of the Spanish Inquisition. He was largely responsible for its methods, including torture and the burning of heretics -- Muslims in particular." A couple of paragraphs later, Cronkite elaborates the point: "There was something almost medieval in the treatment of Muslim suspects in the aftermath of 9/11. Many were held incommunicado, without effective counsel and without ever being charged, not for days or weeks, but for months or longer, some under harsh conditions designed for the most dangerous criminals."

Some of those "suspects" are still being held without charge. & then of course there are the 660 prisoners being held at Guatanamo Bay without charge or legal representation. & finally there are three known US citizens being held without charge. In the most famous case, that of Jose Padilla, the Justice Department has defied the courts by refusing to allow Padilla access to legal counsel. Its refusal to charge him with a crime is not only a violation of the fifth amendment, but also indicative that Ashcroft, who has nearly infinite resources, has been unable to make even the flimsiest case against him for violating *any* law. & so Padilla languishes in a military brig, without charge, without legal counsel, without being able to face his accusers before a jury: a situation typical of despotic, monarchical ancien regimes where the law was the king's tool to be wielded with absolute & arbitrary power.

Reading about the latest of these detentions without charge, that of Captain Yousef Yee (who is being held at the same South Carolina military prison as Padilla & the third uncharged US citizen, Yaser Esam Hamdi), I found myself full of questions. Capt.Yee is an army chaplain and a Muslim. Last November he was assigned to Guantanamo Bay, his duties to "teach fellow troops about Islam and counsel detainees suspected of links to the Taliban." (See Paisley Dodds, "Army Islamic Chaplain Detained in Probe," an AP story, 9/20/03.) What, I find myself wondering, is the function of a chaplain in a prison that has been declared outside all known law? (The US government admits that it chose Guantanamo as the location for this illegal prison because it is located on land that the US claims is in legal "limbo" & thus not subject to any country's-- much less international-- law.) The AP conducted an interview with Yee in January, & at that time Yee said his purpose was "to provide spiritual services to the detainees and to the troops." Dodds writes that "Yee was always vague about whether he was involved in interrogations." Interestingly, he says that when asked why he had converted to Islam from Christianity in 1991, Yee "spoke of Islam's diversity." "One of the strengths of our culture is diversity. A lot of people don't know Jesus is part of Islam but Muslims believe he was a prophet." Another question I have is whether proximity to prisoners who haven't been charged (i.e., political prisoners) is inherently dangerous to those whose job it is to give "counsel" (whether legal or spiritual), since there have been cases in which attorneys counseling uncharged detainees labeled by Ashcroft as "terror suspects" have been sanctioned for doing their jobs. A third question concerns why, if Yee was arrested for carrying classified documents, the FBI has not found a crime with which to charge him. & fourth, why is it that all three of these US citizens being held without even the faintest lip service to due process are of non-anglo ethnic origin? Yee is an American of Chinese descent, Padilla of Latino descent, & Hamdi of Middle-Eastern descent. Fifth, would more people be speaking out about these detentions if one of the detainees had come from a WASP upper-middle class background?

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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 05:47 pm:   

The questions you bring up have haunted me for two years... and I'm not sure I see an end to this madness. The terrorists seem to have won -- with a little help from Ashcroft and Bush, they have indeed destroyed everything America was supposed to stand for.
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Monday, September 22, 2003 - 08:55 pm:   

That is the terrible, intolerable irony of this whole miserable mess. As for the end to the madness--- Bush et al have pushed things so far (& here I'm talking about what he's done to the federal budget, his foreign policy, as well as his environmental & judicial policies & other domestic matters) that it's hard to resist feeling that disaster is looming & inevitable-- & total. But resist we must. & this, I'm afraid, is something we're just going to have to figure out how to do-- those of us interested, that is, in "everything America was supposed to stand for."

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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - 09:26 am:   

I hate to be alarmist... but considering the strange inconsistencies with the 2002 electronic voting machines, and the continuing revelations about how open to manipulation and fraud these machines are, I fear that no amount of anger, and voter backlash will impact the bush regime. For an in-depth article on vote-machine security, and the companies that count our votes, check out
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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - 11:35 am:   

Another interesting article on co-operation between local police departments and Federal authorities in the collection of "First Amendment Activities" data.... that is collections of data on people involved in legal, protected political activities, and organizations with no history of violence or criminal activity. Prior to the patriot act, many large police departments had signed consent decrees (due to past abuses) that they would not do this, but now are using the patriot act, and collaboration with Federal law-enforcement to get around these restrictions. Go to an anti-war march, end up with an FBI file. Post on a anti-bush web site, end up with an FBI file… Haven’t we seen this before?
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Neal Stanifer
Posted on Tuesday, September 23, 2003 - 12:33 pm:   

Jeremy, today's papers are also carrying stories about Ashcroft's (and the Bush administration's) attempts to consolidate control over the prosecution of federal crimes, including the investigation (read: blacklisting) of federal judges who consistently hand down less than the maximum allowable sentence for federal crimes.

In the interest of uniformity, our federal judges are being monitored by the administration's overseers.

In the interests of security, we are surrendering our civil rights.

In the interests of solidarity, more and more people wave the flag (while fewer and fewer know what it represents).

Interesting times we live in. And I mean that in the Chinese sense.
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Josh Lukin
Posted on Friday, October 10, 2003 - 09:14 pm:   

Hoorah, Captain Yee has actually been charged with a crime that carries specific penalties!

Gee, the things we're reduced to kvelling over. I had a long talk with my Dad a week or so back in which I remarked, yes, sure I'm pleased at the prospect of the Administration breaking apart over internecine battles, such as Tenet vs. Rove. But how did that become liberals' biggest hope for change in what was supposed to be a democracy? Soon we'll be demoralized enough that all we can conceive of asking for will be a hot roll every morning with some butter.
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Saturday, October 11, 2003 - 10:57 am:   

"Let them eat brioche!" said the Queen. Butter, though, Josh? I thought butter was the antithesis of guns. It seems that even when you try to lower your expectations, you're not quite able to sink low enough...

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Saturday, October 11, 2003 - 04:32 pm:   

Seriously. Ordinary US citizens may no longer be assured of their basic civil rights, thanks to the Patriot Act, but Capt. Yee still has some rights as an officer & member of the military. (Considering how much I've been reading lately about GIs stationed in Iraq having to purchase equipment & gear necessary for performing their assigned tasks, usually with the help of their relatives, it's surprising to discover that there's any kind of advantage to being in the military these days.) The crime they've charged him with ("mishandling" classified documents) carries a *maximum* penalty of dishonorable discharge & two years imprisonment. I presume they've charged him with that as a pretext for keeping him while they continue their witch hunt, scrounging about for the slightest bit of evidence that would allow them to make the case for a conspiracy.

It's been a year now since Brigadier-General Rick Baccus was fired as commander of "Camp Delta" at Guatanamo Bay. A Guardian article by Julian Borger (dated Oct.16, 2002) cites an Oct.4 (2002) Washington Times report that "the chief interrogator, Major-General Michael Dunlavey, was irritated by the prisoners' treatment [under Baccus], particularly by Gen. Baccus's decision to let the Red Cross put up posters telling inmates they need only provide their interrogators with their name, rank and number. Gen. Dunlavey has taken over Gen. Baccus's duties." Borger notes in the same article that in August (2002) Baccus "told a visiting group of journalists, including the Guardian, that uniformed officers had concerns that Guantanamo Bay inmates continued to be labelled `enemy combatants' rather than `prisoners of war,' a classification which would give them more rights under the Geneva conventions and which would assure their release at the end of hostilities."

I can only speculate on the basis of the few facts available to the ordinary news junky. But it strikes me that the witch hunt targeting Yee et al is likely part of the ongoing effort to remove anyone with any spark of decency from the scene that the International Red Cross denounced via an interview with the New York Times published yesterday. According to an AFP article posted yesterday (it can be found on Yahoo!News):

<< A group of former US officials expressed concern meanwhile that the indefinite detentions at Guantanamo Bay were damaging the reputation of the United States and endangering Americans around the world.

The group filed "friend of the court" briefs on Thursday with the US Supreme Court in the case of 16 prisoners who have sued to seek the right to have defense lawyers.

"Our most important diplomatic asset has been this nation's values," said the brief filed by 19 former diplomats, including two former assistant secretaries of state and a former assistant secretary of defense.

Three retired US military officers -- two navy rear admirals, both former military judges, and a marine general -- said in a separate brief that they feared ignoring the Geneva Convention in Guantanamo will give other nations "an excuse" to do the same and "endanger American soldiers captured in the future."

The cases of the Guantanamo prisoners have been rejected by lower US courts on the grounds they have no jurisdiction in Cuba. The cases are being appealed to the Supreme Court.>>

Most people know that those who insist on acting, speaking, & thinking out of a concern for basic moral decency are at high risk in times like these. Every time we hear of arrests like Yee's we need to bear that in mind.


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Josh Lukin
Posted on Saturday, October 11, 2003 - 05:42 pm:   

Roll with some butter. Literary allusion. I. L. Peretz, 1894: (pronounced "Yood Lamed Peretz"), "Bontsche Schweig" (or "Bontshe Shvayg", or "Botscha the Silent", since English lacks an active verb for "to be silent"). Trouble is, many commentators have ignored Peretz's socialism and ignored the story's indictment of the world that so demoralized Bontsche, caliming instead that it's a touching celebration of his humility!

Come to think of it, I believe that Peretz was one of the people Joanna Russ was talking about when she chided scholars of Modernism for ignoring the fact that Kafka came out of and drew upon a long line of Jewish fantasists.
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Saturday, October 11, 2003 - 06:05 pm:   

Tell me more, Josh-- is this story easily available in English? I don't think I've ever heard of Peretz. I'd definitely like to know more, especially if he was a fantasist & socialist both.

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Josh Lukin
Posted on Saturday, October 11, 2003 - 11:44 pm:   

Big Jewish cultural icon. Older translations of some stories in an Irving Howe anthology of Yiddish lit the name of which escapes me, and in Saul Bellow's Great Jewish Short Stories. But the best source is more recent --The I. L. Peretz Reader, probably available at Amazon or Powell's or your local superstore (Ellicot Bay? Dunno for sure). Schocken Books. Includes poetry, stories, satires, folktales, and memoir. Faithful and respectful, although entirely done by neocons --Ruth Wisse edits, Elie Wiesel and Saul Bellow endorse, Marin Peretz sponsors --wait, there's an endorsement by Leonard Nimoy too. He's more liberal, no?

Nu, Peretz (1852-1915) is one of the Three Classics of Yiddish Fiction, the others being Sholem Aleichem and Mendele Mocher-Sforim. Lived all his life in Poland, was an attorney until disbarred by antisemites, was very much a secularist, devoted to Jewish culture and identity but uninterested in religious observance and piety, tending to regard religion as Marx had, as the heart of a heartless world. Also took a feminist stand against the Promise Keepers of his day --Wisse: "The reformers who wanted men to assume financial responsibility for their families set out to satirize shiftless Jewish husbands, but their comic barbs struck less at the passive males than at the overbearing wives. It was Peretz who turned this characterization inside out to show at what terrible cost to women the unworldliness and holiness of Jewish manhood was often attained."

I guess he might interest you, at that.
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Sunday, October 12, 2003 - 07:08 pm:   

I thought of Neal & Jeremy's comments above when I read Nat Hentoff's "Bush's Vanished Prisoner: He Wonders Whether He Will See the Light of Day Again" on the Village Voice website (posted October 10th, 2003 6:00 PM). Hentoff quotes a statement by an employee of John Ashcroft's blatantly asserting the supremacy of the executive branch over the judicial. (See the quotation from Hentoff's article below.) Is it not true that federal officials are required to take an oath promising to support the US Constitution? It strikes this citizen-- untrained in constitutional law but still remembering the lessons of childhood civics lessons-- that Ashcroft & his employees, by refusing to respect the most basic tenet of the Constitution (viz., the separation of powers), are consciously forswearing their oaths. Apparently they consider themselves bound to uphold the president rather than the Constitution, regardless of the oath they took on assuming federal office. Why aren't alarm bells ringing across the land? Are we to conclude from this that most US politicians & media people now consider the US a dictatorship but are too cagey to let the rest of us in on the secret?

Here is the quote from Hentoff:

<<Whichever circuit court eventually gets the case, the Supreme Court will decide whether this president—or his successors—can, under the Constitution, strip an American citizen of his or her most fundamental due process rights. Chillingly, as the New York Law Journal points out, James B. Comey, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District, speaking for Attorney General Ashcroft, has declared in a legal brief:

"A court of the United States has no jurisdiction . . . to enjoin the president in the performance of his official duties." Therefore, according to the Justice Department and the president, the separation of powers—at the core of the Constitution—has been suspended in the war on terrorism. Somebody ought to tell Congress.

Why have none of the Democratic presidential candidates, except for John Edwards, mentioned this hijacking of Padilla's rights by the president they want to replace? Why has the press in its many manifestations not stayed on this case? How many Americans know that George W. Bush believes that, as commander in chief, he is beyond the reach of the courts?

As attorney Jonathan Freiman's brief to the Second Circuit—for a coalition of prominent civil liberties organizations—says in Padilla v. Rumsfeld, Bush's commander-in-chief argument "would give every President the unchecked power to detain, without charge and forever, all citizens it chooses to label as 'enemy combatants.' " >>

How could the exercise of such "unchecked power" being anything but a violation of both the letter & the spirit of the Constitution?

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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Sunday, October 12, 2003 - 09:19 pm:   

I have repeated the horrific implications of the Pedilla case to as many people as I can. The actions taken by the Justice department can ONLY be described as Unconstitutional. It seems that Ashcroft KNOWS that his actions are unconstitutional, so he is trying to get the Patriot Act II (or VICTORY Act, as it is being marketed now) to contain language which would specifically give the president and justice department the ability to remove someone’s citizenship. I guess Ashcroft thinks this is the easiest way to get around that whole "constitution" thing.

The fact that the media, our elected officials, and most of the population isn't out in the streets calling for these peoples heads is amazing. But then again, most Americans seem content to surf their 500 channels, and assume that everything is OK. Hell, in the 30's, Germany didn't even have 500 channels, and look how they ended up. I'm sure the US can't be too far behind.

WAKE UP people! PLEASE! When they came for a gang-banger from Chicago, you did nothing, because you were not a gang-banger from Chicago… If Pedilla is allowed to be locked up indefinitely, with no charges, no one is safe.

The US is currently holding a 13 year old child(Note… this would make this prisoner 12 when he was first sent Cuba.) in the Gantanamo bay concentration camp. The US army has admitted that the torturing of prisoners takes place routinely in this facility. And Bush has the nerve to point at Saddam Hussian’s prisons as justification for invading Iraq.

Somebody needs to pay for these atrocities that are being committed in OUR name. When will someone liberate us from the insane dictator that is ruling our country?!
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Monday, October 13, 2003 - 12:17 pm:   

I've just read another sobering article on the voting machine situation. This one is very long & includes an examination of what happened in the 2002 Georgia US Senate election: Andrew Gumbel, "All the President's Votes? A Quiet Revolution is Taking Place in US Politics. By the Time It's Over, the Integrity of Elections Will be in the Unchallenged, Unscrutinized Control of a Few Large - and Pro-Republican - Corporations. Andrew Gumbel wonders if democracy in America can survive." This appears in today's Independent & has been reprinted on

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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - 11:12 am:   

More on Voting Machines: This is from Riverside County: l

It seems pretty clear that election boards across the country have non-technical people with no clear idea of how these technologies work making decisions based on what these IT venders tell them, rather then on the basis of unbiased technical evaluations.

There is somone in the House of Representatives that is trying to do something about this...U.S. Rep. Rush Holt has introduced House Bill, HR 2239, The Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act, the goal of which is "To stop electronic-vote theft, support HR 2239, requiring a paper audit of all electronic votes." However, the repulican leadership in the house has bottled this legislation up in commitee and promised to not let it reach the floor for a vote.

If any of the above stuff scares you, please call up your representative and demand the passage of HR2239.

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Josh Lukin
Posted on Wednesday, October 15, 2003 - 01:20 pm:   

Jeremy and Timmi,

Thanks for breaking through the affectlessness that surrounds the American pseudopolitical discourse. I went out to a Magpie concert Sunday evening at my local Unitarian-Universalist church (gosh, that types me, doesn't it?), and at one point in the midst of his lighthearted stage patter, Greg Artzner abruptly became deadly earnest and talked forcefully about the Thief Justice of the Supreme Court and his four allies, and how they should be in jail rather than on that court, and so forth. And only about half the audience applauded. Whereas when he made a mini-speech in a similar tone about how it had not been John Brown but his opponents who were the real terrorists, everyone expressed vociferous agreement about that long-ago injustice.

So I complimented Greg at the interval, and said that it was heartening to hear such a thing since Rolling Stone (a staunchly Democratic, pro-Gore magazine) had declared in early 2002 that complaining about the 2000 election any longer was uncool. And that fired him up again: "It's not uncool. It's still urgent. Here people are up in arms over the outing of Valerie Plame --that's hardly th biggest incident of these people's breaking the law --there are dozens of worse ones."

Why is a rational response to these conditions rare enough to merit such kudos? And why are there people embarrassed to applaud such a "rant"? For some time, the discourse has been controlled in part through strategies involving tone --look at how the voting-machine stories are spun, with the IT savants presented as marginal eggheads and the vendors and their allies as both expert and cool-headed. It's no accident that, of the Millers, Dennis is pimping for the Republicans while Mark Crispin is publicizing the voting-machine issue for all he's worth: MCM has for years been denouncing the hip affectlessness that constricts what you can say and how you can say it in our public sphere, whereas DM has made a career out of that same tone.

I hope that the people whom you inform about Padilla and Hamdi, Jeremy, don't respond with a "There you go again." But I fear that some are likely to.
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Thursday, November 27, 2003 - 04:33 pm:   

After more than two months giving it their best shot, the Pentagon's Grand Inquisitors have scraped the bottom of the barrel in order to justify their detention of Captain Yee. They have finally charged him with adultery & "storing pornography on a government computer"-- & released him pending trial. Yee's attorney, Eugene Fidell, notes that Yee has already served more time than if he had been convicted of these offenses. If Yee hadn't been an army officer (& therefore entitled to the right of due process, which ordinary citizens no longer enjoy), they would not have charged him at all, & he would still be spending twenty-four hours a day in solitary confinement, accused of but not charged with espionage. For the details, see David Teather's article in Wednesday's Guardian at


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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Thursday, November 27, 2003 - 07:11 pm:   

Today's International Herald Tribune has a piece entitled "Guantanamo: A Monstrous Failure of Justice," adapted from the 27th F.A. Mann Lecture, delivered in London on Tuesday, Nov.25, by Lord Johan Steyn, one of the twelve judges who sits on Britain's highest court. One can only imagine what the judge made of Bush's expensive visit to England less than a week before he gave his lecture, a visit that seems to have been designed chiefly to secure a photo-op with the Queen of England & occasioned his driveling on about the Magna Carta & Declaration of Independence. Here are a few highlights I've excerpted from the piece:

The most powerful democracy is detaining hundreds of suspected foot soldiers of the Taliban in a legal black hole at the U.S. naval base at Guantánamo Bay, where they await trial on capital charges by military tribunals. <snip>

Even in modern times terrible injustices have been perpetrated in the name of security on thousands who had no effective recourse to law. Too often courts of law have denied the writ of the rule of law with only the most perfunctory examination.

In the context of a war on terrorism without any end in prospect, this is a somber scene for human rights. But there is the caution that unchecked abuse of power begets ever greater abuse of power. And judges do have the duty, even in times of crisis, to guard against an unprincipled and exorbitant executive response. <snip>

Since January 2002, about 660 prisoners have been transferred at first to Camp X-Ray and then Camp Delta at Guantánamo Bay. The number included children between the ages of 13 and 16 as well as the very elderly. Virtually all the prisoners are foot soldiers of the Taliban. By a blanket presidential decree, all the prisoners have been denied prisoner-of-war status.

How prisoners at Guantánamo Bay have been treated we do not know. But what we do know is not reassuring. At Camp Delta the minute cells measure 1.8 meters by 2.4 meters (6 feet by 8 feet). Detainees are held in these cells for up to 24 hours a day. Photographs of prisoners being returned to their cells on stretchers after interrogation have been published. The Red Cross described the camp as principally a center of interrogation rather than detention.

The purpose of holding the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay was and is to put them beyond the rule of law, beyond the protection of any courts, and at the mercy of the victors. The procedural rules do not prohibit the use of force to coerce prisoners to confess. On the contrary, the rules expressly provide that statements made by a prisoner under physical and mental duress are admissible "if the evidence would have value to a reasonable person," i.e. military officers trying enemy soldiers.

At present we are not meant to know what is happening at Guantánamo Bay. But history will not be neutered. What takes place there today in the name of the United States will assuredly, in due course, be judged at the bar of informed international opinion.

The regime applicable at Guantánamo was created by a succession of presidential orders. It can be summarized quite briefly. The prisoners at Guantánamo, as matters stand at present, will be tried by military tribunals. The prisoners have no access to the writ of habeas corpus to determine whether their detention is even arguably justified. The military will act as interrogators, prosecutors, defense counsel, judges, and when death sentences are imposed, as executioners.

The trials will be held in secret. None of the basic guarantees for a fair trial need be observed. The jurisdiction of U.S. courts is excluded. The military control everything. It is, however, in all respects subject to decisions of the president as commander in chief, even in respect of guilt and innocence in individual cases as well as appropriate sentences. The president has made public in advance his personal view of the prisoners as a group: He has described them all as "killers." The Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit has recently ruled that, despite the fact that the United States has had exclusive control over Guantánamo Bay since 1903, the courts have no jurisdiction to examine the legality of the detention of the prisoners. But on Nov. 10 the U.S. Supreme Court granted certiorari for the case to proceed to a substantive hearing on the question whether the lower courts were right to conclude that they had no jurisdiction to entertain habeas corpus applications. This will be the only issue on which the Supreme Court will rule. That hearing will take place in spring next year.

As matters stand at present the U.S. courts would refuse to hear a prisoner at Guantánamo Bay who produces credible medical evidence that he has been and is being tortured. They would refuse to hear prisoners who assert that they were not combatants at all. They would refuse to hear prisoners who assert that they were simply soldiers in the Taliban army and knew nothing about Al Qaeda. They would refuse to examine any complaints of any individuals. The blanket presidential order deprives them all of any rights whatever.

As a lawyer brought up to admire the ideals of American democracy and justice, I would have to say that I regard this as a monstrous failure of justice.

The question is whether the quality of justice envisaged for the prisoners at Guantánamo Bay complies with minimum international standards for the conduct of fair trials. The answer can be given quite shortly: It is a resounding No. The term kangaroo court springs to mind. It conveys the idea of a preordained, arbitrary rush to judgment by an irregular tribunal which makes a mockery of justice. Trials of the type contemplated by the United States government would be a stain on United States justice. The only thing that could be worse is simply to leave the prisoners in their black hole indefinitely.

Looking at the hard realities of the situation, one wonders what effect it may have on the treatment of United States soldiers captured in future armed conflicts. It would have been prudent, for the sake of American soldiers, to respect humanitarian law.

Second, what must authoritarian regimes, or countries with dubious human rights records, make of the example set by the most powerful of all democracies?

Third, the type of justice meted out at Guantánamo Bay is likely to make martyrs of the prisoners in the moderate Muslim world with whom the West must work to ensure world peace and stability.

What other route could the United States have taken? The International Criminal Court could not be used to try the Guantánamo Bay prisoners because the Rome Treaty applies prospectively only, and the prisoners were captured before the Treaty came into force in July 2002. The United States courts could have assumed universal jurisdiction for war crimes. The prisoners would have received fair trials before ordinary United States courts. It would have been an acceptable solution. On the other hand, the Muslim world would probably not have accepted this as impartial justice. The best course would have been to set up through the Security Council an ad hoc international tribunal. That would have ensured that justice is done and seen to be done.

There is, of course, a dilemma facing democracies. Aharon Barak, President of the Supreme Court of Israel, presided in a case in which the court held that the violent interrogation of a suspected terrorist is not lawful even if doing so may save human life by preventing impending terrorist acts. He said:

"Sometimes, a democracy must fight with one hand tied behind its back. Nonetheless, it has the upper hand. Preserving the rule of law and recognition of individual liberties constitute an important component of its understanding of security. At the end of the day, they strengthen its spirit and strength and allow it to overcome its difficulties." Such restraint is at the very core of democratic values.

It may be appropriate to pose a question: Ought the British government to make plain publicly and unambiguously its condemnation of the utter lawlessness at Guantánamo Bay?

John Donne, who preached in the Chapel of Lincoln's Inn, gave the context of the question more than four centuries ago:

"No man is an Island, entire of it self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; . . . any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Saturday, December 06, 2003 - 04:29 pm:   

Last Monday (Dec.1) I read a Knight-Ridder article by Frank Davies, "Military Officers File Brief Against Bush's Policy in Guantanamo." (This article can be found reprinted on The military officers mentioned in the title are retired Navy Rear Admiral Don Guter, who served as the Navy's judge advocate general (the Navy's chief legal officer), his predecessor Navy Rear Admiral John Hutson, and retired Marine Brigadier General David Brahms, who has expertise on prisoner issues. The three officers have filed an amicus brief on behalf of 16 detainees that have been held at Guantanamo for almost two years. According to Davies, "Guter, Rear Adm. John Hutson and Brig. Gen. David Brahms worry that lengthy incarcerations at Guantanamo without hearings will undermine the rule of law and endanger U.S. forces."

The article quotes Guter as saying that he took an oath to defend the Constitution of the United States, not the President of the United States or the Secretary of Defense. "For me it's a question of balance between security needs and due process, and I think we've lost our balance," Guter said.

About the case, Davies reports:

<<Early next year, the Supreme Court will hear the case in a potentially historic clash between presidential authority and judicial oversight.

"This may be one of those cases that comes along every 50 years - there's that much at stake," said Eugene Fidell, president of the nonpartisan National Institute of Military Justice.

Former federal judges, diplomats and even American POWs from World War II also have filed briefs urging the Supreme Court to reconsider lower court rulings on the detainees that favored the administration.>>

Interestingly, Guter was among those who originally favored holding prisoners at Guantanamo, but he has since changed his mind for what look to me like very practical (as opposed to strongly principled) reasons:

<<"We would be safe, the detainees would be safe from reprisal," Guter said. "But many of us expected some sort of hearings by now for some of these people. The crux of this is, how long can we hold people without anything? It's now two years, and that's troubling."

Guter's group believes the administration and Pentagon missed a chance to provide quick hearings called for in international conventions on the treatment of prisoners to determine if the captives were probably enemy combatants.

"Somehow, in the fog of war, we skipped over that," Hutson said.


For two years, the Bush administration has described the detainees as "the worst of the worst" and "killers." The three former officers are skeptical, noting that 88 have been released so far from the prison camp.

"We're trying to separate the goat-herders from the real terrorists, and that's not easy, but I'm not convinced they're all guilty," said Hutson, now the dean of the Franklin Pierce Law Center in Concord, N.H.

The trio also worries that the Guantanamo precedent will make it easier for other countries, groups and warlords to hold Americans, keep them isolated and ignore the Geneva Conventions.

"If we want the world to play by the rules, we have to be on the moral high ground," said Brahms, who spent 26 years in the Marines before opening a private law practice in Carlsbad, Calif.>>

The friend-of-the-court briefs mentioned in this story can be accessed at <>.

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Sunday, December 07, 2003 - 05:29 pm:   

The Guardian is running a two-part article by James Meek about the Pentagon's political prison at Guantanamo, "People the Law Forgot" <,13743,1098604,00.html
>, offering the most detailed coverage of what is happening at Guantanamo that I've seen yet. Meek's article is based on interviews with prisoners who have been released as well as with people who have worked or visited there.

The article begins with a description of a suicide attempt by a prisoner. Meek's description of the conditions at Guantanamo makes me think that only the hardiest, most resilient of personalities would be able to resist the pull of suicide in that place. I could only shake my head when reading the comment that "they [the prisoners] are not tortured" that a Swedish activist makes in the middle of his detailed narrative relating the prison's conditions. This new definition of "torture"-- which presumably excludes all abuse but direct physical brutality -- troubles me. Everything I read in the article fits the standard definitions of torture used in the older human rights literature. Is this redefinition a result of a double-standard? & is this to say that what was "torture" when perpetrated in the second & third worlds in the 1980s is now acceptable, "humane" treatment when perpetrated by the US in the twenty-aughts?

On all sides, definitions & values are being arbitrarily altered without real discussion. When I was younger I used to think that it took years to change important, basic values and ideas. I see now that I could not have been more mistaken.

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Josh Lukin
Posted on Sunday, December 07, 2003 - 08:57 pm:   

One reason the change seems so abrupt is that many U.S.ians were taught less and less over the years about the standards that you and I and Robert Byrd thought were norms. The Ed Meese and Janet Reno views of justice, the replacement of a Henry Fonda movie's civil liberties paradigm with one out of Clint Eastwood, the weird synecdochic logic that we laughed at in the Cold War (the Cubans suffer under an oppressive goverment so we must kill them) --were so alien to our ways of thinking that we were (okay, I was) not terribly receptive to the idea that these views were taking over the mainstream very quickly.

The other day, I made the old wisecrack, "I see buttons and signs saying 'Free Mumia' but they never offer you samples or tell you where to get some." To which someone replied "Yeh, yeh, free Mumia with the purchase of one Leonard Peltier." The novelist Don Belton chimed in, "Leonard Peltier's still in prison, huh? What's that about? Time was when you had a movement to free someone, a lot of the time they got freed. Remember 'Free Angela'?"

"Free Huey!"

"The Scottsboro boyehs, must no' die!"

I said something to the effect that the Ed Meese idea of justice had taken over the public mind, to which Don replied, "There's a public mind?"
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 12:32 pm:   

Your observations, Josh, apply to the US, certainly-- & explains why lately I've been repeatedly disconcerted to find myself agreeing with statements not only by Byrd, but even by public figures so utterly antipathethic to me as Phyllis Schlaffley. The baseline for "norms" has apparently been eliminated.

But this doesn't explain why the definition of "torture" should have changed for Swedish activists. Although the media in both the US & Europe place a great deal of emphasis on the disjoin between US & European perceptions of all things political, I see in this shift the evidence that alterations in US norms are also affecting European norms.

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Tuesday, December 09, 2003 - 06:56 pm:   

I see there's an article in the New York Times today-- "Case Against Ex-Chaplain Opens Focusing on Affair"-- that would likely be at home in a tabloid. It goes so far into the realm of gossip as to relate a confrontation outside the courtroom between Capt. James J. Yee's wife & Lt. Karyn Wallace, with whom Yee is charged with having had an affair. The article's author, Neil A. Lewis, does at least note that "Captain Yee's friends have suggested that the authorities at Guantanamo resented him because of the way he ministered to and looked out for the interests of the mostly Muslim prison population there." & he cites Yee's lawyer, Eugene R. Fidell, as having said that "the charges were added vindictively as part of an effort to cover up the military's mistake and overreaction." "However inconsequential the charges might be," Lewis writes, "the testimony of Lt. Wallace produced great anguish for Captain Yee and his family and probably for the lieutenant as well."

Lewis quotes Huda Yee as shouting at Wallace "You happy now? Destroying a family?" The question would be better directed to the Pentagon.

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Josh Lukin
Posted on Monday, December 15, 2003 - 11:32 pm:   

Bruce Jackson has a pretty good precis of the War on Freedom for beginners --might be worth showing innocent friends:

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Monday, January 12, 2004 - 05:40 pm:   

So the US Supreme Court has dealt us another blow, once again refusing to support the US Constitution as the Bush Administration attacks rights that are prerequisites to both the most minimal practice of democracy and the ability of a society to safeguard basic human rights. As a body, the Supreme Court has shown a marked lack of interest in protecting democratic principles since January, 2001, when it chose to overthrow the presidential election with a decision it understood to be so corrupt & indefensible that it baldly asserted that it could never be used as a precedent in any future cases, thus marking the decision as an exception falling outside the rule of law.

In the AP article, "Court Nixes Appeal on Sept. 11 Detentions," Anne Gearan writes, "The Supreme Court said Monday it would not second-guess the government's holding in secret hundreds of foreigners after the Sept. 11 attacks." She notes that according to the Justice Department's inspector general, none of the more than 700 persons secretly detained was charged as a terrorist. "The court's action, taken without comment, was a victory for the Bush administration. Civil liberties and media organizations had sought access to the names and other basic information about the detainees... `Until some other court says otherwise, the government can continue the policy of secret arrests that seems fundamentally inconsistent with basic American values, and that we know in this case led to a series of abuses,' said Steven Shapiro, national legal director of the American Civil Liberties Union, which had urged the court to hear the case. The audit by the Justice Department's inspector general found significant problems with the detentions, including allegations of physical abuse by jail guards at a facility in Brooklyn, N.Y."

"Lawyers for the ACLU and other civil liberties groups argued the government grabbed people on thin suspicion, then moved to deport detainees who had no demonstrated link to terrorism but who had violated civil immigration laws. The government sealed immigration records and omitted detainees' names from jail rosters, among other tactics, to make sure details of hundreds of arrests remained secret, the lawyers said. The appeal raised constitutional questions under the First Amendment right to freedom of speech and freedom of the press, and legal questions under the federal Freedom of Information Act. Twenty-three news organizations and media groups, including The Associated Press, joined in asking the high court to hear the case."

Given that 23 news organizations & media groups joined the appeal, the matter has to be taken as grave indeed, particularly considering how most of the US media cheerfully agrees to be used as a propaganda machine for the Bush Administration.

Gearan: "Last week, the high court disappointed the administration by agreeing to hear a broader anti-terrorism case that asks whether the government can indefinitely jail American citizens as "enemy combatants" without giving them access to lawyers or the courts. The Bush administration had argued strongly that it has authority to hold Yaser Esam Hamdi without charges."

It was the court's agreeing to hear that case that had raised my hopes-- which are now quite dashed, especially since

"The justices earlier had rejected several cases that raised more oblique questions about the government's response to the terror threat. One involved an issue similar to Monday's secrecy case. It asked whether the government could keep reporters and the public away from closed-door deportation hearings."

Lately I keep catching myself thinking of the Executive Branch of the US Government as "The Crown." My background is in European history. While some of the tactics of the Bush Administration are easily recognized as among those common to any ordinary 20th-century dictatorship, I continually seem to find myself reminded, instead, of the autocratic practices of the British and French monarchies during the early modern period-- of the Star Chamber, the Bastille, & so on. I suppose this must be due to the Imperial pretensions of the Bush Administration & the fawning & sycophancy by the powerful clustering around it on a scale far beyond that every achieved by any third-world dictatorship. & also, perhaps, because the Bush Administration takes the same attitude towards taxation that characterized the ancien regime in France-- where the entire tax burden was born by those who were neither rich nor influential.
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Josh Lukin
Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 04:37 am:   

What did the SCOTUS do in January 2001? Surely it couldn't have been worse than what they'd done on 12 December 2000, a day that (as Papa Bush said about September 7, 1941) will live in infamy.
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 12:53 pm:   

Sheesh. <slaps> As you surely must have guessed, Josh, my reference to January 2001 should in fact have been to 12 December 2000. About my error, I have two things to say:

(1) There have been a number of historically significant days in my lifetime. Although I have strong memories of what I was doing & where I was on those days, I almost never recall the day by its date. Case in point: I have a vivid memory of washing laboratory glassware in the Animal Genetics Laboratory at the University of Illinois on the evening Nixon resigned. (Washing labware was a complicated & hazardous job [& thus paid a couple of bucks more an hour than the minimum wage]. Every researcher had their own protocol (for type of acid baths & number of rinses using various grades of distilled water & methanol, or use of chloroform, & of course different methods of drying). I distinctly remember washing pipette tips in chloroform while listening to radio coverage of the resignation-- & being totally solitary at the time, alone in the always spooky building with only cages of rabbits available for venting. (As I recall, I was both happy to see him go & pissed as hell that he'd cut a deal with Ford.) I have no memory of the date.

(2)When writing my post I couldn't remember the date & didn't want to go to the trouble of looking it up, so I went by subjective memory. In memory the entire affair took months-- but of course if it had taken months, the Democrats might have been politically if not morally embarrassed into taking the side of the voters they betrayed by treating the event as a sporting contest (as Republicans like the infamous Paul G. never did).

By the way, I recently read a piece of writing that referred to "Papa Bush" & "Baby Bush" (thus, I assume, deliberately conjuring up the Duvall Dynasty). Have you seen this locution lately, too?


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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Tuesday, January 13, 2004 - 12:57 pm:   

For some reason, "slaps own forehead" got truncated. But that's what "<slaps>" was meant to be. (& by the way, this was not my typo: when I tried to write it correctly in this emendation, within brackets, some kind of software glitch again truncated it.)

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Josh Lukin
Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 10:40 pm:   

Duvall, Duvall . . . Oh, Duvalier. Got it. Couldn't think what George I and II had to do with Robert and Shelley.

No, I've never seen that locution --I got it from my friend Cookie, and have since that time only heard it introduced by me in conversations.

Renata Adler made a notorious error in not only the day but the year of Nixon's resignation in her book Gone, which led people to take her less seriously as a journalist. Unfortunate, because as a legal reporter she's done great things, including derailing Bork and exposing in excruciating detail Scalia's hypocrisy in Gush v. Bore.
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Wednesday, January 14, 2004 - 11:05 pm:   


My brain's going. (Yeah, & here I am, laughing about it, yet.) That's the only explanation possible. I have no idea where "Duvall" came from. About a month ago I couldn't remember the word "bread" & had to adopt the tactic of describing it to someone so that they could give me back the word I'd lost. At this rate I'll be incoherent by the time the next WisCon rolls around. Maybe this is my punishment for having contributed to the Lambshead anthology...

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Josh Lukin
Posted on Thursday, January 15, 2004 - 02:06 am:   

The Duvall thing is an understandable result of haste and overwork. "Bread", though, worries me. Aphasia is not . . . um, um . . . something. I'd say give it two recurrences before talking to your primary.

Glad that wiseass remarks like mine can induce laughter, though. I swear, being my friend takes a very special temperament: that's why I'm loved not widely but too well.

Concerning dates --here's one I wonder if you recall: what momentous event occured on John Lennon's tenth birthday?
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Sunday, January 18, 2004 - 03:51 pm:   

John Dean, I see, does not share my perception that the Supreme Court's refusal to hear an appeal on the "911 detentions" is an indication that the Court will be unlikely to stop the Bush Administration's attack on our constitutional institutions & liberties.

In a piece published in Findlaw on Friday (& that can be found reprinted on, "The U.S. Supreme Court and The Imperial Presidency: How President Bush Is Testing the Limits of His Presidential Powers," Dean quotes LA Times legal reporter David Savage: "[T]he justices have voted to take up five cases that test the president's power to act alone and without interference from Congress or the courts." "They involve imprisoning foreign fighters at overseas bases, holding American citizens without charges in military brigs, preserving the secrecy of White House meetings, enforcing free-trade treaties despite environmental concerns, and abducting foreigners charged with U.S. crimes." Dean writes: "What the Supreme Court has placed on its agenda, in short, is the Imperial Presidency -- that is, the Presidency in which the Executive largely acts alone, pushing the Constitution to the limits and beyond. And how the Justices deal with this overwhelmingly important topic could affect the reelection prospects of the Bush presidency, for, as David Savage notes, at least four of the five rulings are anticipated to be handed down during the summer of 2004 -- right in the middle of the presidential campaign." Dean, who was Nixon's White House counsel (how well I remember listening to him during the Watergate hearings), recalls Nixon's "Imperial Presidency"-- & how the Supreme Court effectively put a halt to it.

Significantly, Dean notes that "The fact that five cases currently before the Supreme Court address the question of presidential powers -- and whether or not the Bush presidency has exceeded them -- speaks for itself. Bush has had almost twice as many such cases before the Court as Nixon had, in half the time."

"Without dissecting the legal matters at issue in each of these cases -- all with their own complexes and nuances -- at this time, it is not possible to know how the Court will rule. Some pundits claim, however, that the recent ruling of the Court not to review the case of Center for National Security Studies v. Justice Department is a favorable omen for the Administration.

"There, the court rejected a petition, joined by twenty-three news organizations, that it should hear a high profile case involving First Amendment and Freedom of Information Act issues. The result was to allow the government -- specifically, the Justice Department -- to continue to withhold the names and other details about the hundreds of Muslims and other Middle Eastern men rounded up, and detained (even abused, according to the Justice Department's Inspector General's report) after 9/11.

"The pundits have suggested that this denial of review shows that the Bush administration is correct to be confident that it will win the executive power cases before the Court. But frankly, I don't believe anything can be read into a decision of the Supreme Court not to review any case, even this one.

"For one thing, the issues in Center for National Security Studies are quite distinct from the issues in the other pending executive authority cases. Second, as with virtually all denials of review, no one outside the Court can really understand why Justices turned down the case. Those pundits who claim otherwise are thus off the mark."

Dean lists & briefly summarizes the cases. He is (at least publicly) more of an optimist than I am. This morning I read (in an article by David Savage, in today's L.A. Times) that although one of these five cases directly involves Vice President Cheney, it is of no importance that Justice Antonin Scalia went duck shooting with him. Elite men always hang out together, it seems, & can be understood to do so without in any way influencing their official actions & professional demeanor.

Dean neglects to mention that it is this set of justices who took it upon themselves to make Bush president-- but I suppose this is something one can't dwell on, if one is to cling convincingly to the hope that the Supreme Court will stop the onslaught before it's too late.

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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Monday, January 19, 2004 - 09:00 am:   

I do hope Dean is correct. As someone who watches the Supreme Court on a more or less regular basis, I have found that this court sometimes surprises me. So my fingers are crossed.
As a literary aside: I just dug out Sinclair Lewis's 1935 novel "It Can't Happen Here," which I haven't read since high school. I'm only one chapter into it so far, but I've got to say I find it chilling. Allowing for the 1930s setting and Lewis's penchant for satire, I can almost hear our current leaders mouthing the same words.
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Josh Lukin
Posted on Wednesday, January 28, 2004 - 11:47 pm:   

I derived some hope from the fact that the press seemed to be doing a decent job on differenting this issue from Gitmo, emphasizing that Amurricans were threatened by these policies, not just furriners. But then I read (via Avedon Carol's weblog) of this ad from the Op-Ed page of the NYT --you know, the one that ends,

"Ideological lawyers have convinced some federal courts that unelected judges, and not our Commander-in-Chief, should have the last word on how our military can detain captured enemies. One appeals court in New York City...made the incredible claim that...federal officials must charge a captured terrorist with a crime or release him. . . . So it's time to get our priorities straight. Do we defer to the ideologues' rigid agenda of absolute 'civil liberties' for all, or do we trust government officials and our military to use their powers wisely and protect us from the horrors terrorists can unleash?"

(More comprehensive account at <>)

I mean, you can't even parody this shit.
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Thursday, January 29, 2004 - 06:10 pm:   

I find myself wondering how much this radical reconceptualization of what, if anything, our government has the obligation to defend is due to the fairly recent innovation of teaching USian children to pledge allegiance to the flag--- but not to the Constitution of the United States. All of our elected officials (& presumably some of those who aren't elected) are required to take oaths to uphold the Constitution. By custom & tradition (& by law, which is sometimes the same thing), the only loyalty demanded of citizens of the US is to the Constitution. In the past, at least, we have not demanded that citizens (whether they hold office or not) take an oath of allegiance to the President of the United States.

The people prating in the ad in the Times about loyalty to the commander-in-chief seem to think that we live in a monarchy. (What else could explain their castigating judges for assuming that they owe profound allegiance to the Constitution rather than to the commander-in-chief?) The original plan of the framers, of course (though there were always reactionary dissenters, from the beginning), was to avoid monarchy & all the abuses thereof.

The airing in the most quintessentially mainstream forum in the establishment public sphere of the notion of dispensing with most of the articles of the Constitution as well as the Bill of Rights when these are considered to be obstructive of serving other loyalties tells us that many of the people who participate in & shape the public sphere have either abandoned loyalty to the Constitution or never had a sense of it to begin with. So to what (or to whom) do these people believe they owe allegiance? Obviously not to the Constitution. Obviously not to "the people" of the United States (since allegiance to "the people" would entail an insistence on protecting everyone's civil liberties, which the people placing the ad specifically disdain). Is their loyalty to the United States as a military entity? That doesn't seem to make much sense. So what is it, exactly, to which these people claim allegiance? The question may sound abstract, but I don't mean it to be. I think it would help us all to know what precisely has replaced the US Constitution in their unspoken formulation of something called "The United States of America."

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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Friday, January 30, 2004 - 08:37 am:   

I have two responses to your post. First, I grew up in the Midwest in the 70's... In public school it was policy to say the Pledge of Allegiance to the flag every morning. I'm not sure when/how/where it happened but I eventually (by the age of 10-12 I guess) came to equate America/Flag with the Constitution/Bill of Rights). My parents were very aware of (and made me aware of Cointel Pro, the assassinations, and the general turmoil of the late 60s and 70s. They had seen/experienced the attacks on the constitution, watched American survive it, and taught me that THIS was what I should be proud of as an American – that these forces had been beaten back – that the constitution was America’s source of security..

It might also have to do with my love of reading. You can't be extremely interested in books/comics/art/music without running into stories of censorship, and the debates about the first amendment. This helped cement my view of the constitution as “America”.

During the last few years, I too have wondered what exactly these people are pledging allegiance to if they have no respect for the constitution. Why do they say the love America if they don't feel the need to uphold constitutional values.

I think that religion plays a part in this contradiction, but more importantly is peoples sense of safety, and power. Since world war 2, The US has been a super power. People born after world war 2 have known nothing else. One response to this is to think that the US is somehow chosen... that they are protected from the troubles of the world by virtue of being American... When people waved their flags after September 11th, it wasn't about America; it was about people’s newfound sense of vulnerability. They waved flags and taped them to their SUV's like talismans, trying to ward off the evil eye.

The world is changing, and seemingly becoming less safe. Some people’s sense of American Identity is bound up in sense of privilege and power, and safety. THIS is what people are swearing allegiance to when they make idiotic comments about internment camps, and the constitution not surviving another terrorist attack. If the constitution cannot provide the safety, privilege and power that they have come to expect in the last 60 years, they will try and get it elsewhere.
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Josh Lukin
Posted on Sunday, February 01, 2004 - 09:07 pm:   

Jeremy--absolutely. People on rightist weblogs are quite explicit about that motive and how far they're willing to go to preserve those "American" possessions. "What else could explain their castigating judges for assuming that they owe profound allegiance to the Constitution rather than to the commander-in-chief?" Well, if the POTUS is your commander-in-chief, you must be in the military, right? So these people's allegiance is to martial law, to the perfection of the garrison state that Gore Vidal says has been developing since WWII. For, at least in some cases, the reasons Jeremy articulates.

Ray Davis keeps quoting Robert Musil:

"Freedom of the press, of expression of any kind, freedom of conscience, personal dignity, freedom of spirit etc., all the liberal fundamental rights have now been set aside without one single person feeling utterly outraged, indeed by and large without people being strongly affected at all. It is seen as a spell of bad weather. The average individual does not yet feel under attack. One might feel most profoundly disappointed over this but it is more correct to draw the conclusion that all the things that have been abolished here are no longer of great concern to people. This was indeed so. Did a person make use of his freedom of conscience for example? He had no opportunity whatever to do so! Nor did he trouble himself over this freedom... The newspaper did this for him and everything that the newspaper did he accepted with a degree of unease, even though it was seemingly indispensable to him. Seen in this way the discipline of the 'fascio' is indeed a creation that goes unerringly to the core of man's instincts. " (1933)

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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Monday, February 02, 2004 - 04:31 am:   

Interesting that Josh also goes back to the 30s as a comparison -- I'm still working my way through Sinclair Lewis's "It Can't Happen Here." The Bushies don't play the populist card like the fascists of the 30s, but the right wing radio commentators who dominate the airwaves are remarkably similar to their 30s counterparts.

Here's another thought for the mix: members of the military also take an oath to support the Constitution, even if they see the Prez as commander in chief. So, of course, do elected officials, judges, lawyers and so forth. The concept of loyalty to principle -- our admittedly imperfect Constitution -- rather than loyalty to an individual is built into our system. The current occupant of the White House should be thankful for such a system, because it's what propelled him into the office: We could resolve a contested election because we had a well-constructed set of rules that everyone accepted. Those who would have us switch our loyalty from the Constitution to an individual betray fundamental principles.

I keep coming back to John Hemry's "Stark" trilogy because it puts a lot of the current situation in perspective. In the third book, the issue of oath to constitution rather than oath to individual is a key point. He also makes a point of America the Bully overextended because it needs to fight on too many fronts (sound familiar?) -- and shows how that could be the US downfall. The books are idealistic -- he posits a working class revolution that begins as a mutiny by enlisted soldiers for a very practical reason: they're getting slaughtered because they're following orders given by incompetent officers. But over time the revolution moves from necessity to principle, because there's no other way to make the real changes necessary to fix the underlying problems.

You know, I read the first book because I know John, and I kept reading because I like a good adventure story and John knows how to write one. But we get deeper into this quagmire, I keep coming back to his disquieting analysis of the US. Unfortunately, what worked in his books is not likely to happen at present, so we're going to have to find other ways to, at the very least, shift the country back to its core principles.
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Monday, February 02, 2004 - 01:13 pm:   

I remember citing from that same piece by Musil (but in a slightly different context) a few years back, Josh. But I'd forgotten it. I think it might be very frightening to be reading Musil now--- frightening but important. I find it tricky & difficult to strike the right psychological balance these days: too much fright, & paralysis sets in; too little concern, & one fails to resist in even the smallest ways. I imagine there are thousands (or more likely tens of thousands) of us, struggling to achieve a reasonable balance. ("Reasonable" balance in an unreasonable time. How could that not be difficult?)

Nancy, I don't know John Hemry's work. But given your description, I think I'll likely be checking it out in the near future. I wonder if his revolution evolved from the spinning out of the trilogy's narrative threads, unplanned by the author at the outset of his trilogy, or whether he planned this trajectory all along. Has he ever discussed this with you?
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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Wednesday, February 04, 2004 - 06:15 am:   

Timmi, I don't know how John constructs his books, though it wouldn't surprise me to find he was the sort of writer who plotted them all out in advance. (The next time I see him -- probably at some con in the vicinity -- I'll ask him.) I know as a reader I didn't expect the big picture that played out in the third book, but that might have been based on my assumption that this was "just" military SF, an adventure story, without any other overtones.

The first book, Stark's War, is essentially about a mutiny. The enlisted troops finally rebel because their officers are making such bad decisions. While this certainly parallels a working class revolution, mutiny against bad leaders for purely practical reasons is an equally ancient tale.

The second book, Stark's Command, brings in more about the U.S. colonists on the Moon, who are more or less in thrall to the corporations who are running the show. They're not happy with their situation, either (no right to vote), and the rebel soldiers and colonists start working together. As I look at it again, I see more and more class issues here.

But the third book uses military history to set up America the bully, the one world power, overextended and run by corrupt special interests. The mutineers have really exposed the cracks in the system, and could be the country's downfall.

I don't want to play up these books as radical doctrine, but I do find them quietly subversive. And there's a very good SF angle at play in here. John posits that the enlisted soldier in the field (and, by parallel, the worker bee in any large entity) has always had a better eye on the local picture than the guy giving orders, but until comunications tech improved, that sergeant in the field couldn't communicate with everyone at once. In his story, they can -- and therefore it is possible to actually let those people in the field make decisions, in conjunction with each other. It produces better decisions, and gives people real authority, yet keeps things coordinated. That's kind of a tangent from this discussion, but that kind of restructuring of large institutions would be a vast improvement in our society -- I keep thinking of the NASA disasters, and what the engineers knew that never got taken into account before the shuttles took off.

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Sunday, February 08, 2004 - 02:36 pm:   

For three days in December, 1963, the now infamous HUAC-- House Unamerican Activities Committee, which persecuted citizens who had the temerity to express their opinions about public policies in a largely successful effort to terrorize the US public into self-censorship of thought, word, & deed-- hauled before them fourteen organizers of a women's "strike for peace." This "strike for peace" took place on November 1, 1961, when housewives sent telegrams to the wives of US President John F. Kennedy & Russian Premiere Nikita Kruschev & picketed city halls & federal buildings urging that all nuclear testing be halted. The pretext for the hearings was the accusation that the women who organized this public expression of dissent must be communists (since any patriotic, democracy-loving person must necessarily support the development & testing of ever more powerful arsenals of WMDs). The women and their supporters showed up at the hearing with babies & bouquets of flowers they handed each woman on her way to the hot-seat. They all pleaded the Fifth Amendment. The point, of course, wasn't to investigate possible "communist infiltration," but to silence dissent (which in this case had been large-scale enough to rate the brief attention of the mass media).

I presume that John Ashcroft's innovative deployment of the power of federal prosecutors to convene grand juries against Drake University and the National Lawyers Guild in Iowa is a trial balloon for testing whether he can mobilize that power against not only those who organize collective action opposing Bush Regime policies, but also institutions (such as schools, universities, & churches) attempting to provide forums for discussion & thought that has not been approved or generated by the Bush Regime. On Thursday, Feb.5, Jeff Eckhoff and Mark Seibert reported in the Des Moines Register that

<<Three Des Moines peace activists have been subpoenaed to appear before a federal grand jury next week as part of an investigation that the activists believe is being conducted by the FBI's Joint Terrorism Task Force.

Activists Brian Terrell, Patti McKee and Elton Davis say they have been ordered to testify in federal court Tuesday about something documents describe only as a "possible violation of federal law."

Authorities also have subpoenaed membership and meeting records involving the Drake University chapter of the National Lawyers' Guild, a 65-year-old legal organization that frequently has been involved in social activism and the defense of public protesters.

Government officials won't say what kind of crime the investigation involves.>>

Recipients of the subpoenas, though, have reason to believe that their organizing dissent against the US's invasion of Iraq will be the subject of the grand jury investigation:

<<Heidi Boghosian, a spokeswoman for the New York office of the National Lawyers' Guild, said the subpoenas seek all records that would identify the officers of the Drake chapter in November 2003, the current location of any local offices, "as well as any meeting agenda or annual reports of this organization."

Frank, who is a local contact for the guild, said protesters believe that federal lawyers provided the Polk County attorney's office with a copy of an activist's e-mail intending to announce a series of anti-war events the weekend of Nov. 15-16.

On that weekend, protesters from across Iowa came to Des Moines for a conference called "Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!"

Activists met at Drake that Saturday for workshops, and then about 70 of them protested Sunday outside the Iowa National Guard headquarters in Johnston.>>

Thursday's article gave the impression that the grand jury would be going after those who organized demonstrations. But today, a report from the Associated Press suggests the witch hunt likely will be targeting more than organized protest & may include the organization of a public forum for discussing public issues of profound interest to every resident of the US. Ryan J. Foley writes:

<<In what may be the first subpoena of its kind in decades, a federal judge has ordered a university to turn over records about a gathering of anti-war activists.

In addition to the subpoena of Drake University, subpoenas were served this past week on four of the activists who attended a Nov. 15 forum at the school, ordering them to appear before a grand jury Tuesday, the protesters said.

Federal prosecutors refuse to comment on the subpoenas.

In addition to records about who attended the forum, the subpoena orders the university to divulge all records relating to the local chapter of the National Lawyers Guild, a New York-based legal activist organization that sponsored the forum.>>

The Attorney General of the US is once again thumbing his nose at the law:

<<"The law is clear that the use of the grand jury to investigate protected political activities or to intimidate protesters exceeds its authority," guild President Michael Ayers said in a statement.

Representatives of the Lawyer's Guild and the American Civil Liberties Union said they had not heard of such a subpoena being served on any U.S. university in decades.

Those served subpoenas include the leader of the Catholic Peace Ministry, the former coordinator of the Iowa Peace Network, a member of the Catholic Worker House, and an anti-war activist who visited Iraq in 2002.

They say the subpoenas are intended to stifle dissent.

"This is exactly what people feared would happen," said Brian Terrell of the peace ministry, one of those subpoenaed. "The civil liberties of everyone in this country are in danger. How we handle that here in Iowa is very important on how things are going to happen in this country from now on."

The forum, titled "Stop the Occupation! Bring the Iowa Guard Home!" came the day before 12 protesters were arrested at an anti-war rally at Iowa National Guard headquarters in Johnston. Organizers say the forum included nonviolence training for people planning to demonstrate.>>

The particular target (besides the general target of all attempts at a practice of democracy) appears to be a librarian who had the temerity to go limp at the time of arrest:

<<The targets of the subpoenas believe investigators are trying to link them to an incident that occurred during the rally. A Grinnell College librarian was charged with misdemeanor assault on a peace officer; she has pleaded innocent, saying she simply went limp and resisted arrest.


According to a copy obtained by The Associated Press, the Drake subpoena asks for records of the request for a meeting room, "all documents indicating the purpose and intended participants in the meeting, and all documents or recordings which would identify persons that actually attended the meeting."

It also asks for campus security records "reflecting any observations made of the Nov. 15, 2003, meeting, including any records of persons in charge or control of the meeting, and any records of attendees of the meeting."

Several officials of Drake, a private university with about 5,000 students, refused to comment Friday, including school spokeswoman Andrea McDonough. She referred questions to a lawyer representing the school, Steve Serck, who also would not comment.

A source with knowledge of the investigation said a judge had issued a gag order forbidding school officials from discussing the subpoena.>>

The Bush Regime has been into gags from the beginning. The terrorist attacks on September 11 only provided it with a justification it previously lacked. The way this technique of repression works, see, is that the more the gag is used, the less it's needed. HUAC's methods worked brilliantly. But the story's not yet written on Ashcroft's methods. An article published on Wednesday, February 4, 2004 by "Outbreak of Local Democracy Continues," by Betsy Barnum-- notes that

<<The day before the State of the Union address, St. Paul became the 235th city in the U.S. to pass a resolution opposing some objectionable provisions of the Patriot Act. The vote, 6-1, showed the same overwhelming majority with which similar resolutions have passed in most of those cities and towns, including three others in Minnesota--Minneapolis (11-2), Duluth (7-2) and Robbinsdale (5-0).

Los Angeles, the second-largest city in the country, passed a resolution on the same day as St. Paul by a vote of 9-2. In Chicago, the third largest city, a resolution passed in October by a vote of 37-7. The total population in the 243 cities and towns and three states that have passed resolutions opposing the Patriot Act is now approaching 35 million.

Attorney General John Ashcroft and his Justice Department continue to insist that fighting terrorism requires all of us to concede long-standing protections against such things as being arrested without any evidence we did something wrong (probable cause), being held in jail indefinitely and not charged with a crime, or having our homes searched or our phones tapped without a reason to suspect us of wrongdoing. They say we have to give up freedoms we have always relied on, such as freedom of religion, freedom of speech and the personal freedom of privacy in our daily lives and decisions, including our credit, medical, education and library records, in order to help law enforcement keep us safe from terrorists.

But a growing number of people around the country do not accept this contention. People organized in local Bill of Rights Defense Committees in hundreds of cities and towns, including St. Paul, argue that laws already on the books give law enforcement agencies all the tools they need to fight terrorism. The administration's efforts to erode civil liberties in the name of this fight are not only unnecessary but threaten the very freedoms that define a free society - freedoms that are encoded in the Bill of Rights, added to the US Constitution more than 200 years ago to ensure that the government's power over individuals would be strictly limited.

In St. Paul, as in other cities with active BORDCs, people from all walks of life and all points on the political spectrum have joined the effort to maintain those limits on government power over individuals. They have worked for almost a year-- holding public forums, collecting endorsements, talking with city council members, appearing on cable television programs, as well as drafting and modifying resolution language --to convince members of the St. Paul City Council to speak officially in defense of civil liberties.

And, like the other city councils, the St. Paul City Council made its voice heard with a resolution publicly affirming its responsibility to uphold the Bill of Rights for all people in St. Paul and calling for the repeal of provisions of the Patriot Act that violate those rights.

Like those in Congress who applauded for the sunsetting of the Patriot Act, the members of the St. Paul Bill of Rights Defense Committee applaud the St. Paul City Council, the other 242 city councils that have passed resolutions, and the people all over our country who are working to ensure that the freedoms spelled out in the Bill of Rights continue to be extended to everyone.>>

Courage, my friends. The struggle continues.

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Posted on Sunday, February 08, 2004 - 04:39 pm:   

Thanks, Timmi, for continuing to sift through the news and information out there and post the relevant material. I wonder what you think is the best possible organization or cause to give money to or devote money to in order to help to combat all of this erosion of basic rights? Amnesty International seems to be one such organization, but perhaps you have other ideas, too.

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Josh Lukin
Posted on Sunday, February 08, 2004 - 10:22 pm:   

AI? Ya think so, Jeff? AI boasts of the success of international letter-writing campaigns, and these guys make it a point of honor not to care what the international community thinks.

On 12 September 2001, I called an old teacher of mine who's a good guy but not a radical or activist by any means, and asked. "Should I be sending my money to the Red Cross or the American Civil Liberties Union?" To which he responded, "I think the ACLU will need your money more, in the long run." On the other hand, a Libertarian friend in Buffalo reports that the NYCLU has been finding its job somewhere between impossible and unimaginable under these circumstances. But progressive legal organizations, or organizations that take people to court --NLG, ACLU, PFAW-- need all the help they can get. So do progressive news media.
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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 04:59 am:   

Damn, Timmi. I didn't think the excesses of this administration could surprise me, but there's just something about throwing all those legal resources against peace activists in Iowa that freaks me out. I guess it's because it's such a blatant effort to frighten people into shutting up -- certainly they aren't looking for "terrorists."

Certainly the ACLU will make good use of contributions; they will keep fighting the Patriot Act. But we'd probably better send some money to the Democrats, too, even if they aren't our perfect alternative. Michael Ventura says this very well in his last two columns in the Austin Chronicle -- here's the archive of his column:
Read the Feb. 6 one and the one before it.

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Posted on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 05:35 am:   

Sorry--it was late. I meant the ACLU.

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Monday, February 09, 2004 - 05:58 pm:   

It's hard to make a single recommendation, given all the challenges we now face. My personal choice for upholding constitutional protections is the ACLU. Many people I know have serious problems with the ACLU because it doesn't always support the liberal side of any given issue. But what the ACLU does is of critical importance-- especially now. That they've begun to attract conservatives is not a sign that they've grown more conservative, but that the Bush Regime is threatening core values in a way that exceeds differences in partisan political philosophy & ideologies. Josh's additional recommendations-- the National Lawyers Guild & People for the American Way-- are also good choices. The latter include media issues in their purview.

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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 01:23 pm:   

A little bit of good news, probably due to pressure from groups like the ACLU. The two federal supeanas have been withdrawn.

Keep fighting the good fight.
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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 03:13 pm:   

Following up on the Iowa case (and Jeremy's post), here's a press release from Drake University (sent to me at work):


On February 3, 2004, Drake University was served with a grand jury subpoena asking the University to provide information related to a meeting on November 15, 2003 of the Drake University chapter of the National Lawyers Guild. The subpoena also requested all records that would identify both the officers of the Drake Chapter of the National Lawyers Guild and the location of their offices on campus. That subpoena was withdrawn on February 6, 2004, and replaced with a new subpoena that was narrower in scope. This second subpoena did not request documents pertaining to the National Lawyers Guild. It did, however, request University records relating to the scheduling of the November 15, 2003 meeting, including any documents identifying the persons attending the meeting and all records of Campus Security which might describe the content of what was discussed at the meeting.

Upon receipt of the original subpoena, University officials expressed concern that compliance with the subpoena without notification of the individuals whose education records might be produced could be a violation of the Federal Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), which places restrictions on the University’s ability to release information to third parties. However, in certain instances, FERPA does allow for the issuance of a nondisclosure order prohibiting educational institutions from disclosing to anyone the contents or existence of certain grand jury subpoenas. The U.S. Attorney’s Office requested, and received, two orders from the Federal Court, which, until now, prohibited Drake officials from commenting on the existence or content of the subpoenas.

On Monday, February 9, 2004, Drake University counsel informed the United States Attorney's Office of the University's intention to file motions to both lift the nondisclosure orders and quash the existing subpoena. On February 10, 2004, the University received word from the United States Attorney that the nondisclosure orders had been lifted and the subpoena withdrawn. As a result, the University is now free to discuss publicly that which it had intended to inform the court through its motions and supporting affidavits.

"Whatever one's views of the political positions articulated at that meeting, the University cherishes and protects the right to express those views without fear of reprisal or recrimination," President Maxwell said in an affidavit drafted in support of the University’s motions. "The university in America is, by definition, a 'free speech' zone in which dissent, disagreement and multiplicity of views are not only tolerated, but encouraged. Rather than stifling the voices of those who disagree, we passionately believe that it is only possible to arrive at the truth through the rigorous examination of all options and all views."

Maxwell referred to a 1991 Statement of Principles approved by the Drake University Faculty Senate, and cited the following passages:

"Drake University upholds freedom of thought and freedom of expression as central to its educational mission. Drake therefore carefully refrains from restricting the exchange of ideas or regulating the content of speech. We realize that freedom of thought and freedom of expression produce conflict and challenge."

"We affirm the principle that thoughts and opinions should be subject to the crucible of debate and judged only in the free marketplace of ideas. Ideas will not be suppressed because they are presently viewed as unpopular or inappropriate by current authorities, nor will expression of those ideas be infringed because it may be perceived as harmful to a particular group or organization. . . the principle of free exchange and inquiry takes precedence as it is fundamental to the educational enterprise."

Maxwell concluded, "To prevent members of the University community from speaking out is asking us to betray all that the University stands for and to undermine the unique and vitally important role that we play in the fabric of American democracy." He said, "The University community must be free to discuss openly those on-campus activities which are protected and encouraged by the University's Statement of Principles."
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 05:15 pm:   

Heartening, indeed! (Thanks, Jeremy.) I don't think the importance of this outcome can be overstated. The AG's trial balloon has been pricked but good. & thanks, Nancy, for quoting the Drake University Statement of Principles.

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 07:51 pm:   

Ashcroft has been busy with his power of subpoena. The following article, which I found at, offers additional evidence of his ambition to turn the US into a total police state.

February 09, 2004. "Northwestern escapes DOJ subpoena Judge denies Ashcroft's request for patient medical records"

By Mark Taylor

A move by U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft to subpoena the medical records of 40 patients who received so-called partial-birth abortions at Northwestern Memorial Hospital in Chicago was halted—at least temporarily—when a Chicago federal judge quashed the information request.

The ruling is the first in a series of subpoenas by the U.S. Justice Department seeking the medical records of patients from seven physicians and at least five hospitals, Crain's sister publication Modern Healthcare has learned. Besides Northwestern, Mr. Ashcroft is seeking patient records from University of Michigan Hospitals and Health Centers in Ann Arbor; Hahnemann University Hospital in Philadelphia, owned by Tenet Healthcare Corp.; Columbia Presbyterian Medical Center and Weill Cornell Medical Center of New York Presbyterian Hospital both of which are part of the New York-Presbyterian Healthcare System; and an unidentified San Francisco-area hospital.

In a 16-page decision, U.S. Chief District Judge Charles Kocoras denied the government’s request to obtain patient medical records from Northwestern, citing the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act of 1996 (HIPAA) and Illinois’ medical privacy law.

Northwestern received the subpoena in December, a month after obstetrician/gynecologist Cassing Hammond, a member of Northwestern’s staff and medical school faculty, was served with subpoenas seeking his patient records. Hammond is one of seven doctors and three groups who has challenged the constitutionality of the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act of 2003. The American Civil Liberties Union is representing the National Abortion Federation; Planned Parenthood and the Center for Reproductive Rights, which are all filing challenges to the law. A hearing for all of the challenges has been scheduled for March 29 in U.S. District Court in New York.

Dr. Hammond refused comment last week. His case is pending.

Sources at New York Presbyterian and Hahnemann who requested anonymity confirmed the subpoenas at those hospitals. The University of Michigan had not returned calls for comment at deadline.

In his decision, Judge Kocoras said the records “appear to have been sought for the purpose of testing the assertions in Dr. Hammond’s declarations. At best, the government is seeking possible impeachment material.”

While the Justice Department has said it is not seeking information that would identify the patients, that did not persuade Judge Kocoras.

A department spokeswoman Monica Goodling said the department does not comment on ongoing litigation but said, “We are reviewing the ruling in light of our commitment to defending the law banning partial-birth abortions.”

Northwestern spokeswoman Kelly Sullivan said that HIPAA and the Illinois law required the hospital to protect the privacy and confidentiality of patient records. “Patients are not a party to the litigation and thus (Northwestern) cannot produce the medical records of nonparties,” Ms. Sullivan said. “The judge agreed and quashed the subpoena request.”

Alicia Mitchell, a spokeswoman for the American Hospital Assn., said the group is not aware of the patient records subpoenas. “But we assume that HIPAA medical records privacy protections apply equally to everyone,” Ms. Mitchell said.

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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Tuesday, February 10, 2004 - 11:49 pm:   

More on COINTELPRO II. Salon continues to be one of the only independent media outlets that covers this stuff.

Basically, local police departments get money from the federal government if they can show that there is a local "terrorist threat". So police departments have been sending anti-terrorism investigators to infiltrating war protest groups to demonstrate that there is a terrorsit threat.

So, instead of actually investigating terrorsits, they investigate anti war/anti globalizatio protestors. I feel safer already.
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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2004 - 07:43 pm:   

You know, I'm still angry at Senate Democrats over John Ashcroft. They controlled the Senate in 2001. They had the votes to block Ashcroft. In nominating Ashcroft, Bush was throwing his weight around, pretending he had a mandate. The Senate could have and should have reminded Bush that he didn't even win the election and that he certainly didn't have the clout to put an extremist in at attorney general. Ashcroft was a clear and present danger to our democracy before Sept. 11, and the terrorist attacks have allowed him to run wild.

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Wednesday, February 11, 2004 - 10:11 pm:   

That's exactly how I see it, Nancy. & on top of that, Ashcroft, an incumbent, lost to a dead man in that same election!
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Posted on Thursday, February 12, 2004 - 05:20 pm:   

I'm not so sure. Let me preface this with the fact that I'm a leftist. I ran as a green party candidate in my County Board elections a few years back, for example, voted Nader, have tossed and turned at night before deciding I'm not voting for Kucinich, etc.

Anyway, here's how I see it. The approval process is meant to keep criminals out of office. Both parties have abused the system by disallowing those people who haven't met with their particular ideaology. That's not the intent of the reviews. If Aschcroft had committed a criminal act, or an act that could be construed as criminal and thus tarnish the office of Attorney General, or if he was underqualified for the job (ie, he didn't pass laws, got his JD out of a crackerjack box - which very thing I suspect every day), then the senate review committee would have all the right to disallow his appointment.

Much to my chagrin, the Senate was unable to find any compelling evidence that Ashcroft had broken the law or committed an act that could tarnish the office of Attorney General. Now, I am confident that he has, given his ties to Cheney, et al, but the fact remains that he was never arrested for an act that would disqualify him, nor was he ever convicted of such an act. Thus, the senate was doing its job correctly.

Remember, if the democrats had gotten pissy and disallowed Ashcroft simply because they didn't agree with his politics, the now-Republican-dominated senate would turn right around and do the same thing after the Democrat wins this next election. The Democrats took the higher ground and they are to be commended for doing their jobs in an ethical and legal manner, upholding the constitution that Bush is trying so hard to dismantle.

So I must respectfully disagree with you, Nancy and Timmi. Does Ashcroft deserve to be Attorney General? Hell no. Is he a deceitful, vengeful, pithy man who is helping to dismantle our constitution? Yes he is. Did the democrats do right in upholding their constitutional mandate protect the country from a *criminal* entering that office? Yes. Ashcroft is an asshole, no doubt, but he hasn't committed - or hasn't been caught committing - a criminal act that would warrant his being blocked. The constitution worked! And given the shaky ground it's on now, that's saying something.

I say do everything you can to vote the bastards out of office, then we can begin repairing the damage. I still think there's time. Start by getting to know your alderman and county representatives, then your state representatives and governor, and voting for and supporting *those* people - the ones who lay the groundwork for democracy and populist movements - as well as donating your time and money to ousting the current administration. I'm hopeful that, with a lot of lobbying, money, and work, things can be set straight again.
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Josh Lukin
Posted on Thursday, February 12, 2004 - 07:43 pm:   

What's "pithy man" mean?
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Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 07:44 am:   

One who takes cheap shots and abuses his power, for instance his shenanigans with partial birth abortion patients in Michigan and elsewhere, or threatening the Drake U. protesters. A small man, if you will. One with a Napoleon complex.
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Nancy Jane Moore
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 08:59 am:   

We disagree on one fundamental point, Forrest: I do think the Senate is entitled to, and should, consider the political views of appointees to office. Bush ran as a more moderate candidate than his actual political views. Even if you happen to think the Supreme Court made the right call (and I don't), he was selected without even a majority of the popular vote. John Ashcroft's personal and political views are incredibly far to the right. Nominating Ashcroft for an extremely powerful position was a way of cramming that right wing agenda down the throats of people who didn't vote for it, even if they voted for Bush.

The job of attorney general demands higher standards than merely whether someone has a criminal background and meets the basic requirements.

But most important: given the circumstances of the last election, I think the Senate had the obligation to bring Bush up short when he acted as if he had a mandate. He only had that much clout because they let him have it. That might be "fair play," but it's bad politics. Our system does not require giving a new president the benefit of the doubt just because he's a new president, and it shouldn't. The job carries a lot of power, but it isn't bad for our system if the person who has it must pay attention to the opinions of others in wielding it.

Of course, you raise a point of principle, of the idea of acting decently. I can take the cheap route and point out that Clinton was force to withdraw the nomination of Lani Guinear, who is in no way as far left as Ashcroft is far right. This game has been going on a long time, and while tit for tat is a lousy argument, it tends to happen.

But principles are important. I keep in mind the idea that the end does not (and should not) justify the means. However, while I have learned after a quarter century in the martial arts that fighting is very rarely the best solution to a conflict situation (one of my reasons for opposing the Iraqi War is that there were much better ways to get rid of Saddam, ways that would not have left the country in this screaming mess), there are also times when killing is preferable to not killing. Opposing a political appointee is not killing, but the metaphor works. We should not take such a purist road that we allow the other side to give power to extremists like Ashcroft; there's too much at stake.

And hey, Forrest: vote for Kucinich. The debates within the Democratic primary are unifying the party, rather than dividing it. If you vote for him, you remind the ultimate nominee (probably Kerry) to respect the ideas of the Kucinich group. You have the luxury of voting with your heart in the primary; it's in the general election that we must vote for the Democrat, even if we have personal reservations. There the stakes are just too damn high.
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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 09:41 am:   

The politicizing of approval of presidential appointments has been going on since as long as I have been actively observing/participating in politics -- the mid 80's.

I don't think there is a high road or low road when it comes to governmental Checks and Balances -- the fact is, The republican party blocked MANY judicial court appointments of Clintons, for far less justifiable reasons then were present for Ashcroft. This is how the “game” of power is played in DC.

Having said that, I think the Democratic Leadership in the Senate made a HORRIBLE miscalculation. They watched bush get 49% of the vote by saying he would be bi-partisan. They did not want to play into the Republican stereo type of "playing politics" so they tried to go along and get along, in order to sidestep that republican trap. Of course, it was a miscalculation. They received NOTHING for their willingness to go along and get along, other then a sore rectum, and a loss of the senate. This go-along-get-along bullshit is pricely what led John Kerry and most of the democrats in the house and senate to vote for the war.

Seeing that Kerry is a go-along-get-along kind of “DLC Centrist” I don’t see much in the way of reform if he gets elected. He might be able to roll back some of the more onerous Bush Junta crap, but essentially, everyone will be so relieved that Bush is gone that they will go back to their 500 channels of “reality programming” and disengage again. Lucious’s observations about the left and progressives in the democracit party over the last 30 years bear this out.

We need a revolution, and Kerry is not a revolutionary. He’s a slave to the Cold Calculations, and the blood of every child, civilian and soldier who died in Iraq is on his hands, just as much as it is on Bush and Cheeney’s, and every American who voted for them. There is a lot of blame to go around, but there is plenty of blood for everyone.

The fact that Howard “I’m a centrist” Dean was painted as the Revolutionary shows just how much of a sham the media has become. Kucinich is a revolutionarily. Paul Wellstone was a revolutionary. Dean was just another go-along-get-along guy who jumped on the anti-bush bandwagon early, and happened to have the right website at the right time.
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Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 09:48 am:   

"Luscious" is probably right, but, still, you make it sound as if Kerry is just a slightly less evil Bush. Which I don't think is true. We've had ample evidence over the past four years that a president can, if he wants, wield so much power it's utterly stunning. With Kerry in office, I think the environment would be much better off, big business would not have such a direct line to the White House, and our foreign policy would return to the "intervention on humanitarian grounds" that everyone can argue with, but is not the same thing as naked aggression on flimsy evidence or some personal issue.

The other thing is--Bush scares me in his role as a supposedly religious man. The guy may actually believe in things like Judgment Day and have no qualms about just hitting that red button himself someday.

We need a revolution, but first we need to stop the internal bleeding.

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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 10:49 am:   

Bush is a simple evil. He is a puppet. And the people pulling his strings are in plain site.

Kerry is an evil that is not obvious. Kerry = "Internal bleeding", IMO. Bush = "Severed artery." You can die from both. One quickly, one slowly.

I don't mean to split hairs. I'm in a dour mood this morning, and see no hope, even if Bush is defeated. Perhaps this will change after Coffee.

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Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 11:52 am:   

I don't think you're giving George W. Bush enough credit! He's definitely an evil that's not obvious to a lot of people, and there's a lot of stuff he's doing behind the scenes that's extremely insidious and clever. The man's a very clever monkey with a bunch of unscrupulous people backing him up, all of whom are very intelligent and have a lot of experience. It's also not true that he's simply a puppet. This point of view allows him to escape culpability for his actions.

I see a lot of hope with a change in leadership in the White House. I'm not saying Kerry's the guy I'd prefer in there if I had unlimited choices, but I'm definitely of the Bush-out-at-all-costs simply because it then means Ashcroft and his cronies, among others, are out of power.

Bush is, as far as I can tell, the worst president this country has had in the last century, including Nixon.

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Posted on Friday, February 13, 2004 - 11:56 am:   

Chase those demons away, Jeremy!

Seriously, though - and we've talked about this, Jeremy - we need a revolution, and there won't be enough change no matter *who* is president, because the president is only one man with only so much power. That's why the founding fathers set up the government the way they did, with checks and balances that mostly work.

My point is this: Who, involved in this discussion, can name their alderperson? Who can name their county board supervisor? What is the last local issue about which you wrote your local governmental leaders? How about your state senate, do you know who your representative is? Have you given money to her/his campaign? Have you called him/her on any issues? Who are the most powerful people in your community - the judges - and do you know their political leanings? They have far more power than you can imagine, as they interpret the laws. Did you ask them questions when they ran for their positions (those who weren't appointed, that is)?

All this hand-wrangling about the president is well and good, and the dialogue is needed, but *REAL* change happens much more quickly on the local level and can trump the problems we have on the federal level.

For instance, our mayor has passed a law that the police cannot arrest, fine, or ticket a person for having and/or using marijuana in their own home without a prior search warrant for that express purpose. Those warrants are only issued in cases where there is a suspected large amount (ie, tens of pounds or more) of the drug in the household. City and county judges here don't even like to mess with marijuana cases, as it's so prevalent here. As a result, the war on drugs is effectively a non-issue here, when it comes to smoking pot. The feds have fits about it, while the rest of us laugh and know that the money that would be wasted in enforcement (and arrest and jailing) is going to city and county-funded drug rehab programs. This is a very small example, but what if, say 1/4 of the cities Madison's size and larger decided to do the same? I'd call that a groundswell - the dems on the federal level would have to take notice. Movements don't arise suddenly, out of nowhere, most of the time.

So get on outta your funk, Jeremy, and get down which your bad self! There is hope, and it starts on your street. We'll deal with the president, in time, but for now we should be handing out pamphlets in support of our favorite local candidates for city, county, and state office, donating to their campaigns, and showing up for city council meetings with bells on. There is hope, it just takes work!
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Josh Lukin
Posted on Saturday, February 14, 2004 - 08:48 pm:   

I'm unable to find a text where "pithy" is used to mean "petty" or a reference source that defines it as such, so I remain unconvinced.
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Josh Lukin
Posted on Saturday, February 14, 2004 - 10:44 pm:   

Bush's "I just know that those are bad people" theory is institutionalized, as DOD assures us that hundreds will be at Gitmo forever:
< 869ffa31&ei=5007&partner=userland>
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Posted on Sunday, February 15, 2004 - 07:20 pm:   

I humbly withdraw "pithy". Please replace with the word "petty," Your Vocabulariness. :-)

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Sunday, February 15, 2004 - 07:31 pm:   

Sorry to have taken so long to rejoin the discussion. I want to comment, first on Forrest's assertion:

The approval process is meant to keep criminals out of office.

Article II, Section 2 of the US Constitution neither says nor implies anything of the kind. Where on earth did you ever come by such an idea, Forrest? Interestingly, the appointment of nonelected, executive branch officers falls in the same paragraph that discusses the president's power to make treaties, which also requires the Senate to advise & consent (with 2/3-- & not a simple-- majority). Do you also believe that the POTUS should be able to make any treaties he wants provided they are not in violation of whatever legal code on which you're basing your definition of "criminal" & expect the Senate to simply rubber-stamp them, without exerting the agency the Constitution requires of it (which is the same agency it requires of appointments to federal office)? As quoted below, you are vague about what you intend "criminal" to denote: someone convicted of a felony, or someone accused of a felony, or someone who could or should be accused of a felony. Or someone morally turpitudinous who might be slick enough not to fall under the purview of the criminal code? The distinctions among these are rather important.

I've noticed that when individuals are nominated for federal judgeships, the American Bar Association submits reports that rate their related work performance. In general, whether or not a nominee is a "criminal" does not come up for discussion. Regardless of ideological considerations, fitness for any office encompasses a great deal more than the minimal requirement of lacking a felony conviction. Moral fitness, professional fitness, & social fitness all enter the balance. It is therefore proper for the Senate to, as Article II, Section 2 provides, not only consent, but advise the President. & if 2/3 of the Senate do not find the nominee fit-- in all the respects the Senate as a body judges important for the office-- then the nominee should not be confirmed. There is also the matter of making as certain as possible that the nominee will uphold the law in both letter & spirit. I would argue that in the case of John Ashcroft, the Senate had good reason to believe that he would not do so-- that in fact he would be likely to flout any law he did not wholeheartedly agree with. I believe that on that basis alone Ashcroft should not have been confirmed. That he was confirmed was a sign of ethical weakness (at best) combined with corruption (at worst) on the part of individual senators-- most of whom were deluged with mail from their constituents begging them to vote against Ashcroft's confirmation. (You do recall, don't you, the deluge of mail on both this & the Interior Dept appointment?)

Both parties have abused the system by disallowing those people who haven't met with their particular ideaology. That's not the intent of the reviews. If Aschcroft had committed a criminal act, or an act that could be construed as criminal and thus tarnish the office of Attorney General, or if he was underqualified for the job (ie, he didn't pass laws, got his JD out of a crackerjack box - which very thing I suspect every day), then the senate review committee would have all the right to disallow his appointment.

I spent the first two years of the Reagan Regime in a state of shock. It had never occurred to me before Reagan & his thugs took office that presidents could appoint to office people whose primary goals were to subvert the laws their respective departments were intended to uphold. This has, of course, become a pattern for all Republican presidents since. Just as it has become a pattern for Republican-dominated Congresses to prevent the nominees (put forth by Democratic presidents) most interested in upholding federal laws & regulations from top-level appointments. In my view, the Senate has not been contentious enough. (But then most of the Senators on both side of the aisle receive big bucks from the lobbyists of corporations determined to keep laws from being enforced.)

Remember, if the democrats had gotten pissy and disallowed Ashcroft simply because they didn't agree with his politics, the now-Republican-dominated senate would turn right around and do the same thing after the Democrat wins this next election. The Democrats took the higher ground and they are to be commended for doing their jobs in an ethical and legal manner, upholding the constitution that Bush is trying so hard to dismantle.

But of course the Republicans would do that anyway. The Republicans do things because they can, rather than operate by the logic of fair play or the Golden Rule. The Democrats gave Reagan & Bush I (barring the turpitudinous John Tower & the vile Bork) every damned thing they wanted. But when Clinton came into office, that didn't stop the Republicans from spoiling every damned decent move Clinton tried to make (though granted, Clinton mainly pushed through the usual bipartisan gambits I find so nauseating, helping further the agenda that Reagan set in the 1980s, so there weren't all that many decent moves the Republicans actually thwarted). The political system at the Federal level does not work on democratic principles, Forrest. & I doubt if it will anytime soon. In theory, there should be give-&-take between parties. The Democrats played by the old rules (which you seem to think are still operating) during the Watergate years, despite having the upper hand in Congress. After 1980, only the Democrats played by the old rules. (With the result that everyone now identifies them as political chumps precisely because playing by the old rules is now seen as a sign of weakness rather than integrity or a principled love of fair play.)

On the subject of how politics should ideally work, I prefer Nancy's picture:

But most important: given the circumstances of the last election, I think the Senate had the obligation to bring Bush up short when he acted as if he had a mandate. He only had that much clout because they let him have it. That might be "fair play," but it's bad politics. Our system does not require giving a new president the benefit of the doubt just because he's a new president, and it shouldn't. The job carries a lot of power, but it isn't bad for our system if the person who has it must pay attention to the opinions of others in wielding it.

People who hold federal office (including both elected & unelected officials) are presumed to be acting on behalf of the interests & desires of the entire polity. (That's what indirect democracy, which we have in theory, anyway, is supposedly about.) Bush did not have the support of the majority of USians, much less the majority of those who voted. But instead of attempting to represent the polity, he from the beginning made clear his intention to ram the most extreme & marginal positions to be found in the Republican party down the throats of the entire population & claimed as he did so that he was effecting "unity" & "healing." The Senate is especially culpable for not heeding the long & loud outcry around the country against this refusal of Bush to respect the polity. As a result, people at the furthest extreme of the political spectrum are now trashing this country in every way imaginable. The acquiescence of the US Congress in putting these folks into power is not my ideal of principled behavior.


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Posted on Monday, February 16, 2004 - 10:36 am:   

I had a response regarding senate approval of presidential appointees all typed up and ready to post, then decided that I will not post it. Not because I thought I was "beat" (far from it) but because it serves no purpose to further the argument. Look, the damage is done. What are you going to do about it besides complain on a messageboard? This is a rather sore point with me (not necessarily aimed at you, Timmi, but at these kinds of rants collectively) - that everyone wants to complain about the current situation, but I hear no calls to *action*. I'm not going to repeat my earlier post in this regard, but I ask, what are you going to *do* about it???? Yes, education, even on a messageboard, is a start, but it's only a start. Perhaps you could list some pointers where people can go and contribute to the removal of Bush and his administration, or where people can write to their congressperson and apply pressure to vote a certain way on a specific bill?

Here's a couple for starters, though I suspect people mostly know about these already:

All in all, I think our energy is better spent calling, writing, donating,going door to door, protesting, and running for office, where possible, than in complaining about the current situation to those who already find it reprehensible - preaching to the choir. It's all so much shouting into the wind without action.

That's not to say that any of the posts have been without their uses. The Drake University case is good to know, as it was under-publicized outside of the alternative news media. Besides, it's ammunition for writing to members of congress and showing them the situation they've put us in by approving the Hate-riot Act. Jeff V's concern over Bush's religious facade is something that no one here has run with, and might be good fodder for convincing southern Dems who voted for him in the last election that he is indeed *not* a religious man (this is particularly helpful to Jeff, who lives in FL and can hence be an influence there). Jeremy's analysis of the dem presidential contendors has great relevance to our votes.

But hand-wringing over Ashcroft's appointment? Who's going to disagree that the guy is an evil jerk? What would it matter if someone did anyway? I apologize for wasting everyone's time with a theoretical debate in the first place. Next time I'll just keep my mouth shut (well, maybe :-) ). Rather than complain about what is already done, be progressive and look to what ought to be done, give us some pointers, and we'll run with it. I'm not concerned anymore about how the Senate may or may not have screwed the pooch on this one. It's over. Damage done. Cry me a river, build a bridge, and get over it. I am concerned about voting tomorrow, though. Because voting *does* make a difference. Then, after a candidate is chosen, I'll be concerned about getting out and working for the candidate (whomever it is), doing surveys, handing out literature, etc. That's where real change takes place - on the street and in the voting booth, in town meetings and city council committees - not in theoretical internecine arguments over the role of the senate. If you don't like what they did, write them and tell them! Better yet, threaten to fund their opponents! Get your neighbors to do the same by calling or writing them with your concerns, asking them to call or write your congressperson. Just *do* something besides talking about it. Wanna change the world? Get busy!

My apologies if you are doing. I'm sure there are many of you that are active in changing things around for the better. But I find that, many times, our (meaning the political left's)most vociferous complainers are the ones who aren't willing to crack open their wallet or get off their keyboard long enough to attend a protest, and that energy needs to be used in getting stuff done, rather than blowing air (or photons) to those who already agree with them.

Rant over.
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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Monday, May 17, 2004 - 11:31 pm:   

An article appeared in the London Observer yesterday, reporting that Sen Leahy has demanded that Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld hand over dozens of videotapes that were made at Guantanmo to record the brutal, routinized beatings & violent assualts on prisoners by 6-person ERF [Extreme Reaction Force] teams (one holding the camera while the other five administered the beatings).

After their release last March, Shafiq Rasul, Asif Iqbal and Ruhal Ahmed, the so-called Tipton Three from Staffordshire, told of similar ERF attacks.

Rasul said they led to a new verb being coined by detainees: 'to be ERFed'. That, he said, meant being slammed against a floor by a soldier wielding a riot shield, pinned to the ground and beaten up by five armed men.

However, it is [Londoner Tarek] Dergoul who now reveals that every time the ERFs were deployed, a sixth team member recorded on digital video everything that happened.

The Observer quotes Leahy:

I have asked the Pentagon for sufficient information to allow Congress to evaluate the effectiveness and propriety of the treatment of those in our custody. Pentagon officials owe the Congress a comprehensive response. I have made clear that compliance must include any tapes or photos of the activities of the ERF or any other military or intelligence units there.

According to the Observer, "senior politicians" in both the US & Britain have said that "if the contents are as shocking as Dergoul claims, they will provide final proof that brutality against detainees has become an institutionalised feature of America's war on terror."

Presuming that Dergoul's statement that the ERF teams videotaped their beatings is correct (& only he has reported this feature of the Pentagon's reign of terror at Guantanmo), one can't help but ponder this mania for the torturers themselves' making graphic records of torture. Seymour M. Hersh's "The Gray Zone" suggests that the photos of prisoner humiliation at Abu Ghraib were intended to be used as blackmail of the victims once they had been released from prison--- the assumption being that Arab men would betray anyone & everything they cared for to prevent the exposure of their humiliation. Videotapes at Guanatanmo would presumably serve a different end.

The one certain thing all this photographic evidence reveals is the sense of absolute impunity enjoyed by the Pentagon's & the US intelligence community generally in ignoring the Geneva Conventions & other international laws governing the basic, minimal standards for treatment of human beings, whatever their race, economic condition, or civil status.

It would certainly be interesting to know whether the materials Captain Yee was said to have removed without authorization from Gantanamo involved such documentation.

If there are videotapes, it's a pity they didn't come to public attention before the Supreme Court heard the Guantanamo case.

You can find "US guards 'filmed beatings' at terror camp: Senator urges action as Briton reveals Guantanamo abuse" by David Rose and Gaby Hinsliff, Sunday May 16, 2004 at <,6903,1217973,00.html>.

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L. Timmel Duchamp
Posted on Sunday, June 13, 2004 - 04:53 pm:   

Infinite Matrix has posted a link <>
to an Amy Goodman Democracy Now interview with Michael Ratner, "The Pinochet Principle: Bush Defends Torture in the Name of National Security." & Democracy Now provides a link to a truly terrifying document, a Pentagon memo that argues that because the Constitution grants Congress only limited powers while, by contrast, it grants the president "unenumerated executive power," the powers of the president are inherently unlimited and at his sole discretion. A pdf file of the memo can be found at <>. See especially pp.21-24.

The Ratner interview includes an excerpt from a hearing in the US Senate last week in which Ashcroft essentially tells Senator Kennedy that Congress has no business sticking its nose into what the executive branch is doing. Kennedy asks Ashcroft to make available to Congress the legal memoranda advising the POTUS & the SecDef that the US does not have to abide by the Geneva Conventions (or any other international laws) & thus may detain without due process & torture as they wish; Ashcroft refuses to do so. When Kennedy asks him the grounds for his refusal (since Ashcroft does not even bother to invoke executive privilege), Ashcroft refuses to provide him with a reason. The implication is clear (& is reinforced by pp 21-24 of the Pentagon memo): Congress has no business inquiring into the actions & intentions of the executive branch. The expression "contempt of Congress" takes on new meaning when one reads (or listens to) the exchange between Kennedy & Ashcroft.

Ashcroft's attitude suggests that as far as the Dept of Justice is concerned, we live in a dictatorship in which unelected officials have no need to answer to elected representatives. This makes me wonder whether just as the US avoids officially declaring war when it attacks (& even occupies) other states & kills & injures the citizens of those states, so too the Bush Administration is avoiding formally declaring that we have become a dictatorship when it has begun to act as though we are.

Question: if the president & his proxies are no longer answerable to anyone in Congress, is it likely that the administration will obey any decisions made by the Supreme Court that don't rubberstamp their policies? What is, exactly, the index of dictatorship? & if we aren't there yet, are we close? The Bush Administration has been more cynical in its use of language than even the two expertly perception-managed Reagan Administrations were. To quote Bill McKibben's recent review essay in the NYRB, about the Bush Administration's misuse of language: "The bill that turned national forests back to loggers in the name of protecting against wildfire, for instance, was called the `Healthy Forests Initiative,' though, as [Carl] Pope suggests, `Horizontal Forests' would be more accurate. (Others have suggested `No Tree Left Behind.') The bill to permit continued high levels of mercury and suflur pollution was styled `Clear Skies'." Is it likely the Bush Administration would do anything different when talking about the total destruction of our democratic institutions?

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Jeremy Lassen
Posted on Monday, June 14, 2004 - 01:44 pm:   

The executive branch has ignored the supream court in the past, and in response, we have put said president on our currency. I think the presidential quote was something along the lines of "Let the supreame court enforce their descicion with their own damn army".

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