Tuesday, November 27, 2007


Check out Bloggingheads.tv, a great repository of head-to-head expert dialogues via video web logs (compressed via portmanteau into "diavlogs," a great word).

Listening to an Israeli/Arab debate (rather quiet, debate-wise) about Condie's upcoming Mid-East peace conference.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Torture Panel

Moderated by Vincent Warren, senior staff counsel to the American Civil Liberties Union Foundation. Carol Gilligan joins Warren, McKelvey, Fein, and Hafetz.

Fein compares U.S. power binge to Rome. I also think about Pakistan, as the situation there comes to a head - executive privilege versus public consensus that wants anything but. We are, of course, still a more free nation than Rome or Pakistan (as Fein says, "We, the people, still rule"), but "the disease of executive omnipotence is one" that will snowball into the future. More about Nixon. [Applause.]

Gilligan brings up the stolen (pres.) election. (I think many of us agree there was at least one.) We had trouble feeling pride when our votes didn't turn out to count. (Author concurs.) The elections aren't slated topics for impeachment debate in this series - though as David Swanson pointed out last time, there's so much to impeach them for - but I wonder if they wouldn't be worth including in a draft of impeachment articles. "We think you stole the election, Bush."

McKelvey, Ratner, and Hafetz are unfortunately too quiet for me to hear at all (the video will fill in). Actually, most of the rest I can't hear. The audience is packed, attentive, quiet, asking long questions. This panel isn't as fast and conflicted as the last, but .

In the booth, I have several video monitor views as well as a long natural view of the stage. (The video aspect of this event is exciting and reminds me of my favorite deepthinking site, TED.)

Gilligan brings back the election, and the gender gap between female votes for Gore and male votes for Bush. "Are you a real man?" She indicts men in general for violence, which is fair I suppose historically, given that men have pretty much run all the armies until now (Nancy Pelosi, Indira G., A. Markel, Sharkosky's wife).

Ratner notes that Maureen Dowd notes that Dems are afraid to seem unmanly, that people like Obama must try to seem "hard" while admitting that, hey, they're not into the war-thing. (Disclosure: I am a bigger fan of Obama than of the other leading Democratic candidates.)

Warren points out that the president says that people who say the president is wrong are terrorists, and this is part of the big problem with the "impeach the who? no way!" mentality. Regarding the abuses of presidential power, the paranoid have been right. (War with Iran, anyone?)

Gilligan recommends focusing on the arts.

Questions wrap up; Buchman grabs the mic to give props to Howard Zinn. "Our problem today is not civil disobedience, but civil obedience." Word up.

Night Three is now one for the video archives...

Torture Short Play

Before the panel, a short reading with four actors. I can't quite make out the un-microphoned voices. Here's what I'm getting: A tank drove over a car, making an Iraqi man late. The man was jailed under Saddam for not reporting another man who disparaged the leader. His brother (Khalil, like Gibran) went to England to study poetry. Another voice questions the man about his allegiances. More American voices, threatening the man ("people like you") with prison time for not passing a polygraph. Confusion among the Americans about the existence of a database with information on suspects. The information can't be proven accurate - the U.S. is paying informers who'll sell out anyone, who run to Syria. Informers send people to jail, then blackmail the families into paying for help getting those innocents out of jail. Marine grenade-fire outside. Lots of talk of Wonderland and rabbit holes... (If only Carroll was writing the war - we'd be fighting bitchy cards instead of a combination of various extremists ranging from Sunni to Republican.)

Bruce Fein.2

Quick version: Torture is making us less safe. We are dealing with a mentality - a king-mentality, pre-Magna Carta. CIA operatives can assassinate and torture because they have state secrets. Since when has that been okay? B&C worse than Nixon. (This is always fun to go back to, but seems obvious, right? Is that just me?) All the world is a battlefield - of course Bin Laden wants to kill us everywhere and break rules, but do we want everywhere on earth, this theater, this booth, to be a battlefield? Where U.S. government operatives can do whatever they like?

That concludes the witness portion...


Jonathan Hafetz

Jonathan Hafetz testifies as to the existence of "black sites," secret prisons where "high-value detainees" are held incommunicado; even the Red Cross can't meet with them. These sites exist throughout Eastern Europe. These are the places where water-boarding has been practiced - even against detainees ultimately proven innocent.

Two very short interludes:

...The story of a man held without trial, tortured - a man who eventually confessed to whatever his torturers implied he did, just to avoid further torture.

...A statement by Condie that the U.S. will not/does not use torture.

Hafetz points out that of course if the U.S. it torturing, it has to tell everyone, "We're not torturing."

The President doesn't believe that international law restricts his actions (para).

"There are no legal restrictions." --> On what Bush can do with suspected terrorists.

Discussion of the order that led to Bush's powers to torture and use evidence gained via torture. (Read Hafetz's article about it in The Nation.)

Discussion of problems even Alexander Hamilton, not the most liberal of founding American dudes, foresaw regarding executive privilege and its extension to torture.

Bush spoke in support of the victims of torture and called upon the community of law-abiding nations in prohibiting torture.

Ratner: "Mr. Hafetz, was the president speaking the truth...?"

Hafetz: "Absolutely not."

(Just some background, Hafetz works at the Brennan Center with Aziz Huq, a Culture Project alum from a talk-back after Larry Wright's My Trip to Al-Qaeda. Protecting our right not to be tortured, among many other little legal things-you'd-like-to-keep-around, is something the Brennan Center thinkers know quite a bit about.)

Discussion of Bush's rejection of the Geneva Conventions, which previous president's found quite worth defending. But the president "cannot dispense with the Geneva Conventions."

Final question: Should B&C be impeached? Hafetz: Yes.

Tara McKelvey

McKelvey, a writer for The American Prospect, takes the stage to talk about her investigations of torture. Dogs used to chase and bite young boys, etc.

So many people she's interviewed - many Iraqis - were tortured, including children. The U.S. hadn't been screening for T.B.; a child died of it; McKelvey points out that this, too, is a violation of the Geneva Conventions.

She talks about the people who committed the crimes made famous by photos from Abu Ghraib; she implicates the highest orders of government as well as the lowliest orders of human sadist.

Bruce Fein on Torture

Covers the ideas behind impeachment again, eloquently, going briefly into Nixon's offenses. We learn that Europeans have testified that torture is useless; Fein asks why then do B&C employ it. (Hubris, anyone?)

Torture doesn't have a definition ala geometry (paraphrasing); one example, though, we prosecuted Japanese soldiers who water-boarded American soldiers in WWII. Fein's quickest definition: "If you thought you would read about it in The Gulag Archipelago... [it's torture]." Nice.

Criminal intent must be present so as to prevent vagueness (the torturer must know what he/she's doing).

Extraordinary rendition - we send "bad guys" to countries that don't mind torture so much, such as Egypt. One big problem, Fein points out, is that this is a secret process; government transparency is lost; executive can act without consultation, without openness. ("The informing" power/process of Congress.)

According to Fein, if you know what is going to happen when you release a prisoner into the care of a sovereign who uses torture, than you yourself are guilty of torture according to U.S. law. Why, asks Fein, do we outsource any justice to other countries? Why don't we take command of our own justice system, top to bottom?

You can't, Fein points out, torture to save lives, just because someone may know something about, let's say, a bomb. We have to accept that bombs will go off; we will find bombers; we will not torture them, jail them sans habeas corpus.


(Para:) The legal rationale [to Bush's expanded powers] is the rationale of a monarch, of a Hammurabi, who can change his mind at any time.

(Para:) You cannot have a president making claims to powers such as the right to torture, for any reason. You cannot have Bush issuing signing statements that say "yes, but... [I reserve the right to do whatever I want]."

Return to Blog, Rainy Night, More Videos from the Opening

Rain in the City has mired the trains down and I'm slightly late. Sitting in the booth the perspective is yet again different from the dark cool hush of the theater and the casual pacing-around bar feeling of the lobby.

The opening of Night Three (Torture & Extraordinary Rendition) mirrors the middle of Night One, with a fast repeat of some wonderful quotes about impeachment from thinkers throughout post-Enlightenment history.

Now a reading of something about torture during the famously torture-dense Algerian War (for Independence).

Now comes Michael Ratner of the Center for Constitutional Rights...

Ratner steps us through ideas behind U.S. statues banning torture, torture by other countries on our behalf (extraordinary rendition), and jailing without due process. He points out that failing to stop torture is ground for impeachment.

Three areas to look at:

- Definition of torture
- Evidence of torture within United States
- Evidence that programs of U.S. torture are authorized by B&C

First we look at such questionable techniques as the "attention grab," the "attention slap," the "belly slap," "long-time standing," the "cold [and naked in the] cell," "water boarding" (simulated drowning, instant heaves, gagging), and (we can only imagine) others.

Bruce Fein is called to the stand...


Please check out all the videos by Sarah and Emily Kunstler that document each night of this series; here's just a few of what you can see:

Mary Lee Kortes (3rd Song)

Andy Krikun

Lewis Lapham



Also, I've been doing googling about Republican blogs and found some weird results. Scary weird. Suffice to say, I'm not convinced.

Monday, November 19, 2007


"Poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution." Animated and sweet-looking. And about the Iran-Iraq War. Probably won't prevent Bush going to war, but...

Persepolis - French Teaser

Posted May 21, 2007

Poignant coming-of-age story of a precocious and outspoken young Iranian girl that begins during the Islamic Revolution.

Panel: Madness & Fear & Strikes & Great, Great Ideas

De la Vega explains that you can't charge a sitting president, but you can impeach the hell outta him.

Great to see all these various luminaries - a retired colonel, a lawyer, writers, David Swanson of AfterDowningStreet.com, who seems to be moderating - sitting side by side.

Theater as a medium for an impeachment hearing - seems to work.

People still mill in the lobby. I like the lobby. I met some college students who complained that they couldn't go to all the shows because each costs twenty bucks per student, and that adds up. I said I'd try to help them out. (We'll see where/how that goes.)

Ann Wright gets applause, raising her voice that the Dems aren't doin' anythang right now anyways, so why don't they hold B/C accountable? So what if it takes a month? We have to.

McGovern says he swore in the Army to defend America from enemies foreign and domestic, and he never heard an expiration date for that. He points out, as was pointed out last night, that the founders intended impeachment to be used in case any president "started acting like a king," that it is an orderly process.

He also interestingly points out that we all have "outrage fatigue - every week there's a new outrage!" that makes it hard for us keep up the heat. But we have to. We have to keep trying to make our own Congress do its job and reign in the executive.

He also points out that the Constitution is imperative: It doesn't ask you to consider impeaching a bad president. It tells you to.


"There's gonna be a war against Iran, folks. You don't believe it? Sure its crazy, sure it's crazy... But most of my colleagues [in national intelligence] agree."

He is serious--McGovern is telling us--you, me, everybody--that Bush and Cheney are going to go to war with Iran. Unless we tie him up with impeachment. Unless we literally prevent the Congress from authorizing war funds, prevent Bush from doing anything, he will go to war with Iran.

Swanson asks something... McGovern points out that we would lose the war with Iran.

Hendrik Hertzberg points out that the Constitution's flaws have got us into this mess, and that while impeachment is great for theater, it's not great for "grown-up politics." Zero chance. Of actually happening.

Everest notes that war with Iran will lead to martial law here (of course). "Impeachment is not now on the political landscape," he says. We, the millions and millions, have to act. We all have to write and protest and (I add) break some shit. "The people themselves have to take it upon themselves." What if three million people wore orange? What about a general strike? (I love his ideas.) The stakes aren't stopping the war on Iraq - not any more - but stopping the institution of torture, the police state, escalation of nuclear weapons since we won't get troops on the ground in Iran. The gap between what the people want and what the imperialists want is so huge... We have to organize (each of us in the room). [Well, I'm in the lobby...]

Swanson brings the audience in, reminding us that over a third of Americans want to impeach and remove Bush.

Wait, no audience yet. De la Vega reminds us that impeachment is a process, not necessarily one that will result in removal. She asks, do we think both B & C have committed impeachable offenses? The majority think so. She disagrees with Hertzberg that impeachment is a "political fantasy." We don't know what the outcome is going to be. It doesn't matter. We can't accept defeat. "We are all politicians." (The idea that we are all part of this, not just politicized, party-liner DC types.)

Audience Q1: "I'm a librarian... I'm not an American citizen." (She's Canadian.) She reminds us that impeachment is a national civics lesson, not a trial. She says (as others have said) we have to impeach Bush or throw out the Constitution.

Swanson clarifies points about Dems in Congress wanting to pass resolutions and fearing the process; I don't really get it, but I'll check "Let's Try Democracy" later; he's mainly talking about Pelosi.

McGovern... orates. (He's sort of like Rip Torn meets George Carlin meets Indiana Jones. I imagine he could wield a whip or khukri.) His point: The Dems want to wait just one more year, then get a Dem president, then beat the Republicans, which is the wrong way to think about it.

Q2: Something about Nazis. Okay. A question to Hertzberg. The questioner is LIVID. Sort of voice-cracking woman, comparing Bush and Hitler, asking what the process would have been to remove Hitler? Now McGovern and Hertzberg are arguing about "they" versus "we." "They, they, they."

Swanson fields it: Tell the other Republicans, the ones who don't want to impeach, that it's not a partisan question: What does it matter who the next president is if the next pres. doesn't have to obey laws? (He's with the "it's not political" camp.)

Hertzberg disagrees. Everest points out that Hilter did come in through political power, same as Bush; torture was approved, made part of the institution. "People just have to be refused to be bound by the terms of what the Democrats or Republicans are saying." "What the Democrats are doing is poison because it's paralyzing - just wait till 2008..." I agree. We don't need to stay at home and watch TV.

Q3: Angry about Hillary. Okay... These microphone-users are newish, I'm guessing. lot of loud cracking.

Q4: Clinton was impeached for a blowjob! Anger. Now yelling about 9/11 inside job Afghanistan domino theory - so what I want to know is, what are people going to do, to get the American people out of...?

Swanson politely cuts him off, pointing out that if we agree that B/C have committed 2999 impeachable offenses -- the man cuts him off -- Swanson regains, moves on.

De la Vega reminds us that the approval rating of Congress is less than that of the pres. (This is lively theater.) We need to send the message that --> Congress does more = Congress gets more support.

Q5: Nixon. Why is it different?

McGovern fields; Everest points out that the social upheaval across the board (anti-war, women's movement, etc.) helped oust Nixon.

Swanson brings it back to the calculus of wait-and-see versus act-now-in-accordance-with-the-people's-wishes. Historical precedents. People liked Clinton, so he didn't get impeached.

Q6: Can't hear it. It's long, rambling, and about lowering the bar for something. No mic. "Raise the standards for the people, we're intelligent," doubt that voting alone will effect chain.

Q7: Leapfrog past Tim Russert. What new ways will help us reach Facebook kids (uh, they're better organized that you, largely).

Q8: The marketplace of ideas is closed. There is no free press. Church and state. Police state. Again, not a question, rambling. But great in that, for the third time, the emphasis is against Pelosi-world D.C. General strike challenged, generally.

Swanson holds up fliers that list specific things we can do. CALL THE SPEAKER OF THE HOUSE. Yo, I'm going to do that, get my coworkers to do that, and do it a lot.

Angry surprise Q9, something hard to hear about war. McGovern takes his closing remarks to address. The supreme international crime, the war of aggression. McGovern gives an awesome quote, I'll try to find it. He points out that all five major articles of impeachment, all the crimes, are part of a general war of aggression. Jail, as Thoreau said, the only decent place to be in such times.

Ann Wright thanks Culture Project.

Allan Buchman starts to speak, as the host: Mentions our play Guantanamo, back in 2004. The Constitution was out of print. The White House didn't know when they'd start printing it again...

He fields the question of Facebook very well: The whole point is to do art, theater, and to blog about it, get the video up immediately on blip.tv and on our site and on our blogs, etc. Figure out what works. Just figure it out. That's the whole point of the show. I agree.

Ann Wright: "Let's close that mother down" (D.C.) Defends theater as an attempt, a good attempt, one of many. (It seems audience is angry panel isn't mentioning Blackwater. I mean, fuck those guys, but we have a lot of stuff to go through, over five weeks, including Blackwater. We'll get there.)

Everest: Change the discourse - Bush's actions not mistakes, but crimes. Insist on morality - refusing to resist war crimes is a crime. Refuse to wait on Dems or Reps or anyone. Don't think a Dem in 08 will save everything. It won't, because that Dem will have infinite power. (And Bush won't go, anyway.)

Hertzberg: Don't just vote (he stresses voting and was yelled at by audience for it). Remember that Bush did not win the presidency but was put in place by a judicial coup de tat. Get out and get interested in the idea of getting rid of the electoral college. IT DON'T WORK. (That much seems self explanatory, but I'll add links to explain.) We should have a general election. Political activity is pointless if your vote doesn't count. General strike = fantasy; impeachment = fantasy. (He says. He is not a revolutionary. We could do both. He don't have to get out there and strike - I can not-work enough for two.)

Swanson claps. Everyone claps. Lights up in lobby as De la Vega adds very last word (maybe). Lights down in lobby. She thinks the only way we can not impeach Bush is to continue as if we're in a fantasy. To see reality is to impeach.

Swanson adds last-last word: Fourteen more months for Bush is faaar too long. He will go to war, or whatever. We will all die horribly (my maudlin phrasing).


Break Before Panel

De la Vega sums up the evening thus far.

People stream into the still half-dark lobby to go or to grab coffee.

On the live-feed, chairs are moved, mics moved.

(FYI future CP bloggers, the wireless signal is all Hulked-up strong in the lobby.)

The lights come up.

My laptop rests atop books and the postcards of other shows.

People are smiling, chatting. Seems like most will head outside. Many stop to peruse books, including Larry Everest's Oil Power & Empire (no comma on the cover).

My friend at Culture Project calls the show "enthralling."

The lights dim again. I'm going to pee, sneak in, and keep blogging.

Retired Colonel Ann Wright

As Ann Wright speaks about the airstrikes that Bush authorized (extra airstrikes - Clinton had been keeping them up) as soon as he could. Bush also moved money from the Afghanistan funds to Iraq funds - this was not public info, but Wright new and was worried. She was in Afghanistan looking for al-Qaeda, and she was underfunded.

--- MEANWHILE, to my left, one patron complains to another that tonight is so much more "fake" than last night. I'm not sure I know what she means, since last night was a collage of ideas about impeachment, and tonight is an actual (fake) impeachment proceeding. Both forms of theater (fake), but different, apples/oranges.

But I wonder if this legal stuff is gripping the audience? The patron seems furious, almost. I don't know what she expected. I'd like to ask her about it, but I choose to remain invisible for now. ---

Wright speaks about approaching the UN about going to war with Iraq. The UN couldn't believe Bush would go to war without UN backing.

We listen to British Ambassador Christopher Meyer's words about convincing the UN to go to war. Wright notes that, no matter how smooth the war rhetoric otherwise, B/C/the Brits had to show that Saddam had broken promises, gone back on his word, somehow fouled up, in a way that would resonate in the UN.

Downing Street comes up. Still un-farking-believable.

Wright points out that the UN weapon inspectors didn't feel they weren't getting access to Saddam's info. They didn't want to go to war.

Wright lists the victims of the war - Iraqis, Americans, Europeans, the world (its security, its trust)... And she is done.

Next up - panel discussion.


McGovern is honestly impressed and amazed how smoothly the fearmongering B/C people handled all their fearmongering...

Now De la Vega and McGovern are passing around a cardboard tube, a prop, used as false evidence of Iraqi nuclear ramp-up before the Senate Intelligence Committee.

Q: Can you think of any way in which the Bush Administration did not deceive the public?

A: No, I can't think of any.

Well, there ya go.


McGovern is involved with a group called Veteran Intelligence Professionals for Sanity (VIPS) which seeks to point out how faulty the pre-Iraq War intel was.

Last Night's Show In Full On Podango

Word up! Watch it/love it/hate it/write us.

Ray McGovern On Intelligence, National Or Lacking

McGovern says the public wouldn't have stomached it if Bush and Cheney had come right out and said "we want to seize the oil in Iraq and make the region safe for Israel," so they played on fear. They were playing on fear anyway, then 9/11 happened.

(For more background: Here's a short CNN interview with McGovern that's full of juicy stuff about what Cheney lied about.)

Before 9/11, the link between al-Qaeda and Iraq was investigated and found lacking.

McG. tells a story: Bush was wandering alone in the White House just after 9/11 and took aside his aides and asked, "Was it Saddam? Was it Saddam?" He wanted all the evidence. He wanted to establish a link.

Long, crazy Bush quote about Saddam gassing his own people, then linking up with al-Qaeda. Very emphatic.

Tim Russert asked Cheney if there was any evidence linking Iraq and al-Q.; Cheney said it's "pretty well-confirmed" that one of the hijackers had a link...

PNAC strikes again...

Laptop is about to die. Must post and find new spot to plug in...


More McGovern, this time interviewed by Jon Stewart:

Bush and 9/11

9/11 - Bush called it "The Pearl Harbor of the 20th Century," a mandate for broader war. They (B/C) considered radical Islam the principal enemy to American hegemony and control of oil in the Mid-East.

"Drain the swamp" - is what they wanted to do; go in, steal the oil; remove the cancer of extreme Islam.

But, again, we return to what they said out loud to the American people: "Not only did they not talk about [oil, empire], they vehemently denied" that war would have anything to do with anything other than democracy and justice.

The live-feed, by the by, is about eight feet wide by five tall, projected on a high part of the white wall jutting up and out from above the CP box office. A dozen or fewer patrons watch, enjoying themselves (seems like). The audio could be louder, but it's definitely intelligible.

Larry Everest was being interviewed. He was very astute. I'll have to read his books. He comes out and greets (his wife?). A dapper-looking man. The producers are also around, watching.

Now here comes Ray McGovern. He studied Russian and worked in the CIA. Let me start a new post for him...

Impeachy Night Deux, .2

Okay, FYI, here's the skinny on tonight's combatants:

Monday, November 19 - 7:00 p.m. Article I: Initiation and Continuation of Illegal War.

Participants include Colonel (Ret.) Ann Wright, Elizabeth de la Vega, Hendrik Hertzberg, Ray McGovern, Larry Everest, and David Swanson.

Performers include Kristen Johnston, Willie Garson, Nana Mensah, Chris McKinney, Courtney Esser, and Scott Cohen.

My growing concern is that the attorneys (E. De la Vega is the person asking questions right now), who probably feel that B/C should be impeached, aren't going to go all apeshit hardball on the witnesses, who probably agree with the attorneys. So we're watching a three-hour (now two-hour) love-fest between two groups of smart people - one more versed in the lingo of law, one more loaded with historical and political terms.

The major villain seems to be ultra-right-wing political think tank PNAC - Project for the New American Century.

The gist right now: Airstrikes were ordered against Iraq right away when Bush came to power, sans inciting incident. The Bush/Cheney rhetoric was isolationist in nature, but they wanted to let the world know (paradoxically) that they'd be intervening in the region. Sans inciting incident.

Break In The Fossil Record/Night Number 2

Oops, I oversleep and arrive late to Night No. 2. I'm currently in the lobby, watching the live-feed from the theater, blogging away, listening with one ear and typing with... the other...? Well, idioms aside, the actual impeachment proceedings are well under way. A very funny woman with shortish blond hair is talking about conspiracy and fraud, in the legal sense. "Outright lies, half-truths... technically true but designed to deceive," she lists as various equally legally interesting aspects of fraud. Fraud-options, I guess.

Meaning: If Bush and Cheney implied Saddam had WMDs and Saddam didn't, then Bush and Cheney committed fraud. They cannot later claim, "oh, I didn't know." People are giggling, because the woman is funny. (I'll find her name in a sec.)

Now a witness is speaking to her about the timing of the intent to go to war with Saddam (dating back to Cheney's Defense Dept. under Bush I).

--- BREAKIND NEWS I just saw thanks to Google's newsreader - Pakistan's highest court has just dismissed challenges to president/dictator Musharraf's running for election again. Damn, yo. ---

Okay, back to impeaching: Neo-con ideology dates back to the Vietnam and Cold Wars, when "realist imperialists" and neo-cons split over the issue of policing the larger world: In short, neo-cons wanted to overthrow "bad guys," including eventually Saddam, while realists wanted to avoid getting entangled in lots of little wars that could of course wreck things in America.

Wow. Rummy signed, along with various other policy-influencers, an open letter to Bill Clinton advising him to go after Saddam. And that blasted Richard Perle!

Let me post this and get the night's blogging started...

Grim News/Further Evidence

As in, the news is grim, and I find it all further cause to doubt the Bush regime's ability to ethically govern an anthill, let alone Bushlandia, er, I mean, America.

Here are some of the problems: On the same day the US military announces plans to arm tribal groups in Pakistan to combat terrorism, it also announces that attacks in Iraq have fallen to their lowest levels since... last year.

Neither of these announcements strike me as Bush triumphs. The Surge (and that insipid name - it was a soft drink! a green soft drink, I tell you!) has pushed things back all the way to the golden days of Feb., 2006, when we were all so innocent about what was happening o'er yonder in the desert.

The Pakistani tribal arms-deals worry me even more. (And why announce them? Aren't these just the sort of silly clandestine activities that we're supposed to hear about thirty years later, after all involved CIA agents have retired and bought bungalows in Havana?) With the entire nation about to crack up over its dictator/president's attempt to stay in power, should the US really be meddling, somewhere in the back of party, handing out guns and whippets to a bunch of tribal dudes who - sure, may not love al-Qaeda - but also may not love the US? And whose opinions, which we probably don't know very well, could change quickly. Especially given, you know, the whole country's cracking up...

That's 5th grade wisdom, friends: Wait until the civil war clears up to start massive militias. (The Times' article's lead picture is of a member of "the Frontier Corps, a paramilitary force that has about 85,000 soldiers, stood guard at a bazaar.")

In gooder news (allow my purposely lapsed grammar to indicate my disdain for all this positive Republi-statusquo "we're doin' okay!"-mongering), Bush and Rice are pushing for Mid-East peace, finally, as well as peace with North Korea. This is something of a turn-around, since B&R (hereforward "The Warriors," after the movie gang) declined to continue with Bill Clinton's Mid-East/N.K. peace plans.

A friend of Roger Cohen predicts the latest Mid-East talks will be "a unique example of failure," which strikes me as fine way to phrase the general outlook for the waning Bush presidency. Failure. And not even good ole American stealin'-shit failure, as with Nixon. Bush's failure is all his own.

Finally, our last depressing world fact comes to us courtesy the National Endowment from the Arts, which reports that children aren't reading as much as they used to. Well, thanks for that statistic. "The Surge is working" (a lie disguised to keep us happy about our state of constant war?) coupled with "kids ain't reedin no mor" (a truth revealed to depress us into inaction?).

Happy Monday.


When we finally push through thirty minutes or so of quotes, we arrive at a list of articles of impeachment. Let me simply add them to this post, so that you can refer to them later, if interested:

Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush and Richard Cheney

Article I: Initiation and Continuation of Illegal War

George W. Bush’s and Richard Cheney’s initiation and continuation of the Iraq war
constitutes a high crime and misdemeanor...

Article II: Torture and Extraordinary Renditions

George W. Bush and Richard Cheney have allowed their administration to condone

Article III: Criminal Negligence in Response to Hurricane Katrina

George W. Bush and Richard Cheney have demonstrated criminal negligence in their
slow and insufficient response to the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita...

Article IV: Warrantless Surveillance

George W. Bush and Richard Cheney have abused their power by violating the
constitutional rights of citizens...

Article V: Executive Power

Signing Statements and Habeas Corpus George W. Bush has formally declared his intent to violate the laws enacted by Congress by appending a “signing statement” to legislation that asserts his right to carve out exceptions to legislation as he sees fit...

I'd just like to toss in one more quote, this one by Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia:

No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned. Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. We proclaim a doctrine that is preemption which is understood by few and feared by many... As a result, the world had become a much more dangerous place.

Whoa. For me, that statement summarizes so well how America has changed in the eyes of its friends (and enemies) abroad.

The actors finish, and the stage goes dark.

Staceyann Chin, Round 2: Open Letter

...to gay men, dykes, transsexuals, blacks, women, et al.

S.C. doesn't immediately give away how her letter to a gay group relates to the impeachment of the president. She takes her time, reading in measured breaths, appalled that gay women have gone from happily out, in the Ellen era, to shunning the word "lesbian" for more neutral, less politically-identifiable terms today, only a decade or so later. S.C. is pissed. Something has changed, and she's not exactly sure why, and I'm not exactly sure what's changed, but I'm fairly sure I agree with S.C.'s views about it.

Here's my best attempt to decode the calmer portions of her letter:

Gay men used to be united in the struggle against AIDS - everywhere. They supported young black women in other countries who are routinely raped our forced into prostitution. Now those same well-to-do gay men don't seem to care as much. AIDS isn't a huge epidemic in America anymore, at least not for white men, so the issue is over and AIDS will not addressed elsewhere.

[Her tone changes; her face bunches up. This is just an example of something. A general apathy. A malaise with the Left, the enervated, vitiated, minority-lip-servicing-but-really-who-cares-because-let's-face-it, we're-doing-fine Left...]

The less calm regions of Chin's thoughts would look like night in Alaska if you painted them. They are black and white, and cold, cold, cold...

Chin, like a young Bell Hooks, excoriates all of us who do not daily involve ourselves in the plights of the poor and abused and mistrusted, here and abroad, gay and straight and black and whatever. Her point is that struggles are interconnected, and deadly apathy eventually circles back home.

I.e., we cannot stand by and say, "this isn't my struggle; I'm a [fill in identity-group]." Bush and Cheney's crimes effect not only all U.S. citizens and noncitizens, but all people of the world. If this time the boy in the small town dies for the cause of his oil, next time it could be you, for some evil cause you never dreamed of.

Chilling stuff - watch her do it - she twists your own brain on itself, making you ask, "What have I done to help anyone? Am I one of the imperialists (I can't be!)?" But if we all band together...? Incantation that stuns, prepares for the revelations ahead (the proceedings of the impeachment - what to do).

Hard to write in the dark; hard to finish this post; I'm not sure how else to talk about Chin's work but in these immediate impressions. Perhaps a later post will clarify where I think her cynicism and boundless energy and moral laser-guidance can/will take us.

Anyway, I won't yak more about it when you can watch her yourself here. (The audio seems to cut out every few seconds - is that just me?)

The Articles Of Impeachment

The stage darkens. Spot on the double–platform.

Actors take the stage. On the screen in the back, a mix of quotes from the country's founders, Howard Zinn, the Constitution, and various congress-people. Actors begin to read the quotes, in full, in actorly voices. The images and sound merge, and we the audience begin to ponder impeachment in a slightly less incantatory, more historical-legal way...

"Bind him down from mischief," reads a quote from T. "No Joke" Jefferson, referring to what the Congress should be able to do to/with/about an unruly, tyrannical chief executive.

Most of the opening quotes expound upon the ease and point of impeachment - i.e., that it can and should be used liberally in cases such as Bush's (wherein almost half of America is pretty sure the man did something treasonous, or several things, and is thus not fit to continue serving as president).

Again and again, references are made to the idea that the president and other executives serve the people, not the other way around, and that any merest whiff of king-dom (king-hood? -ness?) from the pres. is grounds for immediate impeachment. After all, the founders and their later writers-about seem to say, isn't it easier to occasionally go through a big messy trial and impeach a guy than to even once allow a guy to take over our democracy and proclaim himself Emperor?

But first some background. The word "impeach" comes to us from Latin and means "to fetter." The modern idea of a legislative body's right to remove from office an executive who commits treason or other high crimes comes from fourteenth-cent. England, when a guy named Peter De la Mare first moved to oust Lord William Latimer, a corrupt official, a crony of the king.

The quotes are becoming more dry and less and less surprising. I'm detecting a theme.

And yet, every few seconds, a gem shines out: We learn that the founders were very specific about the impeachment of the executive (two sections of the Constitution explain how to go about it), but weren't specific at all about its election. They trusted Congress to figure out a way to elect people, but they wanted to make quite sure that everyone in America knew how to remove people, the kind of people who go to war needlessly...

Teddy Roosevelt gets a round of applause for: "To announce that there must be no criticism of the president, or that we are to stand by the president, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but it is morally treasonable to the American public." Actually, I think every Roosevelt quote gets a round. (Go on wichya bad rough-ridin' moustache self, T.)

War is, rightfully I think, the major concern of the quotes. T. Jeff. again: "Congress alone is constitutionally invested with the power of changing our condition
from peace to war."

"The provision of the Constitution giving the war making power to Congress was dictated, as I understand it, by the following reasons. Kings had always been involving and impoverishing their people in wars pretending generally, if not always, that the good of the people was the object." - Lincoln.

But the biggest responses from the crowd follow words by Barbara Jordan and a Republican ex-Senator from Kentucky named Marlow Cook.

M.C. has this to add:

I am frightened to death of George Bush. I fear a secret government. I abhor a government that refuses to supply the Congress with the requested information... For me as a Republican, I feel that when my party gives me a dangerous leader who flouts the truth, takes the country into an undeclared war, and then adds a war on terrorism to it without a debate by the Congress, we have a duty to rid ourselves of those who are taking our country on a perilous ride in the wrong direction.

This makes me wonder, again, if any conservatives are in the room.

The question comes up often between my older brother and me: Shouldn't conservatives want a leader to be proud of? A competent, popular, effective, not-scary, not-bumbling, not-Napoleonic leader? We're not conservatives, but our grandfather is, and I think he'd agree with Sen. Cook that Bush is the wrong man for the job of President of the United States.

When we finally push through thirty minutes or so of quotes, we arrive at a list of articles of impeachment. Let me simply plop them into this post, so that you can refer to them later, if interested

Articles of Impeachment Against George W. Bush and Richard Cheney

Article I: Initiation and Continuation of Illegal War

George W. Bush’s and Richard Cheney’s initiation and continuation of the Iraq war
constitutes a high crime and misdemeanor. In undertaking that aggressive war, George
W. Bush and Richard Cheney have subverted the Constitution, its guarantee of a
republican form of government, and the constitutional separation of powers, by
undermining the rightful authority of Congress to declare war, oversee foreign affairs, and make appropriations. They did so by justifying the war with false and misleading statements and deceived the people of the United States as well as Congress.

Article II: Torture and Extraordinary Renditions

George W. Bush and Richard Cheney have allowed their administration to condone
torture, failed to prosecute those responsible for torture, refused to accept the binding nature of a statutory ban on cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and violated international treaties by implementing “extraordinary renditions” of prisoners to countries that endorse torture.

Article III: Criminal Negligence in Response to Hurricane Katrina

George W. Bush and Richard Cheney have demonstrated criminal negligence in their
slow and insufficient response to the effects of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, when clear evidence warranted immediate and massive action on the following counts: 1) New
Orleans was under-funded prior to the storms, when it was clearly at risk; 2) two years after the storms, 50,000 people remain displaced, and the majority of promised
government aid has not found its way to the people who need it most.

Article IV: Warrantless Surveillance

George W. Bush and Richard Cheney have abused their power by violating the
constitutional rights of citizens, impairing the due and proper administration of justice, by directing or authorizing the National Security Administration and various other agencies within the intelligence community to conduct electronic surveillance outside of the statutes Congress has prescribed in the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act.

Article V: Executive Power

Signing Statements and Habeas Corpus George W. Bush has formally declared his intent to violate the laws enacted by Congress by appending a “signing statement” to legislation that asserts his right to carve out exceptions to legislation as he sees fit, thereby arrogating to himself legislative powers reserved solely for Congress. George W. Bush and Richard Cheney have violated the constitutional and international rights of citizens and non-citizens by arbitrarily detaining them indefinitely inside and outside of the United States, and trying to suspend the constitutional Writ of Habeas Corpus by denying prisoners due process, detaining them without charges, and with limited – if any – access to counsel or courts.

I'd just like to toss in one more quote, this one by Sen. Robert Byrd of West Virginia:

No more is the image of America one of strong, yet benevolent peacekeeper. The image of America has changed. Around the globe, our friends mistrust us, our word is disputed, our intentions are questioned. Instead of reasoning with those with whom we disagree, we demand obedience or threaten recrimination. We proclaim a doctrine that is preemption which is understood by few and feared by many... As a result, the world had become a much more dangerous place.

Whoa. For me, that statement summarizes so well how America has changed in the eyes of its friends (and enemies) abroad.

The actors finish, and the stage goes dark.

Lewis Lapham Wrecks Headz

Former Harper's editor Lewis Lapham walks slowly to the stage. The mic droops not quite near his mouth, and his gravelly voice is hushed. Everyone holds their breath and lean forwards. Lapham speaks. He is not going to sing. It's hard to imagine him singing.

Lapham invites us to consider that John Conyers, chairman of the House Judiciary Committee, asked his staff to prepare a document explaining why Bush should be impeached. The 182-page report convinced the doubting Lapham of the need to investigate Bush's crimes via impeachment. In his words, why we would run the risk of not impeaching them?

Bush and crew have conspired to commit fraud (to misuse the money we have invested in the executive on what Lapham calls a "frivolous" war). Double-L:

"We have before us in the White House a thief... A liar, who seeks to instill in the American people a state of fear. A televangelist... A wastrel... In a word, a criminal - known to be armed, shown to be dangerous." He mentions the regime's "pet Bismarcks and bibles in closed rooms."

Lapham's perfect. The fire in his voice is strangled down to embers by his steely, editorial look and snappy rhythm. His face betrays nothing as he excoriates "the fiction of permanent war" in the name of national security. This is the meat of the impeachment cause: Bush has created war and will keep us mired in war indefinitely in order to preserve broad-ranging powers and ensure his own imperial impunity.

We must stop him. Or rather, we must pressure Congress to do so.

The problems with impeachment are, as Lapham states, "romanticism" - the general American notion that our own president would never perpetrate so great a fraud as a straight-up Wag the Dog, Downing Street, needless war - and "apathy," which should be self-explanatory.

Are we "a public unwilling to recognize the President of the United States as a felon," or a public unwilling to persecute felonies?

(Lapham speaks to us as if we are a congressional investigatory committee, which is flattering but slightly confusing. Given that the stage is full of empty chairs, I believe the trope might be that we are listening in on such. It doesn't matter.)

Lapham winds down. To paraphrase his final point: It isn't the business of Congress to punish the President, but to correct his mistakes and remove him from power. "To cauterize the wound," as it were.

Sounds good to me.


P.S. - Here are more impeachment links. A wealth of places to get involved, if you dig through the links to congressional sites and related movements.

Mary Lee Kortes

Mary Lee Kortes (of Mary Lee's Corvette) and Andy Krikun are up next to do a short acoustic set. Kortes notes that the songs will not be as jubilant as Olson's performance or Flanders' reading. The songs are indeed a touch mournful. Krikun plays a medley of his own material and others', grinning and moving swiftly. (He's the guy who reminded me of Rinde Eckert earlier.) I'm beginning to worry that the light from my laptop, much dimmed though it is, is going to drive the person next to me crazy. I don't want to distract anyone, so I go ghost-ninja mode and fold the screen over my hands. I can no longer see what I'm ytping. The music ends. Appluaes...

Laura Flanders: A Dream of Impeachment

British Nation-writer Laura Flanders takes the stage next to read from a brilliant Huffington Post article/meditation/fantasy by Robert Brucestein about the impeachment of the entire Bush administration.

This fifth incantation strikes home a little quicker than the previous three or four, perhaps because it's funnier, more concrete, actual about the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, and being read by a British person.

(The British make us feel terrible about Bush, but they have Blair. I mention Flanders' accent because its nonchalant authority works to drive home the idea that this is real: We can actually impeach Bush. Brustein isn't really writing a satire or a fantasy, at least not with the lines "an entire Administration was unceremoniously dumped from office." He's describing a future we can attain.)

Some of the further Bush evils Brustein/Flanders point out to us - the theologizing of science and the packing of the Supreme Court. (And - by the way - why don't Supreme Court justices have term limits? Anyone? Help me out with this one.)

Perhaps the most clever moment in Brustein's piece is the depiction of Bush as President Nancy Pelosi's official greeter - as the guy smiling and pointing, not knowing when he's being booed. This is a great version of Bush - not just the Idiot, but the Happy Non-Perceptor. (We will have to make a new tarot card for him. None of the old ones quite work.)

Quick thought: Are there any conservatives in the room? Have any Republicans or at least non-polarized "World Can't Wait" Bush-bashers decided to check out the opposition? Are they too intimidated? I hope not, but I fear they are. I fear they will be, if they show up to these events. I don't agree with Bush-supporters, but it seems logical to bring some in and let them speak their case, at some point.

But not tonight.

Alix Olson: Civil War & Wal-Mart

Anti-Bush incantations three and four belong to the passionate Alix Olson, who jumps in with a poem called "To the Republic" about the Civil War. Less dead-on than the Ferlinghetti, but a good poem and good reading. Lines to remember:

"Dirt had bleached the blue and grey one color."

"...We now ruin the great work of time."


The fourth incantation is a poem about Wal-Mart ("for" Wal-Mart, according to Olson). This one doesn't quite work, for me at least. Olson's energy is through the roof and her recital top-notch - her hands cut the air and dart to punctuate laugh-lines - but the poem itself is, at times, silly to the point of embarrassment.

"Attention shoppers," it begins, using the trope of a Wal-Mart PA-system announcement to let the world know that "global perspective is 99% off" and "all ethics must go;" that Nike's bought the Revolution and all the talented actors are in Cats.

(That last one threw me. I mean, I laughed, but is the idea that the talented follow the money and end up with hack Broadway jobs? Because Cats just makes me think of men in funny cat outfits, prancing - which image isn't exactly socio-economically inclining, meditations-wise.)

Towards the end of the poem, it missteps by referencing a website called "www.fuckallofit." Can anyone see the problem here? There's no domain specified, lol. This website could be .net, .tv, .co.ck, or .del.icio.us.

One of the perennial writerly complaints against spoken-word poetry is its imprecision, something from which this series of anti-Wal-Mart couplets suffers. As a web geek and progressive feminist self-hating white dude, I resent the notion (expounded upon briefly here) that the Web is somehow part of the axis of white/male global dominance.

Its origins (in the startling transformation of a military database into a tool for linking university research material), current do-gooder custodian (Google), and recent history (helping Dean gather support from young progressives; helping Obama or Edwards take the White House in 08) aside, the Web should serve everyone, not just rich white men. The flip side of that statement is that everyone will have to learn about the Web in order to be served.

So, all I'm sayin' is, remember the domain.


At this point, people are laughing, feeling good. (Perhaps antsy to see something "meaty?" Or is this just me?)

Staceyann Chin, Round 1: "Pity the Nation"

(Okay, back to the live-blogging... The internet kept cutting out in the theater, or this would have been up last night. As there was no intermission, I couldn't run down to the production office and post from there.)

Staceyann Chin reads "Pity the Nation" by Lawrence Ferlinghetti, after Ghibran (see below).

The short, caustic poem is dead-on as a second incantation against the Bush regime. (That is, until it stumbles on the penultimate line, "My country, tears of thee, sweet land of liberty." How the eighty year-old master poet left such a cheesy line in an otherwise austere, snappy work, I don't know.) Chin's reading is, as ever, powerful and effective. People are really feeling this.


Pity the Nation

Pity the nation that is full of beliefs and emty of religion.
Pity the nation that wears a cloth it does not weave, eats a bread it does not harvest, and drinks a wine that flows not from its own wine-press.
Pity the nation that acclaims the bull as hero, and that deems the glittering conqueror bountiful.
Pity the nation whose statesman is a fox, whose philosopher is a juggler, and whose art is the art of patching and mimicking.
Pity the nation whose sages are dumb with years and whose strong men are yet in the cradle.

- Khalil Gibran, The Garden of the Prophet (1934).

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Rinde Bangs

Rinde Eckert incants: [Here I can rely only on shorthand; the full version will be up on the web, linked to this blog and the CP website, soon.] "Power wielded with no consideration... becomes tyrannical... Lies... Lies accepted... become tyranny."

He's a striking bald man in a black shirt and gray vest, pounding a wide, thin drum, screaming, chanting, "ignorance! of these facts! in anyone! is disastrous! but, in the powerful! is criminal!"

--then he stops. Sobers, repeats once, leaves.

The energy show has set the scene for something sober but not dry; Rinde's short bizarre banging and chanting has got my full attention.

First Incantation - Welcome by Allan Buchman

The stage: Two square wooden platforms, one slightly smaller the one under it, to the left. To the right, a piano.

Allan Buchman, Culture Project founder and producing artistic director, comes forward from the wing. He's wearing a dapper cream sweater, waiting to speak to the audience. Every seat is filled, and more are trickling in, apparently squeezing into the right-front wing.

Allan speaks: Good evening. Dig deeply tonight into the voice of our soul. America in crisis. [Themes emerging.] Katrina. Economic disparity. Bloodshed in our name. The silence of our generation, compared to the movements of the past. Break the door of apathy. Pilgrimage of hope. Welcome.

A good, short speech.

(Oh, and we're supposed to have a channel on a podcasting site called Podango. More details on this as I ferret out information about it.)


This is all supposed to be live, an inaugural shout into the darkness of the political news-ether (the blogosphere), but the internet in the theater keeps dropping my computer, of vice versa. Someone's rejecting someone in that always-fragile relationship. Anywho, I'm writing this live, so it sort of counts (right?). I'll upload it at half-time, if I can't earlier.

Stage is dark. Usual CP patrons abound. People read the program, particularly the schedule, intently, which is good. We want them to see all the articles—to hear all the arguments. In a way, the question is: Are we preaching to a choir? Is this a problem, in an age when the American president has suspended habeas corpus? I don't mean to be facile with an answer (in form of  question), but perhaps the sight of this many people packed into the theater indicates something fomenting. Will we all write our congress-people when we go home tonight? Will such emails (and perhaps a few snail-mail letters, even) impact such congress-people?

These are the questions occupying my mind as I wait.

The Buzz Begins...

I'm here in the maroon dimness of Culture Project, awaiting the beginning of A Question of Impeachment, a theater smorgasbord to be much blogged-about by myself (Wythe Marschall, a writer of fiction) and Isaac Butler of the ever-thought-provoking Parabasis.

I believe Mr. Butler will be giving you the thoroughly researched, annotated, conscientious version. I don't ordinarily write "non"-fiction and find the term itself highly dubious. So mine will be the Gonzo emotive highly biased version.

Disclaimers: I am a former and current employee of Culture Project, the theater that's producing A Question of Impeachment. From August 2006 to August 2007 I was their marketing director, and now I'm a roving content manager for their website and graphic designer for their programs.

Further disclaimers: I'm an ultra-progressive. I myself have no doubt that Bush and Cheney should be impeached and brought to justice. (I'm open to arguments, of course; feel free to post why they shouldn't be impeached.)

Currently, someone bald who reminds me of Rinde Eckert is singing a folk-song about the relative literal, metaphorical, and moral wealth of Americans. A decent song. He stops. Sound check is over. Almost two hundred people are crammed impossibly into the tiny Culture Project lobby, watching a huge projection of information about the President and Vice President's crimes.

The house opens...

I'm told to turn the brightness on my monitor all the way down... Okay, going ninja/ghost-mode...

Let the impeachment begin!

O Christopher Hitchens!

Seriously, he gives we of little (or zero) faith a bad name. Or several bad names, probably.

Check out his latest shenanigans...

and some thoughts on said shenanigans.

We're going to post more on this blog in the future. We promise.