Wednesday, December 19, 2007

American People Betrayed

Police brutality in New Orleans. Please be sure to watch to the end.

Monday, December 17, 2007

Journalist Betrayed, Soldiers Betrayed

But first a lighter fare: Schlock-talker Michael Savage lays into Islam, in a seriously scary way, and doesn't get the Imus routine as a result. Why? Because he laid into Islam, and America right now is afraid of Islam, even if most Muslim-Americans are law-abiding moderates (as are most [insert major group]-Americans).

I hope other minorities are helping Muslim-Americans fight back. Michael Savage was already a grade-A jerk, but his bizarrely fever-pitched screed against Muslim-Americans set a new standard for quasi-mainstream Islamophobia.

Just ask yourself, seriously: Would any on-air personality be allowed to say the same things (that we should deport all of them, that they should shove their religion up their behinds) of Jews, Christians, Buddhists, or atheists? He wasn't talking about jihadis - he was talking about all Muslims, a pretty big group.

Anyway, Culture Project's upcoming play Betrayed by New Yorker writer George Packer looks at how the U.S. military and the Bush people essentially betrayed many of the Iraqi interpreters and other aides they hired.

The play's fantastic (we've had a few readings) and Packer's nonfiction accounts of his time in Iraq - ranging from The Assassin's Gate to the article that inspired the play - is definitely worth reading.

But it saddens me to read, in today's New York Times, just how venerable our history of abandoning our allies really is. Short version: To fight communism in Laos and Vietnam, the CIA hired thousands of Hmong warriors (from Laos), then abandoned them when the communists won. The U.S. troops came home, in various states of disrepair. The Hmong were already home, and their socialist government couldn't have been more pissed at them.

Cut to thirty years later. The former fighters are aging; their families now guilty by relation. They move around every few weeks, hiding, and endure irregular skirmishes with the Laotian army. The government of Laos denies that ex-CIA Hmong exist in the jungles, blaming such rumors on "bandits." The Times's pictures prove otherwise.

Also not fun: Iraqi Associated Press photographer Bilal Hussein was held by U.S. forces for twenty months without being charged with a crime, then released into the care of an Iraqi magistrate. The magistrate will determine whether or not Hussein is an insurgent. He has still not been charged.

Hussein's lawyers "were not given a copy of the materials that were presented and which they need to prepare a defense." The AP has fought vigorously for Hussein, with little luck. The military says Hussein helped insurgents. But Hussein hasn't been charged with that crime or with any other.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Jackson Browne Sings

Powerful, swelling and echoing stuff. I guess "haunting" might be the back-of-the-book-jacket word for the first song.

The second, "Roll Out the Drums of War," is punchier, almost like Tool-meets-Neil Young. "Let's not talk about it anymore," might be the most sickeningly right-feeling line. "Who are the profits for?" Or is it "Who are the prophets for?" Either way, good question. "Who makes a fortune?" Word, I can tell you a few names that might fit... This guy's writing is great. Dylan but updated. Never too much, but always incantatory and gripping. The crowd loves it.

Going into over-time, but nobody's cutting the music. He flew in from L.A. just to play tonight. Rock-rock, Jackson.

"I ain't no communist, but I ain't no capitalist. And I ain't no socialist... I only know one party, and it is freedom. I am a patriot," he sings. People clap along. Ends too soon. And it all ends. The question might not have been answered, but it at least has been thoroughly asked.

Holly Hunter and Frank Bidart

...reads a poem, shortish, involving a beer. I'll find it (I hope) and post in a sec.

Frank Bidart reads "To the Republic," a poem about the Civil War read on AQoI's first night.

Kathleen Chalfant and Darryl Larson

...takes the stage, dressed in black, to read "Pity the Nation." Found a book by that title in addition to the poem.

Larson reads a Peter Matheson piece about the impact Bush and Cheney have had on our environment: They've cut programs to find alternatives to oil; they've invaded countries for oil; they've not enforced environmental regulations. These crimes, like those committed to steal the elections in 2000 and 2004, are not included in our articles of impeachment, nor those of Wexler nor Kucinich. But That doesn't make them less grave, just less easy to prosecute.

Larson points out that all the money in the world won't save the Bushes and Cheneys of two hundred years from now from the scorching sun and the undrinkable water. Booyakah, future-Bushes. Sadly. Booyakah.

The Last Impeachment Panel

A panel on stage, Allan Buchman chatting up its members.

Amy Goodman moderates. She opens by noting that the media is the most powerful tool for awareness, a sort of kitchen table that stretches across the country and globe. And is not covering impeachment.

On the panel, Marjorie Cohn, John Nichols, and Naomi Wolf.

To Nichols, Goodman asks why the Dems want to wait for another pres. election to get rid of Bush. Nichols points out that elections are easy. Impeachment is important on its own. We can't just wait for an election; we have to send a message to all future presidents about what how is not okay to govern.

To Cohn, Goodman asks about the reasons for going to Iraq and potentially Iran. The real reason, Cohn says, Bush went to Iraq became clear just recently when we made agreements with Iraq to have troops there indefinitely - to stay in Iraq and move on to Iran. Notwithstanding the new evidence that Iran doesn't have nuclear weapons, Bush says he has not taken military action against Iran off the table.

Cohn notes that Congress does not have legal authority to start a "war of aggression," one that breaks a treaty, a war whose causes are falsified or blown out of proportion.

Cohn breaks down how impeachment works: The House votes to impeach the president; the Senate acts a court, presiding over the impeachment itself.

Nichols explains that Congress can impeach Cheney and Bush at once (I wrote "Nixon" instead of Cheney first, took a second to see it - Freud at work). But Nichols says to start with Cheney, then move up, exposing the dual criminality of the Dick and the Bush.

Naomi Wolf describes the step by which would-be dictators do their thing: They create vague internal and external threats; they create secret prisons; they create military not answerable to the people; they spy on their own citizens; they harass citizen's groups; they arbitrarily detain and release individuals (TSA for travelers, environmentalists, progressives); they target individuals (Bill Maher, Dixie Chicks, CEOs getting fire); they--oh--here it is--

I think this is so important I'm going to paste in the Wikipedia version, to reiterate:

The Ten Steps to Dictatorship

1. Invoke a terrifying internal and external enemy.
2. Create secret prisons where torture takes place.
3. Develop a thug caste or paramilitary force not answerable to citizens.
4. Set up an internal surveillance system.
5. Harass citizens' groups.
6. Engage in arbitrary detention and release.
7. Target key individuals.
8. Control the press.
9. Declare all dissent to be treason.
10. Suspend the rule of law.

Wolf points out that there was still a parliament in Italy when Mussolini took over. He talked to parliament, then he stopped talking. Then at some point later, there was no point even pretending. Bush could declare an emergency tomorrow and boot out Congress. The state is legalizing torture. We could lose democracy, de jure, at any moment. We already have, de facto (the stolen election, torture, crazy war).

Goodman reads from Wolf's The End of America: A Letter of Warning to a Young Patriot, which begins with an anecdote of a government worker blogging (!) against torture and being fired for her morals.

Cohn says Mukase won't stop waterboarding because to do so would be to admit that Bush had broken the law. Waterboarding is so obviously torture, there'd be little point admitting it had anything to do with Bush or that torture shouldn't be legal. The only option Mukase et cronies have is to stay the course.

Cohn describes how lawyers are fighting back, protesting, making some headway against the Justice Department by not backing down on Gitmo cases.

Nichols suggests the Democratic candidates should have to debate Naomi Wolf on each point - not Wolf Blitzer and Tim Russert and those who ignore the issue of impeachment.

Wolf points out that Bush terrifies so many - libertarians, anarchists, Green Party people. "On paper," Wolf says, "it's over, it's already over. The coup is over." A bill just passed criminalizing anything against Bush as terrorism. You don't need the Long Knives, says Wolf, just these scary laws. This impeachment theater could be criminal. Her book could be criminal.

Nichols is asking Congresspeople to read his book and Wolf's, to just read the articles of impeachment.

Cohn talks about the new bill again - I'm going to look this one up in a sec - and how it criminalizes thought that "advocates force," not only violence, but, say, a protest.

Wolf compares Bush & co. to the Nazis and Stalin, but conservatively, at evidence, at facts. "No one who's read my book," she says, criticizes her comparisons. She tells Cohn, who brought up the Unamerican Activities Committee in the Fifties, that Bush's plan is much more akin to Stalin's than to McCarthy's.

Goodman asks, in closing, what we can do now.

Nichols reiterates that Wexler and others have called for impeachment hearings; write and call and go visit your Congresspeople to ask them to impeach Bush and Cheney. And write and call your local media. We have to get the media involved on a much bigger level. Forget the election for one second. Impeachment is dramatically more important. The presidency had become a pack of lies.

Cohn calls for ending the war, in addition to constantly calling on our leaders to impeach Bush and Dick.

Wolf calls for impeaching and prosecuting B&C. "The only way to save this country." Word up.

Goodman talks about the FCC ending regulations that restrain a few big companies from owning all the major media. Upside, DemocracyNow! has grown quite a bit. And the internet. Don't forget the internet. Please post and repost our videos and articles; comment; send us new leads. Contact your Congresspeople. Show them the videos.

Oh, we're not done. Buchman comes on to remind us that we're going to pursue this issue all year. I think Jackon Browne is going to sing...

David Lindorff

...from earlier today, sings with his daughter about Iraq. "It's one, two, three - what are we fighting for? ... Five, six, seven - open up the pearly gates..." A charming ditty, I suppose.

[I'm told the song is a version of a Country Joe McDonald song with the refrain, "Don't give a damn, / next stop is Vietnam."

And then a short intermission. The technical director appears on the live-feed, moving mic stands around. The house is almost too packed to move through.

Ned Eisenberg and J.T.

Ned Eisenberg reads "Bounden Duty," one of my favorite poems by the maestro of weird, James Tate.

Basically, the president asks the narrator, a farmer, to act normal. It's hard to act normal. The narrator's thought process devolves into paranoia. Abrupt, mysterious ending.

Aasif Mandvi

"I wrote this poem," Daily Show alum Mandvi says, "because I'm afraid of Americans."

The poem begins with the image of a handsome white man on TV telling a young Aasif Mandvi all that he knows about the world. They're best buddies.

Then the white man yells, "Jiiiiihaaad!" "His mouth is open now like a whale..."

"What is this word?" The poem is a fable. The man and Mandvi are friends until the white man yells "jihad."

The poem is frenetic, hypnotizing. The white man eats everything. Mandvi and his mother crouch and hide from him as his mouth engulfs everything. What did his grandfather do to make the white man mad? "It's not your dada, it's not your grandpa," she tells him. He's happy, for a moment. Suffice to stay, it doesn't stay happy.

Duncan Sheik and Nero

Dunk reads the words of Nero (the first known leader to use a speechwriter) as a woman in a white dress sings and his band plays beautifully behind him.

The speech is chilling. Nero orates about his plan for Rome, his consternations - how can so great an empire have let its poor grow so many? A great song, a creepy Orwellian rant, taking its time.

The next song is a Dunk solo, a light number, years later, as Nero takes "endless long vacations" with his cronies, slits the blood of those who oppose him. "Crowned with Love," I think the piece is. It has a speedy, snowballing, fast-talking power. A "Let Them Eat Cake" nonchalance.

Then Rome burns. "What a night it was, back in 64... (It really was just 64)," says the narrator. Nero quickly lays the blame on others. "Such a photo-op," Nero with the victims, looking like a leader who cares. But he says the people are better off homeless - if only you'd seen their homes before.

A song, beginning with the female lead, "The towers fallen, without an answer, ashes on the wind..." Dunk backs her up. A somber song.

The stage darkens.

John Nichols, Thomas Jefferson, and a Poem a rousing call-to-arms regarding impeachment - a perfect way to enter back into the subject. Possibly the best speech of the series (yet).

Bower, as T.Jeff., takes the stage and reads some dry but appropriately deep material, from the (former) T.Jeff.

Then a long poem written from the perspective of a literal fly on the wall during a Senate Armed Services Committee meeting.

Closing Night - Songs, Poems, Impeachment Proceedings

Duncan Sheik and Jackson Browne in the hizzy. And a harp. A big ole harp. Soundcheckin.

Found out about tricorner hat-guy. He's Thomas Jefferson, as reincarnated by/into performer Tom Bower. He's with a camera-guy. Doc on Thomas Jefferson? Google's no help here. Maybe it's a secret, shh...

The lobby's absolutely full. It's cold outside. Not the Noreaster predicted, but chilly. The sound quality's great in the theater, but lots of checkin left to be done. I'm not exactly in the way, in the corner of the booth, but I'm not exactly useful.

Action movie previews playing on the wall in the lobby as some doc moves forward, un-fasted. They switch to live feed. House opens.

Duncan Sheik sitting in the house, mingling. Very amiable atmosphere, plus a big harp. Former intern in the house, representin.

Sittin on the steps. Allan Buchman tells us about restoring a piano for Duncan Sheik.

Article V Panel

Denis Moynihan again moderates. Nation writer John Nichols runs on stage, fields an immediately Moynihan question: Where are we, on impeachment, right now?

Nichols said things are as good as they've ever been, and as bad. He notes that Congress is finally moving: Florida rep. Bob Wexler is holding hearings for the impeachment of Dick Cheney. GO TO HIS WEBSITE,, and sing up. This is the best way to get the ball rolling, right now.

Holtzman puts the brakes on Nichols' and Wexler's vision by noting that, if the vision is partisan - if it consists of "Democrats hate Bush" - then it will fail. We need a bipartisan approach. "Let's go back to Watergate," she says. I wince. But her point is we don't need hearings. Watergate started with evidence. Bipartisan call for evidence.

Seems to me that we need something to happen, whether it's thanks to Wexler or not.

Cohn points out we need an independent prosecutor, a special investigator.

Nichols says Wexler and others have just now given us the opening to impeach Bush.

Holtzman and Nichols are getting into it a bit over the procedural differences between special prosecution and Congressional hearings. (Everyone agrees Bush should be impeached somehow, ASAP.)

Lindorff says that Republicans need to be shown that it was dumb and dangerous not to impeach Bush - that the next president probably will be a Democrat and almost definitely will not give up any power whatsoever that Bush gave the presidency.

Horton agrees. "This can only be checked effectively by the impeachment process."

Nichols: Impeachment, seriously pursued, usually succeeds in forcing leaders to step back from the brink. I love this idea. We need to impeach the sons of donkeys not simply because Hillary might win and continue to use the powers d'Bush, but because Bush and Hillary and the Republicans and Democrats need to be told, by the American people, by the voices of reason in Congress, that it is illegal to spy on Americans, to torture prisoners, to utterly ignore the poor of the South in times of crisis, to ignore laws, to start wars.

Holtzman calls it "inertia." We have to press [the Congress]. (She goes back to Watergate with each answer, each time losing some clarity on the matter: Bushiraqtorturegate simply isn't Watergate. This is a new era. Bush is a new terror. I'm sure Holtzman's suggestions are apt and her ideas useful as to how we can oust Bush. But if Bob Wexler gets it done his own way, props to Bob Wexler.)

Nichols tells us to contact our local Congresspeople and tell them to impeach Bush. Particularly Jerrold Nadler. Please do this.

Question from the audience that becomes an angry litany of Buhs's crimes.

New question asks what else we can do.

Nichols says the public is just as angry at Bush as they were at Nixon; the media has changed, however, and we have seen virtually nothing about impeachment on TV.

Cohn notes that Bush is lying about Iran, aggressive against Iran, and not going to be phased by news that Iran doesn't necessarily have nukes. Cohn says getting out of Iraq and stopping Bush before he can go into Iran should be our number one priorities.

Audience member asks/tells something amounting to, "people all over New York want to impeach Bush." Panel agrees; people everywhere want to impeach him.

Holtzman goes back to Watergate. General discussion of lack of media attention to impeachment. Where's the New York Times on this?

Horton (notice his sweet blog) says polls show people, when asked if Bush has committed serious crimes, over 60% of those polled say yes. In Jackson, Mississippi, prosperous white businessmen asked Horton why nobody was impeaching Bush's ass?

Nichols says now is the time to talk to Republicans about impeachment; they are ready; they are either sick of Bush or afraid of giving Bush-powers to Hillary.

Nichols says we can't let the upcoming election become any excuse for not holding Bush accountable.

Horton says for the last several years, the Republicans have been velociraptors; the Democrats, invertebrates. Democracts aren't challenging bad Republican laws. (Well, this has a lot to do with our two-party/arguably-one-class-based-party system. I yearn for a multi-party system.)

Lindorff tells us how Bush took over science programs to manufacture evidence for war against Iraq.

Holtzman reminds us that impeachment is a democratic process envisioned by the framers to be used in circumstances just such as these. We have the time. This will not divide the country; this will unify the country. Rule of law is more important than any one president or party.

Cohn says we have to elect a Democrat in 2008. Bush has done the most dangerous thing, aside from Iraq, by stacking the Supreme Court. Please vote for the Democrat.

And we're done with the articles of impeachment. I for one am convinced - my suspicions confirmed - that we need to get Bush and Cheney out.

Rebel Voices up next, then the big closing concert at 7:30.

More on the Bush Takeover

For more on signing statements, check out this book by Pulitzer Prize-winner Charlie Savage.

And Al Gore rocks the mic legti on this topic:

A president who breaks the law is a threat to the very structure of our government. Our Founding Fathers were adamant that they had established a government of laws and not men. Indeed, they recognized that the structure of government they had enshrined in our Constitution - our system of checks and balances - was designed with a central purpose of ensuring that it would govern through the rule of law. As John Adams said: "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them, to the end that it may be a government of laws and not of men."

An executive who arrogates to himself the power to ignore the legitimate legislative directives of the Congress or to act free of the check of the judiciary becomes the central threat that the Founders sought to nullify in the Constitution - an all-powerful executive too reminiscent of the King from whom they had broken free. In the words of James Madison, "the accumulation of all powers, legislative, executive, and judiciary, in the same hands, whether of one, a few, or many, and whether hereditary, self-appointed, or elective, may justly be pronounced the very definition of tyranny."

Also, read articles by tonight's Marjorie Cohn, CP Impeach-y alum Elizabeth De La Vega (and another one), and George F. Will.

David Lindorff and the Uni-Exec

Has an awesome white beard and speaks eloquently on the topic of the "unitary executive," the very scary idea that, because we are "at war with terror" (nonsense), the American executive should have legislative and judiciary power - over the world. After one of Bush's Justice Dept. cronies used the term, Bush started using it regularly in his signing statements.

Lindorff notes that Bush wants the president to be the person who can make war, instead of Congress. (Because of "terror," everywhere, invisible, visible, we are always at war; Bush never gives up power...)

The signing statements are Bush's worst trespasses, according to Lindorff.

Closing Day - Article V: Expansion of Executive Power

What's going on:

2:00 p.m. Participants include Harper's contributor and human rights attorney Scott Horton, former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, author David Lindorff, National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn, and Denis Moynihan of DemocracyNow!.

Performers include Josh Hamilton, Tracie Thoms, Ned Eisenberg, Grace Zandarski, and Tom Bower. (One of these performers is wearing a Revolutionary War-style tricorner hat. I'll have to investigate this.)

7:30 p.m. Closing celebration includes performance and commentary from John Nichols, Jackson Browne, Naomi Wolf, Duncan Sheik, Steven Sater, Holly Hunter, Amy Goodman of DemocracyNow!, Peter Matthiessen, Kathleen Chalfant, Aasif Mandvi, and others.


Right now, Marjorie Cohn (author of Cowboy Republic) and Elizabeth Holtzman (MVP from Article IV) are recapping why Nixon was impeached and what signing statements are. In Holtzman's view, Bush's signing statements are unprecedented, and his not following the law is an impeachable offense. She gets big claps (one standing).


Scott Horton takes the stand. Horton explains what certain of Bush's signing statements mean ("flagrant affronts to the Constitution"). The problem is, the statements - little codas that say "Well, as George Bush, I don't have to obey this law I'm signing - are supposed to be used to clarify, not change laws and how laws are executed. Congress makes laws; the executive must enforce them. Cohn asks what Congress could do to challenge Bush. Horton says there aren't many tools available - besides impeachment.

We hear a laundry list of Bush statements. Wow. Bush has pretty much exempted himself from having to tell anyone anything. Horton adds that Bush exempted himself from having to ask permission to use torture techniques like waterboarding on Gitmo detainees. Signing statements give Bush the power to override U.S. law and just torture mothertruckers.

We hear CIA torture-master John Kiriakou in his own words: The CIA didn't torture anyone "willy-nilly;" the orders came from Bush. Period.

Horton points out that even kings have been tried successfully for allowing torture. And we don't like no stinkin kings, right?

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Republicans, Debating, Not As A Team

(Before the titular stuff, mad props to Roger Cohen for his concise, timely defense of secularism in today's NYTimes.)


Props to Ron Paul for saying, in the Republican debates last night:

"We [Americans] maintain an empire which we can't afford."

His answer to budgetary questions, unlike the other candidates', made sense; he recognized that America's attempts to police the world and bully oil-producing nations not only isn't helping us, it's costing us two arms, three legs, and part of a pelvis.

And when asked what he would do in his first year in office:

"We would threaten nobody." Word.

Also, not to be overlooked, Ron Paul on trade:

"It's time we changed our attitude about Cuba."

Mitt Romney had this to say about taxes:

"I don't stay awake at night worrying about the taxes that rich people are paying."

Of course, he followed up by calling for tax-cuts, but at least not rich-people tax-cuts.

Rudy didn't think a failing economy was as big a deal as "Islamic terrorism," which has certainly been the reason behind all my money woes. If only Al-Qaeda of Mesopotamia would stop messing with our housing market and vitiating the middle class... Those rascals.

Fred Thompson was the most frustrating candidate, refusing at first to answer a simple yes or no question about whether or not global climate change was a serious threat caused by humans. (Of course, the moderator should have added "caused in part by humans," or something to that effect - "certainly not helped by human pollution," etc.)

Alan Keyes declined to talk about the environment, instead attacking his opponents and saying America should reduce "hot air" (from politicians); Thompson then - I don't know why, exactly, perhaps in a fit of Dada - said he "agreed with Alan Keyes's position on global warming." Which was cute, but meant he never actually addressed our warming, tidal wave-wracked globe.

Tom Tancredo and Mike Huckabee were both weak on green, the former saying he doesn't believe in mandates. (I.e., simply because the vast majority of us don't want to live in a warm, wet, smoky, landless swamp in a few hundred years, that doesn't mean Tancredo [had anyone heard of him before last night?] and his lizard-people should listen to us.)

Huckabee was quite simply weak. Instead of espousing a coherent policy on/acknowledgment of energy emissions, oil production, the car industry, etc., the Huckster said the U.S. government is the world's biggest energy-user and should therefore be cut down to size, which makes sense most if you're talking - like the Dems (minus Hillary) and Ron Paul - about reducing the U.S. war-machine.

But Huckabee had already said defense was one of three primary features of the vital modern state (including food and oil); he literally called for the U.S. to be able to make its own "tanks, airplanes, bullets, and bombs." Sheesh.

Correct me if I'm wrong, but outsourcing the making of our tanks has never been the issue, no? We're not losing any wars (say, the war against religious extremism, here and abroad) due to lack of/shoddy manufacturing of tanks.

Anyway, Chuck Norris aside, Huckabee is not inspiring.

Duncan Hunter won the G.W.B. Education Award of the evening, however: When asked about, well, education, he said, "Three words: Jaime Escalante and inspiration." Those are four words, Dunk. (You just got slammed.) [Sorry, bad pun.]

No mention of gay rights.

But to bookend:

The whole thing - the gyre of history - turns on this question of religiosity. When asked about "values" (what a terrible reduction/conflation of "metaphysics," "ethics," and "morals"), or in Keyes's case when asked anything, the candidates focused on themselves instead of on the whole of the not necessarily white, not necessarily Christian whole of America.

Instead of saying "church and state are separate; you can be a Muslim-American, a Christian-American, a Buddhist-American, a Satanist-American, an atheist-American, etc.," or anything even remotely similar, they spent their precious seconds trying to out-faith one another.

Need we be reminded? Ours is not a country of "faith," but of reason and individuality: Reason rules the government; individuals are then free to be as faith-y or faithless as they like.

If the government were, say, Buddhist, the Catholics might get mad; if the government were Catholic, the Lutherans might throw a fit, and so on. It's a balancing act wherein the fulcrum is an absence - an absence of a state faith. In fact, it's an absence of any metaphysical principle whatsoever.

"The universe exists and we exist in it" is pretty much the only metaphysical proposition the Framers left us. Some very severe atheists might even take issue with that, but I think 99.999% of Americans can say that, yes, the universe somehow exists.

(Yes, there's the "Creator" bit in the Declaration of Independence, but look at it in context - "endowed by their Creator" is just Deist slang for "alive." Doesn't go into detail about who that Creator is or in what sort of metaphysical hooptie he cruises through time-space.

Full breakdown: Constitution: 0 "God"s, 0 "Creator/created"s; Dec.o.Ind.: 1 "God," 1 "Creator," 1 "created.")

Anyway, I try to take Republicans seriously, as seriously as cancer and good hygiene (both of which, I think, we should consider very seriously), but I just don't get the problem with separating church and state. Seems like a tidy, no-hassle solution to an otherwise impossible problem.

Newest dream-team: Colbert/Bell Hooks '08.

Monday, December 10, 2007

Surveillance Panel

Okay, Denis Moynihan of Democracy Now(!) is filling in for Amy Goodman as moderator; that's fine, we'll roll with it.

Holtzman fields a question about the nature/balance/ease of impeachment. Nixon's was bipartisan, Clinton's partisan.

Kadidal fields a question... (I miss most of it, reading about Moynihan and Goodman and Hustler magazine. Interesting but sort of psycho. Seems like Moynihan and Goodman are against exploitation, so, go them.)

Now we go to Valeriani, who says Nixon, if alive, would ask, regarding Bush's surveillance and its extraordinary success, "Why the hell didn't I do it?"

(Some thoughts on this very humorous older fellow - Valeriani in a Huffington Post blog post: "Bin Laden tape rants against capitalism. Yo, Osama, where did you get your millions? Tape also urges Americans to convert to Islam. No thanks, we prefer the 21st Century."

Huq quite ably defends Muslim-Americans in another H.F. post.

But don't worry, V. skewers everybody: "Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego announces $198 million settlement with plaintiffs who claimed they were sexually abused by priests. Big Bucks for Buggery.")

Valeriani is a journalist. He contacted Russians and worked in Cuba, back in the Cold War days, and had his phones tapped. The FBI called him routinely to ask him to help get Russians to give away sensitive information. When he didn't respond to FBI phone messages for two days, they showed up in front of buildings where he was headed. He had his records with the FBI checked - he was listed as "turned," a friendly informant. Lol.

Holtzman gets a round of vigorous applause for defending the impeachment of Bush and Cheney, no matter how hard such a process would be. (She's responding to V. and his assertion that - because, in the event of a successful B&C impeachment, Nancy Pelosi would become president - some might see an impeachment as an attempt at a "Democrat coup," which does sound silly, typing it.

She points out that a successful impeachment must be bipartisan; if Republicans don't want to impeach Bush, Democrats won't be able to do it alone.

Huq very smartly brings the whole question around to what will happen with the next president, regardless of her party? Will the next president not only abandon but help dismantle and prevent from being reinstated the illegal, warrantless surveillance programs? The extraordinary renditions to secret jails in Syria and Egypt? He defines the "Cheney version of the Constitution," which is that whenever the executive feels it needs to extend its powers in the name of national security, it simply can, no questions.

Don't think, Huq counsels, that a Pres. Obama or a Pres. Hillary won't use the Republican programs of domestic terror that Culture Project, Democracy Now(!), the CCR, the ACLU, and so many others are fighting against.

Valeriani speaks on "scar tissue," how we're no longer shocked by Bush's evils.

Audience Q1: Pressures on the election...

Holtzman says we need the president to be brought to justice, to show that Congress can do its thing(s) - pass laws and remove tyrants from office.

Audience Q2: If Pelosi hadn't taken impeachment off the table...

Kadidal, Holtzman, and Valeriani note that the American people and Dennis Kucinich want to impeach Bush; keep the pressure on, Pelosi will have to. It wasn't a problem (for the Speaker of the House - third in line for pres. after pres. and VP - to bring the pres. to justice) during Watergate.

Audience Q3: Cheney = brains of operation...

Valeriani: He lied about WMDs.

Huq: There's a great deal of public evidence about Cheney's aide's roles in setting aside FISA, torture laws, and the Geneva Conventions. You'd subpoena [Cheney's aides].

Audience Q4: How would ordinary people get Congress to listen, seriously...?

Holtzman: When was the last time you contacted your Congressperson? Get a meeting. Email. Get your block to sign a petition.

Moynihan has a show of hands for who gets the "Saturday Night Massacre" reference. (The audience, educated and in many cases old enough, gets it.)

Holtzman: The tapes were critical. Elliot Richardson appointed a special prosecutor, Archibald Cox, who looked for the tapes. The tapes got Nixon impeached. (People got fired, hence the massacre.) "We would have seen a similar event" - Ashcroft would have resigned. It's not clear what they changed to make their program compliant with FISA.

Audience Q5: 200,000 phone calls, that night, Saturday Night Massacre, to the Congress. We had 200,000 phone calls. You heard from us.

Audience Q6: Should we impeach Cheney first, because people seem to favor that, in polls? Then impeach Bush?

Holtzman (again): It will take a while to do two. It took a while for us to do one. We had to hire lawyers. The Democrats hired a Republican lawyer, and the Republicans hired a Republican lawyer. It hadn't been done in a hundred years - these things had to be studied. It took about nine months. So there's really enough time, to do it still. But there's not enough time to do Cheney and Bush. We have Bush's fingerprints on it. My whole view is to start the proceedings against Bush; we will accumulate evidence against Cheney.

One of the articles against Nixon was that he stonewalled us for information, and that was voted on by a bipartisan base. So there's a precedent. There's a lot of sentiment around the country for impeachment.

(Have any Congresspeople - Dems or Reps, candidates or not - seen our videos, site, blog? Do they know about this event? Shouldn't we, CP, tell them? Shouldn't we all?)

Huq: The Congress can hold court on its own. (Holtzman: We have our own jail!) The Congress can specifically subpoena the president and hold him in contempt if he doesn't show.

Qs-Final, there's a short storm of them.

Kadidal notes that other forms of government have Justice Departments that can go after corrupt executives. We do not have this. Certainly not in Mukasey...

Holtzman: What happened not only to Congress, but to the ACLU? I still believe it can be done, has to be done. With all the defects in the impeachment process, this is what the framers had exactly in mind. They were freaked about the misuse of power. They knew there was gonna be a Richard Nixon, a George Bush. There's too much misunderstanding about it. Even Obama said it's not democratic - it's in our Constitution, it's exactly democratic. What's the shape of our country going to be? No one else can make that decision for us?


This has been live blogging on surveillance; I'm back for one more live-blog-impeachy event on Sunday... (And, yes, for those who have read some of my earlier posts, I still like Obama but disagree with Obama on impeachment and wish Kucinich was as popular.)

Joshua Dratel and NSA Kids

After a brief reading of interview material shedding light on the weird episode of John Ashcroft and his revelation that Bush's domestic surveillance program was and is illegal, Mr. Dratel takes the stage.

Attorney-client privilege discussed at length.

So, one big problem with intercepting everybody's conversations, is that you intercept privileged conversations between attorneys and their clients, which is super-duper wrong (that's a legal term).

Dratel says that no Bush people complained about FISA, though they don't follow it. It's very easy to get FISA warrants, it sounds like.

Dratel testifies that Bush should indeed be impeached for wiretapping. Massive applause.


Now, before the panel, we go back to the court to hear about whether or not the illegal warrantless Bush NSA program is effective. Bush says it's saved "thousands of lives," but agents report that the vast majority most of their illegally garnered tips led to "dead ends or innocent Americans" (which are dead ends).

The IBM guy who invented modern ultra-precise data-mining says that the processes still aren't precise enough, and they couldn't possibly predicted terrorists (who, I'm guessing, are probably smart enough not to say, over a tapped phone, "Hey, let's BLOW STUFF UP" - meaning agents have to rely on bits and pieces that, according to some, usually lead "to Pizza Hut.").


CHECK OUT THIS NSA "KID'S PAGE." Wow. I mean, wow. As our tech points out, it's like Joe Camel. Neo-con militarism - now in eight MAD COOL fun cartoon morphing anime animal flavorz!

Maybe Amy Goodman, Mos Def, and I can bust out the ProgressivPoppers, a team of super-heroic delicious cheese-animated jalapeno- and nacho-based foods engineered by Dutch and South Korean scientists to help teach kids around the world about humanism, respect for life, science, democracy, the value of the arts, classlessness, etc.

Maybe not...

KIDZ, here's one "kewl" NSA-Lite character from whom you can learn how to install micro-cameras in your friends' Yu-Gi-Oh! lunchboxes:

Aziz Huq

...takes the stage. Discusses FISA, the big act that Holtzman, Kadidal, and the dapper Mr. Huq are speaking again and again about. Basically, FISA lets the executive ask a judge for permission to use electronic surveillance on a foreign power. President Carter signed it into law. It for the first time required a warrant for this surveillance. Huq points out the requirements are easy to meet, to get permission under FISA to use electronic surveillance.

Huq notes that FISA is a law; not even the president can get out of it. This sounds obvious, but it's worth thinking about: Most defenses of Bush, by Bush, by those of his supporters whom I've met, revolve around his just plain being the president.

Huq notes exceptions to FISA: If Congress declares war, the president gets fifteen days free of FISA; then he has to come back and ask for judicial permission for an extension. He can also, in an emergency (a "real" emergency, not just "the War on Terror," fought ad nauseam), the president can go ahead and spy, then come back and talk to the judiciary about it.

Discussion of the NSA - the president ordered the NSA to start surveillance without warrants. Pretty clear here. That's a big no-no, laws-wise. Bien fait!, if only we could get this dude into courts... I mean, into courts he hasn't already packed with his judges... So, I guess, into courts in another country. Darn.

Huq calls Alberto Gonzales an obfuscator (we concur, insofar as our non-attorney minds can understand the former Attorney General's mis-speeches).

Gray area of data-mining: Is it legal to use phone-company data to find "suspicious patterns of activity," paths, webs of calls linking terrorists, suspects, funders, etc.? Well, the next step after identifying paths is to trace those paths to individuals and spy on them. For which you need warrants.

Also, you can be "affiliated to Al-Qaeda" even if you're a cabbie and you pick up a suspect as a fare, or if you give money to any major Muslim charity. Then Bush can spy on you - you might be a suspect.

Also, also, the Pres. went against Congress and used the NSA to spy on U.S. citizens even after having been told not to. Huq says Bush has clearly committed high crimes. Nuff said (for our purposes).

Shayana Kadidal and Elizabeth Holtzman

...introduces the evening: We'll hear a history of surveillance law. He will act as prosecutor.

The court calls E. Holtzman (served in Congress 1972 - 1981) to the stand. She helped git Nixon ("git" in the "git-R-dun" sense as well as the typical one). She is now a private lawyer and writer. She also wrote The Impeachment of George W. Bush. (All of our friendly impeachment books have "impeachment" in their titles, no?)

The court (the performers) read the First and Fourth Amendments.

Kadidal and Holtzman discuss the legalities between wiretapping; the short version is, a court must, must approve wiretapping - all wiretapping. Not only the D.A.'s office, but an independent arbiter must approve wiretapping. "The mere fact of having a judicial review of wiretapping applications, is a restraint on wiretapping."

Kadidal asks why our Constitution's framers made a point to have the executive ask the judiciary for permission to search the citizens; Holtzman answers that the framers had experienced first-hand how illegal searches by the British had plagued the American people. Holtzman notes that no D.A. has complained about the theory behind the process by which wiretapping applications are approved (though they may gripe, one supposes, about individual processes).

The court quotes from the impeachment articles against Nixon, about wiretapping. You might mistake the words for ones about Bush, except that so far only a tiny minority of Democrats and we at Culture Project have taken the steps to try to impeach Bush.

The court notes that the government is now really good at "collecting information," meaning Google-good (in part, thanks to Google). What do "they" (who are they?) know about "us" (which grouping probably includes some of "they"/them)? They can know practically whatever they want. Doesn't mean the CIA will share the info with the FBI, or that the information will lead to any useful military info about, say, one homeless Arab guy on dialysis. But "they" can know a ton.

(Is/are Google/the government's linked servers artificially intelligent? That's my question. I mean, are we being used not only by a self-serving neo-con leadership, but also by an omni-computer addicted to knowin' stuff? It sounds silly to ask, I realize, but given the amount of sheer data in the world today, we're not necessarily far off from an era of a data-organism...)

We hear about the FBI taking on Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., via surveillance. Holtzman points out that the FBI and the government in general worked very hard to collect info on, blackmail, discredit, and track the movements of various anti-Vietnam leaders.

Article IV: Warrantless Surveillance

Monday, December 10, 7:00 p.m.

Participants include DemocracyNow! host Amy Goodman, former Congresswoman Elizabeth Holtzman, attorney Joshua Dratel, attorney Shayana Kadidal of the Center for Constitutional Rights, Aziz Huq of NYU's Brennan Center for Justice, and journalist Richard Valeriani.

(Kadidal, Huq, and Valeriani all appear on the Huffington Post, and you might have seen Huq speak with Lawrence Wright after our Town Hall performance of My Trip to Al-Qaeda.)

Performers include Michael Mastro, Nana Mensah, Gerry Bamman, Chris McKinney, and Sarah-Doe Osborne.


[Wythe's computer finally decides to connect to the internet - even for a "professional" internet-user, the connection process is still mysterious in the way that, oh, say, gravity is mysterious.]

We move briskly through the opening incantatory readings. The history of impeachment - check. Poetry - check. Barbara Jordan, Teddy Roosevelt, and others defending the use of impeachment against tyrants - check.

Now some new stuff on secret police. Quotes from Bush about saying he'll allow wiretapping for as long as he feels it necessary. Back to Nixon saying dumb shit about executive privilege: "There have been and there will be in the future..." times when the president can do whatever (literally whatever) he wants. Laughter. A great reading.

Redgraves Reading Poetry - Video

Save Public Housing in New Orleans

Sunday, December 9, 2007

Fear and Interpretation

Thinking back on the reading tonight, it strikes me how much of the detainees' poetry seems to stem from confusion as often as outrage. Again and again, Allah is invoked not bitterly, but almost wistfully: The poet doesn't need to ask Allah to destroy the unjust; the poet wants God to explain to his family that the disorder created by those who fight "a war for peace" will be made ordered again.

This leads me to an article by Akbar Ganji on women's rights in Iran, published in the most recent Boston Review.

Ganji's argument is against the unequal treatment of women in modern Iran, which is worth several posts of its own. But he touches upon a bigger, more overarching point about Islam and rationality: Various important Muslim thinkers, from the Ayatollah Khomeini way back to al-Ghazali - thinkers both conservative and radical - have pointed out that the most important aspect of Islam isn't the following of any specific rule whatsoever, it's just belief in the merciful God.

Said another way, generalized even further out from Islam, the most important aspect of a religion - of any ideal - is the spirit behind it, not the specific methods by which that spirit is manifested in the world.

Take America's war on terror. Like George Bush and the wardens of Guantánamo, I am against Jihadi suicide bombers, against Osama Bin-Laden, against kidnappers. The spirit - protect life - is the same. But the methods differ. Progressives refer to the law, to rational arguments against torture, while Bush and his cronies maintain a strict, Jihadi-like focus on a ghostly version of efficiency. If they think torture is efficient, torture is in, even if it violates the spirit itself. The methods get ahead of the reason behind them, the reason for using them - the methods eat their own collective tail.

Thinking about the dichotomy between spirit (compassion, mercy, reason) and method (torture, kidnapping, secrecy, willful ignoring of law, lack of respect for others' traditions), the methodological links between the Jihadis and the anti-Jihadis blur the two categories. An Orwellian, frightening state of mind.

Closing with Buchman

Lynn R. reads of a man who confessed to trying to kill Osama Bin-Laden. The Taliban caught him. The U.S. found him and promised to release him. Then they sent him to Guantánamo. He was there for some time, then released two years ago. His poem is very, very short.

Now the Redgraves stand to bow. The reading is over? Wow, that was fast. Good - well-produced - but fast.

The applause goes on and on, not abating for a full minute and a half.

Allan Buchman takes the stage again and announces that Culture Project is in the process of producing an event for the United Nations, for Human Rights Day (I think?). December 10, 2008 - save the date.

And... we're done. Gotta get that book.

Guantánamo Poetry, read by the Redgraves

Corin Redgrave reads "They Fight For Peace," by a poet who's name I can't type quickly or accurately enough.

Very short, abstract, powerful poem.

Lynn Redgrave takes the stage and reads a short history of the poet's life. The poet, Ameer, a Saudi, was detained because he worked in Afghanistan for a charity. He is a leader at Gitmo. Just after a Grievance Commission was formed, the government disbanded it, put Ameer in solitary confinement, and is shipping him off to Saudi Arabia, where he will be held in a secret prison and almost certainly killed.


Abdul Aziz, last name withheld, from Riyadh, S.A., wrote "O Prison Darkness."

"We love the darkness
For after the dark hours of the night, pride will rise.
We know, God has a design.
The morning is about to break forth."

He also wrote, "I Shall Not Complain," an exhortation to Allah (always translated God, I suppose to make it more marketable?) to grant him patience; he will complain to none but God.


Jemma Redgrave speaks of a poet named Dossari, who has tried to kill himself twelve times, sometimes via multiple methods at once. He appears in Inside the Wire.

Jemma R. reads "Death Poem," a very strong work asking everyone to watch the poet die ("at the hands of the protectors of peace"). (See an earlier post for full text.)


Lynn R. speaks of Dost (sp? all of these sp?), an author of many, many books, a known poet and scholar. He was released, wrote a book detailing his detention at Gitmo, and was then re-arrested by Pakistani officials. He as not been heard from since.

A poem asking why he is deprived of the love of his father. "I," the poet syas, "continue to beat with life... I know a greater freedom."

Cup Poem #1

What kind of spring is this
where there are no flowers
and the air is filled with a miserable smell?

"They Cannot Help"

"Consider what might compel a man to kill himself, or another?"


Jemma R. reads of a young man who was hung by his wrists and beaten by the Pakistanis. He was overjoyed to be handed to the U.S. He was stripped and beaten by the U.S., too. He was one of the first round of "enemy combatants."

"This Is My Life," I think is the name of the first poem. It details what happened to him: He came to Pakistan (from Chad) to pursue an education (to learn about information technology and English). He was arrested leaving a mosque; he was not allowed to use the bathroom during a sixteen-hour trip to prison. "We saw such insults from them." The prisoners were beaten and insulted, kept drunk and rich (by the Americans?). "They carried us afterwards to Cuba, because it is an afflicted isle. Their war is against Islam, and justice."

Talk about bad P.R. I mean, if Bush's regime beats up every captured Muslim, of course the other non-captured Muslims are going to hate Bush (and thus you and me - he's our leader).


Corin R. loudly reads of a man "Humiliated in the Shackles," writing a letter in his head to his son as he listens to the birds outside his cell, alive, free. He is offered money and land and freedom if he betrays "other" al-Qaeda members. "America - you ride on the backs of orphans and terrorize them daily," Corin/the poet yell. He directs his grievances to Allah and asks his son to be strong, though he himself is humiliated. "How can I write? My soul is like a roiling sea. I am captive, but the crimes are my captors'."

(One feels these poems are going to take on a perhaps unwelcome degree of similarity as they concatenate...)


Vanessa R. reads of a man who lost both his legs due to American bombings, not even at the same time. He has been forced to walk at Gitmo on prosthetic limbs held together with duct-tape.

"To My Father"

"Two years have passed in faraway prisons
Two years my eyes untouched by cold" [or kohl?]

Forced confession, defense of honor that needs no apology. Deal-making - "if all Arabs were to sell their faith, I would not sell mine."


Corin R. reads of Hassan, a prolific poet taken in Pakistan while studying at a university. He remains at Gitmo, though the U.S. government does not allege that he has participated in any violence whatsoever.

"The Truth"

Inscribe your letters in laurel trees
from the cave all the way to the city of the Chosen
Are these lights that I see real?

The Devil leads them (Americans) around in the darkness; they have exchanged piety for cheap commodity. Will you get up and question events?

Illusions soar all around...

(The blog itself necessarily grows more poetic as the scraps well up from Corin's majestic voice - I recommend readers watch the performances on Blip [thanks to the Kunstlers and crew] tomorrow.

These poems are somewhat insular and melodramatic, moreso than other Arabic poems I've read. They are almost all addressed to Allah and speak in vague terms of justice and injustice. Some of this rally-speak is very powerful; the shorter poems, in particular, stick to specifics and turn very clear arguments against the logic of torture - with chilling, image-driven specifics. Their sadness is overwhelming and infectious.)


Lynn R. reads about Kabir, a poet detained primarily because he was caught wearing a Casio watch, a brand favored by terrorists (according to the U.S. government?). His poem, "Is It True?," asks if the grass still grows, if he will ever leave prison and see his wife and children again.


Jemma R. reads of a Yemeni, Mohammed, a religious teacher. He saw a Qur'an being thrown into a barrel of human waste in prison. "I Am Sorry, My Brother."


Corin R. reads of Akhmed, a man who studied at a college in the U.S. and went home after a bad break-up. He was detained, help for years in Guantánamo, then released, November, 2005.

"My Heart Was Wounded By The Strangeness"

Do not blame the poet who comes to your land inspired, arranging rhymes
O brother... If you blame yourself, my poem will appease you
I will offer advice from pure cordiality.

A quiet poem of fatalistic but not unhappy acceptance, an exhortation to be generous, to forgive. The poem's great power comes from its dwelling on separation (from the brother), not on the daily horrors of imprisonment (though that route works in so many other of these poems).


Vanessa R. reads of Ibrahim, a religious scholar and candidate for judgeship who was captured and sold to the United States. When asked why he should be released, he replid: "In the world of international courts, the person is innocent until proven guilty. Why, here, is the person guilty until proven innocent?" His poem asks a lot about Cuba, how Cuba could help the U.S. "What have you gained?" Poetry...

(Here I break to post...)

Vanessa Redgrave

...abruptly takes to the mic and recounts growing up in England during World War II. She found a book demonstrating egregious torture against prisoners in Germany. She knew, even as a little girl, why England was at war: To stop torture. To end concentration camps.

She reads a definition of torture, discusses the recent questions of what is torture, what should be allowed, what prohibited. She recommends Condie Rice reread Gulag Archipelago.

We are on the eve of international Human Rights Day. She raises the question, is extremist Jihadi terrorism today somehow worse than the terrorism of Hitler and Stalin? The idea behind the laws banning torture - laws formerly endorsed by the U.S., still endorsed, at least in theory, by every other enlightened democracy - were created during and just after WWII. The idea was that nothing, absolutely nothing should allow any sane government to use horrible torture. That is why we fight wars against dictators - to stop torture. To

She speaks about another book, Five Years of My Life.

British PM Gordon Brown formally requested the return of five British detainees, the sons of British citizens; the U.S. denied some.

Gitmo = a concentration camp.

Still waiting - then - Buchman, Ratner, Falkoff, Redgraves

Eating sour candy (thanks to the Kunstlers). Live feed going to the lobby. People watching in the lobby. Out of coffee. Slight delay, perhaps caused by a minor hip-pain in one of the guests. Audience jovially chatting. The murmur through the booth-wall (I'm again in the booth - it's really crowded) is warm and pleasant. Outside, cold and rainy. Daresay like London in the Holmes books.

Clapping, Allan Buchman takes the stage, wearing a vibrant (extremely vibrant) pink scarf. The Redgraves follow, clapping throughout. The Redgraves sit. Allan grabs the mic and orates, gives props to Michael Ratner from the Center for Constitutional Rights (one wonders if he read Sean Penn's wonderful speech yesterday). Short speech, more clapping. Ratner takes the stage.

Ratner notes that the CCR first took the risk of representing the 300-something detainees at Gitmo. Twice the CCR has won Supreme Court cases; twice Congress has overridden those victories. Another case goes to the S.C. soon. Half the detainees have been released, but there remain over 300. Lawyers interviewed detainee Maji Khan (sp?), but the CCR isn't allowed to know what was said in the interview...

"When we were out front, on the legal front... it was incredible to see the Redgraves, early on, start the Guantánamo Human Rights Commission in the United Kingdom... Most of the U.K. Guantánamo detainees have been freed." He introduces Mark Falkoff, a Gitmo lawyer who put together the book of poetry the Redgraves will read.

Falkoff is a lawyer for sixteen clients at Guantánamo. None of his clients have been charged with crimes. They've been interrogated hundreds of times. Mostly, the lawyers have been asking for a simple hearing to question the legality of the clients' detention; these requests have been denied.

Falkoff was in D.C. one day at a "secure facility," a special locked office where the information on all his clients' cases must be kept - by the government. All the Gitmo writing is automatically classified material, all Falkoff's notes and writings and interviews, since the notes might have something to do with terrorism. Falkoff had translators translate the Arabic notes; he discovered some weren't notes, but poems.

Falkoff read Brian Turner's amazing book Here, Bullet. (I've met Turner; he's one of the most humane, interesting men I've encountered, and his poetry is top-notch.) Falkoff asked around and found that all his lawyer friends with clients at Gitmo had come across such poetry, and he decided to put together a book. [Long aside about life at Gitmo, origins of detainees.]

Only 5% of the Gitmo detainees were captured on the battlefield; the vast majority were picked up by Pakistani mercenaries. (Our government used to pay bounties for "al-Qaeda" representatives, not that we could tell the difference or have even tried, in three years.)

When not given paper, the detainees, would write on their Styrofoam cups - so that at least their fellows could see short haiku about their small, terrible world...

Falkoff had to get special permission to allow the poetry to leave the secure location; at first, this was no problem. Obviously, the poems weren't terrorist details. Later, the government decided that the poems constituted a special threat, since they might inspire people against the U.S. (Well, hell yeah; that's rather the idea. We must become a better United States.)


Here, Bullet

by Brian Turner

If a body is what you want,
then here is bone and gristle and flesh.
Here is the clavicle-snapped wish,
the aorta’s opened valves, the leap
thought makes at the synaptic gap.
Here is the adrenaline rush you crave,
that inexorable flight, that insane puncture
into heat and blood. And I dare you to finish
what you’ve started. Because here, Bullet,
here is where I complete the word you bring
hissing through the air, here is where I moan
the barrel’s cold esophagus, triggering
my tongue’s explosives for the rifling I have
inside of me, each twist of the round
spun deeper, because here, Bullet,
here is where the world ends, every time.

Redgraves and Gitmo

(According to our website:)

Sunday, December 9, 7:30 p.m. - Vanessa, Lynn, Corin, and Jemma Redgrave make a very special appearance to read Poems from Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak, a collection of poems written by detainees held in the US detention center at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba.

Marc Falkoff, attorney and editor of Poems from Guantánamo, will also be with us.

Presented in partnership with the Center for Constitutional Rights.


Packed house (again). Patrons standing in the aisle. Dixie Chicks and Pink on the P.A. Flowers on stage. Little less court room-y, more home-y than previous Impeachment events. No sign yet of Vanessa Redgrave, Lynn Redgrave, or their relations.


From the Guantánamo: The Detainees Speak:

Death Poem

by Jumah al Dossari

Take my blood.
Take my death shroud and
The remnants of my body.
Take photographs of my corpse at the grave, lonely.

Send them to the world,
To the judges and
To the people of conscience,
Send them to the principled men and the fair-minded.

And let them bear the guilty burden before the world,
Of this innocent soul.
Let them bear the burden before their children and before history,
Of this wasted, sinless soul,
Of this soul which has suffered at the hands of the "protectors or peace."

Jumah al Dossari is a thirty-three-year old Bahraini who has been held at Guantanamo Bay for more than five years. He has been in solitary confinement since the end of 2003 and, according to the U.S. military, has tried to kill himself twelve times while in custody.

More Bad Housing News In New Orleans

Civil Rights attorney Bill Quigley arrested while protesting the demolition of public housing in New Orleans. Check out the slideshow. Pretty unsurprisingly vile stuff: Quigley was leading chants, trying to get City Council members' attention; the Council has the power to prevent the demolition. Suffice to say, the Council was not into the chants, so much so that they arrested a very harmless-looking lawyer and made fools of themselves.

Saturday, December 8, 2007

Impeachment Guests' Books linked to, on the right side of this page. If you enjoy/are sufficiently disturbed by our Impeachment hearings and want to read more, check out these crucial texts - keystones of the CP library.

Sean Penn Rocks the Mic

For serious. Give this speech, delivered last night at San Francisco State, a read.

Friday, December 7, 2007

Faith and Discourse

Ayaan Hirsi Ali writes today on the lack of moderate Muslim voices following tragedies caused by strict interpretations of Muslim law. She opens with this brain-blendingly vile quote from the Qur'an: "The woman and the man guilty of adultery or fornication, flog each of them with 100 stripes: Let no compassion move you in their case, in a matter prescribed by Allah, if you believe in Allah and the Last Day. (24:2)"

On the same day, we can read a hundred articles, both pro-but-really-con and just con, about Mitt Romney's faith and how deeply it informs his identity as an American and a politician. (Oh, and we find updates, lots of updates).

David Brooks says "[Romney] argued that the religious have a common enemy: the counter-religion of secularism," then goes on to lambaste Romney for uniting religions that are just separate, if you really think about it; Brooks even calls this unity New Age-y.

In a way, that makes Romney's faith more appealing: If a dedicated Mormon can respect other faiths, then why can't Brooks and other "centrist social conservatives" (or whatever he/they call himself/themselves)?

The sheer dumbfoundedness of Brooks on secularism or Hitchens on faith lumps those very different writers into a sort of category, opposite to Ali and (in the most generous sense, as per Brooks's article) Romney. The question (for everyone, esp. pres. cand.s) isn't, "do you have faith or not?" The question is, "can you talk with those who do - and don't?"

That said, of course Romney's admitting that his faith influences his politics so greatly is both unsurprising and hugely annoying. (BTW, found a shrill, also annoying, but very well-designed site challenging Mormonism and Romney - challenging in general.)

That's why I think a Pastafarian should run for president in 08. Just sayin.

Thursday, December 6, 2007

In the News:

Bush's abstinence programs don't work;

the Guantánamo detainees get a day in (Supreme) court, sort of - says the NYTimes, "A majority of the court appeared ready to agree that the detainees [at Guantánamo Bay] were entitled to invoke some measure of constitutional protection," which sounds positive given the last few years of absolutely nada on the matter;

and I agree with Roger Cohen (creepy, I know) that Der Bush could learn from the quasi-humility displayed by Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez in accepting defeat-by-democracy, earlier this week. (Also, if you're interested in South American politics, check out UpsideDownWorld.)

Check out this from Cohen:

Bill Clinton’s latest whining about press coverage of his wife, Mitt Romney’s latest broadside on immigration, the various spins of the Iran intelligence volte-face, and the sterile who’s-got-more-God competition between candidates, look like the machinations of a disoriented power.

The United States needs a new beginning. It cannot lie in the Tudor-Stuart-like alternation of the Bush-Clinton dynasties, nor in the macho militarism of Republicans who see war without end. It has to involve a fresh face that will reconcile the country with itself and the world, get over divisions — internal and external — and speak with honesty about American glory and shame.

Wednesday, December 5, 2007

what to do about katrina?

Thanks to all of you who have been checking out our new series A Question of Impeachment, either in the theater or online.

On Monday we had a powerful evening focused on the impact of Hurricane Katrina on the Gulf Coast. Many folks had questions about where to find more information and what to do, so here -- courtesy of panelist Tiffany Gardner of NESRI -- is some further information:

With respect to current organizing efforts, two websites are really useful: and

There are protests planned in New Orleans on December 10th (International Human Rights Day) and December 15th (the date of the first demolitions). Specifics of the protests will be provided on the websites above.

In a November 16, 2007 letter to Louisiana Senator Mary Landrieu, HUD provided its timeline for the demolition of over 4,000 units of public housing in New Orleans. Demolitions are scheduled as follows:

St. Bernard - December 15, 2007
BW Cooper I - December 15, 2007
Lafitte - December 17, 2007
CJ Peete III - December 15, 2007
Fisher - December 15, 2007

Just before the Christmas holiday ....

These demolitions are set to occur despite the fact that the Gulf Coast Recovery Act (S. 1668), which guarantees survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita the right to return, is still working its way through the Senate. Additionally, Senator Landrieu, as well as members of New Orleans City Council has expressed grave concern over the pending demolitions.

The demolition plans do not provide for replacement housing for former residents of the units. Prior to the storms there were approximately 5,200 families living in public housing. Now, there are just over 1,000 families. HUD has stated that the units to be demolished are inhabitable as the result of the storm. Yet, independent experts attest that the units were minimally damaged. Should these demolitions take place, thousands of New Orleans
families will be permanently displaced.

Republican Senator David Vitter has been a staunch opponent of S. 1668, although he won't publicly articulate his reasons for opposition. Join us in 1. putting pressure of HUD Secretary Alphonso Jackson by attending the December 15th day of presence in New Orleans and by 2. pressuring Senator Vitter and the senators on the Senate Banking Committee to respect the human rights of hurricane survivors and bring S. 1668 to a full Senate vote.

Please visit the websites above and let the people of New Orleans, and the governments at the federal, state, and local levels, know that you stand with the people of New Orleans.

Videos from Article III Proceedings

Check out videos from Article III (Katrina):

Judith Browne-Dianis

Sam Jackson

Tiffany Gardner

Closing Arguments

Alec Baldwin

Closing Panel

Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Huckchuckin It...

Have you seen the internet crying today? Its brightest meme and one of its ideologically darkest, melting together to form: An ad for presidential candidate Mike Huckabee starting Mr. Huckabee... and Mr. Chuck Norris.

For those of you knew to the Huckchuckzone, Mr. Huckabee is against gay rights, against the separation of church and state, against immigration in the most severe way, in favor of eliminating the Internal Revenue Service entirely, and pro-guns (pretty much all guns - used for hunting). Also not a big fan of science.

Chuck Norris is a conservative karate champion and the creator and star of Walker, Texas Ranger, a show about fighting drug-dealers in rural Texas. And whitewater-rafting. Also not a big fan of science, but he studied with Bruce Lee and so gets some kind of by from young people. (I am glad to be old enough to be mad at young people about this.) If you haven't heard all the "Chuck Norris facts," just Google em.

We return to impeachment...

Katrina in the News; Iran Sans Bomb; More...

In the news today:

Iran doesn't have the Bomb;

Imus is back;

Katrina victims are in the spotlight again, for their "mood problems;"

and Texas ain't so keen on Darwin.

(From Wikipedia: Iranian newspaper clip from 1968 reads: "A quarter of Iran's Nuclear Energy scientists are women." The photograph shows some female Iranian Ph.D.s posing in front of Tehran's research reactor.)

Well, can't say I'm surprised that Texas might join Kansas and medieval Byzantium, among other wonderful scholastic sovereignties, in their rejection of the principle of evolution.

More surprised that Bush & Co. have announced that Iran, in fact, isn't packing heat, atomically-speaking. I mean, they might enrich a bomb later, but right now, they're doing the whole carrot/stick diplomacy thing. (Could any of our Mid-East regional power experts take notes?)

Monday, December 3, 2007

Support Democracy in Louisiana

Uwaaay. Kanye was right. T-shirts from Color of Change.

Alec Baldwin moderates the Katrina Panel (long)

Alec Baldwin notes that, if you care, you think about "why" and "how it [everything Bush] got to this level" all the time. You have to train yourself to stop asking why, how...

At a dinner party, Alec Baldwin asked Bill Clinton about how spending by the government is prioritized. Clinton just gave him a look as if to say, "Don't go there." Baldwin discusses in general how we are all tied to the idea that government just gets to spend tons of money, gets to hire nepotistically... Very disturbing, discussed much by Lapham in books (why we are always at war).

Baldwin wonders what impeaching Bush with only one year left.

Baldwin to Cynthia Cooper: Can Bush be impeached for Katrina?

Cynthia Cooper and a prominent Watergate lawyer looked intensely at the question. Cooper says the president is supposed to uphold the law and take care. She says the Stafford Act very clearly is Bush's purview; he failed to uphold his duty to mobilize the government according to the Stafford Act. The president was specifically told that lives were on the line. He did nothing, prayed for a good outcome. He failed to live up to a presidential standard of upholding the law and Constitution.

Baldwin to Gardner: What do you think Bush should have done? What could have been done in two days?

Gardner: He could have stopped his vacation. He was on vacation. He could have show, on a basic level, compassion. Should have evacuated right away - helped those with no transportation get away from the [ginormous] hurricane. Judith Browne-Dianis says the administration just didn't care, figured the hurricane would literally blow over; people would forget that some citizens had been screwed over. The city's evacuation plan relied on buses, and the bus drivers left.

Erica Hunt points out that there was a yard full of buses only blocks from the Super Dome, unused...

Baldwin: Were there any heroes, of Katrina?

Cooper: National Hurricane Center Director Max Mayfield. He tried to personally motivate Bush.

Lapham: The government behaved exactly how it was supposed to, according to Republican ideologues - who want the smallest possible government. Two nations, divisible by magnitude. The more poor that can be eliminated, the better. The government has no purpose for the rich. They don't need the government. (More privatized cops now than public.)

Baldwin: The fraud and waste of the welfare system is minuscule compared to the fraud and waste of the defense system. Do you think Republicans hate the poor more because of what they cost the system, or more because they vote for Democrats?

Lapham: It's George Bernard Shaw. If you're poor, you deserve to be punished.

Baldwin: Do you think Bush should be literally impeached?

Browne-Dianis: I don't think it would happen now. We're going into an election year. I think he has done enough to show that he should be impeached.

Cooper: Absolutely. Even if on his last day in office. He has many more months to screw up this country.

Gardner: Totally. There was a growing movement to impeach him; the Dems won Congress; Pelosi took it off the table. Kucinich introduced it again.

Jackson: Yes. Bush has continued Reagan's campaign against the poor.

Hunt: Yes, impeachment may be in order, but she's concerned about the symbolism of impeachment and how it might obscure the root causes (of the crimes that led to impeachment). Off course Pelosi took it off the table - she doesn't believe in a common wealth, a common good, any more than most Republicans.

Lapham: Yes, on two grounds - Iraq, a criminal fraud. Second, it's the Constitutional task of the Congress to preserve the balance of power, to assert the legislative authority - unless it does that, it destroys the principle on which this country was set up. (I.e., not just Bush, but any president will be too powerful.)

Baldwin: What happened with Pelosi?

Lapham: Conyers made the grounds for impeachment clear; Pelosi didn't see it as politically useful and abandoned it.

Baldwin: Most people don't want to impeach a president at war, whether or not the war was just to start. Baldwin goes into a long story about Reagan - old-school, against taxes, in favor of letting people admit that they'd rather have a new swimming pool than social programs elsewhere - and how different Bush is. Bush sees Iraq as money to be made. The economy has to be in perpetual debt in order to cut useful social programs. He goes into the racket of war. (You can and should read the book War Is A Racket.)

Baldwin: Lewis, are these people [B&C] the same as we've seen before, and they've just been emboldened by Clinton-fatigue and 9/11? Or are they the worst you've ever seen?

Lapham: These guys are the worst I've ever seen. I see Bush the way I see Britney Spears. Spoiled rich kid adolescents. How do spoiled rich kids show their power? They break things. They spend money.

Baldwin: Goes off about how empty the Texas governorship was, even under Bush. He was a ribbon-cutter.

Baldwin: What can people do now? I don't want people to come into this room and have the "awareness orgasm" where they learn some facts, go home, and have completion. What should they do?

Browne-Dianis: I represent N.O. residents in class-action suits. People are getting kicked out of FEMA trailers. Rents are going up all over. Bulldozing public housing. The federal government runs the housing authority of New Orleans. They're demolishing brick public housing built to survive hurricanes (that did survive hurricanes - they just need new flooring and mold removal). But the plan is to keep the poor out. The right to return does not exist. We have tried ever legal way to stop the bulldozers. We have been denied. Local authorities don't want to be on the side of their constituents, the developers, in case the poor come back and vote somehow. But they don't want to be on the side of the poor. December 15th, let's do something to stop the bulldozers. (She leaves the stage to massive applause.)

Cooper: Let's get major media to look at impeachment. Call the public editor of the NYTimes.

Gardner: We have to stop the assault on the poor; public housing is being demolished all over. The Gulf Coast Recovery Act is being held up by a Republican senator from Louisiana, this jerk. We have to contact Sen. Charles Schumer and get him to pass the bill.

Jackson: December 10th, come to New Orleans. Get organized to stop the bulldozing on the 15th. Contact Jackson at Help us get the GCRA bill passed. Fight that jerk Vitter; call Schumer.

Gardner: Go to

Baldwin: Have a banner on the website to list everything. (Okay, note to self - I think I've just had my first freelance job request from Alec Baldwin.)

Hunt: Two great sites that can help you keep up with news and events are: Color of Change and Katrina Information Networkth.

Audience1: There's a rally in New York on the 10th. (Send CP info on this, please.)

Audience2: How/why can anyone respect the U.S. if it lets its president defraud us? We must impeach Bush.

Cooper: Bush won't turn over emails; his staff refuse to testify. Same as Watergate (but worse). The people have to stand up in larger and larger numbers and demand impeachment.

Audience3: During the 70s, we had more alternative news, a free press. How do we get the average Joe to know about the impeachment movement?

Cooper: Demanding it can only help; media activism is necessary.

Audience4: Barbara Jordan pointed out that unless we use impeachment, we might as well shred the Constitution. We have to make sacrifice to make change - stop shopping, go down to New Orleans. Buy a ticket, go down there, stand with the residents against bulldozers.

Audience5: I'm not really so sure whether Bush should be impeached. If we impeach Bush and the Dems win the next presidential election, the Reps will use impeachment against the Dems. (?) (Murmuring of dissatisfaction with question.)

Baldwin: Impeachment is a very difficult thing, on purpose. Long aside about Tom Delay. (More murmurs.)

Lapham: (Too quiet to hear, I think he said "it's necessary.")

Audience6: If you don't have time to go to New Orleans, I'm sure one of us displaced New Orleanians (sp?) would be willing to go in your place. (Applause.) If culture is demolished, what is the future of New Orleans?

Jackson: We had doctors, lawyers, musicians in public housing, not just drug-dealers. Really, public housing in New Orleans was not like they said (the media?).

Gardner: Now they're asking for expensive funeral permits. More about the destruction of culture in N.O.

Baldwin thanks everyone; we're out of time.

Cue zydeco. Cue applause.