Saturday, July 01, 2006


"First" of the Day

Speaking of the Utah Republican primary last Tuesday—

Church spokesman Dale Bills said, to his knowledge, it was the first time [Mormon] church leaders have urged its members to vote in a primary election. —Robert Gehrke in "LDS letter may have aided Cannon win"


Friday, June 30, 2006


Guantánamo: "The cleanest place we're holding people"

Rear Admiral Donald Guter, now dean of the Duquesne law school, was Judge Advocate General of the Navy in the years 2000-2002 when the minions of the White House were putting together a system of war crimes tribunals in which George Bush was to be cop, prosecutor, judge and executioner. The judge advocates from the service branches attempted to establish a plan to handle recently captured prisoners, but soon discovered their advice was ignored by the White House.

Michelle Block of NPR's "All Things Considered" interviewed Admiral Guter yesterday for his reaction to the Supreme Court decision that declared Bush's system of tribunals to be illegal. Admiral Guter was remarkably frank—

MICHELLE BLOCK: Do you feel you've been vindicated in some way? That the White House should have listened?

ADMIRAL GUTER: Well, I'm more comfortable with that formulation, I suppose.

I think the damage that's been done to our reputation, the damage that's been done to at least our standing with respect to the rule of law and arguing for respect for our military prisoners and others—I think that's been so diminished by what has happened and what we've done that it's hard to feel any kind of gloating over the decision.

I'm hoping that this gives us a basis to sort of return to equilibrium.

I'm not one of those people that thinks at this point we need to shut down Guantánamo—only, only because I'd like to know what the alternatives are first. There's been so much scrutiny of Guantánamo Bay, rightly so, that I think it may be, if I may use the word, the "cleanest" place we're holding people right now.

So I understand the President's desire to now close it, but I would certainly like to know what the alternatives are before I would say that that might be a good thing to do.

I think we've suffered probably irreparable harm in the international community for my lifetime and our children's lifetime, but I think this might be a chance to start fresh. [a Simply Appalling transcription]

Despite the admiral's candor, I fear that his hope that the Supreme Court decision is "a chance to start fresh" is a bit of cock-eyed optimism. This is not an administration that is going to roll over for a mere 5-3 Supreme Court decision.

"Nothing prevents the president from returning to Congress to seek the authority he believes necessary"

You should be aware that the Court's decision did not find Bush's tribunals to be unconstitutional, though the Court's reliance on the 1949 Geneva Conventions treaty might prove a little sticky. In effect, it appears that all the White House needs to do is to go to Congress for post facto approval of the tribunals. Here's what White House Press Secretary Tony Snow said yesterday at the press briefing—

Even now, people are studying as carefully as they can what is a highly complex decision, trying to figure out what the ramifications are. But the President did point out, and it seems to be the point that Justice Stevens stressed from the bench today, that one of the most important things for the court, in the majority opinion today, was to get some congressional authorization. Members of Congress, including Senator Graham, on TV, have stepped forward and said that they'd be happy to work on that process.

Quite frankly, I don't know why civil libertarians and other supporters of human rights and the rule of law are so gleeful. If they think this Congress is not going to give the President the authorizations that he wants, they haven't been paying attention. correctly assessed the situation in their headline today: Bush May Turn Legal Setback on Guantanamo Into a Political Win

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist, a Tennessee Republican, pledged to craft legislation addressing the court's ruling that tribunals weren't explicitly authorized by Congress and didn't adequately protect the rights of the accused. Democrats such as Senator Carl Levin of Michigan said they would cooperate.

And the cleanest prison

What is so remarkable about our news coverage—or lack thereof—is the way our reporters willfully ignore the most remarkable statements that they themselves report. Certainly Admiral Guter's warning that Guantánamo may be "the 'cleanest' place we're holding people right now" is among them. For God's sake, why didn't Michelle Block follow up on such a damning allegation?

One matter not touched upon in the news is the whereabouts and identity of the prisoners whisked away by the CIA to secret prisons in Poland and Romania. Are they still there? If not, where have they been taken? And then there are the American prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. Was it with these prisons that Admiral Guter was comparing Guantánamo?

If you're curious, why not contact NPR and ask? I did.

Related posts
Assisting the CIA in torture? Prove it! (2/27/06)
The Washington Post: Pravda on the Potomac (6/7/06)



Understatement of the Day

Utah's 5-term Representative from the 3rd District, Chris Cannon, won a primary Tuesday against challenger John Jacob. Cannon had already voted to make felons out of undocumented workers, but his support for Bush's guest-worker program allowed Jacob to portray him as "soft" on illegal immigration. Cannon's position also drew the ire of Team America, which poured in $40,000 worth of radio ads to criticize him.

But there were other issues—

Last week, Jacob imprudently told the Salt Lake Tribune that he thought Satan was responsible for recent business reverses that prevented him from putting as much of his own money into his campaign as he had intended. Even in a very religious district -- the Utah Third is the home of Brigham Young University and probably has the highest percentage of Mormons of any congressional district in the United States -- that probably made him sound a little wacky. —Michael Barone in his blog for U.S. News & World Report

Probably? A little? What does it take in Utah to sound really wacky? Just wondering.


Thursday, June 29, 2006


In praise of three Republican Senators

It's rare that you'll find praise here for a U.S. Senator, and even rarer when that praise is directed toward a group of Republicans, but the time has come.

The latest cynical grandstanding by the Republicans was the Senate vote on the Flag-Burning Amendment. As a Constitutional amendment, 2/3 of the Senate would have to approve it. It failed by one vote, as planned. As Gail Chaddock noted,

If every current senator who voted for a flag amendment in the past had done so this week, a constitutional amendment authorizing the Congress to ban desecration of the flag would be on its way to the states for ratification.

It was never intended to pass. Republicans brought up the amendment (1) to keep the country's business out of the news, (2) to demonstrate to their base of flag-waving Christian bigots that they really are giving fascism their best shot, and (3) to provide "ammunition" against any Democrat who voted against it.

Democrats for their part apportioned out the right to vote for the amendment to Red State Democrats who might be hurt by a "No" vote. Todd Haskins of The Blue State blog pointed out this report from Andy Sullivan of Reuters—

Democrats, even those who supported the flag-burning amendment, said Republicans were pandering to conservative voters ahead of November's elections when they should have been tackling more substantive problems.

Haskins felt they shouldn't have voted for it if they thought it was pandering.

But in reality this was an exercise in pure political theater. It is doubtful that many Republican Senators believe in this amendment—with the possible exception of the demented Senator from Kentucky, Jim Bunning, who wants the NY Times tried for treason. So the Democrats who voted with the Republicans may deserve a tut-tut of condemnation, but the truth is it didn't matter.

The only votes that stand out in this whole sorry spectacle were those of the three Republican dissenters—

Senators Bennett and McConnell are from two of the reddest states in the Union, and Senator Chafee is up for re-election this year. All three deserve a kind word.


Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Headline of the Day

A Single Person Could Swing an ElectionWashington Post

Isn't it odd how news organizations seem to be the last to hear the news?

The experts .... concluded in a report issued yesterday that it would take only one person, with a sophisticated technical knowledge and timely access to the software that runs the voting machines, to change the outcome.

But don't get over-excited by electronic voting fraud. The greatest manipulation of the vote has just been given the approval of the Supreme Court. Justin Levitt and Lisa Sandoval write,

Yesterday the Supreme Court took another step in demoting itself from reluctant referee to irrelevant bystander in the battle by which district lines are drawn and politicians are elected.

Yesterday ... the Supreme Court refused to set ... a boundary. Indeed, a majority of the justices acknowledged no real federal limits governing when and how often districts can be redrawn. When one party controls the state Legislature, it may constitutionally redraw district lines for maximum advantage — as often as may be convenient. And it may draw these new lines with old data, packing districts with disfavored voters and minimizing their voice — as often as may be convenient. As far as the court is concerned, the world of unfettered re-re-re-redistricting has arrived.

Related posts
The blind leading the blind (6/17/04)
A slender reed (11/7/04)
Bev Harris vs. Keith Olbermann (12/3/04)
Voters' rights organizations questioned (12/21/04)
Bev Harris: The Carrie Nation of Blackbox Voting (1/21/05)
Miami-Dade considers tossing its touch-screen voting system (4/12/05)



Poem of the Day

Ever since I posted the note on Friday about the Nike ad, soccer star Wayne Rooney and the very odd fact that representing the Crucifixion became a cottage industry over the past millenium, I've had this poem in mind. The poet really seems to capture the oddness of it all—

Sometimes During Eternity

Sometimes during eternity
some guys show up
and one of them
who shows up real late
is a kind of carpenter
from square-type place
like Galilee
and he starts wailing
and claiming he is hip
to who made heaven
and earth
and that the cat
who really laid it on us
is his Dad
And moreover
he adds
It's all writ down
on some scroll-type parchments
which some henchmen
leave lying around the Dead Sea somewheres
a long time ago
and which you won't even find
for a coupla thousand years or so
or at least for
nineteen hundred and fortyseven
of them
to be exact
and even then
nobody really believes them
or me
for that matter
You're hot
they tell him
And they cool him
They stretch him on the Tree to cool
And everybody after that
is always making models
of his Tree
with Him hung up
and always crooning His name
and calling Him to come down
and sit in
on their combo
as if he is the king cat
who's got to blow
or they can't quite make it
Only he don't come down
from His Tree
Him just hang there
on His Tree
looking real Petered out
and real cool
and also
according to a roundup
of late world news
from the usual unreliable sources
real dead

—Lawrence Ferlinghetti

Ferlinghetti is the official "poet laureate" of San Francisco. He owned and still owns the City Lights Bookstore, which has a publishing arm famous for bringing Allen Ginsberg's "Howl" to the world. The bookstore just celebrated its 50th anniversary, and Ferlinghetti at 84 is sporting an earring and disavowing his Beat sensibilities.

This is what came out of his interview with Evelyn Nieves—

Almost everyone, he says with the hint of a sigh, wants to know what it was like to be a Beat. Hip and bohemian, the Beats were notable for consciously rejecting academic verse and forging new concepts in prose and poetry.

"But I was never part of the Beat group," he says, sipping a Heineken.... "I've been telling people for decades that my poetry comes from a different sensibility," he says. A PhD (from the Sorbonne, where he wrote his doctoral dissertation on the city as symbol in modern poetry), he says he was heavily influenced by Marcel Proust. "Yet inevitably," he adds, "a story will run with a headline that says, 'The Beat goes on.'"

Well, just say it's my nose, but the whiff I get from that poem is not of madeleines.

Related post
Advertisement of the Day (6/23/06)


Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Quote of the Day

I believe in the people's right to know almost everything. —former White House reporter Helen Thomas tonight with Jon Stewart on The Daily Show


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