28 June 2008

Some words of wisdom from Abraham Lincoln

I was updating my GoodReads site when I happened to come across this quote from our greatest president that seemed apropos considering the parlous times we're living in:

"These [the armed forces] are not our reliance against a resumption of tyranny in our fair land. All of them may be turned against our liberties, without making us stronger or weaker for the struggle. Our reliance is in the love of liberty which God has planted in our bosoms. Our defense is in the preservation of the spirit which prizes liberty as the heritage of all men, in all lands, every where.... Familiarize yourselves with the chains of bondage, and you are preparing your own limbs to wear them. Accustomed to trample on the rights of those around you, you have lost the genius of your own independence, and become the fit subjects of the first cunning tyrant who rises." (Speech at Edwardsville, Illinois, September 11, 1858)

It's only after I noted the citation that I realized the date: How doubly apropos!

25 June 2008

And now for something completely different...

Three websites that I highly recommend visiting (and/or subscribing to) often:

The first is This is a current events/politically oriented website that publishes articles and blogs from a variety of writers on a variety of subjects (loosely bound together by the objective of exposing the perfidies of the fascist-wannabes in the White House). The latest post by Nick Turse describes 5 beneficiaries of Pentagon largesse who you've never heard of but who are racking in billions of your dollars.

The second site is Mark Morford's column at He's a funny and talented writer who tackles not just politics but culture.

The third site is my favorite. It's Mark Rosenfelder's Zompist page. I first came across this site several years ago when I was investigating "conlang" sites. For the ignorant, a "conlang" is a constructed language, like Tolkien's Elvish or the Klingon of Star Trek or Esperanto, for that matter. I have my own conlang (which may get public exposure whenever I get around to making a webpage of my own) but Mark has created at least 7 or 8 (if not more) for a world that he has created. He's Tolkien on steroids because, unlike Tolkien, he's written complete grammars for most of them.

Beyond that he's also an accomplished essayist with a variety of interests and worth reading even if you're not interested in conlangs.

The Death of a Thousand Cuts

Apologists for the latest example of Congress' craven spinelessness say that the FISA "compromise" protects fundamental civil rights but it's like "the death of a thousand cuts": If someone suffers one papercut, no major harm done; but if they suffer a thousand, they bleed to death. Just so with the latest capitulation to the Bush Administration's terrorism.

They've launched assaults against the First Amendment, they've launched assaults against habeas corpus, and now it's the Fourth Amendment's turn.

I'm happy to say that my representative voted with the "angels," opposing the FISA bill, which (if the Senate passes it) will "legalize" warrantless wiretapping and immunize the telcoms that allowed the government to do it. Unfortunately, she was in the minority.

I took down my copy of the Constitution and reread the Fourth Amendment:

"The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized."

By my reading, there's no ambiguity here, no provisional language for wars or "public emergency" -- the government cannot wiretap without a warrant. Everyone is secure. Everyone. Everywhere. Everytime. And under the current FISA law, the government has 72 hours to get a retroactive warrant, anyway!

Furthermore, there's no provision for immunity. The "just obeying orders" defense didn't work at Nuremberg and it shouldn't work here. The telcoms that allowed the administration to tap communications without warrants are guilty of aiding and abetting a criminal conspiracy and should be held responsible. (Not to mention the thugs in the administration.)

I've read that, in a rare display of spine, Senator Majority Leader Reid has vowed to fight the bill, and may actually split it in 2: one addressing the FISA warrants and the other addressing immunity. With luck, it could delay a final vote until after November. Also encouraging is Senator Feingold's and Dodd's intentions to filibuster this atrocious measure.

Less encouraging, is Obama's support of the "compromise," which casts doubt on his qualifications as a teacher of constitutional law (unless he were John Yoo's TA!). We need to put pressure on him to join Messers. Reid, Feingold and Dodd in opposing the law. Maybe we could say to him, "We're not going to contribute to your campaign for the next 2 weeks until you change your tune, Senator `Change.'"

15 June 2008

More Moyer's Mania

Just wanted to recommend another episode of Bill Moyer's Journal. Specifically, June 13's show, which featured Steve Fraser and Holly Sklar discussing the second Gilded Age and the continuing degeneration of the American middle class.

Bittersweet Triumphs

Two victories in the last few days for civil rights:

1. The California Supreme Court has decided that gay couples are no different from hetero couples who want to get married. So, beginning at 5:01 pm PT on Monday, June 16, the state joins Massachusetts in recognizing a basic right.

2. The US Supreme Court decided that people held in Guantanamo do have the right of habeas corpus.

These victories for civil rights and basic common sense are "bittersweet," however, since why are we even adjudicating them?

In an ideal world it would be self-evident that two people who want to legitimate their association should be able to, regardless of their gender. There are noises about putting a constitutional amendment on California's November ballot to outlaw same-sex marriages, and there are enough cavemen and -women in the state so that it will probably make it. Fortunately, it will also lose but that it even gets to a ballot is distressing.

I hesitate to put my two cents in regarding homo- and heterosexuality but I'll do it anyway: In brief, I think it's a mistake to look at people as homosexual or heterosexual beings, we're sexual beings. For sound biological reasons, species tend to favor heterosexuality (after all, a primarily homosexual species wouldn't last more than a few generations) but absent the preferred choice, it's hard to deny one's sexual drives; consider sailors on long sea voyages, prisoners, the Theban Sacred Band, experiments with same-sex rat colonies, etc. I've also read that otherwise heterosexual males will engage in gay sex so long as they're the dominant partner -- i.e., the penetrator not the penetrated.

But all that's beside the point, since even if sexual orientation were entirely voluntary, no one but you and your partner have any business poking their noses into the affair.

As to our right to habeas corpus: Understand this concept - the government does not grant us rights, it recognizes them. Habeas corpus is a person's fundamental right not to be arbitrarily seized and confined without the opportunity to know why they've been seized and to have the chance to answer the evidence against them. It's not something only American citizens get, it's a right that every human being has. And it certainly trumps the specious "national security" argument. In fact, it can only be limited in the event of "Rebellion or Invasion"; neither condition pertaining the last time I checked Yahoo! News.

A more bittersweet part of the court's ruling is that it's possible some Republican hack in Congress will try to get a bill passed circumventing the ruling. Considering Pelosi's and Reid's lack of courage in the past, it's even possible they'd allow it to come to the floor for a vote.

The most bittersweet part of the court's ruling is that it came in a 5-4 decision: Reason #6204 to vote for Obama: The next president will have at least 2, maybe 3, opportunities to fill court vacancies. If you want to continue the slide into the corporatist security state, vote for McCain.

07 June 2008

The Obscenity of War

The vitriol is already beginning to accumulate this month. Oh, well, perhaps it's because of what I'm reading. Case in point is this link to an essay by Chris Hedges at

I've been a fan of Hedge's since reading War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning, and I'm putting his newest tome, Collateral Damage, on my to-read list.

06 June 2008

D-Day: Dispatches from the Eastern Front

On this, the 64th anniversary of the D-Day Invasions, I think we should take a few moments out of the time we spend memorializing the event to remember the sacrifices of the Soviet armies who tied up the bulk of the German army (and its best units) and sacrificed millions to destroy the Nazi's ability to wage war.

It's a shame that the subsequent Cold War poisoned our perceptions of the Soviet people (as opposed to their governors) and minimized (nay, obliterated) the fact that they paid the greater price.

Which is not to detract from the death and sacrifices performed by our Western soldiers, I just think that, with the Cold War over, it's time to acknowledge that we weren't alone in defeating the Nazis.

It's Over. Right? (Clinton vs. Obama)


It's over. Finally. Right?

The rumor is that Clinton will finally concede that Obama has won this Saturday (the 7th). She's still going to technically keep the campaign active (she's just suspending it) because she needs to continue fundraising to help retire her debts.

Going forward the best thing that could come out of this mess is for Clinton to become Senate majority leader. She is not a vice president. I can't see her playing second fiddle to anyone, and I wouldn't want her to. Her strengths would be best used in the Senate, where she could twist arms, be in people's faces and play the bad cop to get the Dem agenda passed. (I think she has the potential to be as effective a majority leader as Lyndon Johnson. The worst decision LBJ ever made was shooting for the presidency: His particular brand of leadership [and Clinton's] was [is] better suited to the Senate.)

And just think of the juggernaut that could be created if the White House, the Senate and the House could all coordinate on trying to reverse the catastrophic course this country is on.

In the interests of "healing" the rift in the party, Obama's vice presidential choice probably should be a Clinton partisan, though I have no opinion on who that might be.