Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Top 50 albums of 2006

Haven't been posting much lately, with a really intense Fall semester and big changes happening in my life lately, but here's my list of the top 50 albums of 2006.

1. The Knife - Silent Shout
2. Islands - Return to the Sea
3. Current 93 - Black Ships Ate the Sky
4. Junior Boys - So This Is Goodbye
5. Blue Sky Black Death - A Heap of Broken Images
6. Burial - Burial
7. Ghostface Killah - Fishscale
8. Joanna Newsom - Ys
9. OM - Conference Of The Birds
10. The Thermals - The Body, The Blood, The Machine
11. Elliott Brood - Ambassador
12. Dert - Sometimes I Rhyme Slow
13. Datafreq - Fun for the Whole Family
14. Belong - October Language
15. Scott Walker - The Drift
16. Max Richter - Songs From Before
17. Tiga - Sexor
18. Witch - Witch
19. White Rose Movement - Kick
20. The Backlash - Serial Cleaner
21. Be Your Own Pet - Be Your Own Pet
22. Booka Shade - Movements
23. Ellen Allien & Apparat - Orchestra Of Bubbles
24. Cicada - Cicada
25. Cut Chemist - The Audiences Listening
26. The Fiery Furnaces - Bitter Tea
27. Justin Timberlake - FutureSex / LoveSounds
28. Xela - The Dead Sea
29. Neko Case - Fox Confessor Brings the Flood
30. William Basinski - Variations for Piano and Tape
31. Benoît Pioulard - Précis
32. Converge - No Heroes
33. Isan - Plans Drawn in Pencil
34. The Meeting Places - Numbered Days
35. Across Tundras - Dark Songs of the Prairie
36. Isis - In the Absence of Truth
37. Baconflex - Mind Manipulator
38. Liars - Drum's Not Dead
39. Belle and Sebastian - The Life Pursuit
40. Boris - Pink
41. Ocker - Public Transport
42. My Robot Friend - Dial O
43. Popshoppers - At the Discoteque
44. The Pipettes - We Are the Pipettes
45. DJ Shadow - The Outsider
46. Hot Chip - The Warning
47. Sonic Youth - Rather Ripped
48. A Cloud Mireya - Singular
49. Alva Noto & Ryuichi Sakamoto - Revep
50. The Pink Razors - Waiting To Wash Up

This is final.

Monday, November 27, 2006

While Iraq Burns

Copyright 2006 The New York Times Company
The New York Times

November 27, 2006 Monday
Late Edition - Final

SECTION: Section A; Column 5; Editorial Desk; Pg. 23

LENGTH: 739 words

HEADLINE: While Iraq Burns

BYLINE: By BOB HERBERT; Paul Krugman is on vacation.

BODY:


Americans are shopping while Iraq burns.

The competing television news images on the morning after Thanksgiving were of the unspeakable carnage in Sadr City -- where more than 200 Iraqi civilians were killed by a series of coordinated car bombs -- and the long lines of cars filled with holiday shopping zealots that jammed the highway approaches to American malls that had opened for business at midnight.

A Wal-Mart in Union, N.J., was besieged by customers even before it opened its doors at 5 a.m. on Friday. ''All I can tell you,'' said a Wal-Mart employee, ''is that they were fired up and ready to spend money.''

There is something terribly wrong with this juxtaposition of gleeful Americans with fistfuls of dollars storming the department store barricades and the slaughter by the thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians, including old people, children and babies. The war was started by the U.S., but most Americans feel absolutely no sense of personal responsibility for it.

Representative Charles Rangel recently proposed that the draft be reinstated, suggesting that politicians would be more reluctant to take the country to war if they understood that their constituents might be called up to fight. What struck me was not the uniform opposition to the congressman's proposal -- it has long been clear that there is zero sentiment in favor of a draft in the U.S. -- but the fact that it never provoked even the briefest discussion of the responsibilities and obligations of ordinary Americans in a time of war.

With no obvious personal stake in the war in Iraq, most Americans are indifferent to its consequences. In an interview last week, Alex Racheotes, a 19-year-old history major at Wesleyan University in Connecticut, said: ''I definitely don't know anyone who would want to fight in Iraq. But beyond that, I get the feeling that most people at school don't even think about the war. They're more concerned with what grade they got on yesterday's test.''

His thoughts were echoed by other students, including John Cafarelli, a 19-year-old sophomore at the University of New Hampshire, who was asked if he had any friends who would be willing to join the Army. ''No, definitely not,'' he said. ''None of my friends even really care about what's going on in Iraq.''

This indifference is widespread. It enables most Americans to go about their daily lives completely unconcerned about the atrocities resulting from a war being waged in their name. While shoppers here are scrambling to put the perfect touch to their holidays with the purchase of a giant flat-screen TV or a PlayStation 3, the news out of Baghdad is of a society in the midst of a meltdown.

According to the United Nations, more than 7,000 Iraqi civilians were killed in September and October. Nearly 5,000 of those killings occurred in Baghdad, a staggering figure.

In a demoralizing reprise of life in Afghanistan under Taliban rule, the U.N. reported that in Iraq: ''The situation of women has continued to deteriorate. Increasing numbers of women were recorded to be either victims of religious extremists or 'honor killings.' Some non-Muslim women are forced to wear a headscarf and to be accompanied by spouses or male relatives.''

Journalists in Iraq are being ''assassinated with utmost impunity,'' the U.N. report said, with 18 murdered in the last two months.

Iraq burns. We shop. The Americans dying in Iraq are barely mentioned in the press anymore. They warrant maybe one sentence in a long roundup article out of Baghdad, or a passing reference -- no longer than a few seconds -- in a television news account of the latest political ditherings.

Since the vast majority of Americans do not want anything to do with the military or the war, the burden of fighting has fallen on a small cadre of volunteers who are being sent into the war zone again and again. Nearly 3,000 have been killed, and many thousands more have been maimed.

The war has now lasted as long as the American involvement in World War II. But there is no sense of collective sacrifice in this war, no shared burden of responsibility. The soldiers in Iraq are fighting, suffering and dying in a war in which there are no clear objectives and no end in sight, and which a majority of Americans do not support.

They are dying anonymously and pointlessly, while the rest of us are free to buckle ourselves into the family vehicle and head off to the malls and shop.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Torture torture torture

INTERVIEW WITH TERROR EXPERT RON SUSKIND
"The President Knows more than He Lets on"

One hundred suspected terrorists from all over the world are still being held in secret American prisons. In an interview with SPIEGEL ONLINE, CIA expert Ron Suskind accuses Washington of "running like a headless chicken" in its war against al-Qaida. He reserves special criticism for the CIA's torture methods, which he argues are unproductive.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Mr. Suskind, the Red Cross recently visited all of the prisoners at Guantanamo who had been transferred from secret CIA prisons, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed and Ramzi Binalshibh. Do we know more about these CIA prisons, or "Black Sites" as a result of this visit?

Suskind: We know that almost everything from the tool kit was tried: extraordinary techniques that included hot and cold water-boarding and threats of various kinds. We tried virtually everything with Binalshibh. But he was resistant, and my understanding of that interrogation is that we got very, very little from it. At one point, there was some thinking that we should put out misinformation that Binalshihb had been cooperative, he had received money and he was living in luxury. So that would mean that his friends and family, who obviously are known to al-Qaida, might face retribuition, and we ended up not doing that.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And what happened to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed?

Suskind: He was really the prize. He is the 9/11 operational planner, a kind of general in the al-Qaida firmament. He was water-boarded, hot and cold, all matter of deprivations, beatings, threats. He told us some things, but frankly things that professional interrogators say could have been gotten otherwise.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: With waterboarding, the prisoner is made to feel as though he is drowing, even if he isn't really at risk of dying. There are reports that Mohammed was a kind of unoffical record-holder when it came to waterboarding.

Suskind: With extraordinary minutes passing he earned a sort of grudging respect from interrogators. The thing they did with Mohammed is that we had captured his children, a boy and a girl, age 7 and 9. And at the darkest moment we threatened grievous injury to his children if he did not cooperate. His response was quite clear: "That's fine. You can do what you want to my children, and they will find a better place with Allah."

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Why do you think the 14 prisoners were transferred from the Black Sites to Guantanamo?

Suskind: There was a debate simmering inside the US government for over a year. Since early 2004, when things really started to congeal, we were saying we need to think about an end game. People said you need to have a process that has a finish. We didn't have one. We were moving with a kind of improvisional urgency in that first year after 9/11 -- the thinking was, just do anything. We need to find these people, we have almost no human intelligence, and these interrogations may be our most precious material. The years started to pass -- and some of these people were not giving us much information in. Essentially we felt as through their yield had been harvested.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: It seems clear that at a certain point CIA agents were asking for some clear assurances that they wouldn't be prosecuted.

Suskind: Absolutely. That cry has been at CIA for years, but it was not until recently that Bush decided to act. I think the White House decided that the fall of this election year would be the ideal time. So now they acknowledge that the Black Sites exist. I don't think there is any doubt that terror would be a key issue this fall in a mid-term election year.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: And maybe they thought that everything has already been squeezed out of the 14 men and that there is nothing more they could tell.

Suskind: Well, here is the problem. Whether or not they currently are holding information is a supposition, based on a relationsship between interrogator and captive. You don't want them to talk for minutes or a day, they need to talk for years. For that you need relationships that are nuanced and deep. My sense is that they are not doing that now, for whatever reason. Maybe it is because of the way we interrogated them, or maybe because they have nothing more to say. My guess would be the former rather than the latter.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: With all your access to high-level sources, have you come across anyone who still thinks it is a good idea for the US to torture people?

Suskind: No. Most of the folks involved say that we made mistakes at the start. The president wants to keep all options open because he never wants his hands tied in any fashion, as he says, because he doesn't know what's ahead. But those involved in the interrogation protocol, I think are more or less in concert in saying that, in our panic in the early days, we made some mistakes.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Because they could have gotten information through normal interrogations ...

Suskind: ... yes, and without paying this terrific price, namely: America's moral standing. We poured plenteous gasoline on the fires of jihadist recruitment.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So the average interrogator at a Black Site understands more about the mistakes made than the president?

Suskind: The president understands more about the mistakes than he lets on. He knows what the most-skilled interrogators know too. He gets briefed, and he was deeply involved in this process from the beginning. The president loves to talk to operators.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: The government's tenor seems to be that, with the transfer of the 14 prisoners, the system of Black Sites is ending.

Suskind: They were the prizes, the most significant of them. Are there others? Of course, they are in various places, in the sort of loose confederation of prisons that are housed simply within countries. The prisoners are farmed out but not beyond the purview of the United States, which is still interested in what they say. The Egyptians, Jordanians and others keep us informed. I assume there are still about 100 prisoners and that the system of Black Sites is continuing. The president has preserved his right to do that.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Does the transfer to Guantanamo mean that the system of the Black Sites will come to an end?

Suskind: No, the president reserved the right to continue this program.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: Do you expect the announcement of court proceedings against the Sept. 11 masterminds anytime soon?

Suskind: No. Can you imagine what discovery would look like for their attorneys? Constitutional crises are knitted into every step of that traditional legal process. The process of discovery for who was overseeing the (Black Sites) program would be very complex for the United States, and would lead right into the White House. My guess is that there will be some push-and-shove and court rulings and challenges and that nothing really significant will happen until January 2009, when a new president is in office.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: You quote former CIA director George Tenet in your book as saying after Sept. 11: "There is nothing we won't do, nothing we won't try." Are there any other dirty stories?

Suskind: Logically, I would have to say yes. You're dealing with an oddity here, a secret war. Wars tend to be very public things, they are visible. There are correspondents traveling with the troops and you get daily dispatches. This is a new conflict, fought largely in secret. The public is only informed a kind of "need to know basis." Based on that, I would assume that there remains something of an undiscovered country of activity in terms of what we have done over the past five years.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: What will Americans say in 10 years about Bushs "War on Terror"?

Suskind: They will say what I said: That the United States and its allies were winning this struggle up until around the end of 2002. Think back to September 12th. That arguably is the most important day, when we mustered ourselves to a response ...

SPIEGEL ONLINE: ... and most of the world stood in unity with the Americans.

Suskind: There were candellight vigils in Tehran -- a nice marker of where much of the world was. Even virulent radicalized Islamists were saying: "That is not my Islam." And virtually all were saying, in unanimity, "Well, the United States is certainly justified in doing whatever it sees fit in Afghanistan with the Taliban and al-Qaida. If any goal of foreign policy is to unite your allies and divide your enemies, it is fair to say that we were successful. Even countries that were not naturally inclined to be helpful were being helpful, especially in the Arab World. Our allies said, "How can I help?"

SPIEGEL ONLINE: During that time there were also defections from al-Qaida.

Suskind: Yes, dissent (inside al-Qaida) helped to provide the seabed for human intelligence that the United States harvested, including Ali. He provided important tips right up until early 2005. And the Emir of Qatar gave us intelligence that helped us to catch Binalshibh, and Mohammed was turned over by another source. He got a $25 million reward and is now living somewhere in America with his family. These are human intelligence assets and they are the how you win these wars.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: So things were going well ... at least until the Iraq war?

Suskind: You can almost mark by the day how our human intelligence assets have withered. The chances of someone coming to the US authorities in this period are slim to none and that will blind us at a time when the terrorist threat has metastasized into what I call the franchise model. It is particulary difficult to discover prior to the operational moment.

SPIEGEL ONLINE: That has been a source deep frustration for the intelligence community.

Suskind: And that is why people in the counter-terrorism community in the United States are terrified at this point and why many cooperated with this book. They wanted to send out a signal and say: "We need to have a real strategy here that is not only tactically forceful, but where the left hand of the US foreign policy doesn't undermine what the right hand is doing." Right now we often run like a headless chicken. We need a strategy. And we need it immediately because, in some ways, we are less safe then we were on Sept. 12.

This interview was conducted by Matthias Gebauer and Georg Mascolo in Ron Suskind's Washington office.

-------------------------------------------
TERRORISM AUTHOR RON SUSKIND

For years, Ron Suskind has been considered one of the best- sourced reporters when it comes to the CIA or the US government. The author and former Wall Street Journal reporter has high- level access to sources in the US administration. He has won two Pulitzer Prizes for his investigative reporting and his new book, "The One Percent Doctrine," has been the subject of critical praise around the world. In the book, Suskind describes how George W. Bush and his advisors completely reshaped US foreign and security policy after Sept. 11, how they hunted in vain for Osama bin Laden and turned torture into a regular part of CIA interrogations of suspected terrorists. In the exposé, Suskind also reports for the first time about terror attacks that have been successfully foiled and about one al- Qaida turncoat who served for years as an informant against bin Laden and Co. Suskind lives and works in Washington, DC.

Thursday, June 29, 2006

well fuck

It figures that I would study my ass off for three months and then get an LSAT score that was one point worse than the first practice test that I took before knowing a single goddamn thing.

edit: This is actually par for the course.

.011 away from the next GPA grouping
One win away from clearing at every national tournament
1 point away from the next LSAT score grouping

Friday, June 02, 2006

And she became a fly.

I should have listened to Crooked Crosses for the Nodding God by now, but it got lost in the middle of Current 93's fifty other albums.

It's better than Swastikas for Noddy.

Way better. Steven Stapleton's treatments elevate it to another level and create an atmospheric coherence that the other version lacks.

And Rose McDowall makes me feel funny inside. Can't complain about that.

This ain't the summer of love.

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Watch out for Christian concentration camps.

More Christian persecution nonsense.
"You [Christians] have become the Jews of the 21st century," said Horowitz, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute in Washington, just before a false alarm interrupted his speech. Several attendees called the fire alarm suspicious, though a hotel spokesman said it resulted from a mechanical problem in a distant location.
Hahahahahahaha.

Friday, May 19, 2006

Dean reaching out to heterosexists.

Washington Blade Online

Dean appeared on the 700 Club to boast about the DNC's non-existent platform opposing gay marriage:
The Democratic Party platform from 2004 says marriage is between a man and a woman. * That's what it says. I think where we may take exception with some religious leaders is, that we believe in inclusion, that everyone deserves to live with dignity, and respect, and that equal rights under the law are important.
Of course, later the DNC clarified that Dean's statement was incorrect and the comment was withdrawn.

The thing that bothers me is his motivation for saying it, even if it's not true. Even if you fucked up and thought that the platform was anti-gay marriage, why would you use that as a reason to convince people to join the party? If you accidentally thought that the platform defined marriage as a union of two people of the same race and used that as a reason that racists should join the party, people would rightfully be pissed, even if it was an accident. In the same fashion as Falwell and Robertson's backpedaling after their 9/11 comments, the question isn't over what the policy actually says or whether he later apologized for it, but of what impulse caused him to say it in the first place.

What the fuck...

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Fishscale

Just finished listening to the new Ghostface while studying for the LSAT.

It's kickin'. Especially the last track, "Three Bricks," featuring Biggie and the Chef.

Sunday, April 09, 2006

Perverting Life in El Salvador

Sad story in the New York Times magazine today about El Salvador, where abortion is prohibited in all instances, even in cases of rape or a medical threat to the mother. It's long but worth the read:

A policy that criminalizes all abortions has a flip side. It appears to mandate that the full force of the medical team must tend toward saving the fetus under any circumstances. This notion can lead to some dangerous practices. Consider an ectopic pregnancy, a condition that occurs when a microscopic fertilized egg moves down the fallopian tube — which is no bigger around than a pencil — and gets stuck there (or sometimes in the abdomen). Unattended, the stuck fetus grows until the organ containing it ruptures. A simple operation can remove the fetus before the organ bursts. After a rupture, though, the situation can turn into a medical emergency.

According to Sara Valdés, the director of the Hospital de Maternidad, women coming to her hospital with ectopic pregnancies cannot be operated on until fetal death or a rupture of the fallopian tube. "That is our policy," Valdés told me. She was plainly in torment about the subject. "That is the law," she said. "The D.A.'s office told us that this was the law." Valdés estimated that her hospital treated more than a hundred ectopic pregnancies each year. She described the hospital's practice. "Once we determine that they have an ectopic pregnancy, we make sure they stay in the hospital," she said. The women are sent to the dispensary, where they receive a daily ultrasound to check the fetus. "If it's dead, we can operate," she said. "Before that, we can't." If there is a persistent fetal heartbeat, then they have to wait for the fallopian tube to rupture. If they are able to persuade the patient to stay, though, doctors can operate the minute any signs of early rupturing are detected. Even a few drops of blood seeping from a fallopian tube will "irritate the abdominal wall and cause pain," Valdés explained. By operating at the earliest signs of a potential rupture, she said, her doctors are able to minimize the risk to the woman.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Immigrants take to the LA streets

Immigrants take to the LA streets in one of the largest protests ever - The Awful Forums

Badiou talks about this: when the element that was uncounted within a situation... the element that had no part in it and wasn't factored into anyone's interpretations of what it means to be a political subject... suddenly reveals itself:
More than 500,000 protesters — demanding that Congress abandon attempts to make illegal immigration a felony and to build more walls along the border — surprised police who estimated the crowd size using aerial photographs and other techniques, police Cmdr. Louis Gray Jr. said.
Wearing white T-shirts to symbolize peace, the demonstrators chanted "Mexico!" "USA!" and "Si se puede," an old Mexican-American civil rights shout that means "Yes, we can."
In Denver, more than 50,000 people protested downtown Saturday, according to police who had expected only a few thousand. Phoenix was similarly surprised Friday when an estimated 20,000 people gathered for one of the biggest demonstrations in city history, and more than 10,000 marched in Milwaukee on Thursday.
Like the number zero or the Godel number that represents a statement that is true, but not demonstrable through one's set of axioms, illegal immigrants are erased from symbolic existence but continue to persist in the margins of American society. They're denied any means of political representation. Many of them are probably afraid of calling emergency services to report things like spousal abuse due to fear of deportation. Most of them are exploited and work horrible hours for shit pay. They're threatened on a daily basis and are sometimes attacked by right wing hate groups.

But they're here and no matter how much we wish that they don't exist, they do.

Lara Logan shuts down the "blame the media" talking point.

Transcript

Video

This has to be the most ridiculous way of spinning the Iraq disaster. Oh no, it's not the Bush administration's fault for royally fucking up pre-war planning that has created this mess. Rather, it's the media's fault for focusing so much on bad things instead of what's good. It can't possibly be the result of a complete lack of planning for how the reconstruction would occur. No, it's always the messenger's fault.

Unfortunately, sometimes the messenger is right. Ignoring the complete chaos that is Iraq and just looking at the good things is the same kind of rose-colored glasses bullshit that got us into this mess in the first place.
And also, as -- I mean, what I would point out is that you can't travel around this country anymore without military protection. You can't travel without armed guards. You're not free to go every time there's a school opening or there's some reconstruction project that's being done.

We don't have the ability to go out and cover those. If they want to see a fair picture of what's happening in Iraq, then you have to first start with the security issue.

When journalists are free to move around this country, then they will be free to report on everything that's going on. But as long as you're a prisoner of the terrible security situation here, then that's going to be reflected in your coverage.

And not only that, but their own figures show that their reconstruction project was supposed to create 1.5 million Iraqi jobs. To date, 77,000 Iraqi government jobs have been created. That should give you an indication of how far along they are in terms of reconstruction.

We have to put everything in its context. We can't go to one small unit and say, oh, they did a great job in this village and ignore all the other villages that haven't seen any improvement in their conditions.

[...]

What about all the American soldiers that died this week that you didn't see on our screens? I mean, we've reported on reconstruction stories over and over again, but the order to (ph) general for Iraqi reconstruction says that only 49 of well over 100 planned electricity projects happened.

So we can't keep doing the same stories over and over again. When a police station's attacked, that's something new that happened this week. If you had any idea of the number of Iraqis that come to us with stories of abuses of U.S. soldiers and you look at our coverage over the last -- my coverage over the last few weeks, or even over the last three years, there's been maybe two or three stories that have related to that.

[...]

You don't think that I haven't been to the U.S. military and the State Department and the embassy and asked them over and over again, let's see the good stories, show us some of the good things that are going on? Oh, sorry, we can't take to you that school project, because if you put that on TV, they're going to be attacked about, the teachers are going to be killed, the children might be victims of attack.

Oh, sorry, we can't show this reconstruction project because then that's going to expose it to sabotage. And the last time we had journalists down here, the plant was attacked.

I mean, security dominates every single thing that happens in this country. Reconstruction funds have been diverted to cover away from reconstruction to -- they've been diverted to security.

Soldiers, their lives are occupied most of the time with security issues. Iraqi civilians' lives are taken up most of the time with security issues.

So how it is that security issues should not then dominate the media coverage coming out of here?

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Is this really happening?

So Bush signed a law that didn't get passed by both houses of Congress.

And a group is suing since it's pretty obviously not constitutional.

Well, it looks like they're really defending it:
The issue is bizarre, with even constitutional scholars saying they could not think of any precedent for the journey the budget bill took to becoming a law. Opponents of the budget law point to elementary-school civics lessons to make their case, while Republicans are evoking an obscure Supreme Court ruling from the 1890s to suggest a bill does not actually have to pass both chambers of Congress to become law.

"We believe that the law is constitutional and that this is yet another political attempt by the Democrats to stop us from cutting spending," said Ronald D. Bonjean Jr., a spokesman for Speaker J. Dennis Hastert (R-Ill.).
What???

I did not just read that.

Oh well, back to politics work.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Bam! Heidegger!

I'm in the middle of a nightmarish load of homework, studying, and debate work, but managed to find enough time to waste reading this article about Liberty's debate team in the New York Times magazine:
"They pull the genocide card," one said, "we come back with Heidegger."
"Then blam, Erich Fromm."
"Right. Setting up an accusation of Holocaust triv."
"Holocaust what?" asked O'Donnell.
"Triv. Trivialization."
"Don't use shorthand," O'Donnell said. "Judges don't like it."

Sunday, March 12, 2006

Executive powers farce

It's hilarious that conservatives who tend to have the strictest and most narrow interpretations of the limitations set by the separation of powers on the judicial branch pull an about face when we're talking about the executive. Suddenly, all of their handwringing about the "will of the people" and the supremacy of the legislative branch collapses.

If only there were a two word catch phrase to frame the issue...

Executive Activism?

Feingold to press for presidential censure

edit: It gets better. Check out Frist's reaction:

Frist said censuring the president would give U.S. enemies the impression that Bush doesn't have the nation's full support.

"The signal that it sends, that there is in any way a lack of support for our commander-in-chief who is leading us with a bold vision in a way that we know is making our homeland safer, is wrong," said Frist.

This is rich coming from the guy who voted to impeach Clinton and said this:

I will have no part in the creation of a constitutional double-standard to benefit the President. He is not above the law. If an ordinary citizen committed these crimes, he would go to jail. Many senators have voted to remove federal judges guilty of perjury, and I have no doubt that the Senate would do so again. Those who by their votes today confer immunity on the President for the same crimes do violence to the core principle that we are all entitled to equal justice under law.

Moreover, I agree with the view of Judge Griffin Bell, President Jimmy Carter's Attorney General and a former Judge of the United States Court of Appeals, Fifth Circuit. Judge Bell has stated: `A President cannot faithfully execute the laws if he himself is breaking them.' These offenses--perjury and obstruction of justice--are not trivial; they represent an assault on the judicial process. Again, Judge Bell's words are instructive:

Truth and fairness are the two essential elements in a judicial system, and all of these statutes I mentioned, perjury, tampering with a witness, obstruction of justice, all [are] in the interest of truth. If we don't have truth in the judicial process and in the court system in our country, we don't have anything. So, this is serious business.

I agree. The crimes of perjury and obstruction of justice are public crimes threatening the administration of justice. They therefore fit Alexander Hamilton's famous description of impeachable offenses in Federalist No. 65: `[O]ffences which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.' The electorate entrusted President Clinton to enforce the laws, yet he chose to engage in a pattern of public crime against our system of justice. We must not countenance the commission of such serious crimes by the chief executive of our nation.

The President broke his oath to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help him God. He likewise broke his oaths to take care that the laws be faithfully executed.

Just how important are oaths? We take oaths to substantiate the sanctity of some of our highest callings. Years ago, I took the Hippocratic Oath to become a physician. In January 1995, I took an oath of office as a United States Senator to preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States. Then, just last month, I had to take a special oath of impartial justice for this impeachment trial. Raising your right hand and swearing before God is meant to be serious business. Swearing falsely is equally serious. I recall the conclusion of the Hippocratic Oath:

If I fulfil this oath and do not violate it, may it be granted to me to enjoy life and art, being honored with fame among all men for all time to come; if I transgress it and swear falsely, may the opposite of all this be my lot.

What a fucking tool.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Ringleader of the Tormentors

The new Morrissey promo is fucking awesome.

Yeah, I suck.

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

My conversation with Craig Thomas.

I've been talking with my senator, Craig Thomas, over e-mail. I don't have the initial message that I sent, but here's his initial message:
Good morning Aaron . . .
And thank you for passing along the article
regarding the treatment of enemy detainees
held at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. It is good to
hear from you.
Guantanamo houses enemy combatants ranging
from terrorist trainers and recruiters to
bomb makers and terrorist financiers. They
are treated humanely and are properly housed,
fed and clothed. Their religious and dietary
needs are met, and their cases have all been
formally reviewed against criteria
established by the Enemy Combatant Status
Review Board.
All detainees are sent before a review board
to determine their statues, with specific
protocol determined by location. For
instance, detainees located at Guantanamo Boy
are initially sent before a Combatant Status
Review Tribunal. This tribunal reviews all
evidence presented concerning the detainee,
who can volunteer to participate in the
proceedings. Detainees at Guantanamo Bay
also have their statues reviewed annually in
a process called an Administrative Review
Board (ARB). In an ARB, the detainees have
the chance to argue their case against
continued detention before a board of three
U.S. military officers. The detainees' home
countries and families also have an
opportunity to present information to the
panel. The ARB's purpose is to determine if
each detainee is still a threat to the United
States or still holds intelligence value.
There are thr4ee possible outcomes from an
administrate review board: release, typically
in the detainee's home country; transfer of
custody to the government of the home
country; or continued detention at Guantanamo
Bay.
The facilities provide a strategic
interrogation center where these combatants
can be questioned. Information gained from
these interrogations has saved the lives of
American and Coalition forces, as well as
thwarted threats posed to innocent civilians
in the United States and abroad.
The Administration, Congress and the military
have made it clear, as both a matter of
policy and through the strict prosecution of
offenders, that abuse or torture of detainees
is unacceptable. Credible allegations of
abuse are vigorously investigated and
individuals are held accountable for their
actions. As Americans, we must certainly
hold ourselves to higher standards of
conduct. I believe we must continue to make
good faith efforts to live up to these
standards while recognizing the difference
between what constitutes appropriate
interrogation methods and real abuse and
torture.
The enemy detainees being held at Guantanamo
are a very real threat to the United States.
I believe operations at Guantanamo have been
transparent, and in this time of war, I will
not support calls for its closure.
If you are interested in receiving more
information regarding the detainee review
process, I encourage you to visit the
Department of Defense website at:
www.defenselink.mil and click on the Detainee
Affairs link.
Thanks again for sharing your thoughts,
Aaron. I appreciate knowing your views and
hope this finds you well in Laramie.
My reply:

I'm sorry if this letter is long. I know that you are busy, but I am troubled by some of your claims and have some questions:

1. Why are the President and his administration arguing that the McCain torture amendment does not apply at Guantanamo? (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2006/03/02/AR2006030202054.html) Even if an officer admitted that they tortured a detainee, the abused person has no access to any kind of fair and impartial court system to stop such abuse. How can you say that the President cares about prosecuting abuse when his actions say something different?

2. How come a DoD report admits that a full half of the people in Guantanamo aren't even accused of having committed any crime? Those documents admit that many of them were arrested for crimes that include possession of a firearm, wearing drab olive clothing, or owning a certain kind of wrist watch. (http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/foi/detainees/index.html
http://law.shu.edu/news/guantanamo_report_final_2_08_06.pdf)

How do you explain these documents if your arguments about due process are correct? The ARB may have reviewed the status of the detainees, but it was unable to attach fifty-five percent of them with any crime, yet continues to hold them, perhaps in the vain hope that something will be discovered, something that flies in the face of everything that our nation believes in terms of criminal justice and the rights of the accused. This is the kind of behavior we expect to see in totalitarian nations, not the United States. If the process really works, as you claim it does, then when will these people be released? Will you do anything as a Senator to push for the release of people who we can't charge with any crime or act of hostility?

3. Why are the Pentagon and C.I.A. making plans to indefinitely imprison those people against whom we have no evidence? (http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/articles/A41475-2005Jan1.html) In American courts, you can't even keep someone in prison for a year without evidence, much less hold them for their entire lives. It's as if all of these people have fallen into a legal black hole and have been stripped of any rights due to their status as neither prisoners of war nor people accused of actual crimes.

4. What's the deal with Jose Padilla, an American citizen who was denied his right to due process by decree of the executive? You would be up in arms if Clinton had done that to someone. What ever happened to the Republican party that mistrusted the federal government and complained about how it infringed upon people's constitutional liberties? It seems as if the conservative desire for small government vanished the moment that you all took control of all three branches of the federal government.

Somehow, when I'm told that a board is making the best decision about who to detain without any adherence to habeas corpus and that I have to just trust you all that rights are being observed, I get skeptical; especially when these pleas are coming from the same people who told me that they knew exactly where the weapons of mass destruction were in Iraq, that no one foresaw the possibility of the New Orleans levees being breached, that the N.S.A. always attains warrants when it conducts wiretaps that involve a domestic caller, or that anyone who was involved with the outing of a C.I.A. agent would be fired. Your party has given me zero reason to trust the government on this issue, especially when the head of your party has resisted efforts at external oversight and attempts to assure that detainees are treated humanely at every step of the process. A good example of this was the administrative battles surrounding attempts to ensure that torture not be conducted by American forces: http://www.newyorker.com/fact/content/articles/060227fa_fact

If you are correct and that everything that is going on at Guantanamo is legitimate, then you and your fellow policymakers have done a horrible job of reassuring both the American public and the rest of the world that that is what is really going on. That has thoroughly tanked our ability to be a global leader on a number of issues. Even if we are right, no one takes us seriously when we criticize China for their Laogai prison camps or the genocide that is happening in the Sudan. The next time that we need to intervene somewhere in the name of national security or human rights, it will be that much more difficult to convince other nations to support us in that endeavor because we have thoroughly tarnished our image as a nation that actually cares about protecting global human rights. At the very least, you should be concerned about the way that your President's actions are perceived globally. I know that you are aware that we need the cooperation of those nations if we are to fight things like terrorism, poverty, regional instability, and nuclear proliferation.

In a speech a few years ago, President Bush made the argument that freedom is not only God's gift to America, but is also God's gift to the world. If you really believe that that is true, I cannot for the life of me understand your complicity with the way that people in Guantanamo Bay have been treated. Right now, we accord different levels of human rights to different people based on their political status. We would never stand for middle class white Americans being treated the way in which we treat Afghani enemy combatants. Do you really believe in universal rights that are endowed in every person by their Creator, or do you just say that because you're supposed to? Is there any substance left in American human rights rhetoric?

Monday, March 06, 2006

The Blast.

Talib Kweli's "The Blast" is playing on MTV2 because it's in Dave Chapelle's block party.

I feel like it's an afternoon in twelfth grade and I'm sitting alone in my Dad's basement with my dog, researching Critical Legal Studies on his Gateway while downloading low bitrate Public Enemy, Stooges, Outkast, and Mos Def songs off Napster. I just e-mailed my application to Pitt, I can smell my Jumbalaya burning upstairs, and I can't wait for High School to be over.

I can't believe that was five years ago. Jesus.

Friday, March 03, 2006

U.S. Cites Exception in Torture Ban

U.S. Cites Exception in Torture Ban

I don't understand how anyone with any amount of intellectual integrity can claim to support liberal human rights and not have a problem with this.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Bad news for the NPT

First, the Bush administration sent a pretty clear signal, with the Iraq invasion, that if you're a rogue nation and you don't have a nuclear deterrent, you're screwed. As a result, Iran and North Korea are pursuing nuclear programs at full speed because they know that that's their only ace in the hole if the U.S. wants to force regime change on them.

Now, there's this. How can giving nuclear tech to a nation that hasn't signed the NPT not damage the credibility of that treaty? I realize that the IAEA will probably do a sufficient job of securing nuclear power in India. The problem is that the signal that it sends.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

The New Yorker: How an internal effort to ban torture was thwarted

You can read it here.

Excellent article, but very frustrating.
Upon returning to work on January 6, 2003, Mora was alarmed to learn from Brant that the abuse at Guantánamo had not stopped. In fact, as Time reported last year, Qahtani had been stripped and shaved and told to bark like a dog. He’d been forced to listen to pop music at an ear-splitting volume, deprived of sleep, and kept in a painfully cold room. Between confessing to and then recanting various terrorist plots, he had begged to be allowed to commit suicide.

Mora suspected that such abuse was a deliberate policy, and widened his internal campaign in the hope of building a constituency against it. In the next few days, his arguments reached many of the Pentagon’s top figures: Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz; Captain Jane Dalton, the legal adviser to the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Victoria Clarke, who was then the Pentagon spokeswoman; and Rumsfeld.

[...]

A top Administration official told me that Yoo, Addington, and a few other lawyers had essentially “hijacked policy” after September 11th. “They thought, Now we can put our views into practice. We have the ability to write them into binding law. It was just shocking. These memos were presented as faits accomplis.”

In Yoo’s opinion, he wrote that at Guantánamo cruel, inhumane, and degrading treatment of detainees could be authorized, with few restrictions.

[...]

Without Mora’s knowledge, the Pentagon had pursued a secret detention policy. There was one version, enunciated in Haynes’s letter to Leahy, aimed at critics. And there was another, giving the operations officers legal indemnity to engage in cruel interrogations, and, when the Commander-in-Chief deemed it necessary, in torture. Legal critics within the Administration had been allowed to think that they were engaged in a meaningful process; but their deliberations appeared to have been largely an academic exercise, or, worse, a charade. “It seems that there was a two-track program here,” said Martin Lederman, a former lawyer with the Office of Legal Counsel, who is now a visiting professor at Georgetown. “Otherwise, why would they share the final working-group report with Hill and Miller but not with the lawyers who were its ostensible authors?”

Saturday, February 11, 2006

sadness song

Brown styrofoam cup holder
floats down the gutter
burger king logo
scuffed by pigeons.

Friday, February 10, 2006

Zarathustra.

Then time will come to an end, and there will be a new start for the world. Saoshyant will raise the dead, and Ahura Mazda will marry body to soul. First to rise will be Gayomart, the first fire-priest; then Mashya and Mashyoi, our mother and father, then the rest of humanity. They will come back across the Cinvat Bridge from the joys of heaven or the horrors of hell, wherever their acts and their consciences have sent them.

Even those who have killed a dog will come, although—because dogs go out at night to battle the creatures of the evil spirit—anyone who kills a dog kills his own soul for nine generations, and cannot cross the Cinvat Bridge until he atones for his sin.

The bridge is wide for the faithful, but it is as narrow as a needle for the sinner. All the metal in the mountains of the world will melt, making the earth flat again. But also each man and woman will pass though the stream of molten metal and emerge purified. Those who were faithful to Ahura Mazda and lived a holy, creative, generous, productive life will feel that they are walking through warm milk. But those who were seduced by Angra Mainyu will suffer terrible agony as all their sins are burned away.
The universe came into being by accident.
The distribution of forces that enabled our planet to form happened by accident.
Humans evolved by accident.
We were born by accident.
We'll all die by accident.
Our species will go extinct by accident.
Our universe will be extinguished by accident.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Cough

Hacking my lungs out and feelings needles in my throat every time I swallow sucks, but at least being sick gives me some time to catch up on my reading and listen to new music.

It's kind of annoying that new wave music is cool again. It creates a glut of horrible and derivative material that doesn't even compare to one of Talk Talk's boring early albums.

On the other hand, there's still some cool music coming out. The new White Rose Movement album is pretty sweet. A catchy synth line makes me weak in the knees.

Monday, February 06, 2006

becoming kalki

"The more the universe seems comprehensible, the more it also seems pointless."