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.