Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Top 50 Albums of 2008 +stuff I didn't get to

1. Have a Nice Life - Deathconsciousness
2. Snowman - The Horse The Rat and the Swan
3. Zeigeist - The Jade Motel
4. Ital Tek - Cyclical
5. M83 - Saturdays = Youth
6. The Bridal Shop - From Seas
7. Ladytron - Velocifero
8. Sunset - The Glowing City
9. Bohren & Der Club of Gore - Dolores
10. Portishead - Third
11. Deerhunter - Microcastle
12. Made Out Of Babies - The Ruiner
13. Deerhoof - Offen Maggie
14. Bon Iver - For Emma, Forever Ago
15. Benga - Diary of an Afro Warrior
16. Bun B - Ill Trill
17. Fight Like Apes - And the Mystery of the Golden Medallion
18. Kidz in the Hall - The In Crowd
19. Les Gars - La Physique
20. Islands - Arm's Way
21. Friendly Fires - Friendly Fires
22. Nomo - Ghost Rock
23. Onra - Chinoiseries
24. 2562 - Aerial
25. Ryoji Ikeda - Test Pattern
26. Coil - The New Backwards
27. Nine Inch Nails - Ghosts I-IV
28. Legowelt - The Rise & Fall of Manuel Noriega
29. Claro Intelecto - Metanarrative
30. Benoit Pioulard - Temper
31. Jasper TX - Black Sleep
32. Los Campesinos! - Hold On Now, Youngster...
33. Grails - Take Refuge In Clean Living
34. A Made Up Sound - Shortcuts
35. Elzhi - The Preface
36. Dusk + Blackdown - Margins Music
37. Porn & Merzbow - And the Devil Makes Three
38. 9th Wonder & Buckshot - The Formula
39. Fennesz - Black Sea
40. Women - Women
41. The Cure - 4:13 Dream
42. Religious Knives - The Door
43. Kuruucrew - BATTLEDISCO!!!
44. Human Highway - Moody Motorcycle
45. Hercules and Love Affair - Self Titled
46. Boris - Smile (US)
47. The Tallest Man on Earth - Shallow Grave
48. Vampire Weekend - Vampire Weekend
49. 5ive - Hesperus
50. Fucked Up - The Chemistry of Common Life

And here's what I didn't get to listen to enough to have an opinion:

Sigur Ros
Love is All
Vivian Girls
Fleet Foxes
Max Richter
Johann Johannson
Peter Broderick
Matt Elliot
Cut Copy
Mr. Oizo
Sylvain Chauveau
Lucinda Williams
Like Honey
Silver Jews
Frightened Rabbit
Elliot Brood
No Age
The Endless Blockade
Underground Railroad
Okkervil River
Marnie Stern
Black Milk
David Byrne & Brian Eno
Max Tundra

Friday, December 05, 2008

Mp3 collections and Lacan

It's the time when people start compiling their lists of the year's best music. I've cobbled together my own lists over the past few Decembers, in spite of the fact that I'm not a music professional and no one, not even my wife and cats, cares that much about whether I liked Boris's Smile better than some unrelated dubstep album. Looking back at them, it's interesting to see what was a top 10 list turn into a top 50, not including runner-up albums. It wasn't too long ago that I had a difficult time coming up with 10 new albums with which I was even familiar.

As the year ends, I find myself furiously listening to recommended albums that I missed during the past year. Part of me is horrified that I might have missed something good. And inevitably (as most things that confuse me do), it makes me think about Lacan and the superego injunction to "enjoy!" at all costs. What was once a simple pleasure has become an all consuming, unstoppable burden that I've placed on myself. For all of the time that I spend pouring over hornbooks and case law, I spend an equal amount of time organizing my digital music collection, making sure all of the genre and year tags are right, and getting the best possible album art. I spend more time doing this than actually listening to a good portion of the music itself. But thanks to cheap hard drive space, I have a way of hording all of this music without the burden of actually listening to and enjoying it. My Western Digital drive relieves me from that task.

I am reminded of a Zizek quote (yes, I know, roll your eyes):
In order to account for these paradoxes, Robert Pfaller recently coined the term "interpassivity." Today, it is a commonplace to emphasize how, with new electronic media, the passive consumption of a text or a work of art is over: I no longer merely stare at the screen, I increasingly interact with it, entering into a dialogic relationship with it (from choosing the programs, through participating in debates in a Virtual Community, to directly determining the outcome of the plot in so-called "interactive narratives"). Is, however, the other side of my interacting with the object instead of just passively following the show, not the situation in which the object itself takes from me, deprives me of, my own passive reaction of satisfaction (or mourning or laughter), so that is is the object itself which "enjoys the show" instead of me, relieving me of the superego duty to enjoy myself? Almost every VCR aficionado who compulsively records hundreds of movies (myself among them), is well aware that the immediate effect of owning a VCR, is that one effectively watches less films than in the good old days of a simple TV set without a VCR; one never has time for TV, so, instead of losing a precious evening, one simply tapes the film and stores it for a future viewing (for which, of course, there is almost never time).
One should therefore turn around one of the commonplaces of the conservative cultural criticism: in contrast to the notion that the new media turn us into passive consumers who just stare blindly at the screen, one should claim that the so-called threat of the new media resides in the fact that they deprive us of our passivity, of our authentic passive experience, and thus prepare us for the mindless frenetic activity.
But I should really be writing about computer fraud now.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

I guess Obama is Nixon.

It's strange watching talking heads who kept nodding their heads for the past eight years flipping out about Eric Holder's connections to the Clinton pardons. They're seriously using Nixon comparisons.

Where the hell have all of you been for the past eight years? I'm not saying Clinton should get a pass on pardoning Rich, but after Schiavo, Iraq, Katrina, Abu Ghraib, Guantanamo, extraordinary renditions, Plame, warrantless wiretapping, indefinitely holding citizens without charge, torture, and so on, it seems hard to get outraged about Clinton pardons. Bush pardoned someone who committed perjury to cover up the crimes of his own administration.

After all of that garbage, now we're getting the Nixon comparisons? Are you serious?

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

Awesome night, but...

I am so happy about Obama's victory that it's surreal.

But part of me is terrified about proposition 8 in California. If gay marriage gets rolled back there... I just don't know.


Your scare politics don't work anymore. Resign yourself to being a regional party and die.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Oh dear lord

Sarah Palin is either a complete idiot or a brilliant experimental poet influenced by dada and the cut-up techniques of William S. Burroughs.

Katie Couric: You've cited Alaska's proximity to Russia as part of your foreign policy experience. What did you mean by that?

Sarah Palin: That Alaska has a very narrow maritime border between a foreign country, Russia, and, on our other side, the land-boundry that we have with Canada. It's funny that a comment like that was kinda made to … I don't know, you know … reporters.

Couric: Mocked?

Palin: Mocked, yeah I guess that's the word, mocked.

Couric: Well, explain to me why that enhances your foreign-policy credentials.

Palin: Well, it certainly does, because our, our next-door neighbors are foreign countries, there in the state that I am the executive of. And there…

Couric: Have you ever been involved in any negotiations, for example, with the Russians?

Palin: We have trade missions back and forth, we do. It's very important when you consider even national-security issues with Russia. As Putin rears his head and comes into the air space of the United States of America, where do they go? It's Alaska. It's just right over the border. It is from Alaska that we send those out to make sure that an eye is being kept on this very powerful nation, Russia, because they are right next to, they are right next to our state.
That's why I say I, like every American I'm speaking with, were ill about this position that we have been put in. Where it is the taxpayers looking to bail out. But ultimately, what the bailout does is help those who are concerned about the health care reform that is needed to help shore up our economy. Um, helping, oh, it's got to be about job creation, too. Shoring up our economy, and getting it back on the right track. So health care reform and reducing taxes and reining in spending has got to accompany tax reductions, and tax relief for Americans, and trade -- we have got to see trade as opportunity, not as, uh, competitive, um, scary thing, but one in five jobs created in the trade sector today. We've got to look at that as more opportunity. All of those things under the umbrella of job creation.
PALIN: Every American student needs to come through this area so that, especially this younger generation of Americans is, to be in a position of never forgetting what happened here and never repeating, never allowing a repeat of what happened here. I wish every American would come through here. I wish every world leader would come through here, and understand what it is that took place here and more importantly how America came together and united to commit to never allowing this to happen again. And just to hear and from and see these good New Yorkers who are rebuilding not just this are but helping to rebuild america has been very, very inspiring and encouraging. These are the good americans who are committed to peace and security and its been an absolute honor getting to meet these folks today.
CNN: On the topic of never letting this happen again, do you agree with the way the Bush administration has handled the war on terrorism, is there anything you would do differently?

A: I agree with the Bush administration that we take the fight to them. We never again let them come onto our soil and try to destroy not only our democracy, but communities like the community of New York. Never again. So yes, I do agree with taking the fight to the terrorists and stopping them over there.
Couric: You recently said three times that you would never, quote, "second guess" Israel if that country decided to attack Iran. Why not?

Palin: We shouldn't second guess Israel's security efforts because we cannot ever afford to send a message that we would allow a second Holocaust, for one. Israel has got to have the opportunity and the ability to protect itself. They are our closest ally in the Mideast. We need them. They need us. And we shouldn't second guess their efforts.

Couric: You don't think the United States is within its rights to express its position to Israel? And if that means second-guessing or discussing an option?

Palin: No, abso … we need to express our rights and our concerns and …

Couric: But you said never second guess them.

Palin: We don't have to second-guess what their efforts would be if they believe … that it is in their country and their allies, including us, all of our best interests to fight against a regime, especially Iran, who would seek to wipe them off the face of the earth. It is obvious to me who the good guys are in this one and who the bad guys are. The bad guys are the ones who say Israel is a stinking corpse and should be wiped off the face of the earth. That's not a good guy who is saying that. Now, one who would seek to protect the good guys in this, the leaders of Israel and her friends, her allies, including the United States, in my world, those are the good guys.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

15000 words

Jesus, I could be a quarter of the way through writing a novel by now. And that might have actually been entertaining.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

David Foster Wallace dead

Very, very sad. He was only in his forties.

I never finished Infinite Jest, but it comforted me during a really horrible point in my life.

Friday, September 12, 2008

In God We Trust

McCain on The View (yeah, I know) just cited "in God we trust" as evidence that the founders established the U.S. on Christian principles.

How mortifying is it that someone running for President on a major ticket actually believes that?

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The politics of stupidity

There's a Newsweek piece that's spot on about the bullshit we've seen in the past two days.

I thought I'd seen it all during the Bush era. I thought that McCain was the best of a disgusting bunch and would at least be honest.

Wow, was I wrong.

And it looks like this shit is working. If we lose this cycle, I just give up. If the American public still falls for this garbage after eight years of Bush, I don't know what else we can do. These people have figured out how to game the public with demagogic tactics and no amount of truth on our part can do a thing about that.

I don't know if I have the energy anymore. It's just too fucking ridiculous for me to comprehend.

Years ago, I posted about how we had slid over the edge of the tragic into farce. Little did I know how much worse things could get.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Apparently the forty page limit for law review notes includes footnotes.

Oops. Time to start pruning the chaff.

The Shield wins a Buffy

Salon awarded "The Shield" a Buffy award for being the most underrated show on television.

When I first noticed the show, it was during the run up to the Iraq invasion and I assumed it was another 24-esque post-9/11 show about how awesome it is when cops violate people's civil liberties.

My judgment was clouded by the time that I was in and I was really, really wrong.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

I thought the 9/11 tribute kitsch couldn't get worse

Oh my god.

Now you can get non-circulating Liberian tender with the numbers 9 and 11 adding up to twenty d0llars with the image of the two towers on the front. It even comes with a display case.

If you watch the TV ad, they're practically celebrating the date. Sure, they say that it's a tragedy but the tone of voice suggests that they're selling Mother's Day cards.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Who the hell came up with the idea that dual column print is the best way to view court decisions in a word processor?

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Game of Pricks

Listening to Guided by Voices' greatest hits album makes me feel like it's the summer of 2002 again. I had just met my future wife, was under house arrest, worked at a bakery, drove a volkswagen, and had just discovered this thing called lo-fi indie rock. We didn't have cable or Internet, could barely afford Taco Bell, and I had to sneak out of the house at night, but it was a really good summer.

Friday, August 22, 2008


I guess I should have known that writing a note for the law review would be difficult, but I didn't think I would struggle this much. I'm going to be half alive on the first day of class. Lord knows when I'll have time to write the memo I need to do for my internship or finish my pre-class reading.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

McCain's Ace in the Hole is the Very Reason He's Unfit to President

An article in the NYT demonstrates why foreign policy, supposedly McCain's biggest advantage, is the very reason he shouldn't be anywhere near the Oval Office:

Within hours [of the World Trade Center attacks], Mr. McCain, the Vietnam War hero and famed straight talker of the 2000 Republican primary, had taken on a new role: the leading advocate of taking the American retaliation against Al Qaeda far beyond Afghanistan. In a marathon of television and radio appearances, Mr. McCain recited a short list of other countries said to support terrorism, invariably including Iraq, Iran and Syria.

“There is a system out there or network, and that network is going to have to be attacked,” Mr. McCain said the next morning on ABC News. “It isn’t just Afghanistan,” he added, on MSNBC. “I don’t think if you got bin Laden tomorrow that the threat has disappeared,” he said on CBS, pointing toward other countries in the Middle East.

Within a month he made clear his priority. “Very obviously Iraq is the first country,” he declared on CNN. By Jan. 2, Mr. McCain was on the aircraft carrier Theodore Roosevelt in the Arabian Sea, yelling to a crowd of sailors and airmen: “Next up, Baghdad!


Whether through ideology or instinct, though, Mr. McCain began making his case for invading Iraq to the public more than six months before the White House began to do the same. He drew on principles he learned growing up in a military family and on conclusions he formed as a prisoner in North Vietnam. He also returned to a conviction about “the common identity” of dangerous autocracies as far-flung as Serbia and North Korea that he had developed consulting with hawkish foreign policy thinkers to help sharpen the themes of his 2000 presidential campaign.

While pushing to take on Saddam Hussein, Mr. McCain also made arguments and statements that he may no longer wish to recall. He lauded the war planners he would later criticize, including Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Vice President Dick Cheney. (Mr. McCain even volunteered that he would have given the same job to Mr. Cheney.) He urged support for the later-discredited Iraqi exile Ahmad Chalabi’s opposition group, the Iraqi National Congress, and echoed some of its suspect accusations in the national media. And he advanced misleading assertions not only about Mr. Hussein’s supposed weapons programs but also about his possible ties to international terrorists, Al Qaeda and the Sept. 11 attacks.

Maybe there is reason that McCain doesn't know the difference between Sunni and Shia groups. Whether it's Iraq, Iran, North Korea, or Al Qaeda, he has this simplistic worldview that calls for the same cookie cutter response to every problem.

But Obama is a celebrity (unlike that other Presidential candidate who has appeared on SNL and several other late night programs), so he couldn't possibly have a more sophisticated view of foregin affairs!

Buff1 - There's Only One

This one might be on some end of year lists. Independent-minded, good flow, and isn't afraid of using a catchy hook. The production is top notch too.

Buff1 - There's Only One

Sunday, August 03, 2008

I'm so sick of this "racism is irrelevant" bullshit

We now live in bizarro world, where pointing out the obvious racial context of this election is racist, even though Republicans have been playing on racial fears for decades. Apparently, the most racist thing you can do in America these days is to point out that racism exists. If you think it's a coincidence that all of the faces on our money are white, you are lying to yourself. Obama faces serious challenges in running as the first black candidate of a major party and pretending that they don't exist is ridiculous.

Obama is facing a clear double-standard. The very fact that he's black means that he has to stay away from focusing on race, even when doing so is appropriate, for fear of being labeled "uppity" or a "dangerous black man." McCain, meanwhile, is free to spout off racial epithets like "gook" and no one cares. He can use imagery that is racially charged, as in his ad juxtaposing Obama with Britney and Paris, but if anyone point that out, they are decried for being the real racists. But if Obama even suggests that his race may be used against him, it sets of a storm of controversy.

McCain faced racist attacks, himself, in 2000, and he wasn't even black. Now he has hired people associated with Bush's political campaigns and he's surprised that people are preparing for racially charged attacks? If he were honest, he would acknowledge his party's legacy of racism and vow not to repeat it. But he won't, because acknowledging that it exists would reveal the elephant in the room and take away one of his best means of defaming Obama.

What was the devil's greatest trick, again?


I don't know why I never got into Afrobeat before, but it's sick stuff. Really funky beats and fun improvisation. Good music for the Summer or for when you want to feel good in spite of all of the messed up stuff that's going on around us.

I've been listening to these albums and want to get more:

Fela Kuti & Afrika '70 - Zombie
Fela Kuti & Afrika '70 - Opposite People + Sorrow Tears and Blood
Fela Kuti - The '69 Los Angeles Sessions
Fela Kuti - Yellow Fever/Na Poi
Chicago Afrobeat Project - Self-titled (they have a newer album I haven't heard)
Geraldo Pino & the Heartbeats - Afro Soco Soul Live
Geraldo Pino - Let's Have a Party
Various Artists - Nigeria Disco Funk Special

Thursday, July 31, 2008

McCain's desperation grows

Now they've resorted to juxtaposing Obama with Paris Hilton and David Hasselhoff's name.

I kind of feel bad for them. Apparently a former strategist does too.

Monday, July 28, 2008

New McCain Ad Bashes Obama for Not Visiting Troops Using Footage of Obama Visiting Troops

This is one of the worst things that I've seen on TV.

Here's the godawful video.

I'm not sure what's worse: the fact that they accuse him of not seeing the troops due to cameras being barred when no one has claimed that or the fact that they imply that he took a trip to the gym when he was playing basketball with soldiers in Kuwait.

I can't believe that I used to think that this hack had integrity. Anything to be President, I guess...

Monday, July 21, 2008

US Human Rights Credibility: Shot

Well, we already knew that, but now the UK government agrees:
The UK can no longer rely on US assurances that it does not use torture, and we recommend that the government does not rely on such assurances in the future We also recommend that the government should immediately carry out an exhaustive analysis of current US interrogation techniques on the basis of such information as is publicly available or which can be supplied by the US.

Friday, July 18, 2008

Rove attempted to have Fitzgerald fired while under investigation

This is downright Nixonian.
In a supplement to his responses to the House Judiciary Committee, Patrick Fitzgerald confirms what we've always suspected: Karl Rove was trying to have Patrick Fitzgerald fired while Fitzgerald was still investigating Rove for his role in leaking Valerie Wilson's identity--and the timing lines up perfectly with the Administration's efforts to fire a bunch of US Attorneys.

Remember back in June, when Fitzgerald publicly suggested he had more details to share with Congress about Rove's efforts to get him fired?

"If I owe a response [about the putsch to remove him from his job], I owe it to Congress, first," Fitzgerald said when asked about all this after the verdict.

Well, it turns out Fitzgerald did share those details with Congress. And those details make it clear that Fitzgerald learned Rove was trying to fire him while Fitzgerald was still actively investigating Rove's role in the leak of Valerie Wilson's identity.

In my answers submitted on May 2,2008, I noted in my response to Question Eleven that I omitted discussion of when I first learned that I might be asked to resign as United States Attorney. I declined to answer more fully due to the then pending trial of United States v. Antoin Rezko in the Northern District of Illinois. With that trial concluded, I can briefly elaborate further: I learned some time in or about early 2005 from agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation ("FBI") that a cooperating witness (who later testified at the Rezko trial, but not about this topic) had advised the FBI agents that he had earlier been told by one of Mr. Rezko's co-schemers that it was the responsibility of a third person in Illinois to have me replaced as United States Attorney. I should be clear that I did not understand that any putative effort to replace me as United States Attorney was related to my conduct as Special Counsel but understood instead that it was related to the investigative activities of federal agents and prosecutors conducting a corruption investigation in Illinois. [my emphasis]

As a reminder, here's the allegation with all the names handily added in (though I think Fitzgerald is referring to someone besides Ata, because Ata was not yet cooperating with the Rezko prosecutors):

In a hearing before court began, prosecutors said they hoped to call Ali Ata, the former Blagojevich administration official who pleaded guilty to corruption yesterday, to the stand.

Assistant U.S. Atty. Carrie Hamilton said she believed Ata would testify to conversations Ata had with his political patron, Rezko, about working to pull strings to kill the criminal investigation into Rezko and others when it was in its early stages in 2004.

"[Ata] had conversations with Mr. Rezko about the fact that Mr. Kjellander was working with Karl Rove to have Mr. Fitzgerald removed," Hamilton told U.S. District Judge Amy St. Eve.

Note, Fitzgerald emphasizes that Rove was trying to fire him to protect Republican donor Bob Kjellander, not to protect Rove and Libby and Cheney. But that doesn't change the fact that Rove was in discussions about firing Fitzgerald while he--Rove--was under active investigation.

Also note the timing: while the discussions between this cooperating witness and (presumably) Kjellander happened earlier, the timing lines up with the effort to fire all the US Attorneys--and then, when Kyle Sampson suggested his name, Fitzgerald specifically--at the beginning of 2005.
It would be nice if they got a contempt of Congress charge to stick this time. This bullshit has gone on long enough.

Here's Rep. Sánchez, chair of the House Judiciary Subcommittee on Commercial and Administrative Law:
Why Karl Rove Should Go To Jail

Again last week, we saw the arrogance of former White House advisor Karl Rove when an empty chair sat for him in front of the House Judiciary subcommittee where he was required by subpoena to testify. Not only did he refuse to appear before the committee -- let alone testify -- but he defiantly left the country thereby blatantly ignoring his obligations under the congressional subpoena served on him. When he did return to the country, Rove found the time to gab with TV reporters on a summer press tour in Beverly Hills, but failed to stop by the Judiciary Committee in Washington.

After my ruling that Mr. Rove's claims of immunity are not legally valid, Congressman Conyers and I gave him one last chance to comply with the law. He ignored us. As he let yet another deadline slip by this week, Mr. Rove's disregard for Congress has become intolerable. Mr. Rove needs to understand that he is not above the law and should obey a subpoena just like any other American is required to do.

Mr. Rove should not be able to hide behind the president to avoid the American public. Americans are fed up with this administration flaunting the law. They expect Congress to hold people accountable and that is exactly what we intend to do. Letting Mr. Rove get away with this would set a dangerous precedent. I have recommended that we hold Mr. Rove in contempt of Congress. If we need to revive the inherent contempt procedure which gives Congress the authority to arrest those who defy Congressional subpoenas, then so be it.

The courts have made clear that no one, not even the president, is immune from compulsory process. Any person who scoffs at the law and who has committed an offense that is punishable by jail time should be put in jail. This includes Karl Rove.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

The New Yorker

In a strange way, I think the New Yorker cartoon might have actually been successful. Sure, people didn't take it for satire, but maybe that's not the point. People got a good distillation of the ridiculous garbage that has been hurled at the Obamas and were disgusted. We actually got to see the same media figures that trafficked in xenophobic rumors about Obama come out and attack the image. I suspect that the reason that they were so outraged with the cartoon is that it hit a little to close to their own rhetoric.

Isn't that the point of irony? It's not about getting someone to say, "Hey, I get it. That's clever." It's about getting people to come face-to-face with absurdity. It expresses the truth in the guise of a lie. The image is false and offensive, but in showing that, it has exposed a lot more about bigotry underlying attacks on the Obamas than a direct refutation may have. Lakoff writes about how simply denying a claim ("Obama is not a jihadist") can reinforce the idea that you're trying to attack.

Then again, irony can do the same thing (see the people who are cynically ironic and use their detachment to get away with offensive rhetoric, or to paraphrase Zizek, those who know that what they are doing is wrong and are doing it anyway). There is the risk that the image will be adopted by those who actually believe Obama is a secret Muslim. A number of conservative editorial cartoonists have attempted to do this, identifying Obama with those that protested the Danish Mohammed, even though his comments have been very reasonable:
"I know it was The New Yorker's attempt at satire. I don't think they
were entirely successful with it," Obama said. "But you know what?
It's a cartoon ... and that's why we've got the First Amendment."
You can see what passes for conservative humor: here, here, and here.

So some people have taken this as a chance to express horrible views under the guise of irony.

But the people who spilled the most bile over the cartoon were the same ones who propagated the lies that it depicts in the first place. It's telling that someone like Bill O'Reilly was offended by it. Sometimes the subversive move isn't to disidentify with an oppressive image, but to overidentify with it. The cartoon got too close to the racism underlying American politics and people recoiled in horror from it, in the same fashion that the Cathar heresy was offensive to the Catholic church because it came too close to Catholic ideology and demonstrated its inherent excess.

The whisper campaign against Obama has operated by staying under the radar. The GOP benefits from rumors that are spread via dispersed networks, such as e-mail, but can't directly propagate them for fear of being exposed for encouraging bigotry. The cartoon provokes anxiety because it threatens that distance.

Maybe it wasn't entirely successful, but I'm not sure that the case is as simple as people are making it out to be.

Edit: Let's watch idiot cartoonists run this shit into the ground!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Keep on hoping, keep on dreaming, one day maybe...

...whilst in the real world you rot.
Obama: This Administration has put forward a false choice between the liberties we cherish and the security we demand. When I am president, there will be no more illegal wire-tapping of American citizens; no more national security letters to spy on citizens who are not suspected of a crime; no more tracking citizens who do nothing more than protest a misguided war. Our Constitution works, and so does the FISA court.

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Goddamnit, Obama

The Wiretapping Bill: President Bush, and Fear, Lead the Senate Off a Cliff

And here's the icing:
Senator Christopher S. Bond, the Missouri Republican who is vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said there was nothing to fear in the bill “unless you have Al Qaeda on your speed dial.”
You have nothing to fear unless you're a counterrevolutionary...

Sunday, July 06, 2008

What to do about Guantanamo?

The Truth Commission
July 6, 2008

Op-Ed Columnist

When a distinguished American military commander accuses the United States of committing war crimes in its handling of detainees, you know that we need a new way forward.

“There is no longer any doubt as to whether the current administration has committed war crimes,” Antonio Taguba, the retired major general who investigated abuses in Iraq, declares in a powerful new report on American torture from Physicians for Human Rights. “The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account.”

The first step of accountability isn’t prosecutions. Rather, we need a national Truth Commission to lead a process of soul searching and national cleansing.

That was what South Africa did after apartheid, with its Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and it is what the United States did with the Kerner Commission on race and the 1980s commission that examined the internment of Japanese-Americans during World War II.

Today, we need a similar Truth Commission, with subpoena power, to investigate the abuses in the aftermath of 9/11.

We already know that the United States government has kept Nelson Mandela on a terrorism watch list and that the U.S. military taught interrogation techniques borrowed verbatim from records of Chinese methods used to break American prisoners in the Korean War — even though we knew that these torture techniques produced false confessions.

It’s a national disgrace that more than 100 inmates have died in American custody in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantánamo. After two Afghan inmates were beaten to death by American soldiers, the American military investigator found that one of the men’s legs had been “pulpified.”

Moreover, many of the people we tortured were innocent: the administration was as incompetent as it was immoral. The McClatchy newspaper group has just published a devastating series on torture and other abuses, and it quotes Thomas White, the former Army secretary, as saying that it was clear from the moment Guantánamo opened that one-third of the inmates didn’t belong there.

McClatchy says that one inmate, Mohammed Akhtiar, was known as pro-American to everybody but the American soldiers who battered him. Some of his militant fellow inmates spit on him, beat him and called him “infidel,” all because of his anti-Taliban record.

These abuses happened partly because, for several years after 9/11, many of our national institutions didn’t do their jobs. The Democratic Party rolled over rather than serving as loyal opposition. We in the press were often lap dogs rather than watchdogs, and we let the public down.

Yet there were heroes, including civil liberties groups and lawyers for detainees. Some judges bucked the mood, and a few conservatives inside the administration spoke out forcefully. The Times’s Eric Lichtblau writes in his terrific new book, “Bush’s Law,” that the Immigration and Naturalization Service commissioner, James Ziglar, pushed back against plans for door-to-door sweeps of Arab-American neighborhoods.

The book recounts that in one meeting, Mr. Ziglar bluntly declared, “We do have this thing called the Constitution,” adding that such sweeps would be illegal and “I’m not going to be part of it.”

Among those I admire most are the military lawyers who risked their careers, defied the Pentagon and antagonized their drinking buddies — all for the sake of Muslim terror suspects in circumstances where the evidence was often ambiguous. At a time when we as a nation took the expedient path, these military officers took the honorable one, and they deserve medals for their courage.

The Truth Commission investigating these issues ideally would be a non-partisan group heavily weighted with respected military and security officials, including generals, admirals and top intelligence figures. Such backgrounds would give their findings credibility across the political spectrum — and I don’t think they would pull punches. The military and intelligence officials I know are as appalled by our abuses as any other group, in part because they realize that if our people waterboard, then our people will also be waterboarded.

Both Barack Obama and John McCain should commit to impaneling a Truth Commission early in the next administration. This commission would issue a report to help us absorb the lessons of our failings, the better to avoid them during the next crisis.

As for what to do with Guantánamo itself, the best suggestion comes from an obscure medical journal, PLoS Neglected Tropical Diseases. It suggests that the prison camp would be an ideal research facility for tropical diseases that afflict so many of the world’s people. An excellent suggestion: the U.S. should close the prison and turn it into a research base to fight the diseases of global poverty, and maybe then we could eventually say the word “Guantánamo” without pangs of shame.

Thursday, July 03, 2008

More waterboarding

From Christopher Hitchens, who has managed to not be completely insane when it comes to the war on terror: Believe Me, It's Torture


China Inspired Interrogations at Guantánamo

Japanese Soldiers Who Waterboarded Tried for War Crimes

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

US loses first post-Boumediene detainee hearing

Good news. Maybe sanity is making a comeback.

Awesome quote from the decision:
First, the government suggests that several of the assertions in the intelligence documents are reliable because they are made in at least three different documents. We are not persuaded. Lewis Carroll notwithstanding, the fact that the government has “said it thrice” does not make an allegation true. See LEWIS CARROLL, THE HUNTING OF THE SNARK 3 (1876) (“I have said it thrice: What I tell you three times is true.”). In fact, we have no basis for concluding that there are independent sources for the documents’ thrice-made assertions. To the contrary, as noted in Part III, many of those assertions are made in identical language, suggesting that later documents may merely be citing earlier ones, and hence that all may ultimately derive from a single source. And as we have also noted, Parhat has made a credible argument that -- at least for some of the assertions -- the common source is the Chinese government, which may be less than objective with respect to the Uighurs.

Friday, June 27, 2008

The new Prodigy is kickin

It came out in the spring and I slept on it for a few months, but H.N.I.C. Part II is a good summer album.

Good beats, competent flow, and gangster posturing.

("Mobb Deep" Prodigy, not "Smack My Bitch Up" Prodigy)

The Grand New Party has a musty smell.

David "Applebees Salad Bar" Brooks has another rich editorial in the New York Times:

There have been other outstanding books on how the G.O.P. can rediscover its soul (like “Comeback” by David Frum), but if I could put one book on the desk of every Republican officeholder, “Grand New Party” would be it. You can discount my praise because of my friendship with the authors, but this is the best single roadmap of where the party should and is likely to head.

Several years ago, Tim Pawlenty, the Minnesota governor, said the Republicans should be the party of Sam’s Club, not the country club. This line is the animating spirit of “Grand New Party.” Douthat and Salam argue that the Republicans rode to the majority because of support from the Reagan Democrats, and if the party has a future, it will be because it understands the dreams and tribulations of working-class Americans.

The fact is that the right has attempted to court the working class. However, they have done so in a manner that is superficial and offers practically nothing to actually help them in any meaningful way. See the GOP's new-found populism in an attempt to defame Obama (try not to spit your coffee out when you read about Karl Rove attacking Obama for being an elitist who drinks martinis and makes snarky comments at a country club).

The Reagan comparison is telling: lots of cheap blue collar imagery papering over an agenda that favors massive tax cuts to the rich combined with the gutting of social programs. The right can only win the votes of workers by getting them to vote against their class interest with things like the 2004 gay marriage initiatives. People focus on immigrants, blacks, Muslims, and gays as if they were a real threat to their well-being instead of the economic forces that conspire at the top to keep them in their place.

The right can go on and on about superficial things like the fact that Obama has heard of arugala (along with all of the rest of us in rural America who get the Food Network), but it has nothing to offer the working and middle classes when they're out of a job and medical bills force them to declare bankruptcy. It has nothing to offer them when they want to send their children to college and can't afford it on their meager salary. It has nothing to offer but more Horatio Alger and bootstrapping bullshit.

The only thing that the Republican part has to offer us is cheap labels (Who do you want to have a beer with? Do you want to vote for a guy who shops at Whole Foods or Sam's Club?) and fear of otherness. Brooks can go on and on about "hard work conservatism," whatever the hell that means, but it doesn't amount to meaningful policies in an economic environment where hard work isn't enough to keep your head above water.

Brooks' myopia can be summed up in the following paragraph:
In the 1950s, divorce rates were low and jobs were plentiful, but over the next few decades that broke down. The social revolutions of the 1960s and the economic revolution of the information age have emancipated the well-educated but left the Sam’s Club voters feeling insecure.
That's right: the sixties were about emancipating the "well-educated." Forget about that silly Civil Rights thing. Was that just another example of uppety "elitist" negroes like Obama that didn't know their place, unlike the hard working, white Americans that Brooks imagines go to Sam's Club and put Hunts ketchup on their iceberg lettuce? Jesus Christ.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

I know it's time to stop researching for the night when...

...I start laughing at the footnotes in a District Court opinion:
This Court first considered calling the motions a "phalanx" of motions. However, the phalanx was a tight group of Greek infantry with an impenetrable shell of soldiers' shields and a lethal extension of their lances capable of piercing the strongest of armies. Out of respect for the Greeks, this Court will not liken these motions to the Greek phalanx. So plethora, not phalanx.
Thurmond v. Compaq Computer Corp., 2000 U.S. Dist. LEXIS 21880

I'm clearly not in my right mind.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Friday, June 20, 2008

As long as the Dems keep capitulating, they will never transform American politics. We're going to keep going down this road of selling out our principles that gave us losses in 2000, 2002, and 2004.

Deal Reached in Congress to Rewrite Rules on Wiretapping

WASHINGTON — After months of wrangling, Democratic and Republican leaders in Congress struck a deal on Thursday to overhaul the rules on the government’s wiretapping powers and provide what amounts to legal immunity to the phone companies that took part in President Bush’s warrantless eavesdropping program after the Sept. 11 attacks.

The deal, expanding the government’s powers in some key respects, would allow intelligence officials to use broad warrants to eavesdrop on foreign targets and conduct emergency wiretaps without court orders on American targets for a week if it is determined important national security information would be lost otherwise. If approved, as appears likely, it would be the most significant revision of surveillance law in 30 years.

The agreement would settle one of the thorniest issues in dispute by providing immunity to the phone companies in the Sept. 11 program as long as a federal district court determines that they received legitimate requests from the government directing their participation in the warrantless wiretapping operation.

With some AT&T and other telecommunications companies now facing some 40 lawsuits over their reported participation in the wiretapping program, Republican leaders described this narrow court review on the immunity question as a mere “formality.”

“The lawsuits will be dismissed,” Representative Roy Blunt of Missouri, the No. 2 Republican in the House, predicted with confidence.

The proposal — particularly the immunity provision — represents a major victory for the White House after months of dispute. “I think the White House got a better deal than they even they had hoped to get,” said Senator Christopher Bond, the Missouri Republican who led the negotiations.

The White House immediately endorsed the proposal, which is likely to be voted on in the House on Friday and in the Senate next week.

While passage seems almost certain in Congress, the plan will nonetheless face opposition from lawmakers on both political wings, with some conservatives asserting that it includes too many checks on government surveillance powers and liberals asserting that it gives legal sanction to a wiretapping program that they contend was illegal in the first place.

Senator Russ Feingold, the Wisconsin Democrat who pushed unsuccessfully for more civil liberties safeguards in the plan, called the deal “a capitulation” by his fellow Democrats.

But Democratic leaders, who squared off against the White House for more than five months over the issue and allowed a temporary surveillance measure to expire in February, called the plan a hard-fought bargain that included needed checks on governmental abuse.

“It is the result of compromise, and like any compromise is not perfect, but I believe it strikes a sound balance,” said Representative Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the House Democratic leader who helped draft the plan.

Perhaps the most important concession that Democratic leaders claimed in the proposal was a reaffirmation that the intelligence protocols are the “exclusive” means for the executive branch to conduct wiretapping operations in terrorism and espionage cases. House Speaker Nancy Pelosi had insisted on that element, and Democratic staff members asserted that the language would prevent Mr. Bush, or any future president, from circumventing the law. The proposal asserts that “that the law is the exclusive authority and not the whim of the president of the United States,” Ms. Pelosi said.

In the wiretapping program approved by Mr. Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks, the White House asserted that the president had the constitutional authority to act outside the courts in allowing the National Security Agency to target the international communications of Americans with suspected terrorist ties, and that Congress had implicitly authorized that power when it voted to use military force against Al Qaeda.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

McCain's biggest Democratic supporters

McCain has an awesome list of prominent Democrats who support his campaign.

There's Lieberman and then there's... this guy...
As I wrote on Sunday, John McCain is touting an unlikely name in his list of "prominent" Democratic supporters: Phillip "Icky" Frye of West Virginia.

Just who is Icky Frye? Well, he's a TV and VCR repairman who decided to run for governor of West Virginia after discovering that his wife was having an extramarital affair with then-Governor Bob Wise.

Icky said his campaign "was fueled by revenge" and that he "wanted to embarrass Wise," who he called a "little weasel-faced bastard" and a "typical Democrat."

During the campaign, Icky told a West Virginia TV station that he didn't have any qualifications to serve as governor but wanted "to be a sheer nuisance to Bob Wise."

Icky's campaign slogan ("He'll do his job...not his staff.") was a reference to the affair between his wife, a state employee, and the governor

Not suprisingly, Icky finished in 7th place of out 8, winning just 1% of the vote.

Despite all this, according to the McCain campaign, Icky is one of the nation's most "prominent" Democratic "leaders and activists", and is one of the most important members of John McCain's effort to win over Democratic voters.

And now, according to a front-page report in The Charleston Gazette, the McCain campaign is defending their claim that Icky is a "prominent" Democrat.


Friday, June 13, 2008

McCain doesn't even know what habeas corpus is

For the love of god...
The United States Supreme Court yesterday rendered a decision which I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country. Sen. Graham and Sen. Lieberman and I had worked very hard to make sure that we didn't torture any prisoners, that we didn't mistreat them, that we abided by the Geneva Conventions, which applies to all prisoners. But we also made it perfectly clear, and I won't go through all the legislation we passed, and the prohibition against torture, but we made it very clear that these are enemy combatants, these are people who are not citizens, they do not and never have been given the rights that citizens of this country have. And my friends there are some bad people down there. There are some bad people. So now what are we going to do. We are now going to have the courts flooded with so-called, quote, Habeas Corpus suits against the government, whether it be about the diet, whether it be about the reading material. And we are going to be bollixed up in a way that is terribly unfortunate, because we need to go ahead and adjudicate these cases. By the way, 30 of the people who have already been released from Guantanamo Bay have already tried to attack America again, one of them just a couple weeks ago, a suicide bomber in Iraq. Our first obligation is the safety and security of this nation, and the men and women who defend it. This decision will harm our ability to do that.
After his continual inability to distinguish the Sunnis and the Shiites, I'm not sure if this guy is eve qualified to be President.

McCain is a bigger tool than we thought

McCain slams habeas corpus ruling
"The United States Supreme Court yesterday rendered a decision which I think is one of the worst decisions in the history of this country," McCain said. He went on to quote from Justice Roberts dissent in the case, rail against "unaccountable judges," and say that the courts are about to be clogged with cases from detainees.
This, along with his reversal on warrantless NSA wiretapping, torture, and "agents of intolerance" has revealed him as the shill that he is. This slide to the right is a calculated move and, if anyone ever felt that he actually had integrity, he has destroyed that illusion.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Hell yes: SCOTUS holds Guantanamo prisoners can challenge their status in federal court

This is a good day. I never thought this would happen, but it did.

In typical fashion, the conservative bloc resorts to right wing talking points in place of legal analysis.
“It will almost certainly cause more Americans to be killed,” [Scalia] said. “The nation will live to regret what the court has done today.” He said the decision was based not on principle, “but rather an inflated notion of judicial supremacy.”
The usual nutjobs are crying out against an "activist court" (whatever the fuck that means) and some are even calling for Bush to refuse to obey it (Constitutional crisis anyone):
On two separate occasions now, the United States Congress has duly enacted painstakingly specific laws to lawfully and Constitutionally strip the Supreme Court of jurisdiction to hear cases involving non-citizens currently detained outside of sovereign territory held by the United States. As Dan McLaughlin has noted, today the Supreme Court purports to ignore this clear limitation on its own authority to even hear the case before it (which by law has been confined to the CADC) and issue an opinion declaring the act which removed their jurisdiction unconstitutional. Savor the irony for a moment, if you will.
I don't think any manner of argument will convince these people that the U.S. has exclusive de facto jurisdiction over Guantanamo or that habeas rights extend to all people under U.S. jurisdiction. But that group is getting smaller and smaller and even Bush might realize that he has to abide by this decision. This group will become increasingly marginalized as the utter disaster of the past eight years continues to reveal itself for what it is.

Bush is finally getting reigned in over his insane executive overreach and we're looking at the real prospect of an Obama presidency. Maybe this shameful period in our history is almost over. I'm sure we'll see the best that the Republican slime machine has to offer (terrorist fist bumps, flag label pins, and jihadist Manchurian candidates), but I think I can see some light at the end of the tunnel.

Edit: Any Clinton supporters who are planning on voting for McCain have to be insane. Some of the justices on the court who made today's ruling possible are getting old. If McCain is President, he will appoint justices that will be around for life. The freedom to choose, civil rights, labor relations, and human dignity all hang in the balance and voting for McCain because you're sore about Clinton's loss is cutting off your nose to spite your face. I would say the same if Clinton had won the nomination.




Saturday, June 07, 2008

Friday, June 06, 2008

Senate report confirms deceptive nature of Bush's propaganda effort to sell the war



I am shocked.
-Statements and implications by the President and Secretary of State suggesting that Iraq and al-Qa'ida had a partnership, or that Iraq had provided al-Qa'ida with weapons training, were not substantiated by the intelligence.

--Statements by the President and the Vice President indicating that Saddam Hussein was prepared to give weapons of mass destruction to terrorist groups for attacks against the United States were contradicted by available intelligence information.

--Statements by President Bush and Vice President Cheney regarding the postwar situation in Iraq, in terms of the political, security, and economic, did not reflect the concerns and uncertainties expressed in the intelligence products.

--Statements by the President and Vice President prior to the October 2002 National Intelligence Estimate regarding Iraq's chemical weapons production capability and activities did not reflect the intelligence community's uncertainties as to whether such production was ongoing.

--The Secretary of Defense's statement that the Iraqi government operated underground WMD facilities that were not vulnerable to conventional airstrikes because they were underground and deeply buried was not substantiated by available intelligence information.

--The Intelligence Community did not confirm that Muhammad Atta met an Iraqi intelligence officer in Prague in 2001 as the Vice President repeatedly claimed.

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

White House ignored FBI torture concerns

W. House ignored FBI concerns on prisoner abuse -probe
Tue May 20, 2008 7:12pm EDT
(Adds reaction, Qahtani suicide attempt)

By Randall Mikkelsen

WASHINGTON, May 20 (Reut ers) - Top Bush administration security officials ignored FBI concerns over abusive treatment of terrorism suspects, which one agent called "borderline torture," a four-year Justice Department probe found.

The FBI clashed with the Pentagon and CIA over interrogation techniques including snarling dogs, sexual provocation and forced nudity, said the 370-page report, released on Tuesday by the Justice Department's inspector general.

Critics say such techniques inflicted on terrorism suspects captured after the Sept. 11 attacks amounted to torture. The report covers late 2001 to the end of 2004.

FBI agents joined in terrorism interrogations and still do, but bureau Director Robert Mueller directed agents in 2002 to not participate in coercive questioning, the report said.

The FBI and Justice Department officials raised concerns with the National Security Council, which comprises top security-agency officials, and with officials at the Guantanamo Bay detention center for terrorism suspects, the report said. They argued the abusive interrogations were counterproductive.

"Ultimately, neither the FBI nor the DoJ had a significant impact on the practices of the military with respect to the detainees," it said.

The National Security Council was headed then by President George W. Bush and included Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and national security adviser Condoleezza Rice, now secretary of state.

"The White House, the Defense Department, and the CIA were ignoring advice that was coming from people who were charged with enforcement of the law," said Chris Anders, senior legislative council of the American Civil Liberties Union.


The report is the first to show a role by Rice in the prisoner-abuse issue, Anders said.

White House spokesman Tony Fratto said "abuse or inhumane treatment of prisoners is not, and never has been, US policy." Defense Department spokesman Bryan Whitman referred to the military's 2005 report into the charges, which "determined that there was no evidence of torture or inhumane treatment."

The Pentagon stopped authorizing some abusive techniques in 2003, and Congress in 2005 banned inhumane treatment of prisoners. The CIA says it has not used "waterboarding," a form of simulated drowning, in five years.

But Bush in March vetoed legislation that would ban the CIA from using waterboarding and other abusive techniques.

Democrats in Congress vowed to hold hearings on the report and faulted FBI and Justice Department leaders for not taking stronger action to halt abuses. "This remains a sorry chapter in our nation's history," said Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy, a Vermont Democrat.

The new report quotes an FBI agent as objecting that the CIA's interrogation of suspected senior al Qaeda commander Abu Zubaydah was "borderline torture," and said at one point an agent helped care for him in the hospital "even to the point of cleaning him up after bowel movements."

The CIA has acknowledged Zubaydah was one of three suspects subjected to waterboarding, but the report blacked out as classified information interrogation techniques used on him.

The report says techniques used in Guantanamo or Iraq included sleep disruption, prolonged "short shackling" of hands and feet or wrapping a detainee's head in duct tape. A female interrogator grabbed a detainee's genitals to inflict pain.

It also said a U.S. Marine captain questioning suspected Sept. 11 conspirator Mohammed al-Qahtani squatted over a Koran, provoking Qahtani to lunge at the Marine and the holy book.


Qahtani attempted suicide in April by cutting himself after learning he faced charges -- later thrown out -- that could carry the death penalty, his lawyer said on Monday.

In 2004 FBI agents were required to report abusive conduct. But agents told Justice Department investigators they often did not know what techniques the military authorized.

The FBI's continued involvement in interrogations of prisoners interviewed by the CIA, which has fewer restraints on techniques, may present problems for future legal cases, the report said.

CIA spokesman Paul Gimigliano said the CIAs interrogation methods had previously been found lawful by the Justice Department and were used only when traditional means of questioning, such as rapport-building, failed.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Gray and Jeremy Pelofksy in Washington, and Jane Sutton at the Guantanamo Bay U.S. Naval Base, Cuba)

(Editing by Cynthia Osterman)

Tuesday, May 06, 2008

When McCain and Bush say that we should "support the troops..."

...that apparently doesn't include giving them educational benefits.


6:04 PM EDT, May 6, 2008


Virginia Sen. Jim Webb's GI bill—giving full college tuition to military veterans -- could make headway in Congress for the first time later this week.

The effort to expand education benefits for troops returning from Iraq and Afghanistan could be included in a war spending bill that may reach the House floor for a vote by week's end.

That move, if it comes, would mark the first substantive advancement of an initiative that Webb first introduced 16 months ago.

Expanding college benefits for military veterans was the legislative centerpiece of Webb's 2006 Senate campaign.

The issue lay dormant last year, but has gained new momentum as Congress reacts to growing public frustration with a war that has entered its sixth year.

House Democratic leaders told reporters Tuesday they are working on including veterans' education benefits as part of the Iraq war funding measure requested by President Bush.

If Webb's measure—or similar legislation—gets included in the war bill, it could win speedy passage because of the urgency of funding the war.

In another sign of progress, Webb's bill will get a hearing Wednesday before the Senate Veterans Affairs Committee. The chairman of that panel, Sen. Daniel Akaka, D- Hawaii, has endorsed the bill.

But prospects for the measure remained uncertain.

The Bush administration opposes Webb's bill, fearing it would entice troops to leave the military sooner than they otherwise might at a time of war.

And Sen. John McCain, the presumptive Republican nominee, signaled his opposition to Webb's bill by announcing plans for alternative legislation offering more modest education benefits.

Webb, a decorated Vietnam combat veteran, argues that today's veterans deserve the same educational opportunities as veterans of World War II received. Many veterans of the so-called Greatest Generation, including Virginia Sen. John Warner, received full college tuition as a result of the original GI bill signed by Franklin Roosevelt.

By contrast, current law, known as the Montgomery GI Bill, covers only about half the cost of a college education today, according to veterans groups.

Webb's bill would offer veterans up to 36 months of benefits, including tuition, books and fees—up to the cost of the most expensive in-state public school of a veteran's home state. The government would match, dollar for dollar, contributions of any private school willing to make up the difference between the in-state public rate and a private school's higher charge.

The measure also provides for a $1,000 monthly stipend and funds for tutorial assistance.

Lawmakers have estimated the cost of the bill at $2.5 billion to $4 billion a year—a price that Webb has said should be considered a "cost of war."

Copyright © 2008, Newport News, Va., Daily Press

Secrecy and inhumane treatment of immigrant prisoners

May 5, 2008
Few Details on Immigrants Who Died in Custody
Word spread quickly inside the windowless walls of the Elizabeth Detention Center, an immigration jail in New Jersey: A detainee had fallen, injured his head and become incoherent. Guards had put him in solitary confinement, and late that night, an ambulance had taken him away more dead than alive.

But outside, for five days, no official notified the family of the detainee, Boubacar Bah, a 52-year-old tailor from Guinea who had overstayed a tourist visa. When frantic relatives located him at University Hospital in Newark on Feb. 5, 2007, he was in a coma after emergency surgery for a skull fracture and multiple brain hemorrhages. He died there four months later without ever waking up, leaving family members on two continents trying to find out why.

Mr. Bah’s name is one of 66 on a government list of deaths that occurred in immigration custody from January 2004 to November 2007, when nearly a million people passed through.

The list, compiled by Immigration and Customs Enforcement after Congress demanded the information, and obtained by The New York Times under the Freedom of Information Act, is the fullest accounting to date of deaths in immigration detention, a patchwork of federal centers, county jails and privately run prisons that has become the nation’s fastest-growing form of incarceration.

The list has few details, and they are often unreliable, but it serves as a rough road map to previously unreported cases like Mr. Bah’s. And it reflects a reality that haunts grieving families like his: the difficulty of getting information about the fate of people taken into immigration custody, even when they die.

Mr. Bah’s relatives never saw the internal records labeled “proprietary information — not for distribution” by the Corrections Corporation of America, which runs the New Jersey detention center for the federal government. The documents detail how he was treated by guards and government employees: shackled and pinned to the floor of the medical unit as he moaned and vomited, then left in a disciplinary cell for more than 13 hours, despite repeated notations that he was unresponsive and intermittently foaming at the mouth.

Mr. Bah had lived in New York for a decade, surrounded by a large circle of friends and relatives. The extravagant gowns he sewed to support his wife and children in West Africa were on display in a Manhattan boutique.

But he died in a sequestered system where questions about what had happened to him, or even his whereabouts, were met with silence.

As the country debates stricter enforcement of immigration laws, thousands of people who are not American citizens are being locked up for days, months or years while the government decides whether to deport them. Some have no valid visa; some are legal residents, but have past criminal convictions; others are seeking asylum from persecution.

Death is a reality in any jail, and the medical neglect of inmates is a perennial issue. But far more than in the criminal justice system, immigration detainees and their families lack basic ways to get answers when things go wrong.

No government body is required to keep track of deaths and publicly report them. No independent inquiry is mandated. And often relatives who try to investigate the treatment of those who died say they are stymied by fear of immigration authorities, lack of access to lawyers, or sheer distance.

Federal officials say deaths are reviewed internally by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which reports them to its inspector general and decides which ones warrant investigation. Officials say they notify the detainee’s next of kin or consulate, and report the deaths to local medical authorities, who may conduct autopsies. In Mr. Bah’s case, a review before his death found no evidence of foul play, an immigration spokesman said, though after later inquiries from The Times, he said a full review of the death was under way.

But critics, including many in Congress, say this piecemeal process leaves too much to the agency’s discretion, allowing some deaths to be swept under the rug while potential witnesses are transferred or deported. They say it also obscures underlying complaints about medical care, abusive conditions or inadequate suicide prevention.

In January, the House passed a bill that would require states that receive certain federal money to report deaths in custody to their attorneys general. But the bill is stalled in the Senate, and it does not cover federal facilities.

The only tangible result of Congressional concern has been the list of 66 deaths, which names Mr. Bah and many other detainees for the first time, but raises as many questions as it answers.

For Mr. Bah’s survivors, the mystery of his death is hard to bear. In Guinea, his first wife, Dalanda, wept as she spoke about the contradictory accounts that had reached her and her two teenage sons through other detainees, including some who speculated that Mr. Bah had been beaten.

In New York, a cousin who is an American citizen, Khadidiatou Bah, 38, said she was unable to bring a lawsuit, in part because other relatives were afraid of antagonizing the authorities.

“They don’t want to push the case, or maybe they will be sent home,” she said. “This guy was killed, and we don’t know what happened.”

Lingering Questions

The list of deaths where Mr. Bah’s name surfaced is often cryptic. Along with 13 deaths cited as suicides and 14 as the result of cardiac ailments, it offers such causes as “undetermined” and “unwitnessed arrest, epilepsy.” No one’s nationality is given, some places of detention are omitted, and some names and birth dates seem garbled. As a result, many families could not be tracked down for this article.

But when they could be, they posed more disturbing questions.

In California, relatives of Walter Rodriguez-Castro, 28, said they were rebuffed when they tried to find out why his calls had stopped coming from the Kern County Jail in Bakersfield in April 2006. Then in June, his wife went to his scheduled hearing in San Francisco’s immigration court and learned that he had been dead for many weeks, his body unclaimed in the county morgue.

The coroner found that Mr. Rodriguez-Castro, a mover from El Salvador in the country illegally, had died of undiagnosed meningitis and H.I.V., after days complaining of fever, stiff neck and vomiting. The cause of death on the government’s list: “unresponsive.”

Immigration authorities said on Friday that the case was now under review, but would not answer questions about it or other deaths on the list. Sgt. Ed Komin, a spokesman for the jail, said the death had been promptly reported to immigration officials, who were responsible for notifying families.

Four sons in another family, in Sacramento, described trying for days to get medical care for their father, Maya Nand, a 56-year-old legal immigrant from Fiji, at a detention center run by the Corrections Corporation in Eloy, Ariz. Mr. Nand, an architectural draftsman, had been ailing when he was taken into custody on Jan. 13, 2005, apparently because his application for citizenship had been rejected, based on an earlier conviction for misdemeanor domestic violence. In collect calls, the sons said, he told them that despite his chest pains and breathing problems, doctors at the detention center did not take his condition seriously.

The Corrections Corporation said he had been seen and treated “multiple times.” But a letter to the family from an immigration official said his treatment was for a respiratory infection. The letter said that Mr. Nand was taken to an emergency room on Jan. 25, where congestive heart failure was diagnosed, and that he “suffered an apparent heart attack while at the hospital.” He died on Feb. 2, 2005, shackled to a hospital bed in Tucson.

Boubacar Bah had more going for him than many detainees. He had a lawyer and many friends and relatives in the United States, and his detention center in New Jersey was one of the few frequented by immigrant advocates.

But three days after he suffered a head injury in detention last year, no one in his New York circle knew that he was lying comatose in a Newark hospital, where he had already been identified as a possible organ donor.

“Thank you for the referral,” an organ-sharing network wrote on Feb. 3, 2007, according to hospital records. “This patient is a potential candidate for organ donation once brain death criteria is met.”

Four days after the fall, tipped off by a detainee who called Mr. Bah’s roommate in Brooklyn, relatives rushed to the detention center to ask Corrections Corporation employees where he was.

“They wouldn’t give us any information,” said Lamine Dieng, an American citizen who teaches physics at Bronx Community College and is married to Mr. Bah’s cousin Khadidiatou.

On the fifth day, they said, a detention official called them with the name of the hospital. There they found Mr. Bah on life support, still in custody, with a detention guard around the clock.

“There was one guard who knew Boubacar,” Ms. Bah said. “He told me on the down-low: ‘This guy, you have to fight for him. This guy was neglected.’ ”

Within the week, word of the case reached a reporter at The Times, through an immigration lawyer who had received separate calls from two detainees; they were upset about a badly injured man — named “something like Aboubakar” — left in an isolation cell and later found near death.

But advocacy groups said they were unaware of the case. And Michael Gilhooly, the spokesman for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, said that without the man’s full name and eight-digit alien registration number, he could not check the information.

For those who knew Mr. Bah, it was hard to understand how such a man could lie dying without explanations.

“Everybody liked Boubacar,” said Sadio Diallo, 48, who has a tailor shop in Flatbush, Brooklyn, where he and Mr. Bah had shared an apartment with fellow immigrants since arriving in 1998. “He’s a very, very, very good man.”

For six years, Mr. Bah had worked for L’Impasse, a clothing store in the West Village, sewing dresses that sold for up to $2,000 with what a former manager, Abdul Sall, called his “magic hands.” Mr. Bah often spent Sundays at the Bronx townhouse his cousins had inherited from the family’s first American citizen, a seaman who arrived in 1943.

In Africa, Mr. Bah’s earnings not only supported his first wife, sons and ailing mother, but in Guinean tradition, allowed him to wed a second wife, long distance. It was his longing to see them all again after eight years that landed him in detention. When he returned from a three-month visit to Guinea in May 2006, immigration authorities at Kennedy Airport told him that his green card application had been denied while he was away, automatically revoking his permission to re-enter the United States. An immigration lawyer hired by his friends was unable to reopen the application while Mr. Bah waited for nine months in detention, records showed.

Mr. Bah died on May 30, 2007, after four months in a coma. His lawyer, Theodore Vialet, requested detention reports and hospital records under the Freedom of Information Act. But by the time the records arrived last autumn, the idea of a lawsuit had been dropped.

So Mr. Vialet just filed the records away — until a reporter’s call about a name on the list of dead detainees prompted him to dig them out.

After the Fall

There are 57 pages of documents, some neatly typed by medics, some scrawled by guards. Some quote detainees who said Mr. Bah was ailing for two days before his fall on Feb. 1, and asked in vain to see a doctor.

The records leave unclear exactly when or how Mr. Bah was injured in detention. But they leave no doubt that guards, supervisors, government medical employees and federal immigration officers played a role in leaving him untreated, hour after hour, as he lapsed into a stupor.

It began about 8 a.m., according to the earliest report. Guards called a medical emergency after a detainee saw Mr. Bah collapse near a toilet, hitting the back of his head on the floor.

When he regained consciousness, Mr. Bah was taken to the medical unit, which is run by the federal Public Health Service. He became incoherent and agitated, reports said, pulling away from the doctor and grabbing at the unit staff. Physicians consulted later by The Times called this a textbook symptom of intracranial bleeding, but apparently no one recognized that at the time.

He was handcuffed and placed in leg restraints on the floor with medical approval, “to prevent injury,” a guard reported. “While on the floor the detainee began to yell in a foreign language and turn from side to side,” the guard wrote, and the medical staff deemed that “the screaming and resisting is behavior problems.”

Mr. Bah was ordered to calm down. Instead, he kept crying out, then “began to regurgitate on the floor of medical,” the report said. So Mr. Bah was written up for disobeying orders. And with the approval of a physician assistant, Michael Chuley, who wrote that Mr. Bah’s fall was unwitnessed and “questionable,” the tailor was taken in shackles to a solitary confinement cell with instructions that he be monitored.

Under detention protocols, an officer videotaped Mr. Bah as he lay vomiting in the medical unit, but the camera’s battery failed, guards wrote, when they tried to tape his trip to cell No. 7.

Inside the cell, a supervisor removed Mr. Bah’s restraints. He was unresponsive to questions asked by the Public Health Service officer on duty, a report said, adding: “The detainee set up in his bed and moan and he fell to his left side and hit his head on the bed rail.”

About 9 a.m., with the approval of the health officer and a federal immigration agent, the cell was locked.

The watching began. As guards checked hourly, Mr. Bah appeared to be asleep on the concrete floor, snoring. But he could not be roused to eat lunch or dinner, and at 7:10 p.m., “he began to breathe heavily and started foaming slightly at the mouth,” a guard wrote. “I notified medical at this time.”

However, the nurse on duty rejected the guard’s request to come check, according to reports. And at 8 p.m., when the warden went to the medical unit to describe Mr. Bah’s condition, the nurse, Raymund Dela Pena, was not alarmed. “Detainee is likely exhibiting the same behavior as earlier in the day,” he wrote, adding that Mr. Bah would get a mental health exam in the morning.

About 10:30 p.m., more than 14 hours after Mr. Bah’s fall, the same nurse, on rounds, recognized the gravity of his condition: “unresponsive on the floor incontinent with foamy brown vomitus noted around mouth.” Smelling salts were tried. Mr. Bah was carried back to the medical unit on a stretcher.

Just before 11, someone at the jail called 911.

When an ambulance left Mr. Bah at the hospital, brain scans showed he had a fractured skull and hemorrhages at all sides of his swelling brain. He was rushed to surgery, and the detention center was informed of the findings.

But in a report to their supervisors the next day, immigration officials at the center described Mr. Bah’s ailment as “brain aneurysms” — a diagnosis they corrected a week later to “hemorrhages,” without mentioning the skull fracture. After Mr. Bah’s death, they wrote that his hospitalization was “subsequent to a fall in the shower.”

The nurse, Mr. Dela Pena, and the physician assistant, Mr. Chuley, said that only their superiors could discuss the case. The Public Health Service did not respond to questions, and the Corrections Corporation said medical decisions were the responsibility of the Public Health Service.

Mr. Bah’s cousins demanded an autopsy, but the Union County medical examiner’s confidential report was not completed until Dec. 6. It was sent to the county prosecutor’s office only as a matter of routine, because the matter had been classified as an “unattended accident resulting in death.”

Prosecutors said they did not investigate. “According to the report, Bah suffered a fall in the shower,” Eileen Walsh, a spokeswoman for the prosecutors, said in an e-mail message. “We are not privy to any other bits of information.”

In the home movies Mr. Bah made of his last journey home, he is only a fleeting presence: a slim man with a shy smile. But without his support, relatives in Africa say they have little money for food and none for his sons’ schooling.

His body went back to Guinea in a sealed coffin.

“I stayed here seven years, waiting for him,” his second wife, Mariama, said in French, recalling their long separation and the brief reunion that led to the birth of their son, now a toddler, while Mr. Bah was in detention.

“I wanted them to open the casket,” she added, “to know if it was him inside. Until today, I cry for him.”

Margot Williams contributed reporting.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Trent Reznor one-ups himself.

Big ups to Trent Reznor for not only putting out his new album for free on the Internet but for also

1. Providing lossy copies of respectable quality (V0 Lame).

2. Providing lossless copies in FLAC, M4A, and WAV.

3. Using bittorrent for distribution. Huge improvement over the way that Ghosts I-IV and Niggy Tardust were distributed. Although those were really cool, server problems prevented a lot of people from downloading for a while and direct downloads are a lot more finnicky for people without the best connections.

First he outdid Radiohead, then he outdid himself. Regardless of whether you're still into Nine Inch Nails (or never were), you have to admit that this is pretty cool.

Get your copy here.

1. 999,999
2. 1,000,000
3. letting you
4. discipline
5. echoplex
6. head down
7. lights in the sky
8. corona radiata
9. the four of us are dying
10. demon seed

length: 43:45

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Slowly getting sucked into a legal apparatus

Every day I listen to my classmates go on and on about how much they're looking forward to making six figures a year. The hard choices are about whether to be a transactional attorney that pretty much just pushes papers around or the in-house counsel at a health insurance compnay. The thing that makes them the angriest is that some of the income that they're dreaming of might get taxed some day (this coming from people who gladly use public roads and federal financial aid to attend a state school).

Day in and day out, I'm buried in mountains of studying. Whether it's screen after screen of notes that I don't even remember typing or rule after rule that I can't seem to fit into the broader picture of whatever subject I'm trying to catch up, it all feels endless. I'm not doing anything novel or beautiful.

I keep telling myself that I'm doing this for a reason. But that's what a lot of people say when they go to law school and pretty much all of them sell out when they realize that they're never going to be a world famous civil rights litigator or defender of the environment.

With stories like this, I don't know what to think about the future. Even if I get good grades, I'm at a tier 3 school and my options are severely limited. If I spend the rest of my life going over wills or trying to figure out how to help companies settle products liability cases while this kind of nauseating garbage is going on, I don't think I can make it.

I just have a really strong feeling that these three years are going to be wasted. None of this unpleasantness is going to do a thing to stop this. The people who are pissed about paying taxes are the one who will probably win. Either that or I'll turn into one of them.
May 3, 2008
After Hiatus, States Set Wave of Executions

HUNTSVILLE, Tex. — Here in the nation’s leading death-penalty state, and some of the 35 others with capital punishment, execution dockets are quickly filling up.

Less than three weeks after a United States Supreme Court ruling ended a seven-month moratorium on lethal injections, at least 14 execution dates have been set in six states between May 6 and October.

“The Supreme Court essentially blessed their way of doing things,” said Douglas A. Berman, a professor of law and a sentencing expert at Ohio State University. “So in some sense, they’re back from vacation and ready to go to work.”

Experts say the resumption of executions is likely to throw a strong new spotlight on the divisive national — and international — issue of capital punishment.

“When people confront a new wave of executions, they’ll be questioning not only how people are executed but whether people should be executed,” said James R. Acker, a historian of the death penalty and a criminal justice professor at the State University at Albany.

Texas leads the list with five people now set to die here in the Walls Unit, the state’s death house, between June 3 and Aug. 20. Virginia is next with four. Louisiana, Oklahoma and South Dakota have also set execution dates.

Some welcome the end of the moratorium.

“We’ll start playing a little bit of catch-up,” said William R. Hubbarth, a spokesman for Justice for All, a victims rights group based in Houston.

“It’s not like we have a cheering section for the death penalty.” Mr. Hubbarth said. But, he added: “The capital murderers set to be executed should be executed post-haste. It’s not about killing the inmate. It’s about imposing the penalty that 12 of his peers have assessed.”

More inmates whose appeals have expired are certain to be added to execution rosters soon, including, in all likelihood, Jack Harry Smith, who, at 70, is the oldest of the 360 men and 9 women on Texas’ death row (though hardly a row any more, but an entire compound). Mr. Smith has been under a death sentence for 30 years for a robbery killing at a grocery in the Houston area.

“If it’s my time to go, it’s my time to go,” said Mr. Smith, who maintains his innocence and was delivered by guards for a prison interview in a wheelchair.

So far, at least nine others elsewhere, including Antoinette Frank, a former police officer convicted of a murderous robbery rampage in New Orleans, have been given new execution dates, according to the Death Penalty Information Center, an anti-capital punishment research group that puts the latest death row census at 3,263. Dozens more are likely to get execution dates in coming months, but most under death sentences have not exhausted their appeals.

Yet public support for capital punishment may be dwindling. Death sentences have been on the decline, and a poll last year by death penalty opponents found Americans losing confidence in the death penalty.

“There will be more executions than people have the stomach for, at least in many parts of the country,” said Stephen B. Bright, president of the Southern Center for Human Rights in Atlanta, a leading anti-death-penalty litigation clinic.

Last year, Texas accounted for 26 of the 42 executions nationwide. That includes the last two people executed before the Supreme Court signaled a moratorium on executions while considering whether the chemical formula used for lethal injection in Kentucky inflicted pain amounting to unconstitutionally cruel and unusual punishment. The justices ruled 7 to 2 on April 16 that it did not, while allowing for possible future challenges.

But the scheduling of executions comes as prosecutors and juries have been turning away from the death penalty, often in favor of life sentences without parole, now an option in every death-penalty state but New Mexico.

According to the Death Penalty Information Center, death sentences nationwide rose from 137 in 1977, peaked at 326 in 1995 and fell steadily to 110 last year.

“We’re seeing a huge drop-off,” said Mr. Bright, attributing the decline to the time and trouble of imposing death sentences, and a recent wave of exonerations after DNA tests proved wrongful conviction.

Close to 35 people have been cleared in Texas alone, including, just days ago, James L. Woodard, who spent more than 27 years in prison for a 1980 murder he did not commit.

The first inmate now set for execution is William E. Lynd, 53, on Tuesday in Georgia. Mr. Lind was convicted of shooting his girlfriend, Ginger Moore, in the face during an argument in 1988, shooting her again as she clung to life, and a third time, fatally, as she struggled in the trunk of his car. After burying her, he attacked and killed another woman he had stopped on the road.

With two other executions pending but not yet scheduled in Georgia, the state seeks “clearance of the backlog,” said Russ Willard, a spokesman for Attorney General Thurbert E. Baker. “We will work our way though the system at a much more rapid pace than we would have.”

Virginia — which has executed 98 people since 1976, second only to Texas, with 405 — has the next scheduled execution: May 27, for Kevin Green, 30, for the 1998 slayings of Patricia and Lawrence Vaughn in their convenience store in Dolphin. Three other Virginia inmates also have been given dates in June and July.

Louisiana has set a July 15 execution date for two inmates, including the former police officer, Ms. Frank, 30. She was convicted of killing a fellow officer, Ronald Williams, and two Vietnamese workers, Ha Vu and her brother, Cuong Vong, at their family’s restaurant in New Orleans during a robbery in 1995.

But appeals may delay her execution and that of the second inmate Darrell Robinson, convicted of killing four people.

South Dakota, which has recorded only 15 executions since 1889, set a week’s window of Oct. 7-13 for the execution of Briley Piper, 25. He pleaded guilty to the torture murder of Chester Allan Pogue, 19, who was forced to drink hydrochloric acid and then stabbed and bludgeoned to death in 2000. One accomplice was executed last year and another is serving life without parole.

The first Texas inmate now re-scheduled for death, on June 3, is Derrick Sonnier, 40, convicted of stalking, stabbing and strangling a young mother, Melody Flowers, and her baby son in Humble, north of Houston, in 1991.

Mr. Sonnier, who turned down a request this week for an interview, had forbidden his trial lawyer from calling family members as mitigating witnesses, costing him a chance for life in prison without parole, said his appellate lawyer, Jani Maselli.

In another of the five latest scheduled Texas executions, a July 22 date was set for Lester Bower, 60, convicted of killing a former police officer and three other men near Sherman in 1983.

Mr. Smith, the oldest death row inmate, lost his Supreme Court appeal in February and said he was resigned to an execution date soon as well.

“I’d hate to go before my time,” he said, a gaunt figure seated in a wheelchair and speaking by phone behind glass in the Polunsky Unit in Livingston, Tex., where the condemned are housed until the day they are driven to Huntsville to die.

Asked if the prospect of an end to his confinement came as any relief, he said, “In a way it does.”

“Death is death,” Mr. Smith said. “If they stick a needle in your arm or shoot you in the head, it’s cruel and inhuman punishment, taking a human life.”

Yet, he said, “a life sentence is a whole lot worse — it’s torture.”