Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Listen to your mom
But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked, "And who is my enemy?"

Eat your vegetables
   zip up your jacket
      watch out for yourself

Get eight hours of sleep
   take your vitamins
      report illegal aliens

Watch sugars and trans fats
   don't use your cell phone while driving
      don't worry if it's monitored

Shop at Walmart
   shop on QVC
      your VISA bill will have nothing to hide

The policeman is your friend
   the pastor is your guide
      immigrants are landcapers or janitors

Speak English
   read the comics
      report strange conversations

Watch reality shows
   watch You Tube
      get your news from proper sources

Meet people at church
   meet people at the mall
      don't meet people at peace vigils

Build a new rec room
      build a nest egg
            build a fence along the border

Freedom isn't free
   justice is blind
      they were locked up for a reason

If they're not with us
   they're against us
         you never know
            who may be
               the enemy

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Quote of the day

Hmmm, you know, some of those guys from "old Europe" weren't so dumb after all...

Cesare Beccaria on torture:

No man can be judged a criminal until he be found guilty; nor can society take from him the public protection until it have been proved that he has violated the conditions on which it was granted. What right, then, but that of power, can authorise the punishment of a citizen so long as there remains any doubt of his guilt? This dilemma is frequent. Either he is guilty, or not guilty. If guilty, he should only suffer the punishment ordained by the laws, and torture becomes useless, as his confession is unnecessary, if he be not guilty, you torture the innocent; for, in the eye of the law, every man is innocent whose crime has not been proved. Besides, it is confounding all relations to expect that a man should be both the accuser and accused; and that pain should be the test of truth, as if truth resided in the muscles and fibres of a wretch in torture. By this method the robust will escape, and the feeble be condemned. These are the inconveniences of this pretended test of truth, worthy only of a cannibal...

Richard Hooker, author of the Washington State University's site on World Civilizations, notes in the section dedicated to the Philosophes:

Beccaria's book completely changed the face of European society: forty years after it was written, most European countries had abolished torture and maiming as well as severely trimmed the number of crimes punishable by death.

Forty years after 1764, that would be around 1800...and we in 2006 are bringing torture back. As one contemporary writer would say (regarding another civilization), What went wrong?

Friday, September 22, 2006

President to speak ex cathedra

Thanks to a deal cut yesterday by the Trinity of McCain, Warner, and Graham, our supreme pontiff President Bush will now be able to speak ex cathedra on matters of interrogation and torture.

According to an editorial ("The Abuse Can Continue") in this morning's Washington Post, President Bush will be vested with the power to proclaim THE correct and true interpretations the Geneva Conventions, especially when consulted for guidance by officials of the Inquis-- uh, I mean the CIA. All faithful Americans will assent to said interpretations on pain of being severed from the Communion of the Patriotic.

We can expect these interpretations to become a righteous
Malleum captivorum ("Hammer against the detainees," for those of you who don't read Latin) against suspects everywhere...especially those being held in secret places:
Mr. Bush, as he made clear yesterday, intends to continue using the CIA to secretly detain and abuse certain terrorist suspects. He will do so by issuing his own interpretation of the Geneva Conventions in an executive order and by relying on questionable Justice Department opinions that authorize such practices as exposing prisoners to hypothermia and prolonged sleep deprivation.
Said Sen. John McCain, the deal "gives the President the tools that he needs."

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Administration wants Congress to reinvent the wheel

Just in case you don't receive weekly and sometimes even daily updates from Amnesty International USA, the Friends Committee for National Legislation, or the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, I'd like to urge you to call your senators and, in turn, urge them to oppose the White House’s proposed “Military Commissions Act of 2006,” which would "clarify" Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, dangerously redefining the U.S. standard ofconduct toward detainees and establshing an "alternate" procedure for interrogations.

Here is an excerpt from Article 3, which does not seem at all lacking in clarity:

To this end the following acts are and shall remain prohibited at any time and in any place whatsoever with respect to the above-mentioned persons:

(a) Violence to life and person, in particular murder of all kinds, mutilation, cruel treatment and torture;

(b) Taking of hostages;

(c) Outrages upon personal dignity, in particular, humiliating and degrading treatment;

(d) The passing of sentences and the carrying out of executions without previous judgment pronounced by a regularly constituted court affording all the judicial guarantees which are recognized as indispensable by civilized peoples.

Here are some of the things that the administration would like the CIA to have in its repertoire of "alternative" methods:

The Attention Grab: The interrogator forcefully grabs the shirt front of the prisoner and shakes him.

The Attention Slap: An open-handed slap aimed at causing pain and triggering fear.

The Belly Slap: A hard open-handed slap to the stomach. The aim is to cause pain, but not internal injury. Doctors consulted advised against using a punch, which could cause lasting internal

Long Time Standing: This technique is described as among the most effective. Prisoners are forced to stand, handcuffed and with their feet shackled to an eye bolt in the floor for more than 40 hours. Exhaustion and sleep deprivation are effective in yielding confessions.

The Cold Cell: The prisoner is left to stand naked in a cell kept near 50 degrees. Throughout
the time in the cell the prisoner is doused with cold water.

Water Boarding: The prisoner is bound to an inclined board, feet raised and head slightly below the feet. Cellophane is wrapped over the prisoner's face and water is poured over him. Unavoidably, the gag reflex kicks in and a terrifying fear of drowning leads to almost instant pleas to bring the treatment to a halt.
See: CIA's Harsh Interrogtion Techniques Described...from November 2005 -- Where's the outrage????

BTW: Rumor has it that each senator who votes for the White House bill will receive 79 iron virgins for his own...uh... discretionary use. (Not sure what's being promised to the lady senators.)

Even the alternative bill, sponsored by Senators McCain, Graham, and Warner, is not much better. It places in jeopardy the rights detainees gained in the Hamdan vs Rumsfeld decision. I was very heartened when I found out that one of my senators has serious reservations about this bill as well.

Ah, you say, can't be! We're One Nation under God...

Well, think again ... but not too long. Hurry to the phone and call your senators or fax them a message tomorrow at the latest. Tell him/her not to vote for any piece of legislation that fails to ensure the humane treatment of detainees and their right to a fair trial!

(Don't know your senators' contact info? Click here.)

NEWS!!! Just found out about the Specter-Levin Amendment on habeas corpus -- This amendment --to be attached to either of the above bills when presented before the Senate-- will preserve the right of detainees to challenge their detention in court, thus upholding the Hamdan vs Rumsfeld decision and everyone's SACRED right to the writ of habeas corpus. More info at the Center for Constitutional Rights. Call your senator and tell him/her to support the amendment!

Way to go Senators Specter and Levin!!

Friday, September 15, 2006

Roll over, Jefferson and Hamilton...and Adams...

I think this is the country you founded, but I'm not really sure anymore...

Well, Tom, I'm afraid that few Americans today understand what you and your fellow constitution framers were trying to do when you placed the military under the command of a civilian president and gave Congress sole power to wage war. As you said more than a couple of centuries ago:

“We have already given in example one effectual check to the Dog of war by transferring the power of letting him loose from the Executive to the Legislative body, from those who are to spend to those who are to pay.”

And Alex, in spite of all those friendly arguments with Tom over the concept of a strong central government, still you did everything you could to keep some blood-thirsty general from instigating a military coup:

Under Article II of the Constitution, Presidents have the title commander in chief. Unlike the interpretations offered by some advocates of executive power, this title never gave the President the authority to take the country to war. Instead, it was limited to two purposes. One was to promote unity of command. The framers wanted the accountability that comes with a single person in charge of military operations. In Federalist No. 74, Hamilton explained that “the direction of war most peculiarly demands those qualities which distinguish the exercise of power by a single hand.” The second purpose was to assure civilian supremacy. In time of war, control was not to be transferred to generals and admirals. Whatever soldier leads U.S. armies to victory against an enemy, “he is subject to the orders of the civil magistrate, and he and his army are always ‘subordinate to the civil power.’”
(From an excellent article by Louis Fisher, "Lost Constitutional Moorings: Recovering the War Power" in the Indiana Law Journal.)
Tom and Alex, I really don't know how to break this to you gently, but things are pretty topsy-turvy these days in the United States of America. It's the generals who are upholding the rule of law, and the President who is trying to pull off a bloody coup. That's right,
the civilian Chief Executive made a special visit to Capitol Hill yesterday to lobby for torture, while the military men keep arguing against it.

So much for your ideal of "civilian supremacy."

I mean
, who would be suprised if an Atilla-the-Hun type was anxious to torture war prisoners? Our generals, however, not to mention a former prisoner of war who was himself tortured at the Hanoi Hilton, are dead set against any attempt to "clarify" Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions:

What I do mourn is what we lose when by official policy or official neglect we allow, confuse or encourage our soldiers to forget that best sense of ourselves, that which is our greatest strength-that we are different and better than our enemies, that we fight for an idea, not a tribe, not a land, not a king, not a twisted interpretation of an ancient religion, but for an idea that all men are created equal and endowed by their Creator with inalienable rights.
Sen. John McCain, "Torture's Terrible Toll."

Gen. John W. Vessey Jr., a former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, wrote:

I continue to read and hear that we are facing a 'different enemy' in the war on terror. No matter how true that may be, inhumanity and cruelty are not new to warfare nor to enemies we have faced in the past. . . . Through those years, we held to our own values. We should continue to do so.

Even Gen. Colin Powell, apparently just catching up with international opinion, writes that "the world is beginning to doubt the moral basis of our fight against terrorism."

And listen, guys, whatever you do, please, please, please don't tell John Adams --whom I'm sure you bump into quite often up there in that great law library in the sky-- that the President of the United States is also demanding the right to execute suspected terrorists "on the basis of evidence that the defendants cannot see and that may have been extracted during those abusive interrogation sessions."

John would be positively despondent after his stellar defense of the British captain and his men, accused of killing civilians during what (our) history terms the Boston Massacre in
1770. History tells us that "initial reaction to Adams' role in the case was hostile. His law practice dropped by over half," but he firmy believed that even redcoats deserved a defense -- and he got six of the eight men acquitted!

What was it John said when he recalled in his old age how he had defended the enemy in a court of law ?

It was ... one of the most gallant, generous, manly and disinterested Actions of my whole Life, and one of the best Pieces of Service I ever rendered my Country. Judgment of Death against those Soldiers would have been as foul a Stain upon this Country as the Executions of the Quakers or Witches, anciently. As the Evidence was, the Verdict of the Jury was exactly right.

If it were today, the Limey-fascists would be sent waterboarding and then hung out to dry.

Well, Alex and Tom, I know you're as disappointed as I am about all this....torture, suspension of habeas corpus, and defendants deprived of their right to know the accusations against them. Just doesn't seem like the U.S.A. that you guys established, does it?

But when I stand silently with some of my fellow Americans in front of the court house tomorrow, I know you'll be standing right there with us.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

How I became a Quaker ... now a totally trivial, made-for-blog mini-series!

Part 4...or, I'm happy to have found Quakerism when I read writings like these:

"This is our religion; to feel that which God begets in our hearts preserved alive by God, to be taught by him to know him, to worship, and to live in him, in the leadings and the power of his Spirit."

"So, be still and quiet, and silent before the Lord, not putting up any request to the Father, nor cherishing any desire in thee, but in thee the clear discerning, in the lowly Seed, of all that springs and arises in the heart."

Both of the above quotations by Isaac Penington (1616-1679), father-in-law of William Penn...

I've been dabbling in the collection Quaker Spirituality: Selected Writings, edited by Douglas Steere and part of the series The Classics of Western Spirituality (Mahwah, NJ: Paulist Press, 1984). Well worth getting your hands (and heart) on.

I just stopped and read and re-read and re-re-read those quotations.

I have to say that, in my work, I've become immersed in the breakneck pace of our society and of our educational system. But I read words that speak of stillness, calm, and of God who teaches us himself (sorry for the somewhat antiquated gender typing of the Deity), and I take heart.

And I rejoice that I can follow in the heartsteps of the author of those writings.

Another thing that impresses me about early Friends is their patience in adversity, their cheerfulness in the face of persecution and hardship. It's not that I'm arguing for quietism or against speaking out on injustice. But much of what I read seems to proceed from a not so serene place, and some of the activists that I know are starting to suffer burn-out and bitterness.

To join the words of Deepak Chopra to those of Isaac Penington:

Let us not demand of ourselves that we alone must be the agent of change. In a fire brigade everyone passes along a bucket, but only the last person puts out the fire. None of us know where we stand in line. We may be here simply to pass a bucket; we may be called on to play a major role. In either case, all we can do is think, act, and say. Let us direct our thoughts, words, and actions to peace. That is all we can do. Let the results be what they will be.

Next time...some quotations by Caroline Stephen.

Monday, September 11, 2006


Ashes and bone shards

of common mortality

Evoke in their silence
our common humanity

All huddle now
in the sam
e fragile vessel
refugees all
on an ange
r-tossed sea

All save the one
who rises embracing
the cowering horde
"Peace! be still!"
whispers he

Friday, September 8, 2006

Death toll X 3

When did we start doing Iraqi civilian body counts? For the longest time we didn't, according to Gen. Tommy Franks. It was up to websites like Iraq Body Count or others, like the researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, to do the horrific math.

Now, it seems, Iraqi civilian deaths do matter.
Gee, how about that!

Soon we'll mark the 5th anniversary of 2,752 American deaths that mattered. They mattered so much that we turned the whole world upside down, or so it seems to me sometimes.

Well, a couple of weeks ago a US military spokesman was touting a 46% reduction in the number of murders in Baghdad during the month of August, thanks to the "crackdown." Only about 550 deaths, mind you. In one month, mind you.

The Baghdad Ministry of Health has since revised the figure upward ... and multiplied it by three. There were about 1,536 violent deaths in the city on the Tigris in August ... even a bit higher than the 1,500 in July.

I'm having a hard time digesting these figures ... over one thousand five hundred people dead by violent means in a single month ... in a single city.

And all our elected officials can tell us is to have patience. Democracy takes time. Well, if it takes any more time, there won't be any people to run that democracy.

Wasn't the time to have patience, to give things time, to try nonviolent methods... before March 2003?

Will we ever learn?

Friday, September 1, 2006

There's a train a-comin'

It's Friday, Ernesto is already in town and the meteorologists say he'll linger over our state all weekend. I'm tired...I miss my older son whom I helped move into his dorm the other day...and where I work I'm looking at a grueling new academic year filled with more renovations and organizational restructurings. Oh yeah ... tomorrow's my birthday and, having crossed the threshold to 50 a few years ago, I'd rather not remember birthdays anymore!

But in my head I hear Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Phoebe Snow singing Curtis Mayfield's "People Get Ready" from the Putumayo World Music 10th Anniversary Collection CD (originally on the CD Cover the World) :

People get ready
There's a train a-comin'
You don't need no baggage
You just get on board
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket
You just thank the Lord

People get ready
For the train to Jordan
Picking up passengers
From coast to coast
Faith is the key
Open the doors and board them
There's room for all
Among those loved the most

There ain't no room
For the hopeless sinner
Who would hurt all mankind just
To save his own
Have pity on those
Whose chances are thinner
Cause there's no hiding place
From the kingdom's throne

So people get ready
For the train's a-comin'
You don't need no baggage
You just get on board !
All you need is faith
To hear the diesels hummin'
Don't need no ticket
You just thank the Lord
(The best sound bite of the song is to be found at Shopzilla's website.)

Mayfield wrote the song 1965, inspired by the March on Washington, led by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. (strategy plotted out by Bayard Rustin) the year before. According to an essay on NPR's website, "For many, [the song] captured the spirit of the march -- [it] reaches across racial and religious lines" and says that things are a-movin' ... we're going to get "our chance at redemption."

Yep, I believe it, in spite of everything ... our chance at redemption is coming!

...Don't need no ticket, you just thank the Lord!


Animated train from Gifs.net Free Animations