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'Intelligent discontent is the mainspring of civilization.' -- Eugene V. Debs

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Judith Miller in Court and in Print 

Judith Miller was in court yesterday and she wasn't especially helpful to her old friend Scooter. But you can read about Libby's celebrity trial over at firedoglake where the liberal posters and commenters have spent the better part of almost two years fostering an almost cult-like belief that Fitzgerald's investigation will bring down this administration.

Of course, we shouldn't be that surprised. Liberals have possessed an exaggerated sense of the power of the judiciary ever since the admirable, but aberrant, achievements of the Supreme Court under the leadership of Chief Justice Earl Warren. Realists with a sense of legal history understand that the current acquiescence of the courts to the power of the Executive, along with a disinterest in anything other than administrative efficiency and the protection of corporate interests, is usually the norm.

With the neoconservatives successfully sending more troops to Iraq as the Democrats struggle to pass a non-binding resolution of opposition, the Libby trial has become little more than a sideshow, a tragicomedy about the only man in the entire Bush administration subject to the rule of law, a man facing prison for leaking the name of an intelligence operative, even as those around him enrich their themselves and their friends through war profiteering.

If convicted, one can imagine the classic stereotypical jail scene, as Libby's cellmate hears his story, and incredulously says, You're in here for WHAT? In the film version, Libby would have been played by someone like Ben Stiller, Tony Randall, Jack Lemmon or, perhaps, if pure farce, most appropriately by Don Knotts, with the director being . . . who else but Billy Wilder could have brought out all the necessary shades of black comedy?

Miller performed her obligatory cameo role, but she has made a much more important appearance in print. In this instance, stealth was essential, and, hence, her article appeared under the by-line of New York Times reporters James Glanz and Mark Mazetti. Because, after all, there is yet another war to promote, a need for more yellow journalism to help make it happen, and Miller and the Times, as always, have answered the call, but even they recognize that the Miller brand name isn't too credible anymore.

Typical of a classic Miller article about Iraq and weapons of mass destruction in 2002, the lead paragraphs grab us by the throat, while leaving the door open to subsequent repudiation, if necessary:

Investigators say they believe that attackers who used American-style uniforms and weapons to infiltrate a secure compound and kill five American soldiers in Karbala on Jan. 20 may have been trained and financed by Iranian agents, according to American and Iraqi officials knowledgeable about the inquiry.

The officials said the sophistication of the attack astonished investigators, who doubt that Iraqis could have carried it out on their own — one reason a connection to Iran is being closely examined. Officials cautioned that no firm conclusions had been drawn and did not reveal any direct evidence of a connection.

This is skilled propaganda, comparable to Miller at her best. For example, note the reference to the lack of any direct evidence, implying that there is indirect evidence.

After whetting our appetite, Miller then directs us through a tedious maze of conjecture, hoping that the accumulation of impressionistic detail will persuade us that there just must be an Iranian connection, with the brilliant insight being, well, of course. we all know that the Iraqis are too stupid to pull off the Karbala killings themselves, without outside assistance (entirely plausible to the reader, whether discerning or not, as Iraqis are also too stupid to govern themselves without the presence of over 140,000 US troops). This is Miller at ease with the medium, effortlessly appealing, quite effectively, to the bias of the reader, while concealing her conformity to the administration line.

Finally, at the end, there is the payoff:

Two American officials in Washington confirmed that American military investigators were looking into the possibility of Iranian involvement in the Karbala attack. One of those officials said the working assumption by the investigators was that the operation had been carried out by a splinter group of the Mahdi Army.

The second official said the operation could be seen as retribution for three recent American raids in which Iranians suspected of carrying out attacks on American and Iraqi forces were detained. On Sunday, the Iranian ambassador to Iraq conceded that two Iranians detained in Baghdad last month were security officials, but said that they were making legitimate contacts with Iraqi government officials.

Indeed, we should not be embarassed to say that, when we have the opportunity to read an article by Judith Miller, we are in the presence of a master, someone who has sharpened their skills over years of painstaking sacrifice in order to discover the essential nuances of their craft. Sadly, it appears that she must now be contented with seeing her articles reach a wider audience by having them attributed to others. Someday, she will again receive the recognition that she rightly deserves.

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Tuesday, January 30, 2007

NavBar Wars 

(People without Blogger blogs can ignore this post)

Hey I just updated to the New Blogger because I was tired of the nagging. It went fine ... except when you do it, Google will dynamically stick code for the stupid NavBar into the HTML of your blog, and the old trick for getting rid of it doesn't work anymore.

A quick Technorati search led to lots of posts like this discussing how to get rid of the NavBar. You have to insert a item like the following into your style sheet:

#navbar-iframe { height:0px; visibility:hidden; display:none; }

So I did that. It partially worked but there was still this blank space at the top of my blog that no one seemed to be talking about. The blank space really was just as annoying as the NavBar. Anyway, if anyone cares, to get rid of the blank space you also have to add

div#space-for-ie { height: 0px; visibility: hidden; display: none; }

analogously to the above. Hope this helps someone.

Anyway, so what's so great about the New Blogger? ... so far the only thing I've noticed is the WYSIWYG post editor, which, you know, I'm not using as I write this...

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Friday, January 26, 2007

Black Oak Books Closing? 

The loss of independent bookstores, like the closing of the arthouse cinema, has always been something that strikes me keenly. In the 1960s, 1970s and even the 1980s, film, literature and engrossing non-fiction were forms of expression that resisted the general trend towards the commodification of culture. People could describe themselves, their experiences and their values free of the constraints of the marketplace, or, at least, carve a little place for themselves to do so within a world where commerce was relentlessly imposing a homogeneity under the guise of more and more illusory choices. Others could partake of these cultural creations relatively inexpensively.

Throughout much of America, that world no longer exists. The bookstore means Borders, Barnes and Noble and maybe some local used ones, although I concede that perhaps people use the Internet to gain access to materials that are otherwise unavailable, while movies mean the metroplex, although again, those with a feel for film, its history and its great achievements may still be keeping the flame alive through Netflix. Even so, the intimacy of engaging these art forms socially in our communities as a tangible, collective experience has been lost. There is a delight in looking through the stacks of an idiosyncratic bookstore in the presence of others, even if the encounters are non-verbal, just as there is a joy in watching a film in the theatre, and, similar to attending a baseball or basketball game, simultaneously creating and recognizing the emotional response of the audience.

Back in May, I touched upon some of these themes when I posted about the closing of the Cody's Books store on Telegraph Avenue near UC Berkeley (for some, the only authentic Cody's, despite the continued operation of other ones on Fourth Avenue in Berkeley and Union Square in San Francisco). For me, Berkeley is a touchstone for the survival of this sort of culture, because it has been at the center of its creation and so strongly resisted its destruction. By way of contrast, I had the opportunity to visit the commercial district around Harvard about 7 or 8 years ago, and it had already been redeveloped into something that reminded me of an upscale Santa Cruz shopping mall, with one retail establishment exhibiting a salmon colored, faux Spanish style storefront. The heyday of postmodern commercial architecture, I guess, but, at least, I found an excellent Joy Division CD.

So, if it disappears in Berkeley, where can it survive, except in a pallid virtual form? A sad question, rendered all the more poignant by the recently publicized prospect that Black Oaks Books may find itself having to close in the near future:

Don Pretari doesn't want to shut the doors of Black Oak Books. And not just because running the store has been his life's work.

When not attending to the details of the 23-year-old business, he spends every spare minute studying languages, including Quranic Arabic, classical Chinese, biblical Hebrew, Ethiopic and more.

"All the languages I study are dead," he says. "Who would hire me?"

But with profit margins down, a five-year lease coming due and a partner who wants to retire, Pretari, 49, may have to seek a vocation less perfectly suited to a Berkeley-educated polymath.

Last week, he sent up a trial balloon, inviting someone, anyone, to buy one or both Black Oaks stores -- the Berkeley location on Shattuck Avenue or the San Francisco store on Irving Street. (A short-lived third store in North Beach closed last year.)

"We'd like Black Oak to keep going," he says, adjusting his round glasses and settling into a chair in the back office, a warren of books. "We're exploring every possibility, even if that means someone else has to come in and own it."

Whether Pretari and his partners sell the store or find a way to keep it going themselves -- perhaps through renegotiation of the nearly $1 million Berkeley lease -- they don't want to see it change.

Now, I'll be honest, Black Oaks Books is not my first preference when it comes to buying books, I prefer Moe's on Telegraph or Modern Times in the City (how predictable, some of you must no doubt be saying to yourself), and I don't commonly frequent the North Berkeley district when it's Berkeley store is located, but I do shop there, and I have bought books there over the years, and will no doubt do so in the future -- if it is still there. I still remember seeing James Ellroy there several years ago, which was interesting, because, while he is personally right wing (he has written positively of former LAPD Chief Darryl Gates), his novels, as observed by Mike Davis, are readily susceptible to left, and even anarchist, interpretations.

Black Oaks Books is an alluring place because of the attitude that lead to its creation:

In 1975, Pretari came to UC Berkeley to study philosophy. But he dropped out just short of an advanced degree after his professors recommended that he transfer to the comparative literature department, so that he could pursue his study of Jacques Derrida, the French master of deconstruction.

A bookstore career began, dovetailing nicely with a lifetime of reading and book collecting. In 1980, he went to Moe's Books on Telegraph, the venerable used bookstore. "I told Moe, 'I know your inventory better than you do,' " Pretari recalls.

At Moe's, he met Brown and Bob Baldock, like-minded men 20 years his senior who invited him to help them start a new enterprise: Black Oak Books. (Brown is now considering retirement; Baldock has long since moved on.)

"We weren't businessmen, we were just book lovers," Pretari says. With "a few personal loans, very little money and our own personal libraries," they created the store they'd want to browse in. It opened in 1983 to near-instant success, situated in the Gourmet Ghetto, the stretch of Shattuck in North Berkeley near Chez Panisse.

"We put the kind of books we like out there -- and they sold," he says, still surprised. They furnished the front of the store with browser-friendly tables and displayed worthy, even obscure, books among better-known titles -- ideas they borrowed from Cody's Books on Telegraph.

"Fred Cody was my model," Pretari says. "It sounds highfalutin, but that store had a sensibility. It was like a person was choosing the books.

There is also a disarming lack of pretentiousness associated with this store. You can go into it, and look for books about uncommon subjects, like medieval, African or Japanese history, in the same kind of relaxed way that you would look for a ladder in a hardware store. For me, that's a positive, because it suggests a lack of a separation between pop and intellectual culture, even if I have to admit that it has never really existed. I hope it survives.

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Much Ado about Scooter 

Man, this Libby trial isn't turning out the way I expected. Kind of a lot more interesting. Justin Raimondo, in a piece well worth reading, ends on a note of out-and-out triumphalism:

When this scandal first came to light, I asked the following:

"If Libby is implicated as having anything to do with Plame's 'outing,' then that, in turn, implicates Cheney, who must take responsibility. The vice president's resignation, under these circumstances, is a distinct possibility. Will we soon hear an announcement that he's retiring 'for health reasons'?"

The only problem with this quasi-prediction was the word "soon" – we've had to wait over three years to come to the point where Cheney himself has come under increasing scrutiny, yet finally the day of reckoning approaches.

In answer to all those who have written me, over the years, disdaining my hope that this trial would ever reveal anything about the inner workings of the War Party and their crimes, claiming that "they" would put a stop to it before anything of value saw the light of day, I have to say: you were wrong. The republic is not doomed: its defense mechanismis working, even if it took a while to rev it up.

So pull up a chair, kick back, and get out the refreshments: it's not just Scooter and his boss who are in the dock. The War Party is on trial in Judge Walton's courtroom, and the odds are damn good that they'll get the verdict they so richly deserve.

Hope he's right, but kind of doubt it.

Salon ran an interesting article about Libby written by a Nick Bromell, a probably leftwing childhood friend of Libby's (I'm guessing the guy leans left because he teaches at Amherst), commenting on the paradox of Scooter:

The deep mystery to me is that for years Scooter somehow managed to reconcile who he is with what his masters and mentors demanded of him. Easygoing, tolerant, humane, balanced, modest and witty, he is precisely everything that the Bush administration is not.

Bromell concludes that Scooter became Scooter not because of "naked ambition" but because of a sort of tragic innocence:

For all these reasons, I want to insist that Scooter's respect for power is not just a front for cold self-interest. At bottom, there's a kind of innocence about Scooter. He has submitted to masters like Paul Wolfowitz and Cheney because he respects them, just as a Zen novitiate submits to a meditation master or a young violinist reveres the prodigious talent of her teacher. This attitude was zealously nurtured by the prep schools we attended, where conformity to power was called "leadership" and submission to the system understood as "success." And it is Scooter's celebration of this attitude -- not the sex scenes unfairly ridiculed by the New Yorker -- that makes his novel "The Apprentice" so interesting today. The book tells the story of a young man just like Scooter, a man with the humility to bow before a master warrior and undertake a life of apprenticeship to figures mightier than himself.

The tragedy of Scooter's situation now is thus an old one. Like so many other innocent apprentices -- from Goethe's Faust to James' Isabel Archer -- he now finds himself way out of his depth. Always the model student without a single demerit to blot his report card, he suddenly finds himself an accused felon. While the men who benefited from his desire to serve them are still at their desks and phones across the Potomac River, Scooter is looking in the mirror, knotting his tie, and preparing himself for another day in court. It's understandable that he would regard himself as a victim of his superiors. He is one. But it's also telling that the villain his lawyers point toward is Karl Rove, not the master himself, Dick Cheney. Betrayed or not, Scooter's loyalty endures.

And yet, I would be a kind of innocent myself to conclude that the tragedy here is only Scooter's. His radical innocence, which his mentors so adroitly managed, also marks the Bush administration itself. Arrogantly dismissing the advice of seasoned Middle East experts, Bush has pursued a policy designed by men who never set foot in the region, never walked through a souk, never spoke a word of Arabic. Today, all these men, not just Scooter, have been carried out of their depth. Today, all of them are looking in the mirror every morning. What do they see?

Don't know if I really buy it, but I found the Bromell piece to be an interesting read...

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Blogroll Additions 

Frequent commenter and fellow Pittsburgher, Gaius has a new blog... Also, Amleft's mysterious sister blog...

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Tuesday, January 23, 2007

State of the Suckiness... 

Don't have a lot of comments on the Bush speech ... same old crap. The Democratic response was actually more interesting. Billmon had an interesting post up a few weeks ago about Webb's populism. Whiskey Bar is still down, probably permanently down, so here it is on an aggregator (scroll down to "Comrade Webb")

Other than that, all I have to add is that the Democrat talking heads should stop giving Bush a free pass on portraying the puppet government of Iraq as totally benign. There was a point in Bush's speech in which he mentioned Iran's influence over Iraq's Shi'ite death squads and Shi'ite militias. One wishes someone would bring up the Maliki administration's influence over Iraq's Shi'ite death squads and, you know, the extent to which the new Iraqi army is a Shi'ite militia.

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Monday, January 22, 2007

Life after the NFL 

Back in my youth, I watched a lot of football games. I saw many NFL games involving the great teams of the 1970s, the Pittsburgh Steelers, the Oakland Raiders, the Dallas Cowboys, the Minnesota Vikings, the Los Angeles Rams. With the passage of time, I grew increasingly disinterested, only watching games periodically as the great 49er dynasty of the 1980s and early 1990s faded into history. One of the most concealed aspects of the game is its brutality, the permanent consequences for those who play it most intensely at the professional level.

A few weeks ago, fans of the 49ers marked the 25th anniversary of "the Catch", the last second touchdown in the corner of the end zone that sent the 49ers on their way to 5 Super Bowl victories over 14 years. But, as described by the San Francisco Chronicle today, there was a dark side to this victory:

On the most famous play in 49ers history, amid the din at raucous Candlestick Park, Joe Montana raced to his right and hurriedly scanned the field. He backpedaled to elude three onrushing Dallas players, twice pumped his arm to throw and floated an off-balance pass into the back of the end zone.

Dwight Clark had cut to the middle before abruptly reversing direction. Clark sprinted toward the corner, leaped high, reached both arms above his head and made The Catch, forever cementing his place in 49ers lore.

Twenty-five years later, Montana's left knee is essentially shredded. His right eye occasionally sags from nerve damage. His neck is so stiff, he could not turn his head to look at a reporter asking him questions while he signed memorabilia. Montana, 50, turned both shoulders instead.

Clark, also 50, endures sharp pain every time he lifts his arms above his head -- the exact motion he effortlessly completed on The Catch -- because of a bent screw in his left shoulder and arthritis in his right shoulder. The simple act of turning his head also is a chore, thanks to all those jarring hits on crossing patterns over the middle.

"I hurt," Clark said, "from getting my head squashed down into my neck."

Ron Kroichick, the writer, relates several other alarming individual stories:

Jim Stuckey hardly resembled a broken-down man on Jan. 10, 1982. Soon after The Catch, Stuckey -- then a spry, curly-haired, 23-year-old defensive end -- pounced on Cowboys quarterback Danny White's fumble to preserve San Francisco's 28-27 triumph in the NFC Championship Game.

Stuckey once went on injured reserve with a sprained knee, but he had no surgeries during his seven-year NFL career. He was not as fortunate once he retired from the game -- his left knee steadily deteriorated because of degenerative joint disorder, leading to three operations.

Before long, Stuckey could not bend down to pick up his 2-year-old daughter or lift his left leg high enough to pedal a bike. Stuckey's doctor tried to persuade him to wait on knee-replacement surgery (an artificial knee typically lasts 10-to-20 years), but Stuckey insisted.

He had the operation in October 2000, at age 42. The doctor who performed the surgery said Stuckey had the equivalent of an 85-year-old knee.

"I was 42 and I couldn't do anything," he said. "Hopefully, by the time this (artificial knee) wears out, they'll invent some way to replace integral parts of the knee rather than the whole knee."

Keith Fahnhorst has a more fundamental wish: standing up straight. Fahnhorst, a mainstay on the 49ers' offensive line in the 1970s and '80s, stood tall at 6-foot-6 in 1981, but now he walks hunched over because of spinal stenosis and degeneration of the disks in his neck and back.

Fahnhorst, 54, also totes routine baggage for a longtime offensive lineman: worn, bent hands from years of grappling along the line of scrimmage. Fahnhorst said his left thumb and forefinger remain numb to this day, as they remind him every time he tries to button his shirt.

But the most publicly known extreme instance of the brutality of the game is the tragic story of 1970s Pittsburgh Steelers center Mike Webster:

Mike Webster never made it to his son's 10th birthday party in Lodi, Wis. Lying in a dark room at the Budgetel Inn, some 20 minutes away in Madison, he was bed-bound in a haze of pain and narcotics, a bucket of vomit by his side.

When his playing days were over, Mike Webster barely resembled the man they called Iron Mike.

Webster was often laced with a varying, numbing cocktail of medications: Ritalin or Dexedrine to keep him calm. Paxil to ease anxiety. Prozac to ward off depression. Klonopin to prevent seizures. Vicodin or Ultram or Darvocet or Lorcet, in various combinations, to subdue the general ache. And Eldepryl, commonly prescribed to patients who suffer from Parkinson's disease.

After 17 seasons in the National Football League, Webster had lost any semblance of control over his once-invincible body. His brain showed signs of dementia. His head throbbed constantly. He suffered from significant hearing loss. Three lumbar vertebrae and two cervical vertebrae ached from frayed and herniated discs. A chronically damaged right heel caused him to limp. His right shoulder was sore from a torn rotator cuff. His right elbow grew stiff from once being dislocated. His knees, the cartilage in them all but gone, creaked from years of bone grinding against bone. His knuckles were scarred and swollen. His fingers bent gruesomely wayward.

"He was too sick to come to my birthday party. He didn't even call me and I was mad," Garrett Webster remembered recently. "Now, I understand that there was something wrong."

Ten years later, there is only a faint strain of resentment in his voice. His father, the celebrated Hall of Fame center for the Pittsburgh Steelers, is gone now. Still, the mental snapshots, those harrowing memories, persist of the stoic man they called Iron Mike:

Desperate for a few moments of peace from the acute pain, repeatedly stunning himself, sometimes a dozen times, into unconsciousness with a black Taser gun. "The only way he could get to sleep," said Garrett.

Glassy-eyed like a punch-drunk boxer, huddled alone, staring into space night after night at the Amtrak station in downtown Pittsburgh. "Living on potato chips and dry cereal," said Joe Gordon, a Steelers employee.

A formidable man, at 6-foot-2 and 250 pounds, who sometimes forgot to eat for days -- sleeping in his battered, black Chevy S-10 pickup truck, a garbage bag duct-taped over the missing window. "Sometimes he didn't seem to care," said Sunny Jani, the primary caregiver the last six years of his life.

Writing wandering journals in a cramped, earnest hand so convoluted in their spare eloquence that, upon reading them in his lucid moments, he would be moved to weep. "You had absolutely no idea what was going through his mind," said Colin, his oldest son.

The powerfully proud former athlete, anguished and curled up in a fetal position for three or four days, puzzling over his life, contemplating suicide and, in later years, placing those sad, rambling calls, almost daily in the later years, to friends and family when he couldn't find his way home. "All I see is trees," he'd say apologetically, almost in a whisper.

As summarized in the wikipedia entry about Webster:

It is universally believed that Webster's ailments were the result of damage sustained over his playing career, and some doctors estimated he had been in the equivalent of "25,000 automobile crashes" in over 35 years of playing football at various levels. Protective equipment, in particular helmets, was inferior during Webster's time, and defensive players sometimes employed a "head slap" move that was then accepted although illegal.

Webster's nightmarish post-football life suggests something in addition to the physical destructiveness of the game, the possibility that teams manipulate mentally disordered people to play it:

Barret Robbins may be lonely, but he is not alone in his hospital room. At his bedside lurks the two-headed monster of manic depression. Heavily sedated, stricken with pneumonia and breathing with the help of a ventilator, the massive former pro football player struggles for every breath and, silently, his sanity.

Two years after going AWOL before Super Bowl XXXVII, the off-center former Oakland Raiders lineman is back in a hospital again — with an armed police officer outside his door. If he is fortunate, he will live to again confront his bipolar disorder in hopes of conquering mania and depression, demons exacerbated by his self-medicating use of alcohol and drugs.

This is a tragic story filled with turmoil, heartbreak — and a family's hope for a loved one tormented by the invisible pain of mental illness. In 2003, two days before the most important game of his life, Robbins went on a drinking binge in Tijuana, Mexico, that left him in a psychiatric ward and under a suicide watch on Super Bowl Sunday.

Nineteen days ago, disturbed by a dissolving marriage and his wife's restraining order, the 6-3, 360-pound native Texan was found by police hiding in a women's restroom. In a bizarre confrontation with three officers, the burly 31-year-old was shot in the heart and in a lung. He faces three felony attempted murder charges, punishable by as much as life in prison. His attorney says an insanity defense is appropriate, if needed.

Manic depression is an incurable mood disorder that is treatable with medication — prescriptions that friends and family say Robbins failed to take during his long nights of partying along a strip of bars and trendy clubs in South Beach.

Robbins was fortunate enough to be placed on probation:

Under a plea agreement, Robbins pled guilty to five charges, including the attempted murder charge, and was sentenced to five years probation, ordered to receive treatment for his bipolar disorder, and to avoid alcohol.

There is something perverse about this sport, and one wonders if, centuries from now (or, perhaps, just decades?), it will be considered akin to bear baiting in terms of its depravity. If so, that still leaves the troubling question as to why the sport has been so alluring for so long. What disturbing feature of human nature is brought to the surface and revealed by it?

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Friday, January 12, 2007

Film Notes: The Queen 

I went to our local Sacramento arthouse theatre, The Tower Theatre on 16th and Broadway, to see this film with some trepidation. From the promotional campaign, it had all the earmarks of a movie produced to appeal to the crowd that eagerly awaits the ninth remake of Jane Austen's novel Pride and Prejudice. But, as we all know, advertising campaigns aren't known for their fidelity to actual content, and fortunately, that was the case here.

Upon seeing that the director was Stephen Frears, known for making films with a subtle, acute social insight, I experienced the first hint of optimism, and I wasn't disappointed. Of course, Helen Mirren's performance as Queen Elizabeth II is astonishing, as one expects from this brilliant actress, but she is assisted by a strong script by Peter Morgan that places her traumatic experience after the death of Princess Diana within a contemporary context.

At the beginning, the audience is induced to accept the common stereotypes, Diana was an angel, the Queen and the rest of royals cold hearted and self-absorbed. But, over the course of the film, the Queen is humanized, portrayed as someone caught unawares by the power of the global media, stunned by the discovery that even the royal family stands helpless before it, while it is suggested that Diana, generationally well versed in the art of media manipulation, was seduced by it, and narcissitically used it to destroy the credibility of the royals. Quite appropriately, Diana never appears as a character, but, instead, periodically intrudes upon the narrative as a ghostly video image. Diana had, in effect, already been killed by the media, having lost her individuality, even before her tragic automobile accident.

Another pleasant suprise was Michael Sheen's performance as Tony Blair. Indeed, the film is actually as much about Blair and his abandonment of his Labour idealism as it is about the crisis within the royal family after Diana's death. Blair had just been installed as Prime Minister when Diana died, and his closest advisors are startled by his increasing identification with the conservative royals as the media circus intensifies. Sheen, again assisted by Morgan's top drawer script, portrays Blair sympathetically, but accurately, as a middle class man who aspires to political power so that he can attain social acceptance by the elite. Through such a well rounded, empathetic presentation, Sheen (and Morgan) indict Blair as a cogenial little man who would cheerfully sell out anyone or anything for his self-aggrandizement, and it is an indictment far more compelling than any issued by the left.

In a telling scene near the end, a scene that highlights the allegorical aspect of this part of the story, the Queen, after having been subjected to the most brutal personal insults by her subjects, finds herself, to her dismay, being consoled by Blair. Never mind, he says, the bond between you and your subjects is now stronger than ever. The Queen, not so sure, demurs, and warns, someday, Mr. Blair, you may also find yourself equally reviled by the public. Blair, of course, ever supremely confident of his hold over the populace (and, at times, even the royals), expresses his disagreement through his body language. Frears and Morgan, with benefit of hindsight, recognized that such arrogance lead inevitably to the catastrophe in Iraq.

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Wednesday, January 10, 2007

An American Leftist Homework Assignment for Readers who Live in DC 

Hey, someone should crash this lunch with Cakewalk Ken at Nathan's and ask him what's the deal with the Project for the New American Century closing up shop. My guess is that it goes like this:

someone: Hey Ken, how come the Project for the New American Century closed up shop?

Kenneth Adelman: We got the new American century, and this is how bad it sucks.

Okay, maybe he's not that bitter yet.

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Tony Snow on the Difference Between an Escalation and a Surge 

Somewhere far away Scotty and Ari are sitting around a beachfront bar drinking mojitos together: (from yesterday's gaggle)

Q And so often in debate, obviously, language is very important. To your mind, is there a difference between an increase in troops, an escalation in troops, a surge in troops? Because in the last 24, 48 hours these words have all started to become weighted.

MR. SNOW: It just started to become weighted? I think a lot of times people are going to try to find a one-word characterization that allows them to make a political point without perhaps diving into the details in trying to give a proper --

Q Well, what's the difference between an escalation and a surge?

MR. SNOW: Well, why don't we talk about characterizations once we have a plan?

Q Because I think it's part of a conversation that's going on right now.

MR. SNOW: I understand that, and, guess what -- it's a conversation, as I've said before, that is a bit in a vacuum and I'm not going to get into the business of preemptively characterizing something that we have not released in full detail.

Q But, somehow, "escalation" has become this Democratic word -- the Democratic Party language.

MR. SNOW: Well, ask the guys who do their focus groups. They're going to have an answer for it. Look, the President is talking about a way forward, and rather than getting involved in trying to assess a description of a plan that has yet to be released publicly and, therefore, about which I am not in a position to characterize publicly, it seems a little silly for me to start quibbling about adjectives without discussing what they purportedly describe, don't you think?

Q Well, the President apparently told Gordon Smith and others yesterday that the 20,000 troop increase/surge/escalation is part of the deal. So that's why I'm asking specifically about -- we are going to see some kind of increase.

MR. SNOW: Rather than looking for a one-word handle, look at the policy. And, actually, this is your challenge -- you guys do words for a living; figure out -- rather than trying to ask Democratic or even Republican lawmakers what the proper descriptive term is, you figure it out. I mean, you're going to have an opportunity --

Q I'm trying to, but that's what --

MR. SNOW: Yes, but what you're doing is you're listening to what other people are saying and saying, is that the right one? Well, I can't help you on that.

Q Yes, that's exactly what I'm doing --

MR. SNOW: Can't help you on that one.

Q -- I'm listening to other people describe it, and I'm asking the administration, what's the proper word?

MR. SNOW: I understand. But what we will say is, look at it, then we'll talk.

Q Do you have a problem with the word "escalation"?

MR. SNOW: As I said, look at it, we'll talk.


Bagram, Afghanistan, 2002 

There's a poem in the current New Yorker about one of the two totally innocent guys who were beaten to death by US forces at the Bagram Collection Point in 2002: (transcribed here)

Bagram, Afghanistan, 2002

The interrogation celebrated spikes and cuffs,
the inky blue that invades a blackened eye,
the eyeball that bulges like a radish,
that incarnadine only blood can create.
They asked the young taxi driver questions
he could not answer, and they beat his legs
until he could no longer kneel on their command.
They chained him by the wrists to the ceiling.
They may have admired the human form then,
stretched out, for the soldiers were also athletes
trained to shout in unison and be buddies.
By the time his legs had stiffened, a blood clot
was already tracing a vein into his heart.
They said he was dead when they cut him down,
but he was dead the day they arrested him.
Are they feeding the prisoners gravel now?
To make them skillful orators as they confess?
Here stands Demosthenes in the military court,
unable to form the words "my country". What
shall we do, we who are at war but are asked
to pretend we are not? Do we need another
naïve apologist to crown us with clichés
that would turn the grass brown above a grave?
They called the carcass Mr. Dilawar. They
believed he was innocent. Their orders were
to step on the necks of the prisoners, to
break their will, to make them say something
in a sleep-deprived delirium of fractures,
rising to the occasion, or, like Mr. Dilawar,
leaving his few possessions and his body.

- Marvin Bell, The New Yorker, 8 Jan. 2007

I posted about this story three years ago when little was known. A year later the New York Times published a graphic account of the deaths of Dilawar and Habibullah, a commendable piece of journalism which should be read by all those who view Afghanistan as a good war. The Times story is currently available on Information Clearing House.

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Tuesday, January 09, 2007

Negroponte Demotion Wild Speculation Round-Up 

So after wading through the various posts, ramblings, and wild speculation on the subject, I'm of the opinion that no one knows the reason Negroponte is stepping down as Director of National Intelligence to become Rice's #2.

The official story is that Negroponte was never happy as intelligence czar, wants to return to diplomacy, and, according to the Times, Rice has been "trying to recruit him to bring more Iraq expertise to her office." Various commentators speculate that Negroponte felt hemmed in by the Pentagon and viewed his cabinet level position as having no real power: (Martin Sieff, UPI)

Negroponte through most of his tenure as DNI privately made no secret of his frustration that long-serving Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld -- the Pentagon controls 80 percent of the overall U.S. intelligence budget as well as direct control of about a dozen of the nation`s intelligence agencies -- refused to work constructively with him and jealously retained operational as well as financial control over the DOD-controlled intelligence agencies, leaving the DNI out in the cold. [...] Negroponte`s evident willingness to accept his transfer and apparent demotion suggests that he had come to the reluctant conclusion that frustration and powerlessness were inherently built into the position of DNI, whoever ran the show in the Pentagon

The turf-war-with-the-Pentagon angle is the subtext behind this tidbit from the above Times piece:

[A]dministration officials interviewed on Wednesday would not say whether Mr. Negroponte was moving because the White House saw him as uniquely qualified for the diplomatic post, or because President Bush was dissatisfied with his performance as intelligence chief, or whether it was a combination of the two.

Negroponte was unhappy with Pentagon control of intelligence. In this administration the Pentagon is the White House. He thus pissed off the White House, and, thus, got demoted. That's one explanation.

Another explanation informs the "uniquely qualified for the diplomatic post" speculation cited by the Times. Erstwhile Kos apostate Booman summarizes the view as follows:

Condi Rice cannot handle her position as Secretary of State but there is no position to move her to. It would be too big of a blow for Bush to fire her but he cannot get rid of her by retasking her. Negroponte is being brought in to run the State Department, while Rice will remain a figurehead. After a period of time Rice may take a job in the private sector citing burnout or ill-health or something. Negroponte has been assured that he will take over the top spot at some not too distant point in the future, or has been satisfied that he will be in the principles meetings and this is just for show.

In my opinion the most reasonable guess here -- applying an Occam-brand wild speculation razor (five blades and two aloe strips) -- is that some flavor of one of these two explanations is true. I'd like to point out, however, that the two explanations are somewhat mutually exclusive. I don't see how the Times can hypothesize that what's going on is "a combination of the two": if Cheney had it in for Negroponte it doesn't seem very likely to me that Negroponte was also chosen to bail out Condoleeza Rice, unless perhaps Condoleeza Rice is at war with the White House.

Wading into the blogosphere beyond the boring explanations, we find a post on Democrats.com that opened the barn door of the entertaining variety of wild speculation:

Everyone is trying to figure out why John Negroponte would take a demotion from Director of National Intelligence [...] There's a very simple reason: Karl Rove has chosen Condi Rice to run for President, and he needs to line up her replacement so she can resign in March and begin her campaign - before she has to answer subpoenas from Joe Biden

Let's just say I hope the above is true because it means Karl Rove has gone, as the kids say, batshit insane, and also let's just say that if the above turns out to be the real reason for Negroponte's move I will bite my ass.

Also apparently in a crazed attempt to get someone besides masochists to read The Plank, Michael Crowley offers

Because standards are lower on weekends... here's a new rumor straight from an insidious "Washington cocktail party": John Negroponte is becoming deputy secretary of state as preparation to replace Condi Rice when she leaves her job. Why would she do that? To take over for an "ailing" Dick Cheney as vice president. Sure, Cheney resignation rumors are about as old as the Bush presidency. But one well-informed person said that, while he doesn't think this will happen, he also doesn't dismiss it out of hand.

which I really hope is true, however, I actually find the above slightly more credible than the Karl Rove backs Condi in '08 scenario, so, you know, if Cheney resigns in March, I'm not biting my ass, and, further, on the ass biting, I'd just like to say while I don't think this will happen, I also won't dismiss it out of hand...

Saturday, January 06, 2007

What Should Be Done? 

UPDATE: I have frequently posted on the massacre in Haditha, as well as other brutalities inflicted by US troops upon Iraqis, as a justification from promptly bringing the occupation to an end.

Today, the Washington Post has published an article that provides a detailed account of Haditha massacre. I encourage people to read it in its entirety, but here is one excerpt, describing how US troops stopped a vehicle after an IED explosion killed one of their comrades, ordered the occupants out of it and shot them dead in cold blood:

U.S. Marines gunned down five unarmed Iraqis who stumbled onto the scene of a 2005 roadside bombing in Haditha, Iraq, according to eyewitness accounts that are part of a lengthy investigative report obtained by The Washington Post. U.S. Marines gunned down five unarmed Iraqis who stumbled onto the scene of a 2005 roadside bombing in Haditha, Iraq, according to eyewitness accounts that are part of a lengthy investigative report obtained by The Washington Post.

Staff Sgt. Frank D. Wuterich, the squad's leader, shot the men one by one after Marines ordered them out of a white taxi in the moments following the explosion, which killed one Marine and injured two others, witnesses told investigators. Another Marine fired rounds into their bodies as they lay on the ground.

"The taxi's five occupants exited the vehicle and according to U.S. and Iraqi witnesses, were shot by Wuterich as they stood, unarmed, next to the vehicle approximately ten feet in front of him," said a report by the Naval Criminal Investigative Service on the incident that runs thousands of pages.

One of the witnesses, Sgt. Asad Amer Mashoot, a 26-year-old Iraqi soldier who was in the Marine convoy, told investigators he watched in horror as the four students and the taxi driver fell. "They didn't even try to run away," he said. "We were afraid from Marines and we saw them behaving like crazy. They were yelling and screaming."

The shootings were the first in a series of violent reactions by Marines on the morning of Nov. 19, 2005 that left 24 civilians -- many of them women and children -- dead, in what some human rights groups and Iraqis have called a massacre by U.S. troops.

The report, which relied on hundreds of interviews with Marines, Iraqi soldiers and civilian survivors conducted months after the incident, presents a fragmented and sometimes conflicting chronicle of the violence that day. But taken together, the accounts provide evidence that as the Marines came under attack, they responded in ways that are difficult to reconcile with their rules of engagement.

It is worth repeating, at this point, that none of the Marines charged with the killings in Haditha have been ordered confined pending the adjudication of the charges against them. Furthermore, the fact that lower level Marine officers and investigators, as explained by the Post, did not believe that the conduct of the soldiers warranted further inquiry suggests that the rules of engagement, as commonly understood in the field, does not prevent the indiscriminate shooting of civilians as occurred at Haditha.

According to the Post:

Defense attorneys have argued that the men were following their "rules of engagement" when they shot into the homes, using effective techniques in a difficult environment.

The Marine division's rules-of-engagement card in effect at the time in western Iraq instructed Marines to "ALWAYS minimize collateral damage" and said that targets must be positively identified as threats before a Marine can open fire. It also told Marines that "nothing on this card prevents you from using all force necessary to defend yourself."

Inevitably, it appears that the perpetuation of the occupation against the will of the Iraqis encourages troops to emphasize the last sentence of the rules to the exclusion of the rest.

ORIGINAL POST: Justin Raimondo has finally abandoned any hope that the war in Iraq, as well as numerous other imperial practices of the US, can be changed through the political system, announcing that now is the time for mass direct action:

Washington is the problem, and the solution is to make that city ungovernable, and a thoroughly unpleasant place for our ruling elite to be. If they won't listen to the voice of the hinterland, and suffer from delusions of invincibility, then they need to be reminded of their own vulnerability. By descending on Washington, and literally camping out, the millions who detest this war could make the city unlivable, or, at least, make it impossible for the mandarins of power to any longer discount us humble plebeians. These people love their perks, their privileges, their sense of empowerment, and, most of all, their pleasures – if we deprive them of all this, by making their lives a living hell, then and only then will we have any chance of decisively influencing the course of events.

A paroxysm of national rage is just what's needed, one that will shock our rulers out of their daydreams of omnipotence and communicate the urgency of the crisis. It is, above all, a crisis of empire: a relatively sudden realization by the American people that they don't want to go there, they don't want to rule Iraq, and it's time to reverse course before we do pemanent damage to the world and to ourselves.

I am usually opposed to civil disobedience, and have in the past inveighed – I believe that's the proper word – against it. Yet we no longer have much choice. The U.S. cannot pursue the course it's on much longer without some pretty awful consequences, the least of which would be a complete meltdown in Iraq and the regionalization of the war. The domestic consequences of this war – and of the so-called war on terrorism – are bearing down with such weight on the already fragile structure of our constitutional form of government, that we are in danger of being crushed, along with the hopeful vision of the Founders. We must act, just as Cindy Sheehan and her brave cohorts did recently when they interrupted the Democratic self-love-fest and refocused attention on the most important issue of them all: the war. And, no, hearings conducted by John Murtha don't fit the bill: if they won't cut off the funding for the war, then it's time they were cut off from their pleasant lives and illusions of impregnable insularity.

Radical measures are called for. The time for talk is over: you can't reason with these people, and I've given up trying. The time for action is now. Not inchoate rage, or violence, but focused anger, aimed with laser-like intensity at the root and source of all our problems – the seat of the Empire.

It is easy to ridicule Raimondo's suggestion. After all, I don't believe that the current social climate in the US is anywhere near supporting an endeavor. And, even if there were enough people willing to participate, the political establishment, Republicans, Democrats, conservatives, moderates, liberals would all advocate the suppression of it, with the liberals, naturally, taking the lead in doing so with the most handwringing ambivalence about it. Remember Madeline Albright, behind the scenes in November 1999, demanding that the Seattle police clear the streets of WTO protesters, so that President Clinton's motorcade could travel undisturbed?

One need only look at their enthusiasm for supporting troops who report for duty, keep their heads down, and perpetuate the occupation of Iraq, while vacillating about conscientous objectors, like Lt. Col. Ehren Watada, who don't. If forced to choose between ending the occupation of Iraq, or protecting the hierarchical structure of the US military, they will, as indicated by many of the comments to Steve Gilliard's linked post about Watada, choose the latter. At best, a reading of these comments reveals that they are conflicted, and incapable of participating in a mass public movement against the war.

As for the commercial, mainstream media, do we really need to go there? It will aggressively cheerlead for the use of force and merciless criminal prosecution to break it. So Raimondo's column is actually a cry of desperation, a cry of frustration with the illusory republican political processes that brand the policies of perpetual war and the occupation of Iraq with the seal of democratic approval. It is understandable, praiseworthy even, and challenges us with the question, if not my way, what way? What should be done?

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Thursday, January 04, 2007

Only the Beginning? 

The Democrats got off to a rocky start unveiling some of the first pieces of their Iraq-free House agenda:

House Democrats tried to unveil their lobbying reform package today, but their press conference was drowned out by chants from anti-war activists who want Congress to stop funding the Iraq war before taking on other issues.

Led by Cindy Sheehan, the mother of a slain soldier, the protesters chanted "De-escalate, investigate, troops home now" as Democratic Caucus Chairman Rahm Emanuel, D-Ill., began outlining the Democrats' plans to ban lobbyist-funded travel and institute other ethics reforms. The press conference was held in the Cannon House Office Building in an area open to the public.

Emanuel finally gave up trying to be heard over the chants, and retreated to a caucus room where Democrats were meeting.

The fact that the protesters cast a pall over Rahm Emanuel's day in the sun was especially sweet. He is notorious for supporting pro-war Democratic candidates in primaries over antiwar ones with his access to the enormous amount of money raised from corporate sources. Meanwhile, it is becoming more and more clear that Bush will announce that he intends to send at least 20,000 additional troops to Iraq. But Emanuel, and the Democratic House leadership, thought it was more urgent to address lobbying reform.

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Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Don't Walk Across the Bridge 

The Golden Gate Bridge is for tourism and commerce only:

Police took 10 war protesters into custody Monday at the Golden Gate Bridge after a three-hour standoff that backed up New Year's Day traffic and frayed tempers of tourists and bicyclists hoping for a jaunt across the span.

The confrontation began at noon when about a dozen members of the women's peace organization CodePink prepared to walk across the bridge as a vigil to remember the 3,000 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq.

Officers from the California Highway Patrol, the Golden Gate Bridge District and the San Francisco Police Department barred their way and also refused to let tourists onto the span.

The protesters eventually decided to cross a police line and were taken into custody. Bicyclists began crossing the west side of bridge again by 3 p.m., but foot traffic on the east side of the bridge remained off limits after the protesters dispersed.

Among those detained was CodePink co-founder and prominent San Francisco peace activist Medea Benjamin.

"We didn't do anything illegal, nor did we plan to do anything illegal," she said after she was released from custody. Benjamin said she and nine others have been charged with trespassing, although Highway Patrol officials wouldn't confirm the arrests.

Before she was taken into custody, Benjamin said that the group planned a "solemn march," single-file, across the bridge, with no intention of disrupting tourists or traffic. They planned to meet another small group of protesters crossing from the Vista Point parking area on the north end of the bridge.

But police, citing security concerns, closed the sidewalk entrances, and a standoff ensued.

"Vigils are taking place all across the country. This may be the only place -- in Nancy Pelosi's home district -- where that's not allowed," said Benjamin, who has been arrested numerous times for protesting the war, including her disruption of a speech by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki before a joint session of Congress in July.

Police at the scene said they were concerned about what the protesters might do once they were on the bridge.

Police closed off a lane of northbound bridge traffic as they prepared to arrest the protesters, leading to a major traffic back-up on Doyle Drive back to the Marina District and on the 19th Avenue and Lincoln Boulevard approaches to the bridge.

Tourist milled outside the south entrance to the bridge sidewalk, some bemused, some outraged that they were forbidden to walk through the gate.

Interestingly, the police assaulted the media that tried to film the confrontation:

A cameraman from News 7 San Franciso was filming the protest and the police tried to keep him from doing so. Apparently the police struck the cameraman, injuring his eye and damaging the camera. The cameraman was at the hospital, according the most recent report. When a reporter attempted to get name and badge number of the offending officer, that officer refused to give his name and physically covered his badge with his hand; this is in direct violation of standard police procedure.

Anyone who has ever walked across the bridge can immediately recognize the absurdity of this police response. Indeed, the walkways on each side of the bridge are so wide that it is possible to go across the bridge by bike, which I have done several times, without risking injury to anyone, yet it was necessary to call officers from the California Highway Patrol, the Golden Gate Bridge District and the San Francisco Police Department to the scene to deal with 10 protesters. Let's repeat that: 10 protesters.

More astute readers have already identified the motivation for it. The bridge is federal property, and, with Bush as President, there is a hard line. No politically oriented marches across the bridge without a permit, no exceptions. Hence, the need to shut down the CODEPINK action regardless of the impact upon traffic and tourists. Enforcement of the policy is so essential that the police are now using violence against the local media to discourage it from covering any incidents of this kind in the future.

Nor is this the first episode of this kind. A protest in support of the Palestinians in May 2002 received even worse treatment, because, even though they had a permit, unlike CODEPINK, the marchers couldn't get across the bridge quickly enough to comply with the terms of it:

An anti-war protest on the Golden Gate Bridge turned ugly Saturday when police stopped northbound traffic to arrest demonstrators, causing a backup several miles long.

Authorities arrested 30 of the approximately 150 participants in the march, organized by the All People's Coalition to Stop U.S. Terror and Occupation.

The coalition, which represents a variety of left-wing causes -- including support for Palestinians and opposition to U.S. policy in Afghanistan and the Mideast -- had a permit to march from Crissy Field across the eastern walkway of the bridge and back between noon and 2 p.m.

But before the marchers finished crossing the bridge, the California Highway Patrol ordered them to turn around and leave the bridge or face immediate arrest.

When some of the demonstrators refused, the CHP began making arrests and closed some or all northbound lanes for the next half hour.

"They agreed to start their walk in time to complete it by 2 p.m.," said bridge spokeswoman Mary Currie.

The march was allowed on the condition that activists would not carry signs,banners or noisemakers such as bullhorns or drums, said Currie. Officers stationed at the entrance to the bridge checked each protester and removed such items from some of them.

At 1:35 p.m., about 20 CHP officers clad in riot gear blocked the eastern walkway and told demonstrators to turn around. When the 150 marchers did not immediately obey, the CHP decided to force them to return.

Many refused and sat down while others chanted "Shame! Shame! Shame!" as officers moved in, carrying batons and using pepper spray. Police arrested some protesters, shoving others back.

Some demonstrators accused the highway patrol of overreacting and causing the traffic delays.

"This response was totally uncalled for -- it's a huge overreaction to a peaceful event," said co-organizer Wendy Snyder.

"We stayed on the sidewalk," said co-organizer Claudia Hernandez, 29, of Pinole. "We just wanted to finish the march and they began pushing us back."

CHP spokesman Sgt. Wayne Ziese said all but one of those arrested were booked on misdemeanor charges, including obstructing a walkway and resisting arrest. One girl, who told police she was 11 years old, was booked on a felony charge of assaulting an officer, and taken to juvenile hall, he said.

Ziese said the arrests were necessary to ensure that the protesters would be off the bridge by the 2 p.m. deadline.

"It was quite clear they were not going to be able to comply with that permit," Ziese said.

"They should have made it clear to us earlier," countered Bakaria Olatunji, chairman of the coalition. "If they had left us alone and let us finish, this would have all gone smoother, even if it took longer."

The arrest of the 11 year old girl was especially troubling:

The Washington-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) says photos and video shot at the protest show that police acted improperly in arresting the girl.

Eleven year-old, Sophia Abrahim, was arrested Saturday when police blocked a march across the Golden Gate Bridge, despite the fact that event organizers had a valid permit to cross the bridge. Media reports quoted witnesses who said police over-reacted to a relatively small number of protestors. One passerby told the San Francisco Chronicle: "I don't think these demonstrators presented any threat to anyone. The police are the ones who shut everything down. I would rather see all of these officers looking for terrorists in airports." Witnesses also say police manhandled journalists during the march.

A statement issued today by CAIR Board Chairman Omar Ahmad read in part: "It is unconscionable that police clad in riot gear would pull an 11-year-old child out of a group of peaceful protestors, throw her to the ground, handcuff her, haul her away like a common criminal, and then keep her shackled for hours at a police station. From all accounts, this girl did nothing to provoke arrest. The officers involved in this incident should be suspended pending an immediate and thorough investigation."

Sophia Abrahim, 11, has made a statement concerning her ordeal on Saturday during the anti-war, pro-Palestinian demonstration in San Francisco, dubbed by supporters as "Take It To The Bridge 2002". She said, "They were chasing me and pushing everyone with the bats, the stick thingies and I told them, 'Hey, don't touch me! For the last time...'"

Beyond the assault upon the marchers, and embarassing arrest of an 11 year old, we discover that, yet again, Witnesses also say police manhandled journalists during the march. It is undoubtedly pointless to expect that the Bush Administration would order federal law enforcement authorities to respond to political protest with anything other than tactics of intimidation. Perhaps, though, it might be a good time for the California Highway Patrol and the San Francisco Police Department to evaluate whether they should suspend their involvement. After all, Michael Bloomberg allowed thousands of New Yorkers to march through the commericial retail sales district of New York, during the peak holiday season, without a permit and without incident, to protest the killing of Sean Bell by the NYPD.

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Monday, January 01, 2007

Happy New Year 

... and I promise to be a better blogger in 2007. In the mean time this little cartoon by Jonathan Schwarz pretty much sums up my feelings about the Hussein execution:

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