Monday, February 28, 2005

JOIN THE MINUTEMAN PATROL!

There are some nutty, racist bigots organizing what is little more than a modern-day Ku Klux Klan along the Arizona border. Who will join a force to confront them in the desert?

According to this story, there are already 10,000 border patrol agents stealing our precious tax dollars to harass poor people trying to cross an invisible line in the sand. Yet a group of civilians (no doubt mostly white men) calling themselves the Minutemen are organizing in the hundreds to patrol the border on their own - a vigilante group of nationalists who are angry about ....
  • All the jobs the Mexicans, Central and South Americans are taking from them? No, their presence and hard work improves American productivity immensely and adds millions to our economy.
  • The "crime, property damage and trash dumping caused by the border crossings?" It's the desert, there isn't enough crime and garbage to attract hundreds to this desolate area to play army. Hey the Mission in San Francisco is full of garbage. Come clean it up please.
  • The recent intelligence that shows that "al-Qaida terrorists are likely to enter the country through the Mexico border?" Is this the same "intelligence" the U.S. government is getting by torturing Muslims and Arabs in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan? If so, I simply don't trust it - people will say anything when they think your going to fire the pistol you just stuck in their mouth. The notion that Al Qaida cells are going to cross into Arizona and wait for their orders from Osama is just an American fantasy anyway.
Most likely they are mad because they keep seeing so many brown people, with different cultures and a different language in their towns. This is threatening, and they make for an easy target. Treat the brown people like dogs, and it makes them feel a whole lot better about their lives, and what little they've accomplished.

They are simply a bunch of xenophobic nut-cases, and I propose creating a cross-border militant organization of our own. Who needs the border patrol? Join the Minuteman Patrol!

Admittedly I'm too far from the Arizona border to deal with these crazies personally, but I can provide technical support and media outreach. If we raise enough money, I can get a West Coast force out there. Individuals can sign up for a month of duty. It would be a hell of a way to spend Spring Break. We can use pepper spray and tazers. It will be great.

Sunday, February 27, 2005

2:45 AM On The Number 14 Bus

I didn't find the music I wanted, and I didn't make out with anyone. I think music is the greatest creation of humankind. So why do gay clubs play such bad music?

I don't know and it's a shame because life is too short to listen to generic, throbbing beats. Give me something created by a talented musician, poet or artist. Or even better, give me something with passion. Don't worry. There's thousands of songs you can dance to like that.

Speaking of passion, while riding the #14 - a very crowded bus, oddly overpopulated with men - I realized how much I love human beings. All of them. I just wish some of them would give me some love back. Maybe next weekend.

Friday, February 25, 2005

WHO WILL GO FIRST?

Chief Justice Rehnquist, the pope, or Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez? The first two are old and sick, the second is an outspoken critic of the United States.

Monday, February 21, 2005

AP Exclusive: Iraqi in CIA Custody Died While He Was Suspended by His Wrists

Feb. 18, 2005 - An Iraqi whose corpse was photographed with grinning U.S. soldiers at Abu Ghraib died under CIA interrogation while in a position condemned by human rights groups as torture suspended by his wrists, with his hands cuffed behind his back, according to reports reviewed by The Associated Press.

The death of the prisoner, Manadel al-Jamadi, became known last year when the Abu Ghraib prison scandal broke. The U.S. military said back then that the death had been ruled a homicide. But the exact circumstances under which the man died were not disclosed at the time.

The prisoner died in a position known as "Palestinian hanging," the documents reviewed by The AP show. It is unclear whether that position was approved by the Bush administration for use in CIA interrogations.

The spy agency, which faces congressional scrutiny over its detention and interrogation of terror suspects at the Baghdad prison and elsewhere, declined to comment for this story, as did the Justice Department.

Al-Jamadi was one of the CIA's "ghost" detainees at Abu Ghraib prisoners being held secretly by the agency.

His death in November 2003 became public with the release of photos of Abu Ghraib guards giving a thumbs-up over his bruised and puffy-faced corpse, which had been packed in ice. One of those guards was Pvt. Charles Graner, who last month received 10 years in a military prison for abusing detainees.

Al-Jamadi died in a prison shower room during about a half-hour of questioning, before interrogators could extract any information, according to the documents, which consist of statements from Army prison guards to investigators with the military and the CIA's Inspector General's office.

One Army guard, Sgt. Jeffery Frost, said the prisoner's arms were stretched behind him in a way he had never before seen. Frost told investigators he was surprised al-Jamadi's arms "didn't pop out of their sockets," according to a summary of his interview.

Frost and other guards had been summoned to reposition al-Jamadi, who an interrogator said was not cooperating. As the guards released the shackles and lowered al-Jamadi, blood gushed from his mouth "as if a faucet had been turned on," according to the interview summary.

The military pathologist who ruled the case a homicide found several broken ribs and concluded al-Jamadi died from pressure to the chest and difficulty breathing.

Dr. Michael Baden, a distinguished civilian pathologist who reviewed the autopsy for a defense attorney in the case, agreed in an interview that the position in which al-Jamadi was suspended could have contributed to his death.

Dr. Vincent Iacopino, director of research for Physicians for Human Rights, called the hyper-extension of the arms behind the back "clear and simple torture." The European Court of Human Rights found Turkey guilty of torture in 1996 in a case of Palestinian hanging a technique Iacopino said is used worldwide but named for its alleged use by Israel in the Palestinian territories.

The Washington Post reported last year that after the Abu Ghraib scandal broke, the CIA suspended the use of its "enhanced interrogation techniques," including stress positions, because of fears that the agency could be accused of unsanctioned and illegal activity. The newspaper said the White House had approved the tactics.

Navy SEALs apprehended al-Jamadi as a suspect in the Oct. 27, 2003, bombing of Red Cross offices in Baghdad that killed 12 people. His alleged role in the bombing is unclear. According to court documents and testimony, the SEALs punched, kicked and struck al-Jamadi with their rifles before handing him over to the CIA early on Nov. 4. By 7 a.m., al-Jamadi was dead.

Navy prosecutors in San Diego have charged nine SEALs and one sailor with abusing al-Jamadi and others. All but two lieutenants have received nonjudicial punishment; one lieutenant is scheduled for court-martial in March, the other is awaiting a hearing before the Navy's top SEAL.

The statements from five of Abu Ghraib's Army guards were shown to The AP by an attorney for one of the SEALs, who said they offered a more balanced picture of what happened. The lawyer asked not to be identified, saying he feared repercussions for his client.

According to the statements:

Al-Jamadi was brought naked below the waist to the prison with a CIA interrogator and translator. A green plastic bag covered his head, and plastic cuffs tightly bound his wrists. Guards dressed al-Jamadi in an orange jumpsuit, slapped on metal handcuffs and escorted him to the shower room, a common CIA interrogation spot.

There, the interrogator instructed guards to attach shackles from the prisoner's handcuffs to a barred window. That would let al-Jamadi stand without pain, but if he tried to lower himself, his arms would be stretched above and behind him.

The documents do not make clear what happened after guards left. After about a half-hour, the interrogator called for the guards to reposition the prisoner, who was slouching with his arms stretched behind him.

The interrogator told guards that al-Jamadi was "playing possum" faking it and then watched as guards struggled to get him on his feet. But the guards realized it was useless.

"After we found out he was dead, they were nervous," Spc. Dennis E. Stevanus said of the CIA interrogator and translator. "They didn't know what the hell to do."

Copyright 2005 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Friday, February 18, 2005

ALBERTO GONZALES IS A PUNK

My firing line was published, cool.

The Daily Texan - Opinion
Issue: 2/18/05

Defend Stewart, civil rights

Most people agree that Lynne Stewart takes on controversial and unpopular clients. That is part of what makes her such an important symbol of our Constitutional rights - rights we are not supposed to deny to anyone, regardless of the government's accusations against them.

Yet, like other writers, Texan Columnist Becky Perry uses the facts surrounding a number of Stewart's clients to create a negative impression ("Lawyer exploits Constitution," Feb. 17).

Perry also mentions an agreement Stewart signed to abide by administrative prison rules. It is possible she violated those rules, in fact she was barred from the prison for several months and later allowed back in when this fact came to light. Such a violation does not carry a 35-year sentence.

Perry mentions a letter Stewart brought to her client in prison and a press release she dictated to Reuters in Egypt. At the time, Stewart was attempting to have her client extradited to Egypt and likely had a number of documents with her during her attorney-client visits.

She also wanted to keep his name in the news to facilitate her legitimate actions as an advocate for her client.

Somehow, from these scattered facts, Perry maintains that "Stewart jeopardized the security of the country that protects her Constitution." Right, and people who report police misconduct are really attacking the freedoms protected by law enforcement.

All of these alleged attempts to facilitate terrorism occurred two years before the government began its prosecution of Stewart - conveniently between the acts and the prosecution, the Bush administration came to power, the 9/11 tragedy occurred and the Patriot Act was made law.

Her conviction has nothing to do with protecting Americans and everything to do with a politically-driven attack on civil liberties.

Carlos Villarreal
UT Law Class of 2002
Executive director,
National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco Bay Area

Friday, February 11, 2005

MY STATEMENT AT THE WEST COAST PRESS CONFERENCE FOR LYNNE STEWART

This entire ordeal is about fear and the attack on all of our civil liberties.


The Bush administration, the Justice Department, and really a lot of politicians are benefiting greatly in the aftermath of 9/11 by exploiting and stoking American fears: fear of terrorism; fear of foreigners; fear of Islam; fear of the “evildoers,” as Bush likes to say. Neither skill nor facts helped the government more in their case against Lynne Stewart than fear.


But in the aftermath of the verdict there is indeed reason to fear, not the remote possibility of terrorism, but the real prospect of losing critical civil liberties in this country.


Everyone accused of a crime; everyone whom the government seeks to punish, imprison, and strip of freedom deserves not just a defense; not just a person with a law degree to sit next to them in court; but a vigorous defense – at least as vigorous as the state's prosecution. The state which often has nearly limitless resources. The state which, particularly in a case like the one Lynne was involved in, is always well-funded and certainly vigorous if not underhanded.

Lynne is a highly competent and energetic attorney who defended, and will continue to defend, clients who the government would like to put away without the formality of a fair trial. That is why they went after her, and that is why they want to lock her up. I am very hopeful that it won't ever happen. We shouldn't forget, however, that throughout history people have been imprisoned in this country numerous times for simply doing the right thing; whether Eugene Debs or Martin Luther King Jr.

Lynne Stewart has been a proud member of the National Lawyers Guild and we are proud to have her as a member. The Guild is thousands of lawyers, law students and legal workers active in the courts and in the streets throughout this country. We will redouble our efforts to overturn this verdict, in part to help Lynne Stewart, but also for the sake of thousands of attorneys and their accused clients, and millions of others who are on the verge of losing liberties essential to a fair and just society.

Tuesday, February 08, 2005

PRIORITIES

There is something wrong in my country when our President proposes a trillion dollar budget slashing social programs, while we spend billions to fight a war over WMD, no wait, I meant over a democratic Iraq. Evidence appears weekly that our soldiers and our allies' soldiers have engaged in torture and Nazi-like behavior that is so systematic it was clearly an idea that came down the chain of command. Domestically I was just reading that half of bankruptcies in the U.S. are caused by medical problems - a sudden illness, an injury requiring surgery. In a rational nation, such personal crises would be helped by universal health coverage. But who could propose such an expensive project when we have a war in Iran to plan?

Now this is what I'm thinking about, but this is not what I hear about in the news. Instead, I wake up to the urgent report that some Virginia legislator wants to outlaw the practice of low-hanging pants and jeans. The weekend was full of news and analysis about the family oriented half-time show and commercial advertisements at this year's Superbowl. The Patriots won, but thankfully millions of viewers were not exposed to a female breast. Instead viewers were forced to look at big, painted man-boobies. I actually didn't watch the Superbowl, but I know large men often attend NFL games with their bodies painted.

The bottom line is that our priorities, or at least the priorities of our legislators and our media, are all backwards. We should all be less concerned about the exposed human body, and more concerned about the body bags piling up in Iraq.

Sunday, February 06, 2005

EVIL



Interpol my be my favorite band at the moment. Check out their video for Evil. It's bizarre.

Saturday, February 05, 2005

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Here's a press release (not my creation) about an upcoming law school protest:

Queer Law Students Want to Kick the Military Off Campus

Queer law student groups from UC Berkeley, Golden Gate University, UC Hastings, New College, Santa Clara and the University of San Francisco, terming themselves the Coalition of Queer Law Student Associations (CQLSA), are protesting the military recruitment at the 21st Annual Northern California Public Interest/Public Sector (PI/PS) Legal Careers Day. The event, an all-day career fair for public interest oriented law students hosted by the Public Interest Clearinghouse and nine Northern California law schools, is scheduled for Saturday, February 12th at UC Hasting College of the Law. The protest challenges the decision of organizers of PI/PS day to allow the military to recruit at the event despite the Third Circuit Court of Appeals recent ruling in Fair v. Rumsfeld.

Fair v. Rumsfeld challenged the Solomon Amendment, a federal statute that punishes Universities with a loss of federal grants and contracts if they exclude military recruiters from their campuses. Law schools have had in existence anti-discrimination policies which prohibit recruitment of students on campus by employers who discriminate on the basis of race, gender, disability or sexual orientation. Law schools have sought consistently to enforce this policy against the military which discriminates against lesbians, gays, bisexuals and transgender (LGBT) individuals in military service.

In November 2004, the Third Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the Solomon Amendment is unconstitutional because it violates the First Amendment. Specifically, based on the preliminary injunction record before it, the court held that it was unconstitutional for Congress to command that schools affirmatively assist military recruiters, or even to require schools to allow the military on campus to recruit. The Court ruled that the Solomon Amendment violates both a school’s right of expressive association and its right to be free from compelled speech under the First Amendment. The penalty, the loss of all federal money across the board, the Court said, is analyzed for First Amendment purposes as if it were a command. The case was sent back to the District Court with instructions to issue the requested injunction against the Solomon Amendment pending outcome of the case. The government has said that it will appeal the Third Circuit’s ruling to the U.S. Supreme Court.

The lawsuit challenging the Solomon Amendment was brought by the SALT, an association of 900 law professors, and FAIR, an association of 26 law schools and their faculties, whose state mission is to promote academic freedom and to support educational institutions as opposing discrimination. Incorporated in New Jersey in September 2003, FAIR was conceived by Kent Greenfield, a professor at Boston College of the Law, and originally formed to fill a vacuum created by the AALS’s refusal on institutional grounds to litigate against the Solomon Amendment. 18 law school faculties and 8 law schools as institutions have signed onto and participated in the recent suit against the Secretary of Defense, the Secretary of Education and others.

The Bay Area queer law student groups comprising CQLSA are protesting the decision of organizers of PI/PS Day to allow military recruiters at an event specifically designed for public interest and social justice minded law students. CQLSA claims that this decision makes the organizers complicit with the policies of the military which unjustly degrade members of the queer community and sacrifices the integrity of the law schools participating in PI/PS Day. Two law schools taking part in the protest, Golden Gate University and University of San Francisco, were also part of the Fair v. Rumsfeld suit.

The protest will be held between 10:00 a.m. and 12:00 p.m. at UC Hastings College of the Law on February 12, 205. Members of all local queer law student groups will participate. CQLSA is also forming a joint action plan to eliminate military recruitment at PI/PS Day and are garnering statements of support for their efforts from local bar associations, LGBT organizations and public interest law firms.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

OUR NEW ATTORNEY GENERAL

Gonzales was confirmed today. I worked with Professor Carlos Munoz, Jr. from Berkeley on the piece below. His folks were working on getting it published, but I'm not sure that it ever was.

Alberto Gonzales would be poor role model for Latinos
By Carlos Villarreal and Carlos Munoz (tilde over n) Jr.

Ethnic pride should not overwhelm the commitment of Latinos to human rights. But in the case of the nomination of Alberto Gonzales for U.S. Attorney General, it is doing just that.

The National Council of La Raza (NCLR), the largest national Latino civil rights and advocacy organization in the United States, has followed the lead of the League of United Latin American Citizens (LULAC) in endorsing Gonzales. The two organizations have rationalized their decision on the basis that Gonzales is a compelling American success story. They seem to believe that it's more important to have Gonzalez become the first Latino in history to hold the position of attorney general than to oppose torture.

We strongly disagree with the NCLR and LULAC organizations. Gonzales' confirmation will be tragic because of his ethnicity. As strong proponents of human and civil rights, we believe he would be a poor role model for Latinos and a truly dangerous influence.

Supporters of Gonzales have made much of his humble beginnings. He grew up poor, his parents were migrant farm workers. His success is, in part, the result of hard work and intelligence.

For some, that puts him in the pantheon of Latino role models along with Delores Huerta or Cesar Chavez. But Huerta and Chavez didn't move past their humble beginnings to serve Bushes, Cheneys and Enrons.

Formerly a public school teacher, Huerta returned to the fields and began teaching the workers to read and write.

Chavez left a well-paying job to help build a farm-workers union and lead a boycott of California table grapes. He did not parlay his success in leading his union to victory in the agricultural fields of California into an upwardly mobile career in government.

President Johnson wanted Chavez to serve as his Secretary of Labor. He would have become the first Latino to serve in that capacity, but he turned it down to continue to serve the most oppressed workers in the nation.

Gonzales, on the other hand, has moved beyond his modest beginnings to counsel Bush the governor about imposing the death penalty and to act as a cheerleader for the Bush presidency, which is hostile to human rights and that does the bidding of corporate interests. He may have grown up in poverty but now, as he said to a graduating class at Rice University, he can enjoy "steak dinners or rides on Air Force One or weekends at Camp David."

His supporters have worked hard to explain away the torture memos, but his opinion on the subject of torture may have played some role in the conduct of soldiers at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay.

Thanks to Freedom of Information Act requests by the American Civil Liberties Union, we are learning about some of the abuses occurring at these detainment camps. Some of the documents describe seeing prisoners left for 18 to 24 hours without food or water, chained hand and foot in the fetal position. Soldiers shocked some prisoners with electricity, put out lit cigarettes in their ears, urinated on them or sodomized them. Remember these inmates have never been convicted of anything.

Some emails from the FBI made reference to an executive order, which would mean one that came from Bush, presumably with Gonzales' advice laying the groundwork.

Gonzales has hedged his answers to a number of simple questions, including whether water-boarding -- a torture technique where the victim is made to believe he will drown -- should be banned. We would prefer our next attorney general or any future Supreme Court justice to answer no to this question -- and to do so quickly and without hesitation.

Against the odds, Gonzales' confirmation as attorney general has been delayed longer than expected. Still most politicians and pundits say his confirmation is likely. But that should not make him a role model for the Latino community. For those of us who care about human and civil rights for all people, he is more a villain than a hero.

Carlos Villareal is the Executive Director of the National Lawyers Guild. Carlos Munoz Jr. is an award-winning author, LONG TIME HUMAN RIGHTS ACTIVIST, and professor Emeritus at the University of California, Berkeley.

© Carlos Villareal and Carlos Munoz Jr.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

SIXTY-FIVE DEGREES AND SUNNY
Mission & 24th
How is winter going where you are?