Monday, December 29, 2008

Saturday, December 27, 2008

New York Times Pro-Israel Bias on Display Again

Israel began a bombing campaign against the people of Gaza, which they will always describe publicly as a campaign against Hamas. Keep in mind that the borders of Gaza, the flow of good in and out, the movement of people in and out, the air space, and the shore, are all completely controlled by Israel. Recognize that Israel enters Gaza at will, sometimes with boots on the ground, often with sophisticated aircraft. Gaza includes many people who were (or whose parents or grandparents were) forced out of their homes during the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and the creation of the state of Israel. Israel is the most powerful nation-state with the most powerful military in the region while Gaza is one of the most impoverished (largely because of Israel's actions) regions. Yet here is the photo on the New York Times homepage:

NYThomepage

Over 200 people killed in Gaza but the people in Israel are featured on the Times site. The story goes like this: Hamas wants to destroy Israel and they keep sending bombs into southern Israel terrorizing innocent people. Isreal, the innocent victim, has no choice but to take action. So Americans are shown images like this because we should sympathize with the Israelis not the Palestinians. It is emphasized in the subheadline that the attack is a response to the rocket attacks from Gaza - it is a fact that is worthy of headline status - not even up for debate. When the rocket attacks are reported, they are never described as a response to anything - not a response to missile strikes or to a blockade that is starving innocent children, just crazy, anti-Semitic terrorists who want to destroy Israel.

The Times reports: "A military operation had been forecast and demanded by Israeli officials for weeks, ever since a rocky cease-fire between Israel and Hamas fully collapsed a week ago, leading again to rocket attacks in large numbers against Israel and isolated Israeli operations here." But "rocket attacks in large numbers" are fairly meaningless when most if not all fall harmlessly in the desert because of their crude nature; on the other hand, "isolated Israeli operations" are very significant when carried out be a regional superpower with fighter jets, missiles and bombs (often paid for by American tax dollars). But the message Americans are given is of Israeli restraint and hysterical, diabolical actions by Palestinians.

This cannot end well for Gaza, but I'm hopeful Israel will not get everything it wants out of this operation.

Friday, December 05, 2008

Why Won't UC Berkeley Investigate John Yoo?

The National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter, the organization I work for, has asked the University of California to "initiate an investigation into whether Professor Yoo’s 'outside professional conduct,' as an attorney of the U.S. Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel, violated the Faculty Code of Conduct as set out in the University of California Academic Personnel Manual (Section 015)." The University, through a statement written by Law School Dean Edley, a letter written by Chancellor Birgeneau, and a statement by a University spokesperson, has refused to do so misstating University regulations and the need for a criminal conviction (and possibly even jail time) before they can move forward with any sort of disciplinary action. Such a policy would be illogical; which is probably why it really is not the policy at all.

As our letter to the University points out, the UC Academic Personnel Manual’s Faculty Code of Conduct "specifically identifies outside professional conduct that can lead to formal investigation. While it includes violations of the law resulting in convictions, the list of unacceptable faculty conduct it enumerates is specifically noted as 'not exhaustive.'" So there is no need to wait for a criminal conviction before the University takes action.

It would be bad policy for a University to have to wait for a conviction, particularly when the bad acts are as serious as those committed by Yoo. What if President Bush were to issue a preemptive pardon to Yoo and others for any wrongdoing associated with interrogation policies during his administration? The University ought to be able to investigate wrongdoing even if a conviction is blocked by a President.

Try a simpler example: what if a professor were cleared in a criminal court but found culpable in a civil court and ordered to pay millions to his victims? A University should not have to ignore a civil court ruling simply because the professor was not "convicted of a crime and sent to jail."

On the other hand, if it were true that a conviction and perhaps even jail time were necessary precursors to any sort of academic investigation, then relatively minor acts, such as possession of marijuana, would be sufficient to trigger an investigation as long as there was a conviction, even as war criminals remain safe. Even worse, a professor arrested for nonviolent, civil disobedience, such as blocking the gates at San Quentin to oppose the death penalty, would be fair game for the University administration.

There may be another reason to defer to a court of law, whether civil or criminal, before taking action against a professor. Courts are better suited to gather evidence, present both sides, subpoena witnesses, and utilize other tools that a University does not have. A former professor of mine at the University of Texas School of Law, Brian Leiter, made an argument like this on a radio debate with a colleague of mine, Attorney Sharon Adams. The argument may apply in certain circumstances, such as if a lone accuser were to approach administrators with a claim about a faculty member believed to be the perpetrator in a hit-and-run. Such a charge should probably be tested in a court of law before University officials begin to hire private investigators and collect photos of the crime scene. But in this instance there is a growing body of evidence in the public domain - from the actual memoranda Yoo authored, to his Congressional testimony.

While the investigation and hearing may still not be as thorough as one in a court of law, the potential consequences are far less. Hundreds of thousands of people are in prisons in the United States for actions that did not cause nearly the level of harm that John Yoo and his co-conspirators caused. I have no doubt that many of those in prison are completely innocent. As thorough and fair as our courts ought to be, they remain incredibly flawed and unfair, particularly to poor people and people of color. But in theory, the more serious the consequences, the more safeguards are provided and the more tools are given to courts. Simply disciplining a professor who, as ample evidence demonstrates, provided legal cover for some of the worst crimes of the Bush administration, ought to involve a certain level of due process, but all of the tools of the criminal or even civil courts are not necessary.

There is more of a need for Yoo's employer to take action since it does not appear that any action is going to be taken to hold the architects of torture from the Bush administration accountable at the federal level, at least not without significant pressure from below. While the Obama administration may make some positive changes in policy, there are indications they do not want to use the Justice Department to prosecute. Unfortunately, policy changes can be changed again under future administrations, and unless the individuals who broke the law and committed these bad acts are brought to justice there is little to deter future administrations from re-adopting torture as acceptable practice.

There are other bodies that can take action to begin to build pressure from below and hold people like Yoo accountable. The City of Berkeley will consider on Monday whether it should pass a resolution that, among other things, would officially support our letter to the Chancellor calling for an investigation of Yoo. The University shouldn't require all this pressure; UC officials have a duty to investigate and discipline Professor Yoo and the notion that their hands are tied is at best a misinterpretation of policy and at worst a lie.

Monday, October 13, 2008

If you look up "ruling class" in the dictionary ...



From the Associated Press: "House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, left, talking with Treasury Secretary Henry M. Paulson Jr. after a dinner at the White House Monday."

Friday, October 10, 2008

Why Is Everyone on the Floor of the Stock Exchange White and Male?

Here's what I've been seeing everyday that the stock market continues to tank - white men who look stressed out and worried ...



Reuters even has a slideshow with pictures from markets all over the world, with a few exceptions, all white men ...











Here's a woman in Frankfurt who seems less stressed out but still not too pleased ...

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

More Thoughts on a Disappointing Candidate

I might disappoint some of my friends by saying that I would probably vote for Obama if I lived in a swing state - even though 4 years ago I vowed I would never vote for John Kerry no matter what. Since I've never lived in a swing state, it has never been a big issue for me. I moved from Red Texas to Blue California and I've discovered that wherever either party has a stronghold, there is a similar frustration - politicians aren't scared of voters; so democracy is at a disadvantage. Indeed that is the analysis even some in the corporate media are applying to yesterday's bipartisan vote against the Wall Street bailout bill: click here for the analysis on incumbents facing re-election and here for the Wall Street money analysis. The fact that we are close to an election where "the people" actually matter a bit more than big money - if for only a few days - probably has a lot to do with why our government is already squeezing taxpayers for billions to boost rich speculators and investment banks.

Still, I think McCain and Palin are far too dangerous a pair to have running the most powerful country in the world - really running the world. Yes I'm coming out as a lesser evil proponent - it has always been a matter of degree; I just finally think the line has been crossed.

But again, I live in California - a state that McCain is very unlikely to win in November and a state where, I believe, it is more important to send a message to the Democrats in November than to boost Obama's winning score.

The message I want to send is that I do not support much of what the big "D" Democrats stand for. Just two examples - untempered support for Israel and support for this Wall Street bailout. Obama is taking an awful stand on both of these issues despite the fact that the American people disagree with him and he probably would be perfectly safe agreeing with them.

Israel

Whereas Obama - the alleged liberal Democrat - spoke before the right-wing American Israel Public Affairs Committee earlier this year to say "Jerusalem will remain the capital of Israel, and it must remain undivided." The present Prime Minister (recently resigned but still in power) of Israel has said he believes Jerusalem should be divided between and Israeli and Palestinian state. According to Time Magazine: "Olmert says Israel should withdraw from 'almost all' of the West Bank and Golan Heights. A former mayor of 'the undivided capital of the Jewish state,' he now advocates dividing Jerusalem with the Palestinians. He wants to keep some of the Jewish settlements that adjoin Israel's pre-1967 border but accepts giving the future Palestinian state Israeli territory in a land swap with a 'close to 1-to-1-ratio.' 'The notion of a Greater Israel no longer exists,' Olmert says, 'and anyone who still believes in it is deluding themselves.'" Not a great position, but a huge step forward under the circumstances - and far more progressive than Obama's stated position.


Wall Street Bailout


Here's what Obama said about a plan pitched by the wildly unpopular Bush and his wildly unpopular counterpart the U.S. Congress: "To the Democrats and Republicans who opposed this plan yesterday, I say: Step up to the plate and do what's right for this country ... And to all Americans, I say this: If I am president of the United States, this rescue plan will not be the end of what we do to strengthen this economy. It will only be the beginning." He went on to say, "There will be time to punish those who set this fire, but now is the moment for us to come together and put the fire out."

It is the same line being pushed by Mr. Bush when he says, "I also understand the frustration of responsible Americans who pay their mortgages on time, file their tax returns every April 15th, and are reluctant to pay the cost of excesses on Wall Street. But given the situation we are facing, not passing a bill now would cost these Americans much more later." Regardless of what you think of Mr. Bush or Senator Obama, they seem to agree on this critical matter almost completely. Basically Wall Street made a lot of mistakes, but if we don't bail these banks out to the tune of $700 billion in tax payer dollars, we ordinary Americans are going to suffer; It sucks but we have no choice.

Nonsense.

Hundreds of billions of dollars could go a long way in helping ordinary Americans without fattening the wallets of the speculators and big bank execs. Obama could set himself apart from the Pelosis and Reids in Congress - again leaders of a very unpopular Congress - but instead he seems to be following their lead. He is a cautious fearmonger, but a fearmonger nonetheless. He is providing no leadership on this - not even bad leadership since he is following the bad leadership of Pelosi and other Democratic politicians. He should be providing good leadership - calling for a moratorium on foreclosures and hundreds of billions for ordinary Americans not the super-rich gamblers who created this mess. But alas - he is stepping up the cheerleading to the silence of the liberals and even progressives who will do anything to see him elected. It is appalling.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Why I'm Celebrating the Defeat of the Wall Street Bailout Today

A financial crisis always hurts poor people and people like me who have a negative net worth (why can't Congress bail me out and pay my student loans?) more than it hurts the ruling class. And there may be that rare elitist or anarchist who wants to see the economy come crashing down because they either don't really have as much to lose or they see it as an opportunity. But that's not me. I'm celebrating because the bill represented the worst of big-money's influence over our democracy: A weak Republican President and a Treasury Secretary who has largely benefited from the schemes that are now bringing down our economy were pressuring Congress and the American people to give them hundreds of billions of dollars - some coming directly out of my indebted pockets - so that a few banks wouldn't go under.

So if the banks go under won't we all suffer? Possibly. However, there was no guarantee that we wouldn't have suffered under the bailout - in fact some economists believed we might suffer even more. AND we can and should still demand that Congress does inject some money into the economy. That money should just go directly to the people who need it - tenants who can't afford to pay rising rents; professionals who are still paying off student loans despite having decent-paying jobs; people who are having trouble paying off their mortgages; the people who lost homes in recent hurricanes; veterans who can't pay their medical bills; and on and on. All of these problems wouldn't disappear if the bailout bill was passed, and they might be exacerbated since tax dollars that could have provided relief might disappear as we discover that the investments that we are bailing out are worth almost nothing and $700 billion disappears into thin air (and perhaps a few of the fattest bank accounts).

I'm also celebrating because of the role in all of this played by some of the worst Democrats. As a progressive I certainly side with the Democrats more than Republicans, but critical moments like this remind me that almost all of them (the one's in Washington not the rank and file folks like my grandmother) are part of the same awful political system benefiting from the worst policies and practices in our system. Nancy Pelosi, Harry Reid and Barney Frank were cheerleading and fearmongering more than any Republicans, outside of perhaps the White House. Their loss today is a setback to some of the most undemocratic Democrats; and they deserve it.

It was troubling to see the stock market fall over 700 points, but the economy is based on material circumstances on the ground. Either we have resources that will make our economy strong or we do not. They aren't pulled out of thin air on a broker's computer. It was no surprise that the market would plummet - it is dominated by the same forces who wanted this bill to pass. Sure a lot of Americans have small amounts in the market - in 401k's mostly - but most of the stocks on Wall Street are owned by a minority of Americans - the very rich who were more likely to benefit if the bill had passed.

With hundreds of billions of dollars at its disposal for investment bank bailouts and pointless wars, the federal government doesn't have to allow a crisis at the top to affect most Americans. But without demands from most of us, Congress still will pass some bad legislation that will probably result in a short-term Wall Street rally but ultimately do very little good for you or me.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Fuck Fox News

The perfect response to a juvenile question from a wacko Fox News correspondent who asks, "Do you believe in free speech?"



What is going on in the right wing brain here? If you believe in free speech, then you are required to talk to a reporter working for a multi-million dollar corporate media propaganda machine? Or perhaps he was asking the question in anticipation that people would try to cover up his camera or strip away his microphone. In fact most people just tried to ignore him, and when they actually responded, most did so brilliantly: Fuck Fox News! Of course, they couldn't continue to air that, lest the government and their commercial sponsors get upset.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Morrissey Graffiti in Oakland


Morrissey graffiti, originally uploaded by c.hamamoto.

I see this when I'm on BART heading into Oakland. On the opposite fence there is The Cure graffiti. It's hip to be square.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Conyers to Yoo: Could the President Order a Suspect Buried Alive?



That is a really tough question. Hmmm. Maybe as long as he's not a Democrat.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

AP Frames Israeli Palestinian Conflict

I read this on MSNBC: GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip - Gaza's Hamas rulers on Tuesday said they have reached a long-awaited cease-fire with Israel meant to end months of Palestinian assaults on Israeli border towns and bruising Israeli retaliation.

So Israel strikes Gaza in retaliation for Palestinian assaults. That presumes Israel is simply acting in a defensive measure when its military fires missiles into Palestinian homes, stops the movement of food, medical supplies, and people into and out of Gaza, cuts off utilities into Gaza, imprisons Palestinians based on only accusations, turns Gaza into a giant outdoor prison and terrorizes the entire community there - children and seniors included.

And Hamas sends crude rockets into Israel because? Well it must be insanity or perhaps antisemitism. Why else would they continue their assaults that bring such horrible retaliation?

In reality, of course, this is an awful and biased article. It casts Israel as innocent and merely defending itself, when Israel is an aggressor that is occupying Palestinian territory and killing thousands of innocent Palestinians. The article mentions a missile attack that hits a car and "killing the five militants inside." The article doesn't mention how it was confirmed that "militants" were in the car, no doubt this is simply what the Israeli Defense Forces told the reporter.

The article finally gives these two sides: Israel wants the rocket attacks to stop, an end to Hamas' weapons build up, and the release of a single Israeli soldier held by Hamas. Hamas wants an end to Israeli "military activity" in Gaza and lifting of the blockade on Gaza.

The article doesn't mention the 350 Palestinian prisoners that Hamas wants Israel to release, and it doesn't elaborate on the "military activity" that has been far more deadly than Hamas' rocket attacks. And naturally it says nothing of the occupation, the taking of Palestinian land by force, or the racist and humiliating nature of that occupation. It also frames the two sides as somewhat equal, or at least it never mentions that Gaza is a battered and starved 3rd World strip of land, completely surrounded and controlled by the most powerful nation-state in the region - a nuclear power backed by the United States.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Monday, June 09, 2008

Texas Governor's Mansion Burns



Arson is suspected. I always liked that building - particularly because it was easy to protest. The entire property was on a small city block, which allowed for classic "surround the mansion" protests. I never liked the people who lived there.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Two-Party Leap Frog

After winning the Democratic primary with a message of "change" and appealing to the anti-war majority in the U.S., Obama speaks to AIPAC talking tough on Syria, Iran, and Hamas - out of line with most Americans and even most Israelis who, among other things, want their government to negotiate with Hamas. The passion in his voice is reminiscent of MLK, except the text reads more like Bill Clinton or even George Bush, as he declares that Jerusalem should be undivided and the capital of Israel. This notion is very controversial in the world and many so-called "moderate" Palestinians see East Jerusalem as a future capital to a Palestinian state.

It is a sharp turn to the right - at least on this issue - but at least he's not John McCain. True, but he certainly plays the role that Democrats have played well since JFK. Speak to the left and move to the right. The Republicans can't have the Dems out maneuver them, so they move even further - where they're most comfortable anyway. And thus McCain now says the U.S. should move its Israeli embassy to Jerusalem (it has been in Tel Aviv). Where does this leave the illegitimate Palestinian authority? Perhaps they can negotiate for a sliver of desert near the Dead Sea. That is unless the two-party power structure in the U.S. decides that can be sacrificed as well.

This little example of Democrats speaking to the progressive mood of the country and moving right, thus pushing Washington as a whole right-ward, reminds me so much of Bill Clinton, it isn't even funny. While watching Obama give his speech to AIPAC, my heart sank. It reminded me of watching Bill Clinton give his State of the Union address calling for "smaller government" to the loud cheers of Republicans.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Now That It Is Obama Versus McCain

Obama reasserts his hawkish side to AIPAC:

"I'll do everything in my power to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. Everything"

According to Haaretz: Turning to the contentious issue of Jerusalem, Obama said that the city must remain the capital of Israel and undivided.

"I will always leave the threat of military action on the table to defend our security, and that of our ally Israel."

On his lapel he wore an American flag pin - actually an American-Israeli flag pin.

Although I still lean toward the notion that his Democratic nomination victory is an overall positive, this AIPAC speech and his recent, and unecessary, resignation from his church, along with other rightward trends, worry me.

I can definitely see this guy attacking Iran and liberals standing behind him or staying quiet because "we can't criticize him lest we bolster the Republicans; wait until after the mid-term elections," or if the attack were to come after the mid-terms, "wait until after the next presidential election."

Now if Clinton gets the VP nod, will an Obama victory in November be more bitter than sweet?

Monday, May 19, 2008

Al Jazeera's Take on Racism in the Presidential Election



My questions are:

Has the American corporate media reported on racism among white voters in this way?

AND

What did the God-fearing folk featured in this video say when the reporter told them he was with Al Jazeera?

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Justice Department Lawyers: Our Interpretation of the Geneva Conventions Allows for Torture


According to the New York Times
, "While the Geneva Conventions prohibit 'outrages upon personal dignity,' a letter sent by the Justice Department to Congress on March 5 makes clear that the administration has not drawn a precise line in deciding which interrogation methods would violate that standard, and is reserving the right to make case-by-case judgments."

The idea, according to these infamous attorneys, is that conduct that is "outrageous" should be interpreted in light of the threat. If an interrogator is trying to thwart a terrorist attack it should be judged accordingly.

In the letter, deputy assistant attorney general Brian A. Benczkowski writes, "The fact that an act is undertaken to prevent a threatened terrorist attack, rather than for the purpose of humiliation or abuse, would be relevant to a reasonable observer in measuring the outrageousness of the act."

This logic is absurd. These illegal acts, particularly as part of interrogation, are always used to try and find out some information that may thwart some sort of attack or at least help the interrogator's side win, not simply to humiliate or abuse (although that may be a big side benefit for the sickos at the CIA). Didn't Japanese prisoners in the 1940's potentially have information about future attacks? It wouldn't have been outrageous, then, to electrocute their genitals to help protect the Homeland would it?

The liberal media, NYTimes, goes on to state, "Determining the legal boundaries for interrogating terrorism suspects has been a struggle for the Bush administration." They have indeed struggled, not unlike the struggles that foreign suspects, often completely innocent, have gone through when they are suffocated, stripped naked, and kicked on a concrete floor. I can see those Justice Department lawyers sitting in their suits and ties struggling to work all this out with the Bush Administration. Poor guys.

It is no surprise that this logic is seeping into the loosening bounds on law enforcement in this country. Why should police be forced to "knock and announce" if they are really trying to protect the community from some imminent threat?

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

War Crimes Start at the Top
Professor John Yoo Should be Dismissed From Boalt Law School-And Prosecuted
at Counterpunch and Dissident Voice

By CARLOS VILLARREAL

War crimes start at the top. The torture and deaths at Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo; the humiliation of Iraqi and Afghani detainees in the field; extraordinary rendition; the indiscriminate killing by rifles and cluster bombs; these are becoming the new norms of war for which the leaders in the United States are responsible. And as with the war crimes of the past, the spilling of blood began with the spilling of ink. The most culpable are not the young foot soldiers in fatigues holding a naked prisoner with a dog leash; they are the men and women in suits who craft the policies.

John Yoo is one of those men in suits, and it is disgraceful that he is paid by the people of California to shape the law and young minds at one of our most distinguished law schools. As an organization, the National Lawyers Guild released a press release in April stating that Yoo ought to be tried as a war criminal and dismissed by the University of California Berkeley - Boalt Hall, where he is currently a law professor.

Academic freedom is a serious issue and must be addressed in this debate. We've all seen how universities have used tenure and other means to fire and at least attempt to silence leftist academics. But just because University officials have a bad track record when it comes to hiring, firing and promoting professors, doesn't mean we shouldn't push them to do the right thing when the circumstances call for it. In this case, we should acknowledge that the University ought to provide due process, despite the fact that victims of Yoo's legal framework lacked such protection. However, we should urge University officials to move forward with the normal proceedings for dismissing a professor, taking into consideration the seriousness of the harm caused and the power Yoo had in crafting his memoranda.

According to Dean Christopher Edley, neither the harm caused nor the power and responsibility a professor wields constitute the test for taking action against Yoo. As Edley wrote on the Boalt website: "As a legal matter, the test here is the relevant excerpt from the 'General University Policy Regarding Academic Appointees', adopted for the 10-campus University of California by both the system-wide Academic Senate and the Board of Regents: Types of unacceptable conduct: … Commission of a criminal act which has led to conviction in a court of law and which clearly demonstrates unfitness to continue as a member of the faculty."

In this case Yoo clearly violated the second part of the standard put forth by Edley, but he has yet to be convicted of a crime by any court of law. It shouldn't matter. The same Personnel Manual Edley sites states that "Other types of serious misconduct, not specifically enumerated herein, may nonetheless be the basis for disciplinary action ..." It also specifically states as a reason for discipline: "Serious violation of University policies governing the professional conduct of faculty, including but not limited to policies applying to research, outside professional activities, conflicts of commitment, clinical practices, violence in the workplace, and whistleblower protections."

There are a lot of facts for Boalt Hall to consider in the course of a fair hearing. His memoranda and other evidence have been presented in the public domain, and Yoo has not distanced himself from any of it. Hopefully a court of law will eventually come to the conclusion that he (and Rumsfeld, Gonzalez, Bush, Cheney, et.al.) is guilty of a crime, but it isn't clear that the right-leaning justice system in this country will take action without a great deal of pressure, if at all. Regardless, the law is pretty clear about how such prisoners should be treated. More importantly, the fact that Yoo ignored important and universal moral principles in the substance of his memoranda, and the very decision to submit his memoranda knowing what the consequences would be, is shocking. If the University of California discovered that a UCSF medical professor had knowingly contributed to illegal research that harmed human subjects, would they allow her to continue teaching? I sincerely hope not, and depending on the facts, I would urge them to take some sort of action, even if this hypothetical professor had yet to be prosecuted or convicted of any crime.

Boalt ought to also consider the power and responsibility Yoo had when he wrote his memoranda. He wasn't writing an opinion for a small business or county government. He was writing for the most powerful military and most powerful regime on the planet as they engaged in a global war; and he was writing about prisoners who were already captured and fully secured.

The other very live question that lawyers and legal scholars are asking is whether attorneys should face criminal consequences for their purely professional conduct. But this presumes that the issue is merely one of bad or faulty legal advice or that the act is one that falls fully within Yoo's professional conduct. In this case the analogy is more like a lawyer advising his client that committing assault is perfectly legal, where assaulting someone is both illegal and immoral, and the attorney is really just trying to push the limits of the law to provide cover for his client's beating up someone.

There is precedent for criminal liability against attorneys in circumstances not unlike the Yoo case. Philippe Sands, among others, has recently revisited the Nuremberg case of United States v. Altstoetter in a scathing two-part story in Vanity Fair called "The Green Light." Sands writes that the case "had been prosecuted by the Allies to establish the principle that lawyers and judges in the Nazi regime bore a particular responsibility for the regime's crimes." The principal defendant in that case was imprisoned for five years, primarily for performing as an attorney - giving legal advice (or more accurately legal cover) for the "disappearing" of political opponents of the Nazi regime.

John Yoo created a legal framework that would allow torture; and just like the lawyerly work that led to convictions in Altstoetter, it wasn't done as a purely academic or philosophical exercise. He created this framework to enable torturers; to give cover and help set in motion policies that would directly lead to the pain, suffering and death of prisoners held by the United States against accepted international law. This is why Yoo ought to be dismissed by Boalt, disbarred, and prosecuted for war crimes.

Friday, April 18, 2008

I Ride My New Bike 5.6 Miles to Work

P4070042Not every day, but at least a couple of times a week. Coming back has more uphill parts, so its harder. But I travel over 11 miles a day by bike when I bike to work. I figured it out using this website.

Remarkably, and surprisingly to me, when I go running to and through Golden Gate Park and back, I run over 5.8 miles. That's still not even 1/5 of a marathon though.

Sunday, April 06, 2008

Absolut Ad Stirs Controversy With People Who Prefer Moonshine



Read more from the LA Times.

Here's one comment that appears reasonable: "An ad that redraws borders based on some nationalistic fantasy is inappropriate. And no, it doesn't matter that the ad only ran in Mexico. What if Absolut ran an ad in the Deep South showing 'an Absolut World' with the Confederate States of America? Some Southerners still fantasize about that, but it wouldn't make the ad acceptable. Or how about running an ad in Miami showing Cuba as the 51st state? People in Havana would have every right to be offended. I object when our government doesn't respect national sovereignty, and I expect people in other nations to do likewise."

OK but the Confederacy existed to protect slavery - so of course celebrating that is offensive; and Cuba as the 51st state would be glorifying imperialism - regardless of what you think about the Cuban revolution, what would give the U.S. the right to conquer Cuba and make it our 51st state? This ad is not offensive because it is simply playing to a feeling among Mexicans that this land was unfairly taken from them by force, which it absolutely was during the Mexican-American War (talk about disrespect for national sovereignty).

This ad is pretty harmless and the more dangerous "nationalistic" attitude is coming from the Americans who are offended by a vodka advertisement that disrespects the old idea of manifest destiny and our brutal conquering of the American Southwest. How dare they!

Friday, March 28, 2008

Monday, March 24, 2008

Thinking Of Joining the Army? Check Out This Website First

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

ING Direct CEO Sends Members Uninspired Dribble

Here's the email I got:

I am happy to report that ING DIRECT's 2007 financial results are complete. Your confidence in us helped us deliver a record number of new savers, deposits and home mortgage loans. Further, we acquired ShareBuilder so we could offer you a low cost way to invest in stocks and ETFs. I'm proud of our first 7 years, but there's work to be done ...

Further? Should I not be excited about ShareBuilder? Sell it man! Don't you hire someone to write this stuff for you? If not then why do you send them to us?

The fact that ING DIRECT was not adversely affected [by the subprime mortgage market crisis] is a testament to our operating philosophy that, as Americans, we should only buy houses we can afford. That way we can keep them for years to come. We believe a mortgage is a contract that both parties should execute in good faith and expect to see through to its conclusion. We will not waver from our sworn promise to provide you with great value, service and convenience.

As Americans? What about Italians? Japanese? What if housing isn't affordable? Aren't the risks working families take to put a roof over their heads worthy of far less condemnation than the risks taken by big banks and financiers to get even more exceedingly wealthy by offering people "easy money"?

To whom did you swear? I'll look back at the original contract I clicked "Yes I agree" to.

Thank you for your continued trust in us. Stay tuned in 2008 for new ideas we'll offer to help you save your money.

Arkadi Kuhlmann
The CEO of Saving


I don't really trust you Arkadi; I just put some money in your online account because I wanted a higher interest rate (which incidentally keeps going down lately). I have an idea for helping me save my money: don't spend time or money sending out these messages. They are pointless and cause me to waste time on my blog.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

TERROR STRIKES NEW YORK CITY!

A bomb exploded outside of a New York City military recruiting station and police are looking for a man on a bike (although it is possible that he is not on a bike right at the moment; he may be on a unicycle or roller blades; anything is possible). According to Mayor Bloomberg the "coward" attacked New York City. He added, "The fact that this appears deliberately directed at the recruiting station insults every one of our brave men and women in uniform stationed around the world fighting to defend our freedoms and the things we hold so dear."

OK I don't condone this act, mostly because it will probably taint all the nonviolent protests going on at recruiting stations around the country. Look at how Bloomberg already appears to say that directing something at a recruiting station is an insult to all American military personnel, everywhere in the world, who, by the way, are all fighting for freedom and "the things we hold so dear" (he must mean cheap gas). So bombs, rocks, paint balls, shouts, sit ins, letters to the editor - whatever you direct at buildings that hold military recruiters, you direct against every single soldier, all our freedoms, and all we hold dear. Wow.

And how is this guy a coward? Bush always uses that line against anyone he describes as "terrorists" also, so this is not a new tactic. Perhaps this guy is a coward because he rode off on his bike instead of waiting around to accept his punishment? Considering the potential consequences I'd say the assailant had some guts, just not so much wisdom.

I also thought it was interesting how the online news sites were handling the story. The New York Times described it as a "small blast" and it was a small headline, relatively low on the page. But the 24 hour cable news tabloid networks naturally had it as the major story of the day. Check it out ...







Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Want to Reduce Crime? Try Deporting Citizens.

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No that's silly. But new data from the Public Policy Institute of California reinforces the fact that "immigrants are far less likely than the average U.S. native to commit crime ..."

Friday, February 29, 2008

Israeli Minister Vows Palestinian Holocaust; American Media Takes No Notice

According to the British Telegraph: "A senior Israeli politician provoked controversy today when he warned that Palestinians firing rockets from Gaza would be punished with a 'bigger holocaust' from Israeli armed forces." A simple google news search of the story found headlines in British, Canadian, Irish, Australian, Iranian, and Arab media sources, but almost nothing in the American press - Democracy Now being one exception.

Now there is debate over the translation of the actual word used: "shoah." Though even the Israeli newspaper Haaretz admits that "shoah" is "the Hebrew word for holocaust or disaster ... the word is generally used to refer to the Nazi Holocaust..." But even without the "holocaust" statement, the threat is still grave and ought to provoke a response of outrage from Americans. In the past 3 days 33 Palestinians have been killed, including 5 children playing soccer, all allegedly in response to rocket attacks that have killed one Israeli in the same time period. The minister's statement, along with threats from many other Israeli officials, appear to be leading up to a possible ground invasion of Gaza, but certainly a military escalation. No doubt many more children and innocent civilians will be killed needlessly.

Needlessly because Hamas has offered a cease fire and negotiations which nearly 2/3 of the Israeli population supports. Unfortunately, the military leaders and right-wing politicians in Israel probably have too much at stake in refusing negotiations, escalating their state terror campaign against Gaza, and continuing to label Hamas "terrorists" while they exact collective punishment against the people in Gaza.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

The Alternative



The predictable response from the corporate daily in San Francisco
: "Outspent 5-to-1, Gonzalez gave Newsom - and the city's Democratic establishment - a big scare by drawing 47 percent of the vote ... There is no need to recount all the reasons why Gonzalez was ill suited to be mayor of San Francisco. Let's just say that an aloofness and ideological rigidity that sometimes undermined his effectiveness at City Hall - in his first two years as supervisor, he would not meet with Mayor Willie Brown - is not going to play in Peoria."

Something tells me the imaginary Peoria residents the Chronicle Board imagines wouldn't think much of Willie Brown either. But the Board must not think much of the residents whose ideas they ought to reflect (though most people that actually live in the city don't really think they do). Being outspent 5 to 1 and still garnering nearly half the vote is a huge accomplishment. It isn't hard to imagine that if the playing field had been level, Gonzalez would have won in a landslide. But half of San Francisco doesn't move the Chronicle Board and a majority probably wouldn't either.

Then they pull this tired argument out of their dusty top hats: "Nader expresses not the least bit of remorse that his 2000 run on the Green Party ticket helped tilt Florida, and thus the presidency, to George W. Bush, in an excruciatingly close race." Of course the facts that the difference was so small that 4th and 5th party tickets could be described as "stealing" the election, or that voters are smart enough (even in Florida) to know all the consequences of casting their vote without a lecture from people who wouldn't support Nader anyway, doesn't illicit any remorse from the Chronicle Board.

And why cricitize Nader in an editorial that is allegedly criticizing his choice of runningmate? Because it really doesn't matter who he chose as runningmate since the Chronicle Board thinks he's a spoiler anyway. They just couldn't resist another childish jab at Gonzalez, just as he's getting his first taste of national exposure in some years.

Nader/Gonzalez '08 - ya I'm taking them seriously.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

obama for president? maybe not?

First I watched part of the debate last night with Hillary Clinton and listened to Obama go out of his way to describe America's relationship with Israel as "sacrosanct," which dictionary.com defines as "extremely sacred or inviolable ... above or beyond criticism, change, or interference." Beyond change? That kind of clashes with the Senator's motto.

Then I listened to him join Hillary in ratcheting up a new Cold War with Russia and referring to President Putin over and over again as merely "Putin," but it sounded like this: poot'n. Hillary pronounced it similarly, but with an Arkansas-New York accent.

Then I listened to a story this morning about the new border fence in Texas requiring eminent domain seizures of property some people have had in their family for centuries, but bypassing properties owned by wealthy land owners with connections (see the article in The Texas Observer). Apparently I missed the part of the debate where both Clinton and Obama said they were opposed to the way the fence was being built and would revisit the issue if President. But revisit they must, because both of them voted for the "border security" bill as Senators.

And there's more of course, as outlined by former Green Party San Francisco Supervisor Matt Gonzalez in this article on BeyondChron.

But the question all this begs is what, or who, is the alternative? Perhaps Cynthia McKinney - whom, along with Dennis Kucinich, I am a fan of on my facebook page. But now with Nader having a greater profile, I'm not sure what 3rd party campaign to commit myself to.

And I'm not convinced that Obama would not be more open to progressive pressure than Clinton. Someone commented on my previous post, implying that the main difference between Clinton and Obama was that Clinton was more predictable. But my fear with Clinton is that she may move sharply to the right of her rhetoric, as the previous Clinton administration had a tendency to do; Obama may as well, but the hope I see in his potential presidency is that he may actually stick with a lot of his rhetoric and, unpredictably perhaps, even move to the left. Unlike many others, he has said he would meet with leaders in Cuba and Iran. That's real progress. And there are pictures on the web of him with Al Sharpton and Edward Said. I doubt you'll find similar photos of Clinton. This is a tough one.

Monday, February 25, 2008

obama for president?

Maybe. At least if he won it would be a victory against the bigotry and nationalism that is now being used to attack him. There is this photo of him in Somali garb that is circulating on the internet. Big deal - check out Bush and Putin ( below right).

Then there are the claims that he is unpatriotic. For me, when Americans talk about "patriotism" they are usually, perhaps unwittingly, really talking about "nationalism." The brand of "nationalism" that seeps into the realm of fascism, racism and xenophobia - America: Love It Or Leave It; England for the English; and so on. It tends to be uncritical of a nation's problems or excesses and a belief in global superiority is at its core: We're the best and all those other countries (or sometimes peoples) suck.

Then there is all the symbolism - flags, flag pins, flag bumper stickers, eagles, eagles with flags clutched in their claws, etc. This is what is getting Obama into trouble. He just isn't white enough, doesn't seem like the type that drives an SUV, and it is hard to picture him landing on an aircraft carrier wearing a flight jacket. Thus the photo from Africa, and the critique that he doesn't wear an American flag pin, and once sang the National Anthem but didn't put his hand on his chest. Frankly I would support him more if he remained seated and didn't sing the song at all, but I'm kind of left wing like that.

Then there is the statement from his wife: "For the first time in my adult life, I am really proud of my country." What? Hasn't she been exceedingly proud of her country for the past 50 years, throughout the awe inspiring pursuit of freedom we've led in Southeast Asia, Central America and now the Middle East? Wasn't she proud of our brave young men and women in Iraq when the Abu Graib photos were published? Doesn't it fill her heart with joy to hear that America does indeed waterboard prisoners and practices extraordinary rendition?

Of course, all of this is pretty tame stuff - Obama is still a candidate collecting loads of corporate money, giving Israel a pass, and threatening Pakistan among other countries. But check out his response: "As far as the American flag pin, I mean, when we start getting into those definitions of patriotism, that’s a debate I am happy to have, because what I will come right back to them is: a party that resided over a war which our troops did not get the body armor they needed or were sending troops over who were untrained because of poor planning or not fulfilling the veterans benefits that these troops need when they come home or undermining our constitution with warrantless wiretaps that are unnecessary. That is a debate I am very happy to have."

It kind of sounds like he isn't completely backing down. He isn't doing what I've come to expect from Democrats whenever they are accused of being less than patriotic, war-like, tough-on-crime, meat-eating, free-marketeers - running away with tail between legs and/or executing a mentally retarded inmate and/or bombing a country with 1/1000th the military power of one of our aircraft carriers. There is something there that is making me think long and hard about whether I'm going to cast my protest vote for a Green or, as I did in 2004, for Leonard Peltier. I'm not running out to campaign for Obama - there are far too many important political fights going on to divide up my attention right now besides presidential politics - but I am thinking.

Friday, February 15, 2008

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Large Cop Yells at Children



This guy's out of control. I hope they don't give him a real patrol car or he'll be taking his rage out on adults.

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Marines in Berkeley? Get Out of Town.

From the San Jose Mercury News: The Berkeley City Council "voted 8-1 Tuesday night to tell the Marines that its Shattuck Avenue recruiting station 'is not welcome in the city, and if recruiters choose to stay, they do so as uninvited and unwelcome intruders.'" A member of the National Lawyers Guild, Sharon Adams, is also working on local legislation that would limit where recruiters could set up shop - the same way liquor stores, porn theatres and other entities that may be harmful to young people are regulated.

The backlash has of course been typical - left coast crazy commies out to get our poor, oppressed Marine recruiters. Move America Forward is claiming the mayor of Berkeley is stealing "the free speech rights of the United States Marine Corps by harassing the recruiting center into abandoning its lease." Yes, somehow the mayor of a relatively small city is stripping a branch of the U.S. Military - the same military that is matched in spending by every other military in the world combined - of its free speech rights. Last I remember, the Constitution grants liberties to "We the People," not some of the most powerful sectors of our government. Their press release announcing "Marines Attacked in Berkeley, CA," made me laugh. As if the women of Code Pink protesting with bullhorns and a few liberal city councilmembers acting on pretty modest legislation amounts to an "attack" on a multi-billion dollar military wing of the most powerful nation on earth; a group of soldiers, some of whom may have good intentions, but who nonetheless are trained to kill.

The simple fact is that Berkeley has every right to try to limit where recruiters can set up shop and they ought to protect the young people in their community from the tactics of military recruiters and the serious harms caused by warfare.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Same Old Democrats?

A letter from Barack Obama to the US representative to the UN Zalmay Khalilzad:

Dear Ambassador Khalilzad,

I understand that today the UN Security Council met regarding the situation in Gaza, and that a resolution or statement could be forthcoming from the Council in short order.

I urge you to ensure that the Security Council issue no statement and pass no resolution on this matter that does not fully condenm the rocket assault Hamas has been conducting on civilians in southern Israel...

All of us are concerned about the impact of closed border crossings on Palestinian families. However, we have to understand why Israel is forced to do this... Israel has the right to respond while seeking to minimize any impact on civilians.

The Security Council should clearly and unequivocally condemn the rocket attacks... If it cannot bring itself to make these common sense points, I urge you to ensure that it does not speak at all.

Sincerely,

Barack Obama
United States Senator


Appalling considering that this opinion on what is happening to Gaza is so far to the right of most of the world's thinking on the region. Not that a single issue would make me vote for or against a particular person, but this really puts the lie to all the Obama supporters who think of him as a real voice for change in our imperialist capital.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Is Morrissey Racist? Anti-Immigrant?

I've been a fan since high school, first because of his sexual ambiguity, and later because I recognized the politics in some of his music, such as The Queen Is Dead, What Difference Does It Make, and recent songs like Mexico where he sings "In Mexico, I went for a walk to inhale the tranquil, cool, lover's air. I could sense the hate of the lonestar state ... It seems if you're rich and you're white, you think you're so right. I just don't see why this should be so."

But he does seem to have this quasi-nationalism about some of his music, and I've often thought Bengali In Platforms was mildly racist. Now there is this crack he made in the NME: "the gates of England are being flooded. The country’s been thrown away." Check out this article for more information.

What to do? Of course for me nothing (and no one) is sacred, and I would kick Morrissey to the curb if he turned out to be an outright bigot. But for now I'm withholding final judgment.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Yes I Love Interpol

Perhaps this is a bit dated since the latest album's been out for awhile. But I maintain that Interpol is one of the most brilliant bands that actually produce music you'll enjoy listening to over and over again.

They also seem to collaborate with some other incredible artists - innovative music videos and these captivating images used as covers for their latest album, singles, and their website are proof ...

Notable on the new album, the subtle fade in orchestra on Wrecking Ball, the pounding drums on Pioneer to the Falls, the playful desperation of No I In Threesome, the catchy drum stick claps in All Fired Up.

And as always the penetrating, deadly serious voice of Paul Banks.

Wednesday, January 09, 2008

Barrier Wall Art

Activists/artists have done a brilliant job of using the Israel apartheid wall as a canvas. The image to the left was featured on the New York Times web page acknowledging Nayef Hashlamoun/Reuters. The story is about President Bush's visit to the region and the Palestinians' view of the world leader. Here's one quote from Moussa Al Hilou, a 63-year-old clothing store owner: "He has destroyed everything, and now he is coming to see the results ... What Palestinian state is he talking about? What he says is nonsense, even our leadership knows that."