Saturday, June 26, 2004


This is an excerpt from "Democracy itself is in danger", a speech
by Al Gore, the former US Vice President, given June 24, 2004, at Georgetown University for the American Constitution Society. The full text is at Salon. (It is necessary to click through an advert)

"James Madison wrote in a letter to Thomas Jefferson, "The Constitution supposes, what the history of all governments demonstrates, that the Executive is the branch of power most interested in war, and most prone to it. It has accordingly with studied care, vested the question of war in the legislature."

"[The founders} were greatly influenced -- far more than we can imagine -- by a careful reading of the history and human dramas surrounding the democracies of ancient Greece and the Roman republic. They knew, for example, that democracy disappeared in Rome when Caesar crossed the Rubicon in violation of the Senate's long prohibition against a returning general entering the city while still in command of military forces. Though the Senate lingered in form and was humored for decades, when Caesar impoliticly combined his military commander role with his chief executive role, the Senate -- and with it the Republic -- withered away."

"I am convinced that our founders would counsel us today that the greatest challenge facing our republic is not terrorism but how we react to terrorism, and not war, but how we manage our fears and achieve security without losing our freedom. I am also convinced that they would warn us that democracy itself is in grave danger if we allow any president to use his role as commander in chief to rupture the careful balance between the executive, the legislative and the judicial branches of government. Our current president has gone to war and has come back into "the city" and declared that our nation is now in a permanent state of war, which he says justifies his reinterpretation of the Constitution in ways that increase his personal power at the expense of Congress, the courts, and every individual citizen."

"So now, the president and the vice president are arguing with [the 9/11] commission, and they are insisting that the commission is wrong and they are right, and that there actually was a working cooperation between Iraq and al-Qaida."

"The problem for the president is that he doesn't have any credible evidence to support his claim, and yet, in spite of that, he persists in making that claim vigorously"..."And I think it's particularly important because it is closely connected to the questions of constitutional power with which I began this speech."

"'s so important particularly for President Bush to keep the American people from discovering that what he told them about the linkage between Iraq and al-Qaida isn't true. Among these Americans who still believe there is a linkage, there remains very strong support for the president's decision to invade Iraq. But among those who accept the commission's detailed finding that there is no connection, support for the war in Iraq dries up pretty quickly."

"President Bush and Vice President Cheney have decided to fight to the rhetorical death over whether or not there's a meaningful connection between Iraq and al-Qaida. They think that if they lose that argument and people see the truth, then they'll not only lose support for the controversial decision to go to war, but also lose some of the new power they've picked up from the Congress and the courts, and face harsh political consequences at the hands of the American people."

"As a result, President Bush is now intentionally misleading the American people by continuing to aggressively and brazenly assert a linkage between al-Qaida and Saddam Hussein."

"If he is not lying, if they genuinely believe that, that makes them unfit in battle with al-Qaida. If they believe these flimsy scraps, then who would want them in charge? Are they too dishonest or too gullible? Take your pick."

"And at least some honest voices within the president's own party admitted as (m)uch. Sen. Chuck Hagel, a decorated war hero who sits on the Foreign Relations Committee, said point blank, "Saddam is not in league with al-Qaida ... I have not seen any intelligence that would lead me to connect Saddam Hussein with al-Qaida."

"But those voices did not stop the deliberate campaign to mislead America. Over the course of a year, the president and vice president used carefully crafted language to scare Americans into believing there was an imminent threat from an Iraq-armed al-Qaida."

"In the fall of 2002, the President told the country "You can't distinguish between al-Qaida and Saddam."

"By the Spring, Secretary of State Powell was in front of the United Nations claiming a "sinister nexus between Iraq and the al-Qaida terrorist network."

"So when the bipartisan 9/11 commission issued its report finding "no credible evidence" of an Iraq-al-Qaida connection, it should not have caught the White House off guard. Yet instead of the candor Americans need and deserve from their leaders, there have been more denials and more insistence without evidence."

"The President was even more brazen. He dismissed all questions about his statements by saying "The reason I keep insisting that there was a relationship between Iraq and Saddam and al-Qaida, because there was a relationship between Iraq and al-Qaida." He provided no evidence."

"Friends of the administration tried mightily to rehabilitate their cherished but shattered linkage. John Lehman, one of the Republicans on the commission, offered what sounded like new evidence that a Saddam henchman had attended an al-Qaida meeting. But within hours, the commissions files yielded definitive evidence that it was another man with a similar name -- ironically capturing the near-miss quality of Bush's entire symbolic argument."

"But the damage they have done to our country is not limited to misallocation of military economic political resources. Whenever a chief executive spends prodigious amounts of energy convincing people of lies, he damages the fabric of democracy, and the belief in the fundamental integrity of our self-government."

"That creates a need for control over the flood of bad news, bad policies and bad decisions also explains their striking attempts to control news coverage."

"The administration works closely with a network of "rapid response" digital Brown Shirts who work to pressure reporters and their editors for "undermining support for our troops." Paul Krugman, the New York Times columnist, was one of the first journalists to regularly expose the president's consistent distortions of the facts. Krugman writes, "Let's not overlook the role of intimidation. After 9/11, if you were thinking of saying anything negative of the President ... you had to expect right-wing pundits and publications to do all they could to ruin your reputation."

"The kinds of unnatural, undemocratic activities in which this administration has engaged, in order to aggrandize power, have included censorship of scientific reports, manipulation of budgetary statistics, silencing dissent, and ignoring intelligence. Although there have been other efforts by other presidents to encroach on the legitimate prerogatives of Congress and courts, there has never been this kind of systematic abuse of the truth and institutionalization of dishonesty as a routine part of the policy process."

"Two hundred and twenty years ago, John Adams wrote, in describing one of America's most basic founding principles, "The executive shall never exercise the legislative and judicial powers, or either of them ... to the end it may be a government of laws and not of men."

Wednesday, June 16, 2004


Until recently, Lori Haigh had been the owner of Capobianco Gallery, located on San Francisco's Powell Street. Ms. Haigh was faced with two weeks of escalating vandalism outside the gallery, verbal abuse and hate messages in her e-mail. She had been singled out for this hate campaign because of a painting on display: The Abuse, by Guy Colwell, which shows 3 hooded prisoners, hooked up to wires, being tormented by American soldiers.

Ryan Kim, writing for The San Francisco Chronicle, has described the unfolding events:

"Two days after the painting went up, Haigh arrived at her gallery to find broken glass, eggs and trash strewn outside her storefront."

[At another time], "a man walked into the gallery and spat in Haigh's face."

Haigh contemplated giving up the gallery that had been her dream for so long; and on a Tuesday she shut down the place in order to take time to think things over.

"Just two days later, another man knocked on the door of the gallery and punched Haigh in the face, knocking her out, breaking her nose and causing a concussion."

" "I'm disheartened and disappointed," said Haigh, "I don't want to have a gallery if I can't show artists like Guy Colwell"."

Fenimore Cooper's Daily covered the closing of the Capobianco. "A U-haul truck was loaded with the gallery's artwork, including Guy Colwell's, whose painting of American soldiers abusing prisoners is the eye of this hurricane"..."It was heartening to see all the people show up to support the owner Lori Haigh"..."The sidewalk was overflowing with supporters. A gentleman spoke to everyone"..."After the impromptu speech, Ms. Haigh herself came out the front door. Her nose was bandaged; she seemed dazed."

"Ms. Haigh made no speech, merely worked her way through the crowd and was whisked off in a car. Everyone applauded for her courage."

This kind of bitter attack against artists, or those who sponsor art, should raise the antenna of every thoughtful person. Journalist David Neiwert calls this kind of assault proto-fascist thuggery.

Simone Weil has written these thoughts on evil:

"Evil is license and that is why it is monotonous: everything is
drawn from ourselves."

"We are obliged to imitate the act of creation, and there are two
possible imitations--the one real and the other apparent--preserving
and destroying.
There is no trace of "I" in the act of preserving. There is in that
of destroying. The "I" leaves its mark on the world as it destroys."

"A hurtful act is the transference to others of the degradation which
we bear in ourselves. That is why we are inclined to commit such acts
as a way of deliverance." (Gravity & Grace, p. 119, 123)

This appeared in J.K. Dineen's article of June 3, 2004, in The San Francisco Examiner:

"In a related development, the owner of another North Beach art gallery--Live Worms Gallery on Grant Avenue--said someone has made a veiled threat against his gallery as well. Owner Kevin Brown said a man walked into his gallery and engaged him in debate about the Capobianco attacks and the Iraq war in general. On his way out, he said, "you're next", according to Brown."

The Abuse by Guy Colwell

Sources via Orcinus

Wednesday, June 02, 2004


Fewer Americans would be able to sleep well at night, if they suspected the Bush Administration of making preparations to bring back the draft. Conscription for military service was halted in 1973 as America ended its war in Vietnam. But this process is being revived, according to

"$28 million has been added to the 2004 Selective Service System (SSS) budget to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005." This source also reports that, "The pentagon has quietly begun a public campaign to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots nationwide."

The Guardian has also picked up on this story. John Sutherland writes, "All this has been pushed ahead with an amazing lack of publicity. One can guess why. American newspapers are in a state of meltdown, distracted by war-reporting scandals at USA Today and the New York Times. There is an awareness in the press at large that the "embedding" system was just that-getting into bed with the military and reporting their pillow talk as "news from the frontline."

The armed services committees are responsible for both the Senate bill (S 89) and House version (HR 163), which are in committee and classified as active.

Of course, a fierce public outcry follows any public mention of re-activating the draft. Although 3 out of 4 Americans strongly reject the idea of conscription, the deck seems to be stacked against public opinion. It wouldn't be the first time government turned against the will of the people. But this is, after all, a matter of our flesh and blood.

But what is being cranked up in the background is nothing less than war on the level of nation states; and it must mean more wars and more occupation. Instead of a logical focus on international police activity and some special forces military to co-ordinate against al-Qaida, we have a unilateral agenda, an almost depraved aggregation of power in the hands of US leaders, that can only disturb and destabilize the international community.

Neither Bush, nor Kerry for that matter, seem interested in talking about this. No one wants this issue shaken loose as an "October Surprise". This is something to be hushed up, and later served to the American people as a fait accompli.

Compared to Vietnam era experiences, dodging the draft will be more difficult.

"In December 2001, Canada and the U.S. signed a "smart border declaration" which could be used to keep would-be draft-dodgers in. Signed by Canada's minister of foreign affairs John Manley, and U.S. Homeland Security director, Tom Ridge, the declaration involves a 30-point plan which implements, among other things, a "pre-clearance agreement" of people entering and departing each country. Reforms aimed at making the draft more equitable along gender and class lines also eliminates higher education as a shelter. Underclassmen would only be able to postpone service until the end of the current semester. Seniors would have until the end of the academic year." (

It is reasonable to add that Canada might not honor this "border declaration" with respect to draft resisters, since this is an eventuality that was not contemplated within the arrangement. Canada has been decisive in the past, and has granted shelter to people of conscience.

Thanks to Mitch from the comment area at Whiskey Bar, here is an excerpt from Daniel Ellsberg's Secrets: A Memoir of Vietnam and the Pentagon Papers, pp 141-142.

"On the return flight to Washington a week later, as we got near the end of the journey, McNamara called me to the rear of the plane, where he was standing with Bob Komer, who was still special assistant to the president coordinating Washington efforts on pacification. McNamara said, "Dan, you're the one who can settle this. Komer here is saying that we've made a lot of progress in pacification. I say things are worse than they were a year ago. What do you say?"

I said, "Well, Mr. Secretary, I'm most impressed with how much the same things are as they were a year ago. They were pretty bad then, but I wouldn't say it was worse now, just about the same."

McNamara said triumphantly, "That proves what I'm saying! We've put more than a hundred thousand more troops into the country over the last year, and there's been no improvement. Things aren't any better at all. That means the underlying situation is really worse! Isn't that right?"

I said, "Well, you could say that. It's an interesting way of seeing it."

Just then the plane began to go into a turn and the pilot announced, "Gentlemen, we are approaching Andrews Air Force Base. Please take your seats and fasten your seat belts."

Ten minutes later we were on the ground, and McNamara was descending the ladder with us behind him. It was a foggy morning, and there was an arc of television lights and cameras set up at the spot the plane had taxied to. In the center of the arc, there was a podium covered with microphones. McNamara strode over to the mikes and said to the crowd of reporters, "Gentlemen, I've just come back from Vietnam, and I'm glad to be able to tell you that we're showing great progress in every dimension of our effort. I'm very encouraged by everything I've seen and heard on my trip. . . ."."

Remember history. Remember. Lest we repeat it.

copeland morris ENTWINED SONNET

Her shaded eyes, her necklace black velvet, onyx. Anguish she spoke; and he carried on, obsessed As only a young man could. An odd harm...