Wednesday, July 26, 2006


We are no longer a country of laws. We have slipped the loop on what we are and what we supposedly believe in. Every day brings some new debasement. Yesterday, it was the news that the feds are moving to fire half the lawyers at the IRS who do auditing on the super-rich. That way Bush can get around the law, since he doesn't have the support in Congress to repeal the estate tax. Anything to serve the rich and spit on the rest of us.

Yes, we have quit the rule of law. The CEOs of Exxon, WalMart and Coca-Cola are our congressmen, now, and we operate by their rules--the law of the jungle. Meanwhile, Bush and Cheney have unleashed the queen and king bees of anarchy--Condoleeza Rice and John Bolton--to fan the flames in Israel and Lebanon, hoping, I suppose, to bring on a war with Iran and Syria. And it will probably come to pass. Then, when our military is stretched to the limit, I look for North Korea to take the opportune moment to launch an attack on the U.S. And voila! World War III.

But as far as I'm concerned, when our soldiers burst into that house in Mahmudiyah, south of Baghdad, and raped a fourteen year old girl, then turned their AK-47s on her, her mother, father and five-year-old sister, that was the last straw, the death blow for us as a country. Abeer Hamza, this child that blundered into the path of our barbarous war, the mistake of so many children. . .she is our fatal wound, from which we will not recover. She is the culmination of all our wrongdoing clear back to the massacre of Native American civilians at Wounded Knee. I see no coming back from this. No cure. I lost my last hope at that moment. From here on, whatever happens happens. I don't say we deserve it, but we sure as hell have it coming.

And be assured--it is the collective WE. Because we brought this on ourselves. Years of collective sleepwalking through elections, collective compromising on our candidates and our values. We--collectively--laid down and let this happen. We collectively handed this country over to these feckless thugs. And now--the crowning glory--our Congress is completely bought and sold out on Israel. They voted like a gleeful mob for that war, made even more gleeful--if that's possible--by the grinning face of Hillary Clinton, our own Democratic harpee for the use of white phosphorous and cluster bombs on innocent civilians.

As the mindless minions give cheer and wave their flags, we can no more than watch the ship go down.

I close with a prayer, a fervent prayer, which contains not a seed of hope, but only an ocean of sorrow and pity for us all, and for our world:
Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.
Blessed art thou amongst women
and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners
now and at the hour of our death.

Saturday, July 22, 2006


With the death of a beautiful Lebanese child the world comes to an end. Oh, it's understood that there is war going on elsewhere; but yesterday the US House of Representatives stood up, drowning out eight dissenting votes, and declared with a great hoorah that Israel's war of collective punishment, its war of callous retribution can continue to kill Lebanese children.

The world is ended utterly for loved ones who see the loss with their own eyes. US-made weapons from the workshops of Boeing and Lockeed-Martin are the instruments of choice that cover the skies of Sidon, Tyre, and Beirut. And yet, the call for a ceasefire from many nations and from UN Secretary Kofi Annan is being opposed by President Bush and Prime Minister Blair. And because the bloodletting is promiscuous now, the sequence of events leading to this tragedy can be obscured, in order to allow the Olmert government of Israel a free hand.

This outbreak of war is a rising flow of violence, after the abduction of an Israeli soldier from his guard post just outside of Gaza. This came about after Israeli leader Sharon suffered a stroke and was permanently incapacitated. The trigger-happy Olmert, his successor, went to work with a major armed incursion into densely populated Gaza. Severe destruction of infrastructure interrupted water, sewage, electricity, and the hostility continued during Olmert's operation. But despite the draconian measures, there was no progress toward release of the captured soldier.

In an interview a week ago, Noam Chomsky pinpoints where this latest trouble started, which he describes as the determination of Israel and the United States "to punish the people of Palestine for voting the wrong way in a free election." Chomsky also provides an essential piece of the backstory:
"...the punishment has been severe"..."it's partly in Gaza, and sort of hidden in a way, but even more extreme in the West Bank, where Olmert announced his annexation program, what's euphemistically called "convergence" and described here often as "withdrawal," but in fact it's a formalization of the program of annexing the valuable lands, most of the resources, including water, of the West Bank and cantonizing the rest and imprisoning it, since he also announced that Israel would take over the Jordan Valley."
Chomsky goes on to say that the Israelis have abducted Palestinians, civilians too, and have not released information in some instances, regarding the prisoners' names or fates.

Hezbollah's ambush on Israeli territory, and its capture of two more Israeli soldiers, just opposite the Lebanese border, was a provocation. It was foolhardy because the hysterical over-reaction of the Olmert government in Gaza was more than likely to be repeated against Lebanon. One may at least suspect that Hezbollah anticipated the outcome. And altruism, the motive of solidarity with the Palestinians in Gaza, doesn't really stack up against Hezbollah's treason against their own country. Hezbollah has representatives in Lebanon's Parliament; and yet, its own militia drew Lebanon into war, a war which Parliament as a whole would never have desired or approved.

International law forbids collective punishment in war. That didn't stop Olmert. He looked at the border attack by Hezbollah militia, not as a terrorist attack, not as the act of outlaws, but rather decided that the State of Lebanon had made war on Israel.

Professor Juan Cole has posted an eloquent letter from a Lebanese woman named Rasha, who is living in Beirut. In part of it, an Israeli reporter, a woman, conducts an interview with Rasha by e-mail. The reporter says that the Israeli leadership believes that if they target Hezbollah it will convince the local population to turn against Hezbollah.
RASHA: "It is pure folly, but even if it were true it is a terrible strategy, an imploded Lebanon is a nightmare to all, not only the Lebanese but to everyone. Does Israel want an Iraq at its doorstep? There seems to be consensus now in Israel over the military campaign. It is because Israelis are not yet pressing their leadership and military with smart questions. Do you actually believe it would be possible to eliminate the Shi'i sect from Lebanon, and that it would go down easy in the region? If the Americans are advising you, duck for cover or move. Need I list their record of wisdom and foresight recently? Vietnam, Central America, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iraq? If you need to listen to imperialists, find less idiotic ones, at least who have a sense of history.
America's elected leaders are not informed by the tragedies of their own country. History is casually deconstructed and repackaged. They have already forgotten events like the Little Bighorn, the Massacre at Wounded Knee, Mai Lai, and Haditha.

It's like Rasha said in her interview,
"But this is the stage of your destiny that you have reached: you build walls around yourselves"..."and you chase barefoot, toothless, illiterate, hungry people with a state of the art military arsenal. And you insist that you are victims, and you insist that you are on the right side of history. All this bullshit will catch up with you."

Tuesday, July 18, 2006


In a report published recently, the Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, detailed its findings of a four-month study of the intelligence quotient of President George W. Bush. Since 1973, the Lovenstein Institute has published its research to the educational community on each new president, which includes the famous "IQ" report among others.

There have been twelve presidents over the past 50 years, from F.D. Roosevelt to G.W. Bush, who were rated based on scholarly achievements: 1. Writings that they produced without aid of staff and 2. Their ability to speak with clarity, and several other psychological factors, which were then scored using the Swanson/Crain system of intelligence ranking.

The study determined the following IQs of each president as accurate to within five percentage points. In order by presidential term:
Franklin Delano Roosevelt [D] 142,
Harry S Truman [D] 132,
Dwight David Eisenhower [R] 122
John Fitzgerald Kennedy [D] 174,
Lyndon Baines Johnson [D] 126,
Richard Milhous Nixon [R] 155,
Gerald R. Ford [R] 121,
James Earle Carter [D] 175,
Ronald Wilson Reagan [R] 105
George Herbert Walker Bush [R] 98,
William Jefferson Clinton [D] 182,
George Walker Bush [R] 91

In order of IQ rating:

182. . William Jefferson Clinton [D]
175. . James Earle Carter [D]
174. . John Fitzgerald Kennedy [D]
155. . Richard Milhous Nixon [R]
147. Roosevelt [D]
132. Harry S Truman [D]
126. . Lyndon Baines Johnson [D]
122. . Dwight David Eisenhower [R]
121. . Gerald R. Ford [R]
105. . Ronald Wilson Reagan [R]
98. . George Herbert Walker Bush [R]
91. . George Walker Bush [R]

The six Republican presidents of the past 50 years had an average IQ of 115.5, with President Nixon having the highest at 155. President George W. Bush rated the lowest of all the Republicans with an IQ of 91. The six Democratic presidents of the past 50 years had an average IQ of 156, with President Clinton having the highest IQ, at 182. President Lyndon B. Johnson was rated the lowest of all the Democrats with an IQ of 126. No president other than Carter [D] has released his actual IQ (176). Among comments made concerning the specific testing of President G.W. Bush, his low ratings are due to his apparently difficult command of the English language in public statements, his limited use of vocabulary [6,500 words for Bush versus an average of 11,000 words for other presidents], his lack of scholarly achievements other than a basic MBA, and an absence of any body of work which could be studied on an intellectual basis.

The complete report documents the methods and procedures used to arrive at these ratings, including depth of sentence structure and voice stress confidence analysis.

"All the Presidents prior to George W. Bush had a least one book under their belt, and most had written several white papers during their education or early careers. Not so with President Bush," Dr. Lovenstein said. "He has no published works or writings, which made it more difficult to arrive at an assessment. We relied more heavily on transcripts of his unscripted public speaking."

The Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, think tank includes high caliber historians, psychiatrists, sociologists, scientists in human behavior, and psychologists. Among their ranks are Dr. Werner R. Lovenstein, world-renowned sociologist, and Professor Patricia F.Dilliams, a world-respected psychiatrist.

UPDATE:CORRECTION: It turns out that The Lovenstein Institute doesn't exist and its report is an internet hoax which has been floating out there for a couple of years. A reader sends us a link that details the origin of this hoax. The joke's on me.

However, authoritative sources still insist that George W. Bush is stupid.

Thursday, July 06, 2006


by Jack Rafter

Today's story: "Jack Meets The Avenging Angel"

Vincent and I spent a few winter nights in the basement of the YMCA. Then the janitor walked in on me one night, and threatened to run us off. He's a huge black man, bigger than Mohammed Ali, if you remember him. Liked to scared me to death. But then we got to talking and he decided I was okay. He was okay, too. His name is Clob Boatman. He's a retired boxer. Said he was almost the heavyweight champion of the world. But then he met Annabel, his wife, and she made him quit boxing. She was afraid he was going to be brain injured, which he thought was pretty funny because up until he met her, no one had ever lasted long enough with him in the ring to get off a shot at his head. But he quit anyway just because he was in love with Annabel.

Anyway, he showed me where there was a shower down there that Vincent and I could use whenever we needed it--a welcome relief. I'll tell you something: a person gets pretty gamey sleeping out all the time. And a dog especially needs a good soaping off now and then to keep the ticks away.

With summer here we are back over in the woods by the freight yards. There's quite a few homeless camped out here. We call it Sherwood Forest, just for fun, and just to create a little romance out here. Of course, it doesn't look anything like Robin Hood's forest. Just a strip of woods and thickets between Vickery Road and the Centennial Yards.


Yesterday, just before nightfall, a man walked up to my tent. He was a stranger to the woods. He looked about forty years old. I guessed he had just gotten off a freight train. He was weary and dirty and beat up. I had some canned butter beans and cornbread, so we sat there and ate some dinner.

His name was Ben Breen, and he was from New Orleans. He said he went through the hurricane. He was one of the people that lost his home. His wife and two children cleared out before the storm hit. They've been staying with her parents in West Virginia. Ben said his wife suffered a mental collapse over losing everything and things haven't been going too well ever since. He stayed in New Orleans hoping the government would rebuild his house or give him some money to rebuild. But they never did. Meanwhile, he lost his job as a warehouseman in the shipping district.

He said he was in Jackson Square the night the President was there and made his big speech to the nation promising to rebuild the city. Ben Breen said he knew even then it was all a pack of lies. "They're not gonna rebuild anything except for the rich people," he said.


Ben Breen said he was on a mission, now. He was hopping freight trains across the country looking for WalMarts because he was going to blow them up, he said, one after another. His Uncle Charles had a sporting goods store for twenty years in Plaquemine, Louisiana. Breen's Sporting Goods. He had four employees working for him. Uncle Charles paid them better than minimum wage, provided health insurance, and gave them two week's paid vacation every year. Then the WalMart came along and within less than a year, Uncle Charles had to close his store. Now, his employees are working at WalMart for minimum wage, with no health insurance, and certainly no vacation. "WalMart is a blight on this country," said Ben Breen. "And I'm going to rid us of this plague." I told him I thought blowing them up was a pretty grandiose scheme, and that it was going to take an awful lot of dynamite. "Don't worry," he said, "I can get my hands on dynamite." His father was a Korean War veteran and had been an explosives expert. Ben learned a lot about explosives from his father, as well as how to handle guns.

"This is the beginning of the revolution," Ben said. "It's time this country had another revolution, don't you think?" He was smiling and had a wild look in his eye, the kind of excited look a horse gets when you flash a light in its face. I shrugged. I wasn't sure if it was time for the revolution or not, but that may only be because I'm basically a coward. Still smiling, Ben Breen looked down at his plate of beans. "Thomas Jefferson would agree with me. He said the tree of liberty needs to be watered now and then with the blood of patriots and tyrants."

"We have tyrants in the White House, now," he went on. "They've broken all our treaties and laws. They're raiding and plundering countries for oil and other resources. They're torturing people! They're making everything more dangerous than it already is. Somebody has to stop them. Congress won't do it, so it's up to the people. The people have to rise up."


Ben Breen said that after he gets finished blowing up some WalMarts, he's going to start hunting down CEO's. "What CEO's?" I said. "I'm not going to tell you," he said. "But you just think about who's got all the power in this country, and you'll know who I'm talking about. They're the ones who have bought off our Congress and hijacked the whole political system. That's all it exists for now is for their personal benefit. The rest of us are screwed. That Jack Abramoff character and those other goons like Tom Delay and Grover Norquist--you see how they operate? To get an audience with the President, you gotta pony up. Twenty-five grand to see Bush for fifteen minutes. This is our democracy. While we've been fiddling, they've been stealing everything they could get their hands on.

So he said he was going to start picking off CEO's with a deer rifle. "Do you have a deer rifle?" I said. "Yes, I do," he said. "Where is it?" I said. "It's down there in some weeds by the tracks. It's wrapped up in a sheet of plastic."

He said after he picked off one or two CEO's, he was going to send letters to the New York Times and the Washington Post, explaining what he was doing. He was going to demand that the corporations get their lobbyists with their bags and suitcases full of money out of Washington, D.C. "This is the revolution," said Ben Breen. "We start by taking back the Congress." "What about just electing more Democrats?" I said. "That won't do any good," he replied. "They just pay them off, too, and pretty soon, they're acting and behaving like Republicans. No, first you have to get the money out. That's the only way. And picking them off is the only thing that will get their attention." "Yes, that should do it," I agreed.

Compared to most revolutions, Ben Breen said he thought this one would be relatively bloodless. "It's all a matter of picking the right targets," he said. "Once these guys realize they can't go anywhere without worrying where the next bullet is coming from, then I think they'll start to come around."

Ben Breen spent the night in my camp. The next morning, Vincent and I walked with him down to the train yards. He said he wanted to show me his deer rifle. We shuffled along the edge of the yard, looking in the weeds, but we couldn't find the rifle. Ben looked around, confused. "Everything looks different," he mumbled. I said, "Yes, everything's different because all the trains that were here yesterday have moved."

"Oh. That's right," he said. Then he turned and walked up the track.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006



Reproduced in the current issue of The Paris Review.
July 31st, 1949

My dear Mr. Truman
If you so much as lay a small claim to be a human with a brain, a soul, a heart, a mind, a feeling you could call the warmth of the blood of man, please, good sir, take a good look at these bills you are signing to make more high explosives to blow us all off of the map. Your face will look a whole lot blanker if the little atoms blow our world away and all of your pals and kinfolks along with the rest of us.

I'm not ready to blow just yet.

Your old buddy,
Woody Guthrie

Saturday, July 01, 2006


"Whether or not the President has independent power, absent congressional authorization, to convene military commissions, he may not disregard limitations that Congress has, in proper exercise of its own war powers, placed on his powers".
--Hamdan vs Rumsfeld, US Supreme Court, Footnote 23
There are limitations on the President's authority to be a law unto himself, as he pursues the prosecution of prisoners at the Guantanamo camp. His disposition toward prisoners in military custody must conform to laws that were passed by Congress. And military commissions, where they may be established under law, require as a minimum, the standards of fairness set out in the Uniform Code of Military Justice, not unlike legal rules that would govern a court martial proceeding.

Hamdan vs Rumsfeld is a real Supreme Court milestone which reminds the President that he must recognize the war powers that belong to Congress. Even in wartime, he must acknowledge who it is who makes the laws. And since the President is sworn to uphold our laws, he should pay special attention to Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions, which is integrated into the UCMJ statute, besides being one of America's treaty obligations. And US laws and treaties forbid inhumane treatment of persons held in military custody. Beatings, torture, psychological assaults, degrading treatment, and abuses against dignity are all strictly prohibited.

In the majority opinion, Justice Stevens mentions methods of torture such as waterboarding, by name, and violations of these legal standards are also named as war crimes. The High Court has for the first time laid down a marker, raising the specter of punishment as a reply to lawlessness.

Miami School of Law professor, Steve Vladeck, has described the ruling in the Hamdan case as "an immensely significant reassertion of checks and balances in the war on terrorism, and an unmitigated victory for those who have worried about the erosion of the separation of powers after September 11."

In the Supreme Court's 5-3 decision in favor of Salim Hamdan, Justice Stevens writes that the charge of "conspiracy" alleged against Hamdan is not appropriate for the kind of military commission that has been set up at Guantanamo.
"The Government has not charged Hamdan with an "offense...that by the law of war may be tried by military commission."
The preconditions upon which such a trial rests, requires the offense to have been committed in the convening commander's "theatre of war" . In other words, this kind of commission is developed as a battlefield measure, where the accused is brought to trial.

Remember that the case against Hamdan is "conspiracy", and he is only alleged to be a minor functionary, as bin Laden's chauffeur in Afghanistan. Moreover, the legal precedents cited by Justice Stevens suggest that "a particular offense must be plain and unambiguous".
"Hamdan is not alleged to have committed any overt act in a theatre of war or on any specified date after September 11, 2001."
"The crime of "conspiracy" has rarely if ever been tried as such in this country by any law-of-war military commission not exercising some other form of jurisdiction, and does not appear in either the Geneva Conventions or the Hague Conventions--the major treaties on the law of war."
It is helpful to recall Professor Vladeck's observations about the High Court's historic decision. It is indeed "an immensely significant reassertion of checks and balances"...and an unmitigated victory for those who have worried about the erosion of the separation of powers".

Justice Breyer said there would be no "blank check" for the executive, even in time of war. And Justice Stevens added, "The executive is bound to comply with the Rule of Law that prevails in this jurisdiction".

The President must obey the law.

SOURCES: Billmon, Marty Lederman

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...