Sunday, October 29, 2006


How does it go? “Land of the free, home of the brave.”

It's no secret by now that the CIA has been flying people out of nice little American towns like Smithfield, North Carolina, to be tortured in other countries.

Here's an email I just sent to the Mayor of Smithfield, with copies to the City Manager, Townhall, and City Council members. And a copy to the Smithfield Herald, as well. They have been staying on the story from the beginning.
To: Mr. Norman Johnson, Mayor of Smithfield, North Carolina.

Dear Mr. Johnson,

It occurs to me that perhaps the Mayor of Smithfield might have something to say about torture flights originating from his local airport, care of Smithfield-based Aero Contractors. So far, however, I've seen nothing in the Smithfield Herald or other newspapers to indicate any moral concern whatsoever by you, the City Manager, or other city leaders—the pillars of the community. And I find your silence troubling.

If I were someone who lived in Smithfield or was considering moving there, I think I would certainly want to know if the leaders of my town would have the courage to speak out against Aero and against the whole notion of removing people from this country for the purpose of being tortured, which, frankly, strikes me as un-American.

There's an old expression you may have heard of: “Silence is the voice of complicity.”

Grayson Harper.

Monday, October 09, 2006


The humiliation of the American system is a new phenomenon. The Congress itself now consorts in the decay of democracy. It lurches from one deconstruction of rights to the next, the latest of which is the Military Commissions Act. The Senate in late September captured the cowardice of a social order that seems to shamble, in fits and starts, toward fascism.

The point to be taken is that the lawmakers play down the President's renewed requests for more power. And each time people's rights are abused, or any constitutional protection is weakened, the signal comes down from the President in praise of the enabling law. He takes care to remind everyone that after all, it is he who protects them.

The Act can easily separate people we may know from the protections of due process, and leave them helpless, disappeared, and even subject to torture. Jack M. Balkin, a constitutional law professor, warns us that innocent friends and neighbors, who happen to be non-citizens, can be swept up in such a dragnet.
"The Military Commissions Act allows the government to seize these people off the streets and detain them because they are non-citizens, and, by accusing them of being unlawful enemy combatants, throw them into a parallel system where neither habeas corpus nor the Bill of Rights apply. It takes even resident aliens who have lived in the country for years out of the criminal justice system and into the world of military prisons and CIA interrogations"...

"The MCA allows the government to make mistakes-- very grievous mistakes-- in detention and interrogation that will severely harm these people [whom] it may never have to account for. A system of laws that can do this-- even if its primary victims are not citizens-- is inconsistent with the principles of a democratic republic."

Garrison Keillor's
article in The Salt Lake Tribune reminded me of a book review I had found in October's issue of Harper's Magazine. Nicholas Fraser's Toujours Vichy...a reckoning with disgrace, which analyzed the recently recovered work, Suite Francaise, by Irene Nemirovsky. The Vichy government of France, set up under Marshal Petain on the grave of the Third Republic, was a model of collaboration when part of France was under the Nazi Occupation.

The home truth that Keillor conveys is the decay of American democracy into something base and corrupt.
"It's good that Barry Goldwater is dead because this would have killed him. Go back to the Senate of 1964 - Goldwater, Dirksen, Russell, [Eugene] McCarthy, Javits, Morse, Fulbright - and you won't find more than 10 votes for it"...

"None of the men and women who voted for this bill has any right to speak in public about the rule of law anymore, or to take a high moral view of the Third Reich, or to wax poetic about the American Idea"...

"Three Republican senators made a show of opposing the bill and, after they'd collected all the praise they could get, they quickly folded"...

"I got some insight week before last into who supports torture when I went down to Dallas to speak at Highland Park Methodist Church. It was spooky. I walked in, was met by two burly security men with walkie-talkies, and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes' church and that it would be better if I didn't talk about politics. I was there on a book tour for Homegrown Democrat, but they thought it better if I didn't mention it. So I tried to make light of it: I told the audience, "I don't need to talk politics. I have no need even to be interested in politics - I'm a citizen, I have plenty of money and my grandsons are at least 12 years away from being eligible for military service." And the audience applauded! Those were their sentiments exactly. We've got ours, and who cares?"
Fear itself is the breeding ground of fear, and is a required condition for the authoritarian will to succeed. Such a condition exists in certain cruel marriages, where husbands dominate their wives with severe physical abuse. This kind of submission can be milked on demand in an occupied country, by its oppressor, where the "husband" has convinced his victim that there are terrors outside their arrangement which are far worse than the next beating.

In the eyes of both French and German authorities, Irene Nemirovsky remained Jewish, even though she and her husband had tried to anticipate danger and avoid it, by converting to Catholicism in 1939. Nemirovsky attained some small celebrity as the author of two early novels; and after the fall of France she lived in a small town in central France with her daughters, where she was befriended by a publisher, who helped her to earn a living as a writer, in spite of the fascist restrictions against Jews publishing anything.
"A Jew and an alien of Russian descent, Nemirovsky knew she would not survive the war, yet she continued to fill her notebooks. On July 13, 1942, she was sent by gendarmes to a camp at Pithiviers, after which she was deported to Auschwitz. She died there a month after having arrived. [Her] notebooks were taken into hiding with the author's daughters and kept unexamined for many years. Finally, they were transcribed and published three years ago, and Suite Francaise became a bestseller in France, winning a posthumous, much deserved literary prize."
I've been made aware lately that there is a criminal mindset in the high offices of our government that is drawing Washington's civilian and military institutions ever deeper into criminality. Each increment of this moral descent draws attention to the Vichy kind of fear. The courage it would take to step outside the sinister consensus is practically impossible for republicans; and there are too many democrats who rally around the President's corrupt, unchecked authority. If Americans can debate the expediency of torture, who knows where the bottom of this depravity lies.
"Many of [Nemirovsky's] jottings, included at the end of Suite Francaise, consist of plot summaries of the books yet to be written, books that she knew she would likely never complete. She also writes in a brutally candid vein about fallen France. "My God! what is this country doing to me?" she cries. "Since it is rejecting me, let us consider it coldly, let us watch as it loses its honor and its life."

"The French were tired of the Republic as if she were an old wife. For them, the dictatorship was a brief affair, adultery. But they intended to cheat on their wife, not kill her. Now they realize she's dead, their Republic, their freedom. They're mourning her.

For years, everything done in France within a certain social class has had one motive: fear. This social class caused the war, the defeat and the current peace. The Frenchmen of this caste hate no one; they feel neither jealousy nor disappointed ambition, nor any real desire for revenge. They're scared.

Who will harm them the least (not in the future, not in the abstract, but right now and in the form of kicks in the arse or slaps in the face)? The Germans? The English? The Russians? The Germans won but the beating has been forgotten and the Germans can protect them."

(ibid) (my emphasis)

Thursday, October 05, 2006


“Ultimately, the buck stops here.” So said Speaker Hastert in a news conference outside his district office today. He was referring, of course, to the diddling of teenaged boys by his pal, Representative Foley, of Florida, and how he--Hastert--is now "handling the situation." Meanwhile, Kirk Fordham, Foley's former chief of staff, says he tipped off Hastert's chief aides three years ago about Foley's behavior with pages.

So the question is, what exactly did the buck do once it got dropped off at Hastert's office three years ago? Well, it certainly stopped, all right. In fact, it sounds like it flat out died. But did he actually "handle it"?--that's what I want to know. Or did he just use that buck for toilet paper?

Now, Hastert's new tactic is—what else? --BLAME THE DEMOCRATS! Well, why not? They're not doing anything, just sitting there minding their own business (whatever that is). Might as well use them for something! Hell, it's worked before. They're so broken and cowed, they probably won't even notice they're being blamed again, much less put up a defense. Actually, I'm surprised Hastert even noticed them.

Meanwhile, desperate to get our focus off this rancid domestic mess, Rice has flown off to Iraq on a little surprise junket, to try to get those squabbling Iraqi leaders to quit squabbling. “We need to stop all this killing--it's getting out of hand,” she tells them. “You need to shake hands and try to work together.” Jeez, that's an unusual approach. Wonder why she didn't try that in Israel?

And by the way, how is it a “surprise” visit when everybody in the world knows about it? And if a black Republican lady with a gap between her teeth and an oil tanker named after her can sneak up on our army, what does that say about how good our generals are? I heard her plane had to circle the Baghdad airport for thirty-five minutes because of a threat from rockets and mortar-fire in the airport area. Somebody must have got wind that she was coming.

Anyway, that Rove sure has his finger on the pulse of the American public. He knows we would lots rather have our focus drawn away from squabbling rabid Repugs and put right back on squabbling rabid Shiites and Sunnis in Baghdad. Yep, the quicker they can get our minds back on the war, the better off those good ol' boys will be. For if there's anything they know for sure, it's that Americans are far more comfortable with the wholesale slaughter of human beings than with congressmen diddling young boys.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


The following are the Democrats who voted for the military commissions bill, which throws out habeas corpus for detainees, which allows the President to torture them (using his own definition of torture), and immunizes him and all the perpetrators of torture against criminal prosecution. The bill is already infamous across the world. And here are the twelve Demos who have sold out along with their fellow Repubs:

Tom Carper, Delaware
Tim Johnson, South Dakota
Mary Landrieu, Louisiana
Frank Lautenberg, New Jersey
Robert Menendez, New Jersey
Bill Nelson, Florida
Ben Nelson, Nebraska
Mark Pryor, Arkansas
Jay Rockefeller, West Virginia
Ken Salazar, Colorado
Debbie Stabenow, Michigan
Joseph Lieberman, Connecticut

Every single Democratic senator voted with the rest to approve spending another 70 billion dollars on the wars in Iraq and Afganistan.

So far Congress has approved spending just over a trillion dollars on the two wars.

The war in Iraq is costing 2 billion per week.

Congress also approved giving the Israeli military 500 million dollars. That's in addition to our usual military donation to Israel of 2 billion a year.
Meditate for a moment on the number of people who could be fed and housed around the world.
Meditate on how every man, woman and child in this country could have decent health care for nothing, or next to nothing.
Meditate on how we could send our children to college for a fraction of what we're paying now.
Meditate on the numbers of homeless who could be helped.
Meditate on how New Orleans could be rebuilt.
Meditate on how we could use the money to realign all our energy consumption to stop global warming.
But instead of spending the money on life, we choose to spend it on death.

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...