Friday, May 30, 2008


May 27, 08.

At this meeting, at the conclusion of remarks by Diane and myself, one of the council members gave us a little speech explaining why the council has not responded to our request and why they've shown no interest. The main reason, he said, was because "we've heard it all before and most of what you've said has just been your opinions and not facts, and frankly, I don't share your opinion."

Given that we are very careful to present the facts and to base our opinions on the facts, this seemed like an outrageous insult, which I will be addressing in my next talk.

Meanwhile, here is the most recent:

Mayor, Council members, some of you may recall that Ulysses Grant faithfully served as a captain in the Mexican War about the middle of the nineteenth century. Later, writing in his memoirs, Grant said he regarded that war as “one of the most unjust ever waged by a stronger against a weaker nation.”

Something about that sounds eerily familiar. Could it be that our colossal mistakes in Vietnam and now Iraq are little more than history repeating itself?

Grant went on to say that “nations, like individuals, are punished for their transgressions.” No, he wasn't talking about religious concerns. He was far too practical minded for that. He was talking about blow-back.

He believed the American Civil War was the logical outgrowth of the Mexican War that preceded it. That was our punishment for unnecessarily invading and occupying a sovereign country.

Now it seems logical to ask what is apt to be the blow-back of our Iraq debacle. Well, we know we have created far more enemies than we started out with before Bush launched this war based on lies.

What about the blow-back to our soldiers? Besides the killed and wounded, over 300,000 veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan are currently suffering from post-traumatic stress syndrome, or major depression—that's one out of every five soldiers who have served there.

In a recent email that just came to light, Dr. Ira Katz, a top official at the VA, reported over 1,000 suicide attempts per month among returning veterans. Then he went on to discuss how this alarming news might be covered up.

The highest number of suicides seems to be among those forced to do multiple tours of duty by this administration. More than half are aged 20 to 29. Three-quarters used a firearm to take their lives, such as Joshua Omvig, an Iowa reservist who shot himself in front of his mother in December, 2005, after an eleven month tour in Iraq.

In 1942 on the eve of War, President Franklin Roosevelt said, “This will require, of course, the abandonment not only of luxuries, but of many other creature comforts.”

Nowadays, President Bush encourages Americans to go shopping and spend those stimulus checks. Carry on as if nothing has happened or is happening.

And so another Memorial Day has come and gone. But this year, concerned citizens come before this law-making body asking for something more than prayers.

We come saying we are tired of prayers for soldiers killed, wounded, traumatized, by needless war. We say we are tired of lies. We believe those who told the lies that got our soldiers in this predicament should be answerable to the people, and brought to justice.

Thus, do we ask you again to stand for the Constitution and the rule of law.

Thank you.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008


May 20, 2008

My goal in this speech was to respond to the Mayor who had cut me off last week, admonishing me about attacking any members of the council. I felt certain that he was going to be "on point" this time, looking for an excuse to cut me off again.

Sure enough, Ben and I noticed that he switched my card with Diane's (though I knew I had signed up to speak before her) thus putting me last, which would make it easier to cut me short and end the session. We also noticed him conferring with the retired Air Force officer on the council prior to my going up, as if they were hatching some plan. Also, the bailiff who almost always sits down low on the first row in the chamber nearest the council members' dais moved to stand just behind me and Ben where we sat on the top row. Never seen him do that before.

I turned to Ben and said, "I think he's laying for me." Ben nodded: "I think you're right."

When the Mayor called my name, when I got to the lecturn, he started right in: "Now, Mr. Harper, remember what happened the last time you spoke. I will not tolerate attacks on this council--I don't want to hear how we're not following our oath of office, you understand? Nothing about that."

"May I respond?" I asked him. He nodded. I reminded him that the previous week I was responding to remarks by the retired Air Force council member, just as I had responded to remarks of the Mayor in other speeches. "So I don't know when it's okay to respond and when it's not."

"Well, I'm talking to you in advance of your speech and I'm warning you that if you say anything about our not following our oath of office, I will cut you off. Do you understand?"

I said I understood, but continued to insist that I had not been insulting to anyone.

The tension in the room was pretty thick as I read my speech, certain as I read every line that he was going to cut me off. In my remarks, I went over the freedom of speech clause in both the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, looking the mayor in the eye as I did so. He did not look happy.

Meanwhile, council member Hicks kept looking over at the mayor expectantly, as if she, too, were certain that he was going to pull the trigger at any moment. He never did. I think he was quite frustrated, actually. My speech was so carefully worded that he simply could not find a way to stop me; yet, I was able to get my points across.

Score one for me on this round. It will be interesting to see what happens next week. Diane says she's going to go after the mayor for conflicts of interest--his voting on gas drilling issues while invested in the gas industry.

Mayor, council members, good morning. I appear again to ask you to pass a resolution calling for the impeachment of the Pres. & V. P. of the United States.

People ask me why are you doing this? What do you hope to achieve? Often, I notice people in this chamber seem to look at me with expressions of disdain or even ridicule.

For me, the basis for this project has always been the Constitution, which, along with freedom of speech, gives citizens the right to petition their government for a redress of grievances. In fact, the first Amendment states that such rights cannot even be abridged. I take that to mean that, in the context of civil, reasoned discourse, these rights cannot be thwarted or silenced by anyone—certainly not by any elected official of this state or of this nation.

The Texas Constitution is, if anything, more blunt.

Section 8 of Article 1 of the Texas Bill of Rights says that “Every person shall be at liberty to speak, write or publish his opinions on any subject. . .and no law shall ever be passed curtailing the liberty of speech or of the press.”

So it was my thinking, however misguided, to come to this place, being the seat of law and government of this town, consisting of a mayor and council members who have sworn an oath to protect and defend this Constitution and laws.

I came because I saw there were members here who seem to think of the rules and the law as of paramount importance. Members like my own representative, Mr. Silcox, who I've seen time and again stand up for the rules, on such issues as the rule governing leaf blowers. Which I strongly agree with, by the way. I still rake and sweep up my grass just like I did before there were all these noisy polluting contraptions.

And Mr. Silcox has also stood for the rules on gas drilling. As Mr. Burns and Ms. Hicks have done—always considerate of the environment in which we must all live. The Mayor himself--Mr. Moncrief--has been a heroic advocate of the homeless.

So I came here believing that surely some members of this body would be in favor of standing up for the rules when they seem threatened by the national government.

Surely, I thought, someone here would be outraged that the rules had been broken by the needless invasion of another country; by those who have taken away the right of habeas corpus, who would actually legislate the torture of human beings.

I thought perhaps the outrage over homelessness might somehow translate to similar outrage over the fact that some 4 million Iraqis have been driven from their homes since we invaded their country. Or that increasing numbers of our veterans are homeless.

In closing, let me remind you that some sixty years ago, our boys in uniform defeated the Germans and the Japanese and were back home going to college on the G.I. Bill in less time than we have now spent in Iraq.

Meanwhile, Mr. Bush's idea of honoring our soldiers killed in this war that he started was to give up playing golf.

Do you really believe that this man and his cohorts deserve a free pass?

Thank you.

Sunday, May 18, 2008


May 13th, 2008

My goal in this speech was to answer the statement of the previous week by a City Council member who referred to his Air Force career, noting that he "certainly knew what it meant to defend the Constitution."
Mayor, Council members, I come before you again to ask you to consider passing a resolution calling for the impeachment of the President and Vice President of the United States.

Last week, one Council member suggested that his service in the Air Force made him an expert at standing by his oath to defend the Constitution.

And I believe with all my heart that that's true. Therefore, I would simply ask him: Then, why aren't you doing it?
(At this point in my speech, the Mayor stopped me. "Mr. Harper," he said, "I've been very patient with you. But I've told you before that I will not tolerate personal attacks on anyone on this council. Now, I will stop you from speaking if you continue in that vein, do hear me?" To which I responded that I was not aware that I had attacked anyone or that I was rude to anyone on the council. "Did you hear what I said?" he asked again. "I will end this meeting and close this chamber if you continue in this vein." "That's your prerogative," I replied, and repeated again that I did not believe I had spoken offensively. He continued to repeat: "Did you hear what I said?" "Yes, I hear you," I said. And he allowed me to go on.)

We have mountains of evidence that laws have been broken, the Constitution violated.

We have a President who lied to Congress and the American people. We have a war based on those lies. We have very young servicemen and women killed, maimed and psychologically damaged, perhaps beyond repair. We have hundreds of thousands killed on the other side and millions driven from their homes. Because of lies.

We have the suspension of habeas corpus for non-citizens, whom our military has detained for months and years without lawyers or trials.

One was just released from Guantanamo after being held in a cage for six years. He was never charged, no evidence was ever presented against him.

We have others, many others, who are not so lucky. Such as Dilawar, an Afghan taxi driver who was beaten to death by our military at Bagram air base. Shackled, terrified, and screaming for Allah's mercy, he was repeatedly beaten by as many as four guards at once. His wrists were chained above his head. His legs had been reduced to pulp. He was just 22 years old, barely a man. He weighed 122 pounds. It took five days to kill him. He was found innocent of any crime.

We have mountains of evidence that torture techniques came from the top down, from the Vice President to Donald Rumsfeld and on down the chain of command.

We have mountains of evidence that the most basic principles of American law and American policy for 200 years have been thrown overboard by the Bush Administration. Principles that my father certainly believed in and fought for, when, as a captain, he flew the China-Burma hump in World War II.

The America my father defended stood by the Geneva Conventions; it stood by long established military tradition that forbade the inhumane treatment of prisoners, and was a model to the world.

In my father's America, we prosecuted Japanese soldiers for the crime of water-boarding, and our leaders condemned and punished the torture even of proven Nazis, on the principle that we must uphold our own humanity, and not descend to the brutish level of the most degraded among us.

And if he could, I'm quite certain my father would be standing here, now, calling on each of you to honor your oath of office, to stand for the rule of law and the

Thank you.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

copeland morris DESIGN

An angel parts the curtain and leaves the door
Ajar. And under the moon the winter passes.
We understand but little of things which freeze,
Which still search for design. The unseen
Have deeper translations. Breakfast is early.
The lights are switched off. We are careful
Not to give away our movements. The luggage
Slow dances around us. I think of white feathers
Under a dove's wing, and empty seats on a train.

Friday, May 09, 2008


May 6, '08

Mayor, Council members, the America I believe in does not torture.

The mayor insists that you are all people of conscience. I take that to mean that noone on this council would stand by and watch another human being tortured without trying to stop it. Is that wishful thinking?

Time after time, Condoleezza Rice has denied that the U.S. tortures detainees in its custody.

In 2005, she said, “The United States does not condone, permit or tolerate torture under any circumstances.”

She also said, “Torture and conspiracy to commit torture are crimes under U.S. Law wherever they may occur in the world.”

“Crimes. . . .”

Now, thanks to recent revelations and by the President's own admission, we know that the U.S. not only condones torture, but the current program was authorized by Bush's most senior advisors. Rice herself chaired the secret meetings that included John Ashcroft, Colin Powell, Donald Rumsfeld, George Tenet, and Dick Cheney.

So while Miss Rice was telling Congress and the American people that “torture and conspiracy to commit torture are crimes under U.S. Law,” she was telling the C.I.A., “It's your baby, go do it.”

In open defiance of all ethical, moral and legal precedents, George W. Bush flatly admits that he was aware of these meetings, that he approves of torture.

This is just one snapshot in a catalog of lies, abuses of power, and violations of law by this administration.

As I said in my last appearance, virtually every legal organization in the land has urged not only Congress but all members of the legal community to speak up in defense of the rule of law.

Countless other individuals and groups that advocate in behalf of our Constitution and civil rights are doing the same. Over a million signatures have gone to Congress urging them to begin impeachment proceedings.

86 cities and towns have passed resolutions calling for impeachment. The Vermont senate has passed such a resolution.

These are not wild-eyed fanatics and neither am I.

This is not and should not be treated as a petty or partisan issue. I believe it is our civic duty to use the power vested in us as Americans to impeach a president and vice president who commit crimes.

To that end, citizens of this town have presented you with the most obvious means for you to act in behalf of the oath you took to defend the Constitution and the rule of law, an oath you swore to the people and to God.

The Mayor has staunchly argued that he and you take your oath seriously, without explaining why he or you can see no reason to act on it.

Thus, in the face of overwhelming evidence that something is seriously amiss, we have no more than your word.

Thank you.

The Mayor talked and laughed quite a bit with the City Attorney during my talk--they're such cut-ups! Then, he called on one of the older council members to offer a defense, of sorts. The man fell back on his service in the Air Force to say that he knew what it really meant to defend the Constitution and that it gave him the right to disagree with people like me, and so on. For the life of me, and those with me, we could not discern what that had to do with honoring his obligation to his oath of office in the current circumstance. Just another case of using one's military service to intimidate and show some kind of superiority, I suppose.

I will address his remarks in my next talk.

Friday, May 02, 2008



Ever the cockeyed optimist, I had almost begun to think perhaps we were on the threshhold of a new and brighter America with our Democratic candidates competing to replace the outlaw regime in Washington. Then came the madcap blowup over Obama's pastor, with Hillary gutter-sniping alongside the scumbags at Fox News and all the other quacks posing as journalists, from George Stephanopoulos to Tim Russert.

It must have slipped Hillary's mind that the same Reverend Wright she was now piously condemning had been summoned to council the Clintons at the White House during the Monica scandal. At some point, the girl came up for air, noticed a familiar taste in her mouth--blood. Feeling thus invigorated, she beat her chest and threatened to obliterate Iran, thus signaling her full-throated embrace of the thug mentality of John McCain and the Bush Administration.

So now that Barack is getting his craw full of what it really means to run for President of America, the question is whether it is already proving too much for him. Based on his lackluster responses to Chris Mathews' inane questions on Fox News, it almost looks like he's down for the count.

The real shame and disgrace is the spectacle of our man withering like a frail violet amid the swarming flies. So this is how he faces down Hillary? What will he do when it's McCain, who hasn't even started in on him, yet? I'm expecting at least an apology per week. Suddenly, we're back in the John Kerry campaign, swift boated to smithereens.

The hatchet job on Kerry's stellar war record was so thoroughly done that he seemed to go into a kind of paralysis that prevented him from offering a proper and righteous response. There he was in a nationally televised debate with W.--the real shirker and fraud--yes, had him in his sights!--and let slip the golden opportunity of asking the cud-chewing frat boy point blank where he was when he apparently went AWOL during his Air National Guard service.

This caving in that "liberals" seem to have developed into a fine art--I almost wonder if at the bottom of it lies some deep-seated self-loathing, a desperate need to lose, peculiar only to Democrats.

I watched Reverend Wright's sermons, the ones in question, and his subsequent performance at the National Press Club. Apart from having an ego the size of Montana and seeming to positively relish the sudden notoriety heaped upon him, I am struggling to figure out what in blazes all the noise is about. As far as I can tell, here is a man who is telling the history of his people, a man who has been to school, whose intelligence is far-ranging and deep, who also has the temerity to speak the truth about why this country is so reviled in the world that it might cause someone to want to fly planes into our buildings.

Instead of distancing himself and repudiating his pastor Barack should have come out swinging as Kerry should have done: "Yes, my pastor is irreverent. He says controversial things--which is his right to do! Get over it, America. Grow up! My pastor is not me. I am not him. Sometimes I agree with him and sometimes I don't. Now, let's talk about health care. Let's talk about ending this illegal war."

But no, we liberals are just too nice for that.


The film exposes the brutality of this country. Ambulances cruising seedy neighborhoods in search of places to dump the uninsureds like so much garbage. It's amazing. You can drive around any modern city and see huge medical complexes, hospitals, clinics of every size and specialty; and I always think to myself, "Now, there's everything you need right there if ever you're sick or injured. . .if. . . .IF--you can pay for it."

In this country, those fine shining citadels are off-limits to around fifty-million Americans. And really more than that, probably far more, if you count the numbers who naively think that just because they're "insured," that their policies will actually cover them for any procedure, when, in reality, they may not be covered at all. The whole insurance industry is a flim-flam.

Europeans would not put up with this insanity for five minutes. The only reason we do so here is because the majority of the population appear to be rather easy pickins for just about every charlatan and scam artist on the planet, beginning with our own government, which, starting with Ronald Reagan (himself an overgrown child), and continuing right through the current regime, quickly caught on to the extent to which the average American is the most simple-minded gullible pushover imaginable. You can tell them just about anything and they will buy it hook, line and sinker. Behold how easy it was to sell them the Iraq War.

Americans so believe the myths of their country that they can brook no criticism or even the suggestion that something sinister and rotten might underlie the shiny exterior; hence, we have three weeks of near-hysteria, verging on foaming at the mouth, over Obama's learned pastor, instead of reasoned discourse about education or health care or how to get us out of this insane war.

The real malady, I fear, is bone-deep and probably can't be repaired by normal, rational means. Reason and facts have been thrown overboard, replaced with fables and magical thinking. The economy, the country itself, will collapse. It is already in a free-fall. The oil companies--mega-flim-flam war profiteers--are reporting record high profits. Bear-Stearns gets bailed out while hundreds of thousands lose their homes; the people, having bought into their own bullshit, have been duped and fleeced as predictably as a yokel in a game of three-card monte. By the time they figure out what hit them, the rats will have stuffed their carpetbags full of boodle and moved on to the next place.

But no, they won't figure it out, after all. What is more apt is they will stand there with their twittering cellphones, jaws flapping in surprise, while the apes at Fox News pin it all on Tom Hayden and the Sixties; and the wars for freedom will grind on because that's the way we drink our health and good order. . . .
And after noon the well-dressed creatures come
To sniff among the dead
And have their lunch

And all the many well-dressed creatures pluck
The swollen avocados from the dust
And stir the minestrone with stray bones

And after lunch
They loll and lounge about
Decanting claret in convenient skulls*

*After Lunch, by Harold Pinter

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...