A chill comin’ on

August 25, 2009

iciclesI heard a snippet of an interview today about the new investigations of the CIA by the Department of Justice.   The reporter asked some guy what he thought the effect might be on counter-terrorism operations abroad.

There will be a chilling effect, definitely.  These people [being investigated for abuse of prisoners, torture, etc.] thought they were following the policy, orders…

Not his exact words, but close.  Let’s hope there’s a chilling effect!  We need it!  Yes, do your job without torturing people, imprisoning them on flimsy suspicions, and stop “rendering” them to foreign countries willing to beat them to death to do us a favor of keeping our hands clean.

Let’s demand that our gallant defenders of our liberty stop and think a bit about what they are doing in secret rooms, and not feel free to run amok because they can use the old excuse, “I was just following orders…”


Gates arrest: What are the odds?

July 24, 2009


Let’s see.  Louis Gates, a senior citizen, renowned professor at Harvard, walking with a cane, is arrested by the Cambridge police in his own home, for…shouting at a cop?  He violated the first rule of encountering the police force:  never antagonize an officer.  Still, what are the odds he would have been arrested if he hadn’t been black?  Much smaller, I’d say, but not zero!

The fruits of torture

July 4, 2009

From the NYTimes today, an article about Iran:

Top Reformers Admitted Plot, Iran Declares

The government has made it a practice to publicize confessions from political prisoners held without charge or legal representation, often subjected to pressure tactics like sleep deprivation, solitary confinement and torture, according to human rights groups and former political prisoners. Human rights groups estimate that hundreds of people have been detained.

Confessions!  What a surprise!  Yes, torture is a very effective instrument for uncovering the truth.  Ask Dick Cheney.

Happy 4th!  flagwave

White makes right?

July 3, 2009


The recent court case reversing the lower court decision on a discrimination suit by New Haven firemen got me thinking.  The white firemen claim that they were unfairly denied promotions when the department changed the exam and readministered it, hoping to get more minority-group officers in place.  It seems to me that their case is based on the assumption that they have a right to be promoted, which was, I believe, the gist of Justice Ginzburg’s dissent.

Let’s see…a racially and ethnically diverse city, New Haven, decides that it should have a fire department that reflects its citizenry.  Okay.  They have an all-white department, so they start recruiting non-white candidates.  Okay.  They have no success, so they say, “We are not getting the result we want.  We have to change our recruiting policies.”  Nobody has a problem with that.

So they change, and the nature of the firefighting force changes.  But all the captains are white.  They feel they have a qualified pool of minority firemen, but none of them pass the test.  So they change the test.  The white firemen sue.

There seems to be an assumption current that the test was “dumbed down.”  I don’t think any evidence for that was presented.  The only other reason to challenge the action of the department is if you support the notion that the firemen who first passed the test have a right to be promoted.  Maybe there is a legal-contractual issue here, e.g., it is not allowed to refuse promotion once the test is passed, etc., but I don’t think so.  Why do they have any more of a right than any other group in the department?  Isn’t the policy of the department more important?

It reminds me of the suits brought by white students against universities when they fail to gain admission to a prestigious law or medical school.  The claim is that a qualified white student was refused to offer a seat to a non-white person.  The implication is that the minority student was not qualified, often simply because his or her SAT scores were lower.  (How the one-to-one association between who is refused and who is admitted is made is unclear to me!)  Here again, the assumption is that the white student has the right to a seat that has been stolen.  This is presumptuous.


January 20, 2009


First ever acknowledgement of “unbelievers” by a president…in the innaugural, no less!

Oops!  Apparently he said non- not un-.  Great either way.  I’m an UNbeliever!

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus, and nonbelievers.

A president whose father wouldn’t have been served in a local restaurant sixty years ago…Amen to that!

A fine speech!!

The date, the site, and the event brought Martin Luther King to mind for millions, no doubt, but in my mind, on this innauguration, the spirit of another president was close.  Lyndon B. Johnson, who could have gone down in history as one of America’s greatest, who did more for the cause of civil rights in the USA than any other president after Lincoln, and who destroyed his presidency and historical reputation with the folly and horror of Vietnam.

LBJ shows off his scar from an appendix removal to reporters – brilliantly caricatured by Levine, the scar is a map of Vietnam.

medium_lbj-scar lbjscar2

And we are “free at last” of George W. Bush (and his family, I hope!).  Into the dustbin of history with him!!


Democratic Transparency

August 30, 2008

Democratic Transparency - James Gillray

The content of political rhetoric is fluff, spin, and image mongering.  More so today than ever before?  Perhaps.  For those who are interested, the truth is not hard to find behind the colored pictures of the magic lantern show of television.

Every once in a while, I come across an article or a letter in the NYTimes that nails it right on the head.  Simply, and without complications.  Here is my latest entry:

To the Editor:

John McCain’s choice of Gov. Sarah Palin of Alaska as his running mate is reminiscent of President George H. W. Bush’s choice of Clarence Thomas for the Supreme Court.

Faced with public sentiment for an African-American to replace Justice Thurgood Marshall, Mr. Bush said, in effect: “You want an African-American? Here’s one who will consistently work against most African-American interests.”

Mr. McCain, thinking that he can seduce supporters of Hillary Rodham Clinton, says: “You want a woman on the ticket? Here’s a solidly anti-choice woman who’ll work against women’s interests.”

Interestingly, both choices play the same game of identity politics that Republicans claim to abhor.

Their cynicism is shameless.

Joseph Russo

Bristol, R.I., Aug. 29, 2008

Thanks, Mr. Russo.

“A dagger at my heart…”

August 21, 2008

Once again (see this post) I return to the story of mass arrests in NYC – peaceful protesters, or people not even demonstrating, hauled into the precinct station, some of whom were held for days.  Only two people tried – acquitted of course – in proceedings that surely must have been absurd to witness given the evidence available that totally undermined all of NYPD’s claims. Everyone else released, no charges.  Why were they arrested?  HYSTERIA!

The New York Times has been following, and sometimes editorializing about the process by which the lawsuits against the city are being settled.  Today, it describes how at great cost in legal fees and staff time, after much stalling and stonewalling, the city is paying out millions of dollars to settle claims related to its violation of civil rights.  Of course, the NYPD admits no wrong doing – state organs never do.

The article quotes the fellow shown in the picture above:

Then they started arresting us, one by one. At that point, I got emotional — I could not believe in my country, in my city, I could get arrested for doing absolutely nothing and standing on the sidewalk,” Mr. Shirazi added.

Are there any lessons from the day? The Law Department said the $2 million payout did not mean the police had done anything wrong. “This settlement was reached without any admission of liability on behalf of the city and the individual defendants,” said Ms. Halatyn, the city lawyer.

The Police Department did not respond to a request for comment on the settlement.

Mr. Shirazi said that as he was being handcuffed for the first time in his life, he told the officer that the plastic cuffs were squeezing him. “He said, ‘You should have thought about that before you came out this morning.’ It was like a dagger in my heart, that a police officer of my city would come up with anything like that.”

In what does patriotism and love of country consist?  Following orders motivated by unthinking fear or hallowing and practicing the ideas that gave it rise in the first place?