Archive for May 1st, 2007

Are you fucking shitting me?!

Loyalty Day?!

In America?!

From the people who brought you “Homeland Security” (arrest without warrant, detention without trial), “Total Information Awareness” (universal, secret snooping), the “Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorists Act” (voiding the Bill of Rights), and silly bullshit posturing in military uniforms, comes yet another foray into fascist-style rhetoric and subtly menacing conformism.

In the latest Republican exercise in self-consciously defensive denial of the meaning of May Day (Eisenhower proclaimed May 1 “Law Day” to show the Commies what’s what, thereby making the United States the only major nation that officially refuses to commemorate the Haymarket Riot – in the country in which it actually occurred), Bush has now declared May 1 to be “Loyalty Day”. (Apparently it’s both Law Day and Loyalty Day. Since the “law” now includes provisions whereby the regime can arrest you secretly without warrant, torture you, hold you incognito without trial or representation, and turn you over to foreign governments for torture or killing, while officially declaring itself untouchable for doing so, it would seem that you are now officially required to commemorate Law Day by being loyal to the concept of having no law.) Yes, the United States now has an officially proclaimed “obligation” to demonstrate “loyalty to the homeland” and its military forces. And apparently we’re now capitalizing the word “Nation” and letting state officials stipulate what emotions we’re having.

Jimmy Breslin once summed up Rudy Giuliani beautifully by calling him “a little man in search of a balcony”. That’s more true than I imagined was possible about Shrub.

Loyalty Day, 2007 A Proclamation by the President of the United States of America America was founded by patriots who risked their lives to bring freedom to our Nation. Today, our citizens are grateful for our Founding Fathers and confident in the principles that lead us forward. On Loyalty Day, we celebrate the blessings of freedom and remember our responsibility to continue our legacy of liberty.Our Nation has never been united simply by blood, birth, or soil, but instead has always been united by the ideals that move us beyond our background and teach us what it means to be Americans. We believe deeply in freedom and self-government, values embodied in our cherished documents and defended by our troops over the course of generations. Our citizens hold the truths of our founding close to their hearts and demonstrate their loyalty in countless ways. We are inspired by the patriotic service of the men and women who wear our Nation’s uniform with honor and decency. The military spouses and families who stand by their loved ones represent the best of the American spirit, and we are profoundly grateful for their sacrifice. Our country is strengthened by the millions of volunteers who show deep compassion toward their neighbors in need. All citizens can express their loyalty to the United States by flying the flag, participating in our democracy, and learning more about our country’s grand story of courage and simple dream of dignity.The Congress, by Public Law 85-529, as amended, has designated May 1 of each year as “Loyalty Day.” This Loyalty Day, and throughout the year, I ask all Americans to join me in reaffirming our allegiance to our Nation.NOW, THEREFORE, I, GEORGE W. BUSH, President of the United States of America, do hereby proclaim May 1, 2007, as Loyalty Day. . . .

It would be hard to count the lies in that statement, or the noble sentiments in it made into lies by this regime. It would be hard to express the disgust and shame of seeing phrases like “blessings of freedom” used in our names by the man who brought torture and the Gulag to America, “neighbors in need” spoken as if in camaraderie by the man who calculatedly watched a city and its citizens die while his underlings funneled aid money to their corporate-mercenary toadies and proclaimed “New Orleans will never be as black again” and who deliberately did all he could to destroy Social Security and who funneled Medicare funds by the billions to corporate interests and who tried to give the entire Social Security trust fund to Wall Street, “volunteers” officially haled by the man who turned the government’s authority and more than a hundred million dollars in tax money over to “faith-based organizations” of one religion only who then engaged in massive open discrimination and religious huckstering and fraud against the citizens who had funded them against their will, “self-government” spoken without self-loathing by a man put into office illegally by his own father’s political appointees after losing a cynical and massively dishonest vote count run by his own paid campaign staff who then dismantled his own country’s constitution. It would be hard to enumerate or commemorate the degree to which America has been slimed and shamed, to which America has ceased to be America, to which America has become a nation of secret jails and stupid wars and mindless slogans all propounded by little men standing on their own self-built balconies, as the result of this one putrid failure strutting his delusional crackpottery in places of power and majesty.

And now he proclaims national emotions and demands national displays and declares obligations and dictates feelings and orders “loyalty”. To that end, I can only offer this

PROCLAMATION OF LOYALTYAs a citizen of the United States of America that was, as a citizen of the United States of America that may one day be again, as a citizen of a once-decent nation now sadly lost in its way, and as a citizen loyal to the ideals embodied, imperfectly but with a sense of aspiration and through a history of continual evolution away from the shames and failures that have returned to haunt us under Republican rule, in the Constitution of the United States of America, I proclaim:

An absolute repudiation of the embarrassing horror of George Bush and his regime;

That the Bush regime is composed of no true Americans, and does not speak in the name or within the tradition of true America;

That George Bush is a blot upon, and a danger to, America and its ideals, and has, through his bungling rule, contempt for law and the nation’s history, and deep-seated incapacity to embrace and exemplify the dedication to freedom, liberty, and tolerance that define America, materially harmed this nation, its citizens, and its relations with decent nations and people everywhere;

That the silly posturing, mindless sloganeering, fascist rhetoric, militaristic display, and anti-libertarian authoritarianism of the Bush regime are anathema to the true spirit of America, have no place in and no meaning for this country, and are to be regarded only with the contempt and derision they deserve;

That America is not a country of commanded loyalties, dictated emotions, or manipulative, manufactured demonstrations of fervor for empty propaganda paraded by self-appointed authorities as approved ideals and values;

That loyalty to America requires loyalty to its citizens and residents and their needs and interests, in all their diversity and difference, and in the right of each to autonomy, self-definition, and the assumption of chosen loyalties in turn;

That loyalty to America requires loyalty to the ideal of freedom as a practical concept defining the sphere of non-interference within which each person is sacrosanct – to the liberal concept of a public/private distinction that walls off personal life from official intrusion – and to the Enlightenment concept of a rationally-grounded personal moral sovereignty from which, only, the legal system derives its authority;

That loyalty to America requires the repudiation of any denial of personal autonomy as a moral foundation of law and society, and defiance of any attempt to remake the nation by authoritarian trespasses;

That loyalty to America requires sorrow at, shame in, and denunciation of the harms to this nation and its citizens following from the incompetent and ill-considered deeds, the repulsive and embarrassing words, and the anti-American values of its current ruling regime.

Now, wherefore, in celebration of Loyalty Day and the ideal America in which true Americans reposit their hopes and aspirations, be it known:

That official “Loyalty Days” are contrary to the spirit of a free nation;

That America is worthy of loyalty only to the degree and so long as it upholds and continues to aspire to the liberal ideals and history of progress, tolerance, and increasing personal liberty that have marked the best days of the nation’s history;

That loyalty to America today requires active opposition to the trespasses against its ideals that define and defame its current ruling regime;

That loyal Americans work to reverse the general course the country has taken since the regime of Ronald Reagan, and most especially of George Bush;

That America will have recaptured its ideals and deserved the loyalty of its citizens when the works of the people and parties who have brought shame upon the nation, undermined its ideals, and imposed, as the least of their trespasses, official proclamations worthy of the most contemptible dictatorships upon its people, have been thoroughly undone and forever repudiated;

That loyal Americans look and work toward that day, with contempt only for those who make that necessary and delay its coming.

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I am posting an excerpt of a letter from the ACLU below on the hate crime legislation before Congress on Thursday but I want to point something out here. Unlike other hate crimes bills, the ACLU is on board with this one — they don;t see it as an attack on free speech or creating a class of “thought crimes” The letter itself does a good job of arguing that debunking the notion that the Hate Crimes bill is an attack on free speech. Think about that for a moment. The ACLU is absolutist on free speech grounds, so absolutist about free speech that they once argued for the right of Nazis to march through a neighborhood of holocaust survivors. And they think this is a good bill that does not infringe upon the First Amendment. That’s even more of a sure thing than Billy Beane telling you a pitcher is a real bargain.

The people who use violence to intimidate whole classes of people are not common criminals. They are terrorists and their crimes damage the larger society. They should be punished accordingly. Call your rep and tell them to vote for the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act. You can find the contact info for your rep here.

And now the letter (my emphasis):

We are pleased that the sponsors of the legislation are once again including in the legislation an important provision that ensures that the bill will not chill constitutionally protected speech. Specifically, the bill will include a specific provision excluding evidence of speech that is unrelated to the crime. As a result, the ACLU is strongly urging support for this bill expanding the federal criminal civil rights statutes.

The ACLU believes that the Congress can and should expand federal jurisdiction to prosecute criminal civil rights violations when state and local governments are unwilling or unable to prosecute. At the same time, we also believe that these prosecutions should not include evidence of mere abstract beliefs or mere membership in an organization from becoming a basis for such prosecutions. The hate crimes bill accomplishes these goals by providing a stronger federal response to criminal civil rights violations, but tempering it with clear protections for free speech.

… The ACLU appreciates the sponsors’ inclusion of the evidentiary provision that prevents the hate crimes legislation from having any potentially chilling effect on constitutionally protected speech. The evidentiary subsection in the bill provides that:

Evidence of expression or association of the defendant may not be introduced as substantive evidence at trial, unless the evidence specifically relates to that offense. However, nothing in this section affects the rules of evidence governing the impeachment of a witness.

This provision will reduce or eliminate the possibility that the federal government could obtain a criminal conviction on the basis of evidence of speech that had no role in the chain of events that led to any alleged violent act proscribed by the statute.

…. On its face, the hate crimes bill punishes only the conduct of intentionally selecting another person for violence because of that person’s race, color, national origin, religion, gender, sexual orientation, gender identity, or disability. The prosecution must prove the conduct of intentional selection of the victim. Thus, the hate crimes bill, like the present principal criminal civil rights statute, 18 U.S.C. § 245 (“section 245”), punishes discrimination (an act), not bigotry (a belief).

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This is flat wrong:

The U.S. House will vote this week on a bill that would add sexual orientation, gender, gender identity and disability to the federal hate crimes law. We don’t need it. Some gays say that they would oppose it if no one else was covered by such laws, but since they are we are. But we don’t need to insist that we are a minority needing special protection by the thought crime police. All these bills do is create enhanced penalties for behavior that is already illegal. Beating me up because I’m gay should lead to the same punishmennt for the perp as beating me up to get my wallet. It would be the unusual thug who intended to gay bash but, because of the possibility of an enhanced punishment under a law he probably doesn’t know exists, decides not to.

The people who would beat up Mike because he is gay are not common criminals — they are terrorists. People who would beat up Mike because he is gay are not just attacking Mike. In a very real sense, in fact, Mike would be incidental to the actual crime. Any gay person would have done, which is the point of both the crime and the laws meant to combat it. People who assault homosexuals because they are homosexuals are attempting to terrorize an entire group of people. Their crime is not just the assault but also the threats to other people the initial beating represents. “Stay in your closet or this will happen to you too” is a very real threat and it has very real affects on people. Not punishing that aspect of the crime would be a travesty. This is not a matter of mythical “special protection” and these are not “thought crimes”. It is a matter of justice for all the victims of the crimes committed and hopefully preventing such intimidation in the future.

Link via Nashville is Talking

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I Am An Asshole

That’s really all I can think after my reaction to last night’s ESPN coverage of the Cardinals-Brewers game. Look, I understand that it’s a tragedy to lose a friend and teammate, and I understand that this is bound to affect people for some time in different ways. But it seemed as if the commentators, both in the booth and in the studio, had pre-written scripts for every possible outcome, all of which had the death of Josh Hancock as not only the focal point, but the reason for each result. As it was, the Cardinals got their asses handed to them, and this was because they were “distracted” by the loss of Hancock (not because the Brewers played well, or because Suppan pitched extremely well). All of the “mental mistakes” made by the Cardinals were blamed on Hancock’s death, as if they never would have screwed up if not for the death of a middle reliever. Meanwhile, Hancock’s replacement, just called up from AAA, pitched a scoreless inning, and this both “a fitting tribute” to Hancock (which I can understand) and motivated by Hancock’s death (which I can’t).

Had the Cardinals won the game instead of lost it, the story line would have been all about how the team “rallied around” the death of Hancock and were “inspired” by it. Again, I understand that his death was going to be a story line, but to cover the game as though it’s all about the death of the player, and secondarily about the Cardinals team, and not at all about the team they’re playing against, does a disservice to the sport, the teams involved, and them memory of the deceased.

Some may call me an asshole for this stance. I’ve pre-emptively done that in my title for you.

UPDATE: To his credit, Cardinals manager Tony LaRussa has dismissed Hancock’s death as an excuse for his team’s poor play, noting that they were playing poorly even before that happened.

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I have to say I’m kind of digging the “Washington Madam” story. I hadn’t really been paying a lot of attention – DC bigwigs hire prostitutes from escort services?! Really?! – but as it slowly unfolds I have begun to admire the “madam’s” tactics more and more.

Step by step she has been hinting about releasing her clients’ names. At first she just suggested it might come out. Then she dumped her entire phone records (reportedly almost 50 pounds of documents) on ABC and let them back-trace the numbers to identify the Johns. Now she’s hinting that she’ll call those Johns to testify in her defense (i.e., that they hired escorts but not for sex) at her trial. The administration flack in charge of – you could have predicted this – “abstinence only” programs has already made that case for her in the press, then resigned. Now ABC has announced they also have the names of a White House official, a conservative “think” tank head, several other members of government, some military and corporate officers, etc. – with hundreds more in the wings.

It’s beautiful.

Seeing the hypocrites and creeps exposed is fun in its own right, of course, but, uncharacteristically, it’s not schadenfreude that gets me excited right now, but the simple joy of seeing someone trapped in a corner fight her battle so skillfully.

What she’s very clearly doing is ratcheting up the pressure one step at a time on the only people she knows can get the charges quashed (and who have proven they’re perfectly willing to subvert justice for personal consideration): administration insiders. Her line from the beginning is that she is being unfairly prosecuted and harassed – which creates plausible deniability for the administration to “discover” that its case is tainted and to dismiss charges on a technicality. The longer they drag their feet, the higher she builds up expectations. When they refused to help her in the face of threats, she knocked off one of their capos, and made it clear more was to come. She implicated right-wing figures outside the government to add pressure. If they still decide to go to the mattresses (hee!), she’s got 50 pounds of phone numbers to unleash. (This analysis presupposes that ABC is playing ball at least to some extent, but why wouldn’t they be? She wouldn’t have given them the numbers without demanding control over when they get published.) It’s quite straightforward blackmail and she’s using the newspapers as her conduit, which is even bolder. You have to admire it.

I’m surprised they haven’t dropped the charges yet, but I won’t be surprised if they eventually do so.

Another thing I like about her is that she’s poised, witty, and intelligent. In an age when even elected officials (let’s not even mention Shrub) can hardly string a coherent sentence together, she engages in sophisticated and complex arguments that actually make sense:

Put aside the titillation of the who’s-who list — at least in part — and instead investigate the disturbing genesis, the confounding evolution and the equally alarming continuation of this matter. I believe there is something very rotten at the core of my circumstance. . . .

[Her tactics are necessary] since the government has placed me in the untenable position whereby I do not have sufficient monies to undertake this extraordinarily expensive task on my own. . . .

Had [Tobias, the kinky abstinence creep come forward] earlier along with the many, many others who have used my company’s services throughout the years, I most likely would not be in my current predicament.

Put aside the misuse of the word “monies”, is there anyone else in Washington who can confidently reel off coherent and logical strings of 4- and 5-syllable words in a press conference about their own arrest in a sex scandal? (Add to that the fact that she’s pretty and looks kind of hot in those wire-rim glasses, and I’m starting a serious crush.)

The government, of course, has no freakin’ clue what it’s getting into. Neither did her court-appointed lawyer:

Some veteran Washington defense lawyers privately question Palfrey’s strategy: Who would willingly appear as a defense witness to help someone who has just made him the brunt of gossip and ruined his career and life?

(1) They’re not intended to appear. They’re intended to call the White House and tell them to back off. (The video sidebar says her lawyer has already received numerous calls from lawyers representing unnamed men, wanting to know if their phone numbers were on the list.) (2) It doesn’t matter whether they want to appear or not. If they get subpoenaed, of course they’re going to say they paid $300 and didn’t get laid, which helps her case and also makes them look like losers (so it’s back to #1 again).

Why does nobody understand this?

Even her defense attorney doesn’t seem to get it:

As a client, Palfrey may not be easy. She had been assigned one of the court’s most respected defense lawyers, A. J. Kramer. But the two had “irreconcilable differences” over how to best proceed with her defense, she said.

Kramer declined yesterday to comment on their split, but it was clear that Palfrey’s and Sibley’s propensity to hold news conferences after every court hearing did not mesh with Kramer’s style.

(She gets a public defender because the government has frozen her assets – proving that they don’t even know what game they’re playing. They pressure her by . . . giving her a free lawyer. She pressures them by . . . sending them down the tubes one by one. Who’s winning, here? I have to admit I don’t know how she’s paying her personal lawyer, Sibley – he may just be letting her run up a tab.)

The public defender apparently believes he’s got a criminal case on his hands – which is just plain bad lawyering. Look, doofus – your client’s guilty. Your job is not to let the case go to trial, not to go around subpoenaeing friendly witnesses. (She was running an embarrassing illegal business – there are no friendly witnesses.) Your client is doing that job for you. That’s why she holds press conferences at every new stage of the case. Get with the program, dude. Stop screwing around and start making some threatening phone calls, capisch?

All in all, it seems to me she’s giving the government more than a run for their money in what they probably thought was an open-and-shut case. You have to give her credit for it.

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