Friday, August 19, 2005

Friedman: Blacklist "Excuse Makers"

The NYT op-ed from last month is behind the paper's new $ wall of sleep, but if the abstract, and this John Pilger article are an accurate reflection of its content, then the war at home could get as FUBAR as the war over there:

Friedman's latest bark is about free speech, which his country's Constitution is said to safeguard. He wants the State Department to draw up a blacklist of those who make "wrong" political statements. He is referring not only to those who advocate violence, but to those who believe American actions are the root cause of the current terrorism. The latter group, which he describes as "just one notch less despicable than the terrorists," includes most Americans and Britons, according to the latest polls.

Friedman wants a "War of Ideas report" that names those who try to understand and explain, for example, why London was bombed. These are "excuse makers" who "deserve to be exposed." He borrows the term "excuse makers" from James Rubin, who was Madeleine Albright's chief apologist at the State Department. Albright, who rose to secretary of state under President Clinton, said that the death of half a million Iraqi infants as a result of an American-driven blockade was a "price" that was "worth it." Of all the interviews I have filmed in official Washington, Rubin's defense of this mass killing is unforgettable.

Don't ask why. Don't object to anything. Don't question or criticize.

As the war over there continues to falter, war mongers will increasingly turn on the only remaining and apparently vulnerable enemy--the rest of us. Don't believe me? See right-wing smears of Cindy Sheehan as a "trailer" of things to come.

Bullying Venezuela

Not content with just mucking up the Middle East, Def Sec Rummy went south to try to cajole our Latin American neighbors into helping the administration "isolate" (read=destabilize) Venezuela and the Hugo Chavez government, because the Hugo government is allegedly acting to "destabilize" other Latin American governments, such as Bolivia. Well, that is, Chavez and his buddy, and U.S. thorn-in-the-side, Fidel Castro.

After acting in concert with military coup planners in 2002 to unseat the democratically elected Chavez, the administration worked to force a recall vote. The recall petition succeeded but Chavez ultimately won the vote anyway. So despite U.S. wishes, Chavez remains in office. And apparently doesn't like us much. Gee, I wonder why.

While You Were Out

Republicans in Congress continue their war against Constitutional liberties:

PROPONENTS OF the so-called Streamlined Procedures Act justify this radical piece of legislation by citing the supposedly intrusive scrutiny of federal courts of state capital convictions and the delays that ensue. So it is particularly instructive that chief justices of the nation's state court systems have voted overwhelmingly to urge Congress to slow down. The chief justices would be, after all, the apparent beneficiaries of the bill, which would gut federal review of the convictions they oversee. Yet in a strongly worded resolution by the Conference of Chief Justices -- with only the chief justice of death-happy Texas voting no -- the heads of state judicial systems said in essence, "Thanks, but no thanks." Cooler heads in Congress ought to listen.

The bill, pushed in the Senate by Jon Kyl (R-Ariz.) and in the House by Daniel E. Lungren (R-Calif.), would be an unmitigated disaster. Habeas corpus is the centuries-old device by which inmates challenge the legality of their detentions. In modern times it has become the essential vehicle by which convicts on death row or serving lengthy prison terms attack their state-court convictions. Many innocent people owe their freedom to their ability to file habeas petitions.

Yet in many death cases, the most drastic versions of the bill would eliminate federal review entirely. Even where they didn't do that, they would create onerous procedural roadblocks and prevent federal courts from considering key issues. They would bar federal courts from reviewing most capital sentencing and create arbitrary timetables for federal appeals courts to handle these cases. All of which, you might think, would be music to the ears of state court justices, for whom it is a big blank check.

Unless, of course, those chief justices are interested in, well, justice. The resolution, adopted jointly with the Conference of State Court Administrators, notes that "the changes contemplated in these measures may preclude state defendants in both capital and non-capital matters from seeking habeas corpus relief" with "unknown consequences for the state courts and for the administration of justice." It recommends "delaying further action" pending additional study to evaluate whether change in current law is even necessary. If it is, the justices urge Congress "to consider appropriate targeted measures that will ameliorate the documented problems and avoid depriving the federal courts of their traditional jurisdiction without more supporting evidence."

The Senate Judiciary Committee is poised to take up a somewhat less dire version of the bill when Congress returns. This rebuke ought to give senators pause about even that. At a minimum, any senator contemplating voting for it needs to ask why the Senate should be insulating state courts from review against their apparent will.

You know when the neocon Wash Post editors are aghast at a Republican-sponsored bill, we should be alarmed. Let's keep our eyes on this bill and inform our representatives, particularly in the Senate, that acting as obstructionists would be entirely acceptable as well as necessary.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

We Are Not Worthy Of Their War

Naturally the thing that gets me about Cindy Sheehan is the right-wing's reaction to her. It didn't take long for the usual suspects to drop whatever it was they weren't doing and go all apeshit on her. Limbaugh, Drudge, Oh, Really? Malkin, and now this guy.

I'm not sure what it is that bothers them so. Maybe it's as this one freerepublic.commer suggested at last night's anti-war candle-light vigil counter-protest :

The're [anti-war protests] getting a little out of hand.

Even though representatives from the right/wrong's hate radio militia went to the Green Zone for a spell and quickly came back trumpeting the "progress" being made in Iraq, the true believers are beginning to realize that things stink to high heaven. But the thing is, for them, because the effort is Bush-led, the cause is still just, even if the results stink. And if we, and mild mannered women holding candles don't get that, it's because we are just not worthy of their war.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Glad It's Pre-Season

Did you happen to watch any of the game the other night between Carolina and Washington? Yeah, the preseason one.

It featured much of what we've come to expect here of our team in the nation's capital. No passing attack. Sloppy play. A former Redskin player scoring. And oh yeah, a loss.

Since relocating to the DC area seven years ago, I gradually, and much against my will, found myself routing for the Redskins, a team I used to despise. My new-found loyalties have not worked out, however.

In reading a recent write up I discovered the Redskins went 6-10 last year. I had forgotten that. Were they really that Good, to have won six games? I'm looking for about three wins this year.

For the past several seasons the Redskins have been the winner of every off-season super bowl, attracting media attention with one high-priced signing or trade. Or a significant coaching hire. Then the team flops when the actual season comes around.

This off-season was different. Players identified by the coach as "core Redskins" took off for greener pastures. Fred Smoot to Minnesota, LB Pierce to the division rival Giants, and a wide receiver swap with the Jets that saw L. Coles go back to NYC and Santana Moss land here. And this was pretty much a straight up trade, receiver for receiver. You can buy drugs on the street and not get ripped off that bad.

True, Coles didn't do a lot here because no one could get him the ball. Which I suppose brings us to the quarterback. Seeing Saturday night's game convinced me Ramsey is done here. He doesn't look comfortable. For a team that lost a lot of talent this offseason, that ain't a good sign, especially since he's been around the joint for a couple of years now.

ESPN's Len Pasquarelli, who usually manages to keep to the old adage about saying something nice or not saying anything at all, ripped the Redskins in his camp review column. And he suggested--and this AFTER the hideous Ravens game and BEFORE the Panthers game--that the clock was ticking on Patrick Ramsey's future with the team. I don't doubt that that is true, and that rookie Jason Campbell will see action sooner rather than later.

At least there's the Gregg Williams' coached defense, which overcame injuries last year, and with some unsung fill-ins, did a pretty good job stopping people. Good thing, too, because the Redskins didn't cross the goal-line too often.

Anyway, there's nothing like low expectations to make an expected-tough season endurable.