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18 April 2008

Bailout Bonanza, Ralph Nader

Another great article.

See also his take on the ABC "debate" (as well as Glenn Greenwald's) here; and, if you want, check out his site, Nader.org, now blogrolled on the left ("Nader Page, The").

AlJazeera English on Life in Bagdhad

Mission accomplished. I'm serious -- divide-and-rule is an old, old strategy for controlling populations.

17 April 2008

Bertrand Russell Lectures and Interviews

Film, By Samuel Beckett, Starring Buster Keaton

Documentary on Hinduism

GORE VIDAL: The Man Who Said NO

Blackstone's Commentaries on the Laws of England

Blurb from Yale:

Commentaries on the Laws of England
Blackstone, William, Sir, 1723-1780
4 v.: 2 geneal. tables; 27 cm. (4to)
First Edition
Oxford: Printed at the Clarendon Press, 1765-1769

Gore Vidal on Charlie Rose

Two other previously blogged interviews here and here. Martin Amis starts it off on the first one (execrable person; funny father); go to 26:40 for Vidal. On the second one, Vidal is involved in the talk with Bob Dole a little, but he goes second there, too.

Gore Vidal Interviewed for Typeset, 2006

Floyd Morrow for Mayor of San Diego - Gore Vidal Endorsement

Nader's Running Mate Matt Gonzalez on the Dems, the War and the Strategy for November

ABC PA Democratic Debate from Philadelphia, PA - 4/16/08

Change Congress

A new org by the creator of Creative Commons and Joe Trippi, Howard Dean's campaign manager. Dig videos here.

A man-made famine, Raj Patel | Guardian

"There are many causes behind the world food crisis, but one chief villain: World Bank head, Robert Zoellick."

More from Patel here:

16 April 2008

Behind the News with Doug Henwood

Links to the iTunes podcast on politics and economics; check it out here, too.

Noam Chomsky, Middle East Crises, MIT, 2006

Our debt to Jimmy Carter | Haaretz Editorial

The Israeli New York Times' lead editorial yesterday; my emphasis below:

The government of Israel is boycotting Jimmy Carter, the 39th president of the United States, during his visit here this week. Ehud Olmert, who has not managed to achieve any peace agreement during his public life, and who even tried to undermine negotiations in the past, "could not find the time" to meet the American president who is a signatory to the peace agreement with Egypt. President Shimon Peres agreed to meet Carter, but made sure that he let it be known that he reprimanded his guest for wishing to meet with Khaled Meshal, as if the achievements of the Carter Center fall short of those of the Peres Center for Peace. Carter, who himself said he set out to achieve peace between Israel and Egypt from the day he assumed office, worked incessantly toward that goal and two years after becoming president succeeded - was declared persona non grata by Israel.

The boycott will not be remembered as a glorious moment in this government's history. Jimmy Carter has dedicated his life to humanitarian missions, to peace, to promoting democratic elections, and to better understanding between enemies throughout the world. Recently, he was involved in organizing the democratic elections in Nepal, following which a government will be set up that will include Maoist guerrillas who have laid down their arms. But Israelis have not liked him since he wrote the book "Palestine: Peace not Apartheid."

Israel is not ready for such comparisons, even though the situation begs it. It is doubtful whether it is possible to complain when an outside observer, especially a former U.S. president who is well versed in international affairs, sees in the system of separate roads for Jews and Arabs, the lack of freedom of movement, Israel's control over Palestinian lands and their confiscation, and especially the continued settlement activity, which contravenes all promises Israel made and signed, a matter that cannot be accepted. The interim political situation in the territories has crystallized into a kind of apartheid that has been ongoing for 40 years. In Europe there is talk of the establishment of a binational state in order to overcome this anomaly. In the peace agreement with Egypt, 30 years ago, Israel agreed to "full autonomy" for the occupied territories, not to settle there.

These promises have been forgotten by Israel, but Carter remembers.

Whether Carter's approach to conflict resolution is considered by the Israeli government as appropriate or defeatist, no one can take away from the former U.S. president his international standing, nor the fact that he brought Israel and Egypt to a signed peace that has since held. Carter's method, which says that it is necessary to talk with every one, has still not proven to be any less successful than the method that calls for boycotts and air strikes. In terms of results, at the end of the day, Carter beats out any of those who ostracize him. For the peace agreement with Egypt, he deserves the respect reserved for royalty for the rest of his life.

Administration Set to Use New Spy Program in U.S.

More from WaPo:

Congressional Critics Want More Assurances of Legality

By Spencer S. Hsu
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, April 12, 2008; A03

The Bush administration said yesterday that it plans to start using the nation's most advanced spy technology for domestic purposes soon, rebuffing challenges by House Democrats over the idea's legal authority.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said his department will activate his department's new domestic satellite surveillance office in stages, starting as soon as possible with traditional scientific and homeland security activities -- such as tracking hurricane damage, monitoring climate change and creating terrain maps.

Sophisticated overhead sensor data will be used for law enforcement once privacy and civil rights concerns are resolved, he said. The department has previously said the program will not intercept communications.

"There is no basis to suggest that this process is in any way insufficient to protect the privacy and civil liberties of Americans," Chertoff wrote to Reps. Bennie G. Thompson (D-Miss.) and Jane Harman (D-Calif.), chairmen of the House Homeland Security Committee and its intelligence subcommittee, respectively, in letters released yesterday.

"I think we've fully addressed anybody's concerns," Chertoff added in remarks last week to bloggers. "I think the way is now clear to stand it up and go warm on it."

His statements marked a fresh determination to operate the department's new National Applications Office as part of its counterterrorism efforts. The administration in May 2007 gave DHS authority to coordinate requests for satellite imagery, radar, electronic-signal information, chemical detection and other monitoring capabilities that have been used for decades within U.S. borders for mapping and disaster response.

But Congress delayed launch of the new office last October. Critics cited its potential to expand the role of military assets in domestic law enforcement, to turn new or as-yet-undeveloped technologies against Americans without adequate public debate, and to divert the existing civilian and scientific focus of some satellite work to security uses.

Democrats say Chertoff has not spelled out what federal laws govern the NAO, whose funding and size are classified. Congress barred Homeland Security from funding the office until its investigators could review the office's operating procedures and safeguards. The department submitted answers on Thursday, but some lawmakers promptly said the response was inadequate.

"I have had a firsthand experience with the trust-me theory of law from this administration," said Harman, citing the 2005 disclosure of the National Security Agency's domestic spying program, which included warrantless eavesdropping on calls and e-mails between people in the United States and overseas. "I won't make the same mistake. . . . I want to see the legal underpinnings for the whole program."

Thompson called DHS's release Thursday of the office's procedures and a civil liberties impact assessment "a good start." But, he said, "We still don't know whether the NAO will pass constitutional muster since no legal framework has been provided."

DHS officials said the demands are unwarranted. "The legal framework that governs the National Applications Office . . . is reflected in the Constitution, the U.S. Code and all other U.S. laws," said DHS spokeswoman Laura Keehner. She said its operations will be subject to "robust," structured legal scrutiny by multiple agencies.

View all comments that have been posted about this article.

© 2008 The Washington Post Company

And meanwhile...

Gov’t Obtains Phone Records of NYT Reporter

Federal investigators have obtained the phone records of a New York Times reporter who helped uncover the government’s secret domestic surveillance program. The Times reports that former government officials have recently been called before a federal grand jury and confronted with phone records documenting calls with the reporter James Risen. The Justice Department is trying to identify Risen’s sources for the book, State of War, and for articles he wrote for the Times about the nation’s spy agencies. It is unclear how the federal investigators obtained the phone records. The government may have subpoenaed the phone company to hand over Risen’s records.

Condi Must Go

...and she should be followed by the rest of these thugs.

Stuffed and Starved: As Food Riots Break Out Across the Globe, Part II of Raj Patel on “The Hidden Battle for the World Food System”

Here's Part I. And here's a good idea: "Increase Agricultural Productivity While Reducing the Environmental Footprint."

15 April 2008

US left-wing bloggers to visit Sderot | Ynet (Israeli)

Ah, hasbara. So glad I moved on from MoveOn:

Prominent writers, members of progressive American organizations known for their heavy criticism of Israel will tour the country, meet with top officials. 'We want to provide them with an eye-opening experience that will help them better understand the complexity of the Arab-Israeli conflict,' says trip organizer Ira Forman

Noam Chomsky On Serbia, Kosovo, Yugoslavia and the NATO War

From April, 2006 (on internal evidence).

For any of you pining for the "vastly different" foreign policy of the Clinton years....

Here's a useful exchange, too. Typical "liberal" criticism [sic] of Chomsky. Ah, the truth hurts.

The World According to Monsanto: French-German-Canadian Documentary (in English)

14 April 2008

Pier Paolo Pasolini - A Filmmaker's Life

BBC4: The Life and Times of Count Luchino Visconti

Berkeley Dean responds to call for Yoo dismissal

From the American Friends Service Committee; I'd have titled it, "With Love, From My (Lai) to Yoo" or "It Had To Be Yoo?"

Dear Doug,

Just a few days ago, we sent you an alert, urging you to contact the University of California Berkeley Law School about Professor John Yoo. Because of his direct involvement in the Bush administration's sanctioning of torture by U.S. interrogators, we asked you to join us in calling for his dismissal. Nearly 7,000 individuals on our E-mail list responded to our call. And it appears as if the outcry had an impact.

Pasted below is a response on the subject from Dean Christopher Edley, Jr., the man to whom E-mails from our site were directed. Although he is refusing at this point to dismiss Professor Yoo, he did provide a long and thoughtful statement. Since you have heard our side of the argument, we wanted to share his response with you, as well.

We also wanted to take this opportunity to underscore that the American Freedom Campaign is 100 percent supportive of the First Amendment and respects the academic freedom that tenure is designed to protect and encourage. It cannot be stated strongly enough that we are not opposed to "Professor" Yoo stating an opinion; we are opposed to "government lawyer" John Yoo violating his obligation to defend the Constitution and serve the American people. He was asked to provide a legal justification for torture and ignored every possible ethical -- and perhaps legal -- obligation in existence to give his superiors exactly what they wanted.

This was not an OPINION; this was an ACTION. Unfortunately, it cannot at the present time officially be considered a CRIMINAL action because John Yoo wrote the memo for the very entity responsible for prosecuting violations of the law -- the U.S. Department of Justice. Under the Bush administration, the Justice Department has become merely an extension of the White House. It has refused to prosecute administration officials who ignored congressional subpoenas. It has even refused to consider prosecuting individuals who committed torture, based on the fact that these individuals had been told -- by the Justice Department itself -- they had the authority to do so. So we know that it will not prosecute the very person who wrote a memo authorizing these kinds of tortuous acts.

Moreover, we are now learning that nearly every top member of the Bush administration -- from Vice President Cheney to Secretary Rumsfeld to the president himself -- either participated in meetings to discuss torture or knew the meetings were occurring. So a prosecution of John Yoo would only serve to educate the public about the outrageous actions of the leaders of this country. This will certainly not occur under this administration.

John Yoo committed the most offensive and dangerous act possible in this country. He placed the interests of the President above the law. If our constitutional form of government -- and our reputation in the world -- survives the Bush administration, it will be in spite of John Yoo and his cohorts, not because of them.

If Berkeley Law School is going to keep John Yoo on its faculty, we at least hope that they find someone else to teach Constitutional Law.


Steve Fox
Campaign Director
American Freedom Campaign

P.S. -- If you have not already sent an E-mail to Dean Edley and would like to do so, click on the following link:



The Torture Memos and Academic Freedom

Christopher Edley, Jr.

The Honorable William H. Orrick, Jr. Distinguished Chair and Dean

UC Berkeley Law School

While serving in the Department of Justice, Professor John Yoo wrote memoranda that officials used as the legal basis for policies concerning detention and interrogation techniques in our efforts to combat terrorism. Both the subject and his reasoning are controversial, leading the New York Times (editorial, April 4), the National Lawyers' Guild, and hundreds of individuals from around the world to criticize or at least question Professor Yoo's continuing employment at U.C. Berkeley Law School. As dean, but speaking only for myself, I offer the following explanation, although with no expectation that it will be completely satisfying to anyone.

Professor Yoo began teaching at Berkeley Law in 1993, received tenure in 1999, and then took a leave of absence to work in the Bush Administration. He returned in 2004, and remains a very successful teacher and prolific (though often controversial) scholar. Because this is a public university, he enjoys not only security of employment and academic freedom, but also First Amendment and Due Process rights.

It seems we do need regular reminders: These protections, while not absolute, are nearly so because they are essential to the excellence of American universities and the progress of ideas. Indeed, in Berkeley's classrooms and courtyards our community argues about the legal and moral issues with the intensity and discipline these crucial issues deserve. Those who prefer to avoid these arguments - be they left or right or lazy - will not find Berkeley or any other truly great law school a wholly congenial place to study. For that we make no apology.

Did what Professor Yoo wrote while not at the University somehow place him beyond the pale of academic freedom today? Had this been merely some professor vigorously expounding controversial and even extreme views, we would be in a familiar drama with the usual stakes. Had that professor been on leave marching with Nazis in Skokie or advising communists during the McCarthy era, reasonable people would probably find that an easier case still. Here, additional things are obviously in play. Gravely so.

My sense is that the vast majority of legal academics with a view of the matter disagree with substantial portions of Professor Yoo's analyses, including a great many of his colleagues at Berkeley. If, however, this strong consensus were enough to fire or sanction someone, then academic freedom would be meaningless.

There are important questions about the content of the Yoo memoranda, about tortured definitions of "torture", about how he and his colleagues conceived their role as lawyers, and about whether and when the Commander in Chief is subject to domestic statutes and international law. We press our students to grapple with these matters, and in the legal literature Professor Yoo and his critics do battle. One can oppose and even condemn an idea, but I don't believe that in a university we can fearfully refuse to look at it. That would not be the best way to educate, nor a promising way to seek deeper understanding in a world of continual, strange revolutions.

There is more, however. Having worked in the White House under two presidents, I am exceptionally sensitive to the complex, ineffable boundary between policymaking and law-declaring. I know that Professor Yoo continues to believe his legal reasoning was sound, but I do not know whether he believes that the Department of Defense and CIA made political or moral mistakes in the way they exercised the discretion his memoranda purported to find available to them within the law. As critical as I am of his analyses, no argument about what he did or didn't facilitate, or about his special obligations as an attorney, makes his conduct morally equivalent to that of his nominal clients, Secretary Rumsfeld, et al., or comparable to the conduct of interrogators distant in time, rank and place. Yes, it does matter that Yoo was an adviser, but President Bush and his national security appointees were the deciders.

What troubles me substantively with the analyses in the memoranda is that they reduce the Rule of Law to the Reign of Politics. I believe there is much more to the separation of powers than the promise of ultimate remedies like the ballot box and impeachment, even in the case of a Commander in Chief during war. And I believe that the revolution in sensibilities after 9/11 demands greater, not reduced, vigilance for constitutional rights and safeguards. What of the argument made by so many critics that Professor Yoo was so wrong on these sensitive issues that it amounted to an ethical breach. It is true, I believe, that government lawyers have a larger, higher client than their political supervisors; there are circumstances when a fair reading of the law must - perhaps as an ethical matter? - provide a bulwark to political and bureaucratic discretion. And it shouldn't require a private plaintiff and a Supreme Court ruling to make it so. Few professions require an oath at entry, but law does. Oaths must mean something.

Assuming one believes as I do that Professor Yoo offered bad ideas and even worse advice during his government service, that judgment alone would not warrant dismissal or even a potentially chilling inquiry. As a legal matter, the test here is the relevant excerpt from the "General University Policy Regarding Academic Appointees", adopted for the 10-campus University of California by both the system-wide Academic Senate and the Board of Regents:

Types of unacceptable conduct: … Commission of a criminal act which has led to conviction in a court of law and which clearly demonstrates unfitness to continue as a member of the faculty. [Academic Personnel Manual sec. 015]

This very restrictive standard is binding on me as dean, but I will put aside that shield and state my independent and personal view of the matter. I believe the crucial questions in view of our university mission are these: Was there clear professional misconduct - that is, some breach of the professional ethics applicable to a government attorney - material to Professor Yoo's academic position? Did the writing of the memoranda, and his related conduct, violate a criminal or comparable statute?

Absent very substantial evidence on these questions, no university worthy of distinction should even contemplate dismissing a faculty member. That standard has not been met.

April 10, 2008

Federico Fellini - Documentary

In Italian with English subtitles....

Bush Admits Knowledge of White House Meetings on Interrogation Techniques

No kidding. But, no, please don't impeach. That'd be a waste of time.

Dear ACLU Supporter,

On Friday night, in a national television interview, President Bush directly admitted what we have suspected all along: The White House was deeply and intimately involved in decisions about the CIA’s use of torture.

For the first time, George W. Bush acknowledged that he knew his top national security advisers discussed and approved specific details of the CIA’s use of torture. “I’m aware that our national security team met on this issue and I approved,” he said. He also defended the use of waterboarding -- simulated drowning where the victim feels like they are about to die.

Congress should long ago have gotten to the bottom of which top officials approved, condoned and authorized U.S. involvement in torture. But, now that the President has admitted to a policy of top-down torture, the ACLU is calling on Congress to demand an independent prosecutor to investigate possible violations of the War Crimes Act, the federal Anti-Torture Act and federal assault laws.

Tell your members of Congress: Don’t look the other way on torture.

These latest revelations confirm our worst fears about subversion of the Constitution and betrayals of the rule of law by top government officials. Recent reports indicate that members of the Bush administration including Dick Cheney, Condoleezza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and George Tenet met regularly and approved the CIA’s use of “combined” “enhanced” interrogation techniques, even pushing the limits of the now infamous 2002 Justice Department “Yoo torture memo.”

That long-secret memorandum became public recently as a direct result of ACLU lawsuits aimed at getting out the truth. And the truth is, the indefensible legal opinions put forward in the torture memo tried to give the President a virtual blank check to ignore the rule of law and to violate human rights standards.

Don't tolerate torture. Demand accountability for torture now!

We have to do everything possible to reject the Bush administration’s top-down torture policies. That’s why the ACLU is stepping up pressure on Congress to use its constitutional powers to prevent illegal conduct.

It’s also why the ACLU has taken the extraordinary step of offering our assistance to Guantanamo detainees being prosecuted under the unconstitutional military commissions process. It is more important than ever that the U.S. government, when seeking justice against those it suspects of harming us, adhere to due process and the rule of law.

Take action: Tell Congress to demand answers!

If President Bush's admission finally gets Congress to challenge the Bush administration's torture policies head-on, we can begin restoring the values and due process that the Bush administration has severely undermined in the name of national security.

But, it won’t happen without an unyielding public outcry. Please do your part. Demand that your members of Congress reject torture by holding to account those responsible for approving and implementing these un-American policies.


Caroline Fredrickson, ACLU
Caroline Fredrickson, Director
ACLU Washington Legislative Office

© ACLU, 125 Broad Street, 18th Floor New York, NY 10004

Impeach Bush and Cheney for Torture

On Friday, George Bush told ABC News he personally approved of the approval of torture - including waterboarding - by Dick Cheney, Condoleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld, Colin Powell and George Tenet.

"Yes, I'm aware our national security team met on this issue. And I approved."

In the wake of this shocking and appalling confession, we've come to a historic moment where every American - and every Member of Congress - must take a stand.

Either you're for torture or you're against it. And if you're against it, you must support the only Constitutional remedy for a President and Vice President who commit war crimes: impeachment.

Tell Congress to Impeach Bush and Cheney for Torture

Dr. Martin Luther King famously said of the Vietnam War, "A time comes when silence is betrayal."

When our President and Vice President personally approve torture, that time is now.

Black Ops on Green Groups: Private Security Firm Run by Fmr. Secret Service Officers Spied on Environmental Orgs for Corporate Clients

Ingmar Bergman Interview from BBC's "Arena" in 2003

And here's the "companion piece" to the above: Encountering Bergman:

Laurence Olivier: A Life, 1982 Documentary

The Fountain of Youth, Orson Welles, 1956

Written, directed and narrated by Orson Welles, this rarely seen half hour pilot for an anthology series was made in 1956 for Desilu Studios but never sold. Broadcast two years later in the summer of 1958 during NBC's "Colgate Theater" it would win a Peabody Award for excellence in broadcasting. Welles used imaginative techniques combining still images with live action and rear projection to instantly move from scene to scene. "The Fountain of Youth" stars Dan Tobin, Joi Lansing, Rick Jason, Nancy Kulp, Billy House, Marjorie Bennet and Orson Welles.

Filming Othello, Orson Welles, 1978