A good part of the reason I started blogging was because I went to a history conference at a UT branch up between Dallas and Fort Worth and found that, contrary to belief, many well known academic historians have found community history projects to be invaluable because of their focus and details. Photos rated high. Photos with details rate high. Interviews with participants in events rated high. Interviews with older people rated high if you cover their experience and perspective.
- Prairie Weather


“Protest works. Just look at the proof”


The last place you will hear about the new American labor movement is in big American outlets.

Via lambert, via susie. See them, their blogrolls, Twitter hash tag #1u and just about any other outlet where citizens can get the word out.

The Coalition of Immokalee Workers (CIW)

The CIW is a community-based organization of mainly Latino, Mayan Indian and Haitian immigrants working in low-wage jobs throughout the state of Florida. Via.


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This Week in Tyranny

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post


Has anyone been more unjustly marginalized than Scott Ritter?

On the surface, Mohammed’s story was too much to believe. I was willing to accept any account that held that specific Iraqi groups, such as Ahmed Chalabi’s Iraqi National Congress, were opposed to my visit to the extent that they might issue threats in an effort to intimidate me from coming. But the concept of the United States government being involved boggled the mind.
He was consistently right about Iraq in the run up to the war, and now his ongoing investigations as a journalist are fraught with danger. And the maniacally secretive and vindictive nature of the Administration makes it hard to dismiss something like this out of hand.


One participant’s account of the proceedings at Guantánamo: “Spray and pray. Charge everybody. Let’s go. Speed, speed, speed.” Not to be too flippant, but when even the kangaroos in your kangaroo court are dismissive of its legitimacy you’re turning it into an open joke. More seriously, some in the military have acquitted themselves admirably in this dark time. I plan to go into more detail with Thursday’s post.


While we’re on the subject, the next trial is getting ready to begin. This time it’s Canadian Omar Khadr. How’s that shaping up?

Khadr’s Pentagon defense lawyers are seeking to have the charges dismissed on grounds a general at the Pentagon exerted unlawful influence over the prosecutor at military commissions. They are also seeking to revisit a so-called Child Soldier defense. Defense lawyers say were Khadr to go to trial he would be the first child soldier prosecuted for a war crime in modern times.
There is a reason the administration does not want these trials to happen on American soil or under the American system of justice, and it has nothing to do with the worst of the worst, preventing future attacks or being at war. Rather, we have treated these people shamefully and in direct contradiction to a humanity towards captives that goes - literally - back to George Washington. They don’t want us to know that.


Both of those last items came courtesy of the Miami Herald’s increasingly indispensable Guantánamo coverage by Carol Rosenberg. Journalism, my friends.


Marisa Taylor of McClatchy writes (via) about our terrible Attorney General’s proposal to allow the FBI to do away with post-Watergate restrictions on surveillance. She quotes Michael German, late of the FBI and current policy counsel for the ACLU:

I’m concerned with the way the attorney general frames the problem. He talks about ‘arbitrary or irrelevant differences’ between criminal and national security investigations but these were corrections originally designed to prevent the type of overreach the FBI engaged in for years…Nobody’s complaining about the FBI collecting domestic intelligence when it’s appropriate and authorized under the law. What the attorney general is doing is expanding the bureau’s intelligence collection without addressing the mismanagement within the FBI. If you have an agency collecting more with less oversight, it’s only going to get worse.
Taylor:
The Justice Department’s Inspector General has found that between 2003 and 2006 the FBI sought personal records of Americans by relying improperly on so-called “national security letters”, rather than seeking court approval. Last week, the FBI apologized to two newspapers for secretly obtaining reporters’ phone records without following proper bureau procedures. FBI officials have said the bureau has since instituted stronger oversight to prevent abuses, but German said recent events demonstrated that Mukasey needed to strengthen the FBI’s guidelines, not “water them down.”
And Mukasey cites a “loud demand” for these changes. He cites no sources of loudness though. What a jerk.


Finally, I’ve coined a new word - invasia (n): The inability to remember recent wars of aggression.


UPDATE: Diane on Planet Gulag. Jim Henley on where that puts us.

The Hippie White House

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

If it is true that our earliest experiences are the most influential (child is father to the man and all that) then the sixties are the dominant years for our current leaders. It has since become a cliché that the era never really ended and continues to fundamentally shape our discourse, but I only agree to a point. After all, every generation is shaped by the events of its time and those events exert an ongoing influence. On the other hand, the turbulence then does make it more influential than other periods. Starting with the Kennedy assassination and ending with Watergate there was an unpopular draft, the Vietnam war, additional traumatic political murders and other momentous events that have cast a very long shadow. And of course the generation formed in this cauldron was also part of a huge population spike, which imprinted the swirl of controversy even more firmly on the national psyche. But even without the demographic component it was destined to be much-discussed because it was marked by contentiousness that has not been matched until perhaps recently. (Side note to today’s young people: Hope you like those arguments you’re having! You can look forward to another forty years of them.)

The resignation of Richard Nixon and the winding down of the war shortly thereafter seemed to end that chapter, and a couple of interpretations hardened into conventional wisdom. My best attempt to summarize goes like this: “The antiwar activists were basically right to protest; the war was waged under a false premise and should never have escalated as it did. They made their points very rudely though, and it would have been nicer if they had been a little more polite and diplomatic. And Nixon stepped way over the line and deserved to leave office in disgrace.” It still flares up periodically, as in Patrick Buchanan’s 1992 Republican convention speech (“[t]here is a religious war going on in our country for the soul of America. It is a cultural war, as critical to the kind of nation we will one day be as was the Cold War itself.”) but it usually seems to be along the lines of how the sixties coarsened our culture and introduced moral relativism. The basic take on the war itself or the resignation looked settled. However, beneath the surface on the far right was a sense of rage, shame and defiance. Some like young David Addington believed (per a childhood friend) America “should have stayed and won the Vietnam War, despite the fact that we were losing”. Others like Dick Cheney concluded that “Watergate and a lot of things around Watergate and Vietnam, both during the ’70s served, I think, to erode the authority” of the President. In other words, a small but eventually influential group on the right never conceded anything.

From their perspective the only problem with Vietnam was that we left, and when they finally got to direct a war of their own there would be no such mistake. In the face of total discredit and loss of faith from the public they would continue a deeply unpopular war because to do otherwise would be to concede “we don’t have the stomach for the fight”. The domino theory was perfectly valid, and in fact lived on as a “benign domino” of democratic reform in the middle east. And Nixon was right to wiretap without warrants - period. It became impermissible to say so in polite company, but he got a raw deal. Quietly but insistently members of this group managed to get their hands on the levers of power, and they set to righting the wrongs of that prior era. And of course, it also means the next generation of Cheneys, Bushes and Addingtons are currently justifying torture, championing (and studiously avoiding service in) the Iraq war, and arguing that respecting civil liberties turns the Constitution into a suicide pact.

But like an O. Henry short story here is the upside down twist at the end: The hippies won anyway. The administration that so self-consciously distanced itself from the flower child ethos has adopted some of its most remarked upon features. Its leaders are cheerfully vulgar towards those they disagree with, and far from being apologetic they justify it with an “if it feels good do it” attitude. They are resolute authority haters, dismissive of all attempts at oversight and casually contemptuous of the law. They avoided service in a war they supported through exquisitely timed pregnancies or neglected stateside duties. They wear suits instead of tie dies, but otherwise conform perfectly to the caricature of dissolution they have taken great pains to repudiate.

This Week in Tyranny

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post


Marcy has pretty much been a one-woman wrecking crew on the anthrax investigation.  Every new obfuscation and dubious claim is getting annihilated in near-real time, which would be a lot more entertaining if the subject wasn’t so serious.


The Pentagon has shut down one of its spying operations:

The Defense Department said it had “disestablished” the Counterintelligence Field Activity office, or CIFA, created in February 2002 by former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld to manage defense and armed service efforts against intelligence threats from foreign powers and groups such as al Qaeda.

Those responsibilities will now be carried out by a new organization called the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center, overseen by the Pentagon’s Defense Intelligence Agency.

CIFA’s operations stirred concern among members of Congress and civil liberties advocates. A CIFA database known as Talon, set up to monitor threats against U.S. military installations, was found to have retained information on U.S. antiwar protesters including Quakers after they had been found to pose no security danger, officials said.

This could just mean that now we have to watch out for the Defense Counterintelligence and Human Intelligence Center.  Or in other words, the military equivalent of renaming R.J. Reynolds to Altria.


Is the Drug Enforcement Agency using mercenaries?  It could just be a poor choice of T-shirts but I would certainly welcome a confirmation to that effect from the DEA.  And maybe someone in a big media outlet could make use of some sources, or someone in Congress could ask a few questions.  Hope springs eternal.


Salim Hamdan was convicted of changing lug nuts and basically given a sentence that ends on January 20th.  Breathtaking incompetence, just breathtaking (via).


Michael Mukasey continues to be awful.  This is the company he keeps.


All this, and no mention of Ron Suskind.

Truth, Justice, and the American Way

No Associated Press content was harmed in the writing of this post

Prairie Weather inspired this week’s post. I have been unsuccessfully trying to write about what may be a vast, unexamined record of wrongdoing from the administration, and a brief exchange started by PW finally got me unstuck. Stuart Taylor Jr. has argued for pardons, Cass Sunstein agrees and Victoria Toensing has added (via) her own dubious logic to the drumbeat. A consensus has developed among political and media elites that no good purpose would be served by enforcing the law(!) and so for the sake of a smooth transfer of power and a calming of the political waters in the capitol we must let it all pass.

On the face of it I am vehemently opposed to ignoring criminality for the sake of comity. There is no position outlined by the pro-pardon group that is the slightest bit compelling to me. Sunstein’s belief that “I don’t think it’s appropriate at this stage to attempt to impeach two presidents consecutively” is completely absurd. At what stage would it be appropriate? If one party impeaches a President in a fit of cheap political grandstanding is his successor inoculated against it? What kind of crime would it take for Sunstein? Has anyone heard specifics? All I’ve heard so far are banalities along the lines of “any crime has to be taken quite seriously” and “are we in favor of immunizing people who worked in the White House in the last eight years from accountability for criminal acts? I don’t think anyone should be in favor of that.” Thanks, professor.

Toensing’s warning that “[i]f we don’t protect these people who are proceeding in good faith, no one will ever take chances” is outrageous as well. “We” do not need to protect people - the law does that. One of the signal achievements of this administration has been successfully advancing the notion of a patriotic duty to break the law. If the President “asks” individuals or businesses to do something plainly illegal out of loyalty to America then they may do so (even if they have access to an entire department of lawyers who could tell them they are breaking the law). A simple appeal by the President trumps the law, plain and simple. This is the concept of good faith that Toensing advances, and is euphemistically reduced to “taking chances”. What she describes is the absolute authority of the dictator. As for Taylor, see Andrew.

The crux of the problem is that the Republican party has come to view the law as entirely political. When Congress passes a law, or a President follows it (or doesn’t), or the Justice Department enforces it (or doesn’t), or the Supreme Court rules on it - these are all political footballs to be kicked around, not fundamental building blocks of a functional society. In other words, lawless, ignorant, contemptible hacks are fine as long as they are OUR lawless, ignorant, contemptible hacks. The collapse of integrity and wholesale politicization at Justice is not a problem in and of itself; it only is a problem if a Democrat does it. (The fact that they vote along party lines on these issues when they don’t walk out entirely should be all the proof you need.)

In an environment like that we will never get a full and satisfactory investigation. Every step of the way some GOP loyalist will cry foul and insist the REAL politicization is the belated enforcement. If we want to bypass all that maybe we should take up PW’s suggestion of “giving the country clotheslines laden with dirty linen and encouraging the voters to smell the stench and make up their own minds.” Or as John Mecklin put it, “[u]ntil we know the entire story of the conduct of the war on terror, a new story — with America reassuming a believable role as a guarantor of human rights — can’t really begin.” We could get a much better idea of the full truth by granting immunity and compelling testimony with a threat of perjury hanging over it.

I have to admit that such a scenario is in a way extremely unpalatable to me. Crimes have already been committed and a good part of me would be outraged if I knew that we were forever giving away the opportunity to see justice for them. But the question may come down to, would you rather have some justice with some truth, or no justice with full truth? And would you rather have maybe a handful of convictions that are forever criticized or a full toxic dump of truth that even the most rabid partisan will not approach? And wouldn’t the existence of such a thing, one way or another, create a justice of its own?


UPDATE: Today is the anniversary of Richard Nixon’s resignation, and the Accountability Now PAC is sponsoring a “Money Bomb” to mark the occasion. Please consider donating and making your voice heard, even if it only seems like a nominal amount. There is a greater difference between zero and one than between one and a million.Become a StrangeBedfellow and Hold Washington Accountable!

AccountabilityNowPAC Moneybomb - Two days and counting...