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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Gustav

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

Lambert pointed me to the McClatchy page for Gustav.  Yesterday I saw weather reports predicting a Category 5 landfall, and now I’m seeing a forecast of Cat 3.  Good news, but of course Katrina hit at that level too.  Our thoughts and prayers are with the Gulf Coast today.  Like many other Americans I have the day off today (hence the extra time to post) and will have the strange and helpless experience of watching the storm blast through a big chunk of my country from the comfort of my living room.  It seems like there’s been a much more thorough evacuation than there was three years ago.  That’s good, and I hope every last straggler has vacated that spectacularly unfortunate area.

Athenae pointed to an unbelievably insensitive article on this by Politico.  Feel free to contact the authors if so moved.  I sent the following to each:

You wrote “The unexpected disaster also offers the GOP a do-over on the Bush administration’s disastrous response to Katrina three years ago. If the government can do a much better job of responding to a natural disaster this time around, it can only help the GOP.”  While I understand the raison d’etre of Politico is to reduce all events in America to political scores that are awarded to or deducted from various individuals and groups in Washington, it tends to work best for trivial, manufactured narratives wholly contained inside the capitol.  When this model is applied to large scale disasters involving widespread death and destruction it tends to come across as grotesque.  Going forward it would be nice to see you address catastrophes in a way that masks your majestic indifference, or even better just keep your goddamn mouth shut.

This Week in Tyranny

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


The Friday news dump by the White House was a doozy (via):

Tucked deep into a recent proposal from the Bush administration is a provision…affirm[ing] that the United States is still at war with Al Qaeda….The language, part of a proposal for hearing legal appeals from detainees at the United States naval base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, goes beyond political symbolism…it carries significant legal and public policy implications for Mr. Bush, and potentially his successor, to claim the imprimatur of Congress to use the tools of war, including detention, interrogation and surveillance, against the enemy, legal and political analysts say. Some lawmakers are concerned that the administration’s effort to declare anew a war footing is an 11th-hour maneuver to re-establish its broad interpretation of the president’s wartime powers, even in the face of challenges from the Supreme Court and Congress….“This seems like a final push by the administration before they go out the door,” said Suzanne Spaulding, a former lawyer for the Central Intelligence Agency and an expert on national security law….Representative Lamar Smith of Texas, the ranking Republican on the Judiciary Committee, introducing a measure almost identical to the administration’s proposal. “Since 9/11,” Mr. Smith said, “we have been at war with an unconventional enemy whose primary goal is to kill innocent Americans.”
(See here for a previous effort by Rep. Smith in Presidential boot licking.) The administration is determined to bury as much information as possible about its tactics, and will look to legitimize its previous criminality - think retroactive immunity - until the day it leaves office. This notably pernicious move came on a particularly distracting Friday, what with reaction to the Obama speech, McCain’s VP announcement and the gathering force of Gustav. Don’t let this one sink, folks.


Speaking of Gustav, mercenaries and the military are on their way to New Orleans. First, Moira Whelan writes “I just noticed that the daily brief customarily done in advance of a hurricane is happening because Gustov is bearing down on the Gulf Coast…but a big shift here: the briefing is being given by NORTHCOM.” Then Spencer Ackerman: “Looks like Blackwater is on its way back to NOLA.” It looks like the Shock Doctrine will be used to get us further acclimatized to a military-type presence on American soil. (We may have lost to the Rooskies after all.) And just to be clear, it won’t be anything as obvious or crude as a “soldier on every corner” scenario, but the outward appearance of normality interrupted by a flood of gun-toting feds anywhere something goes too many deviations from the norm.


Jane Hamsher and Glenn Greenwald documented just such activity yesterday. People showing up in Minneapolis in order to peacefully assemble and engage in political protest are being detained in advance by federal agents wielding shotguns and assault rifles. They have over nine minutes of video posted of a couple of on-scene interviews, and it includes this from Bruce Nestor of the National Lawyer’s Guild:

We’re not in this country yet where we’re having mass detentions of people like this, so it really is about sending a message. I think what it really is designed to do is to send a message to people who agree with some of the viewpoints of people organizing activity and to say - you know what? You can write an email, it’s okay to write a letter, to vote, but don’t go out in the street, don’t organize public activity, because do you want us bursting into your house? Do you want to be associated with people who are getting arrested? It’s designed to somehow say these aren’t citizens engaged in the exercise of political freedom, but that they’re kooks, they’re freaks, they’re dangerous, stay away from them, don’t get involved.
We acceded to aggression and the doctrine of preemption in our foreign policy; it should be no surprise when the same minds that brought us that outlook apply it domestically as well.


As further proof that what happens in Iraq doesn’t stay in Iraq, consider the latest raid ostensibly in the name of cracking down on illegal immigration (if that truly was the intent Howard Industries would be shuttered and padlocked):

In another large-scale workplace immigration crackdown, federal officials raided a factory here on Monday, detaining at least 350 workers they said were in the country illegally….Entrances to the sprawling plant, in an industrial section south of town, had been blocked off by ICE. A nearby fast-food restaurant was full of the blue-shirted agents, one of whom would say only that a “little inspection” was under way at the facility…[An ICE spokeswoman] said no lawyers were present while the workers were being interrogated.
I suspect the President actually gets physically aroused by the thought of sending swarms of armed federal agents into a town and sweeping up hundreds of people indiscriminately into makeshift detention centers. Maybe it’s the only way he can get it up anymore.

You may think, I’m not an illegal immigrant so why should I care? First, it’s hard to quarantine that attitude (see above for God’s sake) and second the “if you’re not doing anything wrong you don’t have anything to worry about” philosophy is essentially authoritarian and completely antithetical to liberty. In a free society law enforcement must show it has reason to intrude on our lives; the burden properly belongs on the government, not the citizen.

If that doesn’t persuade you, then just ask yourself how close to you such activity has to come before you start to worry.


The enormous mounds of cash shoveled into the parties’ vaults got its first display this week and it appears a fabulous time was had by all. When impropriety is so glaringly obvious that even Brian Ross - Brian Ross! - can get it right you know it’s an especially shameless display.


I know I’m already running long so I’ll make this quick: You’re checking out Marcy’s place every day, right? Because if not then this week you might have missed how the US government roped the Swiss into destroying a “huge trove” of data related to an investigation of the export of nuclear technology to Iran and Libya. And you definitely would have missed some fascinating connections to some other unsavory affairs. (You knew all about Operation Merlin, right? Me neither.) Also, let me just say that Marcy must have the patience of Job. She is encouraged by stuff like this; to me it’s just another favorable ruling Congress will refuse to take seriously.


Via, British media:

Russians were told over breakfast yesterday what really happened in Georgia: the conflict in South Ossetia was part of a plot by Dick Cheney, the Vice-President, to stop Barack Obama being elected president of the United States.
American media:
Bush administration officials, worried by what they saw as a series of provocative Russian actions, repeatedly warned Georgian President Mikhail Saakashvili to avoid giving the Kremlin an excuse to intervene in his country militarily, U.S. officials said Monday.
Discuss.


Via, a tiny scrap of good news: “the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit returned the Hepting v. AT&T case to the District Court.” It will more than likely come to nothing but I admire the EFF for fighting the good fight. Another good fight that’s not going well:

A court created by the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act denied an ACLU motion Thursday that would have increased public scrutiny of how the Bush administration’s new spying law is reviewed, according to a statement released Friday.


The latest reason consolidated media ownership is bad - nonsense like this. CBS might just feel a “patriotic duty” to not do anything that might make Republicans uncomfortable, but I could also see a screeching campaign by the right against the company - boycotting TV advertisers and the like.

A series of portraits of American soldiers set to adorn roadside billboards in Minneapolis, site of next week’s Republican convention, was abruptly cancelled by the billboards’ owners, which feared they would be deemed disrespectful to the US military.

Jodi Senese, CBS Outdoor’s executive vice-president of marketing (CBS Outdoor, which is owned by CBS Corporation, owner of the US television network)

“We understand that ‘Soldier’ represents a political art project, and that the individuals depicted are actual soldiers…Out of context [neither in a museum setting or website] the images, as stand-alone highway or city billboards, appear to be deceased soldiers. The presentation in this manner could be perceived as being disrespectful to the men and women in our armed forces.”

Senese acknowledged in her email that the decision was based not on the artist’s intent but “how the image would be perceived by a motorist passing it in transit”.
Memo to Ms. Senese and particularly slow Minneapolis motorists: This is not a corpse. This is.


UNPACKING JANE: That last picture was of Manadel al-Jamadi, and we still do not know who is responsible for his crucifixion. I have a lot of notes on The Dark Side, so I plan to highlight one item each week until I get through them. The death of al-Jamadi on pp. 252-5 is possibly the most disturbing episode in a book full of them. Anyone who attempts to defend or minimize the monstrous brutality described therein is simply not civilized. We still do not know what exactly happened to him, and we only know the details we do because they came out during an investigation related to stolen body armor. There is quite frankly not enough petty thievery among Navy SEALS to turn the wheels of justice, so more conventional methods are required to bring details of this and other atrocities to light. Of course, since media coverage is fixated on the endlessly fascinating and exotic Sarah Palin there are precious few resources left for assignment to lesser issues like state-sanctioned homicide.

Loyalty is the New Competence

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

Beginning with his nomination for Attorney General I had reservations about Michael Mukasey, and he has consistently lived down to my worst expectations. I did not like the fact that the Senate seemingly had no opportunity to give advice on the selection (beyond what appears to be secret meetings with Charles Schumer and Dianne Feinstein), nor did I like his apparent equanimity about brutality. The best name I heard floated was Mike DeWine, the recently-defeated Republican Senator from Ohio. He is solidly Republican and consistently voted with the President (one of the reasons he lost) so it would have satisfied the “to the victor goes the spoils” nature of these things, but he was also a known quantity to the Senate. He had worked with almost everyone there and as far as I know was well regarded. But beneath the surface something I couldn’t quite pin down was buzzing around like a mosquito, and it all fell into place last week while reading The Dark Side. Jane Mayer quotes an anonymous CIA officer on page 180 as he disparages Jose Rodriguez Jr, then-head of the CIA Counterterrorist Center (CTC): “[in the] administration, loyalty is the new competence.”

It is no secret that loyalty has been the preeminent virtue honored by the White House. In some cases it is the garden variety loyalty, which basically means making an effort to cooperate and being discreet (and flexible) about differences. When one of the parties is the President it is easy to couch it in terms of “do it for the good of the party” and have it functionally mean “do it my way.” But their preferred strain of loyalty is much more insidious. A current or former member of Congress like DeWine most likely has a decent sized network of support outside the administration. Career civil servants are likely to know their way around the bureacracy and be able to fend off all but the most determined and ferocious attacks. Any loyalty people like that have will inevitably be tempered by the influence of others.

The administration wants no such taint. Reading the description of Rodriguez’ surprising elevation to the CTC made me think also of Mukasey, and Monica Goodling, and most famously Alberto Gonzales. All of them have essentially no other connections in the capitol. “His base consists of one individual” said William Schneider of Gonzales, and others made the same observation. He was widely regarded as a hack (both as the President’s counsel and as AG) but in a sense his competence level did not matter. All that mattered was this: He had no one else to turn to. If he wanted to break with the administration, where would he go? What office could he run for? Who would sponsor such an attempt? What think tank would have him? Who would want him lobbying in their name? Mukasey was confirmed as AG with a much more accomplished record, but is in the same position. DeWine would have been more like another ex-Senator turned AG - he could have remained in town after stepping down and transitioned into a lucrative private sector position.

The White House may have realized that as well, and considered it an intolerable risk. Much has been made of the cult of personality surrounding the President (summarized best by Sara Taylor). I think a lot of people - myself included - wrongly concluded that what drove the unyielding devotion of so many was for all intents and purposes brainwashing. Hiring graduates of little regarded universities, finding someone with no history in Washington or abruptly elevating those with no demonstrated qualifications all serve the same purpose: It creates a class of workers who will be with the program regardless of whether or not they agree with it. They will work perched atop a cliff, and if they want to walk away the first step will be a long fall.

In one sense it doesn’t matter. The internal dramas of various flunkies is of concern only to them; all we care about is how it affects us and our government. But it matters in this way: People hired in those circumstances comprise a significant part of the corrosive status quo, and if our representatives and institutions rejected them in principle we could prevent them from getting in place. If the Senate said to the President, you must nominate people with existing support systems at least for the big positions (cabinet, Supreme Court, etc) or we will reject them out of hand, it might help guard against such appalling performance in the future.

This Week in Tyranny

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


LATE UPDATE: I meant to include this as well:

A new report on the documents from George Washington University’s National Security Archive also presents compelling evidence that the Bush administration pressured the CIA and other intelligence agencies to tailor their reports to back-up Bush’s desire to invade. The report suggests the bulk of this effort was run out of Vice President Dick Cheney’s office, backing up numerous other post-war examinations of the path to invasion that saw Cheney as the mastermind of the plan to oust Saddam Hussein.
So they began with the conclusion and walked it back from there.


First, some old news from back in May:

A report that mosques in Los Angeles and San Diego are under federal surveillance has resurrected fears in the Muslim community about government monitoring and led two civil rights groups Wednesday to call for congressional hearings.

The request for public hearings followed a newspaper article last week that cited FBI and Defense Department files pertaining to surveillance of mosques and Muslims in Southern California.

Corey Saylor, Washington spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the article in the San Diego Union-Tribune “has again raised concerns that our community is being watched.”

[snip]

Council chapters in Anaheim and San Diego joined the American Civil Liberties Union and Islamic Shura Council of Southern California in asking the U.S. House and Senate judiciary committees and the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform for hearings. In a letter to the committee chairmen and ranking minority members, the groups said hearings are needed to determine the extent of the surveillance and whether people are being monitored because they are Muslim.

[snip]

The civil rights groups also want the hearings to determine if the U.S. military has engaged in domestic surveillance in violation of federal law. The Islamic Center of San Diego, where two of the 9/11 hijackers worshiped in early 2000, was the only mosque mentioned in the San Diego Union-Tribune article. The report did not specify which other mosques in Los Angeles and San Diego were allegedly under surveillance. But Saylor said it would not be surprising if mosques in Orange County were also monitored.

Since the 2001 terrorist attacks, members of the Islamic Center of Irvine and other local mosques have complained about FBI agents questioning them about imams’ sermons and how often they attend services. In 2006, J. Stephen Tidwell, then-FBI assistant director in Los Angeles, met at the Irvine mosque with about 200 people who questioned him about government monitoring.

The meeting was prompted by media reports that the FBI was monitoring Muslim students at UC Irvine and USC. Tidwell denied that monitoring was taking place, telling the audience that “we still play by the rules.”
I kept waiting for more information on this, but nothing yet.

A second bit of old news (via):

The pattern has become familiar: Customs officers wave in vehicles filled with illegal immigrants, drugs or other contraband. A Border Patrol agent acts as a scout for smugglers. Trusted officers fall prey to temptation and begin taking bribes.
The “enforcement first” mentality may not take a very realistic view of human nature, and may just result in more federal law enforcement agents. Another small piece of the police state puzzle.

Sibel Edmonds is still around:

Again and again you see journalists in this country who think that their job consists of nothing more than phoning the FBI press office to ask for a comment. Only two journalists have spoken to actual first-hand sources about my case; David Rose who is British, and Joe Lauria working for a British newspaper. Why is it that only these two reporters were able to speak to sources at the Dept of Justice, at the FBI, and in Congress who are familiar with the details of my case?
Good question.

Having been in the Peace Corps I find this depressing. Peace Corps Volunteers are, among other things, wonderful ambassadors abroad. Why again don’t we need a lot more of that?


Finally, I try to stay out of the election campaign, but I’d like to make the following prediction: Sometime during the upcoming Republican convention John Sidney McCain will change his name to Pohn Oidney WcCain.

Those Who Did Not Go Crazy

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

I am slowly reading The Dark Side and so was especially struck by this from one of Andrew Sullivan’s readers: “If there’s any comfort to be found in Mayer’s account, or in any of the stories coming out about this administration’s overreach, it’s in the stories of those who didn’t go crazy.” We are going through an extraordinarily trying time for our nation’s ideals, and while I have focused almost exclusively on the authors of these trials there are some uplifting stories as well. Some individuals have been willing to resist the cruel and authoritarian “War on Terror” mindset when confronted (sometimes unexpectedly) by it, and they deserve our admiration. Here are some examples.

Shortly after the 2001 attacks Jesselyn Radack was a lawyer at the Justice Department, and she was asked to give an ethics position on the interrogation of John Walker Lindh. As an American citizen he unquestionably deserved all rights under the Constitution and the law, and as the first detainee to go through the alternate universe of Post-9/11 Justice his case would serve as a rough template for those to follow. Short version: His family hired a lawyer, but the lawyer was not permitted to contact him. When asked about her ethical position, Radack said he should only be questioned in the presence of counsel. Instead, he was subjected to rough treatment for a week, dragged in front of FBI agents, denied a specific request for counsel (with reasoning along the lines of “why, there’s no lawyers here in Camp Rhino!”) and given a Miranda waiver to sign. With the clear implication that failure to sign would result in resumed maltreatment, he signed it.

Radack took the position that no statements obtained under such circumstances would be admissible in a court of law. On the day his trial was to begin he reached a deal - pleading guilty to “serving in the Taliban army and carrying weapons in doing so.” All other charges were dropped. The timing was no accident, either. Scott Horton reported that prosecutors “knew that Lindh had been tortured and that Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was deeply implicated in the decision to torture him. If the case went to trial, and there were discovery, this would come out.” So Radack was right and she stood her ground, but ended up losing her job over it.

A quick aside: It is not fair to attribute comments on a site to the site itself, but comment sections do serve as a kind of id for the Internet. While poking around for information about Radack I came across this post, and the comment (of Lindh) “[h]e’s in prison and I have heard nothing about appeals. That’s proof enough for me.” Part of the reason our leaders have gotten away with authoritarian behavior is because of the support of a good part of the population for just such measures.

We know of several people in the military who have honorably defended their institution as well, particularly at the twilight realm of Guantánamo Bay. The FBI and CIA are used to clandestine operations, so maybe a certain amount of secrecy and obfuscation is in their organizational DNA. The ambiguous status of detainees there and singular nature of the tribunals set up by the Military Commissions Act (thanks, Congress) seems to have rubbed more than one soldier the wrong way, though. Marine Major Dan Mori, a lawyer charged with defending one of the inmates there, said “I hope that nobody confuses military justice with these ‘military commissions.’ This is a political process, set up by the civilian leadership. It’s inept, incompetent, and improper.”

Some more examples: The commission case against Osama bin Laden’s driver concluded this month, and the six-member jury seemingly said to the President, this man will complete his sentence shortly before you leave office; figure out what to do with him. And in the succeeding commission case Army Brigadier Gen. Gregory Zanetti delivered a blistering critique of the proceedings. Before the Iraq war General Eric Shinseki testified before Congress that more troops would be needed in Iraq than the party line allowed for. The administration’s response sent a clear message to the military: Failure to stay on message would have severe consequences for your career.

That Mori, Zanetti and the jurors were willing to do otherwise speaks eloquently of their high character, as does Radack’s insistence on serving the interests of justice even at substantial personal cost. A great many people have just gone along, or perhaps resigned in protest and quietly went away. The ones who did not, and chose instead to go against the prevailing culture and speak up, have rendered a great service to our country. Their names deserve to be remembered more than those of the ones they strove against.