Later On

A blog written for those whose interests more or less match mine.

Archive for January 3rd, 2011

Crossing a line

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The US crossed a line some time back, and I think it an important line, one that marks a clear transition to decline. The line in question in this: When powerful figures can publicly acknowledge that they committed serious crimes, and nothing happens. Certainly that line was crossed when Dick Cheney and George Bush publicly admitted that they ordered the torture of suspects. I would say the line was crossed earlier, when President Obama promised to prevent any investigation of the allegations of torture done under the previous administration.

Once powerful people are granted overt immunity from prosecution for crimes, the state changes. Not only does it protect its favorites, it begins serious prosecution of persons it simply does not like, who challenge its control—much as the US government is treating Julian Assange.

Here is another group of powerful people, publicly committing a felony, and I bet nothing will be done. David Cole’s op-ed in the NY Times begins:

Did former Attorney General Michael Mukasey, former New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani, Tom Ridge, a former homeland security secretary, and Frances Townsend, a former national security adviser, all commit a federal crime last month in Paris when they spoke in support of the Mujahedeen Khalq at a conference organized by the Iranian opposition group’s advocates? Free speech, right? Not necessarily.

The problem is that the United States government has labeled the Mujahedeen Khalq a “foreign terrorist organization,” making it a crime to provide it, directly or indirectly, with any material support. And, according to the Justice Department under Mr. Mukasey himself, as well as under the current attorney general, Eric Holder, material support includes not only cash and other tangible aid, but also speech coordinated with a “foreign terrorist organization” for its benefit. It is therefore a felony, the government has argued, to file an amicus brief on behalf of a “terrorist” group, to engage in public advocacy to challenge a group’s “terrorist” designation or even to encourage peaceful avenues for redress of grievances.

Don’t get me wrong. I believe Mr. Mukasey and his compatriots had every right to say what they did. Indeed, I argued just that in the Supreme Court, on behalf of the Los Angeles-based Humanitarian Law Project, which fought for more than a decade in American courts for its right to teach the Kurdistan Workers’ Party in Turkey how to bring human rights claims before the United Nations, and to assist them in peace overtures to the Turkish government.

But in June, the Supreme Court ruled against us, stating that all such speech could be prohibited, because it might indirectly support the group’s terrorist activity. Chief Justice John Roberts reasoned that a terrorist group might use human rights advocacy training to file harassing claims, that it might use peacemaking assistance as a cover while re-arming itself, and that such speech could contribute to the group’s “legitimacy,” and thus increase its ability to obtain support elsewhere that could be turned to terrorist ends. Under the court’s decision, former President Jimmy Carter’s election monitoring team could be prosecuted for meeting with and advising Hezbollah during the 2009 Lebanese elections.

The government has similarly argued that . . .

Continue reading.

Greenwald comments:

Imagine if a group of leading American liberals met on foreign soil with — and expressed vocal support for — supporters of a terrorist group that had (a) a long history of hateful anti-American rhetoric, (b) an active role in both the takeover of a U.S. embassy and Saddam Hussein’s brutal 1991 repression of Iraqi Shiites, (c) extensive financial and military support from Saddam, (d) multiple acts of violence aimed at civilians, and (e) years of being designated a “Terrorist organization” by the U.S. under Presidents of both parties, a designation which is ongoing? The ensuing uproar and orgies of denunciation would be deafening.

But on December 23, a group of leading conservatives — including Rudy Giuliani and former Bush officials Michael Mukasey, Tom Ridge, and Fran Townsend — did exactly that. In Paris, of all places, they appeared at a forum organized by supporters of the Mujaheddin-e Khalq (MEK) — a group declared by the U.S. since 1997 to be “terrorist organization” — and expressed wholesale support for that group. Worse — on foreign soil — they vehemently criticized their own country’s opposition to these Terrorists and specifically “demanded that Obama instead take the [] group off the U.S. list of foreign terrorist organizations and incorporate it into efforts to overturn the mullah-led government in Tehran.” In other words, they are calling on the U.S. to embrace this Saddam-supported, U.S.-hating Terrorist group and recruit them to help overthrow the government of Iran. To a foreign audience, Mukasey denounced his own country’s opposition to these Terrorists as “nothing less than an embarrassment.”

Using common definitions, there is good reason for the MEK to be deemed by the U.S. Government to be a Terrorist group. In 2007, the Bush administration declared that “MEK leadership and members across the world maintain the capacity and will to commit terrorist acts in Europe, the Middle East, the United States, Canada, and beyond,” and added that the group exhibits “cult-like characteristics.” The Council on Foreign Relations has detailed that the MEK has been involved in numerous violent actions over the years, including many directed at Americans, such as “the 1979 takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran by Iranian revolutionaries” and “the killings of U.S.military personnel and civilians working on defense projects in Tehran in the 1970s.” This is whom Giuliani, Ridge, Townsend and other conservatives are cheering.

Applying the orthodoxies of American political discourse, how can these Terrorist-supporting actions by prominent American conservatives not generate intense controversy? For one thing, their appearance in France to slam their own country’s foreign policy blatantly violates the long-standing and rigorously enforced taboo against criticizing the U.S. Government while on dreaded foreign soil (the NYT previously noted that “nothing sets conservative opinion-mongers on edge like a speech made by a Democrat on foreign soil”). Worse, their conduct undoubtedly constitutes the crime of “aiding and abetting Terrorism” as interpreted by the Justice Department — an interpretation recently upheld as constitutional by the Supreme Court’s 5-4 decision last year in Holder v. Humanitarian Law. Georgetown Law Professor David Cole represented the Humanitarian Law plaintiffs in their unsuccessful challenge to the DOJ’s interpretation of the “material support” statute, and he argues today in The New York Times that as a result of that ruling, it is a felony in the U.S. “to engage in public advocacy to challenge a group’s ‘terrorist’ designation or even to encourage peaceful avenues for redress of grievances.”

Like Cole, I believe the advocacy and actions of these Bush officials in support of this Terrorist group should be deemed constitutionally protected free expression. But under American law and the view of the DOJ, it isn’t. There are people sitting in prison right now with extremely long prison sentences for so-called “material support for terrorism” who did little different than what these right-wing advocates just did. What justifies allowing these Bush officials to materially support a Terrorist group with impunity?

Then there’s CNN. . .

Continue reading. He notes in an update:

Amazingly, Fran Townsend, on CNN, hailed the Supreme Court’s decision in Humanitarian Law — the Supreme Court ruling that upheld the DOJ’s view that one can be guilty of “material support for terrorism” simply by talking to or advocating for a Terrorist group — and enthusiastically agreed when Wolf Blitzer said, while interviewing her: “If you’re thinking about even voicing support for a terrorist group, don’t do it because the government can come down hard on you and the Supreme Court said the government has every right to do so.” Yet “voicing support for a terrorist group” is exactly what Townsend is now doing — and it makes her a criminal under the very Supreme Court ruling that she so gleefully praised.

Written by Leisureguy

3 January 2011 at 3:30 pm

Vanishing Act

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Fascinating. Paul Collins writes in Lapham’s Quarterly:

In a New Hampshire apartment during the winter of 1923, this typewritten notice was fastened squarely against a closed door:

NOBODY MAY COME INTO THIS ROOM IF THE DOOR IS SHUT TIGHT (IF IT IS SHUT NOT QUITE LATCHED IT IS ALL RIGHT) WITHOUT KNOCKING. THE PERSON IN THIS ROOM IF HE AGREES THAT ONE SHALL COME IN WILL SAY “COME IN,” OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT AND IF HE DOES NOT AGREE TO IT HE WILL SAY “NOT YET, PLEASE,” OR SOMETHING LIKE THAT. THE DOOR MAY BE SHUT IF NOBODY IS IN THE ROOM BUT IF A PERSON WANTS TO COME IN, KNOCKS AND HEARS NO ANSWER THAT MEANS THERE IS NO ONE IN THE ROOM AND HE MUST NOT GO IN.

REASON. IF THE DOOR IS SHUT TIGHT AND A PERSON IS IN THE ROOM THE SHUT DOOR MEANS THAT THE PERSON IN THE ROOM WISHES TO BE LEFT ALONE.

Through the door could be heard furious clacking and carriage returns: the sound, in fact, of an eight-year-old girl writing her first novel.

In 1923, typewriters were hardly a child’s plaything, but to those following the family of critic and editor Wilson Follett, it was a grand educational experiment. He’d already written of his daughter Barbara in Harper’s, describing a girl who by the age of three was consumed with letters and words. “She was always seeing A’s in the gables of houses and H’s in football goalposts,” he recalled. One day she’d wandered into Wilson’s office and discovered his typewriter.

“Tell me a story about it,” she demanded.

This was Barbara’s way of asking for any explanation, and after he demonstrated the wondrous machine, she took to it fiercely. A typewriter, her parents realized, could unleash a torrential flow of thoughts from a gifted child who still lacked the coordination to write in pencil.

“In a multitude of ways,” Wilson Follett reported, “we become more and more convinced of the expediency of letting the typewriter be, so far as a machine can, the center and genesis of the first processes.”

By five, Barbara was being homeschooled by her mother, and writing a tale titled The Life of the Spinning Wheel, the Rocking-Horse, and the Rabbit. Her fascination with flowers and butterflies bloomed from her typewriter into wild and exuberant poems and fairy tales. By 1922, at the age of seven, she was versifying upon music: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 January 2011 at 2:22 pm

Posted in Daily life, Writing

Remember back in the ’70s, when child rape was popular?

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I don’t either, but the Pope has a clear memory of a period in the ’70s when child rape was considered okay. I think this must have been strictly within the Catholic hierarchy, because certainly I recall no such sentiment being expressed publicly. But the Pope offers that as the explanation for why some priests raped so many children and other priests and bishops covered up the incidents and assisted in the effort. From the Belfast Telegraph:

Victims of clerical sex abuse have reacted furiously to Pope Benedict’s claim yesterday that paedophilia wasn’t considered an “absolute evil” as recently as the 1970s.

In his traditional Christmas address yesterday to cardinals and officials working in Rome, Pope Benedict XVI also claimed that child pornography was increasingly considered “normal” by society.

“In the 1970s, paedophilia was theorised as something fully in conformity with man and even with children,” the Pope said.

“It was maintained — even within the realm of Catholic theology — that there is no such thing as evil in itself or good in itself. There is only a ‘better than’ and a ‘worse than’. Nothing is good or bad in itself.”

The Pope said abuse revelations in 2010 reached “an unimaginable dimension” which brought “humiliation” on the Church.

Asking how abuse exploded within the Church, the Pontiff called on senior clerics “to repair as much as possible the injustices that occurred” and to help victims heal through a better presentation of the Christian message.

“We cannot remain silent about the context of these times in which these events have come to light,” he said, citing the growth of child pornography “that seems in some way to be considered more and more normal by society” he said.

But outraged Dublin victim Andrew Madden last night insisted that child abuse was not considered normal in the company he kept.

Mr Madden accused the Pope of not knowing that child pornography was the viewing of images of children being sexually abused, and should be named as such.

He said: “That is not normal. I don’t know what company the Pope has been keeping for the past 50 years.”

Pope Benedict also said sex tourism in the Third World was “threatening an entire generation”. . .

Continue reading.

Written by Leisureguy

3 January 2011 at 2:18 pm

Posted in Daily life, Law, Religion

Progress

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My weight was down a bit after yesterday’s bounce. One thing that calms me (usually) is to look at what my weight was a week ago. This morning I weighed 205.4 lbs. A week ago I weighed 207.0 lbs. Improvement. Smile

Written by Leisureguy

3 January 2011 at 11:05 am

Posted in Fitness

Dovo and Mühle

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A very pleasant shave. The Grosvenor Badger-and-Boar-Bristle brush worked up a very nice lather from the Dovo soap (a lather I had to renew for the last pass), and the Mühle open-comb with a Astra Keramik Platinum blade did a fine job. A splash of the aftershave—another sample from Bullgoose Shaving—and I am ready for the day.

Written by Leisureguy

3 January 2011 at 11:00 am

Posted in Shaving

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