Sashwat Singh is an honor student at Brookfield Central High School in Brookfield, WI. He's a big music lover -- he's in the school band and choir, and he's a big fan of local live music as well. And, like most kids these days, he's good on the computer.
So 15-year-old Sashwat made his own rap CD on his computer, over the course of the past few months. 14 songs. And, not surprisingly, his rap CD contains obscenities and tough talk, toward his peers and authority figures in his life.
And -- not surprisingly at all, I'm sad to say -- he got suspended from school for it. In the assault on logic commonly called "zero tolerance policies" in schools, Sashwat's CD -- made outside of school -- was judged to be on a par with a bomb threat, arson or bringing guns to school.
Not content with merely defiling the Brookfield High student body's conception of their rights as individuals to free thought and free speech, and sacrificing Sashwat to the altar of Making An Example, the school district is considering going a step further and holding an expulsion hearing. To do so would give him ten more school-free days right off the bat, while he and his parents and lawyer spend time figuring out how to explain this kid's right to make a rap CD to people who don't already understand that he has that right. Presumably, if they fail to successfully explain that fact, Sashwat would be expelled from school. I'm not ready to believe they would actually expel him for this, but neither can such madness be ruled out as a possibility, as anyone who has read about the legions of idiotic disciplinary actions that have taken place under the rubric of "zero tolerance" knows all too well. If lemon drops, stick drawings of U.S. soldiers, and plastic silverware can be grounds for suspensions, then why shouldn't expelling a kid for making a CD be a viable possibility?
I'll tell you one thing that's nearly certain -- Sashwat Singh is going to have a much bigger problem with authority from here on out than he ever did before. My intuition is that he will not "learn his lesson", as his school administrators -- in the case of his principal, vengeful school administrator -- surely wish he would. He's too smart, and too far along in developing free expression. At least I hope he is. Making a 14-song CD is no small feat, and for a 15-year-old to do it all on his own shows a serious committment. And just from the slice of his life that I was able to find on the Internet, one can see that he has a very passionate interest in music -- something that, in a normal world of sanity, would be encouraged and rewarded, especially if it showed in someone with Sashwat's drive and ambition.
I haven't heard the CD yet, but that really doesn't matter. The news stories presumably gave the lowdown on the "bad stuff" -- talking the proverbial shit about his mother and peers, and offering vengeful new Principal Mark Cerutti a beat down if he doesn't get out of town. If there was worse than that I assume we'd have heard about it -- and if there was worse than that, then so what?
"I got my twelve-gauge sawed off/I got my headlights turned off/I'm 'bout to bust some shots off/I'm 'bout to dust some cops off!"
-Body Count, "Cop Killer" (1992)
"Hey you ever get the feelin that America is turning into some kinda sit-com, lowest common denominator shopping mall marketing strategy from hell?/You ever get that feeling?/Well I got that feeling right now/And it's kinda getting under my skin/Yeah, so I'm gonna get some gas-o-line, and/Burn down the malls"
-Mojo Nixon, "Burn Down the Malls" (1986)
"You know I've never visited Alaska/Where the oil was spilled/That drunken captain should be killed/An atrocity, he still walks free..."
-311, "!#$ The %&*!" (1993)
I post those lyrics -- and you know I could go on posting the same or worse for a very long time -- to help Principal Cerutti, Superintendent Gibson, and anyone else who's confused, understand that "threats" and violence are not considered the same way when they occur in a creative medium such as music. Mojo Nixon was not prosecuted for his "plan" to burn down the malls (nor his plan, 9 years later, to take over a national armory and start a revolution); Ice-T was not jailed for the cop-killing spree he "described" in song (nor for the killing of his mother that he described -- vividly -- in another song); and 311 was never interrogated about their effort to get the captain of the Exxon Valdez killed.
Music -- and rap even moreso than most music -- is an effort in creative fiction. Or, to put it in a way that a high school administrator might be able to understand -- the journey in Chaucer's Canterbury Tales never really happened. Dante never really went on a stroll through the levels of Hell. Holden Caulfield is not JD Salinger.
All that aside, this CD was created outside of school. Just as the school would have no cause for administrative disciplinary action if a student said "I'm going to beat Principal Cerutti down if he doesn't get out of town" while at his or her home, they also have nothing to go on here. If Cerutti thought it was a real threat to him, then he had recourse through the police, but not through his own school-borne authority. The only possible cause for action (and it's really weak) is that Sashwat was apparently distributing, in some cases selling, his CD on school grounds. So he maybe committed the selling or distributing of something that's not allowed to be sold or distributed at school. But the item is a CD -- not a weapon, not drugs. I find it improbable that CDs are considered contraband of some sort. (Though I won't be surprised if Principal Cerutti makes an adjustment of that nature to the rulebook, so as to ensure that materials which demean him are only exchanged off of school property in the future.)
If my dramatic portrayal of Sashwat Singh's unfortunate situation has fired you up enough to act out, click here for a series of easy steps you can take to help direct things toward a relatively happy ending. There are newspapers to be written to, Board of Education members to phone, meetings to go to -- and a Mr. Cerutti and a Mr. Gibson that need to be told what we think of administrators who punish students for taking initiative and being creative. Take action!
Click here to read about my own suspension in 1988 for writing a poem, when I was 15 like Sashwat.
Oh, and in fairness to him, here's a less humiliating picture of Sashwat than the apparent school photo that appears in the news article.
When I posted about the Bryant family's homeschooling showdown the other day, I couldn't get into detail about why I was so proud of them at the time. Now, as often happens, someone else has said it for me. David Limbaugh's editorial in the Washington Times sums it up pretty well. It's about control, among other things.
I particularly like his opening paragraph:
Given the poor academic track record of public education in many areas of this country, you would think the government and education establishment would be a little less arrogant about superimposing their will on home-schooling families who prefer to opt out of their system. But you would be wrong.
The Bryants were on the O'Reilly Factor a couple of nights ago. They did pretty well, and Bill was pretty friendly to them, which he tends to be when he supports the guest's cause.
Completely unrelated to that is Suppose You Wanted to Have a Permanent War, by Robert Higgs of the Independent Institute. I'll let him explain:
I’ll concede that having a permanent war might seem an odd thing to want, but let’s put aside the “why” question for the time being, accepting that you wouldn’t want it unless you stood to gain something important from it. If, however, for reasons you found adequate, you did want to have a permanent war, what would you need in order to make such a policy viable in a democratic society such as the United States?
First, you would need that society to have a dominant ideology--a widely shared belief system about social and political relations--within which having a permanent war seems to be a desirable policy, given the ideology’s own content and the pertinent facts accepted by its adherents. Something like American jingo-patriotism cum anti-communism might turn the trick. It worked pretty well during the nearly half century of the Cold War. The beauty of anti-communism as a covering ideology was that it could serve to justify a wide variety of politically expedient actions both here and abroad. The Commies, you’ll recall, were everywhere: not just in Moscow and Sevastopol, but maybe in Minneapolis and San Francisco. We had to stay alert; we could never let down our guard, anywhere.
Second, you would need periodic crises, because without them the public becomes complaisant, unafraid, and hence unwilling to bear the heavy burdens that they must bear if the government is to carry on a permanent war. As Senator Arthur Vandenberg told Harry Truman in 1947 at the outset of the Cold War, gaining public support for a perpetual global campaign requires that the government “scare hell out of the American people.” Each crisis piques the people’s insecurities and renders them once again disposed to pay the designated price, whether it takes the form of their treasure, their liberties, or their young men’s blood. Something like the (alleged) missile gap, the (alleged) Gulf of Tonkin attacks on U.S. naval vessels, or the (actual!) hostage-taking at the U.S. embassy in Tehran will do nicely, at least for a while. Crises by their very nature eventually recede, and new ones must come along--or be made to come along--to serve the current need.
Third, you would need some politically powerful groups whose members stand to gain substantially from a permanent war in terms of achieving their urgent personal and group objectives. Call me crass, but I’ve noticed that few people will stay engaged for long unless there’s “something in it for them.”
In case you couldn't guess, there's another more recent war that he's leading up to talking about.Read the whole thing. It's worth it, even though it describes a fairly bleak picture. (Well, ok, very bleak.) But, "Know Your Enemy" and all that. Also know that social trends geopolitical trends can be reversed, and laws and leaders can be replaced. All is not lost -- not by a long shot.
I've been adding this site to blog directories and webrings, and gearing up for a round of requesting link trades with a bunch of liberty-related sites. The new rings and blog places are listed on the right in their respective categories. I'm also working on some other website and blog stuff, which I'll unveil here shortly. I've got about 5 or 6 entries on three different blogs in draft mode, too. My open browser situation is getting a little out of hand -- I've got about 50 windows open. I'll be staying up late over the weekend to try and clear my plate a little. So I can heap more stuff on it. :-)
(Uniting and strengthening America by providing appropriate tools required to intercept and obstruct terrorism) =
Patriot Act of 2001 Casts Wide Net
By Frank J. Murray
The Washington Times
Monday 16 June 2003
Long-sought details have begun to emerge from the Justice Department on how anti-terrorist provisions of the USA Patriot Act were applied in nonterror investigations, just as battle lines are being drawn on proposed new powers in a Patriot Act II.
Overall, the policy now allows evidence to be used for prosecuting common criminals even when obtained under extraordinary anti-terrorism powers and information-sharing between intelligence agencies and the FBI.
"We would use whatever tools are available to us, within reason, to prosecute violations of any law," Justice Department spokesman Bryan Sierra said in the wake of his department's massive report to Congress describing how the USA Patriot Act is being implemented.
The information was a response to doubts, not from outspoken civil liberties groups, but from Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., Wisconsin Republican and the House Judiciary Committee chairman who publicly pushed for its speedy 337-79 House passage.
"We had something to do with encouraging Chairman Sensenbrenner to express our concerns," said Timothy Edgar, American Civil Liberties Union legislative counsel. The ACLU spearheaded opposition to sections that could let the government obtain vast amounts of information that infringe on constitutional rights.
"It's clear that the problems of 9/11 were the result of not analyzing information we had already collected. Creating more hay to search through the haystack is not an effective way to find the needle," Mr. Edgar said in an interview.
(Uniting and Strengthening America) + (Providing Appropriate Tools Required To Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism) =
Patriot Act Use Expands
By Dan Eggen
The Washington Post
Wednesday 21 May 2003
Laws Invoked Against Crimes Unrelated to Terror, Report Says
The Justice Department has used many of the anti-terrorism powers granted in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks to pursue defendants for crimes unrelated to terrorism, including drug violations, credit card fraud and bank theft, according to a government accounting released yesterday.
In a 60-page report to the House Judiciary Committee, Justice officials also confirmed for the first time that nearly 50 defendants were secretly detained as material witnesses in connection with the investigation of the Sept. 11 attacks. The government has not previously characterized how many defendants had been held.
The report, issued in response to questions from House Judiciary Chairman F. James Sensenbrenner Jr. (R-Wis.) and ranking Democrat John Conyers Jr. (Mich.), provides new details about the federal government's domestic war on terrorism, which has largely been conducted in secret and has prompted complaints from civil liberties advocates and Muslim groups.
USA-PATRIOT Act =
Security and Liberty in Balance
The Chicago Tribune | Editorial
Monday 09 June 2003
In his testimony Thursday before the House Judiciary Committee, Atty. Gen. John Ashcroft displayed poor timing and tone-deafness to rising concerns about whether the delicate balance between national security and liberty is tipping in the wrong direction.
Three days earlier, Ashcroft's own inspector general had released a 239-page report highly critical of the Justice Department for overreaching in the handling of hundreds of immigrants who were detained for weeks and months after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Ashcroft's response: He's asking for broader powers.
Stan Pike's going to have to step down. I've got new heroes of the week.
The Bryant family, a homeschooling family in Waltham, Mass. is refusing to have their children take the state's mandatory standardized evaluation test. Like, seriously refusing. The state claims custody (having been granted it in 2001 because the parents didn't submit an education plan for their kids), and is threatening to take the kids away.
From the article:
"There have been threats all along. Most families fall to that bullying by the state and the legal system," said George Bryant.
"But this has been a six-year battle between the Waltham Public Schools and our family over who is in control of the education of our children," Bryant continued. "In the end the law of this state will protect us."
The Bryant children have never attended public school.
Both sides agree that the children are in no way abused mentally, physically, sexually or emotionally, but legal custody of the children was taken from Kim and George Bryant in December 2001. The children will remain under the legal custody of DSS until their 16th birthdays.
I plan to try to call the Bryants and find out if there's anything outsiders can do to support them. I know some places that will spread the word widely if there's anything that can be done.
I don't have the wherewithal right now to go into detail about why I applaud these folks so heartily, but you can read Boston Public: The Case Against Schools and my Free School on The Internet intro to get an idea of how I feel about the capabilities of this country's school system.
Much to my dismay, and the dismay of many others, the Bush Administration has proven itself to be utterly masterful at managing its image and message, and, as a result, the American populace.
Here's a New York Times article about the work behind the always-perfect visuals accompanying major appearances by the President. Most of it's just standard image marketing amped up to a level of near-perfection, but there's one bit in there that's pretty freakin' sleazy. (I'm referring to when they covered up "Made in China" stickers on crates at a factory for a speech by Bush about his economic plan.)
This is a fascinating article by Reason editor Jacob Sullum, about the myths and realities of heroin and addiction. The short summary is that heroin is not nearly as addictive and harmful as most people (myself included) are inclined to believe it is. The long article, excerpted from Sullum's new book, Saying Yes: In Defense of Drug Use, features lots of examples of casual and responsible heroin users. It also has a lot of analysis of what constitues "addiction", "dependence", and other terms that are used in relation to repeated drug use.
I consider myself to have a pretty liberal and un-propagandized view of drug use, and I found that this article opened my eyes to a more tolerant way to look at use of "hard" drugs -- particularly the poster child of "addictive drugs", the big H.
In 1992 The New York Times carried a front-page story about a successful businessman who happened to be a regular heroin user. It began: "He is an executive in a company in New York, lives in a condo on the Upper East Side of Manhattan, drives an expensive car, plays tennis in the Hamptons and vacations with his wife in Europe and the Caribbean. But unknown to office colleagues, friends, and most of his family, the man is also a longtime heroin user. He says he finds heroin relaxing and pleasurable and has seen no reason to stop using it until the woman he recently married insisted that he do so. ‘The drug is an enhancement of my life,’ he said. ‘I see it as similar to a guy coming home and having a drink of alcohol. Only alcohol has never done it for me.’"
The Times noted that "nearly everything about the 44-year-old executive...seems to fly in the face of widely held perceptions about heroin users." The reporter who wrote the story and his editors seemed uncomfortable with contradicting official anti-drug propaganda, which depicts heroin use as incompatible with a satisfying, productive life. The headline read, "Executive’s Secret Struggle With Heroin’s Powerful Grip," which sounds more like a cautionary tale than a success story. And the Times hastened to add that heroin users "are flirting with disaster." It conceded that "heroin does not damage the organs as, for instance, heavy alcohol use does." But it cited the risk of arrest, overdose, AIDS, and hepatitis -- without noting that all of these risks are created or exacerbated by prohibition.
The general thrust of the piece was: Here is a privileged man who is tempting fate by messing around with a very dangerous drug. He may have escaped disaster so far, but unless he quits he will probably end up dead or in prison.
That is not the way the businessman saw his situation.
Salon.com has a decent story about Ralph Nader's potential 2004 bid for the presidency, and how it's causing a painful split in the hard left -- between those who have utterly given up on the Democrats and who support Nader, and those who are scared enough of Bush madness (and trusting enough of the Dems) to say that the Greens should stay out of the 2004 presidential race so as to avoid a repeat of Nader's 2000 "spoiler" effect. Many Greens are worried that if Nader runs it will make even more people resent the Green Party for "helping" Bush win, again.
The issue brings up a lot of thoughts in me. I don't think Nader should run, but it has nothing to do with the "spoiler" potential. I don't think he should run because I think he's proven that he's unelectable, and without some revolutionary new gimmick or campaign plan he's likely to get even less votes than he did last time. I think that would be the case even without the spoiler worry, which will be much more acute this next time around. The simple truth is that Americans have had plenty of time to get to know Ralph Nader -- he probably has almost 100% name recognition -- and have decided that no way do they want him to be president. He's likely to suffer a similar fate as Harry Browne, who ran for a second time in 2000 with virtually the same method and message as in 1996, and got a lot less votes the second time around. You can't try to sell people something they didn't buy the first time, without making any major changes to it or syour sales technique, and expect to get a better response.
I think it must be hard for presidential candidates to see that from their first-person perspective, but it's brutally obvious from the outside looking in. Ross Perot proved it, Harry Browne proved it, and Nader will prove it if he runs in 2004. Even if he could increase his vote capture a bit, it's pretty much inconceivable that he could get it anywhere near the high-30% he would need to win against Bush and a Democrat. Of course, it's highly likely that the same could be said for any other person who might run in his place, but at least a new face wouldn't have a proven track record of having no chance of winning, as Nader does. He certainly isn't going to win over any Republican voters, and I don't think he'll sway any Democrats either...so unless he's got 30-40 million voters outside of those two groups who will rise up en masse, he is a 100% guaranteed loss as a presidential candidate. And I don't see even a shred of a hint that Nader could find a way to invigorate a mass of that size into voting for him, unless he has some sort of really, really amazing tricks up his sleeve. Even then, I think it's clear (as I said) that most Americans have evaluated Nader over the past 30+ years and simply don't want him to be president. I kinda like the Greens, and I even kinda like Nader, and for both of their sakes, I hope he does the right thing and steps away. The Salon article mentions that folks have urged him to run for Senate or Governor -- I think that would be smart, and useful. He almost certainly wouldn't win those either, but he could actually do some good by running for one or the other. I don't see any good coming from a 2004 Nader presidential candidacy, especially considering the anti-Bush nervousness on the left, and the spoiler resentment factor. Even an utterly unknown nobody Green would do more good than him in that spot.
That said, I think the "spoiler" whiners are just that -- whiners. If the Democrats can't field a candidate who can win in a competitive race, against whoever else wants to run, then they don't deserve to win. Nader didn't hand Bush the election -- Al Gore and the Supreme Court did. If Al had simply won his own home state, nobody would be talking about Florida 2000, or the "spoiler effect". During last year's Minnesota Senate race, Working Assets (the liberal advocacy phone company folks) sent out an action alert urging people to press upon that state's Green Party Senate candidate to drop out, so as not to "spoil" Walter Mondale's bid for the seat. I found it pathetic, and I wrote them a scathing letter to that effect. If the Democrats can't win races because a competing liberal party is "stealing" a couplefew percentage points worth of voters, they should just pack it up and quit.
Greens (and Libertarians, and whatever other parties) have every right -- and it could be said, a responsibility -- to run as many candidates as they can, and as hard as they can. Any votes those candidates get aren't "stolen" from the Bipartisans -- they are earned, and earned hard at that. They should be applauded, not castigated -- and certainly not bullied out of the race. The word "pathetic" just keeps running through my head over and over when I think of folks whining about third party candidates earning votes that the whiners seem to think belong to the "major" party candidates. It's not just pathetic, it's backwards and wrong-headed. The proper conclusion to reach, when one sees that a Green is garnering enough votes to make a difference in a given race, is that lots of voters don't want to vote for the old party sell-out politicians. If Democrats want those Green votes, they should work to earn them -- not try to stifle or bully the candidate that is earning them. If the Bipartisan candidates are so great and wonderful, they should have no problem earning all the votes they need. The only reason people are worried about Nader running is because they know that none of the Democratic candidates in the field right now is likely to be able to beat Bush by a comfortable margin, if at all. That's a problem with those candidates, and with the Democratic Party itself -- it's not Nader's fault. Focusing on "winning" Nader's electorate over by simply taking their guy out of the race is ignoring the real problem, and it's lazy politics. And I feel I must say once more -- it's pathetic. It feels strange to pity a behemoth, half-of-a-political-monopoly major party that's been around for over 200 years, but that's what I feel. I pity the poor, dying, lost Democratic Party -- the weakling giant that fears an unelectable, 3-percent-getting guy, while ignoring the problems and failures that have made it so weak.
I fear Bush and the Republicans as much as the next guy, but if the Democrats expect to ride in and save the day somehow, they better focus on figuring out how to do it on their own merits -- whatever those might be.
I love this guy, my hero of the week.
HOW DO YOU LIKE IT NOW?
Angry homeowner paints a colorful protest
Stan Pike believes that if you can't beat City Hall, you can at least go down swinging -- and in his case, that means with a paint brush.
The Avondale Estates man lost his bid Monday night to get that city's Historic Preservation Commission to approve his plan to add a rounded front stoop to a house he's renovating on Kensington Road.
Pike said it was the second time in two months that he had wrangled with the board over changes to the house.
The commission didn't like the proposed designs for the house, Pike said. No member of the commission could be reached for comment. City Manager Warren Hutmacher said commission meeting minutes don't show why the commission rejected Pike's request.
Pike stewed about it Tuesday, then went to work Wednesday morning.
He called two painters. By day's end they had painted the front of the house lime green, then added large, purple polka dots.
A guy here in Nevada City mounted a similarly-motivated protest a while back. He had wanted to renovate and repair his mother's house, which he owned (I don't recall if she had died and it became his, or if she was living there). He tried to get permission to improve the house, but the Planning Board rejected his request -- Nevada City has some pretty strict "historical preservation" restrictions on making any sort of changes to buildings in town. It was a big Gold Rush town -- this whole area is known as "Gold Country", and they are big on making sure it continues to look as much like the old gold rush town as it can.
Anyway, as I recall, this guy had made reasonable efforts to get permission to basically make the house, which was old to the point of not being useful by modern standards, a functionally modern house, and he was refused.
So, on a Saturday morning, he had the house demolished. It caused quite the uproar, and as you can imagine, all sorts of tittering commotion among the control-crats -- who, I believe, sought to penalize him for destroying the house that they wouldn't let him fix.
When I heard about it, I had a seriously enjoyable laughing session. Just as I did when I read about Stan Pike's stunt in the story above. I am big-time anti-authority, and the primary reason for that is that I'm big-time anti-control. And I really, really enjoy seeing people find creative (and blazingly un-ignorable) ways to buck the efforts of those who seek to control them. I'm actually considering starting a simple website to honor folks like Stan Pike, and others who come up with truly daring ways to break the chains of administartive conformity. Maybe I'll just make it a page on this site.
It might be a stretch to associate my favorite Ice-T quote with something relatively dry and boring like planning boards and housing renovation permits, but Stan Pike's stunt brought it into my mind anyway. If for some reason you haven't read all my posts here, or my biography (which doesn't exist), I'll remind you of the quote in question:
"You try to keep us running, and running faster -- but I'm not runnin' from ya, I'm running at ya."
The picture of Stan's house has become my new user pic at PeoplesForum.com, and it fits surprisingly well with the new tagline I chose a few days ago, even though the tagline was inspired more by the war in Iraq and the Bush mal-Administration. More on my PF taglines and picture in my next entry.
UPDATE: Stan's house and story got national attention -- he was even on the Today show on NBC -- and sparked a broad support movement in his hometown, where like-minded folks were wearing green and purple, and putting purple polka dots made from paper plates on their houses in solidarity.
He was successful in his recent appeal to be allowed to put in his rounded stoop, and the house has been re-painted in a more traditional color pattern. Here are a couple of more recent news stories about that situation and its resolution:
Also, I should comment on the item posted by a woman shortly after the Stan Pike article hit big.
Here is what she posted in the comments area over here:
I came across your web site in a search on Stan Pike. He should not be anybody's hero and I am on a personal mission to inform the public of that. He is not fighting what the media is portraying. He is trying to undo the volunteer efforts of 6 hard working, educated people who actually have no power over him. He could have built whatever he wanted to without repercussions. People do it all the time. His approach to this has been purely spiteful and plain disrespectful.
I did a little research and then responded to her comment by e-mail. Here is my reply:
My research indicates that the Historic Preservation commission actually does have the power to approve or deny requests for renovations or modifications, as indicated in the Avondale Estates municipal code (link).
To quote the ordinance:
The preservation commission shall be authorized to:
(3) Review applications for certificates of appropriateness, and grant or deny same in accordance with the provisions of this article;"
And then there's this (link):
"Sec. 5-300. Conformance with certificate of appropriateness.
(a) All work performed pursuant to an issued certificate of appropriateness shall conform to the requirements of such certificate. If the work is not performed in accordance with such certificate, the preservation commission shall issue a cease and desist order and all work shall cease.
(b) The governing body or the preservation commission shall be authorized to institute any appropriate action or proceeding in a court of competent jurisdiction to prevent any material change in appearance of a designated historic property or historic district, except those changes made in compliance with the certificate of appropriateness or to prevent any illegal act or conduct with respect to such historic property or historic district."
So what am I missing? The commission members may certainly be volunteers, as you say. I'm not sure what that has to do with the matter at hand.
Are you saying that Stan was not even required to submit an application to the Commission? And if that's the case, then why did the Commission hear his application and issue a finding? Wouldn't the appropriate thing have been to tell him he wasn't required to request approval, and send him on his way with their blessing?
I assume you are in the locality where this occurred. I'd welcome an explanation of your assertions, as they seem to contradict the information I'm seeing in the Avondale Estates ordinances, as well as the information that's been reported in the news.
Have you gotten any of the news sources to issue corrections? Most every news agency will issue a correction if they have factually misrepresented a story.
I look forward to your reply.
Be Well, Be Free,
Sarah has yet to reply to me, and no further information has come before me to substantiate the claims of hers that I disputed.
On one other note, a new member of PeoplesForum.com has just recently moved to Stan's neighborhood, and promised to give him a pat on the back for me if he ever meets him. :-)
I've been wanting to post something about the dreadful state of the U.S. (TV) media vis a vis the War in Iraq (and presumably into the forseeable future), but I haven't been able to come up with a calm statement on the subject. I find myself reduced to exasperated exclamations and disgusted grunts, followed by wandering rants.
Thankfully, Stephan Richter wrote it all out for me. His commentary in Japan Today says pretty much everything I want to say, and I agree with it completely. And it's much more coherent than my frustrated mutterings would be. Excerpting it wouldn't do it justice...just check it out: U.S. media losing global respect
Actor and director Tim Robbins, one of the most prominent of the Hollywood anti-war activists, gave a speech recently at the National Press Club, about speaking out, the dissing of dissent, and the overall climate of the nation since 9-11. It's quite good.
Here's the video (Real Player media format) from ConnectLive.
The audio is available here from NPR.
The text transcript appears to be pretty much everywhere -- here it is on the "progressive" site CommonDreams.org.
The Baseball Hall of Fame recently cancelled an event that was intended to commemorate the 15th anniversary of the release of the film "Bull Durham", which co-starred, among others, Tim Robbins and his now-wife Susan Sarandon. Tim's speech is inspired by that occurence, but expands into a discussion of the many ways that dissent is being harshly reprimanded. One anecdote is about his 11-year-old nephew, who was told by his school teacher that Susan Sarandon was endangering the troops by opposing the war. He had the courage to speak up in her defense, which prompted prompt backpedaling on the part of the teacher. That anecdote ties into the main point which Tim wants to drive home in his speech which is, in short, "Challenge those who would silence those who dissent."
In researching this post, I found this 1998 article on the Baseball Hall of Fame's website, applauding Tim Robbins for donating his Bull Durham uniform to the museum. Tim lavishes praise on the museum, and they lavish praise back on him. Times have changed.
Here's the letter the Hall sent to Tim un-inviting him to the recent celebration, along with Tim's response.
Here's an editorial excoriating the Hall for politicizing baseball and its own institution.
In today's daily Central Command Briefing, Brigadier General Vincent Brooks referred to the overpowering nature of the coalition's military actions (in this case, the battle for the Baghdad airport, and the hundreds of Iraqi troops that were killed). He said, "We don't ever seek a fight on fair terms. We will always seek an advantage."
How does that fit in with their constant complaints that the Iraqis are cheating by using guerrilla tactics?
General Brooks just said that the newest car bombing of soldiers (regardless of whether it was voluntarily done or not) was a "terrorist act. It was not a military act."
Can anyone explain to me how an act which is not directed at civilians -- either at hurting them or at causing them fear -- and which is instead directed at invading military forces, is a terrorist act? The car bombers aren't trying to send a political message by ripping the populace a new one -- the terrorist modus operandi -- they are trying to kill an enemy which is attempting to take over their country. To brand those acts with that label is Orwellian doublespeak at its most eloquent.
In response to a question about the numbers of civilian casualties, General Brooks said (after explaining how we've all seen clearly that they focus on precision and minimizing potential loss of civilian life, and after hinting that Iraq was doing most of the civilian killing), "I can't say for absolutely sure that there haven't been any civilians killed by coalition actions. I suspect that there may have been some."
In other words, he wouldn't even go so far as to admit that they've killed even one civilian Iraqi.
From scanning most of the relevant media, the researchers at Iraq Body Count have come up with a minimum of 574 confirmed civilian casualties. General Brooks apparently seems to maintain that there's a possibility that every single one of those people were either forced to be human shields, killed for not fighting by Saddam's people, or are terrorists.
One final thought: You know how we keep getting visions of welcoming Iraqis, smiling and waving? I'm willing to bet that they used to smile and wave when Saddam's troops drove by too. After all, if you had no weapon or defense and were faced with threatening amounts of military force, what would you do?
Me, I'd either hide...or smile and wave.
This article in Forbes discusses how the priorities in the justifications list for this war have been shifting to suit the moods and nuances of the war as it plays out. The principle shift is from finding WOMD to "freeing the Iraqi people", though other shifts include the ratcheting up of "terrorism" talk, tying into the extreme tactics the Iraqis have resorted to in defending themselves.
I've certainly noticed a relentless refrain of pointing out how horrible the things that the Iraqi soldiers are doing are...while at the same time we hear little to nothing about how horrible the things the U.S. is doing are. Like we're the Lords of Mercy and they're the vicious savages. But which side has killed more innocent people in this war? Is suicide bombing invading U.S. soldiers markedly worse than gunning down women and children in a van? Or worse than what happened to these people?
From that last article:
Razzaq Kazem al-Khafaji said he lost his wife, six children, his father, his mother, his three brothers and their wives late Monday when their pickup truck was blown up by a rocket from a US Apache helicopter.
[That's 15 family members, in case you lost count.]
They were fleeing fierce fighting further south in the city of Nassariyah.
“Should I cry over my children? Should I cry over my wife? Should I cry over my father? Should I cry over my mother?” he repeated as he went from one coffin to another.
He lifted a sheet on one of the coffins and saw the mutilated bodies of his young children and then unveiled another coffin to find a dead child lying next to the remains of an infant, a pacifier still in her mouth.
And from the van shooting article:
[Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Peter Pace]
"Our soldiers on the ground have an absolute right to defend themselves. They will always, if they can, find a way to stop a vehicle like that without having to actually to fire at it. But in the final analysis, when their lives are threatened, and of course they thought they were, they will shoot."
Note the little rhetorical hop-skip there at the end: "when their lives are threatened, and of course they thought they were..." Lots of people have tried to use the same hop-skip to justify the van shooting. "They were defending themselves." No -- they weren't. Those women and children did not pose a danger. To put the burden of fault on them -- to even suggest it or hint at it -- is both logically and ethically flawed. It does a disservice to the cause of justice. To say the troops "absolutely did the right thing" is repulsive. I don't blame the troops themselves...they were following an established rule and orders, and I don't doubt that they felt threat. But that situation was created by the U.S. government. Those women are innocent victims of the U.S. military action, and to imply anything other than that is dishonest, and simply adds more shame to their shameful deaths.
I've been beating the PNAC drum in a couple recent posts, and with good reason. It's part of my larger plan to bring an end to this travesty of a war. I've been worried that the actions since the war started -- the "no business as usual" nonviolent actions -- were not having the desired effect, and in fact were alienating people who might otherwise agree with their message.
For "no business as usual" to work, it would have to get really extreme -- like shutting down all of the major cities in the country for several days in a row. And that would be a big mess -- even if it did drive Bush to reverse his stance (which is unlikely), it would mess up life in America a lot, and cause a lot of resentment. Although by that point, the protestors would represent a truly significant portion of the population -- it would take millions of people (tens of millions probably) to accomplish the level of shut-down necessary to bring about a change in policy -- it would still be hugely divisive and confrontational. A big mess, as I said. And the fact remains that the protests, due to their nature, repel more people than they attract, so the movement won't grow without some major change in public sentiment on the war (unless people find cause to get as pissed off about the war as the protestors).
So the mental search began for a new angle. I've set up HowToStopTheWar.org, which I hope will function as a clearinghouse of ideas for the anti-war movement, where ideas can be rated and commented on. In addition to that, I've come up with one tactic which I think could actually work, albeit slowly but surely. Which brings me back to the PNAC and their plan for global domination.
I think bringing that plan (of which the war in Iraq is but one piece) to the attention of the American public is the best way to turn public sentiment against the war, potentially enough to bring about a cease-fire and withdrawal. I'm thinking this war could drag out for a long time, and could get muckier and muckier. If it goes for months, impatience will start to brew, and people will begin to reconsider their support for it. Exposing the PNAC plan could provide the perfect seed of doubt from which majority oppostion to this war could spout.
I'm looking to put the brakes on the Project for the New American Century. If you haven't heard about this disturbing "project", and their agenda for America and the world, you'd be well-advised to get up to speed. Here's an in-depth, if a bit cynical, look at it in Asia Times. Here's the PNAC's Global Empire grand plan, Rebuilding America's Defenses (PDF file, 853 Kbytes). (Look at the list of contributor/signatories on page 90 -- it's like a Who's Who of the Bush Administration.)
I bring it up now because I'm starting a website called PNAC.info, for the purposes of informing the American people about the bigger plan that's behind the Mess in Mesopotamia. (That plan being, in short, permanent global dominance for the U.S.. Your tax dollars hard at work!)
I think focusing attention on the PNAC grand plan will help erase the "liberation" myth behind this war, potentially eroding American support for it to a level which will make George Bush fear non-re-election, and get him to reverse course. I'm all for getting Saddam out of Iraq, but I don't think having empire-hungry megalomaniacs do it is a good idea for America or the world.
You will be hearing more about the PNAC from me...you can bet on it.
(Update: I have since started PNAC.info -- dedicated to exposing the Project for the New American Century, and its plan for a "unipolar" world.)
I commented last night about the "WAR FOR OIL" news titling that Iran news uses for its war broadcast. And though I didn't come right out and say it, the subtext was that I kinda thought they had a clearer picture of what it is that's really going on over there.
Enter the BBC, with their take on things. The BBC's war title? "BATTLE FOR CONTROL". So they're fairly up front about it.
And leading off this morning's BBC-TV financial news? A piece about how Iraq's oil supply has been interrupted by the war, and how 60% of Iraq's supply is in the south. (The report said they're the 7th biggest supplier in the world.) The Western coalition supposedly has control of those oil fields, and it's been predicted that they will be back up and running in 3 months. So, says the BBC, oil prices will go down substantially when that happens.
"WAR FOR OIL"
"BATTLE FOR CONTROL"
"OPERATION IRAQI FREEDOM"
(Which one of these is not like the others?)
It's funny how I was just talking about being starving for foreign-based news...this article about Al-Jazeera's websites (both the Arabic one and the brand-new English one) were taken down by what's presumed to be a denial-of-service attack had a couple of items which seem to indicate that I'm not alone in my hunger. The first is the fact that Al-Jazeera is the number 1 search term at Lycos, and the second is that Aljazeera.net gets more hits than any other Arabic web site.
It's pretty sad that someone decided to purposely shut down a news resource that's obviously of importance to a great number of people.
Here are a couple more stories on Al-Jazeera's website woes:
good one: Al-Jazeera Web site suffers hits (ZDNet Aus.)
just O.K. one: Headaches as Al Jazeera launches English website (ABCNews Aus.)
It's almost just your average stupid "zero tolerance in schools" story -- 6-year old suspended for having a plastic knife -- but there's a funny twist at the end of the story that I got a kick out of. You see, the kid got the plastic knife at lunch at the school -- they hand them out. So here's the punch line:
And, if the school insists on upholding the suspension, his parents reportedly will seek criminal charges against the school for supplying weapons to children.
Ha! Zero tolerance for zero tolerance idiocy! I want to see that court case.
I thought that was a pretty clever and smart activism effort. Definitely a little brash and controversial, but still a really clear and demonstrative way to illustrate the discrimination embedded in affirmative action.
The comments of one of the opponents of the event kinda cracked me up. From this article:
Hoku Jeffrey, a fourth-year Berkeley ethnic studies major and member of the pro-affirmative action group By Any Means Necessary, spoke in defense of the ethnic preference program to media in front of the BCR bake sale table.
"I thought it was ironic that what they thought they were doing was anti-affirmative action, when they only succeeded in bringing to light the need for affirmative action," Jeffrey said. "They were conceding that there is a racial disparity in pay. If people are getting paid differently, it's only fair that people pay different prices."
He stops at just a step away from saying that the Affirmative Action pricing scale the Republicans were using (25 cents for all minorty women but Asians, 50 cents for the males of those minorities, a dollar for white women, and two dollars for white males and Asians of both sexes-- a model apparently based on the UC system's own preferences system) would be a good model to carry out into the market.
Maybe he's rght...if we made it that blantantly clear that Affirmative Action equals racism, perhaps we would finally bring the system to a deserved end.
Who says Americans are a bunch of apathetic lame-o sheeple? I beg to differ. Hearty movements are engaging in efforts to displace the leader of the U.S., and that of the largest state in it.
If anything could be said to be the very opposite of voter apathy, a recall election is it. Gray Davis, the pathetic Governor of my home state of California, is looking down the barrel of that particular weapon of the people as we speak, and if he has a brain in his head, he's not liking what he sees. His approval rating is...wait for it...twenty-four percent!
Daily Standard: Total Recall
LA Times: Taking Gray Down
KCRA-TV, Sacramento: Group Mounting Davis Recall Effort
State Republican Party Steering Clear So Far
LP of California: Libertarians Resolve to Recall Davis
It's none too soon for me, I tell you what. I don't want to get too deep into it right now, because I don't really want to hurt Gray's feelings, but let's just say I have absolutely nothing good to say about him. I look to politicians to see what they do right, and how they do it, but whenever I look at Gray, I just feel a commanding urge to look away -- to avoid any possibility that I might accidentally emulate him in some way.
My biggest complaint with him is his abysmal "representation" of the will of the voters in respect to medical marijuana. Not only did he and Attorney General Bill Lockyer allow local authorities to enforce the law (or not) as they saw fit, which ended up being willy-nilly, but they've allowed the federal government -- mainly the DEA -- to just stomp all over clinics, patients, and growers left and right, arbitrarily and with impunity. It's spineless, pathetic, and wrong. A real Governor would protect his citizens from these violations. His handling of the budget and the energy crisis are deplorable too...oh, right, I wasn't going to get into a Bashing Gray fest. OK, no problem. Plenty of time for that as this recall effort moves forward.
One interesting tidbit I picked up from those stories that was of some interest to me was this:
Under state rules, voters would be asked at the same time to pick a replacement. The winner would be the candidate with the most votes, meaning someone could win with as little as eight or 10 percent of the vote.
It's almost enough to make a guy think about running for Governor. Winning Governor of California with 8 percent? How often does a chance like that come up?
The KCRA website's online poll shows 85% of respondents would support a recall of the Governor. No doubt it's spiked by frothing CA conservatives and Republicans, but it's still sitting there, pointing at Davis, on the website of one of his local TV stations.
It doesn't look good for Gray. Which is nice to hear. Can I vote him out tomorrow? Give me a ballot.
And of course a worldy, informed reader such as yourself has heard of the effort to impeach our fearless and deeply lost leader? The man in whose honor we've been covering up upsetting paintings and cancelling upsetting poetry symposiums? The man with the very scary plan? Squasher of evildoers? Emancipator of law enforcement? Friend to the environment? 43?
You know, I really truly have been trying to cut Bush some slack. I don't really know why, but I have. I did the same for Clinton too, actually. But after enough strikes, they're out, and I'm done with President Bush. The siege on civil liberties, the new foreign policy drive to dominate the globe indefinitely, the irrational push for war in Iraq (and all of the disturbing loops within that topic)...there's more to it, but by the time I get that far, I'm so nauseated that I can barely stand to keep looking for more.
I think it has finally come to the breaking point through my process of considering the impeachment effort, and whether to sign on in support of it. I take the signing of things very seriously, and this in particular is an item which could come up in the form of a question in the '08 campaign. "Lance, did you really sign on with that partisan effort to remove Bush from office in the midst of his epically righteous struggle to wipe out evildoers from the face of the earth? Are you anti-American?"
I mean, it's not like my signature will make the big difference or anything. If the impeachment goes forward, it's not going to depend on one measly name on the list. True, I could make a bigger difference if I actively promote it and work to help the campaign, but the risk, politically, is pretty big. If Bush somehow manages to come out of this looking good, or happens to actually rid the world of terrorism or something, then the people who supported the impeachment are going to look like lame whiny losers, and scaremongers to boot. Kinda like the people who supported Clinton's impeachment look, but much worse in a lot of ways, because of the "Anti-American" thing. Nobody really got too much into questioning people's patriotism over the Clinton impeachment, but with the Bush one (such as it is), it's already on the table, and will likely become the key wedge used by Bush supporters the whole way through (or however far it develops). Unless the case gets a chance to get shown, proven, and supported, a big chunk of America will probably consider the impeachment supporters to be, at least at some level, traitors. And even if it's successful and seen as generally justified by most, there will still be a smaller chunk of die-hard Republicans who will hold a grudge about it forever.
And yet I find myself wishing there was a way to stop Bush, because I think he's unduly endangering our country, both on a day-to-day level and in the abstract sense -- i.e., endangering the foundations of our country. And I certainly think he's abusing his power. And those sound a lot like "high crimes and misdeameanors" to me.
And I read the Articles of Impeachment proposed by former Attorney General Ramsey Clark, and I find myself nodding-- a lot. In fact, I find myself almost completely in agreement with all of them.
I'm still thinking about it. I'll keep you updated.
These two stories are a couple weeks old, but they are so disgusting that I can't let them pass without mention. The Administration has stooped to a low that I guess shouldn't surprise me, but it still does. I have a pretty positive attitude generally, and I try to apply that to others. Which is to say, I try to think the best of others when I can. And that includes the Bush Administration. At this point, I've gone from trying to think they're generally well-meaning to trying to think they're not totally evil totalitarian warlords. Trying to think being the key phrase in that sentence. Because they don't make it easy.
"What the hell are you talking about, anyway, Lance?"
I'm glad you asked.
The synopses: The first story tells of how Laura Bush decided to cancel a sceduled poetry symposium at the White House, because of rumors that a bunch of poets were planning to bring anti-war poems to read. The second story tells about how a Picasso painting ('Guernica') at the U.N. depicting the graphic images of war was covered up for a press conference...about the war.
The problem: If they are so unsure about their war that they fear the consequences of poets reading anti-war poems, or the impact of people seeing a graphic depiction of war as they promote theirs, then perhaps they are a bit too unsure about their war.
I could really unload on a major rant here, but it would be coming from a place of anger, and I'm really trying to stick with the "if you can't something nice..." rule when it comes to our evil totalitarian warlord administration. Hmm...did I just say that?
Seriously, though -- how disturbing is it that the administration feels they have to go that far to protect the image of their precious war? These literature symposiums by Laura Bush have apparently been going on for a while. What makes this one so special? Simply the fact that the people who were invited wanted to speak out (via the works of celebrated poets) against the war. To add insult to injury, Mrs. Bush is a former librarian. Apparently she's one of those rare librarians that's afraid of words...one of the few, the proud, the censoring librarians. There aren't many of those...I guess we should be proud to have such a rare breed safeguarding our nation's house from all those dangerous, doubt-inspiring words of dissent.
I think the covering up of the war painting bothers me more...in fact, I know it does. I almost flipped my lid when I first read about it. Luckily, it only mostly flipped, and I was able to get it back in place. But I'm still furious -- my face immediately goes into a frown as soon as I think about this topic. It's just So. Damn. Cowardly. I don't know what else to say about it.
Here's another story that talks about it a little, in the context of a story about Bush's seemingly unstoppable march to war: The Lessons of Guernica
It's worth noting -- quite significant actually -- that these stories were reported in Britain and Canada, respectively. CNN covered the poetry story, but only later, as a part of a story about how the shunned poets are planning an antiwar poetry gathering (called "Poems Not Fit For the White House", hehe). Apparently The Weekly Standard covered it too, pretty extensively, two+ weeks after the fact.
More on the poetry thing:
The Poets vs. The First Lady (The Weekly Standard)
The funny thing is that more "damage" will be done by these shunned poets than would have been done if librarian Bush had just held her symposium. Fascists are the craziest peoples! Maybe they'll figure it out eventually...you can't hide the truth behind a blue curtain...you can't suppress those who are passionate about their ideas...and you can't effectively keep the opposition down by simply disinviting them. Not in America in 2003. That shit simply does not fly in America 2003.
Anyway, they'll figure it out eventually. Hopefully on Election Day 2004, at the latest.
One more thought: Do they think they can somehow cover all this up in the eyes of history? Like, do they think that if this turns into, as Nelson Mandela put it, a holocaust, that they can just pull a big blue curtain over it, like an uncomfortable Picasso painting?
Some disturbing news has cropped up from 40 years ago. Check out this article at ABC News about "Operation Northwoods."
Just when we thought it was safe to begin trusting our government again (ha ha), something like this shows up and lets us know how naïve that would be. If you're too lazy to click over and read the article (which you really should do if you haven't heard about this), here's the brief: In the early 60's our country's top military leaders hatched a plan to start a war with Cuba by attacking us and blaming it on Cuba. The plan went so far as to get approval from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and was presented to the Secretary of Defense.
So there's another one to add to the list when someone asks you why you distrust government so much.
Gives some food for thought for our current crisis as well. I mean, in 1962 we had a liberal president, so liberal that he was considered pro-communist by many others in the government at the time. So, when a plan was presented to incite war against Castro through devious and horrific misdeeds, it's not surprising that the plan would be rejected.
But what if such a plan were to be presented to a more conservative, war-friendly president? What if he could be convinced that faith in government had sunk so low after Election 2000, that the populace was at risk of falling out of the grip of the established parties, and the establishment itself? What if he could be convinced that the U.S. needed a new enemy, a new "cold war" of sorts? And what if he could be convinced that this couldn't be a normal "quickie" war, but instead needed to be a lasting conflict, just like the cold war? A new world quest, to replace the quest to end communism. Hmmmm...
A lot of people (people who might be considered "fringe" by the majority) have implied or claimed that the Bush Administration had advance knowledge of the September 11th attacks. There are many different variations on the theme, but they all stem from that sense of immense distrust that comes from reading about stuff like "Operation Northwoods." If one set of leaders would decide it was wise to attack our own population in order to foment war, isn't it reasonable to conclude that another set of leaders might do the same?
I hate to be cynical...I really do. I wish that I could find a rational way to trust our leaders, but history has shown over and over again that when people get too much power, and too much ability to hide what they do, heavy duty corruption is the result. And I don't mean dirty-deals-corruption, I mean moral corruption— corruption of the soul, if you prefer. No system of human interaction can succeed for long if bad people are able to wield too much control over others.
Our system was designed to prevent that, by creating a government that must answer to the people— one that we could hold accountable, by voting, through the courts, through a free press, the right to demonstrate, the right to defend ourselves from intrusion, and any other of a number of ways. The problem is, too many of the controls have been consolidated in the hands of too few, largely due to the actions of the U.S. Government in the past 100 years or so, combined with the citizenry's apathy and disinterest. We've asked government to control virtually everything— it shouldn't be much of a surprise when our leaders start feeling like they are kings of the world.
That set of Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1962 must have believed that they were doing right. Somehow they had reached a way of thinking where they thought it was morally permissible to purposely instigate a war through such devious and disgusting means. They thought everyone was so misguided that they needed to devise a twisted secret plan to regain control of things. Brew up a war, and whammo, 80% of the American people will jump up in unison in support of their government, and against the bad guy. It sounds so simple, and it really does work, so I can understand how the seed of that idea came to be. A similar idea has been played out in the movies "Wag the Dog" (where the administration fakes a war) and "Canadian Bacon" (where the administration does just what the Operation Northwoods schemers had planned, except with Canada as the enemy.)
Like I said, I hate to be cynical. And I hate to be living in a time and place where there is substantial cause to distrust our national leaders. But I can't be blind to what our leaders have done in the past, or or live in denial of what they could do, and may be doing.
However, as cynical as the facts force me to be, I am optimistic as well. People who are morally corrupt are flawed, and weak in the most important way. People who are that corrupted inside are bound to screw up, and in the end, truth, freedom, and the vigilance of those good people who are willing to bother will pay off, and the opportunity will come to take their power away from them, and give it back to its original owner— the people. Or, more properly, the individuals.
People should not have the power to rule the lives of others— but that's exactly what we've given to our government. We have got to be ready to take it back...if we ever get a chance.
Oh, and sorry it's been so long since my last post. I have been very busy, and one of my pets was injured, which was a major disruption in my life for a while.
On a positive note, my local paper, The Union, published an op-ed of mine this past Saturday, Bill of Rights Day. Check it out!