Friday, March 24, 2006

Feingold on The Daily Show

Here's the link to see Russ on The Daily Show talking about Bush and his resolution.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Phil, we need you now.

Phil Ochs was a singer/songwriter during the 1960's (variously categorized as ``topical'', ``protest'' and ``folk''). He was a contemporary (and friend) of Bob Dylan. (who said: ``I just can't keep up with Phil. And he's getting better and better and better.'') He was a prolific writer of protest songs such as Draft Dodger Rag, I Ain't Marchin' Anymore and Outside Of A Small Circle Of Friends. His output diminished at the end of the 60's after putting out 7 albums. He wrote little in the 70's and, sadly, took his own life in 1976.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

From Vermont to the rest of the country!

You should check these guys out. Chelsea Green is a small Vermont publisher you probably never heard of until you read that they are publishing Crashing the Gate, by Jerome Armstrong and Markos Moulitsas Zuniga. Or George Lakoff's Don't Think of an Elephant, their big success from last year. Or maybe you still don't know who they are, but you should.

I first heard of them as a publisher of beautiful books, mainly on natural themes, when I bought Jean Giono's The Man Who Planted Trees, but there's more to them than that. They've gone beyond nature and sustainable living to real political activism. Read this story from Seven Days, Vermont's alternative weekly paper of politics and culture to find out more.

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Special Duties of a Prosecutor

In American we really, really believe in the adversary system. It has been a central tenet of our justice system that justice is achieved by providing both parties, or the state and the accused, with attorneys who will zealously strive to present the best possible evidence and argument for their side.

The tactics that the sides are permitted to use, however, are not unlimited. Especially with regard to prosecutors, who have the weight of all the law enforcement agencies and their power to investigate, search, threaten witnesses, and otherwise compel testimony, it is important to limit their activities to those that do not violate the law, and do not distort the fairness of the system. My copy of the ABA's Model Rules of Professional Conduct refers to the "Special Responsibility of a Prosecutor", and the official comment to this rule states that, "A prosecutor has the responsibility of a minister of justice and not simply that of an advocate. This responsibility carries with it specific obligations to see that the defendant is accorded procedural justice and that guilt is decided upon the basis of sufficient evidence." These obligations are imposed not just to be nice, but also because society as a whole loses confidence in the judicial system if the prosecution is allwed to break the law.

Now we see another instance of the Bush Administration violating the law, and placing its own anti-terror efforts at risk. Judge Leonie Brinkema, who is hearing the prosecution of Zacarias Moussaoui, is considering denying the government's request for the death penalty, or granting a mistrial, because of the prosecution's tampering with its own witness, in violation of the court's explicit order. Not only that, this is the second time in a week that the prosecution has violated either the court's explicit order or a very clear constitutional obligation.

If you're a death penalty opponent this may not seem like such a bad thing, but if you are concerned with making sure your government obeys the law when it acts in your name, maybe you should be concerned. And whoever you are, since we now know that innocent people may be scooped up in the campaign against terrorism (or domestic dissent), you should be very worried that if they decide they don't need to follow the law when they're prosecuting Moussaoui, why should they follow the law if they decide to prosecute you?

Saturday, March 11, 2006

What is it with these guys?

This is just bizarre. You've already read about Claude Allen, the right-winger who was in charge of abstinence education and not helping hurricane victims in the Bush administration, and how he's been charged with a scheme to defraud department stores of thousands of dollars. If the stories are true (and have you noticed that the R's only believe in the presumption of innocence when it's one of their own being charged) the scheme seems very complicated, especially in light of the relatively small amounts involved.

What you may not remember is that this is not the first time in memory that a Republican extremist has been caught in a crime involving larceny of tiny amounts. This isn't Halliburton, Cunningham, Abramoff, or Delay, just pennies, or single dollars, anyway. Back in 1986 Reagan's president of the Legal Services Corporation, appointed in an unsuccessful attempt to dismantle LSC, was caught in an even smaller shoplifting scheme. James Wentzel was arrested for shoplifting groceries in a Washington area supermarket, and what they found in his pockets was about five dollars worth of food, including some sliced ham and a can of succotash.

He didn't keep his job, either, although I don't recall whether he said it was to spend more time with his family.

Oh yes, another thing about Allen. Before becoming Bush's top advisor on domestic policy Bush nominated him to serve on the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals. Too bad those mean Democrats didn't let him have his up or down vote, huh?


Hard to feel too bad about this, isn't it?

Tuesday, March 07, 2006

Political Commentary

Sorry about being incommunicado. I had to go out of town for a few days on family business last week, and I'm out of town again until the end of the week.

Still, I've been wanting to mention this for a while. Eric Alterman refers to him as our best political commentator, and I would have to say he's not far wrong. While many of us have enjoyed Doonesbury for these last thirty years or so, I think the strip has reached a new level of substance and gravitas with the portrayal of BD's war injury. It's still a funny strip, but he also captures what's going on in America at least as well as just about anyone else.

Here's a good one from Sunday.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

The war and the troops

One of the things we've heard since the war began is that we don't see the fraggings and dissension in the troops in Iraq that we saw in Vietnam, and this has largely been attributed to the absence of a military draft, and the putative fact that the troops serving in Iraq are volunteers. Although it's obvious that the service of many of these troops is not truly voluntary, I've generally thought that there was something to this idea. After all, there is a certain logic to the idea that people who volunteer for military service are probably somewhat more conservative than the population at large or the pool of potential draftees.

Zogby International has a new poll out today, though, that raises questions about this. According to this new poll, three quarters of American military personnel serving in Iraq think we should withdraw within the year, and a quarter think we should get out immediately.

Detractors suggest that this poll is inaccurate because troops on active duty are likely to suppress their negative opinions toward the war, but if this is correct that would suggest that we're even doing a less effective job of winning the hearts and minds of our own soldiers than this poll indicates.

The poll also indicates that more than 80% of troops think we're there to punish Saddam Hussein for his involvement in the terrorist attacks on September 11. Now where do you suppose they got that idea?