Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Don't We Wish

Paul O'Hanlon | 09.07.2005 12:40 | G8 2005 | Anti-militarism | Culture | Repression | London | World

"Too Late" by the poet Edward Field


Too late to hire a boat and break into attics
where the trapped are standing with water up to their necks

too late to set up the grid plan
and assign a rescue crew to each square

too late to set up the emergency phone network
that would have helped everybody know what was going on where

too late to get everybody out of the city before the hurricane struck
as Fidel Castro did

way too late to have a coherent plan
to organize the whole rescue operation

don’t even talk about it’s too late
to put money into the dikes, the wetlands

instead of pouring billions into failed savings and loans, the
pharmaceutical industry,
the oil war in Iraq, the thirty-year occupation of the Palestinians

but not too late to stand Bush and his crew
up against the wall


What Barbara Bush Did Not Comment on

Please Comment on Quote of Barbara Bush below

Barbara Bush, who accompanied the former presidents on a tour of the Astrodome complex Monday, said the relocation to Houston is "working very well" for some of the poor people forced out of New Orleans."What I'm hearing, which is sort of scary, is they all want to stay in Texas. Everyone is so overwhelmed by the hospitality," she said during a radio interview with the American Public Media program "Marketplace." "And so many of the people in the arena here, you know, were underprivileged anyway, so this is working very well for them."


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Monday, September 05, 2005

Cartoon by Joe Willy (Daily Kos)

Dershowitz on Rehnquist

I thought Alan Dershowitz's article on Justice Rehnquist was important enough to include in my blog. My memory of Rehnquist is diametrically the opposite of all the flattering reports I have heard in the media. Too bad he will be replaced by someone just like him in terms of political persuasion.


Telling the Truth About Chief Justice Rehnquist

My mother always told me that when a person dies, one should not say anything bad about him. My mother was wrong. History requires truth, not puffery or silence, especially about powerful governmental figures. And obituaries are a first draft of history.

So here’s the truth about Chief Justice Rehnquist you won’t hear on Fox News or from politicians. Chief Justice William Rehnquist set back liberty, equality, and human rights perhaps more than any American judge of this generation. His rise to power speaks volumes about the current state of American values.

Let’s begin at the beginning. Rehnquist bragged about being first in his class at Stanford Law School. Today Stanford is a great law school with a diverse student body, but in the late 1940s and early 1950s, it discriminated against Jews and other minorities, both in the admission of students and in the selection of faculty. Justice Stephen Breyer recalled an earlier period of Stanford’s history: “When my father was at Stanford, he could not join any of the social organizations because he was Jewish, and those organizations, at that time, did not accept Jews.” Rehnquist not only benefited in his class ranking from this discrimination; he was also part of that bigotry. When he was nominated to be an associate justice in 1971, I learned from several sources who had known him as a student that he had outraged Jewish classmates by goose-stepping and heil-Hitlering with brown-shirted friends in front of a dormitory that housed the school’s few Jewish students. He also was infamous for telling racist and anti-Semitic jokes.

As a law clerk, Rehnquist wrote a memorandum for Justice Jackson while the court was considering several school desegregation cases, including Brown v. Board of Education. Rehnquist’s memo, entitled “A Random Thought on the Segregation Cases,” defended the separate-but-equal doctrine embodied in the 1896 Supreme Court case of Plessy v. Ferguson. Rehnquist concluded the Plessy “was right and should be reaffirmed.” When questioned about the memos by the Senate Judiciary Committee in both 1971 and 1986, Rehnquist blamed his defense of segregation on the dead Justice, stating – under oath – that his memo was meant to reflect the views of Justice Jackson. But Justice Jackson voted in Brown, along with a unanimous Court, to strike down school segregation. According to historian Mark Tushnet, Justice Jackson’s longtime legal secretary called Rehnquist’s Senate testimony an attempt to “smear[] the reputation of a great justice.” Rehnquist later admitted to defending Plessy in arguments with fellow law clerks. He did not acknowledge that he committed perjury in front of the Judiciary Committee to get his job.

The young Rehnquist began his legal career as a Republican functionary by obstructing African-American and Hispanic voting at Phoenix polling locations (“Operation Eagle Eye”). As Richard Cohen of The Washington Post wrote, “[H]e helped challenge the voting qualifications of Arizona blacks and Hispanics. He was entitled to do so. But even if he did not personally harass potential voters, as witnesses allege, he clearly was a brass-knuckle partisan, someone who would deny the ballot to fellow citizens for trivial political reasons -- and who made his selection on the basis of race or ethnicity.” In a word, he started out his political career as a Republican thug.

Rehnquist later bought a home in Vermont with a restrictive covenant that barred sale of the property to ''any member of the Hebrew race.”

Rehnquist’s judicial philosophy was result-oriented, activist, and authoritarian. He sometimes moderated his views for prudential or pragmatic reasons, but his vote could almost always be predicted based on who the parties were, not what the legal issues happened to be. He generally opposed the rights of gays, women, blacks, aliens, and religious minorities. He was a friend of corporations, polluters, right wing Republicans, religious fundamentalists, homophobes, and other bigots.

Rehnquist served on the Supreme Court for thirty-three years and as chief justice for nineteen. Yet no opinion comes to mind which will be remembered as brilliant, innovative, or memorable. He will be remembered not for the quality of his opinions but rather for the outcomes decided by his votes, especially Bush v. Gore, in which he accepted an Equal Protection claim that was totally inconsistent with his prior views on that clause. He will also be remembered as a Chief Justice who fought for the independence and authority of the judiciary. This is his only positive contribution to an otherwise regressive career.

Within moments of Rehnquist’s death, Fox News called and asked for my comments, presumably aware that I was a longtime critic of the late Chief Justice. After making several of these points to Alan Colmes (who was supposed to be interviewing me), Sean Hannity intruded, and when he didn’t like my answers, he cut me off and terminated the interview. Only after I was off the air and could not respond did the attack against me begin, which is typical of Hannity’s bullying ambush style. He is afraid to attack when there’s someone there to respond. Since the interview, I’ve received dozens of e-mail hate messages, some of which are overtly anti-Semitic. One writer called me “a jew prick that takes it in the a** from ruth ginzburg [sic].” Another said I am “an ignorant socialist left-wing political hack …. You’re like a little Heinrich Himmler! (even the resemblance is uncanny!).” Yet another informed me that I “personally make us all lament the defeat of the Nazis!” A more restrained viewer found me to be “a disgrace to the Law, to Harvard, and to humanity.”

All this, for refusing to put a deceptive gloss on a man who made his career undermining the rights and liberties of American citizens.

My mother would want me to remain silent, but I think my father would have wanted me to tell the truth. My father was right.

Alan Dershowitz is a professor of law at Harvard. His latest book is The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict Can Be Resolved (Wiley, 2005).

Sunday, September 04, 2005


Poor, Old, and Needy Abandoned in New Orleans

The poor and needy were abandoned in New Orleans long before Hurricane Katrina hit. In an article written in the LA times by Emily Metzgar titled Louisiana Poverty politics (9/4/05) she makes it clear that the politicians failed its citizens, and I mean all its citizens because I think when the poor, old, and needy are neglected and allowed to be injured or to die by political indifference we all are diminished. According to Metzgar, the issue of transportation out of town before a bad hurricane could hit was raised and met with silent indifference by all those able to make a difference.

From everything I have heard or read, the State of Florida took the high road, preparing evacuation plans for all its citizenry.
There have been no complaints that I have seen regarding how Katrina was handled in Florida. Florida used city buses to evacuate its poor, disabled and elderly citizens out of the hurricanes path to safety. They also opened all freeway lanes on both sides on all freeways for drivers to escape the hurricane path. Lousiana seems to be a different story altogether. I keep hearing explanations for the failure to meet expectations from all kinds of officials from the Bush administration and others even Bill Clinton ( see Ariana Huffington's comments at http://www.informationclearinghouse.info/article10091.htm.) Gen. Honore, the John Wayne type character, who came into the City with all his helicopters and troops days into the crisis claims help came as soon as it was possible.

It is hard for people to really comprehend what has happened. For those of us who have just watched the unfolding of this most horrible of disasters through the media reports and television, one comes to the conclusion that something was terribly wrong in the planning and handling of people in the midst of the disaster. Below the surface, there seems to be years of neglect and indifference by politicians from both parties. One can't but help think those in power and the average voter in the Big Easy had come to accept the status quo and think the poor and most vulnerable among us have always been last in line for everything so why not in times of disaster too. The poor also were given promises that were not kept so those who voted kept voting for people who did not serve their best interests. The poor in New Orleans stay poor and compared to other places seem to be a large part of the overall population. (Metzgar, LA times,9/4/05)) As a consequence of primises not kept and an indifferent bureacracy, little changed. The racist implications seemed palpable at times during the height of the crises. Some of the rescuers, ambulance drivers, some of the police, and other in charge, seemed much more worried about the anger some of African Americans imprisoned at the Convention Center and other places, like under a bridge, or on an expressway, were expressing, than the fact that innocent lives were in danger.

We can blame the media for part of this perception but it was the racist way people actually viewed the looting and the few cases of shootings that the media showed on tv or in the written news that seemed to slow the rescue process down. As a tv news watcher one could not help form the opinion that the white people outside New Orleans were being helped and treated differently than the African Americans caught inside the flooded city of New Orleans. When Honore and his troops finally came into the city full force and with all their military gear and fire power, they were welcomed by a very relieved populace. Only the many dead scattered around were unable to express their gratitude.

Will there be repercussions to this colossal failure of preparedness and lack of will to take care of the vulnerable among us?
There is no doubt that criticism and anger has already been expressed by so many including reporters and journalists in large number. They strongly impressed this viewer as they took on an important advocacy role for those in danger of dying. The reporters and anchors who took on this advocacy role stepped out of their more often than not neutral role as news people and began to show themselves as decent human beings impelled to do something to save lives or just make someones life at the moment more bearable. The rescuers who spent almost every waking moment saving people stood out as heroes as they always do in these kinds of situations.

But where are the other voices in this moment of such great distress? Why is Bill Clinton standing with the Bushes? Where are the other Democrats? From what I have read, the Democrats don't need to help push Bush over the political precipice as he is going quickly down the political popularity slide all by himself. I wonder if there is more to it. As much as I can't stand Bush and his cronies, it seems both sides are at fault in many ways. The Democratic Party which seems to dominate in the city of New Orleans has also failed the people by years of neglect of the issue of preparedness and lack of commitment to a common sense approach to the problems of the poor, elderly, the disabled and all its citizens. In this case, talk was cheap. There were meetings, conferences and discussions about the need to deal with emergency preparedness. The problem was, no money was put into making it happen. The dikes were not brought up to modern standards, no thought was given to how to evacuate people with no money or transportation or if thought was given it wasn't implemented due to what? Who is responsible? Bush? HomeLand Security? FEMA? Congress? The States? The local Governments? They all should answer!