Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Maura Policelli, Rep. Giffords Chief of Staff speaks to DFA and Congressional District 8 constituents

This evening's public meeting with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords' Chief of Staff organized by DFA TUCSON which took place at the City of Tucson Ward 6 Office focused on the topic of impeachment. At times a couple of outbursts that were a bit beyond the bounds of civil discourse. But given the intense emotion and passion that was palpable amongst all of the attendees the overall meeting went fairly well.

DFA had sent a list of 11 questions all focused on some aspect of the possibility of and reasons for the need to Impeach Bush, Cheney et al which Ms. Policelli attempted to address. Truth be told the questions were lost in the overall repeated attempts of most of the attendees to impress upon Policelli that Giffords constituency is extremely concerned about the successful Bush regime attacks on the U.S. Constitution and the slow but steady erosion of our liberty and democratic principles.

At first Policelli stuck to the script and responded in rather predictable Capitol Hill procedure-ese. "The Freshman Congressperson (as a generic entity) has little to no influence... Giffords has let it be known that the abuses to our system of government by the Executive Branch in this administration is unconscionable... No call for an investigation is before the House, the only thing before the House is the actual call for Impeachment which has no more than 50 votes... It would be worse to attempt to impeach and not reach the number as that in some ways would vindicate the Bush administration...There isn't time before the administration leaves office... our country is still the least we don't kill each other..."

And then she said, "It isn't going to happen. Impeachment just isn't going to happen."

Question after question from the attendees focused on simple variations of a theme, "what can we do to get Giffords to understand that the restoration of the rule of law and upholding her oath of office to protect and defend the Constitution are the most important tasks for every elected official in Congress."

There were variations voiced, "All the other problems faced by our country are connected to the criminal actions of this regime." "We don't want to hear defeatist rhetoric." "We need those Freshmen Congresspersons to live up to the mandate the people gave them when they were elected and brought the Democrats back into power on The Hill. How can we get our country back to governance by elected officials representing the people and away from governance bought and paid for by Global Corporations? The duty to restore balance among the three branches of government. The likelihood that people will leave the Democratic Party if this Congress doesn't do something, anything to check the Bush Gang." There were a few side issues brought up but for the most part the focus was on impeachment.

I don't know how many of those present had spoken with Ms. Policelli prior to this evening, but from my perspective from meeting her in January 2007 in the newly established and not yet unpacked Giffords office, I think she has come a long way. I can't speak to whether Giffords has changed but the candor Policelli showed during the last half of the meeting tonight was distinctly different from the far more closed attitude I encountered when I spent a month in D.C. a year ago as a member of CODEPINK Women for Peace as we were first trying to establish a long-term nationally drawn Pink Presence on The Hill. Tonight she used words like horrific, abuse, blatant, and the like to describe the consequences of the Bush II administration's disregard for the laws of our country. She did hear us.

She will be getting back to the local DFA about having Giffords petition her colleagues to have an investigation. She definitely heard the message that if impeachment isn't accomplished before the election Bush will pardon everyone and his or her brother and sister before he leaves office. She also knows that we want Giffords to speak to this topic in a larger town meeting type gathering.

Maybe I will post more on the topic. But for now... that is it. It is a minute until midnight and I still have other work to get done before I sleep.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Where Torture Leads Us

Recently in the English speaking world we have begun to talk about torture as though it is some distasteful cultural oddity that can be discussed, legislated, and most importantly swept under the carpet by decent people. I hear American people talking about whether torture is "worth it;" whether the information gained from such means is reliable. The fact that we are even having such conversations is a eerie testament to how small the steps humanity has taken toward civilization in the last few millenia really are.

I recently heard Ret. Colonel Ann Wright speak on the book tour for DISSENT Voice of Conscience and she reminded the few of us who had come out to hear her speak about the stories of the valiant few in government or military service who have in some cases have lost their very identity for doing what is right rather than what is at most technically legal. In the course of ther discussion she reminded us that the the vast majority of the pictures from Abu Ghirab prison have been locked away to never be seen as the world would not stand still for what we did to those prisoners. The head of the U.S.'s judicial system talks about simulated drowning when it IS in fact drowning with resuscitation happening before the person dies.

Torture eats away at the soul of the tortured and the torturer, and if a culture can be said to have a soul in a shared moral structure that soul is also diminished when torture is sanctioned.

I firmly believe that women must be the ones to save our civilization from the barbarism of war and the torture and atrocities generated by the mentality of war and aggression. Women and children have increasingly been the victims and casualties of war over the last century.

If you have read this far, do the world a favor and read the linked article The War Against Women by Ann Jones. Don't shirk from the knowledge or the discomfort created by reading it. Each and every one of us is responsible for what we allow people to do in the name of our country and indeed to occur anywhere on our planet. I'm especially frustrated by the women I encounter in my daily life who say they are too busy, aren't interested, or don't know enough to follow politics. We who ignore hate and violence are as guilty of the crimes we allow to happen in our names as the people who carried out the the violent crime of war on our streets and around the world. I feel especially strongly that we in the U.S. and the rest of the world that has benefited so excessively from Industrial Revolution have to accept the responsibility that comes with living in countries that once were bastions of freedom and a light toward what we might become. If we don't want genocide, torture/rape to be what our daughters and grand daughters know as life then we better all wake up now. Our world is facing dramatic instability in the near future as climate change forces every aspect of our lives to shift in unpredictable ways. What we will do in the face of unknown adversity is likely to relate to what we do and allow our fellow citizens to do in the here and now. When demonstrating in front of a military recruiting center and in spite of my own better judgment when I allowed myself to be drawn into interaction with the paramilitary terrorists who call themselves patriots who harass individuals expressing freedoms guaranteed by our U.S. Constitution to voice dissent about military recruitment of our country's youth to fight in illegal wars I've been told that hanging is the just reward for "traitors" like myself. I have no doubt that the man who smirked as he spat these words out in my face would be completely capable of horrific acts similar to what has happened in Serbia, Croatia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sierra Lione, Darfur.... and countless other places in our world.

How can we as the mothers of the world do anything less than act to stop these horrors?

So if our votes no longer count for anything... what next?

Just a quick question?

If our participation in the governance of our lives and property has been usurped, and:

  • we know the 2000 election vote count was subverted before it was complete in Florida and we've also verified the massive illegal suppression of voters who were statistically favorable to Gore in that state in that election.
  • we're now hearing about super delegates having been given the ability to overrule the ballots of delegates so as to make sure an "electable" candidate is chosen to run as a democratic Candidate
does anyone really think they can make the case that the American people have any voice in their governance any longer?

I believe our Declaration of Independence says, "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness."

When I was in school all students were required to memorize the Declaration of Independence. We did not have to memorize the constitution.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

McCain 180 Degrees on Torture

John McCain switches and votes FOR TORTURE. What else is he willing to do to get elected, or to please his corporate handlers once elected? There is no telling is there? The poor man was tortured for 6-7 years in a N. Vietnamese prison camp. It is not his fault, but anyone who has undergone torture and survived has some emotional and mental damage. His explosive temper is well documented. Then there is the vote against cancer research even though he is a cancer survivor. And of course the stench of the Keating 5 that lingers under his American Hero cologne. This switch to vote for torture caps it for me - John McCain is unstable. This time I agree with the conservatives... McCain is no conservative. Neither is he liberal in any sense of the word. If you look at his record over time you will find that it is awash in significant reversals that cast doubt on his loyalty to any party. Reversals are fine if tempered with reason and based on increased information or evidence. His reversals are not. They are based on who he is serving at the time.

McCain received funds connected to Abramoff. Deja Vu: he was part of the Keating Five who worked to protect Charles Keating. Keating bankrupted The Lincoln S & L. An interesting aside: The ties to Reagan Bush campaign finance is interesting too. (Remember Reagan deregulated the banking industry.) A good summary of the whole sordid Lincoln S & L affair that shows the connections to Arizona and how this hurt thousands of individuals (some committed suicide) as well as all American taxpayers who ultimately paid the costs of this fiasco can be found in a letter written by Franklin R Mancuso. For more scholarly discussion of the Bush-Reagan role in all stages of the S & L crisis read Bill Black and James Galbraith's 2002 letter.

McCain helped out the criminal who cost the American taxpayer 3 billion dollars. Furthermore, has ties to Abramoff slime. If this isn't enough, think about this: Manchurian Candidate. And geesh I've been so good I didn't even mention his age or other personal problems.

Monday, February 04, 2008

Ann Wright Speaks on the Costs of Conscience and Tucson Judge Shows Justice Can Have a Conscience

Michele Obama's appearance in downtown Tucson probably drew some folks away from Ann Wright's talk today about brave individuals who raised voices of conscience against illegal and immoral actions by our government since 2001.

Ann Wright spoke at the University of Arizona Bookstore this afternoon. It wasn't a feel good talk. No one whose stories are in DISSENT Voices of Conscience has won any medals, most are no longer in the careers they were busily building when they discovered violations of the letter and spirit of the law of the United States of America that they served through military or civil service. Col. (ret.) Ann resigned her Foreign Service position on March 19, 2003 as the U.S. began invading Iraq.

What was feel good was the news Ann brought with her from downtown and the trial and sentencing of three protesters arrested inches inside the gates of Fort Huachuca last November during SOA sister action protests. Today Betsy Lamb, Mary Burton Riseley, and Franciscan Fr. Jerry Zawada were admonished for not keeping their protests within the law. But in an amazing voice of reason from the bench Judge Marshall encouraged protests to continue protesting against illegal actions by the U.S. Government and spoke of the duty to do so, but within the law. She spoke of knowing that incarceration would do no good as each would protest again. The three were each found guilty and sentenced to time served, two years of probation and a $5000 fine that can be paid as a fine or via community service hours at the rate of $100 credit against the fine for each hour of service. No jail time. Putting a value on protest of $100 an hour. This is a well reasoned sentence voiced with justice.

If only the individuals whose stories Ann Wright tells in her book DISSENT had the scales of justice actually action with judgment. But truth telling is not valued in this country, nor in the UK nor Australia it seems.

Elizabeth Wilmshurst advised the British Government that aggression toward Iraq would violate international law. They ignored her counsel. She had to resign and is now working at a think tank. Jessalyn Radack was devoted to justice and worked to maintain fair and just treatment for all Americans, even John Walker Lindh. She advised before interogation that anything obtained at that time and under those conditions could not be used at a later time in a court of law. Her emails detailing this advice disappeared and Lindh's conviction used information obtained through early interrogations. She had IT recover the emails. She was forced out of her DOJ job. Her next employer (private) was told to let her go as the government was pursuing her disbarment and criminal prosecution. They let her go. Neither happened but she now knows that voicing matters of conscience will get you punished.

The stories are many. Most end up out of a job through forced retirement or forced resignation but some go all the way up the escalation scale to new identities and the Federal Witness Protection Program.

All of the personal stories in here are important when they stand alone. Together these instances form a critical collection worthy of study as a text in government, history, political science, and indeed any course that touches on philosophy or governance. The individuals covered in the chapters in this work are truly brave and noble individuals. Ann says she collected these stories together to thank the brave voices detailed in DISSENT, someone has to as the future of justice depends on the courage of such individuals, Ann included.

Get the book. Buy a copy for a library, a school, your book club, send it to a Congressperson who is playing it safe.