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Brunch with Marjorie Cohn, or, How Drones Pass on a Poisoned Chalice to Future Generations

11:04 pm in Uncategorized by john in sacramento

The above video is from a different event, but gives much of the same info as I have below

This weekend former National Lawyers Guild President Marjorie Cohn was here in Sacramento for a panel discussion about drones during the California Democratic convention at the California Democratic Party Progressive Caucus meeting on Saturday. I didn’t make it downtown for the panel discussion, but she graciously accepted an invitation to a Sunday morning potluck brunch discussion on drones. I made a point to get myself to this.

I’m not a professional writer or anything, and I write slower than I type ;-) and I missed some things while taking my notes, so hopefully I won’t misrepresent anything that was said, too badly.

I got there a little late, so it was fortunate that they hadn’t started yet. I filled up a plate, and sat down with a group of people I didn’t know, except for Jeanne Keltner who was on my right. We had a pretty good general discussion at our table about Syria and R2P (responsibility to protect), and the overall policy toward the Middle East, and war in general. On my left was a gentleman, whom I didn’t recognize, and his wife. They were getting into some pretty good detail, and I thought to myself, “hey, I like how these two think,” everyone at the table actually. The conversation pretty much revolved around the same issues that are spoken of here at FDL. Foreign policy, to domestic policy, to monetary policy.

So after about twenty minutes a woman got up in front of the room and started the introduction, about the founding and history of the NLG, and Marjorie Cohn. After about two or three minutes I began to wonder when Marjorie came into the room. And, slow as I am, it took another thirty seconds or so to figure out that she was the smart woman to my left.

This isn’t a dictation, so I’m only going to hit on the high points that I was able to catch. Go ahead and correct me if I’m wrong about any of the details and fill in the holes. All mistakes are mine, not hers

She talked about how the Obama (maybe Bush too?) Administration have tried to use the AUMF as a justification for the use of drones. But if you read the AUMF it’s not that open ended. The Bush Administration tried to insert language into — I forget the law — to extend the authorization to these type of actions, which was rejected.

She talked about how there’s precedent for holding lawyers accountable for giving advice on what turns out to be crimes against humanity, or something similar, can‘t remember her exact words. Coincidently, she talked about how if you take John Yoo’s class at UC Berkeley, you have to agree to non-disclosure about any controversial discussions in his class.

And how the US Gov is bound to international agreements through the Supremacy Clause, such as the ICCPR. She talked about Terror Tuesday’s, and Obama’s choosing who lives, and who dies. And, the Disposition Matrix and targeted killings

She talked a little about Bradley Manning, and that even Nixon didn’t go after whistleblowers the way Obama has. She didn’t mention this, but, Obama has prosecuted more people under The Espionage Act than all other presidents combined since it became law, ninety or so years ago.

She talked about how in the rest of the world there’s a real, genuine thing called The Mobilization of Shame where policy is actually changed because of the movements of the people against government policy.

She mentioned an op-ed by Archbishop Desmond Tutu where he excoriates Americans for raising an uproar against domestic drone use, while lacking the empathy for people the US has killed in the rest of the world.

She mentioned how Winston Churchill wanted to execute Nazi war criminals immediately, and how Supreme Court Justice Robert Jackson argued that that would set a precedent, and would pass a poisoned chalice to future generations

To pass these defendants a poisoned chalice is to put it to our own lips as well

Nuremberg Prosecutor and Supreme Court Justice, Robert Jackson

There was a Q and A at the end, and a gentleman made an excellent point when he mentioned that he felt that the increasing use of drones would lead to perpetual war.

Again, any specific facts that are wrong are mistakes made by me. I was very impressed with her, her husband, and all who attended, for their deep knowledge of this subject, and the many other subjects discussed

America’s “Go F#ck Yourself” Political System

5:44 pm in Uncategorized by john in sacramento

This is a slow boil stream of consciousness rant. I might be wrong on some specifics, but the general tone is based on truth. This diary is an observation, because our system is screwed, and I don’t know how to fix it. But the first step in fixing it, is recognizing the problem

We have two major political parties in this country. And I have a few different observations of them, and the people within them

One way of looking at them, is the superficial-bumper-sticker-talk-show way of describing them, which is, the Daddy party (Republicans), and the Mommy party (Democrats). IMHO, that’s not true. I think for the most part, a more accurate way of describing the modern day versions of them, is the addict party (Republicans), and the codependent party (Democrats). Click the two links and look at the common characteristics. Go ahead and click, I’ll wait … finished? For the most part, and in a generalized sense (there’ll always be exceptions) it’s true isn’t it?

Let’s just take the first of addictive behavior

1. The person becomes obsessed (constantly thinks of) the object, activity, or substance.

Right. Let’s just remember the Republican mantra, “entitlement reform”. Now, let’s combine that, with one characteristic of codependency

People-pleasing. It’s fine to want to please someone you care about, but codependents usually don’t think they have a choice. Saying “No” causes them anxiety. Some codependents have a hard time saying “No” to anyone. They go out of their way and sacrifice their own needs to accommodate other people.

Sound familiar? Now, think of Zero’s Social Security slashing budget proposal. Or, his preemptive cave to big pharma during the healthcare debate

The addict (Republican) party doesn’t care about the end result, they’re just obsessed. And the codependents (Democrats) can’t say no. The Democrats can’t say no, so they’ve devolved into a slightly less dysfunctional version of the Republicans. They’re addicted to the addict. They encourage and enable the addict to further both addictions

Pick a subject, any subject. War. Civil Rights. Economics. Foreign policy. Domestic policy. Environment. Food safety. Corporate welfare vs the Social Compact. On the major issues that effect the majority in the general population, name one subject where they’re (both major parties) not euphemistically telling us to ‘go f#ck ourselves’. They’re not saying those exact words, but the meaning is crystal clear. And if you don’t see it, I think you’re self delusional. Yea, sure, there are marginal issues (not trying to demean their importance) that they agree to disagree on, but for the most part they (the two parties) agree on – what in the rest of the world – would be far right conservative points of view. That’s just the plain fact of the matter, and they count on people getting caught up in the marginal dangly shiny key outrages of the day to not see what’s really going on.

Then you have the individuals

My unscientific, and just an average guy, way of looking at people is that everyone is basically the same person today as they were at twelve or fourteen. There are differences in your like and dislikes, but, I think the vast majority of people have the same characteristics, now as then.

The same people who did their homework, and worked hard in school, are the same people who do an honest days work, and help others, today.

Then, on the other hand, there were the people who cheated off of other’s papers, and used and bullied those around them. They’re corporate executives and national politicians of today. I think the higher they go in political and corporate circles the more sociopathic they are.

What’s the answer? I don’t have a clue, but, we need to get the majority of the population recognize the exact nature of the problem before we can solve it

The Declaration of Independence: Fanfare for the Common Man and Woman

5:37 pm in Uncategorized by john in sacramento

Here’s how I began a post six years ago

There are many reasons that hundreds of thousands if not millions of Europeans immigrated to the United States after it was discovered and before it became a country; some of which were economic, religious, or political, everyone of those people had a story.

Over 240 years ago a group of merchants hired a cranky, iconoclastic lawyer named James Otis to defend their rights as free-born Englishmen, and in 1761 James Otis stood up in a Boston Mass. courtroom to speak against Writs of Assistance – which were a kind of general search warrant where the bearer could search anyone, anywhere, anytime which lasted for the lifetime of the sovereign (George II died in 1760); he spoke for five hours straight …


He lost the case but …

John Adams was at the trial and this is how he described the speech

Otis was a flame of fire! … Then and there was the first scene of the first act of opposition to the arbitrary claims of Great Britain. Then and there, the child of independence was born.


What follows is the story of a few of the people who should be mentioned, but most often are not. This one post can only be a beginning, for the fact that one post can’t be all encompassing, because that would take several blogs and at least 10-15 hours of work. And I’m going to have to skip over the Stamp Act Riots of 1765, mainly because of the time span (10 years). And, I’m taking a lot of this from Ray Raphael’s, First American Revolution: Before Lexington and Concord, and A People’s History of the American Revolution: How Common People Shaped the Fight for Independence. If that sounds familiar, it’s because it should – Howard Zinn was the series editor.
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Shattering the Modern Day Myth of what the Boston Tea Party Was Really About

7:30 pm in Uncategorized by john in sacramento

Just a hit and run post that seems appropriate for the time of year. If I can work it out tomorrow, I’m doing a longer version of the people behind the real history of the Revolution – one that even noted historians, Michelle Bachman and Sarah Palin are ignorant of ;-)

People like Mercy Otis Warren, and the citizens of Worcester Mass., the citizens of Bellingham, and Pittsfield, and Sandisfield. The Maryland county conventions instructing their representatives – who walked out – to get back to the Continental Congress and more. The founding of this country wasn’t a top down affair – it was very definitely bottom up

You see, it wasn’t a protest against taxes per se, in reality it was about corporate subsidies. What follows are excerpts from an article on Thom Hartmann’s website awhile ago, based on the reminiscence of George R.T. Hewes, who was one of those who dumped the tea in the harbor


They covered their faces, massed in the streets, and destroyed the property of a giant global corporation. Declaring an end to global trade run by the East India Company that was destroying local economies, this small, masked minority started a revolution with an act of rebellion later called the Boston Tea Party.


… the Boston Tea Party resembled in many ways the growing modern-day protests against transnational corporations and small-town efforts to protect themselves from chain-store retailers or factory farms. The Tea Party’s participants thought of themselves as protesters against the actions of the multinational East India Company.

Although schoolchildren are usually taught that the American Revolution was a rebellion against “taxation without representation,” akin to modern day conservative taxpayer revolts, in fact what led to the revolution was rage against a transnational corporation that, by the 1760s, dominated trade from China to India to the Caribbean, and controlled nearly all commerce to and from North America, with subsidies and special dispensation from the British crown.

Hewes notes:

“The [East India] Company received permission to transport tea, free of all duty, from Great Britain to America…” allowing it to wipe out New England–based tea wholesalers and mom-and-pop stores and take over the tea business in all of America. “Hence,” wrote, “it was no longer the small vessels of private merchants, who went to vend tea for their own account in the ports of the colonies, but, on the contrary, ships of an enormous burthen, that transported immense quantities of this commodity … The colonies were now arrived at the decisive moment when they must cast the dye, and determine their course … ”

A pamphlet was circulated through the colonies called The Alarm and signed by an enigmatic “Rusticus.” One issue made clear the feelings of colonial Americans about England’s largest transnational corporation and its behavior around the world:

“Their Conduct in Asia, for some Years past, has given simple Proof, how little they regard the Laws of Nations, the Rights, Liberties, or Lives of Men. They have levied War, excited Rebellions, dethroned lawful Princes, and sacrificed Millions for the Sake of Gain. The Revenues of Mighty Kingdoms have entered their Coffers. And these not being sufficient to glut their Avarice, they have, by the most unparalleled Barbarities, Extortions, and Monopolies, stripped the miserable Inhabitants of their Property, and reduced whole Provinces to Indigence and Ruin. Fifteen hundred Thousands, it is said, perished by Famine in one Year, not because the Earth denied its Fruits; but [because] this Company and their Servants engulfed all the Necessaries of Life, and set them at so high a Price that the poor could not purchase them.”

Honestly, go read it all. Both versions of the story, from Daniel Cay Johnston, and the article, are consistent with one another and everything else I’ve come across.

It really is sad that so many people nowadays are duped into believing the absolute lies and trash being disseminated by the media (I’m looking at you Fox, and Rush) and those they support and elevate.

Through a Glass Darkly

8:38 pm in Uncategorized by john in sacramento

When I was a child, I spake as a child,
I understood as a child, I thought as a child:
but when I became a man, I put away
childish things. For now we see through a
glass, darkly
; but then face to face: now
I know in part; but then shall I know even
as also I am known.

A few years ago I wrote a post on my home blog with the same title, that was about the FISA “debate,” and didn’t really know the full quote from 1 Corinthians 13 verse 11 (went to Catholic schools where we didn’t have to memorize bible passages). After further reflection, this quote is even more relevant to what I’ve come to feel, namely that I did look at our national political leadership in a simplistic, and probably childish way. I thought our political leadership had our best interests at heart, when, now, it’s become crystal clear, that that couldn’t be further from the actual getting-down-to-brass-tacks-truth.

The two issues that prompted me to write this post are the Senate voting for the undebatable (thanks to Harry Reid) renewal of the three expiring sections of the Patriot Act and the House voting for Forever War

Really? Congress? Really?

War and the constitution. I don’t know what anyone else feels, but those two issues are probably the two top issues that got me so involved over the last eight years – yea, really – eight years! – an eternity in internet time. The economy; the Wall Street bailouts at the expense of the regular average American; lack of meaningful healthcare; and the myriad other issues are incredibly important, but these two, were – the – ones.

I admit, I’m not emotionless right now. Today is the day they probably forever lost me. I will never ever look at them the same. I’m looking at them with narrowed eyes. I see them through a glass darkly.

John F. Kennedy wrote Profiles in Courage to highlight the internal fortitude of great men of the past. Sadly if he wrote an update to that same book today, it would be full of blank pages.

This week Obama went to London and gave a speech that was a homage to the principles of freedom and democracy in England and the United States. I’m surprised their constitutional documents didn’t burst into flame at the sound of the rank hypocrisy.

It doesn’t matter what party you, or I, self identify with -all – of the political leadership in this country are all nothing but neoliberal-neocolonial-sociopathic-narcissists who’ll sell us out the first, and every, chance they get. It doesn’t matter that they take an oath, all that is to them, is just words, a means to an end. I don’t ever want to see another national politician telling me they stand for something when they’re just using their grandstanding as leverage for something they want and need on a personal level.

I don’t know if things can be fixed on a national level – I really don’t – not when you have people like Harry Reid making secret deals to render the little debate he allows, to be pretty much an act of futility and meaningless stagecraft. Reid’s secrecy is some kind of multidimensional cosmic joke, because the pretension of the Senate is, that they’re “The World’s Greatest Deliberative Body.” Hah! Somewhere George Carlin is giving a concert based on these imbeciles.

I can’t even list all of the issues I’ve been involved with in those eight years, but just in the past week, two groups I’m affiliated with, have run, sponsored, and/or promoted three separate events (two book signings and a concert); that’s just another way of saying, I have been involved, and think you can make a difference in effecting small changes, but changes nonetheless, even if they’re mostly local.

I think you have to separate the two. Local vs. national. I don’t know how you can’t, without going Jack Nicholson in The Shining, laughing out loud crazy, without keeping them separate.

There is hope; I ran across an old story again while going through my blog, called The Mirror. Even though I’ve given up on everyone in DC I think there is till hope on a statewide and local level. Here’s the story

For more than a thousand years, the Mirror of Souls waited for the return of magic that would awaken it and allow it to finish its work.

It waited in a closed-off room on the side of a hill in a long-forgotten city, its existence forgotten on a continent where men had been replaced by the monsters spawned of a hellish war. It slept, oblivious to the passage of time, oblivious to the change that went on all around it, oblivious to the destruction of an old order and to the chaos that followed, and to the new world that rose on the ashes of the old. For more than a thousand years, the Mirror had waited in vain.

Now, though, it glowed softly, as the faint currents of distant magic began to wash against it, and within the shimmering depths of its central well, shadows stirred. That far-off spellcasting—still too weak to rouse the lost Artifact to wakefulness—sufficed to permit it to dream.

Within the reborn stream of magical energy, the Mirror began to dream of the past that remained its present. It dreamed of the ghosts of the great men and women held within its memory. It dreamed of a world lost and forgotten, of wonders no longer imaginable, of secrets buried in the rubble of a world that no longer existed. It dreamed of the task that it had left undone for a thousand years.

Undone. But not forgotten.

The Mirror yearned to waken, and to complete the task for which it had been created.

~ Author Unknown

Now, back to “the leaders” in Washington. Screw you Democrats. And Screw you Republicans.

You people make me sick

The song is Falling Away From Me by Korn, and it’s about breaking away from your abusive parents

Porno-Scanner Coming Soon! To the Street in Front of YOUR House

3:50 pm in Uncategorized by john in sacramento

Think it’s a joke? Let’s step back into Mr. Peabody’s wayback machine and set it for a few months ago. Once inside, you’ll see how we get our rights trashed by selling our privacy to the highest bidder. And, oh btw, Rapiscan isn’t the only one (remember QinetiQ?) We also get a special two for one deal (Awesome! /s); they’re not only ripping up the constitution, but they’re also tearing apart your, and my DNA, at the same time (Cool! Our future kids and grandkids will have two heads and six eyes /s)

Christian Science Monitor – Feds Radiating Americans? Mobile X-ray Vans hit US Streets

For many living in a terror-spooked country, it might seem like a great government innovation: Use vans equipped with mobile X-ray units to scan vehicles at major sporting events, or even randomly, for bombs or contraband.

But news that the US is buying custom-made vans packed with something called backscatter X-ray capacity has riled privacy advocates and sparked internet worries about “feds radiating Americans.”

“This really trips up the creep factor because it’s one of those things that you sort of intrinsically think the government shouldn’t be doing,” says Vermont-based privacy expert Frederick Lane, author of “American Privacy.” “But, legally, the issue is the boundary between the government’s legitimate security interest and privacy expectations we enjoy in our cars.”

That would be the balancing test mentioned by Mason. But, there shouldn’t be a question about whether or not the vans go too far constitutionally, as explained by Bruce Schneier

This should be no different than the Kyllo case, where the Supreme Court ruled that the police needed a warrant before they can use a thermal sensor on a building to search for marijuana growers.

Held: Where, as here, the Government uses a device that is not in general public use, to explore details of a private home that would previously have been unknowable without physical intrusion, the surveillance is a Fourth Amendment “search,” and is presumptively unreasonable without a warrant.

… But with Mr. Constitutional Law Prof and Mr Chiquita Banana Death Squad as AG in charge, who knows?

BTW, Rapiscan isn’t the only company involved … there’s also QinetiQ. Remember them?

And you not only have to worry about all your constitutional rights being obliterated and sold off to the highest corporate bidder, whether you go to an airport, or even if you’re just sitting in your own home relaxing. They tear apart your DNA

So says Boian Alexandrov at the Center for Nonlinear Studies at Los Alamos National Laboratory in the arXiv blog at MIT’s Technology Review

Alexandrov and co have created a model to investigate how THz fields interact with double-stranded DNA and what they’ve found is remarkable. They say that although the forces generated are tiny, resonant effects allow THz waves to unzip double-stranded DNA, creating bubbles in the double strand that could significantly interfere with processes such as gene expression and DNA replication. That’s a jaw dropping conclusion.

Gah!!! And I thought Shrub was a tool

I AM a card-carrying member of the ACLU and I have an invitation for all California Democrats who are coming to next week’s convention

3:57 pm in Uncategorized by john in sacramento

Sorry about the late notice but I’ve been a little busy

Are you coming to the 2009 State Democratic Convention?

Or even if you’re not a Democrat — Do you want to make a difference? Do you want to write the story of your life? Are you upset with how the Bush administration has corrupted not only the last eight years but also the first few months of Obama’s Administration? Are you upset with Arnold’s positions? How about legislators who want to restrict free speech?

The largest and oldest ACLU affiliate in the country, ACLU-NC, is having a retreat the same weekend as the convention, and you can join us if you register by April 22

Come and join us, and we’ll get something done

What: The 2009 ACLU-NC Chapter Leader & Activist Retreat and Lobby Day
When: April 26-27th
Where: The California State Association of Counties (CSAC) Conference Center in Downtown Sacramento (google map)

Dear ACLU-NC Supporter,

You are cordially invited to join chapter leaders, board members, staff, and fellow activists for an “Activist Retreat and Lobby Day,” April 26-27 in downtown Sacramento! All civil liberties & social justice activists are welcome to participate.

The Retreat and Lobby Day are free of charge, including free meals, but space is limited so register today! It is okay if you can only participate on Sunday or Monday.

ACLU-NC Activist Retreat: Sunday, April 26 – 1:00 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Featuring workshops on Technology and Civil Liberties, Abolishing the Death Penalty, and Organizing for Marriage Equality, a happy hour at Pyramid Brewery, a panel discussion about the future of ACLU-NC, and a special dinner keynote address.

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