Archive for May, 2010

Another Court Jester For The King. Elena Kagan And The Imperial Continuum.

While Republicans may talk about their misgivings about Obama’s Supreme Court nominee Elena Kagan and her “progressive” views and the vapid religious right insinuates she may be a lesbian (to stir up their bigots), the real questions and issues surrounding Kagan’s views come from “real” progressives or liberals. In fact, it might be that she fits just fine in the imperial Bush/Cheney view and legacy that the executive branch is above or beyond the law, Constitutional restaints, as well as any international laws or treaties ratified by the U.S.. Many liberals, Constitutional scholars, and civil libertarians are viewing her more with skepticism and disappointment since she is replacing Justice Stevens who stood up firmly for the Bill of Rights, Constitutional separation of powers, habeas corpus, and due process under the rule of law. This is especially true since she agreed with Bush/Cheney concepts (unAmerican by nature and legal tradition) concerning indefinite detention during her confirmation hearings as Solictor General. Add in her inexperience and lack of legal writings during the time many of our constitutional and legal precepts were shredded during the previous administration has many worried.

Many misgivings by those concerned with the constitution, legal precedents, and the rule of law show that the possibility for a prolonged era of imperial presidencies may indeed lie ahead. There is this from Tony Mauro writing in the National Law Journal titled “Supreme Court Watchers Wonder: How Conservative Is Kagan?“,

Until then, the drumbeat of Kagan criticism may get louder as scrutiny of her brief record as solicitor general intensifies. Advocates for human rights and other liberal causes who are upset at the Obama administration for continuing Bush-era policies may take their frustration out on Kagan.

“From the perspective of those who have been advocating change from Bush policies, she has been a disappointment,” said Tina Foster of the International Justice Network, who argued against Kagan’s deputy Neal Katyal over detention policies in an appeal in January.

“She would spell very bad news” if she became a Supreme Court justice, said Vince Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights, which has long challenged Bush and now Obama detention policies. “We don’t see any basis to assume she does not embrace the Bush view of executive power.”

At the Electronic Frontier Foundation, senior staff attorney Kevin Bankston called the Obama administration’s stance on state secrets and national security wiretapping “a grave disappointment, particularly for those who took Obama’s promises seriously.” Bankston cautioned he is not certain how involved Kagan herself has been in the positions the department has taken on these issues.

And even Kagan’s own deputy Neal Kumar Katyal writing in the Yale Law Review titled “Internal Separation of Powers: Checking Today’s Most Dangerous Branch From Within” says

Elena Kagan’s recent defense of presidential administration concentrated on domestic policy, but her ideas suggest a criticism of the above proposals. She claims that presidential administration energizes a moribund bureaucracy:

“The need for an injection of energy and leadership becomes apparent, lest an inert bureaucracy encased in an inert political system grind inflexibly, in the face of new opportunities and challenges, toward (at best) irrelevance or (at worst) real harm. . . . This conclusion, of course, would be less sound to the extent that the political and administrative systems fail to impose adequate limits on the President’s exercise of administrative power. Then, the balance between friction and energy would tip toward the opposite extreme— away from the too broad curtailment of regulatory initiative to the too facile assertion of unilateral power. One reason not to fear this outcome relates to the President’s accountability to the public . . . .105”

But this view of the presidency, at least in the realm of foreign affairs, is as far from a description of contemporary reality as are Madison’s views, reprinted in the first paragraph of this Essay. Consider such claims in light of the facts that: (1) there is little public accountability when decisions are secret; (2) agency officials have been excluded from providing input on answers to key legal questions; (3) no neutral subordinate decision-maker exists; and (4) the administration has itself asserted that the brunt of these questions are beyond the purview of the courts altogether.

Michael Tomasky writing for the UK’s The Guardian titled “Elena Kagan” writes

One example: when she was being confirmed by the Senate for her current post, solicitor general, she defended the right of indefinite detention of terrorism suspects.

I think these things should be taken seriously. It follows a certain logic that she probably wouldn’t feel as free as John Paul Stevens did to offer striking dissents on such matters. Stevens was in his eighties and beyond caring what anybody thought of him. Kagan will want to be a force on the court, meaning (I’m just guessing here, but it makes sense if you read that Times profile) that she might want to be more of a conciliator, more of a power-player among the court’s nonet rather its thundering dissenting voice on these questions.

And finally there is this from the Heritage Foundation, a leading edge organization in the anti-democracy movement in the United States, from February 18th, 2009 in a piece on their blog titled “On Detainee Treatment, Sanity Still Prevailing at the White House

Last week we congratulated the Obama Administration for choosing the security of the American people over the bumper sticker slogans of the far left. Today, the New York Times details the Obama Administration’s continued prudence on some key national security issues:

During her confirmation hearing last week, Elena Kagan, the nominee for solicitor general, said that someone suspected of helping finance Al Qaeda should be subject to battlefield law — indefinite detention without a trial — even if he were captured in a place like the Philippines rather than in a physical battle zone.

Ms. Kagan’s support for an elastic interpretation of the “battlefield” amplified remarks that Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. made at his own confirmation hearing. And it dovetailed with a core Bush position. Civil liberties groups argue that people captured away from combat zones should go to prison only after trials.

In the shift from the 20th century to the 21st century, we have seen the United States go from world leader and its push as a nation of the rule of law at the Nuremberg Trials (thereby creating the Nuremburg Principles, the framework of current international law) to today’s international beligerent and the international barbaric disgrace of Guantanamo Bay, the prison at Bagram, and Abu Ghraib Prison. We have seen the state secrets privilege abused in denying victims of illegal torture their day in court, and to cover up high crimes of state as revealed in the case of Sibel Edmonds. Many of us sons and daughters of World War II veterans realize what separated us from the barbarian was the rule of law (not to create laws to subvert the rule of law). It is within this context many of us oppose Elena Kagan for the Supreme Court. How much further can we slip from freedom’s gaze?


Amy Goodman Of Democracy Now! Files Law Suit Against City And State Officials Over RNC Convention Arrests. Meanwhile, The Trial For The RNC 8 Continues While The Media Ignores It All. The Duplicity Of Media And State Continues In The United States.

We’ve all been treated in the last two years to armed protestors calling for open rebellion against the government, their inciteful speech to violence, the bricks thrown through the windows of Democratic Party government office members, the death threats, etc.. We have been treated to heavy media coverage of right wing protests whose numbers were nothing compared to earlier protests in this decade and the political and policy issues raised this decade. This is quite a contrast to the protests against the Bush administration where protestors protesting real actions and misdeeds of government rather than made up matters such as “Marxism” or stories concerning the birth certificate of a president and with the protestors not being armed nor threatening government overthrow. The mistreatment of protestors and of journalists covering the Republican National Convention in 2008 was accented this past week with the suit filed by Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! and two of her producers against the cities of Minneapolis and St.Paul and the state of Minnesota. As indicated in this story from The New York Times titled “Minnesota: Journalist Sues Over Convention Arrest” ,

The three were among an estimated 40 to 50 journalists who were arrested covering street protests in downtown St. Paul, along with about 800 demonstrators and bystanders. The Minneapolis police helped provide security during the convention.

This, ironically, was also the week of the beginning of the RNC 8 hearings. What’s the RNC 8 you ask? That’s not surprising since the mainstream corporate media doesn’t really cover such matters and hasn’t since before the Bush administration took office. And if you partake of right wing media, well you haven’t visited planet earth in quite a while. Information on the RNC 8 can be followed on the website Friends of the RNC 8. The following can give you an idea of the background and you can keep up with the proceedings,

The RNC 8/RNC Eight are organizers against the 2008 Twin Cities Republican National Convention who have been falsely charged in response to their political organizing: Luce Guillen-Givins, Max Specktor, Nathanael Secor, Eryn Trimmer, Monica Bicking, Erik Oseland, Robert Czernik and Garrett Fitzgerald.

On Saturday, August 30th 2008, the Ramsey County, Minnesota Sheriff’s Department executed search warrants on three houses, seizing personal and common household items and arresting RNC organizers Monica Bicking, Garrett Fitzgerald, Erik Oseland, Nathanael Secor, and Eryn Trimmer. Later that day Luce Guillen-Givins was arrested leaving a public meeting at a park. Rob Czernik and Max Specktor were arrested on Monday, September 1. These arrests were preemptive, targeting known organizers in an attempt to derail 2008 anti-RNC protests in St. Paul, MN before the convention had even begun. The “RNC 8″ were originally charged with conspiracy to riot in the 2nd degree in furtherance of terrorism, a felony which was the first ever use of Minnesota’s PATRIOT Act.

We have been living through an era (in the 21st century) where we lost our Bill of Rights and the Writ of Habeas Corpus. Our commercial broadcast media has kept many Americans in the dark or in some cases misinformed. We have lived through an era where journalistic questions and/or truth telling can be revolutionary acts where people could lose their jobs (such as questions concerning the Iraq War) as was the case with Phil Donuhue or Ashleigh Banfield though Ashleigh has been rehired or you could be a covert agent of the CIA such as with Valerie Plame and be outed by your own government. Hopefully, that which divides us today, namely access to real information, can one day again keep us free and united. Until such a time should return, I’ll leave you with the words of the late great Edward R. Murrow, Good Night and Good Luck“.

Arizona Government Officials Dabble In Fascist Legal Tactics. Goal Could Be To Continue The Republican Party Practice Of Minority Voter Suppression On Election Day.

By now, many Americans are familiar with Arizona’s new anti-immigration law, SB 1070, and the controversy surrounding it. To some, it is the answer to Arizona’s undocumented worker problem while others see it for its fascist like approach in dealing with the problem instead of addressing the real issue, that being, the employers that hire undocumented workers to drive down wages for profit or to bust union labor. Truth is, free societies do not stop, single out, and detain people based on their racial or ethnic appearances and demand to “see their papers”. But no matter what side one may view the debate, many of Americans do not really know the beliefs and dark ties to history those that have brought the law forward have. They also, might not be familiar with the true motivations of the political class either. Let’s start by taking a look at a piece done by MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow Show and what was discussed.

Looking at the April 26th 2010 show and it transcripts, we gather the following insight

Before this bill was actually signed into law, we told you about the guy who introduced it in the first place. It’s this guy, Republican state senator Russell Pearce. Mr. Pearce is famous in Arizona for having sent an email to his supporters that included a white nationalist screed – accusing the media of pushing the view of ‘a world in which every voice proclaims the equality of the races, the inerrant nature of the Jewish ‘Holocaust’ tale, the wickedness of attempting to halt the flood non-White aliens pouring across our borders…’ Mr. Pearce sent that around to all his supporters, a move he latter apologized for. Russell Pearce is also famous for having been caught on tape hugging a neo-Nazi. …

But if you want to meet the guy who’s taking credit for writing the new law. That would be a gentleman named Kris Kobach. Kris Kobach is a birther. He’s running for secretary of state in Kansas right now. His campaign website today brags ‘Kobach Wins One in Arizona.’

The guy who helped write Arizona’s new ‘immigration’ bill is also an attorney for the Immigration Reform Law Institute. That’s the legal arm of an immigration group that’s called FAIR – the ‘Federation For American Immigration Reform.’ FAIR was founded in 1979 by a man named John Tanton. Mr. Tanton is still listed as a member of FAIR’s board of directors.

That’s FAIR, who helped write Arizona’s new anti-immigrant law. After John Tanton got FAIR off the ground, for nine of the first years of the group’s existence, the group reportedly received more than a million dollars in funding from something called The Pioneer Fund. The Pioneer Fund describes itself as a group formed ‘in the Darwinian-Galtonian evolutionary tradition, and the eugenics movement.’

Let’s take a look at some of the work of Heidi Beirich in her SPLC Intelligence Report on John Tanton and FAIR called, “Where Anti-Immigrant Zealots Like Lou Dobbs Get Their ‘Facts’” . Here are some note worthy quotes

At the center of the Tanton web is the nonprofit Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), the most important organization fueling the backlash against immigration. Founded by Tanton in 1979, FAIR has long been marked by anti-Latino and anti-Catholic attitudes. It has mixed this bigotry with a fondness for eugenics, the idea of breeding better humans discredited by its Nazi associations. It has accepted $1.2 million from an infamous, racist eugenics foundation. It has employed officials in key positions who are also members of white supremacist groups. Recently, it has promoted racist conspiracy theories about Mexico’s secret designs on the American Southwest and an alternative theory alleging secret plans to merge the United States, Mexico and Canada. Just last February, FAIR President Dan Stein sought “advice” from the leaders of a racist Belgian political party. …

As long ago as 1988, when a series of internal 1986 documents known as the WITAN memos were leaked to the press, Tanton’s bigoted attitudes have been known. In the memos, written to colleagues on the staff of FAIR, Tanton warned of a coming “Latin onslaught” and worried that high Latino birth rates would lead “the present majority to hand over its political power to a group that is simply more fertile.” Tanton repeatedly demeaned Latinos in the memos, asking whether they would “bring with them the tradition of the mordida [bribe], the lack of involvement in public affairs” and also questioning Latinos’ “educability.” …

In 1994, Tanton’s Social Contract Press republished an openly racist French book, The Camp of the Saints, with Tanton writing that he was “honored” to republish the race war novel. What Tanton called a “prescient” book describes the takeover of France by “swarthy hordes” of Indians, “grotesque little beggars from the streets of Calcutta,” who arrive in a desperate refugee flotilla. It attacks white liberals who, rather than turn the Indians away, “empty out all our hospital beds so that cholera-ridden and leprous wretches could sprawl between white sheets … and cram our nurseries full of monster children.” It explains how, after the Indians take over France, white women are sent to a “whorehouse for Hindus.” In an afterword special to Tanton’s edition of the novel, author Jean Raspail wrote about his fears that “the proliferation of other races dooms our race, my race, to extinction.”

While we are at it, let’s take a look at a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center titled, “The Puppeteer” concerning Tanton. The report begins with right wing hero U.S. Rep. Tom Tancredo (R-Colo) and Brian Blibray, former Republican Rep from San Diego talking to 27 anti-immigration activists and funded by NumbersUSA, part of the interlocking network of independent groups associated with John Tanton. In that meeting, Tancredo said that countries were pushing immigration to “erode American sovereignty.

“China is trying to export people. It’s a policy for them, a way of extending their hegemony. It’s a government-sponsored thing.”

he said. Bilbray followed up by saying,

“We are creating a slave class that criminal elements breed in.”

Other notable quotes concerning this network and its power are as follows,

Praising the post-9/11 sweeps of Arab communities by the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that resulted in the indefinite detention of more than a thousand people, Bilbray called for the INS to carry out an enlarged dragnet. “We could have a terrorist coming in on a Latin name,” he said. …

In fact, the vast majority of American anti-immigration groups — more than a dozen in all — were either formed, led, or in other ways made possible through Tanton’s efforts.

The principal funding arm of the movement, U.S. Inc., is a Tanton creation, and millions of dollars in financing comes from just a few of his allies, far-right foundations like those controlled by the family of Richard Mellon Scaife. …

Finally, even as activists court increasing numbers of national politicians in the wake of Sept. 11, the Report’s investigation reveals that they are moving in large numbers into the arms of hate groups like the Council of Conservative Citizens — a 15,000-member organization whose website recently described blacks as “a retrograde species of humanity.” …

That such groups, with their increasingly direct links to racist organizations, should have real power in the nation’s capital may seem hard to believe.

But Americans have grown increasingly xenophobic in the wake of the September terrorist attacks, and the rapid growth of the Congressional Immigration Reform Caucus that Tancredo heads reflects that — from just 10 legislators prior to the attacks to 59 by May.

And of course there is the the Pioneer Fund funding issue, a fund that has had links to sterilization efforts based on race and disability in America’s past as well as the eugenics effort in Nazi Germany. a little background can be gleaned in ths piece by Barry Mehler titled, “Race and ‘Reason’ Academic ideas a pillar of racist thought“.

Behind the ideas of race scientists for the past half-century, there has been money — and lots of it.
If you scratch the surface of almost any of the prominent race scientists of recent decades, you will find the same well-endowed institution: the Pioneer Fund. Established in 1937 to “improve the character of the American people” by promoting the study of eugenics and the procreation of descendants of the original white colonial stock, Pioneer has funded many of the leading Anglo-American race scientists of the last several decades. …

It notes the grants the people the fund has issued grants to (so called race scientists) and also mentions political connections as well such as

The world of the Pioneer Fund goes beyond pure science. For example, Pioneer leaders Harry Weyher and Thomas F. Ellis have been part of an interlocking set of directorates and associations linking the Fund to groups connected to Sen. Jesse Helms (R-N.C.), according to The Washington Post.

While a Pioneer director, Ellis served as chairman of both the National Congressional Club and the Coalition for Freedom, and co-founder of Fairness in Media — all organizations linked to Helms. In the 1980s, Weyher, the longtime president of the Fund, was simultaneously lead counsel for Fairness in Media. …

In mentioning some of its grantees, it mentions William Shockley (1910-89), a physicist at Stanford best known for his “voluntary sterilization plan,” received $188,710 between 1971 and 1978.

In his famous 1969 attack on Head Start — the early education program that aims to help poor children — Jensen wrote in the prestigious Harvard Education Review that the problem with black children was that they had an average IQ of only 85. No amount of social engineering could improve that performance, he claimed, adding that “eugenic foresight” was the only solution.

The founder of the fund was Wickliffe P. Draper who

In August 1935, Draper traveled to Berlin to attend the International Congress for the Scientific Investigation of Population Problems. Presiding over the conference was Wilhelm Frick, the German Minister of the Interior. At the conference, Draper’s travel companion, Dr. Clarence Campbell delivered an oration that concluded with the words: “The difference between the Jew and the Aryan is as unsurmountable [sic] as that between black and white. … Germany has set a pattern which other nations must follow. … To that great leader, Adolf Hitler!” Three years later, when Draper paid to print and disseminate the book, White America, by Earnest Sevier Cox, an advocate of white supremacy and racial segregation, a personal copy was delivered to Frick.

In 1937, Draper founded the Pioneer Fund, a foundation intended to give scholarships to descendants of white colonial-era families, and to support research into “race betterment” through eugenics. The scholarships were never given, but the first project of the fund was to distribute two documentary films from Nazi Germany depicting their claimed success with eugenics. The Pioneer Fund was headed by the eugenicist, Harry H. Laughlin, an advocate for restrictive immigration laws and national programs of compulsory sterilization of the mentally ill and mentally retarded.

In “The Nazi Connection” from is written,

Despite the criticism and worries about funding, Laughlin’s belief in immigration
restriction and the value of the Nazis’ eugenics policies remained unshaken.
Two years after he received his honorary degree, there was once again a move to allow Jewish refugees to enter the country. This time, the move was prompted by the violence that swept Germany and Austria on the night of November 10-11, 1938—Kristallnacht or the “Night of the Broken Glass” as it was later
known. That night gangs of Nazis smashed, looted, and burned Jewish homes,
businesses, and synagogues.

A month later, Laughlin reported on current projects to Wickliffe Preston Draper, a millionaire who had recently established the Pioneer Fund to fund eugenics outreach:
You will be interested to know that the moving picture film “Eugenics in Germany” has proven very popular with senior high school students. Up to date the film has been loaned 28 times. …

Eugenics in Germany was a version of a Nazi propaganda film entitled “Erbkrank,” or “The Genetically Diseased.” After showing the entire movie at the Carnegie Institution in Washington, Laughlin secured funding from Draper’s Pioneer Fund to distribute an edited version to the general public. Although the film depicts Jews as particularly susceptible to “hereditary degeneracy,” Laughlin told readers of the Eugenic News that it contained “no racial propaganda of any sort.”

While having received funds of such a fund with a dark and dubious past does not translate into FAIR being the same as those that started the fund, it further pushes the thought that the draconian aspects of the Arizona law has a racial tinge that can easily lead to abuses. The proof that the Arizona Republican party and its voters have a racism problem is that the Arizona state House also passed a birther bill which the Arizona Senate wisely shelved.

While race may be the determining motivation for many anti-immigration groups, investigative reporter Greg Palast has been pursuing a more political angle to the passage of SB 1070 at this time. Knowing xenophobia of a tide of immigrants across the border has always been a part and parcel of Arizona, Palast believes the motivation and target of the Arizona Republican Party with this bill might not have anything to do with illegal immigrants, but lies more with legal immigrant citizens of the area given past Republican behavior. He cites both the behavior of Arizona Republicans in the past including Governor Jan Brewer who signed this particular bill into law and her voter purges as Secretary of State as well as the Bush administration/Karl Rove voter suppression tactics that were hallmark of such behavior (he and civil rights attorney Bobby Kennedy investigated Arizona in 2008). Since voting if one is not a citizen is a felony, he went to investigate the 100,000 who would be jailed for doing do so, but there weren’t any. All of this, of course, dovetails with the Republican lies of “voter fraud” and the ACORN disproven nonsense that followers of right wing media still swear to as being real. In his new investigative report titled, “Behind the Arizona Immigration Law: GOP Game to Swipe the November Election” he writes

Brewer, then Secretary of State, had organized a racially loaded purge of the voter rolls that would have made Katherine Harris blush. Beginning after the 2004 election, under Brewer’s command, no less than 100,000 voters, overwhelmingly Hispanics, were blocked from registering to vote. In 2005, the first year of the Great Brown-Out, one in three Phoenix residents found their registration applications rejected. …

Which raises the question: were these disenfranchised voters the criminal, non-citizens Brewer tagged them, or just not-quite-white voters given the José Crow treatment, entrapped in document-chase trickery?

The answer was provided by a federal prosecutor who was sent on a crazy hunt all over the Western mesas looking for these illegal voters. “We took over 100 complaints, we investigated for almost 2 years, I didn’t find one prosecutable voter fraud case.”

This prosecutor, David Iglesias, is a prosecutor no more. When he refused to fabricate charges of illegal voting among immigrants, his firing was personally ordered by the President of the United States, George W. Bush, under orders from his boss, Karl Rove.

I suggest readers here follow the link to Palast’s website and read the whole thing. He has it right when he says,

But that’s the point, isn’t it? Not to stop non-citizens from entering Arizona — after all, who else would care for the country club lawn? — but to harass folks of the wrong color: Democratic blue.

It should be noted that following the passage of SB 1070, the Republicans in Congress are not for going forward with comprehensive immigration reform right now (as this might harm the purge attempts) even though many of them are distancing themselves from the bill and its fascist and/or Soviet style elements. In fact Lindsey Graham (who is being harrassed by a racist anti-immigrant group) backed out of his climate change bill cosponsored by John Kerry over the issue of the possibility of comprehensive immigration reform being taken up. It appears Palast is right on the money.