Sunday, September 18, 2016


The latest absurdity from the Trump campaign is that he has helped the country by finally concluding that Barack Hussein Obama was indeed born in the United States and is therefore a legitimate citizen qualified to be President of this once Great Nation. He accepts all thanks for this announcement and regrets he had to clean up this issue after it was shamefully initiated by the Hillary Clinton 2008 presidential campaign.

Wait what??

Yes, Trump says word about the veracity of Obama's US birth came to him through Mark Penn, Hillary's 2008 campaign manager, via a strategy memo Penn wrote in March, 2007 when the campaign was just getting started. The memo includes a section called "Lack of American Roots". At the time, Obama was promoting his upbringing in both Hawaii and Indonesia as an example of a young, modern, and more worldly potential president than any who had come before. Obama's pitch was geared towards the burgeoning youth vote as a move to mobilize that notoriously difficult to reach demographic. It was a strategy that made the difference for him both as a candidate for the Democratic nomination and eventually as successful candidate for President.

Penn argued that then Senator Clinton should, as a counterpoint, highlight her upbringing as a child of the midwest as an appeal to middle-aged, middle class voters.

Regardless of anything else involving the content or application of the memo to the campaign, not a word of it makes any reference, directly, indirectly, or by any sort of insinuation, that Obama was not born in the United States.

In other words, as usual, Trump is utterly full of shit and is flat lying about the initial source of his interest in the topic, what he did or didn't believe about it, and why he continued to keep it alive for years until last week.

Almost everything Trump does is in some way a dog whistle to the racist right-wing of republican party support. It remains shocking that the folks in the GOP support system who don't fall in that category remain so quiet and tacitly supportive of such a candidate or people among their ranks.

My recollection of the birther movement was that it was promoted by a certifiable public loon named Orly Taitz. I saw her all over the news on TV and print/online making one absurd claim after another all of which eventually disappeared from public discourse including, finally, herself.

The gist of the argument devolved from the notion that we had a black guy with an Arab sounding name - which included as his middle name the last name of our recent Iraqi nemesis, who had nothing to do with terrorist acts against Americans, not that that mattered to these crazy people - running for president. The worldliness of his perspectives on international relations had nothing to do with any of it. Black people with Arab names aren't true Americans and Hawaii is so far away that it must be that he was really foreign born, especially since his father really WAS Kenyan so there you have it.

Thinking that a legitimate connection between his upbringing and worldview indicates foreign birth is still baseless, but it is also much too nuanced an explanation for anything that comes from the crazed right of this country's politics, or from the thin soupy mind of Donald Trump. It should all have been treated like a joke.

The man lies. Then he lies about his lies. Then he has his surrogates invent more lies to cover for this matryoshka of a word game that he plays and gets away with because our corporate media abides low standards.

But Hillary didn't tell anyone about the obvious pneumonia she was suffering from for a few days, so nevermind what Trump says.

Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The DNC Did Not Make Bernie Lose

A major theme of this year's primary season has been that the system is rigged. Although the accusation has been leveled at both parties, it's the Democrats who have been most specifically accused of rigging the game against Bernie Sanders. With the release of stolen emails from the hacked computers of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), those accusations rose to the pitchforks and torches level and led to the resignation and effective disappearing of Committee chair Debbie Wasserman-Schultz. But the question remains, did DNC tampering create a difference that changed the outcome of the contest?

I say no.

I'm not going to get into the guilt or or not of the DNC or any other people involved in vote counting at any of the various places around the country where shenanigans were called. For the purposes of this analysis, let's just assume that all the accusations are true. Had none of it happened, Bernie would still have lost.

Calling the Sanders campaign a longshot when it began was generous. Clinton had about an 80 point lead just about anywhere you looked. Nevertheless, Bernie DID have a base from which to begin. He's had a consistent political philosophy since he first engaged in activism in the early 60s and never wavered in his message. He's been on the right side of most of the major issues since first entering congress in 1991. For the better part of a decade he has made the rounds on liberal talk radio, featuring on a long-running segment called Brunch with Bernie on the Thom Hartmann Radio Program. He has most significantly been a favorite on college campuses across the country his entire tenure. His base was young, liberal college students, of which there are many.

In order to do well for a start, Bernie needed to assure his base turned out on election day. Typically, young voters are known to be fairly lazy even though registration windows are long and early voting through a variety of means is available in most states. The exception to the low youth turnout was Barack Obama in 2008. Bernie knew going in that he would need to have similar numbers to have a shot at Hillary's lead and name recognition.

Secondly, he needed to make serious inroads into Hillary's base among African-Americans. Those voters constitute nearly 30% of the Democratic primary vote, so it's a must for any serious contender to be well-represented.

Finally, he had to know the rules as well as or better than Hillary. The Democratic party primaries is a chaotic mess of quirky individual state and sometimes county rules regarding when and how to vote, when to count, and what determines final delegate totals.

All of these factors require a top-notch high energy staff and ground game to get the message out and get the voters in. When all was said and done, Bernie failed badly on all three counts and STILL nearly won the nomination.

Very simply, the kids didn't show up in nearly the numbers hoped for and nowhere close to what Obama pulled in '08. That failure became clear even in the euphoria of the near-win in the first contest in college student-rich Iowa. Had there been a turnout in the same range as '08, Bernie would have had huge win instead of merely shocking the nation by coming within a point of victory. This trend stayed true throughout the process. Turnout was good but it needed to be great.

Bernie failed miserably when it came to attracting African-American votes. The story of his early years in the civil rights movement was appreciated but there didn't seem to be much in the way of direct action since he'd been in Congress. For Bernie's part, his method was to work for economic justice as a means to assure the rise of blacks in American society. But today, the focus is more on institutional justice. It took Bernie a while to understand the significance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the toll taken by mass incarceration in the private prison industry and the drug war on young lives, primarily young black men.

The tell that Bernie had failed here was in the rousting he received in the fourth primary in South Carolina. This drubbing was followed quickly by much of the same throughout the South. He lost the black votes by as much as 70 points when he needed to come within 15 to be able to claim cutting down that advantage.

And finally, Nevada showed his people didn't fully grasp the complexities of the rules. A simpler version of the lack of rule mastery occurred in New York when millions of potential voters went unregistered in the closed primary because the campaign was not aware of the very early deadline, a rule in New York that went back to the late 1800s.

It's likely that all of this went down as it did because in the early stages Bernie had no realistic expectation to do as well as he did. As a result he kept his simple basic economic message and never beefed up and expanded into other issues. By the time he needed a broader outreach, it was already too late.

The "rigging" of the DNC would have made the difference of a few points and hence only a handful of delegates in the states where it happened. But this was nothing against the big losses Bernie suffered in many states because of failed minority outreach, lack of youth registration, or turnout. He needed to run a perfect campaign. He did not.

Bernie talks in terms of "a political revolution" which emanates from within the confines of the Democratic Party. He didn't necessarily envision it simply as himself winning the White House. He wanted to regain a place for liberals and progressives in their traditional party, where the Clinton movement had taken it firmly to the center. To accomplish that, Bernie wanted to win seats at the table and increase membership rolls for young liberal activists who were going to be around a long time and who are to come into their own demographically by the end of the decade.

Knowing the difficulty of new parties or even growing minor already-existing parties, Bernie has advocated that his supporters stay in the party even though the DNC appears to be as rotten as a worm-eaten old wooden boat. He argues for determination and focus for the long haul in order to wrest control from the centrists and spread the liberal message across the country, where it received such an unexpectedly positive reception. And he argues that none of it will be possible if the Republicans are allowed to retake the White House and control the future of the Supreme Court.

To Bernie's experienced mind, the only chance to reignite the progressive spirit which built and sustained the middle class and finally began the still unfinished work of the Civil Rights, Women's Rights, and Gay Rights movement, is for his supporters to lick their wounds and get back to work.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Gravitar Profundus to Attend Trump Event in Boca Raton, Florida Tonight

I have my ticket to enter the Trump event tonight in Boca Raton.
I don't plan to get myself in trouble. I'm not wearing any Bernie gear, no tie dyes, nothing that can be misconstrued to indicate I am anything more than the short, fat, bald, middle-aged guy that I am. My mouth will be kept in check. I'm there to listen and watch. If nothing else, my ticket prevents a true believer from checking in with their fearful leader.
This is what I hope will be a soon to pass eruption of what I never doubted existed in the worst parts of the American personality. I presume most of the people there for real support really don't go along with the hatefulness and violence that Trump espouses. But despite that, they assist it into being and by that association, they are just as guilty as those who join in the hate and violence.
For my part, I think it's important to engage personally when something like this is happening. If a KKK parade were gong down my street, I wouldn't cower in my closet until it went away. When you leave the floor to bad ideas and bad people, they will take it and never easily give it up.
I've had my suspicions about why Trump got involved in this process at first. But regardless what his original purpose might have been, he's become mostly a rallying point for all of the worst aspects of the American character. I and some of my friends will be there hoping to represent at least some of the better parts of that same character. At a minimum, I have to bear witness to this.
Pictures, possibly some video, and surely some posts to follow. I'm heading to the event around 4. The actual begins at 7. It's an outdoor venue and rain is in the forecast.

Thursday, January 21, 2016

The Establishment

The latest favorite phrase of the political class and the media that promotes it is The Establishment.

As a notion, being an outsider is always a popular and nominally effective way for a would-be member of The Establishment to gain entry to it. Promising angry voters that they have a chance to support someone who can act against The Establishment, but only if they are made an important part of The Establishment, despite the twisted logic, gains much coverage. That notion is especially true at the end of a two term presidency when no one wants what they see as the "same old".

Usually we are presented with candidates among whom will be a selection of claimants to title of outsider. This time around we have the benefit of more than the usual number who have audacity to make such statements about themselves. Let’s look at a few of them:

Hillary Clinton: She's the same old. She makes absurd claims to outsider, non-establishment status because she’s a woman and Republicans hate her with the white hot passion of ten billion suns. Of course, she is the MOST establishment candidate this side of JEB! Bush only with a much deeper establishment record than he does. My neck practically breaks from the cringe-induced recoil when she gets up on this line of talk. It was most prominent earlier this week when she was criticizing Bernie Sanders because he stated quite correctly that she had received the endorsements of Planned Parenthood and Human Rights Council because they were establishment just like her. Those organizations do excellent and necessary work and deserve to be respected but let’s not deny that they are part of the LIBERAL establishment. Getting hated by the right does not make one non-establishment. The right is not the only game in town as the Clinton machine has been demonstrating for 25 years.

Marco Rubio: Claims outsider status I guess by virtue of his refusal to do his job as a Senator. While a member of the Florida state legislature though, he was indeed part of the Republican party hierarchy and was its golden boy as Jeb!’s protégé. But since he’s crushing Jeb!, now, he’s really more like the Kylo Ren of modern politics (though it would be deeply inappropriate to compare Jeb! to Han Solo – and by the way, is it now ok to dispense with the Star Wars spoiler alerts already?).

Ted Cruz: Might actually be able to claim outsider status because he's such an abhorrent man that everyone and I do mean EVERYONE in politics hates him, especially those of his own party. He's the only character in this contest who can make Trump look like a good idea.

Trump: Technically an outsider because he’s never run for office. But as a land developer as he’s often mentioned, he has greased the wheels of politics as needed on every side of the machine when business required it. Not only does this define the corruption at the heart of The Establishment, it makes him more of an inside operator, and thus Establishment, than any elected official could ever be. The one claim he can make, and a legitimate one, is that he is his own cash backer so he is truly beholden to nobody and therefore is free to deal with everybody. And that would be great if he wasn’t a crass, narrow-minded, racist, xenophobe, asshole who doesn’t give a damn about anyone without gold-plated toilets to flush away their waste. Trump is a businessman who has always overstepped his actual abilities, then got out from under his huge mistakes by taking advantage of the bankruptcy laws to avoid being wiped out. He is like a billionaire welfare cheat. Except when he does it, it costs millions to billions in losses to others while he walks away free to build and destroy again. As a self-proclaimed successful businessman, he looks good to undereducated voters who want to be brash and rich like him but didn’t have wealthy daddies and great bankruptcy lawyers to get him through the hard times when he could only fly first class instead of on his own 747. But the eternal fallacy is that a good businessman does not have the same skill set as a good politician. Politics is an infinitely harder job than being a businessman. Politicians are constricted in ways that a businessman is never held back, plus a lot of the work has to be done more or less out in the open instead of always behind closed doors and held in private. To be sure, a lot of deal making happens in the dark in politics, but in business, that’s in the design of the deal. The goals of business are easy – make the money. That is NOT the goal of politics. The amorphous “public good” is the goal. The act of politics is working around every different definition of that to benefit people whether they voted for you or not. Trump does not care about any of this. He’s a shameless self-promoter who has no problem walking away from his many failures. That is not the job of president of the United States.

Bernie Sanders: a unique combination of long-time insider by virtue of being in or almost in elective office for much of his adult life, and outsider by being the only real independent politician. He is unconnected to money obligations of big donors, and has a consistent record and core set of beliefs since long before his first public office. He has been part of the political machinery at almost every level of American politics and he currently seeks to be at the top of the executive level. Being unconnected, he can honestly claim he is not part of the Establishment because they won’t let him in since he is something The Establishment ceased to be long ago: a genuine Public Servant. Having him as president will be interesting on many fronts. Of course he will get zero support from the republicans. No one except a republican will ever get their support and any but the most outrageous radical will get a consistent majority even of THEIR support because of the tea party morons. The Democrats will fall in line because they’ll have to. But it might and probably would spark a revival of that party’s backbone for the first time since a Kennedy ran for office. Should that happen, the nature of congress would probably change fairly quickly with a number of the few remaining moderate Republicans falling in line as well. Perhaps some tea partiers in name only would revive their moderation and behave like a loyal opposition again. Regardless, no matter how you quantify it, Bernie is no establishment politician while he knows everyone, is respected by everyone, is considered honest by everyone, and has the public good at heart even if you don’t agree with his policies and methods. He’ll never be accused of being in it for himself and certainly not for any Establishment cronies. 

The way Bernie is doing it is the only way in a democracy to take down The Establishment. You have to be the ghost in the machine come to life.

Saturday, October 3, 2015

Whither the US?

What is our purpose in the world? I mean the United States, not humanity. Humanity serves no purpose except itself. But is that all the US does as well? And even if that is all the US does, what is it that serves the US?

I wonder about this today because I just read how the US bombed a hospital today in Afghanistan run by Doctors Without Borders. The US has been engaged in wars in central and west Asia now for the better part of 25 years going back to the first Iraq war in 1991. And involvement arguably goes back further to the Iran-Iraq War, and of course the Cold War before that, and before and before...

Since World War II, American foreign policy had the bipolar world of the threat of the red menace to use as an explanation for almost every adventure and intrigue in which it engaged. But that threat has been gone as long as the direct warmaking in the middle east and subcontinent.

But the US won. What's been the point since then?

Neo-Conservative ideology developed by spitshined genius Paul Wolfowitz and other notorious Republicans created a reason for a monopolar world of US world-beating and freedom-spreading before any other nations or peoples could have the chance to challenge it. It was a simple notion: the US is really fucking rich and powerful and unchallengeable for the moment so use that power to spread the fuck out of freedom across the world because it's so awesome.

Of course, like most Americans, other people across the world don't care much to be told what to do, especially when it comes under threat of violence. And especially if they happen to have cultures--regardless what anyone else may think of them--which are thousands of years old versus the couple hundred that the US is.

Well, ok, but a bunch of folks from that area attacked the US on 9-11 and they should be rooted out. So the US went into Afghanistan to get a bunch of Saudis in an organization run by a Yemeni and Egyptian. The locals who protected them were mostly Pakistani and were originally trained by the US to beat up on the Russians 20 years prior. Although, everyone there knew how to beat the big boys already. And there is a very long track record of outsiders failing miserably when coming in to bring freedom or whatever to the goat-herders and poppy farmers of the region.

What could possibly go wrong?

Ok, then make up a bullshit excuse to do the same to our old buddies in Iraq again. Take the lid off a simmering millennium-plus old blood feud between religious sects. Great idea!

Spreading the shit out of freedom, instead, has resulted in the spreading the shit out of Islamic fanaticism in response. The US isn't really getting the benefit of the oil in the region; and doesn't really need it anymore either. The only winners are the same old war-mongers and materiel suppliers that always seem to do well when hospitals filled with volunteer healers and their maimed patients get blown to bits. OOps!

It seems the only reason to still be involved at this point is to save face. But I have a hard time understanding how face is saved by blowing up the faces of doctors, staff, and people whose faces are already half-blown off.

The US has proved long ago incapable of having any useful effect on the people of the region. Or any other region. At least through military action. The Cold War was not won by force. It was won by American blue jeans, The Beatles, and a Polish Pope.

The US wins not by force of arms, but by being a force for good and by having good friends in high places. By the use of hearts and minds. Not bullets and bombs. The US beat Hitler and Hirohito a long time ago now through a massive amount of might which has not been brought to bear since. But more importantly, the US sustained that military victory through sustained good works. In an ADHD culture, that's just not possible.

The answer is, we have no purpose in the world. We don't even serve our own interests anymore. We bombed it to smoldering ashes in a volunteer hospital.

Saturday, September 5, 2015

What is a Liberal? Liberal Economics and Neo-Liberal Economics

Strangely enough, the economic approach favored by today's conservatives is called "neo-liberalism". It developed out of a fundamental misinterpretation of Adam Smith's original concepts of liberalism in economics.

By misinterpretation I mean that today's conservatives leave out a basic concept which is the centralizing force behind Smith's economics: moral control. He made the same academic error in the 18th century that Marx made in the following century; he assumed a basic morality in humans which would make the need for government intervention unnecessary in the face of excess and abuse. In Smith's case morality or virtue derived from the operation of God in earthly affairs while Marx derived it from the evolution of human nature.

The Liberal of the 21st century long-since threw off notions that government intervention in economics is by definition a bad thing. The modern Liberal knows that the when modern Conservatives use the phrase "invisible hand" what they really mean is only "the finger". Where Smith defined "rational self-interest" in terms which included a balance between the individual and the society in which the individual lives in a manner which today's adherents to Smith almost entirely ignore.

Experience in the real world teaches Liberals that the rationality of Smith and the moral evolution of Marx don't play enough of a role -- to the extent that they even exist -- to properly temper the drive to excess that human economic behavior so often unleashes.

Modern Conservatives cling to the mythical notion of inherent human kindness. Liberals hope for and encourage it wherever possible, but prefer to find a means to account for the failings of such a hope. In Democratic societies, where the people as a whole express their need for social control, the surest means of tempering the economic excesses of individuals falls to their government. The amount of control exerted varies from state to state and how well it functions is as variable as the personalities of every individual in the society, but the alternatives are found wanting. But that is a topic for another post (which hopefully will occur before another 3 years pass...)

Saturday, March 30, 2013

Random Thought: Information Revolution Now

I tend to see Facebook, the Internets, and social media in general as the latest information revolution. Rather than the last information revolution -- radio and television, which is not interactive -- the current one is more like the one before, when the printing press spread literacy beyond the halls of government and church. It's interactive and wakes up minds. Sometimes an awakened mind is a dangerous thing since they are rather unwieldy and powerful things. The result at first, like then, is a whole lot of garbage passing itself off as knowledge as well as a whole lot of revolutionary upheaval from people coming together with common grievances which they didn't know were so common. And of course, there's the decrepit and crumbling old order doing everything within its mighty capacity to try to throttle the thing before they get the Mussolini Meathook treatment.

Saturday, December 15, 2012

We Tell Our Children There Are No Monsters

I haven't posted in a really long time, including just about the entirety of the presidential election. But really I had to say something now if only to begin to purge myself of some of the mental and emotional bile which has built up since then and especially after yesterday's massacre in Newtown, Connecticut.  Given the chance I'll likely expand on this topic a bit and get back into addressing other topics of my interest.

Yesterday morning I had news on as I went in late to work only briefly between playing my own music when I heard there had been an incident in Connecticut. After that I wasn't connected to any media until the early evening as I spent the entire afternoon with my colleagues from work at our annual holiday lunch (a substantially liquid affair). When the fog cleared and I went home so I could be there before my kids went to bed, I heard the details of what had happened and wondered whether the kids (2nd and 3rd grade) knew. It seems they didn't. I spent a good portion of the night looking over what my friends had posted and the assorted expected debates that erupted amidst the horror. I eventually came upon a piece written that day by  friend and  editor William Rivers Pitt "An Armed Society Is a Polite Society..." in both its original and Buzzfeed versions. Crystallized my thoughts perfectly and I will continue to pivot from the concepts, so real against the abstraction which represents the perspective of those who would reject it. I managed to get a decent night's sleep next to my love with my children asleep together nearby. this morning I've kept up with some more of the noise, got involved in some of it, all while serving breakfast of homemade pancakes (chocolate chips in there for the kids) and bacon (makes daddy happy, no makes us ALL happy). When I finish making this blog post, I'm taking them out for a first bike ride on the new bikes I just bought them this week for Chanukah. It's 75 where I am now as we in south Florida are experiencing the nicest summer we've had in years. We tell our children there are no monsters, be we adults know there are. Watch for them if you can while you enjoy life and share it with love. Teach peace by living it.

Sunday, May 27, 2012

Gravitar Tonight (May 27) On Progressive Blend

I just completed a pre-taped segment for tonight's More Me Show on Progressive Blend Radio to discuss the otherwise ignored story of the lawsuit against the indefinite detention law. The show starts at 5PM EST with my segment going on at 7PM EST. Listen live or later through the podcast on FB or at the station's site:

Friday, May 18, 2012

Definite Intention: The Case Against Presidential Indiscretion

Next-door neighbour, dem hold your son,
said dem find him with one gun
And it's no need him start to mention,
Him going to get an indefinite detention.

Oh, lady, whatcha gonna do now? 
(...Oh...) Oh, lady, whatcha gonna do?
Oh, lady, whatcha gonna do? 
He's your one son, lady, whatcha gonna do?

In what has become an all-too-common behavior from the mainstream media, almost no coverage has aired regarding the monumental decision by New York Federal District Judge, Katherine B. Forrest earlier this week in the case of Hedges v Obama.  That case directly challenges what have come to be called the “indefinite detention” provisions of last year’s National Defense Authorization Act.  The Act is a usually pro forma matter with the purpose of providing the funding and structure for much of the US’s defense budget.  But this year, a series of sections were included which went far beyond the usual scope of the Act.

As a practical matter, the Act ratified nearly everything the GW Bush administration had been doing since they started the War on Terror.  Added in, though, were a couple of sections, 1021 and 1022, regarding the holding of prisoners during wartime. Collectively called the “indefinite detention” provisions, they authorize the president to declare prisoners as combatants which then allows the military to hold those prisoners as long as the war they were arrested under continues.  No charges need be brought, no trial need be given, no attorneys need be allowed to communicate or represent the prisoner, and if a trial is forthcoming, it can be held in secret as a military tribunal.

By itself, the concept of indefinite detention of enemy combatants during wartime is not unusual. It’s a generally accepted rule of war under the Geneva Conventions that people picked up on the field of battle can be held until the end of hostilities.  The complication in the War on Terror is that, in a strict sense, itisn’t a war. It’s a fight against what can best be described as a tactic, an action taken by people who want to cause harm and fear. There is no boundary to recognize, no settlement which can be reached, and therefore no obvious “end” to hostilities that will look like anything typically seen as such.

That means that anyone held in prison can be held for life without ever being charged or held to account with evidence presented to justify being held. While viscerally, it’s easy to say ok to all of that when thinking of the people involved in 9/11 and who would continue to plan other horrors of the like; but what happens if we’re talking about someone picked up by mistake?  Remember, we are not talking about uniformed soldiers on a battlefield -- we’re talking about someone walking down a city street who looks for all intents and purposes, just like anyone else walking down the street. The problem is that it could be just anyone walking down the street who gets picked up, because, as we all know, sometimes the government gets it wrong.

The new law adds a special twist to the scenario in that it includes a wider range of potential arrest targets by authorizing the detention of anyone “who was part of or substantially supported al-Qaeda, the Taliban, or associated forces that are engaged in hostilities against the United States or its coalition partners, including any person who has committed a belligerent act or who has directly supported such hostilities in aid of such enemy forces.” (sec. 1021(b)(2)) Here’s where things get fuzzy and where the current case came into play.

A variety of writers and activists found that their work could easily fall under the apparently wide umbrella of the section, subjecting them to the possibility that they, foreign and American citizens alike, could be picked up at any given moment and “disappeared” as if the US was suddenly a central American banana republic or South American military dictatorship of the 1970s.  A selection of them, from varied backgrounds and activities banded together to file a lawsuit against the government to test the constitutionality of the law. Here’s a quick rundown of some of them and how they have been affected already by this law even though none of them have been detained.

Chris Hedges: Pulitzer Prize-Winning former war correspondent for The New York Times, now a columnist for and independent lecturer and instructor. For decades he has engaged with many of the people the government would consider possible enemy targets, in order to inform the American people who they are fighting against. Hedges indicated he has altered his lectures and reconsidered many of his subjects for interview because of the possible presence of al-Qaeda operatives in his audience;

Daniel Ellsberg: Famous whistleblower for providing The New York Times with The Pentagon Papers in the 1970s, Ellsberg, at age 82 remains vibrant and active in oppositional public communications and has worked in support of Wikileaks and Bradley Manning, both of whom have been accused of aiding and abetting terrorist networks or being terrorists by members of congress.

Brigitta Jonsdottir: A member of parliament in Iceland, she has worked with Wikileaks and other groups to facilitate the free flow of information across the world. Because of her activity, her government has advised her not to travel to the United States.

Jennifer “Tangerine” Bolen: Has also worked with Wikileaks and been involved in pro-democracy, pro-information movements in the US and around the world in addition to working for support of Bradley Manning.  As with all the plaintiffs, she has rolled back on some of her activities and communications because of the detention law.

Initially, attorneys Carl Mayer and Bruce Afran, argued that the court should grant a preliminary injunction before getting to the direct question of constitutionality. A preliminary injunction means that the court could find that the operation of the law is so dangerous to the plaintiffs and likely to be declared unconstitutional, that it couldn’t be used by the government while the case remains open.  They argued is so broad and vague that all of the plaintiffs have already been injured by the existence of this law because they have had to curtail their activities, associations, and speech, public and private because they believe the law could be used to against them, and that if it were to happen, they would be prevented from any recourse against indefinite detention. 

In response, the government claimed first: that the plaintiffs had not suffered any injury that allowed them to come to court at all -- the doctrine of “standing” to sue: second: that if they did have standing, then an injunction was unnecessary since the government assured they had no intention of using the law against these plaintiffs, and; third: that this law was merely a reaffirmation of a prior law -- the Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF), which is the basis for the war in Afghanistan – which has already been found constitutional.  The government did not present any further statements, testimony, or evidence.

Following the presentation of the statements and arguments by each side, this past Wednesday, the judge granted the injunction and effectively declared the law at least temporarily unconstitutional.  The government has 60 days to decide what to do next.  They can appeal the injunction or they can proceed with a trial at the level the case is at now. The judge’s opinion was especially strong and granting an injunction is exceedingly rare at the District Court level. Additionally, the judge herself is a recent Obama appointee which suggests that the higher courts will not be swayed by political leanings as they have been accused so often in recent years. Further, failure in court by the government from here on out will also have the effect of raising the decision to the level where it can be referred to in the future as a precedent for challenges to other laws which may reduce oppositional speech and association.

What many outside the case considered something of a publicity stunt at first now know that this is a very serious matter and a big deal for activists and wannabe whistleblowers not just in the US but throughout this grandly interconnected world. This morning I participated in a press forum phone conference with the attorneys and several of the plaintiffs on behalf of Progressive Blend Radio and found that all were ecstatically surprised not only at the outcome in what they had presumed was just the early first phase of the case, but by the defense, or lack of defense, put up by the government.

In reading the judge’s opinion, one can almost read a sense of mockery at the feebleness of the government’s assertion that the new law is merely a restatement of what was already on the books, that it would “require [the] Court to find that [the law] is a mere redundancy – that is, that it has no independent meaning and adds absolutely nothing to the Government’s enforcement powers… that it is meaningless.”  Later references to the signing statement issued by President Obama upon signing the entire bill into law, implied that the administration had no real intention to use the authority this law bestowed upon it, an implication that would be laughable if it wasn’t part of a long history of governments throughout the world who claimed they would act only with kindness towards its people regardless of circumstance.

Long time populist and anti-corporatist attorney, Carl Mayer, indicated that he was surprised at the decision by the Department of Justice attorneys to present almost nothing in opposition to the plaintiffs’ assertion, relying on what amounted to a “trust us” position towards application and enforcement of the law. He considered that maybe they had the law written poorly and defended weakly on purpose but couldn’t say why they would do such a thing.  He did offer that perhaps the bill was written poorly just to get it through and to fix it later, which may be true as attempts are underway to accomplish just that although they haven't accomplished anything yet.

Alternatively, Ellsberg was nearly aghast at the implications this law could have on free speech and association.  He explained that he has remained active in the whistleblower community and even has other people who would be prepared to step forward on a variety of subjects but they are holding back because of the implications of being prosecuted under this law. Ellsberg himself said that if not for his age, he would be hesitant to even engage in the discussion we were having.  He also ruminated that all of the actions taken against him by the Nixon administration, threats of prosecution, unwarranted wiretapping, all manner of reprisals up to and including sending thugs to beat him up -- which were part and parcel of what would have been grounds for impeachment and removal had Nixon not resigned -- have all been pretty well ratified and made mundane since the GW Bush years and that this law was the final icing on the cake. As it happens, because of the current resounding victory, should it hold up -- and there is little reason at this point to think that it won’t -- Ellsberg is confident that this case will be useful as a precedent to challenge other onerous laws which are on the books, significantly, the Espionage Act of 1917, the one that he was prosecuted under in 1973.

After reading the opinion, related articles, and supporting documents from the case, and talking with many of the principles involved, I have to say I’m fairly shocked at the course of events.

While the public debate over the Defense Bill was taking place in December I was astounded when I read the offending passages for all the reasons that have been cited.  The clauses in question seemed blatantly violative of the Constitution for all sorts of reasons. They were also horribly written.  Within its content are a variety of weasel words well-known to any 1st year law student as intended to give executives the ability to define their own discretion rather than define precisely what they can and cannot do. It was one of these weasel words that told me the accusation regarding detention of American citizens was legitimate. Section 1022(b): “Applicability to United States Citizens…(1) The requirement to detain a person in military custody under this section does not extend to citizens of the United States [emphasis mine].” A too quick read would lead one to believe that this clause means that military (indefinite) detention doesn’t apply to US citizens at all but that would be wrong. To achieve that result, it would have to say exempt or shall not in there somewhere. Instead it says “requirement”. In other words, there is a mandate, a requirement, that foreign citizens and illegal residents of the US who are accused of terrorism or supporting terror be held in military detention. But if a US citizen or legal resident is picked up under such circumstances, military detention is optional, and fully within the discretion of the President.  The President of the United States, under this law has been given the authority to use his discretion to have citizens disappeared. No charge, no recourse, no representation, no time limit.

If that isn’t unconstitutional, then Barack Obama is the secret love child of Josef Stalin and Chairman Mao.