Save Burma

I ran into this pro-Burma rally in Manhattan yesterday. Photo taken on 77th Street between 5th and Madison:

Protest for Burma

Funnily enough, I later ran into an anti-Scientology rally in front of the Scientology Center on 82nd Street. Yesterday was a good day for rallying, I suppose. (The weather was nice, anyway.) Both were small, very tightly controlled, mostly polite rallies behind those blue police barriers.

And thanks for playing nice this weekend. I didn’t have to work too hard after all.

A Conspiracy So Immense

Tim Weiner writes in tomorrow’s New York Times,

A newly declassified document shows that J. Edgar Hoover, the longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, had a plan to suspend habeas corpus and imprison some 12,000 Americans he suspected of disloyalty.

Hoover sent his plan to the White House on July 7, 1950, 12 days after the Korean War began. It envisioned putting suspect Americans in military prisons.

Hoover wanted President Harry S. Truman to proclaim the mass arrests necessary to “protect the country against treason, espionage and sabotage.” The F.B.I would “apprehend all individuals potentially dangerous” to national security, Hoover’s proposal said. The arrests would be carried out under “a master warrant attached to a list of names” provided by the bureau.

The names were part of an index that Hoover had been compiling for years. “The index now contains approximately twelve thousand individuals, of which approximately ninety-seven per cent are citizens of the United States,” he wrote.

“In order to make effective these apprehensions, the proclamation suspends the Writ of Habeas Corpus,” it said. …

… Hoover’s plan called for “the permanent detention” of the roughly 12,000 suspects at military bases as well as in federal prisons.

There is no evidence suggesting that President Truman approved any part of this proposal.

Reaction from the Power Tools was predictable: “Hoover was too quick to judge people disloyal–it would be interesting to get a look at the list of 12,000–but some may feel nostalgic for a time when disloyalty was at least acknowledged to be a bad thing.”

I feel nostalgic for a time when shredding the Bill of Rights was at least acknowledged to be a bad thing.

Regarding the 12,000 — from 1950 to 1953 J. Edgar Hoover leaked copious amounts of information and names to Sen. Joe McCarthy, who then “investigated” and held “hearings” in which he bullied and smeared his targets. McCarthy’s sidekick, the infamous Roy Cohn, also had contacts in the bureau, who gave him access to confidential FBI reports.

Much of what [McCarthy] got came directly from the FBI, which had a habit of leaking information to favored politicians. Not only was Joe friendly with J. Edgar Hoover, but several of his aides had either worked for the Bureau or built up good contacts there. Roy Cohn, for example, was very close with Lou Nichols, the assistant director. One source said that Cohn knew

    … all about FBI lists of supect Communists and has a fantastic memory for the names and backgrounds of practically all the important ex-Communists in the country. My friend has frequently been with Cohn when he picks up the phone, calls the FBI and demands to know the whereabouts of some ex-Communist or suspect Communist. Within a half hour or so the Bureau will call him back and give him the name of the special agent who is riding herd on the particular individual and Cohn will shortly thereafter get a call from the agent.

Despite his repeated denials, Cohn also had access to confidential FBI reports. One agent revealed that his colleagues “put in long hours poring over Bureau security files, abstracting them for Roy Cohn.” And Ruth Watt, chief clerk of the Government Operations Committee [chaired by McCarthy], recalled that “we had a lot of FBI reports because we could get them, you see.” Watt added that “Roy and J. Edgar Hoover knew each other pretty well, so it was not too difficult to get these things.” [David Oshinsky, A Conspiracy So Immense: The World of Joe McCarthy [Free Press, 1983], p. 257]

One suspects that if J. Edgar Hoover were seriously concerned about these 12,000 people, then information on at least some of them ended up with McCarthy and Cohn. And McCarthy and Cohn held investigations and hearings pretty much nonstop until the Army-McCarthy hearings in 1954. But not one of McCarthy’s investigations resulted in a conviction of espionage. And none of the many charges McCarthy brought against individuals were ever proved, even by the release of the Venona files. So it’s a good bet that the bulk of those 12,000 people that Hoover wanted to detain permanently were innocent.

Telecom Immunity Showdown

Senator Chris Dodd plans to begin a filibuster today. He will try to stop the Senate from granting retroactive immunity to telecoms that violated their customers’ privacy rights by sending billions of private domestic internet and telephone communications to the NSA. The vote on the bill that would grant immunity is scheduled for today. You can help out by contacting your senators to let them know what you think.

See also: Taylor Marsh, Jane Hamsher, Glenn Greenwald, Nicole Belle, the Anonymous Liberal.

Meanwhile, righties are hollering about fascism because a senior fellow emeritus at the Policy Studies Institute believes carbon rationing must be imposed to save the planet. Wholesale violation of the Fourth Amendment by Big Government and Big Corporation, however, is no big deal.

Jena 6 Roundup

Eugene Robinson, “Drive Time for the ‘Jena 6‘”

Amina Luqman, “Jim Crow Comes for Our Kids

Los Angeles Times, “Soul Searching in Jena

Ed Pilkington, “Enough is enough: racial protest brings thousands to Southern town

Marian Wright Edelman, “Free the Jena 6

Jeff Douglas, “Rally Brings Change

Trey Ellis, “The Jena 6 Case Is History Written in Lightning

Matt Martinez, “Raise Your Voice


Gary Younge, “Jena: the next step

Last Refuge of a Soundrel

“Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel,” Samuel Johnson said. Maybe ’twas true then, but we’ve stooped a bit lower since. When all else fails, blame incompetence.

At least, that’s what the Wall Street Journal is doing. Check out this editorial about the FBI’s improper use of national security letters:

Just when President Bush seemed to have beaten back the Congressional defeatists on Iraq, along comes his own Justice Department to undermine some hard-won antiterror policy gains. The incompetence at Justice is getting to be expensive for Presidential power.

Remember, WSJ still believes President Bush has a glorious strategy for victory in Iraq. So for them to have gone from denial to excuses in such a short time is something of a miracle.

It’s true that the Justice Department’s internal investigation on the national security letter issue blamed human error and shoddy record keeping for most of the unauthorized wiretapping. But this tells me that the people at the top — Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and FBI Director Robert Mueller — have been winking at nodding at gross violations of citizens’ 4th Amendment rights. If these two had made it clear that all surveillance would be conducted lawfully, you can bet there’d have been a whole lot less human error and shoddy record keeping.

Dem Senator Chuck Schumer has called on Alberto Gonzales to resign. Republican Senator Lindsay Graham accused Schumer of interjecting “a little politics here.” I guess some righties are still in denial. I also infer that it’s unseemly for a Senator to speak up on a serious lapse if the lapser is a member of the other party. But if Republicans would take responsibility for their problem children, the Dems wouldn’t have to speak up. But Republicans, in effect, let the kids run all over the restaurant screaming and tripping the waiters and stealing food off plates, and when, finally, some adult says stop that, you little brat, the GOP gets all indignant about it.

(On a related note, see the Carpetbagger — “It’s become a fairly common refrain, hasn’t it? The right does something offensive, the left gets mad when there are no consequences, time elapses, and the right, annoyed by lingering resentment, tells the left to ‘get over it.’”)

Meanwhile, the U.S. attorney purge continues to get attention. What we know so far is that some of the U.S. attorneys were fired after Republican officials in their districts complained to Karl Rove— the bleeping White House political director — about the attorneys’ performance.

Paul Krugman wrote today

Sources told Newsweek that the list of prosecutors to be fired was drawn up by Mr. Gonzales’s chief of staff, “with input from the White House.” And Allen Weh, the chairman of the New Mexico Republican Party, told McClatchy News that he twice sought Karl Rove’s help — the first time via a liaison, the second time in person — in getting David Iglesias, the state’s U.S. attorney, fired for failing to indict Democrats. “He’s gone,” he claims Mr. Rove said.

After that story hit the wires, Mr. Weh claimed that his conversation with Mr. Rove took place after the decision to fire Mr. Iglesias had already been taken. Even if that’s true, Mr. Rove should have told Mr. Weh that political interference in matters of justice is out of bounds; Mr. Weh’s account of what he said sounds instead like the swaggering of a two-bit thug.

As Digby writes,

The minute I read that the Arkansas replacement was one of Rove’s little minions and that Iglesias had been pressured before the election to indict a Democrat, it was clear that this was Rove deal all around.

The Dems want to question Rove ao I suspect we are going to see some executive privilege claims start flying. Rove seems to have developed a bad case of SMS (Scooter Memory Syndrome) in which he can’t remember a damned thing whenever it becomes clear that he was playing politics in the lowest most obvious way possible. In his case, once the investigations start, the disease will render him braindead so he probably won’t be much use to anyone from this point forward.

And have I mentioned in the last few hours that we are paying this asshat’s salary?

See also Ron at Middle Earth Journal.

Update: Jack Cafferty calls Alberto Gonzales a “weasel.”

Giuliani Time, Part II

Bob Herbert should be persuaded to publish a collection of his many New York Times columns about Rudy Giuliani. There’s a wealth of juicy bits in them that people really ought to know before they consider making him President.

For example, if you want to know what America would look like under President Giuliani, this Bob Herbert column from March 2000 provides a clue:

The police intercepted the two teenaged boys who were running up Broadway, near 138th Street, and opened fire. This was on the night of Feb. 13, 1997. Robert Reynoso, 18, collapsed to the ground with a bullet in his chest. Juval Green, 17, fell with a leg wound.

The police would later say they thought the boys had a gun. There was no gun. And the boys, who survived the shooting, had not been involved in a crime. Nevertheless, the police arrested them. The charge — incredibly — was criminal possession of a firearm.

This is not a joke.

The Police Department tried to keep the shooting under wraps but I got a tip and wrote about it. When I visited Mr. Reynoso at St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center, he was handcuffed to his bed. Breathing and swallowing were so difficult for him, and he was in so much pain, that he would at times whisper to relatives, ”I just want to die.”

This shooting typified the over-the-top, overly aggressive behavior that has become the hallmark of policing under Rudolph Giuliani. The cops were responding to a report of shots fired at Broadway and 135th Street, three blocks away. Not only were Mr. Reynoso and Mr. Green shot, but four other innocent people were arrested.

The police were shooting and rounding up people without the slightest clue as to what was happening. Afterward, the department tried to conceal the extent of the madness. Top officials would not even confirm the four additional arrests until I let them know I had obtained a copy of a confidential memo from a police captain, Robert T. Varieur, to the chief of the department, Louis Anemone.

The memo said: ”During the confrontation in front of 3395 Broadway, four (4) individuals who were initially thought to be involved in the incident at West 135th Street were taken into custody. Upon investigation it was determined that there was no evidence to link them to that incident and these arrests were subsequently voided. All four (4) individuals were visiting from Baltimore, Maryland.”

Rudy’s just the guy you want at the head of the nation’s law enforcement, intelligence and security agencies, huh? Just wait; it gets better. Here’s another Bob Herbert column, from February 25, 1999:

It may be that Rudolph Giuliani never has a reflective moment. He just likes to push people around. He’s pretty indiscriminate about it. One day it’s an indisputably worthy target, like violent criminals, the next day it’s jaywalkers. One moment it’s the organized thugs at the Fulton Fish Market, the next it’s cab drivers and food vendors.

Mark Green, Carl McCall, New York magazine — they’ve all been targets. Mr. Giuliani shut down an entire neighborhood in Harlem and buzzed its residents with police helicopters because he didn’t like Khallid Muhammad. Solid citizens trying to exercise their right to protest peacefully have been fought at every conceivable turn. Many gave up, their protests succumbing to fear or exhaustion.

Civil rights? Civil liberties? Forget about it. When the Mayor gets it in his head to give somebody a hard time — frequently through his enforcers in the Police Department — the niceties of the First Amendment and other constitutional protections get very short shrift.

The latest targets are people suspected of driving drunk. The cops have been given the power to seize their vehicles on the spot. Why not? Why wait for a more sober mind — say, a judge — to assess the merits of the case? Why even bother with an annoyance like due process? Hizzoner — who would like to be known as His Majesty — makes the rules. And he says even if the drivers are acquitted they may not get their cars back.

Listen to him: ”Let’s say somebody is acquitted, and it’s one of those acquittals in which the person was guilty but there is just not quite enough evidence beyond a reasonable doubt. That might be a situation in which the car would still be forfeited.”

Bring on the royal robes and the crown. And get rid of those pesky legislators and judges.

Rudy Giuliani is a man with many facades. The Rudy who spoke to TV cameras after 9/11 wasn’t a complete stranger, but over the years New Yorkers had seen a whole lot less of that Rudy than of the Rudy who usually hosted his weekly call-in radio show, “Live from City Hall.” Amy Goodnough described the mayor’s on-air persona for the New York Times (August 1, 1999):

When Tony from the Bronx called to question the Mayor’s handling of the Amadou Diallo shooting, Mr. Giuliani told him, ”Either you don’t read the newspapers carefully enough or you’re so prejudiced and biased that you block out the truth.” When Bill in Manhattan asked why it was illegal to hang a flag from city property, Mr. Giuliani shot back, ”Isn’t there something more important that you want to ask me?”

And when David in Oceanside called last month to complain about the ban on pet ferrets, the Mayor of New York City leaned into the microphone on his desk and intoned, ”There is something deranged about you.”

A three-minute diatribe against the ferret advocate ensued, with Mr. Giuliani saying things like, ”You should go consult a psychologist or a psychiatrist with this excessive concern — how you are devoting your life to weasels.”

Not exactly the transcendent figure the nation thought it saw after 9/11.

Two of his most startling tirades recently came in response to calls from David Guthartz, the ferret advocate — whom Mr. Giuliani said has made repeated phone calls to his aides — and Margarita Rosario, whose son Anthony, an 18-year-old robbery suspect, was shot dead by two police detectives in 1995. Mrs. Rosario called last month, identifying herself only as Margarita from the Bronx, and said that she wanted to discuss Con Edison. But instead she started protesting the shooting, and Mr. Giuliani barely let her speak.

”Maybe you should ask yourself some questions about the way he was brought up and the things that happened to him,” the Mayor told Mrs. Rosario, whose nephew, also a suspect, died in the shooting. ”Trying to displace the responsibility for the criminal acts of your son onto these police officers is really unfair.”

Yep, that’s our Rudy.

If you want a a textbook case of how a public official should not handle a crisis, study Giuliani after the Amidou Diallo shooting. Diallo, a black immigrant from Guinea, was cornered in the vestibule of his Bronx apartment building by four New York City plain clothes cops. The cops fired 41 shots at Diallo, killing him. Diallo was unarmed and not the suspect in any crime; he was just trying to go home.

After the shooting, America’s Mayor failed to soothe the city’s frayed nerves. In fact, his every public utterance made public anger grow. At first he asked the public not to jump to conclusions about what happened, which was reasonable, but over the next several days the man who sounded just the right notes after 9/11 was out of tune with the city. The Mayor seemed more defensive than conciliatory. He recited statistics comparing fatal police shootings in New York with those in other cities, as if to claim the NYPD didn’t shoot as many people as other cops do, so what’s the problem?

Most inexcusable after such a racially charged incident, for weeks Giuliani failed to reach out to the city’s African Americans. Dan Barry wrote for the New York Times (February 11, 1999):

That was the clear message at a news conference convened yesterday by C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan Borough President, and attended by, among others, former Mayor Edward I. Koch, who had troubles of his own with many black political and civic leaders. But rather than score the Mayor, most of the speakers pleaded with him to open the lines of communication.

Being Mayor ”requires a willingness to hear,” Mr. Koch said.

”So we’re saying to the Mayor: ‘Listen.’ ”

Ms. Fields agreed. ”I certainly am not blaming Mayor Giuliani or Commissioner Safir for the tragedy that took place,” she said, referring to Police Commissioner Howard Safir. Nevertheless, she said that the city ”must change the tone and move in a different direction.”

Mr. Giuliani responded last night by impeaching the event’s credibility, noting that Mr. Koch is a persistent critic and saying that Ms. Fields failed to acknowledge the Police Department’s accomplishments, including reduced crime in black neighborhoods.

Six weeks later, the Mayor finally made a gesture toward his critics. Dan Barry wrote March 28, 1999:

Time and again, the Giuliani administration has demonstrated the ability to make the routine seem unusual and the bizarre seem mundane. How else could a meeting between the Mayor and the city’s highest-elected black official take on the significance of a Botha-Mandela sitdown? How else could a mayor have refused to meet that leader for more than a year?

Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani’s session last week with C. Virginia Fields, the Manhattan Borough President, was viewed as so extraordinary that the City Council Speaker, Peter F. Vallone, who arranged the meeting, somehow emerged as the great healer of City Hall. Then came word that the Mayor had agreed to meet with State Comptroller H. Carl McCall, another black leader he had rebuffed for years, and would soon be inviting other people of color to Gracie Mansion for face-to-face chats.

Nearly seven weeks after the Amadou Diallo shooting began roiling race relations in the city, the administration decided that the time had come to, as one aide put it, ”build bridges” and let the ”healing process” continue. And so Mr. Giuliani was poised to be congratulated for meeting elected city and state officials — activities that used to be normal conduct for any mayor, an expected duty of the office.

I’ll let you draw your own conclusions from these examples, but I assure you that they are not atypical examples.

Here’s another example, provided by Jimmy Breslin in New York Newsday:

As the mayor, he had a detective driving one of his girl friends out of the Gracie Mansion driveway while another detective was arriving with another girl friend and was waved off to prevent a domestic riot.

All the while upstairs there were his wife. and children.

Giuliani then showed appropriate behavior by walking in a parade on Fifth Avenue with his girl friend and all the while his children could sit and watch him on television.

If Giuliani is the nominee, I swear to you I will hunt down every rightie who wanted Bill Clinton impeached because of Monica and shove this column in his/her/its face.

I can’t diagnose Rudy Giuliani, but there’s no question he is seriously miswired. He is autocratic, intolerant of criticism, and as mayor used the NYPD as his private praetorian guard. In fact, he combines many of the worst qualities of Richard Nixon and George W. Bush. And he’s a lot smarter than Bush, which makes him more dangerous.

Just thought you ought to know.