Monthly Archives: June 2008

Sultan Knish: Books Obama may Write


[This post at Sultan Knish had me rolling and I wanted to share…]

As everyone knows Obama is more famous for his words than for his deeds, but while Obama may have borrowed his words from Reverend “God Damn America” Wright and Maya Angelou, he sure did a good job of arranging them into books which sold very well on college campuses.

So I’ve created some possible books Obama is likely to write in the near future.

Powerful and compelling, “Streams of Lies from My Father” explores Obama’s need to lie compulsively about everything while blaming it all on his father. You’ll laugh, you’ll thrill to Obama traveling through space, inventing the comma and pretending to be an oppressed black man in Chicago armed only with his Harvard degree and no sense of right and wrong.

Finally the real Obama. It’s a story of hope and change, crazed ambition and Oprah appearances. For the inner Hussein in all of us. NOW BOW BEFORE OBAMA.

[Hilarious. You have to read the whole post]

Support Bill Providing NY Farmworkers the Right to Overtime and a Weekly Day of Rest


[h/t to A.L. As most of you know, I am a strong supporter of labor rights. I also am a major foodie and recognize the people who grow and pick our fruits and vegetables do backbreaking and necessary work. They deserve better.]

The Justice for Farmworkers Campaign is very close to landmark legislation providing overtime coverage for New York farmworkers. Your support in the closing moments of the legislative session is critical. Please broadcast widely the e-mail announcement and phone script below (also attached) and take immediate action!

If you or your organization would rather fax a message, see the attached memo and feel free to use as much of our language as you like. The fax number for Senate Majority Leader Joe Bruno’s office is 518-426-6879.

Thank you for taking a moment to support an end to racist exclusions and a step toward justice in the fields.


Bill Providing Farmworkers the Right to Overtime and a Weekly Day of Rest

Call Today and All This Week!


The Justice for Farmworkers Campaign is on the brink of a major step toward the equal treatment of all New York workers. We really need your help to make it happen.

Seventy years ago, our elected representatives had the good wisdom to enact overtime protections that required work hours numbering greater than forty in a week to be compensated at one and one-half times the regular rate. Because southern legislators would not stand for putting African American workers on an equal footing with their white counterparts, however, farmworkers and domestic workers were excluded from overtime coverage. Since the New Deal, New York has perpetuated their exclusion from protections such as a day of rest per week.

We are urging the NYS Senate pass into law day of rest and overtime protections for farmworkers, as a step toward ending this shameful legacy of exclusion. Over many years, New York workers have come to expect a day of rest per week and overtime pay for hours worked beyond the forty-hour work week. With the passage of this bill, they will be able to approach farm work with that same expectation.

Please Call Today! 518-455-2800

If you do not know your senator, call Senate Majority Leader Bruno at 518-455-3191

When you get the operator, just ask for your Senator’s office. Ask for the Senator, but if he or she is not available ask for a staff person who handles legislation. Also, for those ambitious people wanting to do more than one call, or for people who don’t know their senator, here’s Senate Majority Leader Bruno’s #: 518-455-3191

Sample Script:

Hello, my name is [NAME] and I am calling from [YOUR CITY/AFFILIATION]

I wanted to call to ask you to support a bill that would provide day of rest and overtime protections to farmworkers. We must end these two shameful exclusions, which are rooted in racism and that deny basic rights to farmworkers. I understand there is an assembly bill number A11425-a, and I would like [SENATOR] to support a matching bill in the Senate.

Thank you for your time.

Donald Byrd Post


[Saw him a few years ago on the Jersey shore. He’s getting up there but still has some power in his lungs. Enjoy these tunes from the 60s and 70s. ]

Bio by Barry Kernfeld from The New Grove Dictionary of Jazz, via Hard Bop homepage:

Donald Byrd. Born in Detroit in 1932, his studies at Wayne State University (1954) were interrupted by military service, during which he played in an Air Force band. He then attended the Manhattan School of Music (MA in music education). At the same time he was the favorite studio trumpeter of the bop label Presitge (1956-58), though he also recorded frequently for Riverside and Blue Note.

He gave performances with George Wallington (1955), Art Blakey (1956), and along with Gigi Gryce was a member of the Jazz Lab Quintet (1957). He also performed with Max Roach, Sonny Rollins, John Coltrane, and others, before settling into a partnership with Pepper Adams (1958-61). After studying composition in Europe (1963-63) Byrd began a career in black music education, teaching at Rutgers, the Hampton Institute, Howard University, and (after receiving a law degree, 1976) North Carolina Central University; in 1982 he was awarded a doctorate by Columbia Teachers College.

Following the death of Clifford Brown in 1956, Byrd was for a few years arguably the finest hard-bop trumpeter. He had not only a masterful technique, displayed on all his albums from this period, but also a beautiful tone. He resumed playing in the 1970s and made several pleasant recordings in a jazz-rock style. His best-selling album Black Byrd led to the formation of his students into the Blackbyrds, a hit group of the mid-1970s.


Slow Drag

Dixie Lee

The Emperor



This Blog is One Year Old


The first post on this blog was June 17, 2007. At that time I had no idea how long it would last. A few weeks? A few months? It was mainly an opportunity for me to express ideas unrelated to my academic work, my thoughts on news and current events.

Over time I attracted a nice collegial group of folks who provide comments and/or links to my blog (either in posts on on their blogrolls) including: Bob from Brockley, the Contentious Centrist, Democratiya Journal, Roland Dobbs, Marko Attila Hoare, Judith Apther Klinghoffer, Stephen Farrington, Modernity Blog, Snoopy the Goon, Sultan Knish, Martin in the Margins, DKMarc Shulman and Norman Geras (if I forgot you, my apologies! Post a comment and I will add you). You might notice a fairly diverse group of individuals listed. Some might even find their political perspectives at odds with each other. But what I appreciate about all of you is your unique approach, your individual quirks and eccentricities, in short, your humanity. Thank you all for your thoughtful comments and occasional constructive criticism. When I started I never thought this small semi-anonymous blog would receive the number of top-notch visitors that it has.

Another thing, prior to putting an Invisite link (thanks, Sultan) I didn’t know where my visitors were located. I also did not think any of my (non-blogger) friends were visiting. Now that I can spot the location of visitors, it looks some of my friends are checking the site out. Yes, I see you visiting from Brazil, Canada, Florida, Israel, California, Greece, and elsewhere. Nice to know you are checking the site out.

Here are a few of my favorite posts from the past year:

Lebanon and Issue of Force in Democratic Societies

Thoughts on the Current Debate; A Perspective from the U.S.

Thoughts on Thucydides’ Peloponnesian War

Forgetting Orwell’s Lessons for the Left: Useful Idiots and Fellow Travelers in the 21st Century

Ron Paul and the Paulistas: Populism and the Paranoid Style in American Politcs

Does Anti-Imperialism Trump Anti-Authoritarianism?

Viva la Insurgencia? The Spanish Civil War and the Legacy of the Totalitarian International Brigades

Standpoint Magazine/Online


Just a nod of approval to the new Standpoint magazine and website. First Democratiya and now this. Why don’t we have similar projects in the U.S.?

In the “About Us” section:

Standpoint’s core mission is to celebrate our civilization, its arts and its values – in particular democracy, debate and freedom of speech – at a time when they are under threat. Standpoint aims to be an antidote to the parochialism of British political magazines and to introduce British readers to brilliant writers and thinkers from across the Atlantic, across the Channel and around the world.

In a market swamped by the journalistic equivalent of fast food, Standpoint hopes to offer the discerning reader a feast of great writing — properly edited and presented in an elegant design that makes even longer pieces a pleasure to read. Unashamedly highbrow in an era of relentless ‘dumbing down,’ it responds to the unfulfilled needs of the educated public.

Standpoint aims to provide an opportunity for a fresh, truly international cast of writers to explore the timely and the timeless. It will offer a guide for those perplexed by the 21st century and a running commentary for those who are happy to embrace it. In a world of rapid change, Standpoint is an indispensable resource and companion.

I wish them the best of luck in this endeavor.

Here is a small selection of what you’ll find:

Jonathan Bate. The wrong idea of a university.

Michael Burliegh. How to Defeat the Global Jihadists.

The Mole. The MOD: Unfit for Service.

Michael Young. Hariri: An Assassination too far.


The Democratiya link (above) has been fixed. I did not realize they recently changed from a .com to .org

If you’ve been clicking on the book review links from last month (Democratiya 13) they should work now.

Crooklyn Dodgers Reunion


[h/t Prospect Park Alliance]

Brooklyn hip-hop history will be made as the open mic pioneers of Lyricist Lounge return to the Bandshell to assemble for the first time the MCs and DJs responsible for the classic ‘90s singles “Crooklyn Dodgers” and “Return of the Crooklyn Dodgers”, soundtracks to the Spike Lee films Crooklyn and Clockers.

Saturday, June 28, 7 p.m.
with O.C., Jeru the Damaja, Chubb Rock, EMC featuring Masta Ace, DJ Permier, Ali Shaheed Muhammad. Hosted by Buckshot of Black Moon and Special Ed.

$3 suggested donation. At the Bandshell.

[Chubb Rock, OC, Jeru the Damaja]

[Masta Ace, Buckshot, Special Ed]

Friday Miscellany


After a four-day heat wave, things have finally cooled down a bit here in NYC. It was brutal for June. This weekend we are off to Fire Island for some prime beach time. I gathered some posts from my regular reads. Hope you enjoy them.

Bob from Brockley: Alexander Cockburn and Counterpunch

But, I am a Liberal!: Korea, from Ally to ‘Partner’

Contentious Centrist: Obama, Israel’s Best Friend? He Seems to Want to Be.

Elder of Ziyon: Iranian TV “Chicken Run” a Zionist Plot

Martin in the Margins: Stop The (Second World) War

ModernityBlog: Open Thread on Tibet and the Middle East

SPME: Ruth Contreras’ Report on UN Watch Conference

Sultan Knish: The Mirage of Middle Eastern Democratization

Seattle JCC Trial and the Legacy of Bernhard Goetz


[h/t to Jewlicious]

A judge declared a mistrial Wednesday in the case of a man who stormed into a Jewish center two years ago and shot six women, killing one, as he ranted against Israel and the Iraq war.

Jurors had indicated in questions posed to the judge that they were hopelessly deadlocked and struggling to determine whether Naveed Haq, 32, was not guilty by reason of insanity, as he claimed….

“There is no argument Haq killed Pam. There is no argument he viciously shot five others. There is no argument that he made anti-Israel and anti-Semitic statements. Somehow, all this was not enough,” Jewish Federation President Richard Fruchter said.

Reading the comments following the article, Ephraim makes the following point:

Only in America could a Muslim invade a Jewish building, gun down Jews while shouting “Death to the Jews” and somehow the jury can’t decide if he’s guilty. We should do what the Russians do: shoot the fucker. It would save us all time, money, and embarrassment.

To be clear, Ephraim felt the police or armed guards at the facility (if they had been present) should have shot the attacker. He does not support vigilantism. However, I added:

Bernhard Goetz said it best:

“I would, without any hesitation, shoot a violent criminal again.”


“You don’t look too bad; here’s another.”

If you are not familiar with the man, Bernhard Goetz shot four thugs in self-defense on the 2 Express (NYC subway line) back in 1986. Dubbed the “subway vigilante,” defended by the Guardian Angels and Congress on Racial Equality (CORE), decried by Al Sharpton, Goetz was a divisive figure at the time and remains so today.

As Lloyd Cohen notes:

The salient fact about the four individuals he shot was not that they were black, or young, or male, but rather that they were attempting to rob him. These young men had all committed serious crimes prior to their attempt to rob Goetz, were en- [Page 1265] route to other crimes when they tried to rob Goetz, and have all, save Cabey who remains paralyzed, committed serious crimes since recovering from the wounds inflicted by Goetz. James Ramseur, for example, was later convicted of a particularly brutal rape, sodomy, robbery, and beating of Gladys Richardson, a pregnant nineteen year-old.

I’ve long held respect for the man and still do. I hope I would have acted the same in his situation, if I was lucky enough to be armed. The importance of Goetz’ actions was not that he made people aware NYC was a crime-ridden cesspool—that was painfully obvious for anyone living here—the importance was a single man standing up to “crime.” Crime, presented as nameless and faceless statistics, is impossible to combat. But you can defeat a criminal by pulling the trigger in self-defense. Goetz’s actions were important because they were a demonstration of a moral act. As Cohen argues:

Goetz supporters, like myself, have a deep and real affection for the civilized life afforded by the rule of law. When, however, the state abdicates its proper role and does not provide an adequate system of criminal justice, the political and moral obligations to defer to the state are no longer operative… Rather than fanaticism, it seems that despair is what has motivated admiration for Bernhard Goetz. Many support Goetz’s vigilanteism because they have come to the sad conclusion that there is no system of criminal justice in the United States worthy of its name.

The murder rate in NYC has decreased 50 percent from the 1980s. But in low-income communities, shootings and other violent incidents are not treated with the same severity as in middle-class communities. Crimes that simply would not be accepted by the police or community are getting more frequent. It is in this context that a black Bernhard Goetz may potentially emerge.

The charge of “excessive force” against his assailants was often leveled against Goetz. But the level of force was necessary to let criminals know thuggery can be a hazardous occupation. Again quoting Cohen, “Goetz sent that message more dramatically than anyone in recent memory, and it was precisely the ‘excessiveness’ of the force he used that underscored it.” Witnesses of the events, including African American witnesses, agreed. Andrea Reid, a young African American woman who was in the subway car with her husband and baby told Goetz to “give those punks what they deserve.”

If one person, a guard or even a patron had been armed, we very well could have avoided this tragedy and this trial.

Court Claims Sentence for Terrorist “Unreasonably Lenient” and Military Commission Hearings Begin at Guantanamo


The 4th U.S. Circuit of Appeals court on Friday upheld the November 2005 conviction of Ahmed Omar Abu Ali for membership in a terrorist organization and plotting to assassinate President George W. Bush.

However, the court overturned the defendant’s 30-year prison sentence, agreeing with prosecuting attorneys that it was unreasonably lenient. Abu Ali’s attorneys argued the confession obtained by Saudi Authorities was a result of torture. This accusation was rejected by the court.

Matthew Barakat (AP) writes:

Born in Houston, Abu Ali, 27, grew up in the Washington suburb of Falls Church and was valedictorian of a private Islamic high school. He joined al-Qaida after traveling to Saudi Arabia to attend college in 2002. As a member of a Medina-based al-Qaida cell, Abu Ali discussed numerous potential terrorist attacks, including a plan to assassinate Bush and a plan to establish a sleeper cell in the United States…

In addition to the questions about torture, the trial involved use of the rarely invoked “silent witness” rule. The rule involves the presentation of secret, classified evidence to the jury, but the evidence is never made public.

The case also involved an unprecedented level of cooperation with the Saudi government, and was the first time the kingdom allowed its internal security personnel to testify in an American court, Laufman said.

Defense lawyer Joshua Dratel said Friday he plans to appeal the rulings to the full 4th Circuit panel of judges. Mistakes at trial regarding secret evidence “are the kind of error that defies the notion of ‘harmless,'” Dratel said.

In its ruling, the court said the judge was correct in keeping the information out of public view but should have allowed Abu Ali himself to see it so he could discuss it with his lawyer. But the appellate court ruled that the error was essentially harmless.

In a related story, military commission hearings for alleged September 11 terrorist Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and three other Guantanamo detainees Thursday. While military tribunals are constitutional (see Ex Parte Quirin [1942]), the specifics of the tribunal system established by the Bush administration has met stiff resistance. In 2006, the Court struck down an earlier system as unconstitutional and is making a ruling later this month on the rights of Guantanamo prisoners

Background on the defendants provided by the Chicago Tribune:

Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the confessed mastermind of the Sept. 11 attacks, proposed the concept to Osama bin Laden as early as 1996. He obtained approval and funding for the attacks from bin Laden, then oversaw the operation in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

Waleed bin Attash, better known as Khallad, is alleged to have administered an Al Qaeda training camp in Logar, Afghanistan, where two of the 19 Sept. 11 hijackers were trained. Bin Attash is an alleged Al Qaeda operative, believed to have been bin Laden’s bodyguard.

Ramzi Binalshibh, a Yemeni, is alleged to have helped find flight schools for the hijackers, helped them enter the United States and assisted with the financing for the operation. He also is believed to be a lead operative for a foiled plot to crash aircraft into London’s Heathrow Airport.

Ali Abd al-Aziz Ali, also known as Ammar al-Baluchi, is alleged to have sent about $120,000 to the hijackers for their expenses and flight training, and helped nine of the hijackers travel to the United States. He is believed to have served as a key lieutenant to Khalid Shaikh Mohammed in Pakistan.

Mustafa Ahmad al-Hawsawi, a Saudi, is alleged to have helped the hijackers with money, Western clothing, traveler’s checks and credit cards. Hawsawi testified as a witness in the trial of Sept. 11 conspirator Zacarias Moussaoui, saying he had seen Moussaoui at an Al Qaeda guesthouse in Kandahar, Afghanistan, in the first half of 2001.

American facilities at Guantanamo are presented by radical activists as a modern day version of the Soviet Gulag. A lawless jail cut off from the outside world. Yet more than 1,400 organizations (2,300 individuals) have visited the facility–including American and international media–since detainee operations began in January 2002. If you are a qualified reporter (Indymedia does not count) here is a list of civilian flights to GITMO.

Read More:

Jurist: US military tribunal best venue for terror cases: AG Mukasey

Joint Task Force Guantanamo: Commissions Keep Protection, Justice of Accused as Focus

The Military Commissions Act defines an alien unlawful enemy combatant as:

“A person who has engaged in hostilities or has purposefully and materially supported hostilities against the United States or, its co-belligerents who is not a lawful enemy combatant (including a person who is part of the Taliban, al Qaeda, or associated forces); or

A person who has been determined to be an unlawful enemy combatant by a Combatant Status Review Tribunal (CSRT) or another competent tribunal established under the authority of the President or the Secretary of Defense.”

Many protections for the accused are spelled out in the Military Commissions Act, including all accused being innocent until proven guilty beyond a reasonable doubt. The accused may also view evidence that will be used against them, can choose whether or not to be present at their trial and testify, and may appeal rulings, even to the civilian court system.

Times Online: I want to be a martyr, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed tells Guantanamo tribunal

WaPo: Accused Sept. 11 Plotter Has First Tribunal Hearing