Saturday, October 13, 2007

Not forgotten

The diplomat who took a stand.
 

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Los Angeles to Permit Sleeping on Sidewalks

LOS ANGELES, Oct. 10 — City officials agreed Wednesday not to enforce an ordinance used to bolster police sweeps of homeless people sleeping on sidewalks until 1,250 units of low-cost housing are built.

The police in recent years had used a 1968 law barring sleeping or lying in public spaces to arrest homeless people in and around Skid Row, a downtown district whose concentration of 10,000 to 12,000 homeless people is among the highest in the nation.

But a federal appeals court last year struck down convictions under the law, calling it one of the most restrictive in the country and cruel and unusual punishment, because of the area’s severe lack of housing for homeless people.

Under the settlement reached between the City Council and the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California, which had sued the city in 2003 on behalf of six homeless people, the city will allow sleeping on sidewalks from 9 p.m. to 6 a.m. People will not be able to bed down within 10 feet of the entrance of a building, parking lot or loading dock.  Read on ...

A suggestion that needs discussion

From Harper's magazine, October 2007:

Specific suggestion: General strike

By Garret Keizer

"...Of all the various depredations of the Bush regime, none has been so thorough as its plundering of hope. Iraq will recover sooner. What was supposed to have been the crux of our foreign policy—a shock-and-awe tutorial on the utter futility of any opposition to the whims of American power—has achieved its greatest and perhaps its only lasting success in the American soul. You will want to cite the exceptions, the lunch-hour protests against the war, the dinner-party ejaculations of dissent, though you might also want to ask what substantive difference they bear to grousing about the weather or even to raging against the dying of the light—that is, to any ritualized complaint against forces universally acknowledged as unalterable. Bush is no longer the name of a president so much as the abbreviation of a proverb, something between Murphy’s Law and tomorrow’s fatal inducement to drink and be merry today.

If someone were to suggest, for example, that we begin a general strike on Election Day, November 6, 2007, for the sole purpose of removing this regime from power, how readily and with what well-practiced assurance would you find yourself producing the words “It won’t do any good”? Plausible and even courageous in the mouth of a patient who knows he’s going to die, the sentiment fits equally well in the heart of a citizen-ry that believes it is already dead.

Any strike, whether it happens in a factory, a nation, or a marriage, amounts to a reaffirmation of consent. The strikers remind their overlords—and, equally important, themselves—that the seemingly perpetual machinery of daily life has an off switch as well as an on. Camus said that the one serious question of philosophy is whether or not to commit suicide; the one serious question of political philosophy is whether or not to get out of bed. Silly as it may have seemed at the time, John and Yoko’s famous stunt was based on a profound observation. Instant karma is not so instant—we ratify it day by day.

The stream of commuters heading into the city, the caravan of tractor-trailers pulling out of the rest stop into the dawn’s early light, speak a deep-throated Yes to the sum total of what’s going on in our collective life. The poet Richard Wilbur writes of the “ripped mouse” that “cries Concordance” in the talons of the owl; we too cry our daily assent in the grip of the prevailing order— except in those notable instances when, like a donkey or a Buddha, we refuse to budge..."   Read on... 

Hayden out to help the CIA IG's office "o its vital work even better"

"...That's one way to placate the National Clandestine Service. CIA Director Michael Hayden is going after the agency's independent watchdog, Inspector General John Helgerson. Hayden wonders if Helgerson -- who is not appointed by the CIA director -- hasn't gone too far in investigating how the agency conducts detentions and interrogations.

Helgerson has for years been perceived as overly aggressive in reviewing CIA techniques in the war on terrorism. In 2004, he produced an internal report that seemed to say that Department of Justice-approved interrogation techniques employed by the CIA amounted to torture. That report was part of a series of internal administration moves contributing to uncertainty among interrogators and senior officials about what was legally permissible. Some in the NCS -- the agency's undercover operatives -- have purchased legal insurance to guard against the possibility that they will one day face criminal charges for putting administration-approved practices into place. In short, many in the CIA think Helgerson is out to get them.

According to the Los Angeles Times, the investigation has grown out of an effort by Hayden months ago to explore a "friction" that had emerged between Helgerson's office and that of the CIA general counsel, which also has lent its legal imprimatur to CIA interrogations and detentions, after the general counsel's office believed Helgerson was improperly second-guessing its advice. But the investigation, headed by Hayden confidante Robert L. Deitz, is now a full-fledged exploration of how Helgerson conducts his work. It comes as Helgerson is "nearing completion" on several reports into interrogations, renditions, and detentions, reports The New York Times..."  Read on... 

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