Body? ... What Body?

Our own Michigan Democratic Senator, Debbie Stabenow, has voted for the single most irresponsible bill passed in the entire abysmal era of the Bush administration.

S.3930: Military Commissions Act of 2006.

This bill effectively gives the president of the United States power to detain any prisoner at will without trial, provided he can identify the prisoner as an enemy combatant.

At the heart of this legislation is the right of “habeas corpus” (latin:you should have the body]).

“Habeus Corpus” is defined here,

This right is enshrined in the Constitution, in section 9 “Limits on Congress”

“The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended, unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may require it.”

And the act in question as it relates to Habeas Corpus can be found here
or from the official site here, though you'll need to dig a little.

Now to the reason I find this legislation irresponsible and reprobate for any lover of freedom in this country, regardless of party affiliation.

It is clear that the constitution allows for the suspension of the writ of Habeas Corpus under certain specific circumstances where “public Safety” is under immediate threat.

In cases of rebellion or invasion, (those cited in the constitution), a clear and present threat, which has an arguably determinate period, appears to be the criterion of choice for the suspension of Habeas Corpus. A rebellion is either successful or it is not, an invasion is either successful or it is not. Either way, the imminent threat to public safety passes and the republic progresses to one form of normalcy or another.

President Bush’s “war on terror” has no determinate period, the threat to public safety will ebb and flow according to the whim of the terrorist as fuelled by the arrogance of the administration. Be that as it may, there is not an imminent threat of invasion. The public safety is no more at risk today than it has been any day since that fateful, disastrous day of September 11, 2001.

If an argument is to be made for heightened risk, it is due directly to the launching of an illegal, ill-fated war that has put our young men and women in harm’s way while providing a breeding ground for terrorists, a focal point for their ire, and a proving ground for their weapons and tactics.

Furthermore, this “war” has no end. If we pulled out of Iraq tomorrow, it would make not one jot of difference to this Presidents “war on terror”. Terrorism has been around for as long as civilization has, to declare war on it is to declare war on a fact of civilized life. (That fact being that there will always be uncivilized folk, some of whom will use murderous tactics of terror to meet their ignoble ends).

The US congress has just given the President of the United States despotic, privileges that allow him to pick and choose whom he calls an enemy combatant, and to detain these people without trial, indefinitely. Yep, that’s right, until the “war on terror” is won.

The president no longer has to produce “the body” to the judiciary. “Enemy Combatants” can go missing, forever, without recourse.

This President has proven himself incapable of disciplined governance, intolerant of dissent, a promoter of loyalty above ability, a promoter of privilege above justice, and woefully inadequate as a commander-in-chief. To give this man the right to pick and choose whom he will detain without trial, indefinitely, is the most egregious travesty ever visited on the American people. I say travesty, because the whitehouse today is a grotesque manifestation of a once-great institution, and then there are the American people who are blissfully un-aware of what this administration is doing, and care even less about it.

While Senator Stabenow’s vote, not even combined with the votes of ALL of the democrats and the republican lovers of freedom would have been enough to stop this egregious affliction on the people of the United States, I am dumbfounded as to why she voted in favor of it.

I believe she has just lost a large chunk of her support base in this state with that action.

If this reprobate act of congress is not enough to get the Democrats stirred up to win a victory, there is no hope for the democratic process in this country.

And lets not forget proposal 2 at the state level.

The yawns from the populace at large are chilling, eerie in fact. Its almost as though the American people have finally ceased to give a damn, in which case, we get the government we deserve.

What will it take, swastikas, goosestep, and a bad moustache?

Take Care



Neither Civil Nor Right

I am talking, of course, about the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative.

Full text Here. Official version Here

Cameron Getto has, as usual, produced a great article on this issue.

In a previous incarnation, (reporter for the Courier) I took the mayor to task over the ignorance of white citizens to their own sense of privilege.

Quoting from the op-ed section of the Ypsilanti Courier, October 13, 2005

Should it [race] matter? In an ideal world, perhaps not. But looking around our fair city, one has to be wearing very rosy glasses indeed to describe it as ideal in that sense. The level of distrust between certain sections of the black community and city officials is well documented at any audience participation session in city hall.

Why does this matter bother me so? Like many well meaning white folks, I have the luxury of believing that there doesn't need to be any difference between people based on the color of their skin.

I am reminded, however, whenever I think of my own [black]sons in Australia, that in white dominated countries, the difference will always be there for those who are not white. Racism is a fact of life for my sons, not an optional ideology as it is for well meaning white folks like me.

Are my sons racist? Not particularly, but they cannot escape the influence of those who are, and that is my point.

The same holds true for all forms of discrimination, be it gender, race, socio-economic, regional, and so on.

The “majority” players have the luxury of feeling it doesn’t matter, while the repressed minority cannot avoid the discrimination.

The thing that disappoints me most is that, for all of the rhetoric of “equality” posited by the proponents of this regressive legislation, it entrenches elitism and actual disadvantage into the State constitution.

To entrench elitism in this way is fundamentally contrary to the way most Americans see themselves.

Equality is a purely theoretical concept in North American (or any other) society. Disadvantaged parties must, in civilized society, be given assistance to prosper, lest the unrest grow so great as to destabilize the civilization.

It is madness, in times of hardship when jobs are scarce and the outlook is gloomy, to tread on the heads of the already downtrodden. It is a recipe for civil unrest that will make the 60’s look like a bake-sale.

Our Statewide community needs to look at two possibilities. Do we step on the heads of the oppressed, and increase spending on police and incarceration? Or do we work towards a more equitable solution for all of our citizens? Both options cost money. Both options require commitment.

With jails and police forces strapped for cash state-wide, it would be both morally reprehensible and fiscally irresponsible to abandon affirmative action, let alone to go so far as to make it illegal.

A vote for proposal 2 is a vote towards repression and civil unrest.

Lots of well-meaning folks could be duped into thinking it is a step in the right direction.

I’ll be working at a NOW fundraiser in a couple of weeks because anything I can do to help in my own little corner of the world is a step in the right direction.

Take Care



Pluto: Dirty Snowball or Planet?

The quick answer is “both”.

Kate asked for a comment to Pluto’s status a week ago, and I figure it deserves a post of its own.

When Pluto was discovered, (February 18, 1930) the astronomers were looking for a much larger body to explain the (still mysterious) perturbations to the orbits of the outer planets, and specifically of Neptune. Something out there is big enough to pull the king of the sea off course in a regular and predictable manner. We still haven’t found it.

In a “rags to riches” scenario, Pluto happened to be in the right place at the right time. The somewhat insignificant dirty snowball achieved the high and lofty position of “planet” and became a star overnight (yes the pun is intended, and no I’m not giving up may day-job to write historic fiction just yet).

Astronomers were mostly happy to add the quirky little guy to the fold of planets, and the astrologers set to work to find out its significance.

To determine the significance of any object in the solar system, astrologers put the object through its paces in thousands of charts to work out what it means for them. (Truth be told, some astrologers do this, the rest of us buy the books and then do our own more limited research.)

By that test, Pluto earned his stripes in the astrological world very quickly. Cycles of roughly 245 years (Pluto’s cycle in the tropical zodiac) appear fairly consistently in history, and transits of Pluto to natal horoscope positions are easily identifiable as huge turning points in the lives of individuals.

No two astrologers practice their art exactly the same way. There are some who use ancient techniques who have no use for Uranus, Neptune, or Pluto at all. There are others who use everything, including various collections of asteroids. There are others who use the 10 regular chart objects and several mythical objects that don’t physically exist as far as we can tell.

Me? I use Sun thru Pluto, one other dirty snowball called Chiron, a couple of significant nodal points, the “horoskopos” (ascendant) and the Medium Coeli (meridian).

Astrologers are far more interested in the fundamental usefulness of an object in the various forms of astrology one might practice, than they are in the scientific classification of solar system objects.

In short, astrology does not rely on astronomy’s classification methods for determining significance.

Pluto’s demotion by astronomers does not diminish its effectiveness as an astrological tool. Astronomy and Astrology are two separate studies that rely on some common information.

Take Care


The Impetus for Change

I was catching up on Cameron Getto’s excellent blog today, and came across this article.

Being that Cameron’s post is over a week old, I figured I should re-post my comment here.

The context (for those of you who haven’t read Cameron’s post) is the disenfranchising of the worker’s bargaining position through legislation that makes strikes illegal, staged in the broader context of the corruption that comes with power.

My comment to that issue reads as follows:

Coming from a country where the Government, the Industry leaders, and the Trade Unions sit together at an annual summit to set basic wages, cost of living increases, standards for working conditions and so forth, yeah I can see the benefits of a strong Union movement to a country's overall productivity and stability. We occasionally have major strikes, and when they occur, they bring the entire country to a standstill. We also have a living wage, national health, and a strong social security net, and we don’t pay much more tax than you do here.

Big business is working very hard to disenfranchise the unions in my home country. Bit by bit, with a long-standing conservative government at the helm, they are doing it. Big money is going to work to keep that government in power.

In its most progressive phases of history, the US is very conservative by world standards, and when it runs into a conservative slump like it has now, it is so much more so.

Neither political party is blameless in empowering the wealthy and disenfranchising the individuals who generate that wealth.

This bodes ill for the trade union movement, who rely on the impetus for change to drive their case forward.

How bad does it have to get before there is impetus for change? The answer is obviously “worse than it is”.

The greatest enemy facing both of our great nations is indifference. The average American and the average Australian are having a hard time working up a "give a shit" sufficient to the task.

Until that changes, we can piss and moan all we want, but not much will change.

Take Care



In Print again...

This time, in a letter to the editor on a subject I care about a lot.

The article that raised my ire was this one.

My response was published here.

However, I was in a pretty acrid mood that night, so they edited my work fairly heavily.

This is my original response, with a "1.00 am grammar" mistake fixed, but otherwise verbatim.

Your September 26, opinion column “Life is really not in the stars” by Astronomer Daniel B. Caton is a classic example of an expert holding forth about something entirely out of the realm of his expertise.

Asking an astronomer for an astrological opinion is like asking a lab technician for a medical opinion. He might know something, but chances are he doesn’t. To carry the allegory one step further, this “technician” would say all doctors are charlatans because he met a charlatan who called himself a doctor.

While astrology relies upon good astronomy for accurate results, the reverse is not the case. An astronomer knows nothing about astrology unless he or she has taken a separate course of study.

It is clear that Caton has taken no such study. His cheap shot anecdote about an illusionist writing astrology columns in ignorance, and Caton’s own irrelevant and insignificant, “experiments” with his students do not qualify as study.

They do, together, qualify as pseudoscientific piffle.

There are charlatans everywhere. Some of them write poor or misleading astrology columns. Others opine about things they know nothing about.

Rodney Smith