Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The Devil and Ramsey Clark

Ramsey Clark was a law man, born to it. Son of a Supreme Court Justice. Prosecutor of Viet Nam war protesters, including the sainted Dr. Benjamin Spock. Even though Clark agreed with the anti-warriors he prosecuted to the full extent, 'cause the law is the law and it must be obeyed. Folks said Ramsey Clark was such a great lawyer that during a trial when he just looked up at a judge, his honor would immediately say "objection sustained." They said if you cut Ramsey Clark with a knife, statutes and concurring opinions would pour out from the wound.

But that didn't stop folks eyes from a rolling and tongues from wagging when Ramsey Clark sat down at the defense table of the worse defendant anybody had ever seen. The defendant was known by many names. Some called him "the butcher," to some he was "the Tyrant" many didn't call him anything 'cause he had killed them. And to their families the defendant was just "the devil." The devil had been brought to trial for crimes against humanity, divinity and common decency. And his chances of acquittal did not look good.

The jury was twelve grieving widows of the devil's victims. Who wiped their tears with severed arms and hands of their murdered spouses.
The prosecuting attorney was St. Michael the Archangel and the presiding judge was the Lord God Almighty.

The prosecuting angel pointed to the list of charges with his fiery sword and called upon the souls of the unjustly killed to cry out their testimony against the devil. They wept forth the pain of their suffering at the devil's hand. They wailed miserably recalling long imprisonment, torture and horrors only the dead could bear to repeat. They spoke of families split, loyalties betrayed, pleas for mercy unheeded and spirits of the innocent crushed.

When the deceased had finished their testimony some in the court swore they'd noticed a tear in the eye of the devil himself. By the time the prosecution rested. Ramsey Clark, all present in the room and all watching on Court TV knew his client was in trouble. There was no doubt that what was alleged had occurred. There was no debate about who had ordered the atrocities. It was clear the hearts of judge and jury ached for the blood of that heartless devil. Ramsey was none too fond of the creature himself. But you would not have known any of that when Ramsey Clark stood to address the court.

"Your honor if you please, I have but one witness to call." said Clark, "I call to the stand... the prosecuting attorney Michael the Archangel of G-d." A hush fell over the courtroom since no one had ever heard the like of such a thing. "Highly irregular" mumbled the judge our Lord. "Outrageous." muttered the jury. "Legal" said Ramsey Clark. And nobody could disagree.

The prosecuting angel moved slowly to the witness chair, looked up at the lord and did not have to swear since all knew his testimony would be true. "Archangel" said Ramsey Clark. "How came you to this land to capture this devil and gather this evidence?" "By holy and righteous war." Michael shot back. "What court" asked Clark, "issued your warrant?" The angel thought a moment, then sat straight up in his chair and declared "The court of conscience. I saw what had to be done and I did it." "Then you claim no legal warrant." Clark said, "No judge authorized your invasion. No law sanctioned your deeds."

At that the angel grew red about the face. His eyes narrowed and he stared fiercely at his legal foe. "Even now Mr. Clark? Knowing all the evil this devil has done, will you still help him hide behind the law?" Clark answered, "The law is a strong tree. Whomever it protects I stand by it. Would you, good angel cut down that tree?" The angel thunderously replied, "With the strong arm of a righteous G-d I would. I'd cut down all the trees of the earthly forest to get at that that ungodly devil." "Oh," said Ramsey Clark, stroking his stubby chin, "And when the last tree was down and the devil turned on you where would you hide, all the laws being flat? When the winds of injustice blew against you, good angel where would you find shelter? I grant this devil law's protection not for his sake but for my own and yours." and with that Ramsey Clark turned and walked back to his seat. "Your honor the defense rests."

The judge, God Almighty, drew in a breath so deep it pulled half the life from the room. "The jury" He said, "Will retire to consider it's verdict." The Jury forewoman turned briefly to her colleagues then stood and calmly said, "We have our verdict Lord. We find the defendant not guilty. It may not be exactly according to the evidence but even in grief we too can stand for justice."

Folks say that after the verdict, as the courtroom emptied, the Devil reached out his hand to thank Ramsey Clark but Clark refused the shake saying, "Today the law's a tree that protects you with its vigor. Tomorrow it may be a pistol and I'll be glad to pull it's trigger."

Wednesday, November 16, 2005

The Hawk

They say God was in a particularly foul mood one day. The stars weren’t twinkling right - electromagnetism wasn’t attracting properly, and the priests...well, we don’t even want to talk about what they were doing.

God had just had it. Back in biblical times an angry God used to just wipe out humanity. But over the last five thousand years the Lord has ahd a lot of therapy, counselling, hung with the Dalai Lama some - she’s not so violent anymore. This particular day God just counted to ten, took a deep breath and released all her rage, exasperation and divine anger in one icy breath.

They say this frozen, Godly breath became a cold wind and it circled the universe for a billion years. They say the cold wind blew through chunks of space dust and froze them into comets. They say the wind finally came to rest on earth and once here it came to the place that most reminded it of its home back in heaven, Chicago.

We call this cold, angry Chicago wind - the Hawk.
In the summer the Hawk just lazes around the surface of Lake Michigan keeping the sailboats going and blowing flies, mosquitoes and unwary suburbanites away from the city. But there is something about really cold winter days that brings out the worst in the Hawk. It gets riled up, and starts acting mean. On frigid February days the Hawk blows in off a wintry Lake Michigan looking for trouble. It sweeps down from the northern suburbs. Some folks say the chill starts even further north, closer to Wisconsin, but stuff that far from Chicago is hardly worth considering.

The Hawk turns 5 degrees into minus 17, it can turn zero into thirty below. Jumbo Jets fear the Hawk. There’ll be two or three times every year when O’Hare field will just shut down ‘cause the Hawk has taken over the runways and there’s nothing anybody can do about it.

In the city proper the Hawk has that urban energy. It passes over the hard bodies of ten thousand frozen rats picking up icy anger from their dead, cold spirits. Fur coats, ski masks and fuzzy mittens just make the Hawk mad it takes that stuff as a sign of disrespect. You can wear five layers of Afghan issue nuclear powered thermal long johns, which might keep you warm for a little while but the Hawk doesn’t give up. It will keep pressing, swirling around you, probing for openings. First you might start to feel a little chilly around your wrists or ankles, wherever the layering is thinnest. That’s the tip of the Hawk’s beak. From there it’s just a matter of time till the cold works it’s way to your fingers and toes and then to your head and then - to your heart. It will drive you shivering to your knees crying frozen tears and swearing “enough!” You will vow to leave this vicious inhuman cold and go somewhere warm and sunny when you think about all the other places in the world you could be and how they compare with where you are.

You’ll take in a deep icy breath. You’ll stand back up straight and you’ll say to yourself what Chicagoans have been saying for a hundred and seventy years. The only thing we can say in the face of the Hawk is...”Bring it on!”

Lawnchairs in Winter

You can tell winter has arrived in Chicago when the lawn chairs start coming out. Yeah that’s right, lawn chairs in the winter.

First you gotta understand about Chicago Snow. In Chicago the snow is political. We elect and throw out mayors based on how they handle the show. They say that in election years the mayor assigns one city worker for each snowflake.

Then there’s Chicago show itself. Ours ain’t like that snow. Chicago snow is not the wimpy, New England, go visit grandma in the sleigh kind of snow you you see in the movies. Ours is city snow; tough, heavy, darker and meaner than that picture postcard stuff. Just get to the streets of Chicago snow has got to pass through a gauntlet of chimney soot, factory smokestacks, pigeons and auto exhaust. Only the toughest flakes make it to our town and only the toughest Chicagoans shovel it.

Once the snow hits the ground in Chicago it gets even tougher and to us more beautiful. Since a Chicago winter can last two, maybe three years the snow can hang around for a while. After a few weeks our snow ripens to a lovely gray, like the hair of a beautiful mature woman. And we become more respectful of it, being careful where we step on it knowing the beneath that gorgeous gray is just about pure dog poop.

A lot of Chicagoans don’t like garages, even some people who could afford ‘em. We think of our cars like the Eskimos think of their sled dogs; we figure exposure to the elements toughens them up.

Normally we don’t sweat a little snowstorm. Half a foot, no big deal, we just break out some lunchroom trays and use ‘em as sleds to slide down the hills in Lincoln park. But when the show gets to be about a foot deep we have to dig our cars out of their parking spaces.

That’s why we have the lawn chairs. When you have spent two hours shoveling your ninety-seven Impala out of the out of a parking spot, you do not want to come home to find your space taken by some (disdainfully) VW Beetle or worse one of then Cooper Minis. Those are the cars Chicagoans put in our glove compartments. They’re lucky we let then on the streets of our beloved city. But they definitely don’t deserve our shoveled out spaces.

So to prevent such travesties we put lawn furniture in our newly cleared out parking spots to remind people to respect our labor. So if you’re in Chicago some winter and see a lawn chair resting proudly between two big mounds of snow. Sit down and take a load off. Then when the spots hard workin’ owner comes back. Congratulate ‘em on a spot well dug.


I assume our national leaders thank their lucky stars they live in Washington DC and not Texas. Andrea Yates has been in prison since 2002 because she killed five people she thought she should kill. All sides in the case agreed that Andrea Yates suffered severe post-partum depression. That she truly believed her children needed to be killed was never questioned. But in Texas mere mental illness leading to the belief that what you did was right don't keep you out prison.
In Washington DC, on the other hand, hundreds of congresspeople, senators and the like, tell us they believed at the time that all those Iraqis, none of whom had ever done anything to us, needed attacking. the congresspeople and senators were of course, as Colin Powell said, "Dead wrong."

But in the nation's capitol, more than 100,000 deaths later, unlike Andrea Yates, politicians get to say, "Oops, my bad. Let's move on. Hey, how 'bout those tax cuts!"
On that TV show, "Texas Justice," imagine what Judge Larry Joe would say to one of our pro-invasion senators. "Now your story is; you authorize a war, bombing and killing and such, 'cause you read that some Iraqi tole some Englishman that some other Iraqi had weapons that hadn't nobody ever seen hide nor hair of? You know son I was born at night but it wasn't LAST night."
I guess if Andrea Yates had been in Washington DC not only would she have avoided trail but to have questioned her about what she did would have be considered siding with our enemies in the war on mental illness.

Less Democracy Please

Could sombody please stop the spread of democracy in the Middle East? I do not like the way it's turning out. Iran for example has been having elections for almost thirty years, since the overthrow of the Shah, and look who wins them. Iran's election have produced presidents ranging from moderate right wingers like Abul Hassan Boni Sadr to full-tilt ultra-religious wingnuts like current president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad whose politics appear to only slightly to the left of Pat Robertson.

Iraq's democracy has provided some interesting political innovations including their pre-election ritual of having 20% of the electorate bombed by a foreign power. Nonetheless Iraq democracy has turned the country from a secular, socialist state into an Islamic republic aligned with Iran. Iraq's two biggest political parties, the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and DAWA are not just supported by Iran but were created in Iran during the reign of the Ayatollah Kohmeini. Which is fine, Iraqis have every right to vote in whatever government they want but does America have to pay 6 billion dollars a month for it?

Among Palestinians their first round of elections brought us President Yassir Arafat and now the big political dog is Hamas which wins election after election no matter how many of their leaders Israel blows up. Which is all fine, "Self determination," I'm down with it but I'm worried the cancer of middle east democracy will matastecize to other Arab nations. From what I read if democratic elections were held in Saudia Arabia the biggest votes would go the the Saudi Nuke Israel Party followed by the Burn Israel Party and running a close third would be the Drive the Jews into the sea party.

It's not like we don't know how to put the brakes on Islamic democracy. Back in 1991 Algerian voters seemed on the brink of electing an Islamist government and the ruling party, supported by France and the US, just canceled the elections and outlawed the Islamist parties. But I'm sure there are less in your face, more artful ways of... not frustrating Middle Eastern democracy but calming it down. We got the the Deiboldt Corporation and Karl Rove could be looking for a new job any day now.

Again, I'm all over democracy within reason. But full-frontal democratic governments, ones that put into action the genuine will a majority of the people is a fine idea in theory but in practice it's scary as hell. I'm sure that's why we've done away with it here in the United States.

Physics and Jews

I love that physics is so religious. Listening these Nobel-prize winning ultra-materialists talk you’d think you were in church. Einstein spent half his life trying to prove that G-d doesn’t play dice. Steven Hawking, says G-d not only plays dice but rolls them where we can not see. And this is even after Neils Bohr told all them physicists to, and I quote, “stop telling G-d what to do.” But it never stops, physics are forever speculating on “the mind of G-d” and trying to figure out whether if in creating the world G-d had any choices. More recently physicist Leon Lederman wrote a whole book about “G-d Particle.” Is this a physics lab or a revival tent?

Physics and Judaism definitely share ideas, for example both embrace mono-creationism, that our universe was created and remains animated by a single, all-powerful thing. Physicist call it the energy of the big bang, rabbis call it the power of G-d. But they agree that all existence, from Britney Spears’ baby to Usama Bin Laden’s beard, is powered by that one phenomenon.

Physics and Judaism also have the same idea about the nature of G-d which is: “I dunno.” A lot of us don’t even write out the word, “G-O-D,” we instead write “G- dash- d,” lest we delude ourselves that we have even the beginnings of an understanding of G-d’ nature. Physicists are less with total ignorance but insist on it anyway. Any proton pusher or beam jockey can show you beautiful math to explain what happened half a second after the big bang and paint you grand, elegant pictures of what happened since. But the moment of the bang, the moment before it? There matnatics crumbles. Equations deliver nonsense. Physicists call their unknowable creator “singularity.”

Both Judaism and physics deal with their uncertainty deity my means of extremely precise methodology. The rituals of both the Jews and the physicist are so minutely detailed that people with obsessive compulsive disorder look at them and say, “Damn, you didn’t have to do all that!”

Both observant Jews and responsible physicists are required to behave with immense precision and like it or not, and they mostly don’t, they must accept that G-d is not only stranger than they know, she is stranger than they can know.

Maybe that’s why there are so few physicists and and so few Jews.


I Google "Scooter Libby." I click on the Justice Department web site and there's the Libby indictment. On indictment page one, count one, paragrah "A," sentence one it says, "Beginning on or about January20, 2001 and continuing through the date of this indictment, defendent I. Lewis Libby, also known as "Scooty Libby," was employed as Assistant to the President of the United States, comma." I say, "Say wha-" "Assistant to the president of the United States?" I'm reading this the same week Newsweek's cover says "Cheney's Man." Then I look up the salaries of the top White House staff. "Assistant to the President" tops the White House pay scale. A hundred and sixty one thousand dollars a year. Not too shabby. So now I'm really curious as to how come I don't know this. How come headlines don't say "Two of the President's top aides involved in CIA leakgate?"

I call my friend the dashing network anchor and ask, "How come I don't know Scooter Libby was "Assistant to the President?" Dashing Network Anchor says, "You mean assistant to the Vice President." The same thing when I call my friend the big time editor, "Vice President, Cheney's guy." Then I call my friend the Media Decision Maker. I say, "Scooter... assistant to the PRESIDENT? Is there some kind of policy you guys got at your fancy news organization not to mention that little nugget?" Media Decision Maker says, from a great height, "You mean assistant to the VICE president." "No I mean Assistant to the President, you know, Bush 43 who wishes his poll numbers were that high? According to the indictment and the salary Libby's number one job was 'Assistant to the President.' Did you read the indictment?" Media Decision maker says, "Well, no but I'll get back to you."

On the one hand it's conforting that, at least among my media friends, there's no conspiracy to protect the president. On the other hand it is terrifying that prestigious journalists reporting to millions are relying on second hand information spun by G-d knows who. My reporter friends are good, honorable people. But they're also mostly my age and have, I believe, 20th century news habits. When they Google they tend not to click the department of Justice site for the Libby indictment or to read the actual committee report on prewar WMD claims. Instead they click on the Washington Post or New York Times' coverage of those documents. That used to be the best we could do.

But like I said, I feel better thinking there is no conspiracy by the press to protect the president. Although there is that Newsweek cover story "Cheney's Man." Within the article is an insert graphic of that pictures the top half of page one of the Libby indictment as if it had been torn from the rest. In the jagged edge of the graphic tear just happens to delete the phrase "Assistant to the President." But again, I'm sure it's just coincidence.