Thursday, January 25, 2007

highwayscribery: Nuts, But Not a Terrorist Organization

People are buzzing about the response of Virginia Democratic Senator Jim Webb’s televised response to w.’s STATE OF THE UNION(!) speech.

the scribe hasn’t watched one of these spectacles in seven years, because the scribe has never recognized the little usurper as true leader of the American people.

You have to do more than steal an election to gain the highwayscribery imprimatur.

Webb, a novelist, made waves before even taking his oath when this exchange with w. became fodder for the chattering classes.

w.: How’s your boy Jim?

[editorial note: Jim’s “boy” is an infantry Marine in Iraq.]

Jim: I’d like to get him outta there Mr. [p]resident.

w. That’s not what I asked you. I asked how’s your boy?

Jim: That’s between me and my boy.

George Will, who makes much of how the deeply Democratic (as in Party) District of Columbia is out of touch with America, was APPALLED. He dedicated his valuable column space nationwide to a piece in which he called Webb, “a boor.”

What D.C. George didn’t understand is that people all over the country, no, the world, have been waiting for someone to get within shouting distance of the little man and say something similar...for a long time.

Rather than get laughed out of the capital city for diverging from the usual comity, Webb got a shot at addressing the nation and dished more of the same.

But important writers like the “Washington Post’s” E.J. Dionne Jr., are covering the address and the good things it means for Democrats, so highwayscribery thought it was time to do a little blogger’s work and shed light on news that falls into the interstices and canyons of coverage left undeveloped by the big boys.

At issue then is an article in the “Contra Costa (California) Times” written by one Steve Geissinger.

It’s about a new proposed law by Assemblyman Michael Duvall (R) and Assemblyman Chuck DeVore (R), that would, Geissinger writes, “give authorities power to grill and fire state and local government workers tied to terrorist groups or donating to them, as well as public educators who teach, ‘untruths’ about terrorism.”

That’s a stupid law and, as Senate Majority Leader Dom Perata (D) said in the same piece, wreaks of McCarthyism.

It is an article of faith at highwayscribery that the American right wing is very good at playing on inherent nativist sentiments in our noble and rather isolated people, and that nothing works better in cowing political activism than cooking up a bogeyman with which to, yes, terrorize everybody.

This Web log has said, on more than one occasion, that following a decade-long dry spell, the 9-11 attacks had given the Republican Party [we freely interchange “GOP” with “right wing”] a perfect club with which to beat the American people.

By way of proof we have the DeVore/Duvall legislation (AB137) in which DeVore says he sought the deletion of obsolete laws from the 1950s dealing with the great Red scare, “but saved some parts, inserting provisions to guard against terrorists.”

And so you can see that (r)epublicans engage in a free interchange of the nouns “terrorist” and “communist,” aiming to apply old laws against the latter, to pounce on the former.

We promise to stop if they do.

A communist is someone who believes in a collective society and, in many cases, thinks it must be attained through violent revolution. A terrorist is someone who blows up people in market places and office buildings, for any number of reasons, rational, religious, or nihilistic.

There are many differences between the two, but that would involve an exhaustive analysis.

We promise to do one if Duvall and DeVore promise the same.

the scribe’s problem with the legislation can be found in the paragraph quoted above: that business about firing people who are “tied” to terrorist groups, or have “donated” to them.

The definition of “terrorist,” and/or “tied” being the government’s call, thank you.

A hypothetical: the scribe’s sister-in-law gave a party some years ago and, apropos of nothing, asked for donations to a group supporting Afghani women who were presumed to be in trouble for any number of reasons, starting with the U.S. war against their homeland.

People gave and went back to the keg for a refill.

Let’s say that group supporting Afghani women found their name on a flyer, with a bunch of other groups, calling for an end to “the U.S. invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq.” Let’s say the kid who was manning the underfunded storefront office was on her cellphone with a buddy and got a call on the land-line from the coalition asking permission to use her group’s name on the flyer and she said “yes” before getting back to her buddy.

Now let’s say a group or two in that coalition listed on the flyer are legitimate terror organizations as defined by the United States Government.

Are the people at the sister-in-law’s party guilty of donating to terrorist organizations?

Very possibly, and if they are, it’s going to cause them a lot of grief and misery proving otherwise.

Another hypothetical: During the first Iraq war, the scribe and his allies in the poetry troupe “the Elegant mob,” thought it proper to revive their moribund literary review “READ” and pipe-up about their opposition to that conflict.

Old as it is, that issue of READ encapsulates far-left and artnick sentiment on the whole ghastly business still going on over there. It is a sentiment characterized by horror at the mere idea of Usama bin-Laden or Moqta al-Sadr, but satisfied the U.S. got up their noses and the noses of bad people like him with regional policies it should have been wiser in applying.

In the central manifesto of that issue, the highway scribe (in making some point or other) noted that our country lived in a dangerous bubble reality different from the world around, and that it was, “nothing a few well guided missiles landing in Austin, Texas wouldn’t cure.”

You have to admit, that was mighty prescient of the scribe. But you’re (we hope) not a federal agent who could easily construe the statement as proof of the scribe’s PAST SUPPORT FOR TERRORISM.

And that would be a tough fight, because of the difficulty in reconstructing the far-left, smokey-roomed, up-all-night, avant-garde art world in which the scribe’s words were scribbled, and because a jury might not take kindly, at all, to the angry and sarcastic portrayals of the American war effort his collaborators concocted.

And that is if there were a fight. Remember, a lot of people caught in these kinds of quandaries are “enemy combatants” rotting in Guantanamo or some CIA secret prison when a simple hearing might sort them out from the true “evil doers.”

And as highwayscribery made clear in "Gitmo Girl (or Lady Lawyer in Yemen)", a lot of guys kooling their Korans in jail may simply have been guilty of being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

The DeVore/Duvall provision against teaching “untruths” is also scary. As much as the right-wing rails at the idea of moral relativism, determining truth is a tricky business.

Unless of course, you’ve been indicted by the government, whose definition of truth trumps yours: whose terrorist may be your freedom fighter, or the freedom fighter of an acquaintance you made one night.


Chuck DeVore said...

I appreciate the comments, but clearly you have not read the bill, AB 137.

Also, I know full well the difference between “terrorist” and “communist” having studied comparative political thought at Claremont McKenna College and American University in Cairo, Egypt. That there is a difference in the above two categories of people in their beliefs and methods does not render invalid the adaptation of law on the books meant for one group into a new law for another.

As for an “exhaustive analysis” of the differences between the two, allow me to provide one: the chief means of qualifying to be one of the 42 foreign terrorist organizations is by kidnapping or killing an American citizen in the past five years.

As for the “scribe’s problem with the legislation” regarding donating to a foreign terrorist organization, if one reads the bill, one will readily discover that the bill mirrors current federal prohibitions. Further, that the bill proscribes knowing membership or financial donations to a foreign terrorist organization while on the state payroll. Similar provisions against active members of the Communist Party (vs. a democratic Marxist), have, in fact, been upheld by the Courts as reasonable restrictions on employment. Thus, in the hypothetical case suggested, the “scribe’s sister-in-law” who gave to a charitable cause to assist “Afghani women” would first of all have to be on the state payroll, and second of all have to be knowingly assisting a foreign terrorist organization.

Your second hypothetical doesn’t really even make much sense. Past support for terrorism is not prohibited in the law (again, it helps if the “scribe” were to first READ the bill, rather than simply WRITE about it). Knowing support for a foreign terrorist organization while on the state payroll is, however, prohibited.

As for the teaching of “untruths” on the state payroll while a member or financial contributor of a foreign terrorist organization, please allow me to elaborate. I do not think it helpful for the peace and welfare of the people of the State of California that a professor on the state payroll would teach that the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” is a truthful document, rather than the Tsarist-era secret police forgery that it is, designed to justify pogroms and the killing of Jewish people in Russia. Yet, many foreign terrorist organizations today use “Protocols,” along with Holocaust denial, as part of their propaganda arsenal to justify the killing of certain people and the destruction of an internationally recognized state, Israel. Now, the bill does not outlaw Holocaust denial conferences (as is the case in Germany), nor does it outlaw the teaching of the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” as fact – it only does so by people who are members of foreign terrorist organizations and are trying to advance their hateful and destructive agendas while on the payroll of the people of the State of California.

I hope this clears a few things up for you.

I look forward to the ongoing debate as I try to repeal the nine Cold War era statutes in California’s Education Code and Government Code and replace some or all of them with appropriate and reasoned restrictions on using a position of trust or authority in state government to advance a violent and hateful cause.

All the best,

Chuck DeVore
California State Assemblyman, 70th District

highwayscribery said...


What the..what are you doing here?

Listen, (and first) the scribe studies comparative political thought every day of his life at home with resources from the public library, so no pulling rank on us small fries big guy. Second, the highway scribe thinks the difference DOES invalidate the adaptation. Life is nuanced and legislation is too important to be dropping in one pariah where another once existed. Third, that's a very neat and clean definition of terrorist. Do you think it applies to everyone under suspicion of the charge right now? Mark Twain warned that, "lawmakers know the laws they draft by their words, not by their effects." Fourth, mirroring federal legislation is not a virtue here at highwayscribery (but you couldn't know that). Fifth, same goes for earlier litigation targeting leftists in the U.S. We didn't like what the courts said then and hope to avoid another generation of witch hunts now. Sixth, who said she wasn't a state employee? Anyway,what we on the left see in such provisions is a hallmark of creeping Fascism, wherein one group at a time is done away with until those left at the end have nowhere to turn, never having cared because the persecution was someone else's problem. Seventh, the scribe's sister-in-law might rot in jail and then, if lucky, get to spend a lot of money proving the fact she didn't "knowingly" assist a foreign terror organization. Most federal cases turn on this simple distinction. Scooter Libby is a good and current case in point. Eighth, point taken, the scribe will hold his nose and read the bill, but thinks you know his critique is general rather than particular: that we shouldn't go around making terrorism the new communism. The old charge of "red" destroyed a lot of unnecessary lives.. Finally, the "untruth" provisions sound well-intentioned, but the scribe's fear revolves around the need to tar someone with the "terrorist supporter" brush before slamming them with the "untruths" charge, which is a double slam made worse by the fearful and suspicious environment such a law creates.

But thanks for dropping by.

Chuck DeVore said...

My pleasure. I enjoy the debate.

All the best,

Chuck DeVore
State Assemblyman, 70th District