Category Archives: Bill Clinton

Arrogance

Neither the Democratic Party nor Hillary Clinton recognized the deep-seated antiestablishment sentiment in this country that Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders represented. They stayed in their bubble and ignored evidence that was building throughout the spring and summer of 2016 and crowned one of the most disliked people ever to grace the stage as their nominee, giving lip service to the bold and popular work of Sanders. Now they are shocked, shocked, that the others, the voters so enlivened by the two outsider campaigns, still hated the Clintons and all they represent.

Their arrogance, their disdain for Sanders and their manipulating of the media and the DNC led directly to the hell we are now facing. Sure, blame Donald Trump too. But I’m done with the whole pack of them and will have nothing to do with the Democrats again.

Bill Clinton, criminal law, and political machinations

Although much is made of the 1994 crime bill, superpredators et al., in today’s election, a more damning demonstration of Slick Willy’s attempt to out-Republican the Republicans can be found in The Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) passed in 1996 after the Oklahoma City bombing. The Republicans had won the 1994 midterm election with Newt Gingrich’s notorious “Contract with America” (known in liberal circles as the Contract on America) and the Oklahoma City bombing seemed tailor-made for the law-and-order Republicans to play havoc with justice issues, including the 1994 crime bill.

Hoping to head off any tampering with his crime bill, Clinton and his administration hoped to kill two birds with one stone with AEDPA. Not only did it target the sorts of terrorism involved in Oklahoma, but also the “endless” appeals in death penalty cases which meant that inmates could wait years for an execution that might never happen. The mechanism by which this delay occurred was the time-honored and constitutionally guaranteed Writ of Habeas Corpus.

Habeas corpus is one of those often misunderstood and frequently disregarded rights that our forefathers were rightfully strongly in favor of. The writ allows judicial review of incarcerations as a result of actions in state courts  that may have violated constitutional guarantees and national standards of due process. It was one of the areas where our noble revolutionaries of the 18th century saw the autocratic hand of the monarchy as a cudgel against fairness and constitutional guarantees. Habeas corpus was a cornerstone of our revolutionary past.

Clinton’s aim was to restrict habeas corpus to one attempt started within one year of the end of state appeals. On its face, there’s nothing wrong with such a limitation. In fact, however, the problems with a prosecution may not be found for many years, and such a limitation cuts off advances in science or forensics that may establish a defendant’s innocence beyond a reasonable doubt. A case in point is DNA evidence. While new cases have shown some of the problems with relying on DNA evidence to prove a case, its use in disproving a case has never been stronger. The Innocence Project has won the release of many prisoners when DNA evidence has excluded the defendant from the pool of possible committers of the crime. Because of AEDPA, habeas corpus can no longer be used in the case of evidence of the defendant’s innocence, and nothing more strongly shows how warped and unconstitutional AEDPA is than the fact that habeas corpus cannot be used for its original purpose so important to our legacy.

And what, you might ask, did this violation of such an important constitutional principle have to do with the Oklahoma City bombing, the trigger for this heinous act? The Clinton White House hosted a meeting with survivors and family members of the victims of the bombing. One of their alleged complaints was the incessant appeals that would allow the terrorists the ability to tie up the courts with appeals for years. Clinton, facing re-election and determined to beat the Republicans at their own game, created this draconian truncation of the habeas corpus writ to prove he was “tough on crime,” a racial dog whistle at the time as shown by the 1994 crime bill.

The AEDPA was passed, without the support of Bernie Sanders, and is in use today under the most bizarre and surreal circumstances. The conviction of two farmers in Oregon under a provision of the AEDPA led to the standoff at the Malheur Wildlife Refuge in Oregon and to the horror that they were convicted under a terrorist statute.  How so? The AEDPA made it a 25 year felony with a mandatory 5 year sentence to those who willfully and maliciously burned federal property, including grazing land.

While we may laugh at the irony to which the statute was used in Oregon, we cannot laugh at the the number of prisoners who must stay in prison because the unfairness of their convictions was not raised within the new time limits enacted in the AEDPA, whether they could know of the unfairness then or not. We have an evolving law with regard to rights and due process, and a whole class of criminals are barred now from challenging their convictions because Bill Clinton wanted to out-Republican the Republicans to insure his re-election in 1996.

 

 

What Bill Clinton Did in Africa

As African Americans all over this country fall in line to vote for Hillary Clinton because she is good for them, among the many sins of her husband was the continuing of the rape of the Democratic Republic of Congo begun by Belgian King Leopold in the late nineteenth century. Long before Slick Willy became president, back in the early ’60s, the CIA ousted the democratically elected president of that country, Patrice Lumumba, because he intended to keep the resources of his country for his people to have the benefit from them. Among the minerals present in large quantity was cobalt, an element necessary in most electronics, including American weapons systems and military aircraft. Our government was involved in the assassination of Lumumba and installation of the tyrant Mobutu Sese Seko.

Clinton came into the picture after 30+ years of CIA support for the dictator, who was responsible for the deaths of as many as six million of his subjects. Why? Because Mobutu was becoming an embarrassment, and was talking, like Lumumba, of nationalizing the mineral extraction from his country. Under Clinton’s NSA. funds for a coup and training were given to Laurent Kabila, then a rebel against Mobutu, with the understanding that western access to the minerals would be maintained at the level necessary for western corporations. Laurent Kabila became President of the country, and continued brutal oppression of various ethnic groups , of which there were over 450 in that large land.

Abby Martin, the journalist behind The Empire Files, has created a wonderful entry into her series, called How the World Runs on Looting the Congo.   I recommend it highly. She goes into much greater detail than I can here, and has as her guest one of the many exiles from the Congo since the Kabila family took over.

The US has taken an unhealthy military stance in Africa, and has gone to great lengths to hide it. The Intercept, Glenn Greenwald’s current haven for investigative journalism in this era of corporate ownership of the mass media and the dumbing down of network news, has given us the lively story of how a journalist was blackballed by the Pentagon for pursuing evidence of the US military presence in Africa, How a Simple Request Got Me Blackballed by the Pentagon, a horror story of abuse of FOIA procedures intent on keeping evidence of the military’s vast and growing presence on that beleaguered continent still struggling to find its way clear of its colonial past.

These stories dovetail, and do not tell a pleasant story about how our politicians and military have decided that Africa is too important to our military-industrial complex to be allowed to control itself and its own destiny. This is the price we are paying as a nation for allowing the corporatization of politics and the hegemony of the Defense Department. If we want to stay uninformed about this atrocity and put our heads in the sand, we can continue to waste so much of our income on the military and corporate welfare, costing lives and societies in Africa their freedom and self-determination without interference from the wealthy of this world. Or we can join Bernie’s revolution and fight against the dehumanizing effects of our country’s misdeeds, and at the same time, help a continent that has been abused too long by the Western World.

Bill Clinton is a joke

Ex-presidents come in all sorts, from loved and revered, to astonishing, to awkward, to ill, but none has had a more unfortunate transformation than Bill Clinton. He used to have the political sense to speak well of those who could help him or support him, but that had clearly run in short supply in 2008 when his wife first sought the presidency. Then he made a number of bizarre and racist comments about the man who has become our current president. He faded into the woodwork after that, coming out only to find ways to make money off his Foundation. But he’s loose again and he’s lost whatever political sense he ever had.

Two recent incidents show that he has lost it and should be put out to pasture. The first is his now famous confrontation with Black Lives Matter protesters at a speech he gave a week or two ago. I’m sure we’ve all seen the video, probably more than once, where he ended up saying in more direct fashion what he intended with his draconian criminal justice rule in the 1990s. The unintended consequences of that law have been ably discussed in Michelle Alexander’s excellent The New Jim Crow.

The law was passed with incredibly harsh penalties aimed at urban crime. It was the statute about which Hillary Clinton made her now notorious claim about superpredators  who needed to be brought to heel. The dogwhistle in that comment was painfully obvious to those of us who lived through it. It was the beginning of my disdain for Hillary and she has done nothing to redeem herself over the intervening years. Bill tried to argue that she was referring to the gang leaders who sent juveniles out to do crimes, hopped up on crack, because they would face lower penalties if caught.  He also said that the juveniles had killed the lives that the protesters were saying mattered. He went on for some time, digging his hole deeper and deeper, although most videos only showed the first few comments he made. He’s lucky. The whole performance was appalling in its insensitivity to the fact that his law created the society in which police could take lives so cavalierly.

What made it worse was his condescending statement the next day when he said he “almost” wanted to apologize, but decided instead to turn it into a teachable moment.Yeah. I groaned as he began to explain that we would accomplish a lot more if we listened to each other and didn’t yell at each other. It would have better if he had kept that pearl of wisdom to himself.

Now I believe he has gone too far. His latest loose comment was to suggest that Bernie Sanders’ followers want to shoot every third Wall Street worker. It was, I believe, meant to be facetious but it was wrong on so many levels that there is no excuse for his having uttered it. He now claims it was a “total joke.” Really? When his wife was hammering Bernie for his views on guns the night before, and speaking over Bernie when it was his turn to respond? That’s another whole rant. Bernie is now being told that he shouldn’t have interrupted her by saying “Excuse me.” Everyone who watched that debate knew that Hillary was pushing her way into Bernie’s time and protesting what he was saying while he was still talking.

To make a joke the next day that Bernie’s supporters want to shoot people on Wall Street was so Trump-like as to shock the conscience. To make a joke out of gun violence when one of the primary stories in the news is the ongoing lawsuit by the families of Newtown, CT, against the makers of the guns that killed their family members is so outrageous that I would hope that Hillary would muzzle this attack dog if she has any hope of gaining support from Sanders’ supporters should she win the nomination.

I was never a big fan of Bill Clinton. He got my vote because the alternative was appalling after the Reagan-Bush 41 years. But a randy, smarmy lothario was not my ideal candidate for president. He could take some clues from Jimmy Carter about how to be an ex-president with dignity and concern for the future of the world. But Jimmy Carter was the last true Democratic president. The Ronny Raygun revolution converted the Third Way Clintons into Republicans-lite. Obama is a continuation of that trend without the venal nature of the Clintons. Obama has bought into the corporatist mindset of the new Democrats, and many current Democrats seem to have accepted the unlimited money from big business as one of the perks of being in politics.

If Bernie has proved one thing with his campaign, it’s that there is another source for money to run a campaign that does not require compromising one’s ethics by being bought and paid for by lobbyists. We are turning into a corporate run society. I suspect that only lip service will be given to our civil rights if this trend is not nipped when we have such a great chance to do it.

Most people go through their lives without thinking overly about being stopped and frisked or pulled over by cops while driving a little bit aggressively. They rely on their money being in the bank when they go to get it, and will kvetch when new barriers are put in the way of getting their money when they want it. They’re not very put out by what is happening in other parts of the country or other police departments, because there hasn’t been a shooting in their town recently. We are comfortable. We have great inertia. It is in times like this that we won’t pay as close attention to our rights as we should. We let Patriot Acts get passed. We let ill-intentioned people talk us into a war that costs lives, treasure, and a realistic hope for peace. In the second world war, we had concentration camps (no, don’t call them internment camps) to lock up American citizens out of an excess of xenophobia, without rights or recompense for the horrendous losses they suffered for out comfort.

We cannot afford to be comfortable. I don’t know who first said it, but I believe our duty on this earth is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. We can all do more to help those less advantaged than we are. Naysayers like Bill Clinton are no longer relevant, only inconvenient remnants of a time when money ruled. If this revolution of Bernie Sanders works, it will be the end of the excesses that allowed such facile use of Bill Clinton’s intellect to smother debate and denigrate honest and worthy people.