Friday, January 30, 2009

How to win a Supreme Court appeal & other helpful advice on how to become wise...

While watching a PBS special last week, I learned that most people go through a brain growth-spurt between the ages of approximately 55 and 65, similar to the increased brain development experienced by two-year-olds. The PBS program referred to this growth-spurt as a "wisdom bump". Hey, I'm 66. Perhaps it's not too late for my brain growth-spurt too. So I looked around for some way to stimulate my new wisdom bump. I know! I'll go to a meeting of the Berkeley-Albany Bar Association.

BABA's featured speaker this month was Myron Moskovitz, an attorney who specializes in writing briefs for lawyers who need help in appealing their cases to a higher court. Moskovitz has just published a revised edition of his legal classic, "Winning an Appeal".

I'm not a lawyer but, after hearing Moskovitz speak, it became fairly obvious even to me that this book will come in handy for any attorney considering doing appellate work. Why? Because whether you are pleading your case before a state supreme court or a federal one, you are going to need all the help you can get -- and Moskovitz is offering you some top-of-the-line help based on his own many years of experience.

"Let's say that you have a case that you think is a good one, you submit a good brief to the judge and you know that you are correct about the legal issues," said Moskovitz, "but the judge rules against you. What can you do next? You can make an appeal to a higher court." But on what grounds do you appeal your case? Moskovitz of course offered some tips on that issue.

"As an appellate lawyer, you have to stick with what's been given to you in the appeal. For instance, take the case of the beauty queen charged with drunk driving." Not much to dispute there. The cops have her blood test, they have her police report, they gots witnesses. She's pretty much nailed. "So you try to get the beauty queen off by pleading an erroneous jury instruction. 'Your Honor, it is granted that you can't touch the substance of this case -- but you need to look carefully at whether or not this person got a fair trial.'"

And then Moskovitz began offering us good advice regarding the fine points of winning your case smoothly once you've already determined the nuts-and-bolts grounds for your appeal. "There are two basic rules regarding winning an appeal. First, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the decider. The judge is not you. Try to think about what the judge cares about. And also realize that the judge doesn't want to be seen as just another law clerk, checking on citations of precedence and parroting back the laws. No, judges want justice."

Moskovitz is also an expert on rent control, having (literally) written the book. When he appealed a rent control case in Judge Rehnquist's court, he didn't try to sell rent control itself as the issue but rather framed his case as an issue of states' rights. "Look for justice issues. Try to give the decider a sense that there is justice in your case or convince him that the statute in your case is good. And try to convince the judge that the breach in the original case is not harmless."

Which brings us to Moskovitz's second basic rule when appealing a case. "Comply with the rules, sure, but more importantly, use your brain. Think clearly and carefully about your case." You need to follow court rules and legal customs but you also need to think. "Your brief must do all the work. Think of yourself as the manager of a baseball team. If you do it right, you increase the odds of winning no matter what kind of players you have."

When putting your brief to work, presentation is also very important. "Even the table of contents should be persuasive. And remember that appeals judges have other cases on the docket besides yours -- so your brief has to be easy to read. Use short paragraphs, simple language and lots of section headings."

Next you gotta watch out how you state your case. "Present it intelligently and clearly. Don't put in too much information. Leave out dates and such, unless there a reason for them to be in. When in doubt, leave it out. And don't bury your best argument in a lot of crap." Sounds like good advice to me.

"There is great power in the clear statement of facts. Writing an appeal is different from writing the original trial brief. You can't just put in whatever you want. Your job is to review the case. So the statement of facts must be relevant to the appeal. And the best way to state the facts is chronologically -- and in an orderly and clear manner. Never make a judge have to read a sentence over twice. And leave out all unnecessary information."

What else does your statement of facts need? According to Moskovitz, it needs DRAMA! "Always cite the record and establish credibility -- but make it easy reading for the judge. Describe the deeds in the case. Adjectives help. Never attack your opponent with words -- show his deeds. Let the trial judge know who the case's opponent is personally."

Regarding your appeal brief's argument section, "Stick to the law -- if you think that the law alone will win the case. But if you have doubts about your case's strengths in that area, two other factors will help you win the case: Facts and policy. Do more than just state the rule of law. State the facts of the case and then state the policies behind the law. Push the envelope here."

Then Moskovitz reminded us again to remember that judges are more than just law clerks. "Write your briefs with the standpoint of the judge in mind, not what the opposing lawyer is going to say or do." That's important. "And be courteous."

At the end your brief, you then get a crack at the all-important argument summary. "Your goal in the argument summary is to convince the judge, using only two or three pages. The summary should be a narrative, a gut thing. Don't cite. Pick three main arguments only, using the strongest one first. It doesn't matter how the judge reaches his decision as long as it's favorable to you. You have to get the judge to WANT to reverse the original decision -- but once you convince him to rule in your favor, a judge will try to find his own reason for doing it."

According to Moskovitz, appeal judges start with the assumption that the original trial judge was right and did a good job. "Trial judges are appeals judges' buddies. They get together over lunch." And speaking of lunch, we were meeting at the La Rose Bistro in downtown Berkeley and they served us an apple-pecan-arugula salad and salmon in a cream sauce with Mediterranean olives and artichoke hearts, followed by handmade chocolate ice cream for dessert.

Am I wiser and more intelligent after attending Attorney Moskovitz's lecture? Who knows. But he has given me some ideas for my own case (Stillwater vs. the Department of Defense) that may help me at my federal motion hearing on February 25 at 9:30 am in Courtroom F on the 15th Floor of the federal building at 450 Golden Gate Avenue in San Francisco. Also, I have been told that eating salmon is always good for one's brain.

PS: Here's the full title of Moskovitz's book: "Winning an Appeal: A Step-by-Step Explanation of how to Prepare and Present Your Case Efficiently and with Maximum Effectiveness, with a Sample Brief". You can order it at

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

9-11, Iraq & Gaza: How many conspiracy theories are enough?

I've been getting a lot of e-mails lately, all of them complaining about how I'm not telling the truth about what happened in Gaza. Hey, just because no news media was allowed into Gaza during the slaughter (even Israeli solders weren't allowed to take their cell phones into Gaza because Olmert didn't want anybody taking pictures, didn't want any proof), that doesn't mean that it didn't happen.

But then dead children tell no tales.

All this pressure on me lately to simply "Shut up!" about Gaza reminds me of the times back in the bad old days when I thought there was something fishy about 9-11. "Bush knew!" I cried. "How could he not?" And if he didn't know, then the man should have been jailed for criminal stupidity. The documents telling him that something was up were right there on his desk.

And remember back in 2003, when if you even hinted that the War on Iraq was based on a lie, you were called unpatriotic -- and even a traitor? And we all know what happened there. Bush lied through his teeth.

I feel that same pressure on me now, pressure to toe the party line, to keep my mouth shut about the slaughter in Gaza, to only talk about how horrible the Qassam rockets are and to say nothing about 500 dead children in Gaza. 500 dead children in Gaza? So what. What's wrong with that?

If you don't know by now, I'm not going to tell you.

And remember how cruelly us liberals were made fun of and derided when we talked about stolen elections in Ohio and Florida, Halliburton fraud, outsourcing our jobs, large corporations that paid no taxes, Wall Street greed, the dangers of deregulation, etc. "The economy is gonna crash!" I cried. And people then accused me of being, er, nuts.

Okay. Let's face it. I've been right about all of this stuff so far. Yet now I'm not allowed to be right about the terrible massacres in Gaza?

I guess not.

Pulling out of Iraq: The Camp Ramadi hand-over

Every day I get at least five press releases in my inbox from MNFI headquarters in Iraq, and each press release in itself tells an individual story -- but if you start viewing all the releases as a whole, various trends and themes start to pop out.

For instance, after seeing over a dozen press releases about how this or that soldier died in a "non-combat-related incident", one begins to suspect that the Army is still having problems with their new up-armored MRAP vehicles' tendency to roll over while going around curves.

Or if one continually sees stories about how this or that electrical sub-station or school or medical clinic is now up and running, then one might assume that after almost six long brutal grueling years, the civil sector of Iraq is almost beginning to get back to where it was before 2003 -- before Bush and Cheney's catastrophic Shock & Awe misadventure in Baghdad led to the unnecessary waste of over 600 billion American taxpayers' dollars, and the death of 4,236 American soldiers and approximately one million Iraqis.

Lately, however, I've been noticing a new trend in the MNFI press releases -- their public affairs officers have started to write more and more about handing over various kinds of American stuff to Iraqis, including press releases such as "Iraqis Take Control of Joint Security Station Ghazaliyah III" and "U.S. Turns Over International Zone Security Responsibility to Iraq" and "Coalition transfers 4,000th Humvee to Government of Iraq".

So far I have pretty much ignored this trend -- figuring it was just too good to be true. But on January 27, 2009, I got a press release in my inbox that even I couldn't ignore. It actually said that American forces were giving Camp Ramadi back to the Iraqis! And they actually used the P-word -- Pulling Out.

According to a MNFI press release entitled "Government of Iraq signs for Camp Ramadi", this event is "a step toward Coalition forces pulling out and handing complete responsibility and control back over to the Iraqis. 'This is very important for Coalition forces because we are handing the land back over to the Iraqis,' said [Maj. Gen. Martin] Post. 'It shows that the U.S. military and the Coalition forces are starting to prepare to turn over and demilitarize the bases that we have been using for the past five years."'

Maybe American forces actually have begun the pull-back out of Iraq and President Obama is actually keeping his campaign promises.

But then I read the press release's fine print. "[T]he 81st Brigade Combat Team, Washington Army National Guard, acts as a tenant agreement for the Coalition forces who are scheduled to remain on Camp Ramadi through 2011.... Force protection measures will not be changed. All camp improvement projects will continue. Iraqis will take a look at the buildings on Camp Ramadi to see if it is something they want to keep. The physical structures built on Camp Ramadi will either be prepared to be handed over in 2011 or torn down. Part of the agreement is for Coalition forces to put the base back to the way they found it."

So. The real, actual base take-over isn't really going to happen until 2011. But, hey, this press release could actually be signaling the beginning of a slow and orderly pull-out of American troops from Iraq -- and the start of a new trend.

Monday, January 26, 2009

60 Minutes: Is Israel's free ride almost over?

Last Sunday, "60 Minutes" ran a segment on Israel and Palestine, and for the most part they did a good job of covering some of the very real issues there. But according to segment host Bob Simon, "Demographers predict that within ten years Arabs will outnumber Jews in Israel, the West Bank and Gaza. Without a separate Palestinian state the Israelis would have three options, none of them good. They could try ethnic cleansing, drive the Palestinians out of the West Bank, or they could give the Palestinians the vote." What? Democracy is not a good option?

Although Simon struggled valiantly with presenting a fair view of the so-called "settler" situation on the West Bank, there were a couple of scenes on that subject that made me almost want to laugh. Instead of showing us footage of the thousands of modern (by American standards) condos that have been built on Palestine's West Bank so that we could get real-life glimpses into the lives of some of these so-called "settlers" as they hung out on their verandas, sipped coffee in their posh living rooms or watched their big-screen TVs, Simon showed us footage of some grubby woman in a headscarf as she wandered around on some rock pile out in the middle of nowhere, wielding a pickax.

This woman had obviously never seen a pickax before in her life. This woman appeared to be straight out of central casting.

But here's one possible scenario script that "60 Minutes" left out, taken from a description of an incident related to me by the head of an American NGO currently in Gaza:

Gaza woman: "I have ten children."

Israeli Defense Force soldier: "Pick out five of them to be shot."

Gaza woman: "I cannot do that."

IDF soldier: "If you don't, then I will." Soldier then picks out five children randomly and shoots them.

And here's another scene possibility, based on witness verification, that "60 Minutes" missed:

Gaza father: "Please! Do not shoot! I only want to retrieve the body of my daughter!"

[IDF soldier shoots at Gaza father, forcing him back.]

Gaza father: "Please! She is only four years old! Let me bury her! Please!

[This scene is repeated many times over the course of five days. IDF soldier then shoots at the child's brother and cousin as they try to retrieve the body, killing them both. Several times, dogs arrive and start chewing on the corpse of the four-year-old. And, in the next scene, IDF soldiers then release their own dogs to chew on the corpses of other dead civilians in Gaza.]

And who is paying for these horrific scenes, now on the cutting room floor? American taxpayers, of course.

American taxpayers, even as many of us are now losing our own homes in these economically-troubled times, are also paying for all those settlers' condos on Palestinian land, many of which are being used as vacation homes by Israeli-Americans who live in the U.S. for most of the year and only fly over to Israel occasionally to relax and enjoy their holiday homes on the scenic West Bank.

American taxpayers are also paying the Israeli Defence Force soldiers' salaries as they go kill children in Gaza. Perhaps the Israeli neo-con government sees this as a form of birth control?

Israel's struggle today is not to keep the Arabs from pushing Israel into the sea. Israel's struggle today is to get American taxpayers to buy them more condos -- at any price.

Without the seemingly endless flow of U.S. taxpayers' dollars flooding its way into Israel, it would be forced to shrink back to a reasonable size, the horrible violence in the area would end and all those Israeli-Americans might be forced to give up their luxury winter condos.

Isn't it time for Israel's free ride to be over?

PS: I just got an e-mail from a Jewish friend, who wrote me, "Jane, a one-state solution in Israel-Palestine is still the only option because as soon as the civil rights struggle there -- similar to the one that took place in the American south in the 1960s -- wins equal rights for all, two-thirds or more of the Jewish-Israelis in Israel-Palestine will go home. Why? Because they are not there to be friends with their neighbors or because they are religious. They are there for the socio-economic perks. I strongly suggest you read the book "Flowers of Galilee" by Israel Shamir. It makes a good case for a one-state solution and brings up the taboo subject of the Jewish-Israeli tyrannical control over discourse. You can also read his writing for free at"

Friday, January 23, 2009

  • Revolt of the sheep: What if NOBODY signs up for digital TV?

    How many TV sets do you have in your home right now? And how many converter boxes will you need to make them all digital within the next three weeks -- and what will it cost you? What a pain in the bootie. But the essence of this situation runs far deeper than just mere cost and inconvenience. Think about it.

    First of all, there's that whole "Do this or else" aspect of this changeover. That's just plain wrong. We Americans are patriots, free-born men and women who demand to live and die free. We are AMERICANS for crying out loud. Or at least we used to be. And now we are being told -- given no choice at all, not if we want to continue watching Survivor and Gray's Anatomy -- that we MUST change to digital TV whether we like it or not. We weren't even allowed to vote on it either.

    As a freedom-loving American, I totally object to the fact that we are being ordered to make this conversion, like we are just a bunch of sheep whose only function is to be a passive source of money for a handful of rich dudes with salaries that run over one million dollars a month -- Comcast, Sony, Time-Warner, Rupert Murdoch's News Corp, The Walt Disney Company and General Electric. And we Americans are doing just that, no questions asked. "Baa-a-a."

    But let's investigate this digital conversion force-feeding program even more closely. Why exactly are these corporations so eager and willing to make us all switch to digital TV? Because they care about our eye-sight? Not.

    By agreeing to go digital, Americans are giving away their rights to tax and regulate any of the thousands of new digital television channels that are being created by this move.

    According to news analyst Bruce Dixon, "The FCC hopes the public won't notice its generous gift to corporate broadcasters: Thousands of new channels on the publicly-owned spectrum. Digital TV means four to ten times as many channels for each and every broadcaster with no obligations to the public. The FCC quietly awarded broadcasters this colossal gift of public property worth $70-$80 billion." What this basically means is that during a time of obvious financial hardship for us little guys, big corporations are being granted access to billions of dollars of gravy -- not to mention thousands of new ways to beam even MORE commercials into our homes.

    "What the FCC and broadcasters are actively concealing from the public," states Dixon, "is that digital broadcasting technology enables thousands of new digital TV channels on the public broadcast spectrum, all of which broadcasters have allocated to themselves without the inconvenient public scrutiny issuing thousands of new station licenses might have attracted [or the revenue]. ....If Ketchum Communications, the FCC, the National Association of Broadcasters and the mainstream media can confine the story and restrict the public conversation to converter boxes and high definition TV, a vast realm of public digital property will pass into unaccountable private hands, for nothing, and maybe forever."

    Why isn't Congress demanding that the communications industry pay for the use of these thousands of newly-created channels?

    And if we investigate this digital conversion scam on the next level down, we will find even more outrageous behavior on the part of these huge media corporations. Now they want US to pay for the conversions. Not them. Us. Our Congress has already spent over ONE BILLION DOLLARS paying for converter boxes so that Americans won't be left without their TVs on February 17, 2009 -- and so that big media can get a free ride.

    And when Congress balked and asked for an extension date because they didn't have the time or the funds to pay for enough black boxes to supply everyone in America with one by the February 17 deadline, what did the corporations tell Congress? "Sorry. We can't grant any extensions. We will lose too much money if we do that. We're already all set to go. Everything is already arranged."


    Now we are being expected to pay for all this -- but only at the corporations' convenience? Well guess what, ABC, NBC, Sony, Rupert Murdoch and gang? Why don't you just pay for the freaking converter boxes yourself!

    The American taxpayer is already paying bigtime for corporate bailouts on Wall Street and Detroit. Why should we bail out the TV industry as well?

    Then there's a level even deeper than that. Are we men and women -- or mice? Have we become merely slaves to our television sets now, mere clones and robots whose only reason for existing on this planet is to pay taxes and buy products? Have we no life, no ideas, no original thoughts other than what is spoon-fed to us by the boob tube? Yeah.

    "Kill your TV". Go read a book. Or, better yet, go read MY book (Bring Your Own Flak Jacket: Helpful Tips for Touring Today's Middle East).

    Then there's yet another level that you can view this latest corporate welfare scheme from -- as just one more outrageous example of how American citizens have spent the last 60-odd years giving away their rights, their money and their integrity to insatiable globalized corporations who in turn only want us to give them more and more. US patriots are not afraid to fight for our country against terrorists -- but we appear to be terrified as hell when it comes to fighting for America against corporate greed.

    So. What can we do? What would George Washington, Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin have done? They stood up for their rights. Let's stand up for ours!

    What if every single household in America REFUSED to buy those freaking cable boxes, refused to watch the new digital TVs and actually spent time with their families and reading books instead? We would have all the power. They would HAVE to acquiesce to our demands. Why? Because without We the People watching their commercials, television moguls would have nothing. Nothing.

    They need US more than we need them.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Bunk beds: How Generation X-Box prepares for the coming Depression

My New Years Resolution this year is to "Expect the best." But even while continuing to hope for the best at all times, it would be really stupid of me not to prepare for the worst.

Yes, I have been told a lot recently that it is politically incorrect to be dissing Republicans these days. However. I know what I know. And when George W. Bush stole the presidential election back in 2000, I knew instantly, given his past record for business failures, that GWB was gonna get the business of America into really big trouble just as soon as he could -- and so I've spent the last eight years trying to figure out ways to protect myself and my family from the coming ravages of the Bush Great Depression. I've already thought about buying gold, wearing second-hand clothes, saving every extra cent that comes my way, biking instead of driving, looking into grass huts in Mexico, melting down my mother's silver candlesticks, recycling leftovers, poking into free-boxes and planting a victory garden in my postage-stamp-sized back yard....

But for those of us living in the San Francisco Bay Area, Bush's Great Depression still hasn't arrived yet in full force. Sure we've got a few boarded-up storefronts here and there and a few homeless types running around, but that's about it. However, for our younger generations this new Great Depression has already become a quiet reality. It has already arrived. And for the members of America's "Generation X-Box", kids just out of high school, poverty is already staring them right in the face.

So. What have members of this latest American generation to hit the work-force learned about survival during economic hard times? How do they cope? In a word? "Bunkbeds."

When I went to visit my neighbor's 19-year-old son, he was living in a one-bedroom apartment -- with a set of bunkbeds in the living room, and a fold-out couch, and a roll-away bed. I didn't even ask to see the bedroom but imagine it contained even more bunkbed sets. Yikes! Was somebody sleeping under the kitchen table too?

"How do you ever get any privacy?" I asked. "When you have your girlfriend over, for instance, what do you do?"

"We are very quiet," my neighbor's son replied.

Good grief. I am hoping that Obama and Congress can fix the economy -- and not only so that Rush Limbaugh and the rest of the Bush neo-cons who caused all this mess in the first place won't be able to gloat when America goes under, but also because I have bad knees, can't climb a ladder and am afraid of heights.

PS: Why is the word "Limbaugh" present in Yahoo's spell-check dictionary but the word "Obama" is not?

PPS: Obama and Congress are never gonna be able to fix the economy by ignoring single-payer healthcare, giving fifty billion dollars to the creators of unlimited nuclear waste, giving tax cuts to the wealthy and cutting teachers' jobs. But still these elected officials who claim to represent US continue to ignore the needs of America's middle and working classes in favor of those of the wealthy. So instead of wishing and hoping for a fair and just stimulus package that will really work, maybe you and I ought to start preparing for the worst instead. I recommend Ikea. I hear that they are selling some really nice bunkbed sets. Or you could try Craig's List.

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

  • Obama to Olmert about Gaza: "Stop stealing my show!"
(Photos are of government buildings in Laos, Cambodia and Thailand)

When I was a little girl, if something good ever happened to me, my mean older sister did everything she could to steal my spotlight instead. If I got a decent report card for the first time in years, she's run around bragging about how SHE make the honor role -- again. If I was going to dance at the Girl Scout folk dance festival, she'd go on and on and on about how her essay on teenage goals and aspirations won a prize from the Lions Club, even while I was trying not to trip over myself while dancing "La Raspa".

When I was happily living at the dorms in college, she used her role as PRESIDENT of the local chapter of Kappa Kappa Gamma to force me to join KKG so that she could continue to lord it over me still, even in college. Humph.

And when my father died, my mean older sister was the one who forced us all into probate court so that everyone in the family had to focus on HER.

Well, January 20, 2009 was supposed to be Barack Obama's big day to shine. And so what happens? Just like my mean older sister always tried to outshine me, GWB tried to outshine Obama -- even on his big day. And GWB almost succeeded

Just three freaking weeks before the inauguration, Bush gave Uhud Olmert the green light to bomb the daylights out of Gaza! How's that for stealing the show?

At a time when America should be focusing in on Michelle Obama's new dress, all eyes in the nation -- and even the world -- were once again forced to focus in on Olmert and Bush. And as my inbox filled up with photos of the corpses of hundreds of dead children in Gaza after being irradiated and blown up, and the Israeli neo-cons bombarded the world with stories about how they HAD to kill women and children in Gaza because of something that had happened 65 years before and my inbox filled up with photos of corpses from the Nazi Holocaust, NO ONE was thinking about Obama. Everyone, even me, was focused on George W. Bush.

I bet you anything that Bush was all excited and pleased about that.

And I bet you anything that Obama was feeling all left out, ignored and pissed!

And I also bet you anything that Obama got right on the phone to Olmert and said, "Ehud, if that Gaza mess isn't cleared up completely by Inauguration Day, Israel is never gonna see another dime of American money ever again nor one more F-16 jet. And YOU are gonna have to pay for all those weapons and illegal settlements yourself."

And what do you want to bet that Olmert got the message loud and clear, pulled his troops out of Gaza and even stopped the bombardment of UN facilities -- way before Obama's historic inauguration began.

PS: On Inauguration Day, it looked like GWB still didn't want to give up the spotlight. Did you SEE how Obama left the podium after his speech and started striding purposefully back to the capitol building, juggling for position, trying to get ahead of GWB? And how Bush was not to be outdone and ran after Obama like a puppy dog. And then Obama walked faster. And Bush walked faster still.

How embarrassing for Bush.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Israel & Palestine: Their 61-year-long war comes home to America
  • (These photos I took in Burma have nothing to do with this essay. I just like them)

    A friend of mine and I were recently talking about the horrific situation in Israel and Palestine. "I think they should all go back to the 1967 Green Line demarcation, declare a truce and start over," said my friend. "Then Israel could be a viable country and Palestine could be a viable country too."

    "Sounds good to me," I replied. "I'm just sick and tired of all this killing."

    "Yes," replied my friend, "and if Hamas would only stop shooting those rockets at Israel then everything would be all right. That's like as if Mexico was shooting rockets at America and...." Oh no, not that old false analogy again! So I went OFF on my friend.

    "That's NOT the same situation!" I exploded. "That analogy is wrong! Mexico wouldn't attack us in the first place because women and children in Mexico aren't being starved and butchered by Americans like Palestinians are by Israelis! You want analogies? Here's one for you -- try looking at the similarites between the Hamas Resistance in Gaza and the Jewish Resistance in Warsaw!" And the next thing I knew we were shouting at each other and now I am minus one friend.

    Then I talked with a priest. "When I was in the Holy Land 35 years ago," he told me, "I saw a parade of amputees and men on crutches and wearing Israeli Defense Force uniforms. They were all veterans of the Six-Day War and were marching off to the Knesset to beg their parliamentarians to make peace with Egypt. Shortly thereafter, the Israeli leadership at that time solemnly announced that these very same veterans who had made such obvious sacrifices for their country were 'anti-Semitic'. That's when I began to realize that there was more than one side to this story. But. Whenever I mention to anyone that the Palestinians might have a case for protesting, people get very angry with me." Well. If the pro-Israel faction of America can get angry even at a PRIEST for looking at both sides of the story, then obviously my own hopes of avoiding conflict over this subject are toast.

    And I also got in such a terrible fight recently with a Jewish friend over a simple MENTION of the WORD Gaza -- that she screamed at me for twenty minutes and even accused me of trying to steal her husband. What? Who me?

    And since this assault on Gaza has begun, suddenly people who have been reading my blog for years now say that they will never read it again if I don't lighten up on Israel. Hey, I love Israel. I just don't love the Israeli neo-cons who have stolen the hearts, minds and money of the Israeli people -- much in the same way that Bush and Cheney stole America's hearts and minds (and its votes and its money).

    So. The "war" in Israel and Palestine has been going on now for 61 long hard years. That's longer than almost any modern war that I know of. Even the Colombian civil war has only been going on for 40 years. Well, maybe the war over Kashmir might be longer. But still and all, 61 years is a freaking long time to burden the rest of the world with your squabbles.

    And now this long and drawn-out Israeli and Palestinian "war" has come home to America. Americans have all but started coming to blows themselves on this subject as the battle over who is wrong and who is right rages from block to block, street to street. "Israel is acting like Nazi Germany and torturing Palestinians, starving them, trapping them in concentration camps and slaughtering women and children!" cries one side.

    "They are shooting rockets at Israel!" cries the other.

    It's not as if we Americans aren't already torn apart by the issues of abortion, gay rights and whether or not Britney should go back with Kevin! Now we gotta deal with this too? Hey, here's an idea. Israel and Palestine, divide your freaking country up along the 1967 Green Line -- so Americans can go back to slugging it out about more important things like whether or not Bush should go to jail.

    Israel and Palestine, it's been 61 long freaking years. Get over it. Go to your corners. You got that Green Line. Use it. Go away and let us Americans get back to arguing about if Obama should bail out Wall Street or not, or if Jennifer Anniston still has a crush on Brad Pitt.

    Of course I would love to see an end to bloodshed in the Holy Land, but I would also appreciate being able to go back to speaking to my friends once again.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Appeasement: Yet another comparison between Gaza & Nazi Germany?

So far, I have compared the Israeli neo-cons' brutal assault on Gaza with Nazi Germany's brutal assault on Poland's Warsaw Ghetto. Here's another comparison between the Israeli neo-cons and Germany's Nazis that might also apply.

Remember when Neville Chamberlain made that famous speech announcing his appeasement policy toward Nazi Germany after the Germans seized part of Czechoslovakia? "I can well understand the reasons why the Czech Government has felt unable to accept the terms which have been put before them in the German memorandum," stated Chamberlain back in 1938. "Yet I believe after my talks with Herr Hitler that, if only time were allowed, it ought to be possible for the arrangements for transferring the territory that the Czech Government has agreed to give to Germany to be settled by agreement under conditions which would assure fair treatment to the population concerned."

Did Nazi Germany offer "conditions which would assure fair treatment" to the citizens of Czechoslovakia? I seriously doubt that they did. Obviously Sir Neville chose to close his eyes to that one. And are the Israeli neo-cons planning to seize parts of Gaza again just like Hitler seized parts of Czechoslovakia? I hear that Israeli settlers are already poised to move in and take over "parts of " Gaza -- except of course for the places now irradiated with depleted uranium.

"However much we may sympathize with a small nation confronted by a big and powerful neighbor," continued Chamberlain, "we cannot in all circumstances undertake to involve the whole British Empire in war simply on her account." Now which one of America's leaders is gonna repeat that line with regard to the Israeli neo-cons' brutal attack on the women and children of Gaza? Will it be Bush? Or will it be Obama? And when they are referring the "big and powerful neighbor," will they be talking about Gaza as the Goliath who, armed only with homemade rockets and fertilizer bombs, is attacking poor sweet Israel's David, one of the most deadly and heavily-armed nations in the world?

"For the present I ask you to await as calmly as you can the events of the next few days," Chamberlain entoned gravely as he wound up his now-famous Appeasement speech. "As long as war has not begun, there is always hope that it may be prevented, and you know that I am going to work for peace to the last moment. Good night." War had not already begun in Czechoslovakia? Yeah right. Just like war hasn't already begun on the poor trapped slobs in Gaza.

And how many times have we heard George W. Bush tell us that he is diligently working for "Peace" in the Middle East -- at the same time that he is happily appeasing the neo-con bullies who have done everything they can to propagandize and terrify Israeli citizens -- who KNOW what it is like to live under Nazis -- into supporting Nazi-like abuses, land-grabs, concentration camps and blitzkriegs in Gaza?

And what kind of "Peace" will Barack Obama be working for in the Middle East? Or will he too be working for "Appeasement" of the Israeli neo-cons who, like Hitler, learned early on that wars and threats of wars will get them "peace in our time" -- as well as the gift of billions of dollars from the U.S. taxpayers.

Hey, at least Chamberlain had the good sense to not fork over billions of dollars to the Nazis -- so perhaps my comparison between Sir Neville's appeasement and the Bush-Obama appeasement is flawed after all.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Fashion statement: Wearing an Israeli flag in NYC is FIERCE this season!

I just got done watching a video of some pro-Israeli protesters, demonstrating in the streets of New York City. "Wipe them all out!" they cried, talking about Palestinian women and children in Gaza. "We are being forced to kill their children to save our children," one protester said. Amazing. While viewing this video, I started to get an insight into how Germans might have felt during Nazi times -- chauvinism, group-think and the justification of the unjustifiable at its finest hour.

And speaking of chauvinism, a lot of these American protesters were waving Israeli flags and wearing them around their necks. What kind of a fashion statement is that? Why are people who appear to be American citizens devotedly waving Israeli flags -- and carrying signs that read, "Thank you for fighting OUR war!"

Just exactly where do these people's allegiances lie?
PS: I just received the following e-mail from the Applied Research Institute in Jerusalem (, an organization partly funded by the United Methodist Church -- with regard to the current situation in Gaza: "From a recent phone conversation with a family in Gaza I learned that families are now afraid to leave the buildings for fear of the fall-out from [white] phosphorus. Also I was told that the air in the buildings is becoming difficult to breathe. As the Israeli army advances farther into residential neighborhoods in the cities, the option of 'taking refuge' anywhere that is 'safe' becomes less and less of a possibility for civilians."


Here's the URL to the painting of the Israeli flag as seen by Palestinians:

Max Blumenthal's video:

  • Dating-age women beware: War is killing off all the eligible guys!
(Photos are of women, combing the world for eligible men -- -- and an orchestra composed of men who had been wounded by war)

Okay. Israel isn't gonna stop bombing civilians in Gaza any time soon -- unless it is pressured to do so by a morally-outraged world. But as Rep Dennis Kucinich just stated on the floor of Congress, "The attack on the United Nations headquarters in Gaza is further proof that a post-legal era in world affairs has taken shape; where law and moral principles are irrelevant, where might makes right, where retribution and vengeance, even against innocent children, fails to shake us from moral lethargy or political paralysis."

If law and moral principles are now irrelevant -- and they seem to be in this era of waterboarding, terrorist attacks and unchecked government lies -- then WHAT will stop the world from continuing its current fall into violence, warfare and chaos?

"Collective punishment, disproportionate use of force, using U.S. planes, helicopters and munitions to attack a wounded, starved and thirsty civilian population of mostly children trapped in a box called Gaza has become acceptable," stated Rep Kucinich, "perhaps because we have already accepted the deaths of over one million innocent civilians in Iraq in a war based on lies."

So. What WILL keep all this sickening violence -- that is now being perpetrated by "civilized" Western nations, African failed states and Christian, Jewish and Muslim fundamentalists who have run amok -- from turning the entire world into just one big Darfur, Gaza or Rwanda?

I haven't a clue.

But if no one in the high circles of power in Washington, the United Nations, Tel Aviv, the EU, Russia, China, etc. can locate their moral compasses long enough to put their weapons away and solve the world's problems non-violently, then I got an idea of who can. Women!

Ladies, look at it this way. At the rate things are going now, all the eligible men in the world are all gonna get killed off fairly soon and you are gonna be stuck with no one even left to date -- let alone marry. Already the ratio of American women to American men is tilted disproportionately toward there being more women -- even despite the fact that male illegal aliens are pouring across our borders from all over the planet, including China where there is a total surplus of men.

And if it is like that in America, imagine what it must be like in places like Iraq, Kabul or Gaza where thousands and thousands of men have been slaughtered by warfare. "The best place to find men of marriageable age these days," said one Afghan woman recently, "is to look in the cemetery."

As women get older and their chances of having babies get slimmer, many of these women tend to become, er, rather desperate. Well. Just how desperate ARE you, ladies? Are you desperate enough to stop wars?

Monday, January 12, 2009

Our dual-citizenship Congress: Lotsa pork for Israelis, no pork for California?

I turned on the television last night and listened to the local news anchor tell me, "The State of California is currently facing bankruptcy." I live in California. This is not good news. Plus California's jobs are drying up, homes are being foreclosed on, stores are going out of business, schools are laying off teachers, banks are eliminating branches. The eighth-largest economy in the world is about to tank. Boy could we use some financial help from the feds.

But will we get it?

Probably not.

No pork for California, not even a bailout.

But Congress still continues to enthusiastically pour billions of our taxpayers' dollars into the Israeli economy each year. What's with that? Do our Congressional representatives hold dual citizenship with the United States and Israel or what? When are they going to stop voting pork for Israel and start voting bailout money for CA?

Are we Californians going to have to start firing Qassam rockets at Washington to get their attention or what?

Sunday, January 11, 2009

Berkeley Blogger's Suit Against Defense Department in Limbo

In case you might be wondering what is happening with my lawsuit against the DoD, it's currently being tried in both Federal AND State courts. Yikes!

I started to write an article about my dilemma, but a reporter from the Daily Californian just called me up and asked if she could write an article on my case as well -- but she did such a good job of it that I'm sending you her article instead of mine.

PS: Does anyone know any San Francisco Bay Area attorney or local law school that would like to help me with a "Motion to Remand" my case back to small claims court? I just wrote one myself and it appears to be a jewel of a motion as far as I can tell -- so let's just hope that the judge won't laugh too hard when I file it tomorrow.

Berkeley Blogger's Suit Against Defense Department in Limbo
By Keena Batti, Daily Californian, January 9, 2009

Nearly a year after the Defense Department canceled her embed in Iraq, Berkeley blogger Jane Stillwater was left without answers on her lawsuit today when her hearing was delayed for another month and moved to federal court.

A representative from the Defense Department failed to attend the small claims court today in Berkeley. The case has been rescheduled for Feb. 13, Stillwater said. "I'd like to say, 'Yay, I won,' but basically, they're giving me the run around," she said. "They want to make it so hard for me that I'll give up."

Stillwater, 66, sued the Defense Department in June after her embed was canceled on Feb. 12., the same day that she arrived in Kuwait under the impression that she would be permitted to enter Iraq with a military unit. According to Stillwater, the cost of the damages-a non-refundable airplane ticket, 15 mocha lattes and pain and inconvenience she experienced while waiting at an airport in Kuwait-add up to $1,780.

On Dec. 31, officials from the United States attorney's office filed a notice of removal, which stated that Stillwater's case would be moved from small claims court to federal court. In a document to Stillwater, the Defense Department explained that federal acts cannot be tried in a small claims court, justifying the switch.

Stillwater is seeking a motion to remand in order to move her trial back to the small claims court, where attorneys are not permitted to represent either party. She said she feels she has a better chance of winning in a small claims court because both sides are required to represent themselves. If the case is heard in federal court, the Defense Department may hire lawyers from the Justice Department, which Stillwater says she finds imposing.

Stillwater recently revised her lawsuit and is suing the Defense Department for the highest amount possible for alleged malicious persecution-$7,500.

The Defense Department is now suing Stillwater for all court costs, which Stillwater believes could be anywhere between $50,000 to $100,000.

Stillwater said she will continue with the lawsuit even if she cannot move her case back to a small claims court. "I'd have a hard time raising the kind of money they're asking for," Stillwater said. "What are they going to do, put me in jail? I'd have free room and board for 25 years."


Here's the Daily Cal's original article on the subject: Berkeley Blogger Sues Military Over Canceled Embed in Iraq
By Kenna Batti, December 5, 2008

Jane Stillwater is suing the U.S. Department of Defense after it gave her conflicting reports about the status of her embed before finally cancelling it outright earlier this year. UC Berkeley alumnus and active blogger Jane Stillwater has filed a lawsuit seeking reimbursement after the U.S. Department of Defense cancelled her embed in Iraq scheduled for earlier this year while she waited in Kuwait.

Stillwater, 66, who has shadowed U.S. Army and Marine Corps units in the Middle East and Asia, is requesting a refund of $1,780 to cover the costs of her non-refundable airplane ticket, 15 mocha lattes and pain and inconvenience. Stillwater said she applied for the embed on Jan. 18. After her request was granted the following day, she purchased her plane ticket to Kuwait, where Army personnel were to escort her to Iraq.

That same day, however, U.S. Army embed coordinators cancelled her tour, first citing "changes on the battlefield," then "limited resources" and "low circulation of her work compared to military expense," according to court documents.

"They sent me one story after another about why I couldn't embed," Stillwater said. "It would have been fine if they had just said one reason, but they just kept hedging-it got me angry."

Stillwater appealed to the Pentagon, and was told her embed was under review. She then flew to Kuwait on Feb. 12 and received an e-mail upon arrival denying her request. She spent two days living at the airport's Starbucks, consuming 15 mocha lattes, until the U.S. Embassy arranged a flight back to the Bay Area.

Stillwater alleges that the Army cancelled the embed due to her obviously left-wing point of view. However, Leon Smith, publisher of the Lone Star Iconoclast, a newspaper that sponsors her blog, said that Stillwater's writing was usually very positive. "Most of the material she's sent back was really very positive toward the military, which is good of course," he said. "She reports the bare facts."

U.S. Department of Defense officials could not be reached for comment.

Rob Kall, the executive editor and publisher of the Web site that publishes Stillwater's blog, said he was surprised by the Army's conduct. "It was shabby treatment that concerns me, because she went through the process and knew how to deal with the military and getting embedded," he said. "They should have told her in the first place rather than have her spend the money and the time." Kall also attributes the cancellation to an overall decrease in the number of embedded reporters.

Stillwater has taken her lawsuit to the small claims court in Berkeley and is scheduled to be heard at the Alameda County Superior Court on Jan. 9. She will win the case by default if the San Francisco office of the U.S. Department of Justice does not send an attorney.

Stillwater said her future opportunities to go the Middle East may be limited as she gets older. "Jumping on and off of helicopters and running through war zones when you can barely walk is difficult," she said. "It's breaking my heart."

Friday, January 09, 2009

Gaza Iraq Afghanistan Congo Oakland: Is the killing EVER going to stop?

All this killing and killing and killing -- I really can't stand it any more. Why is it still happening? This is the 21st century, damn it, and we are still acting like cavemen.

Why would ANYONE want to kill another living human being? How can the human race even think about continuing to kill and kill and kill each other? What drives a man to take the life of another man? What can EVER be worth the destruction of a human life? Where are our values? Where are our leaders? Where are our morals?

Radical fundamentalists fight with every inch of their being to save the lives of unborn fetuses. Why aren't the rest of us fighting with every inch of our being to save the lives of humans -- men, women and children -- who have already been born.

The fact that individual human beings can stand by and watch while other PEOPLE are slaughtered -- that amazes me. The fact that George W. Bush is not in jail and that our very own Congress can still continue to pass such huge budgets and funding allocations in order to fill the world with millions of weapons at the expense and sacrifice of education and healthcare and our own and our children's future? That appalls me.

And the Taliban and Congolese and Somalis and gangs in East Oakland? They are just as bad as the white-collar killers in Washington -- but at least they do their own killing, don't let long-range missiles do it for them.

When will all this endless killing and killing and killing ever stop? When every single last human being on the planet is dead.

Of course.

And will any of this killing ever have been worth it -- to ANY of the killers?


Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Bush's two biggest con games: Iraq's Shock & Awe and Gaza's Shock & Awe

(Photos are of Iraq's Shock & Awe, Gaza's Shock & Awe and baby Mena trying to make sense of a Justice Department legal document.)

Well I don't really have time to write on this subject because I'm too busy right now with my own Shock & Awe. Last February, I asked the U.S. Department of Defense to give me my money back when they let me down regarding an embed in Iraq -- and they refused. So I took them to small claims court for breach of implied contract. And now I myself am being bombarded with legal documents by the Justice Department. "In-coming! Watch out!"

The Feds' latest effort arrived today by FedEx. "Defendant prays that...judgment be rendered in favor of the Defendant for its costs of suit incurred...." Now they want ME to pay for THEIR untold thousands of dollars of litigation costs. That's malicious persecution! All I want is my $1,780 back. Humph.

So I don't really have time to write about how George W. Bush lied to the American people about that phony Niger yellow-cake and those nonexistent weapons of mass destruction and that Saddam Hussein was supposedly in league with Al Qaeda. George Bush out-and-out LIED to us. And then the creep went on to kill a million Iraqis and he STILL isn't in jail.

And now, under Bush's orders and with his consent, Israel has been given billions of dollars of all kinds of terrible weapons -- jet fighters, cluster bombs, phosphorus gas, depleted uranium ammunition, tanks, missiles, nuclear devices, the list goes on forever -- so that Bush's neo-con counterparts in Israel can stage their own Shock & Awe in Gaza.

We were conned into believing that Iraq's nightmare Shock & Awe was justified. And now we are being conned into believing that the unbelievably horrific Shock & Awe in Gaza is justified too.

Just you watch. Five years from now, long after all the bodies of dead women and children have been buried in Gaza just like they have been long ago buried in Iraq, America will finally learn the truth about Gaza -- that the Israeli neo-cons deliberately broke the ceasefire so that they too could have an excuse to reign down death from the skies upon innocent civilians -- just like George W. Bush did to Iraq. And American newspapers will once again cry out about how they had all been MISLED.

Misled my foot!

New York Times, do your homework! Washington Post, check your facts. Or the next big con job that the neo-cons attempt to pull off might be something like another Katrina -- or another 9-11.

But I digress. I gotta get back to preparing for my trial -- it's on Friday January 9, 2009, at the Berkeley Courthouse, 2120 Martin Luther King Jr Way, Department 202 at 1:45 pm. See you there.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

The special "Everybody Hates Jane" issue of my housing co-op newsletter

(Photos are of Savo Island at night, including the set where we filmed the famous board room scene, baby Mena smiling and the sign outside my door that I painted myself at Camp Tuolumne)

You've heard of the television show "Everybody Hates Chris"? Well, I think I'll start my own TV show too -- and call it "Everybody Hates Jane"! But this sit-com will take place at my Berkeley, CA, housing co-op instead of in Brooklyn. The first episode will take place at a Savo Island board meeting. Here's the script:

Me: "What! You are going to change management companies AGAIN? What is this, the 13th or the 14th time?" As soon as a management company gets on board here at Savo and demands that our co-op's board of directors actually starts following HUD Section 8 regulations and obeying their own bylaws, then that company always gets fired -- and the current management company is no exception.

Board member [using hilarious sit-com logic here]: "No, Jane, you've got it wrong. Again. Four of those companies don't count -- because we were working with the same company manager each time but when he changed jobs we just followed him around to different companies because we liked him." Oh. But if you liked him so much, then why did you sue him?

Me: "So it's only 10 management companies you've fired?" Whew that's a relief. Only ten.

Board member: "And HUD has approved this new change."

Me: "HUD did approve it? Are you sure about that?"

Board member: "Are you calling me a liar?"

So I called up HUD to check and it turns out that HUD didn't approve it per se. HUD merely stated that our bylaws allowed the board to make management changes -- but only if the board could find a new management company that was HUD-approved to replace the old company. HUD also told me that they weren't too happy with the decision but there was nothing legally they could do about it. In addition HUD also said that, contrary to what the board president wanted us to believe, a change of management company at this critical point in time would definitely delay our desperately-needed re-hab (this whole place is falling apart).

And HUD also informed me that it was sick and tired of dealing with my housing co-op and wanted to take Savo off of Section 8 entirely so that they wouldn't have to deal with us any more. I guess that after watching this untrained, uneducated and self-involved board make bad decision after bad decision for the last fifteen years, they are sick of having to pull our chestnuts out of the fire again and again and again while board members desperately try to cover their tracks with what appear to be lies and half-truths.

HUD also indicated to me that if the shareholders of Savo Island didn't finally start speaking up and standing up for themselves, then our HUD Section 8 subsidy was toast. But I digress.

"Jane," you might be thinking, "this is becoming more like a soap opera than a sit-com. Where are the laughs?"

Okay. Back to the board meeting....

Well, this next bit is funny [more sit-com circular humor!] At the meeting before this one, the board had already voted to fire our current management company -- although there hadn't been a board member quorum present at that time. But that didn't stop this board! They went ahead and fired the management company anyway. But then someone called them on the fraudulent vote, so they were forced to have another meeting to vote on the issue again. How awkward it must be for this poor board to be forced to adhere to the bylaws [Laugh track here maybe?]

Me: "We need to hold an annual board-member election. We have to hold one every January and it's January now. Let's set a date and get this done." The last annual election was supposed to be put off until April of 2008 because of the re-hab delays that the board has caused for these last seven years but the board managed to somehow put the elections off until last September. So. Did the board actually set a new date? No way!

Me: "You've put off holding the annual election before -- one time it was put off for almost three years. If you don't hold your annual elections soon, the co-op will lose its non-profit status." That should be good for a laugh.

Board member: "Jane, you've had your turn to talk. We've listened to you enough. We don't want to hear anything more out of you." And then some of the other board members started yelling at me and I had to leave because I had my one-year-old granddaughter with me and she was enjoying watching everyone yell at me far too much.

"Everybody Hates Jane." Not you too, baby Mena!

And here's the punch line: When HUD finally does get sick and tired of our board's innumerable mistakes, errors, self-interest and lack of judgment and HUD actually does throw everyone out on the street and shuts Savo down, who will the residents all blame? Not the board! And surely not themselves for doing nothing -- even after I have begged them and begged them and begged them to vote this terrible board off before the roofs fall down on our heads. No, I can almost guarantee you that everyone here at Savo will blame ME!

"Everyone Hates Jane."

The Warsaw Ghetto Uprising, 2009-style: Another little girl in a red coat....

Being sick at heart over the slaughter in Gaza, I went to the United States Holocaust Museum's website to see if there was any similarities between the Warsaw Ghetto uprising of 1943 and what is happening in Gaza right now. This is what I found:

"Many Jews in ghettos across eastern Europe," stated the website, "tried to organize resistance against the Germans and to arm themselves with smuggled and homemade weapons. Between 1941 and 1943, underground resistance movements formed in about 100 Jewish groups. The most famous attempt by Jews to resist the Germans in armed fighting occurred in the Warsaw ghetto."

Does that or does that not sound like what has been happening in Palestine for the last 60 years -- as Palestinians have been continuously and systematically killed, deported and rounded up into camps? I mean seriously. Isn't Gaza today the largest concentration camp in the world?

People are starving in Gaza. They are trapped there. They have no way out. And now they are being exterminated wholesale -- like fish in a barrel. The similarities between Warsaw and Gaza are getting clearer and clearer.

"In January 1943," continued the museum's narrative, "Warsaw ghetto fighters fired upon German troops as they tried to round up another group of ghetto inhabitants for deportation. Fighters used a small supply of weapons that had been smuggled into the ghetto. After a few days, the troops retreated. This small victory inspired the ghetto fighters to prepare for future resistance. On April 19, 1943, the Warsaw ghetto uprising began after German troops and police entered the ghetto to deport its surviving inhabitants. Seven hundred and fifty fighters fought the heavily armed and well-trained Germans. The ghetto fighters were able to hold out for nearly a month, but on May 16, 1943, the revolt ended."

Resistance fighters in Gaza, slaughter in Gaza. Deportation in Gaza. Blitzkrieg in Gaza. It all sounds too familiar.

Never again? Yeah right.

Too many little girls in red coats are being killed in Gaza right now.

What Gaza desperately needs right now is a new Schindler's List.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

European Union wannabe: We need a Middle Eastern Union too

There are all kinds of reasons for forming a Middle East Union and only one reason I can think of not to -- what would they call their coins? The Mido?

Imagine a European-Union-type state stretching all the way from Morocco to Uzbekistan. Condoleeza Rice -- and Hillary Clinton too -- might be forced for the first time to think twice before screwing with the MEU.

Sure, Saudi Arabia might complain about losing a bit of sovereignty and having to deal with Iran. The Taliban would get all upset about not getting to live in training camps any more. Egypt would probably be sad to lose all that bribe money from the US. The Shias and the Sunnis would have to kiss and make up after almost 2000 years of fighting and feuding. The Turks and the Kurds would have to learn to play nice. And George Bush and Rahm Emanuel would be pissed off. But other than that, just look at the advantages of having a MEU -- no more genocide in Gaza, no more brutal occupations, no more oil exploitation, no more Shock and Awe.

Get your act together, Middle East. Become a force to be reckoned with instead of just a bunch of weak countries waiting to get picked off one by one by oil barons, CIA-sponsored warlords and real estate agents; like sheep bleating helplessly and silently wondering which one will be next....

Friday, January 02, 2009

Suing the DoD: How my small claim just became a Federal Case....

In June of 2008, I sued the Department of Defense in small claims court because they promised me a journalism embed in Iraq and then went back on their word, costing me $1,362.15 in airfare and causing me to have to sleep at the Kuwait International Airport Starbucks for two days.

The trial date for Stillwater vs. the Department of Defense was then set for January 9, 2009. All the DoD had to do to settle this case was to send someone over to the Alameda County courthouse and tell the judge either, "Yeah, sure, we owe Jane some money," or else "Nope, no way, we don't owe her a cent." And because it's not legal to have an attorney represent you in small claims court, the DoD wouldn't even have to pay an attorney to say yes or no. They could just send over a major, a colonel or even a buck-private to either nod his/her head yes or shake his/her head no. And then the DoD would only have to pay for carfare -- and that would be that. End of story, right?


Apparently the Department of Defense has just decided to make things a little bit more complex regarding this matter -- and a LOT more expensive. The U.S. Attorney General's office has just served me with approximately 37 pages of legal documents and briefs -- stating that they are going to move my case over to federal court.

The documents they just served on me include a Notice of Removal, a Proof of Service, an Order Setting Initial Case Management Conference and ADR Deadlines, a copy of the U.S. District Court Local Rules Guidelines, a Notice of Assignment of Case to a United States Magistrate Judge for Trial, an EFC Registration Information Handout and a pamphlet entitled "Consenting to A Magistrate Judge's Jurisdiction in the Northern District of California".

I estimate that the production of all these various documents has cost the American taxpayer approximately 25 billable hours in attorneys' fees -- which means that, assuming that a Federal attorney bills at approximately $150 an hour, the U.S. Attorney General's office has just spent an estimated $3,750 in taxpayers' money on this one little case alone -- so far.

But wait, things are about to get worse. Once my tiny little small claims court case has been handed over to federal court, it is now gonna blossom into a Very Big Deal.

Before the case can even have a chance to go to trial, me and a bunch of U.S. attorneys -- there are already three of them listed on Proof of Service -- are going to have to hold some alternative dispute resolution meetings. According to the Federal court guidelines they sent me, me and all those U.S. attorneys must now sit down together and discuss "Prospects for settlement, ADR efforts to date, and a specific ADR plan for the case, including compliance with ADR L.R. 3-5 and a description of key discovery or motions necessary to position the parties to negotiate a resolution."

Then, after our various discussions -- hopefully over tea and cookies -- we will also be required to hold a Case Management Conference. According to the Order just sent to me by the Department of Justice/Department of Defense, here is the procedure: "April 1, 2009: Last day to file Rule 26(f) report, complete initial disclosures or state objection in Rule 26(f) report and file Case Management Statement." Good grief! Now we've already extended this case into April -- and added on even more billable hours.

And then of course there's all that discovery that's going to be required, wherein we'll need to take a bunch of depositions and I'll have to name as witnesses approximately 15 members of the U.S. Army who were stationed at the Pentagon, Iraq and Kuwait at the time of the incident -- not to mention the barristas at the Kuwait International Airport Starbucks. All these people will have to be tracked down and deposed -- at government expense.

Then after discovery has been completed, the filing of pre-trial motions comes next. "Pretrial motion papers, including discovery motions, shall be filed in accordance with Civil Local Rule 7.2," according to Chief Magistrate Judge James Larson who apparently has already been assigned this case.

Then comes the "Motions for Summary Judgment".

Then, finally, comes the trial itself. According to Judge Larson, Defendants and Plaintiffs are required to meet and confer in order to estimate "whether the case will be tried to a jury or to the court, and the expected length of the trial". Now we are going to have a jury trial? This case could drag on for years! More billable hours. We're talking approximately $100,000 worth of attorneys fees here for a $1,780 case. That's crazy.

At this point, you might be asking yourself, "Why doesn't the DoD just freaking go to small claims court, settle the case and cut out all that needless expense?" It is my opinion that there's a very good reason why they won't -- it would be setting a precedence. If this case was ever allowed to come to trial in a local small claims venue, then from this point on every citizen who has ever been done wrong by the Feds could simply and easily find redress in small claims court.

But as things stand now, ordinary citizens like you and me can't afford to take the government to Federal court over matters that are important to us but which we cannot afford to pursue -- and thus we are forced to drop them.

One further objection I have regarding Stillwater vs. the Department of Defense having become a Federal case is that when I filed my lawsuit last June, the clerk of the Alameda County Superior Court accepted my filing papers, thus giving me "standing" to have this case tried in a county courtroom. However, when the U.S. Attorney General's office filed and served their "Notice of Removal," they basically ran roughshod over our local courts, in effect ordering them to make the venue change whether they wanted to or not.

According to the U.S. Attorney General's office, "A copy of this Notice is being filed will [sic] the Clerk of the Alameda County Superior Court, Berkeley Courthouse. That filing will automatically effect the removal of the action in its entirety to this Court for all future proceedings."

Conservatives are always yammering on and on about how the Federal government abuses its power (except of course when the Supreme Court let GWB steal the 2000 election or when corporations are granted the status of real people and get to move their profits to secret tax-free accounts in the Caymans or when GWB decides to illegally go to war) -- but this is one time that I actually do agree with the Right Wing. The Federal government should NOT BE GRANTED EXEMPTION from the jurisdiction of America's small claims courts. Why? Because We are the people -- and small claims courts are the people's courts.

Bottom line: I don't know if the Department of Defense or the Department of Justice will show up at my small claims court trial on January 9, but I myself will definitely be there. But if Stillwater vs. the Department of Defense is not successfully settled at this time, then I will be ready, willing and (hopefully) able to take this case on up to Federal court!

And if there are any attorneys out there who would like to volunteer their time to help me take these guys on in Federal court, just say the word. I didn't become a war correspondent for nothing. The Marines themselves have taught me how to be "First to Fight". The gloves are off!