Friday, September 29, 2006

A Letter From Hammertown

Dear -------

If it's not my fault reggaeton
ain't catching on
with the surf & sandalwood set--
these "sleeve notes"
as you call them
are still all that
keep me from following
Sunny Boy & Red River
over Pellagra Falls--
ok so never the chef nor the entrepeneur
but not the guy in a leather apron
with a bolt-gun either,
delivering up discrimination
at the end of a sticky fork
& if the molasses taste of anger
is likewise as brittle
when it cools off
as a guinea palmed to a retainer
at the moment of yearly eye contact
so too the pronouncements
of this Brazen Head
can pass in a dark room
for both nourishment
& judgement.
Magna Carta RIP

"After years of interrogations at Guantanamo, the military interrogators had come to realize that Mr. Daihani had not meant to give money to support terrorism, having had no inkling that his donation could have supported any terrorist groups.

Yet to the U.S. military it did not matter whether Mr. Daihani had intended to support terrorism or even known that he might have supported terrorism. Even if his support for terrorism was entirely accidental, the military designated Mr. Daihani an 'enemy combatant,' and, on that basis, kept him locked up 24 hours a day for four years, in solitary confinement in a 9- by 6-foot cell, forbidding him to speak to his family or even to read a newspaper.

The absence of any evidence that Mr. Daihani had ever done anything to support terrorism came to light only because the right to seek habeas corpus was available. After the Supreme Court held, in 2004, that Mr. Daihani and the other detainees could seek habeas corpus, Mr. Daihani was allowed to meet with his lawyers, who worked for several years to win his freedom. More than a year after it became public that no evidence supported Mr. Daihani's imprisonment, the government released him to Kuwait, his home country.

Congress is now poised to do something it has never done before: Take away the right of prisoners to seek habeas corpus. Since long before the United States became a nation, the right to seek habeas corpus has guaranteed that anyone imprisoned by the government may ask a judge to determine whether he or she is properly imprisoned. The right to seek habeas corpus has applied to prisoners regardless of whether they are citizens or foreigners, and no matter how dangerous they are accused of being, or how horrible their alleged crimes..."
Article 1, Section 9, Clause 2: William Blackstone, Commentaries 3:129--37

"In a former part of these commentaries we expatiated at large on the personal liberty of the subject. It was shewn to be a natural inherent right, which could not be surrendered or forfeited unless by the commission of some great and atrocious crime, nor ought to be abridged in any case without the special permission of law. A doctrine co-eval with the first rudiments of the English constitution; and handed down to us from our Saxon ancestors, notwithstanding all their struggles with the Danes, and the violence of the Norman conquest: asserted afterwards and confirmed by the conqueror himself and his descendants: and though sometimes a little impaired by the ferocity of the times, and the occasional despotism of jealous or usurping princes, yet established on the firmest basis by the provisions of magna carta, and a long succession of statutes enacted under Edward III. To assert an absolute exemption from imprisonment in all cases, is inconsistent with every idea of law and political society; and in the end would destroy all civil liberty, by rendering it's protection impossible: but the glory of the English law consists in clearly defining the times, the causes, and the extent, when, wherefore, and to what degree, the imprisonment of the subject may be lawful. This induces an absolute necessity of expressing upon every commitment the reason for which it is made; that the court upon an habeas corpus may examine into it's validity; and according to the circumstances of the case may discharge, admit to bail, or remand the prisoner."
200 years ago--Article 1, Section 9, Clause 2: House of Representatives, Suspension of the Habeas Corpus

"It is, indeed, difficult for me, consistently, with the sincere and high respect which I entertain for the source from whence this measure originated, to express, in decorous terms, the hostility which I feel to the proposition. I am therefore disposed to consider it as an original proposition here; as a motion in this body to suspend, for a limited time, the privileges attached to the writ of habeas corpus. And, in this point of view, I am prepared to say that it is the most extraordinary proposition that has ever been presented for our consideration and adoption. Sir, what is the language of our Constitution upon this subject? 'The privilege of the writ of habeas corpus shall not be suspended, except when, in cases of invasion or rebellion, the public safety shall require it.' Have we a right to suspend it in any and every case of invasion and rebellion? So far from it, that we are under a Constitutional interdiction to act, unless the existing invasion or rebellion, in our sober judgment, threatens the first principles of the national compact, and the Constitution itself. In other words, we can only act, in this case, with a view to national self-preservation. We can suspend the writ of habeas corpus only in a case of extreme emergency; that alone is salus populi which will justify this lex suprema. And is this a crisis of such awful moment? Is it necessary, at this time, to constitute a dictatorship, to save the people from themselves, and to take care that the Republic shall receive no detriment? What is the proposition? To create a single Dictator, as in ancient Rome, in whom all power shall be vested for a time? No; to create one great Dictator, and a multitude, an army of subaltern and petty despots; to invest, not only the President of the United States, but the Governors of States and Territories, and, indeed, all persons deriving civil or military authority from the supreme Executive, with unlimited and irresponsible power over the personal liberty of your citizens. Is this one of those great crises that require a suspension, a temporary prostration of the Constitution itself? Does the stately superstructure of our Republic thus tremble to its centre, and totter towards its fall? Common sense must give a negative answer to these questions. What are the facts? Is it, indeed, a case of rebellion? We are officially informed that rebellion has reared its hydra front in the peaceful valleys of the West. But we are also informed by the Executive that treason has no prospect of success; that "the fugitives from the Ohio, and their associates from Cumberland, cannot threaten serious danger even to the city of New Orleans." Not a single city, still less a Territory or a State, is considered in danger; and the Executve, not only possesses all the information which has been communicated to us, but much more, for we are informed that the communication has been made under the reservation contained in the resolution requesting it, and of course all the facts in the knowledge of the Executive, which are decided to be improper for disclosure at this time, have been kept back. And the Executive, possessing all this information, assures us that the public safety is not endangered. Can we, under these circumstances, consent to the investiture of dictatorial powers in that department of the Government which thus assures us that all is safe? It would be contrary to the spirit of the Constitution."

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Beckett and the Mets

"Beckett came to New York—once, in 1964, to work on a short film that he'd written called "Film", starring Buster Keaton, to be distributed by Rosset. He spent a hot summer week at Rosset's Houston Street townhouse, but did catch up with Dick Seaver, who, as it turns out, was second cousin to the future Hall of Fame pitcher for the New York Mets, Tom Seaver. Seaver (Dick, that is) helped Beckett beat the heat by taking him to a Mets doubleheader at Shea Stadium in Queens. "I tried to explain the rudiments of the game to him," says Seaver four decades late. "I also explained that the Mets were at the time a fledging team and pretty terrible." Beckett, known for his kinship to failure ("Try again. Fail again. Fail better."), found the miserable Mets to be perfectly enjoyable, so much so that he insisted they stay for the second game. Unfortunately, the Mets, rather improbably, won both games..."

Monday, September 25, 2006

via woodslot an interesting essay on Aestheticism and Loyalty: Basil Bunting's Response to World War II

"I criticize a machine by nearly the same criteria as I do a work of art. A Lee-Enfield rifle, a Hotchkiss machine gun, have nothing superfluous nor fussy about them. They are utterly simple - having reached that simplicity via complication and sophistication galore. The kind of people who, if they had literary minds at all, would like euphemism or trickiness, prefer Lewis guns or Remington or Ross rifles. My machine-gun is a Hotchkiss and I feel toward it something similar in kind to what I feel for Egyptian sculpture . I think Holbein or Bach or Praxiteles, as well as Alexander, would have appreciated a Hotchkiss gun..."

Sunday, September 24, 2006

Junco Partner

Two juncos, giddy & drunk with display
on the last available hookup day,
flew interlocking spirals toward the ground,
then with short hard strokes pivoted around
& flew to some pre-arranged and lofty space.
They did this in the dusty face
of burnt topsoil ("loamy slash") where
the little forest had been, hard against a bare
woodboard fence, so that everyone could see it.
By the fifth repetition their spiral was sweet--
if they'd have been eagles they could have locked feet--
until the last moment, a foot off the yard,
they parted as if pushed, not pivoting but hard
hard down for one two point landings in the dust.
After shaking off the landing, the bird just
beside the fence turned toward it, lowered its head
and ran under it, fast, towards the shed.
The other bird followed bam! then gone
and they footchased each other onto the lawn
for quite a few feet before turning south
toward the old alders behind the house,
a place where they would not be harassed--
with an odd, rolling gait, but really really fast.

(reworked from Spring 2005)

Tony Torn's engagingly nasty little horror comedy The Convention is online...

fine Steve Evans dissection of Free (Market) Verse

"Here’s how a glum four months of Kooser’s column parses out: A speaker observes an alienated couple as they dourly squirt Windex at each other’s faces from opposite sides of a pane they’re cleaning. A speaker assists minimally in the burial of an acquaintance. A speaker recalls buying red shoes for a woman who hasn’t been seen since. A speaker feels remorse for having a crippled piglet put down. A speaker observes a neighbor hauling bales to his barn as autumn descends. A speaker employs end rhyme to convince himself to give up booze. Biting into a potato, a speaker recalls his impoverished childhood. A speaker is reminded by moonflowers of her recently deceased mother. A speaker contemplates an elderly veteran in a parade. A speaker celebrates the arrival of spring. A speaker observes as a male peacock’s ostentatious display fails to interest a female intent on food. A speaker named after his grandfather feels his forebear’s presence while filling out forms and at supper. A tamed speaker recalls his youthful virility on the eve of his fortieth birthday. A speaker likens an elderly neighbor in a housecoat to a sunset. A speaker contemplates the life of an obsessive collector of Noah’s Ark images and trinkets. A speaker likens love to salt..."