Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Elect Bonnie!

The North Miami City Council Election is only days away.

Check out to learn more about why my mom is the right candidate for North Miami City Council.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Calling all Miami People: Help My Mom Win the Election!

My mom is running for North Miami City Council. She came in second place in the primary, and is now going head-to-head with the incumbent in the runoff on June 2nd. The election saw only a 16% turnout, so every vote is crucial to winning this election. We need your help to get across the finish line!

We need volunteers. Here's the schedule:

This and next Sunday, meet at our house for brunch may 24 and May 31 at 10:30 am to walk the neighborhoods.

We need people at polling places for early voting starting Thursday may 28, 29, 30, 31.

Finally, we need volunteers for election day June 2!

The after-election party will be at our house after polls close 7:30 - 10:00.

Our address is 1940 NE 124th St. North Miami FL, 33181. Please call my sister, Alison, at 305-725-1719 if you are interested in volunteering, or email her at

Any help you can give is most appreciated!

Monday, May 18, 2009

2005 Protests: My, How Things Have Changed...

I've been meaning to post this for a while. In 2005, I went to Washington DC to protest the Bush Inauguration, and produced this article for the Brandeis newspaper, the Justice. I think its a fascinating read now, because it really drives home how divided we were as a nation, and how much things have changed in the last four years.

Students proudly protest inauguration
By: Adam Schwartzbaum
Posted: 1/25/05
"What do we want?" I shouted. "Peace!" the crowd roared. "When do we want it?" Our voices echoed fiercely off the walls of the tunnel, erupting into the loudest chanting yet, "Now!"

It was Jan. 20, the day of President Bush's second inauguration. Over 35 dedicated Brandeis students-some Republicans, but mostly members of Students for Peace-had traveled to Washington to witness the event.

The mood was somber and intense. Signs ranged from defiant-"No Mandate! Impeach Bush for War Crimes!"-to despairing. One man held a black sign with pictures of Bush's and Cheney's faces, reading, "Four more Years. We're Fucked." Another read, "I voted for Kerry, now I'm holding this fucking sign." There were expressions of disgust and forceful calls for an end to war and torture, and a renewed emphasis on peace and justice.

My girlfriend and I began the march by carrying a black coffin through the streets, marching and chanting with thousands of like-minded activists. Most striking was the mixture of people: old and young, rich and poor, hippies and punks and families with kids, all united in deep appreciation of the promise of democracy.

As we came out of the tunnel and up into the light, I looked to my left, and I was struck by the image of an inquisitive young black girl in her mother's arms. As the crowd shouted "Peace!" I thought of the transformative effect this had on the child, opening her mind to possibilities of co-existence. As we roared "Now!" the toddler mouthed the word along with the crowd in sweet innocence. I had the good fortune of witnessing the miracle of a child's quiet prayer for peace.

Sadly, others' experiences weren't nearly as positive. Two Brandeis students, Isaac Kalish 08 and Reilly Stoler '08, were demonstrating on Pennsylvania Avenue when an altercation with the police resulted in shots of pepper spray into the crowd.

According to Kalish, anarchists had jumped up on the subway and were starting to burn a flag. Then several kids in the crowd started jostling a riot fence that had been erected to restrain the protestors. A three-foot section fell over.

"We started chanting like crazy: 'Whose streets? Our Streets!' and 'Tear it down! Tear it down!'" Kalish recalled.

When the crowd pulled down two more sections of the fence, he said, "The cops went ballistic and started spraying people straight in the eyes with pepper spray. Our eyes and throat started burning. We coughed uncontrollably."

Stoler was surprised to see how prepared some of the activists were for violence. "Anarchists had medics immediately spray milk in their eyes," he recalled. "Many took out gas masks or goggles once the pepper spraying began."

Even someone from Fox News was sprayed, both students noted, but he kept his camera directly focused only on the Bush supporters waiting in line. Nobody offered to help him.

Kalish and Stoler stayed there long enough to see the president's car. As Bush passed, these beleaguered, dedicated individuals let loose a giant roar of boos. Judging from what I heard, I wouldn't be surprised if he was routinely booed most of the way up the parade route.

Detailed student observations from the day reveal just how deeply divided our nation is.

Rebecca Pelfry '07 witnessed a disturbing argument while waiting in line to enter the parade: "I saw a demonstrator in his thirties walk up to an older man wearing a Bush/Cheney button on his chest. He rose in the man's face and sneered, 'You have blood on your hands! You sicken me!'"

Pelfry said that the older man, his family beside him decked out in Inauguration 2005 gear, replied, "You're going to hell, young man!"
"No way," he replied, "I'm not going to hell. You're going to hell!"

"I'm not going to hell," said the old man. "I'm a priest."

"What kind of priest are you?" he reportedly exclaimed. "Are you one of those child molesting priests, who go around touching little boys? Some of you are all right," he said, "but most of you aren't."

"His glare was venomous. The entire encounter was raw and barbarous," she said. "I thought they were going to bite each others heads off. Every time I'm more and more disheartened both by those protesting and by those in power. It becomes more hostile, more confrontational, and not something I want to be a part of. It has lost part of its class," Pelfry sighed.

For me, the day ended on a contemplative note. As Bush passed in his motorcade, I turned my back on him, in a symbolic protest organized online weeks before the inauguration. Afterward, I walked out into the crowd as it filed out and took the large American flag I'd been wearing all day off my back. I held it up upside-down in front of me, to make the symbol for America in distress. As I solemnly stood there, some people thanked me and took pictures and videos. Others cursed me, calling me unpatriotic. As my arms began to tire, two fellow Brandeis students came and held up my arms. Soon, 15 Brandeis students were gathered behind me. Our calm, serious faces forced people to think.

I was proud.

Editor's note: Adam Schwartzbaum '07 is Brandeis Democrats vice-president. © Copyright 2009 The Justice

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Krauthammer (Mis)Strikes Again

Sometimes, there are peices of journalism so compelling, so important, that I find it fitting not to simply link to them, but to provide them in full on this blog. In today's Washington Post, Dan Frumkin has written such an article. His point by point dissection of Charles Krauthammer's recent column attempting to morally justify torture should be required reading for anyone seeking moral clarity on this issue. Friends of the Baum will note that responses to Krauthammer have been done on this blog before. I can only applaud Frumkin for writing something I wish I had written. Bravo!

Krauthammer's Asterisks
Charles Krauthammer, in his Washington Post opinion column this morning, tries to find loopholes for impermissible evil.

"Torture is an impermissible evil. Except under two circumstances," he writes.

"The first is the ticking time bomb. An innocent's life is at stake. The bad guy you have captured possesses information that could save this life. He refuses to divulge. In such a case, the choice is easy."

Actually, no. The ticking time bomb scenario only exists in two places: On TV and in the dark fantasies of power-crazed and morally deficient authoritarians. In real life, things are never that certain. And trained interrogators say that even in the most extreme circumstances, traditional methods are the most effective.

Krauthammer continues: "Some people, however, believe you never torture. Ever. They are akin to conscientious objectors who will never fight in any war under any circumstances, and for whom we correctly show respect by exempting them from war duty. But we would never make one of them Centcom commander."

Actually, no. They are normal people who share the post-World War II international consensus that "recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world." Indeed, the idea of putting someone without a healthy respect for human rights at Centcom is abhorrent -- unless of course you believe that human rights don't matter.

Krauthamer: "The second exception to the no-torture rule is the extraction of information from a high-value enemy in possession of high-value information likely to save lives. This case lacks the black-and-white clarity of the ticking time bomb scenario. We know less about the length of the fuse or the nature of the next attack. But we do know the danger is great."

This of course is a blatant post-facto attempt at rationalizing the (inevitable) misdiagnosis of the ticking time bomb scenario. Now all of a sudden the standards are lower. Krauthammer is advocating fishing expeditions -- with a waterboard.

"Under those circumstances, you do what you have to do."

Krauthammer's core argument then is that the ends justify the means. He quotes two former CIA officials, both deeply invested in covering their asses, who unsurprisingly insist that torture worked. But none of the claims they or others in the complicit chain of command have made held up under even modest public scrutiny.

And he mocks the idea put forth by President Obama on Wednesday -- and supported by people who actually have experience in interrogation, rather than in watching TV and fantasizing about being Jack Bauer -- that traditional interrogation techniques are extremely effective.

For instance, he writes: "KSM, the mastermind of 9/11 who knew more about more plots than anyone else, did not seem very inclined to respond to polite inquiries about future plans. The man who boasted of personally beheading Daniel Pearl with a butcher knife answered questions about plots with 'soon you will know' -- meaning, when you count the bodies in the morgue and find horribly disfigured burn victims in hospitals, you will know then what we are planning now."

But as Scott Shane recently pointed out in the New York Times, with more than a little understatement: "Mr. Mohammed, captured on March 1, 2003, was waterboarded 183 times that month. That striking number, which would average out to six waterboardings a day, suggests that interrogators did not try a traditional, rapport-building approach for long before escalating to their most extreme tool."

And almost nobody who knows anything about the Pearl case (see, for instance, Lawrence Wright and Peter Bergen) actually thinks KSM -- who confessed to the killing after being tortured -- had anything to do with it. Torture after all is really only good at one thing: eliciting false confessions. That we got plenty of from KSM.

But his "soon you will know" boast was all bluster -- sort of like Saddam Hussein's claim to have nuclear capability. ("Responding to bluster with war crimes" -- there's a great motto for an administration.) Nothing KSM said came close to thwarting any imminent attack. One hundred and eighty three waterboarding sessions later, the "bodies in the morgue" and the "horribly disfigured burn victims" were still only a fantasy of the torturers -- and certain opinion columnists.

Krauthammer: "The other problem is one of timing. The good cop routine can take weeks or months or years. We didn't have that luxury in the aftermath of 9/11 when waterboarding, for example, was in use."

But his compacting of the timeline is shameless revisionism. Top officials of the Bush administration -- and yes, I'm looking at you, Mr. Cheney -- panicked. And they continued to panic after any excuse for panic was long over. Waterboarding was conducted over a period of several months, long after 9/11 -- from August 2002 at least through March 2003. Other torture tactics were widely employed in Iraq, Afghanistan and Guantanamo over a period of years. Legal memos defending various forms of torture were being commissioned by the White House until virtually the end of the Bush administration.

And in his final defense, Krauthammer argues that the lack of objections at the time from Nancy Pelosi and other members of Congress who were briefed on interrogation policies is proof that "at the time the information was important enough, the danger great enough and our blindness about the enemy's plans severe enough to justify an exception to the moral injunction against torture."

Precisely what members of Congress were told and how they responded should absolutely be a part of any thorough official investigation into the abuses of the Bush years. The enablers must be exposed as surely as the complicit. And members of Congress who knew what was happening and remained silent must be held to public account for their moral cowardice.

But their failure to speak out does not change the fundamental moral equation.

If the United States is to live up to its core values, if it is to once again be a beacon of human rights to the world and a champion of human dignity, then when it comes to torture -- to impermissible evil, as Krauthammer himself puts it -- there can be no asterisks.

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