Saturday, October 11, 2003

Inside America's concentration camp:

Gitmo terror suspects tortured





Is this the kind of America we want to live in? One in which political prisoners are detained indefinitely and tortured? I sure hope not.

Looks like a Shia cleric in Iraq is going to form a rival government to the one propped up by U.S. occupiers

Here's the lowdown. For the Bush administration this has to be anxiety producing: after all, weren't they confidently pronouncing earlier this year that there was no way that they would allow a Shi'ite led government to happen in post-Saddam Iraq? Even assuming that the occupying forces are succeed in quashing this particular rival government, there is little doubt that the Bush-Blair axis is losing its control over the situation they created.

Lessons in Civility

An excellent column from economist Paul Krugman.



Remember all those smears on Clinton and on practically anyone identified as a "liberal" during the 1990s by our friends on the radical right wing of the spectrum? They could spout off any lie, make superficial insults (e.g., of their opponents' physical appearance), and doing so in the most vicious manner possible. These very same people seem unable or unwilling to grasp that more than a few of us who were the targets of their vitriol (and who continue to be the target of their vitriol) are irritated. Hence some great diatribes by Al Franken, Michael Moore, and so on. Of course when someone who is "liberal" gets rude, these same people are crying foul. Talk about your double standards.



Now, there's a classic Nick Lowe line, "you have to be cruel to be kind in the right measure..." Let's say you have a friend who's addicted to alcohol or some other psychoactive drug. Let's say you and several other friends and loved ones are at the end of your collective rope with this person and really want to shake some sense into him/her. So we do a confrontation: catch our addicted friend off-guard with a group meeting that forces the addict to face the effects of their problem on the rest of us and of course themselves. Ideally, if done right, this confrontation will lead our addicted friend to admit a problem and head to rehab. There's just no polite way to tell a drunk that he or she has really fucked up, big time.



I look at several of the best-sellers that Krugman mentions (in addition to Michael Moore's most recent two books) as an effort at confrontation. There is no polite way to point out the mess that this administration, drunk with power, has made -- not only for themselves but for all of us collectively. There is no polite way to point out that we are on the brink of economic catastrophe, that our foreign policy is failing, and that they have made absolutely no effort to plan for future environmental challenges (e.g., global warming, the rapid depletion of fossil fuels). It requires a confrontation on a massive scale. Krugman may not use my metaphor, but he nails the issue head on.



More food for thought.

The Mission

A column from William Rivers Pitt. A worthwhile run-down of the last few years (well really decades) of American political history, from a strong progressive perspective. Also provides a message that the current Bush administration has truly jumped the shark.

Friday, October 10, 2003

Prisoner's Dilemma:

How '60s anti-war activists let today's chicken hawks off the hook. A draft-resister's story.





This one earns *must-read* status in my eyes. If you have an idealized view of what the 1960s was all about, this one will turn your world upside-down.



I'm still trying to absorb the article's content. To the extent that I have, I will say this: he appears to have nailed it when he argues that the anti-war movement of that period was largely superficial, in that many of the activists never faced any serious consequences for their actions but instead were able to rely on loopholes available to the privileged. For years I've been trying to work out why I have a general contempt for much of the "Baby Boom" generation, and I think I've got a handle on the source of that contempt: these cats have skated by through life without having to face serious consequences for their actions. When it was convenient to be against the war, these cats were against the war. But they don't think twice about starting wars now that they are the "establishment." Our former president Clinton comes readily to mind. So too does George W. Bush. There's always someone there to bail his sorry ass out at the last minute, and he continues the same old bullshit pattern of behavior. Entitlement to an endless supply of free passes is the rule of the day.



Wonder why America is such a mess? Look who we learned from. Many of these hypocrite whom we might refer to as chickenhawks are the moms and dads of present day Gen Xers and the Gen Y crew. They taught us well. We have a culture of immediate gratification. We want our toys and we want them right now. We want our war and we want it to be quick and convenient.



Let's ponder a concept from the Epicurean thinkers of the Hellenistic age: gratification and pleasure are generally okay, but there's a catch. Some things that are pleasurable now may lead to long-term suffering. Some suffering in the short-term may lead to long-term benefits. That lesson has largely been forgotten here in the US of A. If the vultures ever come home to roost, it's gonna be ugly.

And while I'm thinking of oil

If there's truth value to the contention that our oil production will reach its peak sometime within the next decade, how long will it take before we've completely exhausted this non-renewable resource? I know we go through our day-to-day lives not thinking about the long term consequences of our current patterns of consumption, but do we as a species have any contingency plan for when the oil wells run dry?



Update: Something must be in the air today because this excellent post by Meteor Blades appears on the Daily Kos blog Energy Plan: No Visionaries, Please - Part 2 . The post and the ensuing discussion in the comments section is well worth the time and effort.

Here's the thing that keeps bugging me

Where do the Iraqis figure into the reconstruction of their own country? We hear a great deal about the oil revenues that Iraq will generate eventually, and there is a great deal of debate regarding who should win contracts to rebuild the infrastructure of Iraq (which had been in bad shape even before the US invasion and occupation this past spring). We've installed a puppet "regime" of sorts that seems pretty ineffectual. And what about the Iraqis? You know, the people we were supposed to be "liberating"? Does it bother you that a number of our congressional leaders wish to increase the debt burden of Iraq by offering assistance in the form of loans rather than outright grants? Think about it this way: We bomb a nation of fellow human beings back to the stone-age, raid their treasures, kill thousands of innocent civilians, maim countless thousands more, and then to add insult to injury expect them to pay for the mess we made!?! WTF???



None of this is sitting well with me.

No money, no play: US on the brink in Iraq

Explains the stakes involved in upcoming negotiations between the US government and creditor nations from the IMF and World Bank. The bottom line appears to be this: the US simply does not have the funds to finance the occupation in Iraq on its own. Will the Bushies see the error of their ways and loosen their grip on their hoped-for spoils of war, or will they leave Madrid empty-handed later this month? Stay tuned...

Another Exercise of Compare and Contrast

The speech Bush delivered to National Guard troops vs reality.

The New Model Republican Party

Just for the summary of the Texas Republican platform alone, it's worth reading. Actually, Kevin's post is wonderfully written and worth a read.

Enough Already

I dig this cat's sense of frustration. I've probably stated this elsewhere, but it bears some repeating: idealism is great, but you can't save the world on idealism alone. At this point in American history, the main goal is to throw Bush and his gang of thugs out of office next November. This is not the time to go Green or to prop up a candidate within the Democrat party who has no hope in hell of winning this race. For me, it was and still is Dean who got me excited about the Democrat party...something I have not been for quite a number of years. He's done something that I have not seen the now old "new Democrats" do in a long time: show some backbone. Dean, or someone a lot like him, may very well be capable of firing up the party's rank and file. Will Lieberman do that? No. Kerry? Doubtful. Gephardt? His time has come and gone. I'm still not sure what to make of Clark yet. I do plan on keeping an open mind about the candidates. Will I find the eventual nominee perfect? Highly doubtful. However, the Democrats have actually succeeded in fielding a set of candidates who are worthy of consideration in my opinion, and in most cases I would not have to view the nominee as the lesser of evils (Lieberman would be the only one I'd have difficulty voting for). The race is young though. In the mean time, I'm keeping my mind open.



Peace, y'all.

Thursday, October 9, 2003

Five Reasons Not to Recall the Groping Governor

I'd say for anyone with a bad case of re-recall fever, read what Brian Flemming has to say. Personally, I think California Democrats, and more broadly progessives within and outside the Democrat party should concentrate their energies elsewhere. We know he's going to be doing some serious groping in Sacramento, not only for boobs on nubile young interns but also groping for some semblance of support from a hostile legislature, and in the process become more emasculated than a steroid popping body-builder (oh wait, he probably has experience with that one). He will twist in the wind. He will end up impotent, and not even Viagra will help. The Governor's job isn't really all that great any way in California, given the way it's government is set up. It's a losing cause for a fading actor (just as the Minnesota governorship was a losing cause ultimately for a fading pro wrestler).



The main beef I have with Flemming's reasoning: he over-estimates the extent of support for Ah-nuld. According to my math, garnering 48% of the vote with a voter turnout of 54% yields support of approximately 25% of the state's registered voters. That's hardly a mandate.



Let's move on. If there is a solid legal basis for a recall (say criminal charges from one of these sexual assault deals are filed), then by all means go for it. Otherwise, our energy truly is better spent...say on regime change at the White House.

Wednesday, October 8, 2003

Progressive Candidate Roughed Up By Ah-nuld Brownshirt Thugs

This is worth linking to because I do think it catches the sort of fascist jock itch that has infected the Gropenator's campaign troops. Their way of handling dissent: name calling (anti-Ahnuld demonstrators have been called "faggots", "pussies", "bitches", "Commies", and so on), and of course their candidate himself has resorted to verbally threatening and abusive behavior as was evident in his exchange with Arianna Huffington a few weeks back (what a role model); and physical attacks (as in the case with Ms. Georgy Russell, and last week with the assault of two nuns); and of course threats of physical violence. Well these are the sorts of Brownshirt tactics we've come to expect of the right-wing types, as has been evident at anti-war rallies where pro-war types showed up. One of my favorite documentations of this appears in Brian Flemming's e-book, "Fair and Balanced: A Play in One Act and Other Short Works." One of those short works is a photo essay of an anti-war rally in Los Angeles late last March, and the counter-demonstrators and their behavior. Among the artifacts: a flyer that read "Theoretically we should be able to punch you in the face and get away with it." The author also documents an exchange between an anti-war protester and a pro-war counter-protester in which the pro-war cat's retort to a question about why he was so gung-ho about the war was simply "because you're a fucking faggot." That sure took a lot of intellect. Another man was constantly shouted down by the group of counter-demonstrators with statements of "You're a dumbass." When asked by counter-demonstrator why he didn't defend himself, his answer was to point out that they shouted him down every time he tried to speak. To that the woman replied, "that's because we don't want to hear what you say! Why don't you go to another country?" You get the picture. To see more, go to this site..



And now:





Gubernatorial candidate Georgy Russell was pushed, shoved, hit and kicked yesterday by supporters of Arnold Schwarzenegger at a rally in Pleasanton CA. She was repeatedly called a "bitch" and one of the Arnold Supporters wrote on her clothing with a permanent marking pen. The felonious abusers, who claimed to be provoked by remarks from Russell, were near equal numbers of men and women and no one during the incident came to Russell's aid. Schwarzeneggar and his wife Maria Shriver witnessed the attack and neither said or did anything to stop the abuse.



Russell, while disgusted with the behavior, thinks Arnold and his supporters deserve each other. "Some of Arnold's supporters apparently do not hesitate when it comes to using violence to accomplish their goals. It's not surprising that they support and defend a candidate who has manifested poor judgment and aggressive behavior most of his adult life. The behavior exhibited by Arnold's supporters is not simply an aberration, it is an MO that has it's roots at the top; it is reminiscent of the behavior of the thugs that were bussed in by Republicans during the Florida recount to perform much the same role as the bullies of yesterday and while that is no surprise to me I am nonetheless sickened by it all. This bully mentality was exhibited by Arnold in the debate in his rude treatment of Arianna Huffington and that the press offered little to no criticism of his behavior opened the door wide and gave a green light to his supporters to follow suit."



This trend towards violence is becoming a near prevailing attitude in the Schwarzenengger camp. At the Modesto stop, the emcee suggested that someone find the LA Times reporter and "beat him up." In Pleasanton, Arnold supporters blocked cameras to keep photographers from taking shots of Code Pink protesters.



Russell escaped with only minor bruises and scratches and in her now trademark wit she said of the fan who wrote on her clothing. "I find it quite ironic, and somewhat entertaining, that Arnold's fan used his pen to cross out on my shirt 'Brains, Beauty, Leadership, all traits Arnold himself lacks."

California Über Alles

Classic Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy tune:





[CHORUS:]

Califoria ueber alles

California above all others

[Dead Kennedy's:] California ueber alles (2x)

I'm your governor Pete Wilson, ya know

The baddest governor to ever grab the mic and go

BOOOM !

Gimme a budget and watch me hack it !

Gimme a beat and I'll show you how to jack it !

I give the rich a giant tax loophole

I leave the poor living in a poophole

At time when Aids is in a crisis

I cut health care and I raise prices

Sales tax, snack tax, excise tax

Information attack with a newspaper tax

Hit the pocket books of working families

Increase tuition at the universities

Some day I'll command all o' you

Even your kids are gonna pray to me in school

Soon I'm gonna be the president

You might remember the last one this state sent

[CHORUS]

I'm so proud to know the Great Communicator

Wanna be known as the Great Incarcerator

I'll blow environmentalists away

And I'll be the fuhrer some day

I'll keep cuttin' Public Education

even though we rang 54th in the nation

I've got a plan for all the minorities

Send'em to the California Youth Authorities

From San Francisco Urban Elementary

to Pelican Bay State Penitentiary

There they can work for the master race

and always wear a happy face

Close your eyes, it can't happen here

Big Brother in a squad car's comin' near

Come enjoy the surf and the sun

and help California number one !

[CHORUS]

Now it's 1992

Knock knock at your front door, yo guess who ?!

It's the suede denim secret police

They've come to your house for your longhaired niece

Gonna send her off to a camp

'cause she's been accused of growing hemp

Don't worry it's only a shower

And now for your clothes here's a pretty flower

Gonna die on malathion gas

The serpent's egg has always been hatched

People starvin' and livin' in the streets

because they tried to mess with me President Pete

[CHORUS]





Seems fitting given that approximately 25% of the registered voters in the recall election voted for a goon whose strings are pulled by Pete Wilson.

So Ah-nuld Shall Be Guv

More proof that pop culture and electoral politics are one and the same. It was truly the Entertainment Tonight campaign.



But let's give props to Gil-Scott Heron. Back in 1981, he wrote this poem called "B-Movie". Great tune, and timely. He hit it on the head: Americans want nostalgia. They want the action hero who always saved America at the last minute, just like in a b-movie. So, let's see what's transpired in the last 20 years: in 1981 it was the year we went from "Shogun" to "Raygun". "Raygun" was a box office smash. So years later America got the sequel "Re-Ron" who proved to be no equal and lasted all of four years. Got an intermission of sorts for eight years, and then we got "Son of Re-Ron". And that feature bombed Afghanistan and Iraq, and is now bombing at the box office. So now the GOP producers behind the White House backdrop are getting up-tight. They gotta find a new action hero who will save America at the last minute. And that brings us to The Terminator. He's come from the future to Save California -- at the last minute, and if this new b-movie on the set of the Governor's mansion works out, and a few US Constitutional inconveniences can be finessed, The Terminator will have a starring role on the set of the White House.



But let's back up. First off, let's get something straight: they ain't no mandate in tha state of Cali-forn-i-a. This feature, brought to you from the screenwriters at Rove Inc. and Wilson Studios, was approved by only about 25% of the registered voters in California (including the cats who sat out in disgust). Ahnuld will act like he has a mandate, just like he acted like an actor, then he acted like a moderate, and is now acting like a governor. And now we'll see Californians acting like 25% of the registered voters constitutes a mandate. We're all actors in this, I suppose.



Hollywood? Hollyweird.

Sunday, October 5, 2003

For better - or worse

The main thrust of the editorial: the anti-war movement may have failed to prevent the Iraq war, but did have an impact on the political landscape. Now for the hard part: we have a foundation to build upon, but there is so much still to be done.



To me a lot of it comes down to having a unified front. Many of us who opposed the Iraq war debacle came from a variety of backgrounds, many that would fall under the rubric of "progressive", but "progressive" covers a tremendous amount of ideological territory. I sincerely believe that we are at an historical crossroads, and one in which endless bickering about theoretical minutia is unhelpful. Nor is this the time to trot out our favorite pet issues (I certainly have mine) at every available gathering or protest. Let's stay focused. There is work to be done to remove what is arguably the most irresponsible and oppressive regime to occupy the White House before it can do further damage at home and abroad.