Wednesday, December 29, 2004

You go through life with the reality you have

not the one you wish for. A terse Fiskian statement to introduce a Fisk column, In This Mire Of Death, Lies And Atrocities, We Glimpse The Ghost Of Vietnam, a few clips of which follow below:

It is difficult, over the past year, to think of anything that has not gone wrong or grown worse in Iraq. The electrical grid is collapsing again, the petrol queues are greater than they were in the days following the illegal invasion in 2003, and security is non-existent in all but the Kurdish north of the country.



[...]



Yet, still the invaders go on telling us that things are getting better, that Iraq is about to enter the brotherhood of nations. Bush even got re-elected after telling this lie. The body bags are returning home more frequently than ever - we are not supposed to ask how many Iraqis are dying - yet still we are told that the invasion was worthwhile, that Iraqis are better off, that security will improve or - my favourite, this one - that they will get worse, the nearer we get to elections.



This is the same old story that Bush and Rumsfeld used to put about last spring: that things are getting better - which is why the insurgents are creating so much violence; in other words, the better things are, the worse things are going to get. When you read this nonsense in Washington or London, it might make sense. In Baghdad, it is madness. I wouldn't want to try it out on the young American soldiers who were so arrogantly informed by Rumsfeld that "you go to war with the army you have".



[...]



Which leads us to the one clear fact about the last year of chaos and anarchy and brutality in Iraq. We still do not know who our enemies are. Save for the one name, "Zarqawi", the Americans - with all the billions of dollars they have thrown into intelligence, their CIA mainframe computers and their huge payments to informers - simply do not know whom they are fighting. They "recapture" Samarra - three times - and then they lose it again. They "recapture" Fallujah and then they lose it again. They cannot even control the main streets of Baghdad.



Who would have believed, in 2003, as US forces drove into Baghdad, that within two years they would be mired in their biggest guerrilla war since Vietnam? Those few of us who predicted just that - and The Independent was among them - were derided as nay-sayers, doom-mongers, pessimists.


Ah yes, I remember well...as a fellow nay-sayer (doom-monger, pessimist, etc.) I find myself saying over and over again "I told you so." Given the scope of the Iraq quagmire and the tragic consequences for countless tens of thousands of Iraqis and of course those "coalition" troops (and their families) I find being right to be unsatisfying indeed. The Iraq war was a violation of trust by Bu$hCo, by Blair. That Bu$hCo appears to have been rewarded for having so badly violated the trust his citizens give the office of President is all the more tragic. This is one sad story that will only continue to get worse until some sort of regime change occurs here in the US. I suppose Bu$hCo is sufficiently scandal-plagued to where the regime may simply implode, collapse under the weight of their collective hubris. That remains to be seen.

Trying to figure out what's wrong with the Preznit?

PHOTOS Show George W. Bush Seriously Ill Physically. This is something I've touched on before, so here's some more grist for the mill.

Saw some tsunami coverage on tv today

Not much I can say. Latest Reuters report has the death toll at 68,000 and climbing. Here's a link to check out if you want more info, want to know where to contribute $ to the relief effort, etc..

Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Where's the conservative outrage to torture?

Nowhere to be found, apparently. What does that tell us about conservative values?

Remember this Democrats: Don't Think Like an Elephant

Steve Gilliard clearly gets it. Read No more of the same and Duh, we don't kill babies, we kill them and eat them

for proof. The former (with a classic Howard Dean pic) lays out what's at stake with the DNC chair election, and why having a reformer (whether Dean or someone else) is crucial. The latter post gets at the importance of being able to clearly articulate your ideas. There's an old expression that I recall from a Vonnegut novel (Cat's Cradle): "Any scientist who cannot explain his ideas to a nine year old is a charlatan." I'd say the same for any policy wonk or political consultant. It's obvious to me that the Democrats have plenty of charlatans advising them who need to be unceremoniously fired. Donna Brazile is merely one of them who needs to be avoided like the plague. It's simple: know your core values, be able to articulate those values, use those values for framing policy. The policies will flow coherently from those values - the frames will make those policies understandable to your audience.

Monday, December 27, 2004

Skeletons in Big Pharma's Closet

Big Pharma's Dirty Little Secret is Out



Some things that caught my attention:

The American healthcare system is the best in the world. Or so we are often told. But is it really true?



It is certainly the best system for drug companies, which can charge the highest prices in the world to some U.S. consumers. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that average prices for patented drugs in 25 other top industrialized nations were 35% to 55% lower than in the United States.



And it is a pretty good system for hospitals, insurance companies and others that deliver healthcare services. Americans spend about twice as much per person for healthcare as do Canadians, Japanese or Europeans, according to the World Health Organization.



But it's not a good system for American citizens. The U.S. has shorter life expectancies and higher infant and child mortality rates than Canada, Japan and all of Western Europe except Portugal, according to the WHO.



[...]



Our dirty little secret is that the drug industry already sells its products, right here in the U.S., at the same low prices charged in Canada and Europe. It's done through rebates. These are given to those with enough power to negotiate drug prices, such as the VA.

A 2001 study by the consumer advocacy group Public Citizen found that drug companies' favorite customers paid just a little over half the retail price. This leaves the 67 million Americans without insurance to pay cash, with no rebates, at double the prices paid by the most-favored customers.



The fight against re-importation of drugs is a fight to continue to charge our uninsureds full price while giving everyone else a rebate.




There's more...

Holy Crap!

From a news story via No Capital

Muslims planned to turn an old sod farm near Memphis into a cemetery, but angry neighbors protested, complaining the burial ground could become a staging ground for terrorists or spread disease from unembalmed bodies.



It was not the first time a group faced opposition when trying to build a cemetery or a mosque, but the dispute stood out for the clarity of its anti-Muslim rhetoric.



"We know for a fact that Muslim mosques have been used as terrorist hideouts and centers for terrorist activities," farmer John Wilson told members of a planning commission last month.

Top Ten Most Outrageous Statements of 2004

And with those wingnuts, you know this is only the tip of the iceberg.

Add Cuba to the list of countries Bu$hCo must invade

Castro Announces Crude Oil Discovery

HAVANA -- President Fidel Castro said a crude oil deposit has been discovered off Cuba containing up to 100 million barrels, good news for a country that imports about half the petroleum it needs.



"This is the first discovery since 1999," Castro said Friday in a speech to a closed session of the National Assembly. His comments were aired on state television Saturday.



Castro said the deposit was located off the coast of Santa Cruz del Norte, east of Havana, during an exploratory drilling. He said production at the site could begin during 2006.



Cuba currently produces 75,000 barrels daily, about half of what it needs. It imports most of the rest, much of it on favorable terms from political ally Venezuela.



Oil specialists believe Cuba's waters in the Gulf of Mexico could contain large quantities of crude, just as those of Mexico and the United States do. Earlier explorations turned up only modest discoveries.


Hmmmmm....I wonder how long before we hear the same neocongame that we've experienced over Iraq and most recently Iran.

Canadian Newsmaker of the Year

Seeking the Truth: How one man’s quest for justice is quietly reshaping a nation’s values and law

Who is Maher Arar? We all know the basic contours of his story. In 2002, U.S. officials detained the Canadian software engineer at New York City’s John F. Kennedy International Airport. They alleged that he was linked to al-Qaeda and secretly deported him to Syria, where he says he was tortured. When Arar was freed more than a year later and the public got a glimpse of him, he seemed to be a likable, hard-working family man caught up in a monstrous international screwup. Was there more? Simultaneously, officials, most of them anonymous, were leaking information and dropping hints suggesting that Arar was a security risk with something to hide.



Well, if Arar is a terrorist, he is unlike any other. In contrast to other suspects dispatched to harsh justice, Arar did not vanish into oblivion in his Middle East cell. Nor, after his release, did he recoil from public view. Instead, Arar, who has a modest home in Ottawa, has stepped into the spotlight as a vocal proponent of human rights in Canada, a symbol of how fear and injustice have permeated life in the West since 9/11. To this day, it has not been revealed why Arar was detained. And no one has pushed harder to shed light on his case than Arar. “I have nothing to hide,” he said in late 2003. “I want a public inquiry.”



Arar got his wish. His perseverance—not to mention the absence of evidence against him—helped prod Public Safety Minister Anne McLellan in January 2004 to create a commission to investigate the matter. There is more at stake than just learning the truth. The commission may come up with a new plan for overseeing the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which is accused of botching its end of the case. Arar has launched two gutsy lawsuits in 2004 targeting some of the most powerful people on the continent, including U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, former Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chrétien and R.C.M.P. Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli.



Whatever the outcome, Arar has forced Canada to rethink how it balances human rights and security concerns. His struggle has revealed troubling details about how Canada’s police and intelligence agencies share information with foreign governments. And his case is a disturbing reminder of America’s outsize role in the world, particularly since 9/11, and has prompted fresh debate on the harsh powers of Canada’s Anti-Terrorism Act. Before Arar’s situation surfaced, Canadians largely felt that security excesses were a “distant, complicated” problem, says Alex Neve, head of Amnesty International Canada. “It wasn’t until Maher came home that Canadians realized that this is also about us.”


There's more.

Sunday, December 26, 2004

Dude, where's my vote?

The Sideshow has an excellent summary on the importance of votes and GOP reluctance to respect our voters' expectation that their votes will actually be counted.

Christmas present to my son

As I don't usually have a lot of spare money to play with, I don't have the means to buy a lot of toys for my kids. So instead I avail myself to them in other ways. Today I took my son to Crystal Cove State Beach (part of Crystal Cove State Park, where we walked along beach trails, did some tide pooling, and otherwise just grooved on the beautiful sunny winter weather along the coast. I took some pix, so hopefully will eventually have something scanned to post on the blog. The toys will be forgotten within a few weeks - the memories of spending a special day with dad will last a lifetime.

Keeping up the discussion on US human rights abuses

Loaded Mouth points to a summary of the memgate coverage by Dateline Bristol. Well-worth reading. This is a story that, since the Abu Ghraib photos made their appearance, refuses to go away despite the best efforts of our mainstream media and FauxNews propagandists. Kudos to the ACLU and a Bronx cheer to the what passes for journalism in the US these days.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

While you enjoy this Christmas day

read this and this. And while your at it, this and this.

we made it safe and sound

Southern Cal is usually quite nice this time of year, and this year's no exception. The worst part of the drive was through eastern New Mexico due to snow and bitter cold. Second day was much smoother - other than for my daughter getting motion sickness! Much planned over the next few days so I expect that blogging activity will be extremely light. For those of you who've become regular readers, you have my heart-felt thanks. Peace.

WaPo eye on the Bu$hCo lie

War Crimes

THANKS TO a lawsuit by the American Civil Liberties Union and other human rights groups, thousands of pages of government documents released this month have confirmed some of the painful truths about the abuse of foreign detainees by the U.S. military and the CIA -- truths the Bush administration implacably has refused to acknowledge. Since the publication of photographs of abuse at Iraq's Abu Ghraib prison in the spring the administration's whitewashers -- led by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld -- have contended that the crimes were carried out by a few low-ranking reservists, that they were limited to the night shift during a few chaotic months at Abu Ghraib in 2003, that they were unrelated to the interrogation of prisoners and that no torture occurred at the Guantanamo Bay prison where hundreds of terrorism suspects are held. The new documents establish beyond any doubt that every part of this cover story is false.



Though they represent only part of the record that lies in government files, the documents show that the abuse of prisoners was already occurring at Guantanamo in 2002 and continued in Iraq even after the outcry over the Abu Ghraib photographs. FBI agents reported in internal e-mails and memos about systematic abuses by military interrogators at the base in Cuba, including beatings, chokings, prolonged sleep deprivation and humiliations such as being wrapped in an Israeli flag. "On a couple of occasions I entered interview rooms to find a detainee chained hand and foot in a fetal position to the floor, with no chair, food or water," an unidentified FBI agent wrote on Aug. 2, 2004. "Most times they had urinated or defecated on themselves, and had been left there for 18 to 24 hours or more." Two defense intelligence officials reported seeing prisoners severely beaten in Baghdad by members of a special operations unit, Task Force 6-26, in June. When they protested they were threatened and pictures they took were confiscated.



Other documents detail abuses by Marines in Iraq, including mock executions and the torture of detainees by burning and electric shock. Several dozen detainees have died in U.S. custody. In many cases, Army investigations of these crimes were shockingly shoddy: Officials lost records, failed to conduct autopsies after suspicious deaths and allowed evidence to be contaminated. Soldiers found to have committed war crimes were excused with noncriminal punishments. The summary of one suspicious death of a detainee at the Abu Ghraib prison reads: "No crime scene exam was conducted, no autopsy conducted, no copy of medical file obtained for investigation because copy machine broken in medical office."



Some of the abuses can be attributed to lack of discipline in some military units -- though the broad extent of the problem suggests, at best, that senior commanders made little effort to prevent or control wrongdoing. But the documents also confirm that interrogators at Guantanamo believed they were following orders from Mr. Rumsfeld. One FBI agent reported on May 10 about a conversation he had with Guantanamo's commander, Maj. Gen. Geoffrey D. Miller, who defended the use of interrogation techniques the FBI regarded as illegal on the grounds that the military "has their marching orders from the Sec Def." Gen. Miller has testified under oath that dogs were never used to intimidate prisoners at Guantanamo, as authorized by Mr. Rumsfeld in December 2002; the FBI papers show otherwise.



The Bush administration refused to release these records to the human rights groups under the Freedom of Information Act until it was ordered to do so by a judge. Now it has responded to their publication with bland promises by spokesmen that any wrongdoing will be investigated. The record of the past few months suggests that the administration will neither hold any senior official accountable nor change the policies that have produced this shameful record. Congress, too, has abdicated its responsibility under its Republican leadership: It has been nearly four months since the last hearing on prisoner abuse. Perhaps intervention by the courts will eventually stem the violations of human rights that appear to be ongoing in Guantanamo, Iraq and Afghanistan. For now the appalling truth is that there has been no remedy for the documented torture and killing of foreign prisoners by this American government.


For those who voted for Bu$hCo, this is your legacy - not freedom, but torture. Merry effin' Christmas.

Tuesday, December 21, 2004

You Left End of the Dial Blogging Forecast

for the rest of this year calls for very light blogging. Will have access to a computer on a very occasional basis at best while visiting relatives in Southern California. Have a happy and safe holiday season! Peace and God Bless.

Don't know whether to be depressed or angry

US suffers worst Iraq attack yet

Nineteen US soldiers have been killed in an explosion at a US military base in Mosul, making it the worst single incident for the US military in Iraq.



At least three other people died and more than 60 were injured in the attack on a dining tent at noon (0900 GMT).



The US reported a single blast at Camp Merez, south-west of the city, which militants claimed as a suicide attack.



US President George W Bush offered his condolences but stressed that troops had a vital mission of peace in Iraq.



He said that it was sorrowful when lives were lost at any time of year but particularly in the week before Christmas.



Speaking at the Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington DC, he said the violence should not affect elections scheduled for January.



"I'm confident democracy will prevail in Iraq," he said.



Vulnerable area



A statement attributed to the Ansar al-Sunna militant group on an Islamist website said one of its suicide bombers had carried out the attack.



Lt Col Paul Hastings, a spokesman for Task Force Olympia in northern Iraq, said it was unclear whether a mortar or explosives had been used.



Witnesses said they heard several explosions and saw smoke rising from the base.



One US officer, Capt Brian Lucas, told AFP news agency that three foreign military personnel had been killed along with the 19 Americans. Casualty accounts had initially referred to a number of Iraqi civilians being killed.



The BBC's James Reynolds, who was embedded with US troops at the base last month, says the dining hall has always been seen as vulnerable.



A US army colonel had told him he feared what would happen if insurgents managed to fire rockets into it.



The hall was shielded by towering concrete walls - but it had no protected roof. The army is building a more fortified dining hall nearby, our correspondent adds.



Before Tuesday's attack, the worst single incident for the US military in Iraq was a helicopter crash in Mosul in November 2003, which killed 17 soldiers.



The two Black Hawk helicopters collided as they took action to avoid ground fire.

A Left Coaster Round-Up

"Where are the shoppers?"



Christ for sale!



Bu$hCo: "I'm the Anti-Christ your mother warned you about!", and why Jesus was a liberal



Chevy Chase got it right: Junior Caligula is a dumb fuck! (or instead of "love me, I'm a liberal" let's try "I'm a liberal and if you don't like it go fuck yourself!")



Dude, where's my dollar?



While the rich kids enjoy "chill out rooms" the poor get left out in the cold



Bu$hCo to world: "it's our gulag and we can torture if we wanna"



Note: the first headline is the one used by the Left Coaster's authors; the remainder are my own snarky summaries (with the snark directed at the ones who deserve it most: Bu$hCo and his worshippers)

Monday, December 20, 2004

Thinking outside of the comfort zone

Heavy Metal Hell-spawn : The Bible vs. Leaded gasoline and a summary by the same author A Rosetta Stone to the Culture Wars : Lead Poisoning. Bruce Wilson at American Samizdat offers his own capsule summary:

...the concerns of the American religious right about "societal decay" in American culture, in 1960's through the 1990's, were actually grounded in empirical fact - rates of violent crime, murder, teenage pregnancy, divorce, declines in SAT and other test scores, and a broad range of other proxy measures for societal pathology, or dysfunction, peaked in the late 1980's to the mid 1990's. In other words symptoms were real and - in mocking those concerns, the left goaded the religious right towards a paraxysm of hatred and political activism to the point where it can now forcibly legislate it's solutions to these presumed societal ills. But those solutions are based in magical thinking - in fact, there was a common factor which accounted for most of those trends. It was not the removal of the Bible from US classrooms : It was leaded gasoline.


The "moral majority" types are and were always full of shit. I'm sure plenty of us who were old enough to remember the 1970s and 1980s could tell you that, while at the same time acknowledging that there were some real signs of societal decay. You didn't have to look too far. I don't recall mocking the apparent facts - teen pregnancies were up, violent crimes were up, school performance was declining, etc. Rather, it was the solutions proposed by the religious extremists that I and many of my peers found utterly ridiculous.



That all said, I like the lead exposure hypothesis mainly because it is parsimonious - it offers a very simple, concise explanation for the data at hand better than the religious right's alternative explanation. It requires fewer assumptions, variables, etc. Besides, the relgious right-wingers have a real difficult time with the fact that teen pregnancies, violent crime rates, divorce, etc., all seem to be comparatively worse in the very parts of the US where Christian fundamentalism has its greatest influence. There's also some interesting predictive power - if new technologies are developed that will increase lead exposure in the environment, we can as social scientists alert policy makers to some unwanted potential social consequences likely to be associated with those technologies. And here's the kicker - none of this requires any magical thinking or draconian anti-Constitutional legislation.

From the "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" Department:

A blast from the past:



I can tell you this: If I’m ever in a position to call the shots, I’m not going to rush to send somebody else’s kids into a war.

– George H. W. Bush


Both he and his son have done precisely what George Sr. promised not to do.

Music For Grading Exams

Here's what was spinning in the cd player last night & this morning:



  • DJ Spooky That Subliminal Kid - Rhythm Science (2004, Sub Rosa)
  • Digable Planets - Blowout Comb (1994, Pendulum)
  • Mos Def - Black on Both Sides (1999, Rawkus)
  • Visionaries - Sophomore Jinx - (1999, Up Above)
  • Various - Rawkus Presents Soundbombing II (1999, Rawkus)
  • The Roots - Things Fall Apart (1999, MCA)
  • Common - Can I Borrow A Dollar? (1992, Relativity)
  • Company Flow - Funcrusher Plus (1997, Rawkus)
  • Jurassic 5 - Power in Numbers (2002, Interscope)

Democrats Eye Softer Image on Abortion

The Left End of the Dial Eyes Third Parties

Tonight's Must Read

The War Prayer - the text of a Mark Twain piece and pictures of the consequences of the US war against Iraqis.

A picture and a quote





"If it requires a uniform it's a worthless endeavor" (George Carlin)

Separated at birth?

Junior Caligula and Ted Bundy:



Image Hosted by ImageShack.usImage Hosted by ImageShack.us




Which one's Junior and which one's Ted? Click the link to find out.



A few words on individuals with antisocial personality disorder or psychopathy (which Ted Bundy was diagnosed with, and which one might argue characterizes the currrent Prez):

"The adult antisocial personality shows irresponsible and antisocial behavior by not working consistently, breaking laws, being irritable and physically aggressive, defaulting on debts, and being reckless. He or she is impulsive and fails to plan ahead. IN addition, he or she shows no regard for truth nor remorse for misdeeds.



It is estimated that about 4 percent of adult American men and 1 percent of women are antisocial personalities (Robinson, et al., 1984). Pimps, confidence artists, murderers, and drug dealers are by no means the only antisocial personalities. Business executives, professors, politicians, plumbers, salespeople, carpenters, and bartenders have their share of antisocial personalities as well



The concept of psychopathy is closely linked to the writings of Hervey Cleckley and his classic book, The Mask of Sanity (1976). On the basis of his vast clinical experience, he formulated a set of criteria by which to recognize the disorder. Unlike the DSM criteria for antisocial personality disorder, Cleckley's criteria for psychopathy refer less to antisocial behavior per se and more to the psychopath's psychology. For example, one of the key characteristics of the psychopath is poverty of emotions, both positive and negative. Psychopaths have no sense of shame and even their seemingly positive feelings for others are merely an act. The psychopath is superficially charming, and manipulates others for personal gain. The lack of negative emotions may make it impossible for psychopaths to learn form their mistakes, and the lack of positive emotions leads them to behave irresponsibly toward others. Another key point is that Cleckley describes the antisocial behavior of the psychopath as inadequately motivated; it is not due, for example, to a need for something like money but is performed impulsively, as much for thrills as anything else.



Currently, most researchers identify psychopaths using a checklist developed by Hare and his associates (Hare et al., 1990). The checklist identifies two major clusters of psychopathic behaviors. The first describes a selfish, remorseless individual who exploits others. The second characterizes an antisocial lifestyle. Among Axis I diagnoses, psychopathy is often diagnosed as well when there is abuse of alcohol and other drugs (Smith & Newman, 1990).

Placing Grand Theft Auto in Context

Kid Oakland dropped a pretty cool post on Daily Kos a couple days ago: tupac biggie gta. What he does is to check the fantasy world in GTA with the reality that faces America's underclass - especially our African-American community. Kid Oakland uses the words of rappers such as 2Pac and Notorious B.I.G. to help make the point, along with citing some stats that tell us what many young African-Americans face. One of the replies on the roots of rap also deserves attention.



On a personal note: the worst of the grading is out of the way. Just have to complete term sheets and turn them in later this morning. The stats final was especially a pain to grade - but I was already expecting that, so I wasn't disappointed!

Saturday, December 18, 2004

Tunes

Been listening to tunes from the following albums:



Ethnic Heritage Ensemble - Ka Real (2000, Silkheart)

World Saxophone Quartet & African Drums - Metamorphosis (1990, Elektra)

Herbie Hancock - Man-Child (1975, Columbia)

Herbie Hancock - The Herbie Hancock Trio (1977, Columbia)

Griot Galaxy - Kins (1981, Black & White)

African Head Charge - My Life In A Hole In The Ground (1981, On-U-Sound)

Always be armed with a working b.s. detector

15 Answers to Creationist Nonsense from Scientific American. Well worth reading and pondering - and of course using when having to deal with creationists. Something I'm bookmarking just in case something stupid were to ever go down at my local school board with regard to the science curriculum (hasn't happened yet, but best to be prepared just in case, eh?).

Among the conservative anti-war crowd

Alan Bock seems guardedly optimistic that reality is finally catching up to Bu$hCo's neoconmen. I don't quite share his optimism, but I hope he's right all the same.



Paul Craig Roberts thinks Bu$hCo is dangerously deluded about Iran, and that if anything Bu$hCo's approach to the Middle East has dimmed the prospects of secular governments survival in the region.



Charley Reese writes about the Three Stooges, Franks, Bremer, and Tenet. So who plays Larry, Moe, and Curly?



Justin Raimondo has his own take on who the true fifth column is: Israeli spies in our midst?

The UK and US are indeed parallel universes

Have the Tories no spine? Seems like the same question that's asked about the main opposition party in the US, the Democrats. The article goes on to discuss the Tories (the Brit conservative party that was in power until about the mid 1990s) caving in on the issue of national ID cards.

Here's a photo that made my day

I love Madame (that's my wife) and not only because she sent me this pic:



Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

The caption (via Yahoo News):
President George W. Bush and Office of Management and Budget Director Joshua Bolton (C) talk to conferees, above a misspelled sign, at the White House Conference on the Economy in Washington, December 16, 2004. The White House went all out to showcase the advantages of U.S. President George W. Bush's ambitious financial agenda this week, but in the end the 'challenges' proved too much. The word 'challenges' -- a main theme of a two-day White House economic conference that ended on Thursday -- was misspelled on a large television monitor that stood in front of Bush during a panel discussion.REUTERS/Reuters TV
Seemed quite fitting of the whole Bu$hCo regime.

No Street Cred

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us




via (subliminal punk), Cuba Erects Iraq Abuse Billboards Near U.S. Mission

Cuba put up several huge billboards near the U.S. mission on Friday with pictures of abused Iraqi prisoners and American soldiers pointing a rifle at children, in response to a U.S. Christmas display in support of imprisoned Cuban dissident.



Two billboards with photos of hooded and bloodied inmates at Iraq (news - web sites)'s Abu Ghraib prison, a swastika and the word "fascists" in bold red letters were erected across the street from the U.S. diplomatic mission, where the display of Christmas lights includes the number 75, in reference to 75 pro-democracy activists imprisoned for lengthy terms last year.



Another billboard faces the back of the building, with large photos of U.S. soldiers searching and pointing a rifle at children, presumably in Iraq.



A U.S. diplomat called the billboards fanatical.



"There couldn't be a better contrast: the U.S. wishing Cubans happy holidays, Frosty waving at passers-by and an effort to prompt discussion on human rights on the one side, and screaming Cuban government billboards on the other," he said.



Cuba had demanded this week that the U.S. display at the mission on Havana's busy sea-side drive be taken down. The president of the National Assembly, Ricardo Alarcon, called it "rubbish" and "a provocation."


Yeah, US diplomats can whine and complain all they want, but the truth is that the US has no street cred when it comes to human rights. We really haven't had street cred for a while, but could at least bluff. Abu Ghraib and the rest of the sad spectacle of the Iraq occupation pretty well changed that. The US has about as much cred when it comes to human rights as Vanilla Ice had as a gangsta rap wannabe back in 1990 (or Milli Vanilli as vocalists, or...you get the idea).

Friday, December 17, 2004

Here's today's must-read

via Spontaneous Arising, Today's Ward Churchill Moment:

In the late 1800s, there was a convict leasing system that operated not just in the deep South, but maybe most virulently there. It operated in 38 states of the union. That may remind you perhaps, when you think of forced labor camps, of another country that was over in central Europe during the 1930s and 40s that had a structure of extracting labor by putting people in concentration camps and then, well, we've all heard it, working them to death.



[...]



Let me put a question to this group: How many prisoners ever survived a ten-year sentence in an American convict leasing camp situation? [No answer from the audience] That's a good answer. None. Zero. Not one survivor for the entire period from 1867 until they discontinued convict leasing itself at the end of the 19th century and converted to chain gangs. And actually the record in Southern States at least with regard to chain gangs is not a whole lot better than that.



The Nazis got nothing going, in originality or efficiency. You understand that those U.S. labor camps were the de facto reconstitution of slavery because they were all black. A new convict only went to convict leasing camp, to a labor camp, if the sentence was for 10 years or less. It could be extended after the man got there. But that had to be the original sentence. And the only people they sent to prison on sentences that short were black people. Whites only went to prison if they had killed another white or something similar. Sentences for whites were engineered so that they were automatically exempt from the labor camps.



So you're talking essentially a re-constitution of slavery under the cover of law. Because slavery, the enslavement of prisoners duly adjudicated and convicted is still permissible in this greatly emancipated and anti-slavery country. So you can simply do it that way. And they did. Only the terms were much harsher in the prisons than they actually had been on the plantations. Which is not an argument in favor of the plantation slave economy at all. It is just simply to punctuate the point of how horrific the conditions were in the camps that followed slavery. All those people were there.



And sitting right beside them, were the American Indian children that were run through the residential schools. We talk of that in terms of cultural genocide, inappropriately so. According to Duncan Campbell Scott who was the man in charge in Canada, who lifted the model for their schools from the U.S. model, one in two of the children didn't survive to put their education to use. That's 50 percent fatality rate among school-children. That's the equivalent of what the Nazis were doing in the worst of their camps, but the Nazis weren't targeting children. So those babies were there. You're talking little kids, six years old.



Earlier we mentioned de facto slavery. We might as well talk about slavery de jure. Because that's the next queue in the line, the proportion of the roughly 30 million people who never survived the Middle Passage. Signified perhaps by those who were perishing in the slave market enclosed by a wall in New York City. You think slavery is a southern phenomena. No. That's where Wall Street got its name.



And the World Trade Center is of course at the foot of Wall Street, close to the financial center, right there. Where Black and Native people were being consumed as commodities for the profitability and greater glory of what it is that becomes known as the United States. Wall Street actually, the wall itself, predates the United States. But was continued once the United States got itself going.



That's not the kind of history they tend to teach you in the public school system here. It's not what William Bennett would approve. It's not what Lynn Cheney would fund in terms of exposition for the meaning of America. It just happens to be the reality of America -- that America continuously attempts to blink -- in the process of making "innocent" and "American" all one word.



If you are American you are innocent? How can that be, when this is the nature of the history?


Ponder that for a while.

Enslaving Women - Goes Much Deeper Than Today's Fundamentalists

as Science and Politics reminds readers. A characteristic feature of conservatism of all stripes seems to be a general syndrome of fear and hostility toward the feminine along with a motivation to dominate the feminine.



Examples I'm sure abound. Just look for example at the early history of Christianity. In the first couple centuries of the Common Era (CE), the Christian religion included numerous sects including the Ebionites, the Gnostics, and what some scholars refer to the Literalists (what pretty much became the dominant sect by the third and fourth centuries CE. What were the Literalists like? Well, we can get a glimpse at some of the Literalist mentality by looking at some of the writings of Tertullian:

"The sentence of God on this sex of yours lives in the age. The guilt must of necessity live too. You are the devil's gateway."



"And it should be noted that there was a defect in the formation of the first woman, since she was formed from a bent rib, that is a rib of the breast, which is bent as it were in a contrary direction to a man. And since through this defect she is an imperfect animal, she always deceives."



"You are the un-sealer of that (forbidden) tree: you are the first deserter of the divine law: you are she who persuaded him whom the devil was not valiant enough to attack. You destroyed so easily God's image, man. On account of your desert - that is death - even the Son of God had to die. And do you think about adorning yourself over and above your tunics of skins?"



"I must not omit an account of the conduct also of the heretics - how frivolous it is, how worldly, how merely human, without seriousness, without authority, without discipline, as suits their creed...The very women of these heretics, how wanton they are! For they are bold enough to teach, to dispute, to enact exorcisms, to undertake cures - it may be even to baptize. Their ordinations, are carelessly administered, capricious, changeable. At one time they put novices in office; at another time, men who are bound to some secular employment; at another, persons who have apostatized from us, to bind them by vainglory, since they cannot by truth."


Bottom line: women are evil, not to be trusted, dysfunctional, incompetent. From the Literalist standpoint, they must be kept in their place. Also from the Literalist standpoint, those churches that actually have the audacity to accept women as equals or place women in positions of authority must clearly have something wrong with them - they leading their congregations away from the one truth.



Around this period we also see the story of Mary Magdalene change, from being essentially another apostle to that of a prostitute who was rescued by Christ from her sinful ways. By the time of the Council of Nicea in the early fourth century CE, that latter perspective is made the official biblical doctrine. From what I've read of some of the Gnostic gospels, one can get a feel for the early split between the Literalist and Gnostic sects, including a great deal of hostility directed toward Magdalene from Peter which I think aptly captures the struggle that faced the early Christian church regarding the role of women in church and society. Among Gnostic sects, women played leading roles in the development of doctrine, in leading congregations and rituals, etc.



The Literalists won eventually the political and military backing of the Roman Empire, and what became the Roman Catholic Church consolidated sufficient political and financial power to function after the empire crumbled to dust. The hostility toward the feminine among the Literalists led to a very hostile and dangerous environment for women - especially those who had an independent streak. Historical examples abound from the brutal murder of Hypatia early in the fifth century CE (she was one of the last active scientists working at the Library of Alexandria) to the brutal treatment of alleged "witches" advocated in the Malleus Maleficarum (aka The Witch's Hammer) which was published during the Renaissance.



Please note: I'm not a biblical scholar or historian; merely a Christian (albeit a rather unorthodox one) who happens to find these issues interesting.

Around Blogtopia

I haven't done a round-up in a while, so let's mix it up and take a peek at what some other bloggers are up to:



Via Empire Notes we are reminded that no matter how corrupt the UN bureaucracy might seem, the US government's military-industrial complex has been far worse.



Joe at American Leftist highlights Staughton Lynd, a lawyer involved in the case of eight soldiers fighting the stop-loss (i.e. backdoor draft) policy. Lynd is hardcore, which is a good thing.



Juan Cole has been posting about the historical relationship between Muslims and Jews and debunks the rightwing myth that the "Muslims have always hated the Jews". Cole also posts a couple responses from readers worth looking at: one reader notes that the Shiite Iraqis generally tended to be equally suspicious of both the Sunni and Jewish minorities, mainly due to class differences, and another reader speaks fondly of the Jewish family he knew in Iran, noting that Jews residing in Iran were pretty much living their lives in peace.



Eli of Left I on the News catches yet another example of Bu$hCo hypocrisy.



Larry at Lotus, Surving a Dark Time reminds readers that there is no Social Security crisis, and explains why, contrary to Bu$hCo, we have little to worry about with the current SS system. My rule of opposites applies: if Bu$hCo declares a crisis, there is none in reality.



Shameless Agitator tells us the real reason behind the right-wing obsession with gay marriage, and the move to "protect" marriage: it has nothing to do with gays and everything with putting women back in their "place". This is a theme I'll return to shortly. Props to the Sideshow for the catch.



Steve Gilliard has everything you ever wanted to know about the scandal surrounding Bernie Kerik, but were afraid to ask.



No Capital notes that the Iraqi insurgents are becoming more effective at fighting their country's occupiers.



Chepooka takes on "Christian" fascists - modern day Pharisees, Christian in Name Only, etc.



Science and Politics notes that there is no lack of Lakoff in blogtopia, and notes organized efforts to read Lakoff's most recent book.



Left is Right Michael Moore's recent letter imploring liberals and progressives to stop taking right-wing abuse.



Mousemusings muses on the oil trap.



Pesky'apostrophy notes Bu$hCo's idea of sacrifice in time of war includes throwing a $40 million inaugural bash.



Ex-Lion Tamer notes that GOP and Red go together like the old Soviets and Red - fun links to read and ponder in that post. The Cold Warriors became what they purportedly hated the most - Breshnev's Politburo, complete with similar aesthetic tastes and values.



Unrepentant Leftist reminds us that in Bu$hCo's bizarro world, you kill brown people and you get a medal, and that US torture of Iraqis is widespread, with of course I'm sure a wink and a nod from the White House.



A Mockingbird's Medley has words by Mumia Abu Jamal.



See a picture of the Bush monkeys.



Anti-[everything]v 2.0 notes that the right-wingers are increasingly grumbling about Rumsfeld's incompetence. Begs the question of why these people vote for the very idiot that hired Rummy in the first place.



Blogtopia is one helluva ride!



Peace.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

One More Kos Diary Worth Plugging

This Week in Fascism. Lots of food for thought. Check it out.

The Democrat Party Needs To Get Its Shit Together

Every once in a while I find a diary in DailyKos well worth highlighting. This one, titled Folks Don't Get It by shanikka is one of those. Some longish clips (editing out specific references to on-going infighting among Kos posters & diarists):

Silence speaks volumes. So does minimizing what others tell you is their injury. So does pushing off a solution to some time that is more convenient for you without regard to the feelings of those suffering the actual injury.



[...]



People who are pretending that the Democratic party is doing something -- or intends to do something -- meaningful in Ohio to fight for the rights of African-Americans who were disenfranchised are full of shit.



Let's be clear. Kerry isn't being masterful behind the scenes, as some folks want to pretend. He's saving his political ass, at the expense of the very same Black folks he PROMISED he would not let be cheated out of the right to vote again. Kerry isn't just "waiting his time" - he's hiding in the latrine, terrified to publicly associate himself with anything that confronts the corruption in Ohio because of the potential political cost to himself and the fear that someone might call him crybaby names (i.e. "sore loser"). From the perspective of a white politican, this makes perfect sense since, as anyone involved in mainstream politics knows (even though it is never said in polite company), it is a foolhardy business bucking the system just to protect the rights of some Nigras. (Yes, that is extremely bitter and angry sarcasm, and the choice of the word is quite deliberate). Kerry's conduct and the conduct of the Democratic party vis a vis fighting to count Black votes (and thus, everyone's votes) in Ohio is not brilliant post-election strategy - it is living, breathing proof of the ongoing cowardice and self-serving nature of liberal white racism, something quite familiar to those people of color in America who have been victimized by it politically over the years even as they were promised it wasn't true.



If you need any proof that what I am saying is true, you need look no further than at who Kerry is asking to carry his water on issues relating to Ohio disenfranchisement -- Black folks such as Jesse Jackson. Am I the only person who finds it more than a little bit bodacious that Kerry was actually telling Jesse Jackson that he should make more of an issue about certain things in Ohio, instead of Kerry being a man and stepping up to the plate himself, since after all it was his voters, more often than not, that were cheated? Is that too much to ask from the man who said he cared about us and begged us to vote for him, instead of what we've gotten which is him subrosa coming into cases as "amicus" and "intervenor" rather than as the directly interested party, letting the Greens take the heat of all the namecalling and dismissiveness and insults? As the urban youth might have once said in response: "Nigga, please!"



IMO, the collective Democratic silence about what happened in Ohio demonstrates conclusively that Democrats are no better, morally, than the very Republithugs they condemn. They certainly have less of a spine, when it comes down to fighting for what they say they believe in. I don't care how many times liberal folks ooh and ahh over Martin Luther King, Jr., and how much they love him. If you knew anything about Dr. King and what he was fighting for other than the 30 seconds of "I Have a Dream" we've all been spoonfed you'd know that this beloved man would have been out in the streets protesting THE DAY AFTER THE ELECTION once it became clear that our people had to SUFFER to vote - again. Well, here's a newsflash: Just because folks are not shooting at us or throwing bricks or blocking schoolhouse doors or turning water hoses on us means little in the arena of voting rights. The KKK wears suits now, and sits in corporate boardrooms now. The Citizens Council buys politicians -- of all races, since after all easy money has a way of de-colorizing the best of folks -- who conveniently forget to have enough machines on hand for voters; realign precincts and voting places immediately before the election; issue rules locking down public records, or even petty ones about the weight of paper for a valid ballot. Policians who take care of their massas because their massas take care of them, by permitting thugs to challenge legitimate voters en masse without a whimper, forgetting to send absentee ballots, forgetting to count ballots that are actually there. All far more genteel and "intelligent" than the methods of old, wouldn't you agree?



Yet all have the same ultimate impact on African-American voting rights, in the end. And that is what the fight in Ohio is really about, for those of you who don't get it.



There is a saying in the Black community: If you don't stand for something, you will go for anything. The reaction (or, most notably, lack thereof) of mainstream Democrats and the Democratic Party to what happened to African-American voters in Ohio, following what happened in Florida, makes crystal clear to this African-American voter what the Democratc Party is indeed willing to go for.



So, as I said before, y'all don't get it. I am becoming increasingly convinced that you will never get it because, in the end, it's all about you, and not about us. What is happening now with the Democratic "leadership" (including its strongest advocates and mobilizers in the blogosphere) is making crystal clear that you are quite happy to allow our rights to be sacrificed for some "larger good" that you are seeking (one which conveniently doesn't negatively impact YOUR rights or access to power).



As I mentioned in the last post I made, I've been a lifelong Democrat. My mother was in the Montgomery Bus Boycott. However, my mama also didn't raise no fools. I'm African-American first and no matter how much other folks tell me that they care about my people's rights, the proof is in the pudding. The rabid insulting those who wish to continue to fight for our rights; the willingness to obfuscate or ignore this issue or allow it to sink from public view; the readiness with which folks would rather call others crazy (i.e. tin hat brigade) than admit that African-American voters in Ohio deserve the party they have been steadfastly loyal to for 40 years to fight for them NO MATTER WHAT; the convenient knee-jerk promise for "reform" for "next time" while allowing what happened in Ohio THIS TIME to pass without a fight REGARDLESS OF WHETHER KERRY WON OR LOST (I honestly don't give a damn) should tell any rational person what the truth really is. It definitely should tell any Black person deluded enough to believe that the Democratic party and its majority membership really gives a damn about us what the truth really is.



The real shame about this entire situation is that the truth about the Democratic Party and what it is really prepared to do for Black folk (precious little) has hurt and disappointed and will continue to hurt and disappoint so many African-Americans who genuinely wanted to believe they had a real ally in their unique American struggle in the Democratic Party. But, if I am honest, I admit that it is largely our own fault. After all, in hindsight we were told 40 years ago by one of our own that Democrats and Republicans were precisely the same animal, when it came to a willingness to fight for African-Americans' interests. The one thing that has become clear post-2004 is the truth of that statement. And that truth will, I predict, cost the Democratic party the most loyal base it has had since the late 1960's.



Which is to the party's detriment since, in the end, the Democrats cannot win an election without us -- and have not been able to since John Kennedy -- without getting back in bed with the Good Old Boys that abandoned the Democrats over....US. Given some of the talk on DailyKos and other similar places about what "should be done" to "win back" "those folks", that may indeed be the preference of those in the party's leadership. If so, I wish folks would just own it because at least it's honest and I can do nothing but respect honesty, however painful.



BTW, if you think Black folks aren't privately talking about this amongst ourselves and what this means for us and our future in this country, you are not hanging out with the right people. But we are, on both sides of the Democratic-Republican divide. And one thing is clear already -- 2004 in Ohio will not be forgotten any more than 2000 in Florida has been. It may well be, given what is being said, that the Democrats are in for the same rude awakening that the Republithugs got in the late 1960's, unless they get scared and run Obama at the top of the ticket. It certainly will be interesting to see what whose rights the Democrats are willing to sacrifice in 2008 with a vague promise for a "better future", when Black folks either stay home or vote something other than Democrat in numbers not seen since Eisenhower.



It's a shame. This reality about what the Democratic party really cares about is the same reality that Malcolm X talked about 40 years ago. Paraphrasing that great and maligned man who nonetheless loved his people more than himself, when it comes to believing in the Democratic party as the protector of our rights, African-Americans have been misled. We've been had. We've been took.



Which is why the DLC better not bother ringing my telephone in 3.5 years begging (yet again) for my vote and especially not begging me to get out the vote for Democrats again. Enough of this "you don't see them until election time, you can't find them until election time" bullshit. Two chances to put up or shut up when the rubber met the road vis a vis blatant African American disenfranchisement is more than enough chances for any political party, IMO. 2000 and 2004 were those chances. There will not be any more, not from this voter.



The Democratic party will be a very interesting place once once formerly loyal Black Democrats like myself abandon it. But IMO that abandonment is in OUR best interests. Since we are going to lose anyway, and since it is clear that the DLC is willing to sell anyone down the river to win, I hope that more and more of us will be willing to say "we lost but we lost with integrity" and vote our conscience instead of 90% of us following a party loyalty left to us by our parents from a time when Democrats actually pretended to give a shit about our voting rights.


Loyalty and respect are two-way streets. The Democrat Party brass has dropped the ball too many times with a key constituency, and their apologists simply don't get how or why they dropped the ball nor do they appear at this point to care. Good works are every bit as important as good words. The Dem leadership talks a good game, but where's the action? Making a big deal about what went down in Ohio this past election day would be one way of walking the talk, and would be a huge step in correcting the bitter legacy of Florida in 2000. This is about making sure every vote gets counted, and counted properly; that no voter is left behind; that African-American voters know that their loyalty to the Dem Party really meant something because the Dem Party (including Kerry - especially Kerry) went out 100% to do the right thing. Or continue business as usual, and alienate the African-Americans, marginalize the anti-war and progressive crowds all the while demonizing Moveon.org, Michael Moore, etc. Needless to say, I'm not exactly holding my breath.



Mi dos centavos.

Auguste Comte on Authority and Power

"every social power [is] constituted by a corresponding assent...of various individual wills, resolved to concur in a common action, of which this power is the first organ, and then the regulator. Thus authority is derived from concurrence, and not concurrence from authority...so that no great power can arise otherwise than from the strongly prevalent disposition of the society in which it exists..." (from The Positive Philosophy of Auguste Comte, pp 222-223; cited in The Politics of Nonviolent Action Part One: Power and Struggle, by Gene Sharp).



In other words, the authority of a leader is dependent upon his or her subordinates. That leader's relative strength or weakness in terms of power will depend upon the degree to which subordinates consider him or her legitimate.



Note, if you're interested in Gene Sharp's books, you can find all three volumes for sale at the following link:



Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Third Intifada: Nonviolent Resistance In Action

Yeah, nonviolent protests don't quite have the same ratings appeal as the ones that turn violent, but check out how Palestinian villagers have been resisting Israeli efforts to ghettoize Palestinians with a wall that's reminiscent of both the Berlin Wall of the Cold War era and South Africa's Apartheid - The Third Intifada: 'Yes to Peace, No to the Wall'.

To appreciate the breathtaking magnanimity expressed by this short slogan, one needs to remember its context. Imagine: a foreign army occupies your village for decades, reduces you to subjects without any rights, arrests you arbitrarily, savagely tortures the arrested, and, on top of it all, sends mighty bulldozers to erect a gigantic wall on your land, locking you up as in a cage. And your reaction? Peaceful demonstrations, shouting "No to the Wall" – but "Yes to Peace," to peace with your very oppressor and dispossessor.



[...]



It is in this period, in places like Budrus, that people like Mr. Murar – who had participated in the first Intifada and had been jailed and brutally tortured by Israel – reached the conclusions that resistance to the Wall should be led and organized first of all by Palestinians themselves; that waiting quietly for courts and verdicts was not enough; and, above all, that nonviolent demonstrations were the best weapon of the weaker side. He believes this for moral reasons, but also because nothing could harm the Palestinian interest more than violence, immediately exploited by Israel to distract public attention from the Palestinian plight and to accelerate the construction project behind the thick screen of "fighting off terrorism." A'ed Murar calls it the Third Intifada: the Intifada against the Wall.



Since the Palestinian Authority offered no real strategy or help in the villagers' struggle, they had only themselves to rely on – aided by Israeli and international supporters, like Ta'ayush, International Solidarity Movement, or Anarchists against the Wall. The Third Intifada is a popular uprising: in villages like Budrus, party affiliation and other differences are put aside, and the whole village marches together time after time to demonstrate against the Israeli bulldozers. Footage taken in several such demonstration shows the utter embarrassment of the Israeli soldiers, armed to the teeth against unarmed men, women, and children, who can stand for hours just a few meters away from them singing and shouting without any violence at all. If at last a single stone is thrown, the soldiers seem to be truly relieved: they immediately employ their heavy truncheons, shoot tear-gas and rubber-covered bullets at the crowd, and make violent arrests. But the resistance is not in vain: when a whole village stands together day after day, even the cruelest army must have second thoughts. So far, the demonstrations in Budrus managed to save the biggest plantation of the village from Israel's bulldozers.



Crucial Stage



The construction of the Wall, says Algazi, seems to have reached a crucial period. Following the verdicts from The Hague and Jerusalem, the Israeli establishment made a pause and took some time to reorganize and elaborate a new route and new strategies; these are now ready, and the construction of the Wall is about to resume in full speed. Signals and threats conveyed to inhabitants in Budrus make it clear that Israel is not going to give up easily on their land and water. The number of soldiers sent to demonstrations in villages like Budrus has been reduced, to increase the soldiers' insecurity and ease their finger on the trigger, and villagers are warned that if they do not capitulate this time, live ammunition may be used.



This nonviolent popular struggle is hardly reported in mainstream press. One needs to refer to alternative media to read about it. The idea of nonviolent Palestinian resistance sharply contradicts the stereotype of Palestinians as a "nation of suicide-bombers"; reporting peaceful Palestinian demonstrations is highly undesirable in official Israel's eyes. For all those reasons, this is a struggle very worthy of both public interest and support: The future of Israel/Palestine will be decided here, on the ground, rather than in press conferences in Washington or coalition intrigues in Jerusalem.

$150 Billion and Counting

The money spent on the US Iraq war so far



Almost 1300 US troops dead



A minimum 9556 troops wounded in action, and that's likely an underestimate



A minimum 14,770 Iraqi civilians killed, and possibly as high as 100,000



All for Bu$hCo's lies.

Koufax Awards

It's that time again, for nominations.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Those Poor Cubans...

via Eli of Left I on the News, Some countries take pride in vaccinating their citizens:

"The achievements of the vaccination program for the Cuban population following the triumph of the Revolution in 1959 have been described as 'impressive' by U.S. Dr. Jon Kim Andrus, head of the Vaccinations Unit at the WHO/PAHO in Washington who, together with a team of experts has recently carried out an international evaluation of the National Immunization Program in our country.



"After paying tribute to Cuban scientist Tomas Romay - who introduced the first vaccine ever to be discovered in the world, namely the anti-smallpox vaccine - Andrus, a family doctor and epidemiologist in public health, outlined the impact of the results achieved by our country with the immunization programs.



"From 1962 to date, we have eliminated polio, diphtheria, measles, whooping cough, rubella and mumps. Also eradicated in severe clinical form are childhood tetanus, tubercular meningitis in children under one year, and serious complications in congenital rubella and meningoencephalitis posparotiditis.



"He also mentioned other conditions which are no longer a serious problem in Cuba - with infection rates of 0.1 per 100,000 inhabitants - including tetanus and hemophilus influenzae (a bacterial agent that causes meningitis and pneumonias during the first years of life) or other diseases that have been significantly reduced such as typhoid, meningococcus diseases and hepatitis B."


I'm sure somewhere in some dark corner of the White House, Pentagon, or think tank some neocon is having wet dreams fantasizing about "liberating" the Cubans from the horrors of decent health care.

From "Walking on the Moon"

by Sun Ra:

If you wake up now/it won't be too soon


Lyrics befitting of the times. Just finishing up a final exam and listening to mp3s of this very lo-fi recording of a Sun Ra gig from June 12 1971 (at the J.P. Widney Junior High School Auditorium, Los Angeles, CA).

A Third People's Continental Congress?

A modest proposal, as Susan calls it.

Here it is: I'd like to call a Third Session of the Continental Congress here in Philadelphia, for a national dialogue about our country's direction.



What do you all think of the idea? Anyone willing to help?


Quite a few comments already I noticed, and other than the fact that some of the respondents confuse a Continental Congress with a Constitutional Convention (two completely different animals), it looks like it could be a useful tool in terms of taking the progressives to the next level.

Sunday, December 12, 2004

Speaking of healthcare in Cuba,

check this out (scroll down a bit):

"The Cuban therapeutic vaccine against lung cancer is to move onto the clinical trials stage in the United States for its subsequent registration in that country, according to Jos Miyar Barruecos, secretary of the Council of State.



"Lung cancer causes more than half a million deaths per year in the United States.



"Developed in the Center for Molecular Immunology (CIM), one of the institutes within the West Havana Scientific Complex, the vaccine is based on the epidermal growth factor (EGF) - a protein closely related to cellular growth - and was submitted for clinical trials on the island with evident advantages for patients' survival.



"Inside the CIM's modern laboratories, a total of 22 products are under investigation, including monoclonal antibodies such as CIMAher (used with promising results on brain and neck tumors, in combination with radiotherapy) and therapeutic vaccines for the treatment of cancer.



"It was also announced that important investments in the center will allow scientists to cover national demand of CIMAher (registered in Cuba in 2002 and patented in 17 nations, including the U.S.) and begin exportation.




Eli has more to say on Cuba's medical research in a post titled People Before Profits:

"It's like Castro said: They don't really like patents. They like medicine. Cuba's drug pipeline is most interesting for what it lacks: grand-slam moneymakers, cures for baldness or impotence or wrinkles. It's all cancer therapies, AIDS medications, and vaccines against tropical diseases.



"That's probably why US and European scientists have a soft spot for their Cuban counterparts. Everywhere north of the Florida Keys, once-magical biotech has become just another expression of venture-driven capitalism. Leave it to the Cubans to make it revolutionary again."


Come again? Cancer therapies, AIDS meds, vaccines against tropical diseases? Those Cubans got their priorities mixed up. What they should be working on are cures for baldness, wrinkles, and perhaps some magical elixir to make patients sedately happy - After all, that's the American way, profits before people. No wonder our government hates Cuba so much - they're actually trying to get something done for their people with their limited resources that our great nation seemingly can't do with its relatively unlimited resources.

Stop The Draft Before It Starts



As the above image suggests, Abu Ghraib is a shameful moment that defined our nation.

What "Democracy" Means to Bu$hCo

Kurt Nimmo hits it just right in his post, Cuban Democracy, Bush style:

In short, “democracy,” Bush style, translates into more death, disease, privation, misery—except, of course, for corporations such as Halliburton.


Sounds rather harsh until one considers "democracy" in Iraq:

Compare this with “democratic” Iraq. “Since the US military invasion and occupation of Iraq, Iraq’s health care system has deteriorated as a result of deliberate destruction by the US administration. The most vulnerable victims of this destruction are the Iraqi children, particularly children under the age of five,” writes Ghali Hassan. A recent UNICEF report shows that, “[b]efore 1990 and the imposition of sanctions, Iraq had one of the highest standards of living in the Middle East.” Now UNICEF reports, “at least 200 children are dying every day. They are dying from malnutrition, a lack of clean water and a lack of medical equipment and drugs to cure easily treatable diseases.”


Now contrast this horrifying scenario with Cuba:

“Official statistics, backed by United Nations specialists working here, illustrate the transformation that has taken place,” Reuters reported from Havana for the London Times on Dec. 30, 1983. “The average life expectancy of a Cuban born in the 1950s was around 50 compared with 75 today, while infant mortality has been slashed from about 60 per 1000 births to 16.” Castro’s “revolutionary government set about providing access to education and health care for all,” writes Hannah Caller. “In 1984, the family doctor program was set up and primary health care and community health promotion declared as priority targets.”


We Westerners tend to view nations like Cuba as shitholes. Why? I'm guessing it's because their nations are less wealthy. Wealth isn't all it's cracked up to be, and from what I've read over the years, my impression is that Cubans generally have a pretty good deal. But I keep forgetting the party line: Castro is supposed to be evil incarnate, and that Cuba was an island paradise before Castro and his revolutionaries bum-rushed the show:

The United States had no problem with General Fulgencio Batista—in fact, it preferred the rule of such dictators—who staged a military coup and overthrew the democratically elected government of Carlos Prio Socarras. “He was President Roosevelt’s handpicked dictator to counteract leftists,” writes Third World Traveler. Batista’s regime was notoriously corrupt and repressive, but this was OK with the United States, corporations, and the Mafia. “Freedom of speech was curtailed and subversive teachers, lawyers and public officials were fired from their jobs. Death squads tortured and killed thousands of ‘communists,’” in other words, those who opposed Batista’s military dictatorship. Under Batista, Havana became known as “the Latin Las Vegas” where mobsters such as Frank Costello, Vito Genovese, Santo Trafficante Jr., Moe Dalitz, and others operated. “Batista was assisted in his crackdown [on dissidents] by Lansky and other members of organized crime who believed Castro would jeopardize their gambling and drug trade.”


Wow. What a shame for the Cuban people to lose all that, and for what? Better healthcare? Increased lifespans? Overall better standards of living? I shudder.



Of course Bu$hCo's neocon game of "democracy" and "freedom" is merely a variation of the old imperial shell game that our government has been playing for ages. Whenever any of these goons talks about "exporting democracy" I think it's wise for those in the cross-hairs to beware.

Superior technology and weaponry mean nothing in asymmetrical warfare

Humvees No Match for Crude Bombs

FORWARD OPERATING BASE KALSU, Iraq — This is a graveyard for Humvees, the final resting place for the hulking vehicles felled by insurgents' roadside bombs.



In a parking lot, the U.S. military's most common personnel carriers lie flattened with noses down in the mud. Their metal carcasses are barely recognizable. Tires have been splayed to the sides or blown away entirely. Shrapnel has burst holes in unprotected parts of the vehicles, as if they were tinfoil.



The nine mangled Humvees here have been destroyed by what the military calls improvised explosive devices, or IEDs.



"Now this one here, you can see the IED tore the whole back end off the vehicle. It's just gone," said Sgt. Patrick Parchment of the 24th Marine Expeditionary Unit, which operates south of Baghdad.



"The front is sitting cock-eyed. And that's steel," he said, showing a visitor another severed vehicle.



The blasted remains do not inspire optimism about the fate of the Marines who had been riding in them. Sixteen Marines of the 24th have died since arriving here in July; 259 have been wounded. The majority of the casualties were caused by IEDs, as Marines must daily brave a gantlet of roadside bombs on highways and dirt roads that cut through farms.



[...]



Humvees fitted with steel plating provide the best protection, the Marines said. But they pointed out that many Humvees on this base were being driven with jury-rigged armor that offered only limited defense against shrapnel.



"For the most part, the armor's doing its job, saving many lives," said Parchment, a 24-year-old from the Bronx, N.Y., whose unit cannibalizes the disabled Humvees for armor and other parts. The extra weight from the armor means the Humvees seldom flip over after they are hit, he said.



But sometimes, finding gaps in the armor, "the shrapnel goes right through the frame," Parchment said.



Nor is armor any guarantee of avoiding the smashed bones and severed limbs that roadside bombs often cause. And it offers little protection against the bigger explosives that have been used against the Americans.



Marines and soldiers continue to die almost daily from IEDs, the Iraq war's contribution to the world's catalog of effective low-tech weapons. But the term "improvised" is misleading because the explosive is typically a factory-produced 155-millimeter artillery shell that stands taller than knee-high.



The shells are usually propped against a post or hidden under roadside mounds of garbage.



The destructive power of shrapnel detonated in the open air has caused record rates of head and neck wounds among U.S. troops, and the rate of limb amputations is double that of previous wars.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Three decades

that's how long the Hip-hop Nation has been rockin tha house, as Debwire reminds us. She points to a wonderful article on Afrika Bambaataa, who's been there from the beginning. Planet Rock and Looking for the Perfect Beat were classics, and fit in very nicely with some other tunes I liked during the early to mid 1980s (think Herbie Hancock's Rockit, and the rest of his classic Future Shock album; Kraftwerk; e.g.).



Truth is that one can check out what was going on back in the early to mid 1970s and see that at bare minimum hip-hop was in the air, part of the Zeitgeist. Check out the early raps by Gil-Scott Heron, Last Poets, and Watts Prophets for example. These cats were taking the spoken word vibe of the beat era to the next level - lots of great socially aware rhymes, spare percussion and jazz instrumentation. By the mid 1970s some jazzers were already cutting tracks that had a hip-hop feel to them. Check out Maulawi Nururdin's track Street Rap which opens his only album Maulawi (released in 1974 on the excellent Strata-East label). See also the title track to Harry Whitaker's Black Renaissance album (recorded in 1976), as well as various tunes cut by Mtume in the early 1970s before he started hitting the pop charts (see his albums Alkebu-Lan and Rebirth Cycle), and James Plunky Branch's Juju and Oneness of Juju projects. The vibe was definitely there, well before Rappers Delight hit the charts at the end of the 1970s. It may have taken a while for the hip-hop vibe to reach disaffected suburban youth - but thanks to the miracle of college radio it did (Sac State's college station during the early 1980s was my intro to hip-hop as well as no wave, hardcore, industrial and all sorts of other dangers during my formative years).



So check out some of the early stuff from three decades past. You'll see that their vibe is what today's underground hip-hop cats are drawing upon for inspiration.

Friday, December 10, 2004

The fallout continues...

US Army plagued by desertion and plunging morale

While insurgents draw on deep wells of fury to expand their ranks in Iraq, the US military is fighting desertion, recruitment shortfalls and legal challenges from its own troops. The irritation among the rank and file became all too clear this week when a soldier stood up in a televised session with Donald Rumsfeld, the US Defence Secretary, to ask why the world's richest army was having to hunt for scrap metal to protect its vehicles. The same night, interviews with three soldiers who are seeking refugee status in Canada, where they have become minor celebrities, dominated prime time television. They are among more the than 5,000 troops that CBS's 60 Minutes reported on Wednesday had deserted since the war began. Many experts say that America's 1.4 million active-duty troops and 865,000 part-timers are stretched to the point where President Bush may see other foreign policy goals blunted. The bleed from the US military is heaviest among parttimers, who have been dragged en masse out of civilian life to serve their country with unprecedented sacrifice. For the first time in a decade, the Army National Guard missed its recruitment target this year. Instead of signing up 56,000 people, it found 51,000.




Amputation rate for US troops twice that of past wars

US troops injured in Iraq have required limb amputations at twice the rate of past wars, and as many as 20 percent have suffered head and neck injuries that may require a lifetime of care, according to new data giving the clearest picture yet of the severity of battlefield wounds. The data are the grisly flip side of improvements in battlefield medicine that have saved many combatants who would have died in the past: Only 1 in 10 US troops injured in Iraq has died, the lowest rate of any war in US history. But those who survive have much more grievous wounds. Bulletproof Kevlar vests protect soldiers' bodies but not their limbs, as insurgent snipers and makeshift bombs tear off arms and legs and rip into faces and necks. More than half of those injured sustain wounds so serious they cannot return to duty, according to Pentagon statistics. Much attention has focused on the 1,000-plus soldiers killed in Iraq, but the Pentagon has released little information on the 9,765 soldiers injured as of this week. "The death rate isn't great compared to Vietnam, Korea, and World War II. But these soldiers are coming back to their communities and people are seeing just how high the price is that these young people are paying," said Dr. G. Richard Holt, a head and neck surgeon at the University of Texas Health Science Center in San Antonio and a retired US Army surgeon who served as a civilian adviser in Iraq earlier this year.




Whoopeee!!! Looks like we can expect even more federal red ink: Funding for U.S. Military Operations in Iraq Could Surge

The Bush administration, facing mounting violence in Iraq and demands for upgraded equipment, is assembling a funding package for operations in Iraq and Afghanistan that could surge beyond earlier estimates to as much as $75 billion to $100 billion, congressional sources and experts said on Thursday. Administration and congressional officials estimated in October that the funding package would total between $60 billion and $75 billion. The Army's request alone could top $51 billion, far more than the $35 billion to $40 billion cited by the Army chief of staff in October, congressional sources said. The Marines are also expected to push for billions of dollars more as the Pentagon increases troop strength for Iraqi elections scheduled for January. Two congressional sources said the size of the emergency spending bill, which President Bush will send to Congress early next year, could swell to between $75 billion and possibly $100 billion, depending on the level of violence in the coming months. That would include billions of dollars to upgrade equipment and purchase more armored vehicles.




Why? Because the asylum is being run by incompetent loonies. As much fun is it is to see Rumsfeld put on the defensive, the truth is that the soldiers thrust into this 21st Century Children's Crusade simply do not have what they need. We've known this for a while, but Bu$hCo refuses to face up to that fact.

Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld came here Wednesday to lead a morale-lifting town hall discussion with Iraq-bound troops. Instead, he found himself on the defensive, fielding pointed questions from soldiers complaining about aging vehicles that lacked armor for protection against roadside bombs.



Mr. Rumsfeld, seemingly caught off guard by the sharp questioning, responded that the military was producing extra armor for Humvees and trucks as fast as possible, but that the soldiers would have to cope with equipment shortages. "You go to war with the Army you have, not the Army you might want or wish to have at a later time," he said.



Specialist Thomas Wilson, a scout with a Tennessee National Guard unit set to roll into Iraq this week, was the first to step forward, saying that soldiers had had to scrounge through landfills here for pieces of rusty scrap metal and bulletproof glass - what they called "hillbilly armor" - to bolt to their trucks.



"Why don't we have those resources readily available to us?" Specialist Wilson asked Mr. Rumsfeld, drawing cheers and applause from many of the 2,300 soldiers assembled in a cavernous hangar here to meet the secretary.



A few minutes later, a soldier from the Idaho National Guard's 116th Armored Cavalry Brigade asked Mr. Rumsfeld what he and the Army were doing "to address shortages and antiquated equipment" that will affect National Guard soldiers heading to Iraq.



Mr. Rumsfeld seemed taken aback by the question and a murmur began spreading through the ranks before he silenced it. "Now, settle down, settle down," he said. "Hell, I'm an old man, it's early in the morning and I'm gathering my thoughts here."



Mr. Rumsfeld, 72, said all organizations had equipment, materials and spare parts of different vintages, but he expressed confidence that Army leaders were assigning the newest and best equipment to the troops headed for combat who needed it most. He said adding more armor to trucks and battle equipment did not make them impervious to enemy attack. "You can have all the armor in the world on a tank and a tank can be blown up," he said. "And you can have an up-armored Humvee and it can be blown up."



[...]



A senior officer in Specialist Wilson's unit, Col. John Zimmerman, said that 95 percent of the unit's more than 300 trucks had insufficient armor.



[...]



But the complaints by the soldiers here are likely to revive accusations that the Bush administration did not anticipate the kind of tenacious insurgency confronting troops in Iraq, and that the Pentagon is still struggling to provide enough basic supplies, such as body armor, and fortified Humvees and other vehicles.




If you aren't feeling a draft yet, you haven't been paying attention: Uncle Sam Wants Your Kids – Now!

We'll soon have 150,000 U.S. troops stuck in the ever-expanding Iraqi quagmire, a number that will probably grow even larger before Iraq holds elections presently scheduled for the end of January '05. Maintaining such a force is a logistical and personnel nightmare for every grunt in Iraq. And according to several Pentagon number crunchers, it's also driving the top brass bonkers. Meanwhile the insurgents continue cutting our supply lines and whacking our fighting platoons and supporters, who attrit daily as soldiers and Marines fall to enemy shots, sickness or accidents. Empty platoons lose fights, so these casualties have to be replaced ASAP. ... "I believe the Army will have to drastically change what they offer to enlistees to overcome what's happening in Iraq. The war is ugly, and not many kids want to enlist to be blown up." Moms and dads are outraged about desperate Army recruiters on a relentless campaign to sign up their teenagers. High-school kids are actually running away from recruiters like they were George Romero's living dead. "Recruiters have called my son a minimum of 20 times in the two years since he finished high school," a dad reports. "The phone calls usually come in clusters. I answered five calls in a two- or three-week span. Each time a recruiter calls, he receives the same polite, respectful response from me or my son ... no interest, and please take the name off the list. When asked why the name hasn't been removed, excuses are made. While recruiters are brief with me, when my son is on the phone, the sales tactics are clever, prolonged and very high-pressure." ... Unless a miracle happens and the new Iraqi security force decides to stop running and start fighting, we'll be in Iraq for a long time. Most likely with a draftee force.


This is what an alleged 51% of the voters voted for, and they deserve their share of the credit for the fiasco we find ourselves in.

Every Picture Tells a Story

So, here are some pictures of Fallujah.



That album is one of several that Dahr Jamail has taken of the results of the US occupation of Iraq.



Albums of pictures from the Abu Ghraib torture scandal can be found here, and similarly pictures are available here, and pictures and information on Abu Ghraib can be found at the Wikipedia.



By the way, the blog Fallujah in Pictures is back up and running, and in need of funds.