Saturday, April 24, 2004

Marching For Their Lives

The March for Women's Lives is tomorrow. It's a good cause, and a necessary cause given that the forces of oppression continue to work tirelessly to decimate reproductive rights decades after the landmark Roe vs. Wade decision.

Got Urban Legend?

US Majority Still Believe in Iraq's WMD, al-Qaeda Ties

I've grown to enjoy this show called Myth Busters, because the hosts of the show take a solid, no-nonsense approach to empirically examining common urban myths. Of course, they also make a lot of things go "boom!" as well, which is fun in its own right (as long as no-one's hurt of course). As well as these cats do at exposing urban legends for what they are, I have to wonder how many of their viewers continue to go on believing in myths that have been unceremoniously busted.

Similarly, I've wondered about two twin urban legends that continue to plague contemporary American political discourse: the myth of the Iraqi WMDs and the myth of the Saddam/Al-Qaida connection.

Here's a clip:

Virtually all independent experts and even senior administration officials have concluded since the war that ties between Iraq and al-Qaeda before the war were virtually non-existent, and even Bush himself has explicitly dismissed the notion that Baghdad had a hand in the 9/11 attacks.

Yet the March poll found that 20 percent of respondents believe that Iraq was directly involved in the attacks -- the same percentage as on the eve of the war, in February 2003.

Similarly, the percentages of those who believe Iraq provided ''substantial support'' to al-Qaeda (37 percent) and those who believe contacts were minimal (29 percent) are also virtually unchanged from 13 months before. As of March 2004, 11 percent said there was ''no connection at all'', up four percent from February 2003.

Some -- but surprisingly little -- change was found in answers to whether Washington had found concrete evidence since the war that substantiated a Hussein-al-Qaeda link. Thus, in June 2003, 52 percent of respondents said evidence had been found, while only 45 percent said so last month.

As to WMD, about which there has been significantly more media coverage, 60 percent of respondents said Iraq either had actual WMD (38 percent) or had a major program'' for developing them (22 percent). In contrast, 39 percent said Baghdad had limited WMD-related activities that fell short of an active program'' -- what Kay as the CIA's main weapons inspector concluded in February -- or no activities at all.

Moreover, the message conveyed by Kay and other experts appears not to be getting through to the public, adds the survey, which found a whopping 82 percent of respondents saying either, ''experts mostly agree Iraq was providing substantial support to al-Qaeda'' (47 percent) or, ''experts are evenly divided on the question'' (35 percent).

Only 15 percent said it was their impression that ''experts mostly agree (that) Iraq was not providing substantial support to al-Qaeda".

There was similar confusion with respect to the WMD question: despite all the publicity given Kay's, Blix's, and the findings of other independent experts that Iraq did not have WMD before the war, nearly two-thirds of respondents said they believed that most experts said it did have them (30 percent) or that experts were evenly divided on the issue (35 percent).

When reading such dismal news, I have to ask myself if we need Jamie and Adam to tackle these myths as they have other urban myths. Then I recall that there are a tremendous number of Jamies and Adams out there already who have exposed the myths of the WMDs and Iraqi ties to Al-Qaida as having no foundation. And yet, in spite of these efforts on the part of numerous myth busters in the mass media, blogtopia, etc., we get survey results that suggest that beliefs stubbornly refuse to yield to data. Very discouraging.

Shorter Bu$hCo to the Iraqis:

you're liberated, but we'll pull the strings

Ever the humanitarian, Sharon says

"We might have to bump off Arafat."

I'm not the biggest endorser of Arafat, but I'm even less of a fan of the Israeli government's continued practice of Apartheid. Clearly Sharon and his ilk learned a lesson or two from the Jews' struggle during the Nazi regime. Too bad they learned the wrong lesson.

The images they don't want you to see

Dover AFB at via Memory Hole.

Peace Begins With U

Friday, April 23, 2004

Uncle Bush

Mental Health Friday

Depressing News on Depression

A clip:

What seems most astonishing is the skimpy evidence that these drugs work at all in most young patients. All the antidepressant drugs were approved for marketing based on clinical trials in adults, but once they were on the market, doctors were free to prescribe them for any patients and any purpose. Under a federal law that was drawn up to coax drug companies into studying the effects of their drugs in young people in exchange for an extension of patent rights, the major manufacturers studied their antidepressants in patients under 18. So far, only Prozac has shown enough evidence of effectiveness and safety to win approval from the F.D.A. and British health authorities. The discouraging results underscore the need to test all drugs in children that will be used in children because the effects are often different from those found in adults.

I've been concerned for quite some time that the medical profession over-diagnoses psychiatric disorders in children and adolescents and that these children are also over-medicated. It is especially disheartening to me that medications that were designed for and tested on adults are being prescribed to children without sufficient evidence that the medications will actually work, or evidence that the medications won't cause harm to those kids who take them.

Some food for thought.

Bu$hCo Industries Presents:


To take a line from a song title on the classic Funkadelic album (One Nation Under a Groove):

Think! It ain't illegal yet!

Some Street Art

This one's entitled "Guantanamo":

From the "You Can't Handle the Truth" Department:

Woman loses her job over coffins photo. Her husband was also fired from the same company.

Similar articles: Photos of coffins bearing dead US soldiers appear on Internet

Even Drudge Report has a story and some pictures.

Thursday, April 22, 2004

Happy Earth Day

Looking for an Earth Day event in your area? Check these links out.

Columbia Missouri has, as I recall, a terrific Earth Day gig each year with kids' activities, live music, etc. over at Peace Park. That is indeed one of a number of things I miss about that community. Here's the website for this year's Columbia Earth Day celebration. While you're at it, check out Mid-Missouri Peaceworks, a group that among other things runs a cool non-profit bookstore called Peace Nook in Columbia's thriving downtown area. If you're ever in the neighborhood, check these cats out.

Something from last August that bears repeating:

What the 2004 Election Really Means

The main clip is an excerpt from Groupthink Central:

For the first time in 72(!) years, the Republican party has no place to run, no place to hide. It's their economy. It's their war(s). And, ultimately, their election. Thus, 2004 is perhaps the best opportunity we've had since 1932 to discredit the Republican Party and, more generally, conservatism in general. Ergo, instead of just focusing our guns on El Presidente, we should be tying his disastrous presidency into a broader indictment against the failures and excesses of conservatives and Republicans over the past 25 years. How income inequality has exploded since the 1970s. How income mobility has increasingly shrunken, thus imperiling the vaunted "American Dream." How fundamentalists (economic and religious) are actively working to undermine a century of progress. The goal isn't simply to undercut Bush, but to hack away at the very ideological ground that he and his minions stand on...

...By launching a sustained, highly focused campaign against the entire right-wing apparatus, the liberal-left will eventually be able to shift the political center of gravity in a more favorable direction. And that is what 2004 is all about.

Food for though, just on the off chance that the Democrat Party's nominee (well, it'll be official come convention time) has lost his focus. The military records of Kerry and Junior Caligula offer an interesting diversion, insofar as they reveal something about the character of these candidates. Ultimately though, it leaves me wondering how that applies to today's problems. I also am disheartened that Kerry's essential endorsement of Junior Caligula's Israel policy shift and his apparent interest in maintaining a huge military presence in Iraq make him come across - at least with regard to foreign policy - as Bush lite. To me the thing that should be happening is a repudiation of the mess the GOP has left for us nationally and internationally, rather than offering a tepid endorsement of it. Kerry will generate more enthusiasm if he does the former. Doing the latter will keep him in the "I'll vote for him, but I'm sure not that excited" category at least with this voter.

Shorter Scott McClelland

Today is Opposite Day, so...Our coalition is as strong as ever, we won't need any extra funding, and the war is quite splendid this time of year.

Wednesday, April 21, 2004

xymphora hits it right on the money!

Check it out.

A clip:

1. Treat the fight against terrorism as a police and intelligence matter, and not as an excuse for wars which only increase the risk of terrorism. Bush could have made real efforts to prevent terrorism before 9-11, but that would have involved paying salaries to FBI and intelligence agents, and not diverting money to his corporate friends to fund the scam that is missile defense. The deep truth is that the Bush Administration's profound disinterest in preventing terrorism was due to the fact that they could see no way for their corporate friends to make money from it. After September 11, Bush could have sent FBI agents to Afghanistan to capture the alleged perpetrators behind 9-11, but chose to use 9-11 as an excuse to attack Afghanistan and later Iraq, countries he wanted to attack for other reasons. It is not a coincidence that the only terrorists who have been apprehended have been apprehended by countries other than the United States. Fighting terrorism through war is not only ineffective, it is actually completely counterproductive, increasing the future risk of terrorist attacks by the relatives of the victims of the wars. Terrorists could not have better recruitment advertising that the actions of the United States. The United States is going to suffer the fallout from the attack on Iraq for a long time.

2. Stop seeing the war against terror as a comic-book battle between Good and Evil. Americans have to start viewing the terrorists as something other than animals. They are human beings the same as everyone else, and want the same goals as everyone else. These goals are pretty boring. They would like to be able to live in peace in countries whose assets are not being stolen by corrupt governments run by puppets of American oil companies, they would like to be able to live without jackbooted American thugs wandering around their neighborhoods, and they would like to be able to choose their own leaders. By casting racist aspersions against the entire Muslim world, the neocons play into inherent racist ideas and dehumanize the enemy. This allows them the excuse to impose unspeakable horrors on these people ('shock and awe'), while denying them a normal existence because they claim these untermenschen aren't capable of handling ideas like democracy.

3. Start paying attention to root causes. A good starting point would be to acknowledge the essential justice behind bin Laden's main demands. Stop supporting tyrants who are bribed by American money to allow national assets to be stolen by American corporations, stop basing troops in areas of holy sites, and stop the completely one-sided support of the Israeli state terrorism which is being used in the theft of Palestinian lands. The neocon thesis is that the terrorists have no reason other than an essential evil for what they do. Nothing could be further from the truth. The real evil is what one hundred years of colonial repression has done to the Middle East, and the United States is the current sole colonial power. Any group of people subject to the horrors imposed on them by the Americans would try to fight back in self-defense. If Americans want to see terrorism as a war they have to realize that they started it, and only they can make the changes which will stop it.

4. Stop living in a culture of manufactured fear. Not only were the Spanish not caving in to terrorism, they were actually exhibiting a considerable amount of courage by refusing to continue to live in the insane world of the neocons. You don't have to be constantly in terror, hoping that your militaristic government will save you from the forces of evil. By voting for governments with adult and responsible attitudes towards the rest of the world, you can actually take steps to break the culture of fear.

Xymphora also holds a view about the neocons and Islamic fundamentalists that is similar to one that I've been promoting:

There are actually two groups of terrorists in the world, the Islamic fundamentalists, and the American neocons. Each group feeds off the other, and the rest of us get caught in the crossfire. Of the two groups, the neocons are by far the better armed, and by far the more dangerous. It is time for the rest of us to stop feeding their insanity.

Well, I suspect there are more groups of terrorists than that, but otherwise I think the gist of what Xymphora writes is right on the money.

No Child Left Behind

Feeling a draft?

From the "Almond Joy" Department:

Their beliefs are bonkers, but they are at the heart of power, a commentary by George Monbiot.

Some clips:

To understand what is happening in the Middle East, you must first understand what is happening in Texas. To understand what is happening there, you should read the resolutions passed at the state's Republican party conventions last month. Take a look, for example, at the decisions made in Harris County, which covers much of Houston.

The delegates began by nodding through a few uncontroversial matters: homosexuality is contrary to the truths ordained by God; "any mechanism to process, license, record, register or monitor the ownership of guns" should be repealed; income tax, inheritance tax, capital gains tax and corporation tax should be abolished; and immigrants should be deterred by electric fences. Thus fortified, they turned to the real issue: the affairs of a small state 7,000 miles away. It was then, according to a participant, that the "screaming and near fist fights" began.

I don't know what the original motion said, but apparently it was "watered down significantly" as a result of the shouting match. The motion they adopted stated that Israel has an undivided claim to Jerusalem and the West Bank, that Arab states should be "pressured" to absorb refugees from Palestine, and that Israel should do whatever it wishes in seeking to eliminate terrorism. Good to see that the extremists didn't prevail then.

Why such a nutty resolution? Read on:

In the United States, several million people have succumbed to an extraordinary delusion. In the 19th century, two immigrant preachers cobbled together a series of unrelated passages from the Bible to create what appears to be a consistent narrative: Jesus will return to Earth when certain preconditions have been met. The first of these was the establishment of a state of Israel. The next involves Israel's occupation of the rest of its "biblical lands" (most of the Middle East), and the rebuilding of the Third Temple on the site now occupied by the Dome of the Rock and al-Aqsa mosques. The legions of the antichrist will then be deployed against Israel, and their war will lead to a final showdown in the valley of Armageddon. The Jews will either burn or convert to Christianity, and the Messiah will return to Earth.

What makes the story so appealing to Christian fundamentalists is that before the big battle begins, all "true believers" (ie those who believe what they believe) will be lifted out of their clothes and wafted up to heaven during an event called the Rapture. Not only do the worthy get to sit at the right hand of God, but they will be able to watch, from the best seats, their political and religious opponents being devoured by boils, sores, locusts and frogs, during the seven years of Tribulation which follow.

The true believers are now seeking to bring all this about. This means staging confrontations at the old temple site (in 2000, three US Christians were deported for trying to blow up the mosques there), sponsoring Jewish settlements in the occupied territories, demanding ever more US support for Israel, and seeking to provoke a final battle with the Muslim world/Axis of Evil/United Nations/ European Union/France or whoever the legions of the antichrist turn out to be.

The believers are convinced that they will soon be rewarded for their efforts. The antichrist is apparently walking among us...

Various comments abound on the extremists who appear to have taken control of the GOP:

The Despoiling of America

The Theocrats' Stealth Attack on the Courts

Patriot Games

More Musings on American Fascism

Superpower Syndrome, a book by Robert Jay Lifton that should be read by any thinking liberal/progressive who wants to understand what makes Junior Caligula and his minions tick.

Rush, Newspeak and Fascism: An exegesis

Tuesday, April 20, 2004

Some Anti-Draft History

No­ Conscription League Manifesto, 1917

a clip:

Our platform may be summarized as follows:

We oppose conscription because we are internationalists, anti­militarists, and opposed to all wars waged by capitalistic governments.

We will fight for what we choose to fight for; we will never fight simply because we are ordered to fight.

We believe that the militarization of America is an evil that far outweighs, in its anti­social and anti­libertarian effects, any good that may come from America's participation in the war.

We will resist conscription by every means in our power, and we will sustain those who, for similar reasons, refuse to be conscripted.

Feeling a Draft?

Senator says US may need compulsory service to boost Iraq force

WASHINGTON (AFP) - A senior Republican lawmaker said that deteriorating security in Iraq (news - web sites) may force the United States to reintroduce the military draft.

"There's not an American ... that doesn't understand what we are engaged in today and what the prospects are for the future," Senator Chuck Hagel told a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing on post-occupation Iraq.

"Why shouldn't we ask all of our citizens to bear some responsibility and pay some price?" Hagel said, arguing that restoring compulsory military service would force "our citizens to understand the intensity and depth of challenges we face."

The Nebraska Republican added that a draft, which was ended in the early 1970s, would spread the burden of military service in Iraq more equitably among various social strata.

"Those who are serving today and dying today are the middle class and lower middle class," he observed.

The call to consider a imposing a draft comes just days after the Pentagon moved to extend the missions of some 20,000 of the 135,000 US troops in Iraq.

The last thing we need is to enable the warmongers by providing them easier access to more cannon fodder.

My suggestion is to get involved now -- not tomorrow or next week, but now -- with one or more anti-draft and peace groups. If you're thinking that you'd be a conscientious objector, you need to know what's involved. But before things get to the point where conscientious objector status becomes one of a very limited number of choices, it's best to get the word out now and let our elected public servants know that a draft is the last thing we need.

Some organizations that are fighting the good fight against a reinstated draft include:

Committee Opposed to Militarism and the Draft

American Friends Service Committee Youth and Militarism Program

Central Committee for Conscientious Objectors (CCCO)

Center on Conscience and War/NISBCO

Resource Center for Non-Violence

War Resisters League

All of the above organizations offer pre-enlistment and draft counseling among their services. These organizations are more relevant than ever before. Typically they operate on a shoestring budget, so if you have some change to spare consider a donation.

It's looking more and more like that old Funkadelic album title "America Eats its Young" is an apt description of reality.

Want a Catalog of Dumb Statements by "You Know Who?"

The Top 19 Dumbest Statements of the Past Week.

This one's by Harry Browne, someone who's become a perennial Libertarian Party presidential candidate (1996, 2000, maybe this year?).

Adlai Stevenson III on the Junior Caligula's Miserable Policy Failures

A Different Kind of Intelligence Failure

Some clips:

Foreign policy in the Bush administration reflects a lack of experience in the real world away from a Washington overrun with armchair polemicists and think-tank ideologues. Too many inhabitants of this world have no experience in the military, where one learns to expect the unexpected, or in international finance, where America's vulnerability also resides. This White House is well known for its hostility to curiosity and intellectual debate.

After all, terrorism is not a phenomenon of recent origin. Gavrilo Princip, the Serb nationalist who assassinated Archduke Ferdinand in 1914, did not expect his gunshot to bring about the demise of the Austro-Hungarian Empire. He expected only a reaction — and the empire's reaction led to World War I and its own downfall. The United States government's reaction to the attacks of 9/11 could end up inflicting great damage on America.

The Bush administration demonstrates the point. One pre-emptive war against the dictator of a desert quasi-state crippled by international sanctions has stretched the American military thin. The United States is widely perceived to be waging war against Islam in the Middle East, a perception reinforced by the president's decision this week to support Prime Minister Ariel Sharon of Israel and his settlement plan.

Monday, April 19, 2004

Nine Years Later: OKC Terrorist Attack Remembered

4/19 by seanOK at Daily Kos diaries.

I know Americans get rather hung up on the notion of Arab & Persian terrorists bombing public buildings, but the reality belies the stereotype. Nine years ago, right-wing extremists (part of a so-called militia movement known for its extreme rhetoric) bombed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing and injuring an enormous number of people in the process. Until 9-11, that was easily the deadliest terrorist bombing to occur in the lower 48 states.

That tragedy occurred as I was finishing my Master's Thesis at Cal. State Fullerton, and preparing for a move to Columbia, MO in order to work on a Ph.D., and as my dad was accepting a transfer that would take him and the rest of my immediate family to the OKC metropolitan area. Words do not begin to describe the emotions all of us felt that day.

One thing that continues to bother me to the present is the failure of our government to take seriously the potential for terrorist activity from our own home-grown right-wing extremist groups. David Neiwert (see Orcinus in the blogroll) has done a wonderful job documenting the extremist movements that exist in this country, their rhetoric, and their actions. In the process he's also helped to document the seemingly lackadaisical approach to these groups that is taken by our own government.

Free Speech Monday

Here's a roundup of articles and editorials from Howard Stern's website:

Comedy with a political tilt

Maybe there are signs of life in America, and the bizarro retro-1950s conformist drone mindset that seems to have dulled all discourse is about to fade into the ether? That would be nice. A clip:

As the sanitizing jaws of the Federal Communications Commission clamp down on network nudity, lewd language and not least of all, its crown prince — Howard Stern — comedian Elayne Boosler watches keenly and thinks of a decade gone by.

Puritanical intolerance is scarier than Stern himself

The focus is on one of our own self-appointed Ayatollahs, Jack Thompson, who's been leading the charge to drive Stern from the airways. This Thompson dude illustrates quite aptly the right-wing authoritarian mindset, and the warped perception of the world according to Thompson and his ilk. A clip:

Thompson has taken aim at violent video games and movies in the past, and after the recent middle-school murder in Miami-Dade County he was quick to focus on the accused killer's fixation with graphic depictions of violence.

But Michael Hernandez also wrote in his diaries about praying to God daily. How come religiosity isn't to blame?

"The Bible doesn't promote killing innocent people," Thompson said. "Grand Theft Auto does. Islam does."


"Islam promotes the killing of innocent people," Thompson said. "The Quran requires the infidel, whether Jew or Christian, to be killed. ... That's a core essence of the religion. ... Muhammad was a pirate who killed infidels and who advocated the killing of infidels. Not a nice guy. Osama bin Laden is in keeping with his fine tradition."

Nice to know this is a guy to whom the FCC is listening when it comes to decency.

If listeners want Stern out, you will hear their voices

Living here in what is referred to by some demographers as the "sagebrush" region, and being raised by people from roughly the same region, it's not too surprising that I have a rather pronounced libertarian streak. I suppose that was what always resonated with me about Howard Stern - a damn the authoritarians mindset. Agree or disagree with him, but he's an amusing cat to listen to, and his tv gig on the E! network gives a small taste of what Stern is all about. My bottom line is that I want the world's busy bodies to leave me alone. They can also leave my kids alone too while they're at it. A clip:

Yet it appears that a religious undercurrent is sweeping the nation, hypocritical at best. And my job this election year will be to find out if our Arizona politicians believe in freedom of speech, because whether or not I like Stern (and I do), the same people who want to blur lines of religion and education in the Arizona school system are the same misguided zealots who want to tell us what to listen to, what to watch and eventually, reminiscent of modern-day repressive cultures in the Middle East and elsewhere, what to read.

Update: And of course let's not forget this rant by Marjorie Heins: Who's indecent?.

Some clips:

...but the sources of the current indecency follies go deeper. They lie both in widespread public anger at the increasingly concentrated entertainment industry and in America's continuing schizophrenia about sex and bodily functions.

First point: schizophrenia. Our society has long been torn between sexual freedom and repression. The clash has never been more striking than now, as conservatives demand a return to Victorian prudery while popular culture features ever more sexual explicitness. Although conservatives are clearly in political control, millions of Americans tune in to Stern and millions more enjoy the crass pleasures of Internet pornography.

Second point: the public resentment over mass media consolidation. This process has been going on since at least the 1980s, when (among many examples) General Electric bought NBC, Capital Cities/ABC bought Disney, and both Simon & Schuster and the CBS network became part of Viacom.

...In this climate, censoring indecency is a good strategy for distracting attention from the fact that the FCC continues to give the broadcast industry what it wants most - less competition, bigger markets and consequently bigger profits.

...The FCC should no longer be in the business of deciding what can be said or sung on the airwaves. But this does not mean that nothing should be done about a popular culture saturated with tasteless and, to many, highly offensive entertainment. A better answer than censorship lies in breaking up the entertainment conglomerates to encourage more diversity of content and viewpoints. The government also could set aside air time for nonprofit, independent broadcasting and provide censorship-free funding for alternative media projects.

An administration really serious about improving popular culture also might support media literacy education to give children the skills to understand and analyze the messages about sexuality and gender roles that permeate broadcast entertainment. In the long run education, not censorship, is the best way to combat the perils of "indecency."


Via Freeway Blogger. Here's their definition:

Chim·peach (chim pēch´), v., 1. To eliminate an enemy or malefactor, or to rectify a near fatal error or terrible mistake. 2. To remove from high office, through judicial review or public referendum, a dangerous imbecile, odious fraud, or chimpanzee. 3. To reclaim the soul of one's country by reversing or redressing a grievous historical injustice, as in "After Whitewater, Bush's lies about Iraq give us no choice but to chimpeach the murdering bastard, unless we want the whole goddam world to think that the lives of our sons and daughters are less significant than lying about a blowjob."

Albert Camus

Albert Camus and American Pop Culture.

Cool essay. I've read a bit of Camus' work - The Stranger, The Myth of Sisyphus, The Rebel come most readily to mind. His writing is actually rather accessible as philosophers go, and I especially recommend his novels as "good reads". Basically, Camus struggles with the issue of finding meaning in a world in which there is no apparent meaning. The theme of meaning in life became rather salient during the middle of the 20th century in the aftermath of WWII, fascist atrocities (Nazi, Falangist, Stalinist, etc.), the development of nuclear weapons, and so forth. Camus and various other writers wrestled with the issue of meaning in life against this backdrop, not so that you don't have to, but rather in order to invite you (the reader) to join them in the struggle.

As Maximo Zeledon states:

Albert Camus was a great and brilliant writer who deeply influenced a generation of young men in Europe, Africa and Latin America in the 1960s. He was primarily a moral voice advocating political action and strict adherence to moral principles in an era of nihilism and social upheaval.

No writer perhaps did more to restore faith in the pursuit of knowledge and truth after the end of World War II than Camus. His willingness to address the horrors of Nazi terror resulted in a hopeful existential philosophy based on the power of the individual to resist cruelty and inhumanity. Nevertheless, more than any other 20th-century intellectual, Camus’ reputation at any given moment has been shaped by pop culture and current prejudice. This is particularly true in the United States where his influence never reached the mainstream despite the accessible nature of his work.

One of the things that impressed me with the Existentialist philosophers, writers, etc. was their eagerness to engage their world; to act on the principles that they discussed in their books, lectures, and art. Camus and Sartre, for example, were active in the French Resistance against the Nazi occupation of France, and continued as activists throughout the remainder of their lives. One wonders how they would fare in today's US.

Regrettably, our current cultural dialogue is centered on desperate bachelorettes seeking true love on network television, the arrest of a fading pedophile pop star, and the promiscuous habits of a Hollywood starlet. Not only are we a nation of misguided opinions, bad taste and self-adulation, we are also deeply dissatisfied citizens in need of answers and greater meaning. Indeed, we live in a society that promotes lies, illusions and fairy tales — all of which have become deeply entrenched in our psyche, turning us into what Jean-Paul Sartre called automatons.

And yet, if we are willing to give Camus a read, we will likely find a great deal of his work salient to today's America.

The horrible nature of the Holocaust also made a deep imprint in Camus’ existentialist philosophy. He formulated his ideas about humanity and its ultimate failure to bear witness to the Holocaust in “The Fall,” which is basically an indictment against human indifference. (Clamence had the capacity to help an individual in need, but he failed. He walked away for fear of being inconvenienced from his self-centered life.) During the Holocaust, humanity had the opportunity and the capacity to bear witness — which could have stopped Hitler — but humanity failed. Camus faced this reality and made it public to the world. In doing so he hoped we would learn from the past in order to overcome our shortcomings. Indifference is a deplorable but inherent human trait. This makes Camus an important and relevant writer in these times of cynicism and political aloofness.

March 20 marked the first anniversary of our involvement in the Iraq war, which has taken the lives of 564 American soldiers and wounded another 3,190. With the exception of a handful of protesters, the general public has not bothered to question the legitimacy and nature of our continued armed involvement in the region. Not one significant piece of resistance has made it to the mainstream media. This is not merely a matter of taking a political side — it’s rather an issue of social consciousness, objectivity and balance.

We are a nation at war, currently fighting on two fronts, yet there is a disturbing atmosphere of normality in this country that our corporate and media outlets have worked very hard and diligently to preserve. A nation synonymous with dissent has become mute. Each generation has the right to find comfort where it can, but silence never should be an option. Citizens must question the actions of their political leaders in order for a democracy to survive.

Instead, all activity in our culture seems to be directed at making money and satisfying our greedy appetites. Indeed, we live in a society consumed with material wealth, in which unremarkable men hold positions of power and influence because we have stopped thinking critically and we perceive money and excess as true signs of power. The potency of celebrity worship has exhausted our capacity for abstract thought and we have divorced ourselves permanently from history, literature and philosophy. We spend a fortune on gym fees, tanning salons, penile enhancements, protein supplements, Zegna suits and SL 500s, but we can’t cover the hollow in our soul.

As Zeledon notes, creating the social conditions that would facilitate a discourse deeper than today's bling culture starts with each of us as individuals. Reading Camus is a pretty good start as well. Some other books, if you're interested in meaning in life:

The Birth and Death of Meaning, by Ernest Becker

Man's Search for Meaning, by Viktor Frankl

Man's Search for Himself, by Rollo May

Here's a blog I'll be reading more often

The Corpus Callosum, a blog that seems to focus on some items of interest in the world of psychology. Just in case you wondered what the term "corpus callosum" refers to, it is a bundle of fibers in the brain that connects the left and right cerebral hemispheres.

Stumbled on this link while checking out the blogs who link to Wanda's excellent Words on a Page blog. Well worth repeated visits - even if she did delink me. Update: Merely an oversight. Muchas gracias, Wanda.



Nothing terribly major, so breathe easy.

I've added links to site feeds (atom and rss) for this blog in the hopes of adding some readers.

You'll probably note a number of new additions to the blogroll, including The Agonist, The Common Man Blog, Empire Notes, Nathan Newman (better late than never), No Capital, and wildfirejo. I've also added a list of Iraq bloggers whom are worth repeated visits. You might have noticed recently that I have added to my satire links none other than Jesus' General, although I have a sneaking suspicion that Gen. J. C. Christian is a closet Frenchman. Just call it a wild guess. I've also recently added a link to The Bushiad and the Idyossey for those who dig satires based on classic Greek epic poetry. In the section of news links, I've made numerous additions, the latest and most noteworthy of those being The Raw Story, which bills itself as a lefty alternative to The Drudge Report. Personally I think it's better than Drudge. If you dig graphics, there is now a separate list of anti-war and anti-Bush graphics sites.

Anyhoo, I'm trying to mix things up a little bit. Hopefully those of you who frequent this blog will dig the changes.

Sunday, April 18, 2004

From the "Mission Accomplished, Not!" Department

Well, we've certainly heard by now many times how Herr Rove regrets that "Mission Accomplished" banner from last year's May Day stunt. Surely as events this weekend have shown, he has good reason for his regrets, even if genuine humility continues to elude him (and the rest of The Men of Steal occupying the White House):

From CNN we learn that the US Iraq war death toll has reached 700. Overall the coalition has lost 800+ men and women, and that does not even begin to account for the countless thousands (literally countless as our dear leaders do not want any sort of official death toll of civilian casualties) of Iraqis whose lives have been lost.

Spain is pulling out all of its troops, asap. Others are likely to follow suit, as even Condoleeza Rice has acknowledged, and even the Brits are starting to waver a bit.

Paul Bremer's even sounding a pessimistic note about the June 30 deadline to "transfer" power to Iraqis.

One can also read of the current situation in Iraq as being the "calm before the storm" or in "the eye of the hurricane", apt metaphors as unrest continues.

More cogent commentary can be found at The Agonist here and here and here.

Terry Jones Time

Invade Iraq? It's a no brainer

Here's the opening sentence:

Everyone agrees that President George Bush's lobotomy has been a tremendous success.

It gets better. Read on.

Oh, yeah. Apparently Tony Blair's lobotomy was also a smashing success.

Steve Gilliard on Why Supporting Junior Caligula's War on Iraq Was Wrong

Follows up on Atrios' comments about Matt Yglesias' (and similar pro-war liberals') mea culpa

Why supporting the war was wrong

Atrios is running Big Media Matt's exculpation on why he supported our current folly in Iraq. His excuses are rather pathetic and ahistorical, but at least he admits they're wrong.

The idea among the pro-war liberals that we could save the brown people from themselves is as deeply racist and ingrained as belief in the Super Bowl as a national holiday. They listened to exiled Iraqis talk about how they would do better than nasty, evil Saddam and how we could enlighten the whole region, let women drive and have the vote.

What they missed, of course, was that Iraq under Saddam had granted more rights to women than any subsequent government would. They would never admit that they thought what those wogs needed was a little enlightenment. They thought the average Iraqi was like Kenan Makiya, author of Republic of Fear, the first popular book on Saddam and the reign of terror which was the Baath Party.

A lot of liberals recoiled when faced with the culture of the Arab world and thought a chance to remake it would bring their values to that part of the world. They can say now that they didn't want Bush to screw it up, but to be fair, George Marshall would have screwed it up. What pro-war liberals wanted was nothing less than a new culture to be implanted in Iraq, one which would meet their goals, and one which had no historical support.

For over a year, Kos and I wrote, repeatedly, that this wasn't going to happen. Societies faced with radical political change can go in many ways, some quite reactionary. What stunned me was the way that the pro-war liberals thought Iraqis would embrace our ideas of what their country should be with acceptance. After all, they listened to the same exiles who only knew the Iraq of their childhood, not the Iraq of war and privation.

No implantation, whether done by the inept Bush or a competant admistration, would have worked, because Iraqis have their own history and culture. They are a fiercely nationalistic people and one who would never accept outside change easily. They have also suffered a great deal since 1980. The idea that a bunch of well-heeled academics, traitors to Iraq and shady liars could be an effective government was a fantsy quickly rejected by the Iraqi people. Why liberals thought the most independent minded of Arab peoples would accept our lectures on how to live is beyond me.

There are other, practical, reasons on why our efforts in Iraq were doomed from day one. Very simply, the US forces supported no one with a base of support in Iraq. Chalabi was unknown in Iraq and when he was known, became quickly reviled as a con man and American puppet. SCIRI, the Hakim's organization, was reknowned for torturing Shia POW's to get them to join up. So when we get there and remove Saddam, the last men standing are the clerics, and they don't like the US much, forget any liberl ideas of remaking their society.

We tried to ignore Sadr, who's appeal is closer to the Black Panthers with vastly more guns and no drug dealing. Sadr's power comes from living and working with the oppressed. You can call him a thug all you want, and fairly so, but he's the voice of the poor and and his father lost his life standing up for them.

We tried to pretend that Sistani was a friend, when he would never let an American darken his door. No pictures with Viceroy Jerry for him. Unlike when Hirohito allowed pictures with MacArthur, giving the imprimature of support for the occupation, Sistani hs never allowed a CPA ofiicial to hold a meeting with him. He sits in Najaf, sends his aides out and keeps waiting for the CPA to hand him power.

What the liberals never got, and this goes deeper than the CPA's incompetance and bad management, was that we are neither trusted nor liked in the Middle East, and a major reason is our culture. Remaking Iraq, especially when we had no real allies, even the Kurds are gaming us, was impossible. Only a racist arrogance encouraged us to think it was possible. One, more than a few liberals bought into, thinking all Iraq needed was a dose of Western culture and not realizing they would kill to protect their own, no matter how we viewed it.

Documenting the Creative Side of Peace

Book review of Peace Signs: The Anti-War Movement Illustrated.

Looks like something else to add to my reading list.

Here's one from earlier this weekend

War protesters close federal building

"It is your solemn and patriotic duty to ask today whether you want your hard-earned money to pay for war and occupation in Iraq and Israel," Sordean said.

I have seen the terrorists and they are us

Get Out Now by John Pilger.