Saturday, June 5, 2004

Minor hair splitting regarding an otherwise excellent blog

I read this over at Bemsha Swing and had to do a double-take. The key clip:



Isn't everyone in grad school 27? (except for ones who are 26 or 28).




I beg to differ, and in fact I hope he's merely using hyperbole for the sake of hyperbole. Starting first with myself: although it is true that I started graduate level work (at Cal State Fullerton) at the age of 27, I spent the bulk of my grad school career as a thirty-something. In fact when I entered a Ph.D. program in Social Psychology at University of Missouri, I was one of the older students among the first-year crew (collapsing across all grad programs in psychology). Most of the people in that in-coming group were either in their very early 20s or were in their 30s to well in their 40s. Now if one wants to make a general observation, such as that most grad students are somewhere in the neighborhood of 27 years of age at any given time, I probably wouldn't argue with that too much. Just be aware that many of us start and complete graduate work somewhat (in my case) to considerably later in life.

If you repeat enough B.S. often enough, maybe you can con yourself into believing it

This quote from Australian psychologist John Ray is classic:



The Left cannot face the fact that the American intervention in Afghanistan and Iraq is fundamentally humanitarian. The most effective response to the 9/11 events and the one in America's own best interests would have been a retaliatory strike using nukes to take the whole of Afghanistan off the map -- followed by a threat that Mecca would go sky high if there were any further Islamic attacks on the USA or its allies. That would have made Islam a religion of peace overnight. But GWB rightly rejected that easy road because it would have involved the death of millions of innocents. He chose instead to go after just the bad guys -- an extremely difficult task. And its difficulty is causing continuing American deaths in Iraq to this day. But Americans have always given their blood in order to be humane. They did it in two world wars and in Vietnam and they are doing it now in the Middle East. The only alternative strategy that the Left have is to do nothing -- thus inviting more and more attacks.




Yeah, I'm sure that old Junior Caligula's motives are purely humanitarian...try telling that to the families and friends of deceased civilians who've been cluster bombed, killed trying to celebrate weddings, etc. Try telling that to the individuals who've been tortured by US soldiers and their mercenary counterparts. Vietnam a humanitarian venture? Yeah, napalming much of the countryside and massacring entire villages sounds real humanitarian. WWII? That had more to do with simple national preservation than humanitarian aims. If there were no direct threat to US interests, I wouldn't have been surprised if the bulk of our political leaders would have looked the other way as fascists did their dirty deeds as the 1940s wore on.



The sad thing is that Professor Ray is not only happy to swallow that bit of propaganda but also is willing to accept and spread the misconception that the only strategy of the "leftists" (which he fails to define) is to "do nothing." I would suppose that if in Ray's world view action consists only of coercive violence then maybe he's got a point somewhere (warped though it may be). However, that sort of worldview strikes me as very limiting. On the contrary, the bulk of us "leftists" have indeed been suggesting actions to counter potential terrorist threats. Granted, our suggestions are far less glamorous than cluster bombing communities where terrorists may or may not exist. However, our suggestions do tend to address the roots of much of what constitutes terrorism: real and perceived injustice. Namely it requires a willingness to listen to those who are angry, improving the economic and social conditions that breed extremism and terrorism rather than engaging in practices that perpetuate those unfavorable conditions.



Extremism does not emerge in a vacuum, but rather occurs in a context in which one perceives one's social, economic, and political circumstances to be unjust and that those responsible for the injustice are unwilling to listen or address the issue. It is in an environment of extremism that the use of violence against one's perceived and real enemies becomes favorable. Terrorism is merely one of the forms such coercive violence may take - we can think of terrorism as essentially a form of military action in which the participants do not have access to conventional weapons and cannot engage in conventional tactics. Fighting against such tactics in the manner in which Bu$hco has done will fail, because the roots of terrorism are not addressed. let's repeat a few things from a few posts down:



The fact is, terrorism can't be stopped unless it is understood - any more than you can cure a disease without knowing the cause. Terrorism is born of desperation-driven fanaticism, a desperation that can't be separated from the social and economic conditions in which such as al-Qaeda can take root and grow, conditions - it must be said bluntly - which we as a nation are complicit in maintaining for our own selfish benefit.



Together, all this means three things:



One, unless we are prepared to wipe out entire peoples, our "war against terrorism" will not succeed. It will only produce more anger, more hatred, more suicide bombers; the more so as it spreads to more poor nations.



Two, patient police work of effective investigation and intelligence has done and will do more to oppose terrorism than all our bombing sorties combined. ...



Three and most importantly, our best targets for "attack" in this "extended campaign" are not the actual terrorists (who likely number no more than a few thousand) but the tens of thousands, the millions, of denigrated, degraded, and denied people among who they recruit and from who they draw their strength. Our best weapons are bread and butter, not bombs; our best tactic reconstruction, not retaliation; our best strategy justice, not jingoism. The best way for us to fight terrorism is to ensure that the dispossessed have a genuine stake in the world and don't see us as grasping bullies - and the best way to no longer be seen as a grasping bully is to stop being one.




The above, from Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time essentially nails the problem and its solutions. The weapons available to us to counter terrorism and its associated extremism are going to be every bit as unconventional as terrorist tactics are. Clearly, decent intelligence is needed to prevent terrorist attacks from occurring (it's amazing what a bit of painstaking, patient analysis and intelligence can accomplish in that regard), and of course bringing those responsible for perpetrating acts of terror to justice. By depoliticizing our approach to terrorist acts, we defuse at least some of the impact that the terrorists have. More importantly, we in the US need to be much more proactive in our own approach to international relations. Our best weapons really are humanitarian ones: food, medicine, trade, a genuine respect for those with different ways of life. Make a concerted effort to ensure that those who've been mistreated in the past have a genuine stake in the world, and much of the fuel for extremism and terrorism will be doused. It won't create utopia (my worldview is one that accepts that conflicts, including violent ones, will likely occur as long as there are humans on this planet) but it would create a considerable safer global sociopolitical environment than the one we have now.

Theocracy Watch Part Dieux

And no sooner than I post on the Texas GOP platform from 2002 and make a quick armchair prognostication of what to expect from the 2004 platform (basically more of the same bovine fecal matter), Byron L. of Burnt Orange Report has some of the goods on the newly approved Texas GOP platform. At least the highlights by the AssPress and duly noted by Burnt Orange Report suggest that the new platform is a doozy.



The downlow:



The Republican Party of Texas approved its 2004 state platform at its convention today. Among the provisions in the platform are:



--Support for "the traditional definition of marriage as a God-ordained, legal and moral commitment only between a natural man and a natural woman."



--Support for state legislation that would make it a felony to issue a marriage license to a same-sex couple and for any civil official to perform a marriage ceremony for a same-sex couple.



--Support for protection of all "innocent human life" from fertilization until natural death; urging the reversal of Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court ruling that legalized abortion.



--Opposition to government action to restrict, prohibit or remove from public display the Ten Commandments or other religious symbols.



--Denouncement of "any unconstitutional act of judicial tyranny that would demand removal of the words 'One Nation Under God' from the Pledge of Allegiance."



--Support for adoption of "American English" as the official language of Texas and the United States.



--Restoration of plaques honoring the Confederate Widow's Pension Fund contribution that were removed from the Texas Supreme Court and other state buildings.



--Support for legislation to allow forcible rape to be punished by the death penalty.



--Opposition to the legalization of sodomy. The platform states that sodomy "tears at the fabric of society, contributes to the breakdown of the family unit, and leads to the spread of dangerous, communicable diseases."



--Support for a state school choice policy that allows "maximum freedom of choice in public, private or parochial education for all children."




From what I know of the right-wing authoritarian mind, there's nothing surprising in the above highlights. If you're looking for evidence that the movers and shakers in the GOP are the Christian equivalent of the Taliban, there it is in black and white stylee. Dare to be different and GOP gangstas be gettin Medieval on yo ass Holmes. Speaking of Medieval, I wonder what the new slogan will be: "GOP - Party Like it's 1004"?

Friday, June 4, 2004

Theocracy Watch has the goods on the Religious Wingnuts' Control of the GOP

Check out, for example, their summary of the 2002 Texas GOP platform, which gives a pretty decent idea of the vibe these cats are grooving on. Suffice it to say, it's not a vibe I groove on. Although it is tempting to dismiss the document that was ultimately crafted in Texas as the work of a few extremists, I suspect that misses some crucial facet of reality. If anything, it seems that the GOP politicos in Texas take the document very seriously to an extent that suggests that it has more "mainstream" acceptance within the GOP than one might wish. Much of what Theocracy Watch summarizes, as is true of the whole platform - if you choose to stomach reading it (TW has the link to the document if you scroll down) - reads like a right-wing authoritarian wish list. Indeed, I'm not that surprised. Why? Check out some of Bob Altemeyer's research on right-wing authoritarianism, especially research he's conducted on legislators in the US. Texas legislators measure consistently higher in right-wing authoritarianism than just about any state in the US. To be fair to the Texas GOP, their party's legislators, while being more authoritarian than the majority of GOP legislators, are comparable to other GOP legislators in Bible Belt states. When you collapse across parties, however, Texas is clearly overall populated by relatively authoritarian legislators (see Altemeyer's 1996 book, The Authoritarian Specter for a more detailed summary). There are states that are worse (e.g., Mississippi especially stands out), but the fact of the matter is that Texans seem to elect fairly authoritarian people to public office. Whether this reflects a general mentality within the state is a matter of conjecture, I suppose. Altemeyer's data does provide a framework for interpreting the Texas GOP party platform that I find quite useful. Basically, Texan politicos are sufficiently right-wing authoritarian to be okay with much of the content of the 2002 platform, and if I were to make predictions of what the 2004 party platform will look like, I'd expect more of the same: in other words, expect a document that is overtly hostile to the civil rights and liberties of various minority groups (ethnic, religious, etc.) and that overtly advocates the use of the machinery of government to impose a rather narrow and rigid set of values and practices upon us all.



Theocracy Watch also provides a handy summary of the influence of the religious right-wing authoritarian faction on the Bush White House, that is worth examining.



Finally, Thomas Leavitt of Seeing the Forest invites the reader to examine the national party platform of the Constitution Party and compare it to the 2002 Texas GOP platform (as well as linking to Calpundit's excellent summary of the 2000 Texas GOP platform). One could readily make the case that the Texas GOP is something of a Constitution Party Lite - not a particularly comforting thought by any stretch of the imagination. One thing should become rather obvious: for all their talk about "liberty", it's pretty clear that for the right wingers such talk is merely empty words. The devil is in the details, and those details suggest a highly regimented, authoritarian style of governing, of which Bu$hCo has provided a taste.

Be careful how you treat others on the way up...

because you will meet them on the way down. Heck, they may even relish your downfall or go so far as to facilitate that downfall. A platitude that actually has a good deal of truth value, even applied to international relations. Case in point - Ernest Partridge's essay The Vulnerable Giant lays out the consequences of a nation acting as a bully, and in which its leaders fail to consider the consequences of their bullying behavior.



A huge clip that makes the point:



To shift the perspective, the mere fact that no army, navy or air force can defeat us Americans in battle does not imply that we are invulnerable. Quite the contrary. As we well know, a multi-billion dollar defense and intelligence regime was defeated by box cutters and airline tickets. And the only effective defense against that attack turned out to be bodies and bare hands of a few courageous private citizens.



What the Bush team fails to appreciate is that the US, while militarily supreme, is otherwise extremely vulnerable. And should the US decide to take on the entire world, the rest of the world, in concert, can take down the US with ease. The "outside world" has two weapons - foreign debt and resource imports -- which, if employed either separately or in concert, will quickly bring catastrophe upon the United States without a shot being fired.



The first weapon involves the US foreign debt, which has grown in the past fifteen years from zero to $2.5 trillion - which is a quarter of the US GDP. At present rates, that debt will increase by another trillion in three years. Given these facts , do we dare to lord it over the rest of the world? In his brilliant article, "The End of Empire," William Greider wryly points out "any profligate debtor who insults his banker is unwise, to put it mildly."



All that our creditors need do is withdraw their capital from our economy and/or shut their cash boxes and refuse to lend us any more. After that, chaos ensues. As Greider observes, "you can't sustain an empire from a debtor's weakening position - sooner or later the creditors pull the plug."



But if "the rest of the world," but most acutely, Europe, Russia, China and the Pacific Rim, put the squeeze on us and try to cut us down to size, can't the US simply say, in effect, "screw you all - we hereby repudiate our debts." At that point, the US becomes a pariah to international trade and is thereafter, as Sam Goldwin said, "included out." No more foreign markets to sell our goods and, far more seriously, no more imports of essential raw materials - the most essential of all, of course, is petroleum. And note this: now half of our petroleum is imported, as domestic sources approach final depletion.



As we pointed out earlier (in "The Oil Trap"), the lost luxury of driving our SUVs is the very least of our worries when the oil tap is shut off. We quite literally "eat oil," for petroleum not only carries the food to our tables, it also provides the fuel for the farm machinery and the raw materials for the fertilizer which are necessary for our mode of intensive, industrialized agriculture. In addition, we have foolishly opted to move most of our industrial and consumer products by trucks, rather than rail (which, incidentally, also uses diesel fuel).



So imagine a sudden and unrecoverable loss of half of our petroleum supply. From that moment, we might coast for a few months on the "strategic reserve" - crude oil that has been pumped back into the ground in case of emergencies. But after the reserve is gone, the US economy will collapse, as all inessential use of oil is forbidden, ordinary economic life grinds to a halt, gasoline is severely rationed, and all domestic oil supplies are directed to the task of bringing food and essential supplies to our cities - just to keep our populace alive.



The oil shortage might be further compounded by sabotage of the Alaska pipeline, which supplies approximately one and a half million barrels of crude oil per day. Almost all of the 800 miles of that pipeline is above ground - I know, I've driven alongside hundreds of miles of it. A couple of years ago a few rifle shots shut down the pipeline for several days. It is virtually impossible to protect the entire line, and a few well-placed satchel charges or bazooka shots could shut it down for good.



To put it graphically, the United States is like huge, ugly, menacing mechanical monster, powered by an AC line attached to a wall socket. The poor, cowering, intimidated victims need only notice that the wall socket is right behind them, within easy reach. (Would that I were a cartoonist!).



When the ninety-five percent of humanity that resides outside our borders - or at least a sizeable industrialized portion thereof - decides they have had enough of our bullying, they need only pull the plug, and our vaunted economy, along with our military, will collapse into a ruined heap.



To be sure, such a coordinated act of economic warfare would have serious economic repercussions for the anti-US alliance, though the damage would arguably less than the damage to the United States. After all, we need their raw materials, oil especially, to survive. The "outside world" has no need of our raw materials, and it can readily replicate our technology. But while the damage to the world economy might be considerable, the American bullying and empire-building might well become sufficiently onerous to the rest of the world that they would willingly suffer the consequences of bringing the US down. After all, any nation that goes to war believes that it is worth the cost of some rather horrific consequences. Never mind that the leaders almost always grossly underestimate the costs to their nation, and care little about thedamage and misery that they inflict upon their enemies. The historical fact remains: nations (mis)-calculate the costs, and then willingly go to war. The costs of a bloodless economic boycott would seem to be considerably less than total war.



"Even so, they wouldn't dare," replies our irrepressible chicken-hawk. "If they did, we'd nuke 'em. Just the threat should keep them in line, and should keep the oil coming in." Sorry, fellas. You see, they also have nukes. Not as many as we do, but so what? With a few hundred warheads, and a reliable delivery to twenty of our largest cities, we will be adequately "deterred." We have thousands of warheads, but no matter. Just a few hundred will do. More than that would be like adding more rifles to the firing squad. (See "A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to Armageddon").



To sum up:, the mighty American military machine is a paper tiger. No military force on Earth can defeat it, but no such force need to. Our economy rests upon the willingness of our creditors to continue to put more billions of dollars "on the tab." In addition, our economy - all of it -- depends totally on the energy supply that "the outside world" consents to sell us.



At any time, a "Coalition of the Fed-Up" can decide to cut off our credit line and/or pull our energy plug from the wall socket. George Bush and his gang of usurpers don't seem to realize this.



God help us all when the rest of the world comes to appreciate its leverage, and begins to look mischievously at that wall socket.

From the "We're on a mission from God, pass the f---ing crack" department

Bush's Erratic Behavior Worries White House Aides



President George W. Bush’s increasingly erratic behavior and wide mood swings has the halls of the West Wing buzzing lately as aides privately express growing concern over their leader’s state of mind.



In meetings with top aides and administration officials, the President goes from quoting the Bible in one breath to obscene tantrums against the media, Democrats and others that he classifies as “enemies of the state.”



Worried White House aides paint a portrait of a man on the edge, increasingly wary of those who disagree with him and paranoid of a public that no longer trusts his policies in Iraq or at home.




“It reminds me of the Nixon days,” says a longtime GOP political consultant with contacts in the White House. “Everybody is an enemy; everybody is out to get him. That’s the mood over there.”



In interviews with a number of White House staffers who were willing to talk off the record, a picture of an administration under siege has emerged, led by a man who declares his decisions to be “God’s will” and then tells aides to “fuck over” anyone they consider to be an opponent of the administration.



“We’re at war, there’s no doubt about it. What I don’t know anymore is just who the enemy might be,” says one troubled White House aide. “We seem to spend more time trying to destroy John Kerry than al Qaeda and our enemies list just keeps growing and growing.”



Aides say the President gets “hung up on minor details,” micromanaging to the extreme while ignoring the bigger picture. He will spend hours personally reviewing and approving every attack ad against his Democratic opponent and then kiss off a meeting on economic issues.



“This is what is killing us on Iraq,” one aide says. “We lost focus. The President got hung up on the weapons of mass destruction and an unproven link to al Qaeda. We could have found other justifiable reasons for the war but the President insisted the focus stay on those two, tenuous items.”



Aides who raise questions quickly find themselves shut out of access to the President or other top advisors. Among top officials, Bush’s inner circle is shrinking. Secretary of State Colin Powell has fallen out of favor because of his growing doubts about the administration’s war against Iraq.



The President's abrupt dismissal of CIA Directory George Tenet Wednesday night is, aides say, an example of how he works.



"Tenet wanted to quit last year but the President got his back up and wouldn't hear of it," says an aide. "That would have been the opportune time to make a change, not in the middle of an election campaign but when the director challenged the President during the meeting Wednesday, the President cut him off by saying 'that's it George. I cannot abide disloyalty. I want your resignation and I want it now."



Tenet was allowed to resign "voluntarily" and Bush informed his shocked staff of the decision Thursday morning. One aide says the President actually described the decision as "God's will."



God may also be the reason Attorney General John Ashcroft, the administration’s lightning rod because of his questionable actions that critics argue threatens freedoms granted by the Constitution, remains part of the power elite. West Wing staffers call Bush and Ashcroft “the Blues Brothers” because “they’re on a mission from God.”



“The Attorney General is tight with the President because of religion,” says one aide. “They both believe any action is justifiable in the name of God.”



But the President who says he rules at the behest of God can also tongue-lash those he perceives as disloyal, calling them “fucking assholes” in front of other staff, berating one cabinet official in front of others and labeling anyone who disagrees with him “unpatriotic” or “anti-American.”



“The mood here is that we’re under siege, there’s no doubt about it,” says one troubled aide who admits he is looking for work elsewhere. “In this administration, you don’t have to wear a turban or speak Farsi to be an enemy of the United States. All you have to do is disagree with the President.”




Four more years of that? You've got to be kidding me!



Update: I can't help but notice some interesting commentary on the article. At least one person thought that the article was a parody. As I read the article, within the context both of the author's prior work and the context of other articles at Capitol Hill Blue, I am reasonably certain that the author is not attempting a parody article. Other skeptics include Kevin Drum and Atrios who note that Capitol Hill Blue blew some serious chunks on a major news story last year, and hence should be read with a grain of salt. I'll note that several commentators on Houston Bridges' post contend to the contrary that there are several grains of truth to article's content, and Drum acknowledges that even if the article is not true that it is probably "more true than you think". If nothing else, discussion of Bush's erratic behavior has been on-going for some time now, as andante at Collective Sigh notes. We know that at least some of his childhood behavior, such as blowing up frogs with firecrackers would be viewed by members of the mental health professions as a symptom of conduct disorder (a potential precursor to anti-social personality disorder - or in lay terms "psychopath"). In fact the parallels between George W. Bush and serial killers such as Robert Yates are startling, and one might ask if the pattern of animal cruelty as a child, and an adulthood lack of empathy and pattern of inappopropriate responses to situations are indicative of genuine pathology. The potential that Bush's drinking and coke habits (that he has presumably kicked) have led to a form of dry drunk syndrome has also been grist for the mill for some time now. Personally I am a bit skeptical of the armchair diagnoses of George W. Bush, believing instead that it is more parsimonious to look at his actions within the framework of research on authoritarianism - and that the Capitol Hill Blue article would be best viewed in light of the extreme stress associated with the scandals that have plagued the Bush White House. My two cents, for whatever it's worth.



Update, Update: Looks like that Capitol Hill Blue article is really getting around. Chris of onegoodmove calls the article a gem, noting that Junior Caligula is "fucking nuts" along with a disclaimer about the source. Note, onegoodmove is definitely a blog worth checking out. Kurt Nimmo of Another Day in the Empire, also comments on the article, noting that Junior Caligula and his cronies are seeming positively Nixonian these days, but are unlikely to bow out as gracefully as did Nixon.

Sometimes good ideas come from unexpected sources.

And that's perfectly cool by me. Why am I following this particular muse as I wind down and prepare for a few hours of slumber before a morning of teaching summer courses? A post by Larry, at Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time captures a quote by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf that bears repeating:



[w]e need to understand that the root cause of extremism and militancy lies in political injustice, denial and deprivation. Political injustice to a nation or a people, when combined with stark poverty and illiteracy, makes for an explosive mix. It produces an acute sense of hopelessness and powerlessness. A nation suffering from these lethal ills is easily available for the propagation of militancy and the perpetration of extremist, terrorist acts. It is cannon fodder in a war of terrorism.




Granted Musharraf is hardly my ideal of a great democrat and humanitarian. However, I'm reminded of something one of my old activist friends in college used to say quite often: "it's not so much who says it, but that it gets said." I can hang with that.



While we're at it, Larry echoes the Musharraf quote with something he wrote around the beginning of 2002:



The fact is, terrorism can't be stopped unless it is understood - any more than you can cure a disease without knowing the cause. Terrorism is born of desperation-driven fanaticism, a desperation that can't be separated from the social and economic conditions in which such as al-Qaeda can take root and grow, conditions - it must be said bluntly - which we as a nation are complicit in maintaining for our own selfish benefit.



Together, all this means three things:



One, unless we are prepared to wipe out entire peoples, our "war against terrorism" will not succeed. It will only produce more anger, more hatred, more suicide bombers; the more so as it spreads to more poor nations.



Two, patient police work of effective investigation and intelligence has done and will do more to oppose terrorism than all our bombing sorties combined. ...



Three and most importantly, our best targets for "attack" in this "extended campaign" are not the actual terrorists (who likely number no more than a few thousand) but the tens of thousands, the millions, of denigrated, degraded, and denied people among who they recruit and from who they draw their strength. Our best weapons are bread and butter, not bombs; our best tactic reconstruction, not retaliation; our best strategy justice, not jingoism. The best way for us to fight terrorism is to ensure that the dispossessed have a genuine stake in the world and don't see us as grasping bullies - and the best way to no longer be seen as a grasping bully is to stop being one.




Words that bear repeating. The people running the show in the White House, along with their enablers, have it all wrong. There is another, more peaceful path that while unlikely to achieve anything even remotely resembling a utopian vision, would defuse much of the potential for bloodshed.

Thursday, June 3, 2004

The infamous Enron tapes are now being made public

Well, at least some of them. Props to Thomas Leavitt of Seeing the Forest for the tip. Apparently that's just the tip of the iceberg, and more will be made public in the near future.

Daily Howler Has the Lowdown on Gore's Thoughts on the Iraq War

as well as the idiotic reaction of many of our news media pundits. I especially enjoyed the digs on the sheer superficiality of news media discourse, which seems focused on mere trivia rather than the substance of the message. Of course the aparichniks in the right-wing media discount Gore's recent thoughts on the Iraq war fiasco as proof positive that he's gone insane - funny that was the tactic used by the Soviet leaders and their media tools back in the day to dismiss legit concerns by dissidents. Al Gore as left-wing extremist? Now that is a howler in and of itself. The dude is basically a "New Democrat" in the mold of Clinton & Kerry - pretty middle-of-the-road plain vanilla when it comes to foreign policy. Shrill, or ranting? Give me a break. Gore is as cool as a cucumber - if anything I'd love to see a bit more emotion and a little less of the low-key style of speaking. But you know, that's all the sideshow. What he has to say about the way Bu$hCo went about entering into this war is fairly well-reasoned in content. Basically he's saying that he had a great deal of concern about the rush to war without giving the Congress the opportunity to really sit down and hash out the details, and that those concerns have been largely borne out, much to the detriment of our nation. The White House failure to have a solid plan, and its failure to reason out the various potential future consequences of invading Iraq are what are at issue to Gore, and also at issue is the need to hold those responsible for the mess accountable. Pretty safe, mainstream stuff I must admit - and basically very easy to back up with the available empirical evidence.



Near as I can reckon, many of our media talking heads types tend to react to someone making a well-reasoned data-driven account of why the Iraq invasion was ill-conceived and executed the way my son (then seven) reacted when I told him that there was no Santa Claus - angry denial followed by a tantrum. Sad, really.

All Hat No Cattle

Always an entertaining read, and manages to highlight stories that might get overlooked. For example, Bush Joins Meeting of Faith-Based Groups:



The cover of the glossy, full-color booklet being distributed during a conference at the Washington Hilton yesterday showed a flaming shrub and proclaimed: "Not everyone has a burning bush to tell them their life's calling."



The Old Testament imagery suggested a religious tract, but this was a government brochure.



The guide, published by the Department of Labor, tells congregations how they can apply for federal grants to provide job training and services for veterans and disabled people.



On a nearby table, a sheet from the Environmental Protection Agency described a "congregations network" that encourages churches to become more energy efficient and, thereby, to put more money into their missions.



Supporters of President Bush's "faith-based initiative" point to those programs as signs of how much friendlier he has made the government toward religious groups seeking federal funding for social service programs, even though Congress thwarted the plan he had campaigned on in 2000.



...Barry W. Lynn, executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, has been critical of the administration's initiative. He said the administration has provided "less money for the poor, and all he does is highlight a few people who got the crumbs."



"It's certainly truth this has made changes in federal policy. But the constitutionality of this policy has not been tested," Lynn said. "So his changes could be very transitory and very limited."



During his speech, Bush acknowledged that his original plan "got stuck in the Congress."



"So I got frustrated and signed an executive order," he said, referring to the White House strategy of trying to achieve many of its goals through regulation and other executive action.



In conjunction with the conference, Bush signed an executive order creating faith-based "centers" at the Commerce Department, the Veterans Affairs Department and the Small Business Administration, bringing to 10 the federal agencies that have offices devoted to serving as advocates of religious organizations. Officials said these three will probably be the final centers, since they complete the coverage of agencies involved in providing social services and humanitarian aid.




Now, government brochures or any government publication laced with Old Testament imagery in a nation founded by Deists strikes me as more than a little creepy as well as a flagrant "fuck you" to the spirit of that inconvenient little document our nation's founders wrote - The Constitution. Remember that? The document that we used to be taught in school as a matter of both national pride and civic awareness? I suppose that's all passé in this post-Enlightenment day and age.



Gotta love Absolut power, eh?







Them bones, them bones...

Bush Jr.'s Skeleton Closet



Another compendium of the lies of George Dubya Bush, Scumbucket and Thief.

Feeling a draft yet?

Pending Draft Legislation Targeted for Spring 2005: The Draft will Start in June 2005



There is pending legislation in the House and Senate (twin bills: S 89 and HR 163) which will time the program's initiation so the draft can begin at early as Spring 2005 -- just after the 2004 presidential election. The administration is quietly trying to get these bills passed now, while the public's attention is on the elections, so our action on this is needed immediately.



$28 million has been added to the 2004 Selective Service System (SSS) budget to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005. Selective Service must report to Bush on March 31, 2005 that the system, which has lain dormant for decades, is ready for activation. Please see website: www.sss.gov/perfplan_fy2004.html to view the sss annual performance plan - fiscal year 2004.



The pentagon has quietly begun a public campaign to fill all 10,350 draft board positions and 11,070 appeals board slots nationwide.. Though this is an unpopular election year topic, military experts and influential members of congress are suggesting that if Rumsfeld's prediction of a "long, hard slog" in Iraq and Afghanistan [and a permanent state of war on "terrorism"] proves accurate, the U.S. may have no choice but to draft.



Congress brought twin bills, S. 89 and HR 163 forward this year, http://www.hslda.org/legislation/na...s89/default.asp entitled the Universal National Service Act of 2003, "to provide for the common defense by requiring that all young persons [age 18--26] in the United States, including women, perform a period of military service or a period of civilian service in furtherance of the national defense and homeland security, and for other purposes." These active bills currently sit in the committee on armed services.



Dodging the draft will be more difficult than those from the Vietnam era.



College and Canada will not be options. In December 2001, Canada and the U.S. signed a "smart border declaration," which could be used to keep would-be draft dodgers in. Signed by Canada's minister of foreign affairs, John Manley, and U.S. Homeland Security director, Tom Ridge, the declaration involves a 30-point plan which implements, among other things, a "pre-clearance agreement" of people entering and departing each country. Reforms aimed at making the draft more equitable along gender and class lines also eliminates higher education as a shelter. Underclassmen would only be able to postpone service until the end of their current semester. Seniors would have until the end of the academic year.



Even those voters who currently support US actions abroad may still object to this move, knowing their own children or grandchildren will not have a say about whether to fight. Not that it should make a difference, but this plan, among other things, eliminates higher education as a

shelter and includes women in the draft.



The public has a right to air their opinions about such an important decision.



Please send this on to all the friends, parents, aunts and uncles, grandparents, and cousins that you know. Let your children know too -- it's their future, and they can be a powerful voice for change!



Please also contact your representatives to ask them why they aren't telling their constituents about these bills -- and contact newspapers and other media outlets to ask them why they're not covering this important story.




Now while my hope is that such legislation will continue to die a quiet death, I'm much less optimistic than I once was. Even if the war criminals in the White House are evicted (and ideally tried and convicted for their actions), there's little doubt that the military is stretched terribly thin, and that recruiting has become one hell of an uphill battle for the Pentagon. Add to that the fact that too many of our leaders seem to be sucked into that whole American machismo mentality of remaining in military quagmires regardless of the futility of doing so (cutting one's losses is considered "unmanly" among many Democrats and Republicans alike), the temptation to force young men and women into the military may be too great.



Bring on the noise.

A friendly reminder:

Don't be an asshole.

Just for Kicks, If I Were a Country I Would Be:




You're Chile!


You're really skinny, and kind of bumpy in frame, but you're not as rough a person as you used to be.  You like long, long, long walks on the beach and avoiding having your rights violated, just like anybody else does.  You're even willing to stand up to those with more power and influence than you, trying to bring them to justice.  Fight the man!
Take the Country Quiz at the Blue Pyramid

Some more humor:

via Seeing the Forest. Enjoy!:



George Bush is out jogging one morning and notices Little Hannah on the corner holding a box. Curious, he runs over and says, "What's in the box, kid?"



Little Hannah says, "Kittens, they're brand new kittens."



Bush laughs and says, "What kind of kittens are they?"



"Republicans", says Little Hannah.



"Now that's cute", Bush says and goes on his way.



A few days later, Bush is running with the Vice President Cheney and he spies Little Hannah with her box just ahead.



He says to Dick, "You gotta check this out.", and they both jog over to Little Hannah.



Bush says, "Look in the box Cheney. Isn't that cute? Hey, kid, tell my friend what kind of kittens they are."



Little Hannah replies, "They're Democrats."



"Whoa!", Bush says, "I came by here the other day and you said they were Republicans. What's up?"



"Well", Little Hannah explains, "their eyes are open now."

A good summary of the Bu$hCo meltdown:

Michael of Musing's Musings ties the various threads together with his post, Tipping point. Reached.



The lowdown is that the old scandals have plenty of life left in them, the new scandals are making the old ones look like childhood pranks, the mass media has shown some signs of alertness (albeit that lot could use a few more espressos or cans of Red Bull, or something to shake off the cobwebs), and there is dissention in the GOP ranks. And of course, the Naked Chimperor Junior Caligula is running for legal cover for his hairy ass. I don't know if the "fat lady has sung" but I can say this much: each day, it appears more likely that the nightmare is on the verge of ending.

Bu$hCo: Screwing Americans...Over, and Over, and Over Again:

Enron manufactured California power crisis



This pretty much speaks for itself. Not much need for me to add further comment, other than to highlight the mentality of Junior Caligula and Der GropenFührer's Enron cronies:



Four years after California's disastrous experiment with energy deregulation, Enron energy traders can be heard - on audiotapes obtained by CBS News - gloating and praising each other as they helped bring on, and cash-in on, the Western power crisis.

"He just fucks California," says one Enron employee. "He steals money from California to the tune of about a million."



"Will you rephrase that?" asks a second employee.



"OK, he, um, he arbitrages the California market to the tune of a million bucks or two a day," replies the first [...]



Officials with the Snohomish Public Utility District near Seattle received the tapes from the Justice Department.



"This is the evidence we've all been waiting for. This proves they manipulated the market," said Eric Christensen, a spokesman for the utility.



That utility, like many others, is trying to get its money back from Enron.



"They're fucking taking all the money back from you guys?" complains an Enron employee on the tapes. "All the money you guys stole from those poor grandmothers in California?"



"Yeah, grandma Millie, man"



"Yeah, now she wants her fucking money back for all the power you've charged right up, jammed right up her asshole for fucking $250 a megawatt hour."



And the tapes appear to link top Enron officials Ken Lay and Jeffrey Skilling to schemes that fueled the crisis.



"Government Affairs has to prove how valuable it is to Ken Lay and Jeff Skilling," says one trader.



"Ok."



"Do you know when you started over-scheduling load and making buckets of money on that?



Before the 2000 election, Enron employees pondered the possibilities of a Bush win.



"It'd be great. I'd love to see Ken Lay Secretary of Energy," says one Enron worker.



That didn't happen, but they were sure President Bush would fight any limits on sky-high energy prices.



"When this election comes Bush will fucking whack this shit, man. He won't play this price-cap bullshit."



Crude, but true.



"We will not take any action that makes California's problems worse and that's why I oppose price caps," said Mr. Bush on May 29, 2001.



Both the Justice Department and Enron tried to prevent the release of these tapes. Enron's lawyers argued they merely prove "that people at Enron sometimes talked like Barnacle Bill the Sailor."

Some music for your Thursday

Memories of the voodoo child: Carlos Santana is one of the host of top names contributing to a new Jimi Hendrix tribute album. He talks to Phil Johnson about the man, the myth and the music



Sweet sounds of freedom: Apartheid ended 10 years ago, but South Africa's music still pulsates with life, love, protest and pain. And Britain is preparing to welcome it, says Jane Cornwell



Or to take a line from an old Gary Bartz tune: music is my sanctuary.



Peace.

This caught my attention:

Seeds of nonviolent resistance sown in Iraq: A dozen friends have formed a political group to protest the US occupation.



A clip, or two:



In one of Baghdad's fiercest hotbeds of anti-American violence, something different is happening: Two weeks ago, young men and old walked down the street holding up banners protesting US military incursions. They used their mouths, not their guns.



...Normally it is the sound of semiautomatic machine-gun fire that fills the air of this district. Indeed, for the residents of Adhamiyeh, protest is completely novel, something that never happened while Mr. Hussein was in power. But in January a dozen residents - a group of childhood friends - decided that people needed a voice for their political views and formed a nonviolent political group. While some residents remain skeptical - some are unsure of the direction it will take, others say that Americans will only listen to force - many hope this is the seed of a new movement.



"We want to be assured the resistance will respect democracy, rights of women, different religions. We don't want types like Al Qaeda ... and Saddam," says Wahdi Nadhmi, a political analyst and professor at Baghdad University. "If the patriotic elements start a civil struggle, it will be welcomed by most Iraqi people."



After Friday prayers, some 150 people walked down the steps of the Abu Hanifa Mosque and joined in a demonstration. They decried the entry of US soldiers and search dogs into the mosque a few days earlier.



...The demonstration was a trial run, he says. "We wanted to see if the media would actually cover the event and send out our message."



And in his desire to get the message across, Mahmoud is opening doors normally closed to foreigners: his own. Talking to an American reporter in his living room, he says: "We want to tell the Americans that [American soldiers] entering mosques and homes will increase the acts of the resistance against them."



Another visitor listens quietly but at last speaks up. "I oppose the Ashura because the Americans won't listen," says Abu Muayed. "The Americans told many lies about hidden weapons of mass destruction and plans for reconstruction. None of it came true. So, some of the Iraqis started resisting, and God help them."




Although a relatively small movement thus far, I wish the participants well. Nonviolent resistance movements have had varying degrees of success under the harsh conditions of occupation. Certainly Gandhi's nonviolent resistance to UK-occupied India comes to mind, as well as the Norwegian educators who used nonviolent resistance in a successful effort to thwart attempts to trash their curriculum (the Nazis wanted to turn the Norwegian kids into Hitler youth). Sometimes nonviolent activists are entirely against the use of violence, whereas others, such as this group of Iraqi nonviolent resisters, while not entirely eschewing the use of violence do recognize its limits.

Seems Junior Caligula Perceives the Need for Legal Help

Things that make you go, hmmmmm....



This has to do with the Valerie Plame leak from last year. Ah, the trials and tribulations of a war president criminal.

Some humor courtesy of Earthside.com

HUMOR: George Bush Fan



The teacher says, "Why aren't you a George Bush fan?"



Johnny says, "I'm a John Kerry fan."



The teacher asks why he's a John Kerry fan. The boy says, "Well, my mom's a John Kerry fan and my dad's a John Kerry fan, so I'm a John Kerry fan!"



The teacher is kind of angry, because this is Texas, so she asks, "What if your mom was a moron and your dad was an idiot, what would that make you?"



Johnny says, "That would make me a George Bush fan."

Wednesday, June 2, 2004

Tuesday, June 1, 2004

This is too good to pass up:





Via a Daily Kos commenter. Enjoy!

Rick Jahnkow nails it

With Kerry as President, Our Work Would Be Just as Urgent



This is from the May/June edition of Draft NOtices, the COMD bimonthly newsletter. I'll give y'all the whole column, with some key take-home messages highlighted:



If you were thinking "relief" is spelled K-E-R-R-Y, think again. John Kerry could be just as bad on the issue of militarism — more specifically, the militarization of young people — as the previous several administrations.



Besides the fact that Kerry advocates enlarging the military (imagine spending more on war making than we already are!) and supports continuing the occupation of Iraq, Kerry has a plan for national service that could be an intermediate step in the direction of mandatory civilian/military service.



Over the years, various organizations and politicians have unsuccessfully championed the idea of universal national service, where people would have to choose between military and civilian duty. Military conscription alone has been used in this country during the Civil War, WWI, and most of the WWII-Vietnam period. Attempts to have the Supreme Court declare the military draft unconstitutional never succeeded, and the last draft was ended by Congress mostly because it was helping to fuel a more general social and political rebellion during the Vietnam War. The idea of a draft for civilian service has been even less popular and has never picked up enough support to make it through Congress.



The Democratic Leadership Council (DLC), which was formed in 1985 to move the Democratic Party in a more conservative direction, is one organization that has promoted the idea of universal military/civilian national service. It claims to support only voluntary national service, but in its 1988 Blueprint, the DLC proposed making all existing federal financial aid for students contingent on them doing one or two years of military or civilian service "at subsistence wages."



The danger of such plans is that they are the starting points on a path that could lead to mandatory military/civilian service. The general strategy would work like this:



1. First you campaign to get the public used to the idea that they have an obligation to "serve," with little distinction being made between serving the government and serving humanity.



2. Next, you gradually make college financial aid and other "privileges" (like health care, low-income housing, etc.) contingent on doing government-dictated work assignments.



3. Finally, after getting people acclimated to the above, you introduce a universal civilian/military draft where "service" is no longer voluntary.



John Kerry, a member of the DLC, has been promoting a national service plan in his presidential campaign that seems to be following the first two steps described above. Following are excerpts from Kerry's plan that illustrate his thinking on the subject. Note that he includes the forcing of colleges to accept ROTC in the context of a "voluntary" national service program. (Full text is available at http://www.johnkerry.com/issues/natservice)



(II) A MANDATORY HIGH SCHOOL SERVICE REQUIREMENT. As President, John Kerry will ensure that every high school student in America does community service as a requirement for graduation. . . . Knowledge of the rights and responsibilities of citizenship — including the duty to serve your community — are as important to American adults as knowing how to read and do math. Combined with a curriculum that teaches students about democracy, citizenship and civic participation, this high school service requirement will be a rite of passage for every young person in the country. . . .



(VI) RECRUIT MORE AMERICANS TO THE MILITARY. The highest form of service is military service. America's military is having trouble recruiting and is increasingly relying on the reserves for active duty. John Kerry believes we must change that. The complicated missions we face and technologies we use depend on it. In a Kerry Administration, no university that receives federal aid will be allowed to ban the ROTC from their campus, except for religious reasons. And the ROTC scholarship program will be adequately funded so that students can attend the college of their choice. John Kerry will also make modernizing our GI benefits a top priority, because no program has been more successful increasing educational opportunities for veterans while also providing an incentive for the best and brightest to make a career out of military service.



Kerry's plan also proposes paying for 2-4 years of college tuition if high school graduates choose to do 1-2 years of national service. For the most part, this would be made possible by expanding the existing civilian service agency, AmeriCorps, and presumably, getting Congress to pass a very large increase in the AmeriCorps education benefit (currently under $5,000).



On the surface, expanding AmeriCorps and enlarging the education benefit for voluntary service is not a bad idea, but it's highly unlikely that the military would stand for this if it would create competition for recruiters. When AmeriCorps was established years ago, the Pentagon complained about the size of the education benefit that was proposed and succeeded in getting it reduced substantially to an amount that could not compete with the GI Bill.



In order to expand "voluntary" national service and not run afoul of the Pentagon, I believe Kerry would be more likely to resurrect the DLC's original proposal to make all federal student aid contingent on doing either military or civilian service. This is the intermediate step toward eventual universal, mandatory civilian/military service.



Even if a combined civilian/military draft were not the result, it's clear that Kerry is aligned with those who would impose militarism on schools and who believe that people have a duty to serve the state, as opposed to the other way around. If elected president, he could very well be the person who will sign a military draft bill if recruiting does not provide enough personnel for expanded military missions and a larger force size over the next few years.



When Democrats Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton were elected, many people thought the "bad guys" were no longer in office, and we saw the typical phenomenon of peace and social justice activism losing strength and intensity. This is part of an unfortunate cycle that helps render our movements ineffective over the long term and results in more of the same crises that we strive to prevent (more wars, loss of ground on affirmative action, erosion of women's reproductive rights, increasing economic class disparity, etc.).



The lesson is this: vote for anybody-but-Bush if you wish, but no one should have any illusions about Kerry or the Democratic Party. Our only hope is that enough people realize that no matter what happens this November, we must commit to increasing — not decreasing — our activism!




As part of the ABB crew, that's the main thing I refuse to lose sight of: the sigh of relief we might breathe with the eviction of Junior Caligula will be extremely brief. What a Kerry presidency buys us is a few years where we can agitate and organize actively without the prospect of being frogmarched to Gitmo hanging over our heads, and a few years to clean up the mess that Junior Caligula and his chickenhawk fratboy pals have left for the nation. That's it, and to be honest, that's about all I was expecting from whomever became the Democrat party's nominee. Kerry is one of the more hawkish of the Democrats, and the Democrat party has no shortage of hawkish individuals in Congress. That's a fact of life that it is best to bear in mind.



As I've noted before, a viable progressive movement is next to nonexistent in the US. The beginnings of the necessary intellectual, financial, and grassroots infrastructure are there, perhaps for the first time in my lifetime. It will take a great deal of time, effort, and sacrifice for a viable progressive movement or as Billmon calls it, a Popular Front, to come to fruition. It certainly won't happen by chilling out and deluding ourselves into thinking that things are just dandy now that Kerry's in the house. For those of us who have dedicated our lives and efforts to various facets of the peace movement, November 2004 is only phase one. It's all uphill from there. But at least we'll have some momentum and time on our side. Let's use it wisely.



Word.

Yo! Junior Caligula! You Want Syrup With Those Waffles?

Here's the skinny on George W. Bush's flip-flops on a whole host of policy issues, courtesy of Winston Smith's Daily Journal.

The Real GOP

via Irregular Times



Plenty of items to amuse and enrage.

Speaking of quotes, here's a collection of gems from America's own Taliban wannabes

Bozo Speak in Black & White spoken by America's Taliban



Some of these should make your jaws drop, to say the least. These are the would-be leaders of America's Sturmabteilung. It can't happen here? Think again.



Something to whet your whistle:



"When the Christian majority takes over this country, there will be no satanic churches, no more free distribution of pornography, no more talk of rights for homosexuals. After the Christian majority takes control, pluralism will be seen as immoral and evil and the state will not permit anybody the right to practice evil."



--Gary Potter, president of Catholics for Christian Political Action




This is the fascist element that has always at bare minimum bubbled beneath the surface of American political and social life, and that has been inching its way into the mainstream of conservatism. Are these the people you want running the show? Think of what they could accomplish with four more years of Junior Caligula inhabiting the White House, and continued GOP control of the House and Senate.

Dumber than average Junior Caligula Quotes

Dumber than average George W. Bush quotes:



"I think we agree, the past is over." -- May 10th, 2000



"It's clearly a budget. It's got a lot of numbers in it." -- May 5th, 2000



"I understand small business growth. I was one." -- February 19th, 2000



"Will the highways on the internet become more few? -- January 29th, 2000



"I know how hard it is for you to put food on your family." -- January 27th, 2000




Via Howard Stern's website. Stern also gives a link to more pearls of wisdom from Dear Leader (or is that just Dear Leader passing gas?) here at Political Hell.

The suburbs are fat, not phat!

Study links sprawling suburbs, sprawling waistlines



Yet another reason to avoid the burbs like the plague: the only way you can get around the sprawling suburban landscape is to drive that lovely gas-guzzling SUV or minivan. To take an old 1980s Missing Persons line and paraphrase it: "nobody walks in the burbs." One factor associated with less obesity is proximity to services and businesses: in suburban areas where businesses and services are within walking distance, obesity is less of a problem.

Monday, May 31, 2004

Says it all, really.

Do you know your ABCs?

The lying game: An A-Z of the Iraq war and its aftermath, focusing on misrepresentation, manipulation, and mistakes.

In memory of the men and women in the US military who died for Bush's lies:

Doonesbury's tribute



While we're at it, let's say a word for the Iraqi civilians who've died in the process.

Homeland Security





Same shit, different century.

The Four Phases of Industrial Music

I've mentioned before that I'm an industrial music fan - maybe not so much now, but definitely in the 1980s and into the 1990s. My wife, no doubt, still grimmaces whenever she sees those Skinny Puppy, Cabaret Voltaire, and Throbbing Gristle cds on the cd rack just beckoning to be played (which they are from time to time, hee hee).



Anyhoo, this cat Kreestof Chandley wrote a brief primer on industrial music's four phases, just in case you were interested in the genre's history and possible future. Most of my own interests gravitated around phase one (the early avant-garde crowd) and phase three (industrial dance, or what Chandley refers to as pop industrial). The latter phase appealed to my fascination with funk - albeit funk of a radically different nature than George Clinton & Bootsy Collins were doing. The former appealed to an interest in various forms of experimental musics, especially minimalism. And in attitude, much of industrial dovetailed very nicely with punk.



Perhaps my favorite industrial band was Cabaret Voltaire, who recorded an excellent string of early industrial albums followed by some essential slabs of industrial dance vinyl. Favorites would include Mix Up, Red Mecca, 2x45, and The Crackdown. Like minimalist composer Steve Reich, these cats were early pioneers of what we would now call sampling, and they were quite adept at juxtaposing the fascist and libertarian elements both in their native Sheffield and as they observed of the US.



Skinny Puppy was another favorite band, and easily the best of the industrial dance combos. I still consider VIVIsectVI and Rabies to be their strongest recordings. Their sound tended to build on a funk groove and add layers of theatrical sounding electronics to produce an oppressive sound - certainly appropriate for the times, and perhaps more so now than ever. They also were willing to tackle overt political and social themes, from Saddam's human rights abuses, to animal rights, to racism (suffice it to say, their politics is quite progressive). One of their key members died of a heroin od in the mid 1990s, and the band disintegrated from there. I've read recently of a re-union of sorts, and a new album and tour. Don't know if the re-formed Skinny Puppy is any good, but I can hope.



I got bored of industrial as the 1990s wore on, largely when it devolved into industrial-metal, and as many of industrial's major players burned themselves out - industrial recording artists were notorious for recording tons of sessions with not only their own bands, but in various other one-off combos. My guess is that many of them ran out of energy and ideas.

I just found this kewl Pharoah Sanders website





Lots of cool info about one of my all-time favorite sax players. Extensive discography, touring info, links, news. Check it out. Another good source for Pharoah Sanders and his music can be found at Ian Scott Horst's excellent Jazz Supreme website. I've mentioned Pharoah before and I'll mention him again. His gentle spirit permeates everything he does musically, whether as a band leader or as a sideman. If you dig jazz and haven't given this cat a spin, you owe it to yourself to seek his recordings. I can honestly say that I have felt closer to God, the Tao or whatever you want to call it listening to his work.



Word.

A sign of peace





You can read the artist's description and some comments here

No to war

Some more stencil art: The State of America

Turn of Rush, turn on Salon

Salon has this cool special offer for active-duty soldiers:



May 25, 2004 | Do America's servicemen and -women get the full story from American Forces Radio and Television? Not according to Eric Boehlert's Salon cover story on Wednesday. Our soldiers get a daily dose of poison from Rush Limbaugh, who has dismissed the Abu Ghraib horrors as harmless frat-house pranks and denounces even Democrats who served their country (unlike Limbaugh himself, who sat out the Vietnam War) as traitors. Yet the military broadcasting system keeps even liberal commentators -- let alone far-left ones who would be the real counterpart to the extremist blowhard -- off its airwaves.



The men and women who are risking their lives abroad deserve to fully enjoy one of its essential cornerstones -- a free press. But by bombarding military personnel every day with Limbaugh's incendiary tirades, to the exclusion of all other views, American Forces Radio and Television is ensuring that its vast, uniformed audience is exposed only to the rantings of the far right.



If you listen only to Limbaugh, you hear only of a president who can do no wrong and of a nefarious political opposition that seeks not just to bring down his administration, but America itself. But Salon wants to make sure that those who are putting their lives on the line for America receive a full spectrum of news and opinion. Because that's the American way.



As the country heads toward Memorial Day, we feel it's the appropriate time for Salon to extend the following offer to all active-duty military personnel. If you are currently serving in the U.S. military and have a .mil e-mail address, send us your name and address and we will give you a free one-year Salon Premium subscription. If you are one of the active-duty GIs already receiving Salon Premium, we will extend your subscription for a year free of charge.



To take advantage of this offer just send an e-mail to militaryoffer@salon.com with your first and last name and e-mail address and we'll create your Salon Premium subscription. Please note that we'll only be able to create Premium subscriptions for .mil e-mail addresses.



The most robust democracies are built on an informed citizenry. And nowhere is this free flow of information more essential than in the armed forces, whose men and women risk their lives to make sure our nation's highest principles are not written on air, but have blood and sinew. We hope our simple gesture opens another channel into this bastion of American democracy.




If you know anyone for whom this might be relevant, spread the word to them.

Sunday, May 30, 2004

Wanda hits the nail on the head...

in her post Support the Troops.



Here's the deal: our leaders love to use that catch phrase "support the troops" to mean "don't criticize the government." Yeah, we have a few parades on Memorial Day and Veterans Day along with some seemingly heartfelt speeches by various politicians, the usual lame yellow ribbons and displays of flag waving. Veterans make their way home (the lucky ones, any way) to something of a hero's welcome and then what? They're all but forgotten. If you're a disabled vet, God help you. Employers seem to have a peculiar phobia about hiring persons with disabilities - even with the Americans with Disabilities Act in place. I'm sure in my more philosophical moments I'd note that the sight of someone missing limbs, walking with a limp, etc., is a stark reminder of the fragility of life and of our own eventual mortality. Such reminders tend to produce anxiety, and one of the easiest ways to keep anxiety at bay is simply to avoid it. It's still pretty lame, in my humble opinion in that the disabled individual is deprived of the opportunity to provide for himself/herself & perhaps to live up to his/her full potential, and employers deprive themselves of the services of the talents that human being possesses. If the war's scars are psychological in nature (think PTSD), well, the human species is not that far removed from the belief that psychological disorders are the result of demon possession, so again, there's a subset of veterans who end up misunderstood and cast aside. The result? We end up with a disproportionate number of our vets ending up living on the streets, or living barely at subsistence level. And those VA hospitals which should provide not just adequate but excellent care to those individuals who've endured and survived the stressors of warfare are typically underfunded and understaffed - and threatening to become even more so in the near future. The veteran shouldn't have to be a disposable hero, and yet that's how our ruling elites view them.



I'll support the troops, just not quite in the way that Bu$hCo would command. To me the best support is to actively do whatever I can to prevent the "need" (be it real or perceived) for more people to become war veterans in the future, as well as agitating to bring home those men and women who are currently fighting a war based on a pack of lies. They deserve so much better than the situation that they have been thrust into (as do the Iraqi people).

This is the painting that got Bay Area wingnuts' panties in a bunch:

The stupid quote of the day award goes to:

General Kimmitt, who has this to say about the growing torture scandal:



“It’s because the scale of this was so small that the people of Iraq will forgive us,”




Um, I wouldn't count on it Skeezix.



Props to Times New Roman Online for the tip.

Gangsta Haiku Sunday

Something I added to the Gangsta Haiku archive under the nom de plume Siddhartha Vicious, and an afterthought:



The ku:



Yo watch tha threat of

terra, shit betta scare ya,

dope propaganda



Afterthought ku:



Yo, 5-7-5

keepin hope alive fuck tha

propaganda jive



Word.

Ein Volk! Ein Reich! Ein Führer!





SF gallery owner becomes target after showcasing painting of Iraqi prisoner abuse.



Clip:



After displaying a painting of U.S. soldiers torturing Iraqi prisoners, a San Francisco gallery owner bears a painful reminder of the nation's unresolved anguish over the incidents at Abu Ghraib -- a black eye and bloodied brow delivered by an unknown assailant who apparently objected to the art work.



The assault outside the Capobianco gallery in the city's North Beach district Thursday night was the worst, but only the latest in a string of verbal and physical attacks that have been directed at owner Lori Haigh since the painting, titled "Abuse," was installed there on May 16.



...Two days after the painting went up in a front window, someone threw eggs and dumped trash on the doorstep. Haigh said she didn't think to connect it to the black-and-white interpretation of the events at Baghdad's notorious prison until people started leaving nasty messages and threats on her business answering machine.



"I think you need to get your gallery out of this neighborhood before you get hurt," one caller said.



Even after she removed the painting from the window, the criticism continued thanks to news coverage about the gallery's troubles. The answering machine recorded new calls from people accusing her of being a coward for taking the picture down. Last weekend, a man walked into the gallery, pretended to scrutinize the art work for a moment, then marched up to Haigh's desk and spat directly in her face.



On Thursday, someone knocked on the door of the gallery, then punched Haigh in the face when she stepped outside.




Add to the Weimar analogy. Neo-fascist stormtroopers are waiting in the wings.

"I read the news today, oh boy..."

The word on the street is that we're cruising for a 1970s-style oil crisis. Why? The suppliers are having problems on their own turf. When you got cats setting off bombs and taking hostages and such, it's hard to feel secure. And if you're jonesing for a fix of high octane petrol for your Hummer, expect to pay as your supplier is under the gun. And expect to feel some withdrawals if your supplier is, um, incapacitated.



Some articles detailing the latest in Saudi Arabia:



It powers the world's economies ... but unrest in Saudi is fuelling fears it could also destroy them.



A clip:



FOR the second time inside a month, armed Islamic militants have attacked oil workers inside Saudi Arabia. The attack yesterday in the eastern oil city of Khobar, which struck three housing compounds and the offices of oil companies, left at least 16 dead and the militants holding up to 50 hostages.

The deaths add to those killed at the Saudi port city of Yanbu on May 2, when four oil engineers and one contractor, all from West ern countries, were killed in a gun attack.



At Yanbu, a body was dragged through the streets before Saudi security forces killed three of the gunmen. A McDonald’s restaurant was fired upon, a pipe bomb thrown at one of the city’s international schools, and gunfire exchanges took place outside a Holiday Inn. The media reports that followed said the deaths of the men– two from Britain, two from the US and one Australian – had been carried out by a group in Saudi linked to al-Qaeda. Yesterday an Islamic website carried a statement said to be from al-Qaeda, which claimed it had carried out the latest attack.



For one oil analyst at Seymour Pierce in London, the Saudi attack in Yanbu and the fact that Saudi nationals were involved “triggered’’ the rise in oil prices that is threatening a return to the oil crisis of the 1970s, global economic chaos and George W Bush’s chances of entering the White House for a second term. The latest attack in Khobar will hardly help.



...Most analysts agree that a crucial price determinant is now the current high risk of interruptions to supply. If post-war Iraq had seen oil production boosted and political stability installed, the concerns over Saudi would have been far less. But Iraq is not a picture of stability. The knock-on effect? Even the smallest jitters over Saudi – which controls 30% of the world’s proven reserves – are enough to justify what analysts are still reluctant to call a “security premium”. Of the current level of $40 a barrel, as much as $8 can be put down to this premium. Given the US government’s fears that al-Qaeda is planning another major attack on US soil this summer, that premium could soar to more than $15, cancelling out any potential success that comes out of Beirut this week.



...But there are more pressing problems for the global economy. If al-Qaeda continues to attack the international oil community in Saudi, or go further and carry out a major strike at the heart of the Saudi oil industry itself and succeed in disrupting supply for even a brief period, a revisitation of the 1970s oil crisis and the worldwide slump that followed could be one outcome. Opec’s meeting in Beirut will address only one short-term solution, because at the moment there is no long-term solution.




Saudi horror sparks fears of oil crisis.



A clip:



Oil prices are set to surge after al-Qaeda gunmen killed at least 16 people, including a Briton, and seized 50 hostages yesterday during an indiscriminate rampage through the Saudi Arabian city of Khobar.

In a day that left the oil city, in the east of the country, littered with bodies and bullet-riddled buildings and cars, the terrorists attacked four compounds housing foreign workers, seized American and Italian hostages and fought running battles through the streets.



...Late last night an armed siege was developing, with suspected Islamic militants holding the hostages on the sixth floor of Oasis, a high-rise expatriate housing complex. Most of the captives were said to be Italian and the rest Americans and Arab Christians.



A Saudi policeman said the militants were using the hostages as human shields and officials were trying to negotiate. 'Security forces are worried about storming because the gunmen have grenades,' he said.



...The attack sent shockwaves through a western world already facing high oil prices and now the prospect of worsening violence in a kingdom riven between its ruling royal family and jihadist groups determined to bring it down.



...'This is close to the nerve centre of the Saudi oil industry,' said Yasser Elguindi, an analyst with Medley Global Advisers in New York. 'It could have a devastating impact on the oil market when we reopen [on Tuesday] after the Memorial Day weekend.'



...Oil analysts in London and Washington warned of severe repercussions. Economists called the attack their worst nightmare come true.



It could send oil prices above $42 a barrel, pushing the average price of petrol in Britain beyond the £4-a-gallon barrier. The rise would renew fears of a world energy crisis not seen since the early Seventies. Prices have already risen amid fears Saudi Arabia would be unable to defend its oil industry from terrorists.



Repeated attacks could push oil prices above the economically devastating $50 a barrel, City experts warn.




And on a related note: Bush was sure that Iraq’s oil reserves would be flowing again by now...Another big mistake.



A clip:



Saddam’s Iraq held the world’s second largest oil reserves. But after two decades of war and sanctions, the industry was virtually on its knees, badly in need of investment and new technology to boost production levels.



At its peak, Iraq produced 3.5 million barrels of oil a day. Pre-war estimates made in the US put potential output at 6m barrels a day – a change that would put Iraq in fourth place behind Saudi, the US and Russia.



A year into the US-led occupation of Iraq, and any hopes of Iraq even slightly influencing Saudi-dominated Opec are nil to non-existent. According to Paul Horsnell, the senior energy analyst with Barclays in London, the US-controlled Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) is controlling and running Iraq’s oil industry, with only day-to-day control of the nuts and bolts of the industry still in the hands of the Iraqis. With investment, technical contracts, and US oil expertise, the CPA had the means to turn round the ailing Iraqi industry. But according to Horsnell: “The CPA has only made things worse. A year of CPA control has been a story of neglect.”



He says the CPA allocated the oil industry in Iraq “a zero capital budget” for this year with little change coming next year. Its control, he claims, has resulted in no new fields coming on-stream, the oil sector is in a chronic slide after the war, and the careless over-production of some Iraqi oil fields have destroyed their future potential, with some, according to Horsnell “now likely to deliver water rather than oil” due to the technical damage inflicted on them.



...Any expectation that the US occupation could quickly turn around the Iraqi oil industry, enabling it to influence or challenge Opec policy, has vanished. Output is currently at 2.8m barrels a day. The end of year target is 3m. By the end of 2005, the CPA is talking about 4m barrels a day, but no leading analysts takes this view seriously. One Seymour Pierce analyst said: “You can’t conjure a million barrels a day from nowhere.”



...But the more immediate problem for Bush’s US administration, which needs to ensure current global oil production is increased, is to avoid Iraq descending into a civil war that would both virtually halt Iraqi oil exports, and potentially bring instability to neighbouring Gulf producers on which the US is highly dependent.



Even without the chaos of civil war, the lengthy list of sabotage attacks on Iraq’s oil facilities, and the effects of these attacks on supply capabilities, continues to raise doubts about Iraq’s long-term ability to again become a major player. One analyst said: “Political stability and continuity are crucial here. Iraq is currently without both of them. And nothing on the horizon points to that changing quickly.”



Horsnell, however, is clear on one thing: “If there had been no invasion, then the current oil price would be lower.”



The instability inside Iraq which has followed the coalition invasion is fuelling another peak in the price of oil, which over the past 50 years has been followed by a period of recession. If there was a neo-conservative plan for the Middle East, and Iraq was thought to be the key, it is unlocking nothing – apart from more trouble.




It doesn't look good, folks.

Oh, and speaking of the Whiskey Bar

I couldn't help but notice that the bar is once again open for business, and bartender Billmon is once again serving up some rather potent drinks. Fortunately he, like any good barkeep, has a stock of Guinness Extra Stout on tap for his customers of Anglo-Irish-American descent (like yours truly) and the drinks are flowing.



One post in particular stood out from the grand re-opening: Failure Mode, which outlines some of the international repercussions of the Iraq war fiasco over the foreseeable future. Suffice it to say, even the best-case scenario is nothing short of an unmitigated disaster. Read the whole thing. Billmon's got the goods.

Let's Have Fun With Eliminationism!

Check this piece, I Have Met the Enemy..., written by Patricia Kneisler about a recent encounter with a rather belligerent wingnut:
For the first time ever in my life, I had someone threaten to kill me tonight. He was nearly apoplectic with rage, screaming curses, his finger right in my face, his eyes slits of venom. Ex-Navy lifer, I gathered. Probably in his late 50’s. Beer belly. A person so devoid of humanity I was stunned.

Good lord, you might ask. What on earth did you, a 52 year old professional woman, do to provoke that?

All I did was exercise my duty as a very concerned citizen in what I thought was America. I stood silently out on the sidewalk in my California town with a sign in each hand. One sign showed a tally of the number of Iraqi civilian dead from the Iraq Body Count website … the other the number of coalition soldiers dead to date. This is my regular Thursday night gig, something I’ve done every week for 14 months now.

...The man took enough of a breath for Tom to get a word in edgewise. “What about the Constitution?”

“FUCK the constitution! I WILL NOT LET YOU PEOPLE DESTROY MY COUNTRY! I WILL NOT LET YOU!”

“No,” I replied. “It is us who will not let YOU destroy our country. We – will – not – let - you.” Well, OK, I called him an asshole, too. Tom is my witness. I thought of those 11,000 innocent dead Iraqis and I called him an asshole.

As he finally stormed back around to the driver’s side of his car, a shouting match ensued (not on Tom’s part … I’m afraid he was the only adult in the group). And then came the parting shot:

“Bush will win in a LANDSLIDE. And if he doesn’t, WE know where to find you. WE can take care of you. WE can make sure you don’t EVER fuck with this country again.”

...That’s when I thought of Abu Ghraib. In fact, the pictures seemed to flash like a slide show through my brain, one after another. Grinning, leering Americans torturing human beings stripped of every shred of their humanity in the eyes of their torturers.

And I understood. Mr. Ex-Navy would have fit right in.

I met the dark underbelly of America tonight. I really did meet the enemy. And he really is ______.
I periodically ask myself how well the analogies hold up between contemporary American social and political life and that of the Weimar Republic of the 1920s and 1930s. Although no analogy is likely to be perfect, there are some parallels. A cat by the handle "Lupin" over at Billmon's Whiskey Bar expressed some of those parallels fairly aptly:
Selfishly, I am also very much concerned by the consequences of the FAILURE (ie: all the various failures you enumerated in your remarkable analysis) at home.

There is, of course, the economic failure. It was Paul Krugman, I think, who once wrote that our budget deficit puts us in the position of the Warnes Bros Coyote after he's run off the edge of the cliff, and before he's looked under his feet.

How long will it take until we fall, and how hard will the fall be?

Then we have a societal failure. Fascism is always born from the failure and the pauperization of democracies.

As was the case with Germany, a U.S. reeling from a huge deficit, possibly inflation, job outsourcing, unemployment, high gas prices, and a humiliating military defeat caused by a "stab in the back from the liberals" (watch the right-ewing already orchestrating this as we speak), will be fertile ground for increased / renewed neo-fascist activity.

...I've been concerned that, even if Kerry wins, the neofascists will not give up easily. I don't necessarily mean BushCo, I mean the base. Political assassinations, intimidation, violence, etc.

Let us recall the recent case of Michael Breit who kept a hit list of high-ranking U.S. officials and celebrities, such as former Attorney General Janet Reno and filmmaker Michael Moore.

Now, in Breit's case the system seems to have worked (somewhat), but how many more Breits are loose out there in our red neck beerhalls? How many are ready to move and enlist in the 2006 American version of the S.A.?

The picture you outline, Billmon, is only the foreign picture. The domestic consequences of the FAILURE are inescapable and many.

The future of America may be very grim indeed.
I've written and/or provided links to other excellent commentary on this theme a bit over the past few months; for example, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, and here, and there's probably more. Each of these links captures some facet of the theme or analogy, from the eliminationist rhetoric and its mainstreaming into respectable conservative channels, incidents of violence against dissidents, home-grown right-wing terror groups, and the sorts of factors that allow destructive obedience to thrive.

My guess is that those of us comprising the liberal/progressive/leftie communities will need to be especially vigilant not only in the coming months, but the coming years, as even Junior Caligula's eviction from the White House will not mean the end of our own home-grown fascist elements. No doubt that these cats will be more than a little pissed off at the outcome of the Iraq war fiasco and potentially the outcome of this year's elections, and we're the ones they're pinning the blame on (even though a reasonable person would know better not to). Reminds me of that old Chinese curse about living in interesting times...