Friday, December 30, 2005

I'm partial to the phrase "Don't tread on me!"

Digby:
I'm of the mind to adopt "give me liberty or give me death" as my personal motto. If I have to kowtow to a bunch of childish Republican panic artists who have deluded themselves into believing that fighting radical Islam requires turning America into a police state, then it's just not worth it.

Patrick Henry's phrase is also a good one to adopt as a personal motto, although I tend to prefer Malcom X's more blunt take on that phrase: "the ballot or the bullet." Allowing yourself to be dominated by fear - of what the neighbors or Republicans or over-inflated media pundits might say - is just plain and simply lame. There is no point in trying to impress or win over the right wing in this country, as I can sum up the likelihood of that happening in four words: It will never happen. Fight 'em or refuse to engage in a dialog with them, but never give in. That works as a personal approach and it would work as a partisan approach.

Happy New Year y'all. Catch you on the flipside.

From the mailbag

Some intriguing developments at Blairwatch.

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Quotable from Empire Notes

470 years is a long time to wait. Through massacre, genocide, slavery, revolution, counter-revolution, and a staggering 188 military coups, in one of which the United States, working with Klaus Barbie the Nazi, helped install perhaps the only government in world history run by drug traffickers, Bolivia has had no indigenous head of state since Pizarro conquered the Incan Empire.

Until now. On January 22, Evo Morales will be installed as president of Bolivia, after winning an unprecedented 54% of the vote (55-60% of Bolivia’s population is indigenous).

Nerdified Link

My emphasis added, in large part as my continued effort to act as a counterweight to the voices of American exceptionalism that dominate political discourse. A nation serious about "spreading democracy" does not work with Nazis to overthrow a government. Morales will have quite a gargantuan task ahead, as Rahul Mahajan of Empire Notes points out. Morales and his party do offer evidence that the trend towards relatively leftist and populist governments is no fluke, and his voice, in addition to those of Chavez and Castro, will be an important counterweight to US imperial aspirations.

Monday, December 26, 2005

Quotable:

From David Sirota:
Perhaps most problematic for Democrats is that some of its highest-profile spokesmen seem to go out of their way to undercut the party's courageous leaders.

For every Rep. George Miller (D-Calif.) or Rep. Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) fighting against the corrosive influence of corporate lobbyists, there is a Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-Md.), publicly bragging that he wants to be the first contact for K Street lobbyists.

For every Rep. Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) fighting against the latest corporate-written trade deal, there are groups of House and Senate Democrats that provide the critical votes needed to pass the Central American Free Trade Agreement.

For every move by a Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.) to demand answers about prewar intelligence, or a Sen. Russ Feingold (D-Wis.) to press a timetable for withdrawal from Iraq, or a Murtha who says it's time for a change, there is a Sen. Joe Biden (D-Del.) opposing a withdrawal, a Sen. Ben Nelson (D-Neb.) saying he has no regrets about voting for a war based on lies, or a Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) actually telling reporters that the party won't have an Iraq position until "the right time."

Said it before and I'll say it again: if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. I look at a large part of the problem in American politics isn't just a Republican problem (although there is no doubt that the GOP provides ample ammunition for those of us who have had it up to here with their shenanigans), but a problem that goes deeper: a simple lack of conviction. What we leftist voters want, and fail to get from the Dems is a message of political and moral clarity. Instead we get GOP-lite. The effort to stand for nothing in the name of capturing the Holy Grail of the body politic - the ever-elusive "center" - has been a proven loser. It lost the Dems majorities in the House and Senate in 1994 and the White House at the turn of this decade. You want to energize a potentially reliable base? Act like an opposition party - vigorously challenge the status quo. Do so in ordinary English: skip the nuance. Otherwise, spend the aftermath of 2006 scratching your head and staring at the election numbers in bewilderment.

Sunday, December 25, 2005

Message of struggle and faith

They go hand in hand it seems, as they do for Seaghn Higgins. Some of Higgins' letter have to do with his experience as an orphan and immigrant. What grabbed me was this, though:
On the first Christmas were Joseph and his young love, Mary. Stables for livestock, even today are hideous. I wonder what they were like 2000 years ago.

If my wife were inexplicably pregnant I'd be seriously pissed off.

I don't know what it was like for a man to try and find a place for his wife to give birth. I know I would be enraged, fighting for her dignity and honor.

Amongst the filth and the stench was a man trying to help his young wife give birth. Alone.

No angels, no wise men and no midwife. I don't know about you, but I don't know shit about midwifery. Pretty sure he didn't either.

Take away all the fairy tale bullshit of the virgin birth.

Could a man have shown greater love towards a woman?

Imagine finding out the that the king has sent the secret police to murder your newborn child. Imagine setting out on the back of a donkey after you gave birth.

Joseph is a shining example of manhood to be lived up to. When I am lost, when I don't know what to do next, when I have fucked up so badly, I ask Joseph, "What is the right thing for me to do as a man?"

I don't know why he's so oft overlooked and forgotten.

In the midst of the filth and shit the Liberator of the entire human race was born. Bringing Good News to the poor and oppressed. And, bad news to the rich and powerful.

In the Garden of Gethsemane, Jesus told Peter "those who live by the sword shall die by it." I'm down with that. These are the risks of the life I have chosen. He didn't stop Peter from using it or tell him to get rid of it.

When Maureen was murdered my fear of death left me. As a war correspondent I have even sought out death. In fact, I welcome it. Because I know she is smiling and waiting with her hand outstretched on the other side. Ready to stand as witness during my trial before St. Peter.

"He shall say to them, 'Hear, O Israel, you are approaching the battle against your
enemies today. Do not be fainthearted. Do not be afraid, or panic, or tremble before them, for the Lord your God is the one who goes with you, to fight for you against your enemies, to save you.' (Deut. 20:1)

On this Christmas may the Good News of Salvation shine as a Star in the East. Urging us ever onward and upward lifting our swords to fight ferociously and fearlessly in the War of Liberation.

For my sins, God gave me a camera.

You can fight without ever winning. But, never win without a fight.

I have spent many Christmas' past in parts of the world torn apart by war and strife.
I pray that for just one day the guns are silent. That no one will raise his hand or his voice against another.

And, if we can do it just for today, why can't we do it tomorrow?

On this night, I pray you are somewhere safe, warm and well in the arms of your loved ones. And, that you set a little gift aside for those who are not.

There's something strikingly earthy about the way this cat writes. It's also appealing to me that he can cite both Che Guevara and Scripture with great ease.

Friday, December 23, 2005

Some "almost end-of-the-year" musings

So, I had to do a bit of traveling last night to take care of some business in central Oklahoma, and came back this afternoon. Since then, we've been getting things ready for the trip to my wife's folks - which will be about a two-day drive each way. Thankfully, we'll have Mother Nature on our side on the way there this year. We'll see what happens on the way back.

There was something from the liner notes of an Archie Shepp album (Live in San Francisco, which by the way is an excellent album) that caught my eye, where Archie says:

"Love is fundamental to art. I can't go to work with hate in my heart. I go to work with love in my heart. But love can express itself in bitterness and rage. That's only an aspect of love."

That I think sums up my own work, whether it's in the classroom, in poetry, my professional writing, or when it comes to blogging. Friends and acquaintances have referred to my poetry as dark - sometimes gloomy, sometimes angry. The same is said about my sense of humor, and again the same could be said about what I do here in my little corner of blogtopia. Know that the anger that can periodically jump out at you has its foundations in love: for my family, my country, my planet, my faith, etc. I sincerely doubt I could create - whether in an off-the-cuff blog remark or something more substantive such as a scientific paper - with hate in my heart. Hate destroys. There's no need to go there. And love in all its forms, is everywhere to be found.

As mentioned earlier, I will be blogging sporadically at best for the rest of the month. I suspect that between traveling, and catching up with friends and family, I will have plenty to see and do. What I may lack in riches is more than made up for by the love shared with the people who have been and who have become part of my life. Those human connections are what keep us going.

Peace and love y'all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Postscript to the Previous

Dave Johnson poses some questions about Bu$hCo's use of unauthorized spying:

1) Is the White House listening in on Special Prosecutor Fitzgerald's calls and e-mails as he investigates White House crimes?

2) Was the Bush campaign listening in on calls and e-mails from the people in charge of the Kerry campaign?

3) Is the Bush Administration using the NSA to determine whether applicants for jobs, travel, etc. are Bush supporters or not?

4) Did the NSA tip off the Bush Administration that the federal prosecutor in Guam was looking into Jack Abramoff?

5) Did Bush use this new spying capability to monitor "groups active in causes as diverse as the environment, animal cruelty and poverty relief"?

One F.B.I. document indicates that agents in Indianapolis planned to conduct surveillance as part of a "Vegan Community Project." Another document talks of the Catholic Workers group's "semi-communistic ideology." A third indicates the bureau's interest in determining the location of a protest over llama fur planned by People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals.
6) When Bush says we are only spying on "the enemy" does he mean that same enemy that Senior White House Advisor and Deputy White House Chief of Staff Karl Rove means when he says,
liberals saw the savagery of the 9/11 attacks and wanted to prepare indictments and offer therapy and understanding for our attackers
Republicans say they are only monitoring the phone calls and e-mails of "the enemy." But they also say that we - you and I - are "the enemy."
Johnson follows that up with an email to a conservative blogger under the title, "Which 'Enemy' are they Spying On?"

"No, Abu Ghraib isn't Auschwitz, but you can see it from there."

Maryscott O'Connor's Slouching Toward Kristallnacht is absolutely must-read material, as it excerpts some disturbing passages from Milton Mayer's They Thought They Were Free: The Germans 1933 - 1945. The general thrust of Mayer's writing fits in with the context of some other items I've highlighted in the last few days. Whether we label the current Zeitgeist of our nation fascist, pseudo fascist, or right-wing authoritarian, there is little doubt that something is decidedly wrong.

One wonders where the mass protests are whenever the latest White House outrage occurs. One waits for these goons to step so far out of bounds that there will be a flood of people storming DC demanding regime change. And yet, as each scandal turns out to be worse than the previous, as more evidence comes to light as to the threat to the Constitution posed by the Men of Steal who run DC, one finds nary a peep. Perhaps the key comes from Mayer's writing and the comments to Ms. O'Connor's diary. To wit: the mass outrage is unlikely to happen. As Mayer points out, the transformation from republic to fascist dictatorship does not occur overnight, but very gradually - so gradually that few manage to notice, and those who do notice are branded as paranoid (or as "defeatists" or "traitors" among other pejoratives). As one of my occasional commenters has noted elsewhere, fascism becomes so deeply engrained into the cultural Zeitgeist that folks simply do not recognize it, even in their own actions.

Although I realize that many find the comparisons between Bush and Hitler to be mere hyperbole, there is something to be said for it. One might say, "Bush hasn't ordered the deaths of millions of human beings. Abu Ghraib and Gitmo are not Auschwitz." I would be inclined to agree as far as the point takes us. And yet, as the title of this particular entry spells out, you can definitely "see" Auschwitz from the vantage point of Abu Ghraib and Gitmo. One can definitely "see" Kristallnacht from the vantage point of the current Spygate scandal. Our Congress critters have consistently failed to reign in the increasingly outrageous behaviors of the present administration; hence, slowly but steadily, the administration has felt greater freedom in taking the next step down the road to fascism. In just a few short years since this century began, we've managed to reach a point where merely meekly asserting that the legislative and judicial branches of government are intended by the Constitution to be co-equal gets one labeled a "defeatist," a "traitor," or as someone who is "opposed to protecting our national security." That is what Bu$hCo and the various right-wing Congress critters and mass media pundits say consistently day in and day out. Having been able to get away with so much for so long, Bu$hCo can now openly dismiss and ignore the other branches of government, with the confidence that they'll get away with it once again.

Perhaps I'm jaded, but let's face it, the jackals are running DC and have been for several years, and they've made it clear: you either run with them or you run with the hunted. If you run with the hunted, it's a damned good idea to avoid complacency as the jackals will eventually come after you the next time they feel the primal urge to taste raw flesh and blood. A lot of my liberal friends fail to understand this basic lesson, and whether they wish to recognize it or not, they are running with the hunted. Whether they'll get it in time is an open question.

Tuesday, December 20, 2005

As the Spygate Scandal Unfolds

There are days when one wonders just how more ridiculous a Bu$hCo scandal can become, and then it happens: one gets an answer. Among other things, we learn today that our Pentagon anti-terror investigators considered university gay student organizations a "credible threat." Apparently, disagreeing with the military's "don't ask/don't tell" policy is considered "terrorism." Give me an effin' break. Equally stupid is our goverment snoopsters treating such actions as fighting poverty as acts of terrorism. Gotta keep tabs on those Quakers and Catholic Workers groups, as they may spread peace and justice wherever they go. Oh the horror!

It appears that it isn't just the usual liberals and leftists (there is a distinction, fyi) who question the legality of Bu$hCo's anti-Constitutional approach to spying. There are also some notable conservatives who are, shall we say, not amused: Bruce Fein and George Will come to mind. In the court of public opinion, it appears that Bu$hCo's lame justifications for acting like a wannabe king just don't play in Peoria. Get outside the Beltway and the usual set of Bu$hCo cult members and let's say that there are plenty of good folks who know a scam when they see one.

Oh, and we also can note that the "Newspaper of Record" (Is that a record of misdemeanors or felonies? It's so hard to keep up these days), New Pravda sat on the surveillance story for over a year - in fact the NYT could have reported the story prior to November 2004's election. Would it have affected the outcome? Maybe. Yeah, Kerry was no prize. If nothing else, his administration would not be so inclined to wipe their patrician bottoms with the Constitution as is the case with the current gang of idiots in the White House.

Filibuster fever in the Senate? Maybe...

Sen. Cantwell threatens to lead a filibuster of Sen. Steven's latest scheme to allow drilling on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (i.e., he attached it to the DOD appropriations bill). That's in addition to Sen. Feingold's willingness to lead a filibuster of the House-Senate Patriot Act renewal legislature. Every once in a while some of our Congress critters show evidence of a spine.

Tuesday Thought Piece

BEWARE OF CREEPING AUTHORITARIANISM

by Jack M. Balkin

December 4, 2001

Jack M. Balkin is a professor of constitutional law and the First Amendment at Yale Law School.

Moments of crisis do not merely create emergencies. They also create temptations.

Many see the central issue before us as how to balance civil liberties and national interests. This is wrong. The danger we face today is not that government officials will make hasty decisions out of fear or that they will strike the wrong balance between liberty and security. It is that they will use a national crisis as an opportunity to make themselves more powerful and less accountable for what they do -- not because they are corrupt and venal but because they are so utterly convinced of their uprightness.

In times of fear, authoritarian impulses are less constrained and people feel less able to complain about them. After all, no one wants to be thought unpatriotic when the country is in such grave danger. And when there is no check on government officials certain of their own rectitude, the temptation for them to act unilaterally and arbitrarily becomes irresistible.

Such is the problem we face today, with a president and an attorney general who have dedicated themselves to stamping out all evildoers both outside the country and within it.

An increasingly authoritarian tone is pervading the Bush administration. We have seen it in the so-called USA Patriot legislation hastily pushed through Congress. We have seen it in the presidential order authorizing military tribunals without traditional due process protections and without a right of appeal to anyone but the president himself. We have seen it in new federal policies that permit eavesdropping of confidential communications between attorneys and their clients. And we have seen it in new regulations that allow the attorney general to imprison noncitizens indefinitely, even if an immigration judge has ruled that there is no evidence to justify holding them against their will.

Little by little, the basic elements of procedural fairness that keep democratic governments from acting arbitrarily are being chipped away. No apology is offered for these actions. Those who seize power always feel perfectly entitled to it. Instead, they blame their critics for failing to recognize the seriousness of the situation or for being soft on terrorism -- in the past other critics were blamed for being soft on communism.

The authoritarian impulse is justified, as it always is, through paranoia. The more fearful Americans are, the more they are willing to give their officials a free hand. It is no accident that the same attorney general who withheld information about who is being detained and why has also repeatedly warned in ominous tones that more terrorist attacks are just around the corner. Secrecy lends credibility to paranoia, which in turn justifies increased secrecy and increased power.

Officials who want greater authority always prefer to work in secret so that they cannot easily be called to account. And when complaints are raised, lack of available information makes it all the more difficult to prove that violations have occurred.

Thus, it is entirely predictable that the current administration has made a fetish of secrecy, for secrecy increases power, not only overseas but in our own country.

Authoritarianism never attacks the institutions of freedom at their strongest point; it always attacks them at their weakest. Even before Sept. 11, the country's immigration laws were often arbitrary and high-handed. Therefore it is no surprise that the administration's latest grabs for executive authority have targeted noncitizens, who have no right to representation and no natural constituency to defend them. The present conflict may not be a war on Islam. But it is increasingly turning out to be a war on noncitizens.

The members of this administration do not want to be dictators. They simply do not want anyone getting in their way. They do not want to be autocrats. They simply do not want to be second-guessed when they know that they are right. They do not want to be anti-democratic. They simply want to be able to act unilaterally in the interests of righteousness. If we would merely allow them to go about their business in secret, and with as much authority as they feel they need, they will take care of things for us.

In times like these, it is a tempting offer, but we should refuse it. For what profit has a country if it shall control the whole world and lose its democratic soul?

Nerdified Link.


Balkin's article was written just over four years ago, and is, to say the least, haunting. I think we should look at the recent anti-immigrant tone that GOP rhetoric has taken in light of Balkin's article. I found it via a diary titled The Audacity of Creeping Authoritarianism. One of that diary's commenters points the reader to a story about how former KGB and STASI bosses have been hired by the US to reinforce its "homeland security." Now there's a story that slipped beneath the radar. Although I'm not sure of the veridicality of that article's claims, I can't say I'd be all that surprised if it were true.

Looking for some reading for these dark times?

Check out Sinclair Lewis' It Can't Happen Here, which apparently has been reprinted:
When Windrip is elected, all hell breaks loose. Dissent is crushed, the Bill of Rights is gutted, war is declared (on Mexico), and labor camps are established to help shore up Windrip's vaunted ''New Freedom,'' which is more like a freedom from freedom. All that's really left of the old America are the flags and patriotic ditties, which for many is more than enough. But to Lewis it's not entirely the fault of those who will gladly abide America's principles being gutted. The blame also falls on the ''it can't happen here'' crowd, those yet to realize that being American doesn't change your human nature; whatever it is that attracts people to tyranny is in Americans like it's in anyone else.

Hat tip to Science and Politics.

Quotable: "Advice For Living Under Dictatorship" Edition

Ductape Fatwa offers all sorts of sage advice in his latest missive, including how to properly understand the Constitution in the 21st century:
You've probably seen candies and fruit made of plastic or resin for sale in stores. These items come with a warning label: "For decoration only, do not eat." This is a good idea, because they look so realistic that children and nearsighted people may think they are real and put them in their mouths! If they are especially good quality, even adults with perfect vision may make this mistake.

That's the way it is with the Constitution. It reads so well that people, even smart people like you, may succumb to the temptation of thinking it can protect you from this or that, or have an effect on what your leaders do or don't do. But people in many countries around the world, and even your own countrymen, if they are poor, can offer some wise advice that can save you a great deal of emotional stress: "For decoration only, do not eat."

I feel better already. Read the rest, too, while you're at it.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Larry Johnson: No Need to Ignore Constitution to Capture Terrorists

As Johnson notes, rather than ignoring the law as Bu$hCo has chosen by authorizing warrantless spying against Americans, following existing law can and does lead to capturing terrorists. Johnson gives an example, in which a notorious Colombian terrorist was actually caught using the existing FISA process. Johnson's conclusion:
So, President Bush is wrong. You don't have to break a law to get quick action. Not only can you catch terrorists using FISA, we have caught terrorists. The real story behind the unauthorized wiretaps authorized by President Bush probably concerns the source of the info. It appears the most likely explanation is that the Bush Administration did not want to have to tell a Federal judge that they were using information obtained from interrogations that violated the spirit and the letter of the Geneva Conventions. Instead of protecting the nation the President may be covering his derrier.

David Sirota arrives at a similar conclusion to the above. Basically, at this point it is all about CYA for the White House. Needless to say, some Congress critters are not amused. No matter how much bloviating Junior Caligula, Abu Gonzales, or Darth Cheney spew over the airwaves, the basic bottom line is simple: warrantless spying on Americans on US soil does not pass Constitutional muster, and could well be an impeachable offense. Armando has some worthwhile reading material (I believe he's a lawyer by trade) on the most dangerous branch of the government. Susan Hu has a fairly thorough roundup of the current news on this White House Administration's latest breach.

Perhaps it is time to refresh our memories and remind ourselves of a quote attributed to Ben Franklin:
Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.

Light Blogging After Wednesday

Will be heading out of town for the remainder of the year on Thursday, and internet access will be sporadic. Probably like last December I'll be able to check in every once in a while. Blogging activity until then will be normal (and of course will be back to normal around the beginning of January).

A Congressional Report Rebukes Bu$hCo's War


Click the pic for the Raw Story article.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Postscript to the Previous

Actually, I think Lilian hits the nail on the head:

But the left is--increasingly, and in very alarming ways--mimicking these behaviors. This concerns me much more than the fact that the reichwing is doing it--especially since I get the feeling that the left is unaware of the way fascist behaviors, fascist tactics, fascist language and fascist thought is infiltrating the ranks of the left. And the very fact that even suggesting that this is the case is so controversial is itself evidence of the fact that it's happening: one of the big problems with the reichwing is the fact that it is loathe to any form of criticism and is utterly incapable of any form of SELF-CRITIQUE.

Again, I go back to Pinter's Nobel Speech: the lack of self-criticism is a major, major problem in this country, and it is as much of a problem on the left as it is on the right. And yet, especially as fascism bears down on us like a mack truck, it is utterly crucial that we remain vigilant and engage in a sort of "self-policing" of our habits, our behaviors, etc. and recognize the way that this crap is "rubbing off" on us.

It is happening (but the left is engaging in the very thing Pinter also critiques, i.e. saying it isn't happening even as it is happening!)

Failure to acknowledge this reflects a complete and total misapprehension of the way fascist propaganda works to eventually consume the entire society--the left is now engaged in a process of helping things along; my thesis is that the left is UNAWARE of that, that is, that it is engaging in this sort of behavior unwittingly--but that doesn't mitigate the damage and the way it is helping to feed the flames of fascism.
The problem for us lefties is in getting liberals to even notice in the first place without so threatening their egos that they go into "strict father" mode, and punish us for speaking out. Such a project I suspect is likely doomed from the get-go.

Random Sunday Thoughts

I'm trying to get final exams graded. Getting some progress made, but am reaching a block of sorts.

I'm finding group blogs to be fascinating. Over the past few months I've noticed an interesting dynamic. On right-wing group blogs, efforts to crack down on unwanted commentary seem to go with the territory. That "strict father" frame (using George Lakoff's terminology) is after all the dominant cognitive structure for those who consider themselves "conservative." But on liberal blogs we would expect a lot more tolerance for different points of view, right? After all, the "nurturing parent" frame (again, Lakoff) is dominant, so a great variety of self-expression is to be expected. Not so fast. Any one who's spent time at the major group blogs, Daily Kos, Booman Tribune, Democratic Underground (well, they're not so much a "blog" per se, but close enough) has noticed something interesting in the behavior of the various blog administrators. With Markos we had the mass purge precipitated by conversation among a number of the participants regarding election fraud in Ohio (makes Kos queasy, so he pretty well shut off the conversation by 86ing a number of those who persisted in posting and recommending diaries on that topic). Some of those members were reinstated on the condition they "behave themselves." Pretty much there is a sort of conventionalism and conformity that is part and parcel to a partisan Democrat blog. Boo Trib's admins are a bit more subtle. Boo has one rule for the blog: "don't be a prick." Seems simple enough, but with the simplicity comes a great deal of ambiguity. Apparently, "prickishness" includes "Kos bashing" (pretty much anything perceived of as dissing a couple of Boo's pals over there, as well as questioning Markos' business practices - not kosher as I suppose some of the Trib revenue depends on a partially Markos owned biz), questioning double-standards in the enforcement of that rule by the Trib's admins, or calling out some of the front-pagers when they break that rule either in the stories they post or in responses to commentary. Challenge any of that (and with a dynamic and ill-defined rule it's easy to challenge it wittingly or unwittingly) and the wonderful liberal tolerance turns into stern authoritarianism at the click of a mouse. The nurturing parents turn into strict dads. Over at the Trib very recently, the admins got to the point where they were shutting off the ability of someone to post comments and to suggest to this person that she among other things contact a crisis hotline. Her offense? Challenging the double-standards that are part of the repertoire of the admins. Got her ticked off, and she expressed herself thusly; next thing you know there are threats of banning along with of course attempts to stifle the efforts of anyone else to intervene on this lady's behalf. Gotta discipline those unruly children, y'know.

Maybe it simply comes down to this: no matter how liberal one is, the "strict father" frame is still a latent frame that can and will be invoked whenever there is a perceived or real ego threat. Once the strict father has been invoked, the individual will use whatever coercive action they have at their disposal, whether it's to save face or to punish those who appear to be the threat. Under such circumstances, expect the admins to become more prone to encourage conformity from the rest of the community, lest they too become made examples for misbehavior. Fascinating.

Update: I have struck part of this entry because it is factually inaccurate, and I offer my sincere apologies to Booman for insinuating that his motivation behind banning some users was financial. I stand by the rest of my opinion otherwise.

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Saturday Thought Piece: Reproductive Rights Edition

Jane Crow - Spreading Oppression's Black Wings

A country is only as truly free as its women are free. A people are only truly civilized if their mothers, their sisters, their daughters and grandmothers and nieces and great grandmothers and girlbabies not-yet-born are free and equal and enabled to create their own lives, their own futures. It’s plain, in these days of creepy theocracy and corporate corruption, of a Republican regime that feeds on misogyny and fear, that this country is backsliding, reversing so many of the gains made over the years. Jane Crow is back, as budget cuts and superstition replace openness and decency. Moiv highlights a letter at Our Word, written by a Texan named Tanya confronted by the anti-woman policies enacted by the oppressive Republican legislature in Texas:

Why Tanya cried

The email quoted below already has been forwarded to Texas State Senators Tommy Williams (a banker) and Bob Deuell (a physician)—the two men primarily responsible for compromising poor women’s access to family planning and primary health screening in this state by funneling $5,000,000 previously designated for those vitally important services into a campaign to promote and expand the dubious practices of Crisis Pregnancy Centers.

The state’s Health and Human Services Commission tells us that this is a good thing, because “the active promotion of childbirth” is the official policy of the State of Texas. That the women affected by this policy might not want to bear children in the service of the state is not an official concern.

That letter:

so,
this morning i dragged myself out of bed before dawn to be at planned parenthood at 730 and wait in the freezing morning shade until 9 for my
annual exam. at 930, myself and the 25 other women(of color.of course)grumbled in solidarity and confusion, wondering why we were still waiting and shivering. finally an employee opened the doors and coralled us inside just to inform us that there would be no walk-in exams today.or tomorrow.or ever. are you kidding me? i thought. nope.no joke. turns out the good ol
boys at the texas state legislature cut pp’s funding by 40% last friday. i stood in the office stunned while 3 mothers began to cry. another women, at least 65 years old, turned to me and asked, “que dijo?” what did she say? as i tried to explain what i still didnt understand, i began to feel my anger swell. overnight one of the safest, most reliable, most critical social services vanished. all patients over 24 years old have to seek new clinics, all birth control now costs $25/month, all annuals $125, all pregnancy tests $30. i stood waiting for the chance of one more pack of birth control pills, asking questions answered with shrugs and apologies, watching faces full of exasperation. when my name was called i tried again to get more information, but the fact was clear and simple; accessible family planning and women’s reproductive rights are not a priority. i left with a pack of pills after giving all my $35, sat in my car and cried.

here’s the kicker. texas lawmakers are promoting crisis pregnancy centers instead. that’s right, slash funding for sexual health and preventive services and create crisis centers. this whole freakin country is a crisis center. i want to see those lawmakers walk into clinics all over this state and have the guts to tell a room full of women, “sorry, go home and buy condoms” or “sorry, god willed those children and you’re on your own to figure out the rest”. i want them to watch women lose the thread of hope they were gripping.

so now what? write letters and make phone calls? i dont think so. the truth is i dont know what to do. i do know nothing will be done if people dont know. so in my emotional, reactionary state, that’s what i am trying to do.

i’m fighting hard to keep my faith.

thanks for reading,
-tanya

THIS IS HAPPENING IN THE UNITED STATES.
Other blogs to check out: Our Word, Media Girl, and What She Said. As long as I can draw a breath, I will continue to assert that a threat to the civil liberties of one person or group is a threat to the civil liberties of all.

Keeping Up With the GOP Scandal News

Not only is Tony Rudy close to copping a plea, but check out the veritable flood of Abramoff scandal stories:

The Abramoff scandal is growing so fast and in so many directions that it is getting hard to track all the new developments.

Here are some of the recent highlights and oddities:

  • Adam Kidan pleaded guilty in the Sun Cruz case and agreed to testify against Team Abramoff and his GOP pals. Kidan has worked with Jack since their College GOP days and the Saipan Tribune reported on their visits to Saipan and plans for an international fleet of gambling ships (and floating Money Laundromats).

  • George W. Bush is interviewed by Brit Hume and tells two Abramoff lies in one short answer.

  • The Austin America Statesman reports that charitable contributions Abramoff claimed he made were never sent to the charities. The article connects the missing donations to a Tom DeLay charity scam for the GOP Convention. Perhaps Scanlon or Rudy will walk prosecutors through this transaction and all of Tom and Jack's "charity" work.

  • Asia Week is out with a story on Susan Ralston and her connection to the CIA Leak investigation. It oddly omits her connections to Abramoff.

  • Gannett News Service reports on the recent Nightline report about Congressman Ney and his ties to Abramoff. The focus is on Texas political consultant Marc Schwartz allegation that Ney took bribes in 2002.

  • Business Week reports on Abramoff's successful efforts to buy conservative columnists since at least 1997. Josh Marshall weighs in with more details, as does the The Plank and The NYTs.

  • Ralph Reed now regrets taking Jack's money and is talking about it as the scandal is hurting his run for Lt. Governor in Georgia. No word yet on is he's decided to give the Millions of dollars he got in the swindle back to the Tribes.

  • Meanwhile the pressure is growing on Jack's GOP pals to give back money he poured into their coffers. Rep. Pombo will match the $7,000 Jack gave him directly and give it to charity in the hopes that nobody will notice all of the other Abramoff-related money. And Conrad Burns has flip-flopped. Two days ago he wasn't giving any of t he $150,000 back. Now he'll match the amount as a charitable donation, in the hope that nobody will notice what he did for the money. It might not be working The Missoulian today, called for Burns to step down and not run for re-election.

  • Overseas, the scandal is also making news. The Telegraph reports that the scandal is a political storm that will hit at the heart of the Right. And a story out of India on the Top financial scandals that rocked the world makes a connection between Jack, Iran-Contra, the Duke Scandal and Cocaine sales in the 1980s. Normally that might be tin foil hat time, but as this scandal grows it is beginning to seem that almost anything might be possible.
GOP corruption. The gift that keeps on giving.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Friday Thought Piece

Courtesy of Mickey Z, who wonders what a steel cage match between Tookie Williams (founder of the Crips) and Allen Dulles (founder of the CIA) would be like.

Thursday, December 15, 2005

Filibuster of Patriot Act a Distinct Probability

According to the AssPress, Sen. Feingold now has the numbers on his side:
In Congress, where numbers are everything, the math on the Patriot Act suddenly seems to be moving in favor of Sen. Russell Feingold.

He was a minority of one four years ago, when he cast the lone Senate vote against the USA Patriot Act in the traumatic weeks after the Sept. 11 attacks. The law, he said then, gave government too much power to investigate its citizens. Ninety-nine senators disagreed.

Now add more than two dozen senators to Feingold's side, including the leaders of his party and some of the chamber's most conservative Republicans, and the balance of power shifts.

The new Senate arithmetic that emerged this week is enough to place the renewal of major portions of the law in doubt. It was enough to inspire Senate Republican leaders to consider a backup plan in case Feingold's filibuster threat succeeded. Enough to prompt President Bush to dispatch Attorney General Roberto Gonzales to Capitol Hill twice in two days to lobby on the accord's behalf.

[...]

Moments later, the senior Democrat on the issue, Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., told reporters that more than 40 votes exist to sustain a filibuster in a test vote Friday. White House allies said they would rather see the law's 16 temporary provisions expire entirely than give opponents another three months or more to keep whittling away at them.

Feingold, D-Wis., finds himself with some unlikely allies, including the Christian Defense Coalition. Notably, the National Rifle Association has not endorsed the Patriot Act renewal that was personally negotiated by Vice President Dick Cheney. The NRA's non-position allows its supporters in the Senate to oppose renewing the law in its entirety.

"Folks, when we're dealing with civil liberties, you don't compromise them," said Sen. Larry Craig, R-Idaho, an NRA board member.

[...]

The opposition that began with Feingold's one vote has bloomed into a bloc of Democrats and Republicans concerned about a range of powers the original act gave the FBI, and how they are used. This group prefers the curbs on government power passed by the Senate but rejected in a compromise with the House. Now, faced with an up-or-down vote on the accord, they say no.

This I hope is a turning point for those of us who care about civil liberties. If nothing else, organizations like the ACLU and NRA are important civil liberties watchdogs. That the NRA, which usually goes along with the GOP is remaining silent on the Patriot Act renewal is telling: these cats understand (I hope) that a threat to civil liberties in one area are threats to all.

Mythological Locations

FYI, A Violently Executed Blog has been running a series of mythological locations from A to Z. One of my favorites so far: L is for Libertatia.
The pirate republic of Libertatia did not die. The physical space it occupied was destroyed, but its spirit, its soul, lives on.

As the black fleet controlled by the Illuminati closed in, Captain Tew and Father Caraccioli dispersed the citizens, urging them to go underground, to spread their love of freedom and hatred of authority.

The American Revolution was Libertatian, as was the French. The Cubist revolt was inspired by a Libertatian, and Pablo Picasso was one of their brightest lights. Rock'n'roll? Libertatian. The Summer of Love, punk rock and Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas? Yep.

Why am I telling you this?

Because I want to wake you up. You, and everyone else in the world, need to know that we have it within us to throw off the chains holding us down.

Smash the cubicle walls! Throw your TV out the window! Punch your manager in the face!

It's not too late to rebuild Libertatia, to give the world once again a shining beacon of freedom and self-reliance.

I'll be right there with you, just as soon as Survivor is over.
Check out the others - nothing like a bit of thought-provoking humor to start the day.

And even though it is Thursday

Mickey Z's Wednesday with Ward (and much more) is well worth checking out.

One from the mailbag:

Bush, Biden, and Weasel Words:
Yet, had the Prezi-didn't watched Charlie Rose's show on PBS last night he would have been pleased to hear Senator Joe Biden offer him yet another out. Biden placed all the blame for any mistakes in Iraq squarely on the heads of Rumsfeld and Cheney - telling Charlie Rose that neither of them had ever proven correct in their advice or predictions (no rose-petals, no WMD, no last corners, the army we have etc. etc.) and should be fired. He then went on, unbelievably, to say that he personally liked George Bush and still hoped that he could shake of his bad advisors and be the great President he had the potential to be. I am hoping that Media Matters will obtain the footage of this remarkable weaseling, to be preserved for posterity.

Biden obviously doesn't give a crap about Bush's tax cuts for the rich while cutting services for the poor. He doesn't care about the meltdown of America's healthcare system over which Bush has presided. He obviously doesn't care at all about the National Guardsmen arriving home from Iraq who get caught by the changes to the bankruptcy system he sponsored. Nor does he care about the many different ways in which Bush has personally enabled the extremist mullahs of the religious right and the rape of everything from the environment to worker's pensions by the corporate right.

And one just from checking out blogtopia regarding a possible challenge another Vichy Dem as the 2006 election season looms - Joementum Lieberman:
Radio host Colin McEnroe spent more than two hours with former Connecticut Gov. Lowell Weicker (I) in his studio yesterday and believes he knows more about "where his head is at" about a possible challenge to Sen. Joe Lieberman (D-CT) than fellow pundits.

Key observations:
  • "If he runs against Lieberman at all, he will not do so as a Democrat seeking a primary, even though it makes intuitive political sense to do so... it's almost impossible to overstate the degree to which, psychologically, Weicker has identified himself as a third party, independent guy."
  • "Weicker is also prepared to remove his name from speculation if someone, from any party, will step forward and mount a substantial challenge to Lieberman based on the latter's war politics."
  • "Weicker knows the odds are long... He admits that losing to Lieberman is a greater probability than winning."
  • "Weicker brushed off the talk about Lieberman replacing Rumsfeld." Bush only wants "his guys" in the room with him.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Bu$hCo to US Poor: "Eat or Heat"

WASHINGTON — The Bush administration has denied requests from five states to increase food stamps for low-income families facing higher heating bills this winter.

Maine, New York, Kansas, Virginia and South Carolina sought to raise monthly food stamp allotments by projecting what families will pay to heat their homes. The increases would have ranged from $8 to about $30 a month for families who pay their own utility bills.

State officials and advocates for the poor said the decision will make it hard for needy families to afford both heat and food. The Energy Department has forecast 25% average increases in heating bills this winter. Research shows that when utility bills rise, some poor families reduce food purchases.

Robert Greenstein, director of the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, said federal food stamp law says benefits should reflect current costs. "It's effectively cheating low-income families," he said. If the five states' requests had been approved, many others would have followed, he said.

Nerdified link
Hat tip to boran2. Just keep in mind that there are plenty of folks in desparate straits this winter season. I can imagine that there will be more malnourished children as an outcome. More expectant moms who have to cut corners in terms of feeding themselves and their fetuses (you know, the only entity that supposedly matters to the so-called "culture of life" crowd). To take a line from James Blood Ulmer, "are you glad to be in America?"

We Are a Freedom Loving People

US Ranks Sixth among Countries Jailing Journalists, Report Says

Is the Pentagon Spying on Americans?

Something you might have missed

A person by the handle DianeL has been posting a series of diaries on the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina that are worth a look. The series seems to be updated at irregular intervals, but does provide a useful chronicle of an ongoing tragic situation:
The Missing and the Dead? Part I
The Missing and the Dead Part II
The Missing and the Dead Part III
The Missing and the Dead Part IV
The Missing and the Dead Part V
The Missing and the Dead Part VI (a continuing archive)

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Entire western world complicit in kidnapping and torture

Paul Craig Roberts is a conservative from the old school. Here's just a bit of his most recent commentary:

Some Americans, horrified at what the Bush administration has done to their country, took hope in Europe's uproar over Bush's rendition/torture policy. Alas, European governments were shedding crocodile tears for show purposes only.

On December 11 the Telegraph (UK) reported on a European Union document in its possession that summarizes an EU-US meeting in Athens Greece on January 22, 2003 in which the EU agreed to "co-operation in removals." The Telegraph reports that "EU officials confirmed that a full account was circulated to all member governments."

So we have the entire Western world complicit in kidnapping and torture. The entire non-Western world surely notices the unbridgeable gap between the Bush administration's immoral practices and Bush's moral posturing about "freedom and democracy." The prestige of the Western world is gone forever.

The prestige of the Western world rested on a myth (I'm using the term partly in the pejorative sense) that its governments and leaders, and of course its populace, were civilized. Of course, civilized folks don't torture, enslave, or commit genocide either - and regrettably the Western world (basically Western Europe and the US) has a long history of expertise in such practices. The dirty little secret is that a good proportion of the rest of humanity had long ago figured that out.

Why does the Pope hate Christmas?

Looks like Bill O'Reilly has a new enemy to battle in that now legendary epic struggle known as the "War Against Christmas." And that enemy is none other than the Pope:
"'In today's consumer society, this time [of the year] is unfortunately subjected to a sort of commercial 'pollution' that is in danger of altering its true spirit, which is characterized by meditation, sobriety and by a joy that is not exterior but intimate,' the pope said in his traditional Sunday blessing.

"'Assembling the Nativity scene in the home can turn out to be a simple but effective way of presenting the faith to pass it on to one's children,' Benedict added.

"'The Nativity scene helps us contemplate the mystery of the love of God, which is revealed to us in the poverty and simplicity of the grotto in Bethlehem."
A religious leader extolling poverty and simplicity during the holiest of shopping seasons? How long before the FauxNews addled dittoheads declare the Pope to be the Antichrist? Even more damning is his call to abolish the death penalty, torture, and nukes. So, when's Bu$hCo going to invade the Vatican?

Hat tip to Left I on the News.

Fifth Anniversary: National Failure Day

America woke up to the post-constitutional reality of Bush v Gore. Albert Gore conceded the election, and the world, caught like a deer in the headlights, looked on at the oncoming noise show, filled with lights, marching bands and loud crashes.

It is a day that people will not celeberate, the real control over America did not begin until much later, with the transformation of the 9/11 attacks into our Reichstag fire - I called it that on the 12th of September 2001, I don't know how many other people did, or have since then.

[...]

The distance we have travelled in those five years is both enormous and very small. The United States has politically decided that it wants to be corrupt banana republic, with a corrupt government funnelling out corrupt pork and projects, and borrowing the money from its children and grandchildren. America has had a mcMansion boom, and an explosion of inflation wagons. America has allowed the internet economy to slow to a crawl, and engages in spit swapping mergers and acquisitions instead of investment.

We have experienced the 1920's all over again, it looks good from the center, but in reality the economy has moved in fits and halts, with a long recession, or a double dip recession - the world won't know the real numbers their either - becoming a debt fueled boom. The difference between Harding-Coolidge and Bush is that Harding and Coolidge were smart enough to not get involved in a knock down drag out war.

Real wages are falling, and "middle class inflation" - for health care, education and housing - is pressing families from all sides. It is only destined to get worse, as the only way to solve our budget crisis now is either to eliminate medicaid except for its use as a "nursing home benefit", or to go to a national health care system. Since Americans are still convinced that the way to lose weight is to shoot yourself in the foot, we are likely to see a series of "easings" of medical benefits from the public, and a rising tied of sickness and poverty.

Politically we have seen the end of bipartisanship and the beginning of "buy-partisanship". We have a one party state, one that corrupts everything to be an electoral arm of the party. Nothing is too small to become an organ of propaganda. Which means that everything has become suspect. Years ago I would believe that departments would cook the books covertly - even if they might make overt decisions that supported policy. With Iraq intelligence, and the gentle simmering of economic numbers, including job and inflation numbers - I can no longer deny other accusations categorically.

If these seem like wonkish complaints, cold blooded compared to accusations of torture, or battle cries of liberty and justice, it is because it is this fabric of how the government runs is the substance of liberty and justice. Moreover, as a part of the road to the downfall of the old order, this was the day when cooked numbers were given legal standing, and that legal standing was acknowledged. In Medieval wars, the loser, if he survived, often had to kneel and swear fealty to the victor. This is the fifth anniversary of Al Gore kneeling to George W. Bush. It is why I cannot in good conscience support Gore for anything, no leader of any kind would bend his knee to King George.

Nerdified Link

Seems we have too many national days of mourning. This day is yet another. It is a time when I hope a few thoughtful individuals will take stock at what the US has become, and ask the tough questions of how to proceed, now that what is left of the old Constitutional Republic is effectively brain dead. I don't advocate a return to some glorious past that probably existed largely in mythology, but rather to move forward in a more humane and populist direction, one in which public servants are not treated as rulers and cronies beholden to corporate PACs but as truly public servants who are accountable to those whose taxes sign their paychecks.

One thousand days of war

$204.4 billion: The cost to the U.S of the war so far.

2,339: Allied troops killed

15,955: US troops wounded in action

98: U.K troops killed

30,000 : Estimated Iraqi civilian deaths

0: Number of WMDs found

66: Journalists killed in Iraq.

63: Journalists killed during Vietnam war

8: per cent of Iraqi children suffering acute malnutrition

53,470: Iraqi insurgents killed

67: per cent Iraqis who feel less secure because of occupation

$343: Average monthly salary for an Iraqi soldier. Average monthly salary for an American soldier in Iraq: $4,160.75

5: foreign civilians kidnapped per month

47: per cent Iraqis who never have enough electricity

20: casualties per month from unexploded mines

25-40: per cent Estimated unemployment rate, Nov 2005

251: Foreigners kidnapped

70: per cent of Iraqi's whose sewage system rarely works

183,000: British and American troops are still in action in Iraq.

13,000: from other nations

90: Daily attacks by insurgents in Nov '05. In Jun '03: 8

60-80: per cent Iraqis who are "strongly opposed" to presence of coalition troops

Nerdified link
The Independent has plenty of other articles and columns to commemorate this day:

Patrick Cockburn - Iraq: 1,000 days of war

Ann Penketh - A war and its fearsome consequences: How the world has changed post-Iraq

Kim Singupta - 'It's an awful way to exist, without hope... We've gained nothing but endless deaths'

Favorite blog headline: Serial Killer Confesses to 30,000 Murders; Receives Applause

Monday, December 12, 2005

On a related note

Check out No Redemption in a "Christian" Nation. Subtitled, "No quarter, no mercy, no second chances." Then compare and contrast George W. Bush and the teachings of Jesus.

Quotable: Nobel Lecture Edition

I know that President Bush has many extremely competent speech writers but I would like to volunteer for the job myself. I propose the following short address which he can make on television to the nation. I see him grave, hair carefully combed, serious, winning, sincere, often beguiling, sometimes employing a wry smile, curiously attractive, a man's man.

'God is good. God is great. God is good. My God is good. Bin Laden's God is bad. His is a bad God. Saddam's God was bad, except he didn't have one. He was a barbarian. We are not barbarians. We don't chop people's heads off. We believe in freedom. So does God. I am not a barbarian. I am the democratically elected leader of a freedom-loving democracy. We are a compassionate society. We give compassionate electrocution and compassionate lethal injection. We are a great nation. I am not a dictator. He is. I am not a barbarian. He is. And he is. They all are. I possess moral authority. You see this fist? This is my moral authority. And don't you forget it.'

My emphasis added. The preceding was from Harold Pinter's very scathing Nobel Lecture. It is to say the least an intense read. Some more to whet the appetite:
The United States supported and in many cases engendered every right wing military dictatorship in the world after the end of the Second World War. I refer to Indonesia, Greece, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Haiti, Turkey, the Philippines, Guatemala, El Salvador, and, of course, Chile. The horror the United States inflicted upon Chile in 1973 can never be purged and can never be forgiven.

Hundreds of thousands of deaths took place throughout these countries. Did they take place? And are they in all cases attributable to US foreign policy? The answer is yes they did take place and they are attributable to American foreign policy. But you wouldn't know it.

It never happened. Nothing ever happened. Even while it was happening it wasn't happening. It didn't matter. It was of no interest. The crimes of the United States have been systematic, constant, vicious, remorseless, but very few people have actually talked about them. You have to hand it to America. It has exercised a quite clinical manipulation of power worldwide while masquerading as a force for universal good. It's a brilliant, even witty, highly successful act of hypnosis.

One rarely finds mention in the mass media. Certainly one rarely reads about such atrocities in history textbooks either in high school or college. If the topic is broached at all, it is in the context of a graduate-level seminar, I suppose. But the truth is out there, and as the saying goes, the truth shall set you free.

I put to you that the United States is without doubt the greatest show on the road. Brutal, indifferent, scornful and ruthless it may be but it is also very clever. As a salesman it is out on its own and its most saleable commodity is self love. It's a winner. Listen to all American presidents on television say the words, 'the American people', as in the sentence, 'I say to the American people it is time to pray and to defend the rights of the American people and I ask the American people to trust their president in the action he is about to take on behalf of the American people.'

It's a scintillating stratagem. Language is actually employed to keep thought at bay. The words 'the American people' provide a truly voluptuous cushion of reassurance. You don't need to think. Just lie back on the cushion. The cushion may be suffocating your intelligence and your critical faculties but it's very comfortable. This does not apply of course to the 40 million people living below the poverty line and the 2 million men and women imprisoned in the vast gulag of prisons, which extends across the US.
Just trust us. Everything will be just fine. Phrases like "the American people" give the air of consensus, although in truth such consensus may not exist. Don't even get me started on terms like "freedom" and "democracy" which in the context of defending US policies have a different meaning than most of us would give those terms. As Wittgenstein might have said, it's a good idea to know the rules of the language games that our government employs in order to truly understand what they are saying.

The United States no longer bothers about low intensity conflict. It no longer sees any point in being reticent or even devious. It puts its cards on the table without fear or favour. It quite simply doesn't give a damn about the United Nations, international law or critical dissent, which it regards as impotent and irrelevant. It also has its own bleating little lamb tagging behind it on a lead, the pathetic and supine Great Britain.

What has happened to our moral sensibility? Did we ever have any? What do these words mean? Do they refer to a term very rarely employed these days – conscience? A conscience to do not only with our own acts but to do with our shared responsibility in the acts of others? Is all this dead? Look at Guantanamo Bay. Hundreds of people detained without charge for over three years, with no legal representation or due process, technically detained forever. This totally illegitimate structure is maintained in defiance of the Geneva Convention. It is not only tolerated but hardly thought about by what's called the 'international community'. This criminal outrage is being committed by a country, which declares itself to be 'the leader of the free world'. Do we think about the inhabitants of Guantanamo Bay? What does the media say about them? They pop up occasionally – a small item on page six. They have been consigned to a no man's land from which indeed they may never return. At present many are on hunger strike, being force-fed, including British residents. No niceties in these force-feeding procedures. No sedative or anaesthetic. Just a tube stuck up your nose and into your throat. You vomit blood. This is torture. What has the British Foreign Secretary said about this? Nothing. What has the British Prime Minister said about this? Nothing. Why not? Because the United States has said: to criticise our conduct in Guantanamo Bay constitutes an unfriendly act. You're either with us or against us. So Blair shuts up.
We're largely desensitized to violence. We see it all the time. We play video games where we too can be murderers and tortures - at least in a virtual reality. We've been fed plenty of propaganda about the so-called savages who populate the Middle East and Central Asia, and about the supposed danger that practitioners of Islam pose. They've been dehumanized with such terms as "camel jockeys," "sand niggers," and "hadjis," much in the same way that a previous generation used terms like "gooks" as part of an effort to dehumanize another set of human beings on another part of the globe. Same act, different scene.

The invasion of Iraq was a bandit act, an act of blatant state terrorism, demonstrating absolute contempt for the concept of international law. The invasion was an arbitrary military action inspired by a series of lies upon lies and gross manipulation of the media and therefore of the public; an act intended to consolidate American military and economic control of the Middle East masquerading – as a last resort – all other justifications having failed to justify themselves – as liberation. A formidable assertion of military force responsible for the death and mutilation of thousands and thousands of innocent people.
It's part of my value system to believe that nothing good comes out of lying. Contrary to the neoconmen who have been hell-bent to run the show in DC, there is no such thing as "the noble lie." Some lies are more egregious than others, and I would offer that the pack of lies that has led to over 2100 US deaths, somewhere between 30,000 and 100,000 Iraqi deaths, and countless thousands of others permanently maimed and all psychologically damaged is particularly egregious. We all will be paying a hefty price for what has gone down these last two and a half years and counting.

We have brought torture, cluster bombs, depleted uranium, innumerable acts of random murder, misery, degradation and death to the Iraqi people and call it 'bringing freedom and democracy to the Middle East'.

How many people do you have to kill before you qualify to be described as a mass murderer and a war criminal? One hundred thousand? More than enough, I would have thought. Therefore it is just that Bush and Blair be arraigned before the International Criminal Court of Justice. But Bush has been clever. He has not ratified the International Criminal Court of Justice. Therefore if any American soldier or for that matter politician finds himself in the dock Bush has warned that he will send in the marines. But Tony Blair has ratified the Court and is therefore available for prosecution. We can let the Court have his address if they're interested. It is Number 10, Downing Street, London.

Death in this context is irrelevant. Both Bush and Blair place death well away on the back burner. At least 100,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs and missiles before the Iraq insurgency began. These people are of no moment. Their deaths don't exist. They are blank. They are not even recorded as being dead. 'We don't do body counts,' said the American general Tommy Franks.
That tells you all you need to know about the elites who perpetrated this war.

Early in the invasion there was a photograph published on the front page of British newspapers of Tony Blair kissing the cheek of a little Iraqi boy. 'A grateful child,' said the caption. A few days later there was a story and photograph, on an inside page, of another four-year-old boy with no arms. His family had been blown up by a missile. He was the only survivor. 'When do I get my arms back?' he asked. The story was dropped. Well, Tony Blair wasn't holding him in his arms, nor the body of any other mutilated child, nor the body of any bloody corpse. Blood is dirty. It dirties your shirt and tie when you're making a sincere speech on television.
We mustn't get "dirty" or worry our "beautiful minds" with such matters, eh?

The 2,000 American dead are an embarrassment. They are transported to their graves in the dark. Funerals are unobtrusive, out of harm's way. The mutilated rot in their beds, some for the rest of their lives. So the dead and the mutilated both rot, in different kinds of graves.
That is the sad truth. The dead are not only transported under a veil of darkness, but they are transported as freight. That's how Uncle Sam honors its dead. That is something that should disgust us all.

Many thousands, if not millions, of people in the United States itself are demonstrably sickened, shamed and angered by their government's actions, but as things stand they are not a coherent political force – yet. But the anxiety, uncertainty and fear which we can see growing daily in the United States is unlikely to diminish.

That pretty well sums it up (my emphasis added). The seeds of discontent have merely begun to sprout.

Hat tip to historicalfootnotes.

Geysers in Oklahoma

KINGFISHER, Okla. (AP) _ An outbreak of geysers spewing mud and gas into the air in rural Kingfisher County is puzzling state and local officials.

Kingfisher Fire Chief John Crawford says initial reports of the geysers came in Friday morning, and that firefighters and Oklahoma Corporation Commission officials were on the scene yesterday.

The geysers have appeared throughout the countryside of rural Kingfisher, with stretches of up to 12 miles between spots, and some as short as a quarter of a mile.

Crawford says the threat of the gas igniting is unlikely, but he says there is a concern the gas could begin coming up through water-well lines.

He says sheriff's deputies were dispatched to inform residents of the possibility of gas coming through wells and water systems.
Here's a video from News 9 in OKC. I'm curious about what would be causing them, and how far the geysers will spread. From the video it appears as the town of Kingfisher is likely to have some geysers spring up within town limits.

Quotable: NOLA Edition

First from an NYT editorial:

If the rest of the nation has decided it is too expensive to give the people of New Orleans a chance at renewal, we have to tell them so. We must tell them we spent our rainy-day fund on a costly stalemate in Iraq, that we gave it away in tax cuts for wealthy families and shareholders. We must tell them America is too broke and too weak to rebuild one of its great cities.

Our nation would then look like a feeble giant indeed. But whether we admit it or not, this is our choice to make. We decide whether New Orleans lives or dies.
Duranta writes a moving account of her time at the recent Hurricane Relief march in NOLA, and includes among other things a chilling warning:

I saw my new Creole friend Veda, a fiercely intelligent and outspoken woman who clued me into grant monies that are available through the SBA, for renters and homeowners to replace their belongings that were lost in the storm. The SBA, the financial arm of FEMA, is being very quiet about these funds, and their availability will expire January 7th.

What will also expire January 7th is FEMA funds for evacuees staying in hotels across the country, so I expect that some kind of aberrant phenomena will occur on that day, as it seems to be a magic number for FEMA to deny help to people.


As well as an amusing observation by some cat named Malik:
"Only in New Orleans do you dance at protests."
And this:
Have Hurricane Katrina's '15 minutes' ended? Me thinks NOT! With literally thousands of people still living in TENTS in the cold weather many Katrina survivors are looking at a bleak Christmas this year. So I have been trying to think of a way to do my part to help and so that is why I created WWW.KATRINASANTA.COM

The idea is to connect Katrina victims with those who would like to help out. We have already identified over 80 children in need in Hancock County, Ms. and are in the process of searching for more. Of course once we can get addresses/gift requests for those people we will need some KATRINA SANTA's to help out.

I have people helping to find the names/addresses/gift requests for those in need so now I need help spreading the word via the MEDIA i.e. that is why I am contacting YOU.

Please, I can assure you that words do not do justice to what is happening down here in the aftermath of Katrina and so I would emplore you to help fulfill the requests of these Americans in need so they can at least have one day of hope i.e. a MERRY CHRISTMAS!

Keep spreading the word.

Sunday, December 11, 2005

Penis scalpels, leather strappados, enemas - CIA and MI6 torture

A sickening story to say the least:

MI6 and CIA 'sent student to Morocco to be tortured

An Ethiopian claims that his confession to al-Qaeda bomb plot was signed after being tortured in a Moroccan jail and claims torturers used scalpel on his chest and penis as he was hung, 'strappado' from his wrists from the ceiling. The British government and CIA are now facing complicity in the affair due to the Extraordinary Rendition program.

Agencies said he was part of a plot to buy uranium in Asia, bring it to the US and build a 'dirty bomb' in league with Jose Padilla, a US citizen. Funny enough, now that the torture allegations used against Mohammed came out, the claims against Padilla were subsequently dropped. He now faces a civil charge of supporting al-Qaeda financially.

He was stripped naked, photographed, given an enema and put on a plane with shackles, earphones and a blindfold.

[....]

Word is leaking now that the EU has known and allowed the CIA to tour Europe with their enema bags, black costumes and leather for several years - snatching those deemed 'terrorists' and hauling them off to torture dens in a string of countries around the world -or even just getting 'rid' of them as Bush alluded to in his 2003 SOTU speech.

This was vividly demonstrated in one of the revolting scenes in recent American history: Bush's State of the Union address in January 2003, delivered to Congress and televised nationwide during the final frenzy of war-drum beating before the assault on Iraq. Trumpeting his successes in the Terror War, Bush claimed that "more than 3,000 suspected terrorists" had been arrested worldwide – "and many others have met a different fate." His face then took on the characteristic leer, the strange, sickly half-smile it acquires whenever he speaks of killing people: "Let's put it this way. They are no longer a problem."

Nerdified Link
I'm in the process of applying some social psychological theory to our understanding of extreme violence, such as torture. Certainly, there are a number of us in the field who are trying to get our heads around this truly sickening phenomenon: Phil Zimbardo, Mika Harito-Fatouros, Martha Huggins, and Craig Anderson would come to mind most immediately among my contemporaries. Mainly, I find myself drawing heavily from Anderson's General Aggression Model, which I'll refer to and flesh out in more detail in the coming weeks. When we ask ourselves how people can come to torture others, for example, we must necessarily track down the various potential causes. The General Aggression Model lays out numerous antecedents, including distal and proximate causes. For now, I'll just mention some distal causes, and we'll work our way forward from there. Distal causes are ones that make up the social and cultural background in which violence may fester. A society with a long history of acceptance of torture would be one of those distal causes - certainly there's good reason to believe that such acceptance has been to varying degrees part of the European and American Zeitgeist for centuries. Propaganda is another distal factor: look at the way that people of Arab and Persian descent are portrayed in the mass media, in the news, etc. Think too about how the religion of Islam is portrayed. Too often, these individuals and their faith are portrayed as brutal, savage, violent, and as a threat to "civilization." If you follow enough of the right-wing media organs it's questionable as to whether our friends in the Middle East are even to be considered human. Dehumanization of other peoples and their cultures is a necessary antecedent for torture to occur. Our own mass media culture is one replete with violence: extreme acts of aggression and torture are played out on a regular basis in videogames, movies, and so forth with sufficient frequency as to desensitize individuals to such violence. That same mass media also has a tendency to create a sort of Zeitgeist of paranoia, a tendency to perceive the actions and lifestyles of others as threatening.

As I said, I'll have more later.

Festivus Has an Okie Connection

Talk about learning something new every day. Apparently Festivus is the name of a red wine produced by Oklahoma's Grape Ranch Vineyards (found via Wikipedia). More about my favorite holiday:

The Festivus celebration includes four major components:

  • The Festivus Pole: The Costanzas' tradition begins with a bare aluminum pole, which Frank praises for its "very high strength-to-weight ratio." During Festivus, an unadorned aluminum pole is displayed. The pole was chosen apparently in opposition to the commercialization of highly decorated Christmas trees, because it is "very low-maintenance," and also because the holiday's patron, Frank Costanza, "find[s] tinsel distracting."
  • Festivus Dinner: The Festivus dinner menu is flexible, but it should be filling non-holiday comfort food (no turkey, duck, goose, or ham). The televised dinner featured what may have been meatloaf or spaghetti in a red sauce. (Presumably, an entree in a red sauce is more festive.)
  • The Airing of Grievances: At the Festivus dinner, each participant tells friends and family all of the instances where they disappointed him or her that year.
  • The Feats of Strength: The head of the family tests his or her strength against one participant of the head's choosing. Festivus is not considered over until the head of the family has been pinned to the ground. A participant is allowed to decline to attempt to pin the head of the family only if they have something better to do instead. Other, imaginative, Feats of Strength have been developed, including washer tossing.
And make sure to include some Oklahoma wine in your Festivus celebration (ideally the aforementioned red wine). It'll go good with the meatloaf!

Sunday Funny



Click the pic for larger image. Hat tip to Disgusted in St Louis.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Bushman Wins the Alternative Nobel Peace Prize

Nice catch by American Zapatista:
Roy Sesana, representative of the Gana Bushman just won the Right Livelihood Award. The Gana are being forced off of their Kalahari homeland by the government of Botswana.

Below is the speech he gave when he accepted the award.

Right Livelihood Award address, Stockholm, 9. December 2005

My name is Roy Sesana; I am a Gana Bushman from the Kalahari in what is now called Botswana. In my language, my name is `Tobee' and our land is `T//amm'. We have been there longer than any people has been anywhere.

When I was young, I went to work in a mine. I put off my skins and wore clothes. But I went home after a while. Does that make me less Bushman? I don't think so.

I am a leader. When I was a boy we did not need leaders and we lived well. Now we need them because our land is being stolen and we must struggle to survive. It doesn't mean I tell people what to do, it's the other way around: they tell me what I have to do to help them.

I cannot read. You wanted me to write this speech, so my friends helped, but I cannot read words - I'm sorry! But I do know how to read the land and the animals. All our children could. If they didn't, they would have all died long ago.

I know many who can read words and many, like me, who can only read the land. Both are important. We are not backward or less intelligent: we live in exactly the same up-to-date year as you. I was going to say we all live under the same stars, but no, they're different, and there are many more in the Kalahari. The sun and moon are the same.

I grew up a hunter. All our boys and men were hunters. Hunting is going and talking to the animals. You don't steal. You go and ask. You set a trap or go with bow or spear. It can take days. You track the antelope. He knows you are there, he knows he has to give you his strength. But he runs and you have to run. As you run, you become like him. It can last hours and exhaust you both. You talk to him and look into his eyes. And then he knows he must give you his strength so your children can live.

When I first hunted, I was not allowed to eat. Pieces of the steenbok were burnt with some roots and spread on my body. This is how I learned. It's not the same way you learn, but it works well.

The farmer says he is more advanced than the backward hunter, but I don't believe him. His herds give no more food than ours. The antelope are not our slaves, they do not wear bells on their necks and they can run faster than the lazy cow or the herder. We run through life together.

When I wear the antelope horns, it helps me talk to my ancestors and they help me. The ancestors are so important: we would not be alive without them. Everyone knows this in their heart, but some have forgotten. Would any of us be here without our ancestors? I don't think so.

I was trained as a healer. You have to read the plants and the sand. You have to dig the roots and become fit. You put some of the root back for tomorrow, so one day your grandchildren can find it and eat. You learn what the land tells you.

When the old die, we bury them and they become ancestors. When there is sickness, we dance and we talk to them; they speak through my blood. I touch the sick person and can find the illness and heal it.

We are the ancestors of our grandchildren's children. We look after them, just as our ancestors look after us. We aren't here for ourselves. We are here for each other and for the children of our grandchildren.

Why am I here? Because my people love their land, and without it we are dying. Many years ago, the president of Botswana said we could live on our ancestral land forever. We never needed anyone to tell us that. Of course we can live where God created us! But the next president said we must move and began forcing us away.

They said we had to go because of diamonds. Then they said we were killing too many animals: but that's not true. They say many things which aren't true. They said we had to move so the government could develop us. The president says unless we change we will perish like the dodo. I didn't know what a dodo was. But I found out: it was a bird which was wiped out by settlers. The president was right. They are killing us by forcing us off our land. We have been tortured and shot at. They arrested me and beat me.

Thank you for the Right Livelihood Award. It is global recognition of our struggle and will raise our voice throughout the world. When I heard I had won I had just been let out of prison. They say I am a criminal, as I stand here today.

I say what kind of development is it when the people live shorter lives than before? They catch HIV/AIDS. Our children are beaten in school and won't go there. Some become prostitutes. They are not allowed to hunt. They fight because they are bored and get drunk. They are starting to commit suicide. We never saw that before. It hurts to say this. Is this `development'?

We are not primitive. We live differently to you, but we do not live exactly like our grandparents did, nor do you. Were your ancestors `primitive'? I don't think so. We respect our ancestors. We love our children. This is the same for all people.

We now have to stop the government stealing our land: without it we will die.

If anyone has read a lot of books and thinks I am primitive because I have not read even one, then he should throw away those books and get one which says we are all brothers and sisters under God and we too have a right to live.

That is all. Thank you.

Roy Sesana
First People of the Kalahari, Botswana

A reminder that the struggles facing indigenous peoples share many commonalities.

Today is International Human Rights Day

From Wikipedia:

Human Rights Day is celebrated annually across the world on 10 December.

The date was chosen to honour the United Nations General Assembly's adoption and proclamation, on 10 December 1948, of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the first global enunciation of human rights. The commemoration was established in 1950, when the General Assembly invited all states and interested organisations to celebrate the day as they saw fit.

The day is a high point in the calendar of UN headquarters in New York City, United States, and is normally marked by both high-level political conferences and meetings and by cultural events and exhibtions dealing with human rights issues. In addition, it is traditionally on 10 December that the five-yearly United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights are awarded.

Many other governmental and nongovernmental organisations active in the human rights field also schedule special events to commemorate the day. For instance, on Human Rights Day 2004:


Update: Before I forget, the theme of this year's Human Rights Day is End Torture Now! Some useful info compiled by jimstaro:
Selected learning materials

Study guide on Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment (HREA)

A short introduction to torture. It present definitions, key rights at stake, human rights instruments, and protection and assistance agencies. The guide also offer links to the full text of international treaties, and other useful resources on the HREA and University of Minnesota Human Rights Library web sites.

Discovering the UDHR (Amnesty International-USA)

By examining two real cases of human rights abuses students are introduced to the contents and spirit of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR).>br>

Human Rights Here & Now: Celebrating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

This manual is intended to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and to further human rights education in the United States. It can be used by educators in classrooms, by human rights advocates in informal settings, and by individuals for their own self-learning.

Illustrated version of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

A simplified and illustrated version of the 30 articles of the UDHR. Intended for children eight year and older. Accompanied with instructions for a lesson activity.

Learning Activities about the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Some ideas to help you explore images through a human rights lens.

Rights Around the World: A UDHR Jigsaw (Amnesty International-USA)

This activity allows students to extend their knowledge of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) while learning typical rights abuses around the world. It also provides structure for collaborative learning in the classroom.

The UDHR: What's in it for Me?

Through this exercise workshop participants will become more familiar with the provisions of the UDHR's 30 articles; will acquire cognitive and analytical skills in applying the UDHR to specific problems; and will become empowered to apply rights principles in their real life circumstances.

What are Human Rights? - The Universal Declaration of Human Rights (Estonia)

Chapter from a textbook for an optional subject in grade eight of general comprehensive schools.

The United Nations' System of Human Rights Protection: Educational packet (Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights in Poland)

This packet familiarises the advocates with the human rights protection mechanisms that exist within the United Nations. Included in this packet are an instructors text, fundamental UN human rights documents, a videotape and lesson plans for presenting the UN human rights system.