Saturday, March 19, 2005

A point on which Pitt and I agree

upon reflecting on this anniversary of the beginning of the war against the Iraqi people: we Americans are now the terrorists.

Reflections on freedom

by Felipe Perez Roque (via Left I on the News)

"The guarantee of the enjoyment of human rights today depends on whether you live in a developed country or not - and it also depends on the social class that you belong to. Therefore, there will be no real enjoyment of human rights for all as long as we fail to achieve social justice in the relations among countries and within countries themselves.

"In [the] developed countries, incredible as it may seem, the unemployed, the immigrants and the impoverished do not enjoy the rights that are most certainly guaranteed for the rich.

"Can a poor person in the United States be elected Senator? No, they cannot. The campaign costs, on average, some US$ 8 million. Do the children of the rich go to the unjust and illegal war in Iraq? No, they do not go. None of the 1,500 American youths killed in that war was the son of a millionaire or a Secretary. The poor die there defending the vested interests of a minority.

"In [130 countries in the Third World ], the poor and the indigent, who account for the majority, do not even have the right to life. For that reason, every year we see the death of 11 million children under five years of age, a portion of which could be spared with barely a vaccine or oral rehydration solutions - and also the death of 600,000 poor women at childbirth. They have no right to learn to read and write. It would be dangerous for the owners. They are kept in ignorance to keep them docile. That is why this Commission should be ashamed of the nearly 1 billion illiterate people in the world. That is why in Latin America 20 million children endure ruthless exploitation as they work on the streets instead of going to school.

"The Cuban people strongly believe in freedom, democracy and human rights. It took them a lot to achieve them and are aware of its price. It is a people in power. That is the difference.

"There cannot be democracy without social justice. There is no possible freedom if not based on the enjoyment of education and culture. Ignorance is the cumbersome shackle squeezing the poor. Being cultivated is the only way to be free! - that is the sacred tenet that we Cubans learned from the Apostle of our independence.

"There is no real enjoyment of human rights if there is no equality and equity. The poor and the rich will never have the same rights in real life, proclaimed and recognized as these may be on paper.

"That is what we Cubans learned long ago and for that reason we built a different country. And we are just beginning. We have done so despite the aggressions, the blockade, the terrorist attacks, the lies and the plots to assassinate Fidel. We know that the Empire is chagrined by this. We are a dangerous example: we are a symbol that only in a just and friendly society; that is, socialist, can there be enjoyment of all rights for all citizens.

"Therefore, the Government of the United States attempts to condemn us here at the Commission on Human Rights. It is afraid of our example. It is strong at the military level but weak on the moral front. And morality, not weapons, is the shield of the peoples.

"Everybody in this hall knows that there is no reason to present a resolution against Cuba at this Commission. In Cuba, there is not a single - and there has not been ever in 46 years of Revolution - an extrajudicial execution or a missing person, not even one! Let anyone come up with the name of a Cuban mother who is still looking for the remains of her murdered son or daughter! Or a grandmother searching for her grandchild handed over to another family following the parents' murder! Let anyone here come up with the name of a reporter killed in Cuba - and 20 of them were murdered in Latin America only in 2004! Let anyone come up with the name of a prisoner vexed by his keepers, a prisoner ordered down on his knees, prey to terror, in front of a dog trained to kill!

"President Bush has a plan for Cuba, but we Cubans have a plan of a different sort. We Cubans have a clear idea about our course. And nobody will move us away from it. We will build an even more just, more democratic, more free and more cultivated society. In brief, more socialist.

"We will not cooperate with the Representative of the High Commissioner or with the spurious resolution behind her. Why is it not such a prestigious lawyer appointed Special Representative of the High Commissioner to the Guantanamo Naval Base? Why is she not asked to investigate the flagrant violations of the rights of five courageous and pure Cuban youths imprisoned in the United States and their families? Because it cannot be done. Because it is about the human rights violations committed by the United States and they are untouchable. It can be done against small Cuba but not against the United States.

"The Commission on Human Rights before us today is illustrative of the unjust and unequal world in which we live. There is no longer nothing left in it from the friendly and respectful spirit that brought its founders together after the victory over fascism.

"Therefore, the Cuban delegation will cease to insist that we must transform the Commission. What we have to change is the world, go to the roots. A Commission on Human Rights without selectivity, politicization, double standards, blackmail and hypocrisy will only be possible in a different world.

"Cuba does not consider that to be a dream, but a cause well worth fighting for. That is why it fights and it will continue to do so." Link

March 19, 2003 - A Day That Will Live In Infamy

Today marks the second anniversary of the Junior Caligula's wargasm in Iraq. In the two years that have followed, tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians have been massacred, 1,500 US troops have been killed while thousands more have been injured (and lest we forget, there are also a number of young men and women from the so-called "coalition" nations who also have been killed or wounded for this Children's Crusade). The Iraqi infrastructure - already weakened from years of US-imposed sanctions - has been further devastated. The war that was supposed to have paid for itself in Iraqi oil has yet to do so - instead our nation is now even more in debt than ever before. The promised democracy has yet to arrive. A sham election was held earlier this year. A few months before that there was a sham "handover" that still somehow ended up remaining US occupation. There is no tangible evidence that the insurgency, primarily fueled by anger toward said occupation, is on the decline and plenty of tangible evidence supporting increased violence. No "WMD" have been recovered - a supposed rationale for going to war. Blix has been vindicated. The capture of Saddam turns out to have been staged - the image of a former dictator living in a hole in the ground was certainly the stuff of romantic neocon fantasy, but was not the truth. Human rights abuses that were once perpetrated by Saddam's henchmen have since been perpetrated by Bu$hCo's henchmen. Torture never went out of style. The Saddam-Al Qaida link was phony too. The occupation, on the other hand, has provided a handy breeding ground for terrorists who are justifiably angry. More birds will come home to roost for years to come. And the experience of the last two years has not even remotely tempered Bu$hCo's lust for blood. If anything, we can look forward to multiple wargasms over the next several years, courtesy of Junior Caligula's fetish for playing soldier.

In the heady days early on, in April of 2003, one could read and hear the neocons and their enablers crow about how wonderful everything was. Democracy and cheap oil were right around the corner. The White House "knew" where to find the WMD. A cakewalk. The condescension of those days was something to behold. I recall one such individual whom I used to encounter on a message board that I rarely frequent these days, whom I think provides a handy exemplar of the mentality of the pro-war crowd:
everything is slowly falling right into place... we could have talked for another 20 years trying to get stability in those regions and nothing would have happened except more time to maqke things even more unstable... they know our government is resolved to return stability, to protect ourselves from terrorism, to stand up for human rights and for freedom....

and they slowly fall into place.....

be patient my little liberals... things will be ok.

Things are not okay, and are nowhere fucking near being okay. Everything is falling apart. The US government standing for human rights and freedom has been unmasked for the sorry joke that it arguable was all along.

On this sad day I pray for peace, for the day when the Iraqi people will be allowed to make right what our government has so thoroughly destroyed; for the day when we Americans may take back what has been stolen from us by thugs in three-piece suits - our honor, our integrity, our dignity. This is a day of anger and of hope, faint as that hope might be in our species' dark winter. As a dissident I offer these words as a candle to shine some light and shed some warmth that is so desperately needed.

Peace. Salaam.
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Friday, March 18, 2005

More blogging on Eugene "the cyber mutilatin' machine" Volokh

This cat has certainly stirred up quite a firestorm with his little pro-mutilation missive that I mentioned last night. Here's a quick round-up of some other bloggers who've been outraged (and rightfully so):
A Brooklyn Bridge, Majikthise, Undernews, Abolish the Death Penalty, Hunter - a diarist at Daily Kos, Greg's Movie Blog.

Update: to which we'll add River City Mud, which appropriately enough titled its post "Little Eichmanns which I find a perfect description for both Volokh and Instahack Reynolds. Also add this delightfully snarky post by Scratchings titled "Does Torture Give Eugene Volokh Wood?" As Reynolds would say, "indeed." Elsewhere Robert Waldman muses on how Orwell and Volokh would disagree. Elton Beard gets in on the act as well, slaying Volokh, Reynolds, and Max Boot with one post. Arbitrary and Capricious links to more bloggers on the topic (partially overlapping my compendium). So here we go: we have law professors who pass themselves off as "mainstream" who are all in favor of suspending the basic norms of civilization if it "feels good." And this differs from the people who blow up buildings how?

While we're at it, let's throw in the Green Knight who asks How low can we go?

Interesting Read

First read Gays in the Holocaust, then read this.

You want a radical professor?

Eugene Volokh would certainly fit the bill. Read for yourself. Then read the commentary from Digby, Ignatz, The Agonist, ACSBlog, alicublog, The Light of Reason, Matt Yglesias, the road to surfdom, Descriptive Epistemology. I suspect that the outrage that Ward Churchill's missive stirred among the right-wing will be met either with silence or outright praise by those same right-wingers.

Thursday, March 17, 2005

Here's a way to stick it to the credit card companies

So these asswipes want to play hardball with the American citizens, and they've found willing enablers in the Senate and likely the House of Reps. Just by chance I ran into one bit of direct action that those of us on college campuses can take:
By my junior year of college I'd had enough of the credit card advertisements.

They were on every bulletin board on campus. They were on the boards in the mailroom, in the dorms, even on the boards of the various academic departments.

Back then a year at Eastern University cost about $15,000. The theory, apparently, was that anybody who could afford to pay for school must also be a worthy credit risk. So we were all "pre-approved" -- even though most of us had little or no income that wasn't already dedicated to paying tuition, not to mention thousands of dollars in educational debt already piled up and waiting for us after graduation.

One of the problems with all those student loans is that they limit graduates' options. Maybe you want to use your education in the nonprofit sector, or in social services, or the arts -- those options aren't available to you if repaying your educational loans requires you to seek a bigger paycheck.

Yet as burdensome as student loans can be, they're nothing compared to the indentured servitude of many of the students who responded to those omnipresent credit card advertisements.

I didn't like the way those ads were luring so many of my friends and classmates into perpetual debt. And I didn't like the way all this increasing debt was changing the nature of higher education into a kind of glorified vo-tech system that was meant to do little more than enhance your future earning potential.

So like I said, I'd had enough.

I took down the ads. Every last one of them. I recycled all the posters, the fliers, the business reply envelopes.

They replaced them, of course, but I got rid of all of those as well. It became a weekly ritual. I'd make the rounds regularly. I carried a staple remover wherever I went.

So the point here is, if you're a college student, or a college professor, or even if you're the parent of a college student: Get yourself a staple remover.

Buy two and give one to a friend. But when you buy them, pay cash. Link

Turns out I've been doing something like this for a while myself. And if I don't have a staple remover handy, there's nothing more cathartic than forcefully ripping those credit card flyers from the bulletin boards. So here's some direct action that is fairly easy, takes just a little time, and may save some of your peers or students from becoming victimized by the easy credit rip-off artists.

Update: Another idea on how to deal with those pesky credit card ads and applications found on your campus bulletin boards - mail the applications blank (they're postage paid by the credit card companies) but weigh them down as demonstrated below:
Wesley A. Williams spent more than a year exacting his revenge against junk mailers. When signing up for a no-junk-mail list failed to stem the flow, he resorted to writing at the top of each unwanted item: "Not at this address. Return to sender." But the mail kept coming because the envelopes had "or current resident" on them, obligating mail carriers to deliver it, he said.

Next, he began stuffing the mail back into the "business reply" envelope and sending it back so that the mailer would have to pay the postage. "That wasn't exacting a heavy enough cost from them for bothering me," said Mr. Williams, 35, a middle school science teacher who lives in Melrose, N.Y., near Albany.

After checking with a postal clerk about the legality of stepping up his efforts, he began cutting up magazines, heavy bond paper, and small strips of sheet metal and stuffing them into the business reply envelopes that came with the junk packages.

"You wouldn't believe how heavy I got some of these envelopes to weigh," said Mr. Williams, who added that he saw an immediate drop in the amount of arriving junk mail. A spokesman for the United States Postal Service, Gerald McKiernan, said that Mr. Williams's actions sounded legal, as long as the envelope was properly sealed. Link

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Memorial

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Juxtaposition: Propaganda Edition

This technique is both illegal and unwise. As a legal matter, the prepackaged news releases run afoul of the prohibition on the use of government funds for domestic "propaganda." The administration's interpretation -- it's okay to hide the source as long as the spot is "purely informational" -- is untenable: Highlighting some "facts" and leaving out others can be even more persuasive than outright advocacy, which is why the administration chose this device. More important, this kind of propaganda masquerading as news is a deceitful way for a democratic government to do business; fake journalists paid by the government to deliver its version of news are as disturbing as real commentators paid by the government to tout its views. White House press secretary Scott McClellan defended the video news releases on Monday as "an informational tool to provide factual information to the American people." Nice sentiment, but why, exactly, wouldn't the administration want to let the people in on one of the most salient facts: who, really, is doing the talking? Link

The Department of the Interior (DOI) has been producing and releasing the same kind of misleading video news releases that have already generated controversy at other federal agencies. Responding to a Freedom of Information request from Friends of the Earth, a Washington, DC-based environmental organization, DOI provided Friends of the Earth with several prepackaged video news releases that fail to disclose to TV viewers that they are government products. Link

President Bush said on Wednesday that the U.S. government's practice of sending packaged news stories to local television stations was legal and he had no plans to cease it.

His defense of the packages, which are designed to look like television news segments, came after they were deemed a form of covert propaganda by the Government Accountability Office watchdog agency.

GAO, an arm of Congress, said this ran counter to appropriation laws and was a misuse of federal funds. Link

Because of the significant role played by propaganda in the Nazi system, the Reich Ministry of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda (Reichsministerium fur Volksaufklarung und Propaganda) was created on March 5, 1933, with Joseph Goebbels at its head. Goebbels manipulated the propaganda apparatus that controlled the radio, press, theater, cinema, and the arts. The ministry's administrative structure was set up that same year, with seven sections: (1) administration and organization; (2) propaganda; (3) radio; (4) the press; (5) films; (6) theater; and (7) adult education (including literature). Goebbels attached the highest importance to propaganda, which in his view was a tool for directly attracting the masses of the population. He declared that propaganda was no more than a means to an end, and if the end was not achieved, this meant that the wrong means were being used. It has rightly been said of Nazi propaganda that it was not a substitute for violence, but part of it. Link

Props to Kos and Rorschach for source material.

Blogging Around

To put my money where my mouth is, I did a bit of surfing around the liberal/progressive side of blogtopia. Here's a quick list of what I found!

I'm Just Waiting For The Robot Invasion has a couple items that caught my eye: Fudging The Numbers which catches us up on the latest attempt by our government to fool us about the number of prisoners killed in American-run prisons in Iraq and Afghanistan. The other: Lebanon which examines the apparent obsession that certain right-wing bloggers have with Lebanese hotties at anti-Syria protests. Granted I'm all for the next Girls Gone Wild video being filmed in Beirut, but surely there's more to be said about the relative merits of pro and anti Syria protests than that one side has prettier girls. Definitely a blog worth revisiting!

Semidi has a couple of items on the the military coming clean about the extent of human rights abuses at US-military-run prisons, though as noted above let's keep in mind that coming "clean" is a relative thang. Semidi rightly notes that this news decimates the old "it's just a few bad apples" argument. The other that caught my interest: some thoughts on the GOP coming unglued. I'm guardedly optimistic. I'll be revisiting for sure.

American Regression muses on fear as an American cultural phenomenon. While Gary and I would probably have some differences of opinion regarding the effects of second-hand smoke, I think much of his rant is very well taken.

These are three blogs that I just happened to find on the PSoTD blogroll. And I would have visited more had not my wife called wanting me to rescue her from a very cranky two-year-old!

Blogtopia is vast - it seems almost as vast as the internets! Although I'm not quite boldly going where no blogger has gone before, I'm hopefully pointing y'all to some interesting places to visit.

Peace out!

Today is Liberal Blogroll Day!


I have mentioned once or twice in the past that certain of the A list liberal bloggers are...well...elitist. That was pretty much confirmed for me when Atrios at Eschaton blog and a couple of other big fish used material from one of us lowly minnows, Ron Brynart, without even so much as a link to attribute the source. That's called plaigerism in my book, and it leaves a nasty taste. Anyway, In Search of Utopia has an excellent post where you can read the story in summary so I won't get into details here.

What I do want to get into detail about is the logo above. It comes from my Unpaid Punditry Corps colleague PSoTD. He explains as follows:

Today - Wednesday, March 16th - International Liberal Blogroll Day, please visit one of the blogs on my blogroll. When you arrive at that blog, please take the time to look it over, and then take the time to look over the blogs on their blogroll.

Sharing visibility of blogs shares the wealth of the information in blogs. Please share.

That sounds like the kind of thing I can get behind. When you are done reading this blog for now(and hopefully leaving a comment or two), click on one of the links from the blogroll. When you are done having fun at that blog, click again. Do that as many times as you have time and interest for. Broaden your horizons.

And if you find anything you think the rest of us should be reading, come back and tell us about it.


Works for me.

Fun with creationism intelligent design

As many of us are well aware, the battle to teach creationism in public school science classes continues. One of my favorite quotes from the article is this one:
"If students only have one thing to consider, one option, that's really more brainwashing," said [Cindy Duckett, a Wichita mother], who sent her children to Christian schools because of her frustration. Students should be exposed to the Big Bang, evolution, intelligent design "and, beyond that, any other belief that a kid in class has. It should all be okay."…

Let that quote sink in for a second. Now, check out the commentary at MakeThemAccountable.com (scroll down if you check the link):
It’s not brainwashing to teach children the current scientific theories. Is it brainwashing to teach in science classes the theory that the earth revolves around the sun, rather than vice versa? Galileo was jailed and almost burned at the stake for saying so. If the Bible said the earth is flat, would these people make us teach that in the schools, no matter how many photographs we have to prove that the earth is round? Is this woman really saying that beliefs should be taught in science class? In that case, shouldn’t every belief be examined?

This comment is then followed by a list of links to a number of different creation myths that I guess our science classes would need to cover based on Ms. Duckett's logic:
Babylonian Creation Myth
African Creation Myth - Olori
Comparison of 4 African 
Creation Myths
Korean & Japanese
Creation Myth comparisons
Navajo Creation Myth
Norse Creation Myth
Creation Myth from India
Japanese Creation Myth
Comanche Creation Myth
Chinese Creation Myth
Chelan Creation Myth
Pima Creation Myth
Mayan Creation Myth
Miwok Creation Myth
Scandinavian (Norse) 
Creation Myths
Salish Creation Myth
Australian Aboriginal 
Creation Myth
Hopi Creation Myth
Tahitian Creation Myth
Yokut Creation Myth
Comanche Creation Myth
Egyptian Creation Myths
African - Mande, Yoruba 
Creation Myths
Several different short 
Creation Stories
Micmac Creation Myth
Lakota Creation Myth
Several Creation Stories: 
India, Romania, Mongol, etc..
Chinese Creation / Flood Myth
Assyrian / Babylonian 
Creation Myth
Maori Creation Myth
Christian & Jewish 
Creation Myth (Genesis)
Aztec Creation Myth
Digueno Creation Myth
Apache Creation Myth
African Creation Myths
Dakota Creation Myth
Hungarian Creation Myth
Iroquois Creation Myth
Inuit Creation Myth
Huron Creation Myth
Hawaiian Creation Myth


But while we're at it, let's add one more very important creation myth to the mix. I'm of course talking about none other than that of the Bokononists:
In the beginning, God created the earth, and he looked upon it in His cosmic loneliness.

And God said, "Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud can see what We have done." And God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was man. Mud as man alone could speak. God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. Man blinked. "What is the purpose of all this?" he asked politely.

"Everything must have a purpose?" asked God.

"Certainly," said man.

"Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God.

And He went away.
Link

Last Poets


There's a line from a DJ Spooky track a few years ago (from the album Optometry) that goes "a mind closed up is like a parachute, useless." The Last Poets are one such group that require an open mind in order to be truly appreciated. If your mind is closed, you won't dig their message. These cats started out in the late 1960s as a loose collective of poets and musicians, basically doing a highly politicized update and refinement of beat-era style jazz & poetry performances (probably the best reference point to their poetic themes and styles would be Leroi Jones - a.k.a. Amiri Baraka and Ted Joans). As the story goes, the group originated from a poetry workshop, in which a South African poet (Willie Kgositile) spoke these lines:
"This wind you hear is the birth of memory. When the moment hatches in time's womb, there will be no more art talk. The only poem you'll hear, will be the spear point pivoted in the punctured marrow of the villain, the timeless native son dancing like crazy to the retrieved rhythms of desire fading into memory...Therefore, we are The Last Poets of the world." Link

The Last Poets, in their various incarnations, have produced quite a body of work over the ensuing three and a half decades. Arguably their most active period - and their most turbulent in terms of personnel - was from about the late 1960s through the late 1970s. The first albums (The Last Poets and This is Madness) were spare percussion and chanting as background to the verses. By the release of Chastisement, the instrumentation was more varied, and more jazz-funkish in feel (a trend continued through the 1977 classic Delights of the Garden). Occasional albums new material were released in the 1980s, but it took the 1990s for the collective to experience a renaissance. Around 1993, Bill Laswell began producing recordings by Umar bin Hassan (Bebop or Be Dead - which reprised a couple Last Poets classics along with some new material) and bin Hassan & Abiodun Oyewole under the Last Poets name (Holy Terror). Hassan and Oyewole also made appearances on compilation albums during that time, including the classic Stolen Moments: Red White & Cool (where they perform "This is Madness" with Pharoah Sanders accompanying them on the sax). The main change was an update in the sound - a more overt hip-hop feel can be heard in the tracks these cats were dropping, along with Middle-Eastern instrumentation (which seemed to fit given Laswell's interest in Gnawa trance music at the time). As an aside - any time you get Laswell producing an album, the sound is going to be meticulous. Another couple members of the old collective (Jalaluddin Mansur Nuriddin and Suliaman el Hadi) also released an album during the period, Scatterap/Home. Since then, there have been various solo projects, along with at least one other Last Poets album that I'm aware of - and the bin Hassan-Oyewole duo have been particularly active in terms of live performances and guest appearances on recording sessions (most recently appearing in studio with Common). One thing that does not change, regardless of instrumental backing or performers is the highly charged and inflamatory messages contained in the poems: themes of revolution, black power, along with the graphic descriptions of the influences of drugs, violence, and repression on the lives of black men pervade the recordings. Listening to tunes with titles like "White Man's Got a God Complex", "When the Revolution Comes" (a cool companion to Gil-Scott Heron's "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised"), and "Blessed Are Those Who Struggle" without that open mind I was mentioning earlier. Or check out the Nuriddin's mid-70s album The Hustler's Convention (under the name Lightnin' Rod, with instrumental backing by Kool & the Gang - note too that there's also a single that this cat did with Jimi Hendrix that I'm trying to track down). One can certainly get a feel for many of the themes that rappers have been working with ever since. Rap was something that was definitely in the air by the late 1960s and early 1970s. These were the cats who were around at the beginning.

Some links for your edification:
The Last Poets - a brief synopsis and incompletish discography
Grandfather of Rap - Nuriddin's effort to tell the tale. Highly recommended!
The Last Poets Bio
Interview: The Last Poets - The Revolution Continues - a recent interview in Vibe.
A review of reissue of the first two albums from 2003
The Last Poets Recalled by Ron Jacobs (which inspired me to do this post)
ROOTS - N - RAP #2 : THE LAST POETS, another effort at a bio for the group
Wikipedia entry for The Last Poets

Tuesday, March 15, 2005

Savagery


Ann Coulter is not merely eighty pounds of toxic sewage wrapped in six feet of reptile skin - she is the vicious ghoul that remains after conservatism has been scrubbed of its camouflage. Satan’s concubine has been vocal in her belief that torturing anyone identified as the enemy is good, and that torturing them using the most excruciating techniques is better. Coulter is not alone in the desire to feast on human suffering. Although she is considerably less circumspect than other right wingers, it is instructive that not one prominent conservative has repudiated her.

Invoking God and country, the Confederates who currently run the United States are striving to make Andersonville a global phenomenon. Since 9/11, Republicans have dispatched domestic agents and foreign surrogates to torture countless people on various continents. Unsurprisingly, the reprobates have not been content to torment their prey physically. Conservatives are implementing a policy to humiliate other human beings, shaming their victims in the vilest ways imaginable, apparently oblivious that the true shame of this outrage is being inflicted upon the United States. Our own pious moralists have disgraced America in the eyes of everyone who does not view savagery as a virtue.

Republicans say that world opinion is irrelevant, and to this limited extent they are correct: if every other nation approved of torture, it would still be totally indefensible. Even when operating under the diminished ethical standards of a conservative administration, simple decency dictates that torture must be repudiated. Sometimes killing people is unavoidable, but attaching electrical wires to their testicles is always avoidable. Such behavior is perverse and craven, as are those who authorize it.

[...]

The entire scenario reeks of iniquity, especially the connivance of farming out torture victims to Third World regimes for the purposes of skirting American law and creating plausible deniability. In at least one case the revealing result was the resurrection of auto-da-fé, the Inquisitional custom of disciplining interrogation subjects who provide disappointing answers by burning them at the stake. Five centuries have passed since the evangelistic ministry of Tomás de Torquemada, but his spirit still infuses fundamentalists everywhere.

Regardless of the religion, those who discern the voice of God have always been crazier than shithouse rats. Osama bin Laden hears Allah telling him to torture and kill. George W. Bush hears Jesus Christ telling him to do the same. Their personal rivalry is not good versus evil – it is debauched versus depraved.

[...]

The Bush administration has provided an abundance of actual villainy that merits condemnation. Using electronic rib-spreaders to collapse human chests may seem like reasonable conduct to Nazis or Klingons, but Americans really should adhere to a higher standard of conduct, and when doing so we must not congratulate ourselves for lacking malevolence. Absence of malice is not something about which civilized people feel compelled to gloat.

[...]

Meanwhile, people of bad will are continuing to torture humans while brandishing Old Glory. This macabre version of patriotism is an approach that conservatives apparently believe honors the Founding Fathers’ original intent. The right wing is errant yet again, but being delusional is a way of life for these guys.

When Coulter recently received a standing ovation from the Conservative Political Action Committee, it reaffirmed that those who attended – Bush administration big shots, congressional leaders, media elitists, and right wing activists – enthusiastically embrace her moonstruck worldview. Like her, they consider liberals to be enemies of the state. Like her, they believe that it is virtuous to torture enemies of the state.

Liberal opposition to torture is therefore not entirely altruistic. The great unspoken question involves chronology rather than morality: given that conservatives believe torture is justified abroad, when will they institutionalize its use at home? Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia has already endorsed the constitutionality of executing innocent people to eliminate time-consuming appeals that are preventing the judiciary from functioning smoothly. How great a leap is it to endorse the constitutionality of torturing American dissidents whom right wingers perceive are preventing society from functioning smoothly? Is it a leap at all?

Thus far, foreign nationals are the enemies who have been systematically tortured by conservatives, but it would be recklessly naïve to assume that Republican depravity honors the water’s edge. Those liberals who continue to inhale the intoxicant of bipartisanship had best sober up because Guantanamo beckons.

In other words, these psychos have tasted blood, and having tasted it, they ain't about to stop spilling it. Dig? The harbingers of what may well await the American middle class masses can be found in Abu Ghraib, the lynchings of black men while angry mobs whistle Dixie, on the trail of tears. You have been warned.

Timely thoughts about the peace movement

In To End the War, Listen to Soldiers, Simona Sharoni says:
Rather then appealing to the deaf ear of this callous administration, we should listen to those most affected by the war in our society: soldiers who fought in Iraq and have been returning in large groups to our communities these days. We should not compete with the military or with groups in our communities that are celebrating the return of the troops home with medals, honors, and fanfare but often fail to listen to the battle tales of individual soldiers. Instead, we ought to reach out as individuals to family members, friends, neighbors and coworkers who witnessed and participated in this war. We need to listen to their first-hand horrific experiences. We should ask them to describe in as much detail as possible, what they witnessed and did in the war and what the war did to them, recognizing that for most, this was the most intense, and probably traumatic, experience of their lives.


Also check out Ralph Naders's op-ed This War Has Left the US Poorer, More Despised and Less Safe: Restarting the Anti-War Movement. I realize he's supposed to be "the antichrist" in Democrat circles (although if you've been following my posts recently it's probably pretty clear that I don't particularly care). His message is sound, and well-worth consideration:
The anti-Iraq war movement showed its power before the war putting millions of people in the streets. We were years ahead of the growth of the anti-war movement of the Vietnam era. Now that the Iraq war and occupation have unfolded all of the predictions of the anti-war movement have come true â·" Iraq is a quagmire, has led to the deaths of tens of thousands of civilians and more than 1,500 U.S. troops, hundreds of billions of tax dollars are being spent resulting in cuts of many stateside domestic programs. U.S. corporate interests have invaded Iraq and the widespread corruption related to corporate business is being exposed. But yet, the anti-war movement with few exceptions chose not to have a demanding impact on the presidential election and John Kerry.

[...]

The U.S. is poorer, less safe, and less respected because of the Iraq War.

If the peace movement had continued to advocate for an end to the war during the presidential election year, rather than remaining silent where would be today? We would have built on the successes of our beginnings rather than having to start anew. We'd be nearer the end of the war-occupation, not farther from it. President Bush would be on the defensive, not on the offensive. Iraqis would be seeing the light at the end of the tunnel, when they would get their country and economy back, rather than the darkness of continued occupation.

How does the anti-war movement recover from this lost momentum? There is much work to do to respond to this question; but it can be done because the people can have the power to make it happen.


William Pitt also has some thoughts on Exiting Iraq, much of which I find sensible enough although I'm finding the hand-wringing about what might happen once the US leaves Iraq to be more than a little irritating. Said it before and I'll say it again: “The US responsibility for the Iraq debacle should at this point include an end to occupation, a willingness to face and accept legal and financial consequences for war crimes (of which there have been plenty) committed during the occupation, and reparations for the considerable damage done to the Iraqi infrastructure. None of that would bring back the lives lost or the health of those who've been maimed or in many cases the livelihoods that have been lost permanently. But it would be the right thing to do, and would make it far less likely that Iraq would be a breeding ground for terrorists. Continued occupation, regardless of intentions, will only put more logs on the fire of resentment - and that, my friends, is what will breed the terrorists and their supporters.”

Geov Parrish also has some things to say:
In other words, it's a mess, and getting worse. The bombings and shootings continue to increase; the suffering continues to increase. Amazingly, many Iraqis now pine for the un-liberated days of Saddam. They are clear on one thing: the United States must go. Even civil war, they say, would be preferable to the current nightmare.

The Iraqi war has its costs in the United States, too: soldiers killed, or maimed physically or mentally. Anecdotal evidence already suggests a new Gulf War syndrome, more pervasive, caused, perhaps, by the heavily-used depleted uranium shells. PTSD, spousal abuse, and even suicides are common among returning soldiers.

But this isn't about Americans. It's about the suffering (aka "liberation") of the people of Iraq, who, after 35 years of a brutal dictator, 20 years of war, and 10 years of crippling economic sanctions, had already suffered quite enough.

People in Iraq need to know that people in the U.S. oppose this war. That, as much as any changing of Bush Administration minds, is why the demonstrations scheduled across the country next weekend are so important. Go. Make your voice heard. Remember that war is not an abstract game. Remember that democracy cannot be installed at the barrel of a gun. Remember that this country belongs to us -- not to a tiny neocon cabal.

And remember the 100,000 dead. And counting.

Supporting the Troops, Corporate America-Style

Fired for serving his country. Once more, it looks like the Reservists are treated like crap. If you get called up, expect your bosses to have those lovely yellow "support the troops" magnets on their Hummers. Just don't expect a job when you come back.

Juxtaposition

Home Movies

Monday, March 14, 2005

The truth shall set you free

Iraq war revelation: There was no full legal advice: Cabinet Secretary admits invasion based on single page of A4
The Government's case for war appeared to be in tatters last night after the Cabinet Secretary admitted that a parliamentary answer from Lord Goldsmith, the Attorney General, was the final legal opinion on the case for war. In an astonishing admission, Sir Andrew Turnbull disclosed that no "full" legal advice on an invasion of Iraq has ever existed.

He confirmed that a short parliamentary answer by the Attorney General was the "definitive advice" on the war sent to the Prime Minister and that "there is no other version".

The renewed doubts over the legality of the conflict are a severe setback to Tony Blair, who was hoping that Iraq would fade as a general election issue.

Big surprise, eh? The B & B boys (Bush & Blair) are two of the most corrupt assholes to defecate on this planet. Hopefully the beginning of the end of the Blair regime in the UK is near. If only the same could be said about Bush. In a just world, both of those bastards and their associated henchmen would appear in orange jumpsuits and shackles in front of a war crimes tribunal, facing the distinct probability of spending the rest of their sorry lives in a prison cell. It would be fitting given the misery they've unleashed. Alas, this is hardly a just world. But one can hope...someday...

Lebanon again:

200,000 rally in Lebanon against UN resolution on Syria (see also Aljazeera. What? That makes the second large pro-Syrian rally in recent days? Even some of the folks there who would like to see Syria make itself scarce in Lebanon seem to dislike what they see as foreign meddling:
Earlier Sunday more than 3,000 partisans of the Lebanese Communist Party gathered in Beirut to support a Syrian military withdrawal while at the same time rejecting -- as foreign interference -- Resolution 1559.

"Yes to a Syrian withdrawal, no to 1559," militants shouted as they carried pictures of Che Guevara and the Lebanese flag bearing a hammer and sickle. link

Or, if a picture is worth ten thousand words, here's what the Lebanese appear to be telling Bu$hCo:
Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Sunday, March 13, 2005

Hey Pat, Tell Us How You Really Feel!

This is easily the most entertaining diatribe I've read recently. Pat Metheny tells us in no uncertain terms just how badly Kenny G sucks - and not just as a musician (which is fairly non-controversial any way, if you compare him on the soprano sax to such legends as Trane), but as a human being:
Not long ago, Kenny G put out a recording where he overdubbed himself on top of a 30+ year old Louis Armstrong record, the track "What a Wonderful World". With this single move, Kenny G became one of the few people on earth I can say that I really can't use at all - as a man, for his incredible arrogance to even consider such a thing, and as a musician, for presuming to share the stage with the single most important figure in our music.

This type of musical necrophilia - the technique of overdubbing on the preexisting tracks of already dead performers - was weird when Natalie Cole did it with her dad on "Unforgettable" a few years ago, but it was her dad. When Tony Bennett did it with Billie Holiday it was bizarre, but we are talking about two of the greatest singers of the 20th century who were on roughly the same level of artistic accomplishment. When Larry Coryell presumed to overdub himself on top of a Wes Montgomery track, I lost a lot of the respect that I ever had for him - and I have to seriously question the fact that I did have respect for someone who could turn out to have such unbelievably bad taste and be that disrespectful to one of my personal heroes.

But when Kenny G decided that it was appropriate for him to defile the music of the man who is probably the greatest jazz musician that has ever lived by spewing his lame-ass, jive, pseudo bluesy, out-of-tune, noodling, wimped out, fucked up playing all over one of the great Louis's tracks (even one of his lesser ones), he did something that I would not have imagined possible. He, in one move, through his unbelievably pretentious and calloused musical decision to embark on this most cynical of musical paths, shit all over the graves of all the musicians past and present who have risked their lives by going out there on the road for years and years developing their own music inspired by the standards of grace that Louis Armstrong brought to every single note he played over an amazing lifetime as a musician. By disrespecting Louis, his legacy and by default, everyone who has ever tried to do something positive with improvised music and what it can be, Kenny G has created a new low point in modern culture - something that we all should be totally embarrassed about - and afraid of. We ignore this, "let it slide", at our own peril.

His callous disregard for the larger issues of what this crass gesture implies is exacerbated by the fact that the only reason he possibly have for doing something this inherently wrong (on both human and musical terms) was for the record sales and the money it would bring.

Since that record came out - in protest, as insignificant as it may be, I encourage everyone to boycott Kenny G recordings, concerts and anything he is associated with. If asked about Kenny G, I will diss him and his music with the same passion that is in evidence in this little essay.

Normally, I feel that musicians all have a hard enough time, regardless of their level, just trying to play good and don't really benefit from public criticism, particularly from their fellow players. but, this is different.

There ARE some things that are sacred - and amongst any musician that has ever attempted to address jazz at even the most basic of levels, Louis Armstrong and his music is hallowed ground. To ignore this trespass is to agree that NOTHING any musician has attempted to do with their life in music has any intrinsic value - and I refuse to do that. (I am also amazed that there HASN'T already been an outcry against this among music critics - where ARE they on this?????!?!?!?!, magazines, etc.). Everything I said here is exactly the same as what I would say to Gorelick if I ever saw him in person. and if I ever DO see him anywhere, at any function - he WILL get a piece of my mind and (maybe a guitar wrapped around his head.)

I can't think of much to add to that! I do get the distinct impression that Kenny G won't be kickin' it in Metheny's crib any time too soon. I'm not exactly the biggest Metheny fan, though I certainly appreciate his genuine talent as a guitar improviser, mainly because I just don't dig much post 1970s fusion (tends to put me to sleep).

Via Charles Kuffner.