Thursday, May 5, 2005

Jesus Loves You,

but only if you are a Republican. If you do not bow to the altar of Bush, the gates of Hell await. Here's a 411 for my peeps on the right: your "Christianity" goes against everything I was taught to hold dear. Yours is a "Christianity" that is alien to me, and to my understanding of the Bible. Yours is a "Christianity" that is largely irrelevant to me in my day-to-day life: your only relevance to me is with regards to the damage that your fanatics can do to the very fabric of not only our society but of our species. In that regard, your "Christianity" is truly an abomination. I want nothing to do with it.

Wednesday, May 4, 2005

"But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

Greg Palast on the smoking gun memo that will soon sink Blair:
It has effectively finished the last, sorry remnants of Tony Blair's political career. (While his Labor Party will most assuredly win the elections today, Prime Minister Blair is expected, possibly within months, to be shoved overboard in favor of his Chancellor of the Exchequer, a political execution which requires only a vote of the Labour party's members in Parliament.)

Of course don't expect this to get much play in the right-wing controlled mass media. There are more important things to focus on, such as Michael Jackson's "trial of the century" or the question of whether Paula Abdul was gettin it on with one of the American Idol contestants. Those are obviously the important issues here in America. Good thing we have our priorities straight.

Some Things Never Change

Just stumbled upon this bit of verse from Thomas Hoccleve's The Regiment of Princes:
The greatest lack that great lords have
Is of those who'll tell them the truth;
Everyone labours and sweats at deception;
They strive to see who best can ring the bell
Of false pleasantness, to puff up their lords' hearts;
And such deceit, lords blindly accept.

The wordly rich men has no knowledge
Of how his situation really is;
They are so blinded with flattery's ensnaring speech,
Which reports to them that their renown
Is everywhere hallowed in the town,
That they believe themselves full of great strength,
Whereas there is but little or not a grain.

Among the powers that be I have a obviously coarse slogan: "same shit - different century."

Tuesday, May 3, 2005

Say Hello To

Planet Grenada.

Creating Reasons to go to War

In light of the recent bombshell in Britain just days before national elections, Congressman John Conyers is circulating the following among his colleagues:
May ___, 2005

The Honorable George W. Bush President of the United States of America The White House 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W. Washington, D.C. 20500

Dear Mr. President:

We write because of troubling revelations in the Sunday London Times apparently confirming that the United States and Great Britain had secretly agreed to attack Iraq in the summer of 2002, well before the invasion and before you even sought Congressional authority to engage in military action. While various individuals have asserted this to be the case before, including Paul O'Neill, former U.S. Treasury Secretary, and Richard Clarke, a former National Security Council official, they have been previously dismissed by your Administration. However, when this story was divulged last weekend, Prime Minister Blair's representative claimed the document contained "nothing new." If the disclosure is accurate, it raises troubling new questions regarding the legal justifications for the war as well as the integrity of your own Administration.

The Sunday Times obtained a leaked document with the minutes of a secret meeting from highly placed sources inside the British Government. Among other things, the document revealed:

* Prime Minister Tony Blair chaired a July 2002 meeting, at which he discussed military options, having already committed himself to supporting President Bush's plans for invading Iraq.

* British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw acknowledged that the case for war was "thin" as "Saddam was not threatening his neighbours and his WMD capability was less than that of Libya, North Korea, or Iran."

* A separate secret briefing for the meeting said that Britain and America had to "create" conditions to justify a war.

* A British official "reported on his recent talks in Washington. There was a perceptible shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitable. Bush wanted to remove Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy."

As a result of this recent disclosure, we would like to know the following:

1) Do you or anyone in your Administration dispute the accuracy of the leaked document?

2) Were arrangements being made, including the recruitment of allies, before you sought Congressional authorization go to war? Did you or anyone in your Administration obtain Britain's commitment to invade prior to this time?

3) Was there an effort to create an ultimatum about weapons inspectors in order to help with the justification for the war as the minutes indicate?

4) At what point in time did you and Prime Minister Blair first agree it was necessary to invade Iraq?

5) Was there a coordinated effort with the U.S. intelligence community and/or British officials to "fix" the intelligence and facts around the policy as the leaked document states?

We have of course known for some time that subsequent to the invasion there have been a variety of varying reasons proffered to justify the invasion, particularly since the time it became evident that weapons of mass destruction would not be found. This leaked document - essentially acknowledged by the Blair government - is the first confirmation that the rationales were shifting well before the invasion as well.

Given the importance of this matter, we would ask that you respond to this inquiry as promptly as possible. Thank you.

Monday, May 2, 2005

weird weather

Tonight we're supposed to get a mixture of rain and snow in my little neck of the plains. Yeah, it's May, I keep reminding myself and even if the precip becomes exclusively snow there's no way it'll stick (if my son's expecting a snow day, he'll be in for a rude awakening). I guess parts of Eastern New Mexico were under a winter storm advisory - they're somewhat higher elevation than my location. Go figure. And while it might seem a bit perverse then to mention global warming (keep in mind that weather extremes - both hot and cold - are increasingly part of the picture), this seems to be as good a time as any. Check out Larry's latest post on what global warming means for crop yields.

Sunday, May 1, 2005

"Mission Accomplished" Two Years Later

Remember these images?

I sure do. Two years later, the violence continues .
... At least 100 people, including six U.S. soldiers, have died since Friday, a day after the approval of Iraq's first democratically elected government. The wave of violence is aimed at deflating hopes in Washington and Baghdad that the installation of the new government, scheduled for Tuesday, would curb the insurgency.

Update: Via Rising Hegemon, here's a set of graphics that highlight the consequences of the war and occupation in Iraq:

We can learn a great deal from our neighbors south of the border

Joe at American Leftist posts about some developments in Mexican politics that we should be aware of in his post, Obrador. He also offers a quote from another article on the power of mass protest that was pertinent in freeing Obrador for a run for President next year:
What the US ruling class fears has already started to happen. The mass movement behind Obrador has already begun to develop a mind of its own. The so-called “March of silence” was not really so silent. The movement has gone way beyond simply demanding that the case against Obrador be dropped. The masses can see a direct link between the privatizations and austerity measures of the Fox government and the removal of Lopez Obrador. They are linking the case against Obrador to the defence of democracy and against capitalism.

The trade unions and the advanced layers of youth and PRD activists now make demands for the defence of Mexican democracy and against privatizations. The mass movement is now learning through their own experience what many in Venezuela for instance have already learned: that democracy cannot be established and defended in Mexico without a struggle against capitalism and imperialism. Many in Venezuela, through the concrete experience of events, have learned that capitalism cannot be tinkered with, that the social programmes and reforms in Venezuela are not tolerated by the oligarchy and are not sustainable under capitalism. In order to ensure the victory of the struggle against poverty and capitalism, the workers and peasants in Venezuela are realizing that they need to control the levers of the economy, because you cannot control what you do not own, and that they must establish the broadest genuine democracy – workers’ democracy, or socialism. The movement in Mexico is heading down the same road and is coming to the same broad conclusions. As the movement develops its slogans will become more and more radical and develop strong anti-capitalist demands.

We progressives need to seriously study what mass demonstrations are accomplishing outside of our borders as we are in desperate need of a catalyst to throw off the shackles of our own corrupt right-wing leadership.

Torture Ambivalence in America

The Torture Zeitgeist. Some clips:
Twisted bodies lay across a sandy landscape while a human face gazes emptily through an enclosure of sharp, metallic objects. A scene in the infamous Abu Ghraib prison, or Guantanamo perhaps? No, it's from the latest Dolce & Gabanna advertising campaign.

[...]

True, the hooded, winged image of a suspended Abu Ghraib prisoner has become one of the most recognizable symbols of anti-war protest. Street activists, mimicking corporate advertisers, have labeled the hooded icon with "Got democracy?" Another example is the "iRaq" protest poster, done in the style of the ubiquitous iPod silhouette ads.

But purveyors of commercial goods in turn seem to be taking a page from the protesters by translating the painful images into an aesthetic of inflicted suffering. Dolce & Gabbana isn't the only fashion house to promote "torture chic."

[...]

Alexander McQueen's male models in his 2005 fall-winter show wore balaclavas. While military allusions are not unusual in the fashion world, their resurgence reflects society's current ambivalence about the methods our side uses in Iraq as well as in the war on terror.

Dr. Robert Jay Lifton, Harvard professor, psychiatrist and author of several books about the psychology of terror, told Bill Moyers in the television program NOW that we are obsessed with the idea of the terrorists as powerful and omnipotent. "I don't think the Islamist terrorists are in control of our gross national psychology, but they're involved in it more than perhaps they should be."

[...]

Torture is a regular occurrence in several popular weekly TV shows.

[...]

Torture is linked with a greater good in these stories of heroism, subtly legitimizing the notion that since we are a country at war, we may sometimes use extreme methods to protect ourselves. Thus, while polls show a popular repugnance for human rights violations, there has been no visible rejection of torture, outside of activist and liberal circles. The Bush administration so far has escaped blame for the Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay abuses, with prosecutions limited to the lower military ranks. Public outcry against the country's flouting of the Geneva Conventions has remained muted.

It seems that our threshold for shock and disgust has been lowered. "All the experiences we have are packaged" or mediated, explains culture writer Thomas de Zengotita, contributing editor for Harper's magazine. "People are deeply repelled and moved by something they see on TV, but they know there'll be another deeply repelling and moving image in three minutes."

Popular entertainment, awash in "reality" shows, adds to the piling on of vicarious emotional and physical suffering. Realistic video games ceaselessly simulate violence and pain. Kuma Reality Games, for example, lets one "experience" the battles fought by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan as they "really happened." You can choose from a list of scenarios such as "Uday and Qusay's Last Stand" and "Fallujah Police Station Raid."

Indeed, as De Zengotita concludes, "Masses of people have been immersed in this mediation so long that they keep their distance. That's where apathy comes from." The virtual may only serve to anaesthetize us from the real. As artilleryman Richmond Shaw in the well-received documentary "Gunner Palace" chides the viewer, "For y'all this is just a show, but we LIVE in this movie."

Props to subliminal punk for the tip.

A friendly reminder from The Left End of the Dial:

Today is May Day.

April 30 was also a double anniversary

via Empire Notes we're reminded that the date marks the 60th anniverary of the Soviet army raising its victory flag over the Reichstag in Berlin as well as the 30th anniverary of the final US pull-out from Vietnam. The former date marked the finality of the crushing blow to the Third Reich (for which we should be eternally thankful), whereas the latter date marked an arguably brief respite for the Third World from the adventurism of the American empire.