Saturday, August 20, 2005

Looking for some jazz?

Dem in Knoxville has been hosting a Friday Happy Hour/Jazz Jam at the Booman Tribune recently. It's a nice change of pace from all the political stuff. Check it out. I dug the link to the Michael Levy film Giant Steps, which features this computer graphic sequence with a most cool retro-1950s vibe, set of course to the John Coltrane classic, "Giant Steps." Enjoy!

Also worth passing along:

Steve Gilliard gets it right:
The right is trying to turn Sheehan into a political figure, but it isn't working because her credibility is unassailable. No matter what they say, her son remains a dead soldier.

Bush could have handled this immediately, met with her and this would be over, no drama, no nonsense. But like the coward he is, he ran from her.

So the slanders get nastier, meaner and louder.

But, like banzai charges, they are doomed.

Why?

Because these attacks are contrary to the ideas of their base. Disrespecting military dead is anathema to most people, especially conservative Republicans. It was they accused the left of for decades. Now, you have these pampered, soft pundits attacking Gold Star Mothers.

But they seem to think the enemy is Move On or Michael Moore. But they aren't outside the President's ranch, are they. Just the mothers of the dead. And that who is being attacked.

The mothers of the dead are powerful spokesmen. They were in Argentina, where they helped bring down the government. Underestimate them, as the right is doing, is at their peril.

People have compared Sheehan to Rosa Parks, but that's the wrong comparison.

She should be compared to Emmitt Till's mother. The locals wanted a quick burial, because they had so tortured Till. His mother refused that and demanded an open casket funeral in Chicago. The savage nature of his treatment was clear and the picture of him in that casket, which first ran in Jet, was shown around the world. That showed the true face of segregation. Their hatred is so over the top, it diminishes their credibility.

Sheehan's vigil does the same thing. It shows the true face of Bush and the conservatives. Like the Japanese found out when they hit the Marines on Guadacanal. She, like they, weren't going anywhere but forward.

Slandering family members of deceased vets is clearly beyond the pale. However, right-wing extremists (e.g., the usual suspects include the freepers, among others) either do not grasp that basic concept or do understand but don't care. It is those extremists who've been most vocal of course, and for better or worse they're the ones who are associated with the label "conservative." Their rabid hatred diminishes not only their credibility, but also the credibility of anyone who has the misfortune of being associated with them.

The Democratic Police State

Here's something that caught my eye (The logic of the Democratic Police State), which I thought I'd pass along:
Good piece by John Pilger in today's New Statesman on what he calls the rise of the "democratic police state" (available online at UK Watch).

It covers ground that should be familar to Tomb readers, including Thomas Friedman's chillingly McCarthyite call for an official blacklist of those "just one notch less despicable than the terrorists" - he means those who believe US government actions are the root cause of terrorism.

Pilger also picks up on last month's police raid on a community bookshop in Leeds, where they confiscated anti-war material claiming it would "work people up". He notes how fear of terrorism is being used to justify a repressive police presence in Muslim areas:
Muslim people all over Britain report the presence of police "video vans" cruising their streets, filming everyone. "We have become like ghettoes under siege," said one man too frightened to be named. "Do they know what this is doing to our young people?"
He ends with a quote from Tony Blair from his press conference on 26 July:
We are not having any of this nonsense about [the bombings having anything] to do with what the British are doing in Iraq or Afghanistan, or support for Israel, or support for America, or any of the rest of it. It is nonsense and we have to confront it as that.
... which is itself interesting, because in his press conference on 5 August, Tony Blair was asked "You have said repeatedly that you don't think there's any link between Britain's involvement in the Iraq war and what happened in London", to which he replied:
Well let me first of all correct, I keep being asked this and I keep correcting it but it doesn't seem to make any difference but there it is. I mean I've never said that those people who are engaged in extremism won't use Iraq as a way to recruit or motivate people as they do Afghanistan, as they do the issue of Palestine, as they do, as the video made clear yesterday, what they call the presence of western countries in Islamic countries.
All this underlines that those who deny that imperialism is the root cause of terrorism are logically forced into a racist position, namely that Muslims are the root cause of terrorism. Police repression, ranging from a massive increase in harassment of young Asians all the way to the wanton slaying innocent commuters, all follows from this.

Of course this racism is disavowed - the ideological formula is "There are Good Muslims and there are Bad Muslims, except that there are no Good Muslims." And the fact that even the most timid and respectable Muslim organisations are now targets of the liberal bombers simply confirms this grim logic... which can only be halted if we Stop the War.

As should be obvious in a hurry, the "democratic police state" is clearly democratic in name only. Sure, there are the superficial trappings of a democratic state: the spectacle of electoral politics will certainly continue unabated. That's where the "democracy" ends. Those who endeavor to advocate any sort of meaningful change - in essence change that would threaten the ruling elite's political end economic hegemony - will find the full force of the state used to silence them.

Such a state is fundamentally racist, as the above post makes clear, as it scapegoats South and Southwest Asians in the UK and additionally "illegals" (a euphemism for those of Latino American descent) in the US. The fear and loathing of brown-skinned peoples, is of course nothing new - European (and later American) conceptions of the supposed racial inferiority of brown-skinned peoples has a long, sorry history (at least since the late Medieval period, and arguably going back much further). It is also a highly elitist state: one in which imperial or quasi-imperial hegemony is considered the accepted norm, not even to be questioned. Those who do question this state of affairs are viewed as unruly children who require stiff disciplinary action. Of course, such elitism itself has a long, sorry history. It is up to those of us to give a damn to do our best to shine a light on the repressive state of affairs fantasized by the likes of Friedman and Horowitz, and currently being foisted upon us by our own governments in the US and UK.

Friday, August 19, 2005

Cindy Sheehan's latest message:

an update on her mom's condition and some words of resolve:

I spent a majority of the day in the hospital with my mom. She seems to be getting stronger by the minute thanks to all the prayers and well wishes from the world. I am so grateful for all of the love and support we are getting right now.

My mom is still in ICU and I don't know if she will ever be able to come home, but I know she knows we are there and we even made her laugh a couple of times today even though she can't speak.

I hear things are going great at Camp Casey and more Gold Star Families for Peace members are arriving every day. They want to say..."we want to speak to the President, too. He killed our sons, brothers, and dads, too. We are tired of being disrespected and lied to. We deserve the truth and we deserve respect."

Something George Bush et. al. refuse to acknowledge is that HE WORKS FOR US. He is our employee. Did we forget that too, as a nation? I think we did, but I think we are waking up and remembering that we have the power. WE are the government. We have everything it takes to make change possible. I used to have doubts about 2006 and the progressive's chances of taking over at least one branch of our government, but now I think it is so possible. We will kick some fat booty in 2006 and we will change America for the better. WE CAN DO IT!!!

What started in Crawford on August 6th is an amazing testament to the American people. I knew we had it in us. I knew we could do it. I had faith in us, and my faith was rewarded.

Thank you all for your prayers, phone calls, and emails. With the love of my family, friends, Camp Casey, and you all, I will be back soon.


One of the things I wanted to highlight in her message was the bit about the role of the president, and how there's a fundamental distinction between how right-wingers view that role and how the rest of us (from leftists all the way to sane conservatives) view that role. The right-wingers view the current president as a ruler. The White House issues its orders and it is up to the rest of us to follow obediently, according to this viewpoint. The White House does not answer to us (as I believe none other than Bush explained it a few years ago). Rather, it is supposedly the rest of us who answer to the White House. It's a viewpoint, by the way, that is inherently elitist and logically impossible to square with the populist rhetoric that the right-wingers attempted to hijack. In the real world, as viewed by the rest of us, the president is viewed as an elected public servant. Through the ballot box, he is hired by us, our taxes are used in part to fund his paycheck, and he is answerable to us. Based on this more realistic viewpoint, the president is responsible to answer to his citizens - and it is ultimately we as citizens who get to ask the questions, including those uncomfortable questions that a president might understandably want to avoid.

For those of us in the real world, then, regardless of whether or not we agree with Sheehan's views, we accept what she is trying to do: that is hold the president accountable for his decisions. For the right-wing elitists living in their own fantasyland, the Sheehans of the world are uppity peasants who must be crushed for daring to question the authority of their leader. The former world view represents the America that I and I assume many of us grew up with. The latter represents an America that I hardly recognize - one that appears to have more in common with the Brezhnev-era Soviet Union than our once-thriving Constitutional republic.

Speaking of barking wingnuts

Didn't take the Freepers very long to use the fact that Cindy Sheehan's mom had a stroke against her. As I said earlier, this is the face of movement conservatism. Responsible conservatives, what few remain, would do well to distance themselves from the right-wing extremist b.s. pronto.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

Rudeness for a good cause

The Rude Pundit knows how to make my day. Take this cat's latest missive aimed at Cindy Sheehan's detractors:
It is the way of the bully, you know, to choose the weakest, nose-pickingest, insignificant, wouldn't-hurt-a-fuckin-flea kid on the playground and pummel that little bastard into the dirt. And, as study after study has shown, bullies lash out against the schoolyard peons because it's the only way they can deal with truths they cannot face.

[...]

All over the right, the attempts to destroy Sheehan are getting increasingly desperate and repellent, from dragging out her divorce documents and the liens against her property to saying that she "endangers" the troops (damn, you'd think lack of body armor would be doin' that, but then, fuck you - if you speak of it, our troops'll die). But that image, of the mother, outside, in that no-wonder-everyone's-goin'-insane heat of West Texas, is far more powerful. When you hear her voice, it ain't the crazy rantings of the so-called loony left. It's the calm, reasonable tone of the righteous. And that's what's so fuckin' threatening to the bullies.

Goddamn, it feels good to pound that weakling into the dirt until you hear the weakling's sobs and cries of mercy. But what happens if the weakling gets up, brushes off, and dares you to take another shot? That's the way the bullies crumble.

Bullies are only effective to the extent that they can dominate others, or at least keep up the illusion that they are in control. That illusion can be shattered when the targets decides to challenge or mock their bullies. Drives 'em nuts - mock the hell out of 'em. Yeah...beating up a pipsqueak makes you look tough, huh. You must be real cool driving over a bunch of crosses at a roadside memorial. Takes a real man to do that. What a bunch of maroons.

A spark or a flicker

That's the question Dan Froomkin asks regarding Cindy Sheehan's protest with regard to building a solid anti-war movement. Froomkin notes that the White House is hoping for the latter - that reporters will get bored, find some shiny new story, and that'll be it. However, as Froomkin notes, there are some factors that indicate that Sheehan's protest is growing well beyond her. We have the continuing news of chaos and casualties in Iraq. Support for the war is dwindling as the war drags on with what appears to be no end in sight. More and more of us in so-called "middle America" are questioning the wisdom of remaining in Iraq, and from what I gather from a couple of my commenters I suspect that more self-identified conservatives are unhappy with the bully-tactics used by the right-wing to squelch the increasingly vocal dissent. Protests and vigils are not just occurring at Camp Casey any more - they're nationwide, and those who are attending come across as a cross-section of "middle America".

It'll be interesting to see what develops. I think that if those people and organizations who align themselves with Sheehan's vigil remain focused on some basic goals - getting our troops safely out of Iraq, holding the White House accountable for the consequences of the war - then over the long haul you'll have a solid movement.

Peace.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

Remember the good old days?

"You can support the troops but not the president."
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Well, I just think it's a bad idea. What's going to happen is they're going to be over there for 10, 15, maybe 20 years."
--Joe Scarborough (R-FL)

"Explain to the mothers and fathers of American servicemen that may come home in body bags why their son or daughter have to give up their life?"
--Sean Hannity, Fox News, 4/6/99

"[The] President . . . is once again releasing American military might on a foreign country with an ill-defined objective and no exit strategy. He has yet to tell the Congress how much this operation will cost. And he has not informed our nation's armed forces about how long they will be away from home. These strikes do not make for a sound foreign policy."
--Sen. Rick Santorum (R-PA)

"American foreign policy is now one huge big mystery. Simply put, the administration is trying to lead the world with a feel-good foreign policy."
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"If we are going to commit American troops, we must be certain they have a clear mission, an achievable goal and an exit strategy."
--Karen Hughes, speaking on behalf of George W Bush

"I had doubts about the bombing campaign from the beginning . . I didn't think we had done enough in the diplomatic area."
--Senator Trent Lott (R-MS)

"I cannot support a failed foreign policy. History teaches us that it is often easier to make war than peace. This administration is just learning that lesson right now. The President began this mission with very vague objectives and lots of unanswered questions. A month later, these questions are still unanswered. There are no clarified rules of engagement. There is no timetable. There is no legitimate definition of victory. There is no contingency plan for mission creep. There is no clear funding program. There is no agenda to bolster our over-extended military. There is no explanation defining what vital national interests are at stake. There was no strategic plan for war when the President started this thing, and there still is no plan today"
--Rep Tom Delay (R-TX)

"Victory means exit strategy, and it's important for the President to explain to us what the exit strategy is."
--Governor George W. Bush (R-TX)


What changed? Note: I wasn't all that wild about the military action in the Balkans in 1999 - another story for another time. I merely find the hypocrisy of these clowns amusing.

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

Readable

Steve Gilliard has put together some wonderful posts on racism on his blog for as long as I can recall reading him. His latest (Blacks and animals) will give you some reason why I appreciate his work. First up, he looks at the racism inherent in PETA's equating animal cruelty with the lynchings of African Americans. Particularly noteworthy is his ability to place what PETA does in its historical context. It's a good lay synopsis of the history of Western racism, and its psychology. In The Bell Curve Oozes Back, Gilliard offers yet another take on racism in America, and the false assumptions of intelligence testing. Although Gilliard oversimplifies the purposes of the development of IQ tests, he's fundamentally on the right track.

Apparently this is for real:






Pictures courtesy of Democratic Underground. The story broke on Truthout and DU just a bit earlier this evening, and then broke on Daily Kos. Apparently some middle-aged guy drove his pickup truck through the rows of crosses that had been placed by the protesters at Camp Casey. It'll become pretty obvious in a hurry that the wingnuts in Freeper-land are creaming their undies over the incident - the thread I read through seems to show the sort of base hatemongering I've come to expect from the right-wingers. The only critical remarks about the incident are ones of image ("oh, this makes us look bad") rather than substance ("destroying crosses memorializing deceased troops is wrong morally"). The idiot who did that appalling action is just as dispicable as Rev. Phelps' group (Westboro Baptist Church) when they go out and protest at soldiers' funerals. This is the face of the movement conservatives, and it's ugly indeed. "Supporting the troops" only means "supporting Bush's agenda" - troops and their families who don't toe the party line are apparently not to receive the same courtesy as the rest. Agree or disagree about Sheehan's protest. Just don't be an ass about it. That's a lesson that Bu$hCo's supporters have apparently failed to learn.

Monday, August 15, 2005

It's all about me, me, me

President Bush, noting that lots of people want to talk to the president and "it's also important for me to go on with my life," on Saturday defended his decision not to meet with the grieving mom of a soldier killed in Iraq.

Bush said he is aware of the anti-war sentiments of Cindy Sheehan and others who have joined her protest near the Bush ranch.

"But whether it be here or in Washington or anywhere else, there's somebody who has got something to say to the president, that's part of the job," Bush said on the ranch. "And I think it's important for me to be thoughtful and sensitive to those who have got something to say."

"But," he added, "I think it's also important for me to go on with my life, to keep a balanced life."

The comments came prior to a bike ride on the ranch with journalists and aides. [snip]

In addition to the two-hour bike ride, Bush's Saturday schedule included an evening Little League Baseball playoff game, a lunch meeting with Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, a nap, some fishing and some reading. "I think the people want the president to be in a position to make good, crisp decisions and to stay healthy," he said when asked about bike riding while a grieving mom wanted to speak with him. "And part of my being is to be outside exercising."

On Friday, Bush's motorcade drove by the protest site en route to a Republican fund-raising event at a nearby ranch.

As Bush rolled by, Sheehan held a sign that said, "Why do you make time for donors and not for me?"


The essential quality required to be a Republican appears to be unadulterated selfishness - the rest of the public be damned. I'm sure grieving parents of Iraq & Afghanistan war dead can feel comforted that the Preznit finds it important to "go on with his life." It must be nice to be paid $400,000 a year to vacation and raise funds for cronies. Add to that the "we don't care" chant that came from some of the Crawford counter-protesters a few days ago, and we have a picture of what the right wing is really like, stripped of the high-fallutin' moralistic "culture of life" language that they're so damned fond of spewing. I for one never bought it. I'm not alone.

Two years

Yes, this blog has reached another milestone. Today marks its second anniversary. Two years ago, on "Fair and Balanced Friday" I fired this blog up for the first time. The impetus for starting the blog was straightforward enough. First, I'd seen a number of blogs I liked over the preceding several months. Second, I was mad as hell at the state of America's decaying union. Third, I had just come back from a vacation spent with in-laws whom I love dearly but who watch way too much Faux News. I saw blogging as a means to do my small part to balance the rightward tilt of the mass media, and saw the possibility to reach an audience of proportions that would have been unheard of back in the days of the old self-published and distributed zines.

It's safe to say that since I've kept this blog going for two years running (with occasional breaks during family vactions and such), that I still very much value blogging. It's equally safe to say that I am just a mad as hell today about the state of our nation (and more broadly our aching planet) as I was two years ago. Something tells me that won't be changing any time too soon. As a blogger, I'm committed to presenting information and opinion from my vantagepoint. It may not seem "fair and balanced" to some, and I won't apologize for that. My dad refers to bloggers as the heirs to Thomas Paine, and I agree with that assessment. Just as Paine wasn't interested in counterbalancing his calls for independence with reasons why the rule of King George's England was fine and dandy, I'm equally uninterested in presenting the side of the apologists for a new quasi-king George's authoritarian rule during these first dark years of the 21st century.

What to expect for the coming year? Probably more of the same - unabashedly leftist social and political commentary mixed with some jazz and a bit of pop culture.

A shout-out to those who've bothered to read me during these two years: thank you! It's been quite a ride, and I appreciate those of you who've been willing to share that ride, to add your comments and occasional emails, etc. I may not always answer comments, depends on how chaotic my schedule is, but know that I do read them and appreciate the food for thought. I'm Gandhian enough to believe that we all possess some part of the truth. Together we'll continue to shine the light of truth in dark corners.

It's winter in America, as Gil Scott-Heron once said, but spring will one day follow.

Peace.

Quotable

As Wade Davis, an anthropologist who roams the world as an explorer-in-residence at the National Geographic Society, wrote: "Every language is an old-growth forest of the mind, a watershed of thought, an ecosystem of spiritual possibilities."

Link: Languages in danger of dying out

Sunday, August 14, 2005

There's a Griot Goin' On!

There's a cat over at Booman Tribune who goes by the handle Omir the Storyteller. Every sunday, he posts a griot. Here's his latest, Strength Through Unity.

Coincidentally, while I'm home with my daughters, I'm playing an album by a 1980s Detroit-area jazz outfit, Griot Galaxy titled Opus Krampus.

Speaking of griots, the Oklahoma City area has a performer named Jahruba who bills himself as a 21st century Oklahoma griot. I've seen him perform - he's good. He used to have some recordings for sale. Don't know if he still does.

Howard Zinn: America is Also an Occupied Country

But more ominous, perhaps, than the occupation of Iraq is the occupation of the US. I wake up in the morning, read the newspaper, and feel that we are an occupied country, that some alien group has taken over. I wake up thinking: the US is in the grip of a president surrounded by thugs in suits who care nothing about human life abroad or here, who care nothing about freedom abroad or here, who care nothing about what happens to the earth, the water or the air, or what kind of world will be inherited by our children and grandchildren.

More Americans are beginning to feel, like the soldiers in Iraq, that something is terribly wrong. More and more every day the lies are being exposed. And then there is the largest lie, that everything the US does is to be pardoned because we are engaged in a "war on terrorism", ignoring the fact that war is itself terrorism, that barging into homes and taking away people and subjecting them to torture is terrorism, that invading and bombing other countries does not give us more security but less.

[...]

The "war on terrorism" is not only a war on innocent people in other countries; it is a war on the people of the US: on our liberties, on our standard of living. The country's wealth is being stolen from the people and handed over to the super-rich. The lives of the young are being stolen.

[...]

Our faith is that human beings only support violence and terror when they have been lied to. And when they learn the truth, as happened in the course of the Vietnam war, they will turn against the government. We have the support of the rest of the world. The US cannot indefinitely ignore the 10 million people who protested around the world on February 15 2003.

There is no act too small, no act too bold. The history of social change is the history of millions of actions, small and large, coming together at points in history and creating a power that governments cannot suppress.


Emphasis added. Read the rest here.

A soldier's letter to Cindy Sheehan

Saw this over at Steve Gilliard's blog and thought I'd pass it on:
Fort Hood, Texas
12 August 2005

Dear Mrs. Sheehan:

I am a Soldier stationed at Fort Hood who is scheduled for deployment to Iraq (soon). Like you, I do not support the war because I believe it represents a horrible waste of lives and lucre that is bankrupting our nation. However, I am sworn to obey my orders and I will serve to the utmost of my ability when called upon.

Your actions in Crawford have served to galvanize the American people and to remind them of the sacrifices being made by its Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen and Marines during what seem to be prosperous and lazy times here at home. It is too easy for the average American to forget that the seemingly low casualty figures seeping in from Southwest Asia are represented by human faces - like the face of your son. While the nation dozes, ones and twos turn into hundreds and thousands of young lives forever squelched - 1,846 thus far, to say nothing of those whose lives have also been forever changed by being wounded and maimed in the conflict.

Whatever the rationale for the war in Iraq was and is, I cannot tolerate the sight of the huge quantum of vehicles I see on the highways with yellow "Support our Troops" magnets on them. Citizens who support us in the military don't need to buy a magnet. They can contribute to causes benefiting soldiers and their families. They can inform themselves about the conflict in the Middle East and ask themselves what role, if any, the United States needs to play there. Most importantly, they can drive less, and drive smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. That would reduce our dependency on foreign oil by which, ultimately, the desert wastes of Arabia and Mesopotamia are transformed into "vital United States interests."

Lately you have attracted the attention of the right-wing smear machine, wielded by those who use the people's innate sense of patriotism and loyalty to serve its own selfish interests. This is a sign that you are awakening the sensibilities of decent Americans everywhere to the bloody-minded folly of the war in Iraq. Now more than ever, you must find your strength, a strength which you must have given young Casey in spades, and I am equally sure that today his strength of his spirit is animating and reawakening yours.

As a soldier, I am asking you to stand fast, and to stick to what you know is right and true. For me, those are the principal duties every civilian citizen owes to his or her nation. For my part, I am not allowed to participate directly in the political process. But I wrote this letter to you today to let you know that on Fort Hood, and on military installations across the United States and around the world, there are simple servicemen and servicewomen like myself who are praying for you, and who wish you well.

The duties of a soldier are a little bit different than those of civilians. Mostly they center around living the Army Values. Those values are:

LOYALTY
DUTY
RESPECT
SELFLESS SERVICE
HONOR
INTEGRITY
PERSONAL COURAGE

I have no doubts that your son Casey lived those values to the fullest measure. I will remember him as I begin my own trial by fire in Iraq. Please accept my deepest condolences for your loss and my prayers for you and all of your entire family circle. Also, please accept my thanks for awakening the conscience of our nation.

In deepest sympathy,

OREGON GUY
(RANK), USA


Emphasis added.