Saturday, November 12, 2005

Some quotables laced with commentary

A couple items that caught my eye. First, via Left I:
"It's incomprehensible that a civilized nation can confuse someone who has dedicated his life to saving the lives of children with someone who goes against the interests of the United States."

- Dr. Vicente Verez Bencomo, Cuban scientist denied the opportunity to receive his Tech Museum award because of his visa denial by the U.S. government, interviewed in Havana by AP
I get the distinct impression that in Bushzarro world dedicating one's life to saving childrens' lives is against US interests - especially when done based on an economic and social model that is outside of the control of the corporate world.

Also via Left I, we find Junior Caligula parroting the right-wing talking points spewed routinely by Hannity, Limbaugh, etc:
"More than a hundred Democrats in the House and the Senate -- who had access to the same intelligence -- voted to support removing Saddam Hussein from power."
As someone over at BooMan Tribune noted, this is akin to a 6 year old child being caught sneaking cookies before dinner and then responding that his 4 year old sibling was doing the same thing. Actually, following Eli's lead a bit, let's take the cookie jar analogy a bit further. The six-year old is being a bit disingenuous as he actually had access to a stash of cookies on a higher shelf that the four-year old knew nothing about. Not only that, but the six-year old is the one who instigated the cookie sneaking behavior in the first place, while the four-year old tagged along to be just like big brother (as a parent I've observed this enough times). The six-year old then bears the brunt of the responsibility for the misdeeds, and hence it's the six-year old who will receive the harsher words and punishment - in part for instigating the crime and in part for trying to weasel out of it by assigning blame to the impressionable younger sibling.

Friday, November 11, 2005

Napalm Classic



WASHINGTON DC: Following recent confusion over the use of Napalm® on targets in Iraq, the U.S. Military has released Napalm Classic®.

Last March Col. Randolph Alles, commander of Marine Air Group 11, admitted to the napalming of approaches to bridges over the Saddam Canal and Tigris River, both in Baghdad. “The generals love Napalm®,” said Col. Alles. “It creates terror and confusion and has a big psychological effect.”

The Pentagon was quick to dispel the allegations that Napalm was ever used in Iraq. “We use the Mark 77 Firebomb®,” claimed Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld last month. “Its ingredients include kerosene-based jet fuel and a smaller concentration of benzene than we used in the original Napalm® formula. As such, its effects are more environmentally friendly.”

Weapons manufacturer Lockheed Martin spokesman Capt. Merrill Stubing admitted that the use of the term “Napalm®” by U.S. military personnel underlined the popularity of the original Nalpalm® formula. “To cater to those who prefer the old Napalm® formula, Lockheed Martin has decided to make up limited batches of polystyrene, gasoline and benzene and re-release this as Napalm Classic®. We expect this mixture to regain its former popularity and increase our market share in incendiary bombs,” said Stubing.

Debunking right-wing myths about white phosphorus

In a very lengthy post, Eternal Hope takes a look at the basic right-wing talking points regarding white phosphorus and takes them down one-by-one. This specifically caught my eye:
Baker makes the following points, all of which confirm the effects of WP as documented on RAI:

--It reacts violently to water, generating intense heat; therefore, if it comes into contact with skin, severe burning results.

--It specifically reacts to moisture on skin.

--Breathing it can cause people to have lung endema, a potentially fatal medical emergency.

--It causes severe burns which penetrate the skin.

--It causes permanent eye damage.

Most importantly of all, the paper says nothing about WP igniting clothes, but it does say plenty about it igniting skin and causing fatal lung damage. Therefore, RAI's accounts of people being killed with their clothes intact has been proven.

Hunter, in a follow-up to a previous post on the topic, notes that Washington Post had a story on the use of white phosphorous in Fallujah:

Civilians caught in the crossfire were gathered in a hospital donated by the United Arab Emirates and flying a blue and white UNICEF banner. There, medical workers low on bandages and antiseptic bound wounds in ripped sheets and cleaned torn skin with hot water.

The Jolan and Askali neighborhoods seemed particularly hard hit, with more than half of the houses destroyed. Dead bodies were scattered on the streets and narrow alleys of Jolan, one of Fallujah's oldest neighborhoods. Blood and flesh were splattered on the walls of some of the houses, witnesses said, and the streets were full of holes.

Some of the heaviest damage apparently was incurred Monday night from air and artillery attacks that coincided with the entry of ground troops into the city. U.S. warplanes dropped eight 2,000-pound bombs on the city overnight, and artillery boomed throughout the night and into the morning.

[...]

Some artillery guns fired white phosphorous rounds that create a screen of fire that cannot be extinguished with water. Insurgents reported being attacked with a substance that melted their skin, a reaction consistent with white phosphorous burns.

Kamal Hadeethi, a physician at a regional hospital, said, "The corpses of the mujaheddin which we received were burned, and some corpses were melted."

Hunter's own words bear repeating:

We on both sides of the Iraq debate have every right to be mad about this stuff. It's a powerful and charged situation. And we can argue about the justifications for civilian deaths, and at what point they are "worth it", and how many dead children equal "freedom".

But we don't get to pretend it's not happening, we don't get to pick our noses and pretend that these civilians just happened to die of natural causes at the exact moment they were hit with munitions, and the right frankly doesn't get to be incensed when people bring it up as a valid and powerful measure of the costs, implications, and possible outcomes of this war. You think talking about civilian casualties sucks? Well, yeah, that's sort of the point. How do we think the people in Fallujah feel right now, you think they need any of us to tell them?

I'm going to continue to write about the negative implications of the war, and I'm going to continue to write about them in powerful ways, words willing. Others are also welcome to bound into the discussion as they wish. In this case, I wrote a post which I felt every human being on the planet could agree with--that these civilian deaths are morally repugnant, were entirely predictable given the nature of the conflict, and that it is a fiasco beyond words that we're putting our troops in the situation where such urban combat is forced upon them.

Apparently we can't even get that far, these days, because through word games and blanket condemnations of those that raise any evidence of the issue, we're not even willing engage the most basic point: that we're fighting in civilian neighborhoods, and that significant numbers of those civilians are well and truly dead.
That a huge number of civilians have indeed been killed as a result of US attacks on civilian neighborhoods is the main point. That's the forest - all the nuanced word games are merely the trees. It bears continued repetition: the huge number of civilian casualties is the consequence of the nature of the war that the White House chose to start. Those consequences were predictable. And if you get away from the Beltway crowd of politicos and pundits, it becomes readily apparent that there were plenty of us (from varying political persuasions) who reasonably suspected that such consequences were likely once the war ensued. Spin all the talking points you wish, but at the end of the day the fact remains that thousands of people have died horrifically - people who just like you and me were trying to simply go about their lives.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Visual humor

A couple for you. First, one found at Janeane Garofalo for the Rest of Us blog:
Second, one of a number of classics over at Jesus' General:

Don't lose sight of the forest for the trees

The use of such weapons as white phosphorous and MK77 against civilians in Fallujah by US forces has recently resurfaced in the news, as we noted a couple days ago. This is something the US military even admits to doing. There is understandably some confusion as to what to call white phosphorous (is it a chemical weapon or is it an incendiary or does it really matter) and also some confusion as to what restrictions exist with regard to international law regarding these weapons. I'd like to set aside all that for a while, and remind the reader of a couple larger issues.

  1. The firebombing of Fallujah killed and maimed an enormous number of people - many of whom were civilians, including many who were kids. A number of us find the comparison to the firebombing of Guernica to be an apt one. It was a human rights catastrophe.
  2. However one might wish to classify white phosphorous, the bottom line is that the stuff melts the skin off of children - and adults for that matter.
I thought Hunter put it sufficiently bluntly:
I think we need to take a step back from the newest Fallujah revelations. There's been a lot of confusion over what is or isn't a "chemical weapon" vs. an "incendiary"; what aspects of the Geneva conventions the United States is or is not signatory to; and whether or not the United States is still bound by rules of warfare that they are not direct signatories to.
Allow me to try to clear things up, if I can.

First, I think it should be a stated goal of United States policy to not melt the skin off of children.

As a natural corollary to this goal, I think the United States should avoid dropping munitions on civilian neighborhoods which, as a side effect, melt the skin off of children. You can call them "chemical weapons" if you must, or far more preferably by the more proper name of "incendiaries". The munitions may or may not precisely melt the skin off of children by setting them on fire; they do melt the skin off of children, however, through robust oxidation of said skin on said children, which is indeed colloquially known as "burning". But let's try to avoid, for now, the debate over the scientific phenomenon of exactly how the skin is melted, burned, or caramelized off of the aforementioned children. I feel quite confident that others have put more thought into the matter of how to melt the skin off of children than I have, and will trust their judgment on the matter.
Now, I know that we may be melting the skin off of children in order to give them freedom, or to prevent Saddam Hussein from possibly melting the skins off of those children at some future date. These are good and noble things to bring children, especially the ones who have not been killed by melting their skin.
[...]
And I know it is true, there is some confusion over whether the United States was a signatory to the Do Not Melt The Skin Off Of Children part of the Geneva conventions, and whether or not that means we are permitted to melt the skin off of children, or merely are silent on the whole issue of melting the skin off of children.
But all that aside, there are very good reasons, even in a time of war, not to melt the skin off of children.
  • First, because the insurgency will inevitably be hardened by tales of American forces melting the skin off of children.
  • Second, because the civilian population will harbor considerable resentment towards Americans for melting the skin off of their children.
  • Third, BECAUSE IT FUCKING MELTS THE SKIN OFF OF CHILDREN.
And, unless Saddam Hussein had a brigade or two consisting of six year olds, we can presume that children, like perhaps nine tenths or more of their immediate families, are civilians.

[...]

...it is certainly true that the whole child-melting decision, pro or con, should be treated with some gravity, and perhaps methods of combat which do not melt the skin off of children should be considered.
Because melting the skin off of children, as it turns out, is a very good way to turn the opinion of the American population against a war in general:

So in conclusion, I am going to come out, to the continuing consternation of Rush Limbaugh and pro-war supporters everywhere, as being anti-children-melting, as a matter of general policy.
The images that came out of Fallujah (see here for example) in the aftermath of last November's raid as was true of the images out of Vietnam were disturbing to say the least. I look at the pictures of the casualties and keep thinking that these were someone's kids, spouses, in-laws, friends, neighbors, etc. I can imagine being horrified if they had been my kids or family. I can only imagine what their survivors must have thought and felt. As luck would have it, I and my loved ones are here and not there.

As a general rule of thumb, I think it's safe to say that any chemical (or incendiary or whatever the hell you wish to call it) that can burn or melt the flesh off of living human beings should not be used on those human beings. Leaders who come to view the use of such weapons against civilians as acceptable, who have come to view the consequences of using such weapons as acceptable, have clearly lost their moral compass. Those who are willing to make excuses for those leaders' decision to melt the skin off of other human beings are no better. In my value system there is no acceptable reason for melting peoples' skin off. Period.

Wednesday, November 9, 2005

Walking down memory lane: SOTU 2003 edition

Nothing to add, as this pretty well sums it up:
Let's take a look back at George W. Bush's 2003 State of the Union speech.

Twelve years ago, Saddam Hussein faced the prospect of being the last casualty in a war he had started and lost. To spare himself, he agreed to disarm of all weapons of mass destruction. For the next 12 years, he systematically violated that agreement. He pursued chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons, even while inspectors were in his country. Nothing to date has restrained him from his pursuit of these weapons -- not economic sanctions, not isolation from the civilized world, not even cruise missile strikes on his military facilities.

Actually, he totally and completely disarmed. He did so all the way back at the very beginning of the sanctions regime. There is no evidence that he pursued chemical, biological, or nuclear weapons at any point between the two wars. None.

Almost three months ago, the United Nations Security Council gave Saddam Hussein his final chance to disarm. He has shown instead utter contempt for the United Nations, and for the opinion of the world. The 108 U.N. inspectors were sent to conduct -- were not sent to conduct a scavenger hunt for hidden materials across a country the size of California. The job of the inspectors is to verify that Iraq's regime is disarming. It is up to Iraq to show exactly where it is hiding its banned weapons, lay those weapons out for the world to see, and destroy them as directed. Nothing like this has happened.

Saddam Hussein did not have any weapons to lay on the table, and he told us as much.

The United Nations concluded in 1999 that Saddam Hussein had biological weapons sufficient to produce over 25,000 liters of anthrax -- enough doses to kill several million people. He hasn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

Actually, the UN concluded that Iraq could have created this anthrax back in 1991, and then failed to account for it. It was not asserted that Saddam currently had the ability to create this anthrax. Moreover, Iraq did provide some evidence that they destroyed all their anthrax, and no anthrax was ever found.

The United Nations concluded that Saddam Hussein had materials sufficient to produce more than 38,000 liters of botulinum toxin -- enough to subject millions of people to death by respiratory failure. He hadn't accounted for that material. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed it.

The United Nations did not conclude this. Their conlusion? "It seems unlikely that significant undeclared quantities of botulinum toxin could have been produced, based on the quantity of media unaccounted for."

Our intelligence officials estimate that Saddam Hussein had the materials to produce as much as 500 tons of sarin, mustard and VX nerve agent. In such quantities, these chemical agents could also kill untold thousands. He's not accounted for these materials. He has given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

These are again accounts of what Saddam could have produced before the 1991 war. But as for the lethality of these weapons?

The assessment by Professor Anthony H. Cordesman of the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) is as follows:
"The shelf-life and lethality of Iraq's weapons is unknown, but it seems likely that the shelf-life was limited. In balance, it seems probable that any agents Iraq retained after the Gulf War now have very limited lethality, if any."

"Iraq's Past and Future Biological Weapons Capabilities" (1998), p.13, at: link .pdf.

U.S. intelligence indicates that Saddam Hussein had upwards of 30,000 munitions capable of delivering chemical agents. Inspectors recently turned up 16 of them -- despite Iraq's recent declaration denying their existence. Saddam Hussein has not accounted for the remaining 29,984 of these prohibited munitions. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

This is also highly misleading:

"A Commission of Inquiry has been set up by Iraq to investigate why these warheads were stored at these sites or whether any more such warheads or other proscribed munitions are stored at other locations in Iraq. According to a document from the Commission, which was handed over to UNMOVIC in February 2003, the 12 warheads were part of a batch of less than 20 warheads received by Al Muthana in 1989 for training and reverse engineering purposes."

UNMOVIC, "Unresolved Disarmament Issues" (6 March 2003), p.54.

From three Iraqi defectors we know that Iraq, in the late 1990s, had several mobile biological weapons labs. These are designed to produce germ warfare agents, and can be moved from place to a place to evade inspectors. Saddam Hussein has not disclosed these facilities. He's given no evidence that he has destroyed them.

This evidence was supplied by the notorious drunkard and liar, codenamed: Curveball. German intelligence had issued a burn notice on Curveball's reliability.

The International Atomic Energy Agency confirmed in the 1990s that Saddam Hussein had an advanced nuclear weapons development program, had a design for a nuclear weapon and was working on five different methods of enriching uranium for a bomb. The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa. Our intelligence sources tell us that he has attempted to purchase high-strength aluminum tubes suitable for nuclear weapons production. Saddam Hussein has not credibly explained these activities. He clearly has much to hide.

We know about the aluminum tubes and the Niger forgeries.

The dictator of Iraq is not disarming. To the contrary; he is deceiving. From intelligence sources we know, for instance, that thousands of Iraqi security personnel are at work hiding documents and materials from the U.N. inspectors, sanitizing inspection sites and monitoring the inspectors themselves. Iraqi officials accompany the inspectors in order to intimidate witnesses.

This appears to be false and misleading. They did not have any weapons to sanitize or hide.

Iraq is blocking U-2 surveillance flights requested by the United Nations. Iraqi intelligence officers are posing as the scientists inspectors are supposed to interview. Real scientists have been coached by Iraqi officials on what to say. Intelligence sources indicate that Saddam Hussein has ordered that scientists who cooperate with U.N. inspectors in disarming Iraq will be killed, along with their families.

To my knowledge, no evidence to support this has been forthcoming.

Year after year, Saddam Hussein has gone to elaborate lengths, spent enormous sums, taken great risks to build and keep weapons of mass destruction. But why? The only possible explanation, the only possible use he could have for those weapons, is to dominate, intimidate, or attack.

He didn't have any weapons of mass destruction. So this whole paragraph is meaningless.

With nuclear arms or a full arsenal of chemical and biological weapons, Saddam Hussein could resume his ambitions of conquest in the Middle East and create deadly havoc in that region. And this Congress and the America people must recognize another threat. Evidence from intelligence sources, secret communications, and statements by people now in custody reveal that Saddam Hussein aids and protects terrorists, including members of al Qaeda. Secretly, and without fingerprints, he could provide one of his hidden weapons to terrorists, or help them develop their own.

The intelligence community told Bush that Saddam would not share these weapons with al-Qaeda because he could not control al-Qaeda. They also told the administration that an al-Qaeda defector who had claimed Iraq was assisting them was probably lying.

Before September the 11th, many in the world believed that Saddam Hussein could be contained. But chemical agents, lethal viruses and shadowy terrorist networks are not easily contained. Imagine those 19 hijackers with other weapons and other plans -- this time armed by Saddam Hussein. It would take one vial, one canister, one crate slipped into this country to bring a day of horror like none we have ever known. We will do everything in our power to make sure that that day never comes. (Applause.)

Once again, the intelligence community put zero credence in this scenario, unless we invaded Iraq and Saddam wanted to punish us in the only way left to him.

Some have said we must not act until the threat is imminent. Since when have terrorists and tyrants announced their intentions, politely putting us on notice before they strike? If this threat is permitted to fully and suddenly emerge, all actions, all words, and all recriminations would come too late. Trusting in the sanity and restraint of Saddam Hussein is not a strategy, and it is not an option. (Applause.)

It appears that trusting Bush's sanity and restraint was not a strategy.

The dictator who is assembling the world's most dangerous weapons has already used them on whole villages -- leaving thousands of his own citizens dead, blind, or disfigured. Iraqi refugees tell us how forced confessions are obtained -- by torturing children while their parents are made to watch. International human rights groups have catalogued other methods used in the torture chambers of Iraq: electric shock, burning with hot irons, dripping acid on the skin, mutilation with electric drills, cutting out tongues, and rape. If this is not evil, then evil has no meaning. (Applause.)

We have now catelogued Americans torturing detainees (in over two dozen case, to death), filming rapes, and using chemical weapons on civilian populations. Fortunately we have no evidence of American forces using drills or cutting out tongues.

And tonight I have a message for the brave and oppressed people of Iraq: Your enemy is not surrounding your country -- your enemy is ruling your country. (Applause.) And the day he and his regime are removed from power will be the day of your liberation. (Applause.)

The liberation of Iraq was justified by nothing but lies, distortions, and exaggerations. In actual practice, the lives of most Iraqis has not improved. Bush and Cheney should be impeached.

Tuesday, November 8, 2005

On This Date Last Year, Fallujah Became America's Guernica

A sobering bit of news that came out at the beginning of this week from an Italian media outlet:
U.S. Used Chemical Weapons In Iraq
Veteran admits: Bodies melted away before us.

Shocking revelation RAI News 24.
White phosphorous used on the civilian populace: This is how the US "took" Fallujah. New napalm formula also used.

11/07/05 "La Repubblica" -- -- ROME. In soldier slang they call it Willy Pete. The technical name is white phosphorus. In theory its purpose is to illumine enemy positions in the dark. In practice, it was used as a chemical weapon in the rebel stronghold of Fallujah. And it was used not only against enemy combatants and guerrillas, but again innocent civilians. The Americans are responsible for a massacre using unconventional weapons, the identical charge for which Saddam Hussein stands accused. An investigation by RAI News 24, the all-news Italian satellite television channel, has pulled the veil from one of the most carefully concealed mysteries from the front in the entire US military campaign in Iraq.

A US veteran of the Iraq war told RAI New correspondent Sigfrido Ranucci this: I received the order use caution because we had used white phosphorus on Fallujah. In military slag it is called 'Willy Pete'. Phosphorus burns the human body on contact--it even melts it right down to the bone.

RAI News 24's investigative story, Fallujah, The Concealed Massacre, will be broadcast tomorrow on RAI-3 and will contain not only eye-witness accounts by US military personnel but those from Fallujah residents. A rain of fire descended on the city. People who were exposed to those multicolored substance began to burn. We found people with bizarre wounds-their bodies burned but their clothes intact, relates Mohamad Tareq al-Deraji, a biologist and Fallujah resident.

I gathered accounts of the use of phosphorus and napalm from a few Fallujah refugees whom I met before being kidnapped, says Manifesto reporter Giuliana Sgrena, who was kidnapped in Fallujah last February, in a recorded interview. I wanted to get the story out, but my kidnappers would not permit it.

RAI News 24 will broadcast video and photographs taken in the Iraqi city during and after the November 2004 bombardment which prove that the US military, contrary to statements in a December 9 communiqué from the US Department of State, did not use phosphorus to illuminate enemy positions (which would have been legitimate) but instend dropped white phosphorus indiscriminately and in massive quantities on the city's neighborhoods.

In the investigative story, produced by Maurizio Torrealta, dramatic footage is shown revealing the effects of the bombardment on civilians, women and children, some of whom were surprised in their sleep.

The investigation will also broadcast documentary proof of the use in Iraq of a new napalm formula called MK77. The use of the incendiary substance on civilians is forbidden by a 1980 UN treaty. The use of chemical weapons is forbidden by a treaty which the US signed in 1997
The video, Fallujah - The Hidden Massacre, is available for download. It's quite graphic, so view at your discretion.

The Independent offers its own summary along similar lines.

You should also check out the Wikipedia entry on the Fallujah massacre.

That the US likely used chemical weapons such as white phosphorus and MK77 is something discussed from time to time around the blogs and alternative media. At least one journalist was almost killed because of what she had learned about the November Fallujah firebombing.

Fallujah was indeed America's Guernica. What has been done in our name is nothing short of disgusting.

Hat tip to a couple diarists at BooMan Tribune: jimstaro, and Cedwyn.

A reminder to Californians regarding Tuesday's ballot initiatives

There are some very nasty ballot initiatives this November, as you probably are or should be aware. Others have had plenty to say on Der GropenFuhrer's pet initiatives - propositions 74-77, and last polls seemed to point to a defeat for them, based on results of latest polls by Survey USA, PPIC, and Field.

Proposition 73 has been iffier. PPIC's numbers show it heading for defeat. Survey USA shows it too close to call - likely voters barely support it, and its approval numbers have apparently been trending downward in the last week.

Here's a blurb on Proposition 73 that should give one pause:
On Tuesday, November 8, Californians will vote on an anti-choice initiative, Proposition 73 (Prop. 73), which threatens the health and safety of California's teens. The Campaign for Teen Safety is urging the public to vote NO on Prop. 73.

What's at Stake?

What's at stake with Prop. 73 is nothing less than the health and safety of teens who, for whatever reason, cannot turn to their parents when faced with an unintended pregnancy. Prop. 73 would amend the California State Constitution to force doctors and providers to notify a parent or guardian before providing abortion services for a minor. In addition, Prop. 73 requires a waiting period of 48 hours after notification is given.

"Her safety is more important than my desire to be informed."

Studies have shown that the majority of teens age 16 to 17 do involve their parents when making decisions about abortion. For younger teens, the rate is even higher -- up to 90 percent. Indeed, in most cases, family members -- parents, sisters, grandparents, aunts -- are the first safety net for any teen in need. And certainly teens are urged by counselors to involve their parents from the start.

"As a parent, I would want my daughter to come to me if she were faced with an unplanned pregnancy," said Kathy Kneer, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California (PPAC). "But if she couldn't come to me, I would want her to be safe. Her safety is more important than my desire to be informed."

Prop. 73 would erect a barrier for teens who simply can't talk to their parents. Maybe they would face family violence or be kicked out of their home if they were to disclose their pregnancy. Maybe they are afraid of disappointing their parents; maybe a family member is responsible for the pregnancy. Studies have shown that parental involvement laws delay teens' access to vital health care.

Less talked-about provisions of Prop. 73 would, in effect, create a public "scorecard" for judges who rule on abortion cases for minors. Doctors would also have to file reports to the state regarding the number and types of abortions performed. However, the proponents of the initiative say that these medical records would be kept confidential.

Another troubling aspect of Prop. 73 is that it would add to the California State Constitution a definition of "an unborn child, a child conceived but not yet born." According to the USC California Policy Institute, that language "has created an unintended potential barrier to embryonic stem cell research" in the state of Pennsylvania.

Get Out the Vote

Recent polls suggest that the outcome of the vote on the initiative is still too close to call. Every vote will count on Tuesday, November 8.

The Campaign for Teen Safety is is working tirelessly to make sure the pro-choice majority is heard. Here's how you can help:

Educate yourself about the issue.

Volunteer to Get Out the Vote tomorrow, Tuesday, November 8.

Contribute to the Campaign for Teen Pregnancy and stand up for the health and safety of teens.

Vote NO on Prop. 73 on Tuesday, November 8, 2005, if you are a California resident.



Monday, November 7, 2005

A jazz rant worth reading:

This cat by the handle Arthur Gilroy has some things to say that I very much agree with. A sampler:

Now when this country...with ALL of its faults and shortcomings...was in a sort of ascendancy...when no matter how you might feel about the inner workings of the society, it stood up and reformed itself to some great degree and at the same time actively resisted the evil that was in place in the world at the time (Say from the crash of 1928 or even the early '20s "Jazz Age" through the beginnings of the civil rights movement and the assassinations and riots of the '60s and '70s which marked the end of that era.), we created a musical idiom AS THE POPULAR MUSIC OF THE CULTURE that was SO strong, SO deep that it literally spread all over the world. Only 100 years after Louis Armstrong played his first notes into a recording system, "jazz" (I prefer to call it "American music", but I will use the word jazz as a sort of shorthand here.) has spread all over the world. And is THRIVING in almost all of the countries of that world. There are good jazz scenes in Japan, in Lebanon, in Turkey, in Russia, all OVER Europe. China is opening up to the music. In South America, Central America and the Caribbean, the true popular musics of most of the societies are identifiably "jazz" in many ways and have indeed seriously influenced the "jazz" of America since the very beginning. ("The Spanish tinge" spoken of by Jelly Roll Morton as early as 1914.)

In fact, there is only one developed nation on Earth where jazz is NOT very popular among listeners.

Guess where?

The United States.

And guess why?

BECAUSE THE SAME PEOPLE WHO ACTIVELY OPPOSED THE GROWTH OF THE POLITICAL AND SOCIAL SYSTEMS OF URBAN BLACK AMERICA BY USE OF FORCE AND COVERT DRUG DISPERSION BEGINNING AS FAR BACK AS THE SIXTIES AND (SUCCESSFULLY) CULMINATING IN THE CRACK DEBACLE THAT FUELED THE WHOLE IRAN/CONTRA THING, THE PEOPLE WHO WERE FRIGHTENED OF WHAT WOULD HAPPEN IF BLACK AND MINORITY AND PROGRESSIVE AMERICA ACTUALLY FOUND AN EFFECTIVE POLITICAL VOICE, THE SAME PEOPLE WHO SAW TO IT THAT THE HEROES OF THAT AMERICA...MLK JR., MALCOLM X, RFK, JFK, MUHAMMAD ALI AND SCORES OF OTHERS WERE (ONE WAY OR ANOTHER) SHUT OUT OF THE SYSTEM, ALSO SHUT THE MUSIC DOWN AND SUBSTITUTED SOME FACELESS, NAMELESS, OUT OF TUNE BULLSHIT IN ITS PLACE.

Consciously?

I think maybe, to some degree, yes. And unconsciously, as well. It just flat out scared the SHIT out of them.

Now I am not being a "jazz" purist here.

I'm talking about Aretha Franklin and Ray Charles, about Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin just as much as I am talking about Miles Davis and Gil Evans and Stan Getz and Charles Mingus and John Coltrane. I am talking about positive music.

On ANY level.

Because music from the heart...from the soul (They don't call Aretha-style music "soul music" fer nuthin', you know.) is dangerous to controllers like this.

It awakens the sleeper within us all.

[...]

BUT...big money is STILL buying the music down. The REAL money is going to Wynton Marsalis and the whole Lincoln Center thing...$14 million and counting this year, and that's what they will ADMIT to. All of it from corporate and quasi-governmental entities. The PermaGov...foundations and such. Oil money, Big Pharma and Big Bank money. Corporate money that has as its main interest...again, consciously or not...maintaining the ongoing hypnotic trance of the American Sleeple. And notwithstanding Wynton's obvious talents...that music and that scene is jive. Ask almost ANY real player who is not on that particular money teat.

It's Bush Jazz.

As real as FEMA or Homeland Security or Halliburton or Enron.

And the Lincoln Center "Jazz" building is just a big jazz mall.

It's a scam.

So...to my point. (Finally...sorry.)

When you speak of your love for this music, when you recommend the great, great musicians that you have chosen to mention, remember.

Like Miles and Diz and Bird...on one level, they are almost all just another bunch of dead motherfuckers.

Sorry to put it so bluntly, but it's true.

And there is a LARGER...and equally talented...bunch of LIVE motherfuckers out there, most of whom are getting by on a (s)wing and a prayer.

Talk about THEM as well.

And...TALK ABOUT THE SOCIETAL POLITICS OF MUSIC while you are at it.

Understand...if Germany and Japan had been the possessors of a living swing tradition in the '30s and '40s and we had not, we'd all be speaking German now and little moustaches would be WAY in favor.

We SWUNG our way to victory.

And now we have lost our swing.

We have lost it to overproduced country and rap and rock and whatever else is out there. Most of which is ASSEMBLED BY MACHINES with as little fallible human input as possible rather than being sung and swung from human hearts and souls.

Thus it has no positive spiritual power.

And we are a suffocating society as a result.

This inferior music s not the ONLY reason...but it is not just a symptom, either.

The young people who went to hear Gene Krupa play with Benny Goodman, who danced to the Basie Band and listened to the lyric and rhythmic subtleties of Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald and Peggy Lee and Billie Holiday, who felt the blue notes and the rhythms pull and tug at their very souls, those people went out and put their lives on the line to stop fascism.

The ones who sit chemically zombified through a Britney Spears concert or mechanically "dance" to techno music in a dance club or dream of bitches and ho's and killing cops behind a nihilistic frustration with their lot as society's buttfucks...THEY ain't gonna do SHIT when push comes to shove except jerk off some more and wait for the next load of bad food.

Change the mode of the music to change the society.

It's the only real weapon that I personally possess, beyond maybe a little talent with words. So I'm using that little talent to ask you to help those with GREAT talent contribute that talent to help change this system.

Pay attention to the living as WELL as the dead.

The music LIVES.

If it is well dispersed throughout the society...and every little bit helps in this regard, which I why I am saying this here...then WE will "live" as well.

Maybe more than a sampler as I really liked the whole rant - the cat describes his observations as a performer as well.

My dad was and still is a fan of the big band music of the 1940s and also the 1950s - he tried to turn me onto such albums as Miles Davis' Sketches of Spain when I was a teen. He may not have realized it at the time, but he planted a seed. He often talked about the music as having "lasting value"(compared to a lot of the rock and pop of the late 1970s and early 1980s) and at the time I was a teen I probably didn't get it. As someone about to become a 40-something I think I get it now. Music that helps to connect us to each other as humans, to connect us to the very force of life itself has been desperately lacking in the US during much of my lifetime, or at least has been lacking in whatever passes for mainstream popular culture.

If you want a piece of the action you've got to go to the source. You won't find it in the latest prefab concoction from some corporate A&R department. There are cats who put their heart and soul into the music they create, and you'll know when you've found it because the music will move you - and keep on moving you years after you went to that gig or years after you first purchased that recording. That, my friends, is the "lasting value" my dad would talk about. Change the tune and you'll change your world.

Sunday, November 6, 2005

Don't say we didn't warn you

Found at American Samizdat:
By Chris Hedges for Theocracy Watch

"Dr. James Luther Adams, my ethics professor at Harvard Divinity School , told us that when we were his age, he was then close to 80, we would all be fighting the 'Christian fascists.'

"The warning, given to me 25 years ago, came at the moment Pat Robertson and other radio and televangelists began speaking about a new political religion that would direct its efforts at taking control of all institutions, including mainstream denominations and the government. Its stated goal was to use the United States to create a global, Christian empire. It was hard, at the time, to take such fantastic rhetoric seriously, especially given the buffoonish quality of those who expounded it. But Adams warned us against the blindness caused by intellectual snobbery. The Nazis, he said, were not going to return with swastikas and brown shirts. Their ideological inheritors had found a mask for fascism in the pages of the Bible.

"He was not a man to use the word fascist lightly. He was in Germany in 1935 and 1936 and worked with the underground anti-Nazi church, known as The Confessing Church, led by Dietrich Bonhoeffer. Adams was eventually detained and interrogated by the Gestapo, who suggested he might want to consider returning to the United States . It was a suggestion he followed. He left on a night train with framed portraits of Adolph Hitler placed over the contents inside his suitcase to hide the rolls of home movie film he took of the so-called German Christian Church, which was pro-Nazi, and the few individuals who defied them, including the theologians Karl Barth and Albert Schweitzer. The ruse worked when the border police lifted the top of the suitcases, saw the portraits of the Fuhrer and closed them up again. I watched hours of the grainy black and white films as he narrated in his apartment in Cambridge .

"He saw in the Christian Right, long before we did, disturbing similarities with the German Christian Church and the Nazi Party, similarities that he said would, in the event of prolonged social instability or a national crisis, see American fascists, under the guise of religion, rise to dismantle the open society. He despaired of liberals, who he said, as in Nazi Germany, mouthed silly platitudes about dialogue and inclusiveness that made them ineffectual and impotent. Liberals, he said, did not understand the power and allure of evil nor the cold reality of how the world worked. The current hand wringing by Democrats in the wake of the election, with many asking how they can reach out to a movement whose leaders brand them 'demonic' and 'satanic,' would not have surprised Adams . Like Bonhoeffer, he did not believe that those who would fight effectively in coming times of turmoil, a fight that for him was an integral part of the Biblical message, would come from the church or the liberal, secular elite.

"His critique of the prominent research universities, along with the media, was no less withering. These institutions, self-absorbed, compromised by their close relationship with government and corporations, given enough of the pie to be complacent, were unwilling to deal with the fundamental moral questions and inequities of the age. They had no stomach for a battle that might cost them their prestige and comfort. He told me that if the Nazis took over America '60 percent of the Harvard faculty would begin their lectures with the Nazi salute.' This too was not an abstraction. He had watched academics at the University of Heidelberg , including the philosopher Martin Heidegger, raise their arms stiffly to students before class.

"Two decades later, even in the face of the growing reach of the Christian Right, his prediction seems apocalyptic. And yet the powerbrokers in the Christian Right have moved from the fringes of society to the floor of the House of Representatives and the Senate. Christian fundamentalists now hold a majority of seats in 36 percent of all Republican Party state committees, or 18 of 50 states, along with large minorities in 81 percent of the rest of the states. Forty-five Senators and 186 members of the House of Representatives earned between an 80 to100 percent approval ratings from the three most influential Christian Right advocacy groups – The Christian Coalition, Eagle Forum, and Family Resource Council. Tom Coburn, the new senator from Oklahoma , has included in his campaign to end abortion a call to impose the death penalty on doctors that carry out abortions once the ban goes into place. Another new senator, John Thune, believes in Creationism. Jim DeMint, the new senator elected from South Carolina , wants to ban single mothers from teaching in schools. The Election Day exit polls found that 22 percent of voters identified themselves as evangelical Christians and Bush won 77 percent of their vote. The polls found that a plurality of voters said that the most important issue in the campaign had been 'moral values.'

"President Bush must further these important objectives, including the march to turn education and social welfare over to the churches with his faith-based initiative, as well as chip away at the wall between church and state with his judicial appointments, if he does not want to face a revolt within his core constituency.

"Jim Dobson, the head of Focus on the Family, who held weekly telephone conversations with Karl Rove during the campaign, has put the President on notice. He told ABC’s 'This Week' that 'this president has two years, or more broadly the Republican Party has two years, to implement these policies, or certainly four, or I believe they’ll pay a price in the next election.'

"Bush may turn out to be a transition figure, our version of Otto von Bismarck. Bismarck used “values” to energize his base at the end of the 19 th century and launched kulturkampt, the word from which we get 'culture wars,' against Catholics and Jews. Bismarck ’s attacks split the country, made the discrediting of whole segments of the society an acceptable part of the civil discourse and paved the way for the more virulent racism of the Nazis. This, I suspect, will be George Bush’s contribution to our democracy."

Chris Hedges, a reporter for The New York Times, is the author of War Is a Force That Gives Us Meaning . He holds a Master of Divinity from Harvard Divinity School . His next book , Losing Moses on the Freeway: America 's Broken Covenant With The Ten Commandments is published by The Free Press.


Regular readers will be familiar with a few items that I've pointed to in the past that I think are relevant to the above. Knowledge is power, I always say.

See also: Fascism USA by Dr. S. Rowan Wolf; Patriot Games by Billmon; Fascism and the American Polity by Walter Contreras Sheasby; Creeping Fascism by Nicholas Klassen.