Saturday, December 30, 2006

"The means determine the ends."

So says Alan Bock. Read on:
All this is another way of saying that the relationship many perceive between ends and means misses the point. We debate and speculate endlessly, we hominids, about whether, when or where the ends can justify the means. If the desired end is valuable or desirable or high-minded enough, is it all right to use dubious or even evil methods and means to arrive at a desirable destination?
I first ran across a systematic discussion of why these are not appropriate questions to ask years ago in an essay by Aldous Huxley in a book I loaned to somebody and never got back. In most human activities – though the causal chain may be difficult to perceive – the means determine the ends. No matter how worthy your end, if you use unworthy means you are unlikely to get there. Violence begets violence and violent means will lead to a violent end. Hatred begets hatred. Coercion begets tyranny, and on and on.
We can see the general rule working in Iraq. Assume that President Bush’s motives in launching the war on Iraq were noble, having to do with eliminating what he perceived as a serious potential threat and a terrible ruler. The means he chose to achieve the noble goal involved unprovoked aggression on a sovereign state. Using such means led to consequences, some predictable, some not, and we have the chaos we see now. Violent means led to a violent end.
This dovetails with something I said back in May:
I also tend to focus more on the consequences of behaviors rather than on intentions. Many atrocities have occurred in which the perpetrators ostensibly had "good intentions" or "meant well." Maddie Albright certainly "meant well" in defending a US policy against the Iraqi people that led during the 1990s to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children due to starvation and disease. Eichmann seems to have been a "nice guy" and a "well-intentioned true believer" in the Nazi cause whose actions as a bureaucrat led to mass extermination of human beings who just happened to belong to the "wrong" ethnic group. The various corporate technocrats and bureaucrats whose actions cause displacement, starvation, disease, death in many corners of the Third and Fourth Worlds likewise might have "good intentions" (think about Churchill's usage of the phrase "little Eichmanns" in that context). I can guarantee you that the victims and potential victims of such "good intentions" don't really care about the perps' motivations for doing harm. There's that old saying, you see, about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions.
Granted, there's a certain level of sarcasm in my use of the term "good intentions", but what both Bock and I are saying pretty well cuts to the chase: a lousy process will not produce a good outcome. Certainly to the victims, no high-minded talk of "democracy" or whatever will matter as they bury their dead, tend to their wounds, and try to clear the debris. The reason that I used the term "ostensibly" in characterizing allegations of "good intentions" is simple: typically all we have are the avowals of "good intentions" from the perpetrators. Determining the extent to which those avowals are honest or disingenuous turns out to be a rather tricky business as we humans are rather lousy at reading minds (and although the research on deception and its detection has come a long way in the last couple decades - read some of Bella DePaola's work for example - there are way too many unknowns to ascertain the validity of an avowal of "good intentions").

Undoubtedly, if you read through the remainder of Bock's essay, you'll figure that he and I are coming from somewhat different angles - I don't quite buy into the usual Eurocentric and "free market" perspectives that characterize his work. That said, Bock, like a lot of libertarians, seems to consistently get it when it comes to waging war. On that topic at least we would do well to listen.

Memories Pt. 2

Good time. Good times.

So far it looks like the blizzard conditions are staying to our west

Aside from a little ice (though thankfully nothing like last week) and currently some light-ish blowing snow, this storm seems notable mainly for the wind. And to think that just this morning we were getting thunderstorms. As much as we enjoy our California trips, I'm increasingly thankful that we chose to skip this Christmas season - the drive back from Southern California would have been a nightmare for us (what with I-40 being shut down through swaths of New Mexico and the western Texas panhandle, and places like Dalhart up on US-54 experiencing white-out conditions). It's nice to stay put.

Here's a factoid: prison edition

Among South American states, Venezuela has the lowest prison population rate. In fact, it is lower than all American states, including the US and Canada, and is lower than most European countries including the United Kingdom. Unsurprisingly, the US has the largest rate of prisoners in the world. 30% of black males will spend some time in prison in America. The US tortures its own prisoners as a matter of policy, not to mention those it imprisons illegally, wherever in the world they have been kidnapped.
Don't forget that whenever some buffoon goes on some tirade about the US being a "free" country.

Friday, December 29, 2006

Memories

Robert Fisk sez:
No, Tony Blair is not Saddam. We don't gas our enemies. George W Bush is not Saddam. He didn't invade Iran [Don Durito's note: not yet, anyway] or Kuwait. He only invaded Iraq [Hey, what's Afghanistan? Chopped liver?]. But hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are dead - and thousands of Western troops are dead - because Messrs Bush and Blair and the Spanish Prime Minister and the Italian Prime Minister and the Australian Prime Minister went to war in 2003 on a potage of lies and mendacity and, given the weapons we used, with great brutality.

In the aftermath of the international crimes against humanity of 2001 we have tortured, we have murdered, we have brutalised and killed the innocent - we have even added our shame at Abu Ghraib to Saddam's shame at Abu Ghraib - and yet we are supposed to forget these terrible crimes as we applaud the swinging corpse of the dictator we created [Just remember kids, slaughter and torture are civilized when we do it].

Who encouraged Saddam to invade Iran in 1980, which was the greatest war crime he has committed for it led to the deaths of a million and a half souls? And who sold him the components for the chemical weapons with which he drenched Iran and the Kurds? We did. No wonder the Americans, who controlled Saddam's weird trial, forbade any mention of this, his most obscene atrocity, in the charges against him. Could he not have been handed over to the Iranians for sentencing for this massive war crime? Of course not. Because that would also expose our culpability.

And the mass killings we perpetrated in 2003 with our depleted uranium shells and our "bunker buster" bombs and our phosphorous, the murderous post-invasion sieges of Fallujah and Najaf, the hell-disaster of anarchy we unleashed on the Iraqi population in the aftermath of our "victory" - our "mission accomplished" - who will be found guilty of this? Such expiation as we might expect will come, no doubt, in the self-serving memoirs of Blair and Bush, written in comfortable and wealthy retirement [or in the "Diary Room" when they both appear on a future season of "Celebrity Big Brother"].

[snip]

I have catalogued his monstrous crimes over the years. I have talked to the Kurdish survivors of Halabja and the Shia who rose up against the dictator at our request in 1991 and who were betrayed by us - and whose comrades, in their tens of thousands, along with their wives, were hanged like thrushes by Saddam's executioners.

I have walked round the execution chamber of Abu Ghraib - only months, it later transpired, after we had been using the same prison for a few tortures and killings of our own - and I have watched Iraqis pull thousands of their dead relatives from the mass graves of Hilla. One of them has a newly-inserted artificial hip and a medical identification number on his arm. He had been taken directly from hospital to his place of execution. Like Donald Rumsfeld, I have even shaken the dictator's soft, damp hand. Yet the old war criminal finished his days in power writing romantic novels.

It was my colleague, Tom Friedman - now a messianic columnist for The New York Times - who perfectly caught Saddam's character just before the 2003 invasion: Saddam was, he wrote, "part Don Corleone, part Donald Duck". And, in this unique definition, Friedman caught the horror of all dictators; their sadistic attraction and the grotesque, unbelievable nature of their barbarity.

But that is not how the Arab world will see him. At first, those who suffered from Saddam's cruelty will welcome his execution. Hundreds wanted to pull the hangman's lever. So will many other Kurds and Shia outside Iraq welcome his end. But they - and millions of other Muslims - will remember how he was informed of his death sentence at the dawn of the Eid al-Adha feast, which recalls the would-be sacrifice by Abraham, of his son, a commemoration which even the ghastly Saddam cynically used to celebrate by releasing prisoners from his jails. "Handed over to the Iraqi authorities," he may have been before his death. But his execution will go down - correctly - as an American affair and time will add its false but lasting gloss to all this - that the West destroyed an Arab leader who no longer obeyed his orders from Washington, that, for all his wrongdoing (and this will be the terrible get-out for Arab historians, this shaving away of his crimes) Saddam died a "martyr" to the will of the new "Crusaders".

When he was captured in November of 2003, the insurgency against American troops increased in ferocity. After his death, it will redouble in intensity again. Freed from the remotest possibility of Saddam's return by his execution, the West's enemies in Iraq have no reason to fear the return of his Baathist regime. Osama bin Laden will certainly rejoice, along with Bush and Blair. And there's a thought. So many crimes avenged.

But we will have got away with it. [Don Durito's note: That remains to be seen.]
Tip o' the hat to catnip, who also notes that the execution of Saddam Hussein occurred just minutes after the start of Eid. Pretty well sums up who was really in charge of the execution, no matter the official spin.

Within weeks this will be but another distant memory, as the US Congress debates on whether they want their war escalation "long" or "short." And so the bloodbath will no doubt continue: one that is largely the making of the US and UK.

Classic

Mike sez it best:

Oklahoma Rep. Tom Cole is worried about Republicans becoming an endangered species in Washington D.C.

By losing the majority, he said, “we’ve lost one of the most powerful reasons for members to stay.”
Silly me. Here I thought the most powerful reason for being in Congress was to serve the citizens of this great nation, and it turns out to be nothing more than a partisan effort to consolidate power.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The end of neocon dreams?

That would be nice. Via Mousemusings:

The neo-conservative dream faded in 2006.

The ambitions proclaimed when the neo-cons' mission statement "The Project for the New American Century" was declared in 1997 have turned into disappointment and recriminations as the crisis in Iraq has grown.

"The Project for the New American Century" has been reduced to a voice-mail box and a ghostly website. A single employee has been left to wrap things up... [emphasis added]

They saw the war in Iraq as their big chance of showing how the "New American Century" might work.

They predicted the development of democratic values in a region lacking in them and, in that way, the removal of any threat to the United States just as the democratisation of Germany and Japan after World War II had transformed Europe and the Pacific...

"Neo-conservatism has gone for a generation, if in fact it ever returns," says one of the movement's critics, David Rothkopf, currently at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, and a former official in the Clinton administration...

"The US use of force has been seen as doing wrong and as inflaming a region that has been less than susceptible to democracy.

"Their plan has fallen on hard times. There were flaws in the conception and horrendously bad execution. The neo-cons have been undone by their own ideas and the incompetence of the Bush administration...
Of course keep this in mind:
"George Bush is about the last neo-conservative standing, Cheney as well maybe. Bush is not an analytical person so he just adopted the neo-cons' philosophy.

"It fitted into his Manichean, his black and white view of the world. After all, he gave up his dissolute youth and was born again as a new man, so it appealed to his character."
And:
Indeed, not all neo-conservatives have given up all hope in Iraq.

The AEI, which has become the natural home for refugees from the American Project, is promoting an article entitled: "Choosing Victory: A Plan for Success in Iraq".

The article calls not for a withdrawal of US troops but for an increase. President Bush's decision is expected in early January.
The Beast is not quite dead, but merely alive enough to spread its disease for a while longer, and of course there are those, such as Tony Blair, who is a willing carrier. The so-called last neocon standing just happens to be one who holds the keys to a crumbling empire, one that can still create ample bloodshed and who seems sufficiently nihilistic to think nothing of murder-suicide. That may be an apt way to think of Bu$hCo's "New Way Forward" - as a murder-suicide mission of gargantuan proportions.

How to break a New Year's resolution before the new year begins

Leave it to Junior Caligula:
Bush said one of his resolutions for the new year is that the troops will be safe and that this nation will come closer to its goal of having an Iraq that can sustain independence and govern itself.

Appeasing Junior Caligula's Pagan Bloodlust

Chris Floyd summarizes the Bu$hCo Iraq war plan as consisting of three elements:

1. Escalation - with Democrats quite willingly enabling. Be wary of that term "surge" which seems merely a euphemism to suggest a temporary state of affairs (a two year "surge" or more properly escalation hardly seems short-term). Junior Caligula's War God requires more blood sacrifices, which the additional 30k troops plus the ensuing additional Iraqi victims will accomplish.

2. Target Sadr. Apparently that is already happening. In their minds Sadr is all that stands in the way of those coveted oil leases.

3. Expand the war into Iran. The sin of the Irani government is that of trading oil in Euros rather than US Dollars (which oddly enough was the Iraqi government's sin during the waning days of Hussein's reign).

The first two elements seem already well in place. As noted, the opening salvos against Sadr have been launched. So too does it appear that any military opposition to an escalation of the Iraq war has already been squelched and that the Dems will do as they usually do: merely roll over and play dead (with a lot riding on the fate of the dollar, I'm hardly surprised). As is typical of a failing state, the vast majority of the public, as gauged by opinion polls, is firmly against an escalation in the number of troops sent to Iraq, and yet the White House and Congress will likely be authorizing precisely the sort of escalation that a mere 11% of the public supports.

Expect another bloody year.

Gerald Ford's legacy?

I'm pretty late to the party as far as obits for Ford go. Honestly, I'm more bummed that James Brown died (now there's a cat who had an influence on our culture, inspiring folks as diverse as Miles Davis, Public Enemy, Eddie Murphy, and Andy Kaufman). About the best that might be said is that Ford arguably did less harm than his immediate predecessors and successors (as Alexander Cockburn notes). Certainly it'll be a mixed legacy. Pardoning Nixon was, in the eyes of many Americans, an unforgivable sin. So too (in the eyes of those concerned about human rights) was giving Indonesia's dictator the green light to embark on decades of genocide in East Timor. Ford also provided a training ground for various neoconmen who would later set a disastrous course for the US (e.g., Rummy & Cheney come immediately to mind) as well as a launching pad for the Bu$hCo family political dynasty's bid to claim the keys to the White House. We might also add his opposition to the Freedom of Information Act to the list of negatives. On the positive side: if nothing else, his presidency oversaw the final withdrawal from the Vietnam disaster, and he managed to keep the rabid jackals (e.g., Cheney, Rumsfeld, & Kissinger) with whom he kept company on a shorter leash than they would have preferred.

Like Nezua, my memories of Ford are minimal, as I was a kid at the time. My fifth grade class had a mock election in the fall of 1976 between Ford & Carter (the latter of whom would win in real life, and act as a precursor to the neolib DLC crowd that turned the Democrats into GOP lite). About all I could see in Ford was an association with Nixon whom my parents had grown to loathe and this rather bland somewhat bumbling persona.

What the guy would have done with a full term in office is hard to say. Maybe the rabid jackals would have been unleashed, maybe not. Maybe we would have been spared the eventual two and a half decades of Raygun and his aftermath. We'll never know. That Ford may have been the least bad of the bunch in my four decades of existence I suppose is saying something, though hardly the stuff of fond reminiscence.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blogging trials and tribulations update

Well, looks like the problem with the original blog at the old account has been solved. Blogger kindly resurrected it, and once I republished it, bam, there it was. I put up a post that points to the new blog. I'll be leaving the old version up as a pointer and archive, but will not be adding any further new content there. I still would suggest that those who have not updated their blogrolls do so, if for no other reason as to avoid having to click on to yet another link to get to here.

I think it's also a pretty safe bet that I will not be migrating the old account. There's no longer any need, nor do I want the hassle.

A little something down the road: I'm starting to learn drupal (there's a lot to learn btw), as I got an account based on its platform and will be playing around with it as time permits. I may very well be announcing a newer and better blogging project in the upcoming months. Stay tuned...

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

In his own words: Tito Tricot

The night became darker that precise moment when the room exploded into a thousand sparks that burnt your flesh, making your bones and your fragile certainties shudder. For being there, naked and blindfolded, at their mercy, there were neither smiles nor turquoise oceans, nor carnations or pink sunsets. All of a sudden life had become only a frail instant suspended in a thick and desperate breath of air, mercilessly pierced by electricity. The world was painfully reduced to that tiny space between our eyes and that filthy blindfold, a permanent reminder that our world was shattered early one cloudy morning when the Chilean military took over power and did what the military do: kill.

And kill they did, but also arrest and torture myriads of men and women whose only crime was to think differently. Thinking became dangerous to this modern age inquisition that allowed no criticisms and declared the obsolescence of happiness. But brave and stubborn people decided to think and smile and even try to be happy amidst all the horror around them. We were convinced that life could conquer death. Besides, many of us could not really believe what we heard from friends or what was being talked about in the streets, for, how could human beings commit such atrocities? How was it possible that something like this was happening in Chile? Where did the snowcapped mountains go, the beautiful rainforests, our kindness and solidarity?

We just did not want to believe that Chileans would do that to other Chileans, to their friends, neighbors, relatives. But they did and now, standing naked and tied up in the middle of my hometown marines' garrison, the full scope of the military coup struck me. As did the electric shocks applied to different parts of my body, making me shake and scream with such force that your veins seemed to explode amidst the pain. You can't tame electricity, it tames you; you can't fight electricity, it dominates you. You can't ignore electricity, it takes over every corner of your body. It burns your flesh, your heart and your soul. Above all, it makes you scream so loud that butterflies and pelicans stop their flight to look over their shoulders raffled by the disturbing yelling. It's like someone else shouting, a guttural sound that comes out of your mouth, but it's not your mouth. A metallic blow that takes you by surprise every time, because no matter how prepared you think you are, the fulminating lashing reminds you that you are not in control.

And they know it, the torturers know it is them who are in control and they rejoice at their newly found power. Then the lashing comes again to make one shiver with the freezing coldness of death whilst they laugh at your suffering and bewilderment. As they probably laugh when they take their children to the local square to play or when they kiss their girlfriends after making love. It's the horrifying reality that torturers are ordinary men and women who lead ordinary lives by day, but become monsters at night, because they have power. And they used it to kick and punch you, to shout at you, to frighten you. They had been deprived of all their humanity and tried to deprive us of all our humanity. However, in the overwhelming loneliness and darkness of our cells, we could still smile and cry, remember our loved ones and dream of freedom. We refused to be dehumanized, for no one had the right to think for us, to breath for us, to transform us into mere ghosts. This, we could not allow to happen, so, whenever we could, we would force a smile or stand up and walk even if our entire body ached. It was our own revenge in the face of the military's brutality.

The military were waging a war against an unarmed people, but we were waging our own war: the war for survival. It wasn't courage or heroism, but simply the basic instinct to live. For that we needed to smile, to believe that there was a future after hell. They could take away our clothes, but never our dignity; they could take away all of our belongings, but never our capacity to dream. We had to convince ourselves that one day this madness would be over, that sooner rather than later our country would recover its sanity. It was the only way to bear the permanent shouting, the constant crying, the pain and the anguishing tears of those defenseless women raped by naval officers. I could only whisper a word of support and solidarity for them, although, I knew that nothing would save them from their horrifying ordeal. I wish I could've done something else, but I couldn't; I wish I hadn't been there, but I was. I wish the military had never overthrown a democratically elected government and installed a dictatorship for seventeen years, but they did. I wish I had never been tortured, but I was. I wish torturers had been brought to trial to pay for their crimes, but they weren't.

So, thirty years later, I walk my hometown streets fearing that one day, around any corner I may run into one of them. And this, too, is another form of torture.
Never forget.

Quick progress report: Rumors of this blog's demise are premature!

Like a phoenix, this blog rises from the ashes. I've now got over a half year of archives back into place - just under three years to go! To those who've updated their blogrolls, many thanks. If I'm not mistaken, Nezua was the first to do so (sorry, man, no prize). Also, to anyone coming here from Avedon Carol's excellent blog The Sideshow, welcome and enjoy your visit.

I'll keep inserting more old archived posts as time permits, as well as fixing the occasional broken link that may appear (thankfully I don't often self-reference, so that should be minimal). I keep wanting to spend the break doing some rather novel activities, such as spending some time with the family, so some of the rebuilding process here will take a back seat. If Blogger figures out how to make the remains of the old version of this blog visible, that will certainly help matters out tremendously. That said, this is truly the new home for TLEOTD, the one where all new material will be presented.

Monday, December 25, 2006

Shorter Mike Gallagher

Disagreeing with Dear Leader should land one in the Gulag. Maybe then my ratings would go up.

Junior Caligula


Apparently I'm not the only one to compare Bush the Lesser to the old Roman emperor Caligula. The term pops up in Justin Raimondo's anniversary editorial (yes, Antiwar.com turned 11 a few days ago!). Junior Caligula - what a fitting meme.

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Minimum wage increase in OK?

Well there's certainly a need for it:
A 2005 U.S. Department of Agriculture report, for example, ranked Oklahoma’s hunger problem the nation’s worst.

Nationally, the Economic Policy Institute estimates 14.9 million workers would receive a salary increase if the minimum wage were raised to $7.25 an hour by 2008.

In Oklahoma, Morrissette says, between 16,000 and 32,000 Oklahomans earn minimum wage, depending on the survey. Most are adults – minority women, actually – not teen-agers, as some claim.
Let's hope that Gov. Henry and the state legislature have the good sense to address the issue.

Quotable: Archie Shepp

"Love is fundamental to art. I can't go to work with hate in my heart. I go to work with love in my heart. But love can express itself in bitterness and rage. That's only an aspect of love."
That's from the liner notes of Live in San Francisco. Some food for thought for the Holidays.

From the mail bag:

Rachel Corrie play: censored in Toronto

The lobby prevents Rachel Corrie’s voice from being heard — again.

From Variety, Dec. 22:
‘Corrie’ canceled in Canada
Play has potential to offend Jewish community
It’s curtains for “My Name Is Rachel Corrie” in Canada.
By RICHARD OUZOUNIAN

CanStage, the country’s largest not-for-profit theater, has changed its opinion and decided not to present the show as part of its 2007-2008 season.

The play, about the 23-year-old American activist who died under the wheels of an Israeli bulldozer in 2003, was originally produced at London’s Royal Court Theatre in 2005.

When James Nicola programmed it this year for the N.Y. Theatre Workshop, pressure from Jewish board members caused him to cancel the show. It was eventually produced Off-Broadway, where it ran from Oct. 15 to Dec. 17.

“It didn’t seem as powerful on the stage as it did on the page,” said artistic producer Martin Bragg after seeing the production at Gotham’s Minetta Lane Theater.

But in a situation eerily similar to the one that faced Nicola, it appears that pressure has been brought upon Bragg from some of his board members not to alienate the Toronto Jewish community.

Jack Rose, from the CanStage board — while admitting he has neither read nor seen the script — said that “my view was it would provoke a negative reaction in the Jewish community.”

And philanthropist Bluma Appel, after whom CanStage’s flagship theater is named, concurred. “I told them I would react very badly to a play that was offensive to Jews.”

Bragg denies he was lobbied by the board in any way and insisted that “I pick the plays. No one on our board has ever told me what we can and can’t do.”

CanStage posted a $700,000 loss last season and is currently facing a struggle after producing 10 plays in 2006, none of which met with critical or audience approval.

Those who followed the saga of the original cancellation of “My Name is Rachel Corrie” will recall New York Theater Workshop Artistic Director James Nicola’s first explanation as to why the play had been cancelled: “Listening in our communities in New York, what we heard was that after Ariel Sharon’s illness and the election of Hamas in the recent Palestinian elections, we had a very edgy situation.”(LAT, March 10)
An echo of Nicola’s fears north of the border occurred within the last couple of months in the Canadian Jewish News. Upon hearing of the possible staging in Toronto of My Name is Rachel Corrie, Alicia Richler, associate director of communications for the Canada-Israel Committee, said that although everyone in Canada has the right to free speech, the timing of the news is poor, since an Israeli man was recently killed when a rocket launched from the northern Gaza Strip hit a factory in Sderot.
From the Toronto Star Dec. 24. The alternate version being told among CanStage insiders: Members of Bragg’s board were alarmed by negative response from influential supporters of the theatre, especially in Toronto’s Jewish community, who were canvassed for their opinion. Many were dismayed and openly critical when confronted with the prospect of the city’s flagship not-for-profit theatre producing a play that could be construed as anti-Semitic propaganda, especially during a frightening period when Israel’s existence is threatened by Iran, Hezbollah and Hamas.

Contacts for the CanStage Theater in Toronto
Audience Relations, Company Information,
House Programs, Media Requests
Valorie Block
Publicity and Communications Manager
T 416.367.8243 x259

Customer Service
Carla Arnold
Customer Service Manager and Privacy Officer
T 416.367.8243 x229
Nerdified Link.

Friday, December 22, 2006

New German Community Models Car-free Living

The Vauban neighborhood in Freiburg, Germany, is being developed as a model sustainable district on the site of a former military base. Many of the houses produce more energy than they use. Other buildings are heated by a neighborhood-scale combined heat and power station burning wood chips. (Photo by Jayson Antonoff)

By Isabelle de Pommereau, Common Dreams

Welcome to Germany's best-known environmentally friendly neighborhood and a successful experiment in green urban living. The Vauban development - 2,000 new homes on a former military base 10 minutes by bike from the heart of Freiburg - has put into practice many ideas that were once dismissed as eco-fantasy but which are now moving to the center of public policy.

With gas prices well above $6 per gallon across much of the continent, Vauban is striking a chord in Western Europe as communities encourage people to be less car-dependent. Just this week, Paris unveiled a new electric tram in a bid to reduce urban pollution and traffic congestion.

"Vauban is clearly an offer for families with kids to live without cars," says Jan Scheurer, an Australian researcher who has studied the Vauban model extensively. "It was meant to counter urban sprawl - an offer for families not to move out to the suburbs and give them the same, if better quality of life. And it is very successful."

There are numerous incentives for Vauban's 4,700 residents to live car-free: Carpoolers get free yearly tramway passes, while parking spots - available only in a garage at the neighborhood's edge - go for €17,500 (US$23,000). Forty percent of residents have bought spaces, many just for the benefit of their visiting guests.

As a result, the car-ownership rate in Vauban is only 150 per 1,000 inhabitants, compared with 430 per 1,000 inhabitants in Freiburg proper.

In contrast, the US average is 640 household vehicles per 1,000 residents. But some cities - such as Davis, Calif., where 17 percent of residents commute by bike - have pioneered a car-free lifestyle that is similar to Vauban's model.

Vauban, which is located in the southwestern part of the country, owes its existence, at least in part, to Freiburg - a university town, like Davis - that has a reputation as Germany's ecological capital.

In the 1970s, the city became the cradle of Germany's powerful antinuclear movement after local activists killed plans for a nuclear power station nearby. The battle brought energy-policy issues closer to the people and increased involvement in local politics. With a quarter of its people voting for the Green Party, Freiburg became a political counterweight in the conservative state of Baden-Württemberg.

At about the same time, Freiburg, a city of 216,000 people, revolutionized travel behavior. It made its medieval center more pedestrian-friendly, laid down a lattice of bike paths, and introduced a flat rate for tramways and buses.

Environmental research also became a backbone of the region's economy, which boasts Germany's largest solar-research center and an international center for renewable energy. Services such as installing solar panels and purifying wastewater account for 3 percent of jobs in the region, according to city figures.

...

Across Europe, similar projects are popping up. Copenhagen, for instance, maintains a fleet of bikes for public use that is financed through advertising on bicycle frames.

But what makes Vauban unique, say experts, is that "it's as much a grass-roots initiative as it is pursued by the city council," says Mr. Scheurer. "It brings together the community, the government, and the private sector at every state of the game."

As more cities follow Vauban's example, some see its approach taking off. "Before you had pilot projects. Now it's like a movement," says Mr. Heck. "The idea of saving energy for our landscape is getting into the basic planning procedure of German cities."
Saw this at another blog, click the title above to check out While the Earth Burns. Food for thought as we near the transition to a post-oil lifestyle and economy.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Video coverage of the Swift immigrant raids

Via BlueLatinos.org: Greeley Colorado.

Via HispanicTips: Video from Cactus, Texas.

Both will feature the occasional clueless person (in the interest of being "fair and balanced"), but will at least give you some idea of what went down.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Small is Beautiful

Just a couple links for your consideration.

In North American Secessionists Confront the Empire: Divided We Stand, United We Fall Dave Jansson looks at the contemporary and fairly diverse secessionist movement scene, its promise and pitfalls.

In The Age of Mammals, Rebecca Solnit offers a look into the crystal ball at one possible scenario for the dawn of the second quarter of this century as a means of assessing the current dark days and some of the interesting trends that have largely fallen under the radar. Indigenous movements, community farm co-ops, etc., may have seemed little more than a nuissance for those plotting the "New American Century" but could easily in retrospect have been the fabric needed to fashion a more sustainable means of human existence.

More fallout from the Swift immigrant raids

Via Brown Pride:

Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is complaining to President Bush about the handling of the raids.

DES MOINES, Iowa Governor Tom Vilsack is complaining to President Bush In a letter, Vilsack says as many as 90 people were taken into custody from the Swift and Co. meatpacking plant in Marshalltown, Iowa. The whereabouts of some of them are still unknown. read more From - ktre.com

I think it's reasonably safe to say that Texas Gov. Rick "Teflon Hair" Perry would have a much different reaction. "Terrorize Hispanics on a mass scale? No problem. Whereabouts of detainees still unknown? Out of sight out of mind."

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

The War in Iraq: It's All About the Dollar

Some clips to ponder:
If this measure is implemented it could have very grave consequences for the American economy. As early as September 2005 Aljazeera published an article on its website that Iran was about to begin pricing its oil in euros. According this article just about everyone would benefit, except the United States. For at least fifty years about 70 % of all currency reserves were in American dollars. This made the dollar the strongest currency on earth. Central banks need to have important reserves in dollars because up until now oil, the most important commodity of the world, is mostly priced in dollars. Since the irresponsible policies of the current American administration have allowed America's national debt to rise to crippling heights, its ailing economy became mostly dependent upon the high demand for its currency. Or, to put it simply, the dollar may no longer be exchangeable for gold but it can be exchanged for oil. Since the demand for oil increases steadily and the price of oil also increases, the dollar is a safe bet. Until now, that is.

[snip]

The adoption of the euro for oil transactions will provide the European currency with a reserve status that will benefit the Europeans at the expense of the Americans. On September 2, 2005 the Global Politician quoted an expert stating "One of the Federal Reserve’s nightmares may begin to unfold when it appears that international buyers will have a choice of buying a barrel of oil for $60 on the NYMEX (New York Mercantile Exchange) and IPE (London’s International Petroleum Exchange) or purchase a barrel of oil for €45 to €50 via an alternative Iranian bourse." In this scenario an already-existent global trend of shifting foreign currency reserves from dollars to euros would accelerate, thus strengthening the euro and weakening the dollar on the international market. Imports would start to cost America so much more that its economy would not be able to cope anymore and the stock market bubble would burst.

[snip]

But is it likely to happen? Well, it has happened before it seems. In 2000 Saddam Houssein demanded euros for Iraq's oil. At first he wasn't taken all to seriously but when it became clear that he meant business, political pressure was exerted to change his mind. Other oil producing countries began to voice their intent to accept payments in euros or yen. So, when Bush and his cabal of neocons invaded Iraq, why exactly were they doing this? Because of Saddam's long defunct pipe-dream of weapons of mass destruction? Was it about spreading democracy? Indignation about an inhuman regime? Or was it about defending the American dollar and sending a clear message to other countries that a superpower would not tolerate its super-currency flouted. Some have argued that Bush started the war to seize Iraq's oilfields. But why would he want to? Strangely enough: as long as the dollar is backed by oil, America can print as many dollars as it wants and... buy oil with them. Defending the dollar as the unique oil-currency is infinitely more important than seizing the oil itself. And look what happened: barely two months after the United States invaded Iraq, the Oil for Food Program was terminated and the Iraqi euro accounts were switched back to dollars. Global dollar supremacy was once again restored. That was the real mission that was accomplished.

That is also the reason neocons aren't too worried about the way the war in Iraq is going. As far as they are concerned it may drag on for another twenty years and cost tens of thousands of American lives as long as the supremacy of the dollar is maintained. For the neocons and their conspiracy for a New American Century this is the basis of all that they are trying to accomplish. This is what Krassimir Petrov in the Energy Bulletin has to say about it: "A nation-state taxes its own citizens, while an empire taxes other nation-states. The history of empires, from Greek and Roman, to Ottoman and British, teaches that the economic foundation of every single empire is the taxation of other nations. (...) Historically, imperial taxation has always been direct: the subject state handed over the economic goods directly to the empire. For the first time in history, in the twentieth century, America was able to tax the world indirectly, through inflation. It did not enforce the direct payment of taxes like all of its predecessor empires did, but distributed instead its own fiat currency, the U.S. Dollar, to other nations in exchange for goods with the intended consequence of inflating and devaluing those dollars and paying back later each dollar with less economic goods—the difference capturing the U.S. imperial tax."

The immediate question is whether the neocons will attempt to intervene in Iran in an effort to prevent the formation of a crude oil pricing mechanism in euros.
I've noted before the possibility of a war with Iran. Definitely at stake is the status of the US dollar as the reserve currency, as was the case with Iraq under Hussein at the turn of the century. Of course there are some problems with starting yet another war while the one in Iraq continues to fester. Getting a "coalition of the willing" could be a lot trickier this time around, as the author notes, and Iran is no slouch militarily unlike the case with Iraq. A nearly broken US military would find taking on Iran to be a gargantuan undertaking - one that would lead to even more spilled blood than has already been experienced. Iran could also more effectively cut off oil supplies which, given the sheer amount of dependence we have on oil to fuel whatever's left of our industries as well as shipping and agriculture, could easily precipitate a collapse of the US as we currently know it.

From the mailbag re: last week's immigration raids

For a bit of background, see my earlier post on the raid in nearby Cactus, TX. One thing that'll jump out is the discrepancy between the official spin and what average folks actually saw going down. Now let's see what Roberto Lovato, writing for TomPaine.com has to say:

Last week’s controversial immigration raids at Swift & Company meatpacking plants in six states, which federal officials have characterized as the largest sweep of its kind in U.S. history, should send waves of fear among citizens and non-citizens alike. The very high profile arrest and detention of almost 1,300 workers marks a major move to further erode all of our rights.

Merely viewing “Operation Wagon Train” as another in the lengthening line of dehumanizing and brutal attacks on immigrant and labor rights—as most analysts do—falls short. That’s because in the so-called War on Terror immigration and immigrants have become the justification of choice in the ongoing erosion of labor, privacy and other rights under the Bush administration.

We see for instance, that those rounded up have been disappeared:

For example, a statement about the status of the Swift workers by John Bowen, the attorney representing the workers on behalf of the United Food and Commercial Workers Local 7, was indistinguishable from those of attorneys representing detainees in Guantanamo or in secret CIA facilities. “We don't know where they are and we don't know what's happening," he said. "We don't know if they are being pressured to do something or not. We can't provide them or their families with information until we know where they are."

The official spin is that the raid had to do with "identity theft", and immigrant status was only secondary:

One of the distinguishing characteristics of the recent raid is the effort by Department of Homeland Security head Michael Chertoff and Immigration and Citizenship Enforcement chief Julie Myers to frame it as a crackdown on “identity theft.”

When I called to find out more about the raids, ICE public affairs officer Richard Rocha was anxious to talk about how the need to protect “victims of identity theft” prompted the Swift & Company raid. The investigation “began as an identity theft investigation and we only later learned about the illegal workers at the plants,” he said.

Sounds nice, but, something just ain't adding up, as Lovato goes on to note:

“OK, sure. You discovered that there were undocumented workers after the fact,” I thought. Having covered privacy and electronic surveillance issues a few years ago, I asked Rocha what sorts of traditional identity theft practices ICE found. Rocha only cited the case of a man who was stopped because his driver’s license had violations which he was later found not to have committed.

“Are there any instances of credit card scams?” I asked. “Not that I know of” he responded. “Bank fraud?” I asked. “I have no specifics” he answered. “Terrorism links?” I asked. “We have not been told of any links to terrorism regarding the identity theft cases tied to Swift employees,” he said.

So much for the official spin. The identity theft angle falls apart at the seams. Furthermore, let's get a look at how the language of militarism is used:

At a press conference, Myers used the increasingly militarized language of immigration policy to describe the Swift & Company raid:

This investigation has uncovered a disturbing front in the war against illegal immigration. We believe that the genuine identities of possibly hundreds of U.S. citizens are being stolen or hijacked by criminal organizations and sold to illegal aliens in order to gain unlawful employment in this country. Combating this burgeoning problem is one of ICE’s highest priorities.

So this is "war" apparently in the minds of the Feds. Add to that check out the exaggeration used:

“Hundreds of U.S. citizens” refers to alleged and potential cases. Of the nearly 1,300 grabbed and detained without legal recourse (including U.S citizens) only 65 were charged “identity theft” and ICE representative Rocha could only provide one concrete case after repeated requests for other examples besides the drivers license case he cited. Victims of identity theft are people who generally have some personal identity document—Social Security number, credit card number, bank account—stolen or lost and then used for fraud, deception or economic gain.

But there is an agenda that should concern civil libertarians:

Chertoff also used the discussion of the Swift raid to highlight the guest worker program and a national ID card, a high Bush administration priority. The best way to deal with the issues raised in the raid, Chertoff said, “would be a program that would allow businesses that need foreign workers—because they can't otherwise satisfy their labor needs—to be able to get those workers in a regulated program that gives us visibility into who is coming in, has a secure form of identification and makes sure that the federal government is able to collect and promptly allocate all the necessary taxes.”

This is what Bu$hCo wants: a national ID card. Big Brother wants to watch us all. Not only was the raid designed to strike terror in the Hispanic community (a very sizable community in the "high plains" region which includes the Texas & Oklahoma panhandles and southwestern Kansas), but to strike sufficient terror more broadly in order to get us all to clamor for "protection" we don't need at the expense of our rights.

Speaking of rights, my friend Manuel has some pertinent information about resources for immigrant families:
Courtesy of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA)
**Toll-free number for families members of workers detained in Swift raids: 1-866-341-3858

[...]

Resources for Immigrants Detained or Fearing Further Raids:

Know Your Rights brochure, available in English, Spanish, Arabic, Urdu, Hindi, Punjabi, Farsi, and Somali, from the ACLU

"Know Your Rights at Home and at Work" in English and Spanish, from the National Immigration Law Center

"What To Do If You Are Arrested or Detained by Immigration" in English, Spanish, Chinese, and Korean, from the National Immigration Law Center

"Know Your Rights if You Have Been Arrested or Detained by the U.S. Government" in English and Spanish, from CASA of Maryland

As the saying goes, knowledge is power. Whatever you do, don't believe the government's hype.

Food for thought

Found this gem quoted at American Samizdat and thought I'd pass it along:

People who seek and hold power over others aren’t influenced for the good by public discourse. They mine it for leverage, seek ways to direct it towards things supportive of their programs and mine it for trendy, effective rationales. Public discourse is a vehicle for their psychological warfare. The first step is always getting people to consider something patently ridiculous as worthy of serious attention. Social Security, for example, is now under attack by Charles Rangel [D-NY] and Robert Rubin, the Clinton administration Secretary of the Treasury. They know their arguments are bogus. They want them to be taken seriously, and discussed seriously, so that elements of them appear in the received wisdom columns in the newspapers. Eventually, enough people will accept that there must be something wrong. Why would people be talking about it so much if there weren’t?

One might well ask how anyone could know that such things are psychological warfare, beyond a shadow of a doubt. It’s because the designers of the campaign explicitly say so. They’re proud of it, they think it’s good and a good thing to be doing. When someone says he’s going to do something and then verifiably takes steps to do it, you’re not going to get much better proof. People like that aren’t going to be swayed by debunking. At best, they’ll be forced to change their perception management tactics. They’ll be swayed when 20 or 30 percent of the labor force refuses to show up for work. They’ll be swayed when they lose privileged access to crony networks. The “lesser evilism” votes harvested by cretins like Rangel aren’t persuasive. Every counter-argument, no matter how well explicated, becomes a waste of effort if the last step of it is affirming the shreds of legitimacy he’s gained through formalized, circumscribed democracy.

The programs offered by Spartacus and Lohmann offer much more scope for achieving something positive. They’re fairly modest, goodness knows.

Let's just say that I've been advocating an independent stance among lefties for a while, rather than simply affiliating with the Democrats for lack of a better option. Simply voting will not persuade the Congresscritters, as their main concern is raking in the all-mighty dollars ponied up by lobbyists of varying stripes. The psy-ops waged during the 2006 midterms were impressive. To listen to the Dem politicians and their various allies on the Sunday morning talkshow circuit, they were running against the war that Bu$hCo started (and that, gasp, many Dems meekly enabled). But after the elections were a done deal, and the fates of the myriad candidates were sealed, leaders of the Democrats got to sowing their oats as a majority party by (you guessed it) cutting and running from the anti-war rhetoric. Hence, we'll likely see next year continued funding for the Bu$hCo debacles in Iraq & Afghanistan, and approval for a "surge" of troops for the Iraq debacle (we'll be told by Sen. Reid no doubt that this will be "temporary"). Similarly, all the anti-Bu$hCo rhetoric was pretty damned impressive to the extent that it provided hope to those expecting investigations leading to impeachment. Not so fast, sez in-coming Speaker Pelosi. The 2008 elections are just around the corner, see, and there are "other priorities." Besides, what's the worst damage old Junior Caligula could do anyways? Of course if one must ask that question, one hasn't paid much attention. Don't even get me started on Social Security - we'd already been through the whole "crisis" lunacy before. Not too surprisingly, a bit of fresh donations from the right lobbyists will convince the likes of Rangel that there is a "crisis", if only one affecting profit margins and CEO salaries. Can't have that, now can we.

In the meantime, expect plenty of fiddling while the 'hood burns to the ground.

Monday, December 18, 2006

Quotable

"No movement can be won if no risks are taken."
--Indigenous Oaxaca organizer

Say hello to

Alternative Tulsa.

Noticed this blog while looking at the traffic over at Blue Oklahoma. As an aside, make sure to check out Blue Oklahoma too - there's usually some fresh content every couple days, hopefully more content as time goes along.

I'm Time's "Person of the Year"

I don't really like the cover photo though. It makes me look fat.

Last Words of Dying Dictators

General Augusto Pinochet, who escaped earthly justice on December 10, was detained in London in 1999 awaiting a ruling by a British court on whether he would be extradited to Spain on a Spanish judge's warrant to face charges of crimes against humanity committed during his rule in Chile from 1973 to 1990. "I tell you how I feel," he told a London journalist at the time. "I would like to be remembered as a man who served his country, who served Chile throughout his entire life on this earth. And what he did was always done thinking about the welfare of Chile."[9]

P.W. Botha, former president of South Africa died November 1. He was a man who had vigorously defended the apartheid system, which led to the jailing of tens of thousands of people. He never repented or apologized for his actions, and resisted attempts to make him appear before the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission. At one point he declared: "I am not going to repent. I am not going to ask for forgiveness. What I did, I did for my country."[10]

As Pol Pot lay on his death bed in 1997, he was interviewed by a journalist, who later wrote: "Asked whether he wants to apologize for the suffering he caused, he looks genuinely confused, has the interpreter repeat the question, and answers ‘No'. ... ‘I want you to know that everything I did, I did for my country'."[11]

"In these three decades I have been actuated solely by love and loyalty to my people in all my thoughts, acts, and life." Adolf Hitler, "Last Will and Testament", written in his bunker in his final hours, April 29, 1945.

Fast Forward now to 2036 ... George W. Bush lies dying, Fox News Channel is in the room recording his last words ... "I know that people think the whole thing ... that thing in Iraq ... was a bad thing, and they hold it against me ... I appreciate their view ... I can understand how they feel ... But y'know, I did it for America, and the American people, and their freedom ... The more you love freedom, the more likely it is you'll be attacked ... Saddam was a real threat ... I still think he had weapons of mass destruction ... and someday we'll find 'em ... someday we'll say mission accomplished! ... that will really be a turning point! ... So I'm prepared to meet my maker and whatever he has in mind for me ... in fact I say Bring it on!"

William Shirer, in his monumental work "The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich", comments that Hitler's Last Will and Testament "confirm that the man who had ruled over Germany with an iron hand for more than twelve years, and over most of Europe for four, had learned nothing from his experience."[12]

Shirer tells us of another happening concerning Hitler's bunker, on April 12. When news of the death of President Franklin Roosevelt reached Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels, he phoned Hitler in the bunker. "My Fuehrer," Goebbels said. "I congratulate you! Roosevelt is dead! ... It is the turning point."[13]
From William Blum's latest edition of his Anti-Empire Report.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Congrats to Jon Swift

for making Tom Delay's Carnival of Conservatives this weekend with Taliban Rules. Now if only Jesus' General would get the same equally deserved recognition.

Quick quiz: One of the bloggers listed in this weekend's carnival is a satirist. Can you guess which one? Clearly Delay can't. (Nudge nudge. Wink wink.)

Crappy Birthday!

One year ago today Junior Caligula "fessed up" to the illegal NSA wiretapping. Talk Left has a question:
It's up to the Dems now. Will they have the spine and the wherewithal to put an end to it...without passing more laws that increase the executive's power to order spying on more of us without adequate judicial oversight?
My short answer: Don't count on it.

America's Peace Grandma

Found over at Mickey Z's place:
Rosemarie “RMJ” Jackowski—America’s Peace Grandma—is facing a retrial on charges stemming from her arrest at a March 2003 anti-war rally in Vermont. To get up to speed on this important story, here’s my October 2005 interview with RMJ. To bring yourself completely up to date, check out this article about the impending retrial.
Check it out.

"Die Sonne scheint noch."

Noticed a review of a German film, Sophie Scholl - The Final Days over at Peace Takes Courage. Check out what Ava sez:
The movie was very well done and I recommend you see it. Watching the movie I got chill bumps more than once when listening to the Hitler supporters. The arguments were very similar to those used in defense of Bush. They claimed anyone who spoke out was a "traitor", "aiding the enemy", and "dishonoring the troops." We must make sure our society does not reach the end of the path it is headed down right now - a path similar to that which Germany went down. It's important for us to keep speaking out and never be silenced by those who lead our country. Power is in numbers, which is why we must let it be known that the majority does not support an unjust war.

Sophie Scholl's last words were "Die Sonne scheint noch," meaning "The Sun still shines." We will not be silenced and our society can not afford for us to back down.
More info about the film can be found here.

Blame the universities

When all else fails, the wingnuts blame the universities. If one were to believe the rantings in the lte section of the Amarillo Globe, one would be convinced that universities are filled with commies poisoning young minds. Basically, all these particular letter writers do is to more or less parrot what folks like David Horowitz and Ann Coulter have screeched at 'em for years. In addition to being woefully inaccurate (I can count the grand total of one legit Marxist professor from my undergrad days, and I went to a large state university in California!), there's a current of elitism to these letters. To wit, according to this sad bunch, college students are simply not capable of thinking for themselves and are in need of wingnut protection from the evil commie profs. Here's a hint for anyone who buys that line of b.s.: college students are, with very few exceptions, adults with an enormous capacity for thinking critically of whatever informed (or uninformed) opinion a prof. might offer up. Even among the younger of today's college students, we profs simply don't have much influence on their attitudes and opinions relative to other factors such as exposure to peers coming from different socioeconomic, ethnic, and religious backgrounds. If the wingnuts really wish to protect the young 'uns, they should either keep them out of college or encourage them to go to places like Bob Jones University, where the curricula and the students will keep it right-wing and white.

Say hello to

The Impeach Project.

From the Vaults: Industrial Music For Industrial People

Folks know me as more of a jazzer, but once upon a time, I was quite the industrial music fan. I still am, actually, although I'm probably much more likely to throw on a Frank Wright or Matthew Shipp CD than a Skinny Puppy CD nowadays. A few links that are noteworthy:

Cabaret Voltaire: An extensive website covering not only the pioneering industrial band itself, but it members' various solo and side projects.

Throbbing Gristle: An extensive website covering another 1970s industrial band. Fascinating music and equally fascinating personalities behind the music.

Industrial Records: A short-lived label that was the original home to Throbbing Gristle's recorded output.

Clock DVA: late 1970s & 1980s industrial group.

23 Skidoo: another late 1970s & 1980s industrial group that briefly re-formed at the turn of the 21st century.

I was a bit young for the first wave of industrial but was definitely of age when the second wave of industrial (usually referred to as industrial dance) was at its peak, and combos such as Skinny Puppy, Psychic TV, Frontline Assembly, and Cabaret Voltaire were recording and performing much of their groundbreaking work. I never really got into the industrial metal vibe (although there are a couple Ministry albums I really dug), and really prefer the first wave of industrial (cats like Throbbing Gristle and Cabaret Voltaire were at their most experimental in the 1970s, producing music that had the abrasiveness of punk filtered through electronics, minimalism, and all sorts of other dangers). The early stuff in particular focused on making music of found objects and sounds, and on the possibilities of non-musicians as musical performers. The soundscapes are bleak, dark, forbidding assaults on the senses. Even the later more dance-oriented industrial recordings maintain an atmosphere of inescapable and claustrophobic alienation, anomie, with the funk grooves stripped down to their most starkly mechanical as humanly possible. It was definitely music of the times that has managed to transcend the 1970s - the reactionary repressiveness of a Tory-dominated England has much in common with the reactionary repressiveness of our current US government.

Just to whet the appetite, here's a bit from Methodology: 74/78 Attic Tapes -
I remember the 70s as a time of austerity, a crackdown after the so-called liberal times of the 60s. Racism, repressive policing, hijackings, Baader Meinhof, The Angry Brigade, Operation Julie, cheap sulphate, boredom, industrial unrest, but a feeling that something was on the boil within an alienated and disaffected "youth culture."

[snip]

I suppose we took our cue (and also our name) from the Dada movement and maybe in retrospect from the situationist movement. The bottom line is, it was never just about music, but about confrontation, challenging peoples conceptions on everything from sound and image to reality itself. Trying to be a thorn in the side of authority. From run of the mill war obsessed jobsworths, constables, in fact anybody who wore a badge, to politicians. All considered fair game for baiting and satirization. In some ways though it was just an innocent reflection of the times, not different from the Beach Boys singing about surfing and the good times in California. But there was no surf to ride in Sheffield, just postwar desolation, unemployment and ugly urban landscapes.
My emphasis added.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Thoughts on the Swift meat packing raids

I've been too swamped with finals to really have the time needed to comment on the recent ICE raids at six Swift meat processing facilities, including the one in nearby Cactus, TX. Not that I haven't noticed, of course. Thankfully, there's already plenty of fine commentary available on our government's latest Gestapo tactics, so I won't have to add too many of my own. I did want to first note something a nearby Dumas resident Fate Bennett said about the raid:
The storey [sic] regarding the raid in Cactus, TX is not completely forth-coming regarding the events that took place in the small texas town this morning. The story does not mention the fact that immigration agents were going door to door in Cactus demanding birth certificates, drivers licenses, social security cards and other identification documentation from people outside the Swift meat packing plant who were peacefully going about their daily routine in their own homes. Texas citizens were also be stopped on the roads in Cactus, and were requested to produce the documents mentioned previously. Immigration services also requested identification documents for all members in the households, children and adults, they shook down. I think that the actions not covered in any news story I have read are quite extreme, and racially motivated. If any person there were hispanic or hispanic looking, then immigration agents and other officers working in the area zeroed in on them!

I mean really, since when do people carry their birth certificates around with them. And since when could a federal agent knock on your door and request these items from you. Last time I checked, people didn't have to provide anything identifying themselves to authorities without either a warrant or probable cause. I don't see any probable cause when going door to door, and no warrants were provided to any of the people I spoke to that were in Cactus this morning.

I feel that the entire events of a something like this should be covered in the news, and not just the main focus of the what it is that authorities are trying to do. I don't know how many people were detained from their homes, and I don't know if it is within the powers that be to go into residents homes, and interrogate them in this manner, but I don't agree with it. Mabye [sic] if the immigration services and the authorities would get their rear-ends down to the borders and start patrolling them properly, then we would not have to waste our tax payer dollars on raids like this.

The state and federal agencies act like this is something that has just come up. I lived in Dumas most of my life, and I'm now in my 30's, and I know that there have been illegal immigrants in this area in large numbers for as long as I can remember. I know that the focus of these operations was to prevent identity theft, but identify theft was just another means for this government to carry out the new witch hunt for illegal immigrants. I know that the area their will take an economical hit if large numbers of illegal immigrants are deported, and it just seems like a bad way to do things. Think of the people that will be seperated [sic] from their families as well. Just doesn't seem like the right thing to do!
My emphasis added. An anonymous reader of the same Amarillo newspaper added this remark:
Now how are the little children that went home today on the bus to not find there parents at home, or better yet how about the children that couldn't get home because there parents weren't there to do so.
The effect on the kids has got to be devastating, as a quote from this Desmoines-are article cited at Man Eegee suggests:
The baby left behind has her own problems.

She has been difficult to feed since her mother was arrested, Feagan said.

“The mother was breastfeeding the baby,” Feagan said. “The baby doesn’t want to eat. Another tried to breastfeed, but she knew it wasn’t her.”

Feagan said she and advocates for local Hispanic families have tried to pinpoint exactly how many children are in family-limbo to try to organize help.

A total of 408 students were absent in the Marshalltown community school district as of Wednesday morning, district officials reported.
Other bloggers of note who have the lowdown include Nezua, XicanoPwr, Latina Lista, Duke1676 of Migra Matters, and David Neiwert.

The decimation of the Writ of Habeas Corpus that the last Congressional session foisted upon us is already having its consequences, just in time for the Holidays. Can't help but wonder if to add to the already fascist behavior exhibited by the raids themselves if those Haliburton concentration camps are now being put in to use.

One a related note: on the right sidebar you'll now notice a list of all the Senators from this last Congressional session who voted to do away with Habeas Corpus. As my friend Manuel notes, they aren't all Republicans - and to drive that point home I've put the Dems who voted to kill Habeas Corpus in boldface type.

We're number one!

United States imprisons more people than China, Russia or any other nation, experts say:
A report released by the justice department on Nov. 30 reported 1 in every 32 American adults -- or a record 7 million people -- were incarcerated, on probation or on parole at the end of 2005, with 2.2 million of them in prison or jail. The International Center for Prison Studies at King's College, London reported that this number was the highest of any country, with China ranking second with 1.5 million prisoners, and Russia sitting in third with 870,000. The United States also has the highest incarceration rate at 737 per 100,000 people, compared to nearest country Russia's 611 per 100,000 and St. Kitts and Nevis' 547.

[snip]

"The United States has 5 percent of the world's population and 25 percent of the world's incarcerated population. We rank first in the world in locking up our fellow citizens," said Ethan Nadelmann of the Drug Policy Alliance, which supports alternatives in the war on drugs. "We now imprison more people for drug law violations than all of Western Europe, with a much larger population, incarcerates for all offenses."

Ryan King, a policy analyst at The Sentencing Project, said that about 2 million of the 7 million in prison, on probation or on parole were drug offenders. He added that other countries tend to focus on treatment over incarceration, but the United States has a more punitive legal system than other countries.

"We send more people to prison, for more different offenses, for longer periods of time than anybody else," he said.

Impeachment or no impeachment?

There's a question that should have been fairly easy to answer. A nation has a president who has practically wiped his filthy ass with the Constitution he swore to defend, and can find plenty of grounds to tell the dude, "you're fired." With the Dems in power in the House and Senate for the first time in ages and wielding the power to set the agenda for the next couple years one would figure that impeachment would be part of the deal. In a functional republic perhaps. We're living in a republic in its twilight that is far from functional. Hence we have both legislators (e.g. incoming Speaker Pelosi) and pundits who would just as soon ignore calls for impeachment. Apparently, using Junior Caligula as a political albatross to hang across Republican necks next election season is of more importance. Of course any legislator from the session now ending or next year's session would be "irresponsible" to so much as suggest impeachment, and even more "irresponsible" actually tender the relevant legislation for consideration. From that vantage point, Cynthia McKinney's final act in the House this year was nothing more than a Bronx cheer aimed at her own party. From a different vantage point, McKinney was arguably the only legislator who had the gumption to consistently call for holding the White House gangsters responsible for their criminal activities but who also was arguably the only one to consistently questioned the wisdom of the weak-kneed approach to politics taken by her own party. Perhaps she was not entirely alone, but losing her voice in the legislature will no doubt be a blow to those who actually believed that the Dems would really take a stand against an Executive Branch gone wild. For those who knew better, and merely hoped that the Dems would put a couple bandaids on a patient bleeding profusely out of every orifice, perhaps there will be less room for disappointment.

Quotable

Our "neoconservatives" are neither new nor conservative, but old as Babylon and evil as Hell. – Edward Abbey
I would add that something similar could be said about our "neoliberals".

Are you glad to be in America?

You have to laugh at the media coverage of the murder of Sean Bell (and the injuring of Joseph Guzman and Trent Benefield) by police. There are serious debates going on about whether fifty shots is excessive force or not. I don't recognise the concept of 'excessive force' when you've just shot an innocent man's brains out. Nevertheless, the whole matter now apparently hangs on whether the jury is willing to accept that the cops "reasonably" could have believed that the men they shot at were an immediate threat. Also, there is a miraculous theory known as "contagious shooting": this explains that fifty shots were fired because, well, one shot was fired and everyone else couldn't help but join in the fun. The police have a good sense of rhythm, you know. But then why stop at fifty? And now there's surprise - surprise, mark you - that the police's story seems to be different from that of the victims. Because the police claim, of course, that they only started blasting when the Sean Bell put his foot on the gas and tried to drive off, thus crashing into a police van. Benefield says the spur for accelerating away was the sudden appearance of an undercover cop shooting through the wind screen.
You read correctly: in our nation there are many here who would actually consider the question of whether fifty shots fired at an unarmed man is excessive to be up for debate. Of course this is the same nation where our elite pundits are willing to consider waterboarding to be something less than torture.

A Ductape Fatwa tribute (pt. 2)

Americans confused over what America is

There is a popular fallacy loose in the United States, that "America" means the guy at the convenience store counter, the family who lives next door, the people buying popcorn at the Magic Johnson Theatre, the girl who took your lunch order, your child's teacher.

America, some mistakenly believe, is apple pie and spring festivals and face painters and clowns and Hollywood spectaculars. It is not skateboard tournaments and liberty and justice for all.

Wrong.

America means mega-corporations who make large amounts of money from the blood and sweat and bones of those listed above, and millions of others all over the world, most of them living lives of worse misery than any of the above can even imagine.

America means death squads, brutal hordes of torturers and sexual predators, hopped up and let loose on half-starved populations with no defensive weapons to speak of, save what they can steal or cobble together as the tanks roll down their street.

America means marvelous new landmines who can blow children to bits from an exciting 300 meters.

America means microwave pain rays, to cook the flesh of any who would dare oppose BTK as foreign policy.

America means murdering journalists, and forcing anyone who mentions the fact to resign.

America means that if you are poor, you are fucked, and if you are not rich, you are about to be poor.

America means that your serious disease, your horrific injury, is a terrific business opportunity for rich men who want to be richer.

America means sending people to Syria to be tortured, and then criticizing human rights in Syria.

America means occupying Iraq, Afghanistan, Pakistan and beyond, to one degree or another, funding Israeli occupation of Palestine, while decrying Syrian military presence in Lebanon.

And the list goes on.

To oppose any of this is to be anti-American. A terror apologist. With the terrorists. An obstructionist, a rejectionist, a conspiracy theorist, anti-business, socialist, a terrorist.

And to be anti-American is not pragmatic.
An antidote to the mindset of American Exceptionalism. Originally posted at his blog, Enemy of the State, on March 2, 2005.

Friday, December 15, 2006

By the numbers

When the Pentagon announces a detainee has been moved from Guantanamo, it gives his nationality but not his name, making it difficult to track the roughly 360 men released since the detention center opened in January 2002. The Pentagon says detainees have been sent to 26 countries.

But through interviews with justice and police officials, detainees and their families, and using reports from human rights groups and local media, The Associated Press was able to track 245 of those formerly held at Guantanamo. The investigation, which spanned 17 countries, found:

* Once the detainees arrived in other countries, 205 of the 245 were either freed without being charged or were cleared of charges related to their detention at Guantanamo. Forty either stand charged with crimes or continue to be detained.

* Only a tiny fraction of transferred detainees have been put on trial. The AP identified 14 trials, in which eight men were acquitted and six are awaiting verdicts. Two of the cases involving acquittals - one in Kuwait, one in Spain - initially resulted in convictions that were overturned on appeal.

* The Afghan government has freed every one of the more than 83 Afghans sent home. Lawmaker Sibghatullah Mujaddedi, the head of Afghanistan's reconciliation commission, said many were innocent and wound up at Guantanamo because of tribal or personal rivalries.

* At least 67 of 70 repatriated Pakistanis are free after spending a year in Adiala Jail. A senior Pakistani Interior Ministry official said investigators determined that most had been "sold" for bounties to U.S. forces by Afghan warlords who invented links between the men and al-Qaida. "We consider them innocent," said the official, who declined to be named because of the sensitivity of the issue.

* All 29 detainees who were repatriated to Britain, Spain, Germany, Russia, Australia, Turkey, Denmark, Bahrain and the Maldives were freed, some within hours after being sent home for "continued detention."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

Quotable: George Monbiot

If we were to judge the US by its penal policies, we would perceive a strange beast: a Christian society that believes in neither forgiveness nor redemption.

Monday, December 11, 2006

stuff to read

McKinney and Karpinsky: Silenced for Telling the Truth cuts to the chase. While we're at it, McKinney's still right: something is terribly wrong in America.

GNN has some news that might have gone under the radar: If You Knew. In reviewing the state of the Mumia Abu Jamal case 25 years on, the article has a quote that is sadly on-target:
Only in America could a trial judge say “I’ll help them fry the Nigger,” and be considered fair.
In the government idiocy department: meet the new bosses, not much better than the old ones. The incoming chair of the House Intelligence Committee (the same guy that would like to put another 30,000 bullet-stoppers in Iraq) can't answer a simple question about Al Qaeda. Oh yeah, Rahm Emanuel apparently knew more about the Congressional Page scandal than he let on. Not cool. And one wonders why a fair subset of the US population doesn't trust either of the two parties that currently have a stranglehold on power.

Hey, did you know there were 2 million anti-government protesters in Beirut, Lebanon yesterday? If you didn't you weren't alone.

Monica Hill sez to beware the hype about sending UN troops to Darfur.

Rappers in Need

Some of y'all know I've been a fan of Boots Riley's group, The Coup, for some time. They recently were doing some touring to support their latest cd when their tour bus was demolished in an accident, destroying everything including the tools of their trade, as well as leaving the crew with injuries of various sorts. Boots explains the whole thing over at CounterPunch. If you've got a dime or two to spare, I'm sure these cats would appreciate it.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

Yet another reason I would never vote for Hillary in a million years

With a major story about racism and police brutality in NYC and more and more evidence that the Iraq war is FUBAR, on what matter do you suppose the Dems' 2008 nominee hopeful Hillary Clinton would focus her energies? Videogames. Yup. videogames. Of all the stupid....Let's put it this way: one of the reasons I never have and would never vote for Al Gore is because of his wife, Tipper, who made her claim to fame by spearheading efforts to censor rock lyrics. The thought of Tipper having a national platform to preach about Dead Kennedys or Tupac lyrics simply makes me ill. The thought of yet another one of these triangulating "New Democrats" having a bully pulpit for pandering to our nation's wannabe censors and busybodies is not going to sit well with me either. Well, I've never voted for a Clinton and barring some sort of major brain injury never will.

This nation faces issues that are so pressing as to make all the talk of rating cds or videogames entirely frivolous.