Saturday, January 21, 2006

Food for thought

It was very interesting. The panelists left no doubt that the WH has engaged in crimes, the illegal spying by Bu$hCo is extensive and the WH legal justification for these activities is ludicrous. The forum was not in the least comforting to those that appreciate that we are in the midst of a Constitutional crisis. GWB can break laws, vow to continue breaking them, and it’s highly unlikely that he can be stopped.

The Republican Party has become superior to the Constitution. We saw glimpses of this in the 1990’s. Congress is supposed to keep a watch on the activities of the Executive. Investigate and hold hearing whenever some suspicious activity appears.

[...]

[Conyers] is pessimistic about the House opening hearing into the WH spying and not optimistic that the hearings in the Senate will lead to appropriate Congressional activity. Gonzales isn’t going to appoint an Independent Counsel. It remains to be seen if the public will continue to blow it off the same way they have dealt with the Downing Street Memo (and all the other evidence that Bu$hCo lied us into war), Abu Ghraib and FEMA’s total incompetence after Katrina. They might not. The Medicare prescription plan disaster and Abramoff, Inc. might be the tipping point. Just enough for them also to become outraged about being illegally spied on. Then again, scandal fatigue could set in and they could instead exhibit learned helplessness.

One very good thing came from Conyer’s forum. Everyone engaged in this illegal spying was put on notice that the statute of limitations extends beyond 2008. That from this point forward, they will be less able to claim that they were only following orders. Norquist and the GOP may believe that they will remain in power for the next forty years. Banking on the GOP and Rove to retain power and protect [them] from the long arm of the law wouldn’t be a bet I would take. Then again, I’m not a Republican.

Nerdified Link

Some terrorists are more special than others

Bernardo Alvarez Herrera, Venezuelan Ambassador to the United States:

This person is asking our opinion concerning the United States sheltering a terrorist known as the Osama Bin Laden of Latin America, Luis Posada Carriles. This terrorist is responsible for the murder of 73 innocent passengers on a civilian plane over the waters of Barbados in October of 1976. Posada is a fugitive from justice in Venezuela, because he escaped from a prison in Caracas while his trial for murder was pending. In June of last year, Venezuela asked the United States government for his extradition. Our request is based on three different extradition treaties that require the U.S. government to either extradite him to Venezuela or try him in this country for 73 counts of first degree murder. Rather than responding to our request and moving forward with his extradition or trial for murder, the U.S. government has thus far treated his case as a minor immigration matter and charged him only with illegal entry into the country. The international war on terrorism does not mean an a la carte war. The U.S. cannot pick and choose which terrorist to prosecute. A terrorist is a terrorist period. We call on the American people to demand that the US government abide by its international obligations and do what the law requires it to do: extradite or prosecute Posada for murder. Instead, he now stands on the verge of being released from custody on January 24.

Nerdified Link


Hat tip to Left I.

Yes, Scalito is a Nightmare

Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist told Republican Party activists on Friday night that U.S. Supreme Court nominee Samuel Alito was the "worst nightmare of liberal Democrats."

Frist, a Tennessee Republican, made the remark to fellow Republicans during a private tour he gave them of the Senate chamber when the Senate was not in session.

Nerdified Link

Yep...this is the guy is a wingnut's wet dream.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Yet another torture technique

Speaking of shining the light of truth:
Ft. Carson, Colo. - It was dubbed the "sleeping bag technique."

Interrogators at a makeshift prison in western Iraq, desperate to break suspected insurgents, would stuff them face-first into a sleeping bag with a small hole cut in the bottom for air.

Chief Warrant Officer Lewis E. Welshofer Jr. used it on an Iraqi general as a last-ditch grab for information as Welshofer's unit was in the midst of an offensive against insurgents and desperate for intelligence.
The technique was not in the Army Field Manual, but Welshofer testified Thursday that he believed it was permitted after top commanders told interrogators "the gloves were coming off."

But Welshofer got no information.

[...]

At the prison, Welshofer supervised a handful of other interrogators and 40 military intelligence officers. Another interrogator had invented the sleeping bag technique, which Welshofer said was designed to create a claustrophobic effect. Welshofer said a supervisor had approved the technique, but was concerned whether prisoners would be able to breathe, and only allowed Welshofer and its inventor to use it.

Welshofer acknowledged Thursday that when briefing his superior, he omitted that the technique he used involved straddling the detainee's chest.

[...]
The general was issuing blanket denials, and after the final one, Loper said, Welshofer told the detainee: "If you don't answer, you're not going to like what's coming."

Welshofer said that the general at times appeared tired, but he believed he was faking his fatigue. He ordered that the olive-green sleeping bag be dropped over his head, and that he be wrapped in an electrical cord "like winding a yo-yo" to fasten the bag to his 300-pound frame. The general was lowered to the ground on his back, and Welshofer straddled his chest and continued to ask questions, occasionally putting his hand over the general's mouth, the interrogator said. He said he was stopping the detainee from calling out to Allah.

Loper and another witness testified that after several minutes, the general became unresponsive and Welshofer stood up. Then, they said, the general emitted a loud gasp and Welshofer expressed relief that he wasn't dead. Welshofer said he did not recall this occurring.

It was after the general was flipped on his stomach and Welshofer straddled his back that he became silent again. Welshofer said he pulled the bag from the general and saw an odd smile on his face, so he threw water on him to get a response. It was then, he said, that he realized the general was dead or dying, called for medics, and began CPR.

Nerdified Link

From the UN General Assembly Convention against Torture and Other Cruel,Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment:

1. For the purposes of this Convention, the term "torture" means any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person for such purposes as obtaining from him or a third person information or a confession, punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official or other person acting in an official capacity. It does not include pain or suffering arising only from, inherent in or incidental to lawful sanctions.

First Amendment Watch

Via Left I:
Yesterday, the Supreme Court made a key decision which even federal officals admit will have major implications for free speech across the country.

With all eyes on the Alito confirmation non-aftermath, the Court hastily refused to hear the appeal of South Carolina activist Brett Bursey, the first and only person to be prosecuted under the statute governing "Threats to the President."

Bursey's crime? Four years ago, when President Bush came to Columbia, SC to whip up support for the Iraq war, Bursey -- a leader of the South Carolina Progressive Network -- inserted himself into the pro-Bush crowd with a sign saying "No more war for oil, don't invade Iraq."

For these unthinkable sentiments, Bursey was commanded to retreat to an Orwellian-named "free speech zone" or be charged with trespassing. As Bursey relates, "I told the police that I was in a free speech zone called the United States of America."

The trespassing charges were dismissed four months after the arrest, but the feds wouldn't have it. The Secret Service quickly moved to press the unprecedented "Threats to President" charges, and, after being refused a jury trial, Bursey was convicted and given a $500 fine."

Nerdified Link
Speaking truth to oppressors is apparently considered a "threat." Such is the sorry state of the union in these early years of the 21st century. Continuing to speak the truth is necessary to shine light on real and would-be tyrants in order that we may prevent them from continuing their efforts at oppression:

Sahih Bukhari Volume 3, Book 43, Number 624:
Narrated Anas:

Allah's Apostle said, "Help your brother, whether he is an oppressor or he is an oppressed one. People asked, "O Allah's Apostle! It is all right to help him if he is oppressed, but how should we help him if he is an oppressor?" The Prophet said, "By preventing him from oppressing others."

Hat tip to Planet Grenada for the above passage (my emphasis added).

The next target: Iran

Why? It's the oil...or more specifically, the currency in which oil is traded:
In 1971, as it became clearer and clearer that the U.S Government would not be able to buy back its dollars in gold, it made in 1972-73 an iron-clad arrangement with Saudi Arabia to support the power of the House of Saud in exchange for accepting only U.S. dollars for its oil. The rest of OPEC was to follow suit and also accept only dollars. Because the world had to buy oil from the Arab oil countries, it had the reason to hold dollars as payment for oil. Because the world needed ever increasing quantities of oil at ever increasing oil prices, the world’s demand for dollars could only increase. Even though dollars could no longer be exchanged for gold, they were now exchangeable for oil.

The economic essence of this arrangement was that the dollar was now backed by oil. As long as that was the case, the world had to accumulate increasing amounts of dollars, because they needed those dollars to buy oil. As long as the dollar was the only acceptable payment for oil, its dominance in the world was assured, and the American Empire could continue to tax the rest of the world. If, for any reason, the dollar lost its oil backing, the American Empire would cease to exist. Thus, Imperial survival dictated that oil be sold only for dollars. It also dictated that oil reserves were spread around various sovereign states that weren’t strong enough, politically or militarily, to demand payment for oil in something else. If someone demanded a different payment, he had to be convinced, either by political pressure or military means, to change his mind.

The man that actually did demand Euro for his oil was Saddam Hussein in 2000. At first, his demand was met with ridicule, later with neglect, but as it became clearer that he meant business, political pressure was exerted to change his mind. When other countries, like Iran, wanted payment in other currencies, most notably Euro and Yen, the danger to the dollar was clear and present, and a punitive action was in order. Bush’s Shock-and-Awe in Iraq was not about Saddam’s nuclear capabilities, about defending human rights, about spreading democracy, or even about seizing oil fields; it was about defending the dollar, ergo the American Empire. It was about setting an example that anyone who demanded payment in currencies other than U.S. Dollars would be likewise punished.

[...]

Instead, Bush must have went into Iraq to defend his Empire. Indeed, this is the case: two months after the United States invaded Iraq, the Oil for Food Program was terminated, the Iraqi Euro accounts were switched back to dollars, and oil was sold once again only for U.S. dollars. No longer could the world buy oil from Iraq with Euro. Global dollar supremacy was once again restored. Bush descended victoriously from a fighter jet and declared the mission accomplished—he had successfully defended the U.S. dollar, and thus the American Empire.

[...]

The Iranian government has finally developed the ultimate “nuclear” weapon that can swiftly destroy the financial system underpinning the American Empire. That weapon is the Iranian Oil Bourse slated to open in March 2006. It will be based on a euro-oil-trading mechanism that naturally implies payment for oil in Euro. In economic terms, this represents a much greater threat to the hegemony of the dollar than Saddam’s, because it will allow anyone willing either to buy or to sell oil for Euro to transact on the exchange, thus circumventing the U.S. dollar altogether. If so, then it is likely that almost everyone will eagerly adopt this euro oil system...

As the author goes on to note, the outcome will be either deflation and economic depression or hyperinflation depending of course on what the Fed decides to do. In the next few weeks, we'll likely continue to hear the war drums beat louder. The usual rationales will suffice: Iran is developing nukes, its government has repressed its people, its president is a Holocaust denier, it's a new key battle field in the "war on terra," it's time to spread "democracy" to the Iranian people, ad nauseum. We've been down that road before. Just realize that underlying all the glib justifications is the drive to defend the allmighty dollar at all costs.

Hat tip to Bill of Thoughts on the Eve of the Apocalypse.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

Quotable: Dhoruba Bin-Wahad

"Street gangs that started out as expressions of our community's inability to control our own streets and in opposition to police terror, were led down a certain path by the likes of Tookie. These gangs became predatory, apolitical, and reactionary. Our communities suffered as a consequence. Those who followed in Tookie's footsteps did so because not one Black institution existed that embraced and channeled their warrior spirit in a positive direction. Black nationalist[s] were to[o] busy "getting the right political line"; The Black Clergy was to[o] busy mobilizing themselves to influence a body politic that considered them nothing more than mouth-pieces for the Black middle class; Black professors and militant academician[s] were hollering at white educational institutions for inclusion and relevancy ... none spoke the language nor harnessed the energies of our street soldiers. The only organization that did so was the Black Panther Party -- and that was destroyed by a potent combination of forces over three decades ago. Nothing ever replaced it. " [fr. Bin-Wahad, Dhoruba al-Mujahid, "The Ethics of Black Atonement in Racist America: The Execution of Stanley Tookie Williams", 12/16/05, p. 1 of printout.]

Nerdified Link

Mickey Z on "Right Club"

The first rule about Right Club...


Staying tight on the Right

The Right Club Credo: “Ask not what your country club can do for you, ask what you can do for your country club.”
(Thanks, Sparrow)

White Club

Free sheets and hood included with membership
(It’s scary when Buchanan sounds sensible: http://tinyurl.com/arvw7)

Civil Right Club

Members in good standing...but they keep it low key

Right Club Haiku
+ =
Remember: The first rule
about Right Club: Two rights
always make a wrong

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Academic Freedom Watch

This came from the mailbag a day or so ago the Radical Psychology Network's email discussion listserv:
Do you have a professor who just can’t stop talking about President Bush, about Howard Dean, about the war in Iraq, about MoveOn.org, about the Republican Party, about the Democratic Party, or any other ideological issue that has nothing to do with the class subject matter? It doesn't matter whether this is a past class, or your ongoing class this winter quarter.

If you can help UCLAProfs.com collect information about abusive, one-sided, or off-topic classroom behavior, we’ll pay you for your work.

To see if we need information on the professors you've already taken, or will be taking this winter quarter, call 310-210-6735, or email bruinalumni (AT) bruinalumni.com today, and you could be paid tomorrow.

The following are materials we need for past or ongoing classes, along with rates of compensation.

  • Full, detailed lecture notes, all professor-distributed materials, and full tape recordings of every class session, for one class: $100

(Note: lecture notes must make particular note of audience reactions, comments, and other details that will properly contextualize the professor's non-pertinent ideological comments. If the class in question is ongoing or upcoming, UCLAProfs.com will provide (if needed) all necessary taping equipment and materials.)

  • Full, detailed lecture notes and all professor-distributed materials, for one class: $50

(Advisory: without tape recordings, detailed note-taking is crucial. Particular care must be taken in transcribing the professor’s non-pertinent ideological comments as closely as possible to direct quotes.)

  • Advisory and all professor-distributed materials: $10

Even if you didn’t take detailed notes or attend class regularly, you can still help UCLAProfs.com by alerting us to a problem professor not already in our database or target list (below). This is a particularly attractive option for students wanting to report past classes in which their notes and attendance did not match UCLAProfs.com's high record-keeping standards. Simply provide us the name, your notes from the class (or substitute your current recollections), and any other materials you still retain, and we’ll pay you $10 for the tip.

Nerdified Link
Basically, an examination of UCLAProfs.com reveals that this is more or less a Bush-league (pun intended) right-wing group (in this case the so-called UCLA Bruin Alumni Association run by someone named Andrew Jones) who wish to do their version of an academic witch hunt similar to that of David Horowitz (notorious for his Discoverthenetworks.org and his Orwellian named Students for Academic Freedom projects).

The Right LEFT Story notes that the group's solicitation to purchase student lecture notes is something that UCLA prohibits:

Section 102.23(a) of the UCLA Student Conduct code PROHIBITS the sale of notes or recordings:

102.23a: Selling Course Notes

Selling, preparing, or distributing for any commercial purpose course lecture notes or video or audio recordings of any course unless authorized by the University in advance and explicitly permitted by the course instructor in writing. The unauthorized sale or commercial distribution of course notes or recordings by a student is a violation of the UCLA Code whether or not it was the student or someone else who prepared the notes or recordings. This policy is applicable to any recording in any medium, including handwritten or typed notes.

CONTACT THE DEAN OF STUDENTS to make him or her aware of this practice and point him or her to the offending website.

Office of the Dean of Students, 1206 Murphy Hall, Box 951415, Los Angeles, CA 90095-1415

Phone: 310.825.3871 Email: dean@saonet.ucla.edu www.deanofstudents.ucla.edu
The story has gained some traction in the California media, including the LA Times and the San Francisco Gate.

Personally, I find the efforts of Jones and Horowitz to be more idiotic than anything. Just for starters, these folks must have a rather low view of the intellectual capacity of college and university students. I'm willing to wager that students are pretty good at sussing out the biases of their professors (of all ideological persuasions) and are good at considering those biases when forming their own opinions. Universities and colleges exist to provide a supportive framework in which to develop critical thinking skills, and part of the exercise is to be exposed to individuals who approach scholarship and life from a wide variety of viewpoints.

That said, Jones and Horowitz, in their zeal to demonize leftist professors are missing a far greater influence on students' political beliefs: their peers. My reading of the educational and educational psychology literature, as well as the literature on authoritarianism suggests that professors actually have minimal effect on students' political beliefs. Instead, it appears that exposure to fellow students who come from backgrounds that differ from one's own has the lion's share of influence. There's no conspiracy among us prof types to turn your kids into liberals or leftists - rather any liberalizing effect that college life might have seems more an artifact of the heterogeneity of most college and university student populations. If Jones and Horowitz really wish to have an impact, they would be well advised to counsel their followers to go to private academies with more homogeneous student populations - Liberty U and Bob Jones U should be right up their alley.

The end of hunting?

We hope not. Here's some food for thought:
6) Washington Monthly. 1/9/06. The End of Hunting? Why only progressive government can save a great American pastime. As landowners close off their private property, many hunters have hung up their shotguns. It’s up to progressives to preserve hunting—if we even want to. As long as the conservative ethos reigns in Washington and in state capitals, then America’s hunting, fishing, and outdoors culture will almost certainly continue to decline. The best hope for protecting this heritage probably rests with elected officials of a progressive bent, Republicans as well as Democrats—officials who are ideologically comfortable using government to assert a right bequeathed by America’s political forefathers: that wildlife belongs not to private interests but to the public.

Nerdified Link
I've often said in personal conversations that I think leftists of whatever political affiliation would do well to be hunter-friendly - especially out in the plains and inter-mountain west.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Some quotables: Fascism and its alternatives

I think on MLK day it is apt to begin talking about the issue of disrupters. Under the U.S. definition of a disruptor, MLK would have been a disruptor; Gandhi would have been a disruptor, Rosa Parks would have been a disruptor, hell, Malcolm X would have defintely been a disruptor. These are some of the most influential and well known civil rights activists all whom we celebrate today. If we celebrate their successes, why are the citizen of the United States allowing this disruptor status non-sense?

Nerdified Link
The writer Umberto Eco, in a 1995 essay titled "Ur-Fascism," delineated several core elements that have existed in one form or another in every fascist state in history: "Parliamentary democracy is by definition rotten, because it does not represent the voice of the people, which is that of the sublime leader. Doctrine outstrips reason, and science is always suspect. The national identity is provided by the nation's enemies. Argument is tantamount to treason. Perpetually at war, the state must govern with the instruments of fear. Citizens do not act; they play the supporting role of 'the people' in the grand opera that is the state."

Nerdified Link
The Zapatistas practice a different kind of politics. In the areas of Chiapas where the EZLN is strong, they have not simply governed on their own authority, but have largely stepped back and allowed indigenous “autonomous communities” to decide how to govern themselves. Nor has the EZLN sought power through the ballot, in order to govern on behalf of the people. They have repeatedly submitted their decisions to popular ballot, an approach they call “leading by obeying,” but they have not sought office.

The message of the Zapatistas is that there is more to politics than just electioneering, and that the people should not be satisfied with leaders who care about them only when they are looking for votes. People can take power and change the conditions of their own lives, collectively, the Zapatistas argue, without relying on politicians to do it for them.

That is a message with more than a passing relevance to the United States, where we often reduce politics to nothing more than elections, and where election campaigns rarely deal seriously with the blights, such as poverty and racism, which vex our society as they do Mexico’s.

We would do well to take to heart the Zapatistas’ message:

“We believe that a people which does not watch over its leaders is condemned to be enslaved, and we fought to be free, not to change masters every six years.”

Nerdified Link

Quotable: Hannah Arendt

Politically and psychologically, the most interesting aspect of this incident is perhaps the role played by the German authorities in Denmark, their obvious sabotage of orders from Berlin. It is the only case we know of in which the Nazis met with open native resistance, and the result seems to have been that those exposed to it changed their minds. They themselves apparently no longer looked upon the extermination of a whole people as a matter of course. They had met resistance based on principle, and their “toughness” had melted like butter in the sun, they had even been able to show a few timid beginnings of genuine courage.

From Arendt's (1963) Eichmann in Jerusalem: A Report on the Banality of Evil, p. 175

My emphasis added. That's how you fight tyranny: open resistance based on principle, whenever and wherever tyranny rears its ugly head.

Monday, January 16, 2006

History Repeats?



Hat tip to Lenin's Tomb. Cernig at Newshog has the back story behind the latest US-led saber rattling.

Blogging around

Independent Christian Voice has another pertinent MLK Jr. quote worth reading.

Ductape Fatwa's excellent blog Enemy of the State asks us to remember the victims of the US terror attack on the Pakistani village that left 18 dead.

Mainstream Baptist passes on some news that Christopher Columbus may have been a Catalan pirate in disguise. He also notes that Columbus' career had more in common with that of your typical pirate than that of a "Christ-bearer." Of course, Columbus' reign of terror - which began a centuries long genocide of indigenous peoples throughout the Americas - has been well-documented by Howard Zinn, David Stannard, and Ward Churchill, among others.

Left I on the News notes that Nancy Pelosi and the rest of the 401k liberal crowd are confused about what "supporting the troops" means. I'm with Eli and Rep. Murtha here - get them the hell home asap!

Also of note: Hepkitty's Litter Box has a few thoughts on RICO and GOP racketeering.

Mickey Z also has a tribute to MLK Jr.

Two quotes this MLK Day

One I posted last year:
Don't let anybody make you think God chose America as his divine messianic force to be a sort of policeman of the whole world. God has a way of standing before the nations with justice and it seems I can hear God saying to America, "You are too arrogant, and if you don't change your ways, I will rise up and break the backbone of your power, and I will place it in the hands of a nation that doesn't even know my name. Be still and know that I'm God."

-- Martin Luther King, 4 April 1967
One courtesy of Eli of Left I on the News:

I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today -- my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of the hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent."

- Martin Luther King, April 4, 1967
Food for thought.