Saturday, March 4, 2006

Quotable: Josef Skvorecky

Talkin' bout jazz:

"...the essence of this music, this 'way of making music', is not simply protest. Its essence is something far more elemental: an elan vital, a forceful vitality, an explosive creative energy as breathtaking as that of any true art, that may be felt even in the saddest of blues. Its effect is cathartic... But of course, when the lives of individuals and communities are controlled by powers that themselves remain uncontrolled--slavers, czars, fuhrers, first secretaries, marshals, generals and generalissimos, ideologists of dictatorships at either end of the spectrum--then creative energy becomes a protest... That's the way it is...Totalitarian ideologists don't like real life (other people's) because it cannot be totally controlled; they loathe art, the product of a yearning for life, because that, too, evades control--if controlled and legislated, it perishes. But before it perishes--or when it finds refuge in some kind of samizdat underground--art, willy-nilly, becomes protest. Popular art, like jazz, becomes mass protest."

~ Josef Skvorecky, "Red Music" (from the introduction to his novella, The Bass Saxophone)

Nerdified Link

Courage

Two items. First, Ray McGovern's participation in a protest and a letter:
Ray McGovern and 15 others took action today in the halls of Congress. The 16 donned orange jumpsuits similar to those worn by detainees at Guantánamo Bay. They wore gags over their mouths decorated with one word - torture. Not another word needed to be said as they walked the halls of Congress. McGovern, a 27-year veteran of the CIA, also returned his Intelligence Commendation Award medallion which was given to him for "especially commendable service." He delivered the medal to Congressman Pete Hoekstra along with the letter below. --smg/TO

Hon. Pete Hoekstra, Chair
House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence
Washington, DC

Dear Congressman Hoekstra:

As a matter of conscience, I am returning the Intelligence Commendation Award medallion given me for "especially commendable service" during my 27-year career in CIA. The issue is torture, which inhabits the same category as rape and slavery - intrinsically evil. I do not wish to be associated, however remotely, with an agency engaged in torture.

Reports in recent years that CIA personnel were torturing detainees were highly disturbing. Confirmation of a sort came last fall, when CIA Director Porter Goss and Dick Cheney - dubbed by the Washington Post "Vice President for Torture" - descended on Sen. John McCain to demand that the CIA be exempted from his amendment's ban on torture. Subsequent reports implicated agency personnel in several cases of prisoner abuse in Iraq, including a few in which detainees died during interrogation.

The obeisance of CIA directors George Tenet and Porter Goss in heeding illegal White House directives has done irreparable harm to the CIA and the country - not to mention those tortured and killed. That you, as Chair of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, show more deference to the White House than dedication to your oversight responsibilities under the Constitution is another profound disappointment. How can you and your counterpart, Sen. Pat Roberts, turn a blind eye to torture - letting some people get away, literally, with murder - and square that with your conscience?

If German officials who were ordered to do such things in the 1930s had spoken out early and loudly enough, the German people might have been alerted to the atrocities being perpetrated in their name and tried harder to stop them. When my grandchildren ask, "What did you do, Grandpa, to stop the torture," I want to be able to tell them that I tried to honor my oath, taken both as an Army officer and an intelligence officer, to defend the Constitution of the United States - and that I not only spoke out strongly against the torture, but also sought a symbolic way to dissociate myself from it.

We Americans have become accustomed to letting our institutions do our sinning for us. I abhor the corruption of the CIA in the past several years, believe it to be beyond repair, and do not want my name on any medallion associated with it. Please destroy this one.

Yours truly,
Ray McGovern
Next, 15 Arrested At White House Protesting U.S. Torture:
Fifteen people were arrested yesterday in front of the White House after winding their way for two hours through the streets of the nation’s capital, demanding the U.S. stop torturing detainees in military prisons.

Members of Witness Against Torture began their protest at the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court, continuing to the Capitol and the Department of Justice, and ending at the White House where U.S. Park Police carried out the arrests. Speakers called on officials in each of the buildings to cease planning and executing policies that have injured and killed people in prisons such as Guantanamo Bay, Bagram in Afghanistan, and Abu Ghraib in Iraq.

[...]

The march took place on Ash Wednesday, the first day of Lent, an annual period when Catholics pray and fast to repent for sins. Speakers included many Biblical references in their remarks.

At the Department of Justice, Bill Streit used passages from the Book of Isaiah to condemn the DOJ’s role in torturing prisoners. “Your hands are stained with blood, your fingers with guilt; Your lips speak falsehood, and your tongue utters deceit…Right is repelled and justice stands far off; for truth stumbles in the public square. Honesty is lacking, and the man who turns from evil is despoiled.”

Following Streit, Kristine Huskey, an attorney just back from Guantanamo where she represents a detainee, described torture methods prisoners have reported to her and other attorneys.

The 38 year-old attorney from the firm of Shearman and Sterling explained that some 30 detainees had been on a hunger strike since late last summer to protest their treatment. Despite being roughly force-fed, several others joined the strike on Christmas Day. At that point, military officials at Guantanamo ordered even harsher methods.

“Soldiers would strap a prisoner to one of several specially-purchased metal chairs with six-point restraints, insert an oversized tube through his nose and purposely overfeed him, causing him to vomit, defecate and urinate all over himself, and then leave him strapped in the chair for hours like that,” Huskey stated.

Describing what happened when the military “got serious about ending the hunger strike after Christmas, she said, “They stopped using lubricant to help the tubes go down, and began using tubes with metal tips.”

Despite the tortuous forced feedings, she reported, four prisoners remain on hunger strike at Guantanamo. Other speakers, citing reports from Amnesty International, corroborated Huskey’s statements and added that prisoners reported many instances of injuries, bleeding, and unconsciousness from the torture-feeding methods, plus numerous physical and mental injuries from torture techniques such as sensory deprivation, beatings, and burning with lighted cigarettes.

She told the protesters and a small knot of bystanders who stopped to listen, that “One of the most important things you can do is keep this issue alive and not let the world forget. I was just in Guantanamo and I can tell you that your actions provide a glimmer of hope to these prisoners – something they’ve not had before. They are aware of your actions and express their thanks.”

Escorting six fellow protesters dressed in bright orange jumpsuits, hands tied and hoods over their heads, the marchers proceeded along busy sidewalks to the White House, carrying signs that read, “You can deny it’s torture, but the world knows,” “Torture is killing a person without them dying,” and “Ban all torture – no exception for Bush.”
One of the more amusing anecdotes from this latter story: the protesters apparently drew ashen crosses on the White House sidewalk prior to being arrested. Shortly thereafter, according to the article, "a safety officer wearing a haz-mat hood and gloves took samples of the wood ashes on the sidewalk." Dig that. The authorities running this country are so effin paranoid that they handle wooden ashes wearing haz-mat hoods and gloves. Just another reminder that this is not the same country that I recall from my youth.

Neither story of course seems worthy of the attention of whatever passes for "mainstream media" these days - as even a cursory Google News search will dredge up few news sites that bothered to cover them. Thankfully, there are bloggers who will gladly spread the word far and wide.

Some numbers to ponder

From Cassandra at Cutting to the Chase:
Amount of U.S. development money "missing" in Iraq: $8.8 billion

Entire annual budget for the State of Oklahoma: $6.05 billion
Think about that for a moment. The amount of US development money in Iraq that was unaccounted for comprises the entirety of our state budget and then some. Not only could that money fund our state for a year, but with an additional $1.75 billion to boot our state could do some much-needed good for our infrastructure, for our educational systems (both K-12 and higher ed.), for those people who are struggling the most in our state. Oh, wait...that would be using tax money for something that actually helps people. We can't do that. Better to line the Swiss bank accounts of corporate cronies while spitting on the corpses of dead foreigners.

Friday, March 3, 2006

Freefalling

So sayeth the polls:

The latest CBS News poll puts President Bush’s job approval at 34 percent — an all-time low. Vice President Cheney is doing even worse. Only 18 percent of the public approves of the way he is doing his job. The American public has a dismal assessment of Bush’s policies across the board:
– 30 percent approve of Bush’s handling of the war in Iraq — an all-time low.
– 27 percent approve of Bush’s energy policy.
– 32 percent approve of Bush’s handling of the economy.
– 5 percent of Americans are pleased with the way the rebuilding of the Gulf Coast is going.

Today, White House Press Secretary Scott McClellan said, “Our focus is on the important priorities of the American people.” Looks like the American people disagree.

Nerdified Link
Following up on a dismal CBS
News survey
earlier this week, two new polls by Fox News and CNN/USA Today/Gallup bring more bad news for President Bush. From the Fox News poll:
- 39 percent of Americans approve of the job Bush is doing, only the second time Bush has fallen below 40 percent in Fox polling
- 81 percent believe Iraq is likely to end up in a civil war.
- 69 percent oppose allowing Dubai Ports World to manage U.S. ports.
From CNN/USA Today/Gallup:
- 38 percent approve of the job Bush is doing, a rating “mired near its record low” of 37 percent.
- 47 percent approve how he is handling terrorism, “down 7 points since early February and a record low.”
- 64 percent disapprove of Bush’s handling of Iraq, a record high.
- 52 percent do not find Bush “honest and trustworthy,” tying November’s worst-ever mark.

UPDATE: Quinnipac:
Only 36 percent of voters approve of the job President Bush is doing, while 58 percent disapprove, his worst approval rating in a Quinnipiac University national poll and down 9 points from his 45 - 48 percent approval rating one year ago.
Nerdified Link

Hat tip to Independent Christian Voice.

Of course it is good to keep in mind that despots are often unpopular, so I'm not entirely certain how meaningful these poll results are other than sheer schadenfreude value. Bu$hCo probably at this point only has the hardcore supporters remaining - a handfull of CEOs, the fanatics, the insane, and the inbred. Yet, this reality doesn't seem to sink in to what is supposedly an opposition party. You get the rare Feingold, Conyers, or McKinnley who are willing to tell it like it is, and walk their talk. Otherwise, nada. The only way at this point to make the low approval ratings mean anything is for the political and war criminals who occupy the White House (along with their various cronies) are forcibly dragged from their offices and thrown into some prison cell - ideally for the rest of their natural lives. If Congress won't get the job done, one would think an angry mob would. Yeah...a likely story. "Sorry dear, I can't miss the next episode of Survivor." Sure wouldn't want that to happen.

Thursday, March 2, 2006

"Patriot" Act Renewal a Done Deal

The ten brave souls in the Senate who voted no: Daniel Akaka- HI, Tom Harkin- IA, Carl Levin-MI, Jeff Bingamin-NM, Ron Wyden-OR, Jim Jeffords-VT, Patrick Leahy-VT, Patty Murray-WA, Russ Feingold-WI, and Robert Byrd-WV. Once again, the Democrat Party proved to be entirely ineffective as an opposition. Now to the House where it'll be rammed through without so much as a peep.

As Kurt Nimmo puts it:

No longer do the people enjoy the right to “peaceably to assemble”—unless you consider being corralled in a “free speech zone” encircled in concertina wire a right—and the “right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures” is effectively down the tubes, as the above mentioned vacuum cleaner approach makes painfully obvious, a subversive plot completely destroying the concept of “probable cause” (our rulers and their minions believe this has mysteriously vanished from the Fourth Amendment, as Gen. Michael Hayden actually attempted to argue at the National Press Club in Washington in January, a fact ignored by the corporate media, not that it particularly matters—sadly most Americans know more about the Simpsons than the First Amendment).

Considering the widespread violations of the Bill of Rights literally spanning over many decades and numerous presidents, the renewal of the Patriot Act is no big deal and may even be considered anti-climatic. Forget the Sedition Act, the Palmer Raids, the Smith Act, COINTELPRO, Operation Chaos, Cable Splicer, Operation Garden Plot, Rex-84, ad nauseam—the Bill of Rights was tenuous from the beginning. Thomas Jefferson, away in France in December 1787, wrote James Madison that he was concerned about “the omission of a bill of rights…. providing clearly…. for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, and restriction against monopolies.” Jefferson was worried “that a succession of artful and ambitious rulers” would eventually subvert the Bill of Rights because all governments seek an “augmentation of power at the expense of liberty.” Fact of the matter is our rulers harbor a deep hatred and mistrust of natural rights, social contracts, and universal rights, disagreeing with John Locke that these rights are integral to the very idea of what it means to be human.


So this is how the old republic dies - not with a bang but with a whimper. Will anyone notice? Nah...as long as they can be kept complacent as the reality shows and propaganda news addle what's left of our collective consciousness and conscience, little will happen in the way of an uprising.

Wednesday, March 1, 2006

Truth Is Stranger Than Fiction: Weapon System Developers: Become More Punk

This seems like something that belongs in The Onion:
From Everything We need to Know About Program Management, We Learned From Punk Rock, by two U.S. Air Force majors. This was reprinted in part in the October 2005 issue of Harper's, which is where I saw it. I wasn't sure whether to die laughing or tear my hair out in despair. Some excerpts:
"Punk rock is loud and in-your-face, unapologetic and fear-less.... At its best, punk is honest, genuine self-expression--which happens to coincide with one of our favorite definitions of leadership....

"Punks may not be pretty and their lyrics may not be coherent to the casual listener, but they have integrity and a deep understanding of what the Air Force calls "service before self." Punk's ideological stand against the pursuit of illicit personal gain, either by hypocrisy or other ethical violations, is virtually identical to the Air Force's second Core Value. It is the mission that matters, whether that mission is music or missiles....

"Some people think punk is angry music, and sometimes it is. But it can also be playful and funny (as in the Dead Milkmen's "Punk Rock Girl") without ceasing to be punk. However, the often-present anger is indeed an important component of the genre, and we contend a certain degree of "raging against the machine" is justified, appropriate, productive, and healthy. The important thing to recognize, however, is that anger is not the goal. Reality, honesty, authenticity, and independence are what matter. If it comes out sounding angry, so be it. And if it comes out funny, sad, ironic, or happy (as it often does), that's just fine too....

"Punk PMs ought not to develop a new weapon system just to develop a system, nor challenge the old system just for the challenge. It's fun to rock the house, rock the casbah, and rock the boat, but the rocking needs to be done with a purpose. It's not enough to simply stand against something. Punks and other rebels must have a cause to rally around and something positive to stand for."
What's so bizarre and surreal about this is that the authors actually do seem to have an understanding of the core values of punk, but their thinking that they can or should be applied to one's attitude toward designing weapons systems, which is what these guys do, is disturbing and stomach-turning!
"As you'll see momentarily, The Ramones, The Clash, and those who followed their lead would have totally rocked as program managers.... Had [the Ramones] become Program Managers for the Department of Defense, they undoubtedly would have pursued simplicity and maintained a laser-like focus on achieving their real objectives."
Okay, that last one is highly questionable...

Nerdified Link. Hat tip to Mickey Z!

My first reaction is to do a Jon Stewart-like double take. Then as I return to my usual state of bliss, I am reminded that punk was historically an anti-establishment movement. Certainly the punk I remember, mainly its 1980s American cousin hardcore, was definitely not down with anything to do with the DoD. In fact one of the core beliefs found among punks of all stripes at least from my generation was a strident anti-militarism. Although the apparent authors of the book cited in Harpers may have something of an intellectual grasp of the music, they don't know shit about its soul.

Makes me wonder what's next in my nation's theatre of the absurd? Malcom X and cats like the Last Poets as icons for the latest iteration of the nativist movement's white supremacists?

Global Terrorist Go Back

Flogging the Simian has an article titled, India Firing Up the Welcome Wagon:

Bush won't even land in India for a few more hours but this is a taste of what's waiting for him.

According to the WaPo, as many as one hundred thousand people marched in New Delhi alone to chant Death to Bush. Wow that's a serious protest, even considering that Bush gets protested a lot.

"Whether Hindu or Muslim, the people of India have gathered here to show our anger. We have only one message _ killer Bush go home," one of the speakers, Hindu politician Raj Babbar, told the crowd.

There were also large protests in Hyderabad and Bangalore today with tens of thousands showing up in each city. And as the quote says, it's not just Muslims who are angry, it's also Hindus.

I'd sure hate to be a Secret Service agent like this guy and have to keep an eye on the teeming masses that will show up tomorrow when Bush actually holds meetings with Indian officials.

There's also a blog called Global Terrorist Go Back that appears to be primarily a compilation of links to other anti-Bush blogs - some based in India, and others based around the world.

Question: Why Is Halliburton Building Internment Camps?

On January 24th it was announced that a subsidiary of Halliburton KBR was awarded a $385 million contract by the Department of Homeland Security to build detention centers in the US. These centers might be used for immigration, or for disaster relief, or vaguely "...to support the rapid development of new programs."

As early as September of 2002, John Ashcroft discussed internment, even of American citizens who were deemed "enemy combatants" and Peter Kirsanow of the US Civil Rights Commission said that he "could foresee a scenario in which the public would demand internment camps for Arab Americans if Arab terrorists strike again in this country." If there's a future terrorist attack in America "and they come from the same ethnic group that attacked the World Trade Center, you can forget about civil rights."

"Almost certainly this is preparation for a roundup after the next 9/11 for Mid-Easterners, Muslims and possibly dissenters," says Daniel Ellsberg, a former military analyst who in 1971 released the Pentagon Papers, the US military's account of its activities in Vietnam. "They've already done this on a smaller scale, with the ‘special registration' detentions of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantanamo."

Now we are beginning to see this mentioned by a number of sources (1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7), but it is still not front page news, although it is not only Muslims and Arabs who are concerned about what sort of emergency might require detention centers. And what are these mysterious "new programs"?

I believe that all Americans should be very concerned. It might be "someone else" they come for first, but if this is the direction our nation is going, who knows where it will end.
Nerdified Link

Hat tip to Planet Grenada.

So now we're presented with a manifesto against "Islamism"

You can read it in all its glory at Jyllands Posten, under the title of MANIFESTO: Together facing the new totalitarianism. The big name among the dozen signatories is Salman Rushdie. My initial take is that there is something bass-ackwards about the assumptions made by the manifesto's authors. I'm probably not alone. Maybe a start would be to come up with a working definition of "Islamism" - though in doing so we're likely to find it to be a much more diverse paradigm than the manifesto's signatories would have us believe. It would also be useful to step back and look at the critique of religion from a historical context. One might be interested to find plenty of secular "liberals" in Europe whose views of the Jews were strikingly similar to the view of Muslims promoted in the anti-Islamist manifest.

Beware of Nativist Kool-Aid

Regardless of the political season, the issue of immigration is always considered a hot topic. In fact, the topic of immigration brings out every political spectrum when trying to solve the issue. Moreover, the most vocal of the groups most likely are xenophobic hate groups. Frighteningly, their presence have seeped into Congress and are constantly advocating for draconian measures to be included in any type of immigration reform bill. Even more alarmingly, nativism – a movement which is oftentimes fueled by xenophobia and hate – have already entered into the mainstream media.

Nativism, the hostile reaction towards the flux of immigration, is not really a new phenomenon that currently was spawned within this new century. According to David Bennett, author of The Party Fear, nativist movements usually occur during times of major social, economic, or political disturbances are taking place. Oftentimes, American nativists will project their insecurities on the immigrants, ethnic/religious groups, or anybody different from their own for the troubles that America is experiencing.

It is interesting to note, the Immigration Act of 1965 signed by President Lyndon Johnson is considered to be part of Civil Rights legislation. Along with the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act, the Immigration Act became one the cornerstones to the Civil Rights Movement. The Act, was to rid the nation's history of racism and discrimination in immigration. It removed barriers based on national origin, and measures favoring immigrants from Western European countries. It also opened the door to more diverse patterns of immigration. Now, those changes and the Civil Rights tradition are once again under attack. The anti-immigrant sentiment is sweeping the country like wildfire.

Inspired by political successes in Arizona, and fanned by national and grassroots anti-immigrant groups, and like the predecessors, nativists continue the tradition of misrepresenting and disguising "their xenophobic and racists beliefs in order to garner favor with the American public."

One can expect to find groups like "Minutemen," who are trying to frame themselves as brave souls who are taking it upon themselves to protect our borders from lazy, shiftless, drug smuggling South-of-the-Border immigrants. In fact, they had to armed themselves, just in case they were attacked from violent border runners, particularly in the middle of the desert, at night, when no one else was around.

So it is not surprising a group like The Minutemen are reported to have to racist, White Supremacist groups. In fact, Minutemen found Chris Simcox and Jim Gilchrist are following in the footsteps of other anti-immigrant activists before them. Klansmen were on the Mexican border 28 years before the Minutemen came up with this bright idea. In 1977, the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan lead by David Duke and Tom Metzger also hatched the same plan of taking the law into their own hands to keep immigrants at bay. They formed Klan Border Watch, a KKK vigilante border patrol in southern California. The "Klan Border Watch" claimed to stretch from Texas to California, and was part of the "battle to halt the flow of illegal aliens streaming across the border from Mexico."


The Minutemen may speak of patriotism, and claim they have "no affiliation with, nor will we accept any assistance by or interference from, separatists, racists, or supremacy groups" but the simple truth, it just another public relation bullshit spin. Even more sickening, trigger happy white, jack-booted, skinhead members from the neo-Nazi National Alliance and other sick white supremacist groups are chomping at the bit to participate.

Nerdified link.

There's a bit more, including a description of a propaganda piece co-authored by Jerome Corsi (the notorious Swift Boater) and Jim Gilchrist (one of the folks behind the Minuteman Movement) that'll be published sometime this summer - just in time for election season. The basic premise of the book apparently is that there is a "Mexican conspiracy" to destroy the US. Given the authors involved, I can't say I'm surprised.

Quotable: Arundhati Roy

On his triumphalist tour of India and Pakistan, where he hopes to wave imperiously at people he considers potential subjects, President Bush has an itinerary that's getting curiouser and curiouser.

For Bush's March 2 pit stop in New Delhi, the Indian government tried very hard to have him address our parliament. A not inconsequential number of MPs threatened to heckle him, so Plan One was hastily shelved. Plan Two was to have Bush address the masses from the ramparts of the magnificent Red Fort, where the Indian prime minister traditionally delivers his Independence Day address. But the Red Fort, surrounded as it is by the predominantly Muslim population of Old Delhi, was considered a security nightmare. So now we're into Plan Three: President George Bush speaks from Purana Qila, the Old Fort.

Ironic, isn't it, that the only safe public space for a man who has recently been so enthusiastic about India's modernity should be a crumbling medieval fort?

Since the Purana Qila also houses the Delhi zoo, George Bush's audience will be a few hundred caged animals and an approved list of caged human beings, who in India go under the category of "eminent persons." They're mostly rich folk who live in our poor country like captive animals, incarcerated by their own wealth, locked and barred in their gilded cages, protecting themselves from the threat of the vulgar and unruly multitudes whom they have systematically dispossessed over the centuries.

So what's going to happen to George W. Bush? Will the gorillas cheer him on? Will the gibbons curl their lips? Will the brow-antlered deer sneer? Will the chimps make rude noises? Will the owls hoot? Will the lions yawn and the giraffes bat their beautiful eyelashes? Will the crocs recognize a kindred soul? Will the quails give thanks that Bush isn't traveling with Dick Cheney, his hunting partner with the notoriously bad aim? Will the CEOs agree?

Oh, and on March 2, Bush will be taken to visit Gandhi's memorial in Rajghat. He's by no means the only war criminal who has been invited by the Indian government to lay flowers at Rajghat. (Only recently we had the Burmese dictator General Than Shwe, no shrinking violet himself.) But when Bush places flowers on that famous slab of highly polished stone, millions of Indians will wince. It will be as though he has poured a pint of blood on the memory of Gandhi.

We really would prefer that he didn't.

It is not in our power to stop Bush's visit. It is in our power to protest it, and we will. The government, the police and the corporate press will do everything they can to minimize the extent of our outrage. Nothing the happy newspapers say can change the fact that all over India, from the biggest cities to the smallest villages, in public places and private homes, George W. Bush, the President of the United States of America, world nightmare incarnate, is just not welcome.


Nerdified Link

Ms. Roy is actually far more diplomatic than am I: Junior Caligula visiting the Gandhi memorial is more like taking a dump on Gandhi's legacy, leaving a huge stinky wet dookie with corn in it. It's what this administration does best.

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Hubris, hypocrisy, and too little too late?

While Norman Solomon has this to say about the Mahatma Bush regime's paying homage to Gandhi:
The president of the United States is urging "peace" as a synonym for getting his way in Iraq. From Washington, the most exalted vision of peace is a scenario where the occupied no longer resist the American occupiers or their allies.

The world has seen many such leaders, eager to unleash as much violence as necessary to get what they want, and glad to praise nonviolence whenever convenient. But no photo-op can change the current reality that the world's most powerful government is also, by far, the most violent and the most dangerous.

Paul Craig Roberts, far from being a liberal has this to say:
The collapsing power of the US hegemon is everywhere evident. It is evident in the inability to successfully occupy Iraq or even Baghdad. It is evident in the growing military cooperation between North and South Korea, and it is evident it the revolt in the Indian government against Prime Minister Singh's nuclear agreement with the US. Indians say this agreement subjects India to US hegemony and represents America's attempt to block India's pioneering research on thorium as a nuclear fuel. Opposition parties have told Singh that if he signs the agreement, they will bring down his government.

The entire world now recognizes that America has lost its economic power and is dependent on the rest of the world to finance its budget and trade deficits. The US no longer holds the cards. American real incomes are falling, except for the rich. Jobs for university graduates are scarce, and advanced technology products must be imported from China. The US is a rapidly declining power and may soon end up as nothing but a tinhorn dictatorship.

Roberts also gives a stern warning to Americans:
The congressional elections this coming November is the last chance for for Americans to reaffirm the separation of powers that is the basis of their civil liberties. Unless the voters correct their mistake of putting both the executive and legislative branches in the hands of the same party and deliver the House or the Senate to the Democrats, there is nothing on the domestic scene to stand in the way of more power, and less accountability, being accumulated in the executive.

Which would be great, but unfortunately,
The Democrats have been a totally ineffective opposition and might not inspire any voter response other than apathy. Rather than vote for a cowardly party that is afraid to defend the Constitution, voters might simply not vote at all.

In this unfortunate event, the only check on the Bush regime is its own hubris.

"Once You've Sanctioned Torture, Anything Else is Possible"

It is now acceptable-indeed, commonplace-to racially stereotype and denigrate Arabs and Muslims. And there is no outcry against the curtailment of their civil liberties and rights.

A December 2004 Cornell University opinion poll showed 44 percent of Americans approved curtailing some civil liberties for all Muslim Americans-including registering with the federal government, close monitoring of mosques by law enforcement agencies and racially profiling citizens of Muslim or Middle Eastern heritage.

Interestingly, a recent Gallup World Poll of predominantly Islamic countries showed that overwhelming majorities said they favored the right to freedom of speech in their own countries.

As journalist Robert C. Koehler remarked, " Maybe we should be careful about making common cause with born-again free speech advocates who never showed any tolerance for it until it became a handy club for bashing Muslims." He added, in the current atmosphere, "It's OK to torture them because they've already been dehumanized en masse. Anything could follow."
Nerdified Link

Monday, February 27, 2006

Frog

Frog

excerpt from the Poetry International Festival Rotterdam

Abstract in nature, yet so very important to it.
He is the warning sign, the innervision to peace or self-destruction.
Calmly and confidently in eyes wide open he watches and protects the inner being of innocence and the beauty of nature inspires him to love and give.
He is not ugly!
And the prince is not a prince.
But he can be crazy like a poet clinging to the words of Gods and Demons and the drama of your sneers and snickers of him.
This is love for all of you stuck in boredom and the intense madness of our darkside.
In the danger of the Forest he does not seperate his emotions.
He struggles mightily to control his mind is open to suggestions if you really want to be human.
Lean on me, he expresses sincerely, lean on me.
The water has stopped breathing.
The air is bleeding confusion.
The Earth is beginning to swallow up the young.
The threats of mass murder and extinction are all around him.
But yet, he sits there as constant as ever, on that log, on that water, in that Forest, hoping, dreaming, and manifesting the reality that humility is a blessing and EVIL... cannot win!

Nerdified Link

A quick walk around blogtopia

Let's see:

For starters, Chris Floyd of Empire Burlesque has a new site devoted entirely to the Abu Ghraib torture scandal: Abu Ghraib part II. At the bottom of the page is a set of links under the title "Abu Ghraib in the news" that has the latest articles and blog entries referencing Abu Ghraib.

Catnip, formerly a frontpager at Booman Tribune, recently started her own blog: liberal catnip. Lots of well-written content, updated frequently!

A new blog called Casual Discourse has a review on Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451. I'll admit that even as an unabashed fan of the dystopia genre of books and films, I've somehow gone through life not reading it - I think that the last time I'd read any of Bradbury's writing (and this was a long time ago) I found his writing to be a bit dry. I think it's time to change that - and I'll give mad props to Rob H for the review that's encouraged me to give Bradbury a fresh read.

While looking at where some of my site hits are coming from, I somehow stumbled onto a blog called Connecting the Dots - which has a fair amount of content of interest to liberal/progressive/lefty readers. Check it out.

Just so y'all know, I've been periodically updating my blogroll. Two things that get me linking to a blog are 1) good content that seems relevant to me and what I perceive would be relevant to regular readers, and/or 2) they dig on the "norm of reciprocity vibe" and also link to my blog. I'm very forgiving about criterion 2) as long as the content is solid. One might argue that my blogroll has become a bit lengthy, but I'm one of those cats who does not want to get stuck in a rut - I keep fresh by mixing it up and checking out different sets of fellow bloggers. On that note, I invite you to check out something new that you haven't tried before. You never know what you might find.

Sunday, February 26, 2006

"We are oppressed people with rights": Ismail Haniyeh

Palestinian President Abu Mazen and the international community have put forward conditions for dealing with Hamas: 1) recognize Israel; 2) recognize existing agreements with Israel made by the Palestinian Liberation Organization; 3) renounce violence. Will you agree to these conditions?

We are surprised that such conditions are imposed on us. Why don't they direct such conditions and questions to Israel? Has Israel respected agreements? Israel has bypassed practically all agreements. We say: Let Israel recognize the legitimate rights of the Palestinians first and then we will have a position regarding this. Which Israel should we recognize? The Israel of 1917; the Israel of 1936; the Israel of 1948; the Israel of 1956; or the Israel of 1967? Which borders and which Israel? Israel has to recognize first the Palestinian state and its borders and then we will know what we are talking about.

[...]

We are not lovers of blood. We are not interested in a vicious cycle of violence. We are oppressed people with rights. If peace brings us our rights, then this is good.

[...]

Does a peace in stages means the ultimate obliteration of the Jewish people?

We do not have any feelings of animosity toward Jews. We do not wish to throw them into the sea. All we seek is to be given our land back, not to harm anybody.

Do you recognize Israel's right to exist?

The answer is to let Israel say it will recognize a Palestinian state along the 1967 borders, release the prisoners and recognize the rights of the refugees to return to Israel. Hamas will have a position if this occurs.

Nerdified Link

Hat tip to idredit, who rounded up some news falling beneath the radar.

A picture and some links

Abortion Help for Low-Income Women

Underground Railroad for Abortion Services

Quotable: Bob Herbert

If you talk to Maher Arar long enough, even on the telephone, you'll get the disturbing sense that you are speaking with someone whose life has been shattered like a pane of glass.
From "No Justice, No Peace" via Tennessee Guerilla Women.

If you're familiar with the symptoms of PTSD, it's clear in a hurry that it is one of the likely consequences of torture, and that Mr. Arar is living with PTSD:
"Sometimes I have the feeling that I want to go and live on another planet," he told me. "A completely different planet than planet Earth. You know?"

Mr. Arar, thanks to the United States government, went through the almost incomprehensible agony of being tortured. Now he is trying to live with the aftermath of torture, which is its own form of agony.

[...]

"I don't feel like I am the same person," he said. "I feel that my brain or my inner soul does not want to think about what's going on. My soul is trying to distract itself from reality."

The reality, he said, is that his life has been all but completely destroyed. He is fearful. He has become psychologically and emotionally distant from his wife and two young children. He has nightmares. He can't find a job. He spins dizzily from one bout with depression to another.
Here's the backstory to his particular situation:
Mr. Arar, thanks to the United States government, went through the almost incomprehensible agony of being tortured. Now he is trying to live with the aftermath of torture, which is its own form of agony.

On Sept. 26, 2002, Mr. Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria, was taken into custody by American authorities at Kennedy Airport in New York. He was locked in chains and shackles and accused of being "a member of a known terrorist organization."

There was no evidence to support the accusation, and no evidence has ever come to light. Nevertheless, as part of the hideous U.S. policy known as extraordinary rendition, Mr. Arar was shipped off to Syria, where he was kept in an underground rat-infested, grave-like cell, and tortured. (When I visited him in Ottawa last year, he told me how he had screamed and wept and begged both God and his captors for mercy.)

After 10 months, he was released. No charges against him were ever filed.
Hat tip to Avedon Carol's blog, The Sideshow.