Saturday, March 11, 2006

It can't happen here? Yeah, right:

Some food for thought:

John Serry’s blog entry was prompted by the intimidation of Pomona College Arango Professor in Latin American History and Professor of History and Chicano/a Studies, Miguel Tinker Salas. On March 7, Salas was “interviewed” (interrogated and harassed) by two members of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department working for the FBI Joint Task Force on Terrorism. Salas’ crime? He “teaches classes in Latin America history and has special research expertise in the history and politics of Venezuela,” more than enough to make him suspect in the eyes of the government.

Moreover, as of late various media outlets have asked Salas to “provide historical background on the growing tension between Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and the George Bush administration. For instance, several outlets contacted him for a response after Donald Rumsfeld compared Chavez to Adolf Hitler. Most recently, Professor Tinker Salas was interviewed for ten minutes on CNN en Español about the history of U.S. intervention in Latin America,” according to Serry. “What has Venezuelan politics to do with the war against terrorism? Who officially sent out the thugs to pay a visit to my colleague? That ‘conversation’ was clearly meant to serve two purposes: to add to Professor Tinker Salas’s ongoing file in a fishing expedition to uncover something incriminating against him; and to let him know that THEY are watching, a not-so-subtle warning to intimidate in order to curb his speech.”

Get used to it, John.

Mr. Salas is but the tip of the iceberg. Millions of us—no doubt John Serry included, since he contributes a blog to the Huffington Post, a “liberal” website, actually rather milquetoast, but a threat nonetheless to the Straussian neocons—are subject to “investigation,” thanks to Bush’s NSA snoop program, recently allowed to go forward, in violation of the Constitution, as Congress has “cut a deal with the White House” to avoid a full Senate inquiry (even though such an investigation would have been akin to johns investigating prostitutes).

Recall a few short weeks ago Lindsey Graham, Congress critter-whore from South Carolina, demanding Bush move more aggressively against “fifth columnists,” that is to say millions of Americans who disagree with the occupation of Iraq. AG Alberto Gonzales, a torture advocate and apologist that would make Grand Inquisitor Thomás de Torquemada proud, told Graham the administration would very much like to pick his brain on the subject, or vise versa. Congress and the administration will be on the same page soon enough, probably as the shock and awe campaign against Iran gets off to a murderous start. Dissent will not be tolerated, as it now has a loud and growing voice on the internet.

Palmer’s raids, rounding up a mere 10,000 “subversives,” will look like child’s play when compared to what the Straussian neocons will do.

Of course, the NSA snoop and dossier program has nothing to do with “al-Qaeda” telephone calls or email messages. It is all about compiling lists to be used in the near future. History is replete with examples—Germany, Russia, Chile, and Indonesia—of dictators rounding up the opposition, sending them to camps, or “disappearing” and slaughtering them outright.

Paranoid? Maybe.

But history does have a funny habit of repeating itself. Miguel Tinker Salas and members of antiwar groups in Colorado, to name but two, have experienced the leading edge of the fascist wave coming to America, one terrorist event away from becoming a boot-in-your-face reality.

Halliburton subsidiary Kellogg, Brown and Root, after all, has not been awarded a $385 million dollar contract by Homeland Security to construct detention camps for nothing.


Intimidation of dissidents and efforts - both overt and covert - to squash dissident movements has a long sordid history in this country. The current NSA spy scandal, along with the various efforts to intimidate educators into silence is merely the latest. Red Scares, McCarthyism, concentration camps for Japanese Americans, COINTELPRO...it boils down to the general fear and distrust the ruling elites have for us so-called "unwashed masses." This bunch of power and wealth addicts may be merely more rabid than most, but the general rule of thumb holds: threaten an addict's source and an addict will go ballistic. Bet on it.

Classic:


Screenshot courtesy of Eli of Left I on the News.

Eli, by the way, notes that Milosevic was at this point still an accused war criminal - having yet to be convicted (except perhaps in the court of public opinion). Now if only New Pravda would apply some consistency and run the caption "war criminal" under pictures of George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Tony Blair, former Ambassador Maddy Albright, etc. Ah, but consistency would be asking too much of what passes for mass media in the US. Thankfully there are plenty of bloggers who are more than willing to help set the record straight.

It must be midterm election season

Let's see: Junior Caligula's approval ratings are tanking, and the Democrats (hardly much of an opposition party, but they occasionally play one on tv) are poised to clean up in the November midterms. That can mean only one thing:

It's time to start another war.

Never mind that the others haven't gone that well. Afghanistan looks more like a disaster, and Iraq went beyond disaster long ago. But I digress. With all the anticipation of Milli Vanilli's follow-up album to their own Grammy-winning disaster, the producers of Bu$hCo are bringing out their sequel: Iran. Not to worry, Bu$hCo has reassembled the group from the last disaster (Iraq) to sell you on sending your kids to be bullet-stoppers in Iran using the same tried and not-so-true formula:
WASHINGTON -- U.S. President George W. Bush has called Iran an issue of "grave national security concern" but said he wanted a diplomatic solution to the Islamic republic's nuclear ambitions.

[...]

"We're going to press for as vigorous a response in the council as we can get, and hope that gets the Iranians' attention," John Bolton, the U.S. ambassador to the U.N., said Thursday. "This is a test for the council. If the Iranians do not back off from their continued aggressive pursuit of nuclear weapons, we'll have to make a decision of what the next step will be."

Nerdified Link

There's a reprisal of Tony Blair's performance as well:

The west's confrontation with Iran over its nuclear activities intensified yesterday after Britain claimed that Tehran could acquire the technological capability to build a bomb by the end of the year.

A day after the International Atomic Energy Agency referred the dispute to the United Nations security council, British officials also indicated that London would back Washington's efforts to impose a UN deadline of about 30 days for Iran's compliance with international demands.

Until now, European diplomats have referred to a period of five to 10 years during which Iran might potentially build a bomb, while conceding that hard evidence is lacking. By publicly focusing on the level of Iran's technical capabilities, Britain may have shortened the timeframe for a peaceful resolution of the crisis.

Nerdified Link

So there we have it folks: Bu$hCo sez they're going to lean on the UN Security Council - maybe bring in their boys to kneecap any recalcitrant members. And ol' Poodle Boy is back to singing soprano about the "danger" Iran poses - not as in key as his notorious 48 hour warning that he pulled off in 2002, but critics call it a serviceable effort.

The only question: is anybody really planning on buying this warmed-over pile of feces?

Friday, March 10, 2006

Eliminationist rhetoric spills over to death threats

Apparently right-wingnuts are not satisfied with merely referring to Bu$hCo critics as traitors or stating their wishes publicly that critics be killed by terrorists. They also see this perverse need to call in death threats to them and their families.

Real class.

Holocaust History Project offices targeted by arsonists

The San Antonio warehouse that, among other businesses, also houses The Holocaust History Project (THHP), an organization fighting against Holocaust denial, anti-semitism and neo-fascism, was burned down on Sunday. The police suspects that the THHP was the intended target of arsonists. The investigation continues.

Nerdified Link
That caught my attention for two reasons. The obvious one being the probability that an organization responsible for shining light on at least one form of Holocaust denial (although I'd argue far from the only one, as denial of the American Holocaust perpetrated by European settlers against indigenous peoples is regrettably the norm) has been targeted by politically motivated arsonists. The other, less obvious reason, was simply the location: I remember San Antonio from my childhood. It's a beautiful city, rich in history - and one that has grown considerably since my childhood days (as I noticed first-hand when I was in town for an academic conference a few years ago).

Hopefully those responsible for the arson will be apprehended. Thankfully, the organization's work will be largely unaffected.

Thursday, March 9, 2006

Human Rights? Fuggedaboutit!!

Good catch by Eli of Left I:
...But the Universal Declaration of Human Rights isn't limited to those subjects. Here are some other things you'll find discussed there:
Article 22. Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.

Article 23. (1) Everyone has the right to work, to free choice of employment, to just and favourable conditions of work and to protection against unemployment.

Article 25. (1) Everyone has the right to a standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control.

Article 26. (1) Everyone has the right to education.
I haven't read the many country reports. But in the introduction to the State Department report, you will not find one word on education, health care, housing, food, or jobs. It couldn't be that they're afraid to throw stones because they live in a glass house, could it? Well, perhaps not, since they aren't afraid to accuse other countries of torture, illegal imprisonment, and other such offenses against human rights which the U.S. is also guilty of in spades.

Wonder how well we do within our own borders in that regard? Care to hazard a guess?

Neocon Apologists Abandon Bu$hCo? So What!?

Under the title, Are You Listening, Mr. President? the UK's Independent samples quotes from five neocon pundits: William F. Buckley Jr., Andrew Sullivan, Francis Fukuyama, George Will and Richard Perle. The message from each of these men is consistent: "After thinking we were right about invading Iraq, we realize we fucked up. About all those dead people, oops. Our bad."

It's so nice that these distinguished gentlemen have decided to kinda sorta join the rest of us who thought the Iraq invasion was wrong from the get-go. Ain't it fine?

Here's the thing, y'all. Don't expect foregiveness here. You won't find it. After spending the last few years enduring accusations of being an "islamofascist commie America-hater terrorist ad nauseum" from the true believers in your little neocongame for merely pointing out the truth (that something was stinkin' to high heaven three years ago, that nothing good could come from a war based on shameless lies), I simply find these recent mea culpas to be too little too late. They are little more than court jesters for Junior Caligula's Reign of Terror™. They've got all the street cred of Barry Bonds telling kids to say no to steroids.

Nearly three years on after folks like those gentlemen propped up the Bu$hCo regime's charge on Mess o'Potamia, what is there to show for it? WMDs? No. Bottomless barrels of cheap oil? No. Peace and freedom? No. An end to torture of innocent Iraqis? Fuck no! Whiter teeth and fresher breath? A cure for acne? The Holy Grail? I don't think so.

The great shapers of public opinion will have to live with their role in the ever-burgeoning body count (from soldiers to civilians, to insurgents who just want their damned country back) and the ever-present drain on the nation's treasury. Good job!

Give me a break.

Props to liberal catnip.

Death and Bu$hCo's Cronies Go Hand in Hand

Dig this:

The latest transgression to be laid at the door of the Carlyle Group? Hurricane Katrina murders.

Near the end of a news story Friday reporting that former LifeCare exec Donald Boucher will plead guilty to making $50,000 in illegal corporate campaign contributions, we find this:

LifeCare was acquired last summer by the Carlyle Group.

Twenty-four patients died at a LifeCare facility on the grounds of a Tenet Healthcare Corp. hospital in New Orleans that was cut off by floodwaters from Hurricane Katrina.

That's a discreet way of putting it. In fact, they were murdered. "The 'evacuation plan'," according to NPR on 2/16, "was to not leave any living patients behind." NPR reported that administrators "saw a doctor filling syringes with painkillers and heard plans to give patients lethal doses."

You know the Carlyle Group, right? You should if you watched Michael Moore's Fahreheit 9/11: "The Bin Laden and Bush families were both connected to the Carlyle Group, as were many of the Bush family’s friends and associates," Moore told us.

The British Journal the Economist reports that "among its partners are former secretary of state James A. Baker III, former defense secretary Frank C. Carlucci and former White House budget chief Richard Darman" ("secretive Carlyle Group gives capitalism a bad name"), adding that the group "also retains former president Bush as a top adviser...."

From Michael Moore again: "The Carlyle group is a multinational conglomerate that invests in heavily government-regulated industries like telecommunications, healthcare and, particularly, defense." ( You can see more of the background on the group that Moore used at his Fahrenheit 9/11 background website.)

Since last summer, LifeCare has been part of that mix.

"LifeCare": now there's a misnomer if I ever heard one. It goes way way beyond irony. It operates 21 hospitals including Memorial Medical Center in New Orleans where the folks were murdered. The Times Picayune described Memorial as a "long-term acute-care center" -- which I take to be a hybrid beween a hosital and a nursing home.

When, in its Feb. 16 report, NPR offered proof that officials there had killed patients they couldn't evacuate in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, I waited for the public outrage, the outrage that I was sure would come over what happened at LifeCare: murder, OKd by officials against helpless hurricane victims.

But the outrage didn't come. By now, much of the Katrina outrage has been simply used up, it seems.

Now that we know that LifeCare is part of the hated-by-us-lefties Carlyle Group, will the outrage revive?

Probably not. Even NPR, which reported the culpability of LifeCare administrators, called them "mercy killings."

So it's OK, the term seems to say.

Nobody seems to see how ridiculous that term "mercy killing" is. How it excuses officials, who should have heeded warnings to evacuate. Culpability rises to the highest corporate and government levels in our nation, now that it's clear federal officials -- and Bush -- knew of the danger to New Orleans days before levees broke.

Not Dead Yet's statement gets it right: "This was not about compassion or mercy. It was about throwing someone else over the side of the lifeboat in order to save themselves."

"So far the focus has been on the failures and abandonments of the poor, old and disabled by the government at local, state and national levels," Not Dead Yet's Steve Drake tells me. "But perhaps we need to look at corporate abandonment of these same people."

Right. And let's call it what it is: murder.

Nerdified Link

Control the language and you control the discourse. Euphemisms make destructive actions "seem" okay. That's one way of living with one's actions, I suppose. Makes it easier to for the public to ignore what went down - just another bit of trivia down the memory hole. The victims deserved better.

The Pillars of Society

A couple things:
As the Jack Abramoff scandal unfolds, it is becoming increasingly clear how extensively he collaborated with the Christian right to advance his casino schemes. Ralph Reed was paid no less than $4 million by Abramoff and his Indian casino clients to serve as a liasion to the Christian right.

Reed managed to lasso Focus on the Family President James Dobson into a series of campaigns to stamp out competition to Abramoff's clients. Though Senate subpeonaed emails seem to confirm that Dobson was manipulated by Reed and Abramoff, he and his employees have repeatedly claimed that his activism against rivals to Abramoff's clients was a complete coincidence.

While I wrote about this for the Nation and Media Matters, there has been very little mainstream press interest on Dobson's role in Abramoff's schemes. So far, some of the best -- and most adversarial -- reporting on the Abramoff/Reed/Dobson saga is coming from the Christian media, namely from Marvin Olasky's World Magazine.

[...]

On February 4, World published a critical expose of Dobson's role in a 2002 Abramoff campaign to stop expansion of competition to his client, the Coushattas. A World reporter grilled Focus on the Family's Tom Minnery about Dobson's involvement. Minnery responded incredulously that Abramoff was "trying to take credit for" what Focus was supposedly already doing in Louisiana. He refused to criticize Reed, even though Reed clearly manipulated Dobson.

[...]

In a follow-up piece for World, Olasky presented several Senate-subpeonaed emails between Abramoff and Reed showing Focus on the Family's involvement in their schemes. Olasky then suggested in as subtle a fashion as possible that Dobson and co. should come forward with the full story: "We hope that Focus on the Family will join us in insisting that Mr. Reed stop dodging and start explaining why his emails to Jack Abramoff stated that he was negotiating with Focus.

[...]

Writing on his blog, Olasky had harsher words for Reed: "If Reed had been transparent, he would have faced disagreement but would not now be facing disgrace.

My sense is that this rift will deepen in the coming weeks as the mainstream press wakes up to its importance. Meanwhile, Focus on the Family will undoubtedly continue its face-saving effort, even if it means misleading both its supporters and the press. Dobson has been doing that for decades. Why should he stop now?

Nerdified Link
And here's a reminder of what a "wonderful guy" old Abramoff is:
In emails now made public by the Senate Committee on Indian Affairs, which is investigating his activities, Abramoff repeatedly referred to Native Americans as "monkeys", "troglodites" and "morons."[24]

Abramoff once asked his co-conspirator Scanlon to meet a client, saying in an email, "I have to meet with the monkeys from the Choctaw tribal council. You need to close the deal... with the client..."

About one tribal client (date unknown) Abramoff wrote to Scanlon, "These mofos are the stupidest idiots in the land for sure." In another email message he wrote, "we need to get some money from those monkeys!!"

Nerdified Link
There's an old saying about being judged by the company you keep. Folks like Dobson, Reed, etc. had no problem at all hanging out with Abramoff back in the day when it was convenient for them. Now that it's inconvenient, well, you get the picture. Tells a lot about the "character" of these characters.

Wednesday, March 8, 2006

"We have colluded in our own doom"

The basic tool for the manipulation of reality is the manipulation of words. If you can control the meaning of words, you can control the people who must use the words. George Orwell made this clear in his novel 1984. But another way to control the minds of people is to control their perceptions. If you can get them to see the world as you do, they will think as you do. Comprehension follows perception. How do you get them to see the reality you see? After all, it is only one reality out of many. Images are a basic constituent: pictures. This is why the power of TV to influence young minds is so staggeringly vast. Words and pictures are synchronized. The possibility of total control of the viewer exists, especially the young viewer. TV viewing is a kind of sleep-learning. An EEG of a person watching TV shows that after about half an hour the brain decides that nothing is happening, and it goes into a hypnoidal twilight state, emitting alpha waves. This is because there is such little eye motion. In addition, much of the information is graphic and therefore passes into the right hemisphere of the brain, rather than being processed by the left, where the conscious personality is located. Recent experiments indicate that much of what we see on the TV screen is received on a subliminal basis. We only imagine that we consciously see what is there. The bulk of the messages elude our attention; literally, after a few hours of TV watching, we do not know what we have seen. Our memories are spurious, like our memories of dreams; the blank are filled in retrospectively. And falsified. We have participated unknowingly in the creation of a spurious reality, and then we have obligingly fed it to ourselves. We have colluded in our own doom.

-- Philip K. Dick, How To Build A Universe That Doesn't Fall Apart Two Days Later

Todays Stats: International Women's Day

1% of the titled land in the world is owned by women

A baby girl born in the UK is likely to live to 81 - but if she is born in Swaziland, she is likely to die at 39

70% of the 1.2 bn people living in poverty are women and children

21% of the world's managers are female

62% of unpaid family workers are female

Women comprise 55% of the world's population aged over 60 years old and 65% of those aged over 80

85m girls worldwide are unable to attend school, compared with 45m boys. In Chad, just 4% of girls go to school.

700,000,000 women are without adequate food, water, sanitation, health care or education (compared with 400,000,000 men)

67% of all illiterate adults are women

1,440 women die each day during childbirth (a rate of one death every minute)

1 in 7 women in Ethiopia die in pregnancy or childbirth (it is one in 19,000 in Britain)

In the US, 35% of lawyers are women but just 5% are partners in law firms

In the EU, women comprise 3% of chief execs of major companies

12 is the number of world leaders who are women (out of 191 members of the United Nations)

Men directed 9 out of every 10 films made in 2004

Via liberal catnip.

Academic Freedom Watch

Thanks to Earthside, here's a set of links (and a few clips of text) that provides a good compare-contrast between America's current situation and that of a totalitarian dictatorship from several decades ago. One parallel in particular is that in both situations students are encouraged to spy on instructors & "turn them in" for being "unpatriotic."

Now:
Governor Praises Student Who Taped Criticism of Bush | Denver Post

Teacher is Suspended After Hitler Gibe Leak | Sunday Times of London

A high-school geography teacher in Colorado has been put on leave after a 16-year-old pupil recorded him comparing George Bush to Hitler. Sean Allen, 16, who attends a suburban high school outside Denver, has made headlines across the country by recording the teacher lambasting President Bush

Talk Radio Chews Up Opinionated Teacher | Mike Littwin/Rocky Mountain News

For you parents out there, today we bring you a little pop quiz.

Your child is having trouble with a teacher. You want to clear up the problem.

And so you:

A. Ask for a conference with the teacher.

B. Ask for a conference with the principal.

C. Ask for a conference with the teacher and the principal.

D. Send your concerns to a college professor in faraway Virginia who sometimes subs for Rush Limbaugh on his radio show - and never bother to talk to the teacher at all.

Obviously, the correct answer is D. And if that seems strange, you haven't been paying attention in class.

This is a talk-radio world we live in, and the rest of us are fortunate if we can occasionally control the volume.

Then:

Heritage-Civilization and the Jews | PBS

The Nazi state attempted to control every aspect of its citizens' lives. It sought to undermine the authority of family and school by encouraging children to spy on parents and teachers and report any signs of disloyalty to the state.

U-S-History.com

Other victims of persecution included Slavs, gypsies, Jehovah's Witnesses, Communists, homosexuals, mentally handicapped persons, and political opponents. The Nazis indoctrinated German youth. Children were encouraged to turn in teachers, or even their parents, if they seemed disloyal to the reich.

Adolf Hitler and the Nazi Party | Leadership Studies Program/Ripon College

Throughout the Reich, at least one representative of the Party served within every organization as a Nazi delegate or spy to report to Party officials about the behavior of others within the organization. This network included all schools, churches, businesses, and community organizations. In many cases, the identities of Nazi representatives were secret so everyone would be kept in a constant state of vigilance and fear. In such an environment, people might feel afraid of Nazi spies within their organizations even if there really were no such spies. Children and adolescents were openly encouraged by the Nazi Party, through organizations like the Hitler Youth, to spy on their parents and turn them in for real or imaginary offenses.

A Discussion With Irmgard Hunt, Author: On Hitler's Mountain: Overcoming the Legacy of a Nazi Childhood | HarperCollins Publishers

"... I think that the worst misuse of children is to turn them into spies, informers, and even soldiers. In free societies, teachers and especially parents have the obligation to prevent politicians from establishing policies that endanger their children's future freedoms and well-being. Most of all, they have the responsibility to expose children to diverging views, to expect tolerance, and to encourage them to question things and to stand up for their views."

SPEECH: Youth and the War | Joseph Goebbel - September 29, 1940

Educating the youth during war can only be done successfully by working closely with the youth themselves. The youth is not only the object but also the subject of its own education. Much that as a matter of course is done at home or in the school during peace is just as clearly impossible during war. Through their attitude and life style, the youth must render superfluous much of the educational work that the relevant organizations handle during peace. The war is not only a great equalizer, it is a great educator. Only what is essential can survive its hard laws. It transforms all values. Things that we thought important or even essential during peace, we gladly give up during war to serve the common cause. War once involved only as small part of the population, whereas today it requires heroic work by all. Since our enemy is waging war even against children, children too must play their part. ... The coming generation must fight the war at home. They are participants in it. They must display strong character and good behavior. When a nation is fighting for its future, which after all is the future of its children, the youth have to be involved, they have to support the battle with their full energy. They must show through discipline, order, industry and attitude that they are worthy of their age, and of the men who are risking their lives. Cocky know-it-alls or big-mouthed boasters only look stupid. Particularly in the midst of a war in which millions of men are risking their lives for the nation, the youth must again learn respect for sacrificial manhood. They must also learn to honor women and mothers who are fighting for the continuation of their nation. They should be obedient and modest, and above all do their duty.

Welcome to the brave new world order. Is this really the environment in which you wanted your kids to grow up? Certainly wasn't what I had in mind when my first child was born a decade ago.

Tuesday, March 7, 2006

South Dakota makes "Rapists' Bill of Rights" law

From the NARAL press release:
"Governor Rounds' signing of this bill should spur all Americans to let their governors know that they oppose egregious actions that threaten a woman's reproductive freedom. This law is a monumental setback for women in South Dakota and across the country. This ban does not even contain exceptions for women who are rape or incest victims, or whose health is threatened, and has an inadequate exception to protect a woman's life."
States in which a similar Rapists' Bill of Rights is being considered: Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Missouri, Ohio, Rhode Island, South Carolina, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Of course, let's face it: the folks who seem to be keen on South Dakota's unconstitutional law are the very ones typically who approve of torture, genocide, a return to Jim Crow laws, ad nauseum. These are the same folks who will try to convince me that they are "Christian" though as near as I can reckon their "God" is more one of spilt blood and empire than of justice and compassion - in other words their "God" is one entirely foreign to my values (I'm more of a "Sermon on the Mount" kind of person).

If that seems harsh, keep in mind that we live in harsh times - the sort of times that favor the reproductive rights of rapists first and foremost.

Target Iran: The Morons Want To Get Their War On


Vice President Dick Cheney told Iran on Tuesday that enrichment of nuclear fuel on Iranian territory was unacceptable and warned that Tehran would face "meaningful consequences" if it continued to pursue its nuclear program. "The Iranian regime needs to know that if it stays on its present course the international community is prepared to impose meaningful consequences," Cheney said in a speech to the pro-Israel lobbying group AIPAC. "For our part, the United States is keeping all options on the table," he said. "We will not allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon."

Cheney Warns Iran Over Nukes MSNBC News Services
Unless Iran executes a dramatic about-face and suspends all its nuclear
activities, the U.N. Security Council will intervene "quite actively," a senior State Department official said Monday. The message to Iran is that it has "crossed the international red line" and engaged in unacceptable enrichment activity "and there must be a U.N. Security Council process to deal with that," Undersecretary of State Nicholas Burns said.

U.S. Dismisses Talk of Compromise on Iran Associated Press
Iran today intensified its rhetoric in the row over its suspect nuclear programme, responding to a veiled threat of military action by promising to become a "killing field". The threat came as the international nuclear watchdog opened crucial talks in Vienna on how to dampen Tehran's atomic ambitions. John Bolton, the hawkish US Ambassador to the United Nations, warned that the republic faced "painful consquences" if it refused to comply. In response, the deputy head of Iran's armed forces retorted: "Iran's armed forces, through their experience of war, will turn this land into a killing field for any enemy aggressors."

Iran Threatens New 'Killing Fields' in Nuclear Row Times of London
VIENNA, Austria (CNN) -- A Russian proposal to allow Iran to enrich a small amount of uranium on its soil has been shot down by U.S. officials, diplomats close to the International Atomic Energy Agency told CNN.

The proposal was floated by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov, who is in Washington and is scheduled to meet with U.S. President George W. Bush at the White House later Tuesday.

Russia-Iran plan 'blocked by U.S.'

Gulag Nation

From As'ad AbuKhalil's blog, The Angry Arab News Service:
My colleague Jake shared this with me today: "The article I mentioned to you is: Getty, Rittersporn, and Zemskov, "Victims in the Soviet Penal System in the Pre-War Years: A First Approach on the Basis of Archival Evidence", American Historical Review, v. 98, n. 4, Oct. 1993. As the title suggests, it uses archival data, not available until the early 1990s, to determine the nature and extent of the Stalin era prison system. Using data from the article and population statistics for the USSR, one can see that in 1939 - at the height of Stalin's power - the prison population amounted to 2.4% of the adult population. By contrast, the prison population in the US today amounts to 2.9% of the adult population."
Food for thought.

"Who is accountable for Army's descent into torture?"

"We want to find out what happened so it doesn't happen again. And if someone has done something wrong, they're going to be held accountable."

-- Alberto Gonzales, 2005, during his AG confirmation hearing
"As a comprehensive study just published by Human Rights First reveals, a year since Gonzales' statement, no meaningful insistence on accountability has been discernable from either the Gonzales Justice Department or the Rumsfeld Defense Department. It has been left to human rights organizations to piece together the alarming history of the CIA and U.S. Army's illegal descent into torture and the failure to apply bedrock principles of command accountability."

-- David R. Irvine and Deborah Pearlstein
Further:
The latest findings only underscore the widespread scope of the problem, and the widespread failure to hold leadership to account. Well beyond the actions of a few bad apples, the treatment of prisoners, inside the interrogation booth and out, was a problem far beyond Abu Ghraib.

Indeed, of the 98 deaths documented in "Command's Responsibility," more than two-thirds were in U.S. custody in places other than Abu Ghraib. Four years since the first known death, only 12 detainee deaths have resulted in punishment of any kind for any U.S. official. For the torture-related deaths - cases where people were suffocated, beaten to death, or, as in at least one case, effectively crucified - the highest sentence anyone has received is five months in jail. Critically, no officer above the rank of major has been charged in any detainee death.

The system of military justice is supposed to reflect and give force to America's values, even in wartime. The uninvestigated, unpunished homicides committed by U.S. personnel against prisoners says a good deal about what

has changed in today's military. It suggests that a new "anything goes" ethic has replaced the older, morally driven, Army "values" ethic. In the new ethic, the constraints of law can be set aside whenever expediency or whim demand. Because there is no top-driven command accountability for senior officers, there are no operational boundaries at the bottom of the chain of command. Even if you get caught, if you have enough rank, it won't matter.

The starkest illumination of this corrosive new Army ethic was stated this past week by former Army interrogator Anthony Lagouranis: "Maj. Gen. Geoffrey Miller [who 'took the gloves off' at Guantanamo Bay] has denied recommending the use of guard dogs to intimidate prisoners during interrogations in Iraq. He also recently said he would not testify in the courts-martial [of two Army dog handlers], invoking his right to avoid self-incrimination. As someone who voluntarily spoke at length about my actions in Iraq to investigators, without a lawyer present, I can't have a favorable opinion of General Miller. By 'taking the Fifth,' he's decided to protect himself, apparently happy to let two dog handlers take the fall - a stunning betrayal of his subordinates and Army values."

The Nuremburg legacy this nation bequeathed to the world after the Second World War is unyielding: As a matter of law, senior commanders and political leaders are personally accountable for the conduct of their subordinates where it involves war crimes or for failing to control the troops under their command. When we send troops into the field with unclear or unlawful guidance, as was evidently done repeatedly in Afghanistan and Iraq, we not only compromise that principle, we also compromise the ability of our Armed Forces to accomplish the mission they've been given.
Nerdified Link

Read more at Human Rights First.

Chomsky on Latin America

A few snippets. To read the whole thing, go to Lenin's Tomb:
What’s happening is something completely new in the history of the hemisphere. Since the Spanish conquest the countries of Latin America have been pretty much separated from one another and oriented toward the imperial power.

[...]

For the first time, they are beginning to integrate and in quite a few different ways. Venezuela and Cuba is one case. MERCOSUR, which is still not functioning very much, is another case. Venezuela, of course, just joined MERCOSUR, which is a big step forward for it and it was greatly welcomed by the presidents of Argentina, Brazil.

For the first time the Indian population is becoming politically quite active. They just won an election in Bolivia which is pretty remarkable. There is a huge Indian population in Ecuador, even in Peru, and some of them are calling for an Indian nation. Now they want to control their own resources. In fact, many don’t even want their resources developed. Many don’t see any particular point in having their culture and lifestyle destroyed so that people can sit in traffic jams in New York.

Furthermore, they are beginning to throw out the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

[...]

...The IMF is essentially the US Treasury Department. It is the economic weapon that’s alongside the military weapon for maintaining control. That’s being dismantled.

All of this is happening against the background of very substantial popular movements, which, to the extent that they existed in the past, were crushed by violence, state terror, Operation Condor, one monstrosity after another. That weapon is no longer available.

Furthermore, there is South-South integration going on, so Brazil, and South Africa and India are establishing relations.

And again, the forces below the surface in pressing all of this are international popular organizations of a kind that never existed before; the ones that meet annually in the world social forums. By now several world social forums have spawned lots of regional ones; there’s one right here in Boston and many other places. These are very powerful mass movements of a kind without any precedent in history: the first real internationals. Everyone’s always talked about internationals on the left but there’s never been one. This is the beginning of one.

These developments are extremely significant. For US planners, they are a nightmare.

From the mailbag:

Trial of Bassist Tarik Shah Set for March 17:
Three Muslim men accused in an elaborate federal sting operation of plotting to provide training and money to terrorists have been held for months in solitary confinement, locked in cells at least 23 hours a day with the lights always on, their lawyers said yesterday.

At a hearing in New York federal court, the lawyers said the harsh conditions have left the men disoriented and diminished their ability to understand the charges against them. The three men are Tarik Shah, a New York jazz musician; Dr. Rafiq Sabir, a doctor from Florida; and Mahmud Faruq Brent, a paramedic from Washington, D.C. A fourth defendant, Abdulrahman Farhane, a Brooklyn bookseller and also a Muslim, was arrested and imprisoned last week.

Edward David Wilford, a lawyer for Mr. Sabir, said all four defendants will ask the judge to review the terms of their confinement and to be put with the general inmate population.

Mr. Shah and Dr. Sabir, who were arrested on May 27, are accused of conspiring to give martial arts training and medical help to al Qaeda operatives. Mr. Brent is charged with having received training in late 2001 in a Pakistan camp belonging to another terror group, Lashkar-e-Taiba.

Mr. Farhane, who has emerged as a central figure in the case, is accused of plotting with an F.B.I. informer to send money overseas to buy weapons and communications equipment for Muslims fighting United States forces in Afghanistan in late 2001. Mr. Shah took part in some of those discussions, according to the charges.

Because of the terror charges in the cases, prosecutors had sent the men to maximum security detention.

None of the men are charged with directly planning or taking part in terrorism. They are said by prosecutors to have spoken about their plans with the informer, a Yemeni named Mohamed Alanssi, who set himself on fire in front of the White House in November 2004, apparently to protest his handling by the F.B.I.

At the hearing, in Federal District Court in Manhattan, the lawyers noted that none of the men has a prior criminal record or been convicted of any crime.

Hassen ibn Abdellah, the lawyer for Mr. Brent, told Judge Loretta A. Preska that Mr. Brent has not been allowed a visit from his family since he was arrested on Aug. 4. Mr. Brent, Mr. Shah and Dr. Sabir are being held at the Metropolitan Correctional Center in Manhattan, while Mr. Farhane is being held at another federal jail in Brooklyn.

Mr. Wilford said that trial evidence that the prosecutors sent to the Manhattan jail on Dec. 19 for the defendants to study was not turned over to any of them by the authorities until late January. He said there have been occasions in which relatives of Dr. Sabir who arrived for visiting appointments at the jail were turned away.

The conditions are "designed to break your will and your ability to focus," Mr. Wilford said. He said he believed that prosecutors had insisted on those conditions because "the buzzword al Qaeda" had been raised in the case.

The courtroom was packed for the hearing yesterday, with relatives and friends of the defendants in long purple and blue robes, the women with full head scarves, and the men with their heads covered with caps. When Mr. Brent appeared, his relatives stood up in court and waved and called out to him, saying "God is great," in Arabic.

Mr. Shah appeared at times confused, smiling and laughing as the judge asked for his plea to a new charge of terror financing that was lodged against him last week. All three men pleaded not guilty to a new indictment.

Karl Metzner, a prosecutor, made no comment on the defense complaints about the jail conditions.
I don't know enough about the case to comment definitively on his guilt or innocence. I will say this though: Mr. Shah could very easily be a victim of these paranoid times in which we exist, and may simply be "guilty" of nothing more than having said the wrong thing at the wrong time to the wrong person. Our government is so adept at "finding" "terrorists" where there are none, much like they found "communists" during the McCarthy era, my gut tells me to be skeptical of such accusations.

Monday, March 6, 2006

The Neoconmen are Lying to You About Iran

Obstacles, the experts say, remain at virtually every step on the atomic road. The most significant, they add, involve the two most technically challenging aspects of the process — converting uranium ore to a toxic gas and, especially, spinning that gas into enriched atomic fuel.

According to the analysts, the Iranians need to do repairs and build new machines at a prototype plant before they can begin enriching even modest quantities of uranium. And then, for a decade, they would have to mass produce 100 centrifuges a week to fill the cavernous industrial enrichment halls at Natanz. What is more, the gas meant to feed those machines is plagued by impurities.


Nerdified Link

What's Wrong With This Picture?

From Talking Points Memo:

Wait a second. Doesn't this break military regulations and probably several laws?

A few weeks ago we discussed the fact that the RNC was apparently working with the White House to send active duty members of the military in uniform to speak on behalf of the president's policies at Republican political events. That's against the law and military regulations. And for good reason since that's a quick ride to making the military -- or factions or individuals in the military -- tools of one or the other political party.

Now we seem to have an example in practice.

This is exactly what appears to have happened yesterday at a political event with Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO). This article in the Fort Collins Coloradoan shows a picture of Musgrave doing just that with the caption: "Marilyn Musgrave introduces Marine Sergeant Brandon Forsyth on Friday during the Larimer County GOP Lincoln Day Dinner."

A look at the picture shows pretty clearly that Forsyth was in uniform. Yet those regs linked above say clearly that military personnel can attend partisan events only as spectators and not in uniform.
Additionally:

I've heard from a number of active duty and retired members of the military, including a number of JAG lawyers, and unless there's something very different about Rep. Marilyn Musgrave (R-CO) event in Colorado than the description of it that appeared in her local paper, it clearly violated the law.

There's another little detail one retired JAG officer brings up, however.

The uniformed member of the military who appears at such an event can be court-martialed for the violation. It's not some technicality in UCMJ terms. But there's no law against a politician or party leader putting them up to it or facilitating it. So there's no risk for them.

So Musgrave and whomever else organized the event is putting this guy's career on the line as well as encouraging this misconduct for their own partisan gain.

Josh goes on to say:

Let me mention another point about this issue of uniformed military appearing at and/or speaking at partisan political events.

I've gotten a few emails on this point so I want to clarify lest there be any confusion: violation of the ban on uniformed military participating in partisan political events isn't some technical violation like not filling out a form or not following some obscure protocol. And pointing it out isn't just some blog gotcha.

The existence of this ban and the enforcement of it are hugely important both to good order and discipline within the military and to preserving our democratic republic. The military can't be made into an arm of one or the other political party. Nor can the executive be allowed to enlist members of the armed forces, either individually or en masse, willingly or not, as soldiers in his domestic political battles.

This is about preserving a professional military and preserving our system of government. It's a big deal. We need to find out a few more specifics about what happened at the Musgrave event. Perhaps the newspaper account is deeply misleading about what actually happened. But if this thing that looks like a duck and quacks like a duck, is a duck, then it needs to be nipped in the bud.

It is disturbing. The Musgrave event seems like something more befitting a political event in the old Stalinist-era Soviet bloc.

Update: Josh reports that the Larimer County GOP website has now scrubbed that image. Hmmm. I wonder why...... Don't suppose they have something to hide, eh? Not to worry, there are always bloggers to shine the light of truth.

Postscript 2 on Predatory Capitalism: Mickey Z Sez

...but how many of us ever consider the “predictable consequences” of how we eat, what we say, where we shop, how we spend, whom we trust for information, what stances we’re willing to take and/or support? Terror attacks have become increasingly common. More often than not, these atrocities can be traced back to something the US government or the corporations that own it or nations aligned with it have done while we averted our eyes. As Americans, it is our tax dollars that fund the US war machine...and the retribution that war machine provokes cannot be shrugged off by any of us. Our lack of curiosity and suspicion enables the corporate media. Our willingness to trust and believe our leaders empowers them far more than our votes.

[...]

Billions of our fellow humans live in abject poverty. Yes, Sting...there are too many cameras (not to mention all the other diversions disguised as consumer electronics) but there is enough food (at least for now). Why are so many starving in places overflowing with resources and what does that have to do with me, you, and every single one of us?

[...]

...we can readily see what will “become of our world” if we remain on the current path: if a select few continue to rape the planet, hoard the resources, and spend billions to keep our eyes averted and our focus distracted. Look around...it’s already happening.

Who knows what to do? Just about every single one of us knows what to do...but most have yet to find the impetus to start doing it. It requires seeing with new eyes, making changes in [the] way we live, and perhaps exposing ourselves to a fair amount of sacrifice and risk. The sides are being drawn...but the world’s 587 billionaires cannot stare down the hungry, angry eyes of three billion living on two dollars a day without the support of proxy armies and the tacit approval of distracted, disinterested Westerners.

[...]

The ball, as they say, is in our court.
Nerdified Link.

Sunday, March 5, 2006

"The Pentagon Archipelago"

Excerpt from My Years in Captivity, from The Guardian: After that first heavy interrogation they took me into another room and left me there. Guards tied my hands behind my back, hog-tied me so that my hands were shackled to my legs, which were also shackled. Then they put a hood over my head. It was stuffy and hard to breathe, and I was on the verge of asthmatic panic. The perpetual darkness was frightening. A barrage of kicks to my head and back followed. Lying on the ground, with my back arched, and my wrists and ankles chafing against the metal chains, was excruciating. I could never wriggle into a more comfortable position, even for a moment. There was a thin carpet on the concrete floor, and a little shawl for warmth - both completely inadequate.

I lost track of day and night - not only was I usually in the hood but, in any case, the window was boarded up. Eventually, someone came in and removed the hood. I was there in isolation for about a month. Once they kept me from sleeping for about two days and two nights. A guard kept coming in and if I nodded off he woke me. By the end of that I was completely drained and disoriented.

I never knew what was going to happen. Sometimes they'd take me to an outside toilet - used by the military as there wasn't one upstairs. But even then I was hooded, and the hood came off only when I was in the latrine area. There on the wall, in big black letters, were the words "Fuck Islam".

For days on end I was alone in the room. Then they'd come for me and go over and over exactly the same ground: the camps, my role in training, my role in al-Qaeda, my role in financing 9/11. Sometimes it was the CIA, sometimes the FBI; sometimes I didn't even know who they were. All of them wanted a story that didn't exist. There are no words to describe what I felt like.
That was an excerpt from Moazzam Begg's new book Enemy Combatant: A British Muslim's Journey To Guantánamo And Back, to be published in the UK this Monday.

More from Empire Burlesque (who provided the above excerpt):
Moazzam Begg was kidnapped in Pakistan in January 2002. As the Guardian notes in an accompanying story: "During his internment, he spent virtually two years in solitary, was kicked and beaten, suffocated with a bag over his head, stripped naked, chained by his hands to the top of a door and left hanging, and led to believe he was about to be executed." The only "evidence" against him was the statement by a Pakistani captive that his instructor in an al-Qaeda camp had been named "Abu Umamah." This is a common Arabic construction, whereby parents are called after the names of their children: "Abu Umamah" means, "father of Umamah," which was the name of Begg's oldest daughter. (Similarly, the Palestinian president Mahmoud Abbas is usually referred to as "Abu Mazen." Although this is often called his "nom de guerre" in the Western press, as if it were the kind of sinister nickname that Bolshevik terrorists took to cloak their true identity – "Stalin," the man of steel, "Molotov," the hammer, etc. – it is in fact just a homely way of saying that Abbas is the father of a boy named Mazen.)

[...]

As I wrote two years ago, describing the plight of three other innocent British Muslims who'd been ensnared in Bush's global net: "The treatment of these three innocent men, chained and beaten for two years, is not just a crime, but also – like that other crime, the invasion of Iraq – an enormous waste of time and resources in the "war on terrorism." We saw the grim fruit of this waste in Madrid on March 11.

"But of course, the Pentagon Archipelago wasn't designed to fight terrorism; it's designed to advance terrorism – state terrorism. Its purpose is to establish the principle of arbitrary rule – in the name of "military necessity" – above the rule of law, in America and around the world. It's part of an overarching system of terror – aggressive war, assassination, indefinite detention, torture – employed to achieve the Regime's openly-stated ideological goal: "full spectrum dominance" of global politics and resources, particularly energy resources. Al Qaeda has the same goal, and uses the same methods, albeit on a smaller, "asymmetrical" scale.

"Now we are all at the mercy of these entwined terrorist factions – both led by fundamentalist sons of two financially linked elitist clans. We will see more Guantanamos, more Madrids, before this long, dark night is over."

Body and Soul remind us that part of that Pentagon Archipelago is another notorious prison, Bagram:

Yesterday's New York Times story on the Bagram detention center headlines something we've all known for a long time: Guantánamo is not the most brutal of the detention facilities. Take one measure: There have been 98 detainee deaths in US custody that we know about, including at least 8 men tortured to death. None of those occurred at Guantánamo. They took place in far better hidden facilities.

Some of the worst abuse takes place in almost completely hidden facilities, like the "dark prison" in Kabul Human Rights Watch described last year.

It surprises me, though, that the Times got military and administration officials (and former officials) talking not only about how bad Bagram is, and about its increasing size, but about the grotesque reasons for the growth. The National Security Counsel, as of September 14 of last year, has stopped sending prisoners to Guantánamo, and they did so because they were getting bad publicity on the facility, and because they were trying to avoid court review of the prisoner's cases. In other words, prisoners remain at Bagram -- which was never intended to permanently house prisoners -- not because it makes any sense from a military or intelligence point of view, but because Bagram keeps secrets. Off the record -- would you speak up about this administration's crimes knowing their penchant for revenge? -- people within the administration say that keeping what they're doing secret and unaccountable drives the handling of detainees.

Bagram has also become a CIA dump. In fact, I'd guess that's why some military officials are talking to the Times. They report that some in the Defense Department, understandably, don't want responsibility for prisoners who turned out to have no real intelligence value, which the CIA doesn't know what to do with. Bagram is already stuffed with prisoners who turned out to be innocent that the military doesn't know what to do with. The average stay at Bagram is over 14 months, and since presumably no prisoners of value are released, that means innocent people are confined there, in wire pens, for a year or more. The reason for their imprisonment is the same as the reason many prisoners ended up at Guantánamo -- bounties...

You get the picture. Like Chris Floyd, I continue to be outraged that the US has become the very sort of nation that the old Soviet Union was back during the Cold War era. The gulags that our government has assembled, such as Guantánamo, Bagram, and Abu Ghraib are only the beginning. I've mentioned before that good old Haliburton's subsidiary KBR has been awarded a contract to build massive detention facilities on US soil.

So much for being the shining beacon of freedom.

Postscript to Predatory Capitalism

Horowitz attacks Bennish for his criticism of capitalism. For strict reactionary ideologues such as Horowitz, any criticism of capitalism is a red flag marking Bennish as a “Communist.” In fact, the terms capitalism and communism are irrelevant in the current political context and should be regarded as museum pieces—more accurately, the economic system in question is neoliberal globalism, at odds with the traditional capitalistic concepts of free markets and open competition, and is based on the coercive economic model of GATT, the IMF, the World Bank, and the WTO. In effect, neoliberalism is banksterism, that is to say a parasitical economic system imposed on poor and indebted nations by a small number of international banksters, advocates of a brutal “free market” (as in freedom to steal) and ultimately the imposition of a reductive social Darwinism.

“In its capacity to dehistoricize and depoliticize society, as well as in its aggressive attempts to destroy all of the public spheres necessary for the defense of a genuine democracy, neoliberalism reproduces the conditions for unleashing the most brutalizing forces of capitalism,” writes Henry A. Giroux. “Social Darwinism has been resurrected from the ashes of the 19th century sweatshops and can now be seen in full bloom in most reality TV programs and in the unfettered self-interests that now drives popular culture. As narcissism is replaced by unadulterated materialism, public concerns collapse into utterly private considerations and where public space does exist it is mainly used as a confessional for private woes, a cut throat game of winner take all, or a advertisement for consumerism.”

In short, neoliberal banksterism attacks the very foundation of human relations. Adam Smith believed traditional capitalism served the common good through the pursuit of individual self interest, whereas the neoliberal banksters are radically opposed to any concept of the common good—instead subscribing to a modernized version of Malthusian catastrophe—and view human communities and natural resources as abstract objects to be plundered and exploited. In order to plunder and exploit without restraint, neoliberals are proponents of an updated version of mercantile imperialism and empire, as proposed by the neocon-neoliberals.

David Horowitz and the Straussian neolib-neocons attempt to “dehistoricize” the military aspect of this process. For instance, in his criticism of Jay Bennish, Horowitz does not address the substance of Bennish’s argument—the United States “dominates the world” through violent imperialism, or more accurately neo-imperialism—but instead Horowitz concentrates on a rather narrow and politically expedient claim that Bennish and other “communists” “identify with the [presumably Iraqi] terrorists” who are in effect “freedom fighters” resisting the invasion and occupation of their country.

From Kurt Nimmo: Horowitz Jumps on Bash Bennish Bandwagon

Predatory Capitalism

On another forum one of my friends has the following description of predatory capitalism:

PREDATORY CAPITALISM
Someone who is not your neighbor, but who has heard about the lovely cows you have on your property makes the trek over to your place, knocks down your fence, tramples all the chickens, children and dogs in the yard, makes off with your cow, milks it for all its worth, patents the product, then kills the cow and leaves the rotting corpse in your yard. When you come out your front door with this "wtf-look" on your face, the predatory capitalist who just destroyed your life chains you to the fence and leaves you there to starve and stare at the spoils he left in his wake while he moves on to greener pastures in search of another cow to milk and another way of life and land to lay to waste.

She goes on to describe the culture in which a predatory capitalistic system thrives (and just how pervasive those cultural norms are across the ideological spectrum:
It is this whole dynamic that I have been harping on for years--since before I left for Europe in 1984, and all the more after my return to this country in 93--after having seen with my own eyes that you can indeed have your Mercedes Benz and you don't necessarily need to tell the poor people to eat cake to get it.

I think the mistake in attributing these things to "corporate capitalism" is that this ONCE AGAIN provides an outlet for denial--the implication being that these cutthroat competitive mentalities are restricted to the assholes at the top, the CEOs and B*shCos: they aren't. They're EVERYWHERE.

While browsing on this subject last night, I saw a comment that said st to the effect that, under predatory capitalism, you stand in a vehemently competitive relationship with everyone, right down to the paper delivery guy. And it is true. There are very few individuals and very few business entities who are exempt from this kind of thinking and it is reflected in business practice and everyday personal interaction (any wonder I don't get out much anymore?)--just try observing "human" behavior in the line at the fucking grocery store and you'll start to see what I mean!

In the publishing industry, in the translation industry, in academia, in social service industry and non-profit grantmaking agencies (No, NLinSP you are not imagining it!)--I personally am being TROMPED by this shit all the time. All the time. Tromped. Despite possession of PhD (with attendant student loan debt to "prove" it), despite enough overtheedjumication to make your head spin, despite a fairly "prestigious" network of friends and colleagues. It is a constant struggle for "supremacy" which I refuse to engage in, so I tend to get trampled a lot. Fine. Let the elephants learn to live with themselves. I will not concede to this crap.

What I find so alarming is that, in most cases, my dealings are with individuals and businesses where one would expect, by virtue of their "liberalism" and "progressivism", these predatory principles would not apply. But they do. It has indeed come down to "survival of the biggest bastard"--in liberal and progressive communities, the difference is that the bastards have to find a better "cover" for being a bastard--they have to pretend they're being a 'nice guy' while they are (often subconsciously) pulling the rug right out from others in order to get their own next 'magic carpet ride.'

This is what I mean when I say that this country is sick--and most of the people don't even know it. When you try to tell them, they stark flogging you in denial.

That is the problem.

Cross-cultural psychologists have attempted classify cultures on a number of dimensions, including individualism/collectivism and horizontal/vertical (see here and here for some descriptions and applications of these dimensions to persuasion and decision making). What my friend is describing above is what you would expect from an vertical individualistic culture: where competition is viewed as the way the world works and winning is everything.

Another friend on the same forum offers an alternative viewpoint:

There is enough food so that no human goes hungry except by the voluntary and conscious decision of another human.

While some natural occurrences may not be controllable by man, the consequences are. There may be a bad crop in Malawi, but there are airplanes and plenty of technology to get food to those affected.

With a fraction of the money that the US alone spends on its wars alone,leave aside maintaining client states, low-grade occupations and other accoutrement of neo-colonialism, every person on earth could have food, housing, and medical treatment, and basic education.

So much of the world's resources in so few hands is unjustifiable, unconsciounable, and unsustainable.

There will always be haves and have nots. There will always be greed. But being a have not does not have to mean not having housing, not having food, not having medical treatment. It may mean not having a mansion, it may mean not having caviar and champagne, or a big screen TV or a closet full of designer clothes.

And greed can be checked, it can be limited. When it is not, the current situation is what you get. The policy of spending a dollar to kill someone else's child in preference to a dime to care for your own, is not only unsustainable, it is not compatible with the continuance of human life on earth.

This goes beyond any ism or anti-ism. This is just common sense.

The true meaning of globalization is not another reframing of slavery, not another method of exploiting the poor to make rich men richer.

The true meaning is that we are all, the entire world, a community of interdependent people. What I do affects a Japanese housewife, a sheep farmer in Pashtunistan, an astrologer in Kolkata, and a wine merchant in Hungary. And what they do affects me.

Technology has not created that reality, it has made it impossible to avoid, and inexcusable to distort and degrade and dehumanize.

We cannot create a perfect Utopia. Nor can we be perfect people who never make typos, or mistakes in work, or cooking or gardening. That is no excuse for not doing the best that we can, and the best that we can, as a world, might sound like Utopia by comparison to the hell on earth that life is for the majority of the world's people, maintained so that a tiny fraction might live in luxury.

By reducing only slightly that luxury, we can cease to be a world in which only half the children have childhoods.

How many modest but clean and safe dwellings can be built for the cost of dropping one bomb?

The US could indeed be "Number One," it could be a super-power in a much truer sense, be the nation that brings life to the most people instead of the one that kills the most people.

How many doses of penicillin and malaria medicine can be purchased for what one wealthy person spends on one necklace? Could she not buy a more modest, and probably more beautiful and tasteful necklace for a few hundred dollars instead of a few million?

She will still be wealthy, there will still be plenty of people who cannot spend several hundred dollars on a necklace.

Some will say, these things are pipe dreams, they are not possible, it is human nature.

There are many aspects of human nature that until we evolve as a species, we must control, check, limit, or there will be no more human nature due to the lack of humans.
He seems to be describing something along the lines of a horizontal collectivist worldview: cooperation and well-being of others is given primacy, and humans are viewed in a relatively egalitarian sense. By the way, from what I do know of these two friends, I would suspect that both of them seem to hold horizontal collectivistic worldviews. The first friend adeptly illustrates the problem; the other, a solution.

I can't help but think that the worldview that makes predatory capitalism a reality is one that over the long haul is simply unsustainable - at some point one runs out of others' resources to loot, and/or ends up with a environment that is practically uninhabitable. We're finally seeing the chickens coming home to roost in that regard. I hope for my children's sake that we realize that not only the economic system, but the worldview underlying the economic system, needs to be seriously challenged.

"Happy" News in Iraq

Death is the price for speaking out in Iraq:
IN A letter to a friend in Europe, Abdul Razaq al-Naas, a Baghdad university professor in his 50s, grieved for his killed friends and colleagues. His letter concluded: "I wonder who is next!" He was. On January 28 al-Naas drove from his office at Baghdad University. Two cars blocked his, and gunmen opened fire, killing him instantly.

Al-Naas is not the first academic to be killed in the mayhem of the "new Iraq". Hundreds of academics and scientists have met this fate since the March 2003 invasion. Baghdad universities alone have mourned the killing of over 80 members of staff. The minister of education stated recently that during 2005, 296 members of education staff were killed and 133 wounded.

Not one of these crimes has been investigated by the occupation forces or the interim governments. They leave that to international humanitarian groups and anti-war organisations. Among them is the Brussels Tribunal on Iraq, which has compiled a list to persuade the UN special rapporteur on summary executions to investigate the issue; they do so with the help of Iraqi academics, who risk their lives in the process. Their research shows that the victims have been men and women from all over Iraq, from different ethnic, religious and political backgrounds. Most were vocally opposed to the occupation. For the most part, they were killed in a fashion that suggests cold-blooded assassination. No one has claimed responsibility.

Like many Iraqis, I believe these killings are politically motivated and connected to the occupying forces’ failure to gain any significant social support in the country. For the occupation’s aims to be fulfilled, independent minds have to be eradicated. We feel that we are witnessing a deliberate attempt to destroy intellectual life in Iraq. Dr al-Naas was a familiar face on al-Jazeera and al-Arabiya TV. He had often condemned the continued presence of US-led troops in Iraq, and criticised the sectarian interim governments and their militias. His case echoes the assassination of the academic Dr Abdullateef al-Mayah. A prominent human rights campaigner and critic of the occupation, Mayah was killed only 12 hours after he had appeared on al-Jazeera denouncing the corruption of the US-appointed Iraqi Governing Council.
As Juan Cole notes:
At least in the US we only face character assassination from our radical Salafi neocons.
Hat tip to Steven D.