Saturday, May 27, 2006

Guess which GOP Congresscritter is a darling of the KKK

Colorado's Marilyn Musgrave, of course. She hasn't exactly gone out of her way to distance herself from her, um, new friends.

A reminder for our Congresscritters:

You supported giving them all of these “extraordinary powers” so they could enable the “extraordinary committee” to “protect the people” and now you have discovered that you are not safe from the “committee’s” intrusion:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
There was no one left to speak out.

Pastor Martin Niemöller

The Pastor was an early supporter of the Nazi Party because “something had to be done about the unrest.”

Do you idiots in Congress not understand that your telephones are being logged. Your e-mail is being read. You are subjected to all of the restrictions when flying. You are subjected to the same indignities as the rest of us.

Did you think you would be immune? Did you think they would treat you differently?

You have the power and the responsibility to stop this. You are supposed to represent the citizens of this country.

Nerdified Link.

My semi-educated guess is that our Congresscritters really did believe that they would be treated differently, and especially our Republican Congresscritters as after all they were on the same side as Junior Caligula. Their professed patriotism, their willingness to do the bidding of the White House was assumed to be sufficient to guarantee special treatment even as the rights of the rest of us were being increasingly trampled upon. We all know what happens when you assume, right? I'd make a similar guess about our mass media types, given the surprise expressed that their communications were also being targeted by the NSA. No need to be all that concerned as long as it was merely the more unruly of the "unwashed masses" who were being subjected to "extraordinary powers." So it goes.

This is an executive branch that is out of control and that acts with impunity. Hoping that things will somehow be different once we get a new president or hoping that if the current president's popularity continues to slide somehow will change things is a fool's game. Unpopular tyrants can be easily as brutal as popular ones - perhaps arguably more so, as coercion is often the only tool left in the arsenal. I can guarantee that whoever the next prez is, if the precedent that's been set is allowed to metasticize, the executive branch will continue to act with impunity. To the occasional movement conservative who reads this blog I'd merely ask to imagine how they'd feel if it were a Hillary Clinton White House that was spying on everyone and going so far as to raid Congresscritters' offices instead of the current Bu$hCo White House. I don't doubt for a moment that she's chomping at the bit to run roughshod over the Constitution, just like Bu$hCo, but also just as her husband did before her.

Food for thought.

Derrick Jensen sez

Abandon hope. Just act. This graf in particular caught my eye:
I have no patience for those who use our desperate situation as an excuse for inaction. I've learned that if you deprive most of these people of that particular excuse they just find another, then another, then another. The use of this excuse to justify inaction—the use of any excuse to justify inaction—reveals nothing more nor less than an incapacity to love.

Food for thought.

Hepkitty's review of The Corporation:

The Film you must see.

This film says it all. Go out and buy it, watch it, and pass it around to your friends. This will show you how the world really works, and it should be spread around as much as possible.

This film covers all the ills that the corporate culture hath wrought on this world, from sweat shop labor, polution, privatization, collusion with fascists regimes, exploitation of just about everything in the name of profit and control.

I think one of the worst exampls discussed in the film was IBMs provision of punch-card machine to the Nazis that allowed them to keep track of the prisonrs in the concentration camps, allowing for the tabulation of such information about the prisoner as to why they were being held, whether they were homosexuel, jewish, a jehovah's witness, and how what happened to them, suicide, execution, or special treatment (i.e. the gas chambers).

Or how Coke had created Fanta Orange in order to maintain it's profits in Germany during WWII.

I think one of the more disturbing aspects covered are the 'single season seeds'. These are seeds for crops, some developed by the Monsanto Corporation, that, among other things, contain a 'Terminator Gene' that prevents the crops from generating usful seeds to be used in planting the following season.
Nerdified link.

Friday, May 26, 2006

A fitting future for this century's worst war criminals (so far)

As Nimmo comments on Galloway's latest statement (from an interview where he notes that he would find it morally justifiable for a suicide bomber to off Tony Blair), he has this to say:

Galloway is of course over the top. It is never morally justified for a suicide bomber to kill anybody for any reason, even for plotting the systematic cold-blooded murder of thousands of people, contaminating the planet with depleted uranium, and inflicting misery on millions of people in Iraq and elsewhere in the Middle East. No, murder is wrong and never morally justified, except in the most extreme cases of self-defense. However, arresting Tony Blair, George Bush, Dick Cheney, and the criminal gaggle of neocons, et al, and putting them on trial for war crimes is not only morally justified, it should be the duty of all who have a conscience.

Like Reichsmarschall Goering, Deputy to the Fuhrer Rudolf Hess, Gestapo chief Ernst Kaltenbrunner, Nazi Foreign Minister Joachim von Ribbentrop, Nazi philosopher Alfred Rosenberg, slavemaster Fritz Sauckel, and other Nazis, the neo-Jacobin (as Claes Ryn describes them) Straussian neocons should face an American Nuremberg trial and suffer the consequences. Prime suspects include, in addition to Bush, Cheney, and Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, Richard Perle, David Wurmser, William Kristol, Elliott Abrams, and Douglas Feith. Organizations responsible for the “clash of civilizations” ideology and its subsequent crimes against humanity—the American Enterprise Institute, Project for the New American Century and JINSA (Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs), top the list—should be raided, staff arrested, files and computers impounded, and the structures burned to the ground and salt poured on the ashes.

I would also include in addition to the various individuals mentioned above the various others who finnagled "legal" arguments for the use of torture in the latest Children's Crusade known as the War on Terror (e.g., Alberto Gonzales), the various Collaborators in government (e.g., Vichy Dems such as Lieberman) and mass media (Judith Miller, etc.) as war criminals deserving trial. The writings of their intellectuals should be treated much as the writings from the Nazi era - as historical artifacts to be studied in order to figure out how to prevent the atrocities committed by the US and British governments from ever happening again. I certainly hope to God that sheer Hell on Earth that has resulted for those targeted by PNAC utopians will finally convince enough of us that utopias are for the birds.

Like Nimmo I am no fan of the death penalty, and would be reasonably satisfied with life sentences for the war criminals responsible for the atrocities committed in Iraq, Afghanistan, and in the various US run prisons including Guantánamo Bay. That said, I wouldn't exactly lose a lot of sleep if the lot of them were executed. In any case, some closure is required for those who have been victimized by the US and British governments, and a strong message needs to be sent to would-be war criminals everywhere that no nation or organization is above international law.

Throw the bums out?

Damn straight!

Caveat: tossing out one set of bums only to replace them with a new set of bums is not acceptable. Think twice, and keep an open mind to the possibilities provided by various Third Party and Independent candidates.

Keeping them accountable

The five Democrats who voted to confirm Abu Gonzales and Michael Hayden for their respective posts of AG and Director of CIA:
Mary Landrieu (LA)
Joe Lieberman (CT)
Bill Nelson (FL)
Ben Nelson (NE)
David Pryor (AR)
Nerdified Link.

Eli Sez: War ain't good for ya!

Think about the environmental consequences:
An article today on CounterPunch provides an interesting statistic--the U.S. military consumes about three million gallons of gasoline per day in Iraq. That's one billion gallons a year, approximately equal to the consumption of two million extra cars. War, as I wrote a few posts ago, is an environmental disaster; this is just one of many reasons why that is so.

That's quite a bit of hydrocarbons being pumped into the atmosphere. That's a lot of fuel being wasted in the name of gaining or maintaining access to fuel sources. Add to that of course all of the depleted uranium released into the environment, bombs that have yet to detonate (which will cause harm to life and limb), the permanent psychological damage done from exposure to the extreme stress of modern warfare, etc., and one is left anwering the old question, "war - what is it good for?" with "Good God y'all! Absolutely nothing!" Say it again.

An interview with Malik Rahim of Common Ground

Saw this on CounterPunch, and thought I'd share a few clips:
Q. Eight months after Hurricane Katrina, what do you see as the most pressing problems facing people in New Orleans?

A. The biggest is housing. We know now that the trailers provided by FEMA are a joke. They cost close to $35,000 each to purchase and be assembled for a family to use. Yet these trailers won't even withstand a tropical depression or any winds above 40 miles per hour. We'd have to get out of these trailers. Where will these folks be housed? Thousands of trailers would be flying around. Placing all these trailers in a hurricane prone area was insane. There was so much more that could have been done with that money.

[...]

Q. What is your assessment of the policies and actions of the federal, state and local authorities toward the disaster and its survivors?

A. I see the federal, state and local governments as absent. But in the community-based grassroots organizations, I see the essence of America. The things that they are doing are phenomenal. If the government would work with the grassroots organizations, we could have a whole army of volunteers here in this city over the summer. But they refuse to make a call or to assist those who are doing so.

[...]

Q. Tell us your views about the recent mayoral election.

A. I believe that it showed that the African American community will not give up despite the attempt at mass disenfranchisement. I did not support Ray Nagin, but that's who the majority of people have chosen to be the mayor. So whatever ill feelings I have about Nagin I have to place to the side, because that's our mayor and I will have to support him. We are not here to just have an adversarial relationship with him and his administration.

[...]

Q. What is the mission of Common Ground and what are its main activities?

A. Our main purpose is to offer assistance to anyone or any community caught in the same dilemmas from the hurricane, whether national or natural disaster. Our collective is based upon environmental justice. There cannot be social justice without environmental justice. If we don't save our environment, it doesn't matter what rights we have. If we can't breathe the air and drink the water we're doomed.

Since our inception last September, we have served almost 80,000 people with a variety of services. We have served over 50,000 in New Orleans alone, and the rest in many different parishes in and out to the bayou, even Gretna. We operate three health clinics and are in the process of opening a couple more. Our health clinic offers no cost or low cost, high quality health care.

We have a legal clinic and an eviction defense clinic. We have an immigrant workers' program. We have a bio-remediation and a gardening program, and we are still doing food distribution. We are gutting out homes and we are just being there for the residents.

We have about 300 people working in our projects. There are no paid people at Common Ground. None. We take care of housing and food for all volunteers, but no one is paid. We try to make the living conditions for our volunteers as good as what the people who live here have. But coming to New Orleans and volunteering with Common Grounds is not going to the Ritz Carleton. We spend about ten percent of the resources we receive on that and the rest, 90 percent, go to direct service.
There's more, but that should give you the flavor.

On a related note, one of our fellow Okie bloggers, J. M. Branum was recently in New Orleans and had these observations:
As for the state of the city post-Katrina, things are in pretty good shape in the old parts of town that were spared of the worst flooding, but the rest of the town is still in pretty bad shape. Like all fiascos, there are few easy answers and no single scape-goat, but I will say that from what I saw NOLA is screwed if another hurricaine hits and the federal government really doesn’t care. Given the massive resources of the federal government (and especially how much is being wasted in the lost-war in Iraq), it is inexcusable that the levees are still in such bad shape and that real flood gates haven’t been built yet where they are most needed.

The locals are pretty antagonistic towards the government (and I don’t blame them). Some of the t-shirts said…

FEMA — The new 4-letter F Word

FEMA Evacuation plan — Run m—–f—-, run

Make Levees not war (I bought this shirt)

But despite this antagonism towards the government, I didn’t really sense much racial tension to speak of. Folks there seemed to understand that everyone was suffering from the governmental ineptitude and that race wasn’t really the primary issue (probably class is a bigger deal).

Of a more light-hearted statement about governmental leaders, one shirt I saw had Mayor Ray Nagin’s face super-imposed on the body of Willy Wonka (of Chocolate Factory fame), with the words “Willy Nagin and the Chocolate City — Semi-sweet and a little nutty”

No wonder my doctor is so damned cranky

The check is not in the mail:
Few things rankle a doctor more than an insurance company's saying it cannot find a claim for medical services. Particularly when there is even a signed return receipt to document delivery of the bill.

[...]

Tardiness or refusal to pay what doctors consider legitimate medical claims may add as much as 15 to 20 percent in overhead costs for physicians, forcing them to pursue those claims or pass along the costs to other patients, according to Jack Lewin, a family doctor who is chief executive of the California Medical Association, a professional group of 35,000 physicians.

Weighing all the factors in the survey, Athenahealth gave Humana the top overall ranking, closely followed by the federal Medicare program. The federal insurer for military families, Champus/Tricare, was in sixth place, with the commercial insurer WellPoint ranked last.
Not surprisingly, I imagine that doctors' and hospitals' billing departments tend to hound the patients more aggressively.

I remember a few years ago, insurance was dragging its heels paying up its part of some dental work I had done (root canals are very expensive, kids, so always brush your teeth and drink flouridated water). After a while, I started getting rather curt notices from said dentist pretty much threating me as the patient. Explaining that I'd paid up to my deductible and copay for office visits just didn't seem to cut it. Instead there was this extra several hundred dollars that they wanted immediately. I got so irate that my wife had to run interference (I'm apparently not nice when irate), fielding among other things a phone call in which she was being told that insurance wasn't going to pay any more than it had. Long story short: talk to enough people and eventually figured out the snafu on the insurer's end that was to blame. Dentist got paid by the insurer (finally) and my blood pressure went back down (eventually). Still, there was a period where I as the patient felt like I was having to take on a non-paid "second job" just figuring out something I shouldn't have needed to bother with in the first place. So it goes.

I can see how the glacial pace exhibited by insurers can spread some bad karma all over. I guess as long as those profit margins make stockholders happy, the CEOs aren't likely to notice.

Note that the Medicare program seems to have pretty good marks as far as paying healthcare providers. We've had a bunch of idiots (primarily GOP) in Congress trying to "fix" Medicare (the prescription drug debacle readily comes to mind), when in reality it's hardly broken at least relative to most private insurers. Note too that healthcare providers who are wary of Medicare patients because of the false belief that they won't get paid in a timely fashion really need to wake up.

There is no safe cigarrette? What if....

Via Okiedoke:

Look for battered tobacco executives to get behind state efforts to decriminalize marijuana use, thanks to this research.

Study finds no marijuana link to lung cancer
Mixing Mary Jane with Joe Camel might make cigarettes safer and likely increase sales too. What’s behind the “good” news?
… tetrahydrocannabinol, or THC, a chemical in marijuana smoke that produces its psychotropic effect, may encourage aging, damaged cells to die off before they become cancerous.
I can just imagine the Philip Morris execs humming a few bars of Peter Tosh's "Legalize It":
"Legalize it/ and I'll advertise it...." at the next board meeting.

Always the curmudgeon, I have to side in with Mike at Okiedoke on this one: I get the feeling that the only thing keeping me going are those aging damaged cells - killing them off would have a noticeably negative effect on my blogging. We certainly would not want that.

Glenn Greenwald has the skinny on the sham,

and on those who keep trying to insist that the hoax is not really a hoax (as long as you don't look too closely, and avoid all those annoying truths to the contrary).

A cartoon for the times

Nerdified Link. Click the pic to see it full-sized.

The land of the free

Student faces expulsion for web post

Thursday, May 25, 2006

If the Senate is going to insist on calling English the national language,

then perhaps a few words from John Cleese would be in order (written at an earlier date under a completely different set of circumstances, but nonetheless relevant):
1. You should look up "revocation" in the Oxford English Dictionary. Then look up "aluminium." Check the pronunciation guide. You will be amazed at just how wrongly you have been pronouncing it. The letter 'U' will be reinstated in words such as 'favour' and 'neighbour', skipping the letter 'U' is nothing more than laziness on your part. Likewise, you will learn to spell 'doughnut' without skipping half the letters. You will end your love affair with the letter 'Z' (pronounced 'zed' not 'zee') and the suffix "ize" will be replaced by the suffix "ise." You will learn that the suffix 'burgh' is pronounced 'burra' e.g. Edinburgh. You are welcome to respell Pittsburgh as 'Pittsberg' if you can't cope with correct pronunciation. Generally, you should raise your vocabulary to acceptable levels. Look up "vocabulary." Using the same twenty seven words interspersed with filler noises such as "like" and "you know" is an unacceptable and inefficient form of communication. Look up "interspersed." There will be no more 'bleeps' in the Jerry Springer show. If you're not old enough to cope with bad language then you shouldn't have chat shows. When you learn to develop your vocabulary then you won't have to use bad language as often.

2. There is no such thing as "US English." We will let Microsoft know on your behalf. The Microsoft spell-checker will be adjusted to take account of the reinstated letter 'u' and the elimination of "-ize."

3. You should learn to distinguish the English and Australian accents. It really isn't that hard. English accents are not limited to cockney, upper-class twit or Mancunian (Daphne in Frasier). You will also have to learn how to understand regional accents - Scottish dramas such as "Taggart" will no longer be broadcast with subtitles. While we're talking about regions, you must learn that there is no such place as Devonshire in England. The name of the county is "Devon." If you persist in calling it Devonshire, all American States will become "shires," e.g. Texasshire, Floridashire, Louisianashire.

[...]

10. You will learn to make real chips. Those things you call French Fries are not real chips. Fries aren't even French, they are Belgian, though 97.85% of you (including the guy who discovered fries while in Europe) are not aware of a country called Belgium. Those things you insist on calling potato chips are properly called "crisps." Real chips are thick cut and fried in animal fat. The traditional accompaniment to chips is beer which should be served warm and flat. Waitresses will be trained to be more aggressive with customers.

[...]

12. The cold tasteless stuff you insist on calling beer is not actually beer at all, it is lager. From November 1st, only proper British Bitter will be referred to as "beer," and European brews of known and accepted provenance will be referred to as "Lager." The substances formerly known as "American Beer" will henceforth be referred to as "Near-Frozen Knat's Urine," with the exception of the product of the American Budweiser company whose product will be referred to as "Weak Near-Frozen Knat's Urine." This will allow true Budweiser (as manufactured for the last 1000 years in Pilsen, Czech Republic) to be sold without risk of confusion.

13. From November 10th the UK will harmonise petrol (or "Gasoline," as you will be permitted to keep calling it until April 1st 2005) prices with the former USA. The UK will harmonise its prices to those of the former USA and the Former USA will, in return, adopt UK petrol prices (roughly $6/US gallon - get used to it).
A little something from the "be careful what you wish for" department.

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

"And now this message..."

Since every now and again I get some diatribe in the comments - typically one that suggest the commenter barely even scanned a few headline titles without bothering to become familiarized with the basic vibe of this blog, I thought it would be useful to provide a bit of a summary of where I'm coming from:
  1. I have a bit of a populist streak. Just as I refused to believe that an academic life was best left to society's elites, I refuse to believe that governing is best left to corporate or political elites. I'd prefer that if anything the democratic system needs to be opened up further to encourage folks from all walks of life and backgrounds to participate in a meaningful way.
  2. Not too terribly surprisingly, I have little use for elitism. Although I'm sure there is a nice nuanced textbook definition, I define elitism as the extent to which one sides with the corporate or political elites. If you're consistently doing the bidding of the elites in both words and deeds then you're elitist. Seems simple enough. Some might argue that holding that one's perspective is the only correct one is a form of elitism - I'd argue that the more appropriate definition for such a position is that of ideologue. Some ideologues are elitists (Neoconservatives and Leninists come most readily to mind), but many are not.
  3. I also have a bit of a libertarian streak. Especially when it comes to social issues, I tend to take a "live and let live" approach. I tended to hang with anarchists back during my undergrad days, so one can imagine the influence that has had on my thinking.
  4. I'm a deficit hawk. I look at the sort of debt that our nation has amassed during my lifetime as unsustainable, and given the mess that will likely be inherited by future generations, immoral. I imagine that having listened to now-elderly relatives tell stories about life during the Great Depression, and learning about the factors leading to that particular chapter in our history has had a profound influence.
  5. I am an indigenist. I cannot imagine a truly progressive politics that does not in some meaningful way accept that indigenous peoples have the right to lands that have been wrongfully taken from them. I also cannot imagine a truly progressive politics that would dare to dictate to indigenous peoples how to live, think, believe, speak, etc. Nor can I imagine any meaningful discussion on immigration that does not take into account the sheer hypocrisy inherent in those arguing for a hard line against "illegals" and who want to "secure 'our' borders" when the land itself was forcefully taken from natives in the first place.
  6. When folks talk to me about terms like "freedom", "liberty", "democracy", "peace", and so forth, I prefer to move the conversation to specific behavioral or objective definitions rather than relying on abstractions. The term "peace" sure sounds nice on paper, but I get the impression that what our current president means by peace and what I mean by peace are drastically different. Similarly, if someone says we have freedom, or liberty, or democracy because we can vote, I'll say okay, that's nice but...how free are we if many among us are systematically denied access to food, shelter, education, etc.? How democratic is a society that disenfranchises many potential voters based on skin color or language, or that limits the range of candidates that get to run for elected offices?
  7. I also tend to focus more on the consequences of behaviors rather than on intentions. Many atrocities have occurred in which the perpetrators ostensibly had "good intentions" or "meant well." Maddie Albright certainly "meant well" in defending a US policy against the Iraqi people that led during the 1990s to the deaths of hundreds of thousands of children due to starvation and disease. Eichmann seems to have been a "nice guy" and a "well-intentioned true believer" in the Nazi cause whose actions as a bureaucrat led to mass extermination of human beings who just happened to belong to the "wrong" ethnic group. The various corporate technocrats and bureaucrats whose actions cause displacement, starvation, disease, death in many corners of the Third and Fourth Worlds likewise might have "good intentions" (think about Churchill's usage of the phrase "little Eichmanns" in that context). I can guarantee you that the victims and potential victims of such "good intentions" don't really care about the perps' motivations for doing harm. There's that old saying, you see, about the road to Hell being paved with good intentions.
  8. Ultimately, I'm eclectic in terms of my intellectual and political influences and in terms of the sorts of concrete alliances that I am willing to be involved with. I'm very independent, have little use for partisanship, and have a great deal of respect for those who walk their talk.
Hopefully that clears things up a bit. If that's still no clearer than a pint of Guinness, so it goes. Perhaps some day the next round will be on me. Slainte!

Of course it goes without saying that the views are mine, and mine alone, and may or may not necessarily reflect the views the other bloggers who periodically post here (although I think it's safe to assume a fair amount of overlap).

"GoT mystery bills? Who you gonna call?"

"Mystery Busters!!"

Always good to have alert watchdogs out there to let us know what our Congresscritters are up to - including voting on legislation that they haven't even studied. Heck our taxes pay their salaries. The least they can do is read the damned bills before they vote on them. If the leadership (such that it is) refuses to give the Representatives or Senators sufficient time to read the bills, a good case can be made for throwing those bums out as they clearly have no interest in governing in a democratic and open fashion.

Anyhoo...this looks like a good and important website. Let's keep 'em honest!

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Footnote to "Prison Industrial Complex"

This morning I'm getting around to reading Chris Floyd's blog Empire Burlesque, when I run into this piece titled Gates of Eden: A Nation in Chains. To say the least it is damning:
Earlier this month, the International Centre for Prison Studies at King's College London released its annual World Prison Population List. And there, standing proudly at the head of the line, towering far above all others, is that shining city on the hill, the United States of America. But strangely enough, the Bush gang and its many media sycophants failed to celebrate – or even note – yet another instance where a triumphant America leads the world. Where are the cheering hordes shouting "USA! USA!" at the news that the land of the free imprisons more people than any other country in the world – both in raw numbers and as a percentage of its population?

Yes, the world's greatest democracy now has more than two million of its citizens locked up in iron cages: an incarceration rate of 714 per 100,000 of the national population, the Centre reports. The only countries within shouting distance are such bastions of penological enlightenment as China (1.55 million prisoners, plus some unsorted "administrative detainees"), Russia (a wimpy 763,000) and Brazil (330,000), whose exemplary prison management has been on such prominent display this week.

Inside the Homeland, the state of Texas sets the pace, as you might imagine. During George W. Bush's tenure there as governor in the 1990s, Texas had the fastest growing prison population in the country, almost doubling the national rate, as the Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice reports. In fact, by the time Dubya was translated to glory by Daddy's buddies on the Supreme Court, one out of every 20 adult Texans were "either in prison, jail, on probation or parole," the CJCJ notes; a level of "judicial control" that reached to one in three for African-American males. George also killed more convicts than any other governor in modern U.S. history as well – a nice warm-up for the valorous feats of mass slaughter yet to come.

But although the U.S. prison population has soared to record-breaking heights during George W. Bush's presidency, America's status as the most punitive nation on earth is by no means solely his doing. Bush is merely standing on the shoulders of giants – such as, say, Bill Clinton, who once created 50 brand-new federal offenses in a single draconian measure, and expanded the federal death penalty to 60 new offenses during his term. In fact, like the great cathedrals of old, the building of Fortress America has been the work of decades, with an entire society yoked to the common task. At each step, the promulgation of ever-more draconian punishments for ever-lesser offenses, and the criminalization of ever-broader swathes of ordinary human behavior, have been greeted with hosannahs from a public and press who seem to be insatiable gluttons for punishment – someone else's punishment, that is, and preferably someone of dusky hue.

The main engine of this mass incarceration has been the 35-year "war on drugs": a spurious battle against an abstract noun that provides an endless fount of profits, payoffs and power for the politically connected while only worsening the problem it purports to address – just like the "war on terror." The "war on drugs" has in fact been the most effective assault on an underclass since Stalin's campaign against the kulaks.

Floyd goes on to note how the whole Prison Industrial Complex has evolved since the Nixon years, in the process making it crystal clear that both major parties have been involved in its development at the expense of its citizens and residents, as well as to the detriment of what the Constitution was supposed to stand for. It's pretty difficult to crow about how "free" and "democratic" our nation is when our government is so intent upon imprisoning its own people at a rate that would have made Stalin envious.

Floyd's conclusion is worth chewing on as well, given the current xenophobic wave of anti-immigrant hysteria that seems to have engulfed the nation:
Like the war on drugs, the equally ill-conceived war on immigrants will be directed at the poorest and most vulnerable, not the "coyote" gangs who profit from this human trafficking – and certainly not the American businesses and wealthy Homelanders who love the dirt-cheap labor of the illegals. Those for-profit prisons will soon be filled to bursting with this new harvest.

A nation's true values can be measured in how it treats the poor, the weak, the damaged, the unconnected. For more than 30 years, the answer of the American power structure has been clear: you lock them up, you shut them up, you grind them down – and make big bucks in the process.

When I was a young activist way back when, I recall the US ranking just behind the Soviet Union (which has since collapsed) and South Africa's Apartheid regime (which has thankfully been replaced). Our GOP types were demanding policies that would only swell the ranks of the imprisoned, and the Democrats seemed eager to go along (either to appear "tough on crime" or because they themselves were hostile to the very notion of a free society). Really, the only folks who seemed to have voiced a serious concern about the modern day police state that we've witnessed during this generation were the various leftists (whether Green, socialist, etc.), libertarians (and there is a good deal of variety among libertarians ranging from the LP to anarchist), and those activists on the front lines of the various civil rights and human rights struggles.

For those with a pop culture interest, we'll simply note that the punks and rappers of the 1980s and early 1990s were the harbingers of what we see before us today. Check out old Dead Kennedys tunes like "California Uber Alles" (later updated as "We've Got a Bigger Problem Now" at the dawn of the age of Raygun, and later covered and modified by Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy) and "Saturday Night Massacre"; or the anger expressed by those most targeted in such tunes as NWA's "Fuck tha Police" or Ice-T's "Cop Killer".

If I were to have any advice for aspiring immigrants to the US, I would say it is best to ditch the whole "land of the free" or "land of opportunity" nonsense. The ugly reality is one of fatcats whose bank accounts swell as the prison population increases and of in-bred KKK wannabes acting as mercenary border patrols. That's certainly not a politically correct thing to note, but it's difficult to deny. At this point, the US is a financial and military powerhouse and little else. I don't see that changing much regardless of which of the two major parties is in charge of the White House or Congress.

The Prison-Industrial Complex is Alive and Well

Get your head around this statistic: one out of every 136 US residents is behind bars.

This statement from Human Rights Watch is a bit dated (late 1990s), but provides a stark picture of the racism inherent in the US "justice" system.

We've come a long way as a society since the 1960s.

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Charley Reese: Don't be fooled by abstractions

A conservative populist who kicks it old school (i.e., doesn't fit in with the current GOP), serves up this bit of advice:

The trick is to remember to make the distinction between America in the abstract and America in reality. The America in the abstract is made up of all our experiences, memories, stories, legends and myths. The America in reality consists of what exists right at this moment.

And what exists right at this moment is a corrupt federal government with a foolish man in the White House. What exists at this moment is a military-industrial complex with a vested interest in war and conflict. What exists at this moment are unnecessary wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. What exists at this moment is a government solicitous of corporate welfare, but one that doesn't give a hoot about the individual American.

Rudyard Kipling said it so well when in a poem he wrote: "If any question why we died / Tell them, because our fathers lied." Be alert when you hear politicians talk about abstractions like patriotism, national security and international stability. They are trying to control you by controlling your mind.

The fate of a collaborator

is rarely a happy one - over the long haul. In Lieberman's case, the best that can be said of him is that he's been consistently on the wrong side of history. In a safe Democrat state, there's a decent chance that his challenger in the August primary could send Lieberman packing. This passage in particular seems a good omen for change:
A curiosity in January, the Lamont campaign has become a growing army that could overthrow the incumbent in the Aug. 8 primary. For 90 minutes, party loyalists who have known Joe Lieberman for decades rose and turned their backs on him in favor of an engaging stranger.
Nerdified Link.