Saturday, December 30, 2006

"The means determine the ends."

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

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

Memories Pt. 2

Good time. Good times.

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

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

Here's a factoid: prison edition

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

Friday, December 29, 2006

Memories

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

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

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

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

[snip]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Classic

Mike sez it best:

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

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

Thursday, December 28, 2006

The end of neocon dreams?

That would be nice. Via Mousemusings:

The neo-conservative dream faded in 2006.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Appeasing Junior Caligula's Pagan Bloodlust

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

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

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

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

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

Expect another bloody year.

Gerald Ford's legacy?

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

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

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

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Blogging trials and tribulations update

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

In his own words: Tito Tricot

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, December 25, 2006

Shorter Mike Gallagher

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

Junior Caligula


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

Sunday, December 24, 2006

Minimum wage increase in OK?

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

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

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

Quotable: Archie Shepp

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

From the mail bag:

Rachel Corrie play: censored in Toronto

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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