Monday, December 31, 2007

Continuity

From the Clintonistas to the Bushistas, there are some common threads. Case in point:

“There is nothing patriotic about pretending that you can love your country but despise your government.” — Bill Clinton, referring to opposition to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.

“To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.” — John Ashcroft, referring to opposition to the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.

Makes me feel quite optimistic about the next regime's determination to keep its citizens attached to the Great Chain of Oppression.

Quotes from UFO Breakfast Recipients.

There's always hope

In this case, how about a bit of direct action against the Surveillance State. Consider it inspiration.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Stupid Headline Tricks

This has to be the dumbest headline I've seen for a while: Politics slows Congress in 2007. Let that one sink in. A lack of progress in Congress is somehow due to "politics." Mother of Jabbering God! This is fucking Congress we're talking about. Politics is what these folks do. Are we to wish for a mythical Congress in which there were no politics whatsoever? There'd be nothing but an empty building. That wouldn't necessarily be a bad idea of course, but still.

Here's a thought for the editors of the Montgomery Advertiser: rather than continue to insult the intelligence of what's left of your readership with code words, just come out and say what you mean. By "politics" you simply mean that what passes for a Democrat party majority only insufficiently caved in to Der Führer's demands rather than cave in completely (personally I consider this Congressional session a predictable failure from a much different perspective - there simply was not enough gridlock, and given the lack of a real opposition party there was no reason to expect anything other than what we got). Let's just take a wild guess: these same editors probably use terms like "law and order" to refer to their desire to oppress all those uppity brown-skinned folks who've refused to live under Apartheid-like conditions; or "family values" to refer to the imposition of one very narrow form of Christianity upon the rest of the population; "support the troops" means blindly cheerleading for whatever genocidal war adventure that the government embarks upon.

Footnote to the preceding

One rich source of information that Steve Gilliard drew upon for his post Blacks and animals is the website Black World Guide. In particular check The Evolution of Racism, which traces the history of European and later Euro-American racism. The site's webmaster, RUredE4me hasn't updated the site in several years, so expect a few links to be broken here or there, but overall it makes for a decent introduction and overview to the topic and easily would point one in the direction one would need to take in seeking out relevant source materials for research.

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Article on Steve Gilliard

I noticed that NYT Magazine had a brief retrospective article on Steve Gilliard who died this past June at age 42. As I noted at the time:
Up until last year his blog was one of my regular reads. A bit partisan Democrat for my tastes, and over the last few years I've had less and less use for partisan Democrat bloggers. That said, the guy wrote with a great deal of candor and could be quite entertaining in that "jeez, did he really say that" sort of way. Of course, his unique style and voice will be missed here and as I can imagine a fairly sizable swath of blogtopia.
His blog was also a useful starting point for those wanting to learn the intellectual underpinnings of colonial racism and the eugenics movement. His 37-part series on colonial warfare (from around the end of 2004) itself was quite extensive and well-written.

Since my one of my own interests is on eugenics, its history, its psychology, and its present-day revival (primarily among movement conservatives), I thought I should point out a few of Steve's posts that were quite useful:

Marching with the suit and tie Klan (August 2006)

Pat Buchanan let's his brown shirt fly (August 2006)

The GOP: Fighting for America's racial past (April 2006)

I wouldn't want to be you on Monday (March 2006)

Supping with racists (March 2006)

It wasn't racist, really (October 2005)

The three piece suited Klan (September 2005)

Small penis=genius (August 2005)

Why I'm a racist by Andrew Sullivan (August 2005)

The Bell Curve oozes back
(August 2005)

Blacks and animals (August 2005)

What is old is new again (April 2005)

Code Words (April 2005)

Speak like a conservative (January 2005)

Horny Hitler Youth (December 2004)

So Mr. Kerry, what do we do about the negroes? (October 2004)

Some of the above are more historic, some more topical regarding electoral politics, but in the process one can note a narrative taking shape that shows today's "conservative" movement's roots in all their glory.

America's Taliban Strikes Again

New Pravda does a poor job of covering it, as Corrente duly notes.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Now for some light entertainment

Ever wonder what this (mostly) sorry lot of presidential contenders looked like as young adults? Well, neither did I, but somehow I ended up looking anyway (curse you, Memeorandum!). The winner has to be Sam Brownback who back in the 1970s looked like he could be part of the Brady Bunch cast.

Unchristian Taxation

Interesting article: Professor Cites Bible in Faulting Tax Policies
At a time when some voters are asking how the religious views of candidates will shape their policies, a professor’s discovery of how little tax the biggest landowners in her state paid to finance the government has prompted some other legal scholars to scour religious texts to explore the moral basis of tax and spending policies.

The professor, Susan Pace Hamill, is an expert at tax avoidance for small businesses and teaches at the University of Alabama Law School. She also holds a degree in divinity from a conservative evangelical seminary, where her master’s thesis explored how Alabama’s tax-and-spend policies comport with the Bible.

Professor Hamill says that since Judeo-Christian ethics “is the moral compass chosen by most Americans” it is vital that these policies be compared with the texts on which they are based. Another professor says she is the first to address this head on, inspiring work by others.

Her findings, embraced by some believers and denounced by others, has also stirred research everywhere from Arizona State to New York University into the connection between religious teachings and government fiscal practices.

Her latest effort is a book, “As Certain as Death” (Carolina Academic Press, 2007), that seeks to document how the 50 states, in contravention of her view of biblical injunctions, do more to burden the poor and relieve the rich than vice versa.

In lectures and papers, Professor Hamill has expanded on her theme, drawing objections from some critics who say that the religious obligation to care for the poor is a matter of personal morality, not public policy.

Professor Hamill asserted that 18 states seriously violate biblical principles in the way they tax and spend. She calls Alabama, Florida, Louisiana, Nevada, South Dakota, Texas “the sinful six” because they require the poor to pay a much larger share of their income than the rich while doing little to help the poor improve their lot.

The worst violator, in her view, is her own state of Alabama, which taxes its poor more than twice as heavily as its rich, while holding a tight rein on education spending.

The poorest fifth of Alabama families, with incomes under $13,000, pay state and local taxes that take almost 11 cents out of each dollar. The richest 1 percent, who make $229,000 or more, pay less than 4 cents out of each dollar they earn, according to Citizens for Tax Justice, an advocacy group whose numbers are generally considered trustworthy even by many of its opponents.

Professor Hamill said what first drew her to the issue of fiscal policy and biblical principles was learning that Alabama timber companies, which own more than two-thirds of the land in the state, pay an annual property tax of only about 75 cents an acre.

“The Bible commands that the law promote justice because human beings are not good enough to promote justice individually on their own,” she said. “To assume that voluntary charity will raise enough revenues to meet this standard is to deny the sin of greed.”

Richard Teather, who teaches tax at Bournemouth University in Britain and has written on the moral dimensions of tax evasion, said that governments have publicly raised the issue of morals and taxes.

“The tax authorities say you have a moral duty to pay your taxes, but you cannot look at that in isolation,” Mr. Teather said. “Over here in Britain we have a lot of tax breaks for the very wealthy, which are not generally available to most people, and quite high level taxes for the middle and upper-middle classes, so this doesn’t look like a moral system.”

Professor Hamill, by her reading of the New Testament, concludes that at least a mildly progressive tax system is required so that the rich make some sacrifice for the poor. She cites the statement by Jesus that “unto whomsoever much is given, of him shall be much required, and to whom men have committed much, of him they will ask the more.”

[snip]

Professor Hamill said her research found that just one state, Minnesota, came within reach of the principles she identified, because its tax system is only slightly regressive and it spends heavily on helping the poor, especially through public education.
Via Southern Beale & Avedon. Somehow I get the feeling that Oklahoma wouldn't fare too well either. Anyhoo, yet another example of how the so-called Religious Right seems to have a much different reading of the Bible than probably many of the rest of us.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Speaking of our Glorious Homeland Security

Passengers, remember to be cheerful and obedient. It's the American Way.

Education in the Glorious Homeland

Somehow, this USA Today story portrays an attempt at secondary education that looks more like an update of the indoctrination practiced by a certain European dictatorship of the 1930s.

Not to worry: the kiddos will learn all sorts of useful skills that will prepare them for a myriad of careers in which they will be required to aim guns at untermenschen from Hummers plowing through crowded streets at breakneck speed, operate prisons and torture chambers, and take advantage of the expanded opportunities made available in the surveillance industry. Ah, such a bright future.

Bhutto Assassinated

There are plenty of stories available - the one from CNN is about as good as any of them. I don't know much about the political landscape in Pakistan to offer much commentary beyond noting that first, this is not good news by any remote stretch of the imagination; and second, that a sad reality is that those who rise to leadership against the status quo tend to become more at risk as they become perceived as more of a threat.

Plenty of coverage and commentary is available: Juan Cole, TPM muckraker, and The Newshoggers would make excellent starting points.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Busting Myths

Juan Cole bust ten myths about Iraq.

A site worth checking out

Photographer Sebastião Salgado has two series of photos up at his website - Migrations: Humanity in Transition; and The Majority World. The images are stunning to say the least, conveying a great deal about the human condition in much of the planet that cannot be easily captured by words.

Hat tip to Fourth World Eye.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Banality of Evil Revisited: The Normalization of the "War on Terror"

Interesting post by Richard over at American Leftist:
2007 will soon come to a close. We are over 6 years removed from 9/11, and over 4 and 1/2 years removed from the invasion of Iraq. 9/11 initiated the "War on Terror", the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, the seizure of purported terror suspects around the world, their rendition to other countries where they can be more readily subjected to torture and their indefinite incarceration at facilities around the world under dehumanizing conditions. Hundreds of thousands, if not over a million people have died as these measures have been arbitrarily implemented.

After participating in numerous protests against the anticipated invasion of Iraq in 2002 and early 2003, and then, engaging in civil disobedience after it was launched, I expressed my great fear to my friends: the occupation would become normalized, that is to say, that it would be incorporated into the background mosaic of our lives by the government and the media. The public would come to see it as an immutable part of their existence, akin to paying taxes and sitting in cramped seats on airplanes. In retrospect, I should have expanded the focus of my concern to the "war on terror" in its entirety.

Despite everything that has happenend, Abu Ghraib, Fallujah, the forced feeding of hunger striking detainees at Gitmo and airstrikes in Iraq and Afghanistan that kill large numbers of civilians, there is no reason to believe there is any political prospect of ending the "war on terror". Just the notion of curtailing its excesses is out of the question. It has been incorporated into the background noise of our lives. The surge in Iraq, we are assured, is a success, even Harry Reid, in his own circumspect way, says so.

How did this happen? One is tempted to say that it was inevitable, given the postmodern state of contemporary politics and social life, the alienation of people from any belief that they can organize as a class, a coalition or an amorphous political movement to insist upon radical change, and perhaps, it was. Even so, we should not hesitate to indict those responsible for it.

Edward S. Herman sez:
Doing terrible things in an organized and systematic way rests on "normalization." This is the process whereby ugly, degrading, murderous, and unspeakable acts become routine and are accepted as "the way things are done." There is usually a division of labor in doing and rationalizing the unthinkable, with the direct brutalizing and killing done by one set of individuals; others keeping the machinery of death (sanitation, food supply) in order; still others producing the implements of killing, or working on improving technology (a better crematory gas, a longer burning and more adhesive napalm, bomb fragments that penetrate flesh in hard-to-trace patterns). It is the function of defense intellectuals and other experts, and the mainstream media, to normalize the unthinkable for the general public. The late Herman Kahn spent a lifetime making nuclear war palatable (On Thermonuclear War, Thinking About the Unthinkable), and this strangelovian phoney got very good press. ~

In an excellent article entitled "Normalizing the unthinkable," in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists of March 1984, Lisa Peattie described how in the Nazi death camps work was "normalized" for the long-term prisoners as well as regular personnel: "[P]rison plumbers laid the water pipe in the crematorium and prison electricians wired the fences. The camp managers maintained standards and orderly process. The cobblestones which paved the crematorium yard at Auschwitz had to be perfectly scrubbed." Peattie focused on the parallel between routinization in the death camps and the preparations for nuclear war, where the "unthinkable" is organized and prepared for in a division of labor participated in by people at many levels. Distance from execution helps render responsibility hazy. "Adolph Eichmann was a thoroughly responsible person, according to his understanding of responsibility. For him, it was clear that the heads of state set policy. His role was to implement, and fortunately, he felt, it was never part of his job actually to have to kill anyone."

Peattie noted that the head of MlT's main military research lab in the 1960s argued that "their concern was development, not use, of technology." Just as in the death camps, in weapons labs and production facilities, resources are allocated on the basis of effective participation in the larger system, workers derive support from interactions with others in the mutual effort, and complicity is obscured by the routineness of the work, interdependence, and distance from the results.

Peattie also pointed out how, given the unparalleled disaster that would follow nuclear war, "resort is made to rendering the system playfully, via models and games." There is also a vocabulary developed to help render the unthinkable palatable: "incidents," "vulnerability indexes," "weapons impacts," and "resource availability." She doesn't mention it, but our old friend "collateral damage," used in the 1991 Persian Gulf War, came out of the nukespeak tradition.
The concept of "banality of evil" of course comes from Hannah Arendt's writings - originally appearing in her classic work, Eichmann in Jerusalem. Bethania Assy notes in an essay on Arendt's term "banality of evil" that the key appears to be a lack of thinking, a noticeable shallowness - not just at an individual level but at a societal level. The sorts of evils that we can attribute to the Nazi Holocaust, to the bombings and sanctions against Iraq, the torture and extraordinary renditions, etc. are ones in which are treated with a sort of shallowness. They are normal, merely part of the background. One doesn't think much about them, but rather just accepts them and moves on to the next reality TV show. A point that shows up in Assy's summary as well as in Arendt's writings, is the potential that in reflectively thinking about what is going on, one might then question one's support for the status quo:
How, then, does the faculty of thinking work in order to avoid evil? First of all, according to Arendt, the moral and ethic standards based on habits and customs have shown that they can just be changed by a new set of rules of behavior dictated by the current society.In Personal Responsibility under Dictatorship, Arendt emphasizes: "It was as though morality, at the very moment of its collapse within an old, highly civilized nation, stood revealed in its original meaning, as a set of mores, of customs and manners, which could be exchanged for another set with no more trouble than it would take to change the table manners of a whole people." (28) Thenceforth, Arendt claims the bridge between morality and the faculty of thinking. In this same article quoted above she asks how is was possible that few persons resisted the moral collapse and had not adhered to the regime, despite any coercion. Arendt herself answers: "The answer to the ...question is relatively simple. The nonparticipants, called irresponsible by the majority, were the only ones who dared judge by themselves, and they were capable of doing so not because they disposed of a better system of values or because the old standards of right and wrong were still firmly planted in their mind and conscience but, ... because their conscience did not function in this, as were, automatic way, ... they asked themselves to what an extent they would still be able to live in peace with themselves after having committed certain deeds; and they decided that it would be better to do nothing, not because the world would then be charged for the better, but because only on this condition could they go on living with themselves." (29) (emphasis added)

Arendt clearly attributes to the faculty of thinking the presupposition for this kind of judging extremely necessary in times of moral collapse, that is to say, "when the chips are down." Arendt argues: "The presupposition for this kind of judging is not a highly developed intelligence or sophistication in moral matters, but merely the habit of living together explicitly with oneself, that is, of being engaged in that silent dialogue between me and myself which since Socrates and Plato we usually call thinking." (30) (emphasis added)

Another clip of Arendt (also from Personal Responsibility Under Dictatorship) courtesy of Arthur Silber:
In our context, all that matters is the insight that no man, however strong, can ever accomplish anything, good or bad, without the help of others. What you have here is the notion of an equality which accounts for a "leader" who is never more than primus inter pares, the first among his peers. Those who seem to obey him actually support him and his enterprise; without such "obedience" he would be helpless, whereas in the nursery or under conditions of slavery -- the two spheres in which the notion of obedience made sense and from which it was then transposed into political matters -- it is the child or the slave who becomes helpless if he refuses to "cooperate." Even in a strictly bureaucratic organization, with its fixed hierarchical order, it would make much more sense to look upon the functioning of the "cogs" and wheels in terms of overall support for a common enterprise than in our usual terms of obedience to superiors. If I obey the laws of the land, I actually support its constitution, as becomes glaringly obvious in the case of revolutionaries and rebels who disobey because they have withdrawn this tacit consent.

In these terms, the nonparticipators in public life under a dictatorship are those who have refused their support by shunning those places of "responsibility" where such support, under the name of obedience, is required. And we have only for a moment to imagine what would happen to any of these forms of government if enough people would act "irresponsibly" and refuse support, even without active resistance and rebellion, to see how effective a weapon this could be. It is in fact one of the many variations of nonviolent action and resistance -- for instance the power that is potential in civil disobedience -- which are being discovered in our century. The reason, however, that we can hold these new criminals, who never committed a crime out of their own initiative, nevertheless responsible for what they did is that there is no such thing as obedience in political and moral matters. The only domain where the word could possibly apply to adults who are not slaves is the domain of religion, in which people say that they obey the word or the command of God because the relationship between God and man can rightly be seen in terms similar to the relation between adult and child.

Hence the question addressed to those who participated and obeyed orders should never be, "Why did you obey?" but "Why did you support?" This change of words is no semantic irrelevancy for those who know the strange and powerful influence mere "words" have over the minds of men who, first of all, are speaking animals. Much would be gained if we could eliminate this pernicious word "obedience" from our vocabulary of moral and political thought. If we think these matters through, we might regain some measure of self-confidence and even pride, that is, regain what former times called the dignity or the honor of man: not perhaps of mankind but of the status of being human.
One can also find similar lines of thinking in Gene Sharp's three-volume work, The Politics of Nonviolent Action. Yes, the powers that be have a great deal at their disposal - a well-funded propaganda machine, a vast military, most of the instruments of a police state already in place, and global economic hegemony (for the time being). For many of us, it seems to have been that way from the cradle to the grave. What we need to remind ourselves is that no matter how brutal the dictatorship, no matter how powerful it may appear on the surface, its legitimacy ultimately rests on perception. I as one individual cannot "bring down the system." Nor does, as Richard points out, is there much of an organized opposition at the present. I can withdraw my support, if as I reflect, I come to realize that I simply cannot sleep at night by continued support of the status quo. Gene Sharp of course lays out numerous tools at one's disposal if one wishes to nonviolently resist evil - many of which are so easy that just about anyone could do them. Even a quiet withdrawal of support is better than continued support of a broken system. For some that might mean refusal to pay taxes. For others it may mean refusal to participate in electoral politics. Still others might refuse to participate in the consumerism that is so rampant - and which merely distracts us from what is going on. Whatever action it may be, what one is saying in deeds, if not in words is that the current system is not legitimate, that there is nothing inherent in the system to make it legit to begin with. Or to quote Auguste Comte:
"every social power [is] constituted by a corresponding assent...of various individual wills, resolved to concur in a common action, of which this power is the first organ, and then the regulator. Thus authority is derived from concurrence, and not concurrence from authority...so that no great power can arise otherwise than from the strongly prevalent disposition of the society in which it exists..."
Don't expect some powerful person to come charging in at the last minute to save you from yourselves. You had that power all along. That, my friends, is the dirty little secret your ruling class would rather you not know.

Christmas not so merry in Iraq

Found via Ten Percent:

What has the ‘Christian’ George Bush and his fundamentalist infiltrated military given Iraqis this Christmas-

  • Acute malnutrition among young children here has nearly doubled since the U.S.-led invasion began in 2003, according to UNICEF and other aid agencies.
  • no one is sure how many children have been killed or maimed since the war began.
  • Dr. Lynne Jones, a child psychiatrist with the International Medical Corps has worked with children scarred by wars in Bosnia, Africa, and Iraq, says though the war is producing a generation of deeply scarred young people, there is a lack of professional help available.
  • Save the Children, another aid organization, closed its operations earlier this year after 15 years in the country. The Iraqi Red Crescent Society has been forced to suspend a program for children suffering from war trauma because of lack of funding.
  • Of the 2,000 adults interviewed in the Association of Iraqi Psychologists study, which surveyed people in all 18 Iraqi provinces, 92 percent said they feared being killed in an explosion. Some 60 percent of those interviewed said the level of violence had caused them to have panic attacks, which prevented them from going out because they feared they would be the next victims.
This is what has been done in your names.

A favorite quote from last Christmas

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.

A friendly reminder - or not,

depending of course on one's perspective. A couple items for your consideration, given that some issues seem perpetual. First, Black Agenda Report's Lee Cokorinos has an article up on The Racist Roots of the Anti-Immigration Movement.

We've touched on nativist racism before, looking of course at its history. Needless to say, even though spreaders of hate have been quite busy these past few years (see, When the extreme becomes mainstream - immigration edition; and David Neiwert's Eliminationism in America: Apendix and scroll down to sections D and E for a few exemplars), we can trace modern nativism back to two strains, as Cokorinos notes: cultural supremacy (think of good old "manifest destiny") and eugenics. Of course even a cursory look at the roots would take you even further back to the first European and English contacts with the indigenous peoples of the Americas (documented for example by David Stannard's book American Holocaust) and Africa (see for example social psychologist James Jones' book Prejudice and Racism), respectively. Basically the short version of a very long story is that with a possible few exceptions, today's anti-immigrant rhetoric and action is essentially racist in nature in much the same fashion as the Know Nothings' anti-Irish rhetoric and action during the 1850s.

Second up, speaking of the ghosts of Manifest Destiny past coming back to haunt us, check out this article by Brenda Norrell found over at The NarcoSphere (Terrorism reigns in America):
THE GATE, TOHONO O'ODHAM NATION (Arizona) -- While Homeland Security announced the forced occupation and takeover of Lipan Apache lands in Texas for the border wall yesterday, I was at the Arizona border once again being bullied by the US Border Patrol.
All along the border, Homeland Security's Border Patrol is intimidating and harassing the people who have lived here all their lives.
The Tohono O'odham have lived here since time immemorial. Now their land has been seized and taken over by the Border Patrol, the contractor Boeing and the invading National Guardsmen, for construction of the border wall. The graves of O'odham ancestors have been dug up, according to the traditional O'odham.
All along the border, young people are intimidated and harassed constantly. Tailgating police, excessive force and Nazi-style prosecutors push young people into rage and jails.
[snip]
In Texas, Margo Tamez, Lipan Apache/Jumano Apache, called for immediate support Thursday, Dec. 6, when Homeland Security announced the occupation of lands where Apache land title holders are refusing to sign NSA waivers for the border wall.
Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said the United States will seize private lands in south Texas for the border wall, using the law of eminent domain. Tamez said, "We need your help on our continuing efforts to protect and keep safe the elders of our struggle against U.S. tyranny."
Chertoff announced plans to force occupation of South Texas families who refuse to allow the government access to their lands.
Tamez said, "'Refusers' such as the Lipan Apache Land Grant Women Defense, led by my mother, Dr. Eloisa Garcia Tamez (Lipan Apache, Basque-Apache), in the rancheria of El Calaboz, have frustrated the NSA, Border Patrol and Army Corps of Engineers officials for over two years, and increasingly in the last two months.
"Using tactics such as public announcements over the news service, used as intimidation and as psychological warfare--NSA/Chertoff exploits the press to prepare the nation to invade South Texas--and indigenous peoples--who are being 'architected as the perpetual enemies of the United States.' This is an old story of genocidal tactics and militarization.
"This scenario played out before, in 19th century, in 20th century. And now the 21st, my mother, the 'child of lightning ceremony', is fighting for the vestiges of our traditional lands.
"My mother, and the ancestors of 'the place where the Lipan pray', have been critical to our land-based struggle, and they are leaders in an Apache struggle in the Mexico-US International Boundary region. Our elder voices direct us in a huge role that Apache people will play in standing up against tyranny of the settler society. We cannot do this without the support and the solidarity of our indigenous sisters and brothers who are also at the forefront of the 21st century battles for our rights as indigenous people with ancient footprints on this land.
"My mother, at this stage of our community-based struggle, indicates that she is prepared to receive national and international support for our small community on the peripheries of U.S. empire. She wrote a comment on the page of this newsstory out of Houston, Texas.
"Today we are submitting our comments to the Environmental Impact Statement authorities, and parallel to that we are submitting an in depth case study of our histories under U.S., Mexican, Spanish, Vatican and corporate domination to the International Indian Treaty Council shadow report to be submitted to the U.N. Convention on the Elimination of Racism and Racial Discrimination in December," Tamez said.
Big Bad Government typically plays the "war on terra" and "national security" cards in justifying the seizure of others' land. As an aside, we find the same thing going on - minus the racism - in the US Army's ongoing effort to seize much of Southeastern Colorado (see my periodic references to the current Piñon Canyon Maneuver Site expansion). One striking consequence of today's nativism is that it once more is trampling over what is left of indigenous cultures along the border in the name of building this century's Great Wall - a wall that is intended to blockade displaced farmers and factory workers who have felt first-hand the wrath of NAFTA and who are facing the very real likelihood of starvation (their own and their families). Not that the nativists among us care particularly.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Now, what was I saying about there always being alternatives?

There are plenty of them, if you merely look around. Cynthia McKinney recently made official here intentions to run for the Green Party presidential nomination:

Her campaign site is here. Hopefully the site will continue to be fleshed out. Heck, the Green Party itself is in need of some new faces and fresh perspectives, and McKinney offers precisely that. I've admired her work in Congress, noting on several occasions over the past few years that she was one of only a handful of Democrats who actually showed some backbone, some integrity.

Again, here's a presidential hopeful well worthy of consideration. I'm unlikely to do endorsements on this blog, but I'd probably come closer to doing so with McKinney than with just anyone else.

There are disconnects and then there are disconnects

Apparently, there's a huge disconnect between the Democrat party's core supporters (also known as "the base") and what the Democrats' party leaders want in a candidate. Granted, a fair proportion of these same polled individuals will probably still show up at the polls in November to cast a vote for one of the more "electable" candidates under the aegis of "lesser of two evils." I can't help but continue to ask: how long can an organization - any organization - consistently ignore and even insult its base of support and expect to survive? If one thinks the answer is "indefinitely" I'd submit that one is sadly mistaken.

So much packed into so few pages

I've been trying to catch up on some reading - a nasty sinus infection has kept me awake to a much greater degree than usual - and just finished up Michael Parenti's The Culture Struggle. Next time I find myself discussing cross-cultural psychological issues with anyone, I'll definitely be drawing from this text. At only 130-something pages, it shouldn't be that much of a burden to read in one sitting.

The book itself covers a wide array of topics from defining culture to dealing with racism, cultural relativism, and individualism. The two chapters that deal with what Parenti calls hyper-individualism were what I was reading last night. What's funny is that Parenti's narrative reminds me of a number of conversations that I and some friends would have during the mid to late 1980s when the whole New Age vibe was arguably at its peak.

For those needing a quick refresher, the New Age movement was a sort of grab bag of diverse and divergent religions and philosophies filtered through the sensibilities of some New Left activists and hippies - think largely of upper middle class and affluent young adults who seemed to view themselves as the center of the universe. The New Agers, in large part, are indigenous to a particular set of socio-economic strata in American culture and particularly those cultural experiences unique to the Baby Boom generation.

The central theme that I noticed in any New Age literature that I would have read at the time as well as anyone who happened to be heavily influenced by this particular perspective was the extremity to which the individual and especially his/her subjective experience were held to be the primary reality. In fact this subjectivity was so all-encompassing, that nothing else need exist (as Parenti notes, est founder Werner Erhard once stated that "reality is make-believe."). At bare minimum, one's subjective experience was divorced from any sort of social, economic, or political context and is given equal weight to any others' personal experiences. One danger I came to recognize rather quickly from such an approach was that one could be led down a path of non-activism, as social problems were viewed as ephemeral next to achieving anything from higher self-esteem to some form of personal "awareness." One could also easily be led down the path of victim blame to the extent that numerous New Agers seemed to believe that individuals "chose" such circumstances as their parents, disabilities, economic hardships, rapes & molestations, ad nauseum. A friend of mine at the time who was really into all this actually said something almost exactly to that effect once during a conversation. I was quite taken aback. From such a vantage point one can imagine a political ideology that excuses or minimizes gross human rights violations as merely the result of bad karma. Those babies who have been starved or bombed into oblivion in Iraq since the early 1980s are at fault for their circumstances - they should have chosen different parents. Screw the world, just change yourself - feel better about yourself.

Concurrent with that particular vibe was the whole "greed is good" mentality that began to take hold during the go-go 1980s and then metastasized during the Clinton and Bush II eras. Books, tapes and seminars during that period in bookstores' New Age and Self-Help sections often concentrated on getting rich - all you needed was the right aura or something like that. Those of us who don't have lots of "stuff" are simply lacking enlightenment and self awareness. Buy more crystals, meditate, think about all that "stuff" you want to buy and it can be yours too. Horatio Alger didn't die - he just became reincarnated. If you believe in that, I happen to have a lovely bridge in Brooklyn that I'll gladly auction off on Ebay, I'll even throw in a second Brooklyn Bridge free of charge - just in time for Christmas.

Anyhoo, as I was reading Parenti's book, these shards of memory pierced my consciousness. I begin to wonder just how much has really changed in the intervening two decades. Hyper-individualism is still quite characteristic of the US - each of us is viewed as our own little island, our experiences decontextualized from our surroundings. Similarly, we are still largely trained to decontextualize others' actions from their surrounding circumstances. Greed is still good - especially when couched in spiritual terms. So it goes. And yet those surrounding circumstances and the consequences of unabashed greed do periodically impinge upon the most solipsistic among us. No matter how hard one may wish it, for example, the price of your house will not rise if the subprime lending fiasco has caused the housing bubble to burst in your particular region. Those crystals will not absolve you of supporting politicians who have pursued policies that are starving people in Mexico, Guatamala, and elsewhere so that you can fill your Hummer with biofuel nor can you simply write off the compañeros as unenlightened souls who are "choosing" to be forced off their land by free trade agreements that allow large corporate enterprises to flood their markets with imported produce. Having high self-esteem will not stop one from eventually dealing with the consequences of living in a post-peak oil era.

So it goes. What starts as a bit of a review turns into a rant, albeit a rant that manages to stay pretty well-connected to Parenti's book.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

A harbinger

Click the picture for a full-sized image. Read the article here.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Yup: J. Edgar Hoover had a fetish for fascism

Some of my older friends and acquaintances who remember the "good ol' days" of COINTELPRO won't need much convincing of course. But for those interested, occasionally New Pravda is worthwhile, as this article detailing a bit of the history of Hoover's efforts to suspend habeas corpus (sound familiar, anyone?) and essentially hold thousands of individuals (many of whom were American citizens) as political prisoners.

We'll consider this a reminder as Wendell Phillips (Jan. 28, 1852) once stated that "Eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." Our current habeas corpus troubles have historical precedent, as the article makes plain, including Hoover's proposal in 1950 (lest we forget, Lincoln suspended habeas corpus during the Civil War as did his Confederacy counterpart Jefferson Davis, and Clinton dramatically restricted habeas corpus relief in the mid 1990s); and the idea of rounding and imprisoning those deemed "enemies of the state" go back at least as far as the Palmer Raids.

History may not repeat itself verbatim, but certain patterns seem to recur - including the pattern of those in power endeavoring to expand and abuse their positions of authority. Sometimes they succeed (at least for a time) as we've witnessed this century; sometimes they fail (Hoover's efforts to rid the US of inconveniences like habeas corpus ultimately fell short, although he certainly found plenty of other avenues for making dissent downright difficult if not hazardous). Being aware of those patterns is merely one form of vigilance needed to prevent additional repetitions.

The Human Face of Torture: Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah

Mark Benjamin's story last week (Inside the CIA's notorious "black sites") on the torture experienced by Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah at the hands of the US government is chilling but at the same time hardly surprising any more.

When Junior Caligula not too long ago exclaimed that the US does not do torture, I cringed. By the time he had issued that statement, the news that had filtered out of places like Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo Bay, as well as the Clinton regime's approval of extraordinary renditions in the previous decade, were already well-known.

Given the gravity of what's been done in our names, it is as usual crucial to face the human consequences of torture - an issue that has been visited from time to time at this very blog (see The Human Face of Torture Dossier). Part of that humanization process to me is seeing the faces, reading or hearing their own words, learning their stories in order to be better able to walk in their shoes. In doing so, I hope that we can motivate another person or two here and there to stand up and oppose torture by whatever means are necessary.

An extended excerpt of Mohamed's story follow below:
Dec. 14, 2007 | WASHINGTON -- The CIA held Mohamed Farag Ahmad Bashmilah in several different cells when he was incarcerated in its network of secret prisons known as "black sites." But the small cells were all pretty similar, maybe 7 feet wide and 10 feet long. He was sometimes naked, and sometimes handcuffed for weeks at a time. In one cell his ankle was chained to a bolt in the floor. There was a small toilet. In another cell there was just a bucket. Video cameras recorded his every move. The lights always stayed on -- there was no day or night. A speaker blasted him with continuous white noise, or rap music, 24 hours a day.

The guards wore black masks and black clothes. They would not utter a word as they extracted Bashmilah from his cell for interrogation -- one of his few interactions with other human beings during his entire 19 months of imprisonment. Nobody told him where he was, or if he would ever be freed.

It was enough to drive anyone crazy. Bashmilah finally tried to slash his wrists with a small piece of metal, smearing the words "I am innocent" in blood on the walls of his cell. But the CIA patched him up.

So Bashmilah stopped eating. But after his weight dropped to 90 pounds, he was dragged into an interrogation room, where they rammed a tube down his nose and into his stomach. Liquid was pumped in. The CIA would not let him die.

On several occasions, when Bashmilah's state of mind deteriorated dangerously, the CIA also did something else: They placed him in the care of mental health professionals. Bashmilah believes these were trained psychologists or psychiatrists. "What they were trying to do was to give me a sort of uplifting and to assure me," Bashmilah said in a telephone interview, through an interpreter, speaking from his home country of Yemen. "One of the things they told me to do was to allow myself to cry, and to breathe."

Last June, Salon reported on the CIA's use of psychologists to aid with the interrogation of terrorist suspects. But the role of mental health professionals working at CIA black sites is a previously unknown twist in the chilling, Kafkaesque story of the agency's secret overseas prisons.

Little about the conditions of Bashmilah's incarceration has been made public until now. His detailed descriptions in an interview with Salon, and in newly filed court documents, provide the first in-depth, first-person account of captivity inside a CIA black site. Human rights advocates and lawyers have painstakingly pieced together his case, using Bashmilah's descriptions of his cells and his captors, and documents from the governments of Jordan and Yemen and the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to verify his testimony. Flight records detailing the movement of CIA aircraft also confirm Bashmilah's account, tracing his path from the Middle East to Afghanistan and back again while in U.S. custody.

Bashmilah's story also appears to show in clear terms that he was an innocent man. After 19 months of imprisonment and torment at the hands of the CIA, the agency released him with no explanation, just as he had been imprisoned in the first place. He faced no terrorism charges. He was given no lawyer. He saw no judge. He was simply released, his life shattered.

"This really shows the human impact of this program and that lives are ruined by the CIA rendition program," said Margaret Satterthwaite, an attorney for Bashmilah and a professor at the New York University School of Law. "It is about psychological torture and the experience of being disappeared."

Bashmilah, who at age 39 is now physically a free man, still suffers the mental consequences of prolonged detention and abuse. He is undergoing treatment for the damage done to him at the hands of the U.S. government. On Friday, Bashmilah laid out his story in a declaration to a U.S. district court as part of a civil suit brought by the ACLU against Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a subsidiary of Boeing accused of facilitating secret CIA rendition flights.

[snip]

The nightmare started for him back in fall 2003. Bashmilah had traveled to Jordan from Indonesia, where he was living with his wife and working in the clothing business. He and his wife went to Jordan to meet Bashmilah's mother, who had also traveled there. The family hoped to arrange for heart surgery for Bashmilah's mother at a hospital in Amman. But before leaving Indonesia, Bashmilah had lost his passport and had received a replacement. Upon arrival in Jordan, Jordanian officials questioned his lack of stamps in the new one, and they grew suspicious when Bashmilah admitted he had visited Afghanistan in 2000. Bashmilah was taken into custody by Jordanian authorities on Oct. 21, 2003. He would not reappear again until he stepped out of a CIA plane in Yemen on May 5, 2005.

Bashmilah's apparent innocence was clearly lost on officials with Jordan's General Intelligence Department. After his arrest, the Jordanians brutally beat him, peppering him with questions about al-Qaida. He was forced to jog around in a yard until he collapsed. Officers hung him upside down with a leather strap and his hands tied. They beat the soles of his feet and his sides. They threatened to electrocute him with wires. They told him they would rape his wife and mother.

It was too much. Bashmilah signed a confession multiple pages long, but he was disoriented and afraid even to read it. "I felt sure it included things I did not say," he wrote in his declaration to the court delivered Friday. "I was willing to sign a hundred sheets so long as they would end the interrogation."

Bashmilah was turned over to the CIA in the early morning hours of Oct. 26, 2003. Jordanian officials delivered him to a "tall, heavy-set, balding white man wearing civilian clothes and dark sunglasses with small round lenses," he wrote in his declaration. He had no idea who his new captors were, or that he was about to begin 19 months of hell, in the custody of the U.S. government. And while he was seldom beaten physically while in U.S. custody, he describes a regime of imprisonment designed to inflict extreme psychological anguish.

I asked Bashmilah which was worse: the physical beatings at the hands of the Jordanians, or the psychological abuse he faced from the CIA. "I consider that psychological torture I endured was worse than the physical torture," he responded. He called his imprisonment by the CIA "almost like being inside a tomb."

"Whenever I saw a fly in my cell, I was filled with joy," he said. "Although I would wish for it to slip from under the door so it would not be imprisoned itself."

After a short car ride to a building at the airport, Bashmilah's clothes were cut off by black-clad, masked guards wearing surgical gloves. He was beaten. One guard stuck his finger in Bashmilah's anus. He was dressed in a diaper, blue shirt and pants. Blindfolded and wearing earmuffs, he was then chained and hooded and strapped to a gurney in an airplane.

Flight records show Bashmilah was flown to Kabul. (Records show the plane originally departed from Washington, before first stopping in Prague and Bucharest.) After landing, he was forced to lie down in a bumpy jeep for 15 minutes and led into a building. The blindfold was removed, and Bashmilah was examined by an American doctor.

He was then placed in a windowless, freezing-cold cell, roughly 6.5 feet by 10 feet. There was a foam mattress, one blanket, and a bucket for a toilet that was emptied once a day. A bare light bulb stayed on constantly. A camera was mounted above a solid metal door. For the first month, loud rap and Arabic music was piped into his cell, 24 hours a day, through a hole opposite the door. His leg shackles were chained to the wall. The guards would not let him sleep, forcing Bashmilah to raise his hand every half hour to prove he was still awake.

Cells were lined up next to each other with spaces in between. Higher above the low ceilings of the cells appeared to be another ceiling, as if the prison were inside an airplane hanger.

After three months the routine became unbearable. Bashmilah unsuccessfully tried to hang himself with his blanket and slashed his wrists. He slammed his head against the wall in an effort to lose consciousness. He was held in three separate but similar cells during his detention in Kabul. At one point, the cell across from him was being used for interrogations. "While I myself was not beaten in the torture and interrogation room, after a while I began to hear the screams of detainees being tortured there," he wrote.

While he was not beaten, Bashmilah was frequently interrogated. "During the entire period of my detention there, I was held in solitary confinement and saw no one other than my guards, interrogators and other prison personnel," he wrote in his declaration. One interrogator accused him of being involved in sending letters to a contact in England, though Bashmilah says he doesn't know anybody in that country. At other times he was shown pictures of people he also says he did not know.

"This is a form of torture," he told me. "Especially when the person subjected to this has not done anything."

In his declaration, Bashmilah made it clear that most of the prison officials spoke English with American accents. "The interrogators also frequently referred to reports coming from Washington," he wrote.

After six months he was transferred, with no warning or explanation. On or around April 24, 2004, Bashmilah was pulled from his cell and placed in an interrogation room, where he was stripped naked. An American doctor with a disfigured hand examined him, jotting down distinctive marks on a paper diagram of the human body. Black-masked guards again put him in a diaper, cotton pants and shirt. He was blindfolded, shackled, hooded, forced to wear headphones, and stacked, lying down, in a jeep with other detainees. Then he remembers being forced up steps into a waiting airplane for a flight that lasted several hours, followed by several hours on the floor of a helicopter.

Upon landing, he was forced into a vehicle for a short ride. Then, Bashmilah took several steps into another secret prison -- location unknown.

He was forced into a room and stripped naked again. Photos were taken of all sides of his body. He was surrounded by about 15 people. "All of them except for the person taking photographs were dressed in the kind of black masks that robbers wear to hide their faces," Bashmilah wrote in the declaration.

He was again examined by a doctor, who took notations on the diagram of the human body. (It was the same form from Afghanistan. Bashmilah saw his vaccination scar marked on the diagram.) The doctor looked in his eyes, ears, nose and throat.

He was then thrown into a cold cell, left naked.

It was another tiny cell, new or refurbished with a stainless steel sink and toilet. Until clothes arrived several days later, Bashmilah huddled in a blanket. In this cell there were two video cameras, one mounted above the door and the other in a wall. Also above the door was a speaker. White noise, like static, was pumped in constantly, day and night. He spent the first month in handcuffs. In this cell his ankle was attached to a 110-link chain attached to a bolt on the floor.

The door had a small opening in the bottom through which food would appear: boiled rice, sliced meat and bread, triangles of cheese, boiled potato, slices of tomato and olives, served on a plastic plate.

Guards wore black pants with pockets, long-sleeved black shirts, rubber gloves or black gloves, and masks that covered the head and neck. The masks had tinted yellow plastic over the eyes. "I never heard the guards speak to each other and they never spoke to me," Bashmilah wrote in his declaration.

He was interrogated more. Bashmilah recalls an interrogator showing him a lecture by an Islamic scholar playing on a laptop. The interrogator wanted to know if Bashmilah knew who the man was, but he did not. It was in this facility that Bashmilah slashed his wrists, then went on his hunger strike, only to be force-fed through a tube forced down his nose.

The CIA seems to have figured out that Bashmilah was not an al-Qaida operative sometime around September 2004, when he was moved to another, similar cell. But there was no more white noise. And while his ankles were shackled, he wasn't bolted to the floor with a chain. He was allowed to shower once a week. He was no longer interrogated and was mostly left alone.

Bashmilah was given a list of books he could read. About a month before he was released, he was given access to an exercise hall for 15 minutes a week. And he saw mental healthcare professionals. "The psychiatrists asked me to talk about why I was so despairing, interpreted my dreams, asked me how I was sleeping and whether I had an appetite, and offered medications such as tranquilizers."

On May 5, 2005, Bashmilah was cuffed, hooded and put on a plane to Yemen. Yemeni government documents say the flight lasted six or seven hours and confirm that he was transferred from the control of the U.S. government. He soon learned that his father had died in the fall of 2004, not knowing where his son had disappeared to, or even if he was alive.

At the end of my interview with Bashmilah, I asked him if there was anything in particular he wanted people to know. "I would like for the American people to know that Islam is not an enemy to other nations," he said. "The American people should have a voice for holding accountable people who have hurt innocent people," he added. "And when there is a transgression against the American people, it should not be addressed by another transgression."
What follows is a diagram of his living conditions:
Imagine being an innocent person living as he was forced to live for as long as he did. Even more disturbing - although again as I've said before, hardly surprising - is that Mohamed's story is hardly the only one.

Props to the following bloggers - image of prison cell courtesy of Into My Own. Since I would not have necessarily noticed this story when it first appeared thanks to finals week, a huge debt of gratitude is owed to Cliff Schecter via Memeorandum. Image of Mohamad Bashmilah courtesy of Amnesty International's Spanish language site.

Mike Gravel will apparently go the third-party route

I can't really say I'm surprised. Nor am I surprised with the press coverage of Gravel's campaign that appears (if one were not to know any better) to have been written by a bunch of petulant bratty J-school interns.

Not to worry, Andrew Malcom, your wish for a non-unique candidate to end up occupying the White House will no doubt come true. In this conformist culture, uniqueness (which is what folks like Gravel promise) is sinful.

Still, I'll use this space once more to suggest that Gravel's ideal of uniting the nation's discontents (of which there are plenty, given the sorry state of partisan politics) is certainly worthy of entertaining. We have plenty of potential front-runners to try to unite a diverse and admittedly divergent proportion of the electorate. The wars (Iraq, Afghanistan), the frontal assault on whatever was left of Constitutional liberties, etc., are issues that have the potential to unite many of us, and Gravel has been one of the few to consistently discuss those issues as openly and as bluntly as possible. Heck, he even has plenty of anti-war street cred. Whether or not Gravel is the right messenger per se remains to be seen, but his ideas are quite reasonable, and I could think of far worse potential candidates (all of the front-runners in the Dem and GOP parties jump immediately to mind as among the worst of the worst).

I would once again politely suggest that it's high time as well for anti-war activists - whether leftist, libertarian, conservative, etc. - ditch the sectarianism and look at what we have in common. One point in common already is that the likely Dem and GOP nominees will be common enemies. That's a starting point.

Look what crawled out of the woodwork

Nancy an eliminationist in the comments sez:
You must sleep with a Mexican. illegals could correctly be called 'Wet-back SCABS'. 'Cause that's ALL they are. If you really wanted to HELP them, you would help them change their OWN country. You two-faced traitor. Born with a silver spoon in ur mouth, no doubt. Why don't you get down here with the rest of us and see if you can hold that stance with a real world veiw of poverty among the American people. You judge people and then you go screaming at people to stop judging...how dare you...and you think you're so smart because you have an EDUMACATION???? Pulezzzze. How far do you think you and your buddies can stomp on the American people before you get ur block knocked off? Who do you think you are to consider yourself and your lawbreakers to be above our laws? You're not very smart if you haven't learned anything about our laws. How immoral you are. You're disgusting.
Dear Nancy,

Next time you try to preach morality, you might wish to take a look in the mirror. First, you make a lot of assumptions about me that, well, would cause you embarrassment if you actually knew me. Second, making thinly veiled threats of violence simply won't impress me. I'm flattered, but I've been threatened by more articulate foes in first grade. Third, at the risk of being presumptuous, I trust that you have a Bible handy. After all, you do imply in your comment that you are a "moral" person. You might wish to look up a few verses as a refresher: Deuteronomy 10:17-19 and Psalm 146:9. On the off chance you've misplaced it, JMB has quoted these very same verses in one of his recent posts.

When the extreme becomes mainstream - immigration edition

Courtesy of Migra Matters:

First, here are some statements by neo-Nazi and white supremacist hate groups on immigration:
"America's culture, customs and language are under assault from foreigners who come to live here and, instead of learning the American way of life, choose to impose their own alien cultures, languages, and institutions upon us... . [E]thnic cleansing ... may seem a harsh term to apply here in America, but it accurately describes the expulsion of Americans from their communities by illegal aliens."
AMERICAN IMMIGRATION CONTROL FOUNDATION

"[S]ince that time [about 1950], Western culture faces a growing and potentially fatal crisis: the widespread folly of believing that Hmong and Haitians can carry that culture forward as meaningfully as Europeans."
AMERICAN RENAISSANCE

"These men [ranchers who capture illegal border-crossers at gunpoint] are the true heroes of our troubled times! Every illegal alien they halt is one less that will go on our welfare rolls, overcrowd our schools, bring in more drugs to poison our kids, or rob, rape and murder another innocent American citizen."
CALIFORNIA COALITION FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM

"[T]he meaning of this massive increase in non-white and non-Western populations groups within U.S. borders is that the United States is not only ceasing to be a majority white nation but also is ceasing to be a nation that is culturally part of Western civilization."
COUNCIL OF CONSERVATIVE CITIZENS

"America becomes darker — racially darker — every year, and that is the direct result of our government's immigration policy. ... We White people, we descendants of the European immigrants who built America, will be a minority in our own country. ... [M]alicious aliens [European Jews] came into our land and ... spread spiritual poison among our people, so that our spirits became corrupted and our minds became confused."
NATIONAL ALLIANCE

"Unless stopped now, massive illegal immigration from the Third World will surely make America more like the Third World than the nation of our forefathers. ... Forced integration and unrestrained immigration destroy schools, neighborhoods, cities and ultimately nations."
NATIONAL ASSOCIATION FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF WHITE PEOPLE

"[T]he very underpinnings of America are being gnawed away by hordes of aliens who are transforming America into a land where we, the descendants of the men and women who founded America, will walk as strangers... . Unless we act now ... we will be helpless to halt the accelerating dispossession of our folk."
NATIONAL ORGANIZATION FOR EUROPEAN AMERICAN RIGHTS

"America is not just a geographical entity. It is a nation with certain values. I'd go beyond the proposal of a zero immigration moratorium and say we should begin deportation. Deportation now!"
THE SOCIAL CONTRACT PRESS

"The Mexican culture is based on deceit. Chicanos and Mexicanos lie as a means of survival. Fabricating false IDs is just another extension of that culture ... [which] condones everything from the most lowly misdemeanor to murder in the highest levels of government."
VOICES OF CITIZENS TOGETHER

"[Even] beyond immigration, legal or illegal, the very numbers of non-Whites already here, and their high birth rate, are enough to plunge North America into a banana republic status within two decades or less. ... [After America is split up into racial mini-states, if] an area like Florida wanted to accept the dregs of the Caribbean, let them, with the understanding that the second this mud flood oozed into the sovereign state of Georgia, it would be 'lock and load' time."
WHITE ARYAN RESISTANCE

compliled spring, 2001 by SPLC
Now, let's take a segment from a recent conversation between Lou Dobbs and Pat Buchanan (also courtesy of Migra Matters):
DOBBS: And congratulations on the new book, a best seller doing great.

Let me turn to the very first thing. The first chapter, declaring that the American century is over. I would like to share this with our viewers. "America is indeed coming apart, decomposing, and that the likelihood of our survival as one nation through mid century is improbable and impossible if America continues on her current course. For we are on a path to national suicide." My God, I don't think you could be more pessimistic.

BUCHANAN: Well that is where we are headed, Lou. As I write in the last chapter, we can still have a second American century. But look what is happening. You've got 12 to 20 million illegal aliens in the country, 38 million immigrants. The melting pot that turned our grandfathers and great grandfathers into Americans is cracked, broken and rejected as an instrument of cultural genocide. You have that going on in the country at the same time that the dollar is going down, the manufacturing base is being exported, you're overextended abroad with a smaller army than we had in 1939. All of these things are hitting at once and I don't get the awareness of the gravity of the crises comes at us.



DOBBS: We're back with Pat Buchanan, author of the important new book, which I highly recommend, "Day of Reckoning." Let's deal with an issue on the minds of Americans. That is the issue of illegal immigration. What has to be done?

BUCHANAN: Well first thing, you've got to secure the border. If we don't do it, it won't exist anymore in ten years. You've got to crack down on businesses that hire illegals. You've got to cut off the magnets by ending social welfare benefits as they voted to do Arizona. You've got to end this absurd practice that if someone comes to the United States and has a baby the next day it is automatically a citizen for life and entitled to a whole lifetime of benefits. I think you need a time-out on legal immigration of about 250,000 a year. This is the sea into which illegals move. We need another time out to get the melting pot up and running again.

DOBBS: What about the 12 to 20 million illegals in this country?

BUCHANAN: Start the deportations with gang members, felons, scofflaws and you start with felons and people who are drunk drivers and others. Then you start the process by cracking down on business, removing the magnets, they'll go home. What draws them here is free education, welfare, good jobs, good paying jobs much better than in Mexico. Basically business and the welfare, the social safety net draws them here.
CNN
Note the eerie similarity between what Dobbs and Buchanan are saying and the words by the hate groups quoted at the top of this post. Most folks would likely not want any association whatsoever with the hate groups in question, yet many consider Dobbs and Buchanan to have a certain mainstream respectability. Heck, Dobbs comes into many living rooms each weeknight thanks to his CNN gig, and Buchanan is often included on the Sunday morning talkshow circuit. In all likelihood, we won't find either of these two individuals show up for the next Klan rally, and yet it is quite clear that both men are delving into some rather Klan-like arguments. Dobbs and Buchanan are what David Neiwert has characterized as "transmitters":
... ostensibly mainstream conservatives who seem to cull ideas that often have their origins on the far right, strip them of any obviously pernicious content, and present them as "conservative" arguments. These transmitters work across a variety of fields. In religion, Pat Robertson and Jerry Falwell are the best-known examples, though many others belong in the same category. In politics, the classic example is Patrick Buchanan, while his counterpart in the field of conservative activism is Paul Weyrich of the Free Congress Foundation.

In the media, Rush Limbaugh is the most prominent instance, and Michael Savage is a close second, but there are others who have joined the parade noticeably in the past few years: Andrew Sullivan, for instance, and of course Ann Coulter. On the Internet, the largest single transmitter of right-wing extremism is FreeRepublic.com, whose followers -- known as "Freepers" -- have engaged in some of the more outrageous acts of thuggery against their liberal targets.

And finally, there’s Fox News, which bills itself as "fair and balanced," but which in fact is a virtual data center for transmitting extremist material into the mainstream. One of the most egregious examples of this was Fox’s broadcasts, on several occasions in 2000-2001, of an anti-tax protester named Bob Schulz. Schulz operated a snake-oil outfit called We The People Congress which operated on the old Posse Comitatus theory that the 16th Amendment -- the one approving the income tax -- was never properly approved. The same theory was also the main serving of a number of Patriot outfits.
Neiwert goes on to describe how transmitters work here ,here, and here. The reason for delving into this is that nativism, as a form of eliminationism is back with a vengeance. Although folks like Neiwert and Lenin's Tomb will correctly note that the activist element among nativists (all one need do is look at the usual suspects: KKK, The Minutemen, Stormfront, etc.) is a relatively small proportion of the American public, they have managed to successfully transmit their particular form of hatred through various talking heads in the mass media and public officials. Eliminationist rhetoric thus becomes mainstream. If Rush Limbaugh or Ron Paul take a hardline stance on unauthorized workers, for example, perception is it must be at least within the recognized bounds of the US mainstream. Heck, just look at how the US GOP and Dem presidential candidates have been addressing the immigration issue in debates and public statements. I'd like to believe (to the extent that I still find some redeeming qualities among my fellow human beings) that if most folks realized where hardline views regarding immigration originated, they'd recoil in horror. The problem is that most folks have no idea of what the sources are, hence, nativism ends up having something of a sleeper effect - in this case ideas from a fairly small minority of racists are currently able to exact a disproportionate influence on US political discourse due to a failure by many to connect the dots. Unfortunately, a sound-bite addled corporate media does not allow much opportunity to make the necessary connections.

More on the origins of nativism here.

Friday, December 21, 2007

For once, something useful

I've been meaning to make note of this for a few days, but have been caught up in other issues - both blogging and the various and sundry responsibilities that must be taken care of at home and at the office. Representatives Robert Wexler, Luis Gutierrez, and Tammy Baldwin are trying to pressure their Democrat colleagues into opening impeachment proceedings against VP Cheney. Blocked from publishing an editorial in a number of corporate media outlets, they took their case directly to the internet. Their online petition has already garnered over 100,000 signatories.

Although I don't hold out a whole lot of hope that Wexler's colleagues can be pressured into doing the right thing, it's worth a shot. I've signed. Have you?

Thursday, December 20, 2007

Torture survivors sue US mercenary outfit

Good on them!
More than 250 former detainees from Iraq's notorious Abu Ghraib prison have filed an amended lawsuit against a private US military contractor they say participated in a conspiracy to commit torture. The head of a human rights group involved in bringing the case told RAW STORY that unchecked abuses of contractors in Iraq are tantamount to a "license to kill."

The class action lawsuit, submitted Monday to a Washington, DC, federal court, asserts that employees from contractor CACI International Inc. routinely tortured, threatened and humiliated prisoners at Abu Ghraib and other US-run facilities. The complaint is an revised version of a suit first brought against CACI and another contractor, the Titan Corporation, in 2004.
Make sure to read the rest. See also the CCR press release.

Don't throw your vote away

Just keep recycling it every four years (or really every two years if we want to throw in those wonderful midterm elections). Keep telling yourself again and again that this time around it really will be different. Really. For shizzle.

Pic nicked from The Culture Ghost. More relevant commentary: Don't Throw Your Vote Away!!!!!!!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Guymon Daily Herald Reports Newspaper Racks Vandalized by Racists

As a followup to my recent post, Nativist Hatred in Goodwell, I thought I'd share with my readers an article that recently appeared in the Guymon Daily Herald, by staff writer Miranda Gilbert:
GDH newspaper racks vandalized
Photo caption: Here's an example of the propaganda that can be seen on our own Guymon Daily Herald racks. Photo credit: Heather Avey

A group against illegal immigrants are now protesting – illegally.

Paper signs boasting racial slurs next to God’s name were found glued to newspaper racks this week, including the Guymon Daily Herald’s dispensers at Wal-Mart and Dizzy B’s.

The signs appear to be an advertisement, with the fine print reading “Paid for by the Citizen’s for Public Awareness” but no contract was signed for the $50 a week advertisement block.

“They have not paid us for that spot,” said GDH Circulation Manager Peggy Martinez, who has discovered the signs sporadically through the week. “It is a paid advertising spot, but no one from this group has contacted us.”

Law enforcement was notified of the vandalism and an investigation is under way at the Guymon Police Department.

“They’re worried about immigrants breaking the law, ‘illegals,’ but what they’re doing is illegal,” Martinez said.

The signs say, “Support ‘Operation Wetback’ Thou shall enter a country legally. Thou shall leave a country lawfully — God. Support removal of illegals Call Congress.”

Another sign listed the US code and section which states that harboring, abetting and employing illegal aliens is a crime and listed the phone number for Immigration Custom Enforcement (ICE).

Anyone with information may call CRIMESTOPPERS at 1-800-766-0146 or 338-1899. Callers can remain anonymous.
Whoever put these signs up were cowards, and yes, criminals.

The "Global War on Terra" is merely the cover story

It does of course serve a purpose - namely to consolidate or expand power of the rulers. Over the near term, the elites have a little matter of unrest at home as the economy continues to tank and some really pissed off ex-middle class folks look for someone to blame. Hence we can expect plenty of appeals to nativism and cultural warmongering in order to keep the working classes sufficiently divided lest the elites find themselves forced to appease with reforms of one sort or another. Over the intermediate term (over the next couple decades), there is that little matter of assuring easy access to and control of petroleum and preventing a growing rival (China) from snagging any of that access and control.

In the meantime, it's just a farcical (albeit deadly) rehash of the Cold War - just that now we have "terrorists" hiding in your broom closet, and al Qaida always threatening havoc. Those indigenists fighting for some semblance of self-determination? They're al Qaida. Those displaced compañeros? They're al Qaida. Or if that is too implausible for even the most rabid of nativist white supremacist knuckledraggers to believe, just simply using the term "terrorist" shall suffice. Don't think too hard about the human costs that a policy of predatory capitalism (i.e., neoliberalism) and unabashed bloodletting has exacted on so many; there's always the popularity contest between Hillary and Rudy to distract you - or if that's too boring, how about Jamie Lynn Spears' pregnancy? Now THERE is some IMPORTANT news.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Ah, the Quadrennial Mating Ritual Commences

As we know, in life there are various rhythms and cycles upon which we learn to rely upon: the cycle of day and night, the four seasons, birth-life-reproduction-death, etc. One of those cycles endemic to the US is at hand: the electoral mating ritual. Of course the courtship only officially begins in January each Leap Year, but the suitors begin to woo their mates well before then. The mating calls range from stump speeches, to debates with rival suitors, to guest blogging appearances, to the obligatory interview on Larry King. Their partners in this courtship dance, having been ignored and disappointed for the previous three years are of course reluctant and even resistant at first. But, eventually, one by one, they give in once there is some indication that the Alpha Donkle has been chosen, or that such decision will be very shortly forthcoming. At that point, mating with the Alpha Donkle is considered preferable to the Alpha Gooper, and anyone in the flock still refusing the Alpha Donkle's mating call are swiftly ostracized as purists and accused of mating with the Alpha Gooper by default. Following the end of the ritual in November, the Alpha Donkle and rivals will quickly forget that they had even mated, and go back to their hovels in a wilderness called The Beltway to do whatever the hell it is that they do there (the rare outsider to try to witness this wilderness activity have inevitably been so traumatized as to render impossible an accurate reporting). Those who had fallen under the spell of the Alpha Donkle will soon return to their usual reluctant and resistant stance, bitterly cursing their decision to mate and vowing vehemently never to do so again; until of course, the next Leap Year...

It's always the same

Some head of state or state official with a real fancy title orders airstrikes to "neutralize" some "enemy camp." Inevitably it is civilian villages that get attacked instead. The head or state or state official with the real fancy title claims success even though no enemy camps or bases were ever hit, perhaps with a denial of any civilian "collateral damage" just to appease uneasy folks at home. If all goes "well" the uneasy folks at home get distracted by the usual bread and circuses, and the dead and dismembered villagers are conveniently forgotten.

Hat tip to A Tiny Revolution

There are always alternatives

You merely have to open your eyes from time to time. As sour as I am about the electoral system (which functions about as well as someone with inoperable cancer that has metastasized to every internal organ, bones, and bone marrow), every once in a while I see a candidate who actually seems inspired and inspiring. Yes, Cindy Sheehan is not PC, nor is she "electable" according to the Democrat Party intelligentsia, but she earns my respect by calling things by their true names and by targeting one of the Beltway Dems who has proven to be one of the most persistent barriers to ending the Iraq War and holding the Lush/Zany Gang accountable for their corruption. If Pelosi can't see clear to keeping impeachment on the table with regard to Lush/Zany, then her district's voters could at least have the decency to do the next best thing: impeach Pelosi in November 2008. I know some bloggers, such as Avedon, would prefer Sheehan run in a Democrat primary against Pelosi instead. I say, screw that. Go for all the marbles in November. Simply stated, THERE IS NOTHING LEFT TO LOSE.

To those among the avowed progressive side of the blogtopia who would argue that we have no alternative to the Dems, and that "it's not like something new will just spring up overnight," here's a history lesson and counterpoint.

Update: Note in the comments that Avedon states that she does not oppose an independent Sheehan campaign, but would find a Sheehan primary challenge against Pelosi as instructive. Thanks for clarifying.

Same Shit, Different Year

Poll: Electability key among Democrats

As an editorial response, here's something from Tom Tomorrow:

Yeah, let's get another John Kerry-type candidacy. That one was such a smashing success. The other "electable" Dem, Obama the Bland, isn't exactly much of a prize either (with him we get a possible sequel to the Al Bore campaign). Feh.