Saturday, March 3, 2007

Dumb and dumberer

Yes, the title is intentional. To wit, Oklahoma's own Sen. Inhofe:
"I have been called -- my kids are all aware of this -- dumb, crazy man, science abuser, Holocaust denier, villain of the month, hate-filled, warmonger, Neanderthal, Genghis Khan and Attila the Hun," he announced. "And I can just tell you that I wear some of those titles proudly."
Oh, do tell, Senator. You surely make your constituents proud.

Apparently, that little gem was from the same event where Ann Coulter called former Senator John Edwards a "faggot." Given Ms. Coulter's past (what, with here propensity for emitting racist remarks or at bare minimum plagiarizing others' racist remarks) one cannot be surprised. This is, after all, a woman with no standards to speak of. I'm sure there are more productive means of discussing Edwards' suitability for the White House (my take: he's sufficiently wed to the notion of Empire to fit in just fine, along with Obama and Clinton). Sadly, what passes for right-wing punditry is totally incapable of stringing together a coherent sentence, let alone attempt anything resembling reasoned analysis. I wouldn't dare to compare either Sen. Inhofe or Ms. Coulter to Neanderthals, however, as that would be an insult to, well, Neanderthals.

Bloggers Against Torture Blogroll

I've noticed that the blogroll for "Bloggers Against Torture" has gathered some dust and am under the impression that whoever was maintaining it is on an extended haitus. That's cool and all, except that sometimes bloggers (like me) end up making some address changes. As time permits, I'm creating a new blogroll and will update y'all when it's ready to launch. In the meantime, we'll deal with what we have.

From the mail bag

Tell Colorado's Governor That Slavery is Illegal. Say "NO" to Prison Labor in the Fields.

Friday, March 2, 2007

So it goes...

U.S. House Democrats seek more war funds than Bush

I wonder if this is what the voters who elected the Dems to majorities last November had in mind. Bet we know the answer to that one, eh?

Thursday, March 1, 2007

Poverty in America: Getting Worse

Via Lenin's Tomb:
I meant to write about this a few days ago: there has been a dramatic rise in deep poverty in America. Notice, 'deep'. The latest research shows that 37 million Americans are living below the poverty line, of whom 18.3 million are in deep poverty. The article reports that "Nearly two out of three people (10.3 million) in severe poverty are white, but blacks (4.3 million) and Hispanics of any race (3.7 million) make up disproportionate shares." Deep poverty is defined for an individual as living on an income of less than $5,080.

Only in Amerkkka

would the nation's VP travel in a plane dubbed "The Spirit of Strom Thurmond."

Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Quotable

"In nuclear war all men are cremated equal."

-Dexter Gordon

Tip o' the hat to My Left Wing.

The future's so bright I gotta wear shades!

Items of note, starting with IOZ:
What is the source of this bottomless confidence in the essential goodness of "Americans" or "many Americans," or "the American people"; on what basis do we arrive at this claim that but for the lies told to them by their less-than-noble, less-than-honest patriarchs, these American people would rise up in recognition of their current transgressions and past sins, retreat, and resolve not to repeat the shameful crimes of empire, forever and ever, on earth as it is in heaven, hallelujah, amen?

Because it is not at all obvious to me that Americans, such as they are, give one good goddamn or one high-flying fuck about a "strategy designed to preserve security in Iraq." "Security in Iraq" is not their concern. "Security in America" is their concern--that's why they acquiesce with nary a whimper to every security-vs.-liberty argument put forward by their governors (to Greenwald's eternal chagrin and confusion), and that is why they support wars to kill the wogs who killed the World Trade Center. That there are many varieites of wogs, and that none of the wogs currently involved in our conflict participated in "the events of 9/11," and that within worldwide woggery there is currently a vast, vicious religious war--none of these things occur to "many Americans." Many Americans reelected George W. Bush and "tolerated the occupation of Iraq" because it accorded with their narrow, slack-jawed, country-music ideology of "let's roll."

[snip]

If tomorrow or the next day, George W. Bush decides to begin a campaign against Iran, and it seems icreasingly near and certainly inevitable, then the cable news networks will go back to Crisis:Iran subtitles, the generals will come back on to babble about strategy, the yellow-ribbon magnets will reassert themselves, the nominal opposition will fall back in line, the "failure" in Iraq will fade from the front of our collective consciousness, and however much the libbloggers cry that the dauphin's poll ratings remain mired below 40%, not one person who matters will pay them no nevermind. If Israel, Dog help us, gets involved, then the libbloggers will simply remain conspicuously (or inconspicuously) silent.

I have been asked a number of times why it is that I don't use what meager skills I have to propose a positive program to rectify our national shames and shortcomings. Why don't I offer some way "to change it?" Why don't I "do something?" Why aren't I "productive?" I've given plenty of answers, some truer than others. But here is a more honest answer, the most honest I can give: I'm not especially convinced that Americans, many Americans, the American people, or America deserve anything other than what they're about to get. To put it another way: I'm not an evangelist about anything, and I'm not of the opinion than everyone can or should be saved.
I suspect that salvation is the least viable of our options at this point. Reading Kunstler's forecast for 2007, one cannot help but wonder how long it'll take for most of us to wake up and smell the coffee. Those of us who are on the bottom rung of the so-called "middle class" and points lower on the economic food chain have been feeling the pain for a while now. Consumer culture as we know it now is functioning by smoke and mirrors, folks. In the long run that won't be a bad thing, as what we as a society have done is to live way beyond nature's means. The birds are gonna come home to roost, if they haven't started already. Those who are relatively well off, including those who hold elected offices, seem perfectly content to remain in a delusional state. That delusion may or may not get shaken if the threatened war against Iran transpires, and the oil tap gets cut off; or if our government's creditors (China & Japan) decide they've had enough, and expect ol' Uncle Sam to settle those outstanding debts (given ol' Uncle Sam's gambling and spending addictions, the scene will get ugly fast).

Something I read a couple months ago seems quite pertinent, to the extent that I accept the premise that the US in its present form is doomed to crumble like all past empires: Closing the 'Collapse Gap': the USSR was better prepared for peak oil than the US. Now let's be optimistic for just a second and pretend that what passes for our government for once tries to be useful. The author Dmitry Orlov has some advice:
There are some things that I would like the government to take care of in preparation for collapse. I am particularly concerned about all the radioactive and toxic installations, stockpiles, and dumps. Future generations are unlikely to able to control them, especially if global warming puts them underwater. There is enough of this muck sitting around to kill off most of us. I am also worried about soldiers getting stranded overseas – abandoning one's soldiers is among the most shameful things a country can do. Overseas military bases should be dismantled, and the troops repatriated. I'd like to see the huge prison population whittled away in a controlled manner, ahead of time, instead of in a chaotic general amnesty. Lastly, I think that this farce with debts that will never be repaid, has gone on long enough. Wiping the slate clean will give society time to readjust. So, you see, I am not asking for any miracles. Although, if any of these things do get done, I would consider it a miracle.
In short, face up to the impending collapse and plan ahead. Will our Congress critters in DC be up to the task? Ho ho. I'm not betting my life savings on it (and I don't bet that nickel lightly, folks). The folks occupying the White House are so clueless as to preclude them from any useful activity. Whatever regime replaces Bu$hCo in the aftermath of the 2008 "elections" will not be much better (I'm sure that some of my partisan Dem friends would beg to differ, and that I'll continue to find their protestations and candidate cheerleading to be a source of amusement). More Orlov:
It's important to understand that the Soviet Union achieved collapse-preparedness inadvertently, and not because of the success of some crash program. Economic collapse has a way of turning economic negatives into positives. The last thing we want is a perfectly functioning, growing, prosperous economy that suddenly collapses one day, and leaves everybody in the lurch. It is not necessary for us to embrace the tenets of command economy and central planning to match the Soviet lackluster performance in this area. We have our own methods, that are working almost as well. I call them "boondoggles." They are solutions to problems that cause more problems than they solve.

Just look around you, and you will see boondoggles sprouting up everywhere, in every field of endeavor: we have military boondoggles like Iraq, financial boondoggles like the doomed retirement system, medical boondoggles like private health insurance, legal boondoggles like the intellectual property system. The combined weight of all these boondoggles is slowly but surely pushing us all down. If it pushes us down far enough, then economic collapse, when it arrives, will be like falling out of a ground floor window. We just have to help this process along, or at least not interfere with it. So if somebody comes to you and says "I want to make a boondoggle that runs on hydrogen" – by all means encourage him! It's not as good as a boondoggle that burns money directly, but it's a step in the right direction.
There may be some wisdom to that - today's incompetence may well be our friend when we look back at this bleak decade. Further:
Certain types of mainstream economic behavior are not prudent on a personal level, and are also counterproductive to bridging the Collapse Gap. Any behavior that might result in continued economic growth and prosperity is counterproductive: the higher you jump, the harder you land. It is traumatic to go from having a big retirement fund to having no retirement fund because of a market crash. It is also traumatic to go from a high income to little or no income. If, on top of that, you have kept yourself incredibly busy, and suddenly have nothing to do, then you will really be in rough shape.

Economic collapse is about the worst possible time for someone to suffer a nervous breakdown, yet this is what often happens. The people who are most at risk psychologically are successful middle-aged men. When their career is suddenly over, their savings are gone, and their property worthless, much of their sense of self-worth is gone as well. They tend to drink themselves to death and commit suicide in disproportionate numbers. Since they tend to be the most experienced and capable people, this is a staggering loss to society.

If the economy, and your place within it, is really important to you, you will be really hurt when it goes away. You can cultivate an attitude of studied indifference, but it has to be more than just a conceit. You have to develop the lifestyle and the habits and the physical stamina to back it up. It takes a lot of creativity and effort to put together a fulfilling existence on the margins of society. After the collapse, these margins may turn out to be some of the best places to live.
Increasingly, over the last few years, our family has been doing just that: finding a niche in the margins. The old habits have been hard to break, to be sure. But aside from the habit of buying an inordinate amount of reading material, it's all necessities (food, rent, clothes, etc.) and maintaining ties with friends and loved ones. All of that, by the way, is done cash on the barrelhead. Haven't had a credit card in something like six years - initially out of necessity, and now out of choice. Reinforcing what Orlov is saying, stay out of debt, get used to living on a less-than-steady income, get away from the whole workaholic scene (instead maximize free time - think of that valuable time spent with the kids, etc., instead), minimize participation in the current economy. In other words, don't contribute to the present system any more than is absolutely necessary.

The world that my generation is leaving behind for our kids and grandkids will in many ways seem much harsher than the one that we inherited. The thought used to drive me to depths of despair. The older I get though, the more stoic I have become - instead I'm realizing that those who've survived previous collapses find opportunities for finding meaningful existences, and even a measure of happiness. With crisis comes opportunity. I have little choice but to hold out hope that my kids' generation will seize that opportunity to create the beginnings of something beautiful out of the ashes of what we gave them. Hopefully a few of us middle-aged gen-x-ers can live long enough to pass on the lessons we learned of the folly of American Exceptionalism, and of the predatory capitalism that myth enabled. Maybe they'll take those lessons to heart.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Action Alert: Help a Canadian Boy in US Detention

The following is from catnip's blog:
The Situation: As the result of an unforeseen set of circumstances, a 9 year old Canadian boy and his Iranian parents are being held at the T. Don Hutto Residential Center in Taylor, Texas. The living conditions at the facility resemble those of a prison yet those detained there have no criminal records and are simply asylum seekers. The American Civil Liberties Union is considering a lawsuit for possible human rights violations and several humanitarian groups have been protesting the facility's conditions since it opened in 2006.

The Women's Commission For Refugee Women and Children recently released its report (.pdf file) on the conditions at the Hutto facility. Here is a summary of some of their findings:

• Hutto is a former criminal facility that still looks and feels like a prison, complete with razor wire and prison cells.
• Some families with young children have been detained in these facilities for up to two years.
• The majority of children detained in these facilities appeared to be under the age of 12.
• At night, children as young as six were separated from their parents.
• Separation and threats of separation were used as disciplinary tools.
• People in detention displayed widespread and obvious psychological trauma. Every woman we spoke with in a private setting cried.
• At Hutto pregnant women received inadequate prenatal care.
• Children detained at Hutto received one hour of schooling per day.
• Families in Hutto received no more than twenty minutes to go through the cafeteria line and feed their children and themselves. Children were frequently sick from the food and losing weight.
• Families in Hutto received extremely limited indoor and outdoor recreation time and children did not have any soft toys.
Background: The details surrounding how this particular family ended up in the Hutto detention ceneter are as follows, in the words of the father (using the pseudonym Majid), in an interview with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! on Friday, February 23, 2007. Goodman also spoke to the child, "Kevin".
AMY GOODMAN: Now, just to be clear, you were never planning to end up in the United States, is that right? You were flying to Canada, but another passenger on the plane had a heart attack, and so you guys had a forced landing in Puerto Rico, and when you had to come out of the plane, while he was taken off the plane, that's when they took you?

MAJID: Yes. This happened, yes -- was a Canadian Zoom Airline, and our ticket was direct from Guyana to Toronto. And this happened. They hold us -- my son is Canadian -- hold child is nine-and-a-half years old, and they put us in detention in Puerto Rico. And from Monday to Friday, I was in the jail in Puerto Rico between criminal people, and my wife and son was other place. We had no news from each other from Monday morning until Friday at noon, until we see each other in a Puerto Rico airport. After that, they brought us here to Hutto Detention Center, and here we are in same part, but different room. My wife and my son is room, but it’s totally inside the room, uncovered toilet. My son has asthma, and he’s very bad and still comes here. It’s very horrible here. And we are in very bad situation. We need help. We need the people help me --

JUAN GONZALEZ: Majid, in other words, basically, what reason did they give you for holding you if you never intended to enter the United States at all? What reason did they give for locking you up?

MAJID: Because they said, “You have an American visa?” That's why you have to stay here. Just plane was waiting one hour for us, but they didn't let us pass. A few officers came. They said Immigration officers -- six, seven -- they said, “We’re going to send you, but let us make decision.” After that, they called the police chief. He came there. He said, “Let me think five minutes.” After five minutes, he came, he said, “I’m going to send you to Canada, but I’m afraid to lose my job. But usually we have to send with your plane, but we keep you here. America is much better than Canada. Here you have safer place. We send you to hotel, and after a few days, you're going to be free.” But they broke their promise. That's why they keep us here, and we have very bad situation here.
According to this Toronto Star article, this is why the family fled from Iran:
The parents, who have no status in Canada, asked that their names not be published out of fear of eventually being returned to Iran, where they say they were previously imprisoned and suffered physical and sexual abuse.

The family's complicated journey began after the couple fled Iran and arrived in Toronto in January 1995. They lived here for 10 years while seeking asylum, giving birth to a son. But on Dec. 6, 2005, with all legal avenues exhausted, the parents were deported back to Iran.

The boy's father claimed he had been originally persecuted in Iran after he was discovered with novelist Salman Rushdie's book. Once they were sent back there from Canada, they were detained and tortured for three months while the boy lived with relatives. Once released from custody, they again fled, reaching Turkey with the help of relatives. They bought fake passports and eventually travelled to Guyana, the parents said.
So, now they are stuck in detention limbo with no chance of their case being resolved any time soon.

Proposed Actions: At this time, people working behind the scenes are coordinating a media campaign, so our request right now is that you don't contact the media on their behalf. Let's leave that to those who have the connections and resources to do so effectively.

What we're calling for now is for Americans and Canadians to contact their government representatives to express support for this family; to demand that their case be handled as quickly as possible; to bring to light the inappropriate conditions at the Hutto facility and others like it on behalf of all families currently detained; to express concerns about their human rights while imploring our politicians to act immediately.

At this point, it is not clear if the family will be able to seek asylum in the United States or Canada. That's up to the lawyers to figure out. We can certainly have an impact with our elected representatives in the meantime. They all need to be made aware of this situation and they also need to know that we will be watching them closely to gauge their reactions or lack thereof.

It's important to note that many elected officials simply choose to ignore e-mails or take a long time to actually respond to them. Snail mail letters, phone calls and faxes seem to get their attention much more quickly.

American contacts: You can find a guide to contact your representatives here.

Canadian contacts: This is a directory of Canadian government contacts.

Non-governmental organizations:
ACLU
Amnesty International
Human Rights Watch
UNICEF

The ACLU and Amnesty International Canada are aware of this case. Please support their efforts. We don't know if UNICEF or HRW are on the case yet but there are several agencies in Texas and the United States that are attempting to bring more attention to these cases as well. You can find them by searching for the facility's name: "T. Don Hutto Residential Center", which will also inform you about the number of protests made against the center since it opened.

Annamarie and I will post updates on our blogs as they become available.

Annamarie's blog: Verbena-19
My blog: liberal catnip

Please spread the word throughout the blogosphere and in your offline communities. These detainees need your help.

Feel free to copy this action alert in its entirety to post on your site.

Thank you.

- Annamarie and catnip

Sunday, February 25, 2007

By the numbers

Percentage of Americans who think that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "never justified": 46%

Percentage of Americans who think that "bombing and other attacks intentionally aimed at civilians" are "often or sometimes justified": 24%

Nerdified link.

The remaining 30% are too busy placing bets on when Britney Spears will skip out of rehab.

Since Predator Came

The American Indians and the Palestinian Arabs have at least something in common: namely the similarities between the settler nations that uprooted them. Professor Larry Portis makes some interesting points about the similarities between the Puritan and Zionist settlers, as well as the mutual influence that the US and Israeli governments have on one another. Well worth reading in order to understand better the nature of genocide as well as the difficulties that those who are critical of the continued Israeli version of Apartheid face in voicing their concerns.