Saturday, April 28, 2007

Quotable

Preventive war was an invention of Hitler. Frankly, I would not even listen to anyone seriously that came and talked about such a thing. – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Your tax dollars at work

The "rebuilding" of Iraq (which seems oxymoronic to begin with) is turning out to be another boondoggle. Surprise, surprise, surprise:
In a troubling sign for the American-financed rebuilding program in Iraq, inspectors for a federal oversight agency have found that in a sampling of eight projects that the United States had declared successes, seven were no longer operating as designed because of plumbing and electrical failures, lack of proper maintenance, apparent looting and expensive equipment that lay idle.

[snip]

The inspections ranged geographically from northern to southern Iraq and covered projects as varied as a maternity hospital, barracks for an Iraqi special forces unit and a power station for Baghdad International Airport.

At the airport, crucially important for the functioning of the country, inspectors found that while $11.8 million had been spent on new electrical generators, $8.6 million worth were no longer functioning.

At the maternity hospital, a rehabilitation project in the northern city of Erbil, an expensive incinerator for medical waste was padlocked — Iraqis at the hospital could not find the key when inspectors asked to see the equipment — and partly as a result, medical waste including syringes, used bandages and empty drug vials were clogging the sewage system and probably contaminating the water system.

The newly built water purification system was not functioning either.
There is plenty more to read in the article. Needless to say, whoever said that war is a racket knew what he was talking about. Someone's making a killing, victimizing more than the already considerable number of casualties. Crony capitalism at its ... erm ... finest.

Bill Ayers sez

In Brecht’s play Galileo the great astronomer sets forth into a world dominated by a mighty church and an authoritarian power: “The cities are narrow and so are the brains,” he declares recklessly. “Superstition and plague. But now the word is: since it is so, it does not remain so. For everything moves my friend.” Intoxicated with his own radical discoveries, Galileo feels the earth shifting and finds himself propelled surprisingly toward revolution. ” It was always said that the stars were fastened to a crystal vault so they could not fall,” he says. “Now we have taken heart and let them float in the air, without support… they are embarked on a great voyage—like us who are also without support and embarked on a great voyage.” Here Galileo raises the stakes and risks taking on the establishment in the realm of its own authority, and it strikes back fiercely. Forced to renounce his life’s work under the exquisite pressure of the Inquisition he denounces what he knows to be true, and is welcomed back into the church and the ranks of the faithful, but exiled from humanity—by his own word. A former student confronts him in the street: “Many on all sides followed you with their ears and their eyes believing that you stood, not only for a particular view of the movement of the stars, but even more for the liberty of teaching— in all fields. Not then for any particular thoughts, but for the right to think at all. Which is in dispute.”

The right to think at all, which is in dispute—-this is what the Ward Churchill affair finally comes to: The right to a mind of one’s own, the right to pursue an argument into uncharted spaces, the right to challenge the church and its orthodoxy in the public square. The right to think at all.

It’s no surprise that this outrage against Professor Churchill occurs at this particular moment— a time of empire resurrected and unapologetic, militarism proudly expanding and triumphant, war without justice and without end, white supremacy retrenched, basic rights and protections shredded, growing disparities between the haves and the have-nots, fear and superstition and the mobilization of scapegoating social formations based on bigotry and violence or the threats of violence, and on and on. There’s more of course, and this isn’t the only story, but this is a recognizable part of where we’re living, and a familiar place to anyone with even a casual understanding of history. Here the competing impulses and ideals that have always animated our country’s story are on full display: rights and liberty and the pursuit of human freedom on one side, domination and war and repression on the other. The trauma of contradictions that is America.
Nerdified link. Make sure to check out the rest. Professor Churchill's "crime" is to be politically incorrect at a time when the PC police are running through the halls of academe like an angry mob on crack. For that, his hopes of hanging on to his tenured position at the University of Colorado are minimal at best. The dodgy charges of academic dishonesty have been followed up with an equally dodgy (as it turns out) investigation into his alleged misdeeds. Had Churchill never dared to mention that the numerous paper pushers working at the WTC were engaging (wittingly or unwittingly) in daily acts of organizational violence, and that such acts can elicit blowback, there would be no effort to oust him from his job.

Ayers does hit on the basic issue - to what extent are we in the academic field free to think for ourselves? To what extent can we freely take on controversial opinions in a public space? If those freedoms are squelched (which does happen - just look at whatever authoritarian dictatorship you wish to examine and check out the academic freedom situation there), what is left to distinguish academe from the trade schools? And of course if a tenured faculty member is not safe from the clutches of the special interest groups that are trying (and largely succeeding) to squelch academic freedom, then who is safe?

Tip o' the hat to The Try-Works.

Postscript

The "War on Terra" has indeed succeeded: terrorist attacks have increased some 30% since the previous year.

"Buying the War" (not all of us did)

Finally got to catch up with the Bill Moyers report "Buying the War" - a report that outlines in glaring detail the extent to which the mass media was complicit in promoting the government's psy-op war against the American people in the run-up to the Iraq War debacle. From what I recall, Moyers has over the past several years been pretty consistently skeptical of the government's many false claims and equally disgusted with what passed for "journalism" during that period. You can watch the video here (hat tip to the Antiwar.com Blog), and can find the transcript here.

Once more those of us who were against this idiotic "War on Terra" from the beginning have been vindicated - although in the wake of the human suffering caused by our White House and Congressional "leaders" in the ensuing years, such vindication merely leaves a bad taste in one's mouth. Justin Raimondo has his own summary of the sad state of American "journalism" from this decade that deserves to be read thoroughly. Antiwar.com was (and still is) one of my first sources for news since the start of this decade, and for good reason. Raimondo and crew have been among the few voices in the wilderness to offer that much needed counterpoint to the crazed jingoism that gripped the nation at a time when doing so has been not only unpopular but downright risky.

If there were a lesson to be taken from the last several years of perpetual war it's this: be wary of the various talking heads who go on the news show circuit pushing the next "great war" and be equally wary of the mass media handling of theirs (and the government's) propaganda. A lot of the same damned talking points used to justify the Afghanistan and Iraq wars is being used to push for opening up another front in Iran. We need the skeptics more than ever.

The latest from Baghdad Burning

Riverbend, the blogger who has been providing us with periodic snippets of life inside war-torn Iraq, has some scathing things to say about the ghetto-ization of Sunni neighborhoods in Baghdad. She's also informing us as readers that soon she and her family will be joining the US-created Iraqi diaspora, as they see that there is no future in what had once been home.

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Anniversaries: American Holocaust

This week marks the centennial of Colorado's decision to make "Columbus Day" a holiday - paving the way for an eventual national celebration of one of the perpetrator's of the American Holocaust. Not all of us are rejoicing, however.

A shout out to Nezua for the tip.

Quotable: "Get Your War On" Morons Department

Check out Tom Tomorrow's cartoon "Four Years Later" - an excellent compendium of actual pro-Iraq War quotes from the spring of 2003. What a difference four years makes, eh?

Tom also offers up this gem from right-wing gasbag Cal Thomas from April 15, 2003:
When the Berlin Wall fell and Eastern Europe escaped from the shackles of communism, I wrote that we must not forget the enablers, apologists and other "fellow travelers" who helped sustain communism's grip on a sizable portion of humanity for much of the 20th century. I suggested that a "cultural war crimes tribunal" be convened, at which people from academia, the media, government and the clergy who were wrong in their assessment of communism would be forced to confront their mistakes. While not wishing to deprive anyone of his or her right to be wrong, it wouldn't hurt for these people to be held accountable.

That advice was not taken - but today we are presented with another opportunity in the form of scores of false media prophets who predicted disaster should the U.S. military confront and seek to oust the murderous regime of Saddam Hussein. The purpose of a cultural war crimes tribunal would be to remind the public of journalism's many mistakes, as well as the errors of certain politicians and retired generals, and allow it to properly judge their words the next time they feel the urge to prophesy...

All of the printed and voiced prophecies should be saved in an archive. When these false prophets again appear, they can be reminded of the error of their previous ways and at least be offered an opportunity to recant and repent.
Well, Cal, here's your chance to recant and repent. We're waiting.

Shorter Joe Lieberman

One Choice in Iraq
How dare suicide bombers get in the way of our demolition of Baghdad. Now we'll have to stay and blow up more stuff (unless those pesky antiwar folks try to stop us).

The WaPo's Abu Gonzales: David Broder

We're way past the point of saying that columnist David Broder has jumped the shark. As underwhelmed as I am with Sen. Reid (as well as much of what passes for Donkle "leadership"), I'd like to offer that Alberto Gonzales is in a class all by himself. All one can say about Reid is that he's a wimpy "centrist" who flip-flops like any other wimpy "centrist" - Gonzales on the other hand has been actively involved in a fair amount of the criminal behavior perpetrated by the White House. Apples and oranges, folks. Unfortunately Broder's too dense to notice that these days.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

So 80% of blogs contain "offensive" content

As an editorial response, Notes From Underground points our readers to the following audio presentation: The Fucking Moon, by The Evolution Control Committee.

Or, if you prefer, here's a video via YouTube:

Wanker of the Day

Laura Bush. With regard to the Iraq War debacle, she says, “No one suffers more than their President and I do.” Give her credit for chutzpah I guess. I'd be curious to see how that remark would go over among those who've been most directly affected by the war, from the vets and their families to the Iraqis who have experienced the loss of loved ones and livelihoods.

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

The Imus controversy has been misfocused

Ishmael Reed sez:
Imus griped that he was a victim of the African-American male culture, where, according to a man who has a lengthy record of making misogynist remarks, men mistreat women. Yet a recent SUNY study reveals a different reality: white men commit most of the assaults upon women in this country. According to the study conducted by Lois Weiss, professor of education at the University of Buffalo, and Michelle Fine, professor of social psychology in the Graduate Center at the City University of New York, white women are afraid to talk about the abuse. Weiss and Fine found that 92 percent of the white women interviewed said that "serious domestic violence" had been directed against them, their mothers and/or sisters, either in their birth households or in later relationships. By comparison, 62 percent of black female subjects reported similar levels of violence in their lives. The authors of the study said that they were surprised because these were white women largely from middle class homes. On the other hand, there has been a steady reduction in the murder of black women by their husbands and boyfriends, while the murder rate of women by white men has remained about the same. One of the reasons for the falling rate of domestic abuse among blacks is that black women are more likely to retaliate. This drop in black domestic violence has been reported in The New York Times, yet the face of domestic violence in the pages of the Times continues to be painted black. Do you suppose that MSNBC will ever conduct a "National Dialogue" about white domestic violence? Maybe Newsweek? One of its writers, Evan Thomas, recently told Imus' audience that black men in the inner city enjoy beating up their women.

Given the remarks about women made by Imus' stable of Celtic-American commentators, I wouldn't be surprised to learn that women in Celtic-American households have a harder time than women in black households. And what about Imus' constant on air berating of his wife Deidre as a "whore" and a "moron?" Why isn't this kind of verbal battery reported domestic abuse?
We'll be treated to a continuous onslaught about the language of rap for the next few months, even though the lyrical content is no worse than what one finds in country music (a genre notorious for its misogyny and violent imagery). If we really want to have fun with Celtic-American culture, let's remind ourselves of the joke about how at a stock car race one can count all the blonde-haired women without at least one black eye on one hand. I doubt too many of our media friends would be all that eager to censor country lyrics (or perhaps ban NASCAR videogames from the kiddies). Nah. We'll just blame it all on the Blacks yet again.

Stephen Bennett: White Supremacist Sympathizer

Stephen Bennett, the apparent spokesperson for Concerned Women for America, has been caught promoting videos produced and posted on Youtube by a neo-Nazi. Of course he's been given a forum on such "respected" mainstream networks as CNN, ABC, FauxNews, and so on, so there's a decent chance that those who get much of their news via one of these channels has been exposed to this guy before.

If you wish to see the videos in question, they're here.

Death Penalty as a Form of Torture

This may not be entirely news to some of us but a bit of a shocker to others:

The cocktail of lethal injections used to administer the death penalty in California and North Carolina may leave inmates conscious but unable to move as they are killed by painful 'chemical asphyxiation,' according to a new medical study reported Tuesday.

The study, which appeared in the online edition of PLoS Medicine - a San Francisco-based medical journal - bolsters earlier research that questioned whether the use of three chemicals to administer the death penalty was a form of 'cruel and unusual punishment' banned by the US constitution.

[snip]

As a consequence, during the course of the execution, the condemned man or woman may experience severe pain when the second dose of chemicals - potassium chloride - is infused to stop the heart. 'It would cause a burning sensation that would be extremely painful,' Koniaris said.

Koniaris added that data suggested that inmates died two to nine minutes after potassium chloride was administered, which raises the prospect that the death may ultimately come from administration of the third chemical, pancuronium bromide, which paralyzes the lungs.

'In such cases, death by suffocation would occur in a paralyzed inmate fully aware of the progressive suffocation and the potassium-induced sensation of burning,' he said.

The answer: courage

The question: What do these nine professors (Eric Cheyfitz, Elisa Facio, Vijay Gupta, Margaret LeCompte, Paul Levitt, Tom Mayer, Emma Perez, Martin Walter, and Michael Yellow Bird) have in common? An excerpt of their open letter to the University of Colorado brass regarding the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct's report on Ward Churchill which seemed to seal his fate last year:
Today, Monday April 23, 2007, we, the undersigned nine professors, call on the University of Colorado at Boulder--especially the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct (SCRM) and the Churchill Investigative Committee of the SCRM--to rescind the “Report of the Investigative Committee of the Standing Committee on Research Misconduct at the University of Colorado at Boulder concerning Allegations of Academic Misconduct against Professor Ward Churchill.”

Through a process of careful investigation guided by two experts in the field of American Indian Studies who did not know Churchill before 2006--Prof. Eric Cheyfitz, Ernest I White Professor of American Studies and Humane Letters at Cornell University, and Prof. Michael Yellow Bird, Associate Professor, Center for Indigenous Nations Studies at Kansas University--we have found the Report to contain violations of standard scholarly practice that are so serious that we are now considering the additional step of filing charges of research misconduct against the authors of the Report. These violations include:

- relying on a biased and flawed source for major arguments;
- relying on the artificial exclusion of reputable independent sources that contradict the Report’s argument in order to support its argument;
- suppressing text from a cited source that contradicts the Report’s argument;
- distorting the weakness of the Report’s case;
- artificially limiting scholarly interpretation in violation of norms of scholarship.

These and further violations are explained more fully in the attached summary and documentary evidence packet.

Prof. Wesson, the chair of the committee that authored this report, has already publicly acknowledged and corrected one of these violations in the report (Silver & Gold Record, April 12). But our investigation has uncovered such a pattern of these violations that the report cannot be salvaged through individual corrections. As with any scholarly document found to be so deeply compromised, the Report must be retracted. The violations of standard scholarly practice that are contained in the Report are serious enough to justify failing a PhD thesis, let alone an investigative report that is to serve as a basis for firing a tenured, full professor.
Pretty scathing stuff, to say the least. The Ward Churchill Solidarity Network has a wrap up on the open letter from these nine profs (seven of whom are employed by University of Colorado), and you can check out The Try-Works for more coverage.

US government following fascist blueprint?

Kurt Nimmo has reposted a lengthy piece (by Naomi Wolf) on the pattern that formerly open societies follow in their evolution to dictatorships, and points out how the US is well on its way. Yes, there is a blueprint to dictatorship, and yes, it's easily arguable that Bu$hCo (and his immediate predecessors) have been following it.

Alas, the carnage continues

U.S. military: Suicide bombers kill 9 U.S. soldiers in Iraq:
Two suicide car bombers struck a small U.S. patrol base in Diyala province Monday, killing nine American soldiers and wounding 20 others, according to a U.S. military official in Diyala.

All of the casualties were members of the Army's 82nd Airborne, based in Fort Bragg, North Carolina, the U.S. military said in a statement

"Today represents the single greatest loss of life for soldiers from Fort Bragg in more than five years of simultaneous deployment," media affairs officer Maj. Tom Earnhardt told CNN.
Let me guess, the "Coalition" has "turned another corner".

Monday, April 23, 2007

Today's inanity courtesy of the Bush family

Let's get this straight: Decorated Texas Vet Presents G-Dub With A Purple Heart. Yup. You read that correctly. G-Dub (lemme guess - he'll team up with K-Fed and try a hip-hop act next) was a son of privilege whose family could afford to pull strings so that he'd never actually have to receive a Purple Heart the way most folks in combat earn them. I suppose in one of those very rare appearances by his conscience, he managed to have enough cognizance of the fact that he didn't really deserve to receive on of the things, even as a gift. Yeehaw! That won't stop him and his bloodthirsty sidekicks from ensuring that many more Purple Heart recipients will be produced in an unnecessary series of war debacles under the aegis of "The War on Terra." And his dad thinks that America may be experiencing Bush fatigue (to which I say, "no shit, Sherlock.").

Shorter Max Boot

Can Petraeus Pull It Off?
If you get past the carnage, the worn out Army, and the hostile natives, his odds are even better than the Washington Nationals winning this year's World Series.

More fun with compare and contrast

A Spree Killer's Long, Rambling Manifesto

Cho Seung-Hui, in the video mailed to NBC:
"You had a hundred billion chances and ways to have avoided today...You forced me into a corner and gave me only one option. The decision was yours. Now you have blood on your hands that will never wash off.''
George Bush, three days before the invasion of Iraq:
"Tomorrow is the day that we will determine whether or not diplomacy can work...You see, the decision is [Saddam's] to make. And it's been his to make all along as to whether or not there's the use of the military. He got to decide...these are his decisions to make."
Found at A Tiny Revolution. The question of the preznit's mental state has been debated for a long time. We've heard the "dry drunk syndrome" hypothesis, Bush as highly right-wing authoritarian (perhaps with a stiff dose of social dominance orientation), and Bush as psychopath. Perhaps a case could be made for some combination of the above. I take some comfort (cold though it may be) that I'm not the only one out there who finds Bush's entire worldview to be disturbing. In a different era under different circumstances the dude could be a lot like Charles Manson babbling about "Helter Skelter" and persuading some deluded post-adolescent true believers into committing mass murders. The differences are really only a matter of degree and social status.

Sunday, April 22, 2007

I've been tagged

As Iggy was kind enough to tag me in the comments to an earlier post, it would be terribly bad karma if I didn't do my part to continue this latest exercise in pop culture. My challenge is to identify bloggers whom I sufficiently admire and whom I think would be most likely to actually respond. This business of tagging is after all of the utmost seriousness, naturally, and should not be entered into lightly. So after considerable hours of meditation (broken only for the occasional dinner break, trip to the grocery store, chasing the kids to bed and so on), here's my quintet:

Man Eegee: Manny is one of the genuinely nicest guys in blogtopia, and is an excellent source on immigration issues and racism (and what would we do without pix of Bud each Friday!). His blog deserves much more traffic.

Catnip: Her blog is my first stop for info on the goings on in Canada, as well as the in-depth commentary on world events.

Nezua, the mind behind The Unapologetic Mexican: This cat offers up regular doses of political commentary, personal prose, and snark. If any blogger could single-handedly kill off Manifest Destiny, it's him. Gotta give him a shout-out for turning me on to Chicano Arts Magazine.

Spiderleaf: She's helped to put together Everybody Comes from Somewhere, and writes with a great deal of passion and class. In recent weeks she has reminded me of the importance of reconciliation and forgiveness.

Arcturus: Music, poetry, and politics - always well-written. I can safely say I've learned a lot from him over the last couple years. I also credit him with turning me onto Nathaniel Mackey.

And with that, the baton has been passed.

Regarding school shootings, an interesting read

A Jigsaw of School Shootings by someone whom I've seen blogging under the name yetimonk offers an interesting summary of some of the root causes of these terrible events and offers up a summarization of possible preventative measures. Hint: we really need to address the problem of bullying, which as the author rightly notes is something that would never be tolerated in most work environments. Another hint: the usual squawking about censoring lyrics, videogame content, ad nauseum does absolutely nothing to address the problem. Check out the presentation - it is based on solid social psychological theory and research, and offers plenty of food for thought.

Saul Williams sez

We cannot address the root of what plagues Hip Hop without addressing the root of what plagues today's society and the world.

You see, Ms. Winfrey, at it's worse; Hip Hop is simply a reflection of the society that birthed it. Our love affair with gangsterism and the denigration of women is not rooted in Hip Hop; rather it is rooted in the very core of our personal faith and religions. The gangsters that rule Hip Hop are the same gangsters that rule our nation. 50 Cent and George Bush have the same birthday (July 6th). For a Hip Hop artist to say "I do what I wanna do/Don't care if I get caught/The DA could play this mothafukin tape in court/I'll kill you/ I ain't playin'" epitomizes the confidence and braggadocio we expect an admire from a rapper who claims to represent the lowest denominator. When a world leader with the spirit of a cowboy (the true original gangster of the West: raping, stealing land, and pillaging, as we clapped and cheered.) takes the position of doing what he wants to do, regardless of whether the UN or American public would take him to court, then we have witnessed true gangsterism and violent negligence. Yet, there is nothing more negligent than attempting to address a problem one finds on a branch by censoring the leaves.

Name calling, racist generalizations, sexist perceptions, are all rooted in something much deeper than an uncensored music. Like the rest of the world, I watched footage on AOL of you dancing mindlessly to 50 Cent on your fiftieth birthday as he proclaimed, "I got the ex/if you're into taking drugs/ I'm into having sex/ I ain't into making love" and you looked like you were having a great time. No judgment. I like that song too. Just as I do, James Brown's Sex Machine or Grand Master Flashes "White Lines". Sex, drugs, and rock and roll is how the story goes. Censorship will never solve our problems. It will only foster the sub-cultures of the underground, which inevitably inhabit the mainstream. There is nothing more mainstream than the denigration of women as projected through religious doctrine. Please understand, I am by no means opposing the teachings of Jesus, by example (he wasn't Christian), but rather the men that have used his teachings to control and manipulate the masses. Hip Hop, like Rock and Roll, like the media, and the government, all reflect an idea of power that labels vulnerability as weakness. I can only imagine the non-emotive hardness that you have had to show in order to secure your empire from the grips of those that once stood in your way: the old guard. You reflect our changing times. As time progresses we sometimes outgrow what may have served us along the way. This time, what we have outgrown, is not hip hop, rather it is the festering remnants of a God depicted as an angry and jealous male, by men who were angry and jealous over the minute role that they played in the everyday story of creation. I am sure that you have covered ideas such as these on your show, but we must make a connection before our disconnect proves fatal.

We are a nation at war. What we fail to see is that we are fighting ourselves. There is no true hatred of women in Hip Hop. At the root of our nature we inherently worship the feminine. Our overall attention to the nurturing guidance of our mothers and grandmothers as well as our ideas of what is sexy and beautiful all support this. But when the idea of the feminine is taken out of the idea of what is divine or sacred then that worship becomes objectification. When our governed morality asserts that a woman is either a virgin or a whore, then our understanding of sexuality becomes warped. Note the dangling platinum crosses over the bare asses being smacked in the videos. The emcees of my generation are the ministers of my father's generation. They too had a warped perspective of the feminine. Censoring songs, sermons, or the tirades of radio personalities will change nothing except the format of our discussion. If we are to sincerely address the change we are praying for then we must first address to whom we are praying.
Make sure to read the whole essay. My emphasis added.

Before I forget: a shout-out to Marisacat for the linkage.