Saturday, July 14, 2007

I'm thinking! I'm thinking!

As promised, it's now time for me to pass along my thinking blogger awards. Mad props to Big Ass Belle for thinking enough of my humble blog to nominate me in the first place. Like Belle, I find this meme to actually have some merit to it. The basic idea is simple enough: name five blogs that I find inspiring, perhaps sharing some reasoning behind the choices. For me the problem is in actually narrowing it down to just five - there are just too many really good blogs and my interests tend to be many. All that said, to those whom I pick, by all means wear the badge with pride and please pass this one along.

The Unapologetic Mexican: Nezua's blog is a feast for the eyes and the mind. I've mentioned before that my own intellectual path is leading me increasingly away from a Eurocentric frame of mind, and Nezua consistently gives me much to think about along those lines as I continue this crazy journey we call life. They guy's got one hell of a sense of humor too!

Once Upon a Time: Arthur Silber has been one of the most articulate and impassioned writers against the US Empire for a while now, and has as keen a perspective on the American Zeitgeist as anyone currently blogging. His blog in fact should be required reading for anyone who considers themselves "liberal" or "progressive" and who believes that the Democrats are an anti-war party: let's just say that Arthur will open your eyes in a hurry!

Lotus - Surviving a Dark Time: LarryE is a solid, engaging, and down-to-earth writer whose blog deserves a larger readership than it gets. Definitely an anti-war vibe along with a wealth of knowledge on environmental issues.

Human Beams: This website, run by Nanette, is a blog and so much more. In fact the whole site has been recently given a major make-over and is better than ever. Nanette and crew have plenty to offer with regard to human rights.

Invictus: Valtin is a psychologist who currently writes on torture, with a particular focus on the role of American psychology (both in terms of research and in practice) in propagating torture. As someone interested in various facets of the history of psychology, Valtin's work has been invaluable. You can also find Valtin over at Never In Our Names.

Those are the five. Now for two honorable mentions, awarded to blogs that are now dormant.

Enemy of the State: Ductape Fatwa was one of my favorite bloggers in all of blogtopia. His unique writing style was inspiring, sometimes maddening, but never dull. The range of topics he would write on was itself varied, from war and authoritarianism to facets of contemporary pop culture (his last post ever was on cell phones) - all from a non-Eurocentric vantage point.

Constellations: Human rights, music, poetry - Arcturus, up until March, offers more food for thought than I can begin to describe. Maybe a renewal of reader interest in his blog could persuade him to come out of blogging retirement.

I imagine if there is a common thread to each of the blogs I'm awarding it's that these bloggers happen to do more than simply offer up pithy blog posts: much more often than not they offer up full-blown essays requiring one to sit a spell and read carefully (and hopefully reflect), and share a great deal more sheer humanity than one ordinarily finds on political blogs - or "real life" for that matter. Give these cats a go if you haven't already.

Busted: Hillary Clinton & John Edwards

Hat tip to liberal catnip, who also has linked to the AssPress story regarding the apparent desire of Clinton & Edwards to, well, rig the primaries. We'll just add this latest incident as yet another of a growing list of reasons why I would never vote for either Clinton or Edwards in a million years.

Sidebar: as much as I sympathize with Kucinich's remarks concerning imperial candidates and imperial presidencies, I must say he's a day late and a dollar short. Imperial candidates are the rule of the day, and have been for quite some time. The politically correct term of course is "serious candidates".

Our national shame

Evident both at home and abroad.

Friday, July 13, 2007

Hillary as the new Maggie Thatcher, Christopher Hitchens flip-flops, and other festiveness

William Blum on Hillary Clinton:
Who do you think said this on June 20? a)Rudy Giuliani; b)Hillary Clinton; c)George Bush; d)Mitt Romney;
or e)Barack Obama?
"The American military has done its job. Look what they accomplished. They got rid of Saddam Hussein. They gave the Iraqis a chance for free and fair elections. They gave the Iraqi government the chance to begin to demonstrate that it understood its responsibilities to make the hard political decisions necessary to give the people of Iraq a better future. So the American military has succeeded. It is the Iraqi government which has failed to make the tough decisions which are important for their own people."[1]

Right, it was the woman who wants to be president because ... because she wants to be president ... because she thinks it would be nice to be president ... no other reason, no burning cause, no heartfelt desire for basic change in American society or to make a better world ... she just thinks it would be nice, even great, to be president. And keep the American Empire in business, its routine generating of horror and misery being no problem; she wouldn't want to be known as the president that hastened the decline of the empire.

And she spoke the above words at the "Take Back America" conference; she was speaking to liberals, committed liberal Democrats. She didn't have to cater to them with any flag-waving pro-war rhetoric; they wanted to hear anti-war rhetoric (and she of course gave them a bit of that as well out of the other side of her mouth), so we can assume that this is how she really feels, if indeed the woman feels anything.

Think of why you are opposed to the war. Is it not largely because of all the unspeakable suffering brought down upon the heads and souls of the poor people of Iraq by the American military? Hillary Clinton couldn't care less about that, literally. She thinks the American military has "succeeded". Has she ever unequivocally labeled the war "illegal" or "immoral"? I used to think that Tony Blair was a member of the right wing or conservative wing of the British Labour Party. I finally realized one day that that was an incorrect description of his ideology. Blair is a conservative, a bloody Tory. How he wound up in the Labour Party is a matter I haven't studied. Hillary Clinton, however, I've long known is a conservative; going back to at least the 1980s, while the wife of the Arkansas governor, she strongly supported the death squad torturers known as the Contras, who were the empire's proxy army in Nicaragua.[2]

Now we hear from America's venerable conservative magazine, William Buckley's "National Review", an editorial by Bruce Bartlett, policy adviser to President Ronald Reagan; treasury official under President George H.W. Bush; a fellow at two of the leading conservative think-tanks, the Heritage Foundation and the Cato Institute; you get the picture. Bartlett tells his readers that it's almost certain that the Democrats will win the White House in 2008. So what to do? Support the most conservative Democrat. He writes: "To right-wingers willing to look beneath what probably sounds to them like the same identical views of the Democratic candidates, it is pretty clear that Hillary Clinton is the most conservative."[3]

We also hear from America's premier magazine for the corporate wealthy, "Fortune", whose recent cover features a picture of Clinton and the headline: "Business Loves Hillary".[4]

Do those in love with the idea of a woman president care about such things? Have they never heard of Margaret Thatcher, who tried her best to cripple the UK's marvelous National Health Service, amongst a hundred other reactionary policies? Most of Clinton's supporters would love to see the end of the Iraqi daily horror and so they presumably will also ignore Ted Koppel, the newsman of impeccable establishment credentials, who reported recently that he was told by someone who had held a senior position at the Pentagon and occasionally briefs Hillary Clinton on Gulf area matters, that she expects US troops to still be in Iraq at the end of her first term and even at the end of her second term.[5]

Hitchens was for Saddam before he was against Saddam:

From The New Statesman 2 April 1976

Hitchens, now an American citizen, remains one of the fiercest and most unrepentant enthusiasts for the US-British overthrow of Saddam Hussein. But, back in 1976, when working for the New Statesman, he took a more admiring view of the Iraqi dictator, as this article shows. Young Hitchens saw Saddam as an up-and-coming secular socialist who would transform Iraq into a progressive model for the rest of the Middle East.

How about propaganda masquerading as "science"? A fitting summary can be found by thistle of American Samizadat.

Oh yeah...the Democrat-led US Senate unanimously gave Bu$hCo political cover for the next war - that's right...Iran! And guess what that means regarding ALL of the Democrats from the Senate currently vying for the Prez nomination. Yup...expect more of the same when it comes to foreign policy come 2009.

Another blast from the past

Damn. I'd forgotten all about this exchange, during the Iran-Contra hearings back in the summer of 1987 (July 13th, to be exact):
REP. BROOKS: Colonel North, in your work at the NSC, were you not assigned, at one time, to work on plans for the "continuity of government" in the event of a major disaster?

SEN. INOUYE: I believe that question touches upon a highly sensitive and classified area so may I request that you not touch on that, sir?

REP. BROOKS: I was particularly concerned, Mr. Chairman, because I read in Miami papers, and several others, that there had been a plan developed by that same agency, a contingency plan in the event of emergency, that would suspend the American constitution. And I was deeply concerned about it and wondered if that was the area in which he had worked. I believe that it was and I wanted to get his confirmation.

SEN. INOUYE: May I most respectfully request that that matter not be touched upon at this stage. If we wish to get into this, I'm certain arrangements can be made for an executive session.
Like Sam Husseini, I also found that among other exchanges during the Iran-Contra hearings left me markedly changed. At the time, I still naively believed that a Democrat-led Congress would finally put the criminally insane Raygun regime out to pasture. About mid-way through the hearings, I'd be screaming a plethora of profanities and obscenities at the TV or the radio (if I was in my car, on the way to this dead-end telemarketing job I'd then just started) in anger. Oliver North, who should have spent the rest of his sorry existence rotting in a cell in the Hague, was barely slapped on the wrists, as were the other players (e.g. Poindexter) involved in the Iran-Contra scandal. With very few exceptions (Sam notes Reps. Brooks and Gonzales, both Texans), the Dems seemed more like Vichy collaborators than anything else. Since then I've always held a deep suspicion of the Dems (don't even get me started on the other War Party, as I refuse to have anything to do with a party whose ideology closely resembles that of far-right-wing National Front parties in Europe).

The seeds for radicalism had already been sown some years before, what with some of what I'd been reading at the time, as well as my growing interest and later involvement in the punk/hardcore scene. I'd already been pretty much anti-draft and anti-war since my mid-teens, and already harbored some interest in third parties. As of the start of the summer of 1987 I identified myself as a Democrat, albeit a very liberal one. After the Iran-Contra hearings, that changed and there was no turning back. I could no longer in good conscience place blind faith in the Democrat party. Granted the sort of radicalism that I embraced two decades ago had a distinctly Eurocentric color to it, basically existentialism-tinged anarchism with a willingness to show some solidarity with the Sandinistas, and other Marxist-leaning movements. I've been drifting away from that Eurocentric bias in recent years thanks to the help of some good friends and acquaintances - but that's a work in progress that really should be another story for another day.

Hat tip to A Tiny Revolution.

Say Hello To

Stop the Raids News.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Quick note in the margins

Fellow Okie Big Ass Belle tagged me with the "Thinking Blogger Award." This is actually one of the cooler memes that I've seen floating around. This is merely a public mental note that I will pass the torch in the next few days. I have an idea of who my likely choices will be, but I really do want to put some thought into it - including explanations regarding my choices.

The Cindy Sheehan Story Continues

I've been following the reactions to Cindy Sheehan's potential independent or third-party challenge to Speaker Nancy Pelosi over the last few days as time has permitted. Libertarian Justin Raimondo seems to think Sheehan should give it a go. Part of his enthusiasm no doubt stems from the apparent libertarian streak that Sheehan seems to possess. He also points out the difficulties that Sheehan will likely have in getting Pelosi to engage her in any sort of public debate - and Raimondo should know as he ran against her back in the mid-1990s and found that Pelosi is more adept at hiding from challengers than anything else. Raimondo also points out that Pelosi has never been an anti-war politician (no matter how much movement conservatives or for that matter establishment "progressives" might claim the contrary), having been a staunch supporter of the Clinton regime's "humanitarian" military interventions in the Balkans as well as the various US bombing raids against the Iraqis in 1993, 1996, and 1998. Of course the main impetus for a potential Sheehan challenge is Pelosi's failure to move on impeaching the current White House regime (recall that for Pelosi, impeachment is "off the table"). I can't help but wonder if Pelosi's willingness to spout off the same sorts of talking points regarding Iraq that Bu$hCo and assorted nuts have been using for ages. For example, here's Pelosi circa 1998:
"Saddam Hussein has been engaged in the development of weapons of mass destruction technology which is a threat to countries in the region, and he has made a mockery of the weapons inspection process. The responsibility of the United States in this conflict is to eliminate weapons of mass destruction, to minimize the danger to our troops, and to diminish the suffering of the Iraqi people."
We've seen just how well bombing Iraqis has diminished their suffering. I suppose if Bu$hCo were to be impeached, Pelosi and similarly-minded Dems would have some splainin' to do. Can't have that, now, can we.

As I noted previously, a lot of the folks over at DailyKos didn't take the news so well - mainly because she's proven to be impossible for the Dems to contain. The long knives came out almost immediately, and there has been no letting up, even though as one of that blog's more sensible members has acknowledged that Sheehan has managed to do more to get the issue of impeachment into the public eye in the last few days than practically anyone else. Even the occasional call for civility has proven an exercise in futility (see also here and here), and of course any diaries merely detailing Sheehan's current activism are subject to the goon squad. In some ways the Sheehan bashing has seemed reminiscent of a bunch of skinheads crashing a punk gig and ganging up to stomp one or two individuals who just happened to be at the wrong place at the wrong time.

Again, the fallout was quite predictable. As too many others stated ad nauseum while doing their Sheehan-bashing, DailyKos is merely a cog in the Democrat Party machine. Anything else is not to be tolerated. Ask uncomfy questions about impeachment or outright advocate impeachment of the Lush/Zany gang (remember them? the ones we were all supposed to be against?), and one is accused of "impeachment porn." There are still folks out there in Kosland blaming Nader for everything from global warming to tooth decay. And one must wonder just what will happen to any anti-war stance assuming all of the "kossacks'" wet dreams come true. I'm guessing that whatever wars H. Clinton, Obama, Pelosi, and crew embark upon or extend will be just a-okay: they are Democrats after all, and that is all that matters. The bit about the hundreds of thousands murdered in the process? My guess is that most of that sorry lot will never even bother to notice, let alone care.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Another ICE raid in Cactus, TX

Here's a clip from (subscription required):
CACTUS - Most days during the week, the Cactus Branch Library has 30 to 40 children reading books or playing on the computer.

But Tuesday, only about four children were inside the now quiet library.

It's usually not this quiet, said Lety Lara, the branch librarian.

This day, it was different.

Most people hid in their homes, keeping their children close to them, Lara said.

That's because Immigration Customs and Enforcement officials came to town, she said.

Their return to town came almost seven months after a December raid that led to the arrests of 295 undocumented immigrants.

ICE officials entered the Swift plant in Cactus before 9 a.m. and arrested at least two people. Government and company officials said Tuesday's raid was part of a continued investigation into illegal immigration and identity theft that spurred the Dec. 12 raid.

Lara, who was outside the plant early Tuesday, and other Cactus residents described seeing two white vans along with about 10 to 14 ICE officials at the plant. A plane circled overhead while agents were at the facility.

"Everybody is stopping everybody," Lara said. "Everyone is making sure the word is out."

Carl Rusnok, an ICE spokesman in Dallas, said Tuesday's action was part of an ongoing look into undocumented immigrants at the plant.

Rusnok did not say how many employees were detained, and no specific details on what spurred Tuesday's enforcement action were released. ICE officials said more details should be forthcoming today.

Sean McHugh, a spokesman for Swift, confirmed the two arrests but did not immediately know the employees' names. He said that there were no disruptions to the operations at the facility Tuesday.

ICE officials also descended on Swift facilities in Greeley, Colo., Marshalltown, Iowa, and Worthington, Minn., McHugh said. At least one person was arrested at the Marshalltown pork facility, McHugh said.


Lara said the streets of Cactus have been noticeably quiet since the raids and a devastating tornado in April that destroyed at least 70 homes in the town.

"This morning it has been quiet, even the streets are quiet," said Lara, whose house and five cars were destroyed in the tornado.

"I am crying now that I know that they (the ICE officials) are gone. I hope they didn't take anybody."
At this point the story is still pretty fresh (I don't recall news coverage from yesterday evening, but have noticed televised coverage as of this morning). Last time ICE was in town, not only was the Swift meatpacking facility raided, but anyone looking even remotely Hispanic was being stopped and hassled by authorities. If you read through the rest of the article, you'll find that ICE officials are still using the same spin they used last time around.

As time permits I'll try to update y'all with any news that might make its way to me. Obviously, if by chance a person from Cactus is reading this blog and would wish to contact me with an account of what went down I'd be more than willing to help spread the word.


Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Here's a war criminal on video: Abu Ghraib edition

Wonder why I can't get behind the whole "support the troops" meme? Abu Ghraib is but a part of the reason. The troops? What a bunch of fuckheads!

Monday, July 9, 2007

Showdown by the Bay: Sheehan vs. Pelosi

You may have read that Cindy Sheehan is considering running against current House Speaker Nancy "Impeachment Is Off The Table" Pelosi in next year's election. First, a quick snip of the AssPress article - courtesy of Marisacat:
Sheehan Considers Challenge to Pelosi
CRAWFORD, Texas (AP) — Cindy Sheehan, the soldier’s mother who galvanized the anti-war movement, said Sunday that she plans to seek House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s congressional seat unless she introduces articles of impeachment against President Bush in the next two weeks.
Sheehan said she will run against the San Francisco Democrat in 2008 as an independent if Pelosi does not seek by July 23 to impeach Bush. That’s when Sheehan and her supporters are to arrive in Washington, D.C., after a 13-day caravan and walking tour starting next week from the group’s war protest site near Bush’s Crawford ranch.
Not too surprisingly, since Ms. Sheehan has been known to frequent Daily Kos, she announced her intentions over there, with the predictable result: a lot of partisan Democrat whining, including the usual dross about her writing a "troll diary," and of course the usual effort by current and former DK front-pagers to show her the door.

What has happened is that the Dems couldn't "contain" Ms. Sheehan. Let's go back to two years ago, when Stan Goff said (circa August 2005):
The Democrats are already grooming a few 2008 candidates, including the execrable Hillary Rodham Clinton who has stated her desire to beef up the war against Southwest Asia. Let's not forget that her husband presided over an Iraqi holocaust that George W. Bush is still trying to match. The Republicans are secure for now with their white nationalist popular base. An active and increasingly militant left is a more immediate threat to the Democrats ­ who have prospered from Republican reaction for decades now by capturing social bases that feel they have nowhere else to go. That dilemma is real, but it is also predicated on the notion that to "go there" we need to contain ourselves in electoralism and pluralist policy fights that are engineered by corporations and NGOs.
That's why Sheehan and others who propose the radical option of simply leaving Iraq are now being surrounded by the friendly faces of "progressives" who will try and redirect this newfound mobilization along the acceptable policy-debate paths.
Something I said from around the same time:

If you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything. And that, as I see it is the real problem with the Dems. The "base" that the party takes for granted has no clue as to what the Dem party actually stands for. Folks periodically ask me what the Dems believe, and I have to say in all honesty that God only knows, and I'm sure even He is a bit puzzled. What we do know is that the Dem party leadership falls hook, line, and sinker for whatever b.s. the White House demands for fear of being labeled "obstructionist," "unpatriotic," and possibly "losing next year's election." That isn't exactly an inspiring approach to representative governing.
Cindy Sheehan has done something that the Dems have largely failed to do with regard to Iraq: she asked the question "why are we there?" If the Dems want to capitalize on the increasing dissatisfaction with the war, they would be well advised to ride the wave of dissent rather than try to contain it. Adding more troops (impractical) and looking for ways to exit with "dignity" (a term that in this context smells of American machismo) aren't going to cut it. Besides, to take an a line or two from an old David Bowie tune, "dignity is valuable, but our lives are valuable too." Tell it straight up: it was the wrong war, at the wrong time, fought for the wrong reasons; and it's high time to get the hell out and stop making even more of a mess of things in the region. There are no good reasons for Americans or Iraqis to keep dying. The party might generate some cross words from the Rush Limbaughs and Ann Coulters of the world as a result, but that would have happened any way. In the process, the Dems might even gain a bit of the respect and trust that they've lost over the last couple decades. Otherwise, folks like me (just one of the "base") will keep on eying the third party scene for a better deal.
I'm sure at some point at one of the various gated community blogs I predicted that Cindy Sheehan's days at Daily Kos would be numbered; once it became readily apparent that Ms. Sheehan was not going to toe a Democrat Party line, she'd become expendable. The rumblings that she'd worn out her welcome at Big Orange were there for a while - now it's out in the open. In truth, the anti-war movement was useful to Dems only to the extent that anti-war voters might help the party get Congressional majorities and perhaps successfully recapture the White House. Once we stop being ATM machines for the Dems and various affiliated groups (e.g., MoveOn), then that bunch of goons simply doesn't want to know us.

Certainly I don't delude myself to think that Sheehan has a snowball's chance in Death Valley of unseating Pelosi. One: it's not entirely clear what her campaign will be about (beyond the Iraq War). Two: even if Sheehan gets it together as far as a coherent candidacy goes, there are more than enough Vichy "progressives" willing to give Pelosi sufficient cover to win in 2008. If nothing else, a Sheehan candidacy against Pelosi would serve to highlight Pelosi's many embarrassing failures as a so-called leader - in and of itself that would be valuable.

Sunday, July 8, 2007

The link between lead exposure and criminal activity

I've made note of this before (about two and a half years ago). Hence, we can consider this article in the Washington Post a friendly reminder. An excerpt:
Although crime did fall dramatically in New York during Giuliani's tenure, a broad range of scientific research has emerged in recent years to show that the mayor deserves only a fraction of the credit that he claims. The most compelling information has come from an economist in Fairfax who has argued in a series of little-noticed papers that the "New York miracle" was caused by local and federal efforts decades earlier to reduce lead poisoning.

The theory offered by the economist, Rick Nevin, is that lead poisoning accounts for much of the variation in violent crime in the United States. It offers a unifying new neurochemical theory for fluctuations in the crime rate, and it is based on studies linking children's exposure to lead with violent behavior later in their lives.

What makes Nevin's work persuasive is that he has shown an identical, decades-long association between lead poisoning and crime rates in nine countries.

"It is stunning how strong the association is," Nevin said in an interview. "Sixty-five to ninety percent or more of the substantial variation in violent crime in all these countries was explained by lead."

Through much of the 20th century, lead in U.S. paint and gasoline fumes poisoned toddlers as they put contaminated hands in their mouths. The consequences on crime, Nevin found, occurred when poisoning victims became adolescents. Nevin does not say that lead is the only factor behind crime, but he says it is the biggest factor.
When I first heard of research along these lines back in December of 2004, I began to track some of the original journal articles and have shared them with whoever I thought might listen. Certainly makes for some interesting discussions. One take-home message that I can leave with the readers of this blog is that often the solution for undesirable social behaviors can be found in a simple environmental fix. In this case, remove lead from the environment, and with a couple decades criminal activity will be noticeably reduced: no draconian laws, no burgeoning police state, no prison-industrial complex, no posting of the Ten Commandments in schools, no censorship of rap lyrics or videogame content were needed. Fancy that.

Looking for some music?

Ron Jacobs has a couple suggestions.