Saturday, August 4, 2007

More stuff to read

See some pictures of the Hutto gulag.

Has the world forgotten about Oaxaca? I haven't. Just in case, Barucha Calamity Peller reminds us.

Arthur Silber is blogging once more. And speaking of reminders, Arthur reminds anyone who dares read that the Dems will not do jack when it comes to impeachment of any of the Lush/Zany thugs. Why? Elementary, my dear Watson: Democrat Congressional leaders are implicated in the very crimes committed by Lush/Zany.

You use slang? You might just want to thank the Irish!

Madman in the Marketplace reviews movies and life.

Paul Street poses the question, "what is racism?"

Jonathan Schwarz thanks technology for making it easier to find out just how much the Democrat party sucks. ¡Viva technology!

Oh yeah, Iraq's power grid is about to collapse. Your taxpayer dollars were given to the goons at Haliburton et al. to line their pockets under the pretense of repairing the Iraqi infrastructure.

Gonzales, Cheney, and Rove star as The Three Stooges. Wonder what that makes the Dems who are unwilling to stand up to those clowns.

Pres. hopeful Obama is making friends with his remarks regarding bombing parts of Pakistan.

Add to the list of must-reading

Check out the Carnival Against Sexual Violence 28. Plenty of food for thought. Mad props to ms_xeno at Mo Betta META for the tip.

Say Hello To

Maat's Feather. It's a very new community blog that looks very promising.

Friday, August 3, 2007

As the bubble slowly deflates

Richard has a couple good primers on what's going on. To keep our consumer culture afloat, apparently at least on financial talking head is suggesting that those who got saddled with those adjustable rate mortgages during 2006 walk away. That someone would openly make that suggestion indicates just how dire the situation is getting. This is one of those times I'm actually thankful to be both too poor and too cheap to get sucked in to that particular bubble.

The Angryindian Calls Bullshit

Check it out:
Editor's Note: This is response to an article posted from the perpetually wrong New York Post by a neo-conservative contributor on NowPublic. I simply could not let this go. - The Angryindian

This post belongs in "Opinions", not the political section. And if you are going to post an article slamming Prof. Ward Churchill, choose a better, more reliable source. The New York Post not only boasts of it's 4th grade comprehension reading level, but gleefully basks in the fact that The Post never reports facts. Like the FOX Network, The Post hypes stories rather than reports them.

The "problem" with Churchill is that he refuses to accept without question the American Exceptionalism mythologies that allow the U.S. to proclaim itself the only true bastion of human freedom in world history. After 500 years of anti-Aboriginal genocide, 400 years of anti-African ethnocide and the nonsensical over-simplification of the American lie of American respect for human life, liberty and socio-political dissent, only a certified idiot would believe that the U.S. is anything other than another violent, racist and contradictory Euro-colonialist state.

His main nemisis, former Black Panther Party hanger-on now neo-conservative attack dog David Horowitz chased Churchill across the country arguing for his dismissal from his university based solely on his Indigenist writings and activism. Yet, Horowitz, a modern day Whittaker Chambers, had nothing to say about republican and neo-conservative instructors who still teach that North America was a barren watseland populated by only a few thousand savages who did not know how to exploit the natural resources of a continent that according to the "experts", did not belong to anyone in particular. This is the pedagogical tradition of the United States. And this is why Prof. Churchill has been made a target. Literally.

Of course neo-cons, republicans and the more honest Ku Klux Klansman amongst them dislike Prof. Churchill. He gives Europocentrists no quarter and directly challenges the falsehoods, half-truths and outright lies of the settler population. Like Israel over the Palestinians, the United States actively promotes the illusion of an ever-eternal ancient White face to an overwhemingly brown continent. And like the U.S. client-state that holds court over what is left of Arab Palestine and denies the Indigenous population to exist as who they are, North American settler governments maintain the very same illusions as a matter of state policy. Prof. Churchill only only challenges these falsehoods but dissects them in such a way that the only response settler apologists can muster is heresay, slander and outright academic bias.

While the neo-conservatives of the U.S. accuse Churchill of one-sided liberal bias, this piece fits exactly what the far-right is charging Churchill with. There is nothing objective in this article. No facts, no empirical examples, not even a direct quote from "The most dangerous teacher in America". This post is nothing more than baseless neo-conservative windage lobbing more vitriol than factual evidence against a poltical dissenter. Now that Norman Finkelstein has lost his bid for tenure due to Horowitz' academic witchhunt, who's next? - The Angryindian
I'll also add, based on responses to a column at Dissident Voice, that the so-called "leftist" and "progressive" wings of the academic world aren't much better.

The 30 second rule does not apply here

Apparently the words "torture", "dick", "murder", and "death" are the culprits. Funny, I guess the Vice Preznit really is a four-letter word! But serially - torture? murder? death? Well, I suppose those words don't fit in with the Disneyfied cultural death camp that most Americans live in.

Via Marginal Notes.

Noam Chomsky sez

[I]n fact, maybe the most elementary of moral principles is that of universality, that is, If something’s right for me, it’s right for you; if it’s wrong for you, it’s wrong for me. Any moral code that is even worth looking at has that at its core somehow. But that principle is overwhelmingly disregarded all the time. If you want to run through examples we can easily do it. Take, say, George W. Bush, since he happens to be president. If you apply the standards that we applied to Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg, he’d be hanged. Is it an even conceivable possibility? It’s not even discussable. Because, we don’t apply to ourselves the principles we apply to others.

There’s a lot of talk about ‘terror’ and how awful it is. Whose terror? Our terror against them? I mean, is that considered reprehensible? No, it’s considered highly moral; it’s considered self-defense, and so on. Now, their terror against us, that’s awful, and terrible, and so on.

But, to try to rise to the level of becoming a minimal moral agent, and just enter in the domain of moral discourse is very difficult. Because, that means accepting the principle of universality. And you can experiment for yourself and see how often that’s accepted, either in personal or political life. Very rarely. […]

What about criminal responsibility and intellectuals?

Nuremberg is an interesting precedent.

The Nuremberg case is a very interesting precedent. Of all the tribunals that have taken place, from then until today Nuremberg is, I think, the most serious by far. But, nevertheless, it was very seriously flawed. And it was recognized to be. When Telford Taylor, the chief prosecutor, wrote about it, he recognized that it was flawed, and it was so for a number of fundamental reasons. For one thing, the Nazi war criminals were being tried for crimes that had not yet been declared to be crimes. So, it was ex post facto. ‘We’re now declaring these things you did to be crimes.’ That is already questionable.

Secondly, the choice of what was considered a crime was based on a very explicit criterion, namely, denial of the principle of universality. In other words, something was called a crime at Nuremberg if they did it and we didn’t do it.

So, for example, the bombing of urban concentrations was not considered a crime. The bombings of Tokyo, Dresden, and so on — those aren’t crimes. Why? Because we did them. So, therefore, it’s not a crime. In fact, Nazi war criminals who were charged were able to escape prosecution when they could show that the Americans and the British did the same thing they did. Admiral Doenitz, a submarine commander who was involved in all kinds of war crimes, called in the defense a high official in the British admiralty and, I think, Admiral Nimitz from the United States, who testified that, ‘Yeah, that’s the kind of thing we did.’ And, therefore, they weren’t sentenced for these crimes. Doenitz was absolved. And that’s the way it ran through. Now, that’s a very serious flaw. Nevertheless, of all the tribunals, that’s the most serious one.

When Chief Justice Jackson, chief counsel for the prosecution, spoke to the tribunal and explained to them the importance of what they were doing, he said, to paraphrase, that: ‘We are handing these defendants a poisoned chalice, and if we ever sip from it we must be subject to the same punishments, otherwise this whole trial is a farce.’ Well, you can look at the history from then on, and we’ve sipped from the poisoned chalice many times, but it’s never been considered a crime. So, that means we are saying that trial was a farce.

Interestingly, in Jackson’s opening statement he claimed that the prosecution did not wish to incriminate the whole German for the crimes they committed, but only the “planners and designers” of those crimes, “the inciters and leaders without whose evil architecture the world would not have been for so long scourged with the violence and lawlessness … of this terrible war.”

That’s correct. And that’s another principle which we flatly reject. So, at Nuremberg, we weren’t trying the people who threw Jews into crematoria; we were trying the leaders. When we ever have a trial for crimes it’s of some low-level person like a torturer from Abu Ghraib, not the people who were setting up the framework from which they operate. And we certainly don’t try political leaders for the crime of aggression. That’s out of the question.

The invasion of Iraq was about as clear-cut a case of aggression than you can imagine. In fact, by the Nuremberg principles, if you read them carefully, the U.S. war against Nicaragua was a crime of aggression for which Ronald Reagan should have been tried. But, it’s inconceivable; you can’t even mention it in the West.

And the reason is our radical denial of the most elementary moral truisms. We just flatly reject them. We don’t even think we reject them, and that’s even worse than rejecting them outright.

If we were able to say to ourselves, ‘Look, we are totally immoral, we don’t accept elementary moral principles,’ that would be a kind of respectable position in a certain way. But, when we sink to the level where we cannot even perceive that we’re violating elementary moral principles and international law, that’s pretty bad. But, that’s the nature of the intellectual culture–not just in the United States–but in powerful societies everywhere.

Let’s take the Iraq war. There’s libraries of material arguing about the war, debating it, asking ‘What should we do?’, this and that, and the other thing. Now, try to find a sentence somewhere that says that ‘carrying out a war of aggression is the supreme international crime, which differs from other war crimes in that it encompasses all the evil that follows’ (paraphrasing from Nuremberg). Try to find that somewhere. I mean, you can find it. I’ve written about it, and you can find a couple other dozen people who have written about it in the world. But, is it part of the intellectual culture? Can you find it in a newspaper, or in a journal; in Congress; any public discourse; anything that’s part of the general exchange of knowledge and ideas? I mean, do students study it in school? Do they have courses where they teach students that ‘to carry out a war of aggression is the supreme international crime which encompasses all the evil that follows’?

So, for example, if sectarian warfare is a horrible atrocity, as it is, who’s responsible? By the principles of Nuremberg, Bush, Rumsfeld, Cheney, Wolfowitz, Rice — they’re responsible for sectarian warfare because they carried out the supreme international crime which encompasses all the evil that follows. Try and find somebody who points that out. You can’t. Because, our dominant intellectual culture accepts as legitimate our crushing anybody we like.

Take Iran. Both political parties and practically the whole press accept it as legitimate and, in fact, honorable, that ‘all options are on the table’, presumably including nuclear weapons, to quote Hilary Clinton and everyone else. ‘All options are on the table’ means we threaten war. Well, there’s something called the U.N. Charter, which outlaws ‘the threat or use of force’ in international affairs. Does anybody care? Actually, I saw one op-ed somewhere by Ray Takeyh, an Iran specialist close to the government, who pointed out that threats are serious violations of international law. But that’s so rare that when you find it it’s like finding a diamond in a pile of hay. It’s not part of the culture. We’re allowed to threaten anyone we want–and to attack anyone we want. And, when a person grows up and acts in a culture like that, they’re culpable in a sense, but the culpability is much broader.

Hat tip: Marisacat. Bolded text is that of the interviewer. Red italicized text is added for emphasis.

How not to de-escalate hostility toward the US

Tom Tancredo shows you how:
Republican presidential hopeful Tom Tancredo says the best way he can think of to deter a nuclear terrorist attack on the US is to threaten to retaliate by bombing Islamic holy sites.

The Colorado congressman on Tuesday told about 30 people at a town hall meeting in the state of Iowa that he believes such a terrorist attack could be imminent and that the US needs to hurry up and think of a way to stop it.

“If it is up to me, we are going to explain that an attack on this homeland of that nature would be followed by an attack on the holy sites in Mecca and Medina,” Tancredo said at the Family Table restaurant.

“Because that’s the only thing I can think of that might deter somebody from doing what they otherwise might do,” Tancredo said in comments recorded and posted on the Web site
Brilliant idea - threaten to bomb places likely to be heavily visited by civilians who basically have little interest in the neuroses of the elites governing the US empire. What is it we call folks like Tancredo? Terrorist. Oh, that's right, it's only "terrorism" if "they" do it.

Home again

The trip back was pretty uneventful. Just as well by me. Other than a bit of rain after we got east of Kingman, Mother Nature mostly cooperated. Buying that minivan turned out to be a good investment, as the kids stayed less cranky, and we didn't have to stop as often as usual. I had been worried about the gas mileage - I'm more accustomed to small cars with 4 cylinder motors than a van with a V-6 - but it turned out the van didn't do that much worse than the Mazda (25-30 mpg freeway with the van as opposed to 30-35 mpg with the Mazda).

Other than the hard drive on my office computer going dead practically moments after turning the damned thing on, looks like to day shall go smoothly. I still had a back up computer in my lab, which I'm running on right now until our computer gurus can get the other machine up and running. I'm resigning myself to the idea that any data that was on the old hard drive will be gone for good - I just lost a truckload of mp3 files of old out of print jazz recordings & live gigs that will be difficult to re-find. Work files and such are all pretty much backed up, so no major loss there. I'm sure I'll have a better assessment of what exactly was lost next week.

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

Notes from behind the Orange Curtain pt. 5

In the morning we head back east. One last visit with my sister-in-law, and of course niece and nephew. One stop to a bookstore to get some reading material for my son for the journey home - if he keeps his mind occupied, we can maintain peace between him and his younger sisters. I also scored Michael Parenti's The Culture Struggle and ­¡Ya Basta! Ten Years of the Zapatista Uprising (an anthology published by AK Press). Also allowed my son to purchase some instructional materials for learning French. Although I would prefer he concentrate on Español, I can't fault him for showing an interest in learning to speak and read in languages beyond his native tongue, and will gladly indulge his interest. Who knows - perhaps he'll be able to read Sartre and Fanon in their native language as opposed to the English translations of their writings (as I must currently).

We're ready to be home.

Catch y'll on the flipside.

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

We got some new visitors

Just noticed quite a number of hits coming off this blog, Alternate Brain. Looks like an interesting blog, and now that I know about it I'll check it out a bit more. For those visiting from there, thanks for dropping by.

Say Hello To

Native American Netroots:
a forum for the discussion of political, social and economic issues affecting the indigenous peoples of the United States, including their lack of political representation, economic deprivation, health care issues, and the on-going struggle for preservation of identity and cultural history

Monday, July 30, 2007

Those dang kids

This looked interesting:
Gen Y in the workplace: braless, belly rings, looking for fun and to make
an impact

Managers tell stories of summer associates who come to meetings with
midriffs exposed, baring a belly ring; of interns who walk through the halls engaged with iPods; of new hires who explain they need Fridays off because their boyfriends get Fridays off and they have a share in a beach house. Then there is the tale of the summer hire who sent a text message to a senior partner asking “Are bras required as part of the dress code?”
Ah yes, the clash of generations, and there are more of them in the workplace than every before. As this New York Times article When Whippersnappers and Geezers Collide points out “his is the first time in history that four generations — those who lived through World War II, Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y — are together in the workplace.”

It’s a culture clash all right, the expectations of the elderly are often fiercely add odds with the expectations of the younger: the Gen Y-types “… have an attitude toward work that looks like laziness and looks like impatience,” … “but they don’t understand that’s how it looks.”

Surveys over the last few years have found that this group is looking for work that includes a “flexible work schedule” (92 percent, according to a Harris Interactive poll), “requires creativity” (96 percent) and “allows me to have an impact on the world” (97 percent). And when the polling firm Roper Starch Worldwide did a survey comparing workplace attitudes among generations, 90 percent of Gen Yers said they wanted co-workers “who make work fun.” No other generation polled put that requirement in their top five.
I remember the good old days when it was us Gen-X-ers in the hot seat. We were "lazy", "slackers", too "self absorbed" ad nauseum. I did some secretarial work in an office filled with Boomers at my university back in the late 1980s, and I'm sure that there were a number of them that saw me showing up to work in all-black (and during the "winter" in SoCal adding on that leather jacket) questioned my supervisor's choice to hire me. I did what I was asked of me, was pleasant when anyone dared to speak to me, and overall it ended up being a good experience. I once asked my supervisor why she hired me, and she said that I was as competent as any of the other students she considered, but more importantly to her I was sufficiently different to add variety to the place.

But I digress. The perception of one's own generation as innately superior has always struck me as funny. The cohort that made up the Boomers was a mixed bag - collectively they did a lot of really cool things, but also made their share of mistakes. I'd say the same for my own generation, and see Gen-Y doing likewise. As a middle-aged working stiff and family man, I can't say that I always understand this younger cohort that is coming into adulthood, but I do enjoy learning from them; I'd wager that what appears to be laziness from the vantage point of my generation (or that of the Boomers) is viewed as perfectly productive to this younger cohort. I also see no need to try to fit them into some geezer-imposed mode, as I have just enough memory of how much I resented such impositions a couple decades ago. I suspect this new generation will do fine with whatever life is about to throw at them.

No shit, Sherlock!

Gonzo's truthfulness long disputed? And this is news because...

But serially, practically anyone with a pulse could have told ya that Abu Gonzales was bad news. Hell, this blog - in its earlier incarnation - was one of the voices in the wilderness back when Gonzo was being confirmed by the Senate as AG.

Just in case it bears repeating: Gonzo and his defenders (past and present) are truly a national embarrassment. The fact that many of his apologists can't seem to bring themselves to publicly defend him these days does not erase their place in our nation's shameful history.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

More summer reading

If you're looking for some relatively light reading, you might want to look at The MAD War on Bush. On one count I definitely agree with the reviewer: Baby Doc Bush has provided MAD with some of its best material in ages. This decade turned out to be a good one for turning my son onto MAD (which I began doing a couple years ago). Personally, I prefer old MAD back issues from the 1960s and 1970s. I miss the days when Don Martin's work was gracing the pages of MAD, and was a bit disappointed when the magazine finally went mersh a few years ago. That said, the Bush material over the last few years has been nothing short of wicked, and that "the usual gang of idiots" have been kind enough to anthologize a portion of the Bu$hCo years will make this one MAD book worth seeking out.

Notes from behind the Orange Curtain pt. 3

The last couple days have centered around family, friends, and the coast. Friday got spent with my wife and kids over at Huntington Beach, catching some more of the US Open of Surfing events. Walking was the order of the day, and I can guarantee that the daughters were sufficiently worn out by the evening. Not a great day for surfing, as it turned out. The waves best suited for surfing were few and far between. We did catch some of the women's surfing, and like their male counterparts whom we watched Wednesday, they all were quite adept at making the best of less-than-ideal conditions. I love getting a chance to show my daughters female athletes in the hope that it might inspire them. Also checked out some of the cyclists at some point during the day. That mostly interested my son (as would skateboarding) but I was entertained nonetheless: as an Army recruiter was making his way to the exit, the emcee said quite snarkily, "Colin Powell, this is your conscience speaking."

Today, we split up. My son and I accompanied a close friend of mine (his mom and a niece too) to Crystal Cove Beach and then to Laguna. My wife took our daughters to her sister's place & later took them to a nearby park. As far as I know, their day was a reasonably good one. Madame was asleep by the time we got back tonight, so all I know comes from a brief cell phone conversation. As for my son and I, we had a blast. He and my friend's niece enjoyed the water & tidepooling, and my friend and I took one of our "death marches" across the length of the beach and the coastal trails. The Crystal Cove area has changed so drastically from when I first visited it two decades ago. Back then one mostly utilized unmarked trails of somewhat dodgy quality in order to make it to the sand and ocean. The old cottages on the beach itself were still occupied by tenants who at the time were years away from being evicted. The surrounding hills were a mix of pastures and chaparal. The beach area of course has seen numerous improvements (e.g., actual marked trails, cottages refurbished and now rented out to tourists, a high-brow restaurant on the sand) - it's easier to traverse, but it has lost a bit of its out-of-the-way charm. Of course the pastures and chaparal have been replaced with high-priced McMansions and shopping centers, making the area look eerily like that depicted on that awful Fox drama The O.C. As someone who prefers open spaces where the coyotes could roam freely, that particular turn of events has been disconcerting.

Today was also a day of mourning as my friend and I payed our respects to another who recently passed away - the person responsible for bringing us together in the first place many moons ago. Those human connections, no matter how tenuous, often have far more impact than we can ever imagine.

Not all connections are positive, of course. Those responsible for bringing Baby Doc Bush and Dick Cheney together have impacted us all to our collective detriment. The latest Bu$hCo executive order is merely one example among many.
And despite the best efforts of human rights groups, the courts and a growing number of congressional critics from both parties, Cheney’s still getting his way. On July 20, President Bush issued an executive order “interpreting” Common Article 3 of the Geneva Convention, as applied to secret CIA detention facilities. On its face, the order bans torture — but as an editorial in this paper noted Thursday, it does so using language so vague it appears designed to create loopholes for the CIA.

Just as bad, though barely noted by the media, last week’s executive order breaks new ground by outlining the category of people who can be detained secretly and indefinitely by the CIA — in a way that’s broad enough to include a hefty chunk of the global population. Under its terms, a non-U.S. citizen may be secretly detained and interrogated by the CIA — with no access to counsel and no independent monitoring — as long as the CIA director believes the person “to be a member or part of or supporting Al Qaeda, the Taliban or associated organizations; and likely to be in possession of information that could assist in detecting, mitigating or preventing terrorist attacks [or] in locating the senior leadership of Al Qaeda, the Taliban or associated forces.”

Got that? The president of the United States just issued a public pronouncement declaring, as a matter of U.S. policy, that a single man has the authority to detain any person anyplace in the world and subject him or her to secret interrogation techniques that aren’t torture but that nonetheless can’t be revealed, as long as that person is thought to be a “supporter” of an organization “associated” in some unspecified way with the Taliban or Al Qaeda, and as long he thinks that person might know something that could “assist” us.

But “supporter” isn’t defined, nor is “associated organization.” That leaves the definition broad enough to permit the secret detention of, say, a man who sympathizes ideologically with the Taliban and might have overheard something useful in a neighborhood cafe, or of a 10-year-old girl whose older brother once trained with Al Qaeda.

This isn’t just hypothetical. The U.S. has already detained people based on little more. According to media reports, the CIA has even held children, including the 7- and 9-year-old sons of Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. In 2006, Mohammed was transferred from a secret CIA facility to Guantanamo, but the whereabouts of his children are unknown.

It’s dark out there, all right.
Dark indeed. One wonders how long it will be before any individual or group even mildly critical of the US Empire will be deemed Al Qaida. These are strange times, to say the least.