Wednesday, January 2, 2008
New ICE chief confirmed —despite racism chargesThe Reid-led Senate is doing a heckuva job.
On Dec. 19, the Senate confirmed Julie L. Myers as director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), two years after President George W. Bush used a recess appointment to assign her to the position. Myers was among more than 30 people whose appointments were approved by a voice vote of the Senate as it concluded its session before the holidays. Her appointment was questioned recently after she gave the "most original" costume award to a white employee who came to the ICE Halloween party dressed as an escaped prisoner with dreadlocks and darkened skin. Myers apologized for the incident after it drew complaints of racial insensitivity. (AP, Dec. 12)
From Immigration News Briefs, Dec. 16
See our last post on the immigration crackdown.
Top Ten Reasons to Vote Democrat in November:I hear enough of reason #4 to make me want to retch. Since I live in one of those states that makes it practically impossible for one to vote for anyone other than a Donklephant, and since write-ins are not allowed, I have to look outside of the electoral "system."
1. Everything changed on 9/11
2. Republicans are evil
3. You’re picky about which lies you opt to believe
4. If you don’t vote, you have no right to complain...right?
5. Republicans are mean
6. Voting for Hillary or Obama would prove once and for all that you are truly more liberal and open-minded than your Republican brother-in-law
7. Republicans are stupid
8. Ralph Nader is still an egomaniac
9. Republicans hate us because we’re free
10. You’re certifiably insane
Bonus reason: You’re the type of person who’d shoot yourself in the head to cure a migraine.
Tuesday, January 1, 2008
Sheehan also has a statement on After Downing Street worthy of reading (The White Rose and the Rose Parade). No doubt this will get both the likes of Michelle Malkin and of course the usual Donkle pundits' and bloggers' knickers in a knot, but that's just a fringe benefit to me.
Now if we could only get Pelosi impeached.
The former Murdoch retainer Andrew Neil has described James Murdoch, the heir apparent, as a "social liberal". What strikes me is his casual use of "liberal" for the new ruler of an empire devoted to the promotion of war, conquest and human division. Neil's view is not unusual. In the murdochracy that Britain has largely become, once noble terms such as democracy, reform, even freedom itself, have long been emptied of their meaning. In the years leading to Tony Blair's election, liberal commentators vied in their Tonier-than-thou obeisance to such a paragon of "reborn liberalism". In these pages in 1995, Henry Porter celebrated an almost mystical politician who "presents himself as a harmoniser for all the opposing interests in British life, a conciliator of class differences and tribal antipathies, a synthesiser of opposing beliefs". Blair was, of course, the diametric opposite.Hat tip to Chris Floyd, who also notes that much of Pilger's column could very well apply to the US. The same normalizing or banality of evil occurs in the US as it does in the UK. We too don't think twice about the Surveillance State and Prison Industrial Complex that has been constructed. Gross war crimes are committed in Iraq and Afghanistan with nary a peep from the corporate media. It's just part of the background noise. I've often commented that Bill Clinton was one hell of a Republican president during his regime. The Clintonistas like the Blairites managed to complete the project started by the Raygun/Thatcher regimes. If anything Clinton and Blair were more zealous in their endeavors to destroy whatever liberty might still have remained in their respective nations, and to mow down those in the Third and Fourth Worlds who might happen to get in the way of their cronies' crusade for the almighty profit margin. In that context, Bu$hCo is merely consolidating his predecessors' legacy, as will whoever Blair's eventual Tory successor likely accomplish.
As events have demonstrated, Blair and the cult of New Labour have destroyed the very liberalism millions of Britons thought they were voting for. This truth is like a taboo and was missing almost entirely from last week's Guardian debate about civil liberties. Gone is the bourgeoisie that in good times would extend a few rungs of the ladder to those below. From Blair's pseudo-moralising assault on single parents a decade ago to Peter Hain's recent attacks on the disabled, the "project" has completed the work of Thatcher and all but abolished the premises of tolerance and decency, however amorphous, on which much of British public life was based. The trade-off has been mostly superficial "social liberalism" and the highest personal indebtedness on earth. In 2007, reported the Joseph Rowntree Foundation, the United Kingdom faced the highest levels of inequality for 40 years, with the rich getting richer and the poor poorer and more and more segregated from society. The International Monetary Fund has designated Britain a tax haven, and corruption and fraud in British business are almost twice the global average, while Unicef reports that British children are the most neglected and unhappiest in the "rich" world.
Abroad, behind a facade of liberal concern for the world's "disadvantaged", such as waffle about millennium goals and anti-poverty stunts with the likes of Google and Vodafone, the Brown government, together with its EU partners, is demanding vicious and punitive free-trade agreements that will devastate the economies of scores of impoverished African, Caribbean and Pacific nations. In Iraq, the blood-letting of a "liberal intervention" may well have surpassed that of the Rwanda genocide, while the British occupiers have made no real attempt to help the victims of their lawlessness. And putting out more flags will not cover the shame. "The mortality of children in Basra has increased by nearly 30% compared to the Saddam Hussein era," says Dr Haydar Salah, a paediatrician at Basra children's hospital. In January nearly 100 leading British doctors wrote to Hilary Benn, then international development secretary, describing how children were dying because Britain had not fulfilled its obligations under UN security resolution 1483. He refused to see them.
Even if a contortion of intellect and morality allows the interventionists to justify these actions, the same cannot be said for liberties eroded at home. These are too much part of the myth that individual freedom was handed down by eminent liberal gentlemen instead of being fought for at the bottom. Yet rights of habeas corpus, of free speech and assembly, and dissent and tolerance, are slipping away, undefended. Whole British communities now live in fear of the police. The British are distinguished as one of the most spied upon people in the world. A grey surveillance van with satellite tracking sits outside my local Sainsbury's. On the pop radio station Kiss 100, the security service MI5 advertises for ordinary people to spy on each other. These are normal now, along with the tracking of our intimate lives and a system of secretive justice that imposes 18-hour curfews on people who have not been charged with any crime and are denied the "evidence". Hundreds of terrified Iraqi refugees are sent back to the infinite dangers of the country "we" have destroyed. Meanwhile, the cause of any real civil threat to Britons has been identified and confirmed repeatedly by the intelligence services. It is "our" continuing military presence in other people's countries and collusion with a Washington cabal described by the late Norman Mailer as "pre-fascist". When famous liberal columnists wring their hands about the domestic consequences, let them look to their own early support for such epic faraway crimes.
In broadcasting, a prime source of liberalism and most of our information, the unthinkable has been normalised. The murderous chaos in Iraq is merely internecine. Indeed, Bush's "surge" is "working". The holocaust there has nothing to do with "us". There are honourable exceptions, of course, as there are in those great liberal storehouses of knowledge, Britain's universities; but they, too, are normalised and left to natter about "failed states" and "crisis management" - when the cause of the crisis is on their doorstep. As Terry Eagleton has pointed out, for the first time in two centuries almost no eminent British poet, playwright or novelist is prepared to question the foundations of western actions, let alone interrupt, as DJ Taylor once put it, all those "demure ironies and mannered perceptions, their focus on the gyrations of a bunch of emotional poseurs ... to the reader infinitely reassuring ... and infinitely useless". Harold Pinter and Ronan Bennett are exceptions.
Britain is now a centralised single-ideology state, as secure in the grip of a superpower as any former eastern bloc country. The Whitehall executive has prerogative powers as effective as politburo decrees. Unlike Venezuela, critical issues such as the EU constitution or treaty are denied a referendum, regardless of Blair's "solemn pledge". Thanks largely to a parliament in which a majority of the members cannot bring themselves to denounce the crime in Iraq or even vote for an inquiry, New Labour has added to the statutes a record 3,000 criminal offences: an apparatus of control that undermines the Human Rights Act. In 1977, at the height of the cold war, I interviewed the Charter 77 dissidents in Czechoslovakia. They warned that complacency and silence could destroy liberty and democracy as effectively as tanks. "We're actually better off than you in the west," said a writer, measuring his irony. "Unlike you, we have no illusions."
For those people who still celebrate the virtues and triumphs of liberalism - anti-slavery, women's suffrage, the defence of individual conscience and the right to express it and act upon it - the time for direct action is now. It is time to support those of courage who defy rotten laws to read out in Parliament Square the names of the current, mounting, war dead, and those who identify their government's complicity in "rendition" and its torture, and those who have followed the paper and blood trail of Britain's piratical arms companies. It is time to support the NHS workers who up and down the country are trying to alert us to the destruction of a Labour government's greatest achievement. The list of people stirring is reassuring. The awakening of the rest of us is urgent.
So much momentum has been built up by now. In the US we have a left that barely exists. What we call a "left" is merely a bunch of shills for whatever Democrat comes along. They often call themselves "progressives" - but what "progress" are they after? If it's more of the same neoliberal monoculture that has been shoved down our throats for already far too long, then it's "progress" we can all live without.
Anything more radical - especially if it challenges the imperial status quo - must be marginalized and demonized, if it proves unwilling to be shackled to the Democratic party machinery. We're reached the point where so far, only an antiwar reactionary manages to stir any activity among radicals who are understandably desperate for something - anything - that might stop or at least slow down the war machine. One critical problem that we face is that there is so much complacency. One concern I had when the Dems managed to regain control of Congress in the 2006 midterms was that war resisters would become more complacent, believing that Pelosi and Reid would actually put the current White House regime on a short leash. It's the same concern I'll have if we get another Dem in the White House after this year's electoral cycle. We've seen it before and have been warned before. I recall in early 1993 in COMD's newsletter, Draft NOtices, a warning that a Clinton presidency would cause the anti-war left to relax even in the face of continued militarism. As the Clintonistas made clear during their eight-year reign, the Dems were clearly not the party of peace.
Ordinarily, I'm pretty pessimistic. I will hit an optimistic note every now and again, and this is one of those times. Even if we in the US have been largely engulfed in a cultural Zeitgeist (namely, "American Exceptionalism"), as others have no doubt already observed (such as Michael Parenti in The Culture Struggle), culture is an imperfect medium. It may guide much of our thought and perception, but the potential exists to think outside of whatever box in which a particular culture may place one. That there are voices seemingly in the wilderness who have not quite taken to the programming gives me at least some faint hope that we humans might yet find a better way to coexist.
TO THE PEOPLE OF MEXICO:
MEXICAN BROTHERS AND SISTERS:
We are a product of 500 years of struggle: first against slavery, then during the War of Independence against Spain led by insurgents, then to avoid being absorbed by North American imperialism, then to promulgate our constitution and expel the French empire from our soil, and later the dictatorship of Porfirio Diaz denied us the just application of the Reform laws and the people rebelled and leaders like Villa and Zapata emerged, poor men just like us. We have been denied the most elemental preparation so they can use us as cannon fodder and pillage the wealth of our country. They don't care that we have nothing, absolutely nothing, not even a roof over our heads, no land, no work, no health care, no food nor education. Nor are we able to freely and democratically elect our political representatives, nor is there independence from foreigners, nor is there peace nor justice for ourselves and our children.
But today, we say ENOUGH IS ENOUGH.
We are the inheritors of the true builders of our nation. The dispossessed, we are millions and we thereby call upon our brothers and sisters to join this struggle as the only path, so that we will not die of hunger due to the insatiable ambition of a 70 year dictatorship led by a clique of traitors that represent the most conservative and sell-out groups. They are the same ones that opposed Hidalgo and Morelos, the same ones that betrayed Vicente Guerrero, the same ones that sold half our country to the foreign invader, the same ones that imported a European prince to rule our country, the same ones that formed the "scientific" Porfirsta dictatorship, the same ones that opposed the Petroleum Expropriation, the same ones that massacred the railroad workers in 1958 and the students in 1968, the same ones the today take everything from us, absolutely everything.
To prevent the continuation of the above and as our last hope, after having tried to utilize all legal means based on our Constitution, we go to our Constitution, to apply Article 39 which says:
"National Sovereignty essentially and originally resides in the people. All political power emanates from the people and its purpose is to help the people. The people have, at all times, the inalienable right to alter or modify their form of government."
Therefore, according to our constitution, we declare the following to the Mexican federal army, the pillar of the Mexican dictatorship that we suffer from, monopolized by a one-party system and led by Carlos Salinas de Gortari, the maximum and illegitimate federal executive that today holds power.
According to this Declaration of War, we ask that other powers of the nation advocate to restore the legitimacy and the stability of the nation by overthrowing the dictator.
We also ask that international organizations and the International Red Cross watch over and regulate our battles, so that our efforts are carried out while still protecting our civilian population. We declare now and always that we are subject to the Geneva Accord, forming the EZLN as our fighting arm of our liberation struggle. We have the Mexican people on our side, we have the beloved tri-colored flag highly respected by our insurgent fighters. We use black and red in our uniform as our symbol of our working people on strike. Our flag carries the following letters, "EZLN," Zapatista National Liberation Army, and we always carry our flag into combat.
Beforehand, we refuse any effort to disgrace our just cause by accusing us of being drug traffickers, drug guerrillas, thieves, or other names that might by used by our enemies. Our struggle follows the constitution which is held high by its call for justice and equality.
Therefore, according to this declaration of war, we give our military forces, the EZLN, the following orders:
First: Advance to the capital of the country, overcoming the Mexican federal army, protecting in our advance the civilian population and permitting the people in the liberated area the right to freely and democratically elect their own administrative authorities.
Second: Respect the lives of our prisoners and turn over all wounded to the International Red Cross.
Third: Initiate summary judgments against all soldiers of the Mexican federal army and the political police that have received training or have been paid by foreigners, accused of being traitors to our country, and against all those that have repressed and treated badly the civil population and robbed or stolen from or attempted crimes against the good of the people.
Fourth: Form new troops with all those Mexicans that show their interest in joining our struggle, including those that, being enemy soldiers, turn themselves in without having fought against us, and promise to take orders from the General Command of the Zapatista National Liberation Army.
Fifth: We ask for the unconditional surrender of the enemy's headquarters before we begin any combat to avoid any loss of lives.
Sixth: Suspend the robbery of our natural resources in the areas controlled by the EZLN.
To the People of Mexico: We, the men and women, full and free, are conscious that the war that we have declared is our last resort, but also a just one. The dictators are applying an undeclared genocidal war against our people for many years. Therefore we ask for your participation, your decision to support this plan that struggles for work, land, housing, food, health care, education, independence, freedom, democracy, justice and peace. We declare that we will not stop fighting until the basic demands of our people have been met by forming a government of our country that is free and democratic.
JOIN THE INSURGENT FORCES OF THE ZAPATISTA NATIONAL LIBERATION ARMY.
General Command of the EZLN
Thus began a new chapter in the struggle against the neoliberal leviathan that our political and corporate masters were (and still are) constructing. The Zapatistas would become inspiration for numerous actions in the intervening 14 years, including the Seattle uprising against the WTO in 1999.Currently I am reading Anthony J. Hall's The American Empire and the Fourth World. His characterization of the current endeavors toward globalization (that lovely neoliberal buzzword) is one of a continuation of what was started in 1492 when Columbus reached an island in the Bahamas in search of wealth and power, was preached and practiced by the Puritans in New England, and then gained momentum in the aftermath of the Declaration of Independence in what is today the US. Currently, to put it in Hall's words:
The fundamentalist aim of the neo-liberal crusade is to replace multicultural pluralism and biodiversity with an expanding civilization of possessive individualism and commodified monocultures.One theme that seems to thread its way through Hall's narrative is that of frontier. In the late 18th century, the Frontier may have been just west of the 13 colonies. Today, that frontier can be found in the Middle East, those indigenous civilizations that manage to survive and thrive in spite of the efforts of empire builders, and of course in the genetic codes of living beings. The frontiers vary, but the struggle hasn't changed much at all. The mass displacement that is occurring in the aftermath of NAFTA and similar such agreements amounts to a sort of ethnic cleansing; the replacement of diverse varieties of plantlife with genetically modified seeds results in ecocide; the corporate patenting of the genomes of various plants and herbs without the consent of the peoples who have relied on those very plants for centuries or millennia is something of a replay of Papal and royal decrees to divide up and possess land that had belonged to indigenous peoples. As Lord Cutler Beckett from those Pirates of the Caribbean films might say, "it's just good business."
And so it goes. The planet continues to be treated to a narrow form of "democracy" which generally means occasional albeit empty voting rituals while a fortunate few divvy up the spoils, and in which those who do not conform to the corporate sheen of the New World Order must inevitably face extinction. And yet...one must wonder just how inevitable. The cornerstone of the current predatory capitalism is that of continuous growth, and that growth must be somehow FUELED. As I write this, there is good reason to believe that the sort of growth that our leaders have assumed as a given cannot continue as their economic and political machine runs up against tangible limits.
It's late. We'll merely say, to be continued...
Monday, December 31, 2007
“There is nothing patriotic about pretending that you can love your country but despise your government.” — Bill Clinton, referring to opposition to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996.
Makes me feel quite optimistic about the next regime's determination to keep its citizens attached to the Great Chain of Oppression.
“To those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty, my message is this: Your tactics only aid terrorists, for they erode our national unity and diminish our resolve.” — John Ashcroft, referring to opposition to the Uniting and Strengthening America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism Act of 2001.
Quotes from UFO Breakfast Recipients.
Sunday, December 30, 2007
Here's a thought for the editors of the Montgomery Advertiser: rather than continue to insult the intelligence of what's left of your readership with code words, just come out and say what you mean. By "politics" you simply mean that what passes for a Democrat party majority only insufficiently caved in to Der Führer's demands rather than cave in completely (personally I consider this Congressional session a predictable failure from a much different perspective - there simply was not enough gridlock, and given the lack of a real opposition party there was no reason to expect anything other than what we got). Let's just take a wild guess: these same editors probably use terms like "law and order" to refer to their desire to oppress all those uppity brown-skinned folks who've refused to live under Apartheid-like conditions; or "family values" to refer to the imposition of one very narrow form of Christianity upon the rest of the population; "support the troops" means blindly cheerleading for whatever genocidal war adventure that the government embarks upon.